Study Guide

A Northern Light Chapter 21

By Jennifer Donnelly

Chapter 21

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  • Later in spring, Mattie and her friends and sister are trying to decide what to do with the time off they have; Mattie wants to read, but her friends want to walk and be outside.
  • Then Royal shows up, and the girls get a little flirty, though they stop when Royal asks Mattie to go for a ride in his buckboard (read: basic carriage).
  • Mattie doesn't know what to think of it all; she knows if she were someone else, Royal would be in effect dating her, but Mattie is, well, herself. Then she warns Royal not to kiss her or do anything else because she thinks he's just practicing on her for another girl.
  • After they borrow a boat and drift on the lake while Royal talks, Mattie wonders if he's not as dumb as she originally thought. But then she realizes that, nope, he totally is. Phew—all is right with the world.
  • Royal says that he wants to get farming land to raise a dairy herd and sheep, and also to grow corn, potatoes, and fruit. As Royal keeps blathering about his passion for farming, Mattie wonders if he'll ever "want to look deep enough to see what was in mine" (21.auger.43).
  • So Mattie talks about her own dreams, her grades, her book, her hope to go to Barnard College and New York City. Royal is bored though, and tells her that schooling is a waste and the city is too dangerous; he even wonders why Mattie is so bent on ambition and why her own community isn't good enough for her. Then he kisses her, again, and touches her breasts, again, before Mattie pushes him away.
  • When Mattie asks him why he's doing this, he communicates that he's interested in her, and Mattie thinks that none of that makes sense.
  • But Mattie goes with the kiss, wanting only her story, not the stories of her books. Ah, young love.

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