A Sheumais Ruaidh | Red Jamie
“A Sheumais ruaidh,” he said. “I did think ye might come to your wife, sooner or later. I’ve been seekin’ ye the morn.”
I was startled by the name, and so was Jamie; a look of surprise flashed across his features, then disappeared, replaced by wariness. No one had called him “Red Jamie” since the days of the Rising.
“I heard,” he said dryly. He sat down on my extra stool, facing Hayes. “Let’s have it, then. What is it?”…
“Ye’ve grown a bit suspicious in your auld age, a Sheumais ruaidh,” Hayes said, shaking his head reprovingly.
“That’s how I’ve lived to grow as auld as I have,” Jamie replied, smiling slightly. He paused, eyeing Hayes. “Ye say it was a man named Murchinson who shot ye on the field at Drumossie?”
I had finished bandaging; Hayes moved his shoulder experimentally, testing for pain.
“Why, ye kent that surely, a Sheumais ruaidh. D’ye not recall the day, man?”
Jamie’s face changed subtly, and I felt a small tremor of unease. The fact was that Jamie had almost no memory of the last day of the clans, of the slaughter that had left so many bleeding in the rain – him among them. I knew that small scenes from that day came back to him now and again in his sleep, fragments of nightmare – but whether it was from trauma, injury, or simple force of will, the Battle of Culloden was lost to him – or had been, until now. I didn’t think he wanted it back.
“A great deal happened then,” he said. “I dinna remember everything, no.” He bent his head abruptly, and thrust a thumb beneath the fold of the letter, opening it so roughly that the wax seal shattered into fragments.
“You husband’s a modest man, Mistress Fraser.” Hayes nodded to me as he summoned his aide with a flip of the hand. “Has he never told ye what he did that day?”
“There was a good bit of gallantry on that field,” Jamie muttered, head bent over the letter. “And quite a bit of the reverse.” I didn’t think he was reading; his eyes were fixed as though he were seeing something else, beyond the paper that he held.
“Aye, there was,” Hayes agreed. “But it does seem worth remark, when a man’s saved your life, no?”
Jamie’s head jerked up at that, startled. I moved across to stand behind him, a hand laid lightly on his shoulder. Hayes took the shirt from his aide and put it slowly on, smiling in an odd, half-watchful way.
“Ye dinna recall how ye struck Murchinson across the head, just as he was set to bayonet me on the ground? And then ye picked me up and carried me from the field, awa to a bittie well nearby?… There was someone there to tend me; they wished ye to stay, too, for ye were wounded and bleeding, but ye would not. Ye wished me well, in the name of St. Michael – and went back then, to the field.”
“Ye looked fair wild, man, for there was blood running’ doon your face and your hair was loose on the wind. Ye’d sheathed your sword to carry me, but ye pulled it again as ye turned away. I didna think I should see ye again, for if ever I saw man set to meet his death…”
He shook his head, his eyes half-closed, as though he saw not the sober stalwart man before him, not the Fraser of Fraser’s Ridge – but Red Jamie, the young warrior who had not gone back for gallantry, but because he sought to throw his life away, feeling it a burden – because he had lost me.
~ The Fiery Cross, “Shrapnel”