Chapters 12-13 Summary
Ruth serves Anton and Patty a fine breakfast, and is surprised when Anton asks her to join them. Patty is certain that no white man has ever offered the housekeeper a chair before. Ruth at first respectfully declines, but later joins the two, sitting at the table with a cup of coffee. Ruth and Anton engage in a light conversation, while Patty basks in the amazing warmth of her "two favorite people getting to know each other." Ruth asks Anton how "colored folks" are treated in Germany, and, to her astonishment, he replies, "There aren't any."
Ruth tells Anton what it has been like for her as a Negro woman in twentieth-century America. When she was a child, her mother had saved pennies so that Ruth could get an education and become a teacher; she had entrusted her money to Mr. J. G. Jackson, the grandfather of Patty's friend Edna Louise. When the time had come for Ruth to go on to college, only a few dollars remained in the envelope Mr. Jackson had kept for her in his office safe; Ruth's mother had never even imagined that the rich white man would be so conniving and heartless as to steal from a poor black woman. Ruth had tried to be wiser in her own financial dealings when her son Robert had been born, putting the money she struggled to save for her son's education in the Rice County National Bank for safekeeping. But just when Robert was about to matriculate at Morehouse College, he was drafted. Even though he had been treated like a second-class citizen all his life, the head of the draft board declared that Robert must "do his share so this country will always belong to 'us' Americans."
Ruth wonders whether the world "is ever gonna amount to much," and Anton admits that he is "not exactly overburdened by excessive optimism" in this regard. He says that many believe religion is the answer, but muses that there is also much evil perpetrated by "religious" men. He also has little hope that a better world will be achieved as a result of more education or better leaders; Anton believes that positive change will be affected only when men learn to value love over hate and creation over destruction.
The placid, companionable mood of the morning is shattered when a car drives up; in a panic, Ruth tells Patty to hide Anton under her bed. Fortunately, it is only Sue Ellen's mother, who has stopped by to ask if Sharon can go shopping with them in Wynne City. The episode, however, makes Anton realize that he is exposing the family to grave danger, and he apologizes, saying that he will leave tonight after dark. Patty tries to convince Anton to stay, but, to her surprise, Ruth does not protest....
(The entire section is 715 words.)