Beloved Part 3, Chapter 26
124 falls into disrepair from neglect because Sethe gives all her attention to Beloved. For a while Beloved and Sethe had been fighting. Beloved accused Sethe of abandoning her, while Sethe tried to explain why she killed the baby girl. Things quiet down when the food supply dwindles.
Since Beloved and Sethe were involved with only each other, Denver watched over them like a guardian, but she didn't expect Beloved to become a threat to Sethe. When Beloved becomes dominant, Denver goes out into the neighborhood in search of help because Sethe is growing weak. She is starving herself to feed Beloved, whose stomach is growing rounder and rounder because she's pregnant. Denver seeks help from Lady Jones, the woman who ran the informal school Denver attended for a while as a little girl. Lady Jones can't give her work because Denver has no training, and Denver is afraid to be away from home for too long because Sethe and Beloved might hurt one another. Denver begins finding food, left by women in the neighborhood, on the stump outside 124. She thanks each person who leaves food, and in doing that, Denver begins building a life outside of 124.
Meanwhile, Beloved grows more domineering and Sethe more submissive. Sethe cowers to Beloved to make her stay, and to make her understand that she had to kill her baby to keep it from being dirtied.
"[A]nybody white could take your whole self for anything that came to mind. Not just work, kill, or maim you, but dirty you. Dirty you so bad you couldn't like yourself anymore. And though she and others lived through and got over it, she could never let it happen to her own. The best things she was, was her children. Whites might dirty her all right, but not her best thing, her beautiful, magical best thing -- the part of her that was clean." Chapter 26, pg. 251
Denver decides to seek employment with the Bodwins, abolitionists who originally rented 124 to Baby Suggs and helped both her and Sethe find work. Janey Wagon, their hired coloredgirl, who knew Baby Suggs and Sethe when they first came to Cincinnati, quizzes Denver about her mother. Denver tells her honestly of Sethe's decline, but tells her Beloved is a cousin who was visiting when she fell ill. Janey agrees to help Denver get a job staying the night at the Bodwins' to care for them. Then Janey tells all the women of the community that Sethe's murdered baby girl has come back to life to get even. Ella, who was once friends with Sethe, but avoided her after the murder, rounds up 30 women to rescue Sethe from whatever's haunting her. They gather outside 124 to sing and pray while Denver waits on the porch for Mr. Bodwin to pick her up for her first day of work.
When Beloved and Sethe go on the porch to see the singers, Beloved is naked, and Sethe holds an ice pick she was using to break ice to cool Beloved's swollen body. Sethe is standing on the porch holding Beloved's hand when she sees Mr. Bodwin's wagon pull up in front of 124. Remembering Schoolteacher and acting to protect Beloved, Sethe rushes at Bodwin with the ice pick, but the crowd of women stop her. Beloved thinks Mr. Bodwin is after her, and that he is the whiteman who held her captive her entire life. Seeing Sethe run away from her, she believes that she has been abandoned again, so she disappears.