Chapter 24 Summary
Jarvis returns to his son’s empty house. He enters through the kitchen, forces himself to walk past the awful bloodstain on the floor, and goes upstairs to the office. There he examines the bookshelves and the pictures again. He sits down at the desk, which is still covered with invitations and papers.
Today Jarvis rifles through Arthur’s desk drawers. At first he only finds office supplies, but eventually he finds a collection of essays. Most, but not all, concern the social structure and history of South Africa, but some of Arthur's writings display other interests as well. One paper is on South African birds, and another is on his country’s historic relationship with India.
Eventually Jarvis picks out an essay called “The Evolution of a South African” and begins to read. In it, Arthur claims it is “hard to be born a South African.” He suggests that, in South Africa, people are expected to be loyal citizens of a racial group, not of a country. Zulus are Zulus; Afrikaaners are Afrikaaners. He, as an English-speaking South African, grew up with virtually no knowledge of any other South African group. He describes his childhood and says that his parents were “honorable people” who raised him well. “But of South Africa I learned nothing at all,” he writes.
This statement offends Jarvis, who puts down the essay and starts to leave. He clomps down the stairs to the kitchen and heads for the door—but on his way past the stain, he reconsiders. He goes back upstairs and reads the rest of the essay.
In the essay, Arthur says that South Africans will have to break down racial barriers if their country is ever to succeed. People of all racial groups will have to work together and make the choice to do what is right for the whole country, not just what is right for the members of their own race. Arthur declares that he has decided to do what he knows is right, not because he is necessarily a good man, but because he cannot live with the inner turmoil of doing anything else.
After he finishes reading, Jarvis sits still for a long time. To him, his son’s words seem both beautiful and meaningful. When he gets up to go, he does not walk past the stain on the floor gain. Instead he leaves through the front door. There is still a police officer outside keeping watch, and he shakes his head, thinking that Jarvis must be too upset to face the truth.