Before they go to the shantytown to find Absalom, Stephen spends some time with Gertrude’s son. Stephen plays with the little boy, telling him stories about Ixopo. Sometimes, Gertrude listens to these stories, too. But as he does this, Stephen thinks very suddenly of his son, and is filled with pain. He begins to pray, but is interrupted by Msimangu, who says that it’s time to go.
For the first time since arriving at Johannesburg, Stephen is the knowledgeable one, passing on stories about Ixopo to Gertrude’s child. Stephen’s son keeps emerging in his mind—his worry is growing more intense.
They visit the shantytown. Stephen is struck by how normal it appears, though he, too, worries about the rain and the winter. They find a nurse, and ask her about Absalom. She confirms that he was here, once, but is no longer. She sends them to a woman with whom he had once stayed, and she says that he was taken away to the reformatory. At the reformatory, a man tells Stephen that Absalom told them he had no family. In any case, he left a month ago – partially because he was doing very well, but also because his girlfriend was pregnant, and he wished to marry her. The man offers to give them a ride to Pimville, where they are living.
Again, a downward spiral: from shantytown to reformatory. Absalom is not there at the reformatory, of course, but they are getting closer: Stephen learns that he is to be a grandfather, but that his son has denied having a father. Johannesburg has broken at least what Absalom sees is the familial link between them, even if he has done so out of shame.
In Pimville, they locate the girl. She seems wretched and miserable. She tells Stephen that Absalom has been missing for days. Msimangu flies into a rage, telling Stephen to abandon this fruitless search. The man from the reformatory says that sometimes boys are put in the hospital and their families are not informed, so all hope is not lost. Msimangu is ashamed of his earlier outburst, and asks for Stephen’s forgiveness. Stephen asks Msimangu to take him again to see the girl, and Msimangu agrees.
Msimangu believes that Stephen should give up, but Stephen still has faith, and refuses. The girl, though, is giving Stephen a more accurate glimpse of where his son is going to land.