The Lion until the Baby Owl


Adah Price

Leah and Adah are sent to get water, and fast Leah leaves limping Adah far behind as they make the one and a half mile trek back home. Adah is followed by a lion, but manages to outwit it. When she returns home she slips unnoticed into the hammock. Almost immediately Tata Ndu appears, bearing bad news. One if his sons, he reports, saw the footprints of a lame girl overtaken by the footprints of a lion. Next to these he saw a trail of fresh blood. Tata Ndu is obviously happy with this turn of events, as he takes it as evidence that the gods of the village are displeased with the corruption that Reverend Price is causing. Then Adah stands up so that everyone can see that she is alive and well. Tata Ndu shrinks back with displeasure, unhappy to be wrong.


Anatole sends the Prices a young orphan boy named Nelson to help them out in the house in return for a place to sleep and a basket of eggs that he can sell to save up for a wife. Nelson is extremely smart, picking up English within a matter of weeks, and Leah thinks about the fact that his being gifted confers little advantage here. Congolese children, she has heard, are barred by the Belgians from continuing schooling past the age of twelve. She wonders how Anatole was allowed to become so educated, and fantasized about asking him this, as well as about other aspects of his biography.

The village is struck with a fatal digestive bug called kakaka and Orleanna, in her terror for her children's safety, institutes a new rule that requires her daughters to spend all afternoon in bed, away from their infectious neighbors. Leah comes down with a mild case of malaria, because they had been underestimating the dosage of the preventative medicine, quinine, she required. For Christmas the girls receive needlework materials from their parents, and Orleanna suggests that they use the newly enforced idle time to work on their hope chests, making items that would be useful to a married woman. Only Rachel takes the project seriously, since only she has any fondness for the idea of getting married one day. Leah and Adah take their needlework to the porch so they can at least watch what is going on outside their house. They keep their eye on Methuselah who has not yet gotten the hang of freedom, staying close to their house, and sleeping in their latrine at night.

Ruth May

Church attendance is up because the villagers believe that Jesus saved Adah from the lion, but Nelson explains that everyone is still watching closely to see whether anything bad will happen to the Prices.

Leah has been keeping a baby owl that she found as a pet, but Nelson and Pascal are horrified by its presence in the house. Anatole explains that the Congolese believe that owls eat dead souls. Orleanna tells Leah to bring it outside, but Nathan says that this is pure superstition and should not be indulged. Feeling vindicated, Leah parades victoriously around the house with the owl on her shoulder, and she is punished violently by her father for the sin of pride. She goes off into the jungle alone to let her baby owl free. She takes a long time coming back, and her mother and sisters are very worried, but Nathan angrily orders them to go to bed. They ignore him, and wait by the door for Leah. When she comes back they run out to greet her, but Nathan is leering at them menacingly from the doorway to his bedroom, and so they simply try to convey sympathy to her with their eyes.