Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Chapter 10: Guess Who's Back

Hannah, it turns out, is a Quaker. Which is just a bit outside the norm for Puritan New England. ("The Quakers are queer stubborn people.") "Just a bit" translates into "Hannah and her husband were branded and exiled from Massachusetts." There was just a wee bit of prejudice against the egalitarian sects in those days.

(This gives me a chance to plug an excellent-but-overlooked book, Ann Turnbull's No Shame, No Fear. Does not stint on the details of the early days of the Society of Friends.)

This is a detail Kit decides not to share with William, who's still showing up at the house and courting-without-actually-saying-so. In fact, she doesn't tell him about Hannah at all, because Miss Unobservant has started to notice the signs that reveal when she's scandalizing him:
"She could never be sure what thoughts were hidden behind that impassive face, but she had learned to recognize the sudden stiffening of his jaw muscles that meant she had said something shocking."
John Holbrook is also continuing to show up at the house, and is also not showing any actual interest in Judith, though everyone assumes he's after her. Unfortunately -- as far as Kit and Matthew are concerned -- he's also started subverting his own opinions to those of his teacher -- and we know Gershom Bulkeley is unpopular in the Wood house.

And while all the not-quite-romantic-intrigue is going on, Kit continues to visit Hannah. If it were up to her, she would probably just move in there, since it's the only place in Wethersfield she actually likes.

Oh, and remember the "seafaring friend" introduced in the last chapter? He makes an appearance here, only he's not the withered old man Kit imagined:
"There, unbelievably, was Nathaniel Eaton, the captain's son, leaning easily against the doorpost, with that well-remembered mocking smile in his blue eyes."
Here's what we learn about Nat in this chapter:
  • He's good with the elderly, particularly when they have occasional memory issues: "He seemed not to have noticed anything amiss, but very casually he reached out his hand and covered Hannah's worn fingers with his own."
  • He has blue eyes. Very blue: "She had forgotten the intense blue of his eyes, like the sea itself."
  • He has a softer side. Or at least he did when he was eight: "'Tis a strange thing, that the only friends I have I found in the same way, lying flat in the meadows, crying as though their hearts would break."
  • He can irk Kit without even trying: "She might have told him, but looking up she caught a hint of 'I told you so' in those blue eyes that silenced her."
  • He has layers. Like an onion: "What a contradictory person he was, she thought, hurrying along South Road. Always putting her at a disadvantage somehow, and yet, now and then, surprising her, letting her peek through a door that always seemed to slam shut again before she could actually see inside."
Odds we're going to be seeing more of Mr. Eaton? Pretty good, I'd say.

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