Book 2, Chapter 3 Summary

Amory afterward judges his affair with Eleanor as the last time that evil crept close to him under the mask of beauty. Her wildness fed his imagination along the paths of adventure, and this is the last time he viewed romance as an adventure.

Amory meets Eleanor one day when he is bored at his uncle’s home in Maryland and goes walking in the country, reciting poetry by Edgar Allan Poe. He finds himself lost because of poor directions he was given. A storm begins and he heads for shelter. He hears a voice singing a poem by the French poet Verlaine and calls out. On being asked his identity, Amory says he is Don Juan. The voice is thrilled and invites him up on top of the haystack where she is taking shelter. Clambering to the top, Amory cannot tell what the girl looks like, just that her thumbs bend back like his. Lightning flashes and he sees that she is slim with beautiful green eyes. He is not sure if she is wonderful or just mad. As though she can read his mind, she tells him that she is not mad. In retrospect, Amory reflects that he and Eleanor could always match thoughts like that.

The girl introduces herself as Eleanor Savage. She lives with her grandfather nearby and has seen Amory before. Amory asks where she saw him. She chides him for trying to direct the conversation back to himself then says she overheard him reciting poetry one day and looked to see only the back of his head. She announces that she no longer believes in God. Amory thinks this is nothing unusual in this day and age and so is not shocked. But he disagrees with her; he feels he must have a soul. Eleanor calls him sentimental, but he repeats to her his epigram:

The sentimental person thinks things will last—the romantic person has a desperate confidence that they won’t.

Eleanor and Amory walk home and begin their relationship. They discuss and argue over poetry and ride often in the countryside. Eleanor tells him she was born in France but came to Maryland when her mother died. Amory decides that their two minds think along parallel lines, just as their pasts seem to. On the night before Amory leaves for New York, Eleanor takes him horseback riding in the country. Eleanor again states that she is an atheist, but Amory says she is the kind of person who will turn to God on her deathbed. She denies this, and to prove it runs her horse straight toward the cliff. At the last minute she jumps off the horse, which runs over the cliff’s edge and is killed. Amory decides that she is too erratic for him and falls out of love with her on the way home. Amory never sees Eleanor again, though they exchange poems with each other over the ensuing years.