Clarke dines with Winterbottom. He reminisces about a past dinner with Wright, who portrayed Winterbottom as a pitiable figure (wife stolen by another man during the War, always passed over for promotion) and feels sorry for his superior. During their dinner, Winterbottom speaks of the corrupt appointed African leader, and tells Clarke of his plans to name Ezeulu the Paramount Chief of Umuaro. Winterbottom also discusses a report Clarke wrote, which covered up Wright’s tendency to sleep with native women. In an attempt to ingratiate himself to his superior with his analysis, Clarke critiques what he sees as a confused and inconsistent British colonial policy, questioning its overreliance on “facts,” and praising the more direct French rule. However, his attempts to impress his superior fall flat: Winterbottom maintains the importance of facts, and identifies the problem as the appointment of inexperienced officers over veterans like himself.
Ezeulu visits Akuebue, who is preparing to plant his yams. They hear gunshots in the distance. Akuebue tells Ezeulu that his neighbor, Ogbuefi Amalu, is very ill and his relatives are using gunshots to scare away the spirits. Ezeulu stops by the compound of the sick man, who is near death and being treated by a medicine man.
Obika’s bride Okuata and her family come for the wedding ceremony. Like him, she is very tall and beautiful. They perform a sacrifice at the crossroads ritual, but the medicine man takes the chicken Obika offers home with him to eat rather than burying it alongside the other offerings as the ritual demands. Obika wonders whether this is wrong but decides not to question him.
Obika is pleased and relieved to finds his new wife a virgin. The next day, the children go to the stream with the new bride. Ugoye sweeps Ezeulu’s compound because Nwafo, whose job it usually is, has also gone to the stream. Ezeulu feels that his house is descending into chaos around him.
Akuebue visits Ezeulu and expresses concern that people are talking about Oduche and Ezeulu’s failure to respond to the python incident. We learn that Edogo visited Akuebue to ask him to speak with his father about the matter, expressing his suspicion that Ezeulu sent Oduche to the church intentionally to disqualify him from becoming his successor.
On the way to the stream, Oduche overhears his sister Ojiugo telling the new bride about the python incident. Angry, he hits his sister, leading to fighting at Ezeulu’s compound when Matefi, Ojiugo’s mother, gets mad at Ugoye, Oduche’s mother. Peeved by the strife, Ezeulu tells Akueke his belief that Ezidemili is only pushing for redress for the python incident because he is jealous of Ezeulu’s power. Akueke tells Ezeulu that, in his judgment to send his son to the church, Ezeulu is completely alone.
Winterbottom’s chief messenger, John Nwodika from Ummunneora, and another man come from Okperi to take Ezeulu back with them. Ezeulu says that if Winterbottom wants to talk with him he can visit him at his compound. Akuebue believes such a defiant response to be risky and tries to reason with him, but Ezeulu holds firm and sends the messengers away.
The illness of Akuebue’s neighbor and the medicine man’s failure to bury Obika’s chicken are worrying omens that create a sense of foreboding for the reader. We will learn of Amalu’s death at the end of the book, when it will indirectly lead to Obika’s death, and subsequently Ezeulu’s demise.
As tension and fighting fill Ezeulu’s compound, the Chief Priest stands firmly by his own logic: the real problem is not the presence of the British, but the irreverence of his own people toward tradition, divine authority, and Umuaro’s collectivity. In his unwavering sense of his own rectitude, he increasingly pits himself against his people and against his family.
Akuebue is closer to Ezeulu than most and witnesses the Chief Priest’s dangerous pride. Though Akuebue tries to soften Ezeulu by reasoning with him, and though Ezeulu is more inclined to listen to Akuebue than to anyone else, here Ezeulu finally feels pushed to caution his friend not to forget his divine authority.
Though Ezeulu sends the court messengers away, he is clear to show his friendship with Winterbottom in his engagement with them. This indicates Ezeulu’s investment—even pride—in Winterbottom’s respect for him. As he grows ever more distant from his own people, Ezeulu ironically allies himself with the British colonial officer.
Winterbottom’s messengers are dismissive of the village people, wielding their authority over them. Yet Achebe’s description of these men—in third-person-limited perspective, through Ezeulu’s eyes—makes these assimilated, subservient men in their fezes and khakis out to be somewhat ridiculous. The narrative presents us not only with the clash between traditional Igbo society and the British, but between the former and their assimilated tribesmen.