Sunday, May 6, 2012

Chapter 11: Relationships are complicated

We have reached midsummer, and the dame school continues. Kit's trying very hard to toe the line after her run-in with the superintendent, which means she's constantly measuring herself against Mercy and falling short: "When her own voice rose in exasperation she was ashamed, remembering Mercy's unfailing patience."

And we're reintroduced to a character from the opening pages. Prudence Cruff hasn't had any screen time since they all arrived in Wethersfield, but it turns out she's the one who's been leaving little presents for Kit:
"The child came slowly from behind the tree. She was thinner than ever, clad in a shapeless sacklike affair tied about her middle. Her eyes, much too big for her pinched little face, gazed at Kit with longing. She reminded Kit of a young fawn that had wandered near the house one morning. It had drawn nearer just like this, quivering with eagerness at the food Mercy set out, yet tensed to spring at the slightest warning."
Prudence's parents won't send her to the dame school, but she wants to learn. Clearly, Prudence is Special. She's a quick study, and she's able to overcome her prejudices just as fast, like when Kit introduces her to Hannah.
"She had been wanting an excuse to take Prudence to Hannah. She had a feeling that the child needed that comforting refuge even more than she did herself."
Also, as if we needed a reminder of one of the key aspects of Kit's personality:
"As always, she had acted on impulse, never stopping to weigh the consequences. Now, too late, she began to wonder."
Moving on, the courtship of William Ashby continues apace. Kit is still a reluctant participant at best, and further exposure to William is not turning her into a fan.
"Every evening he must report exactly which trees had been cut, which boards fashioned. Today, he reported, as the family moved inside to escape the twilight mist that rose from the river, he had overseen the carpenter who was splitting the white oak for the clapboards."
Foreshadowing alert: Judith is totally into the whole house-planning thing.
"She had a flair for line and form and a definite mind of her own, and it was plain, to Kit at least, that as William planned his house Judith was comparing it, timber for timber, with the house she dreamed for herself."
While Kit is trying to avoid thinking about William -- and while she's being utterly transported by the Anne Bradstreet poems John chooses for their evening entertainment -- she discovers that the romantic polygon that is young Wethersfield has another side to it:
"Mercy and John Holbrook! How right - how incredibly, utterly right - and how impossible!"
Except, of course, Judith thinks John is totally hers. And Kit knows Mercy doesn't want to get in the way of that. But at least she's looking outside herself, taking in interest in the rest of the family. And wondering (with a further foreshadowing alert): "What must it be like to care for someone like that?"

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