Chapter 19 Summary
On Sunday morning, Isabel dozes through the Anglican church service that Madam insists upon attending. At home, Isabel always attended a Congregational church. She does not like the Anglicans’ odd way of worshipping God. The preacher uses funny language, and the incense smells terrible. The services are long and dreary. Isabel longs for her old church in Rhode Island, with its breezy feel and its plain speech.
The slaves and servants are forced to sit in the balcony during services, a fact which annoys many of them. Isabel does not mind. As she sees it, this means her prayers reach God before Madam’s. Besides, it means Ruth is free to play quietly on the floor without anyone objecting. Keeping one eye on Ruth, Isabel prays fervently for Colonel Regan to keep his promise and rescue her and her sister.
In the middle of the service, a boy runs in and announces that the British have arrived. The churchgoers, nearly all of them Tories, scatter in excitement as cannons and muskets fire. Isabel looks around wildly, wondering what she should do. She wants to grab Ruth, run to the rebel camp, and demand to be sent home. But she knows, deep down, that nobody will care a bit about two little slave girls in the middle of a battle.
Madam Lockton and Lady Seymour gather their things to go home, and they tell Isabel and Ruth to come along. Isabel moves to obey, but the excitement and gunfire have sent Ruth into a small epileptic fit. The little girl does not collapse and screech, but she does stand still, quivering. Isabel begs Ruth to snap out of it and walk, but it does not work. When the fit ends, Isabel picks Ruth up and carries her. Madam looks suspicious, but Isabel says that her sister is just scared.
British ships keep arriving all night, lining up in the harbor. Isabel is required to polish the fine silver so that Madam can entertain the King's army when they take over the city. The following morning, Isabel tries to deliver a basket of linens to a washerwoman, but the washerwoman is gone. Isabel takes the linens home and begins washing them herself. She sets Ruth to work with a small bucket and a pair of stockings. Ruth washes rocks instead. Isabel does not mind this until Ruth dumps the muddy rocks into the big wash bucket with the tablecloths. A door slams, and Isabel looks up. Madam has just seen what Ruth has done.