Chapter 6 Summary

As winter ends and spring sets in, Lucille and Ruth began skipping school again. They make a pretense of walking in the direction of school at the appropriate time, even though Sylvie seems aware of their deceit. When inquiries from the school ask after Ruth and Lucille, Sylvie simply explains that the absences are attributed to Ruth’s adolescent developments. Ironically, Sylvie is not altogether wrong; Ruth notices her sister’s figure changing along with her moodiness. Ruth herself notices no such development of her own and continues to feel tall and gangly. At night, the girls return to find their aunt sitting in the dark, as is her custom. On one of these evenings, Lucille impertinently asks Sylvie about her husband’s whereabouts. Initially, Sylvie dodges the questions, but admits that she is still married to her husband, although she has lost all contact with him. She explains that she met him when he was in the service, but Lucille doubts Sylvie’s explanation. Sylvie accepts her niece’s lack of belief without it fazing her.

Lucille becomes increasingly hostile towards Sylvie and tires of her eccentricities. Some of these eccentricities show up in the way she keeps the house. Sylvie regularly brings home newspapers and saves empty cans. During one of these outings, Sylvie strikes up a conversation with a transient woman, and relates the story to the girls that evening. Lucille is completely aghast by the company Sylvie keeps. Lucille’s negative attitude towards Sylvie worsens when the girls find their aunt sleeping on a bench in town with a newspaper. While Ruth is intrigued by Sylvie’s behavior, Lucille reprimands her for it. By summer, Lucille had struck up a friendship with Rosette Browne, whose mother frequently inquires about Sylvie’s bizarre behavior. Sylvie seems unruffled by Lucille’s criticism. In fact, the day they find Sylvie on the bench, the girls are surprised when Sylvie leaves the house and goes back to the bench to retrieve something they forgot. Sylvie returns with huckleberries and makes them some pancakes to eat. As Ruth analyzes her sister’s resistance, she believes that Lucille’s opposition to Sylvie is about transience. This transience is what makes Sylvie seem exotic and appealing to Ruth; in fact, Ruth worries that if Sylvie loses her sense of transience and feels too tied down, she won’t stay. As Lucille glowers and eats her food, Sylvie remarks how much the two girls remind her of her own relationship with Helen, the girls’ deceased mother.