A Lost Lady

A Lost Lady Summary and Analysis of Part II, Chapters 4-6

Part II, Chapter 4

Niel reads in the newspaper that Frank Ellinger has married Constance Ogden. He tries to go visit Mrs. Forrester that night, knowing that she will be upset, but he cannot cross the creek that has been flooded out with recent rains. That night at midnight Mrs. Forrester shows up at his door, having crossed the stream by dangerously walking across a submerged bridge. She demands that he telephone Frank Ellinger for her and Niel does it.

Niel is aware that the woman connecting the phone call will likely listen to the conversation, and he starts to get worried when Mrs. Forrester becomes passionate. The phone call ends in disaster, with Mrs. Forrester telling Frank that she hates him. Niel saves her reputation by cutting the connecting wire, thereby preventing her words from being heard. She falls asleep after the phone call and Niel puts her into his bed. He gets the Judge to go stay with her and the next morning tells Captain Forrester that she is at his place, having been forced to answer a long distance phone call during the night.


It is important to note the descriptions of Captain Forrester throughout this novel because they foreshadow what will happen to him. Whereas he was previously compared to an old Indian, here he is described as a mandarin, an image of wiseness. This, combined with Niel's premonitions, means that he probably knows all about Mrs. Forrester's infidelities.

We again have the imagery of cutting in the presence of lovers. In this scene, only the second scene where we see Mrs. Forrester as herself, Niel cuts the phone wire to protect her reputation. However, it soon becomes clear that it is not just her reputation that he is trying to protect, but rather his image of her as Captain Forrester's wife. In this sense Niel is living in the past; he denies the present even when events come to him. This helps to explain the reason why he will later choose to sit in for his uncle as a lawyer rather than continue his studies as an architect. Rather than deal with new things, Niel would rather preserve the past.

Part II, Chapter 5

Captain Forrester suffers from another stroke and Mrs. Forrester is unable to take care of him anymore. The local women come to help her and manage to investigate the entire house, surprised by the fact that it is the same as their own places. Mrs. Forrester ceases to care about the house, and the women run all over it. Niel overhears their conversations, in which they all want pieces of the silver, the glasses, or the linen.

Highly offended, Niel tells his uncle that he will skip school for a year and take care of the Forresters, kicking out the gossips in the process. They become much happier with him to nurse them, and Captain Forrester enjoys being allowed to spend time outside. Being in the house convinces Niel that the Captain knows his wife better than she knows herself.


Maturity is a loss of magic, most notably expressed through Niel in this chapter. After the town discovers that the house is the same as everyone else's, that it is only the pretense and the attitude that lent the house its superior demeanor, Niel chooses to attempt to restore the house to its full reputation. He is willing to give up a year of his college studies in order to maintain his childhood beliefs concerning the Forresters. This is both a sad and a disillusioning moment because Niel is trying to preserve the Forrester's reputation relative to the town, not to himself. However, in all his actions there is an element of trying to preserve them for himself as well.

Part II, Chapter 6

Captain Forrester dies in early December, but none of his friends from abroad are able to come to the funeral. Adolph Blum, the boy who saw Mrs. Forrester with Frank Ellinger in the woods several years earlier, gives her a large box of yellow roses. Mrs. Forrester chooses to place the granite sun-dial on the Captain's grave. That evening she makes tea and drinks it with only Niel and Judge Pommeroy.


The death of the Captain culminates in Mrs. Forrester choosing to place his granite sun-dial, a symbol of wasting time, onto his grave. At this point it becomes a marker of permanent time as well as a marker of the permanent death of the pioneering age. Representing a long gone era, the sun-dial is the last remnant of the world that Captain Forrester inhabited.