Chapter 4 Summary
It is a sunless day when the Aleuts leave the island. The sea is rough and the waves are roaring, spraying white water against the rocks. Before the day is over, there will be a storm. Shortly after dawn, the hunters pack up their tents and carry them to the beach. Captain Orlov has not yet paid for the otter skins, so when they hear that he is leaving, the villagers make their way to Coral Cove—first the men with their spears, followed by the women and children. While the women stay hidden in the bushes by the cliff, the men wind their way down the trail to the beach.
Ulape and Karana are in the same spot the younger girl had been in when the hunters first arrived. It is low tide, and the beach is scattered with bundles of pelts. Half the hunters are on the ship; the other half of them are wading out into the water and tossing the pelts into a boat. The Aleuts must be glad to leave, for they are laughing as they work. Captain Orlov is talking with Chief Chowig. Karana cannot hear their words, but she can see by his by his stance that her father is angry. Ulape notices the same thing, but Karan reminds her that he is not really angry until he pulls his ear.
The village men working on the canoe have stopped and are watching their chief, as are all the men at the foot of the trail. The boat carrying the pelts is taken to the ship; when it arrives, Captain Orlov gives a signal with his hand. The boat returns to the island carrying a black chest; two of the hunters carry it to the beach. The captain raises the lid and pulls out several necklaces. Even in the dark sky, the necklaces sparkle; Ulape and the other women gasp in their delight. Everything changes as they see their chief shake his head and turn his back on the chest.
The Aleuts stand in silence, and the village men move forward a few steps. Everyone is watching Karana’s father. He tells the captain one string of beads per pelt is not what they agreed to; the captain says they agreed to one necklace and one iron spearhead for each otter pelt. This chest cannot hold everything they are owed; they will need three more such chests to pay for the one hundred and twenty bales of pelt skins they are taking with them. Captain Orlov says there are more chests on the ship and signals the Aleuts to continue loading the last of the pelts onto the boat. The sisters hiding on the cliff, like everyone else from the village, are afraid that the captain will take the pelts and refuse to pay for them.
The hunters have to pass Chief Chowig as they load the boat; when the first one approaches, the chief says the pelts must stay here until the other chests arrive. Captain Orlov insists he must load his ship before the storm arrives. The chief is reasonable and offers to have his men help load the ship after the debt has been settled. The captain is silent for a long time, assessing his men, his surroundings, and his opponents; he finally says something to the hunters. Watching from above, Karan is not sure what happened first: either the hunter pushed her father aside, or her father raised his hand against the hunter. In any case, the women on the cliff scream as they see their chief lying on the rocks, head bleeding.
As Chief Chowig slowly rises, the men of the village rush...
(The entire section is 933 words.)