Chapter 14 Summary

After hearing that someone is living in Joe Christmas’s cabin, the deputy investigates on the sheriff’s orders. He learns meets Lena Grove, who promptly tells him her story of having come to town to find her husband, Lucas Burch, who is living by the name of Joe Brown. Byron Bunch is camping in a tent nearby. All this is reported to the sheriff, who decides that she won’t do any harm living there.

On a Sunday morning, Joe Christmas enters a black church and disrupts the service. He charges down the aisle, knocking down a woman. He grabs the preacher by the throat and then knocks down an elderly deacon. Joe climbs up into the pulpit and begins to curse God. One of the parishioners, Roz, has a razor, but is knocked down by Joe, who leaves the church; he stops to smoke a cigarette on the front porch. The church members carry Roz, who has a fractured skull, to a nearby cabin. The next morning, the posse arrives with the dogs. At the side of the church, they find a note with a single unprintable phrase. The dogs easily follow Joe Christmas’s trail down the road to a spot by a cotton house where he had evidently stopped. The dogs pick up the scent and lead the posse to a Negro cabin, where the only occupants are a woman and a child. The woman explains that she had exchanged shoes with a white man at the cotton house, thus leading the dogs off the trail. The sheriff returns to the cotton house, but Joe has gone.

Joe travels across the countryside. He stops at a house and asks the woman what day it is. She tells him it is Tuesday and then orders him off her property. Joe continues to travel, eating only rotten fruit and ripened ears of corn. He sleeps where he can. One morning he shaves by a stream, cutting himself several times with the razor. Two black children approach. He asks what day it is, but they say nothing. The children leave and Joe sleeps. He awakens to the sound of wagon wheels approaching. A black man is driving the wagon; he tells Joe that it is Friday. He encounters a black youth who tells him he is near Mottstown. The youth gives him a ride into town, which is about twenty miles from Jefferson.