Heavily Edited Thanks to the Wonder Woman Discussion…
“Did you ever celebrate Halloween, Jamie?”
“Uh– Samhain or perhaps All Saint’s Day?”
“Oh, aye of course.” Jamie responded.
“What kinds of things did you do?”
“We would start the day with prayer for the departed. Folk gather at night ‘round a bonfire. Yer supposed to use a torch from that one to light your own hearth later for good luck in the coming year. After, the lads usually travel around begging soul cakes– like biscuits– from neighbors. A bit like hogmanay. Though on All Saint’s ye dress up as a favorite saint.” Jamie chuckled in memory. “Jenny and I would spend months searching all my father’s books looking for a good one.”
“Oh, that explains why you know so much about all those obscure saints.” Claire exclaimed, delighted to have resolved that mystery.
“Well, I had my pride, aye?” Jamie’s smile made Claire’s heart melt.
Since Brianna’s return with Jemmy and Mandy, in obvious good health and adjusting to life on the Ridge in their time, Jamie’s demeanor had lightened considerably. When he spoke of his family now, the sadness left his eyes completely.
Despite the looming danger of revolution, Jamie was filled with a joy that reminded her of what it had been like the year they’d lived at Lallybroch and their first year here. How did he do it? Make her fall in love with him all over again?
Claire could feel her eyes prickle and the last thing she wanted to do was turn maudeline.
“How could you tell the difference? Saints tend to be a boring lot– didn’t you just put on a robe, tie it with rope at your waist and call it good?” She teased.
“Tsk. No! Sassenach, if ye pick them right, each is distinct and ye dressed accordingly. Where’d ye get such a notion?”
“Bree. She went to an all girl’s Catholic school in Boston. In an effort to combat the paganism of season, they celebrated All Saint’s Day. The school sent out a list every year for them to choose from, all a variation of a prim, virginal miss. Every year we’d trot out the same outfit and pin a different name tag on.” Claire scowled.
“Come now, Sassenach, ye ken well enough never to take someone’s word for it, ye should’ve done yer own research. There’re some interesting saints she could’ve chosen.”
“Do tell!” Claire urged, fascinated.
“A few I liked were St. Clotilde, patron saint of disappointed children. St. Bibiana, cures folk of the headache, especially the morning after too much strong drink. Then there is St. Gertrude, for those with a fear of mice.” Claire laughed with him.
“Poor Brianna!. But don’t worry. I made up for it, her childhood was full of exciting Halloween costumes.”
“Tell me about this Hallo-ween?”
“It’s similar to your All Saint’s Eve. Every night on October 31, everyone carves pumpkins and at night you put lighted candles in them. No, it sounds weirder than looks.” Claire gestured his frown away, “It’s really rather charming. Back then the children dress in costumes and join their friends to walk around the neighborhood for treats like candy or cookies. You knock on the door and say “trick or treat.” In theory unless you get something good to eat, the children will do something nasty like throw eggs at your windows. Though that almost never happened.”
“Ooch, tell me what did Bree wear for a costume?” Jamie’s eye lit in speculation.
“Each year was different. A ghost, a witch,” at this Claire’s eyebrows rose and Jamie shook his head. “I wasn’t overly fond of that choice, either. One year she was a princess, but her favorite was Wonder Woman.”
“Aye? And tell me Sassenach, what was so wonderful about this woman?”
“She’s a superhero, like Superman, the story Jem told you?” At this Jamie nodded. “She’s fierce and protective, truth and justice are her guiding lights. Wonder Woman has special cuffs that force her captives to submit to her. Then ties a rope around them – hers is called the golden lasso –and they are compelled to tell the truth.”
In illustration Claire walked to him draping her arms around his and squeezed. She could feel his body responding almost immediately and grinned up at him.
“Hmm, so these….”Jamie neatly reversed their positions so he was holding her close to him and kissed her. She kissed him back. “Cuffs did ye say? Like irons, I suppose?” His rumbling voice next to her ear made her knees quiver.
“Uhmm-huh” She agreed. His lips were sliding behind her ear. Gooseflesh rippled along her arms as he gently pulled her earlobe with his teeth.
“Force a man to submit….” His lips were back on hers and his hands reached lower. Claire gripped his in return.
“Yes..she’s…” Claire’s tongue darted in and out, playing with his. He moaned. “Very…stron–Oh!”
Claire’s back smacked up against a tree and Jamie was pinning her in place. His lips now traced down her neck and along the line of cleavage. He was pushing all the right buttons and knew it.
She widened her stance, letting him step in a bit closer. His mouth floated just above hers, not quite kissing but tempting her and making her feel hot and restless.
“Mmphm and when she had him at her mercy he was….”
Claire felt his warm hands grip hers tightly and raise them above her head. She balanced up on her toes trying to snag a kiss but he wouldn’t let himself be caught. Her body was struggling to find friction but his hold forced her to stillness.
“Helpless, was he?” Jamie whispered.
Claire could feel her body stretched and taut. “Yes!” She groaned in frustration.
Mmphm. She could feel her heart thumping at the inflection he placed on that sound.
Jamie switched position, holding both wrists against the bark of the tree with one hand while the other started playing suggestively around her hip, front and back.
She whimpered and he finally lowered his lips. Claire stopped fighting it and rested her head against the trunk of the tree, allowing him to kiss her thoroughly, letting the spark ignite within her.
“Where were we, Sassenach?” He inquired as he pulled back from her lips. She groaned.
“W–with…the bad guy at her m–mercy– oh please!” He was driving her mad.
“Oh, now I remember!” Jamie exclaimed. “The lasso!”
And at that he whipped the length of twine that had been hanging from his belt around the tree, neatly tying Claire to it.
“After she snared her prey, he’d answer her questions?”
“Yes.” Claire was feeling feverish.
They were not too far from the new house and while usually left alone, anyone might stumble upon them but there was something exciting and forbidden in taking the chance.
“Are ye feeling a wee bit bothered, then Sassenach?”
“Hmm-hum.” Claire thrust her chest out a bit more hoping to distract him.
“Let’s see if I can get ye to tell me what ye like more…this–” Jamie touched her quite intimately.
He chuckled and came at her from a different direction. “Or this?” Claire could only groan and be grateful for the solid wood of support behind her backside.
“Please, Jamie!” She needed him to do that some more. But he stopped and turned a serious gaze on hers.
“Are you happy Claire?”
At this Claire smiled. “I could be a bit happier if you’d only—”
“No, truly, Claire. I need to know.”
Claire watched his eyes start to get wet and she was filled with tenderness.
“What brought this on?” Though in truth she suspected she knew.
“When I kent it was her returned and Mandy…God, Claire, looking like a butterfly dancing on the wind. What miracles there must be in your time. What must you have given up. Only to be living in a burnt out hovel, at a time of war and disease and danger.” Jamie was struggling to master his emotions.
Burnt hovel indeed, the new house, resplendently large, was nearly complete and they had been living in it for a month now. But that wasn’t what he meant and she knew it.
Claire had known it would come again, this crossroads in his mind when his moral code would demand she consider every alternative. The contented soul of an hour ago gone and replaced by a man haunted by his own conscious and the desire to do right by his family.
Jamie stepped up to her body, within touching distance had her arms been free.
“Since you’ve secured the golden lasso around me, have faith that what I tell you now is true. Wherever you are, James Fraser, that is where I want to be. I will never leave you again. Anything I need is right here, with you. Having Bree and Roger back is a blessing and they do remind me of what things were like, then. Playing in the leaves was fun and I had forgotten. But my joy was sharing that with you. My life is not a time, it’s not even a place. My life is you.”
Jamie’s hands came around her and he made quick work of freeing her. She held him tightly to her breast and they relaxed together, content. His head lifted after a time and he looked at her.
“Jemmy and Mandy would they have done this, too? This trick or treat?”
“Likely, yes, at least in Boston. In Scotland, I think they would have likely gone to a community Halloween party. It’s impossible to go house to house when they are spread far apart so usually the school or the local town center will have a public gathering.”
“Do you think maybe if we did something similar they’d like it? No’ just them but all the weans?” Jamie asked.
“I think they’d love it.”
They relied on Roger, Bobby, Josiah and Ian to spread the news about the All Saints Day gathering. Bree and Rachel decided that they could use some of Ian’s body paint and set up face painting instead of having families scramble to get costumes for the children. Everything was put in motion for a good old– er– new fashioned Halloween Party three days hence.
Then Claire got to work getting things in order. Thank goodness it had been a banner year for the apple harvest. They had plenty on hand. The ladies nearest the big house pitched in. They devised simple games and made food, then, after consulting with Jemmy and Mandy, made sure to have a few extra things in store for the inhabitants of the Ridge.
Roger and Ian managed to make a batch of cherry bounce that could be used for candy apples (for the grown ups) and Claire found that caramel, made with maple sugar from a sugaring operating that was newly started that spring, was easy to make and easy to clean up so a batch of kiddie friendly maple-caramel apples was prepared as well. They collected dozens of large pumpkins, barrels, hung dried corn husks and scattered hay bales and felled logs for seating around a bonfire Ian had been constructing with the Beardsleys, just waiting to be lit.
As the days counted down, Claire became more and more excited thinking about how wonderful it would be to share this experience with Jemmy and Mandy and imagining Jamie’s reaction. The Fraser Ridge Annual Halloween Gathering was about to begin.
After the Baroque era, the organ fell a bit out of favor. Aside from a few miscellaneous works in the classical era, no one really came forward as a great “organ composer” after Bach. But that changed with new advancements in instrument making. New organs were being designed or remodeled with a larger variety in dynamics and playing capabilities, which inspired composers to bright life back into the instrument. The most notable were Felix Mendelssohn, Liszt, and Franck. In 1859, one of the master organ builders of the century, Aristide Cavaillé-Coll had built an organ in Saint-Clotilde Basilica in Paris. Cavaillé-Coll’s innovations in sound included pipes that mimicked orchestral instruments. Instead of something more dry and a bit archaic, these organs had more fire and emotional range. So when Franck was appointed organist for the Basilica after the instrument’s completion, it isn’t a surprise that he was inspired to come back to composing. He wrote a set of six contrasting works that make use of the organ’s possibilities, and of all six, the Grand Pièce Symphonique [published second] is the most experimental. The pacing is a bit unusual, a “multiple movements in one” free form fantasy that takes maybe four main melodies and transforms them through the work. While the writing is well crafted, the pacing is a bit awkward and it definitely feels more like an improvisation. But that does nothing to hold back the sheer grandeur of the work. It opens with a soft, anxious walking theme that is more of transitional “filler” than anything, but it sets up the expectations for something larger to break out, like a bear slowly waking up. It develops a bit, slowly mutating into the major and giving a brighter choral. This is disrupted by punching growls which introduces the first main theme. Almost like a march. This theme is woven around a polyphonic river, tossing and turning until it finds a steady rhythmic bounce to play over. That weathers down into a more steady but constantly moving choral passage, before quieting down a bit and regressing, and taking up a new, solemn religious theme. This theme is injected with chromatics in its harmonies that make it sound almost cloying, like a little kid asking silly questions. That’s interjected with a third main theme, that plays like a scherzo, like ghosts or something mystic and mysterious, shadowy and vague. But the religious theme comes back in a refrain. Then, the main theme of the opening section comes back, quieter, but still menacing. And then comes the opening anxiety theme. And then comes wisps of the ghostlike scherzo! With another refrain from the religious theme! See what I mean by improvisation? These main ideas are slowly weaving together right at the end. And from the darkness grows a complete transformation of the main theme, what was beast is now beauty, and it is as grand and golden as you can expect, especially when it’s the first “major key” section in the otherwise minor key work. Then a variation of this theme is used as a fugue. Then a variation is used in an overwhelmingly triumphant coda. The “Big symphonic piece” is kind of weird, and maybe a little clunky at times, and definitely niche [being an organ piece NOT written by Bach], but still it’s something I fell in love with just this past month.
Study for Clovis - a character to be part of wall paintings for the Chapel Saint Remi, Ste Clotilde, in Paris (1858) by Alexandre-Augustin Isidore Pils (1813-1875), a French painter from Douarnenez, France