Chapter 26 Summary
Lily soon gets fired from her apprenticeship. She tries not to feel bad about being dismissed. She is “ornamental” and thus cannot “serve any practical purpose.” Even knowing this, she finds it difficult to accept that she cannot take care of herself. After a week of leisure with no money or company to make it enjoyable, she is surprised to receive a visit from Mr. Rosedale.
When Lily ushers Mr. Rosedale into the parlor of her boarding house, he looks around at the kitschy décor with distaste. He tells her that she cannot stay where she is. She tells him that he is right; she may not be able to afford it. This is not at all what he meant, and he rails against the injustice of her situation. He tries to lend her the money she owes to Mr. Trenor, but she refuses. She has no collateral to guarantee a loan and no way to make repayments. Moreover, as an untutored woman, she is unable to understand the fine points of business arrangements with men. Mr. Rosedale accepts her decision, but before he leaves, he repeats his offer to rescue her from her poor circumstances if she would complete the blackmail plan against Mrs. Dorset.
By now, Lily’s resolve is almost completely worn down. She forgoes her usual dose of chloral and spends a sleepless night attempting to convince herself that blackmail is a victimless crime. In the morning, she stays in bed and skips breakfast. Eventually she gets up, dresses, and sets out, walking through the city. By the middle of the morning, she is so dizzy and tired that she has to sit down in a tea house to eat and drink something hot. By the end of the meal, she has made her decision to go through with Mr. Rosedale’s plan.
Lily goes home and fetches Mrs. Dorset’s letters. As she takes them out, she feels relatively good. She tells herself that doing the immoral deed will be far easier than she thought. On her way to the Dorsets’ home, she comes to the tree-lined street where Selden lives.
Lily stops walking and stands in the street, looking up at Selden’s windows. Privately, she forgives him for his role in their argument about Mrs. Hatch. She remembers that he tried, twice, to use his love to break through her resolve to marry for money. She knows she has lost her chance now. Nevertheless, she hopes he can help her in some other way. With her mind in disarray, Lily crosses the street and makes her way to Selden’s apartment.