Chapter 26 Summary

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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 with us…Both sides say one thing and do the other.

Grandfather, the man who runs the pump, tells everyone that they are wrong to seek freedom from men. In his opinion, all slaves should focus on finding a righteous path through life to the River Jordan. People must achieve freedom for themselves. The crowd listens, but most of the younger slaves ultimately dismiss the old man’s comments.

Before Isabel leaves with her water, Grandfather asks her to come to him. When she obeys, he tells her not to be ashamed of her scar. “A scar is a sign of strength…The sign of a survivor,” he says. He kisses the spot and tells Isabel to keep focused on the River Jordan.

Isabel’s cut hand makes it impossible for her to carry both of her buckets at once. She carries one bucket a short distance, then sets it down and goes back for the other. Her progress is slow until Curzon appears, picks up both buckets, and carries them to the Locktons’ front gate. As he does Isabel this favor, he refuses to look at her or speak.

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