Grace tells herself: “Soon the day will break […] A Saturday. The breaking day. The day the butcher comes.” She wonders what she should tell Dr. Jordan about this day, the day the murders took place. She contemplates all the things she thinks she remembers, including Mr. Kinnear possibly telling her, “I pay good wages but I want good service in return” and “do not worry, I will not tell your mistress, it will be our secret.” She feels sure that Nancy told her she would pay her her wages and then she would have to leave, but she can’t remember if she cried behind the kitchen door afterwards, or if McDermott took her in his arms to comfort her. She says “surely” she did not say she wished Nancy dead—“or not out loud.”
This lyrical passage approaches the style of poetry. It is difficult to tell whether Grace is awake or dreaming, and she herself is unable to identify which of her memories are real and which are fabricated. The dreamy quality of this passage raises the fundamental question: how much of experience is imagined or reconstructed in retrospect? Awash in Grace’s memories—which might not have actually happened—the reader doesn’t know what to believe. The question of truth is further complicated by the fact that Grace is not addressing Dr. Jordan in this chapter; it is thus unclear what her motives might be regarding how much she admits to the reader.
Grace tries to remember what Mr. Kinnear looked like so she can tell Dr. Jordan about it, but she realizes that “nobody wrote it down, not even in the newspapers […] because it is more important to be a murderess than the one murdered, you are more stared at then; and now he’s gone.” On the edge of sleep, Grace has another vision of the red cloth flowers. She dreams that she is in Mr. Kinnear’s house, being chased, listening to a voice tell her “You must unlock the door, you must open the window, you must let me in.” She then dreams that she is outside; she smells fresh meat even though she “told the butcher we wanted none.” “On the palm of [her] hand,” she dreams, “there is a disaster. I must have been born with it. I carry it with me wherever I go. When he touched me, the bad luck came off on him.”
Grace’s reflection on the importance of being the murderess rather than the murdered exposes the heartbreaking reality that the first time Grace was taken notice of for something she had done—rather than for an aspect of her physical body—is in the wake of the murders. Furthermore, her distress at the fact that nobody wrote down what Mr. Kinnear looked like highlights the role that physical writing—in contrast to oral storytelling, or private memory—can reliably act as a preservation of truth, even if it does not always do so. Her dream about the “disaster” on her palm is also significant because it suggests her feeling that she was somehow fated to live this life of scandal and pain.
Grace awakens. She realizes, with a sense of horror, that today she must finish narrating her story. She describes the feeling of telling a story as “a blindness, a wreckage of shattered glass and splintered wood; like a house in a whirlwind, or else a boat crushed by the icebergs or swept over the rapids, and all aboard powerless to stop it.”
Grace’s comparison of storytelling to a natural disaster emphasizes the dark ability of stories to overpower their narrators, and morph into something not of the narrator’s making. While this could be interpreted as an attempt on Grace’s part to account for any mistakes or untruths that may be discovered in the story she is telling Dr. Jordan, it seems more likely that this quotation is a genuine reflection of the powerlessness that Grace feels as a result of having to tell her story, having lived her whole life in a society that has consistently told her she had nothing of importance to say.