Summary: Claire treats the ill man. John and Jamie play chess into the night. Claire is disturbed. Her feelings and thoughts run amok. She’s jealous, but of what? There’s an omen in the night. The sick man prepares to die. Claire performs the ritual. What will they do with the body? John takes ill. To keep William safe, Jamie takes him on a road trip. The journey is bittersweet and filled with the language of the heart.
Inside the Chapters:
Who: Claire, Tuscarora Man, Jamie, John, William, and Young Ian.
What: Measles, Claire’s doctoring, and jealousy.
Where: Fraser’s Ridge, NC.
Plague and Pestilence
Claire attends to the ill Tuscarora man. He’s stable but no better. He holds the amulet she left him and wants her to sing to him. She sings “Onward, Christian Soldiers” three times to his satisfaction. Concerned about spreading the disease, Claire pauses to rinse her hands with alcohol. She recalls Lord John mentioning a small outbreak in Cross Creek (p483, Nook). Lord John is surprised by Claire’s knowledge. He asks if she subscribes to the miasma theory. She doesn’t and changes the subject.
The evening wore on pleasantly with conversation and the boys playing chess. Young Ian and William retire to the herb shed to sleep. Claire ponders bedtime and the issue of Lord John (p485, Nook). Jamie and John play a lengthy chess match. Claire notes John is a far better player than she is. John remarks on living in the backcountry. John makes a final chess move that wins the game. Jamie fills John’s empty cup with the raw whisky he’s been making. John is astonished by Jamie having twelve barrels of it. It will take ten years before it’s truly palatable. What’s Jamie planning to do with it (p486, Nook)? Jamie knows the Indians cannot handle alcohol well, so he’s only giving it to them in small amounts. John brings up the Regulators and Jamie’s presence as a means to quell lawlessness p487, Nook).
Claire is unable to sleep as she lay awake disturbed by the conversation. She knows she’s safe in this house that Jamie built, but her jealousy is getting the best of her. She is trying to parse out the why in her jealousy (p487, Nook). She knows part of it is the presence of William, Jamie’s second born who looks so much like Brianna. She, the child Jamie would never see. And why? Why had John brought him here? Claire’s brain is running at full speed trying to figure it out. It is a risky move bringing the boy to Fraser’s Ridge. He resembled Jamie so much that even Young Ian had noticed.
Claire peeks at the chess game in progress. She describes John’s fair and attractive looks. His feelings locked down tight with no evidence of his feelings for Jamie, but Claire knows all too well what John feels for her husband. She also knows Jamie’s feelings (p488, Nook). Now Claire gets to the bottom of her emotional spiral, Frank and his actions were there. Even though Claire had no right, she was jealous of Frank’s affairs. She would demand he sleep with her after some of the late nights he spent out. Frank didn’t have a consistent lover, and there were long gaps between women sometimes (p489, Nook). It bothered Claire his attentions weren’t for her even though she didn’t want the attention. Claire finally falls asleep after hearing comforting words from Jamie’s mouth (p489, Nook).
Claire has insecurities like every woman. She rebuffed Frank and seemingly bedded him out of jealousy and anger. Could it have been loneliness? To his credit, Frank was private about his philandering. I think he loved Claire until the end. I also think some of the late nights were part of ongoing intelligence work and his research.
In the morning, Claire’s patient is preparing to die. An owl was heard in the night. It’s a sign or omen of death. Young Ian explains the death ritual of the tribe to Claire (p491, Nook). All painted up; Young Ian explains she mustn’t say his name for fear of calling demons. She sings Tantrum ergo since he thinks that’s the style of music for such an occasion (here’s a link to a beautiful choir singing the song with the English translation close captioned). I love the blend of religions and traditions here to sooth the dying man. Claire has never witnessed a death such as this; he waited until she finished singing the song, turned his head toward the door, and simply left his body.
Jamie, Claire, and young Ian are trying to decide what to do with the body. Since he was diseased, and Claire cannot remember how long others could become infected from his body or clothing, they cannot take him wrapped to his village. The man was from a northern village, so the people could hear of the burial and think they killed him and buried him to cover it up. They decide to put him in a cave until they can get advice from Nacognaweto at Anna Ooka. Willie returns from picking strawberries explaining his papa has taken ill.
Lord John likely picked up the illness in an inn or Cross Creek where a measles outbreak occurred. Claire exams John and tells Jamie to keep Willie away. Claire forms a plan. Wait a day or two to see if either boy comes down with symptoms. If not, Jamie will take Willie with him to see Nacognaweto, while Young Ian stays behind to help Claire. Jamie agrees to the plan but is worried. Claire assures him if the boy hasn’t remembered him yet, he won’t. Her only request is for him to get the pig out of the pantry before he goes.
Thankfully Claire, Jamie, and Young Ian are taking cultural need into account before simply doing what they would do with a dead body. This also shows how ahead of time Jamie and Ian have become because of their dealings with another culture of people. Jamie used to think they were Savages.
Trout Fishing in America
Jamie has several things to complain about before starting the journey to Anna Ooka with William. It’s raining. He doesn’t want to leave Claire. He’s worried for John. William, ninth Earl of Ellesmere just hit him (p496, Nook). William certainly has the Fraser stubbornness. After nearly having to tie William’s feet into the stirrups, they were on their way.
Riding in silence until they stopped to eat, the boy remains sullen in his defeat. The boy is still without signs of the measles. William finally asks Jamie his version of “are we their yet.” Jamie knows he needs to take it slower than usual because Claire instructed him to keep the boy away for six days. Being on horse afforded them to carry extra items along, including a gift for the Indians.
William finally breaks the silence asking if the Indians are friendly. Jamie assures him they are. They are nicer than English people. Jamie tells stories and points out the animal markings as they pass. Jamie prefers this to the quiet. He can’t help himself wondering what would happen if John died. He’d probably never see the boy again. John and Claire are the only two people who know the truth about William’s paternity even if William’s grandmother suspects. He says a prayer to St. Bride for John.
The forest smells of fresh leaves and leaf mold. Jamie points out a tree with bear slashes on the trunk. Jamie’s internal dialogue continues. If John dies, this is it. He’ll never see or hear from William again, and he’ll lose his closest friend on top of it. They continue to ride and come out into a valley. William is gobsmacked at what he sees (p500, Nook). I can imagine the mostly untouched land with a brilliant rainbow. Do you suppose Diana Gabaldon put a rainbow here as a sign of Lord John’s impending survival or that Jamie will see William after this visit? Rainbows hold significance to Catholics and Protestants.
Jamie awakens from light sleep to the sound of William crying. Jamie could tell the boy is trying to conceal his crying, but Jamie worries something serious could be wrong. Jamie asks after his wellness and asks if his belly is griping. William calms and says that’s the problem. It’s lovely for Jamie to give him an out and accept help without bruising his pride from being overheard. He gives him an infusion blend Claire sent with him. He wonders how she knew it would be needed. He decides he gave up long ago in questioning her ways of tending to heart and body.
The thought of Claire grips him, and he has a moment of immense gratitude for her. How must she feel seeing William in the flesh? To know he’s been in bed with another woman? She flipped out when she learned of Laoghaire, but not Geneva. What’s the difference he wonders? Maybe it’s because Geneva is dead. OMG. Dear Jamie, Laoghaire ill-wished Claire, tried to have her killed and had an unhealthy obsession with you. Geneva was a conniving young sexual aggressor who took advantage of her position (aka sexually assaulted you). Can you not see the difference? As for the boy, it makes her pang for Brianna and you not knowing her. Please put yourself in her position just a moment. Thanks. And P.S. Heck you are jealous of Frank and the time she spent with him, him raising Brianna, and YOU SENT HER BACK TO HIM. Okay, I’ll stop yelling for a minute.
Jamie’s stream of consciousness thoughts moves back to William. William’s mothers, step and real, are both dead. Now his father is gravely ill. No wonder the boy is upset. The measles killed the Indian just days before. The boy is in a state of grief. William loves John and couldn’t bear to lose him. Love is what caused his stubbornness. Love is what caused his tears in the darkness. This thought of the love of a father stabs Jamie with a small bit of jealousy (p502, Nook).
The water is boiling, and the brew is steeping. Claire warned Jamie not to drink it because of the lavender in it. Remember Black Jack used lavender scented oil when raping Jamie? The good news is it doesn’t bother Jamie if he knows lavender is in something, only when he’s caught off guard. William is feeling better, but the signs of grief are still upon him. He tells William Claire is a fine healer (p503, Nook). William is curious what Claire did for the Indian (p503, Nook). William feels better about Claire caring for his father. He is feeling overall better as well, thinking the apples didn’t cause the problem. Jamie successfully distracted him.
Jamie brings up fishing for their dinner the next day, William is ecstatic. Jamie talks about fishing in England and instantly regrets it. He’d taken William fishing when he was only 5. Is he trying to get the boy to remember? William thinks this place is nothing like England and is excited. He’ll miss only a few things about it (p504, Nook). Jamie thinks the girls will like this lad fine. William says Claire is very pretty. Sweet boy. The infusion is doing it’s calming on William. Jamie asks if the boy would rather sleep close to him for warmth. William jumped on the offer and fell asleep snuggled next to Jamie. At the time status wouldn’t allow Jamie to take William into his arms, but for warmth, men were socially allowed to sleep near each other.
The next day, we find Jamie and William making lures for the fishing poles. Jamie says hungry fish matter most when trying to catch them. It’s the early evening, and the pond is waking up. Jamie says it’s fishing time. Jamie shows William how to cast and waits for a fish to bite. Jamie gets a bite the first try (p507, Nook). The fish got away this time, but they kept at it. William loses his pole and uses Jamie’s. He also gets an education on how to do the small steps it takes to get a fish. In the process of casting, we learn William is left handed like Jamie (p508, Nook).
They get onto the subject that John was a soldier who fought in the Scottish Rising. William stops himself seeing Jamie’s tartan. Jamie tells William that is where he and John met (p509, Nook). William will get a full education in sword fighting when he’s a bit bigger. Casting with his left hand, William catches a fish. By the time the sun is setting, they have a nice string of fish for dinner. William thinks the fish is delicious. The boy is naked under the blanket while his clothes dry. Jamie is still in a wet shirt trying to get warmed by the fire (p509, Nook).
Jamie watches William without seeming to look at him. Gazing upon the thin, wiry handsome boy, Jamie takes in the moment and forges a memory that would last his whole life. He has no idea why a particular moment imprints this way over any other. The phenomenon reminds him of the photographs Claire showed him. He has thoughts like this of his father, Claire, Jenny, and Ian (p511, Nook). Nature speaks to him like it does Claire. There’s an awareness of the life surrounding him. Jamie thanks the Lord for this moment, “Deo gratias,” and it startles William.
Telling William its bedtime, Jamie is surprised at a physical behavior William does that is exactly like Jamie (p511, Nook). To distract his hands, Jamie decides to make more flies for the breakfast fishing in the morning. William comes over to him and helps without being asked. Growing tired, William asks Jamie questions about the Indians. Jamie assures him there’s never been a scalping in the village though, like the Highlanders, the Indians don’t take kindly to someone harming one of their own. William starts to comment on Scottish people (p512, Nook). Does Jamie have many children? When Jamie says no, William wonders if he had had children, but they died of an illness. Jamie explains his daughter is living in Boston, all grown up (p512, Nook). Sniff, sniff.
Though I still don’t believe William wouldn’t recognize Jamie or at least believe he was familiar by this point. Regardless I love the dynamic here. Poor Jamie must have incredible restraint to manage not grabbing the boy and snuggling him up. He’s bonding with him and teaching him something. It’s the best he can do given the situation. He’s also helping William feel less stressed about John and the other grievances he has. I wonder how Claire is faring with John. I can only imagine their conversations while Jamie and William are away.
What’s Coming up? Chapters 28 and 29 Drums of Autumn (DOA).
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Featured image attribution: By Ken Thomas – KenThomas.us(personal website of photographer), Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=2614888
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