Chapter Five, “The Storm,” pp. 189-239
Part 1, pp. 189-197
Back home again, Dana and Kevin try to get reacquainted after their five-year separation. However, each has been so immersed in the other world that being “home” is more difficult than they anticipated. In fact, Dana realizes with chagrin, “home” does not feel like home anymore, not the way Weylin Plantation seems to feel like home. “I felt as though I were losing my place here in my own time. Rufus’s time was a sharper, stronger reality,” Dana muses.
Kevin in particular has a difficult time adjusting because he was away five years. Modern appliances and luxuries seem alien to him. And after the brutalities he witnessed while helping slaves escape in Rufus’s time, they also seem frivolous. Even his work as a writer—his books, his typewriter, his files—seem like nothing but toys. Kevin grows angry and cold; Dana can see that he is struggling with anger toward her for making him lose five years of his life. She begins to wonder if they will ever put their lives—and their marriage—back together.
Dana gives Kevin some space. She changes clothes and tries to cook supper. When Kevin comes to eat with her, he seems more willing to discuss what has happened to them. Suddenly, Dana yells for him to go get her bag, and as soon as he brings it back to her, she time travels again. This time, however, she tells Kevin not to touch her. She will not take him back with her.
Part 2, pp. 197-201
Dana returns to Rufus’s time during a thunderstorm, and she finds Rufus drunk and lying face down in a mud puddle, about to drown. She drags him toward the Weylin house, then gets Nigel to carry him the rest of the way. Once inside the house, Dana sees Tom Weylin, who has grown decidedly older. She finds out that six years have passed for the Weylins since they last saw her. This time, however, Dana is more willing to stand up to Weylin. She warns him that if he ever beats her again, she will not save Rufus the next time she is called back. Despite her threat, Weylin counters with a threat of his own: “If anything happens to him, I’ll flay you alive.” Dana thinks about that expression, “flay you alive.” Her aunt used to threaten to “skin” her alive when Dana was a little girl; how ironic, Dana thinks, that her aunt had no idea that her innocent threat harkened back to such a real, brutal threat.
As never before, Dana realizes how the history of slavery and the reality of slavery are two very different things. Modern people know only the history, not the reality. They cannot truly understand the pain of slavery because they are too distant from it.
Part 3, pp. 202-205
Rufus continues to be sick, as well as in terrible pain. Nigel says that he has had the “ague” for some time now. Dana recollects that the “ague” is actually malaria, but she cannot convince Weylin that her doctoring skills are no match for such a disease. He threatens that if Rufus dies, he will kill her.
Part 4, pp. 206-209
Rufus develops a fever, so Dana goes to her pallet in the attic to retrieve a bottle of Excedrin from her bag. She discovers a slave girl trying to get into the bottle because she thinks it contains candy. Dana is horrified at what could have happened if the girl had opened the bottle.
Both Sarah and Alice have aged. Dana discovers that Alice has had three children, two of which died. The surviving child, a boy named Joe, looks just like Rufus. Dana is upset to find out that her own ancestor, Hagar, has not been born yet, and so her work in keeping Rufus alive must continue.
One night, Alice awakens Dana to tell her that Tom Weylin is sick. Dana discovers that he has had a heart attack, so she tries CPR. However, it is too late. Rufus believes that she let his father die.
Part 5, pp. 209-213
Rufus decides to punish Dana for letting Weylin die. He sends her to the fields under the direction of the new overseer, Evan Fowler, who makes her day in the fields a living hell. He stands over her and whips her when she does not chop corn stalks correctly. Dana wonders if maybe she should provoke him, make him try to kill her, in order to cause her to time travel. But she is afraid of what will happen to her if it does not work. Finally at the end of the day, she passes out in the fields.
Like a castaway marooned on a raft, Dana is marooned in Rufus’s time. Aspirin and CPR are wonders of modern medical science, but they are useless to her here, where herbs, lore, superstition, power, and prejudice constitute logic. Having those items cannot save her. Pleading and reasoning cannot save her. Dana is understanding how marooned slaves really were, with no hope of rescue in sight. Dana knows that rescue is coming for slaves in a few years, but now she sees what it is like to believe no rescue is coming. It is just like spending a day being whipped in the fields, so blinded by pain that the thought of freedom seems remote indeed.
Part 6, pp. 213-217
She awakens to find Rufus standing over her. He takes her back to the house. When Dana tries to ignore him, Rufus stuns her with a threat: “You walk away from me, Dana, you’ll be back in the fields in an hour!” Dana is chilled by his threat; he means it, she realizes. He tells her not to “make” him have to punish her. Dana reminds him that she has saved his life many times. Why, then, did he send her to the fields? He admits he just wanted someone to pay for his father’s death.
Rufus then surprises Dana by telling her that he still thinks her doctoring skills are good, and he wants her to take care of his mother, who is coming home now. Dana’s heart sinks at the thought of caring for Margaret Weylin, and she tries to persuade Rufus to get Alice to do it. Alice, he informs her, will be having another baby in several months.
This news—and the hope that the baby will at last be Hagar—makes Dana stop arguing with Rufus. He leaves Dana alone, then, to read a book, which is his way of apologizing for putting her in the fields.
Dana waits for the birth of Hagar like a slave awaits a savior. The fact that Alice must suffer in order for this birth to take place puts in perspective the suffering that all blacks endured so that modern blacks might live a different, freer life. To see that sacrifice in the flesh makes it quite real for Dana.
Part 7, pp. 217-222
Margaret Weylin returns to the plantation, and Dana finds her much changed. She is mellowed now by her laudanum addiction. Dana still cannot stand her, especially during the long hours in which she teaches Dana to sew, and she finds reasons to run errands to get away from Margaret.
Alice gives Dana a hard time for “‘fetching and carrying for that woman like you love her.’” Dana finds that the other slaves resent her, too, for her position in the house, but she does not defend herself. “Was I getting used to being submissive?” Dana wonders. “Once—God knows how long ago—I had worried that I was keeping too much distance between myself and this alien time. Now, there was no distance at all. When had I stopped acting? Why had I stopped?”
Dana becomes upset when she discovers that Rufus intends to sell Tess and some other slaves. Dana tries to convince him not to sell human beings, but he simply tells her that the sale was arranged before his father’s death. Dana is powerless to persuade him.
Part 8, pp. 222-224
Dana expresses her anger about the sale to Carrie, telling Carrie that she cannot believe she has continually saved the life of a man who has turned out to be just like his father. Carrie, through gestures, communicates something that has not occurred to Dana: Rufus has to sell the slaves to keep the plantation going. Otherwise, if the plantation goes under, all of the slaves will be sold, without regard to kinship ties among them. Babies might be separated from mothers, husbands from wives, etc.
Part 9, pp. 224-225
Dana and Rufus avoid one another after their argument over the slave sale, but finally Rufus has a talk with her. He tells her that she needs to make sure he remains alive, because if he dies, the plantation cannot continue and the slaves will be sold and scattered.
He asks Dana to write letters for him to creditors. She tells him that, in her own time, she worked hard to get to the point in which she did not have to do such menial writing; she was a novelist, not a secretary. Rufus, however, offers to give her extra paper, just for herself, if she will write the letters. He tells her that he hopes her persuasive letters will prevent him from having to sell anymore slaves.
A new twist on slavery has developed now, one that Dana never considered. White people were enslaved by the slavery system, too. Their economic survival depended upon slavery, even if they did not believe in slavery. Rufus has been born into this culture, and now Dana sees that even if he had turned out differently, he would have had a hard time disentangling himself from his own culture. He has his mother to think of, as well as the well-being of his slaves.
Part 10, pp. 227-228
Rufus arranges for Dana to help him more and more, although Margaret Weylin complains about missing Dana. When Margaret asks why Rufus cannot tend his own business, the way Weylin always did, Dana realizes that Rufus is keeping her with him because he wants her company. She begins to worry that Rufus has intentions that go beyond business. Her worries intensify when Rufus tells her and Alice that they are “one woman” for him. Alice explains that he means that “‘he likes me in bed, and you out of bed, and you and I look alike if you can believe what people say.” Dana is afraid that Rufus will try to blur these boundaries between her and Alice.
Part 11, pp. 228-233
The slaves are allowed to hold a party after corn husking, and Rufus appears as the benevolent, yet feared, master. Dana attends the party, despite the hostile looks she gets from many of the women, especially when a “man with huge muscles” flirts with Dana.
At Christmas, Rufus allows another party. He says that Weylin always allowed marriages at these parties because it saved money by combining a holiday party with a marriage party. Rufus asks Dana if she has found any slave man she would like to “‘jump the broom with’” yet, and he assures her that if she did, he would immediately sell that man. He also reminds her that Kevin is “‘a long way off.’” Dana picks up “something in his tone that shouldn’t have been there,” a suggestion that he is perhaps thinking of taking her as a mistress.
As a Christmas present to Alice, Rufus allows Dana to teach Joe to read. Joe, Dana discovers, is very intelligent, a fact that makes Rufus proud. Rufus tells Dana that Alice has asked Rufus to free Joe. Alice, however, tells Dana that she does not believe Rufus when he says he will free any of their children that survive. She plans to run away after the next baby is born, and she wants Dana to steal laudanum from Margaret. Alice will use the laudanum to keep the baby quiet as she escapes.
A new threat of danger creeps into Dana’s life as Rufus becomes more and more interested in her as a mistress. If Alice leaves, Dana will likely become his chief interest, and he will use her the way he has used Alice.
Part 12, pp. 233-236
Hagar is at last born. This event makes Dana feel “half-free, if such a thing was possible, half-way home.” She is not free, however, as long as Rufus has power over her, as long as he manipulates her by threatening to harm others if she will not do as he says. Alice, too, feels she will never be free as long as Rufus can use her children against her. “‘I’m tellin’ you,’” she confesses to Dana, “‘he uses those children just the way you use a bit on a horse. I’m tired of havin’ a bit in my mouth.’”
Part 13, pp. 236-239
Rufus allows Dana to teach Nigel’s sons to read. Sam James, the muscular slave man who flirted with Dana at the corn husking party, asks Dana to teach his brother and sister to read, too. He also asks if she wants to be with Rufus, instead of with him, someone of her own kind. Dana angrily tells him that, like the field slaves afraid of the whip, she is also compelled to do something against her will. She is tired of the other slaves shunning her for giving in to her slavery, just like they have given in to their slavery.
Three days later, Sam is sold. Dana immediately knows that Rufus suspects Sam of courting Dana, and she tries to stop the sale. As she pleads with Rufus, he hits her. “It was a first, and so unexpected that I stumbled backward and fell,” Dana says. “And it was a mistake. It was the breaking of an unspoken agreement between us—a very basic agreement—and he knew it.”
Dana retreats to her attic pallet, grabs her bags, and slits her wrists with her knife.
Dana is so immersed in Rufus’s time now that the only means of escape she can find is suicide, since it is only when her life is in danger that she time travels. She has come a long way from who she was at the beginning of the novel, a woman sickened by violence and unable to fight back, even when her life was in danger. She has discovered the one ace card that slaves possessed if they wanted to truly escape: killing themselves.