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.Brother James burst into the room, interrupting the camaraderie.He was gasping for breath as if he had run a far distance, and his eyes were huge with fear.Everyone jumped to their feet, waiting to learn the cause of his distress.He said, “Little Bessie is missing.”Brother Timothy was grabbing the cloak that hung beside the door in an instant.“When was the last time you saw her?”Iseabail was concerned for Bessie and wondered just how little she was.“Is there anything I can do to help find her?”Seumas took her hand as she stood.“It will be seen to, Iseabail.” She was surprised at his lack of concern.“Little Bessie is a sheep.”Iseabail exhaled, settling next to Seumas again.They watched as the shepherds prepared to find their lost sheep.If she had fallen down one of the steep cliffs that ran alone the coast, it would be very hard to find, and if she had fallen onto her back, she would never be able to turn herself onto her feet.Sheep needed their shepherd.“Did you call to her?” Brother Timothy asked.“I believe it is your voice she will respond to,” Brother James answered.Brother Timothy nodded and the room was quickly emptied.Seumas and Iseabail were left to their own devices.“Do you think they will find her?” Iseabail watched him as he thought about his answer.His handsome face was slightly red from his trip in the boat with Brother Matthew so that his blue eyes seemed even more pronounced.“A good shepherd knows how to tend to his sheep.” She saw him look at her with sincerity.“They will do all they can for Little Bessie and will not return until they find her.”“That is a tall order.There is a lot of land to cover.”“True, but they will work together, methodically, so that they cover the whole area until they find their lost sheep.It is the way with every shepherd.Come, let us prepare for our departure so that we can leave at daybreak.I am anxious for ye to see my home.” Seumas looked as if he had just thought of something.“I am finally anxious myself to see it.” He turned his gaze on her.“And ye are the reason for that.” She reached up to kiss him, and he unexpectedly pulled her to him.“Have I told ye that I love ye?”“I believe you have implied it, m’lord.”He nuzzled her neck with his bearded face.“Let me do more than that now.” He led her to the stairs and they ascended two at a time.She was winded by the time they reached their room, laughing between big gasps for air.*****The next morning, among tears and farewells and with all sheep accounted for, Seumas and Iseabail continued north to the Castle of Tioram at Loch Moidart.He explained that as one of the men who farmed on the land belonging to the castle, Seumas had been trained in warfare and was expected to bring his bride to the Lord MacDonell’s castle, if not for approval then to at least allow him to give his blessing.Iseabail was not bothered overmuch by this, but she was looking forward to seeing the farm he had been raised on.He said it had been in his family for seven generations.They had lived through Viking raids from the coast and pestilence from the interior.He assured her he came from strong stock, and proved it to her each night when he made love to her as if it were their last time.He told her it was because he never wanted to take anything for granted.“Why are we stopping here?” Iseabail looked out over the hill below and saw the ocean far off but nothing else.“Oh, for the beautiful view? It is breathtaking.”“See the little inlet right.there?” Seumas leaned in close as if to see it from her eyes, and pointed.She nodded.“That is where my father’s house…our house sits.”They turned toward each other and knew the excitement of starting anew with all the bad behind and a grand adventure just ahead.“Race ye.” Seumas spurred his horse to a run and actually had to pull back when the animal caught wind of its home.Iseabail barely had a chance to keep up.By the time she reached Seumas, she found him a few hundred yards from a small house with a thatched roof.“What are you doing? Why have you stopped?”“Someone is here.”“What do you mean?” She looked around.The fields had been planted and harvested.Repair work had been done to the barn behind the house rather recently, judging by the light-colored thatch.As she looked on, a man came out of the house and headed toward the well with a bucket in hand.Seumas sucked in air as if not believing what he was seeing.“Who is it, Seumas?” Iseabail shielded her eyes from the bright sun but could make out nothing else.“I do not believe the audacity—” Seumas put heels to the horse and galloped to a halt beside the startled man, who dropped his bucket at Seumas’s advance.“Well, who is this?” Seumas’s voice was piercing as he jumped off his horse, his dagger in hand, and walked right up to the man.“Tell me what ye are doing on my property, or I will run ye through right here!”Iseabail was shocked at what she heard.Seumas’s blade was balanced in the palm of his hand and held a hair’s breadth from the man’s heart.“Seumas? Is it really you?” The other man’s voice broke and huge tears rolled down his cheeks.He looked Seumas up and down as if to test what he was seeing.“I cannot believe it is really you.”With open arms he approached Seumas, who stepped back, dagger still at the ready.“Answer my questions, Giles.”Iseabail’s eyes flew back to the little man.She could scarce believe this was Seumas’s best friend, Giles.Seumas had told her about his time on the pilgrimage to the Holy Land and especially about his trust in his best friend, which had turned out to be badly misplaced.The man before them was a coward.“I am sorry.I had nowhere else to go.” His hesitancy in speaking did not sit right with Iseabail.He did not come off as the pompous arse Seumas had described to her.“What do I care? This is my land and my house.Get out,” Seumas said with finality and returned to Iseabail to help her down, his dagger still available but now tucked at his waist.“I am very sorry about this.I had no idea the place had been infiltrated by vermin.”Iseabail did not answer but glanced at Giles to see that Seumas’s barb had had the intended effect.The man’s shoulders bowed even more.When Giles remained in the same spot, Seumas put her behind him and drew his sword from the saddle of his horse.“What are ye waiting for? Would ye prefer I run ye through right here?”“I would, Seumas.It would put me out of my misery.”“Oh, ye have misery now, do ye?” Seumas answered skeptically, his sword pointed at the man.“I do not care.Get off my land…now!”The tightness in his voice gave Iseabail pause.His lips were pressed together with such violence that his chin dimpled, his lips dipped down, and his nostrils flared in his rage.The look on her husband’s face was one she hoped to never see again.She waited to see if the man was moving, or if she were about to witness a murder in her new home.“Hear me, Seumas, I beg of you.” The man fell to his knees.“I have no place else to go.I am sorry…you have no idea how sorry.Mercy.Please, show me mercy [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]