Old Leo recalls the change that came over Brandham Hall when Trimingham arrived. Before his arrival there was a more jovial, carefree atmosphere; afterwards everyone is more concerned with formalities and, feels Leo, more on edge about how they come across.
It’s not just young Leo who is self-conscious, but the Maudsleys and their other guests too. Much depends on how things go with Trimingham—ultimately, the Maudsleys are beholden to him as their landlord. That’s why Mrs. Maudsley hopes to marry off Marian to Trimingham: so that she can secure their status.
Back in the main narrative, a group from Brandham Hall goes for a picnic. Marian sits close to Trimingham, and Leo tries to get near them. Trimingham notices Leo and calls out to him, saying, “Hullo there’s Mercury!” Marian asks why he calls Leo that, and Trimingham replies that it’s because “he runs errands.” Leo assumes that Trimingham is referring to the smallest of the planets and commenting on his own diminutive size. Trimingham replies: “You’re quite right, but before that he was the messenger of the gods. He went to and fro between them.”
Trimingham gives Leo his nickname, Mercury. Mercury was the messenger of the gods in Roman mythology, but also served as the guide of souls to the underworld. He is a bridge between worlds, just like Leo. This is music to Leo’s ears, adding more detail to his personal zodiac. It’s worth noting that Marian only sits with Trimingham on occasions when there’s a big group present—when she’s on display and has to be seen to like Trimingham. Marian already knows that Leo runs errands—he’s brought her a letter from Ted—but she can’t possibly mention this.
Leo is excited by this description of himself: “I pictured myself threading my way through the zodiac, calling on one star after another: a delicious waking dream.” He then falls asleep. Waking up, he hears Marian and Mrs. Maudsley discussing him. Mrs. Maudsley says that Leo is like Marian’s devoted “little lamb,” and Marian calls him “a darling.” Marian asks whether they should postpone the ball because of Marcus’s illness, but Mrs. Maudsley says that would disappoint too many people.
Leo, daydreaming blissfully about his role amongst the planets, catches a glimpse of what Marian actually thinks of him. She sees him as more of a lamb than a lion; he is young, innocent, and devoted. Marian probably suspects that the ball will be the occasion when her engagement to Trimingham is to be announced, which explains why she’s quite keen for it to be postponed.
As the group heads back to the Hall, Leo has a conversation with one of the coachmen. He enjoys the simple, factual exchange, comparing it to the “conversation of the gods” of Marian, Trimingham, and the others. He believes that, with “the gods,” it is not always his place to understand: “that was in order … they were something in a foreign language — star-talk.” He asks whether the coachman knows Ted Burgess. The coachman calls him “a bit of a lad,” but Leo doesn’t think Ted seems laddish at all.
Leo doesn’t really know what the coachman means by calling Ted a lad. He thinks it means being boyish, but the coachman is actually hinting at Ted’s attractiveness to women. Leo’s conception of “star-talk” increases the idea that he sees himself as moving in a zodiacal universe that he doesn’t entirely understand.
Arriving back at the Hall, Leo learns that there is a letter from his mother waiting for him. He takes it to the lavatory, preferring to read it in private, but for the first time is not “really interested” in “the small concerns of home.” They seem distant to him. Leo feels he doesn’t belong there anymore, but at Brandham Hall: “here I was a planet … and carried messages for the other planets.”
Leo doesn’t want his new world and identity to be interrupted by thoughts of home. Furthermore, his mother’s way of seeing the world seems old-fashioned and embarrassing in comparison to his new environment. He is firmly settled into his role as the interplanetary go-between.
Leo writes a reply to his mother but feels he can only give a “feeble” account of his time so far. He mentions Trimingham calling him “Mercury,” how nice Marian is to him, Marcus being unwell (but not specifically the measles), and the upcoming cricket match and ball.
Leo doesn’t mention the measles because he knows it might mean getting ordered to go back home. He keeps his exchange functional, but this doesn’t come easily to him as he’s not used to deceiving his mother.
After writing the letter, Leo goes back to the outhouse with the thermometer. He is impressed that it now reads a “sensational” ninety-four degrees Fahrenheit. He longs for it to reach one hundred. He has a brief exchange with Mr. Maudsley, also looking at the temperature gauge, who asks if Leo is enjoying himself.
Leo keeps checking the temperature because he wants his experiences to grow in intensity—though he doesn’t really know how that would manifest. This is one of his rare interactions with Mr. Maudsley, who generally keeps out of the way.
Leo wanders aimlessly near the lawn, trying to avoid being seen, but Trimingham notices him and calls out. He tells Leo that he and the others can’t find Marian and asks Leo to find and inform her that they want to play croquet. He instructs Leo that he “must bring her in alive or dead.”
Marian is avoiding spending time with Trimingham, and it’s highly likely that she’s currently with Ted. Trimingham’s quip about bringing her in “alive or dead” subtly increases the idea that there is a life or death drama at play, but not yet fully revealed.
Leo takes the cinder track towards the outhouses, where he spots Marian. She asks him what he’s doing there. He lets her know about the croquet match and she reluctantly agrees to go. The conversation turns to the plans for the next day: most of the adults will be out, and Marian wonders what Leo will get up to. He says he might go and slide down Ted’s straw-stack.
There’s no obvious reason for Marian to be coming back from the outhouses, unless she is doing something secretive. Marian sounds Leo out, investigating whether she can use him to get a message to Ted.
Marian asks Leo if he will take a letter to Ted for her, which he’s delighted to do. She asks him whether he likes Ted, to which he replies that he does, but likes Trimingham better because where Ted is only a farmer, the latter is a Viscount. Marian tells Leo that the letter is only a “business matter.”
Leo is totally besotted by Marian and at this stage will do anything to help her. Leo’s comparison of Ted to Trimingham is based on his new awareness of social hierarchy; as Marian is of the upper class, he feels he’d better say he likes Trimingham best. Marian continues with the “business” euphemism to describe her relationship with Ted.
Leo tells Marian that part of the reason he is willing to take the letter is because he likes her. She thinks that is “very sweet.” The two then head towards the croquet lawn, but Marian suddenly decides she has a headache and doesn’t want to play. Leo tells her Trimingham will be disappointed. Marian changes her mind and says that she will go. As she walks off, Leo asks her to tell the group that he sent her.
Marian really doesn’t want to spend time with Trimingham and starts to pretend to be ill—but then she remembers the importance of her duty and changes her mind. Leo is proud of having found Marian and wants Trimingham to know of his success.