In this chapter, the third event takes place: the Man in the Yellow Suit strolls up the road and pauses at the Fosters’ gate. Winnie is in the yard catching fireflies when he bids her good evening. He is very tall and narrow with a thin beard and a black hat in his hand. He is very charming to talk to, and for a moment, it seems to Winnie as if he stands suspended in air. She frowns when he smiles so easily given that the funeral wreath for her grandfather still hung on the door. He has many personal questions for her, because he’s looking for someone - a family.
Her grandmother opens the door suspiciously when she sees the Man and is just about to pull Winnie back inside, when they hear a wisp of music float towards them over the air. Grandmother exclaims in surprise that it is the return of the elf music she had heard many years before. The Man in the Yellow Suit is immediately curious since it had been many years since she had heard it, but she excuses herself and Winnie to go inside, offering him no explanation. Winnie observes that it sounds like a music box. After they go inside, the Man in the Yellow Suit stands softly listening until the music box notes drift away. Then, he, too, moves on, softly whistling the little melody.
The Man in the Yellow Suit, in spite of his soft, comforting appearance, gives off a sinister air. He asks questions that are too personal and his smile seems just a little too nice. He is suspicious and the author puts the reader on alert with her description of him. It’s also very important to note that the music they hear is Mae Tuck’s music box. Its sounds were heard in a mysterious way by Winnie’s grandmother years before and it’s obvious that the Man in the Yellow Suit has some knowledge of the sounds. It gives the reader pause to worry that this man knows about Mae Tuck and her music box.
Winnie awakens the next morning with the realization that sometime during the night, she had made up her mind to run away. However, in another part of her head is her oldest fear: she is afraid to go away alone. It makes her worry that the Toad will be out by the fence and know her fear. He might call her a coward. So, she decides that at least she can slip out and go into the wood to see if she can discover what made the music the night before.
When Winnie goes into the wood, she is surprised that she has never come here before, because it is so nice. It is actually full of light, a light entirely different from the one she is used to. There are creatures everywhere as well, including the Toad. She tells it excitedly that she has kept her promise to be there first thing in the morning. It seems to nod and then vanishes into the underbrush. It makes her glad she has come. She wanders for a long time and then sees something move in a clearing. She is sure that it is the elves her grandmother had told her about. She begins to creep on all fours to a sheltering tree trunk and peers around it into the clearing. At the center of the clearing is an enormous tree with thick roots rumpling the ground ten feet in every direction. Sitting with his back against the trunk is a boy who seems so glorious that Winnie loses heart to him almost at once. She watches him carefully as he rubs his ear, yawns and stretches. Then, he moves a pile of pebbles by his side until beneath them is a low spurt of water from which he takes a drink. As he does, his eyes rise up and he spies Winnie.
The boy frowns and tells her to come out, while Winnie protests that she hadn’t meant to watch him, because she didn’t know anyone would be there. She tells him she’s there, because it’s her wood and that’s when the boy knows that she is a Foster. He introduces himself as Jesse Tuck and when Winnie asks how old he is, he tells her he is 104. Then, he amends his comment and says he’s seventeen. Eventually, the conversation turns to the water when Winnie declares she’s thirsty and wants to drink. The boy becomes instantly alarmed and tells her that it would be terrible for her if she drank any of it. Winnie is insistent that if it hadn’t hurt him, it won’t hurt her and that she’ll tell her father if he won’t allow her to drink. That idea alarms him even more and he mutters, with his foot firmly held on the pile of pebbles, that he knew this would happen sooner or later.
Fortunately for Jesse, just at that moment comes a crashing sound among the trees and a voice calling his name. It is his mother and Miles and as soon as Mae Tuck sees Winnie with her son, she announces, “The worst is happening at last.”
In this chapter are several symbols of life and its changes: first is the Toad who is there when Winnie takes her first steps into the wood. Its presence emphasizes the idea of Winnie’s metamorphosis as she steps beyond the safety she has always known in her own back yard. In addition, the enormous tree with the huge roots symbolizes how the years bring on changes now that it’s grown from a sapling to a huge tree in the clearing. This chapter also presents foreshadowing of some secret that the Tucks have been keeping, but always knew could be exposed sooner or later. The secret must have something to do with the water that Jesse is so adamant that Winnie not drink.