Post-hunt until Ruth May's Death


Back at home Leah complains over dinner that she was cheated out of the antelope that she herself shot. Her father counters that God has no mercy on those who flout their elders, and declares that he has washed his hands of her moral education. He will no longer even bother to punish her, he says, since she is unworthy even of that. Freed from the threat of punishment, Leah calmly and mildly denounces her father. Nelson then appears. He is terrified because he has found an evil sign in front of the Price's chicken coop, which is where he sleeps. He asks for permission to spend the night in their house, but Nathan forbids it, claiming that to do otherwise would be to participate in idol worship. As the girls lie in bed that night they can hear Nelson whimpering to be let inside. Leah finally announces that she is going to help their friend, and the other sisters follow her outside. Taking a cue from one of their father's sermons, they dust the floor of the chicken coop with ashes. Their intention is to catch the footprints of any person who enters, so that they can see whether it is a human being who is planting snakes in the homes of those connected to the Price family.


The girls wake up before sunrise and rush outside to see whether there are any footprints in the chicken coop. They find that there are footprints in the ash—footprints with six toes on the left foot, which means that they belong to Tata Kuvundu. A mamba snake is curled up in the corner. Nelson pokes the snake with a long pole, and it dashes past them and out the door.


As the snake whips pasts them they hear a gulp and a sob. All of them look up into the trees, before realizing that the sound came from Ruth May. Leah tries to comfort Ruth May, assuring her that the snake is gone now. Nelson, though, grows alarmed and screams at Leah to fetch milk. Leah cannot move: she has noticed two fang marks on Ruth May's shoulder.


All of the children watch paralyzed as Ruth May quickly turns blue and dies.


For a long while they stand over the body, watching it, afraid to tell Orleanna that tragedy has finally struck them. Rachel thinks about the new impossibility of ever returning home and pretending that none of these years in the Congo had ever taken place.