Cosimo spends his first days in the trees discovering everything he can about the trees, but he also shows up often in the di Rondò garden. However, he’s only passing through to the D’Ondarivas’ garden, even at times when Viola isn’t awake. Viola’s parents don’t worry much about her—none of her aunts can ride, and it’s inconceivable that she’d be friends with the fruit thieves—but they do worry about Cosimo. Baron Arminio partially blames the D’Ondarivas for Cosimo’s rebellion, so he decides to send a group to capture Cosimo while Cosimo is in the D’Ondarivas’ garden. To make it even more aggressive, he sends servants and the cavalier avvocato rather than going himself.
Biagio’s insistence that Cosimo spends time exploring is an allusion to Rousseau’s theories of child development and the best way to educate a young person: namely, that it’s important to have a period to explore one’s world and learn what the world is like by testing and experimenting the limits of what one can do. For Baron Arminio, it’s natural to blame one of his rivals for Cosimo’s rebellion, as the D’Ondarivas have everything Baron Arminio wants: a child who falls into line and more local power.
The D’Ondarivas’ servants are confused and think that the cavalier avvocato is looking for a parrot, but they let him in. Cosimo and Viola ignore the group and continue their games, and Cosimo moves from tree to tree whenever the cavalier avvocato gets close. Every time the ladder moves, it destroys a flowerbed. After servants usher Viola inside, the Marquis d’Ondariva appears and requests that they hunt for Cosimo elsewhere. He wears a dressing gown and skullcap, which makes him look oddly similar to the cavalier avvocato.
The servants’ methods of trying to capture Cosimo read as a reflection of how out of step with the times Baron Arminio is: just as Baron Arminio will never get the dukedom, especially given how he tries to go about it, the servants will never be able to capture Cosimo using this method—as the embodiment of the Enlightenment and Romantic eras, he’s untouchable by the past.
As if there’s nothing amiss, the cavalier avvocato approaches the Marquis d’Ondariva and begins to share an idea for a water feature in the garden pool. The Marquis surprisingly seems interested and the two men stroll through the garden, chatting. Cosimo takes the opportunity to throw a berry at Viola’s window. She opens it and hisses that it’s his fault she’s locked up. Cosimo feels suddenly desperate and races through the trees all the way to the forest. Biagio suspects that Cosimo wants to master something difficult, but that Cosimo doesn’t yet know how to healthily deal with this desire. The wood is thick and Cosimo begins to feel afraid.
The suggestion that Cosimo doesn’t know how to deal with his desires in a healthy way reminds the reader that Cosimo is still a child without a ton of experience in managing his own emotions—and to make matters worse, he’s also thrust himself into a sort of adulthood far earlier than he might have otherwise by choosing to assert his independence and make a life for himself in the trees.
Suddenly, Cosimo sees yellow eyes ahead. He pushes a branch aside to reveal a wild cat, sighs with relief, and then begins to feel afraid again: the cat is a normal wild cat, but it seems somehow more terrible and dangerous than that. He that realizes this cat is the fiercest in the forest. The cat begins to leap around to frighten Cosimo and Cosimo evades it. When Cosimo is faced with escaping to the ground, his choice to stand his ground surprises the cat. Though the cat scratches Cosimo’s face, Cosimo manages to impale the cat. He knows in this moment that he’s committed to his life in the trees: he can’t escape by failing.
The wild cat represents both the unknown and the dangers inherent to the natural world; by killing it, Cosimo essentially asserts his dominance over nature and makes it clear to himself that he has to keep going in this endeavor. This is exactly the kind of experience (albeit a more dramatic one) that Rousseau suggested was good and necessary, especially since it helps Cosimo figure out who he is and how he needs to interact with the world.
Cosimo returns to the di Rondò garden, carrying the cat by its tail. Biagio alerts the Generalessa to Cosimo’s wounds, and she prepares a package of medical supplies to take to Cosimo when he comes back from the D’Ondariva garden. When Cosimo gets over the wall, however, he sees a carriage and Viola dressed for traveling. Cosimo holds the cat up and asks where Viola is going. She looks contemptuous, says she’s going to school, and doesn’t look at Cosimo or the cat. Desperate, Cosimo shouts that he vanquished a cat. Viola tells him “bravo” as the carriage pulls out. D’Ondariva servants chase Cosimo out of the garden, so Cosimo hurls the cat at them. He accepts Biagio’s medical supplies and then asks for fishing line and a hook. He uses it to fetch the dead cat, which he skins and makes into a fur hat.
As a representation of the Romantic era, Viola’s contempt for the dead wild cat and Cosimo’s bravery suggests that they’re each going off of different ways of showing bravery and affection. Further, learning to do things for himself—like make his own hat out of fur—suggests that going forward, Cosimo is going to align himself with the natural world available to him from the trees, not the civilized, built world Viola will inhabit (as implied by the fact that she’s going to school, where she’ll learn to be a part of society).