Chapter 26 Summary
A storm comes to the city, and the Locktons’ parlor floods. Isabel spends the morning cleaning. When Madam asks for tea, Isabel goes out to fetch water from the pump. She has a cut on her hand, and the bucket handle hurts her badly. This, combined with the fresh air, helps to clear her head, which has been fuzzy since her head injury and branding.
Isabel finds the pump crowded with slaves. When she arrives, everyone stops talking and stares at the brand on her face, looking sympathetic. Eventually a woman asks if it hurts much, and Isabel claims it is not too bad. At this, everyone goes back to their conversations.
A big man tells the crowd that a British leader, Lord Dunmore, has promised to free any slave who goes to the British camp in Virginia. Another man pipes up and says that Dunmore only said this so the Virginia slaves would run away without bringing in the harvest. The British do not care about freedom for the slaves; they just want the rebels to starve. Although this argument sounds compelling, most of the people at the pump believe their salvation lies with the British. Dunmore’s promises certainly sound good to Isabel, whose head clears more than ever at the idea of a new path to freedom.
In this midst of this conversation, someone asks Curzon for his opinion. Isabel is surprised to see her former friend step forward out of the shadows. He looks different somehow, and she realizes that he is dressed in the muddy clothing of a soldier. He says that he has enlisted in the Continental Army in place of his master, Bellingham. In return, Bellingham has promised to free Curzon after the war.
Most of the slaves in the crowd disbelieve Curzon’s story. They have all had experiences with betrayal, and they know that the Patriots do not keep their promises. But do the British keep theirs? A woman says:
The British promise freedom to slaves but won’t give it to the white rebels…The rebels want to take freedom, but they won’t share it...
(The entire section is 546 words.)