Theodore Wieland received a book from Europe and the four young people (specifically excluding Carwin since he did not know German) decided to rehearse it as a play one evening. The morning of the planned rehearsal, Clara found herself thinking about her romantic feelings for Pleyel. She hoped that perhaps they might discuss this situation that evening and her hopes of marrying him might come to fruition. She tried to remain calm and rational but was exceedingly excited for the evening to arrive.
However, Pleyel did not arrive and Theodore, Clara, and Catharine became very worried and spent hours conjecturing as to the cause of his absence. Speculation of death or accident or illness frightened the group, especially Clara. She felt overcome with despair and concluded that unless something horrible happened to him, if he was really interested in being her lover he would have arrived. She wondered if her ambiguous behavior and his belief that she had feelings for Carwin kept him away. While not usually prone to the torments of her own creation, lately her mind “became the victim of this imbecility” and she could not avoid all of the thoughts that crowded her brain. She even began thinking about her father’s death again, and decided to read a manuscript of his that contained his memoirs.
As Clara approached the closet where her books and manuscripts were located, she suddenly remembered the horrifying voices that had emanated from there in the recent past. She became convinced that something evil lurked within, even though she had no real reason for believing so. As she put her hand on the closet’s lock, a piercing cry screamed in her ear and said, “Hold! Hold!” Terrified, she threw herself back and looked around the room but observed nothing. She wondered “which of my senses was the prey of a fatal illusion?” With tremendous shock and confusion, she surveyed the room and recalled how this voice sounded like the one at the summer-house - the voice in the dream that had warned her of the pit and how her brother had tempted her towards death. Her fear of her brother began to increase but she wondered why she had dreamt of him in the first place and what this omen might mean. She concluded that it was her brother within the closet and finally tried to open it. The door would not budge but she continued to try, as she had a “frantic conception that my brother was within.”
Stepping back, she commanded the person within to step out. The door opened and from the gloom emerged a man - Carwin. He stood there, grave and perturbed. He inquired of Clara whose voice it was that spoke, and before she could answer, told her that that voice did her an important service, that it wasn’t human, and that there was no way it could know who was in the closet. He claimed that the voice was “my eternal foe; the baffler of my best concerted schemes.” He admitted that “but for him I should long ere now have borne away the spoils of your honor,”; he would have raped her. He told her that she was safe now, but she certainly did not feel safe.
She wondered how she would be able to escape, but realized that if he had wanted to harm her he could have done so by that time. Finally he spoke again and said that he could no longer harm her and that a power protected her, that “environed by the eyes of this protection, all artifices will be frustrated, and all malice repelled.” He departed, fleeing down the stairs and out of Clara’s house. She threw herself into a chair to contemplate what had just happened.
Clara tried to calm herself and order her thoughts but this was impossible. What would have happened if she had gone to sleep? How did he get in her closet? If this was his second attempt, was the murder plot the first? She was thankful for the power that protected her and that set itself to “counterwork the machinations of this man.” She believed Carwin’s behavior upon discovery was due to her foreknowledge of his presence, although she did not know who the voice was. She wondered if the voice was human and why it should make her the object of its care. Also of concern was the second voice that conspired with Carwin the previous time, and why she was warned away from the summer-house.
Clara spent the rest of the evening pondering the events and speculating whether or not she was still in danger. She thought of asking her servant to sleep in her room, but rejected that as unhelpful. She contemplated going to her brother’s house but it was still late and dark. In the midst of her thoughts she heard footsteps entering the house and coming up the stairs. Terrified, she remained perfectly quiet in her room. Assuming it was Carwin returning, she grabbed a penknife, but meditated in the narrative that she did not “recollect that it once occurred to me to use it as an instrument of direct defense.” Clara decides to take up a position by the window so she may throw herself out of it if Carwin succeeded in getting in. The steps came to her door, stopped and tried the handle, and remained motionless when it would not open. Clara believed Carwin thought she might have fled, as this would be the most obvious answer.
She began to feel hope that the intruder might leave, but unfortunately he went into Pleyel’s room instead and slammed the door. Confusion reigned supreme; she could not understand why he would remain in that chamber and what his intentions were. Looking out the window later, though, she espied Carwin outside near the edge of the bank. She believed he left soundlessly, and hurriedly ran downstairs and barred the door. Returning to her room, her thoughts returned to Pleyel and her dashed hopes. Eventually tears gushed forth from her eyes and brought her a measure of relief.
The evening the Pleyels and Wielands gather together is to be the last quiet, happy evening they have together before the inexplicable and atrocious events Clara spoke of in the introduction to her narrative occur. It is fitting that they choose to perform a play based off of a novel that concerned itself with “a chain of audacious acts, and unheard-of disasters” (62) that were governed by “an adventurous and lawless fancy” (62). Brown is foreshadowing the fate of his central characters. Indeed, in chapter 10 Clara encounters Carwin in her closet, thus turning this character who was previously merely an object of contemplation and curiosity to one who threatened her purity and her sanity. The subsequent events of Clara’s narrative make the Saxon poet’s gothic tale prescient.
In chapter 9 Clara appears petulant, dramatic, and a tinge morbid. While there is nothing wrong with being anxious that Pleyel did not show up when he was supposed to, and even wondering if sickness or death had claimed him, Clara goes beyond propriety and obsesses over the thought of him drowning, picturing “the livid corpse, which the tide may cast, many days hence, upon the shore” (66). Along with her fears for his safety comes intense, obsessive anger that he did not show and give her the opportunity to declare her love. Since he was not there, this meant to Clara that there was no possible way he could love her, for if he did, “would any obstacle hinder his coming?” (64) She believed her fantasy of happiness with him was destroyed, that her “golden vision melted into air!” (64)
In her extreme despair the “first agonies of this disappointment would not allow me to be reasonable or just” (64). She cannot dismiss the “phantoms of my own creation” (66) and lets her thoughts turn to her father’s death. Even these musings will not suffice, however, and she decides she must pick up his autobiographical manuscript she has stored in her closet. Clara’s morbidity in this chapter has a counterpart in chapter 5, where she expresses actual relief and even glee that Pleyel’s fiancée has died. All she cares about is that she and her family “were rescued from the deep regrets that would accompany his hopeless absence from us” (39). The word she uses multiple times is “propitious” (favorable): it is propitious that the friends will not be denied his society and propitious that even though he lost the woman he loves, “is there not another who is able and willing to console him for her loss?” (39) Even accounting for the naturally heightened feelings of irrationality and jealousy experienced by someone in love, this is clearly a young woman who has some psychological issues.
Clara’s strange assumption that her brother is within her closet is one of the more disquieting things she admits in her narrative. In chapter 7 she dreamt that he was beckoning her to a pit unseen in the path she tread upon: “In my dream, he that tempted me to destruction, was my brother” (68). She could not account for why this might be, wondering if this dream was “because an omen of my fate was ordained to be communicated?” (69) When she suspected someone was within the closet, she tried to pull it open but to no avail. Without any logical reason to assume her brother was within (after all, she left his company to return to her house), “the frantic conception that my brother was within, that the resistance made to my design was exerted by him, had rooted itself in my mind” (70).
Of course, the person within turns out to be Carwin, but some critics have found her belief that it is Wieland indicative of latent incest (for more on this subject, see the analysis for chapter 25). The siblings seem inordinately close. Clara’s usage of words like “tempt” is suspect, as are her constant ruminations on her brother’s violent intentions towards her.