Summary (Masterplots, Fourth Edition)
It is autumn, 1666, and in the lead-mining village of Eyam in Derbyshire, England, Anna Firth is reflecting on the past year, in which two-thirds of the village’s population had died from the effects of the bubonic plague. Anna is keeping house for Michael Mompellion, the village rector, who has been sitting in his room and refusing food and company since his wife, Elinor, had died. Elizabeth Bradford, the daughter of a wealthy family who had fled the village and the plague, returns and demands assistance from the rector, who rouses from his room only long enough to angrily turn her away.
It is spring, 1665. A journeyman tailor, George Viccars, seeks lodging with Anna. Newly widowed and the mother of two young boys, she welcomes the income, Viccars’s attention to the boys, and his companionship. However, their budding romance ends as soon as it is declared. A bolt of damp cloth, ordered from London, has carried the bubonic plague into Eyam. Soon, Viccars dies; from his deathbed he had encouraged Anna to burn the fabric. The townspeople, however, still insist on claiming their prepaid clothes-in-progress, on which Viccars had been working, thus spreading the infection.
After a late summer respite, the plague reappears. Anna’s sons and the boys of her neighbor Mary Hadfield are among the first to die. The villagers first respond with self-interest. The Bradfords had already asserted, in a dinner-party discussion, that flight from the...
(The entire section is 1520 words.)
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Part 1, Chapter 1 Summary
Anna Frith used to love fall—the wood stacked near the door, the bales of hay gathered in the yard, the rumble of apples in the cellar bins. But this year, the wood and hay are scant, and the apples are marred with brown spots. A cart of apples has arrived at the rectory, and Anna slices one of the few good ones to take to the rector, who sits as he always does in his dim room. Three years before, the villagers had joked at how young the rector was, but now his face has grown haggard. Anna asks if he would like her to read to him, assuring him that his late wife Mrs. Mompellion taught her the skill. But the rector winces at the sound of his wife’s name, and tells Anna that he does not wish her to read today.
Anna leaves the rector and takes a few spotted apples out to his horse, Anteros. The stable is not very clean, and the great horse has not been much exercised since there is no one besides the rector who is either strong or skilled enough to handle him. Anteros takes the first apple, and when Anna reaches for a second, Anteros lifts his head and sprays apple juice while boxing the air. Anna goes back into the house, and she can hear the rector in his room above, pacing the floor. She retrieves his plate from outside the door—none of his food has been touched. She plans the next day to press all the apples for she cannot see anything go to waste. Besides, she can no longer stand the smell of rotting apples.
On the way home to her cottage, Anna often walks through the orchard, for there she imagines that she hears the voices of children and she can think of Sam Frith. He had asked her to marry him when she was just fifteen, and there was no reason to say no. Her father was a drunkard and her stepmother regarded her only as a pair of hands to do work about the house. Sam was a miner who owned his own mine and cottage. He had no children from his first wife, who had already passed away, and Anna quickly became pregnant and birthed two sons. She spent three good years with Sam, before the men showed up at her door telling her to hurry to the site. It took the men four days to dig Sam’s body out of the collapsed mine. Anna tended to his body the best she could.
Now when Anna enters her cottage, it is utterly silent and lonely. When there is tallow available, she reads until the lights cedes. In the morning, she tends to the cow, which she found one day wandering in the road. The cow had been so thin that...
(The entire section is 812 words.)
Part 2, Chapter 1 Summary
The winter after Sam’s death was hard for Anna and her children, so when George Viccars comes into town the following spring looking for lodging, Anna welcomes him into her home to occupy a vacant room. Mr. Viccars is clean and neat, a journeyman tailor by trade. He has secured a position with Alexander Hadfield and is more than able to pay Anna sixpence a week for her attic room. By the end of the first week, Anna feels like she should pay Mr. Viccars for bringing laughter back into the home. Mr. Viccars laughs and plays with Anna’s three-year-old son, Jamie, and the boy is happy for the fun because his nanny, a young Puritan girl named Jane Martin, is stern in her ways. Anna seeks to repay Mr. Viccars by making him better dinners than she would otherwise, and he praises her cooking. In the evenings, Mr. Viccars and Anna sit by the hearth, and he tells her stories of his travels. Mr. Viccars seems to not be confined at all in life, whereas Sam Frith’s life was all about confinement in the dark, cold mine. Although Anna is intrigued by his tales of many places, George Viccars himself has had enough of the city with the racket of carriages and the sight of blackened walls and longed to be in the country.
Mr. Hadfield has ordered a box of cloth from London, and when it arrives, the villagers are excited to see what colors and fabrics are currently in fashion. Mr. Viccars has much work to do after the cloth arrives, but a few days later, Anna comes home to a gift of a golden green dress that Mr. Viccars has made for her. She does not think it proper to accept such an extravagant gift, but Mr. Viccars asks her to at least try it on for him. She does, and he is taken by her beauty. He asks her suddenly to marry him. He places his hands on her waist and kisses her, but Anna pulls away—he is quite fevered and she sends him at once to his bed.
Anna wakes early the next morning to avoid everyone and think more about her desires. She tends to her errands and leaves the cottage before anyone wakes. At the rectory, Elinor Mompellion is already in her garden. Mrs. Mompellion is a fair, frail woman of twenty-five, yet her mind is sharp. She teaches Anna all sorts of tidbits, like which flowers as tea are good to cool a fever, and Anna is a willing pupil. In one year, Mrs. Mompellion taught Anna to read and write, and at times, Anna feels guilty because she reckons she receives so much attention because Mrs. Mompellion has not yet...
(The entire section is 711 words.)
Part 2, Chapter 2 Summary
The next morning, the sexton comes early for Mr. Viccars’ body, and the rector tells Anna to stay home to rest. Before Mompellion leaves, he tells her that she should heed Mr. Viccars’ advice to burn all his belongings. Anna is upstairs scrubbing the floorboards when Mr. Viccars’ customers begin banging on her door. Anys Gowdie is the first, and she asks Anna why she did not send for her and Mem to give Mr. Viccars an infusion of herbs. Anys says that she has come to claim a dress that was finished but for the hem, and Anna jealously imagines Mr. Viccars working with Anys on a fitting. Anna tells Anys that Mr. Viccars told her to burn all his work, but Anys will not settle for it and demands the dress. Anys leaves satisfied, and all morning, Mr. Viccars’ other customers come to claim their clothing too. All Anna can do is relay his wishes to them.
In the afternoon, on her way to serve in Bradford Hall, Anna makes a detour at the Gowdie cottage. Anys offers Anna a cup of nettle beer, which she says promotes strong blood. Anna thinks back to the days when as children, Anys was taunted by the others yet managed to stand up for herself. When Anna became pregnant, she had to go to Anys, humbled, to ask for her guidance so that she might know what to eat to keep her baby strong. Now in the cottage, Anna cannot bring herself to question Anys, but it is not necessary—Anys asks her if she wants to know whether or not she bedded Mr. Viccars. Anys says that of course she had, but neither had feelings for the other and that Mr. Viccars had every intention of marrying Anna. Puzzled, Anna asks Anys why she would bed a man and not marry, and Anys says that she enjoys her freedom. On her way from the Gowdie cottage, Anna passes the Hancock farm and waves over her dear friend Lib Hancock, the wife of the eldest Hancock son. Anna confides in Lib all that she learned from Anys.
Anna continues on to work at Bradford Hall, where she works on the occasion that they need an extra server for the dinner table. This evening, Colonel Bradford has invited the Mompellions and a gentleman from London to dine with him and his family. While serving, Anna has learned to keep her eyes on her work and her ears closed from the conversation, but tonight, she cannot help but take in the conversation of the gentleman from London. He speaks openly about a contagion that has wracked London. All who have the means are fleeing the city lest they become one...
(The entire section is 555 words.)
Part 2, Chapter 3 Summary
The weather in the village following the death of George Viccars is lovely, but Anna’s son Jamie remains sad because he lost a good friend in Mr. Viccars. At the end of each day, Anna checks on her small flock of sheep, and she finds one of her ewes struggling in labor. Anna can feel the nose and one hoof of the lamb in the birth canal but cannot get her hand around the animal. Jamie slips his small hand in to help, and soon the lamb is born. They leave the ewe to clean her baby and go down to the stream. There, Anna feeds Tom while Jamie splashes and plays in the water. Suddenly, the rector appears, and Anna is mortified by his appearance at the stream while she is feeding her baby. But the rector seems undisturbed, and he comments on the goodness of God. Tom begins to cry, and the rector reaches for him. Tom burps loudly, and after the rector hands him back to Anna, he goes to play with Jamie. After they play, Mr. Mompellion seats himself again next to Anna and reads to her from his book. Anna thanks him for sharing such great thoughts with her, and Mr. Mompellion tells her that his wife has praised Anna’s intelligence and now he knows why. Anna walks home with her boys, and nearing their cottage, Jamie tells Anna to wait outside. When he calls her in, Jamie showers Anna from upstairs with rose petals.
The villagers prepare for the coming winter, and Anna helps her neighbors the Hadfields butcher a hog in exchange for a portion of bacon and headcheese to store for the coming months. During the preparation of the hog, Jamie and little Edward Hadfield find ways to shirk their chores to go off and play. Mary Hadfield finds the two playing with dead rats. The woodpile if full of them, so Alexander Hadfield goes off to clear the little corpses.
The weather begins to cool, and the damp weather after the heat brings a scourge of fleas to the village. Anna’s sons are covered in welts from the bites, so she burns their bedstraw and seeks a salve from the Gowdies. But Anna meets Mem on her way out the door, who says that she is on her way to the Hadfields because Edward is burning with fever. When the two arrive at the Hadfields’ cottage, Mary tells Mem that her service is not needed because Alexander has sent to Bakewell for the barber-surgeon. Mem has no respect for the barber-surgeons as they take high sums for ill work, but Mary is firm. Inside, Edward has been laid on a bench, and the barber-surgeon has covered him in...
(The entire section is 608 words.)
Part 2, Chapter 4 Summary
Anna recalls stories that her father used to tell her about cruel torture aboard the ships on which he worked. The whips, he said, would cut to the bone. Anna reckons that Plague is like those whips, always hitting in the same raw spots. While grieving the loss of his little brother Tom, Jamie also falls into a fevered state. Elinor Mompellion sits with Anna and Jamie, and she admits that Mr. Mompellion suspected Plague when George Viccars was ill. The rector has written to some friends who study medicine, and they have suggested some means of combatting Plague, so the women try these methods on Jamie. A lump has appeared on Jamie’s armpit, and one of the treatments calls for the roasting and preparing of certain ingredients to use as a compress. However, the treatment only makes Jamie scream in pain and become damp with sweat, and Anna cannot bear to hurt her own child. In the morning, Anys Gowdie arrives with a cordial and a salve to lower Jamie’s fever. Anys rubs the salve on the boy’s body, and he drifts into sleep. But both Anys and Anna know that the salve will only bring temporary relief. Jamie suffers with Plague for five days before he passes away. On the day of his death, Anna cradles his head in her lap, knowing that all their prays have been in vain.
After Jamie’s death, Anna grows careless in her chores and does not tend well to her flock of sheep. As the sheep try to find better grazing ground, some of them become lost. In her search for the lost sheep, Anna hears yells coming from a nearby mine. There, a dozen people are gathered in a circle with Mem Gowdie on the ground in the center. They are all calling her “witch,” and Anna rushes to her defense. But the villagers dismiss Anna and decide to throw Mem in the flooded mine reasoning that if she floats, she is indeed a witch. But when they throw Mem into the water, she immediately begins to sink. Anna rushes into the pit to save Mem, but her foot breaks a rung of the ladder. Anys has arrived at the site and lends Anna a hand. Anys enters the water to save her aunt, and Anna and Mary Hadfield help pull the two women out of the pit. Anys resuscitates Mem, causing Lib Hancock to scream wildly that Anys must be a witch for she has breathed life back into Mem. Anna scolds Lib, and Lib retorts by laying bare the secret that Anna told her about Anys and George Viccars. The villagers begin to call Anys a whore, and they tie a noose that they slip around her neck....
(The entire section is 534 words.)
Part 2, Chapter 5 Summary
Snow blows into the village burying Anna’s lost sheep; she finds them frozen in a snow-drift, huddled together on an outcrop rock. More people in the village die of Plague including Grace Hamilton, whose two children are left sickening after her death. Mr. Mompellion holds a funeral for Anys, but Mem cannot be in attendance because she has developed a severe cough from having nearly drowned in the flooded mine. Elinor Mompellion cares for Mem in the rectory. Over the next few days, Mem’s breath becomes increasingly shallow until the time when she takes her last breath. The law does nothing to punish those who caused the deaths of Anys and Mem—the justice of the peace from Bakewell does not want to enter the stricken village. Thus, the villagers must make their peace by asking forgiveness through prayer at the church.
Mr. Mompellion holds a meeting with Thomas Stanley, a Puritan man who used to run the church. When the Book of Common Prayer was taken up by the village, Mr. Stanley quit the church saying that he could not in good conscience accept the rites of the new religion. Shortly after his leaving the church in protest, a law was passed ordering all dissenting clergy to move to a house at least five miles from the church so that they would not cause any differences of opinion among parishioners. Mr. Stanley complied and took residence on the farm of the Billingses, a nonconformist family who live on a high, outlying plot of land. On Sunday, it becomes clear why Mr. Mompellion has sought out Mr. Stanley. In his sermon, the rector discusses love for fellow humans, the sacrifice of life for love, and the terrible nature of Plague. He says that God has chosen their village for this great trial and that they must accept the test as a gift from God. He says that he knows that some of the villagers have the means to flee, but he asks them to put aside those means so that they might stay in the village. He asks that they all undergo voluntary besiegement so that the Plague remains quarantined in their village. The rector has written to the earl at Chasterworth House to ask for aid and provisions, and the earl has agreed to provide food, fuel, and medicine for the villagers from his own purse. Carters would bring these provisions to the Boundary Stone at the edge of the village—anyone wishing to make additional purchases could do so by leaving coins in holes filled with vinegar to wash away any Plague seeds. The rector asks the...
(The entire section is 497 words.)
Part 2, Chapter 6 Summary
The villagers smile at each other in honor and appreciation of the “common grace” that their decision to quarantine themselves has brought upon them. Arriving home, Anna is caught unaware by Maggie Cantwell, the Bradfords’ cook, who is pacing outside the cottage. Having to serve, Maggie had not been at the church when the rector delivered the decree. Now, she is livid because the Bradfords have barred her—and all their other servants—from employment and lodging in the house. Anna offers for Maggie to come inside, but Maggie, no disrespect intended, will not enter the cottage that is known as the Plague cottage. Maggie cannot believe what has happened, for now she has nowhere to go. Anna agrees to help Maggie retrieve the rest of her things from the Bradford home, and when the two arrive, the house is abuzz. The Bradfords order their servants to help them pack their belongings for their escape to Oxfordshire yet simultaneously tell them that they must vacate the premises within the hour. Mrs. Bradford’s handmaid Jane cries and begs the family to take her with them, but the Bradfords refuse, turning all away.
Then, Michael Mompellion arrives riding Anteros, and he storms into the house, demanding to see Colonel Bradford. The colonel has been in his study writing a good-bye letter to the rector, and Mompellion warns him of the risk that he is taking by leaving. However, Colonel Bradford cares nothing of the risk to others and insists that he must protect his own family. The two exchange stiff words and arguments, and in the end, Colonel Bradford states that as long as he has a choice, he will leave the village. Mompellion declares that God’s punishment on him will be worse than Plague.
The Bradfords’ carriage passes through the village unscathed, leaving in its wake all the house’s servants to be taken in by the other families in the village. Only Brand and Maggie decide to try their luck finding their families in Bakewell.
The villagers must now learn to live in their “wide green prison,” and when the snow melts, there is no traffic in the streets as there would normally be. The rector’s letters to the earl have worked—the lone carter approaching the village stops until he receives the signal, and then he drops off the provisions and takes the coins from the vinegar-filled hole. He collects the lists of requested items and the names of the dead to send forth the news. The carter yells to...
(The entire section is 689 words.)
Part 2, Chapter 7 Summary
One chilly morning, Jakob Merrill, who lives nearest the Boundary Stone, runs out to shoo away a carter when he realizes that there is a body on the cart. Brand, the pantry boy from Bradford Hall, has returned with Maggie Cantwell, the cook, on the cart. Jakob sends his son Seth to notify the rector, and Michael Mompellion and Anna go out to help. It takes all their strength to get the large woman down from the cart, and when they do, they see the horror that has been inflicted on Maggie: the right side of her face is drooped, and she is covered in dried fruit pulp. Brand explains that once they arrived in Bakewell, someone recognized Maggie and shouted that everyone should beware of the travelers from the Plague village. They seized on Maggie, hurling fruit and then stones at her. Brand admits that he was afraid and since no one recognized him, he darted off and hid, thinking that he might be able to make it alone the rest of the way to his family. However, he was ashamed and went back to rescue Maggie from the onslaught. He put her in the cart and pulled her back to the village. Anna damns the Bradfords for having put Maggie in such a position.
Jakob Merrill agrees to take Brand as a lodger, and Anna agrees to take Maggie back to her own cottage, provided that she can find a way to move the woman there. Anna decides to go to the Miner’s Tavern to see if she might borrow their horse-trap for the task. Once there, however, she runs into her father, who is already drunk. He invites her for a drink, and Anna hastily responds with a quotation from the Scripture. Meaning to embarrass her, Anna’s father forces her onto her knees and threatens to make her wear a branks, an iron helmet used as a muzzle. Anna remembers when her father forced her mother to wear a branks around town after she cursed his drunkenness. After Anna married Sam, she told him about her childhood abuse, and Sam had walked right over to her father’s cottage and struck him with a fist to the face. Now in the tavern, Anna does not have Sam, and she fears her father’s wrath. She wets herself, and her father throws her onto the floor so that she lands in her own puddle. Anna runs home weeping and scrubs herself raw.
Later, Seth arrives at her doorstep to bring her to care for Maggie. But Anna's efforts are in vain, and Maggie dies before midnight.
(The entire section is 440 words.)
Part 2, Chapter 8 Summary
Anna recalls a terrible accident that Sam once had while mining—he dropped a great stone on his foot, crushing his ankle. Mem Gowdie had to remove many bone splinters from Sam’s ankle, so she gave him steeped poppy to ease his pain. Sam later said that the dreams he had after having drunk the poppy were the best he ever had in his life. Anna means to return the vial of poppy that she stole from Mrs. Mompellion’s whisket; however, given such bad times, Anna wishes for a small respite. When she takes the poppy, she dreams of her children cloaked in gold, and Anna holds their hands as they drift through brightly lit streets. But the sound of the church bell draws her from her sleep, and Anna must once again face the dark reality of the time.
Outside, Anna meets Sally Maston standing in front of her cottage clutching her bloody groin, where a Plague sore has burst. Sally’s mother lies inside dead, her father and a baby sibling not far behind. Anna prepares the mother’s body and sets to comforting the children. When the sexton Jon Millstone arrives to take away the body, Anna stops him to have a drink, and by the time they are done, Mr. Maston has also expired.
Mrs. Mompellion arrives to watch the children, informing Anna that her old friend Lib Hancock has fallen ill. By the time Anna reaches her cottage, Lib is too far gone for talk, so Anna cannot make amends. Anna returns to see after the Maston children, and later that night, the baby dies; Sally dies the following afternoon. At home, Anna resorts to taking the rest of the poppy, and her dreams are once again sweet.
The next day, Anna is going about her errands when she notices something amiss—there is no smoke coming from the smithy. She discovers that Richard Talbot has come down with Plague, and he has forced his pregnant wife, Kate, to brand his groin sore in an attempt to burn out the disease. Kate has purchased a spell written on a piece of parchment to affix to the sore, but Anna tells her to be strong and not accept such devilish tricks. Kate tells her that the ghost of Anys Gowdie sold her the spell.
Although she does not believe that Anys’s ghost is present, Anna is nevertheless curious about the root magic that the Gowdies’ cottage must still contain, so she goes there, finding Elinor Mompellion already inside searching for plants to concoct a nourishing tonic. Mrs. Mompellion shows Anna a map that she has drawn of the path...
(The entire section is 660 words.)
Part 2, Chapter 9 Summary
Mompellion toils endlessly to dig graves to keep up with the dying villagers. Few able men are left to help with the task, and those who are still alive busy themselves with making a subsistence for their families. Elinor fears that the strength of her husband’s will exceeds the strength of his body and that this time, such a quality will be to his detriment.
The next morning, Anna and the rector go out to the Merrill farm to attend Jakob, who is dying of Plague. On his deathbed, Jakob confesses the sins that he committed against his wife and tells Mompellion that he fears his soul will be damned and his children will have no one to care for them. Mompellion assures him that the sins of the past will be forgiven, and he encourages Jakob to name Brand as an heir along with his children so that he might raise them as brother and sister. Jakob agrees, and the rector draws up a will for him. Anna notes how tired the rector must be, for he makes several conventional mistakes on the will.
Returning to the rectory, Mompellion resumes his task of grave digging, but Anna cannot bear to watch his exhausted form. She goes to her father and begs and bribes him with two lambs to dig the graves so that the rector might have some rest.
Demands are made of Anna daily, and she often forgoes sleep to help her fellow villagers. She and Elinor learn new properties of the plants that they have found in the Gowdies’ garden, and the kitchen in the rectory begins to look like an alchemist’s den. They distribute tonics to the villagers and pray that the liquids will boost the health of those still alive. Spring is coming to the village, and everyone knows that the warm weather ushers in the most death as Plague thrives in the warm weather. During the Sunday service, Mompellion tells the congregation that they will no longer meet within the walls of the church to avoid spreading the disease—they will instead meet outside at Cucklett Delf. He also tells everyone that the churchyard can hold no more bodies and that they must bury their dead in their own yards. The people cry and are fearful of having to abandon the house of God, and Mompellion nearly faints at the pulpit. Brand rushes to attend to Mompellion, and Mr. Stanley steps up to deliver a sermon to let everyone know that God has infinite power and wisdom and that the whole world is his house.
The next afternoon, Anna and Elinor pay a visit to Merry Wickford, the...
(The entire section is 789 words.)
Part 2, Chapter 10 Summary
One morning, Anna is at her well fetching water when she sees her father coming down the road carrying a large sack. She does not think that he will begrudge her some help, so she calls to him. Anna learns that he has just come from digging two graves for Widow Brown and that she has paid him with pewter items from her house. In the coming days, Anna notices that her neighbors eye her strangely when she passes, and she hears that apparently her father has set himself up as a grave digger, requiring tremendous sums from people who have no other choice than to pay him to dig graves for their dead family members. When Anna tells her father that he disgraces their family, he spits at her and continues on to the tavern.
On Sundays, the villagers have taken up gathering at Cucklett Delf as the rector suggested, and all keep three yards from the next person, which they judge to be a safe distance to not spread any disease. Mompellion finds sweet words to offer the congregation, and his sermons combined with the beauty of the outdoors help ease the villagers’ sorrows. But Anna’s father, Joss, no longer attends the service, so Mompellion seeks him out at home. Mompellion tells Joss that he is taking advantage of his neighbors, but Joss just curses back at him. As the days pass, the villagers curse Joss Bont.
But then Joss Bont does something so vile that the villagers see fit to truly punish him. A man named Christopher Unwin is the last surviving member of his family of twelve. He had also come down with Plague, but had been in his sickbed for nearly two weeks, much longer than normal. All began to pray that he would survive the disease like Margaret Blackwell had. Anna and Mompellion pay Christopher a visit, and while there, they hear a spud hitting the earth outside—Joss Bont is already outside digging Christopher’s grave. Mompellion goes outside and fights off Joss, while Anna makes a meal for Christopher, who is looking better. The next morning, a bellowing is heard outside. Christopher is in the street with his head split open, and he is covered in mud. Joss tried to kill Christopher during the night before he threw him into the grave and covered him with a thin layer of dirt. The Barmester puts Joss on trial, and he is sentenced to be cleaved to the wall of the Unwin mine. Anna assumes that her stepmother, Aphra, will sneak to the mine that night to save Joss, but Aphra’s children all become sick with Plague,...
(The entire section is 500 words.)
Part 2, Chapter 11 Summary
Anna cries for the loss of her father and at the rectory, Elinor asks Anna to tell her everything that her father did to her as a child. Anna finds that the painful tales pour out of her as she sobs. Afterwards, Anna feels she can think more clearly. She tells Elinor that she suspects that Aphra’s strange behavior at the cairn is a sign that she has obtained charms to try to protect her family from Plague. Elinor says that she is not alone—she fishes out a piece of frayed cloth from her whisket. Margaret Livesedge claimed that she got the cloth from the ghost of Anys Gowdie when her baby was sick with Plague. Anna tells her about Kate Talbot’s charm, and Elinor says that Mr. Mompellion has also found these sorts of charms in the possession of others. The rector then enters and says that the Mowbray baby is in need of assistance. Anna goes to the Mowbray cottage, but finds that the baby is not suffering from Plague. His parents have feared for his life, so they have sought counsel with the ghost of Anys Gowdie and are following her advice by boiling the baby’s urine and passing the baby through the brambles in the field. Anna applies a salve to the infant and tells the Mowbrays that they must stop their foolishness.
The spring arrives, and in the good weather, Anna’s ewes birth many lambs. But with such life also comes much death as the good weather brings on more cases of Plague. By June half of the villagers are dead. Fear grips the villagers and makes them act out of character. Especially troubling is the case of Jane Martin, Anna’s former nanny. The Puritan girl had always been strict and chaste in her manners, but now with her entire family dead, Jane spends most of her time at the alehouse and the men joke that she cannot keep her legs closed.
Also strange is the case of John Gordon whom Anna sees one evening naked to the waist and carrying a scourge of braided leather and nails. Every few steps, John lashes himself and the nails gouge his skin. Anna runs back to the rectory to tell Mr. Mompellion what she has seen, and he says that John has become a flagellant, one who sees disease as God’s punishment for human sin. Mr. Mompellion cannot risk John’s influencing others to take up the practice, so he and Anna ride out to find John. On the way, they stumble into Jane and Albion Samweys fornicating on the roadside. The rector sends Albion home, but he screams at Jane. Anna begs him to stop because Jane is...
(The entire section is 615 words.)
Part 2, Chapter 12 Summary
Elinor and Anna visit some of the elderly villagers and all but one are doing well. They find James Mallion sitting in the dark looking undernourished, so they take him outside and Anna mashes food for him. He grabs her arm and asks her why he has been spared when so many young people have died. She cannot respond, so she pats his hand and shakes her head. On the way back to the rectory, Elinor begins to cough, and even though she tells Anna not to worry, Anna weeps.
Over the next three days, Elinor’s fever rises and Mr. Mompellion and Anna try to comfort her. Anna enjoys the time when Mr. Mompellion is called away so that she can be alone with Elinor because Elinor has become such a significant person in her life: mother, teacher, co-worker, friend. Anna often forgets that Elinor is her mistress—she loves the woman. When Mr. Mompellion returns, he tells Anna not to hover and dismisses her.
As she grows more flushed, Elinor becomes delirious and cries out, “Charles!” Anna is glad that Mr. Mompellion is not around to witness his wife’s delirium. When he does return, he again dismisses Anna, and she retires to the kitchen in case she is needed. She falls asleep at the table, and in the morning, all is quiet. She creeps up the stairs to listen at the bedroom door. Hearing nothing, Anna opens the door. Elinor’s flush is gone, and she lies still with Mr. Mompellion splayed at the foot of the bed. Anna cries, and Elinor opens her eyes. Anna rushes to make her a drink.
Over the next few days, Elinor gets up on occasion from her bed to take short walks. Mr. Mompellion is in great spirits having been saved from his fear that Elinor had come down with Plague when she only had a simple fever. He goes about his errands in the village, the newest being the division of the Gordon farm. The villagers are uneasy about disposing of the crosses that John kept in the cottage, and they decide to burn them. When Mr. Mompellion returns from the burning, he says that God has spoken to him, and at the Sunday service, he tells the villagers that they should burn all their material possessions to try to rid themselves of Plague. All bring out the things that they can bear to sacrifice, and a great pyre is made on the outskirts of the village.
While the items burn, the villagers hear a woman screaming. Brand Rigney and Robert Snee drag a woman clad in all black into the crowd of villagers gathered before the fire....
(The entire section is 775 words.)
Part 2, Chapter 13 Summary
Even though Anna does not want to abandon Aphra to her madness, she does not go back to her croft, reasoning that Faith is already dead and there is nothing more she can do. Her mind is taken over by something that she has noticed—since the first Sunday in July, no new persons have come down with coughs, fevers, or Plague sores. When the villagers gather at the Delf the following week, there are no newly missing faces. Mompellion does not directly address this new phenomenon in his sermon, but simply says that life endures.
The next morning, Anna finds Andrew Merrick’s rooster among her hens, and in her wonder, the rooster flies off in the direction of Merrick’s abandoned cottage. Soon after, Andrew Merrick returns from his hermitage and says that he trusts the good sense of his bird. As people begin to realize that the Plague is likely behind them, they do not rejoice, for more than half of the villagers have died during the previous year. At the rectory, Elinor tries to get Michael to agree to host a Thanksgiving service for their deliverance, but the rector argues that it might be too soon. He does not want to risk crushing the villagers’ spirits if someone were to later become ill with Plague. Instead he sets the date for the service for the second Sunday in August.
All remain in good health, so the Thanksgiving service is held. The rector arrives at the Delf wearing a white surplice trimmed in lace, and Elinor dons a simple gown of embroidered white cotton. Mompellion begins his sermon, “Let us give thanks,” but is interrupted by a shriek asking, “For what?” All turn to see Aphra clutching a knife in her right hand and the body of her dead daughter Faith in the left. No one knows what to do in the presence of this madwoman, so all step back. Mompellion walks toward her with outstretched arms and catches her in an embrace. Elinor follows, and the three stand in each other’s arms. However, the strength of Mompellion’s arms causes Faith’s head to become dislodged from her body, and the small skull rolls on the grass. Horrified by the sight, Aphra flies into a rage, slicing a fatal gash in Elinor’s neck before plunging the knife into her own chest. Aphra falls to her knees, takes up her baby’s head, and kisses it.
(The entire section is 411 words.)
Part 3, Chapter 1 Summary
The villagers bury Faith next to her brothers, but they will not permit Aphra to be buried within the precinct of the village. Anna and Brand toil to dig a grave for her in the rock near Joss’s cairn. Elinor is buried in the churchyard. Mr. Stanley offers the prayers as Mr. Mompellion’s grief is too great to allow anything else. Mr. Mompellion moves about less and less until he eventually confines himself to his room. Not even Mr. Stanley can get him to come to his senses—apparently Mr. Mompellion has lost his faith.
After Mr. Mompellion harshly dismisses Elizabeth Bradford from the rectory, Anna goes to the rectory and whispers to the horse Anteros that since they are alive, they might as well live. She takes the horse out of the stable and mounts him bareback as she learned to do as a child. They gallop around the entire village and outlying farms. When they return, Mr. Mompellion bursts from the rectory and exclaims that Anna must have lost her senses. He falls to his knees to embrace her, and the two kiss.
Later, Mr. Mompellion tries to apologize to Anna, but she will not hear it. Her desire is strong, as is his, and the two make love on the kitchen floor before going up to lie in bed. He falls asleep, and Anna creeps out to return home to feed her sheep. A while later, Mr. Mompellion joins her bucking hay, and he asks if he can sleep in her bed this night. She consents, and inside while they sit before the hearth, Mr. Mompellion removes Anna’s shoes so that he can massage her feet. Then he goes to the kitchen where he fumbles with the crockery to put together a simple dinner of fruit and cheese. Afterwards, they go to Anna’s room where they have each other again. Anna falls asleep and does not wake until morning. While in bed, Anna asks the rector if he thinks about Elinor when he is with her, and the rector tells her that he never lay with Elinor. The rector explains that Elinor had to atone for her sin of killing her unborn child lest her soul be lost forever. Anna asks him how he could have stayed his desire, and Mr. Mompellion tells her that he reminded himself of all the vile realities of a woman’s body. The thought of Elinor's bile and pus turned him off. Then Mr. Mompellion mocks God and admits his faithlessness and claims that from now on, he will do as he pleases. He reaches for Anna, but she runs away from him and goes to the church.
Inside the church, Anna finds Elizabeth Bradford who...
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Anna recalls a poem about the sea that Elinor once showed her. But having traveled across the sea, Anna thinks that the poet knew nothing at all about the sea. Anna now spends her days in her own room, a circular dwelling in the great house that overlooks the garden and the sea. From her window, she can see boats from Venice and Marseilles and distant ports. Anna’s journey over the rough swells of the sea had not been an easy one, and she feared that she and the baby would not make it to shore.
After leaving the village, Anna is supposed to meet Mr. Pulfer in Bakewell, and Anteros carries her safely to this destination. But when Mr. Pulfer pulls his cart of ore to the road that will lead Anna to Elinor’s family’s home, Anna does not want to go—she does not want to walk in Elinor’s footsteps and longs for a life of her own. So she rides with Mr. Pulfer to the port, where she hires a wet nurse for the baby, and rents a room at a portside inn. But soon the innkeeper comes to tell her that a man has been running through town raving that he must find her as she is a jewel thief and he wants to know the whereabouts of the baby. The innkeeper thinks her a kindly and trustworthy woman, so he tells her that the safest way to escape the port would be on the next boat no matter where it is bound.
So, Anna boards a boat loaded with pigs that is bound for Venice. After the rough seas pass, the water becomes smooth, and Anna goes up on deck to breathe in the warm, spiced air. She asks the captain for the name of port that they approached, and he tells her that it is Oran, the home of the Andalus Arabs. Anna thinks of the book she has with her, Avicenna’s Canon of Medicine, and she resolves to disembark at the port so that she might find her way learning more about medicinal craft. The captain tries to dissuade her, but Anna stands firm, so he directs her to Ahmed Bey, the most famous doctor in Barbary.
Bey takes Anna into his home, and she becomes one of his wives in name. He and his other wives train her in healing practices. She has served as midwife to many laboring mothers and has shown them how to keep themselves and their children strong.
It has taken time for Anna to get used to her new home. Everything is so bright in color, but the place lacks the color green. When she admits this to Bey, he sends her a silken carpet colored in the rich green hues of the Anisa tree. And Anna has had...
(The entire section is 573 words.)