In chapter four, Mercy tells Kit that she, Kit, will have to prove that she can be "useful" around the house by helping out more with the household chores. The novel is narrated from the third-person perspective, but Kit is the viewpoint character, so when the narrator says that "the word useful had taken on an alarming meaning," we can assume that this describes Kit's feelings. Kit is alarmed by the expectation that she should help out more with the household chores.
The narrator further writes that "work in that household never ceased, and it called for skill and patience, qualities Kit did not seem to possess." From this quotation, we can infer that Kit finds the reality of household chores alarming both because there are so many chores to be completed and because those chores make demands on Kit's character that she finds difficult to meet.
The narrator lists the household chores that Kit is expected to help with. We are told, for example, that there is "meat to be chopped . . . vegetables to prepare . . . mugs . . . to be scoured . . . a great kettle of soap . . . to tend." Kit quickly becomes tired when undertaking all of these chores, and her efforts soon become "halfhearted." She is "scolded" by Mercy for not putting in more effort and for giving up so easily.
The family eventually takes pity on Kit and start to give her the easiest household chores to complete. They decide that the easiest chore is "the making of corn pudding." However, Kit finds even this chore too difficult. She quickly runs out of patience and feels resentful of the family for expecting her to help out so much with these chores.