This week’s section was a lot about Laoghaire and her jealousy of Claire. Near the beginning of the section, Claire and Jamie discover an ill-wish under Claire’s pillow. Laoghaire wants to sabotage Claire and Jamie’s relationship by removing Claire from the picture completely so she can have Jamie for herself. The fact that we find out that she turns to supernatural forces to rid the castle of Claire, and that she gets it from Geilis Duncan, I think, is a bit of foreshadowing for what’s to come at the end of the section.
The first half is really about Claire discovering more information about Jamie’s family and clan Mackenzie. We learn about Jamie’s mum and her unconventional ways. We learn about the Duke of Sandringham and his preferences for young gentlemen. In the past he had been to Castle Leoch and taken a fancy to a young Jamie and, had Jamie not taken precautions, would have ‘given Jamie a sore arse’ as part of negotiations for land and office. We also learn of Dougal’s confession to Colum that he impregnated ‘a witch’ who Claire believes, from overhearing the conversation, is Laoghaire. Later we discover otherwise.
We hear a lot about the villagers’ supernatural beliefs in this section, first with the ill-wish, and later with the changeling baby. As a modern woman. Claire doesn’t believe in such ‘nonsense’ but is repeatedly told by Geilis and Jamie to avoid such things. Of course she doesn’t. Under Laoghaire’s instruction to attend to an ill and recently widowed Geilis, Claire goes to the Duncan household and they are both captured and put on trial for witchcraft.
This was a great section! Geilis becomes suspicious of Claire and her background. They talk about their marriages (or recent lack of, as Geilis had just murdered her husband), and Geilis admits to being with Dougal’s child, which results in their realisation that the witchcraft accusation was a way of Colum ridding the clan of such controversy.
Geilis uses this time to explain the Jacobite rebellion and why she feels so strongly about it. We understand her motives for almost everything are due to the love she has for her country, and that she has already successfully sent thousands of pounds to the Jacobite cause in France. There is a great moment where Claire quotes Nathan Hale in 1776 – ‘I regret only that I have but one life to give for my country’ – thirty years in the future.
The trial does not go well for either of the women, though considerably worse for Geilis. Upon Father Bain’s words ‘ye shallna suffer a witch to live,’ both women are tied up and to be tried by water. If they are witches the purity of the water will reject them and they will float, but if they are innocent they will drown – needless to say neither end well! Luckily for Claire, Jamie again comes to the rescue and is able to somewhat redeem her. Together Jamie and Ned Gowan significantly improve Claire’s chance of survival, but Geilis really makes it happen. Geilis admits to being a witch herself and having used Claire as a pawn in her evil plan.
It was at this point that Claire recognises a scar from a smallpox vaccination on Geilis’ arm. How sad that they both come to realise that they have both come from the future, just when they are torn apart! Geilis is found guilty of witchcraft.
Later, Claire finds herself confessing to Jamie that she is from the future and not a witch, and Jamie – God bless Jamie Fraser – believes everything she has said, and decides to take her back to the rocks at Craig Na Dun, giving her the choice of eighteenth century life with him, or twentieth century life with Frank. In a moment of romantic brilliance, Claire decides to leave her old life behind for good and returns to Jamie.
What’s in store for the next section?
“We’re going home, Sassenach, to Lallybroch.”