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Cry, the Beloved Country

by Alan Paton

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Chapter 25 Summary

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One day when court is not in session, Mr. and Mrs. Jarvis visit their niece on the outskirts of Johannesburg. After they all spend a bit of time together, Jarvis’s wife and niece decide to go out shopping. He remains at his niece's house on his own.

While the women are gone, Jarvis hears a knock on the back door. He answers to find a tiny “native” priest in worn-out clothing. The author's description makes it clear that the priest is Kumalo, but Jarvis does not immediately recognize him. Kumalo looks badly startled and begins shaking all over. He has to sit down on the front step. Several times he tries to get up, but he cannot do it.

Jarvis is torn between concern and annoyance at the behavior of this strange priest. Speaking politely in Zulu, he asks if the man is hungry or sick. Kumalo says no to both questions. He seems afraid, but Jarvis does not understand why. He considers walking away, but it does not seem right to leave an old man in such a state.  

Eventually Kumalo masters himself well enough to explain that he is seeking news of the daughter of a man named Sibeko. The girl came to Johannesburg to be a servant in this house, but Sibeko has heard no news of her in a year. [Note to reader: This is the errand Kumalo promised to do just before he boarded the train to Johannesburg in Chapter 3.] Jarvis says he knows nothing about his niece’s servants, but he invites Kumalo to wait and ask the lady of the house when she gets home.

During this conversation, Jarvis gradually realizes that Kumalo is the priest from Ndotsheni, the village near his own home. He asked if Kumalo recognized him, and Kumalo says he did. Jarvis asks why Kumalo was afraid. After a long hesitation, Kumalo haltingly admits the truth. “It was my son that killed your son,” he says.

It takes Jarvis a long moment to absorb this news. He walks in the garden for a while, and then he returns to Kumalo and says he is not angry. Kumalo apologizes for his behavior and explains that he was shocked because he did not expect Jarvis to be at this house. At the end of the conversation, Kumalo adds that he is sorry for Jarvis and his family.

Moments later, the women return, and Jarvis’s niece speaks to Kumalo. Kumalo repeats his request for information, and the woman says haughtily that Sibeko’s daughter “went to the bad and started to brew liquor in her room.” The girl went to prison for a short time, and Jarvis’s niece fired her. Kumalo asks if the woman knows where the girl went, and Jarvis’s niece says she does not. “And I do not care,” she adds, and she stalks back into the house.

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