Summary — Chapter 28

The judge delivers his verdict on Absalom’s crime. While a Zulu interpreter translates, the judge explains that even though Arthur’s servant identified Johannes as having been present during the break-in, there is not enough proof to convict Johannes. Although he acknowledges that Absalom’s testimony is vivid and that it was corroborated by plenty of circumstantial evidence, the judge also wonders out loud whether Absalom named his accomplices to alleviate his own guilt. For these reasons, the judge declares Johannes and Matthew not guilty, although he hopes there will be further investigation into their previous criminal activities.

The judge turns his attention to Absalom. He agrees with many of Mr. Carmichael’s arguments regarding Absalom’s remorse, the honesty of his testimony, and his youth. He also mentions Carmichael’s argument that the destruction of tribal society and the conditions of native life in Johannesburg contributed to the crime. The judge explains, however, that he must uphold the law, even if that law was made by an unjust society. If Absalom had truly fired in fear, the judge says, the charge of murder would have to be dropped, but he says the fact that Absalom brought a loaded revolver into the house and that the servant was struck with an iron bar demonstrate an intention to kill. Therefore, he finds Absalom guilty of murder. The judge believes there are no special grounds for mercy, which means that Absalom is sentenced to hang. Only the governor-general-in-council can lessen Absalom’s sentence. The young man from the reformatory, who has attended the trial, crosses the color line that separates whites and blacks in the courtroom in order to help Kumalo exit.

Summary — Chapter 29

Father Vincent, Kumalo, Gertrude, Msimangu, and Absalom’s girlfriend go to the prison so that Absalom can be married. After the marriage, Absalom and his father have a final meeting. Absalom sends his remembrances to his mother and directs his father to his last savings and possessions, which will help with the upkeep of his son. Kumalo bitterly mentions that he finds it hard to forgive Matthew and Johannes for abandoning Absalom. The time comes for Absalom to be taken away, and he begins to weep because he is afraid of dying. Two guards have to pull Absalom from his father’s knees when it is time for Kumalo to leave. Outside, Absalom’s girlfriend joyfully greets Kumalo as her father, but he is too distracted to pay much attention to her.

Kumalo goes to say good-bye to his brother. After some tense pleasantries, John tells Kumalo that he intends to bring Matthew back to his shop once the trouble has passed. Kumalo asks John where his politics are taking him. John replies that Kumalo should not interfere with his politics since he does not interfere with Kumalo’s religion. Kumalo warns John that his words may get him in trouble with the police, and when he sees fear in his brother’s eyes, Kumalo presses further in order to hurt John. Kumalo lies and says that he has heard that a spy has come to John’s shop and has been reporting on the secret conversations John conducts there. When John shakes his head at the thought of being betrayed by a friend, Kumalo angrily cries out that his son had two such friends. John drives him from the store, and Kumalo walks away, distressed that he has failed in his mission to warn John against the corrupting influence of power.

The Jarvises bid their farewell to the Harrisons, who agree with the sentencing and wish the other two men had been convicted as well. Jarvis agrees. At the station, Jarvis slips John Harrison an envelope containing a check for a thousand pounds for the boys’ club that John and Arthur founded.

There is a farewell gathering for Kumalo at Mrs. Lithebe’s house. Msimangu tells Kumalo that he has decided to renounce all of his possessions and become a monk. He gives Kumalo his savings, over thirty-three pounds—more money than Kumalo has ever possessed. Kumalo falls to his knees in amazement and decides to send John a letter to apologize for his actions. The following morning, he wakes Absalom’s wife for the journey to Ndotsheni. In Gertrude’s room, however, he finds her son and her clothes neatly laid out, but Gertrude is gone.