Part 2, Chapter 12 Summary

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Elinor and Anna visit some of the elderly villagers and all but one are doing well. They find James Mallion sitting in the dark looking undernourished, so they take him outside and Anna mashes food for him. He grabs her arm and asks her why he has been spared when so many young people have died. She cannot respond, so she pats his hand and shakes her head. On the way back to the rectory, Elinor begins to cough, and even though she tells Anna not to worry, Anna weeps.

Over the next three days, Elinor’s fever rises and Mr. Mompellion and Anna try to comfort her. Anna enjoys the time when Mr. Mompellion is called away so that she can be alone with Elinor because Elinor has become such a significant person in her life: mother, teacher, co-worker, friend. Anna often forgets that Elinor is her mistress—she loves the woman. When Mr. Mompellion returns, he tells Anna not to hover and dismisses her.

As she grows more flushed, Elinor becomes delirious and cries out, “Charles!” Anna is glad that Mr. Mompellion is not around to witness his wife’s delirium. When he does return, he again dismisses Anna, and she retires to the kitchen in case she is needed. She falls asleep at the table, and in the morning, all is quiet. She creeps up the stairs to listen at the bedroom door. Hearing nothing, Anna opens the door. Elinor’s flush is gone, and she lies still with Mr. Mompellion splayed at the foot of the bed. Anna cries, and Elinor opens her eyes. Anna rushes to make her a drink.

Over the next few days, Elinor gets up on occasion from her bed to take short walks. Mr. Mompellion is in great spirits having been saved from his fear that Elinor had come down with Plague when she only had a simple fever. He goes about his errands in the village, the newest being the division of the Gordon farm. The villagers are uneasy about disposing of the crosses that John kept in the cottage, and they decide to burn them. When Mr. Mompellion returns from the burning, he says that God has spoken to him, and at the Sunday service, he tells the villagers that they should burn all their material possessions to try to rid themselves of Plague. All bring out the things that they can bear to sacrifice, and a great pyre is made on the outskirts of the village.

While the items burn, the villagers hear a woman screaming. Brand Rigney and Robert Snee drag a woman clad in all black into the crowd of villagers gathered before the fire. Brand pulls back the woman’s veil—it is Aphra. Brand tells everyone that Aphra has been feigning to be the ghost of Anys Gowdie and that she has been taking money from the villagers for her phony charms. The villagers begin to curse Aphra, and fearing that there will be a mob outbreak, Anna grabs Aphra’s daughter, her half-sister Faith, so that she cannot witness a potential attack. But the rector silences them all and declares that Aphra’s crimes will be dealt with the following day. Mr. Mompellion leaves Brand and Robert in charge of Aphra, and they drag her out to a pig manure pit so that she will be confined.

The next morning, Aphra is too weak to stand, and her skin is broken and blistered. The stench from her body is sickening. Ashamed at their cruelty, Brand and Robert are pale and can look at no one. The rector decides that Aphra has been...

(This entire section contains 776 words.)

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punished enough and only asks that she repay the money she took from the villagers. Anna takes Aphra and Faith back to their cottage so that she can bathe and care for Aphra. As Aphra returns to her senses, she curses Anna and kicks her out of the cottage. Anna returns to check on Faith, but Aphra will not admit her. Days pass, and Anna does not see Faith through any of the windows. Then one evening Anna sees a blaze in Aphra’s window. She creeps to the window, and inside, Aphra is dancing like a madwoman with a snake. Fearing for Faith, Anna rushes into the cottage, and the stench overwhelms her. Faith’s rotting corpse is strung from the rafters. Anna tells the rector what she has seen, and Mr. Mompellion tries to retrieve Faith’s body from the cottage. But again, Aphra will not permit them entry. He decides to leave it be to protect Aphra from accusations of being a witch.


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