The Witch of Blackbird Pond. Chapter 3.
After weeks on board the Dolphin, Kit Tyler is relieved to reach her final destination. Behold! Wethersfield Colony in all its glory!
What glory? High Street indeed! Wethersfield, Connecticut is a cow path, an unbreached wilderness peppered with makeshift shacks. Where’s the town? Where’s the entertainment? Why in Bridgetown, Barbados, there were boutiques, playhouses, and a daily redcoat calvary parade… she left it all for this dump?
The unpleasant prospect of roughing it for the rest of her days was not the only thing on her mind. She’s still got to tell her Aunt Rachel and Uncle Matthew that she’s coming to stay with them…permanently. What if the Woods turn her away? Where will she go? On top of it all, Nat Eaton had been commissioned to carry her luggage so he will be there to witness the whole embarrassing spectacle play out!
At this point in the story, Kit Tyler and Nat Eaton part ways. I’ve had this scene mapped out in my mind for the better part of a decade. It’s one of those quiet, seemingly insignificant scenes in between the important, plot-advancing melodramas, but its existence adds texture to the story. If The Witch of Blackbird Pond were ever to be made into a movie, leaving this scene out would be a crucial mistake.
“Two of the three sailors had already started back along the road, but Nat still stood beside the trunks and looked down at her. As their eyes met, something flashed between them, a question that was suddenly weighted with regret. But the instant was gone before she could grasp it, and the mocking light had sprung again into his eyes.
“Remember,” he said softly. “Only the guilty ones stay afloat.” And then he was gone. ” (31).
This scene accomplishes one of two tasks. It foreshadows Kit’s impending witchcraft accusation and it adds a degree of complexity to Nat Eaton’s character. He’s a contradictory young man: is he a jerk or a dignified human being? Is his sardonic attitude a shell disguising redeemable features?
Why is it so easy to tell that an outwardly impossible character is inherently good? It’s not so easy in real life: guys who act like asses are usually just that…asses. I suppose it’s because these real life jerks don’t have the luxury of Elizabeth George Speare’s articulate narration highlighting their better qualities.
Characterization aside, Nat’s final parting words were a warning: assimilate as if your life depended on it.