Chapter 6 Summary
Lily cancels her afternoon plans with Mr. Gryce and goes for a walk with Selden instead. This adjustment to her plans is carefully calculated: She claims that she missed church because she is ill and that she is still feeling too poorly to go anywhere right away. She thinks this is a way of slowing down, giving Mr. Gryce some time to wonder. She encourages him to spend an afternoon out with other people, and he accepts her suggestion. When he is gone, Lily and Selden go out.
Selden has no illusions about Lily’s plans; he finds it amusing to witness her machinations. He comments that she is a genius at them, and she protests that if she were a genius, she would be more successful. He asks her to define what it means to succeed. After some hesitation, she says, “Why, to get as much out of life as one can, I suppose.” Selden counters that to succeed is to be free. He adds that it is extremely difficult for a rich person to achieve freedom and that Lily may not enjoy being rich if she achieves her goal.
To Selden’s surprise, Lily admits that he is right. She grows angry at him for pointing it out, but her obvious sincerity makes him look at her in a new way. He has always known that she was on the hunt for a rich husband and that she was thus unavailable to him. Because of this, he normally looks at her as an audience would view an excellent show. Now he is startled to find himself falling for her.
Selden tells Lily that he would gladly give her anything he could. This gentle proclamation of love makes her cry. Watching her, Selden reflects admiringly that she remains beautiful even in her unhappiness. He tells her that she wants the wrong thing and that he would gladly marry her if she could accept a man who has to work for a living.
For a moment, Lily seems to consider choosing a life with Selden over the life of luxury she has always pursued. She says that she will look terrible in the clothes he buys her, but she can help by trimming her own hats. The two of them stand in silence, grinning “like adventurous children” at the sudden idea they could have a future neither dreamed possible until now.
Then a car passes beneath the hill, startling Lily out of the moment. She exclaims that she has to get back to the house. After all, she told everyone she was too sick to go outside. Despite everything she just said, she is not willing to let Mr. Gryce find out that she has lied. She and Selden both know this is her way of rejecting his offer. As long as she has the chance to land a rich husband, she cannot give up.