I think I am settled with just about everything in the world. Unfinished work will be taken care of, or not, by the kids. Everyone will go on.
Now I was curious. “What exactly did you see?” I asked, settling myself on the dressing-table seat. I motioned to the whisky bottle with a half-lifted brow, and Frank went at once to pour a couple of drinks.
“Well, only a man, really,” he began, measuring out a jigger for himself and two for me. “Standing down in the road outside.”
“What, outside this house?” I laughed. “Must have been a ghost, then; I can’t feature any living person standing about on a night like this.”
Frank tilted the ewer over his glass, then looked accusingly at me when no water came out.
“Don’t look at me,” I said. “You used up all the water. I don’t mind neat, thought.” I took a sip in illustration.
Frank looked as though he were tempted to nip down to the lavatory for water, but abandoned the idea and went on with his story, sipping cautiously as though his glass contained vitriol, rather than the best Glenfiddich single malt whisky.
“Yes, he was down at the edge of the garden on this side, standing by the fence. I thought”—hesitated, looking down into his glass—“I rather thought he was looking up at your window.”
“My window? How extraordinary!” I couldn’t repress a mild shiver, and went across to fasten the shutters, though it seemed a bit late for that. Frank followed me across the room, still talking.
“Yes, I could see you myself from below. You were brushing your hair and cursing a bit because it was standing on end.”
“In that case, the fellow was probably enjoying a good laugh,” I said tartly. Frank shook his head, though he smiled and smoothed his hands over my hair.
“No, he wasn’t laughing. In fact, he seemed terribly unhappy about something. Not that I could see his face well; just something about the way he stood. I came up behind him, and when he didn’t move, I asked politely if I could help him with something. He acted at first as though he didn’t hear me, and I thought perhaps he didn’t, over the noise of the wind, so I repeated myself, and reached out to tap his shoulder, to get this attention, you know. But before I could touch him, he whirled suddenly round and pushed past me and walked off down the road.”
“Sounds a bit rude, but not very ghostly,” I observed, draining my glass. “What did he look like?”
“Big chap,” said Frank, frowning in recollection. “And a Scot, in complete Highland rig-out, complete to sporran and the most beautiful running-stag brooch on his plaid. I wanted to ask where he’d got it from, but he was off before I could.”
I went to the bureau and poured another drink. “Well, not so unusual an appearance for these parts, surely? I’ve seen men dressed like that in the village now and then.”
“Nooo…” Frank sounded doubtful. “No, it wasn’t his dress that was odd. But when he pushed past me, I could swear he was close enough that I should have felt him brush my sleeve—but I didn’t. And I was intrigued enough to turn around and watch him as he walked away. He walked down the Gereside Road, but when he’d almost reached the corner, he…disappeared. That’s when I began to feel a bit cold down the backbone.”
“Perhaps your attention was distracted for a second, and he just stepped aside into the shadows,” I suggested. “There are a lot of trees down near that corner.”
“I could swear I didn’t take my eyes off him for a moment,” muttered Frank. He looked up suddenly. “I know! I remember now why I thought he was so odd, though I didn’t realize it at the time.”
“What?” I was getting a bit tired of the ghost, and wanted to go on to more interesting matters, such as bed.
“The wind was cutting up like billy-o, but his drapes—his kilts and his plaid, you know—they didn’t move at all, except to the stir of his walking.”
We stared at each other. “Well, I said finally, “that is a bit spooky.”
Frank shrugged and smiled suddenly, dismissing it. “At least I’ll have something to tell the Vicar next time I see him. Perhaps it’s a well-known local ghost, and he can give me its gory history.” He glanced at his watch. “But now I’d say it’s bedtime.”
“So it is,” I murmured.
Ms. Gabaldon (“Herself”) said the riddle of Jamie’s Ghost will be explained in the last line of the series. She is writing Book 9; I have read all 8 and am in love with the Outlander Series, too.
If I had a dying wish, it would be to know how it ends.