Summary of Chapter V
When Captain Forrester has another stroke, Mrs. Beasley and her circle of gossips proclaim it a judgment on Mrs. Forrester, who goes to pieces under the strain of taking care of him in his helpless condition. She had never asked for help from the townspeople before, always the proud lady, but now she has no choice but to give in.
When they come calling, she lets them take over her house, and they go snooping into every closet and drawer. Marian is numb and exhausted, drinking coffee and brandy to keep going. The women gossip, wondering why she never sold off the silver and china to raise money. Niel, seeing this crisis, tells the Judge he can’t go back to school while the Forresters are in such trouble. Niel takes Black Tom, and the two of them clear people out the house, take over the nursing and cooking. Marian goes to bed for a week to rest up.
The Captain improves with Niel looking after him, and there is silence in the house. He sits in his rose garden on good days. The Captain is very grateful. When Marian is rested she takes over from Black Tom, and he goes back to the Judge. At night, when the Forresters are in bed, and Niel is reading, he thinks about how much it cost him to give up his year in school, but “he had the satisfaction of those who keep faith” (p. 150).
Captain Forrester often calls out his wife’s name, not to ask for something, but just to see that she is near, or, as Niel realizes, because he values her.
Commentary on Chapter V
These are the closing days of the Captain’s life, and Niel “keeps faith” with the needs of this mother and father surrogate. He sacrifices but he gains because “he liked being alone with the old things that had seemed so beautiful to him in his childhood. . . . No other house could take the place of this one in his life” (pp. 150-151). This contrasts to the gossips from town, who are surprised at how ordinary the house is. It had always seemed grand, but only the linen and china are worth anything in their eyes. To Niel, every book, picture, and chair is precious. More than that, it is the way of life they represent.
Niel sees as he suspected before that the Captain knows his wife “better even than she knew herself” and that he still loves her deeply. (p. 151). Again, this is an important insight because it means that the Captain is not a victim. He has his eyes wide open and is able to evaluate people and places very well. He is contented to be in the hands of Niel and Marian at the end of his days.