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

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Welsh Wench

Zara ran upstairs to her parents' room. She knocked softly and Honour opened the door.
"What? What is this?" she exclaimed.
Zara stepped in and turned around. "Auntie Maura Laura made it!"
"Oh my goodness, darling! You will be the belle of the ball!"
"It's not a ball, Mama. It's a ceilidh."
"Of course it is, darling! Jack! Look at this!"
Zara struck a pose as her father walked into the room, his mouth dropping open.
"What have you done with Zara? Where's my little girl?"
She laughed. "Right here, Da! Don't you see me?"
He scooped up his little girl and tugged on a pigtail. "I guess it IS Zara!"
She struggled to get down.
"I have to go. I have to wait for Gwan. Hurry up! We don't want to be late to the ceilidh."
Jack turned to Honour. "Are you sure she is only three?"
"Three and a half. Don't forget the 'half.' She would never forgive you for that."
He sighed. "I can see in about ten years I am going to have my work cut out for me."
"What work?"
"Making sure she doesn't go from thirteen to thirty."
"She's precocious."
He shook his head. "I almost feel sorry for the man she will fall in love with. He won't stand a chance once she makes up her mind he's the one she wants."
Honour picked up her shawl. "Let's cross that bridge when we come to it."

Aggie and Zara were waiting at the foot of the stairs.
"Come on, Mama and Da! I have to see Auntie Maura Laura at the ceilidh."
"Why is that, Zara?"
She shook her head and whispered, "I can't tell you."
They looked at Aggie and she shrugged. "I have no idea."

Honour turned to Thomas and linked her arm in his. "Oh, Thomas! Don't put on the frowny face! It's not so bad. Maybe you will meet the woman of your dreams there!"
Jack broke out in laughter. "Thomas' heart belongs to the Royal Navy!"
Thomas scowled. "This—THIS is why I don't want to go!"

The men were lined up on one side and the women on the other.  Zara slipped into the line.
Jack grabbed her hand and said gently, "Zara? Honey, this is for grownups."
"Who says?"
"Well, it's just the way it is."
"Maybe we need to change it."
"Zara, are you SURE you are only three?"
Maura and Laura joined the conversation.
"Oh, come on, Jack. It won't hurt to let her play along."
Jack looked dubiously, "What will the other gents say when a little lassie only knee high tries to dance with them?"
Zara's face turned red and Jack could see the Wolfe temper engaging.
He sighed."All right, Laura..Maura....but I will hold you responsible."
The two women leaned over and whispered to Zara and took her hand. Zara turned back to Jack, smiled and gave him a wave.

He found Honour talking to Fiona. "Do you see where your daughter is?"
"Oh, heavens! Let me get her! She will get trampled once the dancing starts."
Just then the music started and Zara took her place at the end of the line. A few of the men found it amusing.
"Little lassie, why don't you go over with the rest of the bairns?"
Zara held her head up high.
"I can dance. And my mama once hit a man with a bottle at a ceilidh and she is heading this way. Bollocks!"

Honour took Zara's hand and said quietly, "Zara, this is for big people. Why don't you go play with your cousins? I think they are getting a little dance together and..."
"NO! I am going to dance."
Just then the music started up. Zara stood between Maura and Laura facing Rafferty and Flannery.
"Oh, blimey!" Rafferty said.
"Well, try not to step on her."

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

I just want to be Layla.....

Welsh Wench

The musicians started to play and Zara marched up to face one of the men. She curtsied and then the dancing began.
And Zara took the place by storm.
Between Maura and Laura, Zara kept every step with them.
Jack marched over to Aggie, his face registering astonishment.
"When did all this happen?"
Aggie shrugged. "I suppose when she was over at 'Maura-Laura's' home. This must be their big secret."

As they watched Zara step and twirl, the little girl never missed a beat or a step. The men soon forgot she was a little girl and viewed her as a partner.
Aggie picked up her ale and casually said, "Oh. I guess I forgot to mention there were no one who could dance at a ceilidh like Maura and Laura. No one could hold a candle to them."
"I guess not!"
Aggie took a sip of her ale.
"How do you think those two snagged Rafferty and Flannery?"

The fiddle player of the band announced, "This is a ladies' choice for the Eightsome Reel. Ladies, find the gent of your choice."
Zara smoothed out her kilt and looked around. She spied her parents over by the heather ale bowl and headed their way.
"Don't look now, darling, but your daughter is headed this way. Are you up to dancing with her?"
"Why, I would be delighted."
Zara walked up to Jack, curtsied and smiled.
"You have mama to dance with."
She turned and walked away. Jack stood there with his mouth hanging open and Honour dissolved into laughter.
"Get to used to it, my dear. Someday a lad will steal her heart."
"More like she will steal his. I can't believe she did that to me!"
They watched Zara as she resolutely headed towards the men.

Zara walked up to Thomas and curtseyed.
"Are ye dancing?" she asked.
He responded, "Are ye asking?"
"I'm asking."
"I'm dancing."
And Thomas took his niece's hand and she led him into the circle for the Eightsome Reel.

Jack and Honour stood there in astonishment. Zara kept in step with Thomas all the way.
"Well, I'll be! Looks like Zara broke through Thomas' icy exterior and she's bound and determined he will have a good time!"
The look on Thomas' face was one of sheer abandonment of his stodgy ways and gave way to joyous laughter as Zara led him around the circle.

Maura and Laura continued to dance with Rafferty and Flannery in the same circle.
"It looks like the MacGregors are ruling the ceilidh tonight. Honour?"
"Are ye dancing?"
"Are ye asking?"
"I'm asking."
"Then I'm dancing."
Jack and Honour joined the circle.
Just then Jack looked over by the doorway and just about stopped dead in his tracks.
"Oof!" Honour exclaimed.
"Sorry, darling."
He sidled up to Rafferty and whispered, "Is that who I think it is
Rafferty smiled and said. "Aye. Elspeth McIver in the flesh!"
Show me your tan lines..and I'll show you mine!

I just want to be Layla.....

Captain Jack Wolfe

Thomas found himself enjoying the dance with his young niece more than he thought he would. But then he caught sight of a woman entering the dance hall. She looked to be a few years younger than himself, with auburn hair that tumbled down in loose curls about her shoulders and eyes that shone like brilliant emeralds. He half stumbled to a stop as he watched the mystery woman, only to be startled from his reverie when Zara ran into him.

"I thought we were dancing!" she declared indignantly.
"Well, yes, we were," said Thomas. "You'll have to excuse me, Zara. I believe I recognise someone."
He turned away and began to make his way through the other dancers.
"Fine!" shouted Zara. "I'll just go dance with my Da!"

As Thomas dodged and apologised his way toward the mystery woman, he saw a young man with two drinks in his hands approach her. Thomas nearly stopped when he saw the younger man dip his head in apology as he brushed past her. Heartened by this turn of events, he pressed on until he was right in front of her.

"He'll be along? I certainly hope not. He passed on six years ago."
Thomas stifled an inappropriate laugh. "I'm sorry. Your wit is devastating."
"So now you notice? Took you long enough, Thomas Wolfe."

"My apologies, madam. You remind me of someone I knew some time ago, and I was wondering if you might be her."
"'Madam'? I should have one foot in the grave, calling me that. You remind me of someone I knew long before the undertaker started nosing about. But you can't be. To him, I was a pesky wee lass he wouldn't give the time of day."
Thomas could feel his face turning redder by the second. "I- I meant no offence! I didn't mean, that is..."
The woman smiled mischievously. "All these years, and you're still an easy one to fluster."
"Elspeth? Elspeth Campbell?" stammered Thomas.
"It's MacIver now."
"Ah. Well, then I'm sure--"
"He'll be along? I certainly hope not. He passed on six years ago. He was never one for formalities, but to put in an appearance now would be a low point, even for him."
Thomas stifled an inappropriate laugh. "I'm sorry. Your wit is quite devastating."
"So you finally notice? It took ye long enough, Thomas Wolfe. Now, are ye keen to fetch a lass a drink, or should I chase down that handsome young buck who nearly tripped over me?"

Elspeth offered her hand, and after a moment, Thomas took it in his. He knew he wore a silly grin on his face, but he didn't care. He was utterly entranced. His heart, for once in an extraordinarily long time, felt light.

"Well, slap me thrice and hand me to me mama," said Jack.
"What?" said Honour.
Jack chuckled. "It's one of many things Briggs says when he's caught out by surprise. Take a look over there."
"Who is that with Thomas?"
"Elspeth Campbell. She took lessons in cooking and housekeeping from Aggie. When we came to visit, she would tag along. Come to think of it; she was always trying to get Thomas' attention."
"Do I detect a hint of jealousy?"
"What? No, not at all. I had my books to keep me occupied."
Honour shook her head. "As much as I try, I can never picture you as some book-bound nebbish."
"Really? How often have you found my study strewn with books, maps, and pages of scribbled notes?"
"Your study, our cabin aboard ship, and nearly every horizontal surface within your grasp."
"I rest my case," said Jack with a wink.

"What brings ye to Scotland, Thomas?" said Elspeth.
"A happy accident," said Thomas. "I came to visit my grandmother but found my brother was here with his family."
"Wait, Jack is here?"
Thomas' face fell. "Well, yes. I can take you to see him if that's what you prefer."
"Does he have his nose shoved in a book?"
"Not at the moment, I should think. He should be dancing with this daughter."
Elspeth hooked her arm with Thomas'. "I'd love to meet his daughter and his wife. What a grand night this is!"
"What brings ye to Scotland, Thomas?" said Elspeth.
"A happy accident," said Thomas. "I came to visit my grandmother only to find my brother was here with his family."
"Wait, Jack is here?"
Thomas' face fell. "Well, yes. I can take you to see him if you would like."
"Does he have his nose shoved in a book?"
"Not at the moment, I should think. He should be dancing with this daughter."
Elspeth hooked her arm with Thomas'. "I'd love to meet his daughter and his wife. What a grand night this is!"

As they made through the dancers to the other side of the hall, Elspeth said, "All those years ago, who would you say I fancied?"
"Well, I'm not sure."
"Yes, ye are. Don't worry; I'll not take offence at your answer."
"I... I always assumed you were fond of Jack."
Elspeth giggled, and the giggle quickly became laughter.
"Oh, Thomas! All the times I went out of my way to pester ye, no matter how hard ye tried to shoo me away. Now, why do ye think I did that?"

Thomas stopped in his tracks. His look of astonishment melted into embarrassed laughter.
"Me?! I never stopped to think you might fancy me."
"Well, I was just a girl, teetering at the cusp of womanhood. I hadn't the foggiest notion of what I was doing besides getting your attention."
"But why me?" asked Thomas.
Elspeth smiled. "I liked your eyes. Getting ye riled made ye look at only me, and then I could see right into them. And what would ye know? Ye've still got them. Only, now they seem just a wee bit wiser. Wiser than they were just moments ago, even."
"Elspeth, I--"
"We've plenty of time to talk later," she said softly. "Right now, we're about to be trampled by these dancers."
"Oh, right! We should find Jack and his family."
"A wonderful idea," Elspeth giggled. "I'm glad ye thought of it."

"Jack!" called Thomas. "Look who's here!"
"Elspeth!" said Jack. "As I live and breathe! How are you?"
"Just lovely, thank ye. I caught Thomas trying to sneak out of the dance and talked him into staying," she said with a wink.
"I was-- what? No, I wasn't!" protested Thomas.
"Thank goodness you showed up when you did to thwart his escape. Elspeth Campbell, may I introduce you to my wife, Honour, and our daughter, Zara."
"What a pleasure it is to meet ye, Honour," said Elspeth. "I'm glad to see someone finally got Jack's nose out of his books. And Zara! Such a lovely name.  Aren't ye just the prettiest wee lass I've ever seen!"
Zara gave a polite curtsey and took a deep breath. "Are you gonna marry my Uncle Thomas?"
"Am-- am I what?" stammered Elspeth.
"Uncle Thomas looks at you like Da looks at Mum when they send me to bed earlMMMPH!!"
Mortified and blushing, Honour clamped her hand over Zara's mouth. "I'm so sorry!" said Honour. "She has an active imagination and says whatever..."

By this time, Elspeth was nearly doubled over with laughter. "No, don't apologise! She reminds me of my own daughter when she was that age. And Thomas! Ye turned white as a sheet! The lass caught ye out, eh?"
"I'm not sure about people anymore. They're responsible for some pretty nutty stuff. Individuals I'm crazy about, though." ~ Opus

Welsh Wench

"Excuse us, will you?" Honour hustled Zara into a corner.
"Zara Wolfe, that was a bit rude, don't you think?"
Zara said darkly, "I was having a nice time dancing with Uncle Thomas and then she came along."
"You can dance with your da."
She shook her head. "You always dance with Da."
"Then go over to your cousins. They seem to be up to mischief and that is right up your alley."
She walked away but said over her shoulder, "I wish Phillip was here. He would at least get me a cookie."
Jack came up. "What's this about Phillip and a cookie?"
Honour stared after her daughter then shook her head.
"No. No need to worry about that. He's too old for her..." she said to herself.
"What did you say, darling?"
"Hmm? Oh...nothing."

Zara found her way over to two lads who were busy tying together the shoelaces of a rather distracted gentleman.
"My name is Zara," she announced. "Who are you?"
"Shush! Cannae ye see we're doing what we ought to nought?" said the darker haired one.
"Why do you think I'm here?" she replied.
"Fair enough," said the other. "I'm Duncan, he's Finn. This bloke's drunk to his eyeballs, and we're tying his laces so he falls on his face when gets up to follow our Auntie Constance."
"I want to see that!" she whispered. "What's his name?"
"What's it matter?" said Finn. "He's a MacGregor. You know what they're like."
"I'm new here. What are your last names?"
"We're Campbells," said Duncan. "Ye never told us your last name."

"I"m a MacGregor!" Zara shouted at the top of her lungs.

She lunged at Finn before he could finish tying the elder man's shoelaces together.
Duncan tried to grab her but managed to grab the man's leg instead. The man jumped up, startled, spilling his drink on the lads' Auntie Constance. She stood, aghast, and punched the MacGregor man squarely in the face. He reeled backwards, dragging Duncan with him, crashing into a table occupied by more Campbells who didn't care for his intrusion. They in turn hauled the man up to inflict their displeasure upon him. With the room being overwhelmingly MacGregors, all hell soon broke loose.

Bodies flew pell-mell, and of all in attendance, Aggie seemed to enjoy the spectacle the most. Thomas' instincts kicked in as he tried to shield Elspeth from the melee.
"Would ye get off me?! What, ye think I'd never seen a brawl before? I'm not some shrinking English rose, Thomas! I'm made of sterner stuff."
"Yes," he said. "Yes. You most certainly are. I apologise."
"You... what?"
"I apologise, Elspeth. I tried to protect you when it wasn't my place. And I should have realised you, of all people, are capable of taking care of yourself."
Elspeth strode up to Thomas. "MacGregors, your people, and Campbells, my people, fighting. I should take a swing at you for old times sake."
"But you won't," said Thomas.
"No, I won't," she said quietly.
"For the love of Saint Christopher, would ye shut up and kiss already?!" shouted Aggie over the din.

"Jack, Zara was headed over that way after I scolded her!" cried Honour.
"Right, I'm on it," said Jack. "Wait! I see her!"
"Is she all right?"
"More than all right. I'll take care of it."
"She's not all right is she?" said Honour.
"She's fine! "I'd rather save the boy she's trying to choke if you don't mind!"
Show me your tan lines..and I'll show you mine!

I just want to be Layla.....

Welsh Wench

Jack walked resolutely over to Zara, who was on the back of some poor helpless lad named Duncan. He was howling in pain as Zara grabbed hold of his hair.
"Bollocks! I'll do you in for messing up my hair! I'll tear your ears off, chew them up and stick them on backwards!"
Duncan leaned forward and flipped Zara over his head. She laid there, trying to catch the wind that had been knocked out of her. Finn picked her up by her waist and she flailed in the air and yelled, "Ye doaty eejit!"
She brought her foot back and kicked young Finn right where he would remember it. So would his grandchildren. He dropped her suddenly and writhed in pain, limping off.
Another boy came up behind her and pushed her forward into a dessert table. Her face glanced off a blueberry tart.
"Och! So sorry, Zara! I thought you were that Campbell girl."
Her cousin Allan tried to wipe the blueberry off her face and made it worse with the streaks.
"Allan! Look what you did to me! Now I have blueberries in my hair! I'm blue!"
Duncan took that opportunity to sneak back towards his Campbell cousins when Zara flung herself on his back and got his neck in a choke hold.

Jack reached over and picked his daughter off the back of the lad.
He said, "We will have none of that, Zara Jane!"
Then he burst out laughing. Zara's face was streaked with the blueberries from a pie someone had made.
"Look what he did to my hair, Da!"
Zara's pigtails were undone and dangling from one of them was the tattered remnants of the red ribbon Aunties Maura-Laura had put in them.
She struggled to get free from Jack, all the while using words she had no right to know.
He clapped his hand over her mouth and said quietly to her, "We will have none of that, Zara. If your mother hears that...."

He carried her over to the family. Elspeth put her fist up to her mouth, trying to stifle the laughter.
Thomas looked at her and his mouth dropped open. The only thing he managed to say was, "For the love of St Andrew—she looks like a Pict warrior!"
Honour hurried forward, taking her daughter from Jack's arms.
"Oh, my goodness! Jack, hand me some of that cool water over there. She has a cut on her lip and she's going to have a black eye."

Honour took her handkerchief and dabbed at Zara's lip. She scowled and turned away.
"I'm not through with him, Mama."
"Yes, you are, Zara. Your cousins Allan and Adair are finishing the fight and...yep, there goes Raffery and Flannery to break it up."

Rafferty and Flannery hauled their lads over to the side of the room.
"Ain't nobody goes treating Zara like that!"
Rafferty held Allan at arm's length while the lad kept swinging. Flannery grabbed Adair around the waist and hoisted him in the air, all the time he kept struggling to break free.
"Do we need to take ye all out to cool off?"
The lads looked over and saw that Duncan and Finn retreated to the far corner, wiping the sweat and blood off their faces. Duncan kept checking to make sure his ears were still on and the right way, too.

The band interrupted the ceilidh.
"Good people—including the Campbells and MacGregors---the ceilidh looks to be winding down. Our fiddler caught a bottle that was thrown—appears to be from MacGregor and Sons—and wrenched his wrist. Starting to swell up. So...if we have no fiddler, then the ceilidh looks to be over! Goodnight to ye good people—and I must say, it was a helluva brawl!"
Show me your tan lines..and I'll show you mine!

I just want to be Layla.....

Captain Jack Wolfe

Jack's head whipped around towards the stage. "What?! Stop? They can't stop!"
"You heard what he said," replied Honour. "The fiddler can't play. Once again, a pleasant dance turned into a huge fight. Without a fiddle, what are they supposed to do?"
"Everything was going so well. Everyone was having such a good time."
"And I'd swear there were sparks between Thomas and Elspeth," added Aggie. "I swear, he should have kissed her, but ye and yer brother, always runnin' yer gob too much."
Jack took a deep breath and crouched down in front of Honour and Zara. "Honour, remember when you asked me about that violin you found in amongst my things?"
"And you said you didn't know about any violin."
"I wasn't entirely honest with you. I learned to play years ago under the tutelage of a dear friend. It helps me relax and gather my thoughts."
"That sounds more like you've been entirely dishonest with me," countered Honour.
"Well, now we've cleared the air, yeah?"
Her mouth dropped. "Don't tell me you intend to--"
"Sit in with the band. I can't stand by and let the ceilidh end on such a sour note, as it were. Not when we'll be leaving for home soon. Please, allow me this. Or tell me no, and that will be the end of it."

"But what if you can't play as well as you used to?" she said.
"Then the piper can earn his fee and take the solos, easy!" grinned Jack.
Honour shook her head and looked heavenward. "Oh, fine! Go!"
"Take care of your mum, Zara," he said, wiping a bit of blueberry from the end of her nose. With a wink, he was off for the stage.
"Aggie, did you know he could play the violin?" said Honour.
"That lad has always been full of surprises," said Aggie with a chuckle. "At least this one, I like. Unless he's rubbish. I've still got a good throwing arm."
"You'll try to miss the fiddle, yes?"
"Shush. I'm old. No promises. Now tend to dear wee Wilma Wallace."

Jack hurried up to the stage to find the musicians packing up their instruments.
"Hey, what are you doing? The night's not over," he said.
"Ye heard what we told everyone, lad," said the drummer. "The fiddler's hand is a mess. No fiddler, no ceilidh."
"Now you've got a fiddler," said Jack.
"Are ye any good?" said the fiddler.
"I may be a bit rusty, but I'm sure I can hit enough rights notes to keep a song going. Does your fiddle still have all its strings?"
"Aye, and I'll thank ye for giving it back the same way when ye're done with it."
"I'll take that as your blessing. And I'll treat it like I would me own daughter," said Jack as he took the fiddle in his hands.

Jack took the instrument and quietly checked the tuning of the strings, adjusting the tension of each one until their tones matched perfectly.
"Oi, Monty," said the piper to the fiddler. "Did ye know it could do that?"
Monty replied with a rude gesture from his good hand. "And what be yer excuse for them infernal pipes besides confusing geese at matin' season?"
"Don't be unkind! I've confounded an ostrich or two on a good day, whatever them is!"

"Right-o, Reuben," Jack whispered to himself. "What was that tune you'd get them all to forget their troubles with? Help a bloke out. Ah yes, I think this is it..."
He didn't bother to try and get the gathering's attention. With the fiddle tucked under his chin, he drew the bow across its strings. The instrument gave forth a rich, middle tone that brought a hush over the room. He then began to play a slow tune, strange to the ears of those listening. A song of the Steppes, slow in pace yet strong in rhythm. Gradually, he increased the pace. With every beat, his heel hit the stage a little harder. Soon, the hands of the audience took up the beat as he played faster and faster. When no one could stay in their seats any longer, he brought the tune to an end.

"Not the music you're used to," Jack exclaimed. "But I'm happy you enjoyed it. Now for something ye might like even better. I've not a clue what it's called, as we're making it up as we go. Better yet, why not give it a name? 'Aggie's Reel', after me own dear gran?"
Applause erupted from the MacGregor side, with just a smattering from the Campbells.
"Well, think of it what ye will. I dare anyone to keep their feet still."

Jack turned to the band. "Let's give these good folk a reason to dance instead of thinking about their sore jaws. All right, lads, a spritely reel in A. Watch me for the changes, and try to keep up."

Finn and Duncan marched up to Zara and nodded politely. Duncan elbowed Finn, and Finn
said quietly, "Are ye dancin', Miss MacGregor?"
Aunties Maura-Laura were retying her pigtail and trying not to giggle.
Zara said softly, "Are ye askin'?"
"Duncan and me, we be askin'."
Zara curtseyed and said, "Then I be dancin'!"
The two boys led Zara out to the floor to the space the children had cleared out for their own ceilidh. Allan and Adair came up and looked at the boys fiercely, but Zara intervened.
"Come on, join in."
"Are ye askin' us, Zara?"
"I'm askin'!"
"Then we're dancin'!"

Aggie looked over and said, "I don't believe it!"
Honour looked over, and her mouth dropped open. "I guess she is a more forgiving person than I am!"
"Aye, and seein' she's the fiddle player's daughter gives her an edge."
"Well, she got over being dumped by her Uncle Thomas."
Aggie looked over and saw Elspeth and Thomas talking and laughing. Elspeth put her hand on Thomas' arm.
"I have a feeling about this one, Honour."
Honour smiled, "So do I. I haven't seen Thomas this relaxed in  a long time."
"Aye, well, Elspeth always had her eye on Thomas. Maybe now it will be returned! "

"What has me vexed," continued Aggie, "is where Jack learned to play the fiddle like that. He could make gypsies weep."
"No doubt, some adventure he's neglected to tell me about. I know Jack doesn't mean to hide things from me. I wouldn't be surprised if he's forgotten half the amazing things he's seen. Aggie, he's shown me wonders I still have trouble believing, though I saw them with my own eyes."
Aggie put her hand on Honour's shoulder. "Count yourself lucky, lass. If he's making an effort rather than outright hiding everything away, your marriage will be a far happier one than mine."
"I'm not sure about people anymore. They're responsible for some pretty nutty stuff. Individuals I'm crazy about, though." ~ Opus

Welsh Wench

The goodnights were said at the ceilidh. Duncan and Finn Campbell came marching up to Zara and Honour. Their fathers stood in back of them.
"Go on, lads. Say what ye need to say and be done with it."
The boys looked at each other and then looked down at their shoes.
They mumbled some words.
Duncan's father nudged his shoulder. "Come on, lad. The wee lassie couldn't hear ye."
He sighed, "Aye. Miss MacGregor, we be sorry for treating you that way. It weren't the gentlemanly thing to do."
Finn's father pushed him forward."Aye, Finn. It be yer turn to eat the humble pie."
Finn turned to his dad and said, "It not be humble pie. It t'were blueberry."
Finn's father groaned,. "Just go ahead and say it."
Finn dug his shoe into the wooden floor and looked like he wished he could crawl into it.
"Aye. What Duncan said. We be sorry. But bollocks, barra, it were a real batter! Ye fight pure dead brilliant for a lass!"

Zara stood there and stared at them. The silence was palpable. She stood there with blueberry stains on her face, her pigtails all bedraggled and a black eye. Her lip was cut and starting to swell up.
Instead of accepting their apology, Zara did the unthinkable.
She hugged both of them.
"Nae problem."
Finn and Duncan's fathers stood there and shook little Zara's hand in turn.
"And lassie, ye come back and see us when ye are grown. The way ye danced, I be thinking Duncan and Finn will be fighting over ye to dance at the ceilidh!"
Duncan and Finn both turned shades of red and retreated back.

The Campbell boys' father went up to Maura and Laura and said, "Aye, as we always said, 'no one dances a reel better than the McKee lasses!' "
They both laughed.
"Do ye think we be McKees?"
"I dinna remember. I thought we were MacGregors!"
"Ye think so?"
"I dinna know. We be MacGregors so long we think we are just Maura and Laura."
"Are ye Laura?"
"I dinna know. I thought I be Maura!"
They shrugged and laughed and the fathers shook their heads.
"Ye lasses haven't changed. Just as daft as ye were when we were six. Thank the powers that be the MacGregor lads be crazy enough to put up with ye!"
They all laughed and the Campbells went back to their own corner..

Honour wiped Zara's lip again with a wet cloth.
"Yes, Zara?"
"That be right nice of them to say they were sorry."
"Yes, it was."
"But they were wrong."
"Yes. They called me Miss MacGregor. I am Zara Wolfe."
Honour sighed, "Let it go, Zara. Just let it go."
Honour and Aggie looked over to the children who were having their own ceilidh.
"Looks like all is forgiven. If only adults would be more like the bairns, this world would be a much happier place."
"I see Jack giving the fiddle back to the band. That must mean the dancing is over."
"Aye, well, it seems to be midnight so I should say so. Do ye think ye can get wee Zara to wind down and go to bed?"
Honour sighed. "I don't know. All I know is that I am exhausted and Jack is keyed up. It should make for an interesting evening."
Aggie smiled, "Get your rest, Honour. Just because Jack has other ideas doesn't mean you have to be party to it. Ye CAN say nay."
Honour blurted out, "And deprive myself?" She blushed when she realized  how it sounded.
Aggie laughed. "A good shag never hurt anyone and ye sleep better at night."
Honour looked over. "I suppose I had better collect my daughter."
Aggie looked over at Zara too and shook her head. "Are ye sure she is only three and a half?"

Zara was standing there with her cousins Adam and Adair. Duncan and Finn headed over to her and stood there shyly.
"Aye, Miss MacGregor, yer dad be a right good fiddle player."
Zara's eyes were shining with admiration for her da. Everyone was clapping as Jack left the stage.
"He is, isn't he?" she said with pride.
Duncan stepped to the side and said quietly, "Miss MacGregor?"
Duncan leaned over and gave Zara a quick kiss on the cheek, turned and walked quickly away.
Finn laughed at his cousin. "Ye kissed a gir! Ye kissed a girl!" he sing-songed.
Duncan looked at him crossly and punched his arm.
"Shut yer gob, Finn!"
Zara stood there and touched her cheek, then quietly whispered, "My name is Wolfe. Zara Wolfe. And ye won't be forgettin' me either."

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

I just want to be Layla.....

Welsh Wench

Three months prior....

Dr. Drake Gander put away his stethoscope and patted Morwyn on the shoulder.
"Not too much wrong with you, lassie. Just a bad cough."
He turned to Megan. "She will be fine. I will send over an elixir that I can mix in my office. Just some herbs in honey and she will be as right as rain in a few days."
Megan put her hand over her chest. "Oh, thank heavens! You know I worry so. You've been a godsend to this family ever since you pulled me out of that fever when I arrived here."
He smiled at the compliment.
"And have you heard from our intrepid travelers lately?"
Megan smiled. "I got my first letter the other day. Jack's grandmother made amends with her errant grandson and welcomed them with open arms."
"When do you expect them back?"
"Knowing Jack, probably in about six months. He has some notion of trying to find the Stone of Scone. You know that man can't resist an adventure."
"As I so well know. I am glad Honour is with him to balance out his exuberant spirit. She's the voice of reason with him."
Megan began to thumb through the packet that Daffyd had left on the kitchen counter.
"No...nothing more from them...wait a minute! There seems to be two letter here for you!"
She handed them to Duckie.
"Oh....Jack said I can receive my letters at his home since I am rarely at mine and it is more secure."
He turned it over in his hands.
"Hmm...a letter from the University of Glasgow. I wonder what they could want with me."
"Only one way to find out. Open it up!"

Duckie perused the letter quickly.
"I don't believe it. The medical division wants me to come to Glasgow—all expenses paid—for two months to oversee their studies on herbal remedies."
"How wonderful! When they want you to start?"
He looked at the letter again.
"Oh...right away. Good grief, I would have so much to do. Bookl passage and get my associate—that is the young Dr Mallard—prepared to take over. I suppose I can leave by the end of the week. It's a wonderful opportunity! And I haven't been back home since---well, that incident with Rose."
"Who is the other letter from?"
He turned it over and looked at the return address.
"Oh dear. Speak of the devil. It's from Rose!"

Megan frowned. "I wonder what SHE wants."
She looked at Duckie with curiosity and expectation and was disappointed when he put the letter in his pocket.
"I'll deal with it later. If she is sending me a letter, it can't possibly be good."


"Josiah? Josiah Briggs—are you home?"
Renee came out of the parlour. "Why, Dr Duckie! I haven't seen you in a month! Are the residents of Bridgetown keeping you busy?"
Duckie made a sweeping bow. "Why, if it isn't Renee Bertrand, as I live and breathe!"
"Now what makes you think the honourable Josiah Briggs would be here?"
Duckie poured himself a snifter of brandy.
"Because, Renee, it is a not-so-secret secret that Josiah is living here. And with his lad, Phillip."
"Alright, so yes, Josiah and Phillip are living here. But for all you know, maybe Josie is renting a room here for himself and the boy?"
Duckie practically choked on his brandy. "Everyone knows that Josiah has been in love with you for years, love. And I've seen the glow on your face and the way you look at him when you think no one is looking. And I know you have become a surrogate mother to the lad. And a finer mother I couldn't imagine. You are very progressive minded and Phillip will benefit from that."
"Alright so I am busted on this. Duckie, I have never been happier. Or contented."
"Any wedding bells?"
"Don't rush things, Ducks. We are working on our relationship. So what brings you by? Business or pleasure?"
"Well, I would say it was a surprise I received. One I am not sure how to handle."
"So what is it? Talk it out and we will come to a solution."

Duckie pulled a letter out of his vest pocket.
"This. I received it in the mail and I am afraid to open it."
"How can you be afraid of a piece of paper? You have no debts, you have no wife to hound you for a dissolution of marriage. Are you afraid you have inherited a fortune?"
He shook his head. "It's from Rose."
"Rose? As in your sister who married well? Rose? As in 'I think I will wreck Jack Wolfe's life several times over?' Rose, as in.---"
"Yes, yes, we all know her past sins. I hope she doesn't want to relocate to Barbados and move in with me."
"So why don't you open it?"
"Because I don't want to read it by myself."
"And since Josiah knew your sister, you wanted his input."
"But Josiah is not here. He's out to seeing to some molasses getting ready for shipment to Captain Harkness. El Lobo should be back any time now and will be sailing within the month.
Josiah is taking the ship and taking Phillip with him. So....will I do?"
Duckie looked relieved. "Will you? Please? I am afraid to read it."

She held her hand out. "That envelope isn't going to open itself, Ducks. Hand it here."
Renee picked up an ivory letter opener from her desk and deftly slit the envelope open.
"Are you wanting to read it or shall I?"
Duckie rubbed the bridge of his nose and sighed. "You do it. I can't face any disasters from her."
Renee skimmed the letter quickly, her eyes opened wide and she tried to suppress a smile.

"Dear Drake,
     I know it has been a while since I have written. Alright so about two years. But I have some news.
As you remember, I left El Lobo del Mar in a heap of shame. My time on that ship was an eye opener. When I saw how happy Jack and his wife—I still know her as Rhiannon—were, I got to thinking of my own life.
I arrived back at my estate and began to take a good, hard look at it. All I could see was cold walls, empty-eyed portraits of people I never knew staring back at me and the liquor. I began to realize that the liquor was the only thing that was numbing me from seeing what I was missing. And what I had become.
    While I wasn't in love with the Earl, we did have a mutual respect. Did I miss him when he passed away? If I was honest with myself, I would have to say no. He brought into the marriage what I thought I wanted. Riches, an estate and a title. I was what he wanted. A wife to entertain his various friends.
      As we had no children, there was no heir to inherit the title and estate. When I died, the title  would revert to his brother's son. As it was inevitable, I contacted Malcolm—that is the nephew's name---and arrived at a settlement with him. I would relinquish all lands and titles and claims on the estate. Malcolm, in turn would provide me with a lump sum settlement and an annual pension that would keep me comfortable.
   I decided to do a bit of traveling and decided to see our cousin Maude in Derbyshire. She introduced me around and at one dinner, I was seated next to a charming, handsome man named Lord George Derby of Derbyshire. Yes, he is landed gentry—a country squire—and has an estate. But it is not what you think. I was not looking for a husband or even a paramour.
But Lord George was so fascinating and charming and I couldn't resist.
So this may come as a shock but I fell in love. Genuinely, madly in love with him and married him a year ago. I know you are going to laugh—but I am proud to announce your dear sister is now—and I can hardly believe it—the proud owner of a sheep and goat farm!
     George is very hands-on with the operation and is teaching me the finer points of breeding and shearing. Last week, I sheared a sheep by myself for the very first time! I have a few herding dogs that I am training by myself and they are obeying quite well.
      Drake, I am so very ashamed of what I used to be. The time you spent with me was like you were holding a mirror in front of me and I saw myself exactly as you saw me—a vain, selfish woman who thought nothing of people's feelings.
But I know you would be happy to know I have changed and have found the happiness I so longed for even if I didn't know it. 
     I hope Jack and Honour will find it in their hearts to forgive this foolish woman who tried to sabotage their marriage. I don't know if I can ever forgive myself for it.
I did send a letter of apology to Rhiannon's sister Lady Llewellyn but it came back as undeliverable. I do hope they are well. The postman could not find a Bancroft Hall.
     I will conclude this letter with my hopes for happiness in your life. I hope you are happy for me and please wish me well.
When you get back to England, you will always have a place to stay here. Just ask for Derby Farms and that is where you will find us. George is looking forward to meeting his brother in law.

                                                                                       With all my love,


Renee handed Duckie back the letter.
"I swear, Renee, I don't know what to say."
Renee gave Duckie a hug. "I think the letter shows genuine repentance and honestly, she sounds really happy. It is nice to know there is still room for redemption in the world."
Duckie stood there, still staring at the letter and carefully reading it to himself.
"Rose...a sheep farmer? Shearing sheep? Raising herding dogs? This is a woman who wouldn't pick up a piece of paper she dropped. She would ring for the servants."
"I take it you are happy for her."
"If it is true, yes I am. But I would have to see it with my own eyes."
"So what are you going to do?"
He smiled broadly and said, "I think I am going to take a longer leave of absence from the practice. I will take a few extra weeks."
"To get situated in Glasgow?"
"Not only that. I'm going to go to Derbyshire! This I have to see!"
Show me your tan lines..and I'll show you mine!

I just want to be Layla.....