Restless, Sister Penny takes the afternoon off and visits one of her longstanding lovers, Tucker. He’s a polio patient whom she nursed in IDB during one of the first epidemics. Now he lives in an old farmhouse built by his grandfather.
Because she knows that Ann Lee will never walk again, Sister Penny appears for the first time frustrated with her vocation. While she’s usually a beacon of calmness, she now appears more like Ida–both intensely devoted to her work and unsure if she can succeed.
Tucker always seems perfectly at home in his house and in the grassland surrounding it, and because of this Sister Penny feels at peace when she sees him. While she sleeps, she wonders about the cause of her malaise. She remembers looking at Meyer’s face during the concert; observing his complete detachment, she felt the connection between them was somehow severed. Now it seems nothing has been completely right since.
It’s notable that when Sister Penny is upset she seeks out someone who both understands her need for solitude and can relieve her isolation. She shares this impulse with Meyer, who in fact turns to her to provide this sense of peace.
In the morning, Sister Penny has a feeling that something is wrong and desperately wants to call the Golden Age, but Tucker doesn’t have a phone. When she finds a pay phone, Hadley, a nurse, informs her that she’s found Frank in Elsa’s bed and called the hospital governors. Sister Penny scolds her for taking such drastic action, knowing this will have consequences for everyone.
Frank and Elsa have been hovering between childhood friendship and teenage romance for most of the novel; what they’ve done now might not alter their relationship in their own eyes, but in the view of the adults around them they’ve effectively ended their childhood.