The rabbits take turns sleeping and keeping watch throughout the day. After his shift, Hazel falls asleep and then wakes at sunset to find Pipkin still nursing his wound. Pipkin says he’s feeling better but admits that he’s worried the rest of the group will leave him behind. Hazel reassures Pipkin that no one is ever going to be left behind.
Hazel cuts off any fears that his friends have of being abandoned or left alone—he wants them all to know that they are each valued, and that when they stand strong together as a team, they are much more powerful and capable than they are alone.
The sound of a shot frightens and scatters the rabbits—instinct takes over and they begin running in search of burrows, though they haven’t dug any. Hazel waits in the middle of the field for everyone to slowly make their way back and thinks about how despite the cover in the field, they are not truly safe anywhere that isn’t a burrow. As soon as the rabbits have regrouped, Hazel leads them through the fields. When Hazel hears the sound of what he thinks is a hrududu—a tractor—he stops, but Bigwig tells Hazel that on the other side of the field there is a road where hrududus often speed by. He knows about roads and cars based on the food-gathering missions he’d often undertake on behalf of Threarah.
It’s not just nature that poses a threat to the rabbits—the world of humans is dangerous, too, and in close proximity to their own. Bigwig, the bravest of them all, has a somewhat cavalier attitude towards the presence of humans and their contraptions—he wants to show the others that he can handle anything that comes their way.
Bigwig leads Hazel to the road and shows him that it’s easy for rabbits to cross—hrududus take no notice of them. Bigwig steps into the road a little to demonstrate the fact that the hrududus are not dangerous—but when Hazel spots a flattened, bloody hegdgehog, or yona, he knows that the hrududus must be powerful. Hazel tells the group to cross quickly.
This passage complicates Bigwig’s bravado a bit, as Hazel wonders whether Bigwig is proud enough to truly see no threat in the road and the hrududus, or whether he is simply putting on a brave face in order to maintain his air of authority and fearlessness.
By moonrise the rabbits have arrived in a bog-like heath full of spiders, lizards, and insects. They make their way through the treacherous ground, but late that night, Hawkbit pulls Hazel aside and tells him that he and a couple of the others have had enough of the dangerous journey—they want to return to Sandleford. Hazel is trying to mitigate their concerns when Fiver says he wants to talk to him. As they separate from the group, they hear Bigwig chiding Hawkbit, Acorn, and Speedwell for even thinking about deserting the group.
Tensions in the group have ebbed and flowed over the course of the journey so far—now, though, they reach a breaking point, and several rabbits admit they do not have the confidence or drive to go any further. Hazel knows, though, that without a sense of confidence and solidarity, the journey will fall apart, and the safety of all the rabbits he is leading will be compromised.
Fiver leads Hazel up a ridge and the two of them look out upon the fields and downs. Pointing out a group of high, lonely hills, Fiver says confidently that they’ve found their new home—if they can just make it. Hazel expresses concern that the others won’t like the idea of still having so much ground to cover, but Fiver seems not to be listening. He announces that there is indeed a “thick mist” between their group and the hills—but that they must go through it, even at risk of “being deceived and losing [their] way.” Looking around, Hazel sees no mist, but understands that Fiver must mean a mist of a different kind.
The “mist” Fiver talks about in this passage is not literal—there is no fog in the air or on the ground. The mist is symbolic and suggests that there are many more hardships—physical, emotional, and psychological—standing between the rabbits and their forever home.