Summary: Chapter Five
On Kit’s first Sunday in the Wood household, she learns that church attendance is mandatory. Only Mercy’s infirmity exempts her from the Puritan Meeting in town. Kit’s choice of a colorful, stylish dress and feathered hat makes a vivid contrast with Rachel’s and Judith’s plain garb and offends Matthew’s sense of propriety. Rachel reasons with him that Kit doesn’t have options and expresses her approval of Kit’s appearance. Judith feels competitive over the attention Kit will receive in the congregation.
Kit finds that the so-called town is just a clearing with one plain building. Her boredom and discomfort enduring the two-hour service on a hard bench are relieved only by observing the congregation, especially the antics of the small boys. Afterward, Kit meets the minister, Reverend Gershom Bulkeley, John Holbrook’s mentor, who emphasizes the Woods’ charity in taking her in. Kit sees Goodwife Cruff and greets Prudence with a wave. Judith meets John and homes in on him as a potential love interest. Rachel invites the Reverend Bulkeley and John to dinner and introduces Kit to William, the son of the wealthy Ashbys, who falls in love with Kit’s elegant appearance and brilliant smile.
Summary: Chapter Six
For four days, the Woods exhaust themselves as they prepare the dinner for Reverend Bulkeley and John, leaving only Judith with the energy to cultivate John’s attentions. Reverend Bulkeley confers with Kit about her grandfather, Sir Francis Tyler, who was knighted by King Charles. The subject of loyalty to the King of England among the colonists touches off an argument between Reverend Bulkeley and Matthew. Matthew believes the charter granted to the settlers for a free government by King Charles is in jeopardy under his successor, King James. Reverend Bulkeley reprimands Matthew for his opposition to takeover by the new Governor Andros, who was appointed by the king.
Mercy breaks the tension by suggesting a scripture reading, and Reverend Bulkeley defers to John, who gives a moving reading. Kit reflects on Mercy’s pivotal role in the household as a catalyst for peace and harmony. After their guests leave, Matthew decrees Reverend Bulkeley no longer welcome under his roof. As an afterthought, he mentions that he has given William Ashby permission to court Kit, creating discord with Judith, who had considered him as a potential husband. Judith declares she has now set her sights on marrying John.
Summary: Chapter Seven
During the month of May, William begins his awkward courtship visits with Kit, during which they barely manage polite conversation. One evening, however, turns into a festive gathering when John arrives. Drawn out by Rachel and Matthew, William discloses that he has begun planning his own home, an undertaking that he had put off until he had chosen a wife.
The conversation turns to political maneuvering in their county to put all the land in private ownership so that the king’s governor could not lay claim to any for England. William expresses concern that this move will anger the king and endorses a conciliatory approach involving concessions. Matthew furiously opposes this pragmatic mindset as ultimately undermining the precious charter given by King Charles for self-government. When John expresses doubts about the extent of the rights granted by the charter, Matthew retires in a huff, disappointed in the two men’s reluctance to defend their freedoms. Rachel, Judith, and Mercy all counsel Kit to interpret William’s house building as a sign of his intention to ask Kit to marry him. In the ensuing weeks of William’s courtship, the constant grind of household tasks motivates Kit to consider the benefits of marriage into wealth.
Analysis: Chapters Five–Seven
Religion and religious hypocrisy come to the forefront as central themes in these chapters as Kit encounters gossip and whispers during her first Puritan Meeting. The attention her outfit attracts also inspires jealousy in Judith, a sinful emotion according to Puritan Christians. However, Judith’s jealousy is not unfounded as it foreshadows the moment when William Ashby sets his sights on courting Kit for marriage. William’s hypocrisy is evident as he chooses Kit purely because of her upper-class appearance. Judith’s romantic interests are also superficial in nature, as she first hopes to marry William for his wealth, and later to marry John because of his future position as a clergyman. The Reverend Bulkeley’s sweet tooth provides another example of religious hypocrisy. In contrast, the Wood family foregoes sugar to provide him with a sweet enough apple tart during his dinner visit later that week. Mercy is perhaps the one character who most embodies the true Puritan spirit of kindness, compassion, and strength. Ironically, during prayer the reverend refers to Mercy as weak due to her physical ailments, showing that though his religion values strength of character, he can only see the superficial aspects of who Mercy is.
The reverend’s visit also reveals a central conflict in the novel between Royalists who support the King of England and those who support Connecticut’s right to govern itself. In a heated moment, Reverend Bulkeley warns Matthew that his agitations toward freedom will cause bloodshed for future generations, foreshadowing the historical events and sentiments that lead to the American Revolution one hundred years later. When William and John call on the young women later in the week, Matthew baits them into conversation about their political leanings, heightening the tension in the scene since both young men retain Royalist opinions. The formerly independent-minded John has changed his opinions to match those of his mentor, Reverend Bulkeley. Kit’s own evolving opinion on this central conflict is revealed in her observations about these political arguments. While she finds John’s opinions disingenuous, she is impressed by William’s ability to stand up for his beliefs. Ironically, though Kit herself was raised as a Royalist, her admiration for independent thinking and behavior are much more in line with Uncle Matthew’s freedom focused values.