Study Guide

A Great and Terrible Beauty Chapter 16

By Libba Bray

Chapter 16

  • In the great room, Felicity tries to rally Gemma into making magic again, like the girls think happened last night—but of course Gemma wants no part in it and makes excuses to get out of it.
  • But Felicity isn't buying any of Gemma's reasons.
  • Pippa wants Felicity to stand with her and Cecily, which ticks off Gemma, but Felicity shuns them.
  • Mrs. Nightwing pairs off the girls to dance and Gemma is with Pippa, who pouts about it.
  • They begin to dance and Felicity makes a witty remark, which Mrs. Nightwing criticizes, reminding them all that girls who talk are unattractive.
  • A knock at the door pulls the headmistress away so that the girls can chatter again, and Pippa tells them all that learning to dance correctly is important since everyone will be sized up once they begin going to balls during their season, and she doesn't want the gossip to be about her.
  • Felicity and Pippa argue about family secrets, and Pippa calls Felicity's mom a whore so Felicity slaps her. Everyone is silent.
  • Then Pippa dishes even more dirt, saying Felicity's mother left her father and ran off to Paris with an artist. When Felicity says her mother will send for her and she'll have her portrait painted, Pippa says that her mother hasn't sent for her once since she started at Spence and that she didn't even send anything for Felicity's birthday.
  • When Nightwing returns, Pippa and Gemma dance and Pippa talks about how she's messed up her friendship. 
  • Kind of happily, Gemma reassures her that they will be close again (though she secretly likes the feeling of being on the inside rather than out).
  • Gemma wonders if Kartik ever thinks about Pippa now, and then she desperately wants to run away to be alone.
  • This feeling seems to prompt her to slip into a vision while dancing, and this time she walks through a door of light into a forest—and Pippa is there. 
  • Once Gemma realizes the girl came with her, she tries as hard as she can to shut it all out, but before she leaves for good, she sees Pippa in the water, screaming and splashing.
  • When Gemma is back in the great room, she is scared that Pippa knows her secret, but Pippa is out of it, and falls to the floor as her body shakes.
  • Mrs. Nightwing rushes over, tells everyone how to help, and asks for a wooden spoon to put into Pippa's mouth so that she doesn't bite off her tongue.
  • Gemma thinks Pippa is dying because of the vision.
  • Once the shaking subsides, Pippa is out cold—Mrs. Nightwing tells Gemma it isn't her fault and that Pippa has epilepsy and had a fit.
  • She also tells the girls they are never to mention it.
  • Later on, Gemma goes to Pippa's room and finds Miss Moore sitting there; the teacher lets Gemma come in and sit too.
  • Gemma begins to cry and Miss Moore comforts her, so she cries harder and says that she is an awful person and that she killed her mother by running away.
  • Miss Moore holds Gemma and the girl feels as if it were her mother.
  • Curious about why epilepsy has to be a secret, she asks her teacher and learns that it is considered bad blood, like being crazy, and no one would marry Pippa if they knew about her sickness.
  • Miss Moore tells Gemma to call her Hester in private and suggests she go eat something—on her way down to eat, Gemma notices there is no class photo for Mary and Sarah's year, 1871. 
  • In the dining room, Gemma scarfs a delicious custard (nom nom) and is scolded for pigging out, then Martha brings up a field trip the girls are going to make next week to a séance to see Madame Romanoff.
  • Cecily explains that spiritualist gatherings are popular and that wealthy ladies like them.
  • All of the girls but our main characters head into the great room, and Gemma takes this opportunity to ask Mrs. Nightwing about the missing photograph, which she said was never taken out of respect for the two girls that died in the fire, Mary and Sarah.
  • Yup, that's right: Mary Dowd is real.

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