Chapter 32 Summary
Last Updated on October 26, 2018, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 516
As the next few days pass, Isabel learns that about five hundred homes have been destroyed, as well as scores of public buildings. Many of the city’s residents find themselves out on the streets without clothes, blankets, or supplies. A smell of charred bodies pervades the city. The people who take charge of finding and burying the dead are horrified at the sight of the dead.
Even before the flames die down, people begin looking for scapegoats. The Patriots in town say that God sent the fire to punish the British for taking over New York. The British and the Loyalists blame the rebels for arson. Several arson suspects are executed or lynched by brutal mobs. After the fire goes out, the British hang a schoolteacher named Nathan Hale. Hale admits that he is a spy, but he claims that he had nothing to do with the fire. When the British sentence Hale to death, he impresses the rebels and amuses the Loyalists by saying that he would gladly give his life for his country more than once.
Isabel’s lungs are slightly damaged in the fire, and she develops a bad cough that lasts for several days. Her eyes are sore as well, but she is lucky enough to avoid any lasting physical damage. Nevertheless, the loss of the doll renews Isabel’s grief. The fuzzy feeling comes into her head again, as it did after her head injury and branding. She wonders vaguely if the fire somehow damaged her mind.
A doctor comes to see Lady Seymour and says that she has suffered an apoplexy—a stroke. Master Lockton insists on giving up his own bedroom to make her comfortable. Madam is annoyed at this, but she does not fight about it. She and her husband move into the downstairs parlor. When Lady Seymour recovers a bit, she calls for Isabel and tries to say thank you, but she can barely speak. Isabel gives the lady the picture and letters that made it out of the fire in her pockets. When the lady sees them, she cries from happiness.
Many British soldiers are left homeless by the fire, so the army assigns them to the homes that remain standing. The Locktons end up with eleven single men in their extra bedrooms, an officer in the library, and five married couples in the cellar. Isabel dislikes the smells and noises this crowd brings into her sleeping space. One night she is startled awake when a man plucks her blanket right off her body. At first she thinks he is going to attack her—but then she realizes that he is just stealing her blanket because he is cold. After that, she sleeps on the kitchen hearth.
One good aspect of having married soldiers around is that the wives do much of the cooking and cleaning. One of these women, Sarah, becomes the new boss of the Locktons’ kitchen. She is not cruel or violent, but she is not friendly either. Isabel finds herself missing Becky. She also misses sleeping with Ruth’s old doll.