At MacRannochs House
Some Time later at the Abbey.….….…
The whole Scene (i just left some Wentworth Scenes out)
Murtagh hesitated, as though choosing his words carefully. “Weel, it’s just…he’s decided as it would be best for ye to leave him here and go back to Scotland. He — ”The rest of what he was saying was lost as I pushed my way rudely past him.
The heavy door swung shut with a soft thump behind me. Jamie was dozing, facedown on the bed. He was uncovered, clad only in a novice’s short gown; the charcoal brazier in the corner made the room comfortably warm, if smoky.
He started violently when I touched him. His eyes, still glazed with sleep, were sunk deep and his face was haunted by dreams. I took his hand between both of mine, but he wrenched it away. With a look of near-despair, he shut his eyes and buried his face in the pillow.
Trying not to exhibit any outward sign of disturbance, I quietly pulled up a stool and sat down near his head. “I won’t touch you,” I said, “but you must talk to me.” I waited for several minutes while he lay unmoving, shoulders hunched defensively. At last he sighed and sat up, moving slowly and painfully, swinging his legs over the edge of the cot. “Aye,” he said flatly, not looking at me, “aye, I suppose I must. I should have done so before…but I was coward enough to hope I need not.” His voice was bitter and he kept his head bowed, hands clasped loosely around his knees. “I didna used to think myself a coward, but I am. I should have made Randall kill me, but I did not. I had no reason to live, but I was not brave enough to die.” His voice dropped, and he spoke so softly I could hardly hear him. “And I knew I would have to see you one last time…to tell you…but…Claire, my love…oh, my love.”
He picked up the pillow from the bed and hugged it to him as though for protection, a substitute for the comfort he could not seek from me. He rested his forehead on it for a moment, gathering strength.“When ye left me there at Wentworth, Claire,” he said quietly, head still bowed, “I listened to your footsteps, going away on the flags outside, and I said to myself, I’ll think of her now. I’ll remember her; the feel of her skin and the scent of her hair and the touch of her mouth on mine. I’ll think of her until that door opens again. And I’ll think of her tomorrow, when I stand on the gallows, to give me courage at the last. Between the time the door opens, and the time I leave this place to die” — the big hands clenched briefly and relaxed — “I will not think at all,” he finished softly.…
.……I wanted to stop Jamie, to tell him that he didn’t need to go on, must not go on, but I bit my lip hard to keep from speaking and clasped my own hands tight together to keep from touching him.…..
“Claire, I did not want to think of you. I couldna bear to be there, naked, and…like that…and to remember loving you. It was blasphemy. I meant to wipe you from my mind, and only to…exist, so long as I must. But he would not allow it.” Wetness shone on his cheeks, but he was not crying now.“He talked. All during it, he talked to me. Partly it was threats, and partly it was love talk, but often it was you.”
“Me?” My voice, unused for so long, came out of my strained throat as little more than a croak. He nodded, looking down at the pillow again.
“Aye. He was most terribly jealous of you, you know.”.….….….….….….….……
He shook his head slowly, still gazing down at his feet.
“The…it’s all linked for me now. I canna think of you, Claire, even of kissing you or touching your hand, without feeling the fear and the pain and the sickness come back. I lie here feeling that I will die without your touch, but when you touch me, I feel as though I will vomit with shame and loathing of myself. I canna even see you now without…” His forehead rested on knotted fists, knuckles dug hard into his eye-sockets. The tendons of his neck were sharply etched with strain, and his voice came half-muffled.
“Claire, I want you to leave me. Go back to Scotland, to Craigh na Dun. Go back to your place, to your…husband. Murtagh will take you safe, I’ve told him.” He was silent for a moment, and I did not move.He looked up again with desperate bravery, and spoke very simply.
“I will love you as long as I live, but I cannot be your husband any longer. And I will not be less to you.” His face began to break apart. “Claire, I want you so badly that my bones shake in my body, but God help me, I am afraid to touch you!”
I started up to go to him, but he stopped me with a sudden motion of his hand. He was half doubled up, face contorted with internal struggle, and his voice was strangled and breathless.
“Claire…please. Please go. I’m going to be verra sick, and I don’t want you to see it. Please.”I heard the pleading in his voice and knew I must spare him this one indignity, at least. I rose, and for the first time in my professional life, left a sick man to his own devices, helpless and alone.