For the rest of the day, Coverdale wonders why Zenobia and Priscilla are in town instead of at Blithedale. He feels insulted by Zenobia’s decision to shut the curtain. In fact, Coverdale thinks Zenobia should have been appreciative of his intellect and heart, both of which compel him to take an interest in her life and relationships. Furthermore, Coverdale believes that he is particularly fit to observe and judge both Zenobia and Hollingsworth because even though he’d judge and punish them for their wrongs, he would appreciate their good qualities and their struggle against temptation. More importantly, Coverdale would still love them. While he thinks, Coverdale stays near his window and occasionally looks back at Zenobia’s rooms to no avail—the curtain remains closed. Towards evening Coverdale realizes that, as their friend, he has a right to visit them, so he impulsively rushes over to the boardinghouse.
Coverdale understands that Priscilla and Zenobia’s presence in the city is another indication of Blithedale’s imminent failure. Zenobia has always kind of been the primary leader at Blithedale, and if she abandons the project then it probably will languish and die out for lack of leadership. Coverdale reveals his latent narcissism and conceit in his defense of his spying. He doesn’t see his prying into Zenobia’s private life as a violation or trespass, but something she should thank him for because he has the best intentions and would be a great judge of her behavior. This entitlement calls attention to how unreliable Coverdale is as a narrator and as an observer of others.
A servant leads Coverdale to Zenobia’s rooms. When he enters Zenobia laughs, but Coverdale detects some scorn in her manner. Zenobia jokes about Coverdale watching her and her decision to close the curtain. Coverdale takes her hand and notes the lack of warmth between them, which is so different from how they first greeted each other in Blithedale. Her appearance has also changed—she’s dressed up in finery and her usual flower is made up of jewels. Coverdale says it feels like years since they were together in Blithedale and he asks if she ever really considered herself part of the group. Zenobia coldly replies that only narrow minds restrict themselves to one idea. Coverdale is bewildered by both Zenobia’s manner and the opulent room they’re in. Coverdale feels as if he’s seeing her real character: passionate, unrefined, and incapable or simplicity or good taste.
Zenobia has always worn an exotic flower in her hair and she still does, but now it’s a fake flower. This confuses Coverdale and he begins to question what else about her character, either now or in Blithedale, was false. However, it is notable that the flower Zenobia wore in Blithedale was real while this one is fake. It seems to indicate that Zenobia, like her flower, was more in her natural element in Blithedale, whereas in the city she must play a part and live up to a certain image of herself. Coverdale doesn’t seem to understand this.
In the next instant, Coverdale realizes that it’s only right for Zenobia to make herself as beautiful as she wants, but he always wonders who the true Zenobia is: the woman of luxury he meets in town, or the simple beauty he knew in Blithedale. Coverdale says their time together in Blithedale feels like a dream and asks if she’s abandoned the project. Zenobia questions why he would think this and says it’s ridiculous to limit one’s self to one mode of life when there are so many available. However, she assures him that she thinks no less of people who do only embrace one lifestyle. Coverdale is irritated by what seems like unfair criticism of the people who have truly devoted their entire lives to Blithedale. He wants to make Zenobia reveal her true self instead of acting a part.
Coverdale prides himself on being a good judge of character, so when Zenobia makes these backhanded comments about the people at Blithedale, he feels humiliated. To him, it means he misjudged her character—she might not be the generous, kind, enthusiastic person he thought she was. Furthermore, he resents that Zenobia is deriding people who are living authentically while she’s clearly being deceptive and false.
Coverdale coldly tells Zenobia that her description of single-minded people reminds him of Hollingsworth and his nonsensical philanthropic plans. As Coverdale predicted, Zenobia flares up in passionate anger, thus betraying her true feelings for Hollingsworth. Zenobia quickly recovers from her anger and scornfully tells him that while blind adherence to one idea can be ridiculous, great men only attain greatness through devotion to one cause. However, she supposes Coverdale wouldn’t know anything about that, and so it’s only natural that he’d think Hollingsworth is absurd instead of heroic. Coverdale doesn’t respond to this but asks Zenobia if she brought Priscilla. He mentions that he always worried about Priscilla spending so much time with Hollingsworth. Coverdale observes that Hollingsworth could never be happy with an independent woman, only one he could absorb into himself, and he mentions how tenderly Hollingsworth treats Priscilla. Zenobia turns pale and calls Priscilla in.
Coverdale’s comment about Hollingsworth is meant to evoke a natural response from Zenobia—not a fake one, but one that comes from the bottom of her heart and reveals her true character. This is a manipulative move on Coverdale’s part and he comes off as something of a villain because he’s willfully hurting her just to satisfy his own curiosity. Coverdale also plays on Zenobia’s jealousy of Priscilla’s relationship with Hollingsworth by mentioning how tender Hollingsworth is with Priscilla. For Zenobia, this is a reminder that she might lose Hollingsworth’s heart to Priscilla.