Study Guide

The House of Mirth Book 1, Chapter 13

By Edith Wharton

Book 1, Chapter 13

  • Lily wakes up the day after the party to find two notes for her. One is from Mrs. Trenor, who wants to see Lily that afternoon. The next is from Selden, who was called away on business but would like to see her the following evening.
  • Lily is irritated by Selden's note – it makes her life more complicated. Also, she's made it clear that she doesn't intend to marry him, so what is he doing? She enjoys having power over him, but she knows it would be dangerous for last night's scene to "have a sequel."
  • Still, she answers his note with a message to meet her tomorrow at 4pm, figuring she can tell him off in person.
  • In the meantime, Lily can rest easy that Judy is again her friend (because of the invitation).
  • Lily has dinner with Mrs. Fisher and then heads to the Trenors' after 10pm to see Judy. She finds it odd that the house is mostly dark, and that a shabby caretaker opens the door for her rather than the usual footman.
  • Gus Trenor greets her and leads her into the den where he sets about getting her a drink.
  • Lily asks where Judy is, but he says she's upstairs in bed with a headache and not to worry about it. He keeps trying to change the subject.
  • Lily says that if Judy isn't well enough to see her, she'll have to come back tomorrow to visit instead. She asks repeatedly for a cab, but Trenor keeps refusing to call her one. He starts in again on how Lily just wanted to use him for stock tips, and now that she's gotten what she wanted, she never spends any time with him.
  • Lily explains that it's past eleven and therefore inappropriate for the two of them to be alone together while Judy is upstairs. She says if he won't call her a cab, she'll go upstairs and get his wife.
  • Then, Gus admits the truth: Judy isn't here. She's at Bellomont. He orchestrated the evening to get Lily alone with him in the house.
  • Lily is all, "This is so indecent!", which enrages him further. He says that he's been giving Lily tons of money and, in return, she owes him. He never explicitly says anything about sex, but it's clear that that's what he's talking about.
  • Lily is indignant; she thought he was simply investing her money on the stock market for her.
  • Gus doesn't think a woman like Lily – who "goes to men's houses in broad daylight" – has any right to take the moral high road with him. Lily realizes that Rosedale told him about the afternoon he found her leaving Selden's room at the Benedick.
  • Finally, she says that if she owes Gus money, she will surely pay him back. He doesn't want money (obviously) – he wants something else. But Lily insists she will pay him back and then runs out of the house.
  • As she gets into a carriage and departs, she thinks she recognizes the outline of a pair of gentlemen outside on the street…
  • Lily is horrified and distraught. Seeing that it's only 11:30, she doesn't know where to go for the rest of the night. She doesn't want to be alone. She decides to go stay with Gerty Farish, who has always been so kind to her.