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Marguerite Poland


Chapter 12 & 13:
Questions to challenge you!

Keith Tankard
Updated: 4 March 2014
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St Matthias becomes isolated by the rinderpest epidemic. Starvation looms and people flock to the mission. The Bishop of Grahamstown sees this as the hand of God to force the heathen into bowing abjectly before the Church.

In the meantime, Frances offers to teach at Nolovini, a school situated a couple of hours from the mission. Walter accompanies her each day and remains in the area to protect her. A warm friendship begins to grow between the guilt-stricken young woman and the priest.


The inspectors take Walter and Benedict to the Pumani kraal to persuade the people to submit their cattle for inoculation. There is clearly friction between Pumani's Great Wife and his second wife. Benedict, however, feels personally responsible when the cattle still die.

At the same time, the friendship between Walter and Frances continues to grow, and he is heart-sore when he has to carry her back from Nolovini ill with a fever. Remember that fevers in those days often resulted in death.


Although the Government officially promoted hard-work and economic enterprise amongst the Xhosa, this was never to be in opposition to White businesses.

For example, when in the early 1900s Black bakers set up shop at East London's East Bank Location and were able to undercut the prices of the White bakers in the town, the East London Municipality quickly stepped in to close those bakeries.

In the same way, the Colonial Government would bring pressure to bear on the missionaries not to allow their mission enterprises to grow in opposition to similar White businesses or they too would be closed.

Nevertheless, the mission stations played a major role in the development of education in the Eastern Cape. This gave rise to an educated Black elite who began to play an increasing role in politics.

This in turn led to the formation of such political groups as the Native Vigilance Associations which were established as watch-dog bodies to protect Black interests against exploitation from White municipalities and the Government.

Newspapers too played a crucial role in the growth of this early political culture. Two newspapers in particular were established to promote the Black point of view.

The first was Imvo Zabantsundu which was established in King William's Town under the editorship of John Tengo Jabavu.

The second was Izwi Labantu, an East London based paper edited by Alan Kirkland Soga.

The newspapers ran articles both in Xhosa and English, and were read by most of the educated Black people in the Eastern Cape. Articles were submitted by rising Black intellectuals like Benedict Matiwane.

Although Walter Brownlee at one stage claims that he wished he could read Xhosa so that he could read the articles, the newspapers did in fact publish their most important stories in the medium of English.

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


Explain the Bishop of Grahamstown's attitude towards the rinderpest epidemic. (5)

[Need help?]

Comment on the new friendship building up between Walter and Frances on their daily trips to Nolovini. (NOTE: This is critical for the future understanding of the novel.) (10)

[Need help?]

Discuss the impact on Xhosa suspicions when they see their cattle dying while those of the Whites survive the rinderpest. (5)

[Need help?]


It is clear that Benedict is falling in love with Dorcas Pumani.
  • Where did we meet Dorcas before? (2)

[Need help?]

  • How do we know Benedict is falling in love? (4)

[Need help?]

Why does Benedict feel responsible for the death of the Pumani cattle? (4)

[Need help?]

"Whatever has happened," Walter said quietly, "it doesn't change what you are or how we feel about you."

"Yes it does," she said."
  • Explain Frances's answer, being careful to analyse it from all angles -- especially putting it into the perspective of the concept of Victorian morality. (10)

[Need help?]

Try another worksheet?

See also:
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