As it turns out, thwarting a rebellion isn’t the full-time pursuit Claire imagined it to be. Sure, Jamie is staying out until all hours hobnobbing at the Maison de Madame Elise in order to earn Prince Charles’ trust — this on top of his duties running cousin Jared’s wine business — but our time-traveling heroine is feeling unfulfilled. Tea with Louise hardly compares to Claire’s former life-or-death responsibilities.
Though, to be fair, those audiences with Louise do provide a certain amount of amusement. Take, for instance, the pair’s latest chat with house guest Mary Hawkins, who you’ll remember is in Paris to be set up with a much-older widower. The usually soft-spoken lass makes a startling declaration:
“I can’t marry a Frenchman!” she sobs to Louise and Claire.
You see, Mary has heard about what Frenchmen do in bed. And, well, it’s scandalous. An Englishman would never do such a thing to his bride! (Oh, young naive, Mary.) Claire is about to take her aside to explain the birds and the bees and such, when she has a flashback to a moment with Frank in which the two examined his family tree. And now Claire remembers with a start where she’s heard of Mary Hawkins: She eventually marries Jonathan Randall. She’s Frank’s ancestor! Which means Black Jack needs to stay alive for at least the next year in order for them to wed and for Mary to conceive. Which means Claire must continue to keep this secret from Jamie.
But she does confide in one Scotsman: Murtagh. After finding him in bed with her maid, Suzette, Claire is not amused. She eventually apologizes to Murtagh for her rude response, explaining that she isn’t feeling like herself. It’s then that she reveals Jack Black’s fate. Murtagh is stunned: He saw him trampled! Murtagh insists Claire not tell Jamie for fear he’d run back to Scotland to seek vengeance.
Claire agrees, for now, and heads to Master Raymond’s to buy the 18th-century equivalent of Plan B on Suzette’s behalf. But to Claire’s surprise, she meets the Comte on the herbalist’s doorstep. After a few not-so pleasantries with the Comte, Claire reveals the purpose of her visit to Master Raymond, along with her misgivings about her life in France and how every day in Paris makes her feel a little more conventional. Master Raymond suggests she volunteer her considerable skills at the local charity hospital, where they’re in dire need.
Meanwhile, Jamie has convinced French minister of finance Duverney to take a meeting with Bonnie Prince Charlie at a location of the utmost discretion: the Maison de Madame Elise. And despite being one of Charles’ most-trusted confidants, Jamie learns a bit of previously unknown intel from the the exiled royal: He’s secured funding from a handful of English aristocrats and has close to what he needs to mount an uprising. In exchange for King Louis’ financial support in this matter, Charles is ready to offer France an alliance with Britain. (After the battle, of course.) Duverney agrees to speak to the King on Charles’ behalf. Not good for Claire and Jamie’s plans…
NEXT PAGE: A difference of opinion
When Jamie arrives home seeking his wife’s counsel, Claire is nowhere to be found. That’s because she wasted no time offering her services to L’Hopital des Anges. (And goodness knows they need it. The local butcher is their muscle and bone specialist!) The nuns running the hospital take Claire for just another incapable, unskilled gentlewoman, so they put her on bedpan duty. But when Claire makes a diabetes diagnosis by tasting a patient’s urine (yuck yuck yuck), she garners the attention of Mother Hildegarde, who gives her actual medical work to do.
Hours later, having finally found a purpose in Paris, Claire practically floats into her and Jamie’s residence. But her husband’s all sour, no sweet. He’s not happy about Claire’s new occupation. For one, he doesn’t want his pregnant wife catching a disease. And for another, he wants Claire home to advise him when he gets there. With no compromise in sight, Jamie finally reveals the day’s dealings: He tells Claire that Charles already has significant funding and is offering up an alliance. Claire says that’s impossible: Britain and France won’t become allies for another century. The two continue to argue about finding meaning in life, when Jamie finally storms out and back to the Maison de Madame Elise.
While there, he spots a young pickpocket making the rounds. It sparks something in Jamie, and he goes chasing after the boy. When he finally catches him, not only does he find his own wooden snake charm that had gone missing earlier, but Jamie also offers him a job. You see, Jamie has a plan: If Charles won’t divulge all of his secrets to him, he’ll get them through other means — by pilfering his correspondence. (Don’t tell the Postmaster General!) Anyway, Jamie needs someone with sticky fingers, and his new hire (whom he dubs Fergus) will do nicely.
The weeks go by with Fergus delivering letter after letter — many of them coded — back to Jamie. But one missive gives the Scot particular pause. It’s a sheet of music, and Jamie doesn’t quite know what to make of it. That is, until he remembers something Claire told him about Mother Hildegarde being a musical prodigy. He brings the sheet to the hospital for the nun to decipher. Mother Hildegarde notices an oddity right away: The music is reminiscent of that written by her friend Bach (yes, that Bach), but there are many more key changes. As it turns out, “the key is the key,” as Claire puts it. Very clever, indeed. Jamie is able to decode the music and learns the truth of Bonnie Prince Charlie’s boasting: He has three partners who are willing to contribute 40,000 pounds to the cause. A significant sum, to be sure, but not enough to wage a war. (Basically, BPC is talking a big game…) The letter appears to be simply signed “S.” Well, it doesn’t take too long for Claire and Jamie to recognize a familiar source of frustration at work: The Duke of Sandringham! He’s hedging his bets by playing both sides. That scoundrel!
Jamie decides he must make a call on Sandringham to tell him what a bad investment Charles is. But Claire is dubious: If Jamie meets the Duke’s secretary, Alex Randall, he’ll learn that Black Jack is indeed alive. It looks for a moment as though Claire will tell Jamie the truth. But as the two are sharing their first truly happy moment in awhile, she lets the opportunity pass her by.