Summary: Chapter 30

Francine meets Lavinia Nebbs at her house, and they head off to the movies. Miss Fern and Miss Roberta see them and say that they are not going out with the Lonely One prowling around. Lavinia does not believe about the Lonely One, but Francine points out that three women have either died or disappeared in the last two months, with Elizabeth Ramsell the most recent to disappear. They walk through the ravine and stumble upon the lifeless body of Elizabeth Ramsell. After they go get the police, the women walk on, and Lavinia decides they can still make the movie. Francine is shocked but Lavinia insists that they need to forget the horror that they have seen. Walking on, they see Douglas frozen, staring down at the body and the policemen. Francine yells at him to run home, but he turns and runs off into the hills.

They walk to Helen Greer's house, and Lavinia tells her that someone found Elizabeth Ramsell, without mentioning that they were the ones. They walk on together to the movie. At the drug store while picking up some candy the druggist tells Lavinia that a man asked after her in the store this afternoon and he told the man where she lived. They go on and see the show, and afterward they walk home. Lavinia and Helen walk Francine home first, and Francine begs them to stay at her house, because she is afraid something will happen to Lavinia. Lavinia tells her she will phone when she gets home, and she walks Helen home next. It is after midnight when Lavinia walks home. She passes Officer Kennedy, who offers to walk her home, but she is not sure she can trust him and she says she will go back herself.

She begins to lose her nerve as she crosses the ravine, alone in the dark. Every sound that she hears seems like a footstep, and she begins to run, convinced that someone is following her. Lavinia runs through the ravine and gets to the street. Still panicking, she rushes to her house. She makes it inside the door, shuts it and locks it. Lavinia is happy to be safe, but then is not sure. She looks through the window and sees that there is no one there. All this time, panicking, and it turns out there is no one there after all. Lavinia reasons with herself, pointing out that if a man had followed her he would have caught her since she cannot run very fast, and also there is no reason to fear the ravine more than anywhere else. Her home, at least, is safe, and she goes to turn on the light but stops, and speaks out loud in frustration that she still feels scared. Then, behind her, a man clears his throat.

Analysis: Chapter 30

Even the summer is not free of evil, and Lavinia Nebbs and Francine stumble upon what appears to be another victim of the Lonely One. While Francine and Helen are on the verge of panic throughout the night, Lavinia appears almost absurdly calm. She is calm because, unlike the other women, she insists on thinking rationally, and using logic to deal with the situation that they are in. Everyone is caught up in the frenzy of the Lonely One's attacks, but Lavinia refuses to be drawn into hysterics. She is also stubborn, because she does not want the killings to interfere with her life. Lavinia makes the other women go to the movie and she is unwilling to change her daily routine. She refuses to back down to the threat of violence and she uses rational arguments to back up her ideas. Lavinia tells the other women first that it is too early at night for the Lonely One and then that it is too early after his last kill. Lavinia represents one side of an ongoing battle in human history—the struggle between rationality and irrationality. The Lonely One represents irrational evil: his actions are unpredictable and the women he kills have done nothing to him. Helen, Francine, Miss Fern, and Miss Roberts represent irrational panic. Miss Fern and Miss Roberts are unwilling to leave their house, and Helen and Francine are afraid all of the time.

The line between rationality and irrationality is not as clear as it appears. Francine and Helen could argue that going through the ravine at night after a murdered woman has been found there is not only irrational, but also insane. When rationality is no longer on her side, Lavinia simply will not back down. She refuses to live her life in fear, and with that attitude she convinces the other women to attend the movie. However, Francine and Helen rightly fear for Lavinia, especially after hearing about the stranger who asked for her. As she walks back home, Lavinia begins to face the fact that no logic or rational argument will be able to save her from the evil that may be hunting her. As she approaches the ravine, Lavinia begins to panic. She feels what Tom felt at the beginning of summer—that she is truly on her own, and that she may not be able to save herself. Lavinia runs nonstop through the ravine and into her house, where she feels safe. Once inside her house she begins to rationalize the whole evening, telling herself that no one could possibly have been chasing her because they would have caught her. Then, just as she goes to turn on the light, a man clears his throat behind her. The irrational fear of the other women may have been justified, for despite all of her clear thinking and brave actions, in the end Lavinia is alone in her house with a stranger. Events are unpredictable, life is not rational, and sometimes fear may be justified.