Between two Fires

the whole Pas­sage from TFC- Chap­ter 22 ‑THE FIERY CROSS

Moun­tain set­tlers would go with­out ques­tion to help a neighbor—because they might as eas­i­ly require such help them­selves at any moment. There was, after all, no one else to turn to.
But they had nev­er fought for a com­mon pur­pose, had noth­ing in com­mon to defend. And to aban­don their home­steads and leave their fam­i­lies with­out defense, in order to serve the whim of a dis­tant gov­er­nor? A vague notion of duty might com­pel a few; a few would go from curios­i­ty, from rest­less­ness, or in the vague hope of gain. But most would go only if they were called by a man they respect­ed; a man that they trusted.I am not born either laird or chief to them, he’d said. Not born to them, no—but born to it, nonethe­less. He could, if he wished, make him­self chief.
“Why?” I asked soft­ly. “Why will you do it?” The shad­ows were ris­ing from the rocks, slow­ly drown­ing the light.
“Do you not see?” One eye­brow lift­ed as he turned his head to me. “Ye told me what would hap­pen at Culloden—and I believed ye, Sasse­nach, fear­ful as it was. The men of Lally­broch came home safe as much because of you as because of me.”
That was not entire­ly true; any man who had marched to Nairn with the High­land army would have known that dis­as­ter lay some­where ahead. Still … I had been able to help in some small way, to make sure that Lally­broch was pre­pared, not only for the bat­tle, but its after­math. The small weight of guilt that I always felt when I thought of the Ris­ing lift­ed slight­ly, eas­ing my heart.
“Well, per­haps. But what—”
“Ye’ve told me what will hap­pen here, Sasse­nach. You and Bri­an­na and MacKen­zie, all three. Rebel­lion, and war—and this time … vic­to­ry.”
Vic­to­ry. I nod­ded numbly, remem­ber­ing what I knew of wars and the cost of vic­to­ry. It was, how­ev­er, bet­ter than defeat.
“Well, then.” He stooped to pick up his dirk, and ges­tured with it to the moun­tains around us. “I have sworn an oath to the Crown; if I break it in time of war, I am a trai­tor. My land is forfeit—and my life—and those who fol­low me will share my fate. True?”
“True.” I swal­lowed, hug­ging my arms tight around me, wish­ing I still held Jem­my. Jamie turned to face me, his eyes hard and bright.
“But the Crown will­na pre­vail, this time. Ye’ve told me. And if the King is overthrown—what then of my oath? If I have kept it, then I am trai­tor to the rebel cause.”
“Oh,” I said, rather faint­ly.
“Ye see? At some point, Try­on and the King will lose their pow­er over me—but I din­na ken when that may be. At some point, the rebels will hold power—but I din­na ken when that may be. And in between …” He tilt­ed the point of his dirk down­ward.
“I do see. A very tidy lit­tle cleft stick,” I said, feel­ing some­what hol­low as I real­ized just how pre­car­i­ous our sit­u­a­tion was.
To fol­low Tryon’s orders now was plain­ly the only choice. Lat­er, how­ev­er … for Jamie to con­tin­ue as the Governor’s man into the ear­ly stages of the Rev­o­lu­tion was to declare him­self a Loyalist—which would be fatal, in the long run. In the short run, though, to break with Try­on, for­swear his oath to the King, and declare for the rebels … that would cost him his land, and quite pos­si­bly his life.
He shrugged, with a wry twist of the mouth, and sat back a lit­tle, eas­ing Jem­my on his lap.
“Well, it’s no as though I’ve nev­er found myself walk­ing between two fires before, Sasse­nach. I may come out of it a bit scorched round the edges, but I din­na think I’ll fry.” He gave a faint snort of what might be amuse­ment. “It’s in my blood, no?”
I man­aged a short laugh.
“If you’re think­ing of your grand­fa­ther,” I said, “I admit he was good at it. Caught up with him in the end, though, didn’t it?”
He tilt­ed his head from one side to the oth­er, equiv­o­cat­ing.
“Aye, maybe so. But do ye not think things per­haps fell out as he wished?”
The late Lord Lovat had been noto­ri­ous for the devi­ous­ness of his mind, but I couldn’t quite see the ben­e­fit in plan­ning to have his head chopped off, and said so.
Jamie smiled, despite the seri­ous­ness of the dis­cus­sion.
“Well, per­haps behead­ing was­na quite what he’d planned, but still—ye saw what he did; he sent Young Simon to bat­tle, and he stayed home. But which of them was it who paid the price on Tow­er Hill?”
I nod­ded slow­ly, begin­ning to see his point. Young Simon, who was in fact close to Jamie’s own age, had not suf­fered phys­i­cal­ly for his part in the Ris­ing, overt though it had been. He had not been impris­oned or exiled, like many of the Jaco­bites, and while he had lost most of his lands, he had in fact regained quite a bit of his prop­er­ty since, by means of repeat­ed and tena­cious law­suits brought against the Crown.
“And Old Simon could have blamed his son, and Young Simon would have end­ed up on the scaffold—but he didn’t. Well, I sup­pose even an old viper like that might hes­i­tate to put his own son and heir under the ax.”
Jamie nod­ded.
“Would ye let some­one chop off your head, Sasse­nach, if it was a choice betwixt you and Bri­an­na?”
“Yes,” I said, with­out hes­i­ta­tion. I was reluc­tant to admit that Old Simon might have pos­sessed such a virtue as fam­i­ly feel­ing, but I sup­posed even vipers had some con­cern for their children’s wel­fare.
Jem­my had aban­doned the prof­fered fin­ger in favor of his grandfather’s dirk, and was gnaw­ing fierce­ly on the hilt. Jamie wrapped his hand around the blade, hold­ing it safe­ly away from the child, but made no effort to take the knife away.
“So would I,” Jamie said, smil­ing slight­ly. “Though I do hope it will­na come to that.”
“I don’t think either army was—will be—inclined to behead peo­ple,” I said. That did, of course, leave a num­ber of oth­er unpleas­ant options available—but Jamie knew that as well as I did.
I had a sud­den, pas­sion­ate wish to urge him to throw it all up, turn away from it. Tell Try­on to stuff his land, tell the ten­ants they must make their own way—abandon the Ridge and flee. War was com­ing, but it need not engulf us; not this time. We could go south, to Flori­da, or to the Indies. To the west, to take refuge with the Chero­kee. Or even back to Scot­land. The Colonies would rise, but there were places one could run to.
He was watch­ing my face.
“This,” he said, a ges­ture dis­miss­ing Try­on, the mili­tia, the Reg­u­la­tors, “this is a ver­ra lit­tle thing, Sasse­nach, per­haps noth­ing in itself. But it is the begin­ning, I think.”
The light was begin­ning to fail now; the shad­ow cov­ered his feet and legs, but the last of the sun threw his own face into strong relief. There was a smudge of blood on his fore­head, where he had touched it, cross­ing him­self. I should have wiped it away, I thought, but made no move to do so.
“If I will save these men—if they will walk wi’ me between the fires—then they must fol­low me with­out ques­tion, Sasse­nach. Best it begins now, while not so much is at stake.”

Images Out­lander — Sea­son 5 — Episode 501

All rights for the Pic­ture from Out­lander go to the right­ful own­er Starz/Sony
Quote and Excerpt by Diana Gabal­don from “The Fiery Cross”
I own noth­ing but the editing

Heike Ginger Ba Written by:

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