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Marguerite Poland


Chapter 8:
Questions to challenge you!

Keith Tankard
Updated: 4 March 2014
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There are two distinct stories here.

  • In the first, Walter's party goes to Mbokothwe to find the deranged Brompton;
  • In the second, Frances collapses into feelings of despair and guilt at Victor's non-return. She eventually journeys to his bedroom and is found there by Victor.


In a work of art, nothing happens by chance. Indeed, it is sculptured by the hand of a meticulous artist.

There must therefore be a critical reason for Marguerite Poland's splitting Chapter 8 into the search for the deranged Brompton and Frances's waiting up for Victor's return.

The author does not explain but rather leaves it to the reader to connect the incidents. At its centre, however, one surely witnesses the triumph of the "Shades"?


Walter, Benedict and Crispin go to Mbokothwe to find the deranged Brompton. They arrive there to find an unsettling, ghostly atmosphere.

The mission reveals all the signs of witchcraft, and both Brompton and Pusey appear to have disappeared. There is also an antagonistic attitude amongst the non-Christian amaXhosa.


Back at St. Matthias, Frances too appears bewitched. Victor holds her emotions in his hands. She is held captive to her Victorian religious upbringing. Finally, Helmina weaves a web of enchantment about her.

Victorian morality forces guilt onto her because she has met Victor secretly and allowed him to kiss her.

Helmina sends this guilt into a spiral of self-condemnation by insisting that it is the woman who sins merely by causing the man to be sexually aroused.

Frances is deeply aware that she has aroused strong sexual feelings in Victor and this loads guilt upon guilt on her overwrought conscience.

When Victor plays his final game, delaying his homecoming till she is distraught, she has no answer but to succumb to his every desire.

Both incidents -- at Mbokothwe and St Matthias -- have therefore the characteristics of magical manipulation by unseen forces.

At Mbokothwe, the Shades appear to play their mischievous game unchecked.

At St Matthias, on the other hand, it is more low-key. But a mischievous game is nevertheless also being played on Frances.

Have you looked at the questions
in the right column?
Read the left column and then answer
the following questions:

Mbokothwe appears to be a place possessed by demons.
  • What strange happenings occur there the evening that Walter's party arrives? (5)

[Need help?]

"God could see her. He could see what she was hiding in her heart . . . He knew her. He knew her well."
  • For the first time we witness Frances as an insecure young woman, flooded with a sense of guilt. Explain this guilt. (10)

[Need help?]

Frances believed that she had caused in Victor "that strange and powerful affliction that she'd witnessed".
  • What was this "affliction"? (4)

[Need help?]

"The passions of men are easily provoked and can cause them the greatest distress and harm. Ensure that you are never a cause of their sudden arousal, for that is your sin rather than theirs and any consequences would be your fault entirely."
  • Considering that Frances was both innocent and naive, explain what effect this advice would have had on her very impressionable mind. (4)

[Need help?]

  • How does this affect Frances's emotions on the night when Victor is late in returning? (6)

[Need help?]

Why does Frances go to Victor's room? (4)

(HINT: Be careful with your answers. You must view Frances from the point of view of Victorian morality -- she would not have gone to Victor's room to have sex with him! You must also see the answer from the author's point of view. Marguerite Poland tells us quite clearly why Frances went into Victor's room.)

[Need help?]

Why does Frances throw herself into Victor's arms when he finds her in his room? (6)

[Need help?]

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