Arriving back at the manor house, Frank went in and asked for Reg’s help unloading the trunk. There were actually a number of boxes, although only one in the trunk. Ellen had promised to have the rest of the journals sent to Frank when he was ready for them.
Just the one box was fairly heavy and large enough that they struggled to get it into the house. Fiona had gone into the kitchen. She came back to the study with a tray of tea and sandwiches. Setting the tray down, Fiona handed Frank a large manila envelope.
“I dinna ken if now’s the time, but Claire told me to give ye that when ye were ready for it.”
Opening the envelope, Frank discovered divorce papers. Claire’s portions were already filled out, and signed. He could use any grounds he liked, as that line was left blank.
“Claire told me that she hoped you would find someone, and she did’na want you to have to wait seven years to have her declared dead.”
Frank nodded. Words failing him just then. It was so like the Claire he knew.
“What is in the box that we brought in? Where did you get it Franklin?” Reg wanted to know.
“From Claire and her descendants. They’ve been writing journals for me since 1746. This is just the first box. Lady Fraser sent along an index of what’s in here along with what’s in the other boxes that are being sent.”
Frank put the divorce papers aside. He didn’t know what grounds to use. He could use adultery he supposed, but he didn’t want to tarnish Claire’s name like that, even if she wasn’t around to care anymore. Perhaps desertion. Whatever he said would put Claire in the wrong. He’d think about it later.
According to the index there were over a thousand journals altogether. From 1900 forward, there were two journals per year. One from a Fraser and one from a Murray. From 1860-1900 there were three journals, two Fraser and one Murray.
From 1804-1860 there were six journals From 1800-1804 there were seven journals. From 1760-1800 there were nine journals per year, although Frank noticed that the names were different on some of the later ones. Then it dropped down to four journals from 1746 to 1760.
This box had Claire’s journals in it, along with several letters, all with Frank’s name on them. With Reg and Fiona helping, they unpacked the box carefully, and placed the journals in order by year on the table.
Looking over the letters, he saw that most were addressed to Uncle Frank, and realized that these must be from Claire’s children.
Sitting back, Frank couldn’t decide what to read first. He was looking at two hundred year old history. Claire’s story after she left him. It was a little overwhelming.
Frank finally decided to begin with the letters from Claire and James. He figures it will be easier to read the one from Fraser, so he opens that one first.
I’ve struggled to put into words just what a gift you’ve given me. Then I realized, you already know. Thank you for giving me back my heart.
I swear to you on the Cross of our Lord Jesus, to love and protect Claire all the days of my life and ever after. Her and the child.
James Alexander Malcolm Mackenzie Fraser
Frank took a breath. He hadn’t been expecting the vow, but he probably should have. Everything Claire had said about the man indicated a strong sense of honor. Setting it aside, he picked up the letter from Claire.
I cried for hours when I read your letter to me. I know I said it before, I am so sorry for the pain I’ve caused you. That you went to the lengths you did to send me back to Jamie was generous enough. To then manufacture proof for him to obtain a pardon, words fail me except to say thank you.
Thank you so much for everything, but most of all for loving me. I regret that I couldn’t love you as you deserve.
I pray that you meet a woman who does. When you do, I wanted you to be able to marry her right away.
I know you said you didn’t want to divorce me, but I gave signed divorce papers to Mrs. Graham for her to give you when you were ready. I’ve left the grounds for you to declare. I think desertion would be the most accurate. Don’t worry about my reputation. I won’t be there to be upset by it.
Please. Be happy Frank.
There were other letters. Frank would read them later. He picked up the first journal of Claire’s. Another letter fell out of it.
July 5th, 1746
It’s been a week since I returned to Lallybroch. I’ve been wracking my brain, trying to think of a way to repay you.
I can hear you now… I know I don’t have to. I want to. You’ve given me everything Frank, and kept nothing for yourself. Jamie prays for you every night. For prosperity and happiness.
I pray for that too. Then it occurred to me that as a historian, what would help you the most, would be if we kept journals. I’ve heard you complain before that there aren’t enough first person Scottish accounts still around to give a complete picture of what happened after the rising.
Jamie and I talked about it and we can give you that. So I started a journal. So did Jamie and Ian and Jenny. I tried to remember what you said about recording everyday things along with the important events. I’ll leave everything in the priest hole for you. Everything in the journal actually happened, even the things that support the idea of Jamie spying for the English. I never told you the details, but we spent two years trying to stop the Uprising.
P.S. I told everyone not to put your name in the journals in case you need to show them to someone.
Frank was touched again that Claire had thought to do this for him. He opened the journal and started to read.
July 5th 1746
It’s a beautiful day today. Sunny and warm. Scotland reminds me of France on days such as today. We worked on laundry to take advantage of the fine weather.
Jamie is healing finally. After Colonel Grey sent him home, we weren’t sure if he would survive. Jenny has been such a support to me.
We aren’t able to go to London for Jamie’s pardon until the leg heals and he can walk on it. Jamie called Ned Gowan and asked him to begin preparing the legal petition. Even though Ned is the Mackenzie solicitor, he agreed to help us, being a close personal friend to Jamie and myself. I had no idea when he wrote our marriage contract that we would become friends, but now I am so happy that we did. I wouldn’t trust anyone else to represent Jamie in an English court.
Jenny is pregnant again. We’ll be having our babies within a few days of one another. That makes me a little nervous. The midwife in Broch Morda is competent, but not as concerned with cleanliness as I prefer. In France, Mother Hildegarde insisted that everything be very clean and I follow her example. It seems to help.
I can’t convince the local midwife of that though. Perhaps I can write to Mother Hildegarde and have her send one of the sisters to Lallybroch for our confinements.
Fergus is still having nightmares from Prestonpans. I should have watched him more closely, but the wounded were so many, and some of the Scots got angry with me for treating English soldiers before Scots. I didn’t care what side they were on, only how badly wounded and if I could help them. Fergus slipped out during the dispute.
I ’m so grateful he went home before Culloden along with all the Lallybroch men. I think if Jamie could have reasonably sent them all home sooner he would have, but his cover needed to be maintained. The men all knew and willingly stayed though. Poor Mary McNabb lost her husband at Prestonpans. We started giving a stipend to all the widows here. Thankfully there are only a handful.
I’m yawning loudly enough that Jamie can hear it from across the room. To bed with me.
July 11, 1746
Mass was beautiful this morning. The children sang the chants and they sounded like angels.
The potato crop is doing well and we had new potatoes for dinner. I also made a large green salad, with a vinegar dressing. I added boiled eggs and cheddar cheese to the salad which I had eaten in Italy on a trip with my Uncle as a child. It was well received although Murtagh muttered about eating grass like the cattle.
Jamie was able to join us at the table, although walking down the stairs made him so tired he fell asleep in the parlor right afterwards.
Jenny and Ian and I sat and talked quietly while he slept. Planning how to take care of our tenants and not run afoul of the English. I say that as though I’m not English. I don’t feel English anymore. I must confess that I’m angry about the rumors we’re hearing. It wasn’t enough to win, the soldiers are going out of their way to punish the people that survived. Most of the men died on the field so they take it out on the women and the children left behind.
I understand that the soldiers are angry. It was such a pointless war. Most of the Scots didn’t want to fight, they were trapped by their oaths to the Lairds that supported Charles Stuart. The women and children had even less choice. It’s not fair of the Army to punish them for something they had no say in. I hope things settle soon, but I fear they won’t.
There is some protection for those whose Lairds didn’t fight and sign an oath of loyalty to King George, but they are despised by the rest of Scotland. There isn’t a simple answer. For our family though there isn’t really a choice. The only way to protect Jamie and keep him from the hangman’s noose is to prove that he was a spy and working with the English. Our people all know that he did what was necessary to protect them, but it’s hard for those outside our lands to understand or accept. The Mackenzies in particular are angry as Jamie had to kill their war chief Dougal when the man attacked me as a spy. Jamie regrets it terribly. Dougal was his uncle after all. But he didn’t have a choice when Dougal overheard us talking about stopping Prince Charles from attacking at Culloden Moor.
Jenny and Ian have quietly told a trusted few that I have the ‘sight’. That helped our people to accept, but they can’t tell anyone outside Fraser land, lest I be thought a witch. It also explained why we planted potatoes. I know that food will be scarce, and that the English will try and starve us into submission. We’ve already decided to put aside some food for the tenants if they need it. I’ve also begun to teach anyone who is willing, which wild greens are good to eat.
I’m safe on our lands but if I should leave, I fear I wouldn’t be. Some already refer to me as the Stuart Witch because of the healing I did during the rising. I’ve already been accused of that once before, and have no desire to go through another trial like the one I experienced at Cranesmuir.
I fear that the coming years are going to be very hard no matter what we do. Jamie tells me not to worry, that he will keep me safe. I try to believe him, yet the anxiety is always with me.
After Jamie woke up, we spent the afternoon with him taking turns with Ian to read aloud. Jenny is teaching me to knit. I’m not very good at it yet, and Jenny is very patient.
The children sat in the room and played quietly listening to the book. It was calming for me, to be with family.
Frank closed the book and looked at the stacks on the table. There would be time to digest through all of this. He would need far longer than a year though. Did he want to continue teaching at Oxford or should he stay in Scotland and look for a position here. He honestly didn’t know. What Frank did realize was that he felt closer to Claire here. The pain was still there, but it was more of an ache than the piercing agony he had experienced in England.
Looking through the index, Frank realized Claire had fifty nine journals. Each was labeled with a year. She must have lived into her eighties at least. James only had fifty five journals. Claire outlived him then.
Frank picked up Claire’s last journal, then put it down again.
No. That was not a smart thing for him to read just now. Better to read other things first.
He picked up the packet of letters. Yes. Those would be alright to read. Settling back, Frank opened the packet.