Chapters 1-2 Summary

Gwenda, her parents, and her brother Philemon take shelter in the hospital of Kingsbridge Priory. It is November 1, 1327—All Hallows' Day.

The villagers seek the protection of the cathedral from the evil spirits roaming the night of All Hallows' Eve. Gwenda dreads the coming of the daylight. Her father is a laborer, working only when he can find work. Winter is coming, when there is no work to do and they will go hungry.

Her father had been caught stealing and had been branded as a thief by having his left hand cut off. Philemon had been the one to steal, but he is at the clumsy age, so Gwenda must take his place.

She sees a bag of coins hanging from the belt of Sir Gerald. As she approaches her prey, a kind, rich girl smiles at her. Gwenda manages to cut the purse strings but is stopped by Sir Gerald, who lifts her up, thinking she wants to see the ceremony.

Gwenda is terrified that he will find the bag and have her arrested, but he lets her go. She gives the bag to her father and tells him what happened, that she had been seen. They leave to have their breakfast elsewhere.

It is not until later that the theft is discovered. Sir Gerald, the descendant of Jack Builder (who built the cathedral) and Lady Aliena of Shiring, is now a poor relation and in debt to the priory. He has come to Kingsbridge to meet with his cousin, the present Earl of Shiring, to work out a deal with Prior Anthony.

Sir Gerald, his wife (Lady Maud), and their two sons (Merthin and Ralph) are invited to sit at the head table. Merthin shows his father the bow he had made. Sir Gerald is impressed with the bow but tells him to give it to a peasant since bows are unfit for knights.

Merthin goes to the field where the shooting practice is located. The kind rich girl introduces herself as Caris. Philemon tells Merthin that boys are not allowed to shoot. Humiliated, Merthin leaves. He, Ralph, Caris, and Gwenda (along with her three-legged dog, Hop) go into the forest. Ralph cruelly shoots Hop and kills him.

A knight, Thomas Langley, is pursued by two men in the service of the queen. They demand a letter that Thomas is carrying. Ralph shoots one in the eye, killing him. Thomas manages to kill the other one.

Merthin helps Thomas bury the letter, which contains a great secret. If Merthin hears that Thomas is dead, he is to dig up the letter and take it to a priest. The children vow to keep their adventure a secret. Sir Gerald tells his sons that the priory now owns his lands, leaving nothing for them to inherit.

Chapters 3-5 Summary

Caris takes Gwenda to her home to see her new puppies. Caris’s mother, Rose, has been ill with a wasting disease for a year and seems to be weakening.

Caris gives Gwenda one of the puppies, although her sister Alice complains that was the puppy she wanted. Caris’s father is a wealthy wool merchant who is kind to Gwenda despite her obvious poverty. Caris’s aunt, Petranilla, arrives to check on Caris’s mother and sends off for Mother Cecilia, who often treats simple illnesses.

Mother Cecilia, however, sends for the physician, who says that there is nothing more to be done, meaning that death is near. Petranilla asks Caris what she wants to be when she grows up, although the roles for women are few. When Caris says that she wants to be a physician, Petranilla tells her that only men are allowed to heal the sick.

Brother Godwyn is the son of Petranilla, who is the sister of Prior Anthony. Godwyn wants to go to Oxford to be a physician, but the priory does not have enough money. Godwyn asks Mother Cecilia for the money, but she decides to give it to Saul, another monk.

Sir Thomas Langley is brought in to have his wound treated, and Saul gives a suggested treatment that pleases Cecilia. Anthony discusses the death of King Edward II. The rumor is that he was murdered in prison after being deposed, but Anthony saw his body and saw no signs of violence. Since Rose will soon die, Petranilla agrees to pay for Godwyn’s education. Thomas asks to be made a monk immediately.

Gwenda tells her secret to her father out of fear. He has her take him to the spot where the two men’s bodies are. He takes all of their money and belongings, even stripping them of their clothes.

He goes to a tavern, where he sells the clothes. That night, two men-at-arms burst into their home and demand that Gwenda’s father give them the letter. He denies knowing anything about the murdered men, so he and Gwenda are taken to where the corpses lie.

Gwenda knows nothing about the letter, so the men-at-arms let them both live. They cannot question Sir Thomas Langley because they cannot violate the sanctity of the priory where he now lies.

Caris’s mother is dying. Caris holds her cold hand and is horrified when her father starts crying. Petranilla tells Caris that her mother is dead and she will be her mother now. Caris says that Petranilla will never be her mother.

Chapters 6-8 Summary

Ten years have passed; it is 1337. Merthin is now apprenticed to Elfric Builder, but he has only six months left before he can go into business for himself. He is in love with Caris, from whom he steals kisses and caresses whenever he can, even in the cathedral. Her sister Alice has become Elfric’s second wife.

On Whitsunday, as Merthin and Caris attend the service, part of the inner roof comes falling down. Miraculously, no one is killed, but the people of Kingsbridge view it as a warning from God.

Merthin and Elfric examine the damage with Brother Godwyn (who has completed his education at Oxford) and Brother Thomas (who had been Sir Thomas Langley). Merthin suggests a cheaper and faster method for repairing the cathedral, much to the annoyance of Elfric. Merthin explains that he learned of the history of the cathedral in Timothy’s Book, which had been first written by Prior Philip, the guiding force in the construction of the cathedral.

Merthin lives with Elfric and his family, which includes Griselda, who has always looked down on Merthin. Her paramour recently left town, Griselda claiming that he was too young.

When her parents are gone, Griselda offers to let Merthin sleep with her. He kisses her but constrains himself, thinking of Caris. Griselda begins to cry, and out of pity Merthin tries to comfort her. Her temptations are too much and Merthin has sex with her, although he regrets it immediately.

Buenaventura Caroli, the Italian wool merchant, tells Edmund (Caris’s father) that he will no longer buy his wool at Kingsbridge because of the increase in taxes and because of his own business growing smaller. He says that Shiring is easier to get to and has more accommodations than Kingsbridge, which is owned by the priory.

Edmund sends Caris off to get Merthin, and they examine the bridge to see if it can be made bigger, allowing more traffic. Prior Anthony is against this improvement, but Edmund points out that the bridge means business for the town supporting the priory. Caris comes up with a plan by which the bridge can be built by the townspeople, who will be paid with the toll money. Anthony still disapproves.

Merthin’s brother Ralph is now squire to Roland, Earl of Shiring. He is in love with Lady Philippa, the earl’s daughter-in-law. Ralph and Merthin encounter Annet, a young woman selling eggs. Ralph fondles her and is interrupted by Wulfric, her soon-to-be husband. A fight breaks out and Wulfric hits Ralph in the nose. John Constable, the local authority, questions the bystanders. Lady Philippa lays the blame on Ralph. To appease the Earl, Wulfric receives the light punishment of being put in the stocks for a day.

Chapters 9-10 Summary

Brother Godwyn is fascinated by Timothy’s Book, which contains the history of Kingsbridge Prior. He is interested in the teachings of Prior Philip, especially his belief that women should be kept separate from the monks.

Currently, the nuns are frequently in the priory, especially in the hospital where they serve as nurses. Godwyn sees that his uncle, Prior Anthony, has let the standards slip severely, and he wants to see a restoration take place.

Godwyn tells his mother, Petranilla, his idea, and she applauds him, believing that it will make her son a leader. She advises him to move slowly, making sure that he has support.

Philemon, who is only a servant despite his desire to be a monk, tells Godwin that he has something to show him. Philemon shows him a spy hole where they can see Bishop Richard (a son of the Earl of Shiring) having sex with Margery, his cousin and the granddaughter of the earl.

Godwyn decides that, rather than report this to Prior Anthony, he will use this information to his own benefit. He bursts into the room, seemingly by accident, letting both Richard and Margery know that they have been caught. Godwyn promises Richard that he will keep their secret.

That evening, Godwyn reads the section from Timothy’s Book about the advisability of keeping women at a distance; he suggests that the nuns be moved elsewhere. The younger monks are in favor, but one of the older monks, Simeon, says that they cannot do so without the nuns because it is they who pay for all the repairs on the cathedral.

Godwyn is shocked at this news and feels foolish that he has failed in what he wanted to do. His mother urges him to be patient and to use Philemon (who had been caught stealing a bracelet of Lady Philippa’s) to do his dirty work.

Merthin finishes carving the door for the cathedral. It displays the five wise virgins and the five foolish virgins. Elizabeth Clerk, the illegitimate daughter of the prior bishop, compliments Merthin on their lifelikeness.

When Merthin shows the door to Elfric, he is shocked when Elfric hits him across the face with a stick. He screams that Merthin has deflowered his daughter Griselda, but Merthin says that she was no virgin. Griselda appears and announces that she is pregnant and must marry Merthin, even though they do not like each other. Merthin says that he has no intention of marrying Griselda, even though Alice is sure to relate the whole story to her sister, Caris. Elfric takes an axe and chops Merthin’s door, infuriating him.

Chapters 11-13 Summary

Gwenda and Caris have continued to be friends for ten years. Gwenda comes to Kingsbridge two or three times a year and always visits Caris, telling her secrets. She tells Caris of her unrequited love for Wulfric, who loves Annet.

Caris takes Gwenda to Mattie, an old woman who claims she is not a witch, as women who prepare medicines always are called. It is Caris, however, who mixes a love potion for Gwenda to use on Wulfric.

As Gwenda and Caris go to find Wulfric, Gwenda is stopped by her father, Joby, and Sim Chapman, who is leading a cow. Joby tells her that he has traded her to Sim for the cow. Caris is outraged and tries to get John Constable and Brother Godwyn to stop this, but both claim that Joby is within his rights.

Sim drags Gwenda off to the woods, where a gang of outlaws is hiding. She then realizes that Sim intends to prostitute her to the outlaws. To her temporary relief, all the men are drunk, so they do not have any energy to bother her. She is allowed to sleep alone for the night.

Gwenda devises a plan of escape. She seduces one of the outlaws and stabs him with his own knife while he is on top of her. She runs off but is chased by Sim Chapman.

Caris attends the heresy trial of a mad woman, Crazy Nell, speaking out in her defense. Nell nevertheless is found guilty and sentenced to be executed. She is tied to the back of a cart and dragged through the village and over the bridge.

Merthin confesses to Caris about his indiscretion with Griselda and her subsequent pregnancy. As he tells her of his shame, he notices that the overloaded bridge is sagging. They also notice Gwenda racing toward the bridge, followed by Sim. Just as she reaches the bridge, Sim grabs her.

The bridge collapses, throwing the crowds of people into the river. Ralph sees Earl Roland and rescues him, hoping to be made a knight for his heroic deed. Gwenda drowns Sim and escapes back to the Kingsbridge side. Wulfric’s parents and brother are killed. When Gwenda comforts him, he tells her that at least he still has Annet.

Earl Roland is taken to the priory hospital with a grievous head wound. Matthew Barber operates on him against the wishes of Brother Godwyn, who thinks that prayer and relics will heal him. Caris ironically saves Griselda.

Godwyn is half relieved at the death of Prior Anthony, although he fears the priory being taken over by the equally bad Carlus and Simeon.

Chapters 14-16 Summary

As a result of the bridge collapse, one hundred people died and four hundred were injured. Merthin devises an ingenious raft that will carry much of the traffic across the river. He and Elfric both agree that a stone bridge should be built to replace the wooden bridge.

Caris and Gwenda go to Mattie to get another love potion. Mattie tells them that Griselda is at least three months pregnant. At first Caris is furious at Merthin, thinking he has been having an affair with Griselda much longer than he implied. When she confronts him, he insists they had sex only two weeks before. Three months ago, Griselda was still with her former lover, Thurston. Caris realizes that Thurston, not Merthin, is the father of Griselda’s baby. Griselda had manipulated Merthin to have a father for her child.

Caris discusses the necessity of a stone bridge with her father, Edmund, who agrees that construction must start soon because it will take three years to complete the project. He approaches Carlus, who is temporarily running the priory. Carlus says they cannot afford fifty pounds for a wooden bridge, let alone two hundred and fifty pounds for a stone one. Edmund points out that Prior Anthony’s resistance to the stone bridge cost him his life. Caris has an idea to raise the money independently from the priory.

Godwyn wants to be the next prior of Kingsbridge, but he is unsure how to go about it, especially because Carlus and his supporters have already slapped him down once concerning the nuns. His mother’s advice is to declare that he will not be a candidate and then manipulate the election as a disinterested bystander. Brother Thomas is the only contender to Carlus, so Godwyn decides to find out his background. He and Philemon discover the charter that left a vacant lordship to the priory in payment for Thomas Langley’s entrance as a monk. The charter was signed by Queen Isabella, which confuses Godwyn and Philem. Godwyn tries to talk Brother Thomas into running for prior in the upcoming election.

Merthin confronts Griselda and Elfric with the truth about Griselda’s pregnancy. As he expected, Merthin is released from his apprenticeship. What he did not expect, however, is that Elfric will not give him the tools that an apprentice is always given at the end of his service. Without them, Merthin cannot join the guild, and it is illegal to hire a carpenter that is not in the guild. He asks Father Joffroi of St. Mark’s Church to hire him to repair the roof. Father Joffroi knows he would be unpopular for hiring a carpenter outside of the guild, but he agrees and pays Merthin a journeyman carpenter’s wage.

Chapters 17-19 Summary

Gwenda and Wulfric return to their homes in Wigleigh. Although Gwenda enjoys having Wulfric to herself for an entire day, she regrets that she has no chance to give him the love potion. He is kind to her and shares with her his sorrows over the deaths of his famil, but when they reach Wigleigh he waves her good-bye and goes to Annet.

Gwenda heads toward the one-room hovel where her family (and the cow) lives, not knowing how her father will react when he sees that she has returned. When he spots her on the path, he is interested when she tells him the story of her escape. Her mother is overjoyed to see her daughter again, but she refuses to condemn Joby, saying only that they now have a cow. Joby speaks of trying the same “trick” again at another fair—selling Gwenda to someone so she can escape to repeat the process again. Gwenda sees that she cannot stay another minute in her father’s home and leaves.

The lord must decide whether Wulfric will inherit his father’s ninety acres. However, Sir Stephen, who had been the Lord of Wigleigh, was killed in the bridge collapse, and the Earl of Shiring has not fully recovered. Therefore, the recommendation of what to be done is left to Nate, the bailiff. Wulfric is only sixteen years old, and the land is too large for one man to work. At first the villagers are against Wulfric, but Gwenda turns their opinion to support his inheritance on the grounds that a man’s son should inherit his father’s land. Gwenda urges Wulfric to say he will settle with a delay of a decision if he can be allowed to work the land until then. Nate regretfully allows this; he hopes to get a bribe but Wulfric has no money. Gwenda offers to help Wulfric, but he declines because he knows how Gwenda feels about him and Annet would not like it.

Gwenda works in the fields from dawn to dusk. She also weeds Wulfric’s acres, though he has neither asked her to nor given his approval. She becomes the subject of gossip, but she explains that she is simply helping an honest man. Wulfric tells her to stop tending his fields, and he hires a travelling man named Gram to take Gwenda’s place. When Gram steals Wulfric’s horse, Wulfric has no choice but to accept Gwenda’s help. She lives in his cowshed. Joby brings another man to whom he has sold Gwenda, but Wulfric rescues her. She at last has the opportunity to use the love potion on him. It almost works and they come close to making love, but Wulfric pulls away and goes back to his house.

Chapters 20-22 Summary

Brother Thomas has agreed to stand for election as prior. Godwyn prepares the cathedral for the services in honor of the birthday of St. Adolphus. He moves the sacrificial table out of its normal place, knowing that blind Carlus walks by his memory of his surroundings. As Godwyn hopes, Carlus trips on the table and falls. What Godwyn did not anticipate, however, is that Carlus drops the reliquary containing St. Adolphus’s bones. Horrified at what the saint might do to him, Godwyn takes over the service and picks up the bones as the people pray. He maneuvers Thomas into the position of leader for the rest of the service. Godwyn and Simeon (who supports Carlus) visit Carlus in the hospital. Carlus decides that he cannot be prior if...

(The entire section is 463 words.)

Chapters 23-24 Summary

Godwyn delays telling Earl Roland of his election as prior until six days before Margery’s wedding, which leaves Roland with little time to make trouble. While they are getting out the objects for the installation, Godwyn and Simeon discover that a ruby is missing from a crucifix. Godwyn suspects that Philemon stole it when the crucifix was knocked off the table by Carlus’s fall. Philemon indeed has it but returns it to the floor to be found by Simeon.

Predictably, Roland is irate at the news that Godwyn has been chosen as prior and demands that the election be rerun. Godwyn tells him that, unless his election is ratified by Bishop Richard, none of the monks and nuns will serve at the wedding, which will make Roland...

(The entire section is 410 words.)

Chapters 25-26 Summary

Now that Godwyn has been made prior, Edmund wants to begin work on the bridge immediately. He feels shocked when Godwyn says he wants Elfric to design the bridge. Petranilla supports the idea; she believes the business should be kept in the family as much as possible. Caris objects to having anyone but Merthin design the bridge. Petranilla points out that if she were married to Merthin, the situation would be different. Edmund is furious and calls a meeting of the parish guild, effectively taking the decision out of Godwyn’s hands.

At the guild meeting, both Elfric and Merthin present their bridge designs. Both designs situate the bridge at the point where Leper Island sits, thus cutting down the cost of building one...

(The entire section is 461 words.)

Chapters 27-29 Summary

Wulfric and Gwenda harvest their crops, though the wet season has not produced a bounty. They receive news that Wigleigh has a new lord who will settle the question of Wulfric’s right to inherit. Annet’s father promises to pay the heriot tax for Wulfric so he and Annet can get married. He also bribes Nathan Reeve to advise the new lord to give Wulfric his inheritance. Wulfric is optimistic until he learns that the new lord is Ralph, who refuses his request. Annet tells him she will not marry a common laborer. Two weeks later, she marries Billy Howard, whose father is a landowner. Gwenda attends the wedding but Wulfric does not. Afterward she finds Wulfric at home, and in the night she lies down beside him. When Wulfric awakens...

(The entire section is 441 words.)

Chapters 30-32 Summary

Edmund’s wool trade suffers to the point that he is almost bankrupt. Without the bridge, the merchants of Kingsbridge do not attract the customers they need to survive. Caris tells Merthin that her father will not be able to fulfill his financial pledge for the construction of the bridge. Many other merchants are facing the same issue. Merthin worries that his bridge will not be completed, which will mean the ruin of the town as well as himself.

Since Caris had her abortion, she has kept Merthin at a distance, and he seems to be spending more time with Elizabeth Clerk. Griselda has given birth to a boy, whom she has named Merthin out of spite. Gwenda is almost eight months pregnant. Caris reflects that she would be...

(The entire section is 458 words.)

Chapters 33-35 Summary

Caris is worried about her father, Edmund, who seems to be growing feeble-minded from the stress of his failing business. Caris tells him her plan to turn to wool into cloth, which will make a profit for them, especially if they can dye it and full it. Edmund agrees, and Caris learns the skills of weaving. She discovers that a substance called madder, along with alum, gives Italian cloth its vibrant scarlet color. With Mattie’s help, she obtains the ingredients and begins to experiment until she has the desired result. She takes the scarlet cloth to St. Giles’s fair, where she sells it at her asking price to a London merchant, who says he will buy as much of the cloth as she can weave. Caris is exuberant as she tells her father...

(The entire section is 472 words.)

Chapters 36-38 Summary

Father Gaspard and the accusers arrive at Lord William’s castle. Gwenda manages to speak to Lady Philippa alone and explains the situation. Philippa agrees that Ralph cannot get away with raping Annet; he might rape someone else, even her. The next morning, William explains the process of taking the case to court. He pledges the surety himself. He warns Annet that she cannot withdraw the accusation or she would receive severe punishment. When asked what punishment Ralph will get for rape, William tells them that there is only one punishment for rape: death by hanging. That night in the great hall, Wulfric and Gwenda make love, which they have not done since the rape and Wulfric’s vow not to forgive her for tripping him.


(The entire section is 433 words.)

Chapters 39-40 Summary

Merthin explains the trial to Elizabeth Clerk. He thinks Earl Roland was clever in choosing to be absent; he did not have to watch one of his men hanged. It has been over a year since Caris broke off her relationship with Merthin following her abortion. Merthin invites Elizabeth to go out with him to see the house he is building for Dick Brewer. It will be one of the biggest houses in Kingsbridge, with glass windows and separate bedrooms. Elizabeth and Merthin discuss their dream houses. Elizabeth is fairly specific as to who would be living in the house with her, but Merthin is vague. Elizabeth begins to undress, hoping to seduce Merthin. Merthin is still in love with Caris, so he stops her. She becomes angry and stomps out.


(The entire section is 477 words.)

Chapters 41-42 Summary

Godwyn is told by his lawyer, Gregory Longfellow, that it is likely the king will grant a charter to Kingsbridge. Godwyn wants to stop this process. Philemon suggests that they try Caris for being a witch, based on some of her actions and her friendship with Mattie. Philemon is placed in charge of gathering evidence. At church, Merthin points out that Elizabeth Clerk, who became a nun after Merthin rejected her, hates Caris. Philemon questions Caris about Mattie, but Caris rejects the possibility that her friend could be a witch. Merthin thinks Philemon has something planned against Caris. At the Fleece Fair, Caris’s scarlet cloth sells quickly.

Edmund has a fit and is taken to the hospital. Caris runs for Mattie but...

(The entire section is 426 words.)

Chapters 43-45 Summary

Seven years have passed, and Sister Caris is now the head of the priory hospital. A pilgrim, who introduces himself as Gilbert of Hereford, comes to worship. She points him in the right direction after catching him urinating against the priory wall. A man brings in his eight-year-old daughter with a severe burn on her arm. Caris treats her but Brother Joseph, the monk-physician, recommends a poultice that Caris doubts. In the night, Caris wakes up to attend to the girl. She is interrupted by Mair, who asks her why she does not think she is pretty and kisses her. They hear a noise and discover Gilbert in the library, stealing some of the church’s golden implements. Caris catches him and scratches him, then Mair knocks him out with...

(The entire section is 479 words.)

Chapters 46-47 Summary

In July of 1346, Edward III launches the largest invasion force England has ever amassed. Caris and Mair follow two days later. They were unable to go sooner because the king commandeered all the ships to carry his army across the Channel. The two nuns think it best to follow the army as they seek Bishop Richard. The boat captain who takes them across gives them a ham. When they object to taking his food, saying they have money, the captain tells them money will do them no good if there is nothing to buy. The army traditionally destroys everything it cannot take with it so nothing will be left for the enemy.

Caris and Mair travel the road between blackened fields, house, and villages. Only occasionally would they find...

(The entire section is 398 words.)

Chapters 48-50 Summary

When Caris and Mair reach Abbeville, they find the French army still there. Continuing their disguise as boys, they say they are going to the English to ransom their father. They mix in with the French and help the surgeon tend to the wounded. They catch a peek of the French king, Phillipe, and his brother, Charles, Count of Alencon. The next day, they are stuck marching with the French as they approach the English defenses at Crecy. They hope to move around the French and reach the English, but the surgeon stops them and tells them they will have a lot of work to do soon, as the battle is sure to be joined at Crecy. Phillipe halts his men and sends them marching back, which infuriates Charles, who orders his men to keep marching....

(The entire section is 472 words.)

Chapters 51-53 Summary

The harvest of 1347 is poor, and the villagers of Wigleigh are all suffering. No one can afford goods, so the merchants are suffering along with the farmers. Wulfric and Gwenda are still working on Perkin’s land, but he claims he has no money to pay them. Gwenda makes a deal that they will work for food, but only Wulfric will do the work because Gwenda must try to make ends meet another way. Once the hard times are over, they will go back to being paid the same wages. Later, Gwenda tells her husband that Perkin has money stashed away, but he would rather part with them than his savings. Annet still flirts with Wulfric, and Wulfric still enjoys it, which causes Gwenda to think him a fool.

Since Ralph has been missing...

(The entire section is 412 words.)

Chapters 54-56 Summary

At the convent, Mother Cecelia is making adjustments to the duty assignments. Caris is made cellarer, though she had hoped to be made subprioress. She takes care of the elderly Sister Julie. Mair is still in love with Caris, who does not reciprocate her feelings. While they are taking a hot drink to Julie, Caris spots Merthin. Mair’s eyes tear up as she recognizes Caris’s true love. Merthin tells Caris of the plague in Florence and of his wife’s death. They speak of their last parting—Caris saying she did not want to see him because it would be the death of her. Merthin asks her to leave the nunnery, renounce her vows, and marry him, though it would require a pardon for the conviction of witchcraft. Caris tells Merthin that...

(The entire section is 401 words.)

Chapters 57-59 Summary

Madge Webber asks Caris to check on her husband, Mark, who is seriously ill. Caris does not know the cause of his fever, but she fears it is serious, especially when he coughs up blood. As they visit, Caris tells Madge she is thinking of renouncing her vows, and Madge replies that everyone is wondering whether she will do so since Merthin has returned. Merthin hears about Mark’s illness when he discovers that Mark will not be able to show up at the election for the new alderman, for which he is the first choice. When he sees Mark has blood blisters and boils, he knows Mark picked up the plague from the sailors from Bordeaux with whom he talked on business. Merthin tells Caris there is no sure way to escape the illness except to...

(The entire section is 423 words.)

Chapters 60-62 Summary

Godwyn, Philemon, and Elizabeth meet to discuss a plan to make sure that Elizabeth defeats Caris in the election to be the next prioress. They say Caris’s preventions against the plague are from the Arab heathen. Elizabeth will announce that she will no longer wear the linen masks or wash her hands in vinegar, since these are pagan practices and thus witchcraft. Godwyn will preach a sermon against this but carefully avoid mentioning Caris by name (because she is popular with the townspeople). After Philemon and Elizabeth leave, Petranilla comes to tell Godwyn to leave town. He is her only surviving son and she does not want to see him die. Godwyn is disturbed when she speaks of her own impending death.

Elizabeth is...

(The entire section is 488 words.)

Chapters 63-64 Summary

Not only have Godwyn and the monks disappeared, but they have taken all the money out of the treasury, all the monks’ food and drink, all the nuns’ charters, and all the sacred relics, including the bones of St. Adolphus. This leaves no ordained priests in the community to provide leadership and perform religious duties. Elizabeth tries to make an excuse and blame it on Philemon rather than Godwyn, but Bishop Henri dismisses this. He ratifies Caris’s election and puts her in charge, essentially making her acting prior. Caris says he will need to reopen her case or people would view her as one who was convicted of witchcraft.

Caris goes looking for clues as to the monks’ whereabouts. As she walks through the...

(The entire section is 450 words.)

Chapters 65-66 Summary

Elfric dies of the plague a few days after Godwyn disappears. Merthin is made alderman in Elfric’s place. A thousand people have died in Kingsbridge, but the plague seems to be weakening. Tam Hiding is brought into the hospital and tells Caris where Godwyn is hiding. Caris and Merthin travel to St.-John’s-in-the-Forest and make love on the way. When they arrive, they find Godwyn still in charge of the cell, though most of the Kingsbridge monks have died, as has Saul Whitehead. Brother Thomas greets them and tells them that Philemon ran away some time before.

Godwyn soon falls ill, but he refuses to tell where he hid the treasure. Caris sees the grave of Saul Whitehead and thinks Godwyn might have hidden the treasure...

(The entire section is 455 words.)

Chapters 67-69 Summary

Gwenda and Wulfric have been working for Perkin without pay when they learn that Ralph is hiring laborers for the pre-plague wage of a penny a day. They learn that workers are now receiving two pennies at nearby Outhenby, which they are excited to learn is managed by the prioress of Kingsbridge, Caris.

Wulfric resists the idea of leaving Wigleigh, but he submits to Gwenda’s proposal. They leave with their two boys, Sam and David, and are welcomed by the bailiff of Outhenby, Carl Shaftsbury. Gwenda is excited to live in a two-story house with a separate bedroom, but she fears Ralph will show up to demand that they return to his fields, even though they are not serfs.

He does so eight days later and grabs...

(The entire section is 450 words.)

Chapters 70-72 Summary

In the spring, the plague returns. Society begins to break down. Caris tends to two drunks who got into a fight. Friar Murdo comes to the village with a group who punish themselves in an orgy of self-flagellation.

Merthin and Caris are caught kissing by Tilly, who has run away from Ralph with her baby. She says that Ralph wants to kill her, which is not hard for Merthin to believe. Caris grants them asylum in the priory, even though it is for an indefinite time.

Caris falls ill, but it is yellow jaundice rather than the plague. Ralph shows up and demands the return of his wife and baby, but Merthin convinces him to let her stay for three months. He agrees, not that reluctantly. Caris is ill for two weeks....

(The entire section is 447 words.)

Chapters 73-74 Summary

On the morning of Tilly’s funeral, Merthin and Caris stand on the roof of the cathedral and discuss the deteriorating condition of the town. Caris wants to institute changes to guarantee the survival of Kingsbridge.

In the cemetery, she preaches a sermon to the gathered townspeople, revealing her dreams of making Kingsbridge a place where such a thing as Tilly’s murder could not happen again. She wants to build up the city wall and institute a more rigorous law enforcement.

At the funeral dinner, she tells Bishop Henri her ideas of rebuilding the cathedral tower to make it the highest in England, bringing more pilgrims and thus commerce to the town. She also wants Kingsbridge to have a borough charter,...

(The entire section is 496 words.)

Chapters 75-77 Summary

Sir Gregory Longfellow returns from London. He tells Ralph that King Edward is displeased that Lady Philippa has expressed her refusal to marry Ralph, and he blames Gregory. The lawyer tells Ralph that he will force Philippa to marry him and make him the new earl.

The two of them go to Shiring and confront Philippa and Odila. When Gregory tells her the kind’s order, Philippa stands firm and refuses. Gregory responds that of course the king would not order her to marry a man she loathed (plus the Magna Carta forbids forcing widows to marry), so Ralph will marry Odila instead. Gregory and Ralph leave.

Gwenda and Wulfric are frantically trying to get their harvest in when Nate Reeve arrives and orders them to...

(The entire section is 475 words.)

Chapters 78-80 Summary

The new hospital is finished, and Caris and the nuns move into it and set up shop. So too does Sime, the priory physician who just recently graduated from Oxford. An apothecary from London comes, asking to purchase the book that Caris wrote about the results of her medical practice there in Kingsbridge. The apothecary is surprised to find that it was written by a woman, but he gladly gives her an expensive golden crucifix in payment.

The Fleece Fair is resumed now that the plague seems to be lessening once again. A fight breaks out, and Caris is hit on the head when she tries to stop it. There are many injured, whom Caris orders to be taken to the old hospital to keep them away from the plague victims in the new one....

(The entire section is 482 words.)

Chapters 81-83 Summary

It is 1361, and eleven years have passed. Wulfric and Gwenda still tend the land that was returned to them. Davey, their younger son, is twenty and resembles his mother. Sam is twenty-two and has vanished, going to find higher wages even though it is still illegal for a serf to leave his land.

Harry, the plowman from Outhenby, comes to Wigleigh to tell Gwenda that a man named Sam is working for him. Gwenda sneaks out and finds Sam. Unfortunately, Jonno, Nate Reeve’s son, follows her. He is deputy bailiff to his father and still remembers how Sam beat him up when they were children. He has leg irons to put on Sam and take him back to Wigleigh. When he tries to put them on, Sam seizes a spade and hits Jonno, killing...

(The entire section is 456 words.)

Chapters 84-85 Summary

Gwenda asks Merthin to plead with his brother Ralph to pardon Sam, but Merthin believes that justice is being served, no matter how Gwenda is hurt. Caris also asks him to try, so he agrees. He talks to Ralph and asks him to show Sam the mercy that he did not show Gwenda’s dog he shot when they were children. As Merthin expected, Ralph refuses.

Gwenda accepts this, although not that this was the likely outcome; she goes to the castle to meet with Ralph herself. She tells Sir Alan that she wants to meet with the earl in private. Alan had been present when Gwenda gave her body to Ralph, so he assumes that she has come to do the same thing again.

When Ralph enters his room, he orders Gwenda to take off her...

(The entire section is 409 words.)

Chapters 86-88 Summary

Gwenda is concerned that her younger son Davey has been sneaking out, presumably to see a girl. She is surprised when he takes her to see what he has been doing. He has planted madder, the plants that give a scarlet dye, which is very expensive. He says he and Amabel (Annet’s daughter) have often come to this spot. He tells his mother that he is in love with Amabel, which infuriates Gwenda. She does not want Annet to be part of the family or share grandchildren with her.

Nate Reeve discovers them and inquires about the plant. Davey tells him that it is hagwort, a medicinal plant for his mother’s wheezing. Nate brings Ralph to see it, and Ralph identifies it as madder. He tramples the bushes, destroying them...

(The entire section is 457 words.)

Chapters 89-91 Summary

Merthin has sent out inquiries about Lolla’s location, but he has learned nothing. The plague is not severe in Kingsbridge because of Caris’s quarantine preventions.

Davey is excited when he grinds his first batch of madder dye. He sends a sack to Madge Webber, but she returns to tell him that it is weak since he also ground the hulls with the seeds. But she agrees to pay him half price, which seems a fortune to him.

Canon Claude arrives and tells Merthin that he went to track down Philemon at St.-John’s-in-the-Forest and discovered that Brother Thomas has died. He also says that he has suggested that Philemon be sent to Rome as an ambassador to the pope.

Keeping his promise to Thomas,...

(The entire section is 545 words.)