Rosemary and Fern are playing by the creek. Fern is now potty-trained and no longer wears a diaper. Rosemary wanders off and finds a cat and her kittens, and takes one to give to Fern. The mother cat begins hissing and eventually scratches Fern. In response, Fern swings the kitten against a tree trunk. Rosemary runs screaming back to the house and into Lowell, who insists that she take him back to Fern. Fern clings to Lowell and ignores his questions about where she’s put the dead kitten. Fern signs: “Chase me!” and Lowell begins to believe that Rosemary is making the story up to get Fern into trouble. He tells Rosemary not to tell anyone else or he will call her “a big fat liar.”
The story about Fern killing the kitten is certainly plausible. While Fern is generally gentle and kind, she is also an animal whose behavior cannot be predicted along the expectations of human compassion. Lowell’s refusal to believe it is possible that Fern killed the kitten indicates that, as a result of having grown up as Fern’s brother, he has a tendency to anthropomorphize Fern and deny her true nature.
Rosemary promises, but a few days later, after Fern hurts her while they are playing, she runs to her mother and complains. She protests that she is frightened of Fern, which at first shocks her mother. Then Rosemary tells the story about the kitten. Rosemary believes this is the true reason why Fern was sent away.
Like most children who experience a major trauma, Rosemary finds a way to blame herself for Fern’s disappearance. This self-blame may seem irrational from the outside, but it has clearly colored Rosemary’s entire life from that point onward.