Summary: Chapter Twelve

In mid-August, dame school ends and the harvest of the family crops begins, consuming everyone’s time and energies. Kit visits Hannah and finds Nat there performing upkeep on her house. Kit helps Nat repair the roof, and afterward they talk frankly about the hardships of Kit’s stay in Wethersfield, their mutual enjoyment of Shakespeare, and Nat’s political philosophy that a man has a right to live and work free of government interference. Nat falls into step with Kit as she makes her way home and, to Kit’s dismay, accompanies her to her door, where William stands waiting and the family demands an explanation for her absence. Kit tells them the truth, introducing Nat and recounting how they repaired Hannah’s roof. At this time, William and Nat size each other up as rivals. Matthew reprimands Kit for showing charity to a heretic Quaker and forbids her to ever visit Hannah again. Mercy reassures Kit that Hannah is in good hands with Nat.

Summary: Chapter Thirteen

In September, Judith and Kit walk to the corn field to harvest the last of the crop. Judith tells Kit she has decided to push John into a marriage proposal. Judith returns home ahead of Kit, who stops to check on Hannah. Afterward, Kit encounters John, and as they walk together, John confesses his love for Mercy and his intention to ask her to marry him. That evening is the annual husking bee party for all the young people. Judith expects John to accompany her, but he says he wants to stay behind to talk with her father, Matthew. 

Judith jumps to the conclusion that he plans to ask to marry her, and she appeals to Matthew to give his blessing right then and there. When John asks Matthew for permission to marry his daughter, he fails to mention it is Mercy he wishes to marry, not Judith. Matthew gives his blessing thinking John meant Judith, and John doesn’t correct the misunderstanding. Later, William asks Kit to marry him, but she puts off the decision. At the husking party, Judith gets the red ear of corn and tosses it to William, who confidently acts on the tradition to get a kiss from his intended, Kit.

Analysis: Chapters Twelve–Thirteen

Nat and Kit’s blossoming romance underscores the theme of friendship as a place of growth and exploration as they spend an unexpected day together at Hannah’s cottage. Kit’s offer to help Nat thatch Hannah’s roof shows a pivotal point in her character’s growth as the work inspires contentment in her instead of the resentment she would have felt earlier in the novel. This change is also noticed by Nat, who chooses to share this observation with Kit through a metaphorical story about how he once hoped to bring a tropical bird home to Connecticut as a pet, but the bird was not meant to live in such a cold, unwelcoming place. His revelation that he thought of the bird when he first left Kit in Wethersfield shows that he recognizes Kit’s resiliency and reveals concern over her wellbeing. Kit also reveals her secret lessons with Prudence to Nat—something she has told no one else—which highlights the importance of trust and shared values as a basis for friendship.

The mismatched love pairs of Kit and William and Judith and John increase the dramatic irony in this section. The end of Chapter Twelve creates a sense of suspense over what will happen now that Nat is aware of William and Kit’s courtship. The benefits of marrying William for his money contrast with Kit’s feelings of doubt, indicating that she is not being true to herself. Judith’s determination to marry John blinds her to his disinterest and to Mercy’s love for him. Although John and Kit’s conversation about his love for Mercy shows the characters feeling gleeful with hope, the tone takes a dramatic shift of foreboding when Kit decides against warning him of Judith’s affection. As John heads to the Wood home to proclaim his love for Mercy, the dramatic irony increases until the misunderstanding concludes with John engaged to Judith instead. Only Kit clearly sees Mercy’s sacrifice and heartbreak so her sister can live happily. While this turn of events deeply upsets Kit, the dramatic irony continues as she is not courageous enough to outright reject William’s marriage proposal in the next scene.