Practical Hitty

a resource for Rachel Field's book

Hitty: Her First Hundred Years chapter summaries


Hitty chapter summaries
For those who are new to children's literature, you may not have read this charming book of Hitty's adventure. While it is of course child-safe, you might wish to have summaries of each chapter available when your children are reading this book for the first time. The time period in which Hitty occurs is very different from the modern day, so your children may have questions or do not understand something.

Chapter 1

After Hitty is carved from lucky mountain ash wood from an itinerant peddler, she is given to the young girl of a Maine household Phoebe Preble. Hitty's first adventure begins when Phoebe sneaks her into church and accidentally leaves her there for several days before she is rescued and returned home.

Chapter 2

Phoebe goes on a picnic with Andy, taking Hitty along. When the children are startled by some of the local Indians, they flee and leave Hitty behind. A crow finds Hitty, carrying her to its nest atop a nearby pine tree. Two days later, Hitty tries to escape the nest, but is caught in the tree's branches. She is rescued by Captain Preble several weeks later.

Chapter 3

The family goes to Boston with the captain while he attends to his whaling business.

Chapter 4

When the captain sets sail aboard the Diana-Kate, his wife, Phoebe, Andy, and Hitty go along rather than return home.

Chapter 5

The ship's crew begin their whale-hunting and processing aboard the ship. Soon after they reach the South Seas, the ship catches fire. Everyone abandons ship, accidentally leaving Hitty behind. She falls into the sea just before the fire reaches her.

Chapter 6

Hitty floats for several days, eventually washing ashore on the island where the Prebles have taken shelter. When natives visit from a nearby island, they become interested in Hitty, eventually taking her with them.

Chapter 7

The natives place Hitty in a bamboo temple and worship her. Andy rescues her as the Prebles are leaving the island. After rowing their bow all night toward a light, they are spotted.

Chapter 8

The rescuing ship, the Hesper, is bound for Bombay in India. When they arrive, everyone goes ashore to buy supplies and trinkets. Phoebe coaxes her father into buying a coral nose ring sized to make a necklace for Hitty. Late in the day, Phoebe is carried back to the ship, dropping Hitty in the mud of the Bombay streets. After some time, Hitty is discovered by a snake charmer. She is dusted off and becomes part of his act. A missionary husband and wife team spots Hitty one day, buying her from the snake charmer for their young daughter Thankful.

Chapter 9

Hitty learns to read, write, and count from Thankful's lessons. After Thankful recovers from a serious illness, she is sent to her grandparents in Philadelphia, where she is welcomed and doted on. A short time later, Thankful brings Hitty to a birthday party at the Pryces' house, where both are teased mercilessly. Thankful is so ashamed of Hitty that she shoves Hitty into a horsehair sofa and leaves her.

Chapter 10

The sofa is moved to the attic of the house, where Hitty is trapped alone for years. Some years later, children playing in the attic discover Hitty, and she is given to Clarissa Pryce, a younger cousin of the now-grown birthday girl. Hitty perfects her writing skills while attending school with Clarissa. She is also given a desk, a china dog, and a doll house. One day Clarissa sneaks out to attend the concert of opera singer Adelina Patti. The audience is so thrilled with the performance that Clarissa and Hitty are swept onto the platform.

Chapter 11

Clarissa has her daguerreotype taken. Because of an error, the photographer offers to take one of Hitty as well. During a visit by the poet John Greenleaf Whittier, he admires Hitty and writes a poem about her. As the Civil War begins, Clarissa has less time to play with Hitty.

Chapter 12

As the War is ending, Clarissa goes away to boarding school. Hitty is put into storage and shipped to New York City. A handling error results in her arrival at the Van Rensselaer house. A hired seamstress Miss Pinch finds Hitty's box one day. She hides Hitty away in her room, sewing fashionable outfits for her. Hitty is discovered and purchased for the daughter of the house, Isabella, who takes her everywhere. They meet Charles Dickens while out for a walk one day.

Chapter 13

Isabella sneaks out of the house on New Year's Eve, where she is trapped by young thugs who steal Hitty from her. This ruins Hitty's fashionable clothes. One of the thugs takes Hitty, giving her to his cousin Katie. When Katie falls sick, she and Hitty are set to a farm to regain strength. Hitty is lost one afternoon on a hay ride, and remains in the barn for several years. She loses her coral beads during this time.

Chapter 14

Eventually Hitty is discovered in the barn and sold to a passing artist. He cleans her up, using her as a prop when he is painting children. Hitty remains with him for many years, travelling to New Orleans at Mardi Gras time. He takes a room in a French Quarter house owned by sisters Miss Annette and Miss Hortense Larraby. The sisters borrow Hitty to dress and display her in the New Orleans Cotton Exposition. Hitty is dressed as a bride and placed in a glass case at the Exposition. A clever young girl who is quite taken with Hitty steals her when the case's key is left in the keyhole one day. The girl, Sally Loomis, is the daughter of a riverboat captain. She travels with her father, keeping Hitty hidden away in a sweetgrass basket. While attending a church service, the sermon on the sin of stealing motivates Sally to cast Hitty and basket into the river.

Chapter 15

Hitty floats down the river and is discovered by two children of sharecroppers who are fishing. After spending the day in their boat, she is given to the sister of one of the boys. Car'line, the boy's sister, loves Hitty immediately and plays with her all the time. Car'line takes Hitty to a Christmas Eve party at the plantation house, where Hitty is recognised by Miss Hope, the daughter of the plantation owner, as the doll from the Exposition. Miss Hope gives Car'line a doll from her own childhood in exchange for Hitty. She cleans and mends Hitty's clothes, sending a letter to a friend in New Orleans about finding Hitty. She then ships Hitty to the friend, who forwards her to the Exposition Officials. However, since the Exposition has been over for some time, it is decided that Hitty should be returned to the artist. Hitty is shipped to and fro, eventually ending up in the dead letter office. During a post office auction, Hitty's box is bought by one of the postman, who accidentally leaves her in a tobacco shop. The next day, Hitty's box is wrapped up and included with a purchase of clay pipes. The pipe buyer is angry to find Hitty instead of his pipes, but his wife takes Hitty to incorporate in a craft project. Hitty is turned into a pincushion and sold at a church fair.

Chapter 16

A woman named Maggie Arnold purchases Hitty, sending her as a birthday present for her great-aunt in Boston. However, her great-aunt doesn't want Hitty either, giving her to a friend Pamela who is a doll collector. Pamela recognises Hitty's worth and age, freeing her from the pincushion wrappings. Hitty becomes Pamela's most prized doll and the star of Pamela's collection. She accompanies Pamela to a country house for the summer, Hitty's first ride in a horseless carriage. Unfortunately Hitty is bumped from the vehicle, landing in the roots of a nearby tree and abandoned when she cannot be located. The following week she is found by picnickers, who leave Hitty behind in their rented wagon. After a few days, the stable man finds her and leaves her in his office window until her dress fades. She discovers the year is 1913 and she has returned to Maine. The stable man's daughter finds Hitty while cleaning and takes her to a married sister, who then includes her in the antique store she is establishing in her front parlour. After some time Hitty is sold for $2 to an older lady who collects china animals. Hitty is placed in a display of the lady's china animals, and soon realises she is once again in the Preble house where she was created! Hitty remains there for some years, waiting each winter for the lady to return to the house each spring.

Chapter 17

One year the lady does not return to the house, with the house remaining closed all summer. That September, an auction is held for every item in the house. There is a bidding war for Hitty, with the lucky winner being an older gentleman who buys her for $51. This gentleman is a buying agent for an antique shop in New York City. He takes Hitty by train to the shop.

Last remarks

The shop owner places Hitty in the shop window with her name pinned to the front of her dress. The gentleman brings gifts for Hitty from his trips. Hitty overhears two artists who come to visit her often [Rachel Field and Dorothy Lathrop]. Through the window one day she sees an airplane for the first time, and looks forward to more adventures once someone buys her.

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