The Midwife's Apprentice

by Karen Cushman

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What activities do the strange footprints reveal in chapters 7-9 of The Midwife's Apprentice?

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The first activity that was revealed by the presence of the strange footprints was the miller, "caught in the act of putting some of Dick's granny's grain into his own sacks".  Since the theft was believed to be caused by the Devil, the miller was dealth with mercifully, having to stand for a day in the rain with his millstone around his neck.

The second activity revealed was Grommet cuddling in the hay with the pig boy from the manor.  The boy escaped punishment, but Grommet was made to "spend the night in prayer and fasting", and suffered much embarrassment.

The third activity revealed was Wat finishing off William Reeve's dinner.  Again, since the Devil was faulted more than the boy, Wat was not branded, but made to care for "Reeve's bad-tempered pigs" instead.

The fourth activity revealed was Jack and his friends sleeping while they were supposed to be clearing Roger Mustard's field.  The boys were soundly thrashed for their laziness.

The final activity revealed was the baker being caught bringing gifts to a young woman.  He was left to the wrath of his wife.

Each of the characters whose indiscretions were exposed had in some manner mistreated Alyce, the midwife's apprentice.  After the last one had received punishment for his or her "secret sins", the mysterious footsteps ceased to appear in the village (Chapter 7).

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