Book Two—Chapter Summaries
The first paragraph of this chapter repeats the memorable opening paragraph of Book One: we are back in the lovely Ixopo district, but now on the prosperous high farm of James Jarvis (already mentioned in Chapter 11). Jarvis climbs up to "the tops" on his land, partly to enjoy the view of the great Umzimkulu Valley, and worries about the drought, and about the problems of soil erosion and the inadequate farming methods employed by Africans. Then he sees policemen drive into the farm and begin walking up the slope towards him. The captain breaks to Jarvis the news of the death of his son Arthur, shot by an intruder that afternoon in his home. Jarvis is shocked, stunned. He accepts the police offer of an airplane trip to Johannesburg, and then, as the captain makes the necessary phone call, breaks the terrible news to his wife, whom we hear "crying and sobbing."
The senior Jarvises are welcomed and accommodated in Johannesburg by the Harrisons, the parents of Mary, Arthur's widow. Mary and her mother-in-law console each other in their grief. Once the formalities at the mortuary are concluded, Harrison senior and Jarvis talk sadly about Arthur. John Harrison, Mary's brother, admired Arthur intensely, but his father and Jarvis, white South Africans of the older generation, have never had much sympathy for or understanding of liberal attitudes towards black people. But Jarvis liked his son, and the two of them are impressed by the variety of people who have sent in messages of sympathy. Harrison speaks of the causes that Arthur espoused and the chances that he was prepared to take in pursuance of his beliefs. Jarvis is conscious that his son had traveled into territory that is unknown to him—though it may not be wholly unknown to his wife—and he feels rather challenged by this. He tells his wife that he wishes he had known his son more fully. He also cannot understand how this could have happened to someone like Arthur. The two embrace in their pain and sorrow.
His wife and daughter-in-law having returned to the Harrisons' house, James Jarvis sits alone in his son's study. He looks at Arthur's papers, among them many letters of invitation to meetings and gatherings of various kinds; letters of thanks, too. He looks at some of the books in his son's large collection: a whole bookcase full of books on Abraham Lincoln, and books on South African history, wildlife, religion, politics, criminology; and literary works. There are pictures too, one of Christ crucified, one of Lincoln, two of South African scenes. He finds an uncompleted essay that Arthur was writing, in which he distinguishes between what was permissible and what was not permissible in the actions of white people and governments. He suggests that it was all right to develop the country, but that it was never right to exploit human beings. In words reminiscent of those of Msimangu, he notes and regrets the disintegration of traditional tribal values, and insists that the ruling whites have a moral duty to devise an honest and fair solution to the social problem that has developed. Jarvis senior is interested and touched by all this. Deep in thought, he begins his walk home.