Chapter 28 Summary
After seeing Selden, Lily makes her way weakly through the streets, ill from fatigue and spent emotions. She has destroyed Mrs. Dorset’s letters, and now she sees no way forward. The only prospect of relief is chloral, the drug that she has been taking to make herself sleep. She must still wait a while before she can go to bed, and she does not know how to spend the next few hours. Exhausted, she sits down to rest on a cold bench in a park.
A young woman, Nettie Struther, stops when she sees Lily on the bench. Nettie is one of the young women Lily helped during the brief time she was interested in Gerty Farish’s charities. When Lily first met Nettie, the girl was near death from illness after a failed love affair. Lily and Gerty sent the girl to a sanatorium to get well. Nettie takes Lily to her home to warm up, and Lily realizes that the young woman now leads an impoverished but happy life with a husband and a baby.
After this encounter, Lily feels somewhat better. She goes home and eats, resolving not to skip meals anymore just because she feels unhappy. After supper, she cleans up her room. She is just finishing when the boarding house maid delivers a letter. Opening it up, Lily sees a check for the ten thousand dollars left to her in Mrs. Peniston's will. Lily stares at the check, thinking how quickly time has changed her perspective. Less than a year ago, she felt poor at receiving so little. Now it represents an amount so large she has trouble comprehending it. She is briefly tempted to use it to set herself up in business instead of paying it over to Mr. Trenor, but she knows she could not live with that decision.
Lily balances her checkbook and writes out checks for the money she owes to Mr. Trenor and to various dressmakers and jewelers around the city. When she is finished settling her debts, she figures out how much money she has left; she realizes her funds most likely will not support her, even in her current diminished lifestyle.
When her accounts are in order, Lily gets into bed. She knows that she will never be able to sleep without chloral and that she will not be able to make it through tomorrow without sleep. She has been taking the full dose for far too long, and its effects have worn off. Without really thinking through the risks, Lily adds an extra couple of drops to her glass and drinks them down. The drug slowly takes effect, and she sinks into an exhausted sleep.