By October, Benjamin feels like a snake that has to shed its old skin in order for him to become Lukas. By the start of the New Year, Benjamin begins to think of Willem, Nina, and Kristoffel as his siblings, although it’s harder to accept Elias and Barta as his parents.
Despite Benjamin’s loyalty to Fiela and his family back in Wolwekraal, his resistance to his new identity begins to wear down over time. He has the most in common with his new siblings because they too struggle with their identities and in particular with how to placate the demanding Elias.
Back on the day after Nina finds the dead elephant calf, Elias goes to retrieve it. But as before, the elephants seem like there waiting for him, and then they chase him. He comes back to Barta with his clothes torn. When Nina hears the news of Elias’s close call, she tells Benjamin that she hopes her father is so injured that he’ll die. Nina suggests that if Benjamin leaves now, he might be able to make it to Long Kloof before Elias can find out and try to catch up. Benjamin, however, wonders if Nina is just trying to get him in trouble.
Once again, Elias experiences the consequences of trying to outsmart nature. While he technically succeeded in killing an elephant, this just caused the calf’s parents to seek revenge on Elias. The elephants here symbolize nature as a whole, and this section makes a case for environmental conservation, highlighting how the selfish, aggressive behavior of people like Elias who don’t respect the environment can have dire repercussions.
One Sunday morning, Nina shows Benjamin Aunt Malie’s daughter Bet. Nina says that eventually Benjamin will have to marry Bet, just like Nina and Willem have also already been promised away in marriage to locals.
The plan to marry Benjamin to Bet shows just how much a part of the family and community he’s becoming. At the same time, however, it almost seems as if Nina tells Benjamin about Bet specifically to try to scare him into running away, suggesting to him that him that the longer he stays, the harder it will be to leave.
Nina and Benjamin go to the Forest, where Nina pulls out the hidden mouth-organ (harmonica) that she stole from a local shopkeeper. Benjamin decides to use this new piece of information, saying he won’t tattle on Nina about stealing the mouth-organ if she promises not to bother him about Bet ever again. He also doesn’t want her to ever roll his beam onto her scaffold to try to take credit for his work.
Nina’s interest in music sets her apart from her father, who is so focused on money that he doesn’t have the time for creative pursuits like music. By showing Benjamin her secret place, Nina shows her willingness to also open up to Benjamin in an emotional way.
Nina begins to bother Benjamin less after he makes the threat about tattling about the mouth-organ. Still, one Sunday, he ends up with her again near the creek in the Forest where Nina keeps her mouth-organ. Benjamin tries to get her to go home because Aunt Gertie wants him to read the Bible and has promised to give him trousers in return. Nina doesn’t want to leave yet, believing that as she plays the mouth-organ, a bird in the Forest is calling back to her.
By agreeing to keep Nina’s secret, Benjamin forms a closer bond with her. Nina’s “conversation” with a bird and her mouth-organ shows how despite how despite the danger nature can pose to humans, it’s also possible for them to live in harmony with nature. Nina “listens” to nature metaphorically, and this is what allows her to literally have a sort of conversation with a bird.
When Nina and Benjamin finally return home later that Sunday, Mr. Kapp is sitting at the table with Elias. Elias sends Benjamin off to read the Bible for Aunt Gertie. He struggles to read her the Bible, rushing and missing words. Eventually, Benjamin protests that it's getting dark, but Aunt Gertie wants him to stay.
In addition to exploring the racial divide in South Africa, this novel also looks at a generational divide as the younger, more educated generation that Benjamin represents replaces Aunt Gertie’s older, less literate generation.
All of a sudden, Benjamin hears Nina shouting as if she’s being attacked. Elias is running around punching her, while someone shouts not to punch anywhere that will leave a visible bruise. Nina escapes to where Benjamin is and asks him to talk to Elias for her. Elias explains to Benjamin that Mr. Kapp found work for Nina in the village and that she’s being ungrateful.
This scene shows once again how Elias believes he can use violence to control people around him. The fact that someone tells him not to leave a visible bruise on Nina demonstrates how many people just accept violence as part of life, so long as it remains out of sight for them.
Elias puts Benjamin in charge of escorting Nina to the village to start her job. As they walk, Nina feels angry with everyone, even Benjamin, but all of a sudden, she stops when she hears the crack of a branch from an elephant. The two of them stay still for an hour until the sound dies away and it’s safe. Nina begs Benjamin to just leave her and say that he left her with Mr. Kapp.
Unlike Elias, Benjamin and Nina respect the elephants’ authority, giving them space to pass, and as a result, they don’t face the elephants’ wrath. Nina’s anger at Benjamin seems to show how, despite everything that Benjamin has suffered, as a young man in a patriarchal society, he still isn’t quite as powerless as Nina.
Nina wants to live alone in the Forest, but Benjamin convinces her not to. She agrees to go to the village but says Benjamin should at least have someone try to send her mouth-organ down to her in the village at the first opportunity. Benjamin delivers Nina to Mr. Kapp, then he leaves the two of them and heads back. As he walks, he contemplates what would happen if he tried to go back to Long Kloof. He fears that Fiela and the others have forgotten him, then he suddenly hears the crack of a whip somewhere in the distance and heads back to Elias’s house on Barnard’s Island.
The whip that Benjamin hears in the distance reflects how Elias treats both him and Nina the same way he treats his ox, willing to use whatever force it takes to make them do what he wants. Benjamin has an opportunity to run away again, but hearing the whip crack seems to make him obedient, showing how even just the threat or suggestion of violence is enough to make him do what Elias wants.