The next day, Isabel carries home a basket of eels. She loves eel pie, and apparently, Master Lockton does too. But when Isabel gets into the kitchen, Madam comes in, sweaty and impatient. She says that Isabel will serve Lockton and his guests, ignoring Becky when Becky notes that Lockton said he doesn’t want to be disturbed. Madam loads the tray and says that the mayor of New York is extremely important; they must welcome him. She then tells Isabel to follow her. The tray is almost too heavy for Isabel to carry, but Madam makes no move to help her or open the library door for her. Lockton opens the door grudgingly and says that Isabel can stay and serve, but Madam needs to go away.
Madam is clearly desperate to insert herself into Lockton’s conversation with the mayor, so it’s somewhat gratifying when he tells her to go away. But at the same time, letting Isabel stay and serve speaks to the fact that Lockton doesn’t see her as a real person—she’s more like a useful piece of furniture than a sentient being. Lockton’s willingness to so openly tell Madam to leave him alone also highlights how powerless Madam is in her own home. The war affects her, but she has little or no say in how her family is involved.
There are two men with Lockton in the library, one whom Isabel calls Goldbuttons and one who she figures is the mayor. They’re studying a map on the desk, but Lockton rolls up a corner for some of the plates. As Isabel returns to her corner, Goldbuttons says it’s been difficult to bribe the patriots. They don’t care about the land the King promises them; they just want peace and to farm close to their families. Isabel stifles a yawn as Goldbuttons brings up the fact that the Continental Congress is apparently close to declaring independence.
The Patriots that Goldbuttons has unsuccessfully been trying to bribe seem a lot like Isabel: they care about things affecting their safety and wellbeing, but not so much about what the war actually means. Goldbuttons implies that for them, choosing a side seems silly—at some point, they’ll go with whatever side seems most likely to help them get what they want. For now, the Loyalists are not that side.
But then, the mayor says it’s time to “unsheathe our swords.” He insists they have to make sure the rebellion dies—and there’s a plan to do so. Isabel thinks that she’s like a bookcase as the mayor says that they must kill General Washington. Lockton insists they can’t kill a gentleman like Washington, but the mayor says he’s committed treason—and the punishment for treason is being drawn and quartered. There’s a man loyal to the Tories close to Washington; he’ll act when he gets the signal.
For Isabel, it’s shocking to hear the mayor speak so openly about assassinating General Washington in front of her. The fact that he’s willing to speak so openly tells Isabel that she doesn’t matter—to the mayor, she’s not human. Learning that there’s a Tory close to Washington shows again that people don’t always tell the truth about where their loyalties lie.
Lockton pulls a key out of his snuff jar, unlocks a desk drawer, and pulls out more money than Isabel has ever seen. Then, Lockton asks the mayor to write down the names of everyone involved; if the rebels catch Lockton and the Loyalists don’t rescue him, he’ll give the list to the rebels. Isabel pretends to fall asleep as Lockton asks for more wine. He sends her to fetch another bottle from the kitchen—just as she hears screams coming from the kitchen.
Lockton is fighting for the much larger (Tory, British) cause as he involves himself in the plot to assassinate Washington. But his concerns are also very personal: he wants to make sure that if things don’t go well for him specifically, everyone else involved will also suffer. Hearing the screams from the kitchen creates tension—something terrible seems to be happening.