When Orual hears the hunting party preparing to leave, she gets ready for her journey. She brings an urn, a lamp, some oil, and a band of linen like those that bridesmaids in Glome wear. She eats, and when the hunting party is gone, she goes to the Pillar Room and sends for Bardia. She thinks the whole palace feels freer since the King is gone.
Orual’s inclusion of the band of linen signifies her intention to play the very opposite of the role of bridesmaid—instead of helping to join Psyche to her lover, she seeks to separate them. Additionally, this is her first taste of how much better her life would be without the King.
Bardia comes, and Orual tells him she’s going back to the Mountain. He says he can’t accompany her because he’s been left to guard the palace, but he offers to send a guard named Gram with her. Gram will keep any secret, as he hardly speaks anyway, and he’s loyal to Bardia. Bardia calls him and tells him to wait with a horse at the road into the city. Orual asks for a dagger, and though Bardia finds this strange, he gives her one. Orual bids him farewell, which confuses him, as it implies she’ll be gone a while.
Bardia generally acts as a stabilizing influence on Orual, so the fact that he can’t go to the Mountain with her increases the chances that she’ll act recklessly. Although Bardia wanted her to wear a sword on their first trip, her desire for a dagger seems strange since it would only be used for an intimate struggle, rather than to fend off animals and the like. Furthermore, Orual doesn’t seem sure she’ll survive her journey—at least not as the person she is now.
Orual meets Gram outside the palace, and he puts her on his horse. Their journey is entirely different from the one with Bardia. Gram hardly speaks, and it rains the whole time. It’s almost evening when they reach the valley. The weather finally clears. Orual tells Gram not to cross the river or come to her unless she calls him.
Orual was actually happy the last time she made this trip. Now she’s on a quest to ruin her sister’s happiness, and the world doesn’t seem so shiny any more. The entirely different atmosphere doesn’t bode well.
Orual feels very sure about her task. She crosses the river and calls for Psyche, who comes immediately. The sisters look like two faces of love—Psyche joyful, Orual the bearer of pain. Psyche points out that she correctly predicted that the King wouldn’t keep Orual from returning. Orual had forgotten she said this, but she refuses to starting doubting her path now.
The two faces of love that Orual recognizes in herself and Psyche at this point actually apply to them throughout most of the book. Orual will eventually become Ungit, and the beginning of this transformation is made evident here in an almost physical way. She also remains willfully blind to anything that might change her mind.
The two women sit down, and Psyche remarks on Orual’s angry expression. Orual asks her not to be critical, because they have serious matters to discuss. She says she has tried to act as all the family that Psyche has. If anyone will tell Psyche what’s right for her, it has to be Orual. Psyche assures Orual that she loves Orual and everyone else all the more because she’s married. Orual says she doesn’t doubt Psyche’s love.
Orual doesn’t acknowledge that anger against Psyche and her lover is driving her just as much as her love for Psyche is. Psyche seems to perceive that the real issue centers around her love for Orual. However, it makes no difference to Orual if Psyche loves her more because of her marriage. The fact remains that Psyche loves someone in addition to Orual, someone completely outside of Orual’s life.
Orual says that people sometimes have to hurt the ones they love, and that she’s about to hurt Psyche, but Psyche is too young to make her own decisions. Psyche insists that her husband guides her now. Orual, disturbed, asks who her husband is, and Psyche replies that he’s the god of the Mountain. Orual asks what kind of god would keep his face hidden. Nothing that is beautiful or honest hides, she says, so Psyche must be the bride of either the Brute or of some criminal mortal.
Orual recognizes the negative side of love, insisting that it’s necessary. She often longs nostalgically for the past days of Psyche’s childhood, and here she tries to force that childhood back onto Psyche, hating the idea that anyone could take her place in Psyche’s life. Her insistence that honest beings let themselves be seen implies that when she decides to veil herself later, some part of her recognizes her own dishonesty.
Psyche is silent. When Orual tries to comfort her, Psyche says she is angry, but she manages to forgive Orual, knowing that she means well. If Orual really loves her, she’ll stop thinking this way about Psyche’s husband. Orual insists that the two wisest men they know, the Fox and Bardia, agree with each other and with her about the situation. Psyche is upset that Orual has told them the story. Orual says that Psyche’s husband has fooled her so well that she doesn’t see what’s in plain sight.
In contrast to Orual and the King, Psyche controls her anger well and never resorts to violence. She asserts her way of loving, which allows the beloved to live her desired life without interference. Orual, on the other hand, resorts to half-truths about the Fox and Bardia to convince Psyche that she’s right, indicating that her interpretation of circumstances isn’t nearly as certain as she wants to believe it is.
Psyche is surprised that the Fox even believes in the Brute. Orual didn’t say he did, but she doesn’t correct Psyche. Instead, Orual says that neither he, nor Bardia, nor she herself believes that Psyche’s husband is a god or that her palace exists. All the people of Glome would agree with them. Psyche insists it doesn’t matter, because she herself knows the truth. Orual asks how Psyche can be so sure, if she’s never seen her husband. Psyche says she hesitates to answer because Orual is a virgin.
Orual allows Psyche to believe clear falsehoods, further weakening her position as a bearer of goodwill. Though Orual has struggled deeply to figure out what she believes the truth to be, she presents her argument to Psyche as something about which she feels entirely confident. The fact that Orual is a virgin and Psyche isn’t makes Orual’s fantasy of controlling Psyche like a child seem foolish.
Orual says that if Psyche is so sure of herself, she shouldn’t be afraid to test her claim. Orual shows her the lamp she has brought and proposes that Psyche look at her husband in his sleep. When Psyche refuses, Orual uses this as proof that she isn’t sure he’s a god. Psyche, however, says that she can’t look because the god has forbidden it. Orual reiterates that forbidding this proves deception.
Orual doesn’t understand the power of trust or the dread that Psyche feels at betraying the trust of her husband. On the other hand, Psyche has no way to explain why her husband has forbidden her to see his face. As this question is never clearly answered, it seems likely that this condition of the marriage is simply a test of Psyche’s trust and faith.
Psyche says that Orual doesn’t know much about love. Orual retorts that if Psyche wants to talk about her kind of love, she should talk to Redival or Ungit’s girls. Orual’s love is different. Psyche is sad to hear Orual talk this way, and Orual feels surprised to see again that she can’t control Psyche anymore. Orual accuses Psyche of fearing the test, since people usually want to disprove anything bad said about their beloveds. Psyche clarifies that she is ashamed to disobey her husband, but Orual says he must be awful to be angry with her for breaking such a ridiculous order. Psyche has faith that a god has good reason for what he does.
This exchange is ironic, because Orual accuses Psyche of loving only through lust, which she associates with Ungit. However, Orual will later realize that her own devouring way of loving was far more similar to Ungit’s than Psyche’s was, showing how little Orual understands herself at this point. Psyche confirms that she has faith in the gods’ wisdom, while Orual doesn’t respect them enough to blindly believe they have good reason for what they do. Orual wants them to explain themselves to humans.
The sun is setting, and Orual’s time is running out. She commands Psyche to obey her, but Psyche tells her that she no longer has to do so. Orual says she’ll kill herself, and she stabs her dagger through her arm. Psyche is amazed, but bandages the wound calmly enough. Orual tells her she did it to prove she means what she says. Psyche must swear to look at her husband’s face that very night, or else Orual will kill Psyche and then herself.
Orual tries more and more desperately to assert her power over Psyche, finally resorting to violence like the King does. However, she commits physical violence against herself, which allows her to feel like she’s sacrificing herself to save Psyche. In reality, the crueler violence she commits is the emotional violence against Psyche. She uses Psyche’s love for her as a weapon.
Psyche says that Orual only has power over her through the threat of suicide, not murder. She looks like a man betrayed by his lover. She says that Orual’s love is almost like hatred, and she’s using Psyche’s love for her as a tool of coercion. Psyche is very unhappy and feels that something has forever changed between them. Orual insists that they will both die unless Psyche swears to do as Orual asks.
Psyche exhibits the selflessness that defines her, but she’s not a fool. She recognizes that Orual’s love is damaging and cruel, and she can no longer accept it in this awful form. Psyche’s perception and honesty contrasts with Orual’s self-deception and lies, and Orual’s stubbornness drives her on, unthinking.
Psyche will only swear because she has faith that her husband will be more understanding than Orual is; she trusts that he will forgive her. Orual points out that he won’t know Psyche has seen his face. Psyche looks at her scornfully, and Orual thinks that everything about her has come from Orual’s teaching. Psyche says she won’t hide anything from her husband. She loved Orual, she says, and though she now seems like a stranger, Psyche can’t have her die.
Psyche again shows her admirable moral goodness. If Orual will force her to betray her husband once, she won’t betray him again by keeping the first betrayal a secret. Orual still tries to convince herself that Psyche belongs to her, but Psyche pointedly puts her love for Orual into the past tense. In trying to keep all of Psyche’s love for herself, Orual has lost what she had.
Orual wants to take everything back, but instead she offers her dagger for Psyche to swear on. Psyche says her happiness might be destroyed by sunrise, but Orual has forced her to this point. She takes the oath and Orual bursts into tears. Psyche sends her away, telling her to live the life she has just saved. Orual feels afraid of Psyche and crosses the river as the sun sets.
Even though Orual begins to recognize her mistakes, her stubbornness drives her on to her own destruction. Psyche allows her no illusions, clearly blaming Orual for most likely ruining her life. Orual has technically achieved what she meant to, but nothing is going as she wanted it to. Psyche is sacrificing herself again, this time for Orual’s sake, when Orual wanted to be the heroic one this time.