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Marguerite Poland


Chapter 21 & 22:
Questions to challenge you!

Keith Tankard
Updated: 4 March 2014
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The South African War is about to begin. The English -- known disparagingly by the Boers as "Uitlanders" -- are beginning to leave Johannesburg, some heading for the coast, others enlisting in the Imperial army.

Victor is called upon by Mr Warburton to represent him in a dispute at the mine, where the miners are threatening to strike because of violence to Sonwabo. Victor intervenes and appears to reach a decisive victory.


Victor's victory at the mine backfires when the mine authorities have Sonwabo arrested for sodomy. Tom and Reuben then run away.

In the meantime, Victor is anxious to enlist in the Imperial Army and attempts to bully Crispin into enlisting with him. Crispin, however, feels a duty to stay behind to search for the Pumani brothers.


Conscription into the British army did not start until about World War II but before that there were immense pressures to force men to enlist voluntarily.

The usual method was to accuse them of cowardice. During the Great War (1914-1918), a white flower was often sent to non-enlisting men as a symbol that society regarded them as cowards.

Victor uses the accusation of cowardice against Crispin. He also tries emotional blackmail -- that Crispin is letting everyone down. In short, that Crispin has become an embarrassment to both family and friends.

Crispin's response is interesting. He points out that, since Victor is not yet married to Frances, he is therefore not part of the family.

This is a barb which would hurt Victor enormously because in reality Victor has no other "family" except the Farboroughs.

Many of course would have supported Victor's bullying tactics. On the other hand, many men refused to enlist.

It was noted, for example, that thousands of the male refugees from the war refused to sign up, claiming that this was not their war.

Of course, Crispin was not to know this. His confusion as to whether to side with Victor or do the honourable thing of sticking by Tom and Reuben was therefore a very lonely internal battle.

In the long run, Crispin chooses the honourable course. Yet such a decision is not easy for a person who has never before shown much by way of strength of character and who has always succumbed to Victor's bullying.

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

Why was Sonwabo being punished? With what consequences? (4)

[Need help?]

In what way is Victor apparently victorious? (5)

[Need help?]

Explain Crispin's help to Victor in the mine dispute. (4)

[Need help?]

Sonwabo was arrested for sodomy.
  • Why? What evidence was there to convict him? Why did Sonwabo confess to sodomy? (10)

[Need help?]

While dealing with Sowabo and the sodomy case, the author mentions a massive conspiracy that existed on the mines.
  • What was that conspiracy? (5)

[Need help?]

What is Victor's reaction to Sonwabo's arrest? (4)

[Need help?]

Explain Victor's bullying attempts to get Crispin to enlist with him. (4)

[Need help?]

Why does Crispin choose not to enlist? (4)

[Need help?]

Crispen's decision not to enlist, despite Victor's bullying tactics, reveals for the first time his decision to become independent of his "big brother" whom he had always hero-worshipped. Comment. (5)

[Need help?]

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See also:
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