Chapter Three, “The Fall,” pp. 52-107
Part 1, pp. 52-57
Dana recalls how she met Kevin Franklin. She was twenty-two and working at a temporary employment agency, doing low-wage jobs like filing, stuffing envelopes, sweeping floors. At night she worked on a novel. She met Kevin when she was sent to an auto parts warehouse to do inventory. Kevin noticed her and asked if she was a writer; he, too, was a writer. In fact, he had just sold a book and was going to leave the warehouse job for good. During the week he had left at the warehouse, he and Dana had lunch each day and learned about one another. Dana told him how she went to college for a while just to please her aunt and uncle, with whom she had lived since her parents’ deaths. Despite good grades, she dropped out to write. Kevin, a young white man with colorless eyes and prematurely gray hair, asked Dana on a date and then they spent the night together. Dana realizes that she didn’t know how lonely she was until she met Kevin.
This background about Dana is important because it shows that “slavery” is a relative term. Both Dana and Kevin endured a sort of wage slavery, taking menial jobs to survive, while nurturing a private dream of a better life. In 1976, this better life is indeed possible. Hard work, sacrifice, and a belief in one’s dreams may eventually be rewarded; Kevin is proof. In 1976, it is possible to overcome one’s slavery and free oneself.
The loneliness that Dana felt before she found Kevin is important background information, too. Rufus has already shown how lonely he is, and his feelings resonate with Dana. In fact, they are one of the connections she has with him. Loneliness, it seems, is a human condition, common to all times.
Part 2, pp. 58-65
Dana decides not go to the library with Kevin to look for slave papers they can forge for Dana. She is afraid that if she vanished from there, she will also return there. While Kevin is preparing to go to the library, Dana looks in the mirror and is horrified at the damage to her face. Suddenly, the dizziness returns.
Kevin grabs Dana. When the dizziness stops, Dana finds that Kevin has come through time with her. Kevin at last sees that Dana’s time travels are real.
Rufus lies nearby with a broken leg caused by falling out of a tree. He tells Dana he saw her, on her bed, right before she appeared. With Rufus is a slave boy, Nigel, whom Rufus has told about Dana. Nigel says Dana talks and dresses funny for a black woman. He’s even more amazed when Kevin tells him that the black woman is his wife. Dana stops Kevin from saying anything else that might get them into trouble.
Nigel is sent to fetch Tom Weylin. While he is gone, Rufus asks where Dana and Kevin come from. What kind of place allows white men to marry black women? With difficulty, Dana explains that they are from 1970s California, which has not become a state yet in Rufus’s time. Dana and Kevin try to convince Rufus that they are from the future by telling him facts about presidents and events, but Rufus is not convinced. Kevin shows him a bicentennial coin with 1776-1976 printed on it. Rufus remains skeptical.
Kevin worries about how long they will be gone from home. Dana worries that, if they are separated, Kevin may not be able to go home without her. She is the one with the special connection to this place, not him.
Part 3, pp. 65-74
Tom Weylin arrives in a wagon with Nigel and Nigel’s father, Luke. Weylin seems more concerned about what Rufus’s injury will cost than that Rufus is hurt. Luke seems disgusted by this reaction, but does not let Weylin see this. Weylin orders Luke to put Rufus in the wagon.
Rufus refuses to go without Dana, and Kevin convinces Weylin to let Dana stay with him. Dana has to remember not to stare at Weylin; slaves must keep their eyes lowered. She is afraid that he might recognize her from the time she saved Rufus from drowning. He asks where she is from, and she tells him “New York.” Dana’s answer seems to annoy Weylin for some reason. Weylin looks sharply at Kevin, too. It does not occur to Dana that New York is a free state, unlike Maryland.
Dana observes that the plantation house is not really a grand affair with white columns and a wide porch, like on TV. Instead, it is a modest-sized brick colonial.
Dana is allowed to go upstairs as Luke, following Weylin, carries Rufus to his room. Luke whispers to her to watch out, both “Marse Tom” and Rufus can turn mean with no warning. Dana thinks about how Rufus might grow up to run the plantation just like his father does. Even though being with him is dangerous for Dana, she decides that she will try to change his behavior if she can.
Rufus’s mother, Margaret Weylin, bursts into Rufus’s room, upset. Weylin explains that “Mr. Franklin” and his slave woman found Rufus and summoned help. Margaret stares at Dana, trying to place her. It soon becomes evident that she dislikes Dana for some reason. Dana, in turn, does not care for Margaret Weylin. “She was too much nervous energy compacted into too small a container. I didn’t want to be around when she exploded,” Dana thinks.
Dana is dismissed by Margaret and told to go to the cookhouse. Another servant, Carrie, leads her there. Carrie cannot speak, but she indicates that she finds Dana’s pants strange. Dana tells her that her “master” won’t buy her a decent dress to wear.
In the kitchen, Dana finds Luke, Nigel, and the cook, Sarah, who pronounces Margaret Weylin to be a “bitch.”
Dana shares corn meal mush with the others. She learns that later that night, they will get the table scraps from the white folks. Sarah, Luke and Nigel question Dana: where is she from? why does she not talk like a slave? why does she dress funny? what kind of cloth are her pants made of? Nigel reveals that Tom Weylin does not like Dana because she is from New York and she talks like she is educated. He does not want his own slaves getting ideas about reading and writing.
Nigel asks one more question: how does Rufus see Dana before she actually appears? Dana does not know.
So far, the details of Rufus’s time fit what Kevin and Dana know about history. Tom Weylin and his wife are stereotypes straight out of the movies. Slaves have their place, and it’s not a particularly pleasant one, but it is one they accept. Dana and Kevin, like actors in a play, fall right into place with their “lines.” But there are hints that behind the stereotypes lies real danger. The master of the plantation can turn “mean,” and the mistress of the plantation seems vindictive.
Part 4, pp. 74-81
Dana stays in the cookhouse for a while. Carrie slips her a little ham and some bread. Although she is grateful, Dana cannot help wondering how well cooked the ham is. She begins to think of all the diseases, like malaria, that she could get, as well as how poorly developed medicine and surgery are in the nineteenth century. She wonders if she will survive the hazards of this time. From the house, Rufus screams while his leg is set by the doctor.
Dana asks Sarah questions and finds out that Carrie is her daughter, the only one of her children that Master Tom has not sold away. Sarah’s eyes show her deep anger about this. Dana thinks it is terrible that Sarah is grateful that her remaining child’s disability kept her from being sold, too.
Just then, Kevin summons Dana, and they find a tree under which they can be alone. They discuss how they must stay close together, if possible, so they will go back together if Dana is transported back to their own time. If they are separated, one of them may remain in the antebellum South “for years, maybe for good.” Kevin says he could survive here, if he had to. Dana is not so sure. Kevin would have to keep his modern thoughts on slavery and free speech to himself, which would not be easy. Or, she speculates, this place might change him, might rub off on him somehow.
Kevin says he told Weylin that he is a writer from New York, but is destitute after being robbed a few days ago. Weylin has hired him to teach Rufus to read and write. Dana worries that Weylin will find her some work, too, only as a slave. She decides to find a place to fit in before he does so. She wants to make friends, in case she needs them on future visits to the plantation.
Kevin says that Weylin is suspicious of Dana because she is educated and might cause trouble. Kevin says he himself earned Weylin’s trust by telling him that he planned to sell Dana soon, although he promised her he would free her.
Dana and Kevin agree that they will both work on Rufus and “do what we can to keep him from growing up into a red-haired version of his father.”
Part 5, pp. 81-91
Three days go by, in which Margaret Weylin makes clear her dislike of Dana and her intent to make Dana’s life hard. She is jealous of Dana because she can read better than either Weylin or Margaret can. Dana avoids her and seeks refuge in Kevin’s room when she can. Dana tells Kevin she is willing to endure Margaret’s treatment of her as long as she can possibly influence Rufus by being here. If she must return, she wants him to have good memories of her—and have a good attitude toward black people in general.
Kevin says he could try to arrange a way to scare her into thinking her life is in danger, and maybe that will send both of them back to their own time. Dana asks him to delay, however, so she can work on Rufus. Kevin tells her that they should not delay too long; Margaret Weylin is coming on to him. Both of them decide that Dana should stop sleeping in the attic and move into Kevin’s room. Finding out that Kevin is sleeping with his slave woman might discourage Margaret. The two also decide that if they cannot get back home soon, they will leave and make their way north.
Later that day, Rufus requests that Dana come to his room. He asks her to read to him, and she reads from Robinson Crusoe, a book that she finds interesting because she, too, is a sort of castaway. Rufus tells Dana that the library downstairs belonged to Miss Hannah, Weylin’s first wife, who owned the plantation when he married her.
Before Dana leaves his room, she asks about Alice. Rufus tells her that Alice’s father was sold. Dana realizes that neither Alice nor her mother has said anything about seeing her that night at their cabin—or seeing her disappear.
As Dana comes out of Rufus’s room, she finds that Tom Weylin had been eavesdropping. He quizzes her about herself, especially how old she is and whether she has had any children. Then asks her if she would like to teach Rufus. He tells her he could buy her from Kevin, give her a steady home and food, rather than the itinerant life she has with Kevin.
Dana refuses his offer and says she prefers to remain with “Mr. Franklin.” Weylin tells her she will regret that decision. She remembers Rufus’s warning to her to “be careful” around him.
The fact that Dana reads to Rufus from Robinson Crusoe is interesting to note. Crusoe, a white man, is marooned on a island in which he discovers one other man, a black man, whom he names “Friday.” Crusoe essentially turns Friday into his servant. To a boy of Rufus’s time, this would seem like a natural relationship, but to Dana, it is disturbingly ironic that a literary classic in her own time is taken as matter of fact in Rufus’s time. Dana realizes that if those are the sorts of texts that are considered “edifying” to a young boy in 1815, then of course he believes in the institution of slavery as a matter of course.
Part 6, pp. 91-96
Dana, along with the other slaves, is forced to witness one slave’s punishment for talking back to Mr. Weylin. The brutal whipping deeply disturbs Dana. She worries that Kevin cannot protect her if someone decides to punish her for something. She worries, in particular, about Margaret Weylin finding out that she sleeps with Kevin.
Sure enough, Margaret does find out. She slaps Dana and calls her a whore, and she threatens to have her removed to the slave quarters out back. Dana realizes that Margaret is deeply insecure and bored, and that she is threatened by Dana. Dana also finds out from Sarah that it was Margaret who told Tom to sell off Sarah’s children to make money to buy new china (and, possibly, because they were his children, too). Sarah tells Dana to be careful of Margaret and her spite, especially since Margaret wants Kevin as a lover.
Part 7, pp. 96-101
Time passes, and Dana remains in Kevin’s room at night, even when Tom Weylin discovers that Kevin keeps his “woman” in bed with him. Weylin seems to think it is not at all unusual for a white man to bed a slave. Dana is disturbed that she and Kevin have become part of this “particular segment of history” with so little effort, that they can so easily fall into the roles of master and slave. She worries, too, when Kevin says that this time period is not so bad to live in, especially if they could go West “and watch the building of the country, see how much of the Old West mythology is true.” Dana reminds him that such mythology included mistreatment of Indians.
Tom Weylin catches Dana reading in his library and forbids her to read. Yet in the cookhouse, Nigel asks Dana to teach him to read, and she readily agrees. She steals a book from Weylin’s library to do so. She becomes even more determined to teach Nigel when she and Kevin observe slave children “playing” at buying and selling slaves. Kevin tries to calm her by saying that they are just kids imitating adults, not understanding what they are doing. Dana however, says, “‘They don’t have to understand. Even the games they play are preparing them for their future—and that future will come whether they understand it or not.’”
Kevin tells her there is nothing they can do about the slavery situation at the moment. In fact, he tells her, he has been impressed that Tom Weylin sort of lets his slaves do what they want, as long as the work gets done, which it does. Dana sourly reminds him of the slaves’ living conditions and their lack of rights and the beatings they get. She is disappointed that Kevin minimizes such things. He reminds her that she cannot do anything about slaves’ conditions or rights without getting beaten herself.
Part 8, pp. 102-107
Dana is in the room reading to Rufus when his father remarks that Rufus should be ashamed that a slave can read better than he can. Rufus tells Tom Weylin that Dana can read better than he can, too. Weylin threatens to deprive Rufus of Dana’s reading if he does not apologize. Rufus apologizes.
A few days later, Margaret Weylin hangs around Rufus’s room while Dana is reading. She constantly interrupts until Rufus tells her to go away. Dana is shocked at his rudeness and how much he looks and sounds like his father at that moment.
Later, Dana is in the cookhouse teaching Nigel to read. They feel safe there because the Weylins never come to the cookhouse. Dana feels uneasy because if they get caught, not only will the white people punish them, but the black people will resent Dana for getting Nigel in trouble.
At that moment, Tom Weylin comes into the cookhouse and accuses her of disobeying him because she has stolen a book and is reading, despite how “good” he treated her. He brings a whip down on her back over and over again, and Dana is blinded with pain and nausea. In a blur, she sees Kevin running to her, but suddenly passes out.
Dana and Kevin continue to be play actors, seeing Rufus’s time from their modern perspective, detaching themselves from what they see. Dana, especially, feels the need to “help” Rufus become a better man than his father. She also feels the need to “help” the slaves around her. She does not take seriously the mindset that Tom and Margaret Weylin represent, nor does she realize how pervasive it is. However, when Dana herself is whipped as if she were an animal, she begins to understand that, to them, she truly is an animal, with no rights or feelings to consider. It does not matter that she comes to them from another time; to them, she is black and therefore she is an animal. For the first time truly understands that she is not an actor, but a real slave.