Part 2, Chapter 13 Summary
Even though Anna does not want to abandon Aphra to her madness, she does not go back to her croft, reasoning that Faith is already dead and there is nothing more she can do. Her mind is taken over by something that she has noticed—since the first Sunday in July, no new persons have come down with coughs, fevers, or Plague sores. When the villagers gather at the Delf the following week, there are no newly missing faces. Mompellion does not directly address this new phenomenon in his sermon, but simply says that life endures.
The next morning, Anna finds Andrew Merrick’s rooster among her hens, and in her wonder, the rooster flies off in the direction of Merrick’s abandoned cottage. Soon after, Andrew Merrick returns from his hermitage and says that he trusts the good sense of his bird. As people begin to realize that the Plague is likely behind them, they do not rejoice, for more than half of the villagers have died during the previous year. At the rectory, Elinor tries to get Michael to agree to host a Thanksgiving service for their deliverance, but the rector argues that it might be too soon. He does not want to risk crushing the villagers’ spirits if someone were to later become ill with Plague. Instead he sets the date for the service for the second Sunday in August.
All remain in good health, so the Thanksgiving service is held. The rector arrives at the Delf wearing a white surplice trimmed in lace, and Elinor dons a simple gown of embroidered white cotton. Mompellion begins his sermon, “Let us give thanks,” but is interrupted by a shriek asking, “For what?” All turn to see Aphra clutching a knife in her right hand and the body of her dead daughter Faith in the left. No one knows what to do in the presence of this madwoman, so all step back. Mompellion walks toward her with outstretched arms and catches her in an embrace. Elinor follows, and the three stand in each other’s arms. However, the strength of Mompellion’s arms causes Faith’s head to become dislodged from her body, and the small skull rolls on the grass. Horrified by the sight, Aphra flies into a rage, slicing a fatal gash in Elinor’s neck before plunging the knife into her own chest. Aphra falls to her knees, takes up her baby’s head, and kisses it.