That very same day, the narrator visits Mustafa Sa’eed’s house. He is greeted by Sa’eed’s widow Hosna and her two sons, Mahmoud and Sa’eed. One of the boys is eight and the other is seven. One of the reasons the narrator returns every year to the village is to check on them, as he is officially their guardian—this time, he has specifically come for their circumcision celebrations. The narrator and the widow sit, and as darkness falls, they slowly grow more comfortable in their conversation. The narrator asks Hosna if she loved Mustafa Sa’eed, and whether she knew where he was from. She confesses that she thinks he was hiding something from her. She tells the narrator that Mustafa used to spend a lot of time inside his secret room, which she has never entered, and that in his sleep, he would sometimes mutter words in a foreign language that sounded like “Jeeny, Jeeny.”
The narrator’s conversation with Hosna reveals how, even in his most intimate relationships, Mustafa Sa’eed kept his deepest secrets to himself. This extreme secrecy suggests the extent to which Sa’eed chose to alienate himself from his family in Sudan. The word “Jeeny“ also recalls Jean Morris’ name. This suggests that Sa’eed continued to be deeply haunted by his life in England, and by Jean Morris specifically, even after his arrival in Wad Hamid. This ongoing pain shows how the deep conflicts created by colonial power dynamics—and that play out in toxic relationships between men and women—can have lasting negative consequences for everyone involved.
Hosna tells the narrator that it was as if, before his death, Mustafa Sa’eed knew his end was coming. He had arranged everything beforehand—paying off his debts, and even informing her that the narrator was to be her guardian. In the darkness, as the narrator listens to Hosna crying, he remembers Mustafa Sa’eed telling him about his trial—how the two lawyers for the defense and the prosecution had fought to save and to condemn him, respectively. Throughout the trial, Sa’eed had felt as though he were superior to those around him, “a colonizer” come to conquer, just as the British had come to Sudan to conquer.
The fact that Sa’eed made so many arrangements immediately before his death supports the narrator’s suspicion that Sa’eed died by suicide. Sa’eed’s feeling that he was a “colonizer” during his trial in England points to his deep desire to occupy the position of his British colonial master—even if doing so means committing the same kinds of atrocities. This twisted series of events shows how the lingering consequences of colonialism can reverberate through the relationships between individuals.
The narrator listens to Hosna weep, then tells her to think about the future—about marrying again. She says she will never marry after the death of Mustafa Sa’eed. When the narrator mentions Wad Rayyes’s interest in her, she says she will kill him and herself if she is forced to marry him.
Hosna’s absolute refusal to entertain the possibility of marrying Wad Rayyes suggests that she recognizes her own subjugation in this deeply patriarchal society and chooses to challenge it. However, it’s notable that the only form of protest available to her is violence. That is, because Hosna is living in a violently oppressive society, her own resistance also comes in the form of violence. This dynamic mirrors Sa’eed’s response to being violently subjugated by the British: he chose to inflict similar violence on others.
The next morning, Wad Rayyes comes to visit the narrator, unable to wait even until their appointed meeting time later that day. The narrator tells Wad Rayyes that Hosna doesn’t want to marry him. Wad Rayyes is extremely upset, and he insists that he will marry no one but Hosna. Wad Rayyes accuses the narrator of having some kind of a relationship with Hosna, and this is the reason she is refusing to marry.
Wad Rayyes’s insistence that he will marry Hosna, whether she likes it or not, reveals the deeply patriarchal and misogynistic nature of the relations between the sexes in the village of Wad Hamid. Wad Rayyes feels that he is entitled to Hosna, regardless of her own feelings towards him.
The narrator goes to see his friend Mahjoub, whom he finds working in his field, and they discuss the conflict over Hosna’s potential marriage to Wad Rayyes. Mahjoub tells the narrator that if Hosna’s family agrees to wed her to Wad Rayyes, there is nothing anyone can do about it. Women belong to men in the village.
Mahjoub’s words that women belong to men further reaffirm the extremely unequal and patriarchal nature of village relations—one which subjugate women to men. Again, the situation of these women mirrors that of the English women whom Mustafa dominated and ultimately killed. Even if the subjugation of women in England is less explicit than that of women in Sudan, the novel demonstrates how it can be similarly lethal, hinting that such violent gender dynamics exist everywhere across the world.
The conversation turns to Hosna’s dead husband, Mustafa Sa’eed, about whom the narrator questions Mahjoub. Mahjoub expresses admiration for Mustafa Sa’eed; he tells the narrator he had gotten to know him well when they worked together on the village cooperative project. Sa’eed, Mahjoub says, had really helped the villagers organize themselves economically. Mahjoub wonders why Mustafa Sa’eed made the narrator guardian of his wife and children, considering that the narrator knew him for much less time than the other villagers.
Mahjoub’s praise of Mustafa Sa’eed suggests that Sa’eed worked hard to establish himself as a model citizen in the village. However, it is clear that he deceived villagers such as Mahjoub by withholding the facts of his past life. Nonetheless, it seems from this conversation that Sa’eed was a genuinely positive presence in the village, which suggests that even someone who has done terrible things may also have a good side. Again, the question of Sa’eed’s true identity has no clear answer.
Suddenly, Mahjoub suggests that the narrator should marry Hosna himself, given that he is her legal guardian (even though the narrator himself already has a wife and child). When Mahjoub makes this proposal, it dawns on the narrator that he might, in fact, be in love with Hosna.