Isabel: Taking Wing is a book in the Girls of Many Lands series relating to Isabel Campion. It was released in 2002 and available with the doll and separately, but retired with the collection in 2005.
- Isabel Campion
- Sabine Campion
- Mother (Mentioned Only)
- Aunt Elinor
- Robert Campion
- Master Johnson (Mentioned Only)
- Master Hart
- Master Strype (Mentioned Only)
- Henry Glover
- Sir Edmund Glover
- Mistress Glover (Mentioned Only)
- Aunt de Vere
- Master Jasper Pink
- Sam Tilly
- Toby Fettle
- Ned Scrivener
- Master and Mistress Reynolds
- Doctor Cornelius
Chapter by Chapter Summary
Chapter 1: A Kindred Spirit
Isabel: Taking Wing starts out with Isabel waking up on Christmas Eve. Isabel is extremely excited; however, she remembers this is the Campion's first Christmas without Mother, who passed away earlier in the year. Hope, Isabel's little sister, brings Isabel back to the present. Isabel laments on how the family is slowly breaking apart, one member at a time. Robert, the oldest child, is now an apprentice to Master Johnson, and only allowed home on holidays. Sabine, the second oldest, tries hard to fill her mother's place, and has stepped up as the lady of the house. Sabine is continually bustling about, with holiday decorations, chores, and Hope's cough. Isabel wishes for things to be the same as when they were younger, all giggling and playing together. Isabel looks down on Hope, whose health has never been wonderful. Joan, the cook, said that Hope was only lent to the family, and that she would soon join her mother in heaven. Alice, the nurse, angrily rebuked Joan, predicting Hope to grow to a grouchy age of 104 and have ten, huge sons. However, Isabel remembers that Alice never predicted Mother dying from childbed fever. Isabel relives the memory of her mother's slow death, remembering her anger and shock.
All of Isabel's thoughts are interrupted when the new servant girl, Meg, walks in with a candle and a pitcher of water. The two girls exchange their "Merry Christmases," Meg rather shyly, and Isabel starts talking about the snow. Meg tries to wake Hope, but Isabel persuades Meg to stay and talk for a bit. While Isabel quickly bathes in the freezing water, she asks Hope about how she feels about Christmas time. Meg surprises Isabel by saying how, now that she's older, it just feels like another day. Isabel was feeling the same. Isabel is very friendly and talkative, but despite all her attempts to getting Meg to talk, Meg just shyly answers quickly, yet politely. Isabel wishes to make friends with Meg; however, Meg is "painfully respectful" and distant. Isabel tries to ask Meg about her home life.
She learns that Meg lives in an area, not fit for gentlefolk, but that Meg can fend for herself. Meg, in response to Isabel's questions, says she's not sure whether she is the oldest, youngest, or middle child; there are so many people in her house. Meg then looks after Hope. Isabel starts dressing, and through her clothes, starts talking about the Rose Playhouse, which her Aunt Elinor claims that it "breeds plague and pestilence." Isabel keeps chattering on but finds, when she finishes dressing, Meg and Hope had gone, leaving her alone.
Isabel ventures down to the kitchen, where she arrives in time to see Joan, the cook, scolding Meg for burning some porridge. Not seeing Isabel, Meg makes a face at the cook when her back is turned. However, seeing Isabel in the doorway, she gasps, though Isabel promises not to tell. Isabel offers to help Meg bathe Hope, and to pass the time, Meg starts singing, and Isabel promptly joins in. When the cook's back is turned, Isabel quickly whispers to Meg an invitation to go walking when Meg is done with work. Meg smiles and accepts the offer. Hope realizes she isn't the center of attention anymore and starts crying and splashing. Joan sees the puddles everywhere and orders Hope to be dressed and dried before she catches her death. At this point, Aunt Elinor appears, scolding Isabel for getting underfoot in the kitchen. Isabel quickly scurries away before her aunt can fuss at her for something else.
Chapter 2: "Lullay My Liking"
Isabel senses how she has always been a disappointment to her aunt, as she hasn't turned out perfect like Sabine. She goes downstairs to eat breakfast. Later in the day, she is sent to bring Robert, the oldest, home from his apprenticeship. Isabel remembers how she, Robert, and Sabine would play mischievously when they were younger and wishes for the older days to return. On the way home, all Robert talks about is his master and how wonderful he is. He tells Isabel that he is going to sail soon, and although Isabel knew this, she is surprised by how soon the time has come. That afternoon, Isabel goes Christmas shopping and sees in the window of a candy store little pink pig candies with curly tails. She immediately buys them for Meg. That night, when the Yuletide Log is lit, baby Hope says her first words, "Pretty, pretty!" Everyone makes a large fuss over her, and Hope looks around wondering what the big deal is. Isabel takes her mother's lute and plays "Lullay My Liking" like her mother used to do, and everyone starts singing. Climbing into bed, Isabel asks Sabine if she thought their mother could hear them, and Sabine answers yes.
Chapter 3: Sabine's Secret
That morning, Isabel gives Meg her present, and Meg is floored. Isabel hurries to dress, but when she does, Alice looks at her in pity. Isabel recalls all of the whisperings and hushed expressions of the servants and between Aunt Elinor and Sabine. She hurries to the study and starts on her Greek and Latin with her tutor Master Hart. Master Hart respects Isabel, and when Isabel confides in him her anger that there are few heroines, he tells her a story about Nicolette, a heroine. It takes up the entire session, and he hurries away. When Isabel walks down the stairs, she is fussed at by her aunt, who is asking why she isn't dressed for the party. Isabel didn't know there was a party but dresses anyway. When she comes back downstairs, she sees the family of Henry Glover and many friends of the family. Later, Sabine appears, looking very beautiful. To Isabel's pure shock, her father announces Sabine's engagement to Henry Glover. Isabel is angry and extremely hurt that she wasn't let in on the secret, and that she was still considered too young to understand "adult matters." She dutifully congratulates Sabine but quietly asks whether Robert knew. He was told last night before he left. Isabel's hurt increases, as she was the absolute last to know. She leaves early. That night, Sabine apologizes to Isabel for not telling her. Isabel says nothing but thinks that she is abandoned. "First my mother, then Robert, and now you, Sabine. And I'm going to be all alone."
Chapter 4: Isabel Steals a Boat
When Isabel goes to the study for her schooling, she is stopped by Aunt Elinor, who asks where she is going. Since Sabine will be married soon, Isabel will be expected to run the household, and after many hours of housework taught by Aunt Elinor, Isabel is released into the garden, blamed for giving Aunt Elinor a headache. Whenever she is banished to the garden, Meg would entertain her with stories about the Rose Playhouse. Isabel yearns to go, but Aunt Elinor thinks that that part of town is dirty and beneath her, and Isabel is forbidden to go. However, one day, when Meg is talking about the theater, Isabel gets a burst of inspiration. The cook will be at the market, and Aunt Elinor and Sabine have a dressmaker's appointment for hours. Meg and Isabel sneak out to the edge of the river which separates the two sides of town. Meg takes a boat of her uncle's, who is a ferryman, and rows them across the river. Once at the playhouse, Meg and Isabel sit in an empty gallery seat in the back. The playhouse is magnificent and elegant, and both girls are quickly and completely absorbed in the story. After the play, Isabel can't fathom why something so beautiful could be forbidden. The girls go backstage to see Meg's brother Kit, who is an aspiring actor. He starred in the play, and Isabel is fascinated by how the stage rises and the amazing abilities of the troupe. When Meg and Isabel finally leave, the sun is setting, and neither girl thought the play would be so long. Meg and Isabel are crossing back over the river, when Isabel notices a leak. The boat quickly sinks, and though both girls call for help to a nearby boat, the passengers don't hear them. Both girls are stranded in the boat full of water with the shore far away and it being almost night. Luckily, Meg's uncle hears the girls and rescues them and puts them on shore. Meg quickly walks around back, and moon in the sky, Isabel tries to sneak in through the front. However, Aunt Elinor is up, and seeing Isabel returning late at night, absolutely soaked, asks what she has been doing.
Chapter 5: Banished!
When Isabel is changed, she is sent to her room. The next morning, her father calls her into his study. Isabel refuses to tell him where she was last night, so Meg won't get in trouble. Her father becomes increasingly angry, which stuns and frightens Isabel. As punishment, Isabel is to be sent to her Aunt de Vere in the country to learn to become a lady. Sabine is deeply hurt by this, as Isabel won't be able to attend the wedding. A letter is sent, and in a few days, Isabel will leave.
Chapter 6: Brigands on the Road
At the departure, Isabel is determined not to cry, although she knows she will miss her family dearly. Meg races after Isabel and gives her a ribbon with a charm on it. Isabel then leaves with John, a servant of her Aunt de Vere sent to escort Isabel. Later, when walking through a forest, brigands attack. They knock John to the ground, which breaks his neck and kills him. Isabel is thrown off her horse, and the brigands escape with all of her belongings. Isabel screams, but no one hears.
Chapter 7: A Voice in the Dark
Isabel, shocked by the brigands and John's murder, wanders around. Eventually, night falls, and she climbs up into a tree to sleep for safety. In the morning, she hears voices. Running towards them, she sees Kit through the trees. Kit is alone, and the troupe is touring the countryside. Isabel explains what happened, and the two devise a plan for Isabel to join the troupe, disguised as a boy, for only males performed in the theatre, even in female roles. Without hesitation, Isabel cuts her hair and quickly changes into boys' attire. She decides to assume her brother's identity and calls herself Robert. When the other members of the troupe return, Kit introduces them to "Robert," and together, they convince the actors to let "Robert" join them until they reach Northamptonshire.
Chapter 8: An Actor Born
Isabel, under her new male identity, quickly adjusts to her life with the theatre troupe. After Toby Fettle becomes sick with food poisoning, Isabel takes over as the sole female character in the play. She notes with irony that she is as girl, pretending to be a boy, who is pretending to be a girl. Her performance is going well, until the play is interrupted by a man drunkenly accusing the actors of stealing his pig. He makes his way to the stage where he proceeds to grab the troupe leader, Jasper Pink, by the ear. Having dealt with this before, Pink remains in character and calmly diffuses the tension. Thanks to the support of the audience, the landlord of the nearby inn takes the intoxicated man away, and the play continues with no more interruptions. Afterwards, the players praise Isabel's performance. As Isabel continues her adventures with the troupe, she realizes that as much as she loves performing on stage, she does not enjoy the harsh living conditions of a traveling actor. On her last night with the troupe, Isabel feels homesick and quietly breaks down in tears.
Chapter 9: A Merlin for a Lady
Jasper Pink allows Isabel and Kit to borrow the troupe's donkey, Delilah, so they can travel to Northamptonshire. On the way, they both wonder what Aunt de Vere is like. Isabel herself isn't sure, since she has met her aunt only twice, once as a baby and the second time at her mother's funeral. When they arrive at her estate, the servants are shocked that Isabel has made it alive and rush to inform Aunt de Vere, who is relieved to see Isabel. That evening, she informs Aunt de Vere of John's death and is introduced to her aunt's ward, Olivia. When she goes to bed, Isabel has trouble sleeping, since she has never slept alone and hears various sounds that frighten her. The most unnerving turns out to be one of Aunt de Vere's dogs, who jumps onto Isabel's bed, and together, they fall asleep.
The next morning, Isabel joins Olivia, various servants, and children from the village for the May Day celebrations. As part of the festivities, Aunt de Vere invited Master Pink's theatre troupe to perform, unaware that they traveled with Isabel beforehand. Sam and Kit arrive early. Surprisingly, Sam is not upset when he learns of Isabel's deception but instead seems to admire her boldness. Later on, the rest of the troupe arrive and perform. When she learns they are responsible for bringing Isabel safely to her estate, Aunt de Vere generously rewards the actors. At her insistence, Master Pink accepts her payment. Isabel says goodbye to the troupe, noticing that it is particularly difficult to say goodbye to Kit. Without her disguise as a boy, and realizing she has changed since leaving London, Isabel wonders who she really is and if she will ever fit into her new home. Just then, Olivia leads her away to watch the fireworks.
The next day, Olivia gives Isabel a tour of Aunt de Vere's estate, including the mews where she keeps various hunting birds. Isabel admires them from a distance, since the keeper of the mews won't allow anyone inside without Aunt de Vere's permission. After lunch, Aunt de Vere and Olivia take Isabel to the clinic, where Aunt de Vere treats the villagers with various illnesses and injuries. Aunt de Vere immediately sets Isabel to work and shows her how to identify various ailments and what remedies to use. After her training in the clinic, Aunt de Vere asks Isabel if she would like to see her hunting birds early the next morning, having been informed by Cole, the mews keeper, that Isabel stopped by. Isabel eagerly accepts.
Before breakfast the next morning, Isabel returns to the mews with Aunt de Vere, where she is properly introduced to Cole. He brings out a young female merlin, a type of falcon. Aunt de Vere feeds the merlin a dead mouse when suddenly, a hawk silently dives towards the mouse. As Cole handles the hawk, Aunt de Vere calms down the merlin and explains more about the birds to Isabel. Cole suggests Isabel watch the training sessions, and Aunt de Vere notices Isabel is brave and observant around the birds. She also admires Isabel for speaking her mind, while discussing which genders and social classes are allowed to keep certain types of hunting birds.
Chapter 10: The Plague Mask
It does not take long for Isabel to settle into her new life and daily routine. To her relief, she receives the same kind of education from Aunt de Vere that she did from Master Hart. Her favorite part of the day is the time she spends with the hunting birds. Aunt de Vere decides that Isabel should keep the young merlin and take over the training with Cole's help. Isabel is thrilled and decides to name the merlin Nicolette, after the heroine Master Hart told her about. Isabel overhears rumors of the plague returning to the city, and she can't help but worry about her family. One day, Aunt de Vere has to run an errand in Northampton and leaves Isabel and Olivia to run the clinic while she is away. Isabel is proud of herself for helping a baby with asthma until Olivia checks the patients' log to discover that Isabel has accidentally given the baby's mother the recommended herbal dosage for adults instead of babies. Olivia and Isabel rush to find the baby's mother in time to give her the proper dosage. Isabel decides to tell Aunt de Vere what happened, and together, they calmly discuss the situation. Isabel promises her aunt not to make the same mistake again.
As summer begins, Isabel is nervous to let Nicolette off her leash for the first time. Before she can begin, Isabel is interrupted by a panic-stricken man informing Aunt de Vere that the wife of Master Reynolds is ill after a trip from London, and they fear it is the plague. Together, Aunt de Vere and Isabel ride to the Reynolds' home in Northampton. When they arrive, Dr. Cornelius, looking fearsome in his plague mask, is already with Mistress Reynolds. Aunt de Vere immediately begins questioning Dr. Cornelius, noticing that he has already diagnosed Mistress Reynolds with the plague without actually examining her. With Master Reynolds' consent, Aunt de Vere examines his wife and discovers she does not have the plague but instead has a severe case of quinsy, an infection that is a complication of tonsillitis. Dr. Cornelius storms off, clearly insulted when he comments, "Someone should teach that woman to know her place!" Isabel notices that Aunt de Vere is the one who taught Dr. Cornelius his place since she was the one allowed to stay and treat Mistress Reynolds, who starts to feel better soon after Aunt de Vere and Isabel get to work. Aunt de Vere gives Master Reynolds medicine and instructions, and she and Isabel return home.
On the way back, they notice squalor, empty cottages, and a red cross painted on a door to signify that someone there has died of the plague. When they arrive home, Olivia has an urgent letter from Sabine. While Isabel and Sabine's father is overseas on business, Aunt Elinor banished all servants from the house except for the nurse, Alice. Hope is gravely ill and is suspected to have the plague. Aunt Elinor is on the brink of a nervous breakdown. Sabine cannot return because she is expecting a child with her husband Henry. Isabel is terrified, but she decides that she needs to return home to take care of Hope while Aunt de Vere continues to care for her patients in Northamptonshire.
Chapter 11: City of Ghosts
London has changed dramatically since Isabel left. She arrives not to the sounds of a lively city but to the sounds of nature instead. Everything smells like it is burning. Windows and doors are closed tight, and more painted red crosses appear. Hardly anyone is outside except for watchmen and a person with a plague cart calling, "Bring out your dead." Isabel is relieved not to see a red cross painted on the door of her house. Alice informs her that Hope does not have the plague, but she is severely ill. Isabel quickly takes control of the situation as well as the household. All throughout the night and the next day, she takes care of Hope, using the skills she learned from Aunt de Vere. Later, while Alice looks after Hope, Isabel runs errands in town and finds Kit. He gives her the tragic news that Meg died of the plague while nursing a dying woman. The woman's husband abandoned her and their children when he realized she had been infected. After she died, Meg was quarantined with the children inside the house for six weeks, and eventually, they all caught the disease. Isabel rushes home to Hope, and Kit promises to find her later. Isabel informs Alice of Meg's death. Despite her grief, Isabel stays strong and thoroughly cleans the house and cooks meals. One night while Isabel and Alice sing lullabies to Hope, Isabel's father returns home. Hope begins to speak, and everyone is relieved that her condition is improving.
Chapter 12: The Limitless Sky
Gradually, the Campion household and all of London return to normal. Isabel's father hires a new cook and maid, and the gardener returns. Isabel picks her mother's favorite flowers in the garden and places them throughout the house. She sets up a makeshift memorial in the schoolroom for Master Hart, who also succumbed to the plague. Isabel's father appears and announces his decision to allow Isabel to return to Northamptonshire, not as punishment, but to allow her to continue her education. He sees how much Isabel has benefited from her time with Aunt de Vere and is impressed that male apothecaries ask for her aunt's advice. He wanted to write to Isabel but felt too guilty for sending her away. He embraces Isabel and tells her how proud of her he is and that her mother would be too. Before having breakfast with him, Isabel takes some of the flowers down to the Thames River in honor of Meg, remembering the night they spent there. In spite of the hardships and tragedies, Isabel realizes her dreams are finally coming true. Holding her lucky charm, she whispers, "I am free, Meg. As free as a merlin in the sky."
Then and Now: England
Discusses a girl's life in 1592 England. Topics include:
- The Elizabethan Age and Queen Elizabeth's wealth
- Clothing women would have worn
- Merchants and the spices they traded for
- London's streets and their conditions
- The Plague and plague doctors
- The popularity of Shakespeare's plays
- The death of Queen Elizabeth and England today
Items Associated With Isabel: Taking Wing
- The Isabel Campion Doll