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Alias Grace

Margaret Atwood
  • Study Guide
Summary

Part VIII, continued

Summary Part VIII, continued

Summary: Part VIII, continued

After two weeks of Grace’s employment at Mr. Kinnear’s, Jeremiah the peddler came to sell his wares. Grace invited him into the kitchen for a refreshment, and Jeremiah informed her that neighbors were gossiping about Mr. Kinnear’s unusual relationship with his female servants. Jeremiah expressed concern for Grace’s safety, saying that “the future lies hid in the present, for those that can read it.” Then he urged her to run away with him. She asked Jeremiah if they would get married, and he said no, so she rejected his offer. Just then, McDermott came in and inquired gruffly who Jeremiah was. Jeremiah calmed McDermott by convincing him to purchase four shirts—the very same shirts, Grace explains to Dr. Jordan, that would later cause confusion during the murder trials.

Some days later, a doctor came to examine Mr. Kinnear. After the examination Mr. Kinnear came down to ask Nancy to bring him coffee. Grace explained that Nancy had fallen ill, and since she was bedridden Grace would bring the coffee herself. Crossing the courtyard to the kitchen where she would prepare Mr. Kinnear’s coffee, Grace ran into Nancy, who had intercepted the doctor on his way out, and now appeared dejected. Nancy felt upset that Mr. Kinnear asked Grace to bring him coffee, and insisted on doing it herself. Later that same day Nancy lashed out at Grace in a way that made Grace realize Nancy must be pregnant.

In the evening, after dining together, Mr. Kinnear and Nancy retreated to the parlor. Nancy read aloud from “The Lady of the Lake,” a poem by Sir Walter Scott that Grace had once read with Mary. Grace moved into the passageway outside the parlor to listen, leaving her candle behind so she’d remain concealed. Nancy and Mr. Kinnear had a flirtatious disagreement about a madwoman in the poem who gets shot by mistake. Mr. Kinnear asserted that Scott had included the violent incident only for the sake of his female readers “because the ladies must have blood.”

Afterward, their conversation grew quiet. Grace suspected that Nancy might tell Mr. Kinnear about her pregnancy, but instead she complained about McDermott’s insolence. She also expressed concern that Grace had become quarrelsome and was walking around talking to herself like a madwoman. Mr. Kinnear dismissed her frustrations and, much to Nancy’s annoyance, complimented Grace on her “refined air” and her “pure Grecian profile.” Soon after, Mr. Kinnear and Nancy retired to his bedroom, and Grace could hear Nancy emit short screams of delight.

That night a violent thunderstorm rolled through. In the midst of the storm, Grace dreamt that she got out of bed and crept out into the courtyard. Suddenly, two arms embraced her from behind, and she felt a man’s mouth kissing her neck. The scent of the man made her think at first of Jeremiah, then of McDermott, and then of Mr. Kinnear. But she realized that the figure behind her was none of these men.

Just as she felt an urge to yield to the unknown man, she heard a horse neighing. The neighing did not come from Mr. Kinnear’s horse but from the unearthly pale horse that Death will allegedly ride on the Day of Reckoning. Grace then realized that the man behind her was Death, and although the recognition struck her with horror, it also filled her with longing.