Summary — Chapter 22
Absalom’s trial begins. Europeans sit on one side of the courtroom and non-Europeans sit on the other. The narrator notes that in South Africa, the judges are treated with great respect by all races, but though they are just, they often enforce unjust laws created by the white people. Absalom’s two accomplices plead not guilty, but Absalom’s lawyer says that Absalom will plead guilty only to “culpable homicide” since Absalom did not intend to kill Arthur Jarvis. The prosecutor denies this petition, however, and Absalom is forced to enter a plea of not guilty.
The other two defendants—John’s son, Matthew, and a man named Johannes Pafuri—look sad and shocked while Absalom tells his side of the story. Absalom says that Johannes planned the robbery after hearing “a voice” that told him a time and date. After entering Arthur Jarvis’s house, Absalom says, Johannes confronted Arthur’s servant and demanded money and clothes. When the servant called out for his master, Johannes hit him over the head with an iron bar. Arthur burst in on the robbers, and Absalom fired his gun because he was frightened. He and his companions ran away. The judge asks Absalom why he brought the revolver, and Absalom says it was for his own protection. He also tells the court that Johannes brought the iron bar and claimed it had been blessed. The judge interrupts to ask Absalom if his father would bless such a weapon.
Absalom then resumes his narration: after the murder, he went to Mrs. Mkize’s house, where he met his accomplices, then buried his revolver in a plantation field. He says that anyone—Mrs. Mkize, Matthew, or Johannes—who denies this claim is lying. He then says that he prayed for forgiveness. He spent the following day wandering around Johannesburg and ended up in a friend’s house in Germiston. When the police found him there, they questioned him about Johannes, but Absalom told them that he himself shot Jarvis and indicated where the gun might be found. He meant to confess earlier, but he waited too long, and when the police arrived, he realized that waiting was a mistake. The court adjourns, and outside Kumalo sees Jarvis. He says nothing, however, because he feels that there is nothing he can possibly say to him.
Summary — Chapter 23
The trial receives little publicity because the front pages all carry news that gold has been discovered at Odendaalsrust. There is excitement at the stock exchange and talk of a “second Johannesburg” being built. Before the discovery of gold, the land was wasted, but the engineers’ patience has finally paid off, and the stock prices are soaring. The English say that it is a shame that these prodigious feats of engineering should have such ugly Afrikaans names and that it is a shame that the Afrikaners cannot see that a bilingual state is a waste of time. In the spirit of unity, however, they keep their thoughts to themselves.
An anonymous conservative voice takes over the chapter, noting that some do-gooders want the new profits to go toward subsidizing social services or higher wages for the miners. This voice notes that it is a pity that these people, most of whom have no financial standing to speak of, are so good with words, such as a strange priest named Father Beresford. The thinking of these people is muddled, the voice says, and the narrator unjustly accuses the people of Johannesburg of being greedy when many of the town’s prominent citizens actually give money to charities and collect art.
Another voice begins, this time one that is more liberal. It praises the work of Sir Ernest Oppenheimer, who suggests that the new mines should house whole families in villages rather than house male workers in crowded compounds. Money is not everything, the voice says, and the world does not need a second Johannesburg.
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