Part 2, Chapters 5-8 Summary
The novel again takes up the characters in Laura’s story. The unnamed man telephones the woman with whom he is having an affair. She answers but tells him he should not be calling her there. He ignores her comment and says he wants to see her. He will be waiting for her at the park. She is reluctant, but she goes. When she meets him, she tells him she cannot stay long. While they sit on a park bench, he continues his story.
Sakiel-Norn, he tells her, was once a thriving city of trade known for its handicrafts, especially those that were woven. The materials they created were very special and could not be duplicated by anyone outside the city. The dyes and treatment were secret. The rugs that were created in Sakiel-Norn were woven by children because their small fingers were capable of more intricate work than were the hands of adults. The intense work eventually blinds the young slaves. Once blinded, the children are sold to someone else.
Another news story interrupts the story. This one, dated 1998, announces the death of Winifred Prior, Iris’s sister-in-law. The woman was ninety-two years old. She is referred to as a noted philanthropist who lived in Toronto. According to the article, Winifred is survived by her great-niece, Sabrina, who is currently traveling in India. There is no mention of Iris.
The story then switches back to the next time the man and the woman meet. The man takes the woman to a spot under a bridge. The site is strewn with rubbish. She is afraid a policeman or a tramp might see them. He insists they are safe. They make love. Then the man continues his story.
The aristocrats of Sakiel-Norn deny that their wealth is based on the labor of slaves. They claim that they have done well in life because of their virtue and clever thinking—in other words, because they have made the correct sacrifices to their gods. Human sacrifice was the most beneficial. In particular, nine girls were sacrificed every year. For a long time, the girls believed this was an honor. Later they started to think otherwise.
The mention of the sacrifices upsets the woman. She tells the man she must go. Before she leaves, she tells him she is worried. She senses that their affair is temporary. She does not know what she will do with herself after the man leaves her.
At the end of this section, an article about the recently formed Laura Chase Memorial Prize is printed. The date is 1998, a few months after Winifred’s death. Winifred is the sponsor of this prize, having willed the money to the Colonel Henry Parkman High School.