Chapter 2 Summary

On her way to the train, Lily worries. Of all the people who could have seen her leaving a man’s apartment alone, Mr. Rosedale is the worst. He is a social climber who seems to think that he can impress society by knowing—and spreading—the secrets of prominent people. She berates herself for refusing to let him drive her to the station. He would have been glad for the chance to be seen with someone as fashionable as Lily, and he might have been silent as a result. Now it is hard to say what he will do.

In spite of her unhappy thoughts, Lily arranges herself prettily in her seat on the train. When she glances around at the other passengers, she notices a wealthy and unmarried young man named Mr. Percy Gryce. Like her, he is traveling to a party at Bellomont, the country estate of Lily’s friends, Mr. and Mrs. Trenor.

Lily is thrilled that Mr. Gryce is on her train. She makes him sit by her, and then she orders tea from the porter. Mr. Gryce watches in obvious fascination at the grace of her movements as she fixes the tea in the rocking train. A timid man, he would normally be too shy to order something that might spill. Watching Mr. Gryce from the corner of her eye, Lily comprehends more or less what is going on in his mind. She molds herself into a sweet and domestic persona, hoping to make him see “the advantage of always having a companion to make one’s tea in the train.”

The trip is long, and Mr. Gryce is a total bore. Lily tries hard to make conversation, but they find little in common. However, she knows that he recently inherited an impressive collection of Americana, so she feigns interest in that. Using information she gleaned this afternoon from Selden, she actually asks some intelligent questions.

Most men would see through such an obvious attempt to pander to their interests, but Mr. Gryce is not terribly discerning. Furthermore, he is quite vain, although he acts timid around others. Listening to him drone on happily about himself and his collection, Lily reflects that self-deprecating people are often the most self-absorbed.

When the train stops to take on more passengers, Lily is dismayed to see another prominent woman from the fashionable set, Mrs. Dorset. After demanding a spot near Lily and Mr. Gryce, Mrs. Dorset sits down and takes over the conversation. In about thirty seconds, she figures out that Lily plans to marry Mr. Gryce.