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After the hurricane, death is all around Palm Beach. Two white men with rifles force Tea Cake to bury corpses. Disgusted with the work and fearful of the racism around the town (the white corpses get coffins, but the black corpses are simply dumped in a ditch and covered with quicklime), Tea Cake and Janie decide to leave surreptitiously and return to the Everglades.
Tea Cake and Janie learn that although some of their friends have died, many have survived, including Motor Boat, who miraculously stayed alive during the storm while sleeping in the abandoned house. Tea Cake works for a while rebuilding the dike. But about four weeks after their return, he comes home from work early with a bad headache. He says that he is hungry, but when Janie makes him food, he is unable to eat. At night he wakes up in a choking fit and the next day gags when trying to drink water. Janie gets Dr. Simmons, a friendly white man who is a fixture in the muck. He chats amiably with Tea Cake and hears his story. But afterward, he pulls Janie aside and tells her that he thinks that the dog that bit Tea Cake was rabid. He adds that it is probably too late to save Tea Cake but that he will order medicine from Palm Beach just in case.
Tea Cake’s health deteriorates and the rabies warp his mind, filling him with delusional, paranoid thoughts. Janie doesn’t tell him about the doctor’s diagnosis. When she sneaks off to see if the medicine has arrived, Tea Cake accuses her of sneaking off to see Mrs. Turner’s brother, who has just returned to the Everglades. She mollifies him, telling him that she went to see the doctor, and they begin to talk lovingly. But Janie grows afraid when she feels a pistol hidden under the pillow.
That night, Tea Cake is seized by more choking attacks. In the morning, Janie says that she is going to see Dr. Simmons again. Tea Cake gets angry, and when he goes outside to the outhouse, Janie checks his pistol. She finds that it is loaded with three bullets. Instead of unloading it, she sets it so that it will run through the three empty chambers before getting to a bullet, giving her time to act in case he fires at her.
When Tea Cake returns, he becomes crazier, accusing Janie of treating him wrongly. Janie sees that he is holding the pistol. He pulls the trigger once, and it clicks on the empty chamber. Janie grabs the rifle and hopes to scare him off. But he pulls the trigger twice more, and as he is about to fire again, Janie has no choice but to shoot him.
Janie is put on trial that same day. In the courtroom, all of the black people of the muck have come to watch, and Janie can feel that they, her former friends, have all turned against her; they even offer to testify against her. Dr. Simmons takes the stand in defense of Janie, but Janie gives the most powerful testimony of all, telling the court about their story and her love for Tea Cake. The all-white, all-male jury finds her innocent. The white women watching the proceedings crowd around her in solidarity while her former friends shuffle out, defeated. After the trial, Janie gives Tea Cake a royal burial.