Beginning through Anatole's Visit


Orleanna Price

Orleanna describes her own life in the Congo, the struggle just to keep her husband and children alive. With Mama Tataba gone, she tells us, she found it almost impossible to keep things going. Water alone required a mile and a half hike, and then had to be boiled for twenty minutes to kill all the microbes. While the natives satisfied themselves on the tremendous tubers called "manioc," her family required a minor nutritional miracle three times a day—the sort of meal that their neighbors might indulge in once or twice a year. Even their own supplies, sent from the Mission League, were difficult to acquire, since they were flown in by Eeben Axelroot who demanded bribes for every delivery. She dreamed every night about her children's deaths.

Nathan was entirely unmoved by his wife's fears and travails. Though Orleanna quickly realized that the Congolese viewed her family as a pack of bunglers and trespassers, Nathan clung tenaciously to the illusion that he was a force of good and authority. He refused to bend his will, or adapt in any way, claiming that he was being tested by God just as Job had been tested. He even denied Chief Ndu's request to give up the idea of baptism, and alienated the chief entirely on his unwavering stance on monogamy.


After spending the first few weeks settling in, the Prices now fall into a set daily routine. Nathan wanders through the village trying to engage the men in conversation, or else makes the trip to the surrounding villages to see what religious state these places are in. Orleanna forces the girls to work at their schoolbooks most of the day, but in the afternoon they have a few hours to run free. The girls use old nature books left behind by Brother Fowles to teach themselves the native names for the flora and fauna surrounding them. Sometimes Leah and Adah go and spy on Eeben Axelroot. They learn that he has a radio.

Ruth May is the first to make real contact with the local children, organizing a large game of "Mother May I" in the Price's front yard. All the sisters join in the game, relieved to have something new to do and someone new to do it with. The village children continue to gather for the game for several afternoons, but then drift off. One boy remains, however, and this eight year old child, Pascal becomes Leah's friend.

Ruth May

Ruth May breaks her arm while spying on the local anti-Belgian forces that are gathering. Eeben Axelroot flies Ruth May and her father to Stanleyville, where they visit a doctor. In the airplane, Ruth May notices that Axelroot has a bag full of diamonds, but he threatens her mother's life if she reveals this secret to anyone.