Chapter 42 Summary

The doctor comes twice per day to tend to Lady Seymour, who remains unable to speak, chew solid food, or move on her own. In spite of this, Isabel can see that Lady Seymour’s mind still works well. Madam generally ignores the old woman, opting to spend her time preparing for the royal ball instead. Madam’s dressmaker visits the house almost as often as the doctor.

Isabel finds time to finish reading Common Sense. She does not understand all of it, but she likes Thomas Paine’s claim that nobody should naturally be considered better than anyone else from the time of birth. As a slave, Isabel understands very well that this idea is dangerous.

Unable to sleep that night, Isabel asks herself the following question: “If an entire nation [can] seek its freedom, why not a girl?” She is willing to take the risk of running away, but she cannot figure out how to escape the island of New York. If she goes by road, she will be caught. If she goes through the woods, she will surely be killed by wild animals. If she simply sneaks to the city’s waterfront, she may not be able to get away at all. After all, she does not know how to swim or sail.

Over the last few months, Isabel has been taking far more risks than she ever thought possible. By now she is used to danger. She still stops by the prison every morning, and she walks past Captain Morse’s tavern as well. One day he asks her to help him pay a debt. He bet a friend, Captain Farrar, that the British would not hold a ball when so many people were starving. He was wrong, and how he owes Farrar a penny. However, he is confined to the house for the day while the celebration is underway.

Isabel agrees to take the captain’s penny to his friend. She finds her chance in the afternoon, when Madam is out with a friend. Farrar gives Isabel a note to carry back to Captain Morse. She accepts it, but she is annoyed at the way soldiers are always demanding her help in their schemes. All she wants is for Curzon’s cellmates to let him have his share of the food and blankets. Everyone always assumes that this makes her a rebel spy.

Isabel does not have time to take the note to Captain Morse right away, so it is still in her pocket when she arrives home with the water. She steps through the door and puts down the buckets. Seconds later, Madam appears with a riding crop in her hand. “How dare you?” Madam says, and she hits Isabel across the face.