Voyager

Author: P Hana

Page 83

   

“She kent him, and him her, and the shock o’ their meeting gave her back her voice, but not her mind, puir thing. He took her home, o’ course, but she was always as though she was in the past—sometime before she met the Hielan’ man. Her father was dead then, from the influenza, and Tilly Lawson said as the shock o’ seeing her like that kilt her mother, but could be as that were the influenza, too, for there was a great deal of it about that year.”

The whole affair had left Archibald Campbell deeply embittered against both Highland Scots and the English army, and he had resigned his commission. With his parents dead, he found himself middling well-to-do, but the sole support of his damaged sister.

“He couldna marry,” Miss Cowden explained, “for what woman would have him, and she”—with a nod toward the fire—“was thrown into the bargain?”

In his difficulties, he had turned to God, and become a minister. Unable to leave his sister, or to bear the confinement of the family house at Burntisland with her, he had purchased a coach, hired a woman to look after Margaret, and begun to make brief journeys into the surrounding countryside to preach, often taking her with him.

In his preaching he had found success, and this year had been asked by the Society of Presbyterian Missionaries if he would undertake his longest journey yet, to the West Indies, there to organize churches and appoint elders on the colonies of Barbados and Jamaica. Prayer had given him his answer, and he had sold the family property in Burntisland and moved his sister to Edinburgh while he made preparations for the journey.

I glanced once more at the figure by the fire. The heated air from the hearth stirred the skirts about her feet, but beyond that small movement, she might have been a statue.

“Well,” I said with a sigh, “there’s not a great deal I can do for her, I’m afraid. But I’ll give you some prescriptions—receipts, I mean—to have made up at the apothecary’s before you go.”

If they didn’t help, they couldn’t hurt, I reflected, as I copied down the short lists of ingredients. Chamomile, hops, rue, tansy, and verbena, with a strong pinch of peppermint, for a soothing tonic. Tea of rose hips, to help correct the slight nutritional deficiency I had noted—spongy, bleeding gums, and a pale, bloated look about the face.

“Once you reach the Indies,” I said, handing Miss Cowden the paper, “you must see that she eats a great deal of fruit—oranges, grapefruit, and lemons, particularly. You should do the same,” I added, causing a look of profound suspicion to flit across the maid’s wide face. I doubted she ate any vegetable matter beyond the occasional onion or potato, save her daily parritch.

The Reverend Campbell had not returned, and I saw no real reason to wait for him. Bidding Miss Campbell adieu, I pulled open the door of the bedroom, to find Young Ian standing on the other side of it.

“Oh!” he said, startled. “I was just comin’ to find ye, Auntie. It’s nearly half-past three, and Uncle Jamie said—”

“Jamie?” The voice came from behind me, from the chair beside the fire.

Miss Cowden and I whirled to find Miss Campbell sitting bolt upright, eyes still wide but focused now. They were focused on the doorway, and as Young Ian stepped inside, Miss Campbell began to scream.

Rather unsettled by the encounter with Miss Campbell, Young Ian and I made our way thankfully back to the refuge of the brothel, where we were greeted matter-of-factly by Bruno and taken to the rear parlor. There we found Jamie and Fergus deep in conversation.

“True, we do not trust Sir Percival,” Fergus was saying, “but in this case, what point is there to his telling you of an ambush, save that such an ambush is in fact to occur?”

“Damned if I ken why,” Jamie said frankly, leaning back and stretching in his chair. “And that being so, we do, as ye say, conclude that there’s meant to be an ambush by the excisemen. Two days, he said. That would be Mullen’s Cove.” Then, catching sight of me and Ian, he half-rose, motioning us to take seats.

“Will it be the rocks below Balcarres, then?” Fergus asked.

Jamie frowned in thought, the two stiff fingers of his right hand drumming slowly on the tabletop.

“No,” he said at last. “Let it be Arbroath; the wee cove under the abbey there. Just to be sure, aye?”

“All right.” Fergus pushed back the half-empty plate of oatcakes from which he had been refreshing himself, and rose. “I shall spread the word, milord. Arbroath, in four days.” With a nod to me, he swirled his cloak about his shoulders and went out.

“Is it the smuggling, Uncle?” Young Ian asked eagerly. “Is there a French lugger coming?” He picked up an oatcake and bit into it, scattering crumbs over the table.

Jamie’s eyes were still abstracted, thinking, but they cleared as he glanced sharply at his nephew. “Aye, it is. And you, Young Ian, are having nothing to do with it.”

“But I could help!” the boy protested. “You’ll need someone to hold the mules, at least!”

“After all your Da said to you and me yesterday, wee Ian?” Jamie raised his brows. “Christ, ye’ve a short memory, lad!”

Ian looked mildly abashed at this, and took another oatcake to cover his confusion. Seeing him momentarily silent, I took the opportunity to ask my own questions.

“You’re going to Arbroath to meet a French ship that’s bringing in smuggled liquor?” I asked. “You don’t think that’s dangerous, after Sir Percival’s warning?”

Jamie glanced at me with one brow still raised, but answered patiently enough.

“No; Sir Percival was warning me that the rendezvous in two days’ time is known. That was to take place at Mullen’s Cove. I’ve an arrangement wi’ Jared and his captains, though. If a rendezvous canna be kept for some reason, the lugger will stand offshore and come in again the next night—but to a different place. And there’s a third fallback as well, should the second meeting not come off.”

“But if Sir Percival knows the first rendezvous, won’t he know the others, too?” I persisted.

Jamie shook his head and poured out a cup of wine. He quirked a brow at me to ask whether I wanted any, and upon my shaking my head, sipped it himself.

“No,” he said. “The rendezvous points are arranged in sets of three, between me and Jared, sent by sealed letter inside a packet addressed to Jeanne, here. Once I’ve read the letter, I burn it. The men who’ll help meet the lugger will all know the first point, of course—I suppose one o’ them will have let something slip,” he added, frowning into his cup. “But no one—not even Fergus—kens the other two points unless we need to make use of one. And when we do, all the men ken well enough to guard their tongues.”

“But then it’s bound to be safe, Uncle!” Young Ian burst out. “Please let me come! I’ll keep well back out o’ the way,” he promised.

Jamie gave his nephew a slightly jaundiced look.

“Aye, ye will,” he said. “You’ll come wi’ me to Arbroath, but you and your auntie will stay at the inn on the road above the abbey until we’ve finished. I’ve got to take the laddie home to Lallybroch, Claire,” he explained, turning to me. “And mend things as best I can with his parents.” The elder Ian had left Halliday’s that morning before Jamie and Young Ian arrived, leaving no message, but presumably bound for home. “Ye willna mind the journey? I wouldna ask it, and you just over your travel from Inverness”—his eyes met mine with a small, conspiratorial smile—“but I must take him back as soon as may be.”

“I don’t mind at all,” I assured him. “It will be good to see Jenny and the rest of your family again.”

“But Uncle—” Young Ian blurted. “What about—”

“Be still!” Jamie snapped. “That will be all from you, laddie. Not another word, aye?”

Young Ian looked wounded, but took another oatcake and inserted it into his mouth in a marked manner, signifying his intention to remain completely silent.

Jamie relaxed then, and smiled at me.

“Well, and how was your visit to the madwoman?”

“Very interesting,” I said. “Jamie, do you know any people named Campbell?”

“Not above three or four hundred of them,” he said, a smile twitching his long mouth. “Had ye a particular Campbell in mind?”

“A couple of them.” I told him the story of Archibald Campbell and his sister, Margaret, as related to me by Nellie Cowden.

He shook his head at the tale, and sighed. For the first time, he looked truly older, his face tightened and lined by memory.

“It’s no the worst tale I’ve heard, of the things that happened after Culloden,” he said. “But I dinna think—wait.” He stopped, and looked at me, eyes narrowed in thought. “Margaret Campbell. Margaret. Would she be a bonny wee lass—perhaps the size o’ the second Mary? And wi’ soft brown hair like a wren’s feather, and a verra sweet face?”

“She probably was, twenty years ago,” I said, thinking of that still, plump figure sitting by the fire. “Why, do you know her after all?”

“Aye, I think I do.” His brow was furrowed in thought, and he looked down at the table, drawing a random line through the spilled crumbs. “Aye, if I’m right, she was Ewan Cameron’s sweetheart. You’ll mind Ewan?”

“Of course.” Ewan had been a tall, handsome joker of a man, who had worked with Jamie at Holyrood, gathering bits of intelligence that filtered through from England. “What’s become of Ewan? Or should I not ask?” I said, seeing the shadow come over Jamie’s face.

“The English shot him,” he said quietly. “Two days after Culloden.” He closed his eyes for a moment, then opened them and smiled tiredly at me.

“Well, then, may God bless the Reverend Archie Campbell. I’d heard of him, a time or two, during the Rising. He was a bold soldier, folk said, and a brave one—and I suppose he’ll need to be now, poor man.” He sat a moment longer, then stood up with decision.

“Aye, well, there’s a great deal to be done before we leave Edinburgh. Ian, you’ll find the list of the printshop customers upstairs on the table; fetch it down to me and I’ll mark off for ye the ones with orders outstanding. Ye must go to see each one and offer back their money. Unless they choose to wait until I’ve found new premises and laid in new stock—that might take as much as two months, though, tell them.”

He patted his coat, where something made a small jingling sound.

“Luckily the assurance money will pay back the customers, and have a bit left over. Speaking of which”—he turned and smiled at me—“your job, Sassenach, is to find a dressmaker who will manage ye a decent gown in two days’ time. For I expect Daphne would like her dress back, and I canna take ye home to Lallybroch naked.”

30

RENDEZVOUS

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