The Witch of Blackbird Pond Summary
Having just lost her grandfather, Katherine “Kit” Tyler leaves her home in tropical Barbados on a ship (the Dolphin) bound for Connecticut. There she is determined to find her Aunt Rachel Wood, her only remaining family.
On the ship, she flirts occasionally with the mocking but otherwise good-natured captain’s son, Nat Eaton. She also causes a scene when she jumps overboard to rescue a young girl’s doll. The passengers – especially the girl’s mother, the nosy Goodwife Cruff – are suspicious of any woman who can swim. After the swimming incident, Kit's only companion on the boat is the Puritan John Holbrook, a studious man sailing to Wethersfield to study with the Reverend Gersholm Bulkeley.
Once the ship arrives in Wethersfield, Kit must fess up: her aunt’s family doesn’t actually know she’s coming. Nevertheless, the captain and Nat escort her to the Wood family’s house where she meets her Aunt Rachel, her Uncle Matthew, and her two cousins, Judith and Mercy. Kit’s uncle is a stern man, though once he learns of her orphan status, he begrudgingly allows Kit to stay. What other choice does he have?
Kit is introduced to the laboring life of Puritan New England and all of its tedium. There are chores to attend to and loads of wool to card. Having only worn fancy dresses in the past, Kit must find clothing appropriate to her new station.
Kit also gets to know the Wood family. Uncle Matthew is sometimes harsh, though he is also solid and dependable. He does not agree, we should note, with the King of England’s politics, which is kind of a problem, since it's the 1680s and Connecticut is one of England's colonies. Aunt Rachel was once a beauty, but, as we find out, has lost two sons – a situation that has taken its toll. As for the two daughters, Mercy is kind and patient and suffered from a fever as a child that has left her lame in one leg. Judith is a pretty, prissy flirt, though generally nice.
Time for boy-talk: Judith has her eyes set on William Ashby, the richest, most eligible young bachelor in town. One day at church, however, William sees Kit dressed in all of her finery (that is, fancy dress) and takes a definite liking to her. He asks Uncle Matthew if he can come and call on Kit. Judith doesn't seem to mind much, and instead sets her cap for John Holbrook – whom she meets at church – instead.
One day during work in the fields (which Kit hates, by the way), Kit sees a woman down at Blackbird Pond. It’s Hannah Tupper, Judith explains, a Quaker with a brand on her forehead. The woman could be mistaken for a witch, Kit admits. She feels, though, that the Meadows – the place where Hannah lives – are a space of peace and quiet. She feels at home there, much more so than she has anywhere else in Wethersfield.
William begins to call on Kit, though the two really have nothing at all to talk about. Kit likes the idea of marriage to a wealthy man, though, since it will get her out of the hard labor of the onion patch. John Holbrook starts coming along as well, and everyone assumes he is crushing on Judith. (Little do they know…)
As the seasons turn, Mercy and Kit are tapped to run a schoolroom out of the Wood family house. Kit is thrilled with this opportunity to earn her keep (and to get out of that darn onion patch). Everything is going well until one day Kit decides to have the children playact a skit from the Bible: the parable of the Good Samaritan. Unfortunately, this is the same day that the headmaster is coming to visit. The man is shocked by the liberties Kit takes with the Bible. (Puritans, famous for being stuffy, thought playacting was a huge no-no.) He dismisses the school, fires Kit, and threatens to suspend Mercy as well.
Upset, Kit runs to the Meadows – that place of peace and quiet – where she cries until she falls asleep. When she wakes she meets Hannah Tupper, witch of Blackbird Pond herself, who takes Kit into her house and gives her some delicious blueberry cake. Hannah is extremely kind, it turns out, and owns some very adorable cats. The two women become fast friends. Emboldened (that means that she gained courage) by her new friendship, Kit approaches the schoolmaster and asks him not to suspend Mercy. He agrees, and gives Kit her job back too. Kit and Mercy continue to teach at the school, but Kit is much more careful now.
One day Kit meets Prudence, the girl whose doll she rescued from the ocean, lurking outside. Prudence’s mother won’t let her take lessons at the school (her mother thinks she dumb and can't learn), but Kit convinces the girl to meet her in the Meadows for secret private lessons. Kit lets Prudence borrow her silver horn book (a tiny paddle with the alphabet listed on it), which she keeps at Hannah house. She introduces Prudence to Hannah and the two become friends over blueberry cake and kittens.
New information: Kit learns that Nat, the captain’s son, is also a friend of Hannah’s. He visits her from time to time. He does chores for Hannah, helps her around the house, and brings her presents from his voyages. During one of these visits, Nat and Kit thatch Hannah’s roof together and share a semi-bonding moment. Nat ends up walking Kit home, where he (much to Kit’s embarrassment) meets the Wood family. Uncle Matthew ends up finding out that Kit has been visiting Hannah Tupper. He forbids her from seeing the old woman again.
Kit also learns – through the power of observation – that Mercy is secretly in love with John Holbrook. Well, as luck would have it, John confesses to Kit one day that he is also in love with Mercy – and will be asking for her hand in marriage. Hot dog!
The town’s cornhusking party rolls around and John totally botches his engagement attempt. Judith, who's rather pushy, thinks he is asking for her hand in marriage and the deal ends up being sealed by Uncle Matthew. Kit is the only one who knows the truth: that John wanted to ask for Mercy’s, not Judith’s, hand in marriage. William asks Kit about their own courtship around this time, but Kit successfully puts him off.
A little later, Kit runs into Nat Eaton, the captain’s son, at the docks. He's a bit grouchy because he has just delivered the fancy diamond-paned windows ordered for William Ashby’s new house and his Barbados bride. Nat, of course, assumes that Kit is getting married. The two exchange some heated words. That night, Nat and some of the men from the Dolphin decide to prank William Ashby by illuminating the windows of his new house with jack-o-lanterns. Nat and the men are put in the stocks for lighting the jack-o-lanterns and are banished from Wethersfield.
The novel’s political action starts heating up as Governor Andros comes to town to take Connecticut’s charter and replace it with his royal presence. The men in the town, among them Uncle Matthew, are livid and argue for their right to govern themselves (they are currently ruled by the King of England). Meetings take place at the Wood house and William Ashby, of all people, steals back the charter when Governor Andros visits. We also find out that John Holbrook has enlisted in the militia to fight the Indians.
Newsflash! A fever strikes the town’s young people. Kit and Judith get sick, as well as Mercy. Mercy has a terrible case of the fever, it turns out. The town looks for a scapegoat (someone to blame) and finds it in the Quaker Hannah Tupper. They decide she's a witch who has cursed the town with a fever. They form a mob to burn her house down.
Fortunately Kit gets to the Meadows in time to save Hannah. Hiding from the mob, Kit thankfully spots a ship in the river. It’s the Dolphin! Nat comes to the rescue and takes Hannah to his grandmother’s house. He offers to take Kit too, but she can’t leave, she tells him, because of Mercy.
Mercy’s fever finally breaks, but all is not well in Wethersfield. In the absence of Hannah, Kit is put on trial for being a witch. She is accused of consorting with the devil, mainly by Goodwife Cruff and her husband, who have found Kit’s hornbook (the little paddle she used to teach Prudence the alphabet) in the rubble of Hannah’s house – and their daughter Prudence’s name written on sheets of paper.
Though Uncle Matthew defends Kit, no one else in the town will help her – William Ashby doesn’t even show up to the examination. Fortunately, Nat returns from his banishment just in time to take little Prudence to trial to testify for Kit. With the young girl’s testimony (she proves that Kit was simply teaching her to read and write), Kit is set free. Nat must flee because of the banishment, but he tells Prudence to say goodbye to Kit for him.
Kit breaks off the engagement with William. (Finally!) Judith and William start to get cozy. John returns from the militia and runs into the waiting arms of Mercy. A double wedding takes place in which Judith and William marry alongside Mercy and John.
Kit concocts a plan to return to Barbados and become a governess, but before she does she realizes she’s in love with Nat. (Again: Finally!) Fortunately, Nat returns to Wethersfield, the proud owner of a ship named the Witch, and asks Kit to marry him. They plan to a future together that will include Hannah and both of their families.
- 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.
- Without the sea breeze to propel the boat, the Dolphin spends nine agonizingly slow days journeying up the river from Saybrook to Wethersfield.
- Discussing the situation with a red-haired sailor, Kit learns that this tortoise-worthy speed is typical. Frustrated, she begins to understand why Mrs. Eaton chose to stay on land.
- Kit remains at odds with the other passengers, who blame her for the lack of wind. She tries to take an interest in Prudence, the child whose doll she rescued from the water. Goodwife Cruff, though, won’t permit the acquaintance to develop into a friendship.
- Ignored by Nat and the captain, Kit’s only company on the boat is John Holbrook, the man in the black hat, though he always seems to have his nose in a book.
- Through John and Kit’s conversations we learn more about their lives.
- John is the son of a tanner who once dreamed of going to Harvard. He worked in the day and studied Latin at night, but couldn’t save enough money for tuition. He is travelling to Wethersfield now, though, to study with Reverend Bulkeley, a “very famous scholar, in medicine as well as theology” (2.18).
- Kit, we should note, is from an aristocratic household and is, to be honest, a little embarrassed by all of John’s talk about tuition money.
- Kit opens up about her past: her father was born in Barbados, married her mother in England, and then returned to Barbados. The two died on a trip to Antigua, and she was then raised by her grandfather and his slaves. Kit misses her grandfather very much.
- Kit mentions her mother’s sister, Aunt Rachel, whom she will live with in Connecticut. Kit has never met her aunt, but knows that she was very beautiful. John tells Kit not to forget that things change.
- With no wind, the sailors resort to towing the ship up the river using a smaller boat – a method known as “walking up the river” (2.29).
- During the towing, Kit sees Nat splashing around in the water, swimming. Flirtatious banter ensues. Things are going well enough until Kit calls the Dolphin filthy – which sets Nat off.
- Nat launches into a tirade about how the Dolphin may be a dirty ship, but at least it has honest cargo (that is, the ship does not carry slaves). The Dolphin, he tells her, has “a good honest stink of horses” (2.47).
- Later on, Kit astonishes John Holbrook when she grabs his book and reads a passage from it. He’s shocked that she can read so well.
- Kit also mentions having read plays by John Dryden, William Shakespeare, and Thomas Otway (old seventeenth-century playwrights). John is again shocked by all this, claiming that “the proper use of reading is to improve our sinful nature, and to fill our minds with God’s holy word” (2.60). Kit completely disagrees.
- It’s around this time that Kit realizes she and John Holbrook will probably never be very close friends.
- The next morning the wind picks up, and the ship arrives in Wethersfield. Kit gets a very unpleasant goodbye from Goodwife Cruff and a formal bow from John Holbrook.
- Captain Eaton notes that Kit’s aunt and uncle are not here to meet her. That’s when Kit must finally fess up: the Wood family doesn’t actually know that she’s coming to live with them in Connecticut.
- The captain is angry, though he says he will deliver her to her uncle’s. What’s worse, he asks Nat to carry her trunks.
- Kit is initially disappointed with the small settlement that is Wethersfield; however, once she reaches her aunt and uncle’s cabin, she’s relieved to find that the building is solid and respectable.
- Aunt Rachel, whom Kit first assumes is a servant (ouch!), answers the door. The older woman is shocked. Kit looks so much like Rachel’s sister (Kit’s mother) that Aunt Rachel calls Kit by the name of “Margaret.”
- Kit introduces herself as Margaret’s daughter. Aunt Rachel is thrilled and invites Kit inside. The seamen drop the bags and head back down the road. (Not before a little more sparring with Nat, though.)
- Rachel calls the family to meet their new guest. Kit is introduced to her stern Uncle Matthew and the family’s two daughters: Judith and Mercy. Judith is as beautiful as Aunt Rachel was reported to be in her youth; Mercy has extraordinary gray eyes, though Kit notices that she is also lame and must use crutches.
- The family offers Kit breakfast, which she accepts; Judith notices –and is astonished by – Kit’s fine clothes. Kit offers Judith a pair of her gloves, at which suggestion Judith narrows her eyes.
- Everyone sits down to breakfast and Kit catches up with Aunt Rachel. She tells her aunt about Grandfather’s passing. Aunt Rachel again mentions Kit’s resemblance to her mother. Also, the aristocratic Kit is a little shocked that they are drinking water with breakfast.
- The silent Uncle Matthew leaves to work in the south meadow, but as he exits, he stumbles upon Kit’s seven trunks from Barbados outside the door. Kit must confess to Uncle Matthew: She’s not here just for a visit; she is here to live with the family.
- Uncle Matthew asks why she didn’t write. Kit said she thought they might not let her come.
- Uncle Matthew finally gets the whole story out of Kit: there was a ship in Barbados leaving for Connecticut and Kit didn’t have time to write to the Wood family. So she rashly decided to just take the journey instead of waiting for another ship
- More details emerge: Kit’s grandfather had been in debt, so she had to sell off the estate (including her personal African slave). Once all of the debts were cleared, there was no home left, really.
- Aunt Rachel says Kit was right to come to them and Uncle Matthew grudgingly agrees. He asks if Kit’s grandfather was loyal to the King of England, and she says yes. Uncle Matthew is silent. (Not a good sign.)
- Kit’s seven trunks are brought in, about which much fuss is made. “Seven trunks! The whole town will be talking about it before nightfall” (3.77).
- Uncle Matthew returns to work and Aunt Rachel leaves to take leftover corn bread to Widow Brown. Judith thinks her mother helps other people too much, but the ever-good Mercy defends her mom, explaining that the “Scriptures tell us about caring for the poor and the widows” (4.4).
- Judith, meanwhile, has been eyeing her cousin’s trunks and asks when Kit will unpack them. Why now, of course. What better time for a dress up party?
- Though Mercy protests, Kit pulls out her gorgeous dresses and shows them off to the two plain-dressed girls. She gives Judith and Mercy each a pair of fancy gloves.
- Kit then pulls out “a bright peacock blue” dress and has Judith try it on. Judith is excited and mentions that she’d like someone named “William” to see her in the dress (4.22). Judith looks “breath-taking” – so Kit gives her the dress (4.21).
- Mercy further protests, but Kit doesn’t listen. Instead, she and Judith urge Mercy to take a beautiful blue shawl which, after a bit of convincing, Mercy accepts.
- Around this time Aunt Rachel returns. She is initially startled by the scene, but is eventually drawn into the whirlwind of dresses and fine clothes. Kit has Aunt Rachel try on a bonnet and she looks, of course, wonderful in it.
- At that moment, who should walk in the door? Uncle Matthew, of course. He commands the daughters to give Kit back her clothes.
- The girls resist at first but eventually give in. Uncle Matthew gives Kit a speech on how she must conform to the family’s ways. No vanity! He does allow, with a little sweet-talking, Mercy to keep the shawl.
- Uncle Matthew leaves, and the women (including Kit) must begin their work for the day. How can Kit work in her fancy clothes? Judith has nothing to lend her, so Kit puts on her least fancy (but still a bit fancy) calico dress.
- Kit is to help Mercy card wool. Wool carding, it turns out, is a tedious job in which tufts of wool are pulled between wire teeth and then brushed flat. It’s totally boring stuff.
- Fortunately the wool carding gives Kit some heart-to-heart time with Mercy. She asks if Mercy thinks she did the right thing by coming to America. Mercy, ever kind, says yes.
- Kit confides in Mercy and tells her another reason for her trip to America: there was a man in Barbados to whom Kit’s grandfather had owed a great deal of money. He didn’t want the money back, though; he just wanted Kit to marry him. Yuck.
- Mercy agrees that Kit can’t go back to Barbados.
- Kit spends the rest of the day working, though she ruins the corn pudding for dinner when she gets impatient and dumps all the meal in the pot at once instead of adding it gradually. Everyone is irritated.
- Night draws on and the family reads from the Bible, which Kit finds boring. (She prefers Shakespeare.)
- Getting ready for bed, Kit overhears Judith complaining about having to share a room with Kit. She also hears Aunt Rachel and Judith agree that it would have been better if their cousin was a boy – at least then he could have helped Uncle Matthew with work in the fields.
- Kit is upset by what she has overheard. As she falls asleep she hears howling in the distance. Afraid, Kit asks Judith about the sound. Judith replies that it’s only one little wolf – wait until she hears a whole pack of them!
- Sunday rolls around and it’s time for church. Kit’s overly-fancy flowered dress draws objections from Uncle Matthew and the jealous Judith, but Aunt Rachel argues that everyone in town will be sympathetic and know Kit hasn’t had time to get new, plainer clothes.
- Walking through High Street, Kit barely even registers that they are in town. No stone buildings – only a pillory and a whipping post!
- In church, the men sit on one side and the women on the other. The service is plain, though there are some in the congregation who are dressed as fashionably as Kit herself.
- A small group of boys get in trouble when one of them catches a fly and the rest fall into a laughing fit. Kit must fight back a giggle herself.
- Several hours pass and the service is finally over. Outside the Meeting House, Kit is introduced to Reverend Gersholm Bulkeley. She also sees her acquaintance from the boat, John Holbrook, who is now a student of Reverend Bulkeley’s.
- John gushes about the service and Kit, who was bored the whole time, can’t find much of a response. Judith butts into the conversation and chats up John.
- Kit is also introduced to a very fashionable woman, Mistress Ashby, and her son William. Kit flashes a pretty smile at William, and the guy is dazzled.
- On the walk back, Judith comments that John Holbrook is a handsome one. She asks Kit if she has set her “cap for him” (5.34). Kit says no. Judith also comments that Kit certainly made an impression on William Ashby.
- As they walk, Kit and Judith pass by tiny houses called Sabbath houses. Kit asks what the buildings are for, and Judith tells her they were built for families who live far away so that they can cook meals between services.
- Between services? That’s when Kit realizes that they’ll have to attend another service in the afternoon. Harrumph!
- Reverend Gershom Bulkeley and his student John Holbrook visit the Wood family for dinner. Kit and the other women spend the entire day scrubbing, cleaning, and cooking.
- Dinner is tense, as Uncle Matthew says little. Why? Dr. Bulkeley is a Royalist, someone who is fiercely loyal to the king of England. Uncle Matthew, on the other hand, has different ideas.
- Dr. Bulkeley asks Kit if her father was a king’s man, and she says yes. He insinuates that she should keep her allegiance, at which Uncle Matthew takes offense.
- The two men engage in a heated conversation about the appointment of Governor Andros by King James. Uncle Matthew boldly states that Connecticut will never recognize him as their governor.
- Dr. Bulkeley warns Uncle Matthew about the evils of revolution. Uncle Matthew responds that there are “worse things” (6.18). Uncle Matthew declares that he and the others only want to keep the rights they’ve secured in the charter.
- Mercy interrupts the debate with a request for Reverend Bulkeley to read to the family from the Bible. He asks John Holbrook to do so in his place. Kit wonders when John Holbrook became such a suck up.
- Dr. Bulkeley asks John to read from Proverbs, chapter 24, verse 21. It is, of course, a verse about staying loyal to kings. Uncle Matthew is not happy.
- In the meantime, Kit admires the beauty of the verses. John Holbrook, after all, has such a lovely voice.
- Kit also notices that during the prayer by Reverend Bulkeley, Judith has her eyes on John Holbrook. (Interesting.)
- The Reverend mentions Mercy’s affliction (that is, her lame leg) in his prayer and Kit takes offense since she doesn’t see Mercy as being handicapped at all; on the contrary, Mercy is the “pivot about whom the whole household moved” (6.30).
- The men leave and Uncle Matthew rants about Bulkeley’s behavior. He also mentions that William Ashby has asked to come and call on Kit.
- Everyone is highly surprised, especially since the family thought he would be pursing Judith for her hand in marriage. (William Ashby, it turns out, is the “William” that Judith mentioned when trying on the peacock-blue dress.)
- Uncle Matthew lets drop that William’s father is a Royalist.
- Kit, Mercy, and Judith prepare for bed and discuss the developments with William Ashby. Judith, we learn, is really not disappointed since she has her eyes set now on John Holbrook.
- As promised, William comes to call on Kit. Aunt Rachel puts a fire in the company room; however, the two young lovers find nothing to talk about. Kit is saved, fortunately, by the arrival of John Holbrook.
- Aunt Rachel calls William and Kit to join the rest of the group and everyone munches on freshly-popped popcorn.
- Uncle Matthew begins chatting with William about his father’s fields and William begins talking a little. He also mentions that he will begin building his house once autumn arrives.
- The conversation turns to property and then to the charter, a subject which Uncle Matthew has opinions about.
- William argues in favor of submission to the king. Kit finds it impressive that William stands up to Uncle Matthew.
- John Holbrook believes that the charter should be kept, but that Connecticut is perhaps misinterpreting the charter (at least, that’s what Dr. Bulkeley thinks).
- Matthew is angered by all this Royalist nonsense and rants and raves about justice, about how hard he has fought for his land, and how “the only rights worth all that toil and sacrifice are the rights of free men, free and equal under God to decide their own justice” (7.23).
- Matthew stomps off up the stairs and William and John Holbrook leave soon after.
- Alone at last, the women discuss the evening’s events. Kit doesn’t think William will call again, since the two didn’t have very stimulating conversation.
- Judith points out that he mentioned building a house – which is a sure sign he wants to marry her. Kit is perplexed.
- The weeks pass and William continues his visits. He also continues to be boring and not much of a conversationalist, so Kit takes up a hobby: knitting!
- Kit begins to seriously ponder her situation: she works like a slave in the Wood household. A life with William would be boring, but it would bring rest from all of the hardship she’s endured with the Woods. What to do?
- June arrives and Kit and Judith are sent down to work the onion field in the south meadow.
- Kit, by this time, has her own plain calico dress. Judith is in high spirits, possibly because of this fact.
- The girls pass by the Great Meadow, a stretch of grassy land that is often flooded by the river. Judith explains to Kit that no one lives there, but most landowners have a lot or garden there.
- Kit is taken with the meadow; she feels at home. Something about it reminds her of Barbados. Kit wishes to be there alone. The narrator hints that Kit will find her way back to the Great Meadow soon enough.
- Kit notices a little house and asks Judith about it. Judith informs Kit that the building is the home of Widow Tupper, the only person stubborn enough to live in the meadows.
- Hannah Tupper, Judith tells Kit, lives with only her cats by Blackbird Pond. Most people think she’s a witch, as she does not attend Meeting. What does she do when the meadows flood? No one seems to know.
- Kit sees the woman in the distance bent over a kettle and is a little creeped out herself. She does look a little like a witch.
- The girls finally make it to the onion field were Judith pulls weeds with gusto. Kit is less enthused about the task and even cries a few tears of pity for herself. “Sir Francis Tyler’s granddaughter, squatting in an onion patch?” (8.20).
- Kit thinks to herself that a marriage to William Ashby would, at least, save her from this kind of work.
- The girls return home to find that Mercy has some great news. Dr. Bulkeley has recommended that Kit help Mercy with the dame school this year.
- What is the dame school? Well, a little classroom that Mercy runs out of the Wood’s house. She teaches letters, reading, and a little writing. The children pay with money or barter items such as eggs or wool.
- Mercy mentions that it was John Holbrook who told Dr. Bulkeley that she could read (which Kit finds a little weird). Kit is to be tested for the job next week.
- Kit is very excited about her new job, especially since she’ll be earning wages. She mentions this to Mercy, adding “perhaps you will all think I am of some use, even if I’m not a boy” (8.37).
- Mercy picks up on the bitterness. Kit mentions the conversation between Judith and Aunt Rachel she overheard on her first night at the Wood’s house – the one in which they mentioned that it would have been better if their cousin were a boy.
- Mercy feels terrible, of course, but she explains the situation. Apparently Aunt Rachel gave birth to two different boys and they both died. One was stricken with fever (the same fever that crippled Mercy) and died.
- The other was born prematurely and baptized three days later in the middle of January. He passed away soon after.
- Kit suddenly realizes why Uncle Matthew is so grim and Aunt Rachel looks so worn down. Kit vows to try better to understand them.
- Kit and Mercy begin teaching school at the Wood’s house. Mercy is infinitely patient with the younger children, while Kit teaches the older children to read. Not a particularly patient person, Kit uses “ingenious tricks” and rhymes to keep the children’s attention (9.11).
- There are eleven children in all, both boys and girls from ages four to seven. William Ashby’s little brother, Jonathan Ashby, is among them.
- After lessons, Mercy allows Kit to tell the children a story, though she worries a bit that storytelling is indulgent.
- On this particular day, Kit gets the brilliant idea to tell the story of the Good Samaritan from the Bible. Then she has a brainstorm, though, and decides that it would be much more fun to have the kids act out the parts.
- Playacting in a Puritan school? Mercy is not sure about this, but Kit assures her it can’t be wrong since it’s from the Bible.
- As you can imagine, things do go horribly wrong. The boys start roughhousing and smacking each other around. Just at that time, Mr. Eleazer Kimberly, the schoolmaster, and Reverend John Woodbridge walk through the door for an inspection of the school.
- Naturally they demand to know the meaning of all this, and Kit takes the blame. The men are shocked and disappointed. They dismiss the children and tell them not to come back tomorrow.
- Kit is also dismissed and the men say they will consider whether or not Mercy should continue in the position alone. The men leave, and Kit sees tears in Mercy’s eyes.
- Upset beyond belief, Kit runs away to the Great Meadow to have herself a nice big cry. She sobs and moans and falls asleep. When she wakes, though, there is someone there.
- A woman’s voice says to Kit that she “did well, child, to come to the Meadow” (9.41). The voice belongs to the Widow Tupper, Hannah, the woman they call the witch of Blackbird Pond.
- Hannah says that the Meadow has spoken to her too and Kit feels a sense of peace and calm. The two, it looks like, are going to be friends.
- Hannah brings Kit back to her house where she gives her water to clean herself with and feeds her corncake studded with blueberries.
- Kit admires Hannah’s home which, while small and plain, is clean and peaceful. Hannah tells Kit that her husband, Thomas, built the house for her.
- Kit asks about Hannah living in the meadows. Hannah tells Kit that she and her husband came from Dorchester, Massachusetts. She mentions that she could get no land in the town because of the brand on their foreheads. (The branding is from being a Quaker – Hannah will explain this later.)
- Kit sees a piece of coral sitting in Hannah’s house and recognizes it as something from a tropical climate. Hannah tells Kit that she has a seafaring friend that brings her goodies from his voyages. A sailor boyfriend? Kit thinks it’s a possibility.
- Kit then begins talking about her own home back in Barbados and Hannah realizes that Kit is homesick. Kit tells Hannah about coming to Connecticut and the events leading up to her running away to the Great Meadow.
- Kit says she hates it here and she doesn’t belong. She doesn’t know how she’ll go back.
- Hannah takes Kit outside and shows Kit a blooming African flower. “I doubted it would grow here, but it just seemed determined to keep on trying and look what has happened” (9.77). (Metaphor alert!)
- The moral? Like the flower, Kit should go back and try again. Kit feels peaceful and as if she knows what to do. She heads straight for the door of Mr. Eleazer Kimberly.
- Kit returns home from her visit to Mr. Kimberley with good news: she’s talked him into giving Mercy – and her! – another chance. Everyone is surprised.
- Kit says she got the courage from Hannah Tupper, who must have bewitched her. Kit is joking, of course, but Aunt Rachel takes this comment very seriously.
- Aunt Rachel tells Kit that Hannah is a Quaker, and that Quakers are “queer stubborn people.” (10.16). They don’t believe in the Sacraments. (That means they don’t take communion.)
- We learn too that Quakers are seen as troublemakers and have been persecuted and even hanged in places like Boston. Aunt Rachel mentions that Hannah and her husband were branded and driven out of Massachusetts.
- Kit doesn’t really see the big deal since Hannah is such a nice person, but Aunt Rachel insists that Kit should stay away from the old woman. Kit says she can’t make any promises.
- Kit wonders if she should tell William Ashby about Hannah and decides against it. She considers John Holbrook too, though he has been brainwashed by Dr. Bulkeley.
- Speaking of John Holbrook, Kit reflects on Judith’s growing affections for him. Though nothing has been spoken – and John does nothing to single her out – it’s clear that Judith is falling more and more in love with him.
- Two weeks of work go by and Kit is very busy. One day on the walk back from the onion field, Kit decides to visit Hannah. Judith warns against it, but Kit goes anyway.
- At the house by Blackbird Pond, Hannah is spinning flax, which, Kit learns, she does to earn money. She earns enough, at least, to pay taxes and the fines she gets for not going to Meeting.
- Kit can’t believe Hannah gets fined for not going to the Puritan’s Meetings, but is intrigued by Quakerism. She asks if she can become a Quaker too and Hannah chuckles, saying that being a Quaker isn’t just about getting out of Meeting.
- With that, a dark shadow appears in the doorway. Who could it be? Why Hannah’s seafaring fried: Nathaniel Eaton.
- Nathaniel Eaton?! Yes, indeed. The young Nat is Hannah’s mysterious friend and today he’s brought her some molasses from Barbados.
- Hannah and Nat catch up with news and Hannah grows vague for a moment and mentions her dead husband as if he were still alive. Kit worries.
- Nevertheless, Hannah makes the joke that the only two friends she’s found in Wethersfield she’s found crying in the meadow.
- Hannah tells the story of finding a small eight-year-old Nat weeping in the meadow, running away because his father wouldn’t let him stay on the ship for the winter.
- Just like with Kit, Hannah had given Nat a blueberry corncake and a kitten to pet. She even walked him back to the ship.
- Hannah is excited because now all three can have supper together, but Kit realizes that the hour is late and that she must go.
- Nat walks her out and as he does, teases her in a smocking tone about not fitting in well in Wethersfield. Kit is not amused. Nat is serious for a moment, though, and asks Kit to keep an eye on Hannah.
- Kit concludes that Nat is a “contradictory person” and that she “would never know what to expect from him” (10.96).
- Back in the schoolroom, Kit is teaching the kids in the hot summer heat. Why can’t she be as patient as Mercy? (Hey guys, Mercy is patient. Got it?)
- Kit relates to us an anecdote in which she (rather tactlessly) exclaimed to Mercy that she wished that Mercy could join her on a social outing.
- Mercy explained to Kit that she has come to terms with her inability to go out. She focuses instead on what she can do. That’s a positive mental attitude, for you.
- Back in the present of the schoolroom, Kit notices something in the doorway. Flowers! Still, who could be leaving them for her? Kit investigates further and finds none other than little Prudence (the girl who dropped her doll into the ocean) outside of the schoolroom.
- Kit asks why Prudence isn’t coming to the school and Prudence tells Kit that her dad wants her to attend school, but her nasty old mother won’t let her. Goodwife Cruff says that Prudence is too stupid. (Harsh.)
- Kit asks Prudence to come in for a bit of lesson, but Prudence says no. Determined to help the girl, Kit asks if Prudence will meet her in the meadows this afternoon. Kit will even bring her a hornbook (a paddle with the alphabet written on it). Prudence says “maybe.”
- Later that day Kit finds an excuse to get in her trunks and finds a fancy little hornbook with a silver handle that she had been given back in Barbados.
- Flash forward three weeks: We’re sitting under the willow tree in the meadow as Kit teaches Prudence her letters with the hornbook. Prudence is making excellent progress.
- Kit urges Prudence to take the hornbook with her (it’s a present), but Prudence says she can’t. Solution? Leave it at Hannah’s.
- Prudence is a little afraid at first, but once they get to Hannah’s house, all fear is dispelled. There is, after all, blueberry cake and kittens!
- Speaking of kittens, there are four new ones to see, and Prudence is allowed to cradle one. Hannah promises to keep the hornbook safe.
- Hannah then traces the letter B in the sand on the floor and asks Prudence what letter it is. Prudence traces the letter back in response. Good job! Blueberry cake for Prudence.
- As Prudence and Kit walk back, Prudence asks why people call Hannah a witch. Kit replies that it’s simply because no one has taken the trouble to get to know her and people are “afraid of things they don’t understand” (11.58).
- Kit wonders if she has done the right thing by introducing Prudence to Hannah, but concludes, in the end, that Prudence needed a friend.
- Back at home, William is visiting and can talk of nothing but the house he is building. No one is really interested except Judith, who loves to talk about such material things.
- A discussion of roofs follows. Judith tries to pull John into the conversation with no luck.
- Mercy steers the conversation to reading. John has brought a poem by Anne Bradstreet to read.
- The poem, about the sun, is beautiful; as John reads it, Kit sees something that surprises her. She catches a glimpse of Mercy’s brightly glowing face – turned toward John Holbrook – and realizes that Mercy is in love with him
- Kit’s hands shake when she sees the purity of Mercy’s love: how right, yet how impossible!
- The dame school session ends and the harvest begins. What does that mean? More work! There are onions to be harvested, apples to be picked, and cider to be pressed. There are also candles to be made for the winter.
- During one such day of work (a candle-making session), Kit and the women finish their tasks early. Kit decides to use the extra time to visit Hannah.
- Aunt Rachel asks where Kit is headed and unwilling to lie, Kit tells her. Though a bit reluctant, Aunt Rachel gives Kit a piece of leftover apple tart to take to the old woman.
- Kit arrives at Hannah to find a visitor outside chopping firewood. Who? Why, Nat Eaton. Who else?
- Nat is visiting on business and is there chopping Hannah’s wood for the winter. He also plans on thatching her roof. Kit, astonishing even herself, offers to help.
- Kit gathers up the grass that Nat cuts and then the two scramble up the roof to lay the thatch. With the job done, they sit quietly. Kit feels peaceful and at home.
- Time for some real talk: Nat asks Kit if she has been homesick. She says not when she visits Hannah, but otherwise, yes, it’s been hard for her to fit in.
- Nat tells Kit a story about a fancy tropical bird that his father wouldn’t let him bring home from Barbados when he was a kid. Why? Because the New England birds would peck it and harass it.
- Catching on to the metaphor, Kit asks if he thinks she has changed her tropical feathers – and is now a crow. He jokes that perhaps they’ve made her into a sparrow.
- The talk turns to books. While Nat is not big on formal education, it turns out he loves to read. He and Kit discover their mutual love for Shakespeare’s play The Tempest. It is, after all, a story about a shipwreck on an island.
- The conversation turns to a new topic: politics. Kit asks Nat why everyone in New England seems to be disloyal to King James. Nat gets very serious and tells her that “a man is loyal to the place he loves” (12.50).
- Kit knows this would please Uncle Matthew, but isn’t sure what to think about it.
- Supper time draws near and it’s time for Kit to depart. Nat ends up walking her home (much to her embarrassment) and ends up meeting the entire Wood family on the front porch. None of them look pleased, nor does William, who is also there visiting.
- Uncle Matthew asks where Kit has been, and she tells him. Uncle Matthew is angry and calls Hannah a “heretic” (12.68). He forbids Kit to visit her again.
- Kit is bummed, but as they walk inside Mercy whispers not to worry since she likes the looks of that seaman.
- The household is all astir as tonight is the town husking bee: a big party where everyone husks corn. There’s a fiddle, “cakes and apples and cider,” and every good thing (13.3).
- Judith is excited, to say the least, since she’s hoping to get a red ear of corn in the husking. (That means you’ll be getting married. Kind of like catching a bouquet.)
- Judith and Kit go to the meadow to gather the corn with Judith in high spirits. Judith confesses to Kit that she’s going to try to push John Holbrook along in proposing.
- Kit expresses her doubts about John’s readiness (he’s poor and a student), but Judith tells Kit that she should worry more about William.
- Right. William. Kit knows she’ll accept his proposal (he has money and appreciates her), but she’s still a bit uneasy about the whole thing.
- After working in the meadow, Kit pays a short visit to Hannah. The two discuss Prudence’s reading progress.
- On Kit’s walk back home, she runs into John Holbrook. The two talk about Hannah, and John warns Kit to be careful of associating with Hannah since she’s been accused of witchcraft, and since Kit herself got some strange looks on the boat that first day when she could swim so well.
- John starts parroting Dr. Bulkeley (that means he is simply repeating what Dr. Bulkeley says – like a parrot) and Kit flies off the handle about John thinking for himself. She apologizes, though, and John forgives her.
- Their walk and chat continues and evolves into a heart-to-heart. John mentions that he’d like to talk to Mercy tonight, and Kit guesses what he means: John Holbrook loves Mercy!
- Kit is so happy she could “dance a jig” (12.54). She is sorry for Judith, but the match is otherwise perfect. She urges John to tell Mercy tonight.
- Arriving home, Kit and Judith prepare for the husking bee. John arrives and announces his intention to stay at home with Mercy for the evening.
- Judith, being as headstrong and oblivious as she is, protests. John says he wants to talk to Uncle Matthew about a matter.
- Unfortunately, Judith completely misinterprets this statement. She thinks John is saying he wants to ask Uncle Matthew for HER (Judith’s) hand in marriage. Oh boy.
- Judith drags her father into the conversation and basically announces to the room that she and John are getting married. John is dumbfounded. He doesn’t set Judith straight. He agrees to the engagement. (WHAT?!)
- Kit will be the only one who ever knew the truth about John’s feelings for Mercy. UGH.
- Kit and the newly-engaged Judith head to the husking bee with John and William. On the walk, William mentions marriage (it’s contagious), but Kit asks for more time. He gives in.
- The husking bee is a fun party for all, and Judith does end up getting the red ear of corn. She exclaims to the crowd that she doesn’t need it – and flings it straight at William.
- Autumn comes to New England and transforms the countryside with beautiful leaves. One day Kit sees Uncle Matthew out in the garden, passionately clutching some earth in his hand with defiance. Kit is thoughtful and wonders why she feared her uncle for so long.
- Judith announces that a ship has come to town and, sure enough, it’s the Dolphin. Down at the docks, Nat greets Kit formally and asks her to deliver some woolen cloth to Hannah.
- He also mentions an interesting piece of cargo the Dolphin carried: “sixteen diamond-paned windows ordered from England” for William Ashby and his Barbados bride (14.17).
- Kit is stunned and says nothing is definite, but Nat says the order is definite enough. He mockingly congratulates her, makes a joke about the little bird having found a fat partridge to gobble up, and stalks off.
- Back at home, there is a sense of urgency in the air. Uncle Matthew arrives home late and announces that Sir Edmond Andros is arriving to take over as royal governor in Connecticut.
- Uncle Matthew says there will be company tonight to discuss the situation – and the fate of the charter.
- Flash forward a month or so, and the local men are routinely meeting at the Wood’s home to discuss the political situation – and what to do about it.
- The women overhear the talking, often much of it arguing or yelling. That night William joins the men. Kit wonders what he is doing there, and Judith informs Kit that William came over to Uncle Matthew’s way of thinking a while back. (How did Kit miss that? Or did William simply not mention it to her?)
- More shouting from the men and there is debate over whether or not to submit to the new governor or resist him with force. What will happen to the charter and their free commonwealth?
- The men eventually leave and Uncle Matthew tells the family that they will spend Sabbath praying for patience. Uncle Matthew also explains the importance of rights to Aunt Rachel.
- Later that night Judith and Kit discuss the situation. Will there be violence? Kit mentions the strength of the Royal Fleet. Judith mentions that Dr. Bulkeley (the Royalist loyalist) says that the charter “was never intended to be as free as they have made it” (15.25).
- Kit wonders where John stands on all this, and Judith laughingly says that, between Uncle Matthew and Dr. Bulkeley, John is as confused as ever.
- The next day Governor Andros does indeed come to town and Judith and Kit venture down to the docks to see him. Kit thrills to see all of those red coated soldiers, but the rest of the crowd is not as delighted. There is only respectful silence.
- Later that night, after all of the family has gone to bed, there is a knock on the door. It’s none other than William Ashby who has come to tell Uncle Matthew that the charter is safe.
- William explains that, during the meeting of the governor, the lights went out and the charter was taken. The governor was not rattled, as he knew the paper would not be found.
- He also mentions that Gersholm Bulkeley had been appointed a Justice of the Peace in reward for his loyalty. Uncle Matthew thanks him for coming.
- Uncle Matthew tells the women who were listening on the staircase that they can go back to bed now. All is well.
- Going to bed, Kit makes a joke about the charter being snatched by spirits (it’s All Hallows Eve, after all), but Judith responds that New England doesn’t celebrate that holiday. Plus, she adds, William knows where the charter is.
- Kit feels snubbed, though she does feel proud of her uncle for how he handled the situation.
- Thanksgiving rolls around, but the holiday is cancelled by the new governor. No celebrations unless he declares them!
- Everyone is disappointed (Mercy already baked pies!), but Uncle Matthew reminds them that it is better this way since the young people have been up to no good anyhow.
- Uncle Matthew informs everyone that some rowdy rivermen illuminated William Ashby’s house with jack-o-lanterns last night. Rivermen, you say? Kit (who has to stifle a giggle) has a good idea who might have done it.
- On Lecture Day, the culprits are to be put in the stocks. Kit can’t bear the idea of seeing Nat in the stocks with the Wood family. She sneaks out of the house early to go to the stocks alone.
- When she arrives she sees just what she expected: three men from the Dolphin in the stocks, and one of them is Nat. A group of young boys are taunting the men. One kid throws an apple at Nat’s head.
- Kit tries to talk to Nat, but he tells her to leave the stocks. He’s comfortable enough and he doesn’t need her pity. In fact, he quite enjoyed the look on William Ashby’s face when they pranked him.
- Kit decides that Nat is impossible and heads to the Meeting House. When she gets there, though, she sees a post that says that the men have been banned from Wethersfield.
- Kit’s courage fails; unable to hear the sentence against the men read aloud, she returns home. Unable to tell Mercy about Nat, she decides to go to Hannah’s instead.
- At Hannah’s house, the old woman tells Kit not to worry – even Hannah herself has been in the stocks.
- The subject turns to William Ashby. Why hadn’t she mentioned him to Hannah before? Hannah asks Kit if she plans to marry him – and if she loves him.
- Kit says she doesn’t know – but it’s certainly a way to escape her uncle’s house. Hannah tells Kit that she won’t be escaping anything if she marries without love.
- Prudence shows up to inform Hannah of the news about Nat. Wait, Prudence knows Nat too? Of, course. The two read together sometimes. This makes Kit feel strange – and a little jealous.
- Annoyed at herself for her feelings, Kit finally delivers to Hannah the present of woolen cloth from Nat. She offers to make Hannah a dress out of it – and Prudence can help!
- Kit wishes to make something for Prudence too, but knows that she would never be allowed to do that. She thinks about the transformation these lessons have made in Prudence.
- Seeing Nat punished, though, has made her think about the risks they all are taking by secretly teaching Prudence. She mentions this to Hannah. Hannah says that Kit should look for an answer. Prudence protests that she always wants to come to her lessons.
- To change the subject, Kit whips out a small copybook, bottle of ink, and pen that she has brought to teach Prudence to write.
- Kit writes Prudence’s name on a sheet of paper and asks the girl to copy it, which she does several times.
- Kit feels peaceful, much like she did on the day she thatched the roof with Nat. Oh, Nat. If only he was here – wait, what?! Kit shakes herself out of her “ridiculous daydream” (16.78).
- The evening comes and Kit and Prudence must leave. The narrator hints that this is the last afternoon the three will spend together in Hannah’s cottage (16.84).
- Back at home, Aunt Rachel fusses at Kit for missing the Lecture.
- Then a bombshell: John Holbrook has gone and joined the militia to fight the Indian attacks in Massachusetts.
- Aunt Rachel explains it was John’s way of “breaking” with Dr. Bulkeley (16.93). (And perhaps Judith?)
- Judith is crying and inconsolable, but Mercy seems to understand, saying that sometimes a man “has to proves something to himself” (16.100).
- 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!
- Back home in dry clothes with hot food in her stomach, Kit feels relief. She also decides she must thank Uncle Matthew for defending her in front of the mob last night, which she does.
- Uncle Matthew also says some very nice things to Kit about how helpful she has been during the illnesses and his “own daughter couldn’t have done more” (18.6).
- Kit decides she’ll tell Uncle Matthew about her friendship with Hannah some day…but definitely not now.
- A little later there is yet another knock at the door. It’s another group of angry people, though more calm this time. It’s a deacon from the church, a constable, and none other than Goodwife Cruff.
- Turns out, the angry mob found a silver hornbook in the ashes of Hannah Tupper’s house. It has Kit’s initial on it.
- Kit is asked to explain and she admits that she is friends with Hannah and that she helped her out from time to time.
- Uncle Matthew is pretty upset since he had specifically forbid this kind of thing. He wonders why the constable is here, though; can they charge Kit with mere disobedience? Nope, turns out they’re charging her with witchcraft!
- Witchcraft?! Goodwife Cruff claims that Kit put a spell on all the town’s children.
- Much to the protest of the Wood family, Kit is to be taken to a shed and held there until she can be examined and stand trial. We’re told that this kind of thing has happened before, to women like Goody Harrison and “that Johnson woman” (18.60).
- Kit is taken away and put in a shed with a dirt floor and no window. The constable comes in later in the afternoon to give her some supper and a not-too-clean quilt. (He’s trying to be kind, at least.)
- Kit asks what happened to Goody Harrison and the other woman when they were tried. The constable says that Goody Harrison was banished and Goody Johnson was hanged. He says Kit will probably just be branded or have an ear cut off.
- Kit is upset and can barely eat. Who can help her? John Holbrook? Nat Eaton? They’re both gone. William! Surely he can help. The thought gives her strength.
- The person who comes to see her, though, is Aunt Rachel, who sneaks out of the Wood house to check on her niece. She tells Kit they’ll think of something to help her.
- Kit is sustained by her Aunt’s visit. She thinks, though, about Prudence, and what will happen to the young girl if they find out that she was also friends with Hannah.
- Kit deeply regrets pulling Prudence into this whole mess. She beats herself up for trying to teach the child to read.
- She does think, though, with longing of that last afternoon in the cabin and how lovely and peaceful it had been.
- She eventually slips off to a nightmare-filled sleep.
- The sun comes up and the constable’s wife visits the shed. She has at least a little pity for Kit’s situation, saying that “’tis no place for a female, witch or no” (19.2). She brings mush and helps Kit get cleaned up for the trip to the Town House where she will be examined.
- A little later Kit is walked to the Town House by the constable and a few other men where she finds a room full of people a table where the magistrate (Captain Samuel Talcott) is seated with a group of men, including Uncle Matthew. Also present are Reverend John Woodbridge and Gersholm Bulkeley.
- Captain Talcott calls the room to order and reads the charges against Kit: she is accused of consorting with Satan and for this she must die. Specifically, she has befriended a witch (Hannah Tupper) and brought illness to the children of the town.
- Having read the formal charges, Captain Talcott addresses Kit with a series of questions. Does she know Hannah? Yes. Does she know Hannah’s cat? Yes. Has she cast enchantments? Um, no.
- A list of various spells and enchantments that she has cast on the townspeople are then are brought up. There is the spell she cast on Goodman Whittlesley’s cattle, the evil eye she gave a woman that ruined her sewing, and an accusation that she had danced around a bonfire with Hannah and “a great black man,” presumably the devil himself (19.31).
- As the increasingly ludicrous (ridiculous) evidence mounts, Uncle Matthew objects. He vouches for Kit’s character, though admits that she has been disobedient. He blames this on her education. He swears, though, that she is no witch.
- Dr. Bulkeley is consulted, and he says that the “legality” of the accusations is pretty questionable (19.44).
- At this point Goodman Cruff, prodded by his wife, produces a piece of evidence that actually bears some weight. He presents the little copybook that Prudence copied her name in repeatedly at Hannah’s house.
- The magistrate is taken aback. He asks Kit about the book and she says that she is the one who copied the name over and over, so as not to get Prudence in trouble. He asks her why, but she refuses to tell him. Again, she is protecting Prudence.
- Kit’s refusal to answer sends the room into a frenzy. Some yell that she should be put to the water test. Captain Talcott calls for order and says that the case will be sent to Hartford before the General session.
- Just then, a surprise witness enters the courtroom. Who could it be? It’s Nat! Kit feels a wave of relief. And who is walking in with him? Little Prudence! The relief is gone. Kit cries out that she (Kit) is guilty, and to leave the child alone. Kit is shushed by the magistrate who wishes to hear what Prudence has to say.
- With Captain Talcott questioning her, Prudence tells the magistrate that Kit is her teacher and taught her to write at Hannah Tupper’s house in the Meadow. Prudence copied her own name in the book over and over.
- Goodwife Cruff exclaims that the child must be bewitched, but Prudence proves herself by copying her name for the magistrate. Goodman Cruff watches on in awe.
- Goodwife Cruff again questions that Prudence can even read – and if she can it’s probably spells. When asked what she can read, Prudence says the Bible. She then reads a few passages selected by Bulkeley.
- Goodwife Cruff insists that it’s some kind of trick, but Goodman Cruff finally stands up for his daughter. He’s happy she can read and tells his wife to hold her tongue.
- Goodman Cruff withdraws the charges against Kit. Still angry, Goodwife Cruff sets her eyes on Nat and says that he should be whipped since he was banned from the town already. The magistrate considers remitting the sentence, but Nat has already slipped out the door.
- Prudence tells Kit that Nat had a little pinnace (boat) hidden on the riverbank – and that he told Prudence to say goodbye to Kit if he had to make a quick exit.
- Kit tells Prudence how grateful she is. Goodman Cruff tells Kit that he’ll send Prudence to her school next year. The magistrate offers to press charges of slander against Goodwife Cruff in Kit’s name, but Matthew Wood, wishing to put an end to the ordeal, declines the offer.
- As the first snowfall hits Wethersfield, Mercy is finally able to get out of bed. Judith, Mercy, Rachel, and Kit get her all bundled up and take Mercy to sit by the front window to see the first flakes coming down. Mercy loves the snow’s beauty, though Judith doesn’t quite understand why. (Typical.)
- This is Kit’s first snow as well, and though she’s not sure about it at first, she is blown away by the beautiful snowy landscape that greets her the next morning.
- William comes by that evening and Kit is distant. He happens to mention that there’s been no word from John Holbrook’s militia since they stopped at Hadley. “There’s been new Indian raids up Deerfield way” (20.14). Judith and Mercy both betray some emotion and Aunt Rachel fusses at William for spreading gossip.
- Aunt Rachel suggests that Kit and William lay a fire in the family room, but Kit declines. As she walks William to the door, the two finally have a heart to heart talk.
- William expects Kit not to associate with people like Hannah and Prudence anymore, especially given his status in the town. This is not something Kit can accept. The two agree that they would simply make each other uneasy in marriage, always hoping for the other one to change. They mutually agree to part ways.
- A new event is on the horizon: Thankful Peabody’s wedding. There are lots of delicious foods and cake, though all Kit can think about is the last wedding she attended in Barbados.
- As the bride and groom depart, two Wethersfield men enter the room, having just returned from the militia. They have some disturbing news: some of the Wethersfield men had been ambushed and taken captive by Indians. Among them? John Holbrook.
- Judith nearly faints, but is caught by William and taken home by him in his sleigh. Judith spends the following weeks lifeless and pale. Kit pities both her and Mercy, who must hide her feelings. She wonders whether she should tell Mercy about John’s feelings, but decides not to for now.
- Christmas passes with no celebration, as the Puritans don’t celebrate Christmas. Bah humbug.
- As January and February pass, the winter is long and hard. Kit wonders how Hannah endured winters like these all alone. Often her thoughts turn to Nat. If she had gone with him on the Dolphin she could be in Barbados by now!
- One night she has a dream that she is standing with Nat at the bow of the Dolphin. She wakes up crying, wanting to go home to Barbados. She knows what she must do – return to the tropics.
- As the days pass, Kit clings to the idea of returning home. She reminisces with Mercy about a cave her grandfather took her to see once.
- In the meantime, it becomes clear that William and Judith are very well matched – and will be together in marriage soon.
- By March another blizzard comes. That afternoon a haggard figure knocks at the door and stumbles across the threshold. Who could it be? It’s John Holbrook! He’s returned!
- John staggers through the door – and falls at Mercy’ feet, his head in her lap.
- By April a double wedding is in the works: John Holbrook and Mercy are to be wed, as are Judith and William Ashby.
- John has begun his studies again with Dr. Bulkeley, though this time he is his own man with his own politics. In June, he and Mercy will be moving so John can accept a job at a smaller parish close to Wethersfield.
- Williams’ house is nearly finished by this time and Judith has begun selecting furniture and furnishings. The two spend their evenings in “happy planning” (21.5).
- Kit has begun her own preparations as well, though she doesn’t tell the Wood family. She is going to sell all of her fancy dresses in order to sail back to Barbados.
- In Barbados, Kit plans on working for her living, most likely as a governess for the children of a wealthy family.
- Walking alone one day, she passes the flooded meadows, and is happy that Hannah is safe and sound. She sits on a rock and enjoys the New England springtime.
- Suddenly Kit realizes she doesn’t WANT to leave New England. Wait. What’s wrong with her? Why not?
- Kit realizes now the true meaning of her dream: it doesn’t matter if she goes to Barbados or not, it’s who she’s with that matters. Kit knows she can be happy wherever she is – as long as Nat is with her. Still, is it too late?
- Kit must wait for her ship to come in, so to speak – and on May 2nd it finally does. Kit sees a new boat on the wharf and a seaman in a blue coat. She recognizes him immediately – it’s Nat!
- The two greet each other and it’s all lovey-dovey from there. Hannah is doing well, it turns out. Also, Nat has bought himself a boat and it’s almost paid for. What has he named it? The Witch. It’s not after Hannah, either. It’s after Kit.
- Kit asks to go on board and see the ship, but Nat says he has something to ask her uncle first. (It’s if he can marry her, duh.)
- The two talk about future plans – maybe a house in Saybrook or Wethersfield one day. And a garden with Hannah!
- Kit insists being taken aboard the ship once again, but Nat refuses again. He says when he takes her on board for the first time, he wants it to be “for keeps” (21.48).