Sylvie watches Maurice erect a makeshift tennis net, which seems to involve him whacking everything in sight with a mallet. He is a mystery to Sylvie: a far cry from the man he is supposed to become.
Again, Sylvie’s attitude towards her son seems to reinforce traditional gender dynamics, as she allows him to be violent.
Friends of Sylvie’s from school named Margaret and Lily arrive and the three women go out into the garden to have tea and to admire the new baby. Ursula and the family dog Bosun sit close by, while Maurice tries to teach Pamela how to play tennis—though he quickly throws his racquet onto the grass and yells that he can’t teach Pamela because she’s a girl. Pamela calls Maurice a pig as he storms into the bushes.
Pamela’s and Maurice’s antagonism continues throughout their lives, particularly as Pamela tries to defy traditional gender roles and constantly comes up against obstacles, while Maurice treats her like she is unequal to him because he does not face those same obstacles and biases.
Margaret remarks how pretty Ursula is, saying that children are quite droll. Margaret and Lily don’t have children, and Sylvie doesn’t know how to explain the magnitude of motherhood to them. When they try to get her to come to London for a few days, Sylvie says that she has to look after the children: she feels that taking care of them is “her responsibility, [and] her destiny.”
Hugh returns from work and rescues Sylvie from the conversation, offering the women some gin slings. They chat as the children take tea; Hugh comments that Austria has declared war on Serbia, to which Margaret replies, “How silly.”
Again, Atkinson highlights the gender divide when it comes to the outside world. While Hugh’s life will soon be greatly affected by the war, to Margaret and the other women, world affairs remain completely distant.
Later that evening, Sylvie ushers her children to bed and then feeds Teddy. She thinks how she likes her children best as babies, and that Teddy is particularly special. From the window, she hears Hugh escort Margaret and Lily indoors, offering to show them the electric engine.
Sylvie’s thoughts reveal that her love is not exactly unconditional (in this and other chapters, Atkinson implies that both Sylvie and Hugh have favorite children). Particularly when it comes to Ursula, Sylvie’s love will be tested in a variety of crises.
Later, as Sylvie and Hugh read in bed, they concur that Teddy is their best baby yet, joking and agreeing that they should keep him. They laugh, and Hugh kisses Sylvie goodnight—though Sylvie continues to read after he goes to sleep.
Sylvie’s and Hugh’s relationship is mutually respectful throughout the story, but, as the next chapter proves, there is a distance between them and Sylvie’s mind often strays, demonstrating that their love for each other also has its hitches.
A few days later, Sylvie, Bridget, and the children go to watch the harvest being brought in, though Maurice had disappeared after breakfast to go play with other nine-year-old boys, collecting things like frogs, worms, or a dead bird. Hugh stays behind to read on the terrace at the back of the house and enjoy time away from the bank.
Again, the divide between the men and the women of the house grows, as Maurice is again associated with violence, while Hugh is simply left behind so that he can relax instead of doing activities with his wife and children.
As Sylvie and Bridget walk, they see a field of horses belonging to George Glover—Mrs. Glover’s son. Sylvie feeds the horses and George—a ploughman who is helping with the harvest—comes over to greet them. George is tanned, strong, and handsome and he makes Sylvie blush when he looks at her.
George’s description puts him in contrast with Hugh, who is slim and does clerical work. Atkinson thus implies that Sylvie is attracted to George because he is strong and does physical labor—traits that are traditionally masculine.
The Todd family stops to have their lunch, and Sylvie goes to find a discreet spot to feed Teddy. Just as he settles at her breast, George Glover comes out of the trees at the far end of the field. He notices her, stops like a startled deer, and leaps away. Later, the group watches the enormous harvester eat the wheat, until Sylvie says that it’s time to go home. As they are about to leave, George gives Pamela and Ursula two baby rabbits to take home.
Atkinson again depicts the tyranny of gender dynamics for women. Even though Sylvie believes that being a wife and mother are the most important things that a woman can do, there is still shame in the role as she is forced to hide while she feeds her son and is embarrassed by George’s appearance.
Hugh greets Sylvie and the children when they walk home, saying they look kissed by the sun. The previous day the children had also been playing outside with the son of neighbors of theirs, the Coles. (Sylvie had noted that the Coles are Jews, though Hugh had added that they do not practice.) Benjamin Cole, Ursula, and Pamela had found a blackbird’s nest with blue eggs in them, when Maurice had come upon them and cracked the eggs on a stone. Pamela had responded by throwing a stone at Maurice’s head.
In this short episode, Atkinson hints at a few events to come: the continued conflict between Pamela and Ursula and Maurice; Pamela’s ultimate defiance of traditional gender roles; Ursula’s romance with Benjamin Cole, which is placed in contrast with her romance with a more aggressive boy named Howie; and the prejudice that eventually serves to underlie World War II.
Old Tom, the Todds’ gardener, is digging a trench for asparagus when Mrs. Glover comes out to ask him to dig up some potatoes. She huffs at the sight of the girls’ rabbits, commenting that they are not enough for a stew, which causes Pamela to scream. After Pamela is calmed down, she and Sylvie make a nest for the rabbits. Then the Todds sit on the lawn, eating raspberries with cream and sugar. Sylvie thinks about George Glover eating an apple from her hand.
The rabbits, which are eaten by foxes the next morning, serve as representations of the children, while the foxes serve as another representation of life’s dangers and unpredictability. Though Pamela has the best intentions, she discovers that the rabbits need a bit more supervision in order to survive—just as Ursula often dies because the people who are supposed to be taking of her neglect to watch her.
In bed that night, Sylvie abandons her book for “less cerebral pursuits,” but finds that as she and Hugh have sex she thinks only of George Glover. Hugh comments on how lively she is, and the two turn out the light to go to bed. Hugh and Sylvie are woken early the next morning by Pamela and Ursula, who have discovered that the baby rabbits have been eaten by foxes.
Even though Sylvie puts major value on being a good wife and mother, she still has her moments in which she is less than perfect, especially when it is implied in many different chapters that she did not marry for love, but rather because Hugh had rescued her from her family’s debts.