Simon is dreaming of the servants’ corridor in his childhood home. He opens a door, seeking the maid with whom he had his first kiss, but finds that he is at the hospital in London where he completed his medical training. He sees a dead woman covered in a sheet, but when he lifts it he finds that there are more and more layers, including a black veil and a petticoat. He hears running water and “a quick indrawn breath” and then feels a hand touching his shoulder.
Simon’s dream seems to reflect his frustration at the complexity of Grace’s story. However, the details of the indrawn breath he hears and the hand he feels in his also implies that Simon might find something exciting about the mystery of Grace.
Simon awakens, but he “knows he must still be asleep, because Grace Marks is bending over him in the close darkness, her loosened hair brushing his face.” He flips Grace over and begins having sex with her, “his spine jerk[ing] him like a hooked fish.” After he ejaculates, he realizes “he’s not dreaming; or not dreaming the woman”—he realizes that the woman lying next to him is Mrs. Humphrey, whose first name he doesn’t even know. He thinks back to the sex they’ve just had and realizes that “when he entered her she made no sound, either of protest or delight,” which makes him worry that Mrs. Humphrey isn’t breathing. He begins kissing her, until he finds a vein in her neck, which he also kisses, as “the alternative to taking her pulse.” After confirming that Mrs. Humphrey is breathing, Simon thinks, “What next? What have I done?”
This bizarre sex scene not only confirms Simon’s attraction to Grace and indicates that he is continuing to lose touch with reality—it also draws a striking parallel between Simon and Grace, who both apparently act while they are in a state of sleeping or dreaming. As in Grace’s case, it is difficult to know whether Simon’s claim of sleep-acting should be believed; it seems particularly ludicrous that Simon could have sex with a woman without realizing who she was. Furthermore, the fact that Mrs. Humphrey expressed neither “protest [n]or delight” seems to suggest something strange and even nonconsensual about this sexual encounter.