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

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CHAPTER 25

One day when court is not in session the Jarvises visit a favorite niece of Margaret's, Barbara Smith, in the suburb of Springs. The women go shopping, and Jarvis starts to read the paper. Someone knocks on the back door, and he answers. It's an old parson whose collar is "brown with age or dirt." We realize it's Kumalo, on his errand for Sibeko, and it's definitely age, not dirt, that makes his collar look worn. After he greets Kumalo in Zulu, Jarvis is surprised when the parson trembles and sits down for some time, looking at the ground. He has trouble rising. Earlier Jarvis might barely have noticed expressions on the face of a Zulu, but by now he has changed enough to recognize that this man does not mean to be rude. He waits without complaining until Kumalo finally makes it to his feet, fumbles pathetically for the right piece of paper, and then asks about the daughter of Sibeko. Relieved, but finally getting a little irritated, Jarvis turns Kumalo over to a servant and goes back into the house.



Suddenly recognizing the old man as the parson from Ndotsheni, Jarvis comes out and says, "I know you, umfundisi." Considering how Kumalo felt about just looking at Jarvis in the courtroom, how do these words affect him? But Jarvis does not yet "know" this parson as having any connection with his son's killer. Still, he sees on Kumalo's face the suffering his words cause. He takes the initiative, telling Kumalo he can sit down. More talk makes him realize the parson is shaking not with illness but with fear, and he insists that the parson explain why. At last Kumalo gets the words out: "It was my son that killed your son." Once again we are given only Jarvis' actions and words, not his thoughts. He walks off, then comes back. He says, "I understand what I did not understand. There is no anger in me." He and Kumalo even talk about Arthur as a boy. Jarvis sees Kumalo's tears, and accepts his genuine sympathy for the entire Jarvis family.

Then Barbara Smith is back, and Jarvis explains Kumalo's errand in English. She says that the girl turned out bad, and she neither knows nor cares where she is. Not realizing at the moment that Kumalo understands English, Jarvis tells him, in Zulu, only the part about Barbara's not knowing where the girl is. What does his sensitivity in so small a thing tell you about his concern for Kumalo's feelings? Kumalo shows equal sensitivity. He could have embarrassed all three of them by saying goodbye in English. Instead he thanks Jarvis and his niece in Zulu. Jarvis watches awhile as Kumalo walks off, noticing how old the parson looks. Then he turns and sees that his wife, too, walks as if she were old.

NOTE: We've been told several times now, in different ways, that Margaret is frail. The repetition prepares us for events back in Ndotsheni in a later chapter.

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