Study Guide

A Northern Light Chapter 4

By Jennifer Donnelly

Chapter 4

  • Back in present day, July of 1906: Mattie has just found out that Grace has died.
  • Cook yells at Mattie about making the ice cream (which has to be churned the old fashioned way), and Mattie recognizes that everyone has been more surly than usual because of Grace's death.
  • Mattie has Grace's letters in her pocket; she is going to burn them in the furnace, but Cook comes in before she had the chance.
  • She wants to be done with the letters and thinks of her interaction with Grace the day before: Grace had a fight with her boyfriend about either going to a chapel or going boating, Mattie gave her a free glass of lemonade, and Grace gave Mattie the letters. Mattie, used to strange requests, had hesitated to take them, but Grace, a little wild-eyed, had asked her to burn them, so Mattie acquiesced.
  • Now Mattie thinks that she won't have the chance to get rid of the letters because it's nearly serving time for dinner.
  • Frannie Hill, Mattie's friend and co-worker, warns Mattie about the man at table six who has trouble keeping his hands off the girls at the hotel.
  • Other workers enter with news: people are hungry for dinner, a newspaper man is here for the scoop, and Weaver, who also works at the hotel, announces that Mr. Morrison has canceled the entertainment for the evening.
  • Cook wants coffee from the cellar; when Mattie volunteers to get it, Frannie and Ada tease her about a boy named Royal Loomis, while Weaver insinuates that Royal is an idiot.
  • Mattie continues to churn the bucket to make the ice cream, musing that the news has made everyone work harder because there are more mouths to feed: the sheriff, the coroner, reporters.
  • Fran and Ada close in on Mattie: Fran mentions that the man has disappeared, and Ada says that Grace and her boyfriend weren't married.
  • Mattie wonders if they intended to get married and tells the girls that perhaps the two were "star-crossed lovers just like Romeo and Juliet" (4.43). There's definitely a whiff of scandal in the air.
  • Cook catches the girls gossiping, and lets them know that "girls who sneak off with boys end badly" (4.45). Fran plays innocent, but as Cook warns her off of boys, the three girls are surprised to see compassion from the usually acerbic and no-nonsense woman.
  • Mattie thinks of Royal, who has given her a ring and promised to marry her.
  • She wonders if Grace and Carl were eloping and fabricates the lovers' story in her head. She ends her story tidily and happily, though she knows that stories never have these kinds of happy endings.

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