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The Substitute

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The guards had taken off in search of the runaway. Back at Thistle Glen House, its mistress reasoned he couldn’t have gone far - he hadn’t been here long enough to get an accurate lay of the land. Still, she was amazed at his cunning and his sheer bravado. His own family was too far away to reach unless he had three days and a horse. Walking, it would take him more than a week; and he didn’t have any food or water with him, she was reasonably sure. She stretched her arm and pulled one of many rolled parchments stacked in an old, heavy bookshelf. The newest scroll had a soft wool ribbon patterned in his family’s tartan holding it closed. Bits of wax still clung to the ends of the ribbon. She smoothed the beautiful parchment onto the desk and placed books on each corner to keep it open. “I, James Alexander Malcom MacKenzie Fraser, do confess that my brother, William David MacKenzie Alasdair Fraser, heir to the Laird Broch Tuarach, and I did commit a grievous crime against Her Grace, the Duchess of Glenfinnan, on November 1, 1743, when we did kill and remove two deer and five rabbits from her lands without permission. The law allows for the injured party to demand service from the family of the criminal(s). Her Grace demanded that William Fraser pay her with a year of service for the animals. I do hereby swear that I have reached my twenty-first year and do pledge, upon my honor, to serve Her Grace for the term of 365 days as her bondsman in my brother’s stead. In return, she will release and hold him harmless for our malfeasance. Signed this day, Thursday November 5, 1743, at Thistle Glen House, between Master James Alexander Malcom MacKenzie Fraser of Lallybroch and Master William David MacKenzie Alasdair Fraser of Lallybroch and Her Grace, Claire Moriston, Duchess of Glenfinnan.”