Chapter 11 Summary
When Kumalo and Msimangu return home for the day, everyone is in an uproar over the latest news: a white man, Mr. Arthur Jarvis, has been murdered by black burglars in his home. This murder is big news not only because crime and violence are at the forefront of people's minds lately, but also because Mr. Jarvis was a passionate “fighter for justice.” Msimangu talks about a club Mr. Jarvis ran for black boys, and Father Vincent mentions that Mr. Jarvis was a faithful religious man in an era when most people have given up their belief in God.
To Kumalo's surprise, he realizes that he knew Arthur Jarvis. The dead man was the son of James Jarvis, a white farmer in Carisbrooke, the town in the hills above Ndotsheni. Years ago, Kumalo sometimes saw Arthur Jarvis, “a small bright boy,” riding through Ndotsheni on his horse. Kumalo never spoke to the child, but it saddens him—and everyone in the room—to hear of the senseless death.
The priests read aloud from the newspaper report about the murder. Arthur Jarvis’s wife and two children were away from home at the time, but he had stayed behind because he was ill. Three black hoodlums, referred to as “natives” in the article, entered the house and knocked out the servant in the kitchen. Mr. Jarvis came downstairs, probably to find out what the noise was all about, and one of the burglars shot him at close range.
After the article is read aloud, the room falls silent. Everyone’s thoughts are filled with grief:
Cry for the broken tribe, for the law and the country that is gone. Aye, and cry aloud for the man who is dead, for the woman and children bereaved. Cry, the beloved country, these things are not yet at an end.
Kumalo excuses himself. He has a terrible feeling about this newspaper story. What if his son, Absalom, is the murderer who killed Arthur Jarvis? He does not say what he is thinking out loud, but Msimangu guesses it anyway. He calls it “foolish” to leap to such a conclusion. In a place like Johannesburg, there are thousands of crimes and thousands of criminals. It is ridiculous to think Absalom could be the worst of them.
Kumalo agrees that his fear makes no sense, but that does not stop him from being afraid. He says good-bye and walks away, and Msimangu watches him go. He reflects, “There are times…when God seems no more to be about the world.”