The Story of an African Farm

by Olive Schreiner

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Part 2: Chapter 14 Summary

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Waldo is making a kitchen table for Em while a servant churns in the shade nearby. Tant’ Sannie has come to visit with her husband and baby. She talks on and on to Em about marriage and babies and about how glad she is that Em is to be married at last. She also rails against Em’s innovations with the soap pot, insisting that God wants them to hold to tradition no matter what and warning of the dire consequences of change.

Gregory is sitting in the shade. He holds a letter that Lyndall left for him. It contains only four words: “You must marry Em.” He will obey.

Tant’ Sannie goes on to describe her latest experience at church. Tant’ Trana, a woman with cancer and dropsy, has been married to a rich Englishman, who is none other than Bonaparte Blenkins. Tant’ Sannie chases them right out of church, trying to warn Tant’ Trana, but she runs out of breath, and Bonaparte only winks at her before they drive away. After telling the story, Tant’ Sannie leaves the farm with her husband and baby.

Em goes out to talk to Waldo. She offers to give him the fifty pounds Lyndall left behind and the money from the sale of Lyndall’s wagon and oxen. Em would like to see Waldo go to school for a couple of years.

Waldo refuses the offer even though he is grateful. Em reflects on how people often think they want something, but when they finally have a chance to actually get it, they no longer want it. She remembers how, when she was very small, she always wanted her mother’s work box that was filled with colorful reels of cotton, but when she finally got the box, the reels were gone, and she was not satisfied.

Em then tells Waldo that she and Gregory are to be married. He does not congratulate her but kisses her forehead. She goes off to the house, and Waldo puts his tools away. He sits down against a wall to watch the chickens, and he smiles at their antics. The world may be treacherous, deceitful, and evil, but it is also lovely, and right now it feels perfect to Waldo. He has found beauty, “God’s wine” and God’s reward. Waldo looks at a leaf, simply appreciating it as part of nature, and he feels alive.

Waldo is happy as he looks out into nature. There is little prospect for his future beyond the farm, but he has learned that the farm and its beauty and its work are enough. He thinks that it is “well to live long” and that life is sweet. He sits very still, and the little chickens come close to him, only to run away when he extends his hand. He feels a kinship with the fluffy little creatures.

Em thinks Waldo is asleep when she brings out his milk, so she leaves the cup beside him, thinking that he will be happy for it when he wakes up. But Waldo will not wake up again.

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Part 2: Chapter 13 Summary