Under Peggy’s umbrella, Peggy and Maddie hurry from school up the street toward Boggins Heights. The November weather is wet and dismal. While walking, Peggy says that at least she never made fun of Wanda’s name or called her a foreigner. She says she always thought Wanda was too dumb to know they were making fun of her. She comments on how well Wanda could draw, which must indicate that she was smart. Maddie says nothing; she hopes they can find Wanda to apologize and offer to protect her from anybody who was not nice to her.
Maddie imagines a scenario in which someone might bully Wanda, calling her Petronski-Onski, and Maddie and Peggy would pounce on the bully. The thought consoles Maddie, but she soon feels unhappy again and wishes they could return to a time before the bullying started, when everything and everyone was nice.
It is cold up in the Heights. In the summer, the flora that grew along the brook was lush and beautiful, but now the brook is merely a trickle of water, and rusty tin cans, old shoes, and broken umbrellas stick out of the small stream’s exposed bed.
They rush, hoping to find Wanda’s house before dark. Finally, they reach the top of the hill and tiptoe quickly past old man Svenson’s rickety house. Due to the rain, he is not outside chewing and spitting tobacco; even his dog isn’t around. The girls breathe more freely once they round the corner past his property.
Maddie guesses that the Petronskis live in a little white house with many chicken coops lined up against its side. The house and yard are shabby but clean, just like Wanda’s one blue dress. They knock on the front and back doors, but the only sign of life at the house is a yellow cat crouching by the front step. They call out to Wanda but hear nothing.
Maddie begins to wonder how she will be able to bear the fact that Wanda is actually gone when Peggy turns the doorknob. The small room inside is empty. The Petronskis are gone, and Maddie has no way of telling Wanda she is sorry. Maddie considers asking old man Svenson or the post office if they know the Petronskis’ new address so that she could send Wanda a letter.
Feeling discouraged, the girls walk back down from the Heights. They see the yellow cat crouched on Svenson’s porch and assume it must have been his cat all along. They decide not to knock on his door to ask about the Petronskis. Just then, they see Svenson walking up the road. His clothing, hair, mustache, and teeth are all yellow.
The girls hurry to the side of the road until he passes, then Peggy yells to Svenson, asking when the Petronskis moved. The old man turns and says something unintelligible, and the girls run away down the hill as fast as they can. Svenson continues up the road, muttering to himself in confusion.
The girls stop at Oliver Street and Maddie wonders if she will ever stop feeling remorse over Wanda and the hundred dresses. She imagines trying to enjoy her life and being hit with another thought about Wanda. Peggy suggests they need not feel too bad, because her teasing probably helped give Wanda ideas for her dress designs. Maddie considers this, but still can’t get to sleep that night; she thinks of Svenson’s house, Wanda’s, and the bright pictures Wanda drew.
Maddie sits up, holds her head, and thinks hard. After a long time, she concludes that she would never stand by and say nothing again. If she ever heard anybody picking on someone else, she would speak up, even if it meant losing Peggy’s friendship. She couldn’t redeem herself with Wanda, but Maddie could make sure she never let anyone else be made as unhappy as Wanda had been. Finally, Maddie falls asleep.
Maddie’s remorse follows her out of the classroom as she and Peggy walk in the rain to Boggins Heights. Peggy’s guilty conscience is made apparent by the way she speaks about Wanda, saying that she at least never called her a foreigner. But Maddie is too distracted by her own guilt to participate in the conversation.
To assuage her guilt, Maddie imagines fantasy scenarios in which she protects Wanda from harm. Her imagination is ultimately ineffective though, and her remorse resurfaces; Maddie wishes she could return to a time before the bright day in October when the bullying began.
As the girls travel through Boggins Heights, they confront the fears that had been instilled in them by rumors that sought to dehumanize the poor people who live in the area. Abandoned metal objects in the creek bed signify that they are in an area where people abide by different social codes than those that exist in town.
Having found the Petronski household empty, they are bold enough to ask old man Svenson about where the family moved to. They end up running away, though he is apparently harmless, only difficult to understand, likely due to an inability to speak English.
Maddie’s regret haunts her as she tries to fall asleep. The only thing she can do to console herself is make a private promise never to stand by while another person is being bullied.