It has been several hours since the Gathering ceremony began. Thomas and Kira listen to the Singer perform the Ruin Song while Jo sleeps. Kira listens to the Song, and is surprised to find that she isn’t bored by it. As the Song proceeds, she traces the story of the world through the sections of the robe. As she listens, she thinks of the weaving she’ll do in the future, and she worries that she won’t be able to remember the names of the plants she needs to make dyes. This reminds her that she’s learned how to read some of the letters that Thomas writes in his pages. She tells no one this, not even Thomas.
The fact that the Ruin Song doesn’t bore Kira suggests that she’s grown a great deal in the last year, when she could barely pay attention to the song. The death of her mother, her trial, her adoption by the Council, and her friendships with Annabella and Thomas have helped her to mature. One sign of her maturity is the fact that she’s taught herself how to read some letters. This shows that Kira’s growth directly conflicts with the laws of the Council—a clash is building up.
The Singer moves through a quiet portion of the Song, which corresponds to a green section of the robe. The “Green part” of the Song, as Kira thinks of it, is soothing and peaceful. As she listens, Thomas points her to a side aisle; Kira looks, and gradually makes out a small human crawling on all fours. As the human crawls forward, villagers turn to look at it, and Kira realizes that it is Matt. Kira is delighted to see him; he waves to her. Kira can see that he’s holding something in his hand, though she can’t tell what it is. She turns to look at the Singer, and when she looks back at the aisle, Matt is no longer there.
Here, Lowry gives us another example of how colors symbolize emotions. Green, for instance, symbolizes the emotion of peace. It’s already been suggested that blue symbolizes love—Lowry will return to this later. For the time being, it’s nice to see that Matt has returned—given everything we’ve learned about the Council in recent chapters, it wouldn’t be at all surprising if they’d kidnapped Matt, or worse.
It is midday, and the Singer stops singing so that everyone can eat lunch and relax. As Kira and Thomas eat with Jo in Kira’s room, Matt rushes in, followed by Branch. Matt announces that he’s been on a long journey, and that he’s brought Kira two things, one big, one small. Though the big thing is yet to come, he says, he has the small thing with him: a dirty square of cloth. Kira is excited to see that the cloth is blue.
Earlier in the novel Matt didn’t even understand what a gift was. Now he is bringing two gifts to Kira—he has changed and grown. Matt’s small gift brings the color blue back into the equation. Again, it’s not clear what blue “means”—not in terms of the novel’s plot, and not in terms of its themes. Still, it’s clear that blue symbolizes something—we’re going to have to wait to find out what.
Matt explains how he found the blue cloth. After stealing food from his mother in preparation for his long journey, he followed Annabella’s advice that blue was out “yonder.” With Branch, he walked through the forest, never encountering any beasts. Eventually, he came to a new community, where the people give him food and treated him kindly. Everyone in the community, he explains, was lame, like Kira. He wonders aloud if this is what made them kind. Kira doesn’t ask Matt about this community, but she tells him that she loves the blue he’s brought her.
Matt associates the color blue with kindness and warmth. The people “yonder” treat him very well, unlike the people in the Fen and the village. Matt’s speculation that the people “yonder” are kind because they are disabled suggests that kindness for them was a necessity—that it was only through kindness that they could mutually survive. The implication here is that people are products of their environments: they’re kind if their situations require them to be kind, and they’re cruel if, as in the village, there’s an atmosphere of fear and uncertainty. The novel will complicate this idea, though, in its final chapters.
When it is time for the Ruin Song to begin again, Kira and Thomas leave Matt and Branch in Thomas’s room and walk back to the hall. The Singer enters with his staff and robe, and the village applauds him. Kira notices that his expression never changes—he only stares back at the village. Over the applause, Kira hears the same clank of metal; Thomas hears it, too, but no one else seems to. Kira sees something—we don’t know what—and realizes what the sound is.
Lowry builds the suspense by suggesting that there’s something wrong with the Singer—he’s accomplished a great deal by completing his Ruin Song, but he’s not the least bit proud or happy. In a way, the Singer represents Kira’s own future—both of them are artists in the Council’s employ. The fact that the Singer doesn’t seem happy doesn’t bode well for Kira.