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Connie heads up to her room to do a little soul-searching—i.e., to stare at herself naked in the mirror for a while.
Like so many people, she's not thrilled with what she sees, and she goes on about it for… awhile, using with choice phrases like "fluent, down-slipping grace" and "glimpsy in their female roundness" and "the slumberous, round stillness of the buttocks" (7.3, 6, 9). In other words, exactly what most people say when they check out their butts in the mirror.
Glimpsy female roundess aside, Connie's not happy about her reflection. Lack of sex has made her thin—not that it matters, anyway, since, as Boardwalk Empiretaught us, men in the 1920s didn't even want a woman, just girls who look like adolescent boys, which is totally unfair if you've got curves like Connie.
But the next morning she gets up and heads downstairs like a good little wifey. She does all Clifford's care herself, including "the intimate things" (7.13), which we're guessing involves poop.This all ties her to Clifford and to Wragby, and it's really bringing her down.
It doesn't help that Clifford is about as warm as a meat locker, which she expresses in sadly typical anti-Semitic terms. The situation gets so bad that even Clifford's Aunt Eva puts down her brandy long enough to tell her she needs to get out more.
One day, Clifford has a bunch of friends over. One of the friends is a woman, a gal named Olive who doesn't want anything to do with babies (even though she got married which, before reliable birth control, seems like a dumb move).
Olive's been reading this book about the future, and it predicts that someday women are going to be "immunized" and babies are going to be made in bottles.
"Oh yeah, right," they say. "Next you're going to tell us that someday people are going to carry around pocket-sized phonographs that can also transmit cryptic messages like 'CU L8 2NITE ;).'"
Olive thinks that immunization sounds like a great (or is that gr8?) idea, since she's never heard of the Mommy Wars and thinks that birth control would let women live their own lives.
Tommy, meanwhile, just hopes that the future is going to turn people back into "intelligent, wholesome men, and wholesome nice women" (7.53), which if you asks us sounds kind of boring.
They won't shut up about it, and Connie internally rolls her eyes. She writes a sad little note to her sister, who drives down from Scotland looking all warm and glow-y next to poor "scraggy" Connie (7.66).
Hilda is naturally horrified, as anyone would be by a scraggy neck, and insists to Clifford that Connie needs to get away.
Clifford attempts to get all aristocratic and bossy, but Hilda belongs to an artistic class that refuses to be cowed by bossy aristocrats. She whisks Connie off to London to have the doctor tell her that she needs some "vitality."
Quick historical note: it was pretty common in the 19th and early 20th centuries for doctors to prescribe orgasms to women, only they didn't call it "orgasm," they'd call it something like "restoring your nerves with a vital spasm." True story. Also, they did it with their hands until somebody, concerned no doubt by an epidemic of carpal tunnel syndrome, invented electricity and then the vibrator. Seriously, true story.
Michaelis, who has evidently forgotten that he's a total jerk, shows up while they're in London and begs Connie to head to Sicily. Connie shows some common sense and refuses.
When they get back to Wragby, Hilda insists that Clifford hire a nurse. He grumbles and groans, but Hilda threatens to take Connie away and he hires a woman named Ivy Bolton.
Mrs. Bolton is a nurse. She's got a pretty good opinion of herself, and it sounds like she deserves it. Her husband was killed in a mining accident just a few years after they married, and she managed to earn her nursing license while raising two babies alone—a truly inspiring single-mother story that sounds like it was tailor-made for a political campaign.
She's a little aristocrat-crazy and she's totally stoked to be tending to Clifford's every whim. He, in turn, is totally stoked to have someone tending to his every whim, especially someone who, unlike his wife, isn't going to talk back.
It's a match made in heaven, and Connie thinks their mutual admiration society is all a little gross. Joke's on you, Connie: Clifford is a little pissed at you, too.
But things are changing at Wragby, and Connie is beginning to get her freedom back.