Study Guide

The House of Mirth Book 1, Chapter 15

By Edith Wharton

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Book 1, Chapter 15

  • When Lily wakes up the next morning, she is more herself again. Which means that she realizes that she spent the night in a cheap bed in an inexpensive and poorly-furnished apartment – and there's no maid to pick up after her.
  • She quickly says her thank-yous to Gerty, explains that she was not herself after a panic attack last night, and returns home to Mrs. Peniston's.
  • Lily collects herself and thinks more reasonably on last night's events. She does the math and realizes she probably owes Gus Trenor about $9,000.
  • She asks to have a private conversation with her aunt. Once alone, she tells her aunt that she owes a great deal of money and needs help.
  • Mrs. Peniston says she will pay the dressmaker another thousand dollars if that's the issue.
  • Lily explains that these aren't bills to tradespeople, and that it's a great deal more than $1,000. She doesn't want to admit the truth, so when Mrs. Peniston presses her for more details, she explains that these are gambling debts.
  • Mrs. Peniston is horrified by the thought of her niece playing cards for money. She refuses to condone Lily's behavior by bailing her out.
  • Lily leaves, more desperate than ever for Selden's help. She knows he's supposed to arrive at 4pm for tea, so she settles down to devising her plan of attack.
  • Unfortunately, 4pm comes and goes with no Selden.
  • As does 5pm.
  • Even more unfortunately, Mr. Rosedale arrives to see Lily before the afternoon is over. He makes with the small talk for about, oh, 2.5 seconds before explaining that he wants to marry her.
  • He knows Lily doesn't love him, but quite frankly, he doesn't care. She needs cash, and he needs the right woman by his side to continue his social ascent.
  • Lily isn't interested, but she's also not stupid enough to turn him down outright. She tells him to give her time to think it over and bids him good-bye.
  • As she is about to write yet another note to Selden, Lily spots a line in the social papers saying that Selden left that morning for the West Indies. She begins writing a letter to Rosedale instead, but struggles with forcing herself to write it.
  • Before she can finish, a telegram arrives from Mrs. Dorset, asking Lily to join her and her husband George on a cruise in the Mediterranean.

The House of Mirth Book 1, Chapter 15 Study Group

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