evening gowns

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# outlander # Drumsofautumn # DianaGabaldon

“The moon was high in the sky by the time we reached the military checkpoint outside the city walls. It was only a half-moon, but shed enough light for us to see the trampled dirt track of the wagon road that ran before us, wide enough for two wagons to travel abreast.
We had encountered several such points on the road between Savannah and Charleston, mostly manned by bored soldiers who waved us through without bothering to check the passes we had obtained in Georgia. The checkpoints were mostly concerned with the interception of smuggled goods, and with the capture of the odd bondservant or slave, escaped from his master. evening gowns
Even filthy and unkempt, we passed notice for the most part; few travelers were in better case. Fergus and Duncan could not be indentured men, maimed as they were, and Jamie’s presence transcended his clothes; shabby coat or not, no man would take him for a servant.
Tonight was different, though. There were eight soldiers at the checkpoint, not the usual two, and all were armed and
alert. Musket barrels flashed in the moonlight as the shout of “Halt! Your name and your business!” came from the dark. A lantern was hoisted up six inches from my face, blinding me for a moment.
“James Fraser, bound for Wilmington, with my family and servants.” Jamie’s voice was calm, and his hands were steady as he handed me the reins before reaching for the passes in his coat.
I kept my head down, trying to look tired and indifferent. I was tired, all right—I could have lain down in the road and slept—but far from indifferent. What did they do to you for aiding the escape of a fugitive from the gallows? I wondered. A single drop of sweat snaked its way down the back of my neck.
“Have you seen anyone along the road as you passed, sir?” The “sir” came a little reluctantly; the dilapidation of Jamie’s coat and my gown were obvious in the pool of yellow lantern light.
“A carriage that passed us from the town; I suppose you will have seen that yourselves,” Jamie answered. The sergeant replied with a grunt, checking the passes carefully, then squinting into the dark to count and see that the attendant bodies matched.
“What goods do you carry?” He handed back the passes, motioning to one of his subordinates to search the wagon. I twitched the reins inadvertently, and the horses snorted and shook their heads. Jamie’s foot nudged mine, but he didn’t look at me.
“Small household goods,” he answered, still calm. “A half of venison and a bag of salt, for provision. And a body.” The soldier who had been reaching for the wagon covering stopped abruptly. The sergeant looked up sharply.
“A what?”
Jamie took the reins from me and wrapped them casually about his wrist. From the corner of my eye, I saw Duncan
edge toward the darkness of the wood; Fergus, with his pickpocket’s skill, had already faded from view.
“The corpse of the man who was hanged this afternoon. He was known to me; I asked permission of Colonel Franklin to
take him to his kinsmen in the north. That is why we travel by night,” he added delicately.
“I see.” The sergeant motioned a lantern bearer closer. He gave Jamie a long thoughtful look, eyes narrowed, and
nodded. “I remember you,” he said. “You called out to him at the last. A friend, was he?”
“I knew him once. Some years ago,” he added. The sergeant nodded to his subordinate, not taking his eyes off Jamie. “Have a look, Griswold.”
Griswold, who was perhaps fourteen, betrayed a notable lack of enthusiasm for the order, but dutifully lifted the
canvas cover and raised his lantern to peer into the wagon bed. With an effort, I kept myself from turning to look.
The near horse snorted and tossed its head. If we did have to bolt, it would take several seconds for the horses to get
the wagon moving. I heard Ian shift behind me, getting his hand on the club of hickory wood stowed behind the seat. “Yes, sir, it’s a body,” Griswold reported. “In a shroud.” He dropped the canvas with an air of relief, and exhaled
strongly through his nostrils.
“Fix your bayonet and give it a jab,” the sergeant said, eyes still on Jamie. I must have made a small noise, for the
sergeant’s glance shifted to me.
“You’ll soil my wagon,” Jamie objected. “The man’s fair ripe, after a day in the sun, aye?”
The sergeant snorted impatiently. “Jab it in the leg, then. Get on, Griswold!”
With a marked air of reluctance, Griswold affixed his bayonet, and standing on tiptoe, began to poke gingerly about in
the wagon bed. Behind me, Ian had begun to whistle softly. A Gaelic tune whose title translated to “In the Morn We Die,” which I thought very tasteless of him.
“No, sir, he’s dead all right.” Griswold dropped back on his heels, sounding relieved. “I poked right hard, but not a twitch.”
“All right, then.” Dismissing the young soldier with a jerk of his hand, the sergeant nodded to Jamie. “Drive on then, Mr. Fraser. But I’d advise you to choose your friends more carefully in future.”
I saw Jamie’s knuckles whiten on the reins, but he only drew himself up straight and settled his hat more firmly on his head. He clicked his tongue and the horses set off sharply, leaving puffs of pale dust floating in the lantern light.
The darkness seemed engulfing after the light; despite the moon, I could see almost nothing. The night enfolded us. I felt the relief of a hunted animal that finds safe refuge, and in spite of the oppressive heat, I breathed more freely.
We covered a distance of nearly a quarter mile before anyone spoke.
“Are ye wounded, Mr. Bonnet?” Ian spoke in a loud whisper, just audible over the rattle of the wagon.
“Yes, he’s pinked me in the thigh, damn the puppy.” Bonnet’s voice was low, but calm. “Thank Christ he left off before
the blood soaked through the shroud. Dead men don’t bleed.”
Drums Of Autumn
Diana Gabaldon

“Las bayonetas brillaron a la luz de la luna al grito de «¡Alto! ¡Nombre y destino!». Un farol iluminó mi cara, cegándome por un momento.
-James Fraser, rumbo a Wilmington, con mi familia y servidores.
La voz de Jamie era tranquila y sus manos sostenían las riendas con firmeza cuando me las entregó para buscar los pases en su abrigo.
Mantuve la cabeza baja, tratando de parecer cansada e indiferente.
-¿Han visto a alguien por el camino, señor?
El «señor» fue dicho de mala gana, pues nuestra ropa gastada destacaba a la luz del farol.
-Un carruaje que se cruzó con nosotros. Venía del pueblo y supongo que lo habrán visto -
respondió Jamie.
El sargento gruñó y revisó con cuidado los documentos.
¿Qué es lo que llevan?
Nos devolvió los pases e hizo una seña a uno de sus subordinados para que revisara el carro. -Cosas para la casa -respondió Jamie, siempre con calma-. Medio venado y una bolsa de sal. Y
un cadáver.
El soldado que había empezado a revisar el carro se detuvo de golpe. El sargento levantó la
cabeza bruscamente. -¿Un qué?
-El cuerpo del hombre que colgaron esta tarde. Lo conocía y pedí permiso al coronel Franklin para llevárselo a sus parientes, en el norte. Por eso viajamos de noche -añadió sutilmente.
-Ya veo. -El sargento acercó el farol y miró pensativo a Jamie. Luego asintió-. Ya recuerdo. Usted le llamó en el último momento. ¿Un amigo, entonces?
-Lo conocí hace tiempo. Hace algunos años.
El sargento asintió sin dejar de mirar a Jamie e hizo un gesto a su subordinado.
-Echa un vistazo, Griswold.
Griswold, de unos catorce años, demostró una notable falta de entusiasmo ante la orden, pero
apartó la lona y levantó el farol para mirar en el interior del carro. Tuve que hacer un esfuerzo para no darme la vuelta y mirar.
-Sí, señor, es un cuerpo -informó Griswold-. Con una mortaja.
Dejó caer la lona con alivio y respiró profundamente.
-Cala la bayoneta y pínchalo -ordenó el sargento sin quitar los ojos de Jamie.
Debí de moverme, porque el sargento me miró de reojo.
-Van a ensuciar mi carro -se quejó Jamie-. El hombre estará bastante descompuesto después de
un día al sol, ¿no cree?
El sargento resopló con impaciencia.
-Entonces pínchalo en la pierna. ¡Vamos, Griswold!
Con un marcado aire de disgusto, Griswold preparó su bayoneta y se puso de puntillas para
cumplir su tarea.
-Señor, está bien muerto -informó con alivio Griswold-. He clavado con fuerza la bayoneta y
no se ha movido.
-Muy bien. -Despidió al joven soldado con un gesto y se dirigió a Jamie-. Siga adelante, señor
Fraser. Pero, en el futuro elija sus amigos con más cuidado.
Los nudillos de Jamie se pusieron blancos por la tensión.
Cubrimos una distancia bastante larga antes de que alguien hablara.
-¿Está herido, señor Bonnet? -susurró Ian.
-Sí, ese maldito cachorro me ha pinchado en el muslo.”
Tambores de otoño
Diana Gabaldon