The next morning, Winnie wakes up early and decides that she's not going to run away. Though she reasons that she doesn't really want to leave, she also knows that she's afraid to be alone. Winnie thinks that it's one thing to talk or think about being alone, but according to the adults around her, the world is a dangerous place and she won't be able to manage. She thinks it's awful to admit she's afraid and wonders if the toad might laugh at her if it returns to the fence later. Winnie decides that instead of running away, she'll just go into the wood to investigate the source of the music. She thinks that she can always decide at that point to run away.
Winnie's reasons for not wanting to run away all speak to her desire, as a young child, to still be cared for by trustworthy adults, even as she longs for independence. This is a perfectly normal place for Winnie to be. Notice, however, that Winnie thinks of stepping into the wood as not as meaningful as choosing to actually run away. This shows that at this point, she doesn't understand that every choice she makes has consequences, even if she can't always predict what they'll be.
Though it's already a hot day, Winnie finds it's cooler in the wood. Surprisingly, the wood is very pleasant. Green and gold light filters through the trees, illuminating little flowers and moss. She notices all the small creatures bustling around and even comes across the toad. Winnie tells the toad that she's following through on what she said yesterday; she did leave her cottage. The toad seems to nod and then hops away.
The pleasure that Winnie takes in admiring the natural world again reminds the reader that per the novel's logic, humans should endeavor to be more connected to nature, as Winnie is here. What she tells the toad suggests that she now conceptualizes stepping outside of her fence as stepping into nature, not necessarily as moving away from her family or her childhood.
Winnie wanders for a while longer, thinking about the melody, and then she notices something moving ahead. She crouches down and creeps toward the clearing, reasoning that if it's elves, she can sneak up on them. When she gets close enough to see, however, her mouth drops open. A handsome young man (Jesse) sits against a huge ash tree, gazing up at the branches. He carefully moves a pile of pebbles to reveal a little stream. He drinks from it and as he wipes his mouth, his eyes lock onto Winnie's. After a minute, he frowns and tells her she can come out.
Winnie's clear admiration of and attraction to Jesse reminds the reader that though she's a child, her sexual and romantic maturity aren't far off--boys are definitely interesting for her and represent a version of maturity in her mind. Especially when the narration juxtaposes this mature attraction with Winnie's childish musings about sneaking up on elves, it drives home that Winnie is in a liminal state between child and adult.
Sternly, Jesse asks Winnie what she's doing in the wood. Winnie insists that the wood belongs to her and she can come whenever she wants. Winnie asks what he's doing in the wood, but says that it's okay with her if he visits the wood. Grinning, Jesse says he doesn't live nearby. Absentmindedly, Winnie asks Jesse how old he is. She thinks he's laughing at her when he says that he's 104 and then amends this to 17. She then asks if he's married. He isn't, but he jokes that when Winnie turns 11 next year, she might get married.
The tenor of this conversation makes the age difference between Jesse and Winnie glaringly obvious. He treats her like she's a young child, especially when he jokes that she'll be getting married in a year. This makes it very clear that though Winnie might be attracted to Jesse, she's not yet old enough to actually be able to flirt with him or convey her attraction in a mature and meaningful way.
Winnie asks if the water is good to drink, but very seriously and quickly, Jesse says the water is dirty. He begins to put the pebbles back as Winnie insists that he drank from it and since she owns the wood, she can drink too. She says her father would let her drink from it, in response to which Jesse puzzlingly asks if Winnie is going to tell her father about the brook. They hear a crash a little ways away and Jesse calls gratefully for Mae and Miles. They appear in the clearing and Mae looks as though Winnie is the worst thing she's ever seen. She sighs that it's happening at last.
Notice that Winnie's justification for why she should be able to drink the water hinges on her belief that she owns the wood; in her understanding, that means that she has the right to everything in it. This indicates that she believes at this point that she has the power to dominate nature and bend it to her will, rather than understanding that nature is something she needs to learn to respect and coexist with.