Chapter 22 Summary
Mr. Rosedale joins the party at Mrs. Fisher’s, and over the next few days, Lily spends a great deal of time with him. The two of them get along well; she can see that he is attracted to her. On a walk one day, she announces that she is willing to get married any time he wishes. To her surprise, he is not pleased; he is embarrassed. Although he enjoys her company, Mr. Rosedale says, he was not planning to renew the marriage proposal he made last year.
Hearing this, Lily starts to leave, but Mr. Rosedale stops her. He asks if they can be friends. She tells him frankly that she is not willing to waste time flirting if he does not plan to marry her. When she tries again to leave, he follows, breaking into a run to keep up.
Rosedale says that he is unwilling to marry a woman who has been involved in a scandal, and Lily counters that she is innocent of any wrongdoing. When she asks if that changes matters, he replies, “I believe it does in novels, but I’m certain it don’t [sic] in real life.” He explains that he cares about society’s opinion of him and that he is not willing to ruin his standing by marrying a woman whom everyone hates.
At this point, Mr. Rosedale asks why Lily does not use the letters she bought from Lawrence Selden’s maid last year. Lily stops cold, shocked that Mr. Rosedale knows about the letters. He refuses to explain how he knows, but now that he has her attention, he lays out a plan.
Mr. Rosedale wants Lily to use the scandalous letters to blackmail Mrs. Dorset. In exchange for Lily’s silence regarding the affair with Selden, Mrs. Dorset must pretend to rekindle a friendship with Lily. Lily will then easily regain everyone else’s friendship, and Mr. Rosedale will be happy to marry her. To Lily, this is a tempting idea. Blackmailing Mrs. Dorset is less repellent to her than revealing the letters publicly would be.
Mr. Rosedale urges Lily to keep in mind that any victory she achieves with the letters will be temporary. If she is not wealthy enough to inspire people’s respect and fear, she will soon fall victim to Mrs. Dorset’s treachery once again. He says emphatically that she needs his money and asks her to promise that she will not fail to marry him when the blackmail is complete. Lily finds his asking for her promise to be deeply offensive:
[She was] disgusted . . . that her would-be accomplice assumed, as a matter of course, the likelihood of her distrusting him and perhaps trying to cheat him of his share of the spoils.
At the last moment, Lily rejects the plan and rushes away, leaving Mr. Rosedale confused and annoyed.