Chapter 34 Summary
Last Updated on October 26, 2018, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 622
Madam Lockton decides to throw a party to celebrate the British victory. She buys turtles for turtle soup and hires a chef to cook. She picks out the prettiest of the soldiers’ wives to wait on the guests, and she assigns the rest of the women to help the chef in the kitchen. Isabel’s job is to clean, run errands, and bring food up and down the stairs to the drawing room, where the party will be held.
As Isabel cleans the house, she watches Madam primping to prepare for the fine occasion. A hairdresser arranges Madam’s hair into a tall sort of wave, which Isabel expects to fall down at any moment. When the hair is finished, Madam whitens her face with make-up. Then she applies glue to her eyebrows and affixes two pieces of mouse hair on top to make them look fashionably bushy. Isabel thinks this looks ridiculous.
Shortly before the party, Isabel helps Lady Seymour to her place at the table. The lady comments that when she was growing up, her family held fine meals like this all the time. Isabel cannot believe this. The table is covered with linen and crystal. There is salt and pepper within reach of every place at the table, and there are dozens of bottles of wine standing ready. It seems impossible that anyone would constantly live in so much luxury.
All night, Isabel runs up and down the stairs carrying heavy trays of food. First she delivers the turtle soup. Next, she brings tongue and mushrooms. After that, she carries stuffed pheasants, stewed oysters, and several vegetable dishes. Each time she enters the drawing room, she takes a peek at the party. There are many officers and gentlemen, all dressed in fine clothes. Lady Seymour and Madam Lockton are the only women. A young soldier rushes around keeping wine glasses full as the dinner guests chat and enjoy themselves.
Dessert is rice pudding, cookies, tarts, and cake. As Isabel brings the heavy dessert tray into the room and helps the serving women pass the dishes around, she overhears a conversation about the prisoners from Fort Washington. The British officers complain that it will be impossible to keep thousands of prisoners fed through the winter. They loudly wish for a disease to kill the men off. Master Lockton suggests forcing the local Patriots to feed the men, but everyone knows that the Patriots have no food to spare. One guest suggests shooting the prisoners, but Colonel Hawkins says that this would waste ammunition and anger Parliament. He adds that it does not matter. The cold of winter and the close quarters of the prison will kill most of the imprisoned men naturally.
Soon the conversation turns to pleasanter topics such as theater and cricket. Isabel rushes in and out of the room carrying food and dishes. By the end of the night, she has made so many trips up and down the stairs that her legs are exhausted. Eventually the ladies go to their rooms, and the gentlemen leave for a tavern. The British officers remain in the drawing room to look over maps and discuss plans for the war.
As the soldiers’ wives begin heating water to wash dishes, Isabel takes the scrap bucket outside. The Locktons’ normally dump their table scraps in the outhouse. Halfway there, she stops cold. She wonders if the British will really let Curzon starve and freeze. She does not particularly want to risk her own safety by sneaking visits to the prison, but Curzon is her friend. She knows that she must help him. Fearfully, she hides the scrap bucket in the bushes and returns to the kitchen to help with the cleanup.