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Элизабет Джордж Спир - The Witch of Blackbird Pond / Ведьма с пруда Черных Дроздов. 10-11 классы

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Элизабет Джордж Спир - The Witch of Blackbird Pond / Ведьма с пруда Черных Дроздов. 10-11 классы
The Witch of Blackbird Pond / Ведьма с пруда Черных Дроздов. 10-11 классы
Литагент «Антология»b4e2fc56-2c4e-11e4-a844-0025905a069a
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Осиротевшая шестнадцатилетняя Кит Тайлет покидает родной Барбадос и отправляется в Новый Свет на поиски своих единственных родственников, которых она прежде никогда не видела. Но в колониальном Коннектикуте 1687 года своевольной и жизнерадостной девушке никак не найти себе место. Наконец, Кит посчастливилось обрести родственную душу, когда она знакомится с загадочной отшельницей Ханной, которую местные жители считают ведьмой. Однако её радость длится недолго.

“Bye, Prudence,” Kit shouted. “I hope to see you often!”

Goodwife Cruff stopped and looked at Kit. “Please leave my child alone! We do not welcome strangers in this town, especially the ones like you!” With these words she marched up the dirty road and disappeared in the fog. Even John Holbrook’s goodbyes were very formal, and he, too, walked away into the fog to meet his new teacher.

Then Kit saw Captain Eaton coming and knew that this was the moment to tell the truth.

“There must’ve been some mistake,” the captain said. “I am sure that your aunt and uncle will be here to meet you any time soon.”

Kit gathered her courage. “Captain Eaton,” she said quietly, “my uncle and aunt will not come to meet me. To be honest, they do not even know that I am here.”

The captain’s eyes widened with surprise. “Didn’t you tell me that they had sent for you to come?”

“I told you that they wanted me,” Kit corrected him. “Mistress Wood is my mother’s sister. Naturally, she would always want me to come.”

“But how could you be so sure that they were still in Connecticut?”

“My Aunt Rachel’s last letter came only six months ago.”

He frowned. “You know very well that I would never have taken you on board had I known this. Now I will have to waste my time trying to find where your uncle lives and taking you there.”

Kit’s cheeks turned red. What if Aunt Rachel – but there was no time for doubt now. She would hold her head high and meet her destiny.

Chapter Three

Kit, Nat, the captain and some sailors, carrying Kit’s trunks, walked along the dirty road. Her last hopes died: there was no fine town of Wethersfield – just a settlement more lonely than Saybrook. A man with a cow stopped to stare at them, and Captain Eaton asked him for directions. “High Street,” the man said, pointing to the right. “Matthew Wood’s place is the third house.”

High Street was just a narrow path. Kit saw that at least her uncle’s house looked respectable. The captain knocked hard on the massive door. The door opened and there was a thin, gray-haired woman. She looked like a servant, but the captain took off his hat and greeted her.

The woman looked at the girl, and her face suddenly turned white. “Margaret,” she whispered.

For a moment the two women stared at each other. Then Kit understood. “Aunt Rachel!” she cried. “It is Kit! I am Margaret’s daughter.”

“Kit? Katherine Tyler? I thought… Oh, my dear child, how wonderful!”

All at once there was warmth and happiness. Yes, this strange woman was really her Aunt Rachel!

Captain Eaton then started saying his goodbyes. “Well, I am glad that everything is well.”

“I’m sorry about all this trouble,” Kit said. “And I thank you, all of you.”

The captain had already started walking back along the road, but Nat still stood beside her. As their eyes met, something passed between them. “Remember,” he said softly. “Only the guilty ones swim.” And then he was gone too.

Through the doorway of Matthew Wood’s house Kit stepped into a great kitchen. “Matthew! Girls!” cried her aunt. “Something wonderful has happened! Here is Katherine Tyler, my sister Margaret’s girl, who has come all the way from Barbados!”

Three people stared at Kit from the dining table. Then a man stood up and came toward her. “You are welcome, Katherine,” he said gravely. There was no welcome in his dark eyes. From behind him a girl came. “This is your cousin Judith,” Kit’s aunt said. Judith’s face was so beautiful – clear white skin, blue eyes, black curly hair. “And your other cousin, Mercy.” The second girl came up more slowly, and at first Kit only saw her extraordinary clear gray eyes – the most beautiful eyes she had ever seen. Then, as Mercy stepped forward, Kit noticed that she walked with crutches. “How lovely,” said Mercy, “to see you after all these years, Katherine! Have you had breakfast yet?”

“I am afraid not. And please call me Kit.”

“Then take off your coat and come close to the fire, my dear,” said her aunt.

“Oh!” Judith exclaimed. “You traveled in a dress like that?” Here in this plain room Kit’s beautiful dress seemed too elegant. The three other women were all wearing some simple gray gowns.

Then Judith saw Kit’s gloves. “They are so beautiful,” she whispered.

“Do you like them? I’ll give you some just like these, if you like. I have several pairs in my trunk.”

Meanwhile, Rachel Wood set a mug, a spoon and a simple wooden plate for Kit. “Tell us, Katherine, how you came so far. Did your grandfather come with you?” she asked.

“My grandfather died four months ago,” Kit explained.

“Oh, you poor child! All alone there on that island! Who came with you, then?”

“I came alone.”

“Oh, poor child!” her aunt cried. “Well, you’re safe here. Have some corn bread, my dear. It was baked yesterday, and there is butter.”

Kit was thirsty and lifted the mug, but then put it down again. “Is that water?” she asked politely.

“Of course. Fresh from the spring.”

Water for breakfast! But the bread was delicious. While Kit was eating, Rachel Wood was looking at her young face. Her eyes filled with tears. “You look so like my sister.”

Matthew Wood had not sat down at the table with the others. What did this kind woman find in that grave silent man? Was he so handsome? Uncle Matthew had said nothing, but Kit understood that he had been watching her very carefully. Now he put on a leather jacket and prepared to leave. “I will be working in the south meadow till sundown,” he told his wife.

At the open door, however, he stopped and looked at Kit’s baggage. “What is all this?” he asked coldly.

“Oh,” said Kit. “Those are my trunks.”

“Yours? Seven trunks? What can be in them?”

“Well, my clothes and some things of Grandfather’s.”

“Seven trunks of clothes, all the way from Barbados, just for a visit?”

The room became suddenly cold and quiet. “I have not come for a visit, sir,” Kit managed to answer. “I have come to stay with you.”

Rachel gasped. Matthew Wood closed the door and came back to the table. “Then why did you not write to us first?” he asked.

“I was afraid that you might not ask me to come, and I had to come,” Kit said.

“We wouldn’t have said no,” said her uncle. “But a step like this should not be taken thoughtlessly.”

“Matthew,” protested Rachel timidly, “we are the only family she has. Let us talk about it later. Now Katherine is tired, and your work is waiting for you.”

Matthew Wood took a chair and sat down heavily. “The work will have to wait,” he said. “It is best that we clear this matter now. How did you get on the ship all alone?”

“There was a ship in the harbor and they said it was from Connecticut. I should have sent a letter, I know, but it might have been months before another ship came. So instead of writing I decided to come myself.”

“You mean that, just on an impulse, you left your home and sailed almost across the world?”

“No, it was not an impulse. I really had no home to leave.”

“And what about your grandfather’s estate? As I know he was a wealthy man.”

“He was wealthy, once. But then he was ill for a long time and couldn’t manage the plantation. He left everything to an overseer who sold the whole crop and then disappeared. So after Grandfather died, there were just debts everywhere. I paid all of them. The land had to be sold, and the house and the slaves, and all the furniture from England. There wasn’t anything left.”

“Humph!” said Uncle Matthew.

There was an awkward silence. Then her aunt put an arm on Kit’s shoulder. “Poor Katherine! It must have been terrible for you! You were absolutely right to come to us. Wasn’t she, Mathew?” said Aunt Rachel.

“Yes,” her husband agreed. “She was right, I suppose, since we are her only relatives.”

At the door he turned again. “Your grandfather was a King’s man, I believe?”

“He was a Royalist, sir. Here in America aren’t you the subjects of King James?”

Without answering, Matthew Wood left the room.

Chapter Four

As the door shut behind him, the atmosphere in the room became friendly again. Rachel began to wrap the bread in a clean napkin. “I must take this to Widow Brown,” she said, “She’s still too weak to cook for herself. I’ll be back very soon.”

“Soon!” exclaimed Judith when her mother was gone. “She’ll have to make the fire, cook porridge and tidy the whole cabin for that lady.”

“Judith,” Mercy said gently. “You know what the Bible tells us about caring for the poor and the widows. And anyway, we should start the work that is waiting right here.”

But Judith did not move. She was looking at Kit’s trunks. “Did you say that every trunk is full of beautiful dresses? When are you going to open them?” she asked.

“Well, I can open them now, if you like. You have the same things too, don’t you?” said Kit.

Mercy laughed. “We don’t! We can’t even imagine! But I don’t know if we should open them now,” she said doubtfully. “There is so much work that we need to do. Father says the Lord doesn’t like laziness. But then, the Lord doesn’t send us a new cousin every day. Perhaps He would forgive us for a little joy…”

Kit opened the first trunk. “Here are the gloves,” she said. “Please, you must take them.”

“What a beautiful dress with ribbons and bows!” cried Judith excitedly. “Our minister preached against such things, and Father won’t let us make one.”

“Try it on,” suggested Kit. Judith quickly put the silk dress on and looked at herself in a small mirror. Truly, in this dress Judith was gorgeous. “If only William could see me in this!” she sighed. “Just wait till I walk into Church in this on Sunday morning. They won’t hear a word of the sermon!”

Kit laughed. “Well, it is yours, Judith. You can take it. Now, which one will be best for Mercy?”

“Please, I do not need such things,” Mercy laughed. “I don’t even go to Church very often.”

But Judith saw a light blue woolen shawl. “This would be perfect for Mercy,” she cried.

Kit put the shawl on Mercy’s shoulders.

“Oh, Kit, how lovely! I never felt anything so soft!” Joy and protest struggled in Mercy’s face.

“Girls! What is going on here?” Rachel Wood had come back and stood now looking at her daughters. “Judith, you look gorgeous!”

“You, Aunt Rachel,” Kit said, “looked just like that yourself. I know because Grandfather told me how beautiful you were.”

The two girls stared at their mother. Kit took something else out of the trunk. “Put this bonnet on, Aunt Rachel,” she said. Rachel did and looked at herself in the mirror. Her two daughters stared at her in disbelief. “Oh, Mother! You look so beautiful! Wear that on Sunday!”

But Rachel’s face suddenly turned white. The door opened and there stood Matthew Wood. “What is this?” he demanded.

“The girls were helping Katherine to unpack,” Rachel explained. “Why are you back so soon, Matthew?”

“Look, Father!” Judith said. “Kit has given me this fine dress.”

“Can a man not come back when he wants to his own house? And you, give it back to her at once! Do as I say!” Matthew shouted. “No one in my family needs any of such things.”

“But they are gifts,” cried Kit, hurt.

“Be quiet, girl! It is time you understood one thing. This will be your home because you have no other, but you will live our ways and not spoil my daughters with your vanity. Now close your trunks and do the work you have to do. Rachel, take off that stupid thing! No member of my family will appear in public like this.”

Mercy had said no word, but quietly folded the blue shawl and put it on top of the trunk.

“Will you let Mercy keep the shawl?” Kit asked quietly.

Matthew looked at the shawl and into his older daughter’s eyes. “All right, Mercy may keep the shawl. I thank you for it.”

So there was one weakness in this hard man!

* * *

“Well,” said Rachel when her husband had left the house again, “it’s my fault. And the table has not even been cleared from breakfast.”

Kit looked at the table. “Don’t the servants do that?”

“We have no servants,” said her aunt quietly.

Kit was surprised and disappointed. “I can help with the work,” she said finally.

“In that dress?” Judith protested.

“It is the simplest I have,” answered Kit. “Give me something of yours then.”

Judith turned red, “Oh, wear that one. You can help Mercy with the carding. You won’t make yourself dirty at that.”

For four long hours Kit sat on a wooden bench and struggled with wool. Mercy showed her how to do it. Carding looked so easy, but the moment Kit took the wool into her hands she admired Mercy’s skill. “Do you have to do all that by yourself?”

“Oh, the others help sometimes. But of course, there are so many things I can’t do. It’s so nice to have you to help.”

How terrible it must be for her, working here day after day. Suddenly, seeing Mercy’s friendly smile, Kit decided to ask a very important question, “Do you think I did wrong, Mercy, to come here? Your father…”

“You did exactly right,” smiled Mercy. “Father doesn’t mean to be unkind. It has been very hard for him here in Connecticut.”

Since Kit’s grandfather died, there had been no one whom she could trust. Now she found the words to say what she had never dared to say. “I had to come, Mercy. There was another reason. There was a man on the island, a friend of grandfather’s. He used to come often to see my Grandfather, and then I found out that he wanted to marry me. He tried to make me think that Grandfather had wanted it, but I’m sure that it was not so. He wanted to pay for everything and save the house. Everyone expected me to marry him. They said what a wonderful match it was. He wasn’t a bad man; actually, he was very kind. But Mercy, he was fifty years old! You see why I couldn’t wait to write? You see why I can’t go back, don’t you?”

“Of course you can’t go back,” said Mercy. “Father will not send you back. You will just have to show him that you can be useful here.”

* * *

By the end of that first day Kit understood that work in that house never stopped, and much of it Kit didn’t even know how to do. By the evening her eyes hurt, and she had burns and blisters on her fingers.

After dinner the candles were lit and Matthew put the great Bible in front of him on the table. Matthew’s reading was monotonous. Kit could not keep her mind on the words. Her head felt heavy, and she almost fell asleep. The others did not notice. Finally, her uncle closed the book and bent his head for the long evening prayer.

That evening, when Kit was going up the stairs to the chilly bedroom, she overheard some unpleasant words. “Why does she have to sleep with me?” Judith complained. “If I have to share my bed, will she share my work? Or will she expect us all to serve her like her black slaves?”

“Shame on you, Judith,” her mother told her. “The child does her best, you know that.”

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