“Of Cruelty and Kindness”
A party is planned. Fergus goes to Jamaica to await the birth of his child. There’s an altercation between a slave and the overseer. Jamie, Claire, and Farquard Campbell head to the sawmill. The overseer is injured but alive. The slave is hanging by a hook above the platform. Remarkably, he’s alive and not in mortal danger from his wounds. The laws of North Carolina state if a slave draws the blood of a white man he is to be killed. Claire takes matters into her own hands. Jocasta declares the party must go on. Claire is fitted and fussed over. Jamie is gussied up too. Jamie needs a distraction. Unexpectedly, Claire successfully performs hernia surgery in the salon. Claire might be drunk as a skunk.
Inside the Chapters:
Chapter 11 – The Law of Bloodshed July 1767
The last podcast had much to do with Jamie and Jocasta. This set of chapters focuses much on Claire and her place at River Run and in the 18th century. She is uncomfortable with Jocasta owning slaves. She does her best to do everything for herself and asking the least amount from them. The “simples” room at River Run was stocked poorly and underutilized (18th-century medicine). Jocasta gave Claire her blessing to use it. During their chat, Claire was trying to learn how to spin wool. She’s not a natural at it. Jamie spent his time going over all the books and learning from Jocasta’s butler Ulysses. He’d been overseeing her accounts since Hector’s death, but since he wasn’t a white man, he couldn’t formally take over for her. Jamie easily steps into the role of overseeing the plantation operations. Jamie showed up at just the right time.
Jocasta decides she needs to throw a party to introduce Jamie and Claire to the local society people. Jamie doesn’t see the need, he’s met nearly all the men of importance in the area, but come to think of it, Claire hasn’t met the influential ladies yet. Claire admits to wanting to meet more people (p206, Nook). Jocasta is correct, Claire is getting restless with so little doctoring to do at River Run. She thinks of Marsali and her impending delivery. Fergus had left headed to Jamaica to be with her. He planned to return in the springtime with her and the child.
They were interrupted by Ulysses and Farquard Campbell. Farquard had hurried to reach them; there’d been an accident at the sawmill. He’d come to ask Claire for her medicines that Jamie could use. He has concerns it would be too much for a lady to witness. The situation involved a white man and one of her slaves. He calls it a matter of bloodshed (p208, Nook). He goes on to explain the law of the colony to Jamie (p209, Nook). He isn’t sure of the full situation, but he’s been called to judge the situation and oversee the execution of the slave if necessary (p210, Nook). She doesn’t want Jamie to go in Jocasta’s place, but he must, he feels already part of the situation since the man in question is her property. Claire insists on going too. She gets her physician’s box, and off they go.
Jamie must explain to another man that Claire has seen war, and if he is wanted, she comes too. As they continue to ride, MacNeill offers up the full explanation (p211, Nook). They learn of a ghastly practice of nearby plantation owners sending their slaves to watch an execution as a form of deterrent and behavior control (p211, Nook). MacNeill blames Jo for the situation because Byrnes is not fit to be the overseer. Campbell reminds him Hector hired him, not Jo. Further, how could she simply dismiss him unable to run the operations herself since she’s blind and a woman? MacNeill makes an off-hand remark that Claire takes issue with (p212, Nook). It didn’t matter that Byrnes was terrible at the job, regardless of why the slave drew his blood, he would die for it. Claire is outraged and wondering what Jamie will do. Would he stand by and allow the execution? What did he mean he was already part of it? Claire is concerned with what he will or will not do. The other men believe it was his problem to handle. Claire knows what Jamie is made of. He’s educated, cultured, and traveled, and he knows her thoughts on the matter. When she catches a glimpse of his face, she is quite alarmed to discern he has no idea what he is going to do when they get to the sawmill.
As they rode, the landscape changed to that of pine forest. Claire has the feeling of being submerged into the depths of the ocean from the surface. She takes security in the doctor’s box. She could perhaps repair wounds. As a note to the story tell how the story is being told, Claire is brought out of her thoughts by voices that sounded like angry bees. DG often uses the imagery and example of bees and other parts of nature to relay what’s happening in a scene. The sound of a gunshot caused them all to sprint toward the sawmill. She relates to the people in the area panicking like termites. The activity surrounding her isn’t enough to hold Claire’s attention when she sees a man hanging from a crane hoist by a huge hook.
The men pushed their way to the platform where the injured overseer and slave were. Claire finds herself unable to move. The scene is chaotic and charged. Jamie has to threaten those surrounding the overseer to keep them calm. He has the slave brought down to the platform. Claire’s clinical senses kick in, and the rest of the scene is muted while she focuses on the injured slave. The man is alive. Claire runs her hands over him in assessment. She finds the hook missed perforating his lungs, diaphragm, abdominal aorta, and renal artery. She vaguely hears the argument of men behind her. Jamie comes up beside her. She realizes the man’s injuries may not be mortal. She is quite unsettled at this idea (p217, Nook). Claire chooses because this man would not be allowed to live (p218, Nook). She poisoned him with aconite. The symptoms are what he would experience if his injuries were mortal. A more humane death? Could you do what she did? Remember the ill Scottish patient she helped to die before she went on sabbatical in Boston? Jamie supports her choice.
Chapter 12 – The Return of John Quincy Myers
Though upset by what happened at the sawmill, Aunt Jocasta decides the party must go on. Phaedre will make a repurposed gown for Claire. American Duchess has many resources if you’re interested in 18th-century dress and life. With Claire being shorter and buxomer than Jocasta, Jocasta wants the bodice slashed and filled with Valenciennes lace and green silk to show off her bosom. Claire remarks how Jocasta must remember color well (p220, Nook). Claire is uncomfortable when Phaedre and Jo discuss how she looks and her coloring (p221, Nook). The repurposed dress fit Claire like a glove. She refused her hair to be rice powdered and only wore the most modest of jewelry much to Phaedre’s annoyance. She came across Ulysses and caught him openly admiring her. She smiled back at him, and he is stunned and horrified. In this time, an African American servant caught ogling or admiring one of the household, could be punished. It took Claire a moment to realize why he ran off. It’s so disturbing to see people treated as not fully human. I shudder at this country having been built on slavery. Claire thinks he had become used to a blind mistress and no master. He forgot to keep his face blank. Claire is glad it was her he looked upon and not another woman. He is safe with her. Hearing footsteps, she looks up to see Jamie all rigged out in Highland glam (p222, Nook). Jocasta gave him Hector Cameron’s kilt. He seems troubled but can’t talk to Claire now. He wants her to be ready to make a distraction during the dinner if needed. Jamie leaves as he spies Jocasta. She greets Claire. Claire says Jamie has gone to greet the guests (p224, Nook). Jocasta is dressed beautifully in dark blue silk embroidered with dragonflies. There is quite a bit of symbology surrounding dragonflies; I wonder if the blue dress with the embroidery speaks of the traveler’s aura color? Ulysses comes to accompany Jocasta into the party. Claire follows noticing part of the dinner fare (p225, Nook). I think Jamie is also being presented.
The Who’s Who of Cape Fear is present. A variety of Scots from the Isles to the Highlands. Jamie, however, is nowhere to be seen. Jocasta sends Ulysses to look for him. There is also a few notable non-Scots present as well. A Quaker named Herman Husband, a gentleman named Hunter, and Phillip Wylie (he was at the dinner party the Governor attended) (p225, Nook). Claire is annoyed by his attention. It turns out he is merely 25 years-old. Claire tells him she is old enough to be his mother. She makes sure Ulysses sits Phillip by her at dinner. She’s thinking she can use him as the distraction that Jamie might need. Claire could be getting herself into hot water. Phillip is clearly smitten and flirting with her. Might he read her the wrong way regardless of what she says to him? At the dinner, Claire is seated with Wylie and Husband. They “formed a small island of English in the midst of a sea of swirling Scots.” Jamie shows up at the last moment. He’s at the head of the table with Jocasta to his right. Claire is dying to know what’s going on and is ready to stab Wylie if needed. Even so, the third course comes without issue. Wylie continues his flirtation by pressing his thigh to Claire’s. It’s an odd bit of conversation between Wylie and Herman Husband. Herman then further discusses a question Claire asked him prior to the interruption (p227, Nook). Claire has the Governor’s offer on her mind and she is seeking intel on the backcountry. As the conversation is getting heated between Wylie and Husband, Claire hears noises from outside then she sees a drunk John Quincy Myers trying to enter the room (p229, Nook). Absolute hilarity. Then Jamie’s response (p229, Nook). So, Wylie suggests she show her skills off in front off witnesses. Claire is wondering if she can do the surgery, even with him drunk almost to the point of being poisoned. Myers had asked her to do it. What timing! Looking to Jamie for advice, he tells her she should do it (p230, Nook). He did want a distraction. This is an amazing and unexpected one. So, the salon is being used as her operating theater (p231, Nook). Claire donned a butchering apron to cover her dress and Phaedre pinned up her sleeves. An exorbitant number of candles are used to light the space. She proceeds to douse his genitals with several shillings worth of brandy (p231, Nook). Claire sterilizes her blade with alcohol, while two strong men were told to hold John’s legs. Farquard Campbell and Andrew MacNeill were holding his arms. Young Ian oversees additional candlelight and Jamie is the anesthetist ready to pour whisky into John as needed. Claire is poised to begin (p232, Nook). Claire does one final sterilization of her scalpel and makes the cut. She sees the intestine bulging through the tear in the muscle layer. She dips her hands in the disinfecting bowl then presses the loop upward. Jamie administers whisky as Myers threatens to wake up. Claire visualizes the muscle layer and becomes one with Myers’ body. She tunes into his rhythms and tunes out everything around her (p232, Nook). This happens to me when a baby is imminently coming. I take notice of nothing around me and focus purely on the mother’s body and the descending baby. It’s not until I have placed the baby in the mother’s arms do I notice anything else around me. I have looked up to see ten other people in the birthing space and hadn’t noticed them enter. It’s like being in a bubble that only encompasses the mother, baby, and me. It’s an intense connection and focus. Diana describes it with perfection. The spectators erupt in applause when she finishes, so Claire turns and gives a deep curtsy.
Over the next hour, Claire is toasted multiple times and needs to escape the throng. She heads upstairs o check on her patient. She stops and looks down onto the party below (p234, nook). Again, she sees nature in the actions of humans. Her connection to the natural world is amazing. I agree with her; it was a momentous distraction even though it likely won’t completely put off whatever Jamie is avoiding.
Betty, one of the house slaves, had been sitting with the comatose Myers. Claire can see his pulse and notes he is cool and not fevered. Jamie asks how Myers is (p234, Nook). As capable as Claire is, I don’t recommend doing drunk rounds.
She notices the smell and feel of Jamie, and he asks her to meet him outside and to take care not to break her neck on the stairs.
John Quincy Myers was the perfect distraction. He’s undoubtedly going to have a hangover to end all hangovers, but his hernia will be perfectly mended. This surgery scene is one of my top ten favorites from all the books. I wish to be at that dinner party. What is Jamie trying to escape? Jocasta should be happy her party will be the talk of Cape Fear for weeks. Claire’s reputation as a physician will be well known by all in the area. We met a new character, Betty. I wonder when we will see her next. What will come of Phillip Wylie’s flirtation? What about the Regulators and the backcountry being in political unrest? Is Jamie still considering the Governor’s offer? By the way, YouTube has several hernia surgeries for your viewing. I couldn’t find one like what Claire did.
What’s Coming up? Chapter 13 Drums of Autumn (DOA).
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