Summary: Chapter Sixteen

On All Hallows Eve, William’s home is vandalized, and Nat is among the three Dolphin men arrested and sentenced to the stocks. Nat cheerfully exchanges insults with the crowd assembled to observe their punishment. The sight of Nat in the stocks grieves Kit, but Nat rebuffs her, telling her he takes satisfaction in William’s outrage at seeing the pumpkin jack-o’-lanterns they lit in all his windows. 

Kit visits Hannah, who consoles her from experience that being in the stocks is not so bad. Kit reveals to Hannah that she is considering marrying William as an alternative to a life of drudgery, but Hannah warns her that a loveless marriage is no escape. Prudence pays Hannah one of her now-regular visits, and Kit teaches her to write her name. Kit ruminates on the strides Prudence has made—she now can read the Bible to Hannah, whose eyesight is dimming—but worries about the risks Prudence takes with her mother. On her return home, Kit learns that John enlisted in the militia as a medic for a few weeks, making a break with Reverend Bulkeley, who is actively mobilizing support for Governor Andros’s new regime.

Summary: Chapter Seventeen

An illness sweeps the town, and the three Wood cousins fall ill. Kit recovers quickly, but Judith has a lengthy recovery that requires Rachel’s around-the-clock care. Mercy’s condition doesn’t respond to medical interventions, and she worsens. Reverend Bulkeley, who is also a doctor, appears as Matthew prepares to seek him out for help. Reverend Bulkeley’s alternative treatment involves applying hot onion compresses to clear Mercy’s lungs and break her fever. Other people’s children are dying. A group of townspeople arrive to demand that Matthew accompany them to take Hannah into custody, as they blame her witchcraft for the illness. They then accuse Kit of being a witch, but Matthew defends his niece and sends them away. 

Matthew tells Kit that Hannah will need to fend for herself in the courts. Fearing what the mob will do to Hannah, Kit secretly leaves the house to go to her aid. Kit and Hannah hide in the forest while the mob ransacks and burns down Hannah’s house and steals her goats. Nat arrives and takes Hannah on board the Dolphin for safety. He wants Kit to come with them, but Kit’s concern for Mercy’s health motivates her to return home, where she learns that Mercy is now out of danger.

Analysis: Chapters Sixteen–Seventeen

This section of the novel frequently uses both internal and external conflict to emphasize the theme of being true to oneself. When Matthew characterizes Nat’s jack-o’-lantern stunt as one of extreme blasphemy, Kit struggles to stifle a laugh, indicating that she approves of the act of mischief and finds the fact it’s considered blasphemous ridiculous. Nat is unapologetic for the stunt, implying that he pulled the prank at least in part out of jealousy over William and Kit’s tentative engagement. Hannah’s warning to Kit that a loveless marriage to William will be a new kind of prison serves to remind Kit of the consequences of not being true to herself. The compassion Kit feels for Prudence as she promises to make her a new dress, her admiration for how much Prudence has blossomed, and her worries over the punishment Prudence would receive if their secret friendship were revealed further underscores this theme. John’s enlistment in the militia is another example of being true to oneself. Ironically, Judith declares that he’s ruined their happiness, completely unaware that John does not reciprocate her love. In contrast, Mercy supports his decision even though it pains her, showing that she genuinely loves and understands him.

The hysteria of the townspeople in this section highlights the themes of prejudice, suspicion, and religious hypocrisy. The absurdity of the claim that witchcraft is causing illness among the townspeople is juxtaposed with Reverend Bulkeley using his training as a medical doctor to heal the illness. The townspeople’s actions as they chase Hannah through the woods, attempt to kill her cat, and burn her cottage to the ground contrasts with Kit’s compassion and strength as she secretly helps Hannah escape to safety with Nat on the Dolphin. The burning of Hannah’s cottage—a symbol of safety, acceptance, and friendship throughout the novel—now represents how prejudice is used to destroy such values. Nat’s insistence that Kit flee with him back to Barbados, and Kit’s refusal to do so, foreshadow that Kit will also be accused of witchcraft when she returns home.