Book One—Chapter Summaries
Stephen goes by himself to visit Absalom's girlfriend. He tells her of Absalom's imprisonment, and then of his crime. She is aghast. He asks her if she wants to marry Absalom. She says yes, but in a listless, unemphatic way rather reminiscent of Absalom's replies to his father's questions in their prison encounter. Stephen questions her further, about her family background, her difficult life, and her rather lax and blurred moral values. He is then angered by her and feels a strange desire to be hurtful. He asks if she will take another lover, and then, wildly, if she would accept him as a lover. She is very confused by this, but then says that she "could be willing". He covers his face with his hands; she weeps; and he is ashamed "for his cruelty, not her compliance". He apologizes. This moment brings them closer together. He asks her if she would like to marry Absalom, then come with her child to Ndotsheni and become his daughter, and she says yes with real feeling. They are both suddenly happy; and Stephen feels that some of his pain has been lifted from him. He remembers that Father Vincent is praying for him.
The kind Mrs. Lithebe observes those staying in her house: the good but suffering Stephen Kumalo, the child who at time brightens his mood, and his mother Gertrude, who is pleasant but whose laughter is sometimes "careless". Stephen humbly asks Mrs. Lithebe if Absalom's girl can come and stay there too. She says yes, and the girl comes, and, unlike Gertrude, is warmly grateful and accepts Mrs. Lithebe's tutelage. Stephen visits his son again, and finds him depressed. Absalom knows now that his two accomplices will deny that they were present at the murder scene, and he is relieved to learn that he is to have a lawyer. His father gets angry with him again, but then relents, seeing his son's distress. After this they feel closer. Stephen tells him that Father Vincent is arranging the marriage and that his wife-to-be will be coming back to Ndotsheni. Absalom is pleased. The advocate, Mr. Carmichael, then speaks to Absalom, and later explains to Stephen how he will approach the case. Stephen is anxious about the cost of the lawyer, but is told that Carmichael will take the case pro deo (without payment, literally "for God"). Stephen is grateful and moved.