“An Examination of Conscience”
Summary: Jamie and Claire go for a stroll. Jamie speaks frog somewhat fluently. Claire wants to know what the hell is going on. Jamie shares Jocasta’s big plan. They take a boat ride onto the river. Claire can’t be Jamie’s conscience. The overseer is dead. They arrive at the sawmill and discover a dying woman. Jamie and an old for cross paths. They plan to take a woman to safety.
Inside the Chapter:
Chapter 13 – An Examination of Conscience
Claire and Jamie are out for a stroll. A frog joins them on the path. Apparently, Jamie speaks frog, though not fluently. They were lost in their thoughts as they continued to walk. As they sit down near the dock, Claire wants to know what’s going on (p235, Nook). It is easy for her to envision how it would have played out if not for John Quincy Myers providing the incredible distraction. Claire thinks the plan is thoroughly MacKenzie like in all ways, “audacious, dramatic, and taking no account of the wishes of the persons involved.” If Jocasta would’ve been able to make her offer in such a public way, it would’ve been very difficult for Jamie to turn his Aunt down. Ulysses is not so happy that Jocasta plans to have Jamie take over the running of the estate. Since Hector died, he is Jocasta’s eyes, ears, and the one who oversees all the accounts. He’s honest and faithful, but likely doesn’t want to lose his position to a stranger. At first, Claire assumes Jamie will turn down the offer, but then she realizes he might say yes. She equates the scents of ripening apples in the air to the temptation with a worm hidden below the shiny surface. I love how Claire draws from the natural world to make her assessments and conclusions. The temptation is for Jamie to be restored to the head of a family, to have something to care for, and people to be responsible to. Claire knows caring for his men in prison is what kept him alive and enduring. Could he own people? As they walk Claire remarks on the plant life. It’s fragrant and abundant. She calls River Run, “a garden of earthly delight.” She struggles with the reality if Jamie takes over as the heir to River Run, they will own slaves (5:00). She thinks of Joe Abernathy, her friend and the person she’d left Brianna’s care. For Claire, Jamie is her temptation. Could she not stand by him if he said yes to Jocasta even if that means owning slaves? If not this offer, then Governor Tryon’s to go to the back county might be chosen. Jamie must do something productive. She feels the pull of two planes of time p238, Nook). She worries he will die when he returns to Scotland. Before they go for a moonlit boat ride, he answers her unspoken questions with an “I don’t know.”
Jamie rows the boat, and they make their way onto the river. Neither are speaking. Jamie breaks the silence by asking Claire if she means to have nothing to say (p239, Nook). Claire understands what he means. Could she live every day, maybe for years, or forever owning slaves? If Jamie owned the slaves, so did she. She wouldn’t be a guest as she is now. She couldn’t pretend otherwise. I couldn’t live with it. I wouldn’t be able to stay permanently in that scenario. Jamie discloses even after Jocasta dies he may not be able to free the slaves. The Assembly must agree to it. Claire is incredulous hearing it. Jamie explains further (p240, Nook). She realizes Jamie has thought about the possibility of being named an heir and saying yes to the offer. Claire hadn’t consciously thought about it. Jamie believes his Aunt would use him to do her bidding but give him little true authority. As he puts it, he’d “be no more than her cat’s paw.” Aunt Jocasta likes the power too much to give it up to Jamie. She needs a man to do her bidding, while she maintains the reins. She seems not to want another husband, yet Ulysses cannot do the work required because of his status. Jamie is the distinctly perfect option (9:45).
Claire knows she could not live as a slave owner, yet if he rejects the offer, she’ll be sending him to Scotland to find suitable men to fill the land the Governor is willing to give him. She cannot tell him what to do. Finally, he finds a place to stop for a bit (p241, Nook). Even though Claire tells Jamie he’s a good man; he finds himself concerned he’s a man like Stephen Bonnet. The only thing that separates the two is the sense of honor Jamie has. Jamie’s worried he has nothing to show for his 45 years of living (p243, Nook). The rub in all of this, is so many depend upon him, even Laoghaire (p243, Nook). I love how Claire uses humor and tenderness. Her emotions ran the gamut over the course of the past hour. She takes his hand in hers, leans into him and says, “Whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge; thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God; Where thou diest, will I die, and there will I be buried. Be it Scottish hill or southern forest.” She’ll be there. She doesn’t need finery. She needs him alone. (13:35).
As they move along upriver, Claire listens to Jamie’s breathing and thinks. She knows Jamie also has the MacKenzie will; he can stand up to Jocasta. She has a twinge at remembering Dougal as Jamie’s dirk took his life. She also knows, Jamie had some key differences from Stephen Bonnet beyond honor: “kindness, courage, and a conscience.”
Jamie had taken them to the sawmill. Claire had never been by water. She thinks it’s an apt place for Jamie to battle his demons. Claire thinks it is spooky at night. Jamie doesn’t like it in the daytime either. He tells her the overseer, Byrnes is dead of lockjaw (tetanus). He died that afternoon. It’s not a nice way to die. Claire is upset Jamie saw the ailing man and didn’t take her. She says it wasn’t for him to decide for her to go or not. He was protecting her (p247, Nook). She’s mightily angry. Jamie apologizes. He goes on to explain why and he knows she would’ve gone no matter what. People were talking about what happened at the mill. Had Claire killed the slave? Jamie trusts the actions Claire took (p249, Nook). Arriving at the sawmill, Jamie states he told Mrs. Byrnes, he would retrieve her husband’s items. Claire understands Jamie is using this opportunity to size up the whole of the property, the people, the life it would mean if he says yes to Jocasta (p.250, Nook). The area surrounding the mill near the slave huts have an utterly quiet stillness to it. Claire struggles to keep her good footing, but Jamie never falters. Claire reflects in her mind the difference of Jamaica to here. There would have been some form of lament for the dead slave. As if to read her mind, Jamie says they are afraid. Claire and Jamie are afraid too. (19:30).
As they enter the mill, Claire thinks she can still smell the blood from the altercation. No, it is fresh blood she smells. Jamie covers himself with his plaid and silently moves. Claire thinks she’s going to hallucinate that terrible scene, then a groan is heard. She manages not to scream and bites her lip hard. This sounds immensely frightening. I don’t know if curiosity to know what’s going on would keep me from running outside. She is frightened. She wonders if it could be Jamie making the wretched sound. Finally, she can’t take another moment and calls to him. He answers beckoning for her to come. She enters the small room. It’s stifling, and the reek of blood is heavy. On the bed lies a woman slowly exsanguinating (bleeding to death). Claire goes into doctor mode. She talks to the woman and examines her to find the source of the bleeding. The woman is weak and tries to speak. The woman is dying (p.253, Nook). Jamie tells her God will forgive her and to go in peace. She died from a botched abortion. Who is the sergeant she wants to be told? They return to the scene the next morning with Farquard Campbell. In the light of day, it’s even more horrifying. The heat, still air, and buzzing flies create a disturbing and stomach-churning atmosphere. Claire is sure of the reason for death. She left the foot-long kitchen skewer where she’d found it between the woman’s legs. Farquard’s job is to decide whether the woman did it to herself or someone else helped her. Claire lies and says she believes the woman did it by herself because of the laws of the colony. The dead woman is not known by Farquard. Jamie intervenes sharing the woman spoke the word sergeant. Claire provides a distraction to more questions by Farquard. She needs air and is feeling faint. Jamie stays behind to attend to the removal of the body. (22:30).
Enter Phaedre to the scenario. She’s waiting near the wagon outside the mill. She tells Claire she smells and looks awful. The reason Jamie and Claire lied about no one else being involved in the abortion is revealed. Phaedre found out who the other party was. A slave named Pollyanne. She ran away during the night. Claire is left to wash and prepare the body. Jamie went to keep Farquard company. As Claire and Phaedre cleaned the body, her thought ran to the night before. She feared Pollyanne would be put to death if found for inadvertently killing the woman while trying to help her. Phaedre cautions that Pollyanne needs to be found quickly. She doesn’t know the woods and is only a year from Africa. Claire’s use of herbs lent ceremony and gravity to the cleansing and preparation for burial. There was no minister to give her rites. Might there be people to miss her? When they finished, Jamie placed her shrouded body in the wagon. They need to find the sergeant the woman spoke about.
Before they could go to the military warehouse, they had to get cleaned up, drop off Phaedre, check in on John Quincy Myers, and fill in Jocasta with the news. It so happens, she finds Farquard and John in the morning room eating and sipping tea with Jocasta. It appears someone bathed John while he was unconscious. Jocasta invites Claire to sit and have some nourishment. Claire asks John how he is doing (p262, Nook). His comments amused everyone. Jocasta laughingly assures him she knew his mother and it’s unlikely his father was a bear. His mother liked a hairy man because it was a comfort on a cold night. The Native American women seem to like it too, but it might be the novelty since the Native American men are virtually hairless. Claire sipped the delicious tea, thankful to push away the events from her mind for a moment. Jamie returns clean and shaved. He needs Duncan, but Jocasta sent him and wee Ian to fetch a package for her. She expresses her favor of Duncan. Farquard leaves and Jamie asks after the package (p263, Nook). Farquard explained the basics of what happened and how the woman is a stranger. Jamie takes some offense to how Jocasta is acting as if the woman doesn’t matter (p264, Nook). Claire leaves with him. (26:45).
They arrive at the Crown’s warehouse. It’s guarded. Apparently, there are many items of value inside, but the liquor is the most valuable. They discuss the complexities of the situation and Jamie believes Farquard won’t cause any trouble for Jocasta. Jamie feels the need to see the woman properly buried. They both feel a responsibility to do it. Claire feels a stab of guilt over Brianna. She’s about the same age as this young woman with no family in her time. They find the sergeant in the taproom. He obviously knows Jamie by sight (p296, Nook). The sergeant is abjectly rude. Jamie tells him Mistress Cameron is his kinswoman. He introduces Claire as is wife. Jamie takes a moment to get a jeer in (p267, Nook). The sergeant gets angry and stomps out of the taproom. They follow saying it’s a matter of bringing him a corpse. The sergeant knows the woman. He wants to know what happened. She was a laundress named Lissa Garver. The sergeant is emotionally moved. Jamie explains she tried to slip a bairn. Murchison will not tell Jamie if she had a husband or family, he simply says she has someone, and he’s not to trouble himself further. He requires a statement from Jamie, so he and Claire go to the office. (30:30).
The office is empty when he and Claire arrive. He takes the opportunity to explain to Claire the nature of his history with Murchison (p269, Nook). Jamie tells how the twins were a great menace, monsters at Ardsmuir. Claire asks if both are here. The other died at Ardsmuir. Claire notices Jamie wore his kilt to speak to the sergeant. This is not a coincidence. It’s an act of purpose. He continues to explain that the other twin died at the hands of an inmate. Sergeant Murchison enters before Claire can ask Jamie if he killed the brother. Murchison demands Jamie write down his statement, date, and sign it. Jamie’s crippled hand makes it an arduous and painful task to write. He doesn’t write in front of others if he can help it. Claire offers to do it, but Jamie demands the clerk meet him at his aunt’s house later to take the statement. They leave before the sergeant can answer.
Duncan Innes and Young Ian found Pollyanne after searching for three days in the forest. She is safe at the moment. She refuses to ride a horse. The group of them, including Jocasta, discuss what must be done. Murchison had gone to the mill and declared it was murder. Claire doesn’t think it was murder or suicide. It was an accident. Jamie already had it arranged with Myers to take Pollyanne to the mountains and have her adopted into a tribe of Indians. They are to leave in three days’ time. (35:30).
Phaedre assisted Claire in getting provision together. Claire fashions herself proper riding clothes. Jamie is curious as to her undergarment (p274, Nook). As if the brassiere isn’t enough of a shock, she means to wear breeks when riding. He is aghast she wore trousers in her time (p274, Nook). This banter leads to Jamie being induced to ravishing Claire telling her to take the breeks off.
What’s Coming up? Chapter 14 and 15 Drums of Autumn (DOA).
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