Back in the present, the teenage Tommo remarks that since he’s “been out here,” he hasn’t seen any foxes, though he’s heard plenty of owls. He has “even seen larks over no-mans’-land,” and this has always given him hope. He resumes narrating the stories of his childhood.
The reader knows from the first chapter of the novel that birds represent the promise of life after death for Tommo, which is why they give him hope here. The mention of “no-mans'-land” is one of the first explicit clues that Tommo might currently be fighting in a war.
Charlie wakes up the next morning, insistent that he won’t tell the Colonel of Bertha’s whereabouts, no matter what happens. Suddenly there is a knock on the door. Mrs. Peaceful opens it to find an angry Colonel. She is confused, because Charlie hasn’t yet explained to her what he has done. The Colonel rants at the family, calling Charlie a “despicable thief” and accusing him of stealing Bertha. He demands to know where Bertha is, but Charlie doesn’t tell him. Mrs. Peaceful realizes that Charlie has taken Bertha in order to save the dog, so she calmly defends Charlie by offering the Colonel some money for the dog. She claims that if it has been paid for, it’s not stolen. The Colonel begrudgingly agrees and retreats, but fires Charlie from his job. The boys all celebrate wildly when the Colonel leaves, and are full of praise for their mother.
Again, Charlie proves his bravery by refusing to tell the Colonel where Bertha is. He knows that the Colonel will kill the dog if he finds her. Even though he loses his job for it, Charlie isn’t afraid to stand his ground. Mrs. Peaceful is also courageous in this scene, perhaps demonstrating where Charlie got his own courage from. Mrs. Peaceful sticks up for her son even though the Colonel holds a lot of power over her family. The Colonel could even evict them from their cottage if he wanted to, but Mrs. Peaceful, like Charlie, won’t bend to his bullying, and eventually she succeeds in getting him to leave. The boys respect their mother for her courage, celebrating with her as the Colonel leaves.
Charlie shows his family where Bertha is hidden, and the dog immediately takes a liking to Big Joe. In fact, after that day, she follows him everywhere. Big Joe is thrilled to have a new friend.
Big Joe seems to have a natural affinity with animals, demonstrated by Bertha’s particularly dedicated love for him. Bertha sweetly following Big Joe around darkly foreshadows Big Joe trying to follow Bertha to heaven after her death.
Charlie eventually finds a new job at Farmer Cox’s farm, which is just past the village. The teenage Tommo interjects that Charlie should have been happy there, as he loved the animals and the freedom from the Colonel. However, Charlie isn’t happy, and neither is Tommo, because Molly has stopped visiting. Mrs. Peaceful is sure that someone must have told Molly’s parents about the situation with the Colonel and Charlie, and warned them not to let Molly see Charlie anymore.
Molly is apparently the main source of happiness in both Tommo and Charlie’s lives, as neither boy is happy when she stops visiting them. Unfortunately, Molly’s parents seem to have minds as narrow as the Colonel’s, as they will all happily turn against Charlie even though he was only doing what he thought was right in stealing Bertha.
Charlie keeps trying to see Molly. He visits her cottage, but Molly’s parents won’t even answer the door. One day, Charlie sends Tommo with a letter instead. Molly’s mother opens the door and shouts at Tommo, telling him to leave and claiming that they don’t want his “kind” anywhere near their daughter.
Charlie is certainly persistent and never afraid to stand up for what he wants and what he feels is right. Molly’s mother proves herself to be very judgmental of the Peacefuls, given that she won’t even let Tommo speak before turning him away.
As he is turning to leave, Tommo spots Molly frantically waving to him from a window. She sneaks out, and they meet down the hill by the brook. Molly is crying and tells him the whole story about how the Colonel came to their cottage and called Charlie a thief, and told Molly’s father that they shouldn’t let Molly see Charlie anymore. She tells Tommo how miserable she is, but her father said he would kill Charlie if he ever goes near Molly. Tommo kisses her on the cheek, and Molly hugs him as she sobs.
Molly’s parents are perhaps even stricter than first imagined. Molly seems too afraid of them to leave the house unless she does so in secret, and she seems like a prisoner in her own home as a result. When she tells Tommo that her father has threatened to shoot Charlie, Tommo and the reader realize just how grave the situation is. If Charlie wants to see Molly he will perhaps be risking his life to do so.
Tommo gives Molly the letter, which she opens, and tells Tommo to say “yes” to Charlie in response. Suddenly she looks excited again, and she kisses Tommo quickly and says goodbye.
Molly’s sudden reaction to the letter is unexplained, as neither Tommo nor the reader know what the letter said. It must have been a question, but the reader is left to consider what the question may be, though it probably won’t be good news to Tommo.
Over the next few months, Tommo delivers dozens of letters between Molly and Charlie, which he doesn’t mind as it means he gets to see Molly frequently again. During most of Tommo’s visits, Molly talks about Charlie, though she also talks about the news of war. She read in the paper that England might be going to war with Germany, and everyone is talking about it, although Molly doesn’t understand what any of it means.
Tommo is deeply trusting of Charlie and Molly. He unquestioningly goes along with their letter-sending, just because it means that he gets to see Molly again and be involved in his brother’s. life. Tommo never seems the least bit interested in what their letters might say. Again, war seems to be creeping in on the village, but still seems very removed from the characters’ personal realities.
Soon, Tommo leaves school, and his mother arranges for him to go and work on Farmer Cox’s farm with Charlie. Tommo is much happier; he gets to see more of Charlie, and Charlie no longer treats him as a little boy, but as more of an equal.
Leaving school seems to be the key to improving Tommo and Charlie’s relationship. The moment that Tommo leaves, he somehow seems more of an adult, and thus more of an equal to Charlie.
One day, Tommo and Charlie return home to find Molly and Molly’s mother waiting for them at their house. Molly looks as though she has been crying, and her mother presents Charlie with a stack of letters he has sent Molly. She found them in Molly’s possession, and both Molly’s father and mother have read them all. She calls Charlie’s behavior disgusting, and then declares that she knows that Charlie and Molly have been meeting, too. Tommo feels completely betrayed, as he had no idea about these meetings. Mrs. Peaceful sticks up for Molly and Charlie, saying she doesn’t see anything wrong with them meeting, and that they’re old enough to decide for themselves if they want to see each other. Molly’s mother angrily storms out, claiming that she won’t have Charlie lead Molly into “wickedness and sin.”
Molly’s mother and father seem exceedingly judgmental of Charlie and Molly’s relationship, and have no respect for their daughter and how she might feel. They even read all of Molly’s love letters to Charlie, which seems like an exceptional breach of privacy. Mrs. Peaceful is far more reasonable and sensible about their relationship, and seems to correctly realize that if Molly and Charlie want to meet each other, very little can be done to stop them. Tommo comes out of the situation seeming quite naïve, as it hadn’t even crossed his mind that Charlie and Molly might be meeting up without him.
Tommo is so angry and hurt at the news that he doesn’t speak to Charlie all night, at least until Charlie admits to him that he should have told him about meeting Molly. The reason he couldn’t tell Tommo, Charlie says, is that he knows, as Molly knows, that Tommo is also in love with Molly. Charlie tells Tommo that he loves Molly as well, and that he intends to carry on seeing her. The two boys never talk about Molly again.
Charlie, Tommo, and Molly all understand each other so well that they know without even discussing it that Tommo is in love with Molly as well. Charlie also knew how upset Tommo would be at the news of Molly and Charlie’s relationship, although he could have handled the situation better and broken it to Tommo sooner.
Shortly after this, Bertha the dog starts going missing occasionally. No one knows why, but everyone gets worried about her and tries to keep her from wandering off. One afternoon, Bertha goes missing for a long time, and Tommo, Big Joe and their mother go looking for her. As Tommo is about to give up, he hears a gunshot “ringing out across the valley.” He races up the path and sees the Colonel standing over a blood-soaked Bertha with a gun in his hand. He has killed her. The Colonel is standing outside Mr. Peaceful’s disused shack, from which Charlie and Molly have now emerged together. Molly screams at the Colonel, asking him in horrified disbelief why he would do such a terrible thing.
It is clear that the Colonel has killed Bertha the dog out of spite, just because he knows he can get away with it. He never forgave Charlie for stealing the dog, or Mrs. Peaceful for making him look foolish by paying for the dog. His bitterness has now led him to kill Bertha, because he knows how fond the Peacefuls are of her. If there was ever any doubt as to the Colonel’s cruelty, there is none now. Another notable detail of this scene is that Charlie and Molly are discovered in Mr. Peaceful’s old shack, where they have obviously been meeting together in secret.