Charles watches Edmund fall, as if in slow motion. They’re only as high up as they might be on the roof of Warings, but the fall seems to take a long time. After that, time seems to speed up: a “man in uniform” arrives, and Charles feels as if Helena and Joseph are ignoring him completely. Edmund is lifted into an ambulance.
Charles is understandably disoriented by his experience: he tried to help Edmund, only to watch Edmund fall and hurt himself. Helena and Joseph seem to be angry with Charles or even blame him for the fall. But it’s unclear if this is the case or just the way Charles perceives things.
Charles is sure that Edmund is dead—and he’s sure that it’s his fault. He decided against pushing Edmund, but he certainly thought about pushing Edmund. Furthermore, Charles knows that, from a distance, what happened would have looked like a push.
This isn’t the first time Charles has contemplated pushing Edmund. But on both occasions, he’s refrained from doing anything to Edmund—an innate sense of right and wrong keeps him honest. Ironically, even though Charles has tried to help Edmund again and again, Helena and Joseph think he has tried to hurt Edmund—and now, it would seem, they’re about to think so once again.
Charles goes back to Warings with Joseph and Helena. In the car, he remembers being eight years old at his former school. A prefect named Lesage used to send him on useless errands. Once, Lesage made Charles lie down on the floor and close his eyes. Charles did so. When he opened his eyes, Lesage was still standing over him, and told him to go to class. The incident disturbed Charles.
Lesage resembles Edmund in many ways: he seems to delight in exercising control over Charles, and he seems to assert this control through words rather than physical force. It might be argued that Lesage was sexually abusing Charles in some way, but Hill doesn’t say clearly either way.
Helena doesn’t speak to Charles in the car. Suddenly, Charles says, “I didn’t push him. I didn’t touch him at all.” Helena says, “It was very, very silly to go up there at all, Charles. But we won’t talk about any of it, now.” Charles is desperate to convince his mother of what happened. But as he tries to explain, Helena says, “I am a little ashamed that you were not sensible enough to realize what might happen.” Charles says that Edmund is a baby and frightened of heights.
Even though Charles is trying to prove his innocence, he winds up making himself sound guiltier. Helena seems to have made up her mind already. As before, she thinks that she’s treating both children equally when, in reality, she’s neglecting her own son’s side of the story, refusing even to hear what he has to say.
Back at the house, Helena tells Charles that she’s going to the hospital and that Mrs. Boland will be taking care of him. She hugs Charles and says, “Promise me you will never, never do anything so silly again.” She leaves, and Charles, sitting alone, whispers, “Hooper is dead now” to himself.
Charles tries and fails to explain himself to his mother. Even though he tries to explain that he was helping Edmund, he seemingly wanted Edmund to fall and die, so that Edmund would no longer bully him.
Night falls, and Helena and Joseph still haven’t come back from the hospital. Charles and Alice Boland watch television together. The film playing on television shows a blind man walking down the road. Then, it shows another man, walking quietly behind him, getting closer and closer. Suddenly, there’s a screaming sound from the television. Charles thinks about how, soon, he’ll be going to school without Edmund, since he thinks Edmund is probably dead.
Charles is cautiously optimistic: he thinks that his life will get better now that Edmund is out of the picture—perhaps he’ll be able to enjoy himself at school now. But the passage, with its ominous description of a horror film on the TV, seems to foreshadow further pain and terror for Charles.
Alice Boland tells Charles that it’s time to go to bed. She notices that Charles’s face is “peaky.” She hasn’t been able to “figure him out,” but she suspects that he likes being around Joseph Hooper, since he doesn’t have a father of his own.
This is the only time in the novel when Hill writes from Alice Boland’s perspective. Alice is rather simplistic in her assumptions about Charles—she has no idea what’s really going on with him.
Alone in his room, Charles thinks about how he won’t have to avoid Edmund from now on. He’ll have the entire house to himself—and in fact, he’ll be the King of the Castle. He falls asleep and has vivid dreams.
Charles is a gentler, kinder boy than Edmund, but his thoughts are just as dark and aggressive. Even if he would never act on his instincts, he wants Edmund dead and, furthermore, wants Edmund’s property for himself.
Around midnight, Joseph and Helena drive home from the hospital. Joseph tells Helena that he couldn’t have “managed” without her. Helena says, “If only it had not been for Charles,” but Joseph replies, “I will not have that … There is to be no blame.”
Helena clearly blames Charles for Edmund’s accident, even though she’s refused to listen to Charles’s side of the story. She seems overly eager to please Joseph, and therefore doesn’t blame Edmund for his own accident.
Charles dreams about a hand clawing at him. He runs away from the hand, toward a distant light. Suddenly, a huge, winged creature swoops down on him. He turns and sees a pack of crows, puppets, and ambulance men chasing him. He wakes up in the middle of the night, sobbing, and decides to go to his mother. Outside his bedroom, he begins to cry noisily. Joseph and Helena rush up the stairs toward him. They dry his tears and give him a hot drink. Charles tries to explain, “It’s because [Edmund’s] dead.” Helena explains that Edmund isn’t dead.
Even after Charles thinks that he’s “won,” he continues to have bad dreams in which he’s consumed by his fears—fears that Edmund has drummed in to him. Charles is trapped in a no-win situation: whether or not Edmund is in the house, Charles is unable to escape the effects of his abuse psychologically. For Charles, the only thing scarier than Edmund alive is Edmund dead.
Helena and Joseph take Charles back to bed and wish him goodnight. He falls asleep, and when he wakes up it’s still dark. He whispers, “Hooper isn’t dead” again and again.
Charles feels conflicted: he wants Edmund dead, but he also wants Edmund alive. The latter desire is typical of both his moral compass and his masochistic personality: as we’ve seen, he tends to do what other people tell him to do and in some ways seems to want to be bossed around.