Arobin embarrasses Edna with an emotional letter of apology for upsetting her the night before, and this irritates her: The next day she feels as though she’d taken the kiss on her hand too seriously. She writes a deliberately light and playful note in response. After that, they see each nearly every day.
Edna visits Mademoiselle Reisz, whose music always soothes her. She reveals her plan to move out of Leonce’s house and into a tiny rental house nearby, which she can afford due to her racetrack winnings and sales of her drawings, and her desire to give an elaborate dinner party before moving from her old house. Reading Robert’s latest letter, Edna is ecstatic to learn that he is returning soon. In response to Mademoiselle Reisz’s questioning, Edna reveals that she loves Robert simply because she does, and that when he is back she will do nothing more than be happy.
Ironically, she is so happy at the news of his return that she sends a box of bonbons to her children and writes a cheerful, spirited note to Leonce in which she tells him of her plans to move out.
Interesting similarities between Edna’s summertime relationship with Robert and her current relationship with Arobin are revealed in this chapter. Just as she had grown used to Robert’s presence, missing him when he was gone although she took him for granted when he was near, now Edna “grew accustomed to” Arobin’s presence. And just as her then-dominant prudery caused her to blush when Robert told slightly racy anecdotes or made open references to other women’s pregnancies, Arobin “sometimes talked in a way that . . . brought the crimson into her face; in a way that pleased her at last, appealing to the animalism that stirred impatiently within her.”
Yet Arobin has not replaced Robert in her heart. The news that he is returning to New Orleans fills her with joy. Note that once again Mademoiselle Reisz uses her music to set the mood for Edna’s reading of the letter, just as she did on Edna’s first visit (in Chapter 21) when she worked Isolde’s tragic song into the Chopin “Impromptu.” Now, knowing the letter’s contents, she plays a warm, bright piece that she “prepared [Edna] for joy and exultation.”
Edna’s plans for his return are unrealistic, however. When Mademoiselle Reisz asks what she will do upon his return, Edna replies “Do? Nothing, except feel glad and happy to be alive.” Her passionate feelings are not of the nature that will let her simply rejoice at his return without eventually seeking him out, and seeking verification of Mademoiselle Reisz’s appraisal that “he loves you, poor fool, and is trying to forget you.” Edna is already subconsciously preparing for his return by taking her own house, where she can conduct herself as she pleases and with whom she pleases, and wherein everything is provided by herself rather than by her husband’s income and goodwill. She does not seem to be conscious of the fact that she is leaving her husband, thinking only that when Leonce returned there “would have to be an understanding, an explanation. Conditions would some way adjust themselves.”
Mentally she has already moved out, using the past tense when she tells Mademoiselle Reisz that Leonce’s house “never seemed like mine, anyway.” Her spirit is growing stronger, enabling her to take this drastic step and improve her artwork, as well. Her new development is evident in her work, which is good enough to provide a small income as, according to her art teacher and broker Laidpore, it “grows in force and individuality.” When Mademoiselle Reisz tells Edna that if she herself were still young she’d fall in love with an ambitious, talented man, not “a man of ordinary caliber,” she hints that Robert may not be able to keep up with Edna as her whole being continues to grow with “force and individuality.”
grand esprit great spirit.
ma reine my queen (or my love).