The Midwife's Apprentice by Karen Cushman

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In Chapter 3 of The Midwife's Apprenticeby Karen Cushman, we read that "In the afternoon Beetle left the village for the woods, where she gathered honey, trapped birds, and collected herbs, leeches,...

In Chapter 3 of The Midwife's Apprentice by Karen Cushman, we read that "In the afternoon Beetle left the village for the woods, where she gathered honey, trapped birds, and collected herbs, leeches, and spider's webs."  Why does she gather these items?

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The midwife sent Beetle into the woods to collect items for her.  Beetle "gathered honey, trapped birds, and collected herbs, leeches, and spider's webs" (The Midwife's Apprentice, pages 12-13).  These items were used as remedies during a woman's labor.  For example, the webs were used "for staunching the blood" (page 13).  The herb sage was used to create a tea if the mother was producing too much breastmilk.  The midwife had a different remedy for almost anything that could go wrong.

Slowly, the midwife gave Beetle more responsibilities.  Soon Beetle was always gathering the ingredients for various remedies.  She also created medicines from the ingredients.  Beetle also became the one who packed up all the remedies needed from the midwife's house when they were about to leave for a birth.  Even though Beetle did many things to help the midwife, the woman still treated the girl as if she were stupid and lazy.

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