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and attempts to rape her. Dessa Rose manages to knock him out with a rock and steals the key. She releases her fellow slaves, and they escape, killing their white captors, but because she is pregnant she can't keep up with them. Through this dramatic action sequence we pass back to the cell where Dessa Rose, finishes her bloody story, telling Nehemiah that she killed the white men for the same reason the master killed Kaine — "because I can." There is a blackout. Abruptly, lights come up on the world of privileged white society. Ruth, now seen as a young Charleston belle, is being fitted for a dress by her Mother and her black mammy, Dorcas. As they fuss, they tell her how ladies are expected to behave, and we see that each of these women exerts a very different influence on Ruth. Against her mother's wishes, Ruth falls in love with Berne Sutton and is swept from courtship to marriage to the birth of a daughter to Bertie's desertion. Ruth is now alone on Bertie's isolated farm. Her only companion, Dorcas, has died suddenly and the only people around are runaway slaves who find shelter there. Ruth wonders what will become of her. Meanwhile, through interviewing her, Nehemiah grows increasingly obsessed with Dessa Rose and begins to see her as a human being. Dessa Rose will give birth any day, and they both know this means her hanging is imminent. Ruth is having a hard time coping with the farm, her infant daughter and her loneliness. The escaped Nathan and Harker arrive at her door, startling her. They tell her they are "just passing through" and she sets them to work. Nehemiah has allowed Dessa Rose to go outdoors for some air, and although she is still in chains, they spend some time together. Nehemiah reads a letter from his fiancée Susannah. Nehemiah is torn between two very different women, his fiancee and Dessa Rose. When Nehemiah returns Dessa Rose to her cell, she behaves seductively in an effort to get him to unlock her leg irons, but he backs away and leaves. A slave named Gemina enters on a pretext, and secretly gives Dessa Rose a file to use later. Realising that her escape is being planned, Dessa Rose appeals to slaves outside the cell to tell her how long it will be. Encoding their message in a hymn-like song. Nathan and others tell her "it won't be long." and Dessa Rose begins to file off her leg irons. That night, Nehemiah finds himself inexorably drawn back to Dessa Rose. He kneels to unlock her leg irons, not realising that she is already free. She hits him in the head with a bucket, knocking him out, and escapes, aided by Nathan. In a rage of betrayal, Nehemiah interviews the slaves who may have seen Dessa Rose escape, but they all plead ignorance while laughing at him behind his back. He vows to find her and see that she hangs. Dessa Rose, already in labour, is carried to Ruth's isolated farm. Not knowing what else to do, Ruth helps deliver the baby. There is a blackout. Lights come up on Ruth nursing Dessa Rose's infant daughter. Dessa Rose wakes up and is horrified by this, even though she is in no shape to nurse the baby herself. Ruth is insulted and gives the baby back to Dessa Rose, but tells the help that she will need to continue nursing this child because Dessa Rose is too weak and ill to do so. Dessa falls asleep and dreams of her mother, Rose, who warns her not to trust white people. It is necessary for Ruth to nurse Dessa Rose's baby now, as well as her own. As she does so, she talks out loud, wondering what to name her. Dessa refuses to let her baby be named by a white person, and confronts Ruth. upsetting her so much that she runs out. Dessa Rose tells her child the history of her own family, and promises that she will not be named until they are free. ACT TWO Out in the fields of Ruth's farm, field hands observe the growing relationship between Ruth and Nathan, as, little by little, they become friends. Old Dessa remembers this period of time and the jealousy she felt. The slaves on Ruth's place do chores, singing jubilantly together that they will soonbe free. Dessa Rose is