Summary

Septimus watches sunlight play on the wallpaper from the couch. He thinks of the line from the Shakespeare play Cymbeline: “Fear no more.” Rezia sees him smile but is disturbed. Often he speaks nonsense or has visions, believing himself drowned or falling into flames. She feels that they no longer have a marriage.

Rezia makes a hat for Mrs. Peters, the married daughter of their neighbor Mrs. Filmer. Rezia talks, and Septimus begins to look around him. He says the hat is too small for Mrs. Peters and speaks in a lucid way for the first time in weeks. He and Rezia joke together, and Rezia is relieved that they’re acting like a married couple. Septimus, who has a good eye for color, begins designing the hat. When he is finished, Rezia stitches it together. Septimus feels he is in a warm place, such as on the edge of the woods. He is proud of his work on Mrs. Peters’ hat. In the future, Rezia will always like that hat, which they made when Septimus was himself.

Rezia worries when she hears a tap at the door. She thinks it might be Sir William, but it is only the young girl who brings them the evening paper. Rezia kisses the child, gets out a bag of sweets, and dances around the room with her. Rezia builds the moment up until it is something wonderful. Septimus reads the paper and grows tired. He feels happy. As he begins to fall asleep, the laughing voices begin to sound like cries.

Septimus wakes up terrified. Rezia has gone to bring the child back to her mother. Septimus feels he is doomed to be alone. Around him he sees only ordinary objects, like the coal-shuttle and bananas on the sideboard; he no longer sees the beauty of the afternoon. He calls out for Evans but receives no answer. Rezia returns and begins making an adjustment to Mrs. Peters’ hat. Rezia feels she can now speak openly with Septimus. She remembers the first time she saw him, when he looked like a young hawk.

The time for Sir William’s message to arrive is nearing. Septimus asks why Sir William has the right to tell him what he “must” do. Rezia says it is because he threatened to kill himself. Septimus asks for the papers on which he and Rezia wrote down his theories about beauty and death and tells Rezia to burn them all. However, Rezia thinks some of what he wrote is very beautiful, and she ties the papers in a piece of silk and puts them away. Rezia says she will go wherever Septimus goes. Septimus thinks she is a flowering tree and that she fears no one. He thinks she is a miracle.

Rezia goes to pack their things. She hears voices downstairs and worries that Dr. Holmes is calling. She runs down to prevent the doctor from coming upstairs. Septimus quickly considers killing himself by various methods and decides he must throw himself from the window. He does not want to die and thinks this is the doctors’ idea of tragedy, not his or Rezia’s; he thinks, “Life was good.” An old man on a staircase across the way stares at him. Septimus hears Holmes at the door. He cries, “I’ll give it you!” and flings himself out the window onto Mrs. Filmer’s railings.