Chapter 20 Summary

All week, Isabel watches rebel militiamen arrive from the country surrounding New York. Isabel notices that the soldiers rarely bathe themselves; she does not know whether this is because they dislike washing, or whether they are just too busy preparing for war. Either way, they stink.

Madam’s moods swing wildly as the battle approaches. One moment she is excited about the wonderful life she will have after the British take over, and the next moment she is angry that the King's army has not made its move yet. Her attitude toward Isabel and Ruth is strange, too. She keeps sneaking up on them, clearly hoping to catch them doing something wrong.

Becky contracts a flu-like illness called the ague, so it becomes Isabel’s responsibility to make trips to the market. On one of her outings, she stops to watch a group of men throwing ropes over a giant gold statue of King George III on a horse. The statue is far larger than a real man and horse, but the crowd pulls it down and attacks it with axes. Isabel creeps closer, wondering how axes are able to chop though the material, and she sees that the statue is not gold at all. It is just lead covered by gold leaf. As the men chop it up, they make plans to melt down the lead and turn it into bullets. “We’ll fire Majesty at the redcoats!” one of them says.

When Isabel arrives home, she sees lights on in the parlor. Becky cheerfully explains that Madam visited the preacher’s wife and received a lecture about being a better caregiver for her slaves and servants. Upon her arrival home, Madam promptly baked gingerbread and made a pitcher of sweet milk so that Isabel and Ruth could eat and drink something nice. Now Madam is up in the parlor with Ruth and two visitors. Becky has instructions to go home early and give Isabel the evening off.

Isabel finds it difficult to believe that Madam's behavior could change so suddenly. Becky advises Isabel to accept the kindness while it lasts. In the morning, Madam will surely be back to her usual behavior. Isabel sees the wisdom in this, so she sits down and eats the gingerbread and milk. The idea of a night off is so strange to her that she has little idea what to do with it. She decides to slip Robinson Crusoe from the library and read a few pages quietly to herself. However, she feels extraordinarily tired. She creeps downstairs to the cellar, climbs into bed, and falls asleep.