David and Sophie spend their summer exploring Waknuk for places they can play freely, without Sophie’s being seen. One day, they are barefoot at the river catching shrimp when a boy from David’s school, Alan, happens upon them. David throws Sophie her shoes and tries to distract Alan with conversation, but he notices Sophie’s six-toed footprint on a rock. Alan demands Sophie’s name, but David will not give it to him. Instead, he tackles Alan to give Sophie time to escape. David buys Sophie a few minutes, but Alan is stronger than David and begins to beat him furiously. Sophie hits Alan in the head with a rock, rendering him unconscious, and Sophie and David flee to Sophie’s house.
David is willing to get in trouble for fighting Alan in order to protect Sophie. He clearly considers her a valuable person, and does not believe that her extra toes make her somehow evil. Alan, on the other hand, has internalized the Definition of Man. That something as ephemeral as a glimpse of a footprint can damn Sophie forever speaks to how terrified the people of Waknuk are of even the slightest abnormality.
Sophie and David tell John Wender that Alan saw Sophie’s foot, and John decides that it is time for his family to leave Waknuk. While he and Mrs. Wender get ready to leave, Sophie explains to David that they must leave forever. The Wenders have always kept bags packed and horses ready for a moment like this, when someone they could not trust found out about Sophie. David asks the Wenders if he can join them. Mr. and Mrs. Wender leave to discuss his request in private, but David can access Mrs. Wender’s thoughts, so knows that he must stay behind even before they tell him their decision. They explain to David that they want him to come, but that it will be safer for Sophie if he stays behind. Before they leave, however, they ask David to spend the night in their house to give them a bit more time to escape. Sophie gives David a lock of her hair to remember her, and the family rides away on their horses.
Horses are an important symbol throughout the book, although their meaning is not always consistent. Here, they represent hope and a potential path to freedom. Rather than fearing the unknown, the Wenders have been preparing for it. The fact that Mr. and Mrs. Wender ask David to stay behind in their house demonstrates that, although Mr. Wender once may have been suspicious of David, he now trusts him completely. David has proved through his actions that he truly cares for Sophie. When she leaves, Sophie gives David a piece of her body to remember her by, even though it is her body that has gotten her into so much trouble.
This is the first time David has spent the night in a house other than his own, and he is frightened by the noises he hears coming from outside. He is so scared that he wants to return home, but he stays in the house for Sophie’s sake. When he does return home the next morning, he is met by the Inspector and his father, who is livid. The Inspector tells David that he could go to jail for “the concealment of a Blasphemy,” and asks if his friend at the river had six toes. David denies this, but his father asserts that he is lying. He takes the Inspector’s horse whip, and, despite the Inspector’s protests, ferociously beats David.
In this scene, the whip that might be used to propel a horse toward a place without such harsh rules is now used to enforce those rules. While the Inspector interrogates David to find out more about Sophie, David’s father is keen to punish him physically for his transgressions. That the Inspector is kinder to David than is his own father demonstrates how orthodox and aggressive Joseph Strorm is in his beliefs.