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Barron's Booknotes-Cry, The Beloved Country by Alan Paton

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CHAPTER 3

Kumalo's journey begins with a walk from Ndotsheni to the train station in nearby Carisbrooke, at the edge of the Drakensberg Mountains. He is so cautious that he arrives an hour early, though the local train is so small and slow that nearly anyone could catch up, even if it had left already. The valley below is sometimes made mysterious by mist, and sometimes filled with beauty. People waiting can hear the train whistle at each stop below.

But Kumalo doesn't notice these things. He's busy worrying whether his money will last, how sick his sister is, and whether you can really go up and down the streets of Johannesburg forever without backtracking. He recalls a village boy who stepped off a Johannesburg curb and was killed by a truck. But he worries most of all about what has become of Absalom.

Finally the train nears. At the last minute the man who helped Kumalo with his bag asks a favor for another man, Sibeko. Sibeko was embarrassed to ask directly, since he is not a member of the church. Kumalo recognizes him as a fellow black and agrees to look for Sibeko's daughter. The problem is like his own. Sibeko hasn't heard from the girl since she followed her white mistress, Smith's daughter, to the Johannesburg suburb of Springs.



The coach Kumalo boards is warm and smelly. It's for nonwhites; whites have their own coaches. The black men on this coach wear European clothing, but some of the women combine European with traditional Zulu dress or wrap themselves in blankets. The people notice Kumalo's priestly collar and make room for him. He automatically looks around for someone of his own standing, an action that shows us he is aware of the respect other blacks hold for him. In fact, when he turns to the window to say goodbye to his friend, he shows a little vanity as well. He loudly repeats his promise to look for the girl, although he has much to do in the city. "It is always so," he says, as if he went there often. Then the train jerks and he nearly falls. He quickly regains his dignity and sits, enjoying his harmless vanity. But the good feeling soon fades, and he becomes again simply a scared black country priest heading into an alien world that he believes has damaged his own world beyond repair.

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Barron's Booknotes-Cry, The Beloved Country by Alan Paton
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