Part 2, Chapter 1 Summary

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Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 711

The winter after Sam’s death was hard for Anna and her children, so when George Viccars comes into town the following spring looking for lodging, Anna welcomes him into her home to occupy a vacant room. Mr. Viccars is clean and neat, a journeyman tailor by trade. He has secured a position with Alexander Hadfield and is more than able to pay Anna sixpence a week for her attic room. By the end of the first week, Anna feels like she should pay Mr. Viccars for bringing laughter back into the home. Mr. Viccars laughs and plays with Anna’s three-year-old son, Jamie, and the boy is happy for the fun because his nanny, a young Puritan girl named Jane Martin, is stern in her ways. Anna seeks to repay Mr. Viccars by making him better dinners than she would otherwise, and he praises her cooking. In the evenings, Mr. Viccars and Anna sit by the hearth, and he tells her stories of his travels. Mr. Viccars seems to not be confined at all in life, whereas Sam Frith’s life was all about confinement in the dark, cold mine. Although Anna is intrigued by his tales of many places, George Viccars himself has had enough of the city with the racket of carriages and the sight of blackened walls and longed to be in the country.

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Mr. Hadfield has ordered a box of cloth from London, and when it arrives, the villagers are excited to see what colors and fabrics are currently in fashion. Mr. Viccars has much work to do after the cloth arrives, but a few days later, Anna comes home to a gift of a golden green dress that Mr. Viccars has made for her. She does not think it proper to accept such an extravagant gift, but Mr. Viccars asks her to at least try it on for him. She does, and he is taken by her beauty. He asks her suddenly to marry him. He places his hands on her waist and kisses her, but Anna pulls away—he is quite fevered and she sends him at once to his bed.

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Anna wakes early the next morning to avoid everyone and think more about her desires. She tends to her errands and leaves the cottage before anyone wakes. At the rectory, Elinor Mompellion is already in her garden. Mrs. Mompellion is a fair, frail woman of twenty-five, yet her mind is sharp. She teaches Anna all sorts of tidbits, like which flowers as tea are good to cool a fever, and Anna is a willing pupil. In one year, Mrs. Mompellion taught Anna to read and write, and at times, Anna feels guilty because she reckons she receives so much attention because Mrs. Mompellion has not yet been able to conceive a child. But Anna wants none of Mrs. Mompellion’s knowledge of herbs, fearing that she, as a widow, might be quickly branded by the village folk a witch, as had Mem Gowdie when Anna was a child. Although acquitted, Mem Gowdie and now her niece Anys are still suspected evil by some in the village, including Anna’s stepmother Aphra.

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At noon, Anna leaves to feed her baby, Tom, yet when she arrives at the cottage, all is quiet. Mr. Viccars’ breakfast remains uneaten, and Jamie tells his mother that Mr. Viccars is still in bed. Anna goes up to check on him, and the sight is horrifying—a large lump of yellow-purple flesh extrudes from Mr. Viccars’ neck and his face is covered in rosy rings. He is drenched in sweat, and the room smells of rotting apples. Anna offers him water, which he drinks thirstily, and then he tells her to leave lest the contagion get on her. He instructs her to burn all of his things. She tries to comfort him, but he tells her to look to herself and be gone. Anna runs to get the rector, and Mompellion sits with Mr. Viccars until he dies. They cross his hands across his chest and pray. Once shrouded, Mompellion carries the body down to the entrance to the cottage so that the sexton can take him for burial. Anna thinks that it must be sad to die among strangers.

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Part 1, Chapter 1 Summary

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Part 2, Chapter 2 Summary