Charles walks through the wood, and finds that he likes it. It’s isolated from the rest of the world, and it’s so sunny that everything looks harmless. He notices a rabbit running by. He eats a slice of bread and butter that he has packed for himself.
Although Charles had been terrified to enter the wood, he finds almost immediately that he likes being here. His anxiety and paranoia have disappeared: he doesn’t feel that he has to be looking over his shoulder for Edmund. More generally, he seems to be attracted to the freedom and fluidity of the natural world.
Suddenly, Charles hears a strange sound, perhaps the sound of an animal. He peers into the distance, and the sound gets louder—it sounds like laughter. Then, he sees Edmund Hooper standing by a tree. Somehow, Edmund has managed to follow him into the wood.
Edmund has followed Charles into the forest without being seen or heard—just one of the many times in the book when Edmund seems almost supernatural in his ability to torment Charles.
Charles asks Edmund how he knew to follow him this morning, and Edmund jeers that it was obvious Charles would try to leave today. Charles notices that Edmund is carrying his own bag, and realizes that Edmund was telling the truth—he wanted to leave with Charles after all. Edmund demands to know where Charles is going, but Charles refuses to say. He asks why Edmund wants to leave, and Edmund doesn’t say anything—he just smiles.
Charles seems not to know where he’s going (and perhaps his childish plan is just to stay in the wood forever). Edmund doesn’t say why he has pursued Charles, but based on what Hill has already shown, he does so because he needs Charles around: he likes having someone to belittle and bully.
Charles begins walking, and Edmund follows. Charles wonders what Edmund will try to do to him, but then realizes that he himself could do anything to Edmund—since, now that they’re in the wood, they’re equals.
Charles is so used to being tormented by Edmund that it takes him a minute to realize that Edmund has no real power anymore, now that they have left Warings. This suggests that the root of Edmund’s power of Charles is his right to the property at Warings.
The two boys walk through the wood, getting sweaty and tired. They hear a sudden sound. Charles notices that Edmund is sweating, and realizes, “there is blood and water inside him.” He’s reassured, in a way, by Edmund’s presence. Charles peers past the bushes and sees the source of the sound—it’s a deer. Edmund admits that he’s never seen a deer before, and Charles realizes that he has “outdone” Edmund. He tells Edmund, “I thought you were supposed to know everything about everything.”
Though Charles has fled Warings to get away from Edmund, he’s oddly comforted by Edmund’s presence. Instinctively, he seems to want another child with him in this strange new place, even if the child is a bully. Charles continues to get the upper hand over Edmund in this new terrain, relishing the fact that Edmund seems to know less about the forest than Charles does.
The deer moves away, and Edmund follows it. Charles follows Edmund, furious that Edmund has taken over the “expedition.” He realizes that, on some level, he’s glad to have Edmund here, even if he’s angry with himself for acknowledging Edmund’s leadership.
Once again, Charles—in spite of himself—submits to Edmund. Charles has a tendency to overthink his relationship with Edmund: instead of just seizing power, he allows himself to grow anxious or insecure Meanwhile, Edmund seizes authority without a thought. Charles’s hesitation is similar to the way that Joseph hesitated to hit Edmund in a previous chapter.
The two boys follow the deer. Suddenly, Edmund stops and asks what’s going on. Charles hears fear in Edmund’s voice, and realizes that he’s leader again. Edmund cries that they’re lost, but Charles shoots back, “Oh, shut up.” Then, suddenly, they hear the sound of two jays flying away, followed by the rumble of thunder.
Charles and Edmund are locked in a battle of wills. But unlike at Warings, where Edmund had the clear advantage, the two boys appear to be on an equal footing (and in some ways Charles seems to have the advantage). Edmund’s sense of unease in the wilderness is symbolic of his upper-class background which, in contrast to Charles, has made him sheltered.