The whole Scene:
During his time with the French army, years before, one of the sergeants had explained to the younger mercenaries the trick of falling asleep the night before a battle.“Make yourself comfortable, examine your conscience, and make a good Act of Contrition. Father Hugo says that in time of war, even if there is no priest to shrive you, your sins can be forgiven this way. Since you cannot commit sins while asleep—not even you, Simenon!—you will awake in a state of grace, ready to fall on the bastards. And with nothing to look forward to but victory or heaven—how can you be afraid?”While privately noting a few flaws in this argument, Jamie had found it still good advice; freeing the conscience eased the soul, and the comforting repetition of prayer distracted the mind from fearful imaginings and lulled it toward sleep.He gazed upward into the black vault of the sky, and willed the tightness of neck and shoulders to relax into the ground’s hard embrace. The stars were faint and hazy tonight, no match for the nearby glow of the English fires.His mind reached out to the men around him, resting briefly on each, one by one. The stain of sin was small weight on his conscience, compared with these. Ross, McMurdo, Kincaid, Kent, McClure…he paused to give brief thanks that his wife and the boy Fergus at least were safe. His mind lingered on his wife, wanting to bask in the memory of her reassuring smile, the solid, wonderful warmth of her in his arms, pressed tight against him as he had kissed her goodbye that afternoon. Despite his own weariness and the waiting presence of Lord George outside, he had wanted to tumble her onto the waiting mattress right then and take her quickly, at once, without undressing. Strange how the imminence of fighting made him so ready, always. Even now…But he hadn’t yet finished his mental roster, and he felt his eyelids closing already, as tiredness sought to pull him under. He dismissed the faint tightening of his testicles that came at thought of her, and resumed his roll call, a shepherd treacherously lulled to sleep by counting the sheep he was leading to slaughter.
But it wouldn’t be a slaughter, he tried to reassure himself. Light casualties for the Jacobite side. Thirty men killed. Out of two thousand, only a slim chance that some of the Lallybroch men would be among that number, surely? If she was right.He shuddered faintly under the plaid, and fought down the momentary doubt that wrenched his bowels. If. God, if. Still he had trouble believing it, though he had seen her by that cursed rock, face dissolving in terror around the panic-wide gold eyes, the very outlines of her body blurring as he, panicked also, had clutched at her, pulling her back, feeling little more than the frail double bone of her forearm under his hand. Perhaps he should have let her go, back to her own place. No, no perhaps. He knew that he should. But he had pulled her back. Given her the choice, but kept her with him by the sheer force of his wanting her. And so she had stayed. And given him the choice—to believe her, or not. To act, or to run. And the choice was made now, and no power on earth could stop the dawn from coming.
His heart beat heavily, pulse echoing in wrists and groin and the pit of his stomach. He sought to calm it, resuming his count, one name to each heartbeat. Willie McNab, Bobby McNab, Geordie McNab…thank God, young Rabbie McNab was safe, left at home…Will Fraser, Ewan Fraser, Geoffrey McClure…McClure…had he touched on both George and Sorley? Shifted slightly, smiling faintly, feeling for the soreness left along his ribs. Murtagh. Aye, Murtagh, tough old boot…my mind is no troubled on your account, at least. William Murray, Rufus Murray, Geordie, Wallace, Simon…And at last, had closed his eyes, commended all of them to the care of the black sky above, and lost himself in the murmured words that came to him still most naturally in French—“Mon Dieu, je regrette…”