Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 615
Anna cries for the loss of her father and at the rectory, Elinor asks Anna to tell her everything that her father did to her as a child. Anna finds that the painful tales pour out of her as she sobs. Afterwards, Anna feels she can think more clearly. She tells Elinor that she suspects that Aphra’s strange behavior at the cairn is a sign that she has obtained charms to try to protect her family from Plague. Elinor says that she is not alone—she fishes out a piece of frayed cloth from her whisket. Margaret Livesedge claimed that she got the cloth from the ghost of Anys Gowdie when her baby was sick with Plague. Anna tells her about Kate Talbot’s charm, and Elinor says that Mr. Mompellion has also found these sorts of charms in the possession of others. The rector then enters and says that the Mowbray baby is in need of assistance. Anna goes to the Mowbray cottage, but finds that the baby is not suffering from Plague. His parents have feared for his life, so they have sought counsel with the ghost of Anys Gowdie and are following her advice by boiling the baby’s urine and passing the baby through the brambles in the field. Anna applies a salve to the infant and tells the Mowbrays that they must stop their foolishness.
The spring arrives, and in the good weather, Anna’s ewes birth many lambs. But with such life also comes much death as the good weather brings on more cases of Plague. By June half of the villagers are dead. Fear grips the villagers and makes them act out of character. Especially troubling is the case of Jane Martin, Anna’s former nanny. The Puritan girl had always been strict and chaste in her manners, but now with her entire family dead, Jane spends most of her time at the alehouse and the men joke that she cannot keep her legs closed.
Also strange is the case of John Gordon whom Anna sees one evening naked to the waist and carrying a scourge of braided leather and nails. Every few steps, John lashes himself and the nails gouge his skin. Anna runs back to the rectory to tell Mr. Mompellion what she has seen, and he says that John has become a flagellant, one who sees disease as God’s punishment for human sin. Mr. Mompellion cannot risk John’s influencing others to take up the practice, so he and Anna ride out to find John. On the way, they stumble into Jane and Albion Samweys fornicating on the roadside. The rector sends Albion home, but he screams at Jane. Anna begs him to stop because Jane is clearly drunk, and the rector apologizes for his outburst. At the Gordons’ farm, Mr. Mompellion and Anna only find John's wife Urith who looks starved. The cottage is completely bare. Urith tells them that John has become obsessed with appeasing God so that they might remain safe from Plague. They do not find John that night; two weeks later, Brand, while searching for a lost lamb, finds John splayed among the rocks at the foot of the Edge. The villagers feel sorry for Urith’s state, so they send her provisions—within a week she comes down with Plague. Some of the villagers begin to whisper that John’s ways must have kept him and his wife safe, and they try to rally others to become flagellants too. Elinor tries to reassure the rector that things in the village will become good again, and Anna is jealous of the love and comfort that the two share.