Chains Chapter 10 Summary
by Laurie Halse Anderson

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Chapter 10 Summary

When all the visitors leave, Isabel cleans up after them. She and Ruth eat the leftovers from the men’s plates, but Ruth barely touches her share. After dinner, they go downstairs to the cellar, where they sleep on a corn husk mattress by the potato bin. Isabel asks why Ruth was crying earlier. Ruth starts to cry, but she just repeats Madam’s orders: “No foolin’” and “Shhh.” Isabel thinks Madam must have hit Ruth for playing or talking out of turn. It infuriates Isabel that she can do nothing to protect her sister.

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When Ruth falls asleep, Isabel gets out of bed and tiptoes upstairs. As she creeps through the dark kitchen, she pretends to herself that she is only headed to the outhouse. When she reaches the garden gate, she stops. It is illegal for slaves to leave home after dark without a written pass from their masters, and she knows she may be thrown in jail, flogged, or even killed if she is caught outside at night. These risks terrify her—but she also knows that she has to get Ruth out of Madam’s house. If Momma were alive, she would never allow anyone to hurt her girls. Now it is Isabel’s job to keep Ruth safe. The only way to accomplish that is to get away from the Locktons.

Speaking a silent prayer to her momma’s spirit, Isabel opens the gate and steps out to the street. She knows that Curzon sleeps in a shack behind Bellingham’s place, and she thinks that it should be easy to get there. Unfortunately, many streets are filled with rebel soldiers. Isabel is forced to follow a winding path through shadowy streets around the busy areas, and she gets lost halfway to her destination.

When Isabel eventually reaches the docks, she rushes to Bellingham’s house. She finds Curzon’s shack and knocks. Then she waits in terror, thinking of everything that might go wrong with her plan. There is a long pause, and she is about to flee when Curzon steps out of a tavern not far away. In a rush, she tells him everything she saw in the Locktons’ library.

Curzon seems impressed with Isabel’s story, and she asks if it is enough to get her and Ruth sent home. She says she can be ready to leave in the morning, but Curzon explains that nothing will happen so soon. He tells her to go back to the Locktons’ place and wait. He makes her promise not to reveal herself as a spy, even if rebel soldiers visit the house. As she leaves, he congratulates her for a job well done.