Tony Clarke waits nervously for his boss, Captain Winterbottom, to come to dinner. He knows the social visit is necessary, but he is worried about how they will interact, especially since he is the host. He would have been more comfortable if Mr. Wright could be there with them, but he knows that would be a disaster.
The narrative flashes back to the one night that Tony Clarke spent with Mr. Wright in his Rest House outside Umuaro. It had seemed like another planet.
They had sat on the veranda drinking gin, and Clarke discovered that he really liked Mr. Wright. They talked like old friends, even though this was only the second time they had met.
Mr. Wright mentions that he is supposed to be beneath Clarke. What would Winterbottom think if he saw them meeting like equals? Clarke, a bit drunk, says he doesn't care, and admires Wright's work on the road.
They begin to gossip about the "Captain." Wright is slightly contemptuous and Clarke defends him. They talk about how he hasn't been treated fairly by the Government, passed over by promotions and things like that.
Then Wright says that during the war, when the Captain was fighting in the Cameroon, some guy ran away with Winterbottom's wife. It affected him badly.
Then they begin to discuss every detail of the affair, and Clarke begins to feel very sympathetic to Winterbottom. They stop referring to him as the "Captain" and begin calling him by name.
Wright claims that Winterbottom's real problem is that he won't sleep with one of the "native" women. He says the practice is very common, even among men of Winterbottom's position. But Clarke says that Winterbottom is like a missionary, would never do such a thing.
Wright says that's true, and Winterbottom might have been better off if he'd come to Africa as a missionary.
Clarke wants to ask about native women. But he's too drunk, and can't get the words out of his mouth, so he changes the subject.
The flashback ends and the narrative returns to Clark's nervousness as he waits for Winterbottom to arrive for dinner.
Clarke feels guilty about the gossiping he had done, but he tries to remind himself that all that happened was he found out a few details about his boss's life.
He goes to check on the chicken that his cook is roasting. Cook is irritated to see Clarke checking up on him again.
Clarke brainstorms for topics of conversation, then stops himself. Why is he so nervous? Is it just because he knows more about Winterbottom than he did before? He realizes that this is the problem with British Colonialism. When the French want to do something, they make up their mind and do it. The British sent out a Commission of Inquiry to discover all the facts they could before making their mind. It then caused problems for them.
The conversation with Winterbottom that night goes well until Winterbottom says that he is bothered by one detail in Clarke's report – that he is satisfied there is no truth in the story of Wright whipping his African laborers.
Clarke is suddenly nervous and worried. He had lied in that part of the report. He had forgotten to ask about that, and then decided that if Wright had done such a thing, he would surely have heard about it.
Winterbottom says that his steward is from Umuaro and he had reported that the whole village was in an uproar because a rather important man had been whipped by Wright.
Clarke says he heard nothing about it.
Winterbottom is angered by Clarke's response.
He then tells Clarke that he has decided to make the fetish priest he knows – Ezeulu –the new Paramount Chief for Umuaro. He mentions that Ibo men love their titles and love to take an air of authority.
Clarke almost says that desiring a title (fame, power, authority) is something that afflicts all humans, but he decides against it.
After discussing the delicious chicken, Winterbottom continues. He has found the Chief for Umuaro and hopes they will be happy. It is not like the affair in Abame.
Clarke asks if Abame is the place where the Ibo murdered Macdonald and Winterbottom confirms it. He says that though they have calmed down somewhat, they are still uncooperative.
Winterbottom discusses his plans for a couple new native courts, and Clarke realizes, with admiration, that Winterbottom is fulfilling his duties regarding indirect rule with all his heart, despite his earlier opposition to it.
Winterbottom says he wishes that the Administration would be consistent with its policies. That's what he finds so problematic.
Clarke mentions his recent ideas about the problem with the British love for Commissions of Inquiry, but Winterbottom squashes him, stating that they are very useful. Winterbottom continues that the problem is that the Administration takes the advice of the wrong people, ignoring people who have lived in Africa for years.
Clarke is angry with Winterbottom for not letting him finish, and angry with himself for not expressing his ideas with the same eloquence in which the idea had first occurred to him.