Benjamin shivers as the census-takers take him in the horse cart through the mountains. When the one man asks if Benjamin is warm enough, and Benjamin says “Yes, master,” the men tell him there’s no need to say that because he’s among white people. Benjamin still worries about things back home, like if Pollie and Kicker will ever have chicks. When the cart starts going faster down the mountain, Benjamin gets scared and asks the men to stop, but they laugh and say there’s only one way to get down a mountain. Benjamin wishes he'd listened to Dawid, who told him to run away.
Benjamin’s use of the word “master” shows how he doesn’t fit neatly into the social role the census-takers want him to fulfill. The census-takers believe in a clear separation between white people and Coloured or Black people. This includes not just physical appearance but also cultural differences, like the expectation that a Coloured person will address a white person as “master.” Benjamin’s behavior threatens this view, and so they try to change him to make him fit.
Benjamin tells the census-takers he wants to go home, but they say they want no more trouble from him on the journey. He continues to be scared as the cart dips into a chasm with high cliff walls on each side. Eventually, the cart has to go back up in elevation, and one of the men advises Benjamin to get out and walk so the horses have a lighter load. Benjamin walks until his feet are sore. When Benjamin asks how far away Knysna is, the men say they’re not even halfway there.
The treacherous journey over the mountain, which scares Benjamin even at his current age, reaffirms how absurd it is to think that he could make a similar journey on foot when he was just three years old. The census-takers seem oblivious to this fact or even to Benjamin’s current suffering, suggesting that they’re only interested in fulfilling the terms of their jobs—and upholding the values of the racist institution they represent.
More time passes, and one of the census-takers says they’re finally more than halfway to Knysna and will reach the Forest in about three hours. One of them asks if Benjamin remembers the Forest, and Benjamin says “No, master.” Eventually, the man once again reminds Benjamin not to call him master but “uncle” instead, because they’re both white.
The census-taker’s suggestion to say “uncle” instead of “master” suggests that he is trying to build racial solidarity with Benjamin. The census-taker wants to make Benjamin see other white people as a sort of family (hence “uncle”) in order to make him forget about his family with Fiela.
When they finally make it to the Forest, Benjamin finds it beautiful and is excited that elephants live there. The census-takers say he should always keep an eye out for elephants while in the Forest. Benjamin falls asleep, and when he wakes up, they’re at a street between houses. A woman comes up to the cart. The woman asks Benjamin if he wants food or coffee, and he says “No, missus.” The woman is upset because this is what a “Coloured” would say to her.
Benjamin continues to behave as white people expect a Coloured boy to behave, and this disturbs them because it disrupts their rigid ideas about race. Benjamin’s refusal to accept food or coffee perhaps symbolizes his refusal to accept life in general in Knysna, which frustrates the census-takers’ efforts to indoctrinate him into their culture.
The woman sees marks on Benjamin’s legs and asks if his previous family used to beat him. He explains the marks are just from thorns that hit his legs when he and his family are tapping aloe. As Benjamin looks around the forest village, he thinks all the white people there look strange and poor. The census-takers bring Benjamin to the magistrate’s place, which seems to be a big school full of classrooms.
While Fiela does sometimes use corporal punishment, these particular leg wounds are in fact evidence of a positive aspect of her parenting methods—he got them while tapping aloe, a chore that Fiela assigned Benjamin to let him explore for himself and gain independence and practical knowledge in the process .
Eventually, the census-takers bring Benjamin to a large room full of wooden benches. He asks if it’s a church, but they tell him it’s the courtroom. Benjamin starts crying, and the two men tell him he can’t cry in front of the magistrate, or they’ll never take him home. Benjamin goes through his multiplication tables in his head to calm himself.
Benjamin’s confusion between the courtroom and a church shows how both types of buildings are important sources of authority. It also perhaps hints at the magistrate’s inflated view of himself as something verging on godlike.