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Started by Welsh Wench, May 12, 2008, 07:28:47 AM

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Welsh Wench

The dishes were put away and Honour and Aggie sat down to a cup of tea at the dining room table. Jack had taken his traditional spot in front of the fireplace. He removed his boots, started to light his pipe and then looked over to the disapproving looks of both women.
He sighed and put it back in his pocket.

Zara climbed up on his lap.
"Da, tell me a story."
"What kind of story would you like, sweetheart?"
"Alright. Once in Tortuga, Uncle Josie and I were in this tavern..."
Honour hurriedly interrupted him.
"I don't think any of those stories would be suitable for your daughter, Jack."
"Yeah, I guess so. But Zara, I don't know any stories about selkies and faeries. That is your Gran's business."
She shook her head. "That's Gwan's stories. Tell me the one about the stone."
Jack looked puzzled.
"Stone? What stone?"
"The stone you and Mama went to look for."

"Oh, dear," Aggie breathed.
Jack looked to Honour and she shrugged. "You took me away from her for almost two weeks. I think you owe it to her to give an abbreviated version of it."
"Da, tell me!"

Jack settled in as Honour brought him a whiskey.
"I think you will need this...Not you, Zara! Your da!" as Zara reached for the glass.

Jack put his arms around his little girl.
"Zara, my darling, you are a little Scots lass and this is in your history so yes, you have the right to hear the story. So here goes."
"Once upon a time, there was a big stone about so big." Jack spread his hands out to the dimensions.
"This big stone was brought to Scotland, where we are now. It was said that as long as the stone was in Scotland, a Scottish king would always rule the land. But years ago, a big bad king named Edward stole the stone and put it under a chair that the king of England sat on to be crowned. But before he took the stone, the monks of Scone Abbey heard he was on his way and what do you think they did?"
Zara shook her head.
"The monks said, 'We can't let the stone go to England. We need to keep it here.' So they made a fake stone and hid the real one. They hid it so well that no one knows where it is. Now the bad king took a stone back that wasn't even the one he needed.":
"Did he ever find out, Da?"
"No, darling. And years later, your great grandfather was given a riddle that gave clues to where it would be. And your mama and Uncles Rafferty and Flannery and Aunt Fiona went looking for it."
"So where is it? Can I see it?"
Jack hugged her. "No, sweetheart. We couldn't find it either. It is somewhere, just waiting to be found."
Show me your tan lines..and I'll show you mine!

I just want to be Layla.....

Welsh Wench

Jack and Thomas took their seats by the fire.
"Oh, that feels so good!" Jack said as he took off his boots and warmed his feet by the fire.
Thomas followed suit.
"Thomas, I thought those boots were welded on your feet!"
"Oh...I take them off sometimes."
"You mean.."
"Jack, do you think I am married to the Admiralty and the Crown? I do have time for...recreation."
Aggie sat in her chair, her knitting needles flashing as she knitted a tiny hat in red and white.
"Is that for the church, Aggie?"
"Maybe. It depends."
"On how it turns out?"

Honour came down the stairs and stood before the fire, arching as she stretched and then rubbed her back.
"Zara finally went to sleep. She was telling me all about the brownies and the fairies and the selkies and a few other creatures I never heard of."
Aggie smiled. "Did she tell you she caught her first fish?'
"No!" Jack exclaimed. "She will make a fine boy yet!"
Honour picked up a pillow and threw it at him.
Aggie's needles clacked away. "Maybe the next bairn will be a boy. Then you can let Zara be the wee lass she is. After all, she didn't go out to see the frog the boys brought to the house."

Honour sat down on the soft chair next to the fire. She and Jack exchanged looks and Jack nodded imperceptively to her.
"Aggie," she started, "There is something we need to tell you."
Aggie continued to knit. Clack! Clack!
"You mean about the wee bairn you are carrying?"
" did you know? Oh no! If Fiona or one of the men told you after I swore them to secrecy...."
"No one had to tell me, dear. I saw it in your eyes. I knew you were up the spout when you left here."
"How could you when I wasn't even sure myself?"
Jack grinned, "We forgot, darling, that Aggie is also a midwife."
"Honour, my dear, it was the softness in your eyes. That was the only reasonable explanation and from what I could tell, there was ample opportunity for it. It was only a matter of time."
Thomas clapped Jack on the back.
"Why, you old son of a gun!"

Jack smiled, "Are you sure you didn't put some sort of potion in Honour's tea, Gran?"
"Nonsense. One was not needed. And I am pleased as can be the bairn was conceived in Scotland. Now a kinship with the land will be his or her ties."

Honour smiled, "Well, I guess I have to tell Zara she will be a big sister."
"Oh, and speaking of which....I have to see Seonaid tomorrow. She's expecting a visit from me. You do remember her, she was the one I was sitting with at the ceilidh. I would very much like to have you accompany me tomorrow. That is, if Jack can tear himself away from you."
"Oh, I think it will be alright. Thomas and I have made plans to go fishing with Flannery and Rafferty tomorrow."
"Then it is settled. We shall go calling tomorrow. After all, I need to show Zara off one more time."


Jack fluffed up the pillows and leaned against the headboard, watching Honour as she brushed her hair. Her dressing gown billowed around her.
"I think you are starting to show a bit of a bump, Honour."
She put her hairbrush down and turned sideways, cupping her stomach. "You think?"
"Well...just a little. How long before you get as big as a house?"
She picked up her pillow and whacked him in the face.
"I'll have you know, Jack Wolfe, that I carried your daughter very neatly. Most people couldn't tell I was with child for at least six months."
"I wish I had known, Honour."
"But maybe you weren't ready for a child then. You had a year and a half without me to grow up and figure out what you wanted."
She pulled the covers back and got into bed.
Jack turned to face her, propping himself up on his elbow. He pushed her hair back gently.
"True. It took losing you to make me realize that."
She held her finger up. "Not 'lose', Jack. 'Misplaced.' You misplaced me."

She snuggled down into the covers. "I think I only got sick once or twice. I threw up when we were looking for that Stone."
"I never knew."
"I didn't want to raise any suspicions yet. Besides, men are dense when it comes to reading the signs."
He kissed her. "Do you think it is a boy, Honour?"
"Jack, there is no way to tell. I don't believe the old wives' tales of how you carry the baby or that they can see it in your eyes. Or spit on the hand and read a sign. You will find out when I find out. When the baby makes its arrival. Now blow out that candle. It's nice to be in a bed again and not on some makeshift pallet."
"We managed."
She put her arms around him and whispered, "We did. But this is oh, so much nicer!"
Show me your tan lines..and I'll show you mine!

I just want to be Layla.....

Welsh Wench

Zara was sitting at the table with Aggie, eating a scone and drinking a glass of milk when Honour came down the stairs.
"Hi Mama! Gwan said we are going a-calling today. She said it will be a fun adventure!"
Honour poured herself a cup of tea.
"How far is it to Seonaid's house, Aggie?"
"Not far. Two miles up the road. I thought we would take the buckboard cart. It's not bad coming home but going there is uphill and these old legs are a bit tired for that. The cart is comfortable. My Tommy built the seat with pillows and there is a canopy to keep the sun off us."
"I did meet her, didn't I?"
"Yes. At the ceilidh. She was the one who cracked Arliss Campbell over the head with that tankard."
"Oh, yes. I remember. Have you known her long?"
Aggie smiled at the memory. "I have known Seonaid since God invented dirt. We were wee lasses in nappies together. Her mum and my mum were best friends. She stood up for me when I married Tommy and I stood up for her when she married Duncan. A charmer that one was, and a perfect companion for Tommy. Have mercy, what one didn't think, the other one did. And for good reason. Duncan was Tommy's cousin."
"I will be happy to make her acquaintance."
"Then let's get the cart ready."

Within an hour, the two women and Zara were riding down the lane. It was wide and smooth so there was no jostling. In fifteen minutes' time, the pulled up to a cottage with a neat flower bed, thatched roof and a brick pathway.
"No need to knock. Seonaid! " Aggie called out.
"In here!"
The three of them entered into the cottage. It was neat as a pin with a big table off to the side.
Sitting there was a lovely woman that Honour judged to be in her late 60's. She had thick beautiful red hair that was brushed into a braid and wrapped low at the nape of her neck. Her eyes were of the deepest green and she looked up from her tea and smiled.
"Hello. You must be Jack's wife."
"You know him?"
Seonaid and Aggie sat down and exchanged amused looks.
The woman shook her head. "I never met him but I know OF him. He is the son of my best friend Edyth."
Aggie gave Honour a big smile.
"Honour Wolfe, I would like to introduce you to Kyla MacGregor."

Honour practically dropped Zara on the floor.
"Mama!" Zara yelled indignantly.
"I-I'm sorry, Zara. Did—did you say Kyla?"
Aggie nodded.
"You may know her as Kyla Drummond but she is MacGregor now."
"But how---why? Why didn't you tell me?"
"Because Seonaid and I wanted it to be a surprise."
"Surprise? Surprise is an understatement."  Honour dropped down in the nearest chair.
"But—but you are DEAD!"
Kyla raised an eyebrow. "Where did you get a notion like that?"
"Um...stories. Legends. The legend of Caeliborne house."
Kyla laughed lightly. "Are those stories still floating around?"

Honour looked down. "I am so sorry. My husband and I took refuge in your house—your old house—the manor—during that storm last month. He left some money there for some cognac he took. If you want I can get some of them back to you and give you the money for the bottles he—we—drank. I am so sorry we did not mean to trespass!"
Kyla waved her hand. "It ceased to be my house a long time ago."

Honour talked to Kyla as if Aggie and Seonaid were not there. "We could have sworn we saw a ghost. YOUR ghost. It was said that....never mind. I am so sorry."
"Please stop apologizing. I was glad to open my old house to you even if I wasn't there."

Aggie quietly put the diary in Honour's hands and nodded to her.
"I found this in the loose brick in the bedroom. I didn't mean to read it. Honestly, I didn't! And if I knew you were alive, I certainly wouldn't have."
She placed it in Kyla's hands.
Kyla thumbed through the pages. "My goodness....I had forgotten about it."
She turned to the last page.

'Fate must have played a hand in it. Because I have found my Rory again.'

Kyla looked up at Honour with tear-filled eyes.
"I found him. That is the happiest day of my life."
Aggie put a handkerchief in Honour's hand. Honour handed it to Kyla.
"We found this. It was stuck in a drawer. Honest, we weren't snooping!"
She hung her head down. "Yes, I guess we were. But we considered it exploring. And we thought you were dead."

Kyla opened up the linen handkerchief. "Oh, my! I was wondering where it went to. Where did you find it?"
"It was stuck behind the drawer in that dresser with the big mirror."
Honour burst into tears and threw her arms around Kyla's neck and blurted out, "I am so glad you are not dead!"

Aggie turned to Kyla and said quietly, "You will have to excuse her. She's with child. Emotional, you know...."

Show me your tan lines..and I'll show you mine!

I just want to be Layla.....

Welsh Wench

 Kyla patted Honour on the back as she hugged her. "It's alright," she said soothingly. Honour drew back and took out a handkerchief and wiped her eyes.
"I-I'm sorry. I don't know what came over me."
Aggie turned to her old friend. "Come, Seonaid. Let's take Zara out in the garden and you can show her the new lambs."
Seonaid picked up on Aggie's excuse and held her hand out to Zara. "I think that is a marvelous idea. Zara, did you know we have three baby lambs?"
Zara took her hand and asked as they walked out the door,  Zara said, "Gwan said if March comes in like a lamb, she will go out like a lion. Do you think that is true, Miss Seonaid?"
"If your Gran said so, then it is true..." as their voices drifted outside.

Kyla MacGregor handed Honour a cup of hot tea.
"I think we can use a good cuppa while we chat. I know you have questions."
"I don't know where to begin. And it rightly isn't my business."
Kyla took a sip. "Thank you for finding my diary. I think it was meant to be that you and Jack spent the night in the house. It almost brings closure for me."
"Mrs. MacGregor--"
"Call me Kyla."
"Kyla, what happened? I mean, I read in the diary that you found Rory and now I see that you are Mrs. MacGregor, you married him."
Kyla smiled, "That I did. I owe you an explanation of all that happened. You see, Ellair, while he was an upright and kind man, I just did not love him. He was older than me by at least twenty years and we had different outlooks on things. When I found Rory again, we fell in love at first sight. Well, it was at that ceilidh that I fell in love with him. And I do believe fate brought him to me again. I was honest with Ellair. I told him I wanted to end it with us. He was hurt—devastated, really. It wasn't so much losing me as it was losing face. But he could see I wasn't happy and he agreed to let me go. I walked away with nothing and Rory and I got married quietly at Gretna Green. Ellair left the estate and went to Ireland where he was one of those who migrated during the Irish Plantations. He settled there. He had intended to come back to Caelibourne house but he died before he could. I had no claim nor did I want anything from that time of my life so it was just left abandoned. Is there much there?"

Honour nodded. "Your furniture and linens. A lot of books and of course the cognac. And a beautiful harpsichord."
"Oh, the harpsichord! I remember it well. I suppose it is out of tune by now."
"No, it isn't. Well, it does need some work but it was in remarkably good shape."
"I want you to know, Honour, that I didn't make my decision lightly. But I love Rory with all my heart. We have a good life together."
"Did you have any children?"
Kyla nodded. "We have three daughters and three sons. All happy and healthy and they spend every Sunday with us. We have twenty grandchildren that are the light of my life. Rory quit poaching and he is a successful farmer. We breed sheep and cattle."

Honour hesitated. "Kyla..I have to know. The back of the house is burned. What happened?"
"It's burned? I didn't know. I suppose some squatters accidently set fire to it."
"One other thing...I don't know if you know this...but it is so odd...there is a small gravestone in the back under a tree with the name 'KYLA' engraved on it."
Kyla laughed. "Kyla? Oh, that was Ellair's favorite hunting dog. She was there when I got there and by coincidence we had the same name. She died a few years after we got married."

The rest of the afternoon saw Kyla and Honour talking about their lives and about Jack's mother and father.
"I wish Edyth could have known you, Honour. She would have loved you. She was so warm and funny and so totally in love with Charles Wolfe. I was very sad when she moved to England but we did see each other when she came to visit her mother. And then...well, I heard she died of consumption. But I honestly think that when Charles died, she had lost the will to live. I understand her daughter Victoria went on to teach music in London and I did see Thomas when he arrived the other day. So much like his father he is."
"I would love for you to meet Jack."
"Before you leave, we shall have to get together."

Shyly, Honour asked, "Kyla, I have no right to ask this...and if you say no, I will understand. But I would like to purchase the harpsichord from you. For Zara."
Kyla shook her head. "I would have to say no."
"I understand."
"No, you don't. I want you to have it. As a gift from me. In return for giving me back my diary and my luckenbooth brooch. They mean more to me than any old harpsichord."
Honour threw her arms around Kyla.
"Thank you! Now I have to figure out a way to get it on the ship but I am sure Jack and the cousins can figure it out."
"If you see any books you want, please take them and tell Jack he is welcome to the cognac."
"That will make him immensely happy! We most likely will be leaving by the end of next week."
"Where do you live?"
"In Barbados. Jack and I have a sugar plantation and we provide molasses for a friend in the Colonies. As soon as we get back, the ship goes out again. Our friend Josiah will be taking the run up to Virginia."

Zara came running in the door. "Mama! Mama! I saw the little lambies. They went 'baaah baaah!' Gwan said that is the lamby talk for they want their mamas. So I think I should try it.
The women laughed and exchanged conversation for the next two hours.
As Honour stood to go, she extended her hand to Kyla. "It was indeed a privilege and honour to meet you, Kyla. It almost felt like I was meeting my mother in law."
Kyla drew her into a warm hug. "This was a visit I will never forget. Oh, how I wish Edyth were here!"
She then whispered in Honour's ear, "Thank you for sharing your story of your miserable husband Madoc. We have a lot in common but in the end, we got the happiness we both richly deserved."

Kyla stood back and held Honour at arm's length. "And you are carrying another bairn for Edyth. Your Zara reminds me so much of her. The hair especially. So thick and chestnut!  And those curls! You will be sure to have Aggie send us a message when you are safely delivered?"
"I shall. I don't know if Jack wants a boy or a girl. But he so loves his Zara. I know he couldn't even imagine her being a boy."
"Well, you found your way back to each other. We shall see each other before you go if you will be at the ceilidh next week."
"We shall see. The last one was a bit of a dust-up. And I will be sure to pick up the harpsichord before we leave. I can't thank you enough!"

Aggie opened the door. "We had best be leaving so we can get dinner on. Seonaid, I will see you next week."
She gave Kyla a warm hug. "Love and hugs to Rory and the children. Bye!"
Show me your tan lines..and I'll show you mine!

I just want to be Layla.....

Welsh Wench

As they traveled home, Honour asked, "Aggie, why didn't you tell me Kyla was alive and well?"
"You had a lot on your mind, what with trying to grasp with Jack's notion of going after the Stone. Was he very disappointed when he couldn't find it?"
Honour shrugged. "If he was, he didn't show it. Jack has had his disappointments searching for treasure before."
Her mind went back to the eighteen months that she and Jack had been separated and how he had combed the Caribbean looking for her all the time she being in Wales and having Zara. But Aggie didn't need to know those details.
"...Honour? Did you hear what I said?"
"Hmm? Oh, I am sorry. I was a million miles away."
"I was saying the Stone must need to stay where it is, I suppose. I imagine one day it will be found. Perhaps even by this little lassie if she has the notion to go after it. But let's hope not."
Aggie glanced down at Zara, who was sleeping with her head in Honour's lap.
"Back to the subject at hand...I didn't want to dredge up any memories for Kyla so I talked to Seonaid first. And then to Kyla in case she didn't want to be found. But she said she would be overjoyed to meet Edyth's daughter in law. And of course her granddaughter."
Honour smiled, "Zara does seem to make an impression wherever she goes."
Aggie looked at the little girl with undisguised affection. "This one will go far and make everyone she meets happier for having known her. It shall take a special man to win her over."
"I don't think Jack will give her up that easily. It would probably be someone he hand-picks. And then he will be reluctant."
"Did Jack say when he plans to sail?"
"Most likely by the end of next week."
Aggie turned her head away and with a catch in her voice, she said, "I am missing you already."
Honour felt her eyes misting up. "I am so glad we got to meet you. And that you and Jack have made amends. I know it has been a dark cloud hanging over his head. And he never had closure saying goodbye to his mother."
Aggie cleared her throat. "Aye. Well, let's not spend our last weeks dwelling on the past. You and Jack and the bairns will be visiting again, aye?"
"Aye. I mean yes."
They both laughed. "I have one problem though."
"What is that, love?"
"How do I get a harpsichord on a ship?"
Show me your tan lines..and I'll show you mine!

I just want to be Layla.....

Captain Jack Wolfe

"Blimey, a beautiful day to go fishing, ain't it?" said Jack.
"That it is," said Thomas.
"Aye, it's been yonks since I've seen Thomas drown worms at an alarming rate," laughed Flannery.
Rafferty slapped his leg. "Aye, and the worms have been right grateful for the reprieve!"
"Now, now," said Jack. "I'm sure his crew would attest to his improved angling skills."
There was a long pause.
"Um, no, they wouldn't," said Thomas with a shrug.
Rafferty produced a large bottle from his fishing kit. "Then it's a good thing I brought this so we don't give a damn who caught what!"
"That's the sort of ingenuity I admire," said Jack.
Thomas shook his head. "I don't think Aggie would appreciate us coming home pissed to the eyeballs."
"She'll be fine with it," said Flannery. "Your namesake saw to that."
"Well, I should hold myself to a higher standard," said Thomas.
Jack turned to face him. "Commodore Thomas Wolfe, I sat in the great cabin of your finest ship and found new heights to being pissed to the eyeballs thanks to your considerable stores of claret and rum. So please, do us all a tremendous favour, and drop the damned braids, to hell with the Commonwealth, and have a bit of fun over good stories and terrible fishing? Please?"
Thomas thought for a few moments and looked at Rafferty. "That's good Scotch whiskey?"
"I'm fond of it, aye."
"You know the old saying, Thomas," said Jack. "When in Scotland, do what the Romans never got a chance to."
"Perhaps these braids have gotten heavier than I realised. The creek is over... there, yes?"
"Aye, your memory is spot on," said Rafferty.
"And there's more of that whiskey, should we need it?"
"And then some!" laughed Flannery. "He's made at least two dozen more--"
"Oi! Haud yer wheesht for once!" said Rafferty.
"No, do tell!" said Jack. "Rafferty, I take it there's more than fine heather beer in your repertoire?"
Rafferty blushed visibly. "I've dabbled a bit. Though I'm sure you've had better."
"That would be impossible for me to say until I've had a taste," said Jack. "Come on, hand it round!"
Rafferty reluctantly pulled a large glass flask from his coat pocket. "Here. If ye hate it, I'll understand."
Thomas took the flask, uncorked it, and took a measured swig. His eyes grew wide as he swallowed, and he nodded enthusiastically as he handed the flask to Jack.
He took a furtive sip. He could feel the warmth spread pleasantly through his body, inciting him to drink a bit more.
"Well, what's the verdict?" asked Rafferty.
"Most whiskeys I've had taste like they've been poured from a boot that's been in some godforsaken bog for a few hundred years, and the foot's still in."
"You don't like it."
"No. I truly enjoy it! You're on to something, mate. And I do believe your modest brewery just grew into a grand enterprise!"

Thomas shook his head. "Hold on. Brewery? Who's brewery? And why is it growing?"
"Thomas, you of all people should know the peril of missing officers' meetings," said Jack with a smirk. "But I'm in a generous mood. To sum up, Rafferty and Flannery shall be starting a brewery to provide discerning palates far and wide the wonder that is known as heather beer. After today's revelation, I see no reason a distillery of such fine whiskey should be excluded from the venture."
"May I have a word with you in private, dear brother?" said Thomas.
"As you wish, dear brother," said Jack. The two men walked a discreet distance away as Flannery and Rafferty exchanged perplexed looks.

"And what have I done now to vex you so, Thomas?"
"Did you pay no attention at all to my warning earlier? That Culley and his allies will be waiting for an excuse to come down on you the first misstep you make?"
Jack shook his head. "And did you pay no attention at all as I laid out the vision for their - emphasis on THEIR - business venture? My name will never appear on any pamphlet or ledger concerning the distillery. Just another cottage industry made good by virtue of their hard work and excellent product."
"You really do have it all worked out, then," said Thomas.
"You've played me at chess many times. Do I need to answer?"
"No. I suppose you don't."
"Thomas, it's thanks to you that I learned to expect the unexpected. Unusual blind-side assaults, exotic long-form gambits. It's because of our games I always think six to ten moves ahead, brother mine. In many ways, you helped me acquire certain tools to become a better pirate."
"You'll forgive me if I don't count that as a point of pride."
"Suit yourself. But why else would you trap me with three ships of the line? Only you would surmise it would take that much firepower to have me surrender."
"Because I know how damned stubborn you can be. And word had it you were carrying very precious cargo."

"Thomas, it's thanks to you that I learned to expect the unexpected. Unusual blind-side assaults, exotic long-form gambits. It's because of our games I always think six to ten moves ahead, brother mine. In many ways, you helped me acquire certain tools to become a better pirate."
"You'll forgive me if I don't count that as a point of pride."
"Suit yourself. But why else would you trap me with three ships of the line? Only you would surmise it would take that much firepower to have me surrender."
"Because I know how damned stubborn you can be. And word had it you were carrying very precious cargo."
"Tell me; when did you know I was in Wales?"
"Two days after you arrived. The harbourmaster at Beaumaris has a sharp eye and a quick pen."
"And only you knew? I'm beginning to doubt your story, Thomas."
"Several others knew, of course. But in their haste to make a name for themselves by racing to see who would have the honour of stretching your neck, the information - some might call it misinformation - they chose to follow led them on a merry chase. Some had you in the Mediterranean, others were certain you would make for Nova Scotia, still others took an icy excursion to the Baltic Sea."
Jack looked at his brother in astonishment, then hung his head as he laughed.
"So you see, Jack, I took every measure I could to protect you. Not because I excuse what you did as a pirate, but because I know what a good man you truly are. Honour and Zara tell me all I need to validate I was right, just by the way they look at you."
"Thank you, Thomas. I truly am grateful."
"As well you should be. After all, you would have never won," said Thomas with a mischievous grin.

"All right, cousins," called Rafferty. "These poor worms aren't going to drown themselves!"
"I think a reprieve is in order," said Jack. "That warehouse you and Flannery were telling me about, I'd like to see it for myself."
"Won't Aggie be expecting us to bring home fish for supper?" said Thomas.
"She knows how well we fish," said Flannery. "There's a roast in the pot already, same as always."
"Then it's settled. On to the warehouse," said Jack. "Then we'll have a look at that still you've been keeping secret."
"I can see where this day is headed," said Thomas.
"Aye, and ain't it grand?" grinned Rafferty.
The four men left their fishing rods just inside the gate at the entrance to Aggie's property and marched off down the lane.
"I'm not sure about people anymore. They're responsible for some pretty nutty stuff. Individuals I'm crazy about, though." ~ Opus

Welsh Wench

"So..where have you all been?" Jack asked. He and Thomas were sitting in front of the fire with a whiskey in hand.
"Visiting friends," Aggie replied.
Honour whispered to Jack, "I will explain later."
"Is it bad news?"
"Oh no! Just a long story. Did you want to go to the ceilidh? I heard it is tomorrow night."
Jack shrugged and rubbed his jaw.
"I'm not sure. The last one left a lasting impression on me."
Thomas' ears perked up. "A ceilidh? My God, I haven't been to one in years!"
Jack turned to Honour and sighed. "I guess I can take that as a yes."
"Let's hope the Campbells stay out of it."
Thomas said, "Rafferty and Flannery have been trying to make some whiskey with honey in it. Maybe they shall try it out at the ceilidh."
Aggie set the plates on the table. "Just as long as ye all stay relatively sober."
"What?" Jack and Thomas said in unison.
Aggie winked. "'Relatively' being the key word."

The meal was eaten, the dishes were done, and Jack gathered Zara in his arms. She sleepily put her arms around his neck.
"Da? I'm not sleepy."
"Of course you aren't, Zara."
By then her eyes were shut and Honour followed Jack up the stairs.
"Goodnight, Aggie. See you in the morning."
"Goodnight, my loves."

Aggie turned to Thomas.
"Jack has made a well match with that one. She settled him."
Thomas poured himself another whiskey and lit his pipe. He poured a whiskey for Aggie.
"Thomas, darlin', when are ye going to give up this navy business and settle down?"
He leaned back. "You mean become a domesticated cat like Jack?"
She smacked his leg. "No harm in it. Some day you will be too old to go galavanting around for King and country and then where will that lead you? Into an old sailor's home?"
He sighed and closed his eyes. "Not a sailor, Gran. Admiral. I worked my way up."
She picked up her knitting.
"Well, you need to start making plans."
From upstairs Aggie and Thomas could hear the low talk and the laughter.
"I just want you to be happy, Thomas. And not lonely."
"There's a difference between being alone and lonely, Gran."
She sighed and shook her head.
"If you say so."
"I say so."
Show me your tan lines..and I'll show you mine!

I just want to be Layla.....

Welsh Wench

Just then, Honour walked over to the door and cracked it open a bit. She put her finger up to her lips and whispered to Jack, " I think Aggie is getting on Thomas' case about settling down."

ack turned away and sat down on the edge of the bed.
"Oh, I know that look," said Honour as she sat beside him. "What has you so vexed about your brother?"
"Thomas is a good man. A good captain. And no doubt a good admiral. But I don't believe for one moment he's happy."
"He seems content," said Honour. "Some men are better suited for a solitary life. I know of one particular man who thought so."
"And that man called your bluff and married you. It's the best decision I've ever made, and I've never been happier in being wrong."
"Yes, but that is YOU. You cannot determine what is good for you may not be a right fit for someone else."
"But haven't you noticed how he holds Zara and lets her fall asleep in his lap?"
"And the beauty of it is, he can give her back whenever he wants to.  I don't think it is fair to make him feel like he is missing out on something when he seems perfectly content the way he is. It is a life he has chosen and no one has the right to interfere with that."

"Really? You would begrudge me this?" said Jack.
"Begrudge you what?"
"I wish I could count the number of times my brother waltzed in with sage advice, instructing me as to how my life's course should go. Now, for a change, I have a bit of wisdom for him."
You can't fool me, Jack Wolfe. This isn't about evening a score, is it?"
"No. No, it's not. Thomas has given his life to the sea and the Admiralty. They've taken his talent and dedication, and given him... what? More responsibility, a bit of gold braid, promises of more responsibility and gold braid if he's a good lad. What a waste."
Jack took Honour in his arms, and looked over at their sleeping daughter.
"There's not enough gold braid nor status in the world that could compare to you and Zara. I know I can't change his mind. I just want him to consider the possibilities."

Honour removed Jack's arms from around her.  "A waste. Do you remember who pulled the strings and got you that pardon?  If Thomas didn't have that 'gold braid' you very well could be swinging at the end of a rope and I would be a widow and Zara would be an orphan.  You should be grateful he rose up the ranks. You don't like it when people meddle in your life. Why not let Thomas be? I didn't really figure you for a matchmaker, Jack. This is one time when I am going to tell you to mind your own business."
"Tell me? You are going to tell me? I think I know Thomas a little better than you do."
Honour walked over to the bed and forcefully yanked the blankets down.  " Stubbornly she said, "You hated it when Aggie tries to tell you what to do, Jack. I think you should accord the same respect to your brother."
Jack took off his boots and threw them across the room. "Is this one of those pregnancy things, Honour? Because I thought I would have a break from your mood swings."

"There's a simple solution to my pregnancy mood swings. After this one, I take up knitting. And you gnash your teeth until they crumble."
"I'm sorry. I spoke rashly." He laid back on the bed and rubbed his face. "Of course, you're right. My neck would be considerably longer if it weren't for his life choices, and we wouldn't be having this conversation. I promise, I will not interfere with my brother's affairs. You have my unconditional surrender, Captain Bright.
Show me your tan lines..and I'll show you mine!

I just want to be Layla.....

Welsh Wench

"So I need to tell you about my afternoon. Aggie and I went to visit Seonaid. And you will never guess who our surprise visitor was!"
"You know I don't do well with guessing where Aggie is concerned."
He laid Zara down in her bed and took her shoes off, then covered her with a blanket.
"I guess she can sleep in that little dress."
Honour came out from behind the dressing screen and tied the sash to her gown.
Jack looked her up and down appreciatively. She held her hand out as he approached her.
"First the story."
He sat down and took his boots off.
"Spoilsport but it is your loss."
"Now, I didn't refuse you the inevitable. Think of yourself as soup put on the stove to simmer."
He laughed and then sat down on the bed, leaning against the headboard.
"Alright. So now it is YOUR turn to tell me a bedtime story."
She lowered her voice to imitate Jack. "Once upon a time in a port town..."
He threw the pillow at her. "I don't sound like that."
"She lobbed the pillow back in midair and he fluffed it up and put it behind his head. With arms crossed, he gave her an 'out with it' gesture.
"Alright, I delayed long enough. The visitor was Seonaid's daughter. Who happened to be your mother's best friend."
He laughed. "The only friend I heard her mention from her past was a girl named Kyla."
Honour looked at him and he stared back at her.
"You don't mean.....OUR Kyla?"
Honour smiled. "She wasn't dead. And all the stories in the diary were true."
"But the tombstone...the name Kyla on it....?"

Honour started to bark. "Woof! Woof!" then she broke out in laughter. "Kyla buried happened to be Ellair's hunting dog who coincidently happened to share the same name as his wife. Only the pooch had it first."
"I'll be damned! So there WAS a happy ending!"
"Not for Ellair. He died in Ireland and never came back for his estate. Kyla was very happy to  get her brooch and diary back. The rest...she didn't care about."
"Did you tell her the truth on how we obtained it?"
Honour nodded. "She said we could help ourselves to whatever we wanted. She had no use for it."
"The cognac?"
"The cognac."
"The books?"
"The books."
Jack smiled. "Mighty fine brandy there."
Honour put her arms around him.
"Just one thing."
"You need to get a harpsichord onto the ship!"
Show me your tan lines..and I'll show you mine!

I just want to be Layla.....

Welsh Wench

Honour flung her dress over her head and laid it on the chair in the corner. Jack was already in bed, settled in with a book.
"Am I getting fat?"
Honour pulled her dressing gown tight across her body and turned sideways.
"Fat. As in I have a fat stomach."
He looked over his book at her.
"No, my sweetheart. You just look like you are balancing an orange on your stomach."
She threw her dress at him. He laughed as he pulled it off his face.
She sat down on the bed next to him.
"Did you ever think we would be having this conversation?" she asked.
"Yes. Yes, I did. I knew it was just a matter of time can I put this? Before..."
"Before I was gotten with child?"
"I was looking for a more colourful way of putting it, but I guess that will have to do."
She puffed up her pillow and laid her head down.
"Are you wanting a boy or a girl, Jack?"
He kissed her. "I don't care as long as you and the child come through healthy and safe."
"I want to be back in Barbados. As quick as possible. I won't feel completely comfortable until I am in my own bed."
Jack put his arm around her. "I promise you. I got a letter from Davis. He expects to be in port within this week. I have to see the banker in town and set up an escrow account for Rafferty and Flannery and a separate one for Aggie. Fiona's husband (whatever his name was, I have to look it up later) will be handling the finances. I trust him implicitly."
"Then we can go home?"
"Yes. Although I hate to leave Aggie and the boys. I've grown quite close to them all."
Honour sighed.  "I know. I feel I am ripping Zara away from her 'gwan'. Perhaps they will visit.
Jack shook his head. "I can't see Aggie making the voyage. She's so rooted in Scotland the monster in Loch Ness would miss her."

"Monster? What monster?"
He smiled and drew her close. "Don't tell me my wife wants a bedtime story, too?"
"Of course I do! You used to tell me stories all the time. Now I want one!"
Jack put his book on the nightstand.
"It's kind of gory..."
"I don't care. If I have a nightmare, I have you here to pull me out of it.
Jack started, 'Once upon a time..."
"It always starts out with that."
"Do want to hear this or not?"
"Alright, I will be quiet."
"There was thisIrish monk,--I forget his name-- Saint Columba,! That was it!--was staying in the land of the Picts with his companions when he came across some  local folks burying a man by the River Ness.. They explained that the man was swimming in the river when he was attacked by a "water beast" that mauled him and dragged him underwater. They had tried to rescue him in a boat but he was killed. Columba sent a follower to swim across the river. The beast approached him, but Columba made the sign of the cross and said: "Go no further. Do not touch the man. Go back at once." The creature stopped as if it had been "pulled back with ropes" and fled So the story goes that Columba's men and the Picts gave thanks for what they perceived as a miracle."

"Do you believe the story?"
Jack shook his head.
"No, I don't. If I did, I would have to believe in selkies and kelpies and brownies and faeries..."
Honour put her finger to his lips.
"Not so loud. Your little girl believes."
"And that is enough for me."
"Your storytelling rivals Aggie. Maybe save this one for Zara when she is older. Let her enjoy her kelpies."
"Shut up and kiss me."
"That I can do," as he blew out the candle.
Show me your tan lines..and I'll show you mine!

I just want to be Layla.....

Captain Jack Wolfe

That evening, after plenty of stories, laughter, and even more food, the menfolk retired to sit by the fire and out the way as the table was cleared.
"If none of you mind, I'm going for a short walk to let dinner settle," said Jack.
"Mind if I join you?" asked Thomas.
"Not at all. We've got some catching up to do."
The brothers strolled casually down the lane, laughing and making small talk.
"Rafferty and Flannery seem almost giddy," said Thomas. "You would think the Stone was found after all"
"I'm helping them out with a small venture. You remember their infamous heather beer?"
"How could I forget it? Or the hangovers."
"I'm helping them start a brewery. They've wanted to make their beer on a larger scale since its popularity has grown. My role is that of a silent partner. They handle the day-to-day affairs and I collect a share of 15%. Of course, that share goes straight to Aggie. No more worn-down cooking spoons or leaky roofs."
"That's quite generous, Jack. I'm surprised you got her to accept any money at all."
"I haven't given her an opportunity to say no."

Thomas laughed. "Meaning you haven't discussed it with her."
"It's not an iron-clad strategy, but it will do for now. Honestly, Thomas, it feels good to reconnect with this part of the family."
"I'm happy it went so well, what with you turning up out of the blue."
"It was a gamble," said Jack. "But Zara helped soften Aggie up just enough. The real surprise was seeing you here."
"A pleasant one, I hope?"
"Of course! Though I must admit, part of me was a bit worried my pardon was revoked."
"There's no chance of that," said Thomas. "You've kept your end of the bargain far better than most. A good thing, too. Not everyone was happy to learn of your pardon."
"Some bitter old admiral?"
"Not quite. A bitter old governor. An acquaintance of yours."
Jack sighed. "Culley? Why am I not surprised? My quitting the account deprived him of a steady income. No reason to pay hush money when there's nothing left to keep hushed."
"Jack, he called in every favour he could to get your pardon overturned. Fortunately, he has far fewer friends now than when he was gifted his appointment."
"Good. James has always been bitter, but knowing he's toothless as well is satisfying indeed."
"Be careful, brother. A toothless lion is still a lion. The friends he has left are entrenched in the House of Lords and the Admiralty. Their friendship means power. And power is danger."
"Thomas. You've been reading your Stoic philosophies again. Danger and I are old companions. I haven't lived this long by underestimating an adversary."
"I'm not sure about people anymore. They're responsible for some pretty nutty stuff. Individuals I'm crazy about, though." ~ Opus

Welsh Wench

Jack flopped back on the bed.
"Do we REALLY have to go to the ceilidh? You remember what happened last time. I could hardly walk for a week and we had to tape my ribs up. And that wasn't even the dancing.  You know I really don't like to dance, Honour."
She grabbed  him by his legs and yanked him off the bed.
"OW! Damn hell, woman! You haven't lost your grip. I thought women in your condition were supposed to be all fainty and fluttery."
She stepped over his prone body on the floor.
"It's our last chance for a ceilidh. Rafferty assured me the Campbells won't be allowed in. He got the McKuin brothers to act as guards."
"Well, those two could stop the English. Too bad he wasn't around when Longshanks came through."

"If they were, maybe the Stone would be where it belongs. Where DOES it really belong?"

That's precisely why I wanted to hide it away if we'd managed to find it. Some say Scone Abbey, some say somewhere on the Isle of Skye, others insist it belongs in Edinburgh Castle. The only thing everyone can agree on is that it belongs in Scotland."
"Or they could cut it into bits. That way every 'authentic' place can say they won their claim."
"Your way has the benefit of getting people to at least think of one place it should remain. Of course, they'd bristle at the very notion."
"Why? Because no one wants to see the stone hacked up?"
"No," said Jack. "Because Solomon wasn't Scottish! May I get back on the bed now?"
"Not quite yet. I'm starting to like you as a throw rug."

"Well, this is a closed chapter. Who knows? Maybe someday Zara will take up the quest. At least she can stay with Aggie.  Aggie's going to live forever, you know."
"I wouldn't doubt it. "
Honour sat down on the floor next to Jack.  "Maybe the real stone was never meant to be found. But you know we have another mystery to occupy your insatiable curiosity. The scrolls."
"You know, I was thinking about that. I really should get back to trying to crack that mystery."
She smoothed his hair back. "Just as long as it doesn't conjure up Bonita. I wonder what that witchwoman is up to."
"Probably bossing Drusilla around and tossing bones. Because 'bones no lie.'"
Honour mimicked her. "But Bonita do."
Show me your tan lines..and I'll show you mine!

I just want to be Layla.....

Captain Jack Wolfe

Honour adjusted the lapels on Jack's waistcoat. "There.The handsomest man at the ceilidh, and he's all mine."
"Well, if that's decided, we could skip right to end of the evening," he said as he ran a finger along the lace at the front of her blouse.
She playfully slapped his hand away. "Patience! And don't forget, Zara is looking forward to a dance with her father. Aggie would be most unhappy if we came up missing, not to mention Thomas. He'll stand a better chance of enjoying himself if you're there to introduce him around."
"You're right, as usual," Jack sighed. "Speaking of which, I should see if he's managed to find something more appropos than a dress uniform to wear."
He stepped into the upstairs hallway and could hear Aggie and Thomas talking, and their tone was less than light-hearted. He paused at the top of the stairs to get an idea of what they were discussing.
"Thomas, I recall having this same argument with you when you were twelve years old. 'I don't like parties. I don't like the music. Dancing is for silly girls.'"
"For the record, I do have a better appreciation for girls, dancing or otherwise."
"Well, glory be! And the sky dinna fall, did it? Maybe another revelation with strike this night, and you find your foot tapping along to the music. Stranger things have been known to happen among these hills."
Jack closed his eyes and took a deep breath. Aggie was taking her best shots, but Thomas was dug in unwilling to give ground. It was time for brotherly intervention.

Aggie bustled about the kitchen, tidying and re-tidying things as was her habit during tense conversations. Thomas stared out the window, shoulders squared and hands clasped behind his back as if he was scanning the horizon for an enemy vessel.

"It's the perfect evening for a ceilidh," said Jack. "A good thing we're having one, else we'd be sitting round, staring out the window wishing we had something to do. Speaking of which; Thomas, why aren't you dressed?"
Thomas sighed and kept his gaze on the countryside. "Whatever do you mean? I am dressed."
"For going into town for plough parts, or a perhaps very dull wake, yes."
Aggie stifled a snicker.
"Don't tell me you're not going."
"I would rather not, but Aggie won't hear of it," said Thomas.
"And neither will I. Nor will Honour. And consider this: you'll disappoint your niece, very, very much."
"Well, I'm sure--"
"We've been spending quite a lot of time together, the wee one and I," said Aggie. "She's a quick learner."
Thomas looked away from the window to Aggie, then to his brother. Jack simply smiled and shrugged his shoulders.
"There you have it, Thomas. Play the stoic and face the ire of the women, or get your arse into some festive clothes and have a little fun. Oh, and one more thing... Flannery and Rafferty are supplying the refreshments." He discreetly pantomimed tipping a glass for emphasis.

"Ah, well," said Thomas. "Perhaps a bit of fresh air and music are in order after all."
"Excellent!" replied Jack. "Now go put on something nice that isn't a uniform. We don't want the ladies being standoffish by all that braid and spit-shine."
Thomas stopped at the foot of the stairs. "Now. wait. Nothing was said about me, um... you know..."
"Actually talking to women in a social setting?" said Jack.
"With no chaperones telling ye not to stand so close or dance too much?" added Aggie.
Before Thomas could say anything else, Jack held up his hand. "Enough! Go get ready. We'll argue about this on the way over."
"No more fuss out of you, and that's an order!" said Aggie.
Thomas shook his head slightly before trudging up the stairs.

Jack went to his grandmother and gave her a hug. "Well done, Admiral MacGregor!"
"I'm not sure about people anymore. They're responsible for some pretty nutty stuff. Individuals I'm crazy about, though." ~ Opus

Captain Jack Wolfe

Aggie kept her gaze on the stairwell until she heard the clack of Thomas' door latch.
"I shouldna have teased him so," she said. "He's always been a sensitive lad."
"You don't rise to his rank in the Royal Navy without toughening up," said Jack. "He's fine. Not used to taking orders, but he's all right."
"Maybe so. I'll worry, nonetheless. I've never seen him wound so tightly before."
Jack sighed. "Yeah, me neither. It's the burden of command. Being responsible for a ship and her crew, making sure they're doing what's needed to ensure the ship is at peak readiness. Following the letter of the regulations as an example to his men. Following orders from on high whether they make any sense or not, and selling it to the crew as if it's gospel truth. It wears on a man. He either becomes honed by it like a fine blade or gets ground into dust."
"Command of a ship seems to have worn easier on you than most, then."
"I had the benefit of making my own rules and following or discarding them as the situation demanded. But Thomas? He's always needed structure, and that's where he thrives. He's a good man. Better than me in some regards. And he's a fine commander. I count myself lucky he and I never crossed blades."

"You're both good men," said Aggie. "Better than most. And I couldna be prouder to call you my grandsons."

"Why, Gran," said Jack. "Thank you. That means the world to me."
"The one you should be thanking is Honour. I know how the love of a good woman can change a man for the better, despite himself. Of course, there's wee Zara..."
"She has me wrapped around her little finger, just as she's done to you."
"She's become the apple of my eye, without a doubt. A new woman to our clan by blood is a rare thing. That wee bairn is leaving big shoes to fill. Still, a new MacGregor lass by marriage would be a fine thing, too."
"Gran, that's a tall order. We're on shaky ground just getting him to the ceilidh! Besides, he already has a mistress. A ship, whose name is... I just realised I never asked."
"The Defiance," said Honour and Aggie in unison.
"Oh. Well, yes, that's a good name. Was I in the room when he told you this?"
Aggie and Honour nodded.
"I must have been preoccupied with Zara."
Honour nodded. "She was teaching you about selkies."
"Of course!" said Jack. "You really must pay attention when she's telling you something she thinks is important. Otherwise, she won't hesitate to pull your nose if she believes you're not listening."

At that moment, the front door of the house swung open.
"I'm not sure about people anymore. They're responsible for some pretty nutty stuff. Individuals I'm crazy about, though." ~ Opus

Welsh Wench

"We're here!"
Maura and Laura stood there with a garment in their hands.
"Zara! Your dress is here!"
Zara clapped her hands, her eyes shining.
"What is going on here?" Aggie asked, wiping her hands on a towel.
"It's a surprise," Maura said.
"We worked on it together," Laura added.
"Since we have no lassies on our side of the family, we decided to unofficially adopt Zara."
"Now what would Honour say to that?"
The twins looked at each other.
"You mean we aren't going to get to keep her?"
"I thought you said we could."
"Did I say that? I thought that was you."
"You think it was?"
They giggled.

Aggie rolled her eyes. "You two!" she said affectionately.
Maura said, "We need to borrow Zara for about fifteen minutes, over at our house. Do you think Jack and Honour will mind? It's a surprise we have been working on."
"I don't see why not. But what is the surprise?"
"You'll see!" they both said together.
Zara took their hands and the three of them went down the lane, laughing at a big secret they seem to have between the three of them.


It took more like a half an hour but Maura and Laura returned with Zara in tow. There she stood in a white blouse with the MacGregor tartan kilt. Her hair was done in two pigtails high on her head with red ribbons and perched on an angle was a tam. The MacGregor sash crossed her chest. On her waist hung a matching sporran.
Zara twirled around.
"Look, Gwan!" Aggie's hands flew to her face.
"I can't believe it! When did the two of you do this?"
Maura started, "Those afternoons that Zara spent with us while Jack and Honour were chasing the Stone gave us the chance to work on this. The three of us kept the secret because we wanted to surprise everyone."
Laura chimed in, "It was great fun sewing for a lass instead of pants for boys."
"Do you like it, Gwan?"
"Darling, I love it! It will such a surprise for you Mama and Da."
Maura and Laura turned to each other.
"I supposed we need to get dressed for the ceilidh."
"You think?"
"What are we going to wear?"
"Oh....I don't know. Shall we dress alike?"
"Would it be any different?"
"Well, since we were sewing together...I think we may dress alike. Do you think people will know we are twins?"
"I don't know. Do you?"
They simultaneously shrugged and then giggled.
"Zara, we will see you at the ceilidh."
They raised their fingers to their lips as if they were keeping a secret.
Zara ran over and gave them a hug.
"Thank you, Auntie Maura-Laura."
The three of them bent their heads together and whispered. Then Zara nodded and the two women smiled.
"See you there!"
Show me your tan lines..and I'll show you mine!

I just want to be Layla.....