Aunt Lydia recounts how Aunt Vidala had startled her the previous evening by suddenly appearing at her private carrel in the library. Aunt Lydia had stuffed her manuscript away just in time. Aunt Vidala expressed her concern about the new arrival, Jade (Daisy’s alias in Gilead). Vidala worried that the girl might be a Mayday infiltrator and insinuated that she’d like to interrogate her. Aunt Lydia said she preferred subtler methods.
Afterward, Aunt Lydia went to Commander Judd’s home to speak with him. His new Wife, Shunammite, who had married the Commander after Agnes joined the Aunts, greeted her at the door. Aunt Lydia noted that Shunammite looked ill and offered to get her husband’s permission to send her to a clinic for an evaluation.
Upon entering Commander Judd’s office, Aunt Lydia noticed a nineteenth-century painting of a mostly-naked young girl, hovering over a mushroom with a smirk on her face. On his shelves, she saw biographies of Napoleon and Stalin as well as rare illustrated editions of Dante’s Inferno and Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.
Aunt Lydia informed the Commander of Aunt Vidala’s concerns about Daisy and concluded that her colleague was no longer reliable. She also suggested that he send Shunammite to the Calm and Balm Clinic for treatment, implying that she would take care of killing the young woman there so that he could “remain above suspicion.”
To her reader, Aunt Lydia confesses that she feels “poised on the razor’s edge,” with two ways to proceed. Either she could continue with her plan to use Daisy to topple Gilead, or she could hand Daisy over to Commander Judd and rise to even greater power. She wonders whether, after having taken her plan so far, she could abandon her own desire for vengeance.
In Part XX, the witness testimonies of Agnes and Daisy begin to interweave.