Nina has once again gone missing, and with Willem and Kristoffel away, Elias has no choice but to send Benjamin to find her. Benjamin figures she must be hiding in the Forest again, having yet again caused problems with her job—the longest she’s gone without trying to run away from the village is six months. By this point, Benjamin has started to get used to the Forest and his life as a beam-maker.
The absence of Willem and Kristoffel shows how Elias has slowly alienated his sons over the course of several years. While Benjamin has seemingly settled into his new role as a woodcutter, Nina continues to resist becoming what her father wants, even after so many years of him attempting to force her.
Elias has been saving money to buy elephant guns to kill the elephants that he believes are stalking him. But so far, the guns he’s bought have been broken and useless. Benjamin knows this is why Elias wants Nina back, so that he can put her to work again and keep earning money. Benjamin feels that his life became better when he accepted his identity as Lukas.
By now, Elias’s obsession with killing an elephant for its tusks has gone on for many years, and yet he still has nothing to show for it beyond some injuries to himself from upsetting the elephants. Benjamin claims to himself that he feels better about becoming Lukas, but as he sees the other van Rooyen children embarking on their own life paths, he seems to question whether he really wants to be Elias’s loyal child.
When Benjamin arrives at the village near sundown, he finds that something strange is going on. Some local boys tell him that there’s a ghost ship nearby at Noetzie. Benjamin is intrigued and figured it can’t hurt to go a little off, possibly finding a place to sleep in Noetzie. He walks on the path to Noetzie, thinking of the wooden ships he made when he was younger.
A ghost ship is a ship with no living human passengers on it—either because its crew members had to abandon it or because they all died. After Benjamin has been away from his old life for so long, this ghost ship, which resembles his old toy wooden boats, slowly starts to draw him back to that life.
At the ghost ship, Benjamin runs into an army sergeant. Benjamin asks him questions about the ship, but the sergeant says no one knows much. It just showed up one day, and if anyone’s on the ship, they’re all dead. The sergeant mentions Mr. Benn, the pilot who will have the responsibility of finding out who the ship belongs to. The sergeant also warns Benjamin about Kaliel September, a beachcomber who can be dangerous. Benjamin helps the sergeant keep watch that night, fascinated with the stars that he doesn’t usually get to see in the Forest.
A pilot, in marine terms, is someone who leads other boats through dangerous waters. As later chapters explain, the head of the Knysna River (where the river meets the sea) is full of rocky water, and so it’s Mr. Benn’s responsibility to try to keep these ships safe. Seeing the stars helps Benjamin realize how sheltered his life in the Forest has been—literally and figuratively, and especially compared to the wide-open environment of his early childhood.
Benjamin goes back to the village and asks about Nina. An old man tells him that he remembers Nina leaving her job at the local school, but he has seen her around with an English woman who might be her new employer, Miss Weatherbury. Benjamin goes to find Miss Weatherby and ask about Nina. Miss Weatherby says there is a Nina van Rooyen working for her, but this Nina doesn’t have any family. Benjamin assures her he’s Nina’s brother.
Nina lies about not having any family to try to distance herself from Elias and her old life in the Forest. The novel continues to explore how families both come together and fall apart. The fact that Miss Weatherbury is English shows once again how different cultures mingled on the Cape of South Africa—but also how people in the white minority nevertheless consistently had a higher status.
Miss Weatherbury tells Benjamin that she took Nina in because she took pity on her, but Nina generally refused to work, spending most of her time outside in the nearby hills. Mr. Benn apparently saw her out wandering recently and saved her from some seamen who were harassing her. Benjamin asks if he can see Nina now, but Miss Weatherbury says she went down to Noetzie with the others. Benjamin says he’ll wait.
It isn’t clear at this point whether Miss Weatherbury has genuine concern for Nina or if, like Petrus, she only offers aid when she has something to gain from it. It makes sense that Mr. Benn would be protective of Nina, since as a pilot, his job is to lead boats to safety.
Miss Weatherbury asks why Benjamin is looking for Nina. He explains that he has to collect her money, and this makes Miss Weatherbury suspicious. Benjamin explains that people share things in the Forest, but he knows that the money is really just to buy Elias an elephant gun.
When Miss Weatherbury looks at Benjamin suspiciously, he realizes that by coming to collect the money for Elias, he might not be as different from Elias as he thinks. This provides even more motivation for Benjamin to try to leave the van Rooyens.
Eventually, Benjamin gets tired of waiting for Nina and goes out walking on his own. He walks through a footpath over the hills and reaches a place where the sea meets with a lagoon. He finds the area very beautiful but wonders how any ship could ever make it through the rocky waters. Just then, a man yells at Benjamin that Mr. Benn gets angry if he sees people hanging around where Benjamin is, since a man fell down there and disappeared recently. Benjamin turns around and walks back.
Benjamin’s contemplation of the boats in the rocky waters symbolizes how he himself is at a pivotal—and perhaps even dangerous—juncture in his life where he now must decide whether to stay loyal to Elias or set out on his own. The beauty that Benjamin sees in the sea and hills once again reminds him of how sheltered his past few years in the Forest have been.
Benjamin continues to walk over hills, taking in the scenery and marveling at how big the world is. He watches a ship come in, which is an elaborate process that involves several people. Benjamin comes back to Miss Weatherbury and tells her about the ship. He finds that Nina is back. Nina begs Benjamin not to tell Elias or any of the others where she is. But Benjamin says he really came to ask her for a favor: He wants Nina to go home and tell Elias that Benjamin is never coming back to the Forest.
The chapter reaches its logical conclusion with Benjamin having finally reached his decision: he isn’t going back to the Forest. While this passage marks a major development for Benjamin’s character, he is still at the early stages of starting his new adult life outside the Forest.