“Perspectives on Protection”
Summary: Roger finds a horrifying historical fact. A sin of omission is not a lie, is it? Fraser’s Ridge is growing with new tenants. Claire rides into a storm. Her traitorous horse leads her astray. A friendly ghost visits Claire’s resting place. Rollo proves himself a worthy hound. Jamie, Young Ian, and the dog find Claire well. They find a visitor upon return to the Ridge. Duncan greets them at the door. Jamie tends to Claire. He was frightened Claire was dead. Jamie puts Claire to bed. Duncan has news to share. Claire makes a startling discovery.
Inside the Chapters:
Spark of an Ancient Flame
Oxford, September 1970
Roger’s research turns up a horrifying “fact” about Jamie and Claire. He cannot easily bring himself to believe what he’s reading. A notice in a newspaper says they died in a house fire on February 13, 1776, in North Carolina (p411, Nook). All the pieces point to this being THE JAMIE AND CLAIRE. One blessing is the assurance that Claire had found Jamie when she left Roger and Brianna that Feast of All Saints morning almost two years prior. Roger liked and loved Claire; he hopes the years were happy before the fire (pg412, Nook). Roger feels newly orphaned as he processes what he’s read. He believes he cannot tell Brianna this piece of information. He knows she will be newly devastated.
Roger wants to destroy all evidence of this revelation. He takes the page from the book. He has no idea how many of these books are in circulation, but Brianna knows how to research and if this is the only one, he can keep the information to himself. Roger is running the scenarios through his head. Roger doesn’t believe history can be changed. Brianna might. He remembers she asked him “How do you mourn a time-traveler?” This would be the vehicle to allow her to mourn if it wasn’t for Craigh na Dun being available for transit services.
The mere thought of the stone circle gives Roger a cold chill. He shivers at the horror and remembers the day Claire went through (p415, Nook). Roger and Brianna had been unconscious and woke on the ground in the late afternoon. The impact of the event on them had been physical and psychological. Imagine how terrible it must be for the person going through the stones. When Brianna awoke, Roger promised to take care of her. He vowed to protect her. Does this remind you of someone else? He would do anything to save her from pain, grief, and those awful stones. Back home, Roger ponders the timeline. Brianna might too and could calculate the opportunity to go back and try to change things since the time jump is 202 years back. Could he convince her the past couldn’t be changed? She’s a determined and fierce sort of person. I don’t think he has a chance of convincing her to do nothing. He does not want to lose her before he ever gets the opportunity to be with her. He plans to dissuade her from looking into the past any longer. He wonders if it is okay to suppress the information (p417, Nook). He tears up the page from the 1906 book. His decision is made.
This is a pivotal moment of insight into Roger and his motivations. It’s also a point of climax for his character and how he develops from here. How might this one decision cascade into a myriad of problems or good? I don’t think he should hide it from her. He could help her make any decision based on trust and love, not only protection. Brianna is an adult and is tremendously strong-willed. Her father IS Jamie Fraser.
The Skull Beneath the Skin
Summer 1768 Fraser’s Ridge
This giant chapter opens with Claire lightly recounting the past eight months on Fraser’s Ridge. Duncan had brought 20 Ardsmuir men and their families to settle the land. Her doctoring skills are required again. She’s even catching babies as part of her duties. Her fame becomes known to the whole area, and she finds herself traveling all around the thirty square mile mountainous region. She even makes occasional visits with Young Ian to Anna Ooka to see Nayawenne. In the beginning, Jamie or Young Ian would go with Claire for safety, but as time wore on, she ventured out solo by horse to tend those in need. She was adding more cases to Dr. Rawling’s casebook. Though Claire never asks her patients for payment, something is always offered and gratefully received. Many of her patients don’t speak English or French, but body language proves to be enough for her to get the jobs done.
Now that Claire has caught us up, it’s August 1768. She’s been at a lengthy delivery at the Mueller’s for a few days and is trying to ride through a heavy storm back to Fraser’s Ridge. Claire describes it as a harrowing task. The creek is rising quickly. Claire’s horse swims across to the other side. Claire is taking the risk because she doesn’t want to stay several more days with the entire Mueller family. She wants to go home. The language is incredibly descriptive in this section. It makes me a bit anxious reading about the storm. I don’t want Claire riding in it.
As Claire rides away, she thinks over the three-day labor and delivery she attended with 18-year old Petronella Mueller. It was a slow and difficult process, but she did it. She and her 17-year old husband now have a daughter. Claire fondly thinks of the delicious meals during her time with the extended Mueller family. Claire moves on to Jamie and Young Ian. She hopes they fed themselves decently and took good care while she was away (p421, Nook).
The terrain is getting slick and muddy in the heavy downpour. Claire reassures the horse. Apparently, he hasn’t a name yet. Jamie says it will be revealed in good time. The horse comes to a stop as the trail is washed out on that side of the mountain. Claire must find a place to crossover for safety. At this point, she thinks she would turn back if the creek wasn’t flooded. She found a place to get through and cross over to the other side of the hill before finding the trail again. The wind lessens, but it is cold and still raining. Claire describes the landscape, oak, red-berried mountain ash, and blackberry brambles. She distracts herself with thoughts of her pantry and what to make for dinner when she gets back to Fraser’s Ridge.
Hail starts to pelt her, and she finds shelter under a chestnut tree. Here’s a link to the most common trees in North Carolina. Claire talks to the horse to keep him calm. Then the lightning starts. Horses do not ever like lightning. Though the hail storm passed, the rain continued with roaring thunder and lightning (p424, Nook). The horse had thrown Claire down a 30-foot cliff. The wind is knocked out of her, but she’s surprisingly unharmed, except for a banged up knee. The horse had stopped abruptly at the edge. Claire yells at the horse, then tries to get up. She cannot go back up the cliff face. She starts to worry. No one knows where she is, and she has no food, horse, or weapons. She is determined to find shelter (p425, Nook).
She finds a place under a fallen tree (p426, Nook). Just last Christmas Claire had to find Jamie in the snow. At least she knew a general sense of where he was. He has no idea where she might be because she had to go off trail. She sleeps after placing her wet shoes next to her. She has fitful dreams of childbirth. Frank and Jamie are both present. She continues to wake and sleep. She wakes a final time to the smell of smoke. A lightning strike had hit a nearby balsam poplar tree.
Claire cannot find her shoes, but she heads toward the warmth of the smoldering tree anyway. The tree provides her much needed warmth (p427, Nook). Now she aches and her empty belly rumbles. The horse is nowhere to be seen. Claire’s clothing is near dry, though she wishes to stay warm, they’re too many predators who could harm her, so she returns to the shelter.
She crawls in and doesn’t find her moccasins; she finds a complete human skull (p428, Nook). She wonders how the man arrived there. Was his death by violence? She concludes since the Cherokee and the Tuscarora bury their dead, someone must have disliked this man very much. She also wonders where the rest of him is. She finds a stone with a carving on it near the skull, but the rest of the remains are not there. Claire feels somehow comforted by the skull (p429, Nook). This scene brings the memory of Fr. Fogden’s coconut and his sheep skull collection. Claire names the man Yorick and for some reason thinks he was an Indian and not a European. She recites various poetry to him. She recites Ode to the West Wind insofar as she can remember. I am curious why Diana Gabaldon chose this poem for Claire to say.
At the end of her recitation, Claire sees a light coming toward her from the ridge above (p430, Nook). She holds the skull tightly in her hands. She knows the thing coming toward her would be unaffected by weapons. The light seems to float in the air with a steady pace of a man walking. She is terrified inside of her hiding place. She wants to run, and she sweats. She knows what St. Elmo’s Fire looks like, this is not that nor is it marsh gas. She sees the specter (p431, Nook). Though hidden, the ghost knows she is there. Claire stays still, and he looks directly where she is through the dark. His torch is steady and soundless without the wood being consumed. She calls it a corpse candle.
Claire realizes she is not scared any longer (p432, Nook). Claire experiences her surroundings anew. The four elements of earth, air, fire, and water are present, like in the Shelley poem. She asks what he wants (p432, Nook). Claire sits and cradles the skull. She decides to stay put until morning. She is cold and hungry, but not scared. She thinks about what happened and can make no sense of it. She finally falls into an uneasy and dream filled sleep (p433, Nook). Does her dream tell of how the man died? Or is she processing through cold and hunger? She wakes and sleeps again. Again, she dreams of death, pursuit, and blood.
Something brushes her skin, and a pair of yellow eyes are staring into hers. It’s ROLLO (p434, Nook)! Jamie grabs her out of the hiding place and checks her for injury. She breathes in the smell of him. She starts to cry from the relief of being found. He picks her up and carries her toward the stream (p434, Nook). Young Ian finds the skull. Jamie tenses in response (p435, Nook). Claire drinks the Brandywine and trembles all over. Jamie asks how long she’s been there. Claire explains what happened and says the horse’s name is Judas. She asks how they found her (p435, Nook). Claire doesn’t understand how Rollo tracked her down. Jamie asks her where she lost her shoes. She points to the lightning ravaged tree (p435, Nook). Rollo couldn’t be calmed, so Jamie had Young Ian let him out in case he had gone completely mad. Her shoes were on the doorstep. Rollo ran looking for an intruder. Jamie and Young Ian searched the area around the cabin, but there was no one. Rollo came back to her shoes and ran off tracking the scent.
Jamie puts the shoes on her frozen feet (p436, Nook). Young Ian is proud of Rollo. Claire ponders the fact if Rollo could track the scent to her, someone had to have worn her shoes and walked to Fraser’s Ridge to place them on the doorstep to be found. Young Ian and Jamie saw nothing along the way, but Jamie looks exhausted and drawn. He had been worried stiff.
Jamie and Young Ian take turns carrying Claire to where the horses are. He continues to ply her with a drink (p437, Nook). She is getting quite inebriated. Rollo is too interested in the skull. Jamie wants to know what Claire plans on doing “with Prince Charming?” Should they bury him and if so how? Claire thinks the man was a pagan and shows the stone she found alongside the skull (p438, Nook). Young Ian explains his mother Jenny’s thoughts on opals and how they take on the aspect of their owner. Collectively they decide to keep the large opal because of its worth. Claire wants to show it to Nayawenne so that she can decipher the carvings. Nearing the horses, Claire feels too drunk to walk to them, so Jamie and Young Ian go to bring the horses to her (p439, Nook).
They arrive home in the late afternoon. Claire is cold, wet, lightheaded, and starving. She is viewing everything through a haze of unreality. She thinks the smoke coming from the chimney is a hallucination. Then she realizes it’s real (p440, Nook). Claire’s horse, Judas is in the penfold without his saddle, alongside an unfamiliar horse. It must be a friend because the goat’s been milked, and the animals have been fed. Duncan Innes opened the cabin’s front door (p440, Nook).
Jamie is trying to get Claire into the cabin to bed. She insists on a bath first (p441, Nook). Jamie sends Duncan and Young Ian to do a task so that he can wash Claire properly. He must undress her because she’s so stiff and unable to do so herself. He sits her on a stool, feeds her some stale bannocks, and gathers all the necessary supplies. He washes her feet first. She’s in heaven. He eyes her seriously bruised and swollen knee (p442, Nook).
He sounds angry while they talk. He is mad because it scared him that she could have been dead. He continues to argue with her. Claire is baffled (p443, Nook). That’s how most people act when they have been terrified a loved one is hurt or dead. Claire offers him to scold her in Gaelic, so she’ll only understand some of it. She ignores him until she hears the things he would like to do to her (p444, Nook). I wouldn’t like being talked to that way in any language. Claire is certainly understanding.
Cleaned, warmed, and relaxed he sneakily rubs in the ointment of peppermint and camphor to her chest. It turns out he does it to keep her from getting ill. She explains the theory of germs to him again. He’s not totally convinced (p445, Nook). Jamie feels too good in Claire’s arms for her simply to go to bed. She rubs on him and holds onto his bum. He tries to tell her, no, but she is insistent (p446, Nook). He’s losing the battle. This reminds me of her insisting on sex in Voyager when she was fevered.
A little while later, as she stares into a cup of barley crowdie (I cannot find a reference or recipe for this), she remembers a story of the Earl of Montrose saved after a battle by ingesting something similar. She thanks, Young Ian for making it for her and asks him to go out to hunt for a squirrel or other animal for dinner. He’s delighted to go hunting. Apparently, he and Jamie haven’t been eating well while she was gone.
Claire is highly relaxed in bed. Jamie had done a proper job of warming her up and thoroughly released her tension. He is not a candidate for hunting today. Camphor and peppermint would easily be scented by the animals. Jamie left Claire to sleep while he spoke to Duncan.
The sight of her casebook as she looks around the room reminds her she hasn’t posted the details of Mueller’s birth. Her dizzy head quickly moves on to thinking about a hearty meat broth for dinner. She does hope Young Ian catches something. She decides to get up and pour the barley stuff back into the pot. She eyes the damp barley bag and moves to spread the barley to dry so it won’t rot. This is every woman’s thought when she starts a task, sees another task, then another.
She hears Jamie and Duncan talking about the horse. Jocasta purchased the horse for Duncan. Jamie is wondering about the purpose of his aunt gifting it to Duncan (pp449, Nook). This is an interesting development. Duncan changes the subject to those of men who could settle on Fraser’s Ridge. Duncan brings up planting season, and Jamie continues to be sharp (p449, Nook).
Duncan changes the subject again. Jocasta has sent a bottle of whisky for Jamie. Jamie apologizes to Duncan for his harsh tones and accepts the offer of a dram or two. Duncan accepts the apology, and they walk together.
Claire watches from the window. She thinks what life would be like for one-armed Duncan had Jamie not found a place for him. Jamie did find him, and the Colonies are a second chance at life. The choice between a cooper and a farmer is not clear-cut. So far 20 Ardsmuir men are under Jamie’s sponsorship on Fraser’s Ridge. Claire recalls, Jamie borrowing money from several men he knew and gambled enough winnings to quadruple the amount. He proceeded to pay the men back with interest and had extra left over for his use. Claire put him to bed after his three-night adventure. She watched him sleep (p451, Nook). Fergus and Marsali with baby Germaine lived a mile away in their cabin. Claire loved having them around to help ease her heart as it longs for Brianna.
Claire sits down at the desk to record the labor and delivery. She intermingles the dream of Brianna she had while sleeping under the tree and the true events of Petronella’s delivery. Brianna had been born in the caul (p452, Nook). There are many beliefs surrounding babies born this way. I have the special privilege of catching two babies en caul. Claire cannot think of any special powers Brianna has from her birth. Claire adds a sketch of the baby to her charting. Though competent to document medical occurrences, Claire is not an artist like Brianna.
Claire’s mama’s heart is missing her daughter. She thinks about Jocasta having no living children to leave her legacy. Claire stares out the window as twilight rises (p453, Nook). This is a time we find Claire in throughout the books. I wonder what she’s connecting to within the space between light and dark. At this moment, she misses Brianna but doesn’t want her in this dangerous place.
The charting notes are finished, and Claire longs for bed, but dinner needs to be made. She picks up the skull finding beauty in it and has a flashback to Master Raymond’s back room filled with skulls and bones from many types of animals. She hears Master Raymond’s voice in her head (p453, Nook). She wonders if the skull summoned the ghost of the Indian man she met. She examines the skull again noticing the teeth are shattered on one side, but well intact on the other. She notices the wear and tear on the teeth; then she turns it over to examine the molars (p454, Nook). I would get the chills too at finding fillings in a skull in the 18th century. Who was he? He was a fellow traveler no doubt. Claire immediately shows Jamie her discovery. They surmise there must be another stone circle nearby. Jamie will bury him after dinner.
Speaking of dinner, Jamie contends they can eat the leftover barley concoction. Claire refuses outright. Jamie agrees. Claire tells him the rest of the barley needs to be spread to dry. He takes up the sack. As he’s getting to the door, he asks Claire why she doesn’t think the Indian was a Christian. She cannot answer the question. Jamie responds, “Aye, well. We’ll give him the benefit o’ the doubt.”
Holy chapter batman! This could have been two chapters. So much action and discovery. Who was the apparition? Why did he help Claire? What does the stone mean? When did he travel from and why? What is Duncan up to taking a gift from Aunt Jocasta? I do love Claire needing to sexually communicate with Jamie to ground herself once safely back at the cabin. She needs his physical presence to feel secure and well. This chapter has conflict, flashback, figures of speech, figurative language, imagery, and plot. There are multiple threads of storylines being eluded to. The literary devices are leading to resolutions in the future.
What’s Coming up? Chapters 24 and 25 Drums of Autumn (DOA).
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