The Congolese independence movement has cut off the Prices’ stipend, leaving them wanting for food. At this time, Orleanna and Ruth May become sick and feverish. Nathan ignores them, however. He just continues with his preaching, leaving Adah, Rachel, and Leah to take care of his wife and daughter.
Adah just confirms what we’ve already seen from Nathan: he prioritizes preaching over taking care of his family. Now that we know more about Nathan’s background, we can grasp where he gets this strict, militaristic sense of duty.
Rachel works with Adah and Leah to figure out how the family will survive from now on. They’ll need to boil all their own water, take stock of their current food supply (not much—mostly dried fruits and canned sardines), and kill some chickens from the chicken house to make ends meet for now. The sisters debate whether or not they have enough chickens to keep Nelson around—at the moment, he works for them in exchange for a large supply of eggs. After some thought, they agree to keep him.
While there may be a practical downside to taking care of Nelson (one more mouth to feed), the Price women want to help another human being, especially a young boy they’ve grown close to. So even if the Price women are more practical than Nathan, they’re still willing to sacrifice their own safety and nourishment for moral reasons.
Adah notices that Rachel is acting more adult than usual—volunteering to bake bread, for example. Rachel goes through phases in which she plays the part of the big sister, but these phases are always short-lived (Rachel is only 16 months older than Adah and Leah, anyway).
Adah finds that Rachel is just “playing” a leadership role. This parallels the way that various political groups were impersonating political authority with various degrees of success in the Congo at the time.