Summary – Chapters Eight, Nine and Ten
David and Lucy take three of the dogs for a walk. She asks about Melanie and he says how she comes from George and is from ‘this part of the world’. She asks why she denounced him and he says he supposes the pressure became too much from her lover and parents.
On their return to her house, he notices her sign saying cycads (for sale) and he says he thought they were illegal. She says it is illegal to dig them up in the wild, but she grows them from seed.
When it comes to market day, David helps Petrus and Lucy wrap and pack flowers and after the market they drop in on Lucy’s friend, Bev Shaw, who runs the animal welfare clinic. On their way home, he says how he finds such people admirable but so well-intentioned ‘that after a while you itch to go off and do some raping and pillaging. Or to kick a cat’. She points out that she thinks he wants her to do ‘something better’ with her life. She says she thinks humans should share some of their privileges with animals and he says he agrees but we should do so out of ‘simple generosity’ and not because of guilt or fear of retribution.
In Chapter Nine, David falls asleep in front of the television and wakes up when Petrus comes in to watch the football. David goes to Lucy, who is reading The Mystery of Edwin Drood, and he says he thinks his staying here is not working out and asks if he should leave.
She tells him she is glad to have him there (and here and throughout calls him David) and says he will not be bored when he finds things to do. She suggests he could cut up the dog meat and give Petrus a hand as he is establishing ‘his own lands’. He says he likes the ‘historical piquancy’ of this and she explains that Petrus has received a Land Affairs grant. He has enough to buy ‘a hectare and a bit’ from her and they share the dam.
She also suggests that David could help Bev but should not expect to get paid. He says this sounds suspiciously like community service, and ‘like someone trying to make reparation for past misdeeds’. She assures him the animals will not care about his motives and he agrees as long as he does not have to become a better person.
Chapter Ten begins with David visiting the animal welfare clinic. There is a line of people waiting at the door and inside the waiting room is packed. He finds Bev in a room and she is peering into the throat of a young dog. He helps her as she lances a boil in its mouth. She thanks him and says she senses he likes animals. He says he eats them so he supposes he must. He also thinks, but does not say, how unattractive she is.
Bev then treats a goat that has been savaged by dogs and he assists again. She thinks the goat should be put down, but the owner takes it home. David sees her as offering a last resort and performs the role of a priestess as she tries ‘to lighten the load of Africa’s suffering beasts’. She says that she puts the dogs down that nobody wants, and he asks if she knows why his daughter sent him to her. She says Lucy told her he had been in trouble and he says ‘no’, he was in what one might call ‘disgrace’.
When he returns to Lucy’s home, he goes to bed early and reads some of Byron’s letters of 1820.
Analysis – Chapters Eight, Nine and Ten
In these chapters, David begins to settle into his life at Lucy’s home. His visit to the animal welfare clinic is of particular interest as here he first witnesses how Bev cares for the animals she treats, and begins to learn how to love others.
The language used in this section has religious overtones as Bev is described as lightening the load of ‘Africa’s suffering beasts’ and he also tells her how he is in what might be described as ‘disgrace’. Although David’s use of irony is apparent, as it is always doubtful that he fully believes he is at fault, he does come to learn and even be converted (even at this early stage) that it is possible to think of the needs of others.