Claire and Jamie’s troubles in America continue as they finally arrive at River Run, Jamie’s Aunt Jocasta’s plantation.
The two continue their journey downriver with Jamie fretting over Bonnet’s attack, his inability to protect Claire despite being outnumbered, and the fact that Bonnet is only roaming free to attack others because of their kindness to him. Jamie is also concerned about being broke after Bonnet stole their gemstones. Claire says they’re lucky they have family in America to turn to — be careful what you wish for (or are grateful for), Claire!
Jamie doesn’t have long to worry his ginger head about Bonnet because, before long, they’re arriving at River Run, a gorgeous plantation house on the banks of the river. Jocasta and her trusted slave Ulysses come to the riverbank to greet Jamie, Claire, and Ian. When Ian presents Jocasta with a bouquet of flowers, we learn that Jocasta is mostly blind — she can make out shapes and shadows, but little else. On the flip side, she has sterling hearing, which she warns can distinguish lies and half-truths just from someone’s tone of voice. Jocasta tells Claire and Jamie they are welcome to stay at River Run as long as they like — in fact, she welcomes Jamie’s skills as a businessman being at her disposal. She tells them she’s going to throw a party to welcome them to the neighborhood.
Ian and his dog Rollo quickly get into trouble when they meet the wrong end of a skunk. Jocasta has a solution for that as well — mountain man John Quincy Myers is passing through and has just the cure, a vinegar bath for the dog. Myers and Ian share a progressive chat about the Indian tribes in America, with Myers explaining that some are friendly and others not so much. Ian surmises that they’re really not all that different from the Highlanders and the bonds of the Scottish clansman. Four gold stars for basic tolerance Ian!
Meanwhile, Claire and Jamie encounter another issue of intolerance in the colonies. Claire is visibly uncomfortable when she meets two house slaves, Phaedre and Mary, making up her bed. She asks them to address her by her first name and then looks out the window in horror at the numerous bodies working in the fields just beyond the house.
Jocasta introduces Clare and Jamie to River Run, explaining that they grow tobacco, indigo, cotton, and pine all overseen by the labor of 152 slaves. Jocasta tries to make herself look better by explaining she likes to keep families together and treats her slaves with benevolence, but Claire isn’t buying it and prods her about whether the slaves Jocasta sees as friends feel the same way.
Lieutenant Wolff, a senior naval officer who liaises with River Run, comes to meet with Jocasta. He gets off on the wrong foot with Jamie immediately when he advises Jocasta to grow grain along the river, which Jamie says is too damp a spot for the crop. They’d be better served with rice.
Jocasta and Claire face-off as Phaedra alters one of Jocasta’s dresses for Claire. Jocasta makes out that Claire might be black-haired and sallow, but Phaedra describes Claire in highly flattering terms. Phaedra also reveals that Lt. Wolff has amorous intentions toward Jocasta. Jocasta detects disapproval in Claire’s tone of voice when the conversation turns to River Run, and Claire admits she doesn’t agree with keeping people as property. She fibs and says she acquired this viewpoint after healing some Quakers.
Claire and Jamie are welcomed to Cross Creek with a party in Jocasta’s home. Claire meets Lt. Wolff and another local landowner and friend to Jocasta, Farquard Campbell (please excuse me while I giggle and think about Lord Farquaad from Shrek every time this guy comes onscreen). Again, we see the whispers of local conflict among the Indians and regulators. And again, Claire, this time joined by Ian, speaks up for them. Ian makes the astute point that the Indians were here first, while Wolff makes a gross argument that Britain would’ve been filled with savages still if not for the Roman invasion.
Then, the party takes a turn when Jocasta announces she is naming Jamie as her heir and installing him as master of the estate immediately. No one is happy with this news – Wolff because he wanted the inheritance for himself; Jamie and Claire because Jocasta dropped it on them. Claire is thoroughly against the idea because she can’t stomach owning slaves, but Jamie makes a counter argument that perhaps they could make a small difference here by working to set the River Run slaves free.
Jamie confronts Jocasta about naming him heir without consulting him and then reveals to her and Campbell that he intends to free the estate’s slaves and pay everyone who works there a fair wage. It’s not as easy as all that though, as Campbell explains. Slaves must be granted liberty by the county court with the burden of proof of meritorious service, which means saving someone’s life. Not only that, it will cost 100 pounds sterling per slave to buy their freedom. Campbell warns that freeing slaves will threaten the order of things in North Carolina — and those that have tried to do this before have simply disappeared, never to be heard from again. It’s pretty clear that’s not a threat, it’s a promise.
(Recap continued on next page…)