Chapter 25 Summary
Undine is not doing well. It is winter now, and she is in Paris while most of her acquaintances have moved on to other, warmer climates. Undine could have traveled with a group of them, but she did not feel like leaving Paris. However, when she begins to feel depressed, she consults a doctor; he suggests that she move closer to the sea. So Undine takes a room on the Riviera. To her disgust, the town she chooses is small and boring. The few people who are there do not appeal to her. They go to bed early and seem to have no energy during the day.
To not flee this sleepy location takes all of Undine’s resolve. Some days she merely stays in bed, orders a lot of different meals, and then returns the still-filled dishes to the kitchen with a complaint that the food is no good. Other days, she dresses herself in her best gowns and walks the dusty streets, looking for attention from anyone who might pass by. Often, on such occasions, she returns feeling worse than she felt before she left her room.
Have nothing to distract her, her mind often sorts through memories of the past few years. Unfortunately, a majority of these thoughts are not very pleasant. One such memory that haunts her is her affair with Peter Van Degen. Through her recall, readers are finally privy to the details of what happened between these two characters.
Undine had gone away with Peter and spent two months as his lover. To justify this extramarital affair (at the time, both Undine and Peter were still married to their respective spouses), Undine convinced herself that she was essentially Peter’s wife. At least, she hoped this would be true some day in the future. She often made it a point to mention matrimony to Peter in the course of their conversations. Peter listened to her but never commented on the subject of marriage.
When Undine thinks back to those two months, she is shocked by her own actions. She had previously thought of herself as a model of respectability. Yet she had sexual relations with a man who was not her husband. Undine refers to her actions as “bold,” but she had calculated every one of her decisions so carefully that she likens it to a business transaction. She was fully conscious of what she was doing. Each completed action was to propel her toward the goal of having Peter, in the end, become her well-financed husband.
After two months of living together, Undine felt that her relationship with Peter was sealed. She decided to go to the Dakotas (where a divorce was more easily obtained), free herself of Ralph, and then shortly afterward be married to Peter. The only flaw in her plan was that Peter did not agree (or else had a change of mind), for he never showed up to retrieve her, as he said he would.