Lily awakes the next morning still exhausted but with a clearer view of her circumstances. Gus Trenor would need to be repaid the nine thousand dollars he has given her and she feels a tired weariness at her predicament. “She was realizing for the first time that a woman’s dignity may cost more to keep up than her carriage; and that the maintenance of a moral attribute should be dependent on dollars and cents, made the world appear a more sordid place than she had conceived it.”
Her aunt is having the vapours over her absence and she departs Gertie’s home with an embarrassed discomfort felt by both women. Lily meets with her aunt after luncheon and slowly and carefully discloses that she needs a good deal of money to pay off her debts but her aunt is horrified by her behaviour and steadfastly refuses to be of assistance with anything but her meager dressmaker bills. Lily retires to her room in fear and anger but then remembers that Selden is coming at 4 pm and sees him as her only hope out of her dilemma. Selden, however, does not come, and it is Simon Rosedale who appears at 5 pm wishing to see her. He indicates his desire to marry her and all the benefits it would bring, but Lily puts him off, asking for time to think about his offer. Lily expects Selden the next day but is jarred to find that he has left for Havana and the West Indies. She is about to write to Rosedale when a note from Bertha Dorset arrives inviting her on a cruise in the Mediterranean.
It is mid-April and we find Selden in Monte Carlo. By chance, he meets up with Mrs. Fisher, Jack Stepney and his wife, the Wellington Brys and a new face, Lord Hubert. Going for lunch at the Condamine, they spy the Dorsets, and Selden is told of Lily’s triumph in Europe, charming the people she’s met. Selden had suspected that he was over Lily and had a fortunate escape but hearing of her nearness sent an ache through him that told him he had felt more than he thought.
After lunch, Selden goes for a walk with Mrs. Fisher who relates her problems with integrating the Welly Brys into society and tells of Lily’s success but also her foibles with men:
“That’s Lily all over, you know: she works like a slave preparing the ground and sowing her seed; but the day she ought to be reaping the harvest she oversleeps herself or goes off on a picnic ….. Sometimes … I think it’s just flightiness — and sometimes I think it’s because, at heart, she despises the things she’s trying for. And it’s the difficulty of deciding that makes her an interesting study …”
She goes on to reveal that Lily is here to distract George Dorset as Bertha has her affair with Ned Silverton, but Bertha is becoming jealous of Lily’s success and there may be a break in their relationship any day. Selden finally shows displeasure in her talk and says he must catch his train, whereupon Mrs. Fisher, with surprise, says she thought he was staying in Monte Carlo, but Selden claims he is making Nice his headquarters and escapes. On the train, he questions, “What the deuce am I running away from?”, but concludes that it’s better not to see Lily. However, the very person he was fleeing from enters the train with the Dorsets, Ned Silverton and Lord Hubert Dacey. Selden’s is disappointed with Lily’s new demeanor:
“ …. a subtle change had passed over the quality of her beauty. Then it had had a transparency through which the fluctuations of the spirit were sometimes tragically visible; now its impenetrable surface suggested a process of crystallization which had fixed her whole being into one hard brilliant surface. The change had struck Mrs. Fisher as a rejuvenation: to Selden it seemed like that moment of pause and arrest when the warm fluidity of youth is chilled into it’s final shape ……”
She spoke with him as if nothing had passed between them. “Such facility sickened him …..,” but Selden believes he will now be able to get over his infatuation with her. She was obviously more practiced in the art of conversation, and Selden surmises that she has now decided her course, as is evidenced in her smoother manner. In fact, she was so “perfect” with everyone that Selden suspects that she is “poised on the brink of a chasm, with one graceful foot advanced to assert her unconsciousness that the ground was failing her.”
Lily’s group is headed to Nice as well and later, Selden sees Bertha Dorset and Ned Silverton out together, then from Lord Dacey he’s told that Lily and the Duchess of Beltshire are close companions, although he worries that the Duchess is too “liberal,” further planting doubts in Selden’s mind about Lily’s character.
Lily emerges from her cabin on The Sabrina, the boat her party has been sailing on, and inhales the beauty of the morning. She muses on the luck of being invited by Bertha Dorset as, if she’d stayed in New York, she would have been obligated to pay back Gus Trenor and perhaps would have married Rosedale to get her out of her troubles. “Moral complications existed for her only in the environment that produced them; she did not mean to slight or ignore them, but they lost their reality when they changed their background.” Her funds were low but Lily could only hope they would change as she enjoyed this special adventure that had catapulted her back on a pedestal of admiration.
She goes off to lunch with the Duchess, as Bertha rejects her inquiry, pleading sleep, and then Lily meets Mrs. Fisher in the Casino. Mrs. Fisher is washing her hands of the Wells Brys (whom Lily has so far snubbed) and is giving them to Lily to deal with, as she is going off with another couple who seems to need her assistance. She mentions hearing that Lily returned alone with George Dorset the night before and when Lily says it’s only because Bertha did not turn up to meet them, Mrs. Fisher says she hopes she won’t have to pay for it before making her exit.
Lily makes a move to mend fences with the Welly Brys and then encounters George Dorset who commandeers her for a walk, appearing agitated and disturbed. He reveals that Bertha returned to the yacht at 7 am. that morining with excuses for her lateness, but her husband has finally seen through her charade. He pours out his heart to Lily and then declares he will send for a lawyer to end their marriage, naming Selden as the lawyer, to which Lily protests. Finally she realizes that Selden is the best man to handle the situation with tact and sends a telegraph to him.
Returning to the yacht, ready to comfort Bertha, she finds her entertaining the Duchess and Lord Hubert. When they leave, Lily is ready to face her friend’s rattled emotions, but instead Bertha accuses Lily and her husband of not waiting for her and Ned Silverton at the train station. This turn of attack paralyzes Lily so much that she does not at first know how to respond. She feels pity for Bertha as she is like a cornered animal, and Lily almost expresses her compassion for Bertha, but in the end, she takes all of Bertha’s railing and insults silently and returns to her cabin.
Selden receives Lily’s letter and meets with George Dorset, but while he has little hope for his case (“ … the dirty rages, however pieced together, could not without considerable difficulty, be turned into a homogeneous grievance…”), Dorset is not in the frame of mind to listen to reason and Selden has to settle for soothing and pacifying him. He agrees to meet him the next morning and sends him home counselling him to act as if nothing is awry. As for Lily, he inexplicably wishes to shield her reputation and sends her a note in the same vein.
The Dorsets and Lily dine together but the atmosphere is charged with resentment and unrest. Lily honestly wishes to help the couple without a thought for herself or her situation: “To be of use was what she honestly wanted; and not for her own sake but for the Dorsets’”
Now shunned by George Dorset too, Lily goes out for lunch and afterwards meets Selden. Although Selden tries to reassure her, he is uncomfortably aware that Dorset’s attitude has changed and while he still feels aggrieved, there is something he is holding back and Selden wonders what will come of it. Also aware of Bertha’s iron determination to escape consequences yet at the same time to fight like a soldier in her own interests, he also sees Lily’s precarious position in the matter and wants to see her again to offer help, as he has always resisted judging her. (cough, choke!)
Selden meets Mrs. Bry and Lord Hubert and is invited to a restaurant for dinner that night where he observes his company, claiming he is now emotionally detached from Lily (see my comment in my thoughts below), is suspicious of Dabham the journalist and feels that while Dorset looks normal that he is thrown way off-centre. The dinner, however, appears to be a wonderful success, and Mrs. Bry bestows her gratitude on Lily. Yet when Lily goes with the Dorsets to be conveyed back to the yacht, Bertha announces that she will not be coming back to the yacht with them. You could hear a pin drop. Everyone in the company is embarrassed beyond belief and while George Dorset tries to intervene, Bertha is adamant. Lily braves the situation admirably:
“The faint disdain of her smile seemed to lift her high above her antagonist’s reach, and it was not till she had given Mrs. Dorset the full measure of the distance between them that she turned and extended her hand to her hostess.”
Giving an excuse that she would be staying with the Duchess, with admirable composure Lily asks Selden to see her to her cab. Selden convinces Lily to seek refuge with her cousin, Jack Stepney, but Lily at first refuses because it seems as if his wife does not like her, then she relents. Jack agrees to take her in but only for the night and then she must catch the train.
Oh heavens, one of the problems with this society is that no one says what they mean. Everyone is so busy posturing and, at times, protecting themselves, that their words and behaviour often don’t reflect reality. The upper class live in their own self-imposed delusion. Lily’s problem is that while she does live in that delusion, sometimes she leaves it and interacts with reality. This is what causes her problems. I wonder if she’d been able to live wholly in one or the other, things wouldn’t have turned out better for her.
I know that Lily looks slightly neurotic and perhaps shallow as she bounces from contemplating marriage to one man and then another. On one hand, you think society is pushing her to make herself secure and comfortable, but I think she’s also indecisive because she senses that marriage (and money) may not bring happiness. The conflict of these two feelings within her make her appear even more unstable and vacillating.
Ugh. I find Selden somewhat self-absorbed in his reaction to Lily. Didn’t he think, with her light-hearted manner towards him when they meet again, that she was trying to save her pride from when he didn’t show up at their meeting. He’s rather hard on her, especially since he’s known her behaviour from the start and has admitted that he’d glimpsed the “real Lily,” indicating that she’s more complex and deep than her behaviour gives her credit for. I find myself annoyed with him.
Oh my goodness, how disgusted I am with Bertha Dorset. I suppose I shouldn’t have expected anything better but to tell such a blatant lie and one that includes her own husband is totally reprehensible! And Lily still feels a friendship for this person and her response is so mild. I’m not sure whether to admire Lily in this situation or wonder at her lack of retaliation.
I just don’t understand Selden’s reaction to Lily. He claims no emotional attachment to her now but says the break didn’t happen with his disenchantment (I’m assuming her means seeing her leave Trenor’s house) but now, when : “in the sober after-light of discrimination, where he saw her definitely divided from him by the crudeness of a choice which seemed to deny the very differences he felt in her. It was before him again in its completeness —– the choice in which she was content to rest: in the stupid costliness of food and the showy dullness of talk, in the freedom of speech which never arrived at wit and the freedom of act which never made for romance.” What the heck?! Is he bothered by Lily’s passiveness, that she seems to sink in comfort and never seems to act unless there’s a crisis? And as for the last part … things have always been that way. Why does it hit him now and why would it cause an emotional break towards Lily? Does anyone know? I’m puzzled … And he says he could give his admiration freer play because he was not emotionally attached anymore. Does that mean he feels freer to flirt? And isn’t that one of the things that he doesn’t like about society? So confusing!!
When Selden urges Lily to leave the yacht because the situation might affect her, she answers, “If you knew how little difference that makes.” Do you think she intuitively is sensing her downfall and has accepted it, or at least is on her way to accepting it?
“She had never learned to live with her own thoughts …..”
“Even while his nerves raged at the subjection of husbands to their wives and at the cruelty of women to their kind ….”