We’ve advanced about a month in time. Demelza’s still invisibly pregnant, and her brothers are now working at Wheal Leisure. And they’re doing a good job there, though Ross isn’t so keen on their lunch break proselytizing. Sam and Drake are making waves everywhere: when George, like the self-centred jerk he is, holds up the weekly church service by showing up late, Sam leads everyone in some hymns to pass the time. As a result, the sniveling vicar bans him from the church, which really seems like it shouldn’t be allowed. Never mind, though: the boys are working on building their own church, in a cottage Ross has lent them. They even find a washed-up beam on the beach and thank their stars that they can start fixing the roof.
Drake is less interested in converting, more interested in flirting. He gives Prudie an eyeful, and she half-jokingly asks him to be her husband replacement, cackling as he scrambles away. Drake only has eyes for Morwenna now, and it’s handy that little Geoffrey Charles keeps leading her onto Ross’s land so Drake can show them mystical sacred springs and the like. She’s falling for it, too: hook, line, and sinker.
Elizabeth’s all at loose ends. She hates that her cousin is getting so close and chummy with Geoffrey Charles, and she’s completely ambivalent to her infant, Valentine. She leaves him to scream his poor head off, using the ‘don’t want to spoil him’ bullshit excuse. Only Verity seems to realise there’s something not quite right here: the amount of WTF on her face when Elizabeth shrugs over her wailing baby almost completely drowns out the good-natured smile.
That’s right: Verity’s back! She’s come by for a visit and to attend Valentine’s christening, bringing her adorable son with her. But she’s barely through the door before there’s bad news: some British ships were involved in a scuffle with the French, and it’s not looking good. Blamey’s vessel is rumoured to have been involved, and so is Enys’s. If they were both lost, that would be remarkably coincidental. I mean, what are the odds that the two ships involved in this altercation would just so happen to have two of our major supporting characters on them?
Both Verity and Caroline allow themselves to completely and utterly freak out, which is fair. Demelza tries to support them both while Ross does his thing and puts feelers out amongst the n’er do wells of the area, seeking information. The most promising source of information looks to be a man named Tholly, who looks so much like Judd that I was really confused for a little while there. Tholly is the n’erest n’er do well in the neighbourhood, and apparently used to be friends with Ross’s father. Ross, apparently committing to this whole ‘just gonna be a respectable squire’ thing, is reluctant to get mixed up with this guy, but: Enys.
The other source of potential information is their super-rich neighbour, Sir Francis Bassett (really? The author couldn’t come up with another name than Francis?). Bassett has apparently lived in this neighbourhood all along, and yet has never been mentioned or introduced before now. Like the Warleggans, he’s self-made. Unlike the Warleggans, he does not appear to be a hateful asshole.
While having George over for tea, Bassett casually mentions the magistrate’s seat Francis left vacant (that hasn’t been filled yet? It’s been more than a year!). George figures the seat’s all but his and starts fantasy clothes shopping. Elizabeth couldn’t care less about his pretensions, but she does go along to the big party Bassett throws, because what else is she going to do, take care of her baby?
Ross, Demelza, Verity, and Caroline all attend the party as well, even though it means Ross will have to share air with George for a little while. Turns out Bassett has a lot of French emigres staying with him, so the ladies all fan out, asking them for information on the missing ships, though I don’t really know why a bunch of refugees would be all that informed.
Ross, meanwhile, is pulled aside by Reverend Halse, who offers him the magistrate’s seat. Ross laughs and reminds the man that, not that long ago, he was on trial for murder and stripping a wrecked ship, so maybe it’s not so appropriate for him to sit on the bench. Halse basically shrugs and reminds Ross that a Poldark has sat on the bench going waaaay back, so that just cancels all the other stuff out. Ok, then. Ross, nevertheless, turns him down, even when Halse warns him that it’ll go to George if Ross declines. Ross sticks with his decision. George gets it, and preens like you’d expect.
Caroline is able to glean one nugget of information: Blamey’s ship is safe! It’s in Lisbon now, a little battered, but just fine. Verity’s so relieved she prepares to pack herself and the kid up and follow him to Portugal. And hey, I don’t blame her, because Lisbon’s awesome, but Verity–you do know there’s a war with France being waged in the Channel right now, right? Maybe now is not the best time to be sailing?
The news is not so good for Caroline. Tholly arrives at Nampara with word that Dwight’s ship was wrecked and the crew taken to some horrible prison. We catch glimpses of a firing squad, dead British soldiers, and Enys being threatened with a rifle. This is not good. Ross decides he needs to intervene here, or at least get better information. He and Tholly climb into a small boat and set off for France.