The Witch of Blackbird Pond
by Elizabeth George Speare
The Witch of Blackbird Pond Chapter 17 Summary
- An outbreak of fever strikes the children and young people of Wethersfield, and Judith is among those who take ill. Kit is stricken herself (that means she is also sick), though recovers soon before Judith.
- Just as Judith is starting to sip gruel, Kit notices coughing from Mercy. It looks like she’s got the fever as well.
- Mercy is put to bed. She is bled by doctors, but nothing seems to help. Aunt Rachel suggests help from Gersholm Bulkeley, but Matthew refuses to let him near the house.
- During this time, Kit busts her hump with housework and caring for Judith and Mercy. She cooks, she cleans, she fetches water, and she washes clothes.
- On the fourth day of Mercy’s fever, Uncle Matthew breaks down and decides to ask Bulkeley for help; as soon as he puts on his coat and heads for the door, though, Bulkeley shows up offering aid. Synchronicity!
- Berkeley places a series of onion poultices on Mercy’s chest but must leave to tend other patients. He asks the family to care for Mercy through the night.
- Just then there’s a pounding at the door. A mob has gathered in front of the Wood house and they are demanding that Uncle Matthew help them go and get the witch.
- The witch? That’s right, they blame Hannah Tupper for the rash of fever in the town, using her as a scapegoat (someone to blame).
- Uncle Matthew tells them that he’ll have no part in a witch-hunt. Someone in the crowd yells that he should look for the witches in his own house. Someone else mutters something about Kit.
- Uncle Matthew rushes to Kit’s defense, saying she is a “God-fearing girl” (17.42). The people leave, off to hunt down Hannah.
- Kit is alarmed, to say the least. She asks Uncle Matthew what they’ll do to Hannah; he says probably a trial and then cuts off her questioning.
- As she’s going to bed, Kit decides to sneak out and help Hannah. What choice does she have?
- Putting on her cloak and leather boots, Kit heads for the meadows. As she passes Meeting House Square, she sees the mob forming.
- Kit reaches Hannah’s house ahead of the angry mob. She hurries Hannah into her cloak and shoes and ushers her out of the house. Hannah is disoriented and thinks Thomas will help them. The old woman is frightened and begins to sob.
- Kit drags Hannah into the underbrush just in time. The mob arrives and ransacks Hannah’s house. Then they set fire to it. Kit and Hannah run toward the riverbank.
- Hannah sees the burning house and cries out so loudly that Kit must put her hand over her mouth. The two women hold each other as Hannah cries.
- They hear the mob come closer to their hiding place, but fortunately the men turn back, thinking Hannah couldn’t have crossed the river.
- Hannah drifts off to sleep as Kit tries to figure out what to do: turn Hannah over to the law? Go back home? Just as she has decided to return to her uncle’s house, a miracle occurs: she sees the Dolphin headed down the river.
- Kit swims out to the ship, where she is met by the mocking Nat. His tone changes, though, when she tells Nat about what has happened to Hannah.
- Nat comes on shore to help Hannah onto the ship, but she refuses to leave without her cat. Kit is a little peeved and impatient, but Nat agrees. He and Kit return to the smoldering house and chase down the cat.
- Nat then loads Hannah and her kitty on the boat and tells them he’s taking them to his grandmother’s house in Saybrook.
- Nat offers for Kit to come with him and then on to the West Indies or Barbados. Kit says she can’t. Nat assumes it’s because she’s getting married, but no – that’s not it, she tells him. It’s because of Mercy.
- Nat hurries off with Hannah in tow.
- Kit returns to the Wood house as the sun is coming up. Aunt Rachel doesn’t even notice her wet and muddy appearance as another miracle has occurred during the night: Mercy’s fever has broken!
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