Leo sleeps deeply that night. The next morning, one of the servants wakes him and wishes him a happy birthday. Unusually, it looks like it’s going to rain outside. The servant says they’re living in the “Dog Days.” Leo asks him if he knows of any dogs that have gone mad, but the servant says that human beings go mad too.
The Dog Days are a period of extreme summer heat believed by ancient cultures to be caused by the rising of the dog-star, Sirius, and causing people to go mad or act in strange ways. Leo’s question about madness foreshadows the psychological trauma to come (which the reader knows about from the prologue). The change in the weather implies that a change in the situation is approaching.
The servant looks at the strange assortment of objects on the desk that Leo used the previous night to make his spell (candles, Bunsen burners, sponges etc.). Leo feels embarrassed, and, when the servant leaves, tidies up. Looking at the grey clouds outside, Leo senses the end of summer.
Leo suspects that his attempts at magic are childish and misguided, but he feels this most when adults are involved. On his own, he reverts to his beliefs in the supernatural world.
Leo feels stupid about his magic, which suddenly seems like “mumbo-jumbo.” “Goodbye to make-believe!” he tells himself. Now he is thirteen, he thinks, and it’s time to grow up. He despises all of his actions at Brandham Hall, thinking them the actions of “another person.”
Leo is clearly in a delicate mental state. One moment he is tearing up plants to help with his spells, and the next he is rejecting magic completely. This shows that his identity is under threat—he’s not really sure who he is anymore. He feels outside of himself, seeing all of his actions at Brandham as those of “another person.”
Leo thinks about boyhood, and the way in which some adults treat boys like children and others treat them like “little men.” He believes that Marian, more than anyone, has “puffed” him up and made him feel important. Perhaps the strange turn of events at Brandham Hall has been because of the heat, he wonders. After all, it incapacitated both Mrs. Maudsley and Marcus.
Marian has breathed life into Leo; but as she is under threat, so is he. The idea that he has been puffed up implies that his newfound confidence has been a performance and is not permanent. As events have coincided with the heat, Leo thinks it could be to do with weather. The heat suggests the situation’s increase in pressure and need for release.
Old Leo interjects, saying, “this is what I think now, but it is also what I felt then.” He balks at the idea that someone might have seen him “savaging” the nightshade—“It was bad enough to have been seen by myself.”
Old Leo is not as different from young Leo as he might think: he’s still self-conscious and prone to embarrassment. Under the glare of his readers’ watchful eyes, old Leo makes excuses for his behavior. Above all, this demonstrates the traumatic division in his psyche: he is both the one pulling out the nightshade and the one watching from afar.
Though it’s his birthday, young Leo decides he will put on his original clothes rather than his more luxurious green suit. After prayers, Leo is lightly teased for his clothes, but Trimingham defends him—he says Leo is “quite right” to wear a Norfolk jacket in Norfolk. Furthermore, if it rains, Leo will be in the most suitable dress. Everybody wishes Leo a happy birthday.
Putting on his old clothes shows that Leo wants to return to his pre-Brandham innocence. Trimingham’s defense of Leo’s Norfolk jacket shows his sensitivity to Leo’s embarrassment. The fact that it’s Leo’s birthday means that the attentions are even more on him than usual, increasing the psychological pressure.
A parcel has arrived from Leo’s mother. The accompanying note asks Leo to make sure to tell her if he really is unhappy and tells him that if the errands are too tiring that he ought to ask Mrs. Maudsley if someone else can do them. The present is a tie to go with his green suit.
After giving it some thought, Leo’s mother realizes that he might be in more difficulty than he is letting on, but she’s still clueless as to the reality of the matter. Besides, it’s now too late. The present lends the occasion a sense of tragic comedy and emphasizes Leo’s mother’s distance from him—she has no idea that he doesn’t want to wear his green suit anymore.
Another present, this one from Leo’s aunt, also contains a tie to go with his green suit (which she has heard about from Leo’s mother). The group much prefers the tie Leo’s mother bought, but Trimingham gets Leo to let him try on his aunt’s tie, which he thinks is quite “charming.” Trimingham appeals to Marian and Mr. Maudsley for their opinion. Old Leo interjects that he kept his aunt’s tie for years after.
Trimingham again is sensitive to Leo’s feelings and self-consciousness. He doesn’t want Leo to feel bad in front of the group and so lends the tie authority by trying it on himself. Leo clearly appreciates the gesture, which is why he still has the tie fifty years later.
After breakfast, Mrs. Maudsley announces that “today is Leo’s day,” and asks him how he would like to spend it. She suggests a picnic but is apprehensive about the rain; perhaps they could visit nearby Beeston Castle after lunch. They agree on the latter idea. Mrs. Maudsley says that at five o’clock they will have the birthday cake.
Mrs. Maudsley is trying to give Leo the kind of birthday boys usually have. But today being “his day” is probably the last thing Leo wants—he’d rather hide away or go home. Mrs. Maudsley, back after her mental illness, once again seeks to control proceedings, even if she gives Leo the illusion of choice.
Leo, believing that he has a “new true personality” that is dull and flat, feels distant from everyone at Brandham Hall. He doesn’t feel any birthday cheer and is uneasy around Marcus. Above all, he has the sensation of being a “spectator.” Just before lunch, Leo goes up to his room and changes back into the green suit, which makes him feel more “normal.”
Leo can’t relate to Marcus anymore—he’s changed too much to just act like a kid again—but neither does he belong to the adult world. He’s become a “go-between” caught between two worlds, going nowhere. Leo reasons that, if he can’t go back to being the kid he was before Brandham, he can at least put his suit back on and restore his more recent identity.