Beginning until Orleanna's Sickness


Orleanna begins as usual by wallowing in her guilt, trying to explain why she did not flout Nathan's command and take the girls home. She had no money, no friends, no power, she tells us. She was "an inferior force." Also, she had really come to believe that God was on his side.

She then goes on to give us Nathan's history, explaining to us how he became the man he is. When Orleanna met Nathan she was only seventeen, a beautiful, happy, nature-worshipping girl. She and her friends visited a tent revival meeting just for fun, and the handsome young preacher was immediately drawn to the task of "saving her soul." At this point Nathan was serious but not somber; he was capable of joking and of being a loving man.

Soon after Nathan and Orleanna's marriage Nathan was drafted to serve in World War Two. Three months into his service he was wounded and separated from his regimen. While recovering in a hospital he learned of the fate that he had avoided: the notorious Bataan Death March, during which his entire regimen was killed. He was instantly changed by this news, feeling himself a coward who was despised by God. He became obsessed with his guilt, and made it his personal mission to save more souls than had died on the road from Bataan. Convinced that God was constantly watching him, he refused to ever bend at all from the service he believed God demanded of him.


Life in Kilanga is harder than ever. Without their $50 a month allowance from the Mission League, the Prices have no money, and the villagers stop coming to their house to sell them food. Only the legless Mama Mwanza takes pity on them, bringing them oranges in return for nothing. She explains that those who have plenty are required to share with those who have nothing. Leah is shocked by such goodness coming from a non-Christian. Orleanna and Ruth May rarely get out of bed now, and Nelson is convinced that they are under a curse. Leah thinks of the chicken bones that Tata Kuvundu placed outside their door, but out loud expresses only contempt for the idea of voodoo.


During one of Adah's language lessons with Nelson, she learns that her father's church is populated entirely by those who are considered beyond the pale in their own religion: twin-prone mothers, lepers, and two men who have committed the unforgivable crime of accidental murder. The villagers are taking an entirely pragmatic view toward religion, trying out this new one if the old one was bringing them bad luck, and leaving Christianity just as quickly as soon as something bad befalls them again.