Dawn on a Distant Shore Page 185

"You were thinking of sending the boy-- What did she call him?"


"You want to send Luke here, to Carryck."

Hawkeye nodded. "The thought crossed my mind, but it ain't my decision to make. You need to think that through."

"Do you think he'd take an interest in this place?" Nathaniel asked.

"Most men would," said Hawkeye. "Especially a young man with no land and no prospects. A young man raised Catholic."

"I'd never see him," Nathaniel said, feeling the loss already before he had even come to know the boy.

Hawkeye said, "I'd have to lay claim to Jamie Scott's place here. I couldn't do that without talking to Jean Hope and to Jennet first. Making sure they wanted it that way. Then you'd have to claim Luke as your firstborn."

They were just twenty yards from the gates now. From the courtyard came the sound of children's laughter, and Curiosity calling out after them. Elizabeth stood in the window with a baby on her arm. She had circles under her eyes, but there was a settled and peaceful look about her that he had last seen at home in Lake in the Clouds, before they had any idea of what lay ahead. She smiled when she saw him and raised her hand.

"She's a good woman," Hawkeye said. "It might hit her hard at first, but she don't have an unfair bone in her body. She'll come around to the idea."

"Maybe before I do," Nathaniel agreed, and he went in to tell Elizabeth about his son.

Hannah was waiting for her grandfather just inside the gate, and she pulled him aside. Something of the brightness in her had gone away with Robbie's death, some of her trust in the world. And he remembered now the morning he had walked out of Montréal with Nathaniel. How he had watched him change as they walked, leaving not just Giselle Somerville but some of himself behind, too.

"What is it, Squirrel?"

She said, "I need your help. I can't do it by myself."

He put a hand on her shoulder, felt the strength of her and the determination. People looked at the color of her skin and thought of her mother, but there was so much of his Cora in her, a fiery heart and a will of iron.

"Tell me."

In Mahican she said, "Will you come down to the village with me, Grandfather?" It was strange hearing that language of his boyhood in this place, and it did what she wanted it to: it shut out the rest of the world and drew them closer together.


"After dark."

He kept his face impassive. To smile would be to make light of this errand of hers, and he would not insult her. "What is it that takes us to the village after dark?"

"Before I leave this place I must kill a bear," she said. And then, more quickly: "They blinded her and chained her to a post. She asked me to set her free of this place, and I gave her my promise."

A fine tension was in her now, her whole body shaking. She said, "I cannot go home and leave her."

"Then we'll go down to the village after dark," Hawkeye said calmly. "And we'll do what needs to be done. Let's go in to eat now."

She shook her head. "I have to go see the Hakim, first. Will you tell them?"

He nodded, and then waited and watched her run off, fleet as a deer.

Hannah found Hakim Ibrahim packing his instruments into their cases. He had seen three people he tried to save buried within two days, but when she hesitated at the door he looked up at her with his usual kindly and helpful smile.

"Ah," he said, wiping his hands on a bit of muslin. "I was hoping to see you this evening. I have something for you before you leave this place tomorrow."

Hannah drew in a deep breath and let it out again. She had feared he might be angry with her-- it had been many days since she had come to work with him or even to speak to him--and found instead that nothing had changed. She said, "Are you leaving, too?"

"Yes. Tomorrow I must return to Southerness. The Isis is bound for Bombay."

"You are going home, too, then."

From the worktable he took a leather case the size of a large book and he put it down before her. Then he stood back, bowing from the shoulders. "Yes. And I have a parting gift for you."

Hannah was so surprised that she did not trust herself to speak. She ran a finger lightly over the leather and then, with unsteady hands, untied the lacings. Four scalpels, two with curved blades, forceps, probes, and suture needles, each secured by a leather strap in a bed of dark blue velvet. The instrument handles were made of ivory, slightly yellow with age.

He said, "It will be some time before you are skilled enough to use these, but I have no doubt that you will put them to good use one day."

She blinked the tears back, and nodded. "Thank you."

"You are welcome. Now, I believe you came to talk to me about something else. Lady Isabel, or Rob MacLachlan?"

"I know what killed Robbie. The bullet must have hit the artery, here--" She touched her own chest at the midline. "The aorta. But no one can tell me what Lady Isabel's illness is called."

He folded his hands in front of himself. "There is no name for the affliction that I know. I have seen it only rarely, and each time it ends in death. In the Al-Qanun fi'l-Tibb, Ibn Sina writes of tubercles that settle in the kidneys. The condition of her skin would make that likely. The only way to know would be to perform an autopsy, but given the circumstances ..." He paused. "I thought it best not to impose on the earl's grief."

Prev Next