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Catriona MacGregor

Catriona MacGregor

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"I forbid it! Do you hear me, Jane Elizabeth MacGregor? Absolutely forbid it!," Cat all but shouted at her 18 year old daughter. "No daughter of mine is going to marry an O'Roarke. Over my dead and rotting corpse!" At 40, Cat still carried the beauty she had been known for in her youth, but the auburn streaks were now assaulted by silver ones, and she blamed each and every one on her four children.


"But Mother!," came the reply that had been on Jane's lips for the last half hour as she tried to convince her mother to put aside petty differences for her happiness. "I love Caleb and he loves me. You promised I could marry for love."


Adam sat nearby, watching the women in his life battle, admiring the way his looks and his wife's had mingled to make the stunning creature currently giving his wife a raging headache. Jane had Adam's dark hair but her mother's eyes, the willful chin that matched her Uncle Douglas' for stubborness and a willowy form that was reminiscent of her Aunt Aileen. He decided he would let the two duke it out for themselves. It would be dangerous to step between them, what with both knowing how to handle both daggers and swords (and Jane knew how to handle a pistol, a gift that began on her 8th birthday from her Uncle Douglas).


"Don't pull that with me, young lady. I don't even know how you met him," Cat fumed, pacing the room. Sitting in a chair next to the fire, her eldest son, Robert MacStuart, sipped his whiskey and enjoyed the show. He had his father's coloring; dark skin, dark hair, the Stuart nose, but he also had a wild streak from his Scottish roots and his mother's eyes. Each of her children did.


"Mother, you're not going to change her mind. She's as stubborn as you are. Hell, Jane got a double dose of stubborn, for both you and Da," as he referred to Adam, while Charles Stuart was referred to as Father and only in private, "so she's probably more stubborn than you. And you've always told us, when one of us falls in love, you'll give us your blessing. Can't back out now."


Cat whirled on her eldest, her eyes narrowing. "I don't care if you are 22 years old, Robert Henry Adam MacStuart. I brought you into this world and I can take ye oot." Her accent slipped, as it always did, when her temper was flying. Robert shared a glance with Adam, who merely shook his head. "Ye canna be in love with an O'Roarke. Nay, nay, nay."


"Aye, aye, aye," came Jane's retort, a perfect imitation of her mother's accent. It was smoother than her uncle Douglas', now a captain in the King's Life Guard. "Don't make me have to go behind your back."


A dire threat. Cat gasped, holding her hand to her bosom, her chest heaving. "You'd do that to your poor, old, frail mother?," she asked, incredulously.


A snicker sounded from the corner. "Frail, my arse," came the low sound of Urich MacGregor, heir to the Earl of Alyth, and Cat's second son, first with Adam. The picture of the giant Scot, he towered over his siblings and mother, but was just shy of his father's impressive height. He had inherited most of his personality from the older rogue, though. Not an actress on Drury Lane didn't sigh when he walked into a theater, hopes of being his mistress running high. "Mother, you made the King quake in fear of you. Why, even now, King William allows you to get away with whatever you want, and you're not even his mistress." He rose and came to his mother's side, wrapping his arm around her shoulder. "I'm hungry and dinner is getting cold. Can we not just jump ahead to where you cave, as you always do when we want something with all our hearts, and give your blessings?"


Cat grumbled, elbowing her son in his stomach. The large lad gave and inelegant 'oof' and released his mother, who went to stand by Adam. "Do I always cave?"


Adam chuckled and grabbed Cat's hand, tugging her down into his lap. Even now, after all these years, he loved to cuddle his little spitfire of a wife. "Aye, ye do, lassie. Caleb's a good lad and while you and his mother have been best of friends and worst of enemies, you know Heather raised a good boy. Just do it. Like Urich said, tis past time for dinner. And I don't want to dodge any flying rolls at the dinner table."


A small voice piped up from in front of the fire, where the youngest of the MacGregor children played. A surprise child that had arrived on Cat's 35th birthday, little Douglas looked up with his serious eyes and said, "Can I still throw rolls anyways, Poppa? Can we throw rolls at Jane's wedding? That's much more fun than throwing flowers."


Cat sighed. It was 4 against 1. How was she supposed to stand against this? Jane was smart enough not to show her victory on her face, but she knew that sigh. Her mother was going to allow it. She couldn't hold it, though, and shouted, "Oh, thank you, thank you, thank you, Momma!" before flinging herself into her mother's arms and her father's lap. "You won't regret this. I promise."


"Tis not my regret I'm worried about," Cat murmured then sighed. Her babies were all growing up and needed to spread their wings. "Alright. Come on. Uncle Douglas and Aunt Fiona and your cousins should be here soon." She wondered how Douglas was going to take this. Probably about as well as she did.

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"Was she pretty?"


"Aye, a true beauty, both inside and out. You have her eyes, her lips and her good heart, little one," came the time worn reply. "And like you, she simply couldn't keep still long enough to go to bed." He tickled the little girl, who giggled and wriggled, then grew solemn.


"Do you think she would have liked me?"


The dark hand ruffled the dark brown tresses that curled wildly around her sweet face. "She loved you with all her heart."


A frown curled down the full lips, too big on a child's face. "Then why did she go away?"


A sigh wanted to rumble from deep in his chest, but he contained it. He hadn't realized how difficult raising a child could be. "God needed her by his side, to be one of his angels. But she's not truly gone. Even now, she watches over you." He had to believe that, or his guilt would eat him alive. "Now, go to sleep, Henrietta. Tomorrow, you go back to stay with your other Poppa."


The little girl sighed and snuggled down into the large bed, her blue eyes shutting, knowledge that her father watched over her making sleep easy. Charles Stuart looked down at the tiny girl and allowed the sigh release. Odd's Fish, Cat, why did you have to die?

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"I've heard said she once was mistress to the King," the tall man said as he gazed at the pitiful picture before him.


"Aye. Ya can see 'ow pretty she is, e'en covered in filth. But mad, mad as a March 'are. Just look at 'er."


The warden of Bedlam showed the paying customer to the viewing area of the woman once known for her beauty, charity and libertine lifestyle. Now, dressed in rags, covered in dirt, her nails bitten down to ragged nubs, the Countess of Alyth sat in the corner of her cell, mumbling to herself. Her hair was shorn short, the abundant chestnut and auburn curls missing from around her face. Scars marred the former perfection of her wrists.


"Tale is she went mad when the babe was born dead," the warden whispered to his companion. "I 'eard tell she grabbed the scissors from the midwife and tried ta stabbed all those attending. When that didn't work, she cuts 'erself up. Wouldna stop screaming. Said it took 'er 'usband and 'er brother ta get the blades away and tha Earl 'ad ta clip 'er in the jaw to get 'er knocked out. Kept 'er locked in that 'ouse of theirs on Pall Mall fer a while, but got too much fer 'im. Sad, it is." He shook his head. "Now, fer an extra pound, we can 'ave her strip down to 'er skin, if ye like."


The man stopped and stared at the warden.


(If you want to be the one to see Cat, feel free to jump in)

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The reverend's brow curled in anger at the sodding guard at the offer. He was big and boorish, but nowhere near that sort of man!


"Who do you think I am?!"


It angered him to see any woman gone this far, particularly one such as Cat. Now this idiot was offering her to strip?! Yes, he had thrown fists in London before in order to protect people, but was his reputation that marred? He was so angry at himself... still, something like this would cause some poor girl to go mad. He was a chaplain now, but was able to get a brief leave to tend to Cat.


"My lady... dear God."


He had seen bouts of madness in the Colonies, usually caused by fever. Giving birth and having the child die when having the best of care would even send him over the edge. He placed his hand on the cell door. He wasn't sure if he could reach her in her madness, but for Adam's sake, he had to at least attempt to tend to her.


"It is I, the Reverend Whitaker."

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The warden blanched as Will suddenly turned on him, shocked by the man's anger. "Look, the other priests wanted it. I just figured you'd be like them, wot wif 'ems sending ya 'ere. Gotta make money, ta keep 'ems wots in 'ere fed. Not cheap, I'ze sez, not cheap at all." He moved in a crab-like motion away from Will, giving him some room to interact with the 'patient'.


The poor creature curled in the corner looked up, the eyes sharpening for just a moment before hazing again. "They took my baby, Reverend. Can you make them give me my baby?," she asked, looking pleadingly up at him through her stringy hair. Gone was the confident, self-possessed young woman who had shouldered as many peoples' problems as possible, forcing her help on those she felt should have it. In her place was this pale creature, constantly searching for her child. The scent of opium stung Will's nose as she moved slightly closer.

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Will's eyes narrowed in sadness, slowly kneeling on the other side of the cage. Completely ignoring the guard, he just reached out to her as well as he could as a priest.


"I prayed two days for the power to raise the dead over my sister, my lady. Forgive me, but I have not enough faith. I do not understand loss the way you are right now, but oh... my dear lady, I know loss. I still mourn Jess to this day, and ever another woman is in danger... and I fail, I ..."


His hand clutched the cage. His eyes squinted, remembering the tomahawk crashing into his sister's skull. His head went down as he licked his lips from the dryness in his mouth.


"... I can not fail you again, my lady. I must try and see you through this. I can not return your child, but I can take steps to make certain that you will see your child again in heaven. If you kill yourself... that is not a Godly thing, my lady. Please... you must stop hurting yourself."

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Cat examined Will's hand, a memory flashing in her mind of having placed her own hand over his at one time. Slowly, she stretched her own hand out towards his, the raw marks on her skin red and swollen. "My baby's not dead. He can't be. He was so active. My little Robert." Her eyes began to tear again. "Why does God continue to punish me? He took Adam's babe, then Charles'. Its not fair. I want to be with my baby." She rocked in place, a low keening cry ripping from her throat. "My baby...my baby...my baby..."

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He tried to reach his own gloved hand out to her, finding his hand too large to fit through the cage save his fingers. He kept his fingers out to her, smiling with sadness.


"The devil is the thief, my lady. Not God. The angel was tarried twenty-one says before the vision of Daniel came to pass. If the devil can stop the angels that long, then he can make quite a mess out of us humans. My father used to tell me that you are not doing something right if the devil isn't on your back. God knows how generous and charitable you are, and the devil knows whom to attack to prevent good from overflowing."


A tear began to roll down his face, recalling his own losses.


"The generation of my father is wiped out, my lady. My older sister Jess taken by the very people my ancestors saved. Yet, I am expected to keep walking even if I want to be with them as well. I tend to find where men are prone to violence on others, women are prone to violence on themselves. Its an ugly, ugly outlet, my lady! Grief is maddening! I no longer have feeling in my knuckles because taking my aggression out on a tree is the only way I do not throw away my frock and become a purse fighter! Oh God help me, I have been ever tempted to just leave!"


Looking up into her eyes, he sighed.


"But what would become of you, my lady? Of Adam? Of others who need God? Of the natives? The devil, I am sure, would leave me alone and make me a very rich man at the cost of my soul. I would never see my sister or family again, I assure you, and that is the only thing that keeps me a sane man!"

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The madness cleared for a moment from Cat's eyes, the cloudy jewels once more becoming sparkling sapphires as she met Will's eyes. Her face took on a serene expression. "Sanity is over-rated, good Reverend," she said quite clearly. "It was not the devil who took my child. Why would he want an innocent babe, without sin on his soul? No, only God would want him. So my sanity, along with my babe, was stolen from me, by God." The gems of her eyes began to cloud again, her expression becoming agitated. "Why does he punish those who want to do good? I tried to make everyone's lives better. You do too, but He keeps taking our loved one's away. I must stay mad or He'll take Adam too. I can't let that happen. No, I freely give up my sanity if it means my love lives." She paused as her cloudy eyes turned once more towards Will. "Maybe if you go mad, He'll spare the rest of your family too."

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"The devil stole his life, not his soul, my lady."


He smiled sadly, shaking his head at the logic. It made some sense, but it was not scripture-sound. He went from his keeling position to a seated position. He was about to get rather theologically deep about insanity.


"Was Christ a sane man? He was a right man, but he briefly stayed at a leper's house, spat on the ground and made mud to heal the sick, and turned over tables at the marketplace. No, he merely forged the reality we know now by His sacrifice. If He preached love, who are the mad ones? Libertines? The Catholics who make you pay your way into heaven? Our society has forgotten that though woman is to be faithful to her husband, that it is she who is meant to crush the head of the serpent while the man only toils in the field. To stay mad in hopes of the serpent not biting your ankles over and over... that is wrong."


He leaned over to the cage with a sigh.


"Insanity is doing the same thing over and over to expect a different result. While I commend you attempting something else to get a different result, if you think this will save Adam... he thinks he has failed you, my lady. Have you no idea how much that hurts a man to think he has failed a woman?"

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