******* SPOILER ALERT ******
This post is the last one about Part Three in Voyager. I suggest reading the recommended posts at the bottom of this post first. They deal with some of the topics that I would be discussing in more detail.
The Frenchman’s Gold and the White Witch
The first reference to the Frenchman’s Gold appears in Chapter 9, when Duncan Kerr, a former tacksman of Colum MacKenzie, is found near Ardsmuir with a fragile health. Based on the physical description of him (clothes soaked with water), it seems that he was trying to get to the gold hidden in the silkies’ island. Based on the details that he would reveal later, it appears that he was trying to hide this gold from Geillis.
At the same time, the English are familiar with the rumor of the gold that King Louis of France sent to his cousin, Charles Stuart. Lord John is familiar with three versions about the fate of the gold. Of note is the last option he presents to the reader – the location of the gold is a secret kept by members of a Highland family (ch. 9). Subsequent books reveal that the site of the gold was known to some members of different clans. However, it reflects the condition in which Jamie and his sister’s family will be once they become aware of the existence of the Frenchman’s Gold.
Of note are the details that Duncan reveals to Jamie about the gold and its owner, a white lady. First, he mentions that the gold is cursed. Second, he refers to this white lady as a “soul-eater.” Of course, Jamie suspects that probably this white lady is Claire since she was known as such in the past. However, readers are puzzled about her identity. This white lady is not a healer, but the opposite. Duncan Kerr is most likely another of Geillis’s victims, emphasizing her role as a femme fatale in the series. More confusing are those senseless phrases in which Duncan tells Jamie that this white lady will be coming for him and will tell him the location of the gold. I guess this is what leads Jamie to believe that this enigmatic woman could be Claire. However, it is also clearly stated in the text that Duncan confuses Jamie with his uncle, Dougal (who used to have an affair with Geillis). Therefore, comments such as the white lady looking for a MacKenzie to give the gold to makes sense.
Later, there is the incident in which Jamie escapes from Ardsmuir. Of course, Lord John suspects that Jamie knows about the gold. Jamie explains the reason why he had to escape – he suspected that the white lady that Duncan was talking about was Claire. He explains the dual meaning of a white lady:
“My wife was a healer. What they call in the Highlands a charmer, but more than that. She was a white lady – a wisewoman.” He glanced up briefly. “The word in Gaelic is ban-druidh; it also means witch (ch. 10).”
Of course, the word “witch” has a negative connotation. Even though, Claire is called in later books “the white witch,” she is the healer, and Geillis is the witch. Furthermore, the above quotation indicates that a white lady might be perceived as evil by some, even if she is benevolent.
Jamie narrates to Lord John that he went to look for his wife at the shrine to St. Bride. Did he go there? Or, did he invent this story to prevent Lord John looking for the gold at the silkies’ island? The description of the shrine provided by Jamie reveals the fact that he was actually there. He relates:
“. . . St. Bride was also called ‘the white lady,” he explained, looking up. “Though the shrine has been there a verra long time – since long before St. Bride came to Scotland (ch. 10).”
Because Duncan mentioned a ” white lady,” it is safe to assume that it is a hint to the location of the gold. Therefore, Jamie might be telling the truth. The passage emphasizes the syncretic beliefs of the Highlanders, a merge of the Christian religion with the old one. St. Bride could be a Celtic goddess that eventually became canonized. A way to visualize this process is to imagine a Christian missionary heading into the area. He is not able to eliminate the ancient religious beliefs fully. Therefore, gods and goddesses become canonized. Of course, this a short version of the process, which is more complicated in reality. The following links have some information about St. Bride.
Jamie also gives physical details about the shrine.
“The shrine itself is a small stone in the shape of an ancient cross, so weathered that the markings scarce show on it. It stands above a small pool, half-buried in the heather. Ye can find small white stones in the pool, tangled among the roots of the heather that grows on the bank. The stones are thought to have great powers, Major,” he explained, seeing the other’s blank look. “But only when used by a white lady (ch. 10).”
There is an association between the saint and a fountain of water. It is similar to the White Spring at Fraser’s Ridge, where Saint Killian resides according to Jamie. In fact, these fountains of water are “Places” where Jamie looks for peace and spiritual enlightenment. In fact, Jamie claims to talk to Dougal at the White Spring in book 5. Therefore, it is possible that Jamie indeed went to the shrine not only to look for Claire but also to gain some insight into his life. Finally, the concept of magic stones brings to mind the gemstones that time travelers use for protection.
Other Interesting Quotes
The following passage is italicized in my copy of Voyager. Lord John has fallen in love with Jamie, a man that might have killed his former lover, Hector. Because of the italicization, one wonders whether Jamie, who does not remember much about the Battle of Culloden, killed Hector.
Is it wrong, Hector? he thought. That I should love a man who might have killed you? (Ch. 11)
Usually, most of the references to silkies are associated with Black Brian or Roger MacKenzie. However, when an English soldier, Sykes, relates to Lord John the stories about silkies, it brings to mind the relationship between Jamie and Claire.
. . . they say sometimes one of them will come ashore and leave off its skin, and inside is a beautiful woman. If a man should find the skin, and hide it, so she can’t go back, why then – she’ll be forced to stay and be his wife. They make good wives, sir, or so I’m told.”
In book 1, Claire accidentally went into the past. She tried to go back to Frank many times, but she could not. Certain circumstances forced her to stay in the past and marry Jamie. Eventually, she grew to love Jamie and became his savior.
Gabaldon, Diana. Voyager. 1994. New York: Bantam Dell. 2002. Print.