Edna is glad when her father's visit is over, tired of arguing with him over her refusal to attend her sister's wedding. Léonce leaves as well, for an extended business trip to New York, while the boys leave for their grandmother's. Edna revels in her first taste of independent solitude, seeing the house as though for the first time.
Edna's burst of solicitous attention toward Léonce as he leaves — "looking after his clothing, thinking about heavy underwear, quite as Madame Ratignolle would have done" — is an unconscious purging of the last vestiges of her old self. Her family's absence has granted her an incredible freedom that she has never known before and that she thoroughly relishes. Her new freedom brings new perspective and new choices. How appropriate that her reading choice that first night is the transcendental writer Ralph Waldo Emerson, who placed greater value on emotion and intuition than on reason or rationalism. That night she goes to bed with a greater sense of peace than she has ever experienced — one last great peace before her affair with Arobin begins.
on her mettle roused or prepared to do her best.
marron glacé marrons in syrup or glazed with sugar; candied chestnuts.
Emerson Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882); U.S. essayist, philosopher, and poet.
eiderdown a quilt stuffed with the soft, fine breast feathers or down of the eider duck.