The whole Scene:
Jamie snorted, but laughed a little too. “Aye. It’s no verra easy to be sixteen, is it?”
“So you did help that girl Laoghaire because you felt sorry for her,” I said, when I had recovered my composure. “You knew what it was like.”
He was surprised. “Aye, I said so. It’s a lot easier to get punched in the face at three-and-twenty than to have your bum strapped in public at sixteen. Bruised pride hurts worse than anything, and it bruises easy then.”
“I wondered. I’d never seen anyone grin in anticipation of being punched in the mouth.”
“Couldna very well do it afterward.”
“Mmh.” I nodded agreement. “I thought — ” I said, then stopped in embarrassment.
“Ye thought what? Oh, about me and Laoghaire, ye mean,” he said, divining my thought. “You and Alec and everyone else, including Laoghaire. I’d have done the same if she’d been plain.” He nudged me in the ribs. “Though I dinna expect you’ll believe that.”
“Well, I did see you together that day in the alcove,” I defended myself, “and somebody certainly taught you how to kiss.”
Jamie shuffled his feet in the dust, embarrassed. He ducked his head shyly. “Well now, Sassenach, I’m no better than most men. Sometimes I try, but I dinna always manage. Ye know that bit in St. Paul, where he says ’tis better to marry than burn? Well, I was burnin’ quite badly there.”
I laughed again, feeling light-hearted as a sixteen-year-old myself. “So you married me,” I teased, “to avoid the occasion of sin?”“Aye. That’s what marriage is good for; it makes a sacrament out of things ye’d otherwise have to confess.”
I collapsed again.
“Oh, Jamie, I do love you!”
This time it was his turn to laugh. He doubled over, then sat down at the roadside, fizzing with mirth. He slowly fell over backward and lay in the long grass, wheezing and choking.
“What on earth is the matter with you?” I demanded, staring at him. At long last, he sat up, wiping his streaming eyes. He shook his head, gasping.
“Murtagh was right about women. Sassenach, I risked my life for ye, committing theft, arson, assault, and murder into the bargain. In return for which ye call me names, insult my manhood, kick me in the ballocks and claw my face. Then I beat you half to death and tell ye all the most humiliating things have ever happened to me, and you say ye love me.” He laid his head on his knees and laughed some more. Finally he rose and held out a hand to me, wiping his eyes with the other.
“You’re no verra sensible, Sassenach, but I like ye fine. Let’s go.”