Ruth May’s condition gets worse once again, even though she’d been improving immediately before Reverend Fowles’s visit. Taking Fowles’s advice, the Prices asks Tata Ndu to visit their home. He enters the house, bearing gifts: fresh antelope meat, a basket, etc. Ndu returns to the Price house many times, always complimenting Nathan’s daughters, but after a month of this, the Prices still aren’t sure how to ask him for help. Finally, Orleanna tells Ndu that she doesn’t want him catching a disease from Ruth May; this is her way of asking what’s going on.
Fowles’s advice is a great example of how a religious figure doesn’t have to limit himself or herself to spiritual advice—just because Fowles might disagree with Tata Ndu’s beliefs doesn’t mean that he can’t recommend Ndu to the Prices, or respect Ndu for his power and experience as a leader of Kilanga. It’s unclear what Ndu is doing in the Prices’ house, especially because of the antipathy he’d previously expressed to Nathan.
One day, Nelson realizes what Tata Ndu has in mind. He wants a wife for himself—this is why he’s been bringing gifts to the house. Ndu has his heart set on Rachel. As Nelson puts it, he wants to “buy” Rachel from Nathan. Nelson also explains that he likes Rachel because he thinks her fair complexion will be interesting for his other wives. Orleanna says, “You make it sound like she’s an accessory he needs to go with his outfit.”
Just because Tata Ndu doesn’t like Nathan doesn’t mean he’s not attracted to Rachel’s beauty. And yet Ndu’s attitude toward Rachel is like that of a collector to his possessions—as Orleanna points out, Rachel is just an accessory for him, just a way to compliment his other wives. Ndu may be Nathan’s rival, but they seem to have similarly demeaning ideas about women.