Summary and Analysis: Chapter 11
One midsummer day, while Kit and Mercy are teaching, Kit gets the sensation that someone is lurking outside the house. Kit finds flowers on the doorstep and spies Prudence Cruff hiding nearby. Prudence likes Kit and wishes she could come to school and learn to read and write, but she says she cannot because her mother thinks she is too stupid. Kit strikes a deal with Prudence to meet secretly in the meadows to teach her how to read. Kit brings a hornbook, which had been a gift from her grandfather, to give to Prudence, but when the younger girl says she can’t accept it, Kit decides Prudence needs to meet Hannah. Though Prudence is scared because she has heard that Hannah is a witch, the girl quickly feels at home with Hannah.
That evening, while William and John are visiting, Kit finds herself frustrated with William’s seemingly endless talk about the house he is building. Judith, however, listens attentively and is very savvy about possible architectural details that she could choose for her own house to come. She teases John about his lack of awareness of such things but, like Kit, settles in to enjoy John reading aloud, which has become a regular ritual. Tonight, though, rather than the Bible, John reads poetry by Anne Bradstreet. It is love poetry, and as he reads it, Kit realizes that Mercy is in love with John Holbrook.
Prudence lurks around the school and gives Kit flowers because Kit is the only person who had been kind to her in the community, much as Kit goes to Hannah for similar reasons. It is only natural, then, that Kit completes the chain of kindness by introducing Prudence to Hannah. Together they form a sort of synthesized family whose love operates outside the discipline of the Puritan community.
The theme of love, and the practice of pairing themes in chapters, continues with the evening’s poetry reading. Using poetry as a tool to communicate love shows again the power of the arts that the Puritans so distrust and again comments on the limits of their worldview. However, in doing so it gives Kit yet another secret to protect: she is the only person besides Mercy who knows of her crippled cousin’s love for John Holbrook. This will prove emotionally important later, when John proposes, but on the thematic level, it is profound evidence of how much more clearly Kit sees the world than those around her do.