Chapter 3 Summary

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Mr. Robert takes the girls home to get their shoes and blankets. He does not let them take anything else, not even Ruth’s doll or the wooden bowl that is all they have left from Poppa. Isabel feels that she needs some souvenir from her family, so she steals a few flower seeds that used to belong to Momma. Someday, maybe, Isabel will be able to plant these seeds and watch them grow.

A few hours later, Mr. Robert and the girls arrive in Newport. Mr. Robert leads the way to a loud, busy tavern. Inside, Isabel comforts Ruth, who sometimes has epileptic fits in busy places. The two girls stand out of the way in a corner while Mr. Robert confers with the tavern owner and his wife.

The owner and his wife, Bill and Jenny, refuse to let Mr. Robert hold a slave auction on their front steps. “Auctions of people ain’t seemly,” Bill says. Mr. Robert argues, saying that the couple will receive a share of the profits. Rhode Island has not allowed the import of slaves for about two years. Because of this, slaves are in short supply, and they bring high prices. Bill refuses to be part of the deal anyway. He encourages Mr. Robert to conduct his business by advertising in the paper or speaking quietly to likely buyers.

Leaving the men to talk, Jenny takes the girls to the kitchen and gives them a meal of bread, ham, cider, and pie. As it turns out, Jenny knew Isabel’s momma. Jenny came to the United States as an indentured servant, and she worked on the plantation where Isabel was born. There the white servants had to work just as hard as the black slaves—but only the whites got to earn their freedom. When she hears Isabel’s story about Miss Finch and the missing will, Jenny is dismayed. However, she does not have the power to help the girls.

Moments later, Bill calls the girls into the area where the tavern's customers eat. Mr. Robert makes them stand against a wall as he sits down to a meal with a wealthy couple, Master Elihu Lockton and his wife, Anne Lockton. Mr. Robert explains that he is selling the girls for a low price because he needs to get rid of them quickly.

After the meal, Missus Lockton speaks to Isabel, who explains that she and her sister are good at cleaning, gardening, and caring for animals. Anxious to avoid being separated, Isabel takes pains to say that Ruth is an especially hard worker. Missus Lockton tells Isabel not to speak so much, and she demands to be addressed as Madam instead of ma'am. Otherwise the woman seems pleased by the girls. She says that “Providence” brought the girls to this tavern, and she asks her husband to buy them.

Overhearing all this, Jenny interrupts and says, “Wait, I’ll…I’ll take them.” This offer gives Isabel hope. She knows that Bill and Jenny would never separate her from Ruth. Isabel would likely be allowed to make contact with the lawyer, Mr. Connell, who drew up Miss Mary's will. If he confirms her story, she may be allowed to go free and work to pay Jenny back for the money she spends buying the girls. Silently, Isabel prays that Mr. Robert will allow this to happen.

However, the upper-class Madam Lockton is offended at having her conversation interrupted by a lower-class woman like Jenny. With her husband's permission, Madam doubles her offering price. Jenny cannot possibly raise so much money, so she is forced to give up. The whole conversation pleases Mr. Robert, who is happy to collect more money for his property. He drops Master Lockton’s coins into a velvet purse. When they hit the bottom, they thud “like clods of dirt raining down on a coffin.”

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Chapter 2 Summary


Chapters 4-5 Summary