Chapter 29 Summary
Undine has become even more calculating as she matures. She wants to gain Chelles’s affection to the point of his desiring to marry her, but she wants to do this according to European custom. She will plan everything in a very respectable way. To this end, she will only see Chelles in Paris, under the view of the duchess and other society women. So Undine tells the princess that she is very attracted to her cousin (Chelles), but she is concerned that people will talk about her if it appears she is sneaking off to Nice to see him. She wants to be very careful about what she does. Undine adds that she is protecting her reputation, not so much for herself but for the sake of her son. After this, whenever Chelles comes to Paris to visit his cousin and aunt, Undine makes a point of being available. Over time, Undine finds Chelles’s attention refreshing, making her feel alive and young again.
One day, Madame de Trezac takes Undine aside and tells her that people are speculating that Undine has intentions of marrying Chelles. This, Trezac says, is impossible because Undine is divorced. A Catholic marriage is required in French noble families, and the Catholic church does not honor divorce. In the church’s point of view, Undine is still married to Ralph. Even if Chelles were to marry Undine in a civil ceremony (outside of the church), he would be ruined socially. Trezac tells Undine that it would be better, in European culture, if she were to become Trezac’s mistress.
Around this time, Undine receives a letter from her mother. Mrs. Spragg had been walking through a park when she saw Undine’s son, Paul, brought there by a nursemaid. The boy delighted Mrs. Spragg by recognizing her and calling her “Granny.” Undine’s mother goes on to provide many details about the boy, including how he looked and how he was dressed. After reading this letter several times, Undine feels a tightness in her throat and a few tears drop from her eyes. It is awful, she concludes, that her son lives so far away from her. Her mother also writes that she gained permission, after seeing Paul in the park, to have the child brought to her home to visit several times. During one visit, Paul saw a photograph of Undine. He asked his grandmother to identify the woman in the picture. When Mrs. Spragg explained it was his mother, Paul asked if she was ever going to come back.
Soon afterward, Raymond de Chelles mentions to Undine the possibility of annulling her marriage to Ralph. This is the only way the Catholic Church will allow Undine and Raymond to be married. An annulment, Raymond tells her, can be purchased from the church for a very large sum of money.