This chapter gives us a description of Oxford, specifically Jordan College, the biggest, richest one of them all. The place is "jumbled and squalid" but also very grand (3.1).
The college is powerful since they own land all over England.
Jordan College is a center for experimental theology. Lyra likes to brag about it to the other kids in town, though she doesn't really know anything about theology – experimental or otherwise.
According to the narrator, Lyra is a bit of "barbarian," who runs all over the College and town with her kitchen friend Roger (3.5).
There are play wars among the children of different colleges, between college children and the brickburners, between town children and gyptian children.
Oxford is Lyra's world, and she loves it, though she knows part of her world is also all the political stuff that goes on in Jordan with Lord Asriel.
Sometimes Lyra has tea with the Master and her Uncle Asriel. We are given a peek into one such meeting: Asriel asks her what she has learned and then tells her to stay off the roof. He also asks Lyra if she's been exploring underground and gives her five gold dollars.
In the meantime a rumor has started: children are disappearing, like little Tony Makarios.
The street urchin Tony was lured away by a beautiful lady with a golden monkey for a daemon. Tony had a daemon named Ratter.
Other children were being lured away too, Tony found out. They were all told to write letters to their parents before they were shipped away.
But the lady burned all the letters. (Wow, she sounds horrible.)
Tony's mother drank a lot and blamed herself for his disappearance.
Eventually people began to notice the missing children and rumors and stories began to flourish. People started saying that the kidnappers were named Gobblers. No one really knew why.
All the kids, including Lyra and Roger, started playing kids and Gobblers (kind of like hide-and-seek or cops and robbers).
Lyra and Roger also begin to explore the underground that Lord Asriel mentioned. They find the wine cellars, taste a bit, and both get drunk.
They find several worlds beneath the college and find the catacombs. They stumble upon the crypt where the Masters are buried.
Lyra finds shelves of skulls with coins inside, which represent each scholar's daemon.
Lyra plays a trick by re-arranging the coins in the skulls, but she is visited that night by a terrible night-ghast (nightmare). She puts the coins back in the morning and apologizes.
Around this time the Gobblers appear in Oxford. It's during the horse fair, when the gyptians are in town.
Lyra is roaming around with her friends Hugh Lovat and Simon Parslow.
They see Ma Costa, a formidable gyptian woman whose son, Billy, has been lost – or taken. Gyptians almost never get upset about children being gone, but Ma Costa is scared. She knows the Gobblers have her son.
Lyra and the other kids consult, and Lyra suggests a search party. (Lyra has a lot of sway over these kids.)
They search all over, but no luck. Lyra and her pals return to Jordan College. Lyra is still intrigued that there's another disappearance, and she sets out to hear all about it in town, even though the Porter tells her not to go.
Near St. Michael's College she talks to some older boys about the situation. That's when a few things click. First: severed means "cut" (3.252). That's what they said about the kid in the picture. He was cut.
Also, where is Roger?
Lyra runs back to Jordan and looks everywhere. He's nowhere to be found.
Lyra gets on the roof. She knows her world is changing, and that she must rescue Roger.
For now she's been summoned by the Master, though. The housekeeper, Mrs. Lonsdale (Roger's second cousin) scrubs her clean and sends her on her way.
Meeting with the Master, she is introduced to Dam Hannah Relf and a beautiful woman named Mrs. Coulter – who has a golden monkey for a daemon. (Cue ominous music.)