Winnie is home once more sitting in her little rocking chair in her bedroom. The Constable had told her parents that she had gone away of her own free will, which made them pause for a moment. However, they soon took her up, bathed her, fed her, and petted her all the while refusing to believe her story. They do realize that she has changed somehow, that part of her had slipped away. She leans her arms on the windowsill and thinks how she has ties to her mother, her father, and her grandmother, but that she has bonds with the Tucks as well. The heat lightening flashes and Winnie thinks about the Man in the Yellow Suit. She concludes that he has to die to protect the secret of the spring and she knows that’s why Mae did it. Then, she hears hoof beats on the road and the Constable announce to her parents that the Man in the Yellow Suit has died and now Mae will surely hang. She is reminded of the time she had killed a wasp before it stung her and how she had wished it were alive again. Now she wonders if Mae is weeping in her cell for the Man in the Yellow Suit. In spite of her wish to save the world, did she wish he were alive again? Winnie knows that Mae had done what she thought she had to do, and now she also knows she must do whatever is necessary to keep Mae from the gallows.
This chapter is one in which Winnie has truly grown up even at the age of ten. She is now mature enough to understand why we sometimes must kill and why it’s also acceptable to mourn what we have done even if it were done for all the right reasons. Now it’s her turn to make a choice that most will label wrong, but which will be done for all the right reasons.
Winnie goes directly to the fence the next morning. It is the hottest day yet and her family is treating her a little like a fragile egg. Leaning against bars of the fence, she thinks of Mae behind bars of her own. Then, lifting her head, she sees the Toad. She asks her grandmother for water, but by the time she returns, it is gone. Her grandmother asks her not stay out too long as Winnie slumps down on the grass and tries to figure out how to help Mae. Miraculously, just at that moment, Jesse appears. He tells Winnie that Miles has a plan to get Mae out. Being a carpenter, he knows how to remove the cell window, bars and all. They’re going to try it that night after it gets dark. He says he has come to say good-bye, and he gives her bottle of the spring water and tells her when she is seventeen to drink it and come find him. He is just about to leave when Winnie says she knows how she can help his mother – she’ll climb in the window after Mae is freed and take her place in the cell. She won’t be discovered until morning and that will give them time to get away. At midnight, she will leave with Jesse for the prison, and she will make a difference in the world.
There is emphasis in this chapter on the motif of the wheel – August, the hottest month, when people make bad decisions is the apex of the Ferris wheel and Winnie is about to make a decision that may turn out to be the worst she’s ever made. However, she’s determined to do whatever she can to make a difference.
It is the longest day of summer, the one where it is too hot to move or even think. Winnie sits in her room and waits, because there is nothing else she can do. She sees that the sky is changing, thickening somehow, and the smell of rain is in the air. It is a welcome thought, but it doesn’t alleviate her guilt that for the second time that week, she is going to do something she knows is forbidden. However, she has a strong sense of rightness even as she wonders if her family will ever trust her again. The Tucks need her and she will not disappoint them. She also thinks about the bottle of spring water and Jesse’s request. She falls asleep with these thoughts in her head. Later, she awakes with a jerk, fearful she has slept through the time. However, she gets up and checks the clock and knows she is all right, because it is five minutes until midnight.
Just as the coming of the rain will change the terrible heat that holds Treegap in its grip, so the coming of midnight will change Winnie forever.