Friday, May 11, 2012

Chapter 16: Boys will be boys

At the close of the previous chapter, Kit noted that it was All Hallows' Eve. Judith mocked her joke about the spirits stealing the charter, but that line was more than just an indication of where we are the calendar.

The next morning, Matthew reports that there are three sailors facing punishment for something that Puritans, with their utter disdain for saints' days, have no intention of connecting to Halloween. "'What did they do, Father?' inquired Judith coolly. Across the table her eyes met Kit's deliberately."

(By the way, have you noticed that Judith is turning out to be the smart one? She may not have much in the way of getting-along-with-people skills, but she's a maitresse of understanding how people think.)

Matthew's answer: "I am sorry to tell you, Katherine, that your friend William Ashby seems to have been the only one singled out for their insulting prank." He doesn't know what a jack-o'-lantern is, but his daughter does. And Kit's not so bad herself when it comes to figuring out what happened.
"Kit had no doubt at all who at least one of the culprits in the stocks would be, and neither, but the smug set of her pretty lips, did Judith."
So she cuts meeting to go to the stocks ("Her presence had spoiled the sport.") and confirm that Nat is there, along with two of his shipmates.

Nat doesn't want her sympathy: "You can stop trying to be a lady of mercy. 'Twas well worth it. I'd gladly sit here another five hours for a sigh of Sir William's face that evening."

She flounces off, but not before reading the proclamation of their punishment. Besides the stocks, all three sailors are subject to exile from Wethersfield, on the pain of flogging. "Kit's courage failed her altogether. She simply could not go into that Meeting House. She could not bear to sit there and hear that sentence read aloud."

Next stop: Hannah's. Hannah's a little less worried than Kit is ("The stocks aren't so dreadful. I've been in them myself."), plus she's game for offering other advice, too. On the matter of William, of course.
"'How can I tell, Hannah? He is good, and he's fond of me. Besides,' Kit's voice was pleading, 'if I don't marry him, how shall I ever escape from my uncle's house?'"
Pithy response:
"But remember, thee has never escaped at all if love is not there."
Enough about the boys. Kit decides Hannah needs some new clothes, and she and Prudence are going to supply them. "The idea of cutting and sewing a dress by itself was both novel and exciting."

But she's worried about Prudence. All these visits and lessons and such are taking place without the Cruffs' knowledge (or, obviously, permission). "Always before she had been able to shake off her doubts. But today she had had too sharp a lesson in the retribution of this Puritan Colony."

There are other shadows on the horizon. Native Americans again appear offstage as a plot device; some of the men of Wethersfield are off to "aid some of the towns north of Hadley in Massachusetts against the Indian attacks." The purpose of these unnamed "Indians" is, in this case, to provide an opportunity for John Holbrook to set off on a quest.

Yes, I love Speare's books, but I'm not giving her a pass on these bits.

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