In Cue for Treason by Geoffrey Trease, a story of injustice, betrayal, and love is delivered from the perspective of Peter Brownrigg. Peter is a fourteen year-old Cumberland farm boy in the Elizabethan times, who ran away from home chased by the county nobility and ended up as the heroic savior of Queen Elizabeth. Of course, Peter would not have accomplished any of his feats without his friend Katherine Russell, also as known as Kit Kirkstone. With her independence, courage, and intelligence, Kit is a true heroine.
Independence comes first and foremost among Kit’s virtues, since it induces Kit to rely on her own judgment and act as she deems fit. For example, Kit’s “guardian wanted [her] to marry a man [she] didn’t like”, but knows that “the man is a brute,” who “doesn’t care twopence about [her], really – treats [her] like a child” and that “All he wants to do is to lay hands on [her] estate… trying to fix up a formal public engagement before [she] was old enough to realize how serious it all was… thinking [she] wouldn’t dare to break it off and as soon as [she] is fifteen or so he’d marry [her] and take everything.” Thus, our protagonist “ran away from [her] guardian’s house one evening as soon as it was dark, and then [she] joined Desmond’s company as a boy”. Kit could not have realized all this if she were a normal “lady” who trusts in and is obedient to her elders’ commands and society’s conventions. She also would not have been able to escape had she relied on her guardian’s protection and her family’s wealth. So, this confession of hers (see page 114-117) demonstrates that Kit depends on nothing but herself, physically and mentally. There is also the fact that Kit creates a grand debut for herself in Desmond’s company out of thin air, crashing into Desmond while chased by an offended Peter: “‘What’s this?’ asked [Desmond].‘This little fool-’ [Peter] started.‘-Wants to join your company.’ interrupted [Kit], dropping a curtsy that wouldn’t have disgraced the Queen’s waiting-women.” Later on, when Desmond declares that “‘There’s more in acting than dropping curtsies.’”, Kit responds as follows:“‘I should hope so,’ [she] agreed immediately. Her face suddenly changed to the most tragic expression, and Desmond’s eyes were alight with interest as the girl recited […]”. From this scene (page 67-69) we can discern, again, that Kit is willing to use her own powers to survive in the world. The examples above show Kit’s independence as she disregards others’ expectations and breaks out of the mold the society has built.
Kit also displays plenty of courage, which is just as important as her independence in making her a hero. The most memorable instance is the scene at Virgin Mine, where Peter and Kit were ambushed by local mine-workers while escaping from Sir Philip. Peter was already taken, and even though Kit made it out, she still “rode back… and the black mare came thundering down.” That maneuver must have taken a considerable amount of nerve, to turn back for a hopeless friend when she could have easily ridden away with the excuse of saving England. There are also the multiple times when Peter faces a perilous task, and Kit, though his friend, could have stayed aloof with the excuse of being a girl. Yet throughout the story, Kit never abandons him: when Peter has to hack into a distinguished burglar’s house to retrieve a stolen play and needs a distraction to keep the house-owners away, “Kit volunteered to look after them. [Peter] didn’t like dragging her into danger, but [Kit] turned haughty at once.” They then discover that the yellow gentleman is planning treason with other aristocrats, and Peter is sent back to Cumberland in order to watch over their scheme. Kit, knowing that Peter needs and wants her to come along, insists on accompanying him though she could have continued her successful career as an actress in London. Of course, they run into more trouble when they arrive in Cumberland, and through it all, Kit faces all the dangers fearlessly, never complaining or backing out. Therefore, Kit’s bravery shines through the story not only at dramatic climaxes but also in everyday life as she stands by Peter’s side.
Finally, there is Kit’s intelligence, something neither she nor Peter could have done without. The most crucial moment when her intellect saves them all is probably at Mr. Armthwaite the magistrate’s house, where they go for help in defending their raided house against the traitors. As Peter finishes telling the story, Mr. Armthwaite goes to ring the bell and “inform the necessary authorities”; however, Kit makes a stunning protest: “‘If you dare to touch that bell-cord,’she said in a high, nervous voice, standing very pale and tight-lipped, wagging her pistol in the direction of the magistrate, ‘you’ll get something that will upset you still more! We’ve been unlucky Pete, this man is just as bad as the rest of them.’” Later, when they are safely on the road again, she explains her actions to Peter, “‘He pretended he didn’t know Sir Philip personally when you started your story. He was nervous then. He didn’t know how things were going to turn out and he was playing for safety. If he’d found it was all up with the plot, he’d have gone on denying that he knew Philip. But he does. I remember his face. They’ve dined on my guardian’s the same day, and I’ve watched them talking.” Kit’s ability to recall such an insignificant detail from her former life in a flustering situation, when she desperately needed to trust someone, proves her brilliance. There is also the time when a playhouse pirate steals Peter’s copy of an unproduced play by trickery. They chase him through London, and when they finally catch up with the man, Kit has disappeared and left Peter to face alone the thief and a jeering crowd. However, when she returns to a defeated Peter, “[he] knew there was still hope” when she says, “I found out where he lived. I knew I couldn’t help you, for if bull-at-a-gate methods were going to work, I knew you’d manage without me. But I had a fancy things would turn out as they did, so I kept in the background. He didn’t know I was with you. He looked back once, to make sure you weren’t following him, but he didn’t give me a glance.” From this, we can deduce that Kit does not act on impulse, or even based on what is expected of her. Instead, she uses her fully-developed wits to think things through before choosing the most effective option. If this is not intelligence, then what is?
From using her own abilities and not relying on anybody else, to conquering her fears at a moment’s notice, to making well-considered decisions on the go, Kit draws readers to her with her independent, courageous, and intelligent personality.