Chapter 41 Summary

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Soon after Master Lockton leaves for London, Isabel learns that the British are planning to throw a ball in honor of Queen Charlotte’s birthday. This confuses Isabel because she cannot imagine someone sailing across an ocean just for a party. The soldiers’ wives explain that the Queen is not planning to attend the ball. The officers are just using her birthday as an excuse to go to a party themselves.

Lady Seymour suffers another stroke. Afterward, she is unable to move or speak properly. She needs help with everything: drinking tea, wiping her face, and even using the chamber pot. Fulfilling these needs once again becomes Isabel's job.

The doctor comes frequently to bleed Lady Seymour and feed her medicinal teas. One day, Isabel overhears Madam asking the doctor when the old woman will die. Naturally, the doctor is unable to say for certain. However, Isabel gets the sense that Madam would not mind hurrying the end along.

A few days after Lady Seymour’s second stroke, Madam takes back the best bedroom for herself. Lady Seymour is moved to a spare room, and Isabel spends a whole day scrubbing and washing to make the master bedroom perfect for Madam again. That night, Madam calls Isabel four times with frivolous demands. Isabel grows increasingly annoyed, but all she can do is obey.

The next morning, Isabel wakes up and finds the world covered in ice and snow. The laundry is frozen on the lines, and it is beautiful. Looking at it, Isabel gets a strong mental image of her home in Rhode Island. She imagines Ruth, free and happy, playing outside in fresh snow. The image saddens Isabel, and she wishes she could push it to the back of her mind. Ruth is gone, and the two sisters will never share a morning like this again. It does Isabel no good to think about it—but her mind refuses to let it go.

Isabel's attempts to seek freedom never work out, but she cannot stop wanting it anyway. She thinks about Lady Seymour and wonders if the old woman ever thought of freeing Isabel rather than buying her. It is too late to ask the question now.

Isabel loads the frozen sheets into a basket so that she can take them into the kitchen to dry. As she does so, she reflects on the stories she knows about slaves who were set free or who earned money and bought themselves away from their own masters. Such happy endings seem out of reach to Isabel.

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Chapter 40 Summary


Chapter 42 Summary