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The Witch of Blackbird Pond

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Jennifer Voliva

on 13 December 2012

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Transcript of The Witch of Blackbird Pond

The island of Barbados was settled by British colonists who had been given charters by the king of England. They were loyal to the king. Puritans believed the Church of England had become too political and they wanted to "purify" the Church and their own lives. They left England to escape persecution (they were being mistreated by the Church and the king). Puritans settled in Wethersfield in 1634 and in Saybrook in 1635. They were happy to govern themselves separate from the king of England. In 1686, Sir Edmond Andros was named as Governor of the Dominion of New England by the king. The Puritans in Connecticut did not want this to happen because they did not want to live under the king's rule. Kit's grandfather was knighted for loyalty by King Charles and was a loyal subject of King James. Kit's parents died in a boating accident when she was very small, so Kit grew up with her grandfather in Barbados. He was well-off and had servants. The servants worked on his plantation and helped take care of Kit. Kit wore pretty dresses and had a lot of freedom. She learned how to swim and read and write. After Kit's grandfather died, she found out that his overseer, Bryant, had sold his crops and disappeared with the money. Her grandfather had many debts. Kit sold everything they had in order to pay off the debts. A man who was a friend of her grandfather's wanted to marry Kit, but he was fifty years old! Remember that Kit was only 16! She decided to leave Barbados and go to Connecticut to live with her only relatives. Kit bought passage on a ship called the Dolphin and set sail for New England. On the boat, she met Nathaniel Eaton, the captain's son, and John Holbrook, who was going to study under Reverend Bulkeley in Connecticut.

When the boat first arrived in Saybrook, Kit was very disappointed because it was dreary and gray, especially compared to the turquoise waters of Barbados. Barbados Saybrook After stopping for a while in Saybrook, the Dolphin set off again for Wethersfield. A little girl lost her doll over the side of the boat. Since Kit knew how to swim, she jumped over the side, swam to get the doll, and then swam back to the boat. She was warned by John Holbrook not to get in the water again, because everyone would think she was a witch. In the 1600s, there was a lot of persecution of witches. One of the tests to see if someone was a witch was to tie a rock to their foot and throw them in the water. If they drowned, they were innocent, but if they floated, they were a witch. Kit surprised her aunt and uncle when she arrived, but they decided to let her stay since she had no other family. Kit could not believe how dreary their clothes were, how much they worked, and how strict her uncle, Matthew Wood, seemed to be. He did not allow them to have any fun, and everyone was expected to work from sunup to sundown, even Mercy, who had to use crutches, due to an illness she had when she was younger. Kit was very unhappy in her new home. Puritans lived a busy life. They believed idle hands were the devil's playground. They spent all of their time working, and spent the Sabbath at church meeting. They really didn't do anything for fun! Kit did not enjoy her first experience at Sabbath Meeting. The men sat on one side and the women sat on the other side. Everyone seemed to stare at Kit in her fancy clothes. The hard narrow pew bit into her legs and it was hard to sit still. Kit couldn't believe everyone else was able to sit through the meeting. Boys got rapped on the heads or backs if they didn't sit quietly. Kit found out they had to go to a second service that evening. Reverend Gershom and John Holbrook visited Matthew and Rachel Wood's house for dinner one night. While they were there, we got our first glimpse of the disagreements between the men about their allegiance to the king. BUT, William Ashby asked if he could come by and visit Kit (he wanted to come courting!). The message lasted at least two hours. William Ashby came to visit Kit. They sat in the same room, talking very little, for an hour. Kit was bored, but William seemed content to just sit and look at her. Judith and Mercy reminded Kit that they thought William was interested in Judith before Kit came to live there. Kit did not enjoy William's company, but after a while she decided he might not be so bad. After all, maybe he wouldn't expect her to do a lot of work if she married him. There was finally a nice day, and Kit and Judith went to weed the onion field in the south meadow. Kit felt peaceful and comfortable for the first time since arriving in Wethersfield. There was a small shack at the edge of the marsh. Judith told Kit that a woman named Hannah Tupper lived there. Everyone said that Hannah was a witch. Mercy asked Kit to help her teach school. Kit agreed because she felt like she may finally contribute something to the family. She told Mercy that she heard everyone say that she would be more helpful if she had been a boy. Mercy explained to Kit that her parents had two boys who both died when they were young. One boy was two years older than Mercy. They both got a fever. Mercy got better, except for her leg, but her brother died. The other boy died when he was only a week old, after he was baptized outside in the freezing cold. Kit helped Mercy teach the dame school in their kitchen. She was envious of how patient Mercy was with her students. Kit thought school was boring and wanted to find a more interesting way to teach the students. Kit had the children play-act a story from the Bible. Mr. Kimberley, the schoolmaster, caught them and fired Kit. Although the Puritans believed in educating their children, they did NOT think it should be fun! Kit went back to the meadow where she felt comfortable. She met Hannah Tupper, but Kit didn't believe she was a witch. She told Hannah about everything she had been going through and Hannah helped her feel better. Aunt Rachel did not believe that Hannah was a witch. She told Kit that Hannah was a Quaker, so no one in town would talk to her. She said that Kit should not see Hannah again. Puritans made everyone pay church taxes and attend meeting on Sundays. Quakers refused to do both of these things. Quakers allowed women to preach and believed in equality between men and women. Puritans believed that men were the head of the household. Since Quakers had different beliefs than the Puritans, they were persecuted. Some of them were even branded, had their ears cut off, or were killed! Hannah went to see the schoolmaster and apologized. He let her work with Mercy again teaching the dame school. Kit went back to see Hannah again. While she was there, Hannah got a surprise visitor - Nat Eaton, the first mate from the Dolphin. He brought Hannah gifts each time he came back from a trip to Barbados. Kit learned that Hannah helped him feel better when he was young and sad, the same way she helped Kit in the meadow. Kit couldn't figure out what to think of Nat. Sometimes he seemed nice and other times he seemed like he didn't care about her at all. Kit was teaching one day when she heard someone outside. It was Prudence, who was the little girl who lost her doll over the side of the boat. Kit tried to get Prudence to come to school, but she said her mother wouldn't let her. Her mother told her she was too stupid to go to school, and that she wasn't allowed to talk to Kit. Kit gave Prudence her horn and met with her in private to teach her how to read. She also introduced Prudence to Hannah. Prudence was scared at first, because she had heard that Hannah was a witch. Kit explained that no one had tried to get to know Hannah, so they said bad things about her. William Ashby and John Holbrook came to visit again. Kit was bored because William always talked about the house he was building. Judith enjoyed talking to William about his house, even though she said she had decided to marry John Holbrook. Mercy asked John to read to them again. While John was reading, Kit looked at Mercy and saw that she was in love with John! The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare One day after making candles, Kit decided to visit Hannah again. Her Aunt Rachel sent a leftover apple tart with her. Aunt Rachel said she didn't approve of her going, but she couldn't bear the thought of Hannah being hungry. When Kit got to Hannah's house, she found out that Nat was visiting again, doing work for Hannah. Kit helped him patch the thatch roof. Although Kit worked harder than she had since she had come to Wethersfield, she felt happier than she had the whole time. Kit and Nat spent a lot of time talking, and they enjoyed spending time together. When Nat walked Kit home, William was there and was very unhappy to see them together. Kit's uncle was angry that Kit had been to visit Hannah. Everyone was excited about the husking bee that was coming up. Judith decided to "help" John propose to her at the husking bee. Kit went to visit Hannah again, and on her way home she met up with John Holbrook. John admitted that he liked Mercy! He said that since Mercy wasn't going to the husking bee, he would stay at their house to visit her. When Kit and John got to her house, Judith had not left yet for the husking bee. John said he would like to talk to Matthew (to ask to court Mercy). Judith thought he wanted to ask to court her and said so. Matthew gave his permission, and John was not "man enough" to stand up and say what he really wanted. While William and Kit were walking to the husking bee, he asked her to marry him. She pleaded with him to not ask her yet. He said he would wait for her answer. Kit had fun at the husking bee and decided that Wethersfield was not always a dull, boring place. The Dolphin came back to Wethersfield and Kit saw Nat at the dock. He seemed upset with her because he had delivered windows for William's house. Nat thought that meant that Kit had agreed to marry him. When Kit got home she found out that Sir Edmond Andros was coming to Hartford to take over as royal governor of Connecticut. Many of the men in Wethersfield were angry about the royal governor coming and got together at Matthew's house to try to come up with a plan. Although they didn't want Governor Andros to come and take over, the people of Wethersfield were excited to see him and went to the river to get a look at him. For the most part, everyone treated him with respect. Later that evening, William came to the house and told Matthew that the charter was safe. It was in the middle of the table during the talk with Governor Andros, but then it disappeared. Tradition says that this actually happened! The legend is that Governor Andros came to take the Connecticut charter away and to declare his dominion over the colony, by order of the king. The story says that during the meeting, the candles were blown out, and by the time they were re-lighted, the charter had disappeared. They say it was hidden in a huge oak tree to keep it safe. This tree is called the Charter Oak. The oak tree became a symbol of American freedom and is on the Connecticut state quarter. The oak became a symbol of American freedom. Nat and some of the crew of the Dolphin put jack-o-lanterns in William's windows. They were put in the stocks and told never to return to Wethersfield. If they did return, they would receive thirty lashes at the whipping post. Stocks were used to humiliate citizens when they had done wrong. Kit met Prudence again at Hannah's house. Prudence had read everything available to her, and began reading the Bible. This time, Kit taught her how to write her name. When Kit got home she found out that John had joined the militia as a doctor and that they had left to go to Massachusetts. Of course, Judith only thought of herself, and was angry that John had left. Judith and Mercy got very sick, along with several other children in the town. Nothing worked to help them get better, and some of them died. Although Matthew was very angry with Dr. Bulkeley, the doctor came to the house to take care of Mercy. Kit worked hard to take care of Mercy and Judith while they were sick. Several of the men and some of the women showed up at Matthew's house to get him to join them to go get Hannah. They were on a "witch hunt." They were accusing Hannah of causing all the children to get sick. Matthew said he would not go with them when they went after Hannah. Kit snuck out and went to Hannah's house. She got Hannah out before the people got there and took her to the river. Kit stopped Nat when the Dolphin was going by. Nat put Hannah on the boat and said he would take her to visit with his grandmother. Kit went back home and snuck back inside. She found out that Mercy's fever had broken and that she was starting to get better. Some of the townspeople came to Matthew's house and accused Kit of being a witch because she had spent time with Hannah (they found the horn book that she had given to Prudence in Hannah's burned house). The constable took Kit and locked her in the shed behind his house while waiting for her to go to trial. Goodwife Cruff (Prudence's mom) was one of Kit's main accusers. There were several others who made claims against Kit during the trial and tried to prove she was a witch. Kit admitted to being a friend of Hannah's, but she didn't tell them anything about teaching Prudence. She didn't want Prudence to get in trouble. Goodman Cruff showed the copybook that had Prudence's name written over and over. He said it was proof that Kit had put a curse on Prudence. Kit admitted to writing Prudence's name on it. (She really had written her name, but only one time. Prudence wrote it all the other times while she was practicing.) Nat showed up with Prudence at the trial. Prudence told them that Kit had been teaching her at Hannah's house. She read from the Bible and showed them how she had learned to write her name. Goodman Cruff FINALLY stood up to his wife and told Kit that Prudence would go to the dame school the next summer. Matthew convinced them not to punish Nat since he only came back to help Kit. They agreed and let him go. Goodwife Cruff was told that the penalty for slander was thirty pounds or three hours in the stocks. Kit decided not to press charges against her. The first snow fell but Kit wasn't sure she liked it. The next morning when she saw everything covered with snow, she decided it was beautiful. William visited for the first time since Kit was at trial. She was angry at him for not coming to defend her. He said that he didn't hold anything against her and that she could make a fresh start. Kit said she didn't want to live in a big house if it meant that she couldn't even be friends with the people she wanted to. She told William that she couldn't marry him. Everyone went to Thankful Peabody's wedding. It was the first celebration Wethersfield had had since the kids all got sick. Judith spent the whole time thinking that she couldn't have as nice a wedding and wishing that John was there with her. Kit compared Thankful's wedding to the last wedding she attended in Barbados, which was a lot fancier. Two men showed up after the wedding and told everyone that some of the militia had been captured and killed by the Indians. They said that John was one of the men who was captured. Everyone believed John was dead. Everyone felt sorry for Judith, but Kit felt sorry for Mercy, since Mercy couldn't show how sad she was. Several months went by. Kit had a dream of sailing home to Barbados with Nat on the Dolphin. She decided to go back to Barbados but she didn't tell anyone. One night several months after Thankful's wedding, there was a knock on the door. When Kit opened the door, John was there. He came in, went straight to Mercy and put his head in her lap. In April, John and Mercy, as well as William and Judith, announced that they were going to get married. William and Judith were going to live in the house he was building. They were both very excited. William and Mercy were planning to live in Matthew and Rachel's house for a year until he was assigned a church of his own. Kit continued to make plans to leave for Barbados. Eventually, she realized that it wasn't Barbados that she missed so much. It was Nat. Kit thought of all the times she had spent with Nat. Kit thought of how Nat had risked punishment to come to her at her trial. She wondered if he cared for her, or if he did it just because it was the right thing to do. Kit stopped planning to leave Wethersfield and spent her time waiting for the Dolphin to return. Finally, on the second day of May, Kit saw a new boat at the landing and Nat was there. Nat made sure that Kit had not married William. When she said she had not, he said he wanted to talk to her uncle (he wanted to marry her!). Nat named his boat the WITCH, after Hannah. Not because he thought she was a witch, but because she had taken his heart and "bewitched" him. Kit wanted to go on board the Witch, but Nat wouldn't take her on it. He said he would not take her on the boat until he had finished paying for it, and that when he took her on it, it would be for keeps. In other words, they would be together forever. :-) The charter oak tree was blown down during a storm in 1856. They used wood from the tree to make the desk of the Governor of Connecticut and chairs in the state capitol. Today the charter oak is on the Connecticut state quarter.
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