Chapter 21 Summary
Tommy and Kathy find Madame outside her house and ask whether she would be willing to speak with them. Kathy introduces them as Kathy H. and Tommy D. She assures Madame that they mean her no harm but that they are from Hailsham. Upon hearing this, Madame invites them into her home.
The inside of Madame’s house is poorly lit, but there are many works of art on display that appear to be from Hailsham. Madame sends Tommy and Kathy into a sitting room with Victorian furniture. She goes upstairs, and when she comes back down she goes into another room. When she finally enters, she invites Tommy and Kathy to sit down. When she passes them, Kathy feels like Madame tucks in her shoulders so she will not have to touch them. Tommy and Kathy are seated next to each other and across from Madame.
Kathy and Tommy begin to explain their theory about deferrals. Madame’s responses do not appear to validate their hopes that there are deferrals for Hailsham students who are in love and that the Gallery is a sort of test to see how a student’s inner soul is revealed. Madame refers to the Gallery as her private collection. She suggests that there was never a clear purpose for the collection, though she learned that it grew out of proportion later. When Kathy and Tommy profess their love for each other, Madame asks:
You say you’re sure? Sure that you’re in love? How can you know it? You think love is so simple?
Her voice sounds almost sarcastic to Kathy, but she sees tears running down Madame’s face.
Throughout the conversation, Madame says other things that strike Kathy as suspicious. After many of Tommy’s explanations, Madame responds oddly and asks more than once, “Do I go to far?” It seems that she is addressing Kathy when she asks this, but Madame is looking at Kathy’s shirtsleeve when she asks, so it is difficult to tell. Eventually, she changes her question and asks, “Do we wish to continue?” Kathy realizes that Madame is talking to someone else in the room, someone behind them in the dark.
At this point, Miss Emily comes out of the darkness. Miss Emily has grown older and is now in a wheelchair. Madame explains that it is Miss Emily that Kathy and Tommy have come to see. Although it seems to Kathy like Madame would just as soon prefer to leave, she stays and stands behind Miss Emily.