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The Witch of Blackbird Pond

The Witch of Blackbird Pond

by Elizabeth George Speare

The Witch of Blackbird Pond Chapter 1 Summary

  • The date is April 1687. Katherine “Kit” Tyler, our headstrong heroine, stands on the forecastle deck of a boat called the Dolphin as it pulls into Saybrook harbor in the Connecticut Colony.
  • Standing beside Kit is Nathaniel “Nat” Eaton, the Captain’s tall son with sun-bleached hair. Though normally taciturn (that means that he’s a quiet guy), he and Kit exchange a few words as the boat approaches the shore.
  • Though she doesn’t say it, Kit’s a bit disappointed by what she sees on land. The Connecticut landscape is gray and dreary and dotted with unimpressive little shacks; not at all like the tropical paradise of Barbados of her home.
  • Nat tells Kit that this isn’t Wethersfield – her destination – but Saybrook. Kit is relieved.
  • Nat lets slip that he’s noticed Kit can keep her balance on the ship. (Kit has, of course, noticed Nat and his sun-bleached hair as well.) He speaks admiringly of her fearlessness. She does admit that she was afraid when the storm hit the boat.
  • The potentially interesting chitchat ends as the boat anchors in Saybrook. There are passengers to unload and food and supplies to pick up. Nat bounds off to look after the oars of the smaller boat that will take them to shore.
  • Kit sees Mistress Eaton, the captain’s wife and Nat’s mother. Kit is more than reluctant to part with the good-natured woman; Mistress Eaton, however, is anxious to get back to her home and garden in Saybrook. Though she spends winters on the boat with her husband, she tends her home on land in the spring.
  • Kit is skeptical how anyone could be eager to set foot on the “forbidding shore” of Connecticut (1.27). Nonetheless, she decides that she herself would love to see America up close and accompanies the small boat of passengers on shore.
  • The dock is bustling with excitement. Kit smiles eagerly at three young women, but they simply stare at her. Kit supposes it’s because of her unkempt appearance (she hasn’t changed clothes or anything). Her hair must look terrible!
  • With the passengers unloaded, it’s time to ferry the remaining passengers back on board.
  • On the boat ride back to the ship, a young passenger accidentally loses her dolly in the water. Feeling particularly miffed that no one will help the poor girl, Kit’s temper flares and she jumps into the water to fetch the doll herself.
  • Nat jumps into the water after her, but Kit manages to grab the doll and beat him back to the boat. Once on board Kit has a good laugh about her adventure in the water, but no one else seems to see the humor in it. The girl’s mother calls Kit “daft” (1.47). Nat is also super-angry.
  • What’s worse, the passengers are now all suspicious of Kit – a woman who can swim! Apparently those aren’t too common in New England.
  • Kit feels bad, but catches the eye of a sympathetic man in a black hat. He smiles warmly at her. The young girl, Prudence, is also happy, grateful for Kit’s heroic rescue of the doll.
  • Back on the boat, Kit finds herself in a conversation with the sympathetic man in the black hat. We learn many things in this exchange. The man is a Puritan named John Holbrook and is bound for Wethersfield to study with the Reverend Bulkeley. He is preparing to be a clergyman (a man who works in the church).
  • Kit tells the man that she is on her way to Wethersfield to live with her aunt and uncle whom she has never met. She was born on Barbados, she tells him, and lived with her aristocratic grandfather, a man loyal to King Charles I of England. (Kit is not a Puritan.)
  • The two also discuss the doll episode from the morning. John apologizes for the reactions from the others but admits that they were all surprised that she could swim. We also learn that Kit has some kind of secret that she has been keeping from everyone.
  • Nat appears to tell Kit that, since Mrs. Eaton is no longer on board, she must eat with Goodwife Cruff – the mother of the girl with the doll. He also mentions that Goodwife Cruff now thinks Kit is a witch. Great.
  • Kit is able to laugh all of this off, but she is also left a tiny bit unsettled by the situation.
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