“Consider River Run Yer Home”
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Down but not out, they dress in their best to meet Aunt Jocasta. River Run is a beautiful and large plantation. Jamie shares their woes. Ian and Rollo meet a scary skunk. They tour the turpentine works. A meeting takes place. There’s a pitch explosion. An awkward luncheon ensues. Contracts are signed. The charade is explained. Three letters arrive. Young Ian is put into their keeping.
Inside the Chapter:
Chapter 10 – Jocasta
Cross Creek, North Carolina, June 1767
Cross Creek was a bustling town, and it smelled heavily of turpentine. The pitch, turpentine, and tar were used by the shipyards. The British Navy was a huge purchaser. Underneath the resinous scents, was another familiar odor, rum and perhaps other distilled spirits. His nose for such things was still in good order even though it had been twenty years since he worked for his cousin Jared in Paris (p174, Nook). Of course, Young Ian must take a deep breath to see if he can distinguish any other scents. No, he only smells turpentine. Jamie has a great concern he looks like the beggar he is as the time draws near at meeting Aunt Jocasta. Claire looks him over carefully. He looks tidy and appropriate except for the shoes. There hadn’t been time to have any made. She notes the coat and waistcoat with sober pewter buttons made him look like a prosperous Quaker. She tells him he’s beautiful. Young Ian, on the other hand, looked quite a grubby mess. Once his coat was brushed and hair combed, he looked a bit more suitable. He wants to know if Jamie’s going to tell Aunt Jocasta about the pirates (p175, Nook). River Run was several miles up from Cross Creek, so Claire was able to tend to her cleanliness after ensuring the men were tidy. She had no choice but to put on the cream gown she wore to the dinner with the Governor. She thought it might be a bit fancy for daytime, but her other options were too grubby or threadbare. She tied her hair back and shined up her silver ring. She couldn’t look at her left hand missing the gold ring. When her ablutions were complete, they were nearing the River Run dock. A young boy was keeping watch and ran to announce their arrival.
Claire was in awe of the grandeur of the grounds and house. She decided her dress was not too much at the sight of it. People were coming out of the house toward the boat, but Claire spotted Jocasta easily. She has the bold Viking face of the MacKenzies. She is tall and striking, with long white hair. She heard some of the young boys speaking Gaelic. Jamie steps up to Jocasta and simply says, “Aunt, it’s Jamie.” Jamie had a look about him that tells Claire Jocasta must look like his mother, Ellen. Aunt Jocasta was touching him with tears in her eyes (p177, Nook). He introduces Claire. Her hand reminded Claire startlingly like Brianna’s. Claire notes she smells like mint and verbena. Interestingly she felt like she “had come under the protection of some beneficent deity.” Do you get the idea that Jocasta will simply be charitable and kind? After introductions to Fergus and Young Ian, she calls for her butler, Ulysses to escort them back in for tea and food.
The house was large and airy on the inside. It appears Hector Cameron must have been quite successful. They went into Jocasta’s private parlor. It is a more intimate and homey space, but just as well furnished as the other rooms, they passed by. Jocasta is already seated. She offers them a dram of whisky. Hector had taken it in trade, but it became illegal for anyone but the Crown to sell spirits. They ended up with two hundred bottles.
Jocasta toasts them hoping they’ll find River Run home. Keep your eye out on this. Is she simply trying to be courteous? The whisky is very good. Claire enjoys the warming effects as it hits her belly. Jamie also relaxes a little. Jocasta mentions she’ll have Ulysses write to Jenny to tell her of their safe arrival with Young Ian. Jamie takes this as the opening to tell her about the pirates and the problems with their finances because of it. She has the proper response to the tale and wants them to consider River Run their home (p180, Nook). Jamie is thankful for his aunt’s reply but is also embarrassed.
The house was furnished simply with everything beautiful and well made. Young Ian had been moving about the room touching objects to the annoyance of the butler, then he remarked on a painting (p181, Nook). That is the third time she mentions she hopes River Run will be their home.
Rollo becomes agitated. There’s a skunk outside in the garden. Jamie and Young Ian’s reactions are priceless (p182, Nook). Rollo had chased the skunk into view. Young Ian is not impressed there’s anything dangerous about it. Before Claire could get Young Ian to call Rollo off, the skunk sprayed them. Claire heard Jocasta rise from her chair. She wants to know what is going on. Claire realizes Jocasta is blind. Jocasta handles the situation with utmost grace (p183, Nook). She is well humored and practical it seems.
In the morning after being soaked in the river then scrubbed with tomato from the garden, Young Ian and Rollo sat at the far end of the table near the open door. Jocasta takes this in stride. Claire notices her remarkably nice teeth. Jocasta suggests they take a ride “out to the turpentine works in the forest above River Run.” It will take the day to go out and return to the house. The plantation must be very large. She says the bees give a hot and fair report for the weather. Bees come up throughout the Outlander books. Fergus asks to borrow a horse to go into town to post a letter to Marsali in Jamaica. Jocasta mentions for a fourth time to consider River Run your home. In the short span of twelve or so hours, she has brought it up. I believe she has a plan. She is a MacKenzie after all. When Phaedre, Jocasta’s body servant ties a cloth around Jocasta’s eyes, Claire can’t stop wondering what caused her blindness. She’d love to get a peek into her eyes. She can’t help herself. She is a doctor.
When they get to the stable, Claire expects they’ll take a coach to the turpentine works, but Jocasta is planning to ride her horse alongside the rest of them. She asks Jamie to confirm the horse’s leg is healthy. She had gotten spooked by a snake and injured herself. The Auntie has a plan. The horse groom tells the story of the snake and subsequent injury. Just like the young boys speaking Gaelic, his Aberdeen accent and verbiage are fascinating, though he’s not Scottish (p185, Nook).
River Run IS a very large plantation; its longleaf pine forest covered a third of the colony. Tobacco, indigo, timber, pitch, and turpentine were among its production. It hosted its sawmill and river rights. The largest contractor of River Run was none other than the British Navy. Jocasta explained all the businesses in great detail to Jamie as they rode. They came upon a turpentine tree, and she explains the processes of getting the sap out. One of her workers appears utilizing the help of a mule. Clarence the mule to be exact who brayed happily in greeting. If you haven’t read past DOA yet, he has importance. The worker had been disfigured by a pitch explosion. Jocasta says he’s lucky to be alive.
They arrived at the sheds at the turpentine works. Three uniformed British Naval officers and another man were waiting for them (187, Nook). This particular friend of Jocasta seems too happy and agreeable in meeting Jamie. He knows something odd is going on (p188, Nook). Jocasta says it’s too hot for her to go back outside. She stays while the men conduct business. Claire heads out for a tour of the grounds. Claire takes in the processes. Turpentine is cooked down to pitch and takes many workers to accomplish it. It can be a dangerous undertaking. Claire looks back at the shed. The naval men, Campbell, and Jamie are all in deep discussion over the papers, while Jocasta stands in the corner listening intently (p190, Nook). Chaos erupts behind Claire. There’s an underground explosion. Thankfully no one was hurt. Apparently, pitch explosions are commonplace. It’s a dangerous business. I wonder if this is a foreshadowing of something Claire is going to be doing in the future. Poor Jocasta was left in the shed without anyone giving her detail. Farquard steps in to explain all that has happened.
Jamie diffuses the awkwardness by pointing to lunch. Wolff needs to sign the contracts. Claire learned much about how the contracts work. She also learned that Wolff is bigoted against Scottish people (p193, Nook). Even after the younger ensign interrupts the horrid line of thought Wolff comments on Claire’s beautiful, non-Scottish accent. Getting Wolff drunk on the good whisky is the way to his signature on the dotted line. Jamie was helping get the area cleaned up after the explosion. As another form of lubricating the deal, Jocasta has a second bottle of whisky put in the Lieutenant’s saddlebag. Campbell puts the papers in front of the man to sign, and he does. Doesn’t Wolff know you should never go shopping when inebriated?!
Jamie is worse for wear after helping re-order things after the explosion (p195, Nook). He doesn’t care about being dirty; he wants to know what the heck is going on and why he was put into the position of business without consent. After a drink, the explanation gets down to business (9196, Nook). So this Wolff was spurned by Jocasta after Hector’s death adding to the delicacy of the business matters (p197, Nook). Jamie wants to know what intent Farquard has toward Jo (p197, Nook). Jamie comes into play because the overseer is a drunkard and mismanaged the contracts once. The physical side of running the estate and business is difficult because she is sightless. Campbell shares a proverb that explains it deftly (p199, Nook). Farquard was going to help Jocasta, but Jamie’s timely arrival had her come up with a better plan of action (p199, Nook). She hoodwinked him into helping her because she wasn’t sure if he would agree with the deception. Cunning Auntie Jocasta is a MacKenzie through and through (p200, Nook). Jamie may have found his match in her.
Fergus returns from town looking as if he’s been up to no good. He met with some French fur traders he helped translate for, and they gave him a meal. When he was at the postmaster, there was an envelope waiting for Jamie. Three letters were inside. One from his sister and two others. He chooses to read brother-in-law Ian’s letter first. Jenny’s letter will require whisky. Claire sits next to Jamie to read it with him. He calls Jamie brother as the salutation. Jenny no longer wants to harm Jamie (p201, Nook). He tells of Lallybroch life and the hardships. He gives a word of his children and a new grandchild. Simon of Lovat visited them. He’s looking for regimental recruits. He’s making a name for himself in the Colonies. The grandchildren were so enamored with his stories they played Indians (Savages) and included some of the adults to act as the Highland Regiment. Scots were emigrating at epidemic numbers to the Colonies.
The second letter from Ian was marked private and had a wax seal. This letter is not to be shared with the larger letter. He asks if Young Ian can stay with Claire and Jamie (p203, Nook). They are worried Young Ian will get pressed into military service. Poverty is rampant, and there’s little hope for anything better in the Scottish Highlands. Even if it means serving the German usurper (p203, Nook). It’s heartbreaking. He can say things to Jamie he doesn’t want to verbalize to Jenny. He goes on to say the other boys Young Jamie, and Michael will not be tempted by a soldier’s life, but undoubtedly Young Ian would with his adventurous spirit (p203, Nook). Jamie had been correct on how there is worry over Young Ian’s future. The letter stopped and started. Ian writes of the look in Simon’s eyes since Culloden. He fears for him. He goes on to say he has seen the same in Jamie’s eyes and feared for his soul since Culloden (p204, Nook). He further states Simon’s only link to humanity is the care he must take of his men. He closes his letter (p204, Nook). We don’t often hear from Ian Murray like the some of the other characters. These two letters give great insight to him as a man, husband, father, friend. He’s often the quiet behind the bold Jenny. He’s a good man. He’s a brother to Jamie.
Jocasta proves she’s a MacKenzie in her opening play. The woman is good. I’d say she’s even dangerous. She clearly wants Jamie to “take over” the running of the estate. She has no heir or husband. I imagine she’s a woman who nearly always gets what she wants. Claire doesn’t have much to do with this chapter; she’s the observer. I would love to be a fly on the wall when she and Jamie go to bed and talk. It looks like Young Ian is staying with Claire and Jamie. He’ll be thrilled to pieces over the news.
What’s Coming up? Chapter 11-12 Drums of Autumn (DOA).
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