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Chapters XXVI - XXXII
Alcée Arobin writes an elaborate note of apology, and Edna hardly knows how to respond. She is embarrassed by the whole thing and by her own behavior, and she eventually writes a light, talkative note in return. In it, she invites him to see her sketches some time.
Alcée comes over right away. He also shows up several other times. He is subservient and adoring, and she becomes accustomed to him, and after a while she even accepts his wild way of talking. It appeals to "the animalism that stirred impatiently within her."
Edna's turmoil is quieted by Mademoiselle Reisz's music. One misty afternoon she goes to Mademoiselle's dingy and cold rooms. Mademoiselle Reisz calls Edna the "sunlight" and helps her off with her wet coat and offers her brandy. Edna pins the old violets back in place on the older woman's head, and tells her that she will be moving out of her house on Esplanade Street. Mademoiselle Reisz is not exactly astonished, and Edna questions her about her reaction. Edna goes on to explain that the house is too big, there are too many servants, and she does not want to live on her husband's money anymore. She wants a place that feels like her own. But Mademoiselle Reisz does not believe that those are Edna's true reasons for leaving. Edna answers sharply that she has a little money of her own (it was left to her by her mother, but her father sends it in small installments), and she is starting to sell sketches. She admits that she has not yet informed her husband of her decision, and Mademoiselle Reisz prods her to explain what is now motivating her actions.
Edna thinks for a while. She knows there will have to be changes between her and Léonce. But she will never again belong to any other human being except for herself.
Edna gets excited and tells Mademoiselle Reisz that she will throw a big going-away dinner at the Esplanade house, and she promises to serve all of Mademoiselle's favorite food. It will be merry. Edna sighs.
The stove is finally roaring hot, and Mademoiselle shuts it and hands Edna a letter from Robert. She will always show Edna a letter if one has arrived since her last visit. Mademoiselle claims that Robert never knows that Edna sees his letters, and she thinks that the fact that he does not write to Edna directly proves that he really loves her. She goes to play the piano for Edna, and when Edna opens the letter, she learns that Robert is returning. She is ecstatic.
Mademoiselle Reisz questions Edna about her "love" for Robert, as if Robert would not be worthy of her affection. Edna wonders if Mademoiselle Reisz has ever been in love. Edna admits that she loves Robert because of seemingly insignificant details: "because his hair is brown and grows away from his temples . . . because he has . . . a little finger which he can't straighten from having played baseball too energetically in his youth." Mademoiselle Reisz is skeptical: what will Edna do when Robert returns? Edna replies that she will merely be happy.
On her way home, Edna buys her boys a big box of chocolates and sends them a loving note. She even writes her husband a happy letter, telling him that she is moving out of his house and that she wishes he would be there for her special good-bye dinner.
One evening, Alcée Arobin tells Edna that she seems especially happy. His hands play in her hair, and she likes it. Edna wonders what kind of woman she is: sometimes she thinks she is wicked, but then again she cannot convince herself of that. Alcée says he will tell her what kind of woman she is, but Edna does not want to hear him out. Instead, she recounts how Mademoiselle Reisz had felt her back earlier that day to see if she had "strong wings" because "the bird that would soar above the level plain of tradition and prejudice must have strong wings." Edna says she is not thinking of making any extraordinary flights. Alcée reminds her that people say Mademoiselle Reisz is crazy. But Edna thinks she is quite sane. Alcée wants to talk about Edna, but he complains that her thoughts are far away. They look at each other, he leans over her, their eyes lock and he kisses her. Edna knows that this is "the first kiss of her life to which her nature responded," and she feels deep desire.
After Alcée leaves that night, Edna is a tumult of emotion. She thinks of her irresponsibility, her disapproving husband, and Robert's reproach. There is also some understanding. A mist has been lifted, and she now comprehends life and its mix of beauty of brutality. Shame and remorse are not part of her mixed feelings. She does regret, however, that the kiss which inflamed her was not from the cup of love.
Edna, with great vigor, begins to move her things out of the Esplanade house. She is feverish with work, climbing ladders, gathering all her belongings and leaving all the things that were bought with her husband's money. Alcée finds her at work, taking down pictures, and orders her to come down, for fear that she will fall. She ignores him. If he had thought she would be sentimental about their intimacy, he must have been surprised. Eventually, he persuades Edna to let him help. Ellen, the maid, gets him a dust cap for his head--the two women laugh at him--and Edna gives him orders. When it is over, Edna does not want to be left alone with him, but Alcée finds a way to get Ellen out of the room. He wants to see Edna, badly, and soon. She says he is invited to her dinner the following night, and that is as soon as she will be available. Her smile gives him the courage to wait.