Chapter 11 Summary
It is July, and Ralph and Undine are in Italy on their honeymoon. Ralph loves everything about his surroundings—the heat of summer, the southern mountains, the orange groves, and especially his new wife. Undine, on the other hand, is feeling restless. The heat bothers her, and she complains of not having the proper clothes. Ralph believes Undine is not used to abandoning herself to the whimsy of the country setting. However, Ralph thinks she is beautiful, maybe even more beautiful than before. He tells her that she looks “as cool as a wave” and then takes her hand and scrutinizes it as if he were examining a precious piece of porcelain. His world, he realizes, has shrunken to size of her fingers.
“I don’t FEEL cool,” Undine says. She reminds him that he had promised there would be a breeze on the hill where they lie. When Ralph asks her if it was this hot in Apex, Undine tells him that it was, but she did not marry him so she could return to Apex. Undine wants to go to Switzerland. Ralph ignores this request. He loves it in Italy. He suggests that they go down and sit in the cathedral, but Undine complains that they have sat in the cathedral every day for the past week.
They begin talking about a handsome cavalry officer, whom Ralph has noticed has been paying a lot of attention to Undine. Suddenly brightened in mood, Undine says the man is a marquis with a palace in Rome that is listed in the tourist guidebooks. According to Undine, the waiters at their hotel always provide the marquis with the best dinner and give them only what food is left over. For this, Ralph teases, maybe they should hurry back to their hotel so they might fight for the tastiest morsels.
When Undine complains again about the heat, Ralph concedes that maybe they could go to Switzerland. Ralph has come to Italy in the hot off-season because he does not like crowds, whereas Switzerland is where a lot of tourists are gathering. However, he senses that Undine wants the crowds. She is obviously tired of being with him alone. When he reflects on this idea, Ralph begins to see how different he and Undine are. His imagination is so filled with delights that he could be anywhere in the world and feel that he is in the right place. Undine’s mind, however, is “as destitute of beauty and mystery” as the desert-like prairie on which she was raised. Her ideals are as mundane as corks. However, he does not lack patience. He will try to open her mind. He does not yet realize that what he had originally taken for evidence of pliancy in her mind were only imitated gestures she has adopted from people around her. In addition, Ralph is already having trouble keeping their spending within their budget as Undine’s extravagant purchases are putting them into debt.