Rill dreams that she is on the boat with Briny and Queenie. Queenie is singing into the wind and Briny says she looks like a queen. Turning to Rill, Briny asks what that makes her, and Rill says she’s the princess. Rill wakes up from her happy dream when she hears a knock on the door. She looks out the window and sees Zede, who is obviously distraught. Rill opens the door and pulls a shawl around her, then sees that there is a teenage boy there, too. Zede lays a comforting hand on Rill’s shoulder and tells her that Queenie’s babies were both stillborn. Rill is in shock, having believed that nothing bad could happen to them on the river. Zede tells her that Briny is really upset, but that Queenie hasn’t woken up yet; Rill knows Queenie will be devastated.
Although the Fosses aren’t rich, Rill’s dream reveals that they are still very happy together. This highlights how money and social position don’t necessarily equal happiness. The death of Queenie’s twins is the first real tragedy Rill has ever known, but her primary concern is for Queenie and how hurt she will be. This emphasizes that Rill feels responsible for her whole family; because Queenie is hurting, Rill feels it will be her job to fix it somehow.
Zede says he must go back to the hospital to help Briny, but leaves the teenager, Silas, on the boat to help take care of the younger kids. Rill and Camellia don’t like this, but Zede insists upon it and warns them one more time not to leave the boat because something happened back in the shanty town that scared a lot of people away. Rill suddenly becomes worried and picks up both Gabion and Fern when they wander over to the door. Zede tells Rill she’s in charge, gives her some food for their breakfast, and leaves Silas behind to take care of them. Rill offers to make breakfast for Silas, and they all go into the shanty while Rill cooks.
Even though Rill’s life on the river is happy, it makes her and her family vulnerable because it is so obvious that they’re poor. This makes them an easy target for people who might hurt them. Rill knows this and it’s why she feels the urge to hold her youngest siblings close when Zede tells her about how scared the other people in the shanty town are.
After everyone’s eaten, Silas and Rill start talking. Rill tells Camellia to help clean Gabion up, which irritates Camellia. Silas asks Rill if she’s ever going to get dressed and she realizes she’s still wearing a nightgown. Rill tells him to leave the shanty and not to peek and he jokingly says there wouldn’t be much to see because she’s still a kid. This upsets Rill and she starts yelling at Silas to leave. Camellia gleefully joins in as Silas saunters off the boat to the shore. Once there, however, he hears something and indicates that Rill and Camellia need to be quiet. Suddenly frightened, Rill pushes Lark and Fern into the shanty and then grabs Gabion and Camellia, who gets mad at Rill for telling her what to do until Rill points out a figure walking in the woods. They go inside and lock the shanty doors.
Because Rill and her family live on a shanty boat on the river, they are easy targets for both criminals and even bored policemen who want to rough someone up. Because of this, Rill can’t afford to trust anyone and immediately becomes suspicious just because someone is walking in the forest. This highlights the fear many lower-class families feel that they might be attacked just for being poor.
Just as Rill is beginning to think the person in the woods is gone, a voice calls out to the boat. All the younger kids look to Rill, too scared to make a noise. Camellia whispers that the person isn’t Zede when the person steps onto the boat. The man continues calling into the boat and tries to open the door until Silas appears and asks what the man—who appears to be a police officer—wants. Silas says the boat is his and the man asks if any children live there. Silas tries to convince the man to leave, saying no kids are there and that his father is nearby. The police officer doesn’t believe him and insists that he needs to bring the kids to their parents. Silas tries to stop him, but Rill decides to come out when she hears the man choking Silas.
The man on the boat who chokes Silas is evidently a police officer, which further emphasizes the fact that the lower classes in the 1930s were thought of as subhuman and could therefore be treated with unwarranted cruelty. Furthermore, the fact that the man is a police officer means he will likely never be punished for choking a teenage boy without reason—there is nowhere the lower classes can turn for justice.
Rill tells Silas to leave so she and her siblings can go see their parents. Rill asks the man if Queenie and Briny are okay, even though she knows he’s lying about having seen them. Rill hears a creak in the boat and realizes Camellia is trying to sneak out the back. She tells the man she must clean up her little brother, who just used the toilet. Just as Rill turns to go inside, a group of men notice Camellia and start yelling. Chaos ensues as the little kids start screaming and the men close in on Camellia, who is quickly captured. With Camellia subdued, Rill quietly gets herself and the other kids ready to go with the men. One man notes that “she” will like this batch.
Rill sees that the only way to avoid being hurt by this man is to do what he wants them to do, even though she knows he’s lying about her parents. This is contrasted with Camellia, who would rather risk being hurt by the men while she tries to escape than allow herself to be taken away without putting up a fight.
Having captured all the kids, the men set out by boat for Memphis. Rill considers calling out for help but realizes nobody will help them because they are with police officers. One of the men tells Rill to keep her siblings out of trouble as they get out of the boat by a warehouse. The man in charge tells another man to hold Camellia (who has dark hair) back until Miss Tann has seen the four blond children. Tann gets out of a car that’s waiting and looks at the children—she is delighted by Rill, Lark, Fern, and Gabion’s blond curls, but is less impressed with Camellia’s dark hair. However, she says she’ll manage to “find a taker for her.” Tann tells the children to get in the car, where two other young children are already seated on the floorboard.
Tann appraises the Foss children the way one might appraise a piece of furniture or something else which can increase or decrease in value based on how beautiful or ugly it is. This sends the message that the kids aren’t totally human to Tann, but rather objects. Tann’s statement that she can find a “taker” for Camellia offers a clue about what is going to happen to the kids next—they will be taken by other people.
Once in the car, Tann holds Gabion and admires his hair, but says he needs a bath to get rid of the smell of the river. Rill wonders why Gabion would need a bath if they’re going to see their parents and tells Tann they call him Gabby. Tann tells her not to answer questions unless she’s asked and then pulls Lark to her side. Rill looks at the other two terrified kids and then at Camellia, who has evidently realized the truth that Rill is trying not to acknowledge: Tann isn’t bringing them to see their parents.
Rill holds onto the hope that she and her siblings will be brought to their parents even though she’s known the adults were lying ever since the policeman told them they were going to the hospital. This shows that she’s still in denial about what is happening—she’s been kidnapped and Tann is not going to just give them back to their parents.