Kit Tyler leaves Barbados after her grandfather dies to live with her aunt and uncle in the cold of Connecticut, one of the English colonies in North America. Kit is disappointed with her first view of America, contrasting its bleak grayness to the colorful, warm beauty of Barbados. To prove that America is not the horrible place she fears it to be, Kit asks to go ashore at the ship's first stop. She's appalled at how the women stare at her, and for the first time in her life, she feels embarrassed, but she doesn't know why. She's angered at their rude behavior, making her feel unwelcome in America, and she was glad to get in the longboat to be rowed back to the ship.
Four new passengers get in, three of them a man and wife with a little girl.The little girl drops her doll in the water, no one tries to get it, so Kip jumps in, rescuing the doll. Everyone is angry and shocked Kit can swim, especially the captain's son who feels humiliated that he tried to rescue Kit when she didn't need it.
On board the ship, the mother of the girl whose doll Kit rescued accuses Kit of being a witch because "no respectable woman could keep afloat in the water like that." Kit is told about the water trial test for witches. She's advised to forget how to swim, leaving Kit uneasy in this strange land. What did the others know that she didn't?