Msimangu tells Stephen that he will be staying with Mrs. Lithebe, who is part of the church. Stephen washes up before supper, and marvels over the modern bathroom, the likes of which he never seen before. Then Stephen and all the priests eat together, and talk about how the land and people of Ixopo are suffering, and the general “sickness of the land,” resulting in broken families and crime. One of the priests shows Stephen a newspaper with a headline about black men being arrested for beating and robbing an elderly couple, and tells him that this happens every day.
Stephen is now safe among good people, but the world around them—the people, the land—is falling apart. The newspaper article that they show Stephen foreshadows the destruction coming to Absalom.
Msimangu takes Stephen to his room, and asks him some questions about his sister Gertrude—why she had come to Johannesburg, if she had ever been married. Stephen says that she came there with her child to look for her missing husband. Msimangu then reveals that Gertrude no longer has any husband, and implies that she has become a prostitute, and that she is involved in the making and selling of “bad” liquor, and that she has been to prison multiple times. Stephen asks if the child is still there, and Msimangu confirms this, saying that if Gertrude herself cannot be saved, at least her child can be. He tells Stephen he will take him there tomorrow.
Stephen gets his first taste of what can happen to a person who leaves home and comes to Johannesburg—he learns how far his sister has fallen, even though she arrived with very good intentions.
Then, Stephen tells Msimangu that he is nursing a deeper sorrow. After struggling to get it out, he reveals that he is very worried about Absalom, and how his son has not been heard from for so long. Msimangu assures him they can look for Absalom, too. Then, Stephen also admits that he also would like to find his brother, John. Msimangu smiles and assures Stephen that unlike the others, he is fine and his fate is known: he is currently a celebrated and respected politician. Though Msimangu admits, regretfully, that John has turned away from the Church, saying that “what God has not done for South Africa, man must do.”
The news about John is a mixed blessing for Stephen. Unlike Gertrude, John has not come and turned to crime, but he has become corrupt, and hungers for power, and has turned from God. These are subtler forms of evil, but evil nonetheless.
Msimangu talks about the true tragedy of how the land and the tribe have been separated – not that it happened, but that the white men in charge have not seen the damage and tried to mend it. This, Msimangu insists, is why crime and poverty are so prevalent. But, he insists, there are some good white men who would sacrifice themselves to fix this problem.
After they are finished speaking, Msimangu brings Stephen to see Mrs. Lithebe, and they make plans to meet tomorrow morning. Stephen marvels at how recently he was in Ixopo, how long he had traveled to this new and unknown place.
The great distance that Stephen has travelled is both literal and metaphorical—he is very, very far from Ixopo, his home. This separation will result in knowledge, and suffering.