Table of Contents | Message Board | Downloadable/Printable Version
CHAPTER SUMMARY AND NOTES
The boys and Mr. Halloway walk quietly home. When they get home, Charles tells Jim there’s little reason to wake his mother now. As long as he promises to tell her over breakfast, Charles is willing to let him off for now. Charles asks if Jim can get in the house without waking his mother, and Jim proudly shows him and iron ladder rung affixed tot he side of the house hidden in the ivy. Charles laughs both in sadness and in memory. He starts to ask how long it has been there, and then he realizes that he doesn’t want to know. He mentions that he’d done the same thing as a boy. He checks to make sure they boys aren’t staying out too late. He offers them permission for their later night excursions, but he realizes that permission would spoil everything.
The boys quickly try to decided whether he too once spent his evenings sneaking out which results in Jim asking about Charles’ boyhood adventures, but Charles only confirms that he too had boyhood adventures, and warns the boys not to reveal this secret though their mothers. Jim climbs up to his room, and as he leaves, Charles talks with Will. He says he misses not being able to run like Will. They then make a plan to apologize to Miss Foley in the morning. Charles runs his hand across the side of his home, and discovers Will’s ladder rungs hidden there. He fills his pipe, then tells Will he’s not really acting guilty enough to be guilty. Will says he only confessed because Foley wants them to be guilty, and because they have enough enemies without the police being against them. Will says that no one will believe them anyway, so it’s just easier to confess. Charles says he’ll believe, but as Will begins by saying, “The other night, at three in the morning,” Charles flinches and Will realizes he cannot yet tell his father the details. Will promises to tell him the entire story in a few days.
The ladder rungs affixed to the side of the house sadly remind Charles of his boyhood. The same moment of sadness for Charles, though, is an epiphany for Will and Jim, as they had not previously realized an adult might have had the same experiences they have. They beg him to relate those experiences to him, but he simply leaves it at the fact that he was the same way. He wants them to feel okay in their late night experiences, so he starts to offer them permission, but then he knows that permission would spoil it. He, dutifully, makes sure they’re not out too late, then leaves it at that. Charles is torn between his duty as a parent and his memories of boyhood. The fact that he flinches at the start to Will’s story is proof enough for Will that as enlightened as Charles seems, he cannot handle the stress of the story itself.
While Charles and Will linger outside, Will can smell the leaves, and it makes him think of history. He wonders why he, and perhaps also his father, are the only two people who ever seem to consider history. It’s obviously time to go to bed, but both Will and his dad are reluctant to go inside. Finally Will asks if he’s a good person, and if trouble should ever arise, whether his goodness would save him. Charles says that while good may not physically save a person, it offers peace of mind. Will then asks if Charles is a good person. Charles says he tries to be good to Will and his mom, but after living with himself for a lifetime, the sum of his goodness seems to come and go. Charles emphasizes that being good doesn’t imply happiness. The people with the largest smiles have the biggest evil, while the people who seem unhappy are often good because being good is difficult.
Charles goes on to say that the secret to being good, as Will probably already knows, is to ignore the temptation, but even that has its downfall by creating cowardice. Charles explains that he didn’t marry until he was thirty-nine because he was trying to wait until he was perfect. He realized all too late that you must make mistakes to increase your ability to be good. Will, according to Charles, is the product of a man half-good and a woman half-good thereby making Will all good. Charles also says that Will is wiser than he will ever be. Will mentions that he might be able to reveal the entire story to him at breakfast because he wants him to be happy. Charles starts to cry, and Will says if he could say anything to make him happy he would. Charles says he’s always been sad, and the only thing that could make him happy is to be immortal. Will says that he’ll live forever, and that he shouldn’t go near the carnival. Charles says he was about to offer Will the same advice, and Will scrambles up the hidden rungs, and invites Charles to follow him. After some good-natured teasing, Charles successfully follows. In Will’s bedroom, they sit quietly together in love for an instant before he leaves and Will goes to bed.
This chapter marks a changing point in the relationship between Charles and Will. It is now clear that Will will do anything to make Charles happy, and Charles feels that happiness is not simply possible. To this point, Will believed that goodness implied happiness, and Charles helps Will see the reality. The end of the chapter helps readers see that the entire experience seems to be drawing Will and Charles closer together.