William was notably absent during Kit's trial, but now that everyone's healthy he's returned to the house. Kit does not respond with joy.
"Kit would not have risen from her place at all, but Rachel, with a meaningful nudge, handed her a candle, and she had perforce to see her suitor to the door."This gives them a moment for a quick tete-a-tete, in which William makes his opinion of the whole witch business clear:
"You'll find, when you come back, I promise you, Kit, that everyone is willing to let bygones be bygones, and that you can make a fresh start.... We're judged by the company we keep. And in our position people look to us for an example of what is right and proper."It takes Speare two brief lines of dialogue to sum up everything that's wrong with their relationship:
"'It would make a man uneasy never knowing what his wife would do next.'And Kit has one of those realizing-what-she's-known-all-along moments:
''Twould make a wife uneasy never knowing whether she could depend on her husband.'"
"A month ago Kit's temper would have flared. But all at once she realized that William could not really anger her. She had had a long time to think, that night on the riverbank, and the longer night in the constable's shed. She had never consciously made any decision, but suddenly there it was waiting and unmistakable."Thus ends that relationship.
At the same time, Judith has pretty well given up on John Holbrook, based on the reports from returning militia members, but it's clear that she hasn't given up on finding a husband.
"'Seven different kinds of cake,' Judith counted surreptitiously. 'I'll never be able to have anything half so grand at my wedding.'"And evidently William hasn't given up either.
"Kit and Rachel sprang forward, but it was William who reached her first, and carried her to the settle by the fire, and it was William who later tucked her carefully into his sleigh and drove her home."But while that's going on, Speare turns to phrasing that gives us a pretty good idea of how this island girl is enjoying her first-ever winter:
"There was no holiday in this Puritan town, no feasting, no gifts."Which leads to Kit realizing that it's time for her to go. Not that she knows what she's going to do next: "The house was sold, and she was here in New England, and perhaps Nat had never really meant his offer at all."
"January dragged by, and February."
"Every night she shrank from the moment when she and Judith must make the dread ascent to the upstairs chamber with only the meager comfort of a warming pan."
But she knows it's what needs to happen, especially as she no longer has any marital prospects. "She will be sorry, I think, but truly, won't they, all of them, be a little relieved?"
For a moment it seems that no one has any marital prospects ("Though no on ever so much as hinted at it, the grim truth was that where a short time ago two girls had been well provided for, there was no every likelihood of three spinsters in the Wood household."), but then she remembers William: "It needed only time now to bring about the match which Kit and John Holbrook had interrupted."
And then, long after everyone had given up on him, John Holbrook returns. And this time there's no question about which sister he wants.
"The man did not even hear her. His eyes had gone straight to Mercy where she sat by the hearth, and her own eyes stared back, enormous in her white face. Then with a hoarse, wordless sigh, John Holbrook stumbled across the room, and went down on his knees with his head in Mercy's lap."