Hugh wishes Ursula happy sixteenth birthday, saying that her future is all ahead of her (even though Ursula thinks that some of her future is also behind her). They were supposed to have gone to tea in London, but Pamela has recently twisted her ankle, and so they decided to stay home. Millie Shawcross, Ursula’s best friend, comes over to have tea with them as well.
The contrasts between fate and choice consequently highlights small incidents that have large effects on the narrative. For example, if Pamela had not twisted her ankle, this chapter might have turned out differently. These small details then start to make readers realize that even the most fateful and horrific of circumstances can perhaps be prevented by a number of small choices.
Maurice is also home from school for the weekend, though he has forgotten Ursula’s birthday. He has brought two friends for the weekend: Gilbert and Howie. Gilbert has movie star looks and Howie is American, which gives him a kind of glamour. Girls also find Maurice attractive, a fact that surprises the women in his family. The boys decide to go outside to play a game with Teddy’s ball.
Just as Maurice had been an emblem of boyhood in the earlier chapters, he and his friends become quintessential pictures of young men. Atkinson ultimately critiques their characteristic rowdiness and their aggressiveness.
Izzie arrives and brings gifts for Ursula. Ursula hasn’t really seen Izzie since she spent a weekend in Fox Corner when she had essentially ignored everyone except for Teddy, whom she had quizzed relentlessly on his life, his school, his hobbies, and his friends. Izzie brings a record of the St. Louis Blues for Ursula, and a red-leather addition of Dante. This is followed by a satin-and-lace bed jacket and a bottle of perfume, which Sylvie pronounces to be far too grown-up for Ursula. Hugh glares at Izzie, wondering how she affords all of it.
Again, Ursula is torn between these two ideas of a mother figure: one who is very traditional and conservative, and one who is forward-thinking and independent. In this chapter, both of them are shown to fail Ursula in their own ways, as they are so bent on their ideas of what girls should be that they fail to actually care for Ursula.
Izzie has one final gift, but for Teddy: a book called The Adventures of Augustus, by Delphie Fox. Izzie reveals that she has based Augustus on Teddy (though Teddy is somewhat mortified by it). The book has become very successful, giving Izzie a new income. After the gifts are done, Ursula walks Millie home.
Izzie’s writing again confirms her willpower to be an independent woman, and to sustain herself financially. She works to avoid having to rely on Hugh to get her out of financial trouble.
On the way back, Ursula trips over Howie, digging through the bushes trying to find Teddy’s ball. Howie offers to warm her up in the cold and pushes his lips against hers, prodding his tongue into her mouth. Ursula is debating what to do when Maurice calls for Howie, and he leaves without a word. Ursula is exhilarated, thinking that she is passing beneath the “triumphal arch that led to womanhood.” She wishes it had been Benjamin Cole who had kissed her.
Ursula at first views this loss of innocence as a triumph, because in this society it signals the fact that she is becoming a woman. It is only later that she realizes that this is an assault—not only from Howie but from a society that expects men to be sexually aggressive and women to be passive.
Ursula returns to the house and finds Teddy, gloomy because the boys lost his ball. He opens Izzie’s book and scowls. Ursula picks up a glass of rum that Izzie had been drinking, splits it between two glasses, and Teddy toasts her happy birthday.
Through all of the antics of adolescence, and often in spite of adult figures that do not seem to fully understand them, Teddy and Ursula’s bond is the strongest she has with another family member, and makes her feel understood and loved.