Rose wakes up alone in Pinkie’s room. A clock strikes seven. The chimes aren’t like the ones she heard back in Nelson Place. They’re sweeter somehow. She feels almost guilty for sleeping so long, but she also thinks that she’s living in a different reality, now that she is a wife, or, rather, a mistress. Life will, she supposes, simply be very different now. She gets up and looks around Pinkie’s room, but there’s not much to see—a wardrobe containing boots and biscuits, a bowl of dirty water. She supposes she should head downstairs and start a fire.
Now that Rose is a married woman, or, in the eyes of the Catholic church, a deflowered mistress, time, like everything else, means something different to her. She is used to the chimes signaling the beginning of her work day. Now they’re a reminder that she is in love and, she hopes, is loved in return. Old habits die hard, though, and she can’t help from going in search of work.
The kitchen is deserted and it’s obvious to Rose that the stove hasn’t been used since at least the night before. She looks around the room for some coke to light it when Dallow appears in his pajamas. He’s confused to see her up so early and asks if she’s seen a red-haired bitch named Judy. She says no and tells him she’d like to light the stove for tea. Dallow is amused. The stove hasn’t been lit since March. She is now living in “Liberty Hall,” he tells her. No one makes anyone else tea. She’s free to live as she pleases, unless, of course, she wants to work.
Rose’s assumptions about the rhythms of domestic life are obviously at odds with how the inhabitants of Frank’s choose to conduct their days. Accustomed to being of use, Rose supposes she’s needed in the kitchen, but Dallow clues her in to the fact that she’s now living in a place where no one does anything if they can help it.
Dallow leaves, and Rose studies the room some more. A strip of flypaper dangles by the sink; an old mousetrap sits completely useless in one corner. She feels pride swell in her breast at the thought that she has slept with a man. She opens the kitchen door and walks in on Dallow and a red-haired woman tangled in a passionate embrace. Rose supposes the woman is Judy. She’s nonplussed. She’s slept with Pinkie. She knows everything now.
The timid and retiring Rose finally has her first brush with pride. Losing her virginity has given her the confidence that heretofore always eluded her. There was a time when Rose might have been shocked by Judy and Dallow’s adulterous dalliance, but that was before marriage to Pinkie opened her eyes and her mind.
Judy welcomes Rose, kissing her on the cheek and wafting her way the scent of California Poppy perfume. Judy tells Rose she’s one of them now, and she asks her to not tell Frank what she just saw, since he gets worked up over nothing. Rose silently agrees, a little stunned by the rules of her new world. Judy asks Rose if she’s met any of the boys. Rose says she’s not sure; a drunken man did ring the bell and beat on their door last night. Rose tells her that was Cubitt. Dallow says they need to have a serious talk with Pinkie about his behavior toward Cubitt. He’s worried it will backfire.
Judy and Ida wear the same, flowery perfume. Thus, even when absent, Ida manages to be present in the lives of Rose and Pinkie. Rose’s morals have changed overnight. Now that she is married to a mobster, she is at home with sin and sinners. Dallow’s disapproval of Pinkie’s behavior is likewise a new development. It seems that even Dallow’s loyalty has its limits.
Judy tells Rose that if she ever needs a dress cleaned, Frank is her man. He’s wonderful at getting out grease. Judy brushes Rose’s shoulder and says that the dress she’s wearing could actually use a scrub, but Rose says it’s all she has. Judy smiles and says she has to get back to Frank. Then she heads up the stairs, her slippers slapping her ankle, her gaping robe showing a white leg covered in red hair. Rose can’t get over how kind everyone is being. She supposes there’s a certain amount of camaraderie in mortal sin. She heads back to Pinkie’s room, full of pride and happiness. She has been accepted, and now she knows as much as any woman. The clock strikes eight.
Rose’s expectations of human kindness are set at such a low bar that she is deeply touched by Dallow’s casual treatment and the run-of-the-mill courtesy Judy shows her on the stairs. Rose’s feelings of new-found wisdom parallel the emotions Pinkie experienced while watching Rose sign their marriage certificate. They are still painfully young and naïve but think that marriage and sex have ushered them into a different world. Only the very young and naïve would think so.
Rose thinks about how, now that she’s a married woman, she can go to Snow’s like any regular customer and order breakfast. She thinks about the money Pinkie keeps in his soap dish. She tells herself that taking half a crown from her husband isn’t really stealing. Besides, he still hadn’t given her anything beyond the souvenir record. She takes the money and leaves Frank’s, mingling on the street with the Sunday church crowd. She’s overcome with feelings of freedom. Now that she has joined Pinkie as a mortal sinner, she no longer has to subject herself to the pomp and circumstance and shame of a church service.
Rose’s taking of the half a crown is a tiny act of rebellion on her part. She rationalizes the act because she knows that Pinkie would not approve. Once out on the street, she realizes it’s Sunday, and, far from feeling guilty about what she and Pinkie have done, she feels liberated from the petty demands of religion. Her sense of freedom is conflicted, however, by the fact that it comes courtesy of living in mortal sin.
At Snow’s, the blinds are just going up. Maisie, the only waitress Rose likes, is cleaning tables. Doris, the sneering senior waitress, is drifting around lazily. Proud of her status as a married woman, Rose thinks she should go right in the front door, but she doesn’t. Maisie sees her and motions for her to meet her at the side door and Rose obliges her. She tells Maisie that she’s married and Maisie, amazed, asks her how it is. Rose tells her it’s lovely. She’s happy and she doesn’t have to do anything all day. Maisie is clearly envious, so Rose tells her it isn’t “all roses.” When Maisie is called away, Rose walks back to Frank’s, wondering what she did to deserve such happiness. Sin, she supposes.
Not many women would envy Rose her marriage to Pinkie. She is married to a man she knows is a murderer, and they share a spartan room at Frank’s boardinghouse. Also, Pinkie vacillates between fury and despair. When he does try to show Rose affection, the result is awkward and insincere. Still, Rose is blissfully happy and her happiness is evident to Maisie, who is living Rose’s former life as a single waitress at Snow’s.
Rose passes by a shop that sells Sunday papers and Dallow yells to her that her mother is at Frank’s waiting for her. There’s a gramophone player in the shop. Rose asks if she might play a record sometime. Dallow answers for the owner; of course she can. She buys a News of the World for her mother and walks on. Judy lets her in at Frank’s, telling her she has a visitor. Rose runs up the stairs, anxious to finally meet her mother on common ground, woman to woman. But it’s not her mother waiting for her. It’s Ida.
Rose, having gained admittance into the rarefied world of the adult woman, is eager to talk to her mother about the weighty matters that concern wives and husbands. Ida, a believer in ghosts, will not leave Rose alone. She haunts her.
Ida rushes at Rose as if to hug her. Rose recoils. Ida tries to explain gently that she is there to help. She wants to save Rose’s life. Rose doesn’t want saving. She tells her to leave or she’ll scream. Ida explains that Rose has married a murderer, but Rose already knows. She tells Ida to leave her and Pinkie alone. Ida smiles at Rose. Her smiles are hooked on, like wreaths. She tells Rose what happened to Hale; she says Pinkie and his men took him down into one of the pier shops and strangled him. Or they would have, had his heart not given out first.
Ida’s approach backfires. Rose wants none of her fake affection, and she doesn’t care what Ida has to say about Pinkie or Hale. All that matters to Rose is her love for Pinkie, and she continues to see through Ida’s façade of friendliness to the selfishness that lies just beneath the surface.
Ida says that there’s a man she’s paying who’s been giving her evidence that proves Pinkie’s guilt but that he’s refusing to testify. She tells Rose that Pinkie doesn’t love her and that he only married her so she wouldn’t be compelled to give evidence against him. Rose says that people can change—there’s such a thing as confession and repentance—but Ida laughs off both as mere religious nonsense. People don’t change. She offers herself as an example of someone who has never changed, and compares herself to Brighton rock (the candy). It’s the real world they’re dealing with, Ida says, and in the real world there’s such a thing as right and wrong. Rose doesn’t care about that, though. She cares about good and evil—and to her, Pinkie is good.
Rose and Ida are operating in different worlds. Ida’s is a practical and logical place where right is right and wrong is punished. For the deeply devout Rose, it’s more complicated than that. Catholicism allows room for forgiveness. Pinkie has obviously sinned, but a merciful God will overlook his transgressions if he owns up to them and repents.
Ida tells Rose that she, too, could go to jail for Hale’s murder. She could be considered an accomplice after the fact, but Rose says that if the cops get Pinkie, she won’t care about going to jail. Ida is incredulous. She tells Rose she had better take precautions so that she doesn’t end up giving birth to the child of a murderer. After Ida leaves, Rose is filled with a sense of exultation that she could have Pinkie’s child someday, and that that child could have more children and that she could have the pleasure of making an army of allies for Pinkie. It makes what they did in the bed the night before sacred. It makes it an eternal act.
Ida’s threats are no match for Rose’s love and loyalty. Ida had counted on Rose being horrified at the thought of giving birth to Pinkie’s child. Instead, Ida’s words plant a seed in Rose, and she dreams of a long line of progeny that will multiply over the years, forming a shield and protecting their father from harm. This end goal would, she thinks, make their honeymoon night not a mortal sin but something blessed and holy.