Part 2, Chapter 9 Summary

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Mompellion toils endlessly to dig graves to keep up with the dying villagers. Few able men are left to help with the task, and those who are still alive busy themselves with making a subsistence for their families. Elinor fears that the strength of her husband’s will exceeds the strength of his body and that this time, such a quality will be to his detriment.

The next morning, Anna and the rector go out to the Merrill farm to attend Jakob, who is dying of Plague. On his deathbed, Jakob confesses the sins that he committed against his wife and tells Mompellion that he fears his soul will be damned and his children will have no one to care for them. Mompellion assures him that the sins of the past will be forgiven, and he encourages Jakob to name Brand as an heir along with his children so that he might raise them as brother and sister. Jakob agrees, and the rector draws up a will for him. Anna notes how tired the rector must be, for he makes several conventional mistakes on the will.

Returning to the rectory, Mompellion resumes his task of grave digging, but Anna cannot bear to watch his exhausted form. She goes to her father and begs and bribes him with two lambs to dig the graves so that the rector might have some rest.

Demands are made of Anna daily, and she often forgoes sleep to help her fellow villagers. She and Elinor learn new properties of the plants that they have found in the Gowdies’ garden, and the kitchen in the rectory begins to look like an alchemist’s den. They distribute tonics to the villagers and pray that the liquids will boost the health of those still alive. Spring is coming to the village, and everyone knows that the warm weather ushers in the most death as Plague thrives in the warm weather. During the Sunday service, Mompellion tells the congregation that they will no longer meet within the walls of the church to avoid spreading the disease—they will instead meet outside at Cucklett Delf. He also tells everyone that the churchyard can hold no more bodies and that they must bury their dead in their own yards. The people cry and are fearful of having to abandon the house of God, and Mompellion nearly faints at the pulpit. Brand rushes to attend to Mompellion, and Mr. Stanley steps up to deliver a sermon to let everyone know that God has infinite power and wisdom and that the whole world is his house.

The next afternoon, Anna and Elinor pay a visit to Merry Wickford, the young daughter of a Quaker couple who live on the outskirts of the village. The family had been poor until one night George Wickford witnessed a burning drake in the sky. Lore held that a burning drake marks the extent of a lead path underneath, so George quickly staked his claim. But before he could fulfill his legal obligations of making his claim to the mine official, he and his wife and sons died of Plague, leaving behind only little Merry. Other miners are set to come in to claim the Wickford mine, so none will help Merry out of her predicament—she is required to produce and present a dish of ore to the village officials. Elinor says that they must mine the ore themselves, and Anna, recalling Sam’s death, is terrified. But she agrees, and the two women climb down into the mine with Sam’s tools. They work for hours, and although their arms are dead...

(This entire section contains 789 words.)

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tired, they have managed to loose only a few stones. Anna is ashamed to give up on little Merry, so she reveals a secret of the miners: fire can be used to create pressure and loosen the rock. Anna goes back into the mine with wood, which she stuffs into a fissure in the rock. She tells Elinor that she must leave the mine, not wanting them both to be buried if the rock should tumble. When Anna lights the fire, her worst nightmare comes true: the rock cascades from the wall of the mine, and she is buried. Luckily, Elinor and Merry did not heed Anna’s wishes—both are still in the mine and they rush to dig Anna out of the rock.

At the Miner’s Tavern, Merry produces her bag of ore, and the Barmester measures it with his brass dish. The girl has more than enough to stake her claim, and Merry is declared the legal owner of the mine. Although Anna’s body is so sore, she is happy that her efforts resulted in a good outcome.


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