Chapter 21 Summary

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In the morning, Isabel wakes up late and realizes that Ruth is not in bed. Assuming that the little girl is in the outhouse, Isabel runs upstairs to check. The outhouse is empty, as is the yard. Isabel begins to grow frightened. She runs to find Becky, who is doing her morning work with tears in her eyes.

Isabel demands to know where Ruth is. Becky dumps flour in a bowl and says that she should have stayed and made the bread last night instead of taking the evening off. She says that she would not have gone home if she had known what Madam was planning. Haltingly, Becky tells Isabel that Madam has sold Ruth to a place called Nevis in the Caribbean. Ruth is going to be a housemaid in a doctor's home.

At first, Isabel refuses to believe that Ruth is gone. She thinks:

I would have known. I would have woken up, fought them off, killed whoever tried to take her from me. I took care of Ruth. I promised Momma I always would.

But Isabel has been outsmarted, drugged so that she could not fight back. Now Ruth is gone. Isabel shouts at Becky, protesting that this is wrong.

Hearing the noise, Madam comes out of her parlor with some papers in her hands. She says that she does not like being interrupted while she is writing letters. She looks down the stairs at Isabel, who suddenly realizes that she is stronger than Madam. Isabel begins climbing up the stairs, looking and feeling mutinous.

Clearly terrified that she is about to be attacked, Madam orders Isabel to get back to work. When Isabel refuses, Madam panics. She grabs a painting off the wall and slams it down on Isabel’s head. Isabel staggers under the blow and then turns around and runs outside. As she flees, it occurs to her that this is the first time she has used the Locktons’ front door.

A chase soon begins, but Isabel makes it to the rebel camp. She has a password that gets her admitted to Colonel Regan’s office, but the colonel is not inclined to help her. He listens dispassionately to her pleas for help and then tells his men to send her elsewhere. She refuses to go. “Please, sir, you must help me…as I once helped you,” she says. The men in the room all stare at her, shocked that a little slave girl would dare make demands from an officer and a gentleman.

At that moment, Madam rushes in and demands her property back. The colonel looks unsure of himself, but one of his sentries reminds him that both the British Parliament and the Continental Congress uphold laws protecting citizens’ rights to hold property—including slaves. Madam offers to sell Isabel to the rebel army for a fair price, but the colonel says that young girls are no use to him. Isabel pleads with him, but he brushes her off, saying, “Even during time of war, we must follow the rules of property and civilization."

With that, the matter is closed, and Isabel is ordered to go home with her mistress. But Madam has pushed Isabel too far, and Isabel is not willing to go back to the Locktons’ house. As everyone else moves to leave the room, she makes a run for the open window. She almost reaches it—but then someone hits her hard over the head.

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Chapter 20 Summary


Chapter 22 Summary