Part 2, Chapter 2 Summary

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The next morning, the sexton comes early for Mr. Viccars’ body, and the rector tells Anna to stay home to rest. Before Mompellion leaves, he tells her that she should heed Mr. Viccars’ advice to burn all his belongings. Anna is upstairs scrubbing the floorboards when Mr. Viccars’ customers begin banging on her door. Anys Gowdie is the first, and she asks Anna why she did not send for her and Mem to give Mr. Viccars an infusion of herbs. Anys says that she has come to claim a dress that was finished but for the hem, and Anna jealously imagines Mr. Viccars working with Anys on a fitting. Anna tells Anys that Mr. Viccars told her to burn all his work, but Anys will not settle for it and demands the dress. Anys leaves satisfied, and all morning, Mr. Viccars’ other customers come to claim their clothing too. All Anna can do is relay his wishes to them.

In the afternoon, on her way to serve in Bradford Hall, Anna makes a detour at the Gowdie cottage. Anys offers Anna a cup of nettle beer, which she says promotes strong blood. Anna thinks back to the days when as children, Anys was taunted by the others yet managed to stand up for herself. When Anna became pregnant, she had to go to Anys, humbled, to ask for her guidance so that she might know what to eat to keep her baby strong. Now in the cottage, Anna cannot bring herself to question Anys, but it is not necessary—Anys asks her if she wants to know whether or not she bedded Mr. Viccars. Anys says that of course she had, but neither had feelings for the other and that Mr. Viccars had every intention of marrying Anna. Puzzled, Anna asks Anys why she would bed a man and not marry, and Anys says that she enjoys her freedom. On her way from the Gowdie cottage, Anna passes the Hancock farm and waves over her dear friend Lib Hancock, the wife of the eldest Hancock son. Anna confides in Lib all that she learned from Anys.

Anna continues on to work at Bradford Hall, where she works on the occasion that they need an extra server for the dinner table. This evening, Colonel Bradford has invited the Mompellions and a gentleman from London to dine with him and his family. While serving, Anna has learned to keep her eyes on her work and her ears closed from the conversation, but tonight, she cannot help but take in the conversation of the gentleman from London. He speaks openly about a contagion that has wracked London. All who have the means are fleeing the city lest they become one of many bodies dumped into great pits that are being used as graves. Anna notices the Mompellions exchange a look of concern. Then Mr. Mompellion says that those who flee the city risk spreading the disease to people in other places and that they should, with God’s blessing, stay in one place to contain the disease. But Colonel Bradford disagrees and states boldly that he would seek to protect his family above all else. Arriving home that night, Anna rushes to her children, praying that she will find them well. Both are cool, and Anna thanks God.

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