The next morning, Jamie is feeling much better — a condition Claire chalks up to the ginger tea she’s been liberally serving him. But as she’ll soon find out, it’s actually the work of Mr. Willoughby, an acupuncture practitioner and wordsmith, apparently. He tells Claire he’s been writing his life story for years but cannot share it just yet. “A story told is a life lived.”
The days continue to bleed together for Claire and Jamie until the ship, rather abruptly, halts at sea. They have lost the wind. The ship’s crew blame bad luck — they become intent on finding the man (or woman) who didn’t touch the horseshoe before the voyage. Weeks go by, and the search for a Jonah (i.e. someone to throw overboard as a scapegoat) only intensifies. One of Jamie’s men from Ardsmuir is singled out for the position and tormented relentlessly. Drunk and out of sorts, the man climbs the ship’s mast, threatening to jump. Jamie climbs after him and, like some Highland hostage negotiator, starts to talk him down. But, in a plot beat we’ve definitely seen before, the man slips and must grip Jamie’s hand for dear life. After a few moments dangling precariously, the man is finally able to swing himself to the rope ladder and descend safely. Well, not that safely, because his feet hardly hit the timbers before he’s encircled by the crew thirsting to throw him overboard.
It’s then that Mr. Willoughby looks across the horizon and sees a bird sailing through the skies. He knows something we don’t know. He begins to ring the ship’s bell, and with the men’s attention, he tells them his life story. How the Chinese emperor had wanted him for his servant — a great honor — but he would have had to become a eunuch to do it. He loved women too much, so he fled. Fled to an inhospitable country where not even a prostitute will sleep with him. Melancholy, indeed. Mr. Willoughby then climbs up the side of the boat and, in a dramatic gesture, throws his life story into the wind. Yes, the wind. The bird’s flight pattern had indicated a storm was brewing, and Willoughby was biding his time until the wind picked back up and the crew would no longer need a Jonah.
Claire and Jamie celebrate by having sex below deck.
But bad luck continues to haunt the couple. A British man-of-war soon engages the ship. Jamie worries that they’re recruiting and he’ll be forced into service. He makes Claire promise that she’ll continue the search for Young Ian on her own, if need be. She promises. But the British aren’t in need of soldiers — they’re in need of a surgeon. They’ve had an outbreak. Claire, of course, volunteers to help. She deduces from the description of the symptoms (fever, rash, and the “blazing s—s”) that the ship’s crew has fallen ill with typhoid fever, something she’s inoculated against. She boards the ship and begins to administer to the men. The situation is grave, but one she can help with. She tells the captain (who couldn’t be older than 18) that she will stay on board the anchored ship to help organize and mobilize the healthy crew members. But as she’s going about her business, the ship starts moving. The captain needs to get to Jamaica fast, and he’s taking Claire with him.