As Benjamin waits in the magistrate’s courtroom for everyone to arrive, he counts the benches using his multiplication tables. He worries that Pollie has laid an egg without him. He remembers a day when he and Dawid went out to watch wild ostriches. They found the nest, and Benjamin tried to convince Dawid to steal a wild ostrich egg since they’re good for baking sugar cakes and Benjamin was worried they might not get such a good chance again. Dawid said Benjamin didn’t realize how dangerous an ostrich can be.
Benjamin’s memories of the ostriches show how much his old home continues to be a part of him, even after the authorities take him away from it. This passage explores Benjamin’s relationship with his older brother Dawid. Like Fiela, Dawid taught Benjamin about life in Long Kloof. Like the elephants, the wild ostriches illustrate the potentially dangerous power of nature for humans who don’t respect it.
Dawid grabbed the ostrich egg and gave it to Benjamin, but just then, Dawid shouted that the male bird was chasing them. Benjamin panicked and ran, but when he finally turned around, he realized that Dawid had lied to him and no bird was chasing them. The next day, Fiela lashed Dawid and Benjamin for being reckless, but she baked a cake, saying Benjamin’s birthday was the next day.
Back in the present in the courtroom, Benjamin has been waiting for a while and wonders if they’ve forgotten about him. He considers running away, but he’d need his things, including Dawid’s coat, which are stored in a box in another room. At last, the magistrate, a man with glasses wearing a black suit and a stiff-looking shirt, comes and tells Benjamin to come to the front of the room.
The magistrate’s black suit suggests the solemnity of a funeral and perhaps also recalls the wardrobe of a preacher, once again drawing connections between the courtroom and a church. The stiff fabric of his shirt highlights the unflinching nature of his judgment.
The magistrate asks Benjamin if he remembers ever having a name other than Benjamin Komoetie. Benjamin doesn’t. The magistrate asks Benjamin if he remembers ever having a dog, but the only dog Benjamin remembers lived on the property at Wolwekraal before a tiger killed it. The magistrate asks Benjamin to think back even further, and Benjamin admits he has a hard time remembering when he’s scared. He asks if he can go home and says he’s Fiela Koemoetie’s child. The magistrate denies this and says that it’s good Benjamin is back among his “own people” instead of the “Coloureds.” Like the census-takers, the magistrate gets angry when Benjamin calls him “master.”
The magistrate tries to prompt Benjamin to answer questions the “right” way, but Benjamin refuses to do what the magistrate wants. The magistrate’s comments about getting Benjamin with his “own people” is at the core of the novel and betrays the racist nature of his supposedly impartial judgment. The magistrate believes in a racial order where white people should unite against Coloured people, even as the magistrate himself looks down on the white Benjamin and doesn’t trust him to make his own decision.