Welcome back! This week, Claire and Jamie continue their machinations within the French court, Murtagh gets frisky, Claire finds a purpose, and Jamie adopts a street urchin.
Claire startles awake in an empty bed to Jamie’s early-morning arrival home. He has been out all night drinking with Bonnie Prince Charlie. The Prince is desperate for Jamie to set up a meeting with Robert Duverney, the French Minister of Finance. Jamie has been making excuse after excuse not to accommodate his wishes, and the Prince is losing patience. Claire and Jamie seem strained together, and you can see that Jamie’s constant absence has taken a toll. He gets immediately redressed in order to deal with Jared’s warehouse inspections for the wine business, and prepares to go straight back out. Claire complains that he stinks of brothel, which is doing nothing for her morning sickness. She is lonely, but notes that she is going to meet Louise and the ladies for tea later that morning. Jamie discovers that he is missing a small trinket which he always carries with him–a tiny, carved wooden snake.
Where are you from–the moon?
As Claire, Louise, and Mary Hawkins play cards, Mary is even meeker and more awkward than usual. When Claire questions her, Mary stutters that she is worried about marrying a Frenchman. When asked why, she says that where she is from, men don’t put their wives through awful things, like the French do. It is clear that she is talking about perfectly ordinary sex, and Claire decides to give her “the talk.” Louise guffaws. “Where are you from–the moon?” Claire gently asks where she is from, and as Mary answers, it suddenly occurs to Claire why Mary’s name sounded so familiar when they met. Her blood runs cold as she flashes back to Frank showing her his family tree. Mary Hawkins eventually marries none other than Black Jack Randall. Yikes! Claire’s epiphany makes her realize that her future husband’s existence is contingent on ol’ BJR living at least another year. This cements her being unable to tell Jamie that his tormentor is alive –surely Jamie will seek his revenge. Mary might feel better about marrying a Frenchman if she knew what was really in store for her!
I’ll mend my own scarf, thanks
Claire goes home and finds a scarf she’d given her maid Suzette to mend, in the kitchen. She walks into Suzette’s room to confront her about it and finds Suzette in bed with Murtagh in the middle of the day. Murtagh runs after her and Claire bitches at him. “Don’t you have anything better to do? Suzette certainly does!” Murtagh says that as a matter of fact, he doesn’t, and Claire apologizes. She confesses to Murtagh that she has learned that BJR is still alive. “Jesus wept,” says Murtagh. He agrees that it’s a good thing that she hasn’t told Jamie, and says that he won’t either, although his concerns have less to do with Claire’s future husband than with Jamie’s neck if he murders an English captain. “Have you ever thought about birth control?” Claire asks. “Control?” Murtagh says, confused. “Never mind,” Claire says. “I’ll pick something up.”
Tell the Prince what you told me…
As Jamie chats with Duverney, he asks for a favor. Duverney jokes that if he wanted something, perhaps Jamie could let him win at chess more often. Jamie says he respects him too much to do so, prompting Duverney to joke, “I give you permission to respect me less.” Duverney can’t figure out why Jamie wants him to discourage Prince Charles in his plans for the rebellion, but agrees to go with Jamie to meet with the Prince at the brothel to tell Charlie that King Louis has no intention of funding his war. They meet, and the Prince drops a bomb–he is already largely funded by British muckety-mucks. Say what?
Jamie is shocked, but still has to play as if he’s all for the rebellion, and Duverney is pleased. Now that there’s funding, King Louis is more likely to kick in the rest of the dough. The Prince even goes so far as to offer Duverney an alliance with Britain in the aftermath of victory if Duverney can get King Louis on board. “Close the gap between what I have and what I need and I will give you the world.” Duverney is intrigued. Jamie looks straight-up panicked. Duverney says that he’ll talk to King Louis if Prince Charlie can provide evidence of his financial backers.
Claire gets down and dirty
Meanwhile, Claire is off to Monsieur Raymond to inquire about birth control for Suzette. She runs into Le Comte de St. Germain on his way out of the apothecary, and he’s still holding a grudge about his ship. Claire reveals to Raymond that she’s not about the Paris life, and feels useless. Raymond tells her to go be a medical volunteer at the hospital. Claire eagerly jumps at the chance, and Murtagh trails after her to keep an eye on things. She’s dressed to the nines, but quickly dons an apron and gets her hands dirty to help. The hospital has no staff–just nuns and volunteer “doctors,” whose ranks include a butcher and a truss maker. Mother Hildegarde, the head nun in charge, is unimpressed by Claire until she correctly diagnoses a woman with diabetes (“sugar sickness”) and gives her a little more to do. Claire is delighted.
A lady’s maid knows what goes on in the boudoir — or doesn’t
Jamie storms home, upset from his meeting with Duverney and the Prince, and Claire is still at the hospital. He waits for hours, growing more and more furious, and when she finally comes home, breathless with excitement from her day at the hospital, they have it out. He rightly chastises Claire for putting herself around disease while she’s pregnant, but he’s being such a baby about it that she gets even more angry. She yells that she feels useless, she’s not cut out for Parisian society, and the hospital gives her something to live for. What does he want from her, anyway?
Jamie yells that he wants his wife to be there for him when he needs her, and tells her about his meeting. “Impossible,” Claire says. “Britain and France won’t be allies for a hundred years.” She apologizes for her absence, but Jamie is still being a baby. Murtagh and Suzette are eavesdropping around the corner as Jamie storms out, and Murtagh remarks that he knew Jamie wouldn’t like Claire volunteering at the hospital. Suzette thinks it’s much simpler–the tension between them is because they are not having sex.
I’ll tell your wife you rut with whores!
At the brothel again, Jamie observes a young pickpocket. He chases him, thinking that he can employ him to snatch letters that the muckety-mucks are carrying, give them to Murtagh and Jamie to copy, and replace them before anyone is the wiser. The little pickpocket threatens him, but Jamie laughs and turns him upside down, emptying his pockets into the street. “My wife willna believe you.” Jamie finds his snake amongst the boy’s possessions, and decides he’ll do nicely. Claire wakes again in the night to Jamie’s arrival, and finds young Fergus (Jamie has decided that the boy’s real name, Claudelle, wasn’t manly enough) sitting at her kitchen table, eating a chicken leg. As she’s trying to sort out what’s going on, Fergus compliments her breasts. Claire is shocked, and Fergus protests, “but…the ladies at the brothel give me presents when I give them compliments!” Murtagh mutters “It’s true. That’s how he got the chicken leg from Suzette.”
I know someone, but you won’t like it
A routine develops, and Jamie and Murtagh set to work decoding letters. Most of the codes are easy, but when they happen upon one that’s coded into a piece of music, neither of them can figure it out. Murtagh mentions that Mother Hildegarde reads music, which forces Jamie to visit Claire at the hospital. Mother Hildegarde helps them decode the piece, and they determine that the English financial backers are real, and our old friend the Duke of Sandringham is behind it! Of course! Jamie is so excited to have made progress that he gives a toast, and Claire sees that it has become necessary to tell Jamie that BJR is alive and kicking. She and Murtagh share a couple of pointed looks, but ultimately Claire chickens out. “What is it, Sassenach?” “I’m just glad to see you so happy.”
- The bits in the hospital were great. I loved that Mother Hildegarde has a disease-sniffing dog, Bouton. I could have done without the scene where Claire pulls a nail out of man’s infected leg, though. If I’m not mistaken, Bouton is a Norwich Terrier, the same as Dorothy’s Toto. His name, Bouton, is French for “button.”
- Speaking of Mother Hildegarde, there’s a fun aside where she mentions she’s friends with Bach. Yes, THAT Bach. “I’m afraid his music isn’t for the ages. No heart.”
- Jamie and Murtagh aren’t the only ones interested in the secret letters of the city. Murtagh notes that by the time he gets them, the seals have been replaced a minimum of three times already.
Join me next week for Episode 4, “La Dame Blanche.” What will Jamie and Claire do with their new revelations? Will Claire tell Jamie the truth about his former captor?