It was my birthday yesterday and that got me thinking of gifts. Here’s a little peek at a gift Jamie gives Julia.
Spring 1768; River Run, North Carolina.
Jamie stuck his head in the door of our bedroom, “Have ye seen Julia, Sassenach?”
This was a curious question as I had expected her to be in her room, preparing for bed as I was doing. I told him as much and he stepped into the room.
“Nae, she isna there. Melaina said she was just a moment ago. The library, maybe?” he asked.
I got up from my seat on the bed and shrugged as I walked over to him, peering into the conspicuous bulge in his coat. A wet nose brushed my hand, making me jump.
“Jamie! You didn’t!” I cried.
He grinned sheepishly but looked as excited as a schoolboy. “Aye, I did, I couldna resist. Ye ken I dinna like the lass to be wandering about the woods by herself, and ye ken she willna stay out of them no matter what I say.”
This was entirely too true. While Julia knew not to venture into unknown parts of the forest, and didn’t, she often explored the woods unattended. Rollo would sometimes accompany her if he knew Ian was with Jamie and she very much enjoyed his presence.
“But a puppy?” I asked exasperated, thinking of puddles on the floor and chewed possessions.
Jamie spoke with firm confidence, “He willna be a puppy forever, Sassenach. He’ll learn.”
I remembered the small pack of dogs at Lallybroch and thought maybe this wasn’t an altogether troublesome idea. He had trained them, why couldn’t he and Julia train this one?
“If he eats my slippers, he’s sleeping with the horses.” I gave the fuzzy protruding head in question a look of warning and Jamie laughed. He turned to go, but I stopped him and snatched Julia’s shoes off the floor near the window. “She’ll be needing these.”
With another outburst of laughter, Jamie left in search for our daughter.
My feet treaded softly on the rich, plush rug in Auntie Jo’s library as I frantically looked for my shoes. We had been here three days and I’d misplaced them at least that many times already. I shuddered to think of what would happen if Phaedre or Melaina found them before I did.
I dropped to my knees and peered under the couch. No luck. Puffing a rouge tendril of hair out of my eyes, I tried to think of where else they could be. They weren’t in my room or the library and I had already checked the small parlor off the dining room. I hadn’t visited the kitchen today, so they couldn’t be there.
My thoughts were interrupted by a slight cough. There, looking entirely too proud of himself, stood my father holding the accursed shoes. He dangled them teasingly in front of me before dropping them in my lap, “Looking for these?”
Slipping my feet into them, I stood, grinning sheepishly. I was about to ask where he had found them when I noticed his jacket. A rather sizeable bulge, which wiggled now and then, protruded from under his right arm.
I looked up at him in wordless question, to which he replied, “I have a wee gift for ye.”
I couldn’t help but smile. Ever since arriving at River Run, I had been showered with presents from both of my parents as well as Aunt Jocasta. It wasn’t my birthday but it certainly felt like it.
Mim’s best gift had been her knack of reading my mind. Suddenly set afloat in proper society, I had only the vaguest idea of how to act. Table manners hadn’t changed drastically in two hundred years, but a woman’s place certainly had. I was very much thankful of Mim’s surreptitious whispers of direction and explanation. She had also come to expect my nightly rounds of questions before bed. She was a wealth of eighteenth century information.
Auntie Jo had ordered me two new dresses. One was for the dinner party held in my honor and would be remade from one of her own dresses. The other was for daily wear, which was helpful as I really only had the one Mim and I had crudely fashioned. It served its purpose, making me look like I actually belonged to this time period, but it bunched in odd places and didn’t fit quite right. Phaedre had just about fainted when she realized I didn’t own a set of stays. I hadn’t realized that I’d be forced to wear the horrible contraptions too and firmly resolved to ditch them the moment we set foot on the Ridge.
Da had taken me into Cross Creek yesterday and bought me my very first eighteenth century treat: honey balls. We had savored them luxuriously as he showed me his world. It felt like the time I had went to Old Sturbridge Village on a school trip, with the antiquated shops and towns people. Not that you could really call Cross Creek a town. I had to repress the urge to burst into the chorus of Belle as we walked the main street.
Da had spent a curious amount of time in the back of one shop, which was rather strange because he hadn’t shied away from talking business in front of me before. But I now knew why.
He pulled aside his jacket to reveal the fluffiest puppy ever.
“For me?” I cried with delight as he handed the squirming bundle to me.
“Aye,” he beamed. “He’s for ye, a luaidh.”
The puppy licked me squarely on the mouth, making me sputter. “He’s so cute!”
“He’ll be a braw hunter when he’s grown, too. Ye’ll help me train him, aye?”
“Yes!” I squealed as I plopped down onto the ground.
Seizing this as his moment of opportunity, the puppy wriggled from my arms and began to clamber all over me. I didn’t recognize him as any specific breed of my time, but then again, maybe specific breeds weren’t a thing yet.
If Rollo resembled a wolf, this bouncing ball of fur strongly resembled a bear cub. He was a deep, midnight black with a short snout and perky ears. He had a white blaze on his chest that stretched down to mid-stomach. His front paws looked like he had stepped in white paint, giving him the look of a born troublemaker.
I knew we would get along famously.