One day, Helena Kingshaw excitedly tells Charles that she’s going to London with Joseph for a day. Charles recognizes that this is his chance. Helena is a little remorseful that she isn’t taking Charles with her, but she tells herself, as she chooses her clothes, that she should think of herself more.
Helena prioritizes her own interests over those of her child. While there’s intrinsically nothing wrong with looking out for one’s own interests, Helena is allowing herself to become seduced by Joseph’s wealth and power—even though one of her reasons for coming to Warings was to take better care of her child.
Charles decides that he’ll leave at dawn. He’s sure that nobody will even check in his room—however, he knows that his mother probably will come into his room to check on him that night. Nevertheless, this will give him plenty of time. He counts his money—money that friends and family have given him for holidays and birthdays—and finds that he has seven pounds.
Charles believes that he’s leaving Warings forever, and he has packed accordingly. Seven pounds was actually a decent amount of money in the 1960s, meaning that Charles could get pretty far from Warings if he knew how to take care of himself.
Meanwhile, Joseph asks Helena to keep him company in the sitting room while he builds a fire.
The chapter cuts back and forth between the two adults’ flirtations and their children’s antagonism, creating a contrast between the simple and placid lives of the adults and the tumultuous, miserable inner lives of their children—playing with typical depictions of the lives of adults and children.
Charles sets his alarm clock for 5:30 am. He has packed some food in an old school satchel, and he has enough money to buy more. He also packs string, a torch (i.e., flashlight), bandages, and a penknife.
Charles plans his journey with enormous care. He takes his escape from Warings seriously, even if it may seem slightly ridiculous from an adult’s perspective.
Charles wakes up at 4 am, feeling very afraid. He knows that he should think of his plan as a fun adventure, but he can’t help thinking of scenarios that would require him to stay home that day.
Even though he’s trying to escape from Warings, it seems there’s a part of Charles that wants to stay, or that knows his escape is too daring to attempt.
Charles get out of bed and sneaks outside, past the yew trees. He turns around and takes a look at Warings, and the house looks like an old, ugly face. The weather is very cold as he walks through the fields. He remembers walking here before and being menaced by the crow. But he continues walking.
Warings is almost like a character in the novel, as suggested by its striking, anthropomorphic “face.” In spite of Edmund’s bullying, Charles is actually a brave boy, overcoming his fears in order to get away from the house and his torturer.
Charles nears the woods outside Warings. He remembers how Edmund dared him to come here—and this dare, he knows, “had been the start of it all.” By the time he comes to the edge of the wood, the sun has risen. He imagines his mother, and Joseph Hooper, who have probably just gotten up to leave for London.
It’s interesting that even when Charles runs away from Edmund, he is, in a sense, doing Edmund’s bidding by following through on a dare. Try as he might, Charles can’t quite break free from Edmund’s influence. Even when he’s far away from Warings, he continues obeying and thinking about his tormentor. This marks a turning point in the novel, after which Edmund’s bullying becomes increasingly psychological and abstract.
As he stands on the edge of the wood, Charles feels proud of himself for packing his satchel and leaving the house. At school, he was the kind of boy who other boys would forget about—he wasn’t particularly good or bad at anything. But then, he notices a wart on the back of his finger. This frightens him, because his classmates have told him stories about how doctors treat warts with hot needles. One of Charles’s classmates, whose name was Broughton-Smith, had so many warts on his body that he had to go to the doctor. Afterwards, he had horrible brownish marks all over his body. Somebody suggested that the only way to get rid of warts is to wish them on someone else. Charles half-wonders if Broughton-Smith has passed on the warts to him.
This is another passage in which Hill’s portrayal of child psychology rings true: as he prepares to abandon Warings, Charles’s mind fills with irrational worry. It’s as if his own subconscious is telling him not to leave Warings, distracting him with various unrelated anxieties. The passage also shows that Edmund’s spitefulness toward Charles has begun to make Charles paranoid that everyone is out to get him—as he worries that a wart on his finger is there because another boy wished it on him.
Charles jumps over the ditch that surrounds the wood. He closes his eyes and takes a dozen steps forward. When he opens his eyes, he’s inside Hang Wood.
Charles overcomes his anxieties and walks into the woods, representing his determination to leave behind the oppression of his life at Warings.