Her question caught Katie completely off guard. “I do not know. Our lads never tell us such things and the women are wise enough not to ask. MacGreagors do not find pleasure in killing for any reason, and often need time to accept what they have done. When a lass asks, her husband may leave and not come home for days.”
“Have you ever seen Kevin kill someone?”
“Someone? Kevin has never killed a lass in his life. I have only seen him kill one lad and the lad deserved to die. He was torturing animals. We kill animals when we need the meat, but we do not torture anything or anyone. Kevin warned him not to do it three times, but the lad disobeyed.”
“Did Kevin believe the man would torture more than animals?”
“Aye, he did. There is an evil in some lads. Our father told of a man our grandfather allowed to live, and the lad tortured and murdered seven people before he was put to death.”
“Does God approve the death of such a man?”
“I am certain he does.”
Anna watched a flock of birds fly over and wished she were among them. She wanted out and it was driving her mad, so she wrapped her arms tightly around her knees.
Katie could see her tension and tried to think of ways to distract her. “Anna, do you want children?”
“I do not know, I have not thought about that. I suppose all lasses want children someday.”
“When a lass loves a lad, it is natural to want to give him children. We give our lads a happy home and children. In return, the lads protect us and see that we are fed.”
“When they are not snoring, you mean.”
Katie smiled. “Aye, when they are not snoring. A wise lass gets her lad to turn over so he does not snore.”
“How could I do that? Kevin is too big.”
“When he comes home, I will show you where to poke him.”
“Did your husband snore?”
Katie looped her arm through Anna’s and grinned. “He snored so loudly, he scared a wild boar away.” Just as she hoped, it seemed to lighten Anna’s mood. “He also made strange sounds when he ate. Had I known, I would never have married him. It was so unpleasant, I could not eat myself and I was feather thin by the end of our six months of marriage. My husband was lost at sea and when there was no hope of finding him, I came home. You will never guess what Kevin did when he saw me so thin.”
“He was very young at the time, brought me three bowls of food and demanded I eat them all.” Katie got up and pulled Anna to her feet. “Walk with me. Emily had her baby a month ago and I have not yet seen it.”
“The children do not like me. I see them when I walk, but they do not come near.”
“Their mothers have forbidden it.”
Katie led Anna around the corner of the Keep and chose the nearest path. She wondered why she hadn’t thought of it before; let the children keep Anna occupied. “The mothers were afraid one would hurt you. Shall we tell them you are well enough now?”
Anna’s eyes lit up.
As soon as they neared Emily’s cottage, the door opened and Emily welcomed them inside. Her cottage was neat and clean with simple furnishings, including one bed for her children, one for the adults and a table and chairs. She spoke in Gaelic and Katie interpreted. “Emily is honored to have you in her home. She wants to know if you would like to hold her baby.”
“I do not know how.” Anna confessed.
“Did you not hold your little sister?”
“No, I was not allowed.”
Katie explained it to Emily, who quickly pulled a chair away from the table and urged Anna to sit down. The box the baby slept in was made of strong sticks securely tied together with strips of leather. She lifted her child out of the box and carefully placed her in Anna’s arms.
Anna beamed and leaned down to put her cheek next to the baby’s cheek. It was the softest thing she had ever felt and she closed her eyes to savor the feeling. Then two little boys ran in, saw Anna and abruptly stopped. She handed the baby back to her mother and motioned for the boys to come. Each looked to their mother for permission and once she nodded, they ran to her. Anna was surprised when they wanted to touch her face. It was as though they needed to be sure it did not still hurt, and when the smallest one poked her cheek, she poked his back. That made him laugh.
“There now,” Katie said. “By nightfall, all the mothers will know, the place will be crawling with children again and they will all want to poke your face.”
“I will love it.”
It was a true blessing. Every time Anna went out to walk, the children gathered around. They poked her at first, but she knew games and tricks they had never seen before and they were fascinated. Once when Katie looked out the window, Anna was flat on the ground with laughing children crawling all over her and Katie couldn’t wait to tell Kevin --his wife doesn’t know it, but she wants children.
Word finally came by way of one of the king’s soldiers; they finally found Rachel. The Highlanders gathered their things, prepared the horses and were standing near the clearing watching Catherin pace back and forth.
Justin leaned close to Kevin, “How long should I wait before I marry her?”
Kevin looked surprised. “You prefer her?”
“Are you daft? Every unmarried lad in the clan will want her.”
“Then ‘tis a good thing you have the advantage.”
“It was you who saved her and it is you she talks to.” Catherin was pacing faster now and Kevin could only guess how hard it was for her to wait. “It will please my wife if her mother and sister live with us.”
“Aye. How old do you think Catherin is?”
Kevin smiled, “I do not even know how old Anna is, but I would guess Stoneham took Catherin when she was very young.”
Finally, Athena walked into the clearing with a child in her arms. Catherin screeched, began to run and as soon as Athena let Rachel down, the child turned and ran into her mother’s arms.
Behind Athena, the King of England sat on his horse watching. He got down when Athena walked back to him and was surprised when the woman boldly kissed his cheek. Grinning, he got back on his mount, returned Kevin’s nod of appreciation and rode away.
On the other side of Kevin, Thomas sighed. “It warms my heart to see such joy. Do you want me to ride ahead and tell your wife we are bringing them with us?”
“Nay, I wish to surprise her.”