A Lost Lady

A Lost Lady Summary and Analysis of Part II, Chapters 7-9

Part II, Chapter 7

Niel's uncle has come down with rheumatic fever, and as a result Niel has taken over the law offices. One day Mr. Ogden arrives and informs Niel that he is considering lobbying in Washington for an increase in Mrs. Forrester's pension. When he finds out that she has switched lawyers, now relying on Ivy Peters, he is quite distressed. After some moments he makes up his mind to give up and leave.

Ivy Peters has started spending much more time at the Forrester place since the Captain's death. He often plays cards with Mrs. Forrester in the evening and has started bringing young friends there. The local gossips comment that Mrs. Forrester has begun chasing younger men, and Niel finally approaches her about it. She laughs and tells him that it is better to have guests than be bored. She hopes to sell the house and move to California. Niel stops going to see her, and his uncle has turned against her since she made Ivy Peters her lawyer.


Part of what Niel fears the most is that Mrs. Forrester will not remain the Captain's wife. Even though the Captain is dead, there is an expectation that she will continue to play the part of the lady, that she will uphold the dignity of the old traditions. That this is no longer the case is made evident by her switching to Ivy Peters as her personal lawyer. This simple action severs her ties to her husbands' old friends, and it simultaneously launches her into the world that is being built by Ivy.

Part II, Chapter 8

Mrs. Forrester stops by the law offices one day and invites Niel to dine with her. She has invited several of the other boys in the town, and Ivy Peters is in charge of the drinks. Niel notices how completely inappropriate the boys act in her house, but they do at least all jump up whenever Mrs. Forrester enters the room. Niel carves the meat, but watches while the boys mostly eat rather than make conversation.

After dinner they sit around and smoke. Niel prompts Mrs. Forrester to tell the story of how she met Captain Forrester. He remembers when his uncle told him that she had been engaged to a millionaire who was murdered by another woman's husband. In order to escape the publicity, she was smuggled out to a mountain cottage. While on a mountain climbing trip one day, she and her friend fell. Luckily she was caught in a pine tree and it was Captain Forrester's search party that found her. When he asked to marry her, she immediately agreed. Niel feels as if the right man could still save her.


Niel tells us his version of how she met Captain Forrester, not her story. He is caught up in his fantasy of what her life should be like rather than accepting what it really is. This ties in with his feeling that the right man could still save her. However, as has become quite clear throughout the novel, Niel is not, nor every going to be, the type of man that could support a woman like Mrs. Forrester.

Her story focuses heavily on how she was saved by Captain Forrester after falling. This story brings to mind Niel's fall in the beginning. By putting his fall into context with her fall, we see that falling is the unifying theme that creates all of the great relationships in the novel. This is again the juxtaposition of pain with romance, the broken arm that Niel gets contrasted with the broken legs that Mrs. Forrester ends up with.

Part II, Chapter 9

The Judge recovers his health and Niel prepares to return to college. He realizes that he has watched the end of the pioneer era, and he is sad that Mrs. Forrester is not willing to be a pioneer's wife, but wants to live in the new social order as well. Niel went to bid her goodbye, but saw from a distance how Ivy Peters entered the house and put his arms around her. Niel leaves feeling contempt for her. He realizes that it was the Captain who lent the Forrester place its charm, and not Mrs. Forrester as he had always assumed. Mrs. Forrester eventually moves away and Ivy Peters brings a new wife to live in the house there.

The last that Niel hears about Mrs. Forrester is when he is in Chicago. He meets one of his old friends who tells him that he met Mrs. Forrester several years earlier, living in Brazil, married to a rich Englishman. However, he tells Niel that she died three years prior, and that the Englishman gave a bequest to Captain Forrester's grave in order to keep it supplied with flowers.


Although A Lost Lady is a novel about the death of the pioneer age, it is also a romance. Mrs. Forrester is not content to allow her life to end with her husband's death. Instead, she will use Ivy Peters to advance herself until she can marry the wealthy Englishman. For Niel the novel is a tragedy in the sense that Mrs. Forrester is not willing to die as a pioneer's wife. He cannot understand why she wants to continue living in the new society rather than his idealized version of the old.

By the time this novel ends there has been a complete reverse of the regionalism so prevalent throughout the entire book. Cather departs from Sweet Water for the first time ever. This transition serves to highlight what has been hinted at, but not explicitly stated in other sections, namely the nationalization of fame. The Forresters have been replaced by much larger names, such as Carnegie and Rockefeller. Indeed, by having Mrs. Forrester marry an Englishman, Cather is almost proclaiming that the world has already taken the next step and gone international. People like Niel rebel against this change because they, the lawyers, bankers, doctors, and intelligentsia, are losing their place in the society. Niel wants to hold onto the regionalism because it makes him important within his society; he wants to remain "Niel Herbert, Judge Pommeroy's nephew," distinguishable in a group of little boys by virtue of his uncle's position. This is what Niel has really lost, and we can consider Mrs. Forrester to be the symbol of this loss, hence she is Niel's "lost lady".