Summary Part 3
That evening at the home of Marion and Lincoln, Charlie raises the subject of Honoria and where she is to live. He admits that he has behaved badly in the past but insists that he has changed. For the last year, he says he has had no more than one drink a day. He says that he knows Honoria is fond of him, and he will be able to care for her in Prague.
Marion quizzes him about his drinking. How do they know he has given it up permanently? Charlie defends himself by saying that he only drank heavily for a period of eighteen months, until he collapsed and ended up in a sanatorium.
Marion remains hostile to him. She is unable to forget the “terrible thing” he did and says that her duty is to her sister Helen. When Helen was dying she asked Marion to look out for Honoria. Marion says she cannot forget the night Helen knocked on her door, wet and shivering, having been locked out by Charlie. Charlie cannot bring himself to recall the incident. Lincoln intervenes, and Charlie says earnestly to him that Marion, who is Honoria’s legal guardian, can have complete confidence in him. Marion seems still unconvinced and questions him further, becoming offended when Charlie uses a mild swear word. Charlie becomes more and more aware of how much Marion dislikes him, and he fears that if Honoria stays there any longer she will become poisoned against him because of the hostility there is in the house toward him.
Charlie alludes to the fact that he now has quite a sizable income again, but Marion uses this against him, saying that he will likely squander it, as he did with his previous fortune. Charlie counters by saying that he has learned his lesson. He says he worked hard for ten years until he happened to get lucky on the stock market, and then he had so much money there did not seem any point in working any more.
Marion sees that Charlie is a changed man and understands his desire to have Honoria back. But she still seems to blame him for Helen’s death, although Lincoln does not. Charlie says she died of “heart trouble.”
Marion gives in and says she will not stand in his way, although she is clearly upset and leaves the room. Lincoln acknowledges that Charlie will be getting Honoria back.
Charlie leaves the house, feeling exultant. But he also recalls with pain what happened with Helen. They had quarreled for hours on a February night at a restaurant; Helen then kissed another man. Charlie went home alone and locked the door. She arrived home an hour later, and was unable to get into their home. She wandered around in a snowstorm, unable to find a taxi to take her anywhere. She almost caught pneumonia as a result.
In the early morning while he is still half-asleep, Charlie finds himself talking to Helen. Helen says she wants Honoria to be with him.
This is a crucial scene as it brings to the fore the central conflict between Marion, who retains the memory of Charlie’s wild and destructive days, and Charlie, who wants to leave them behind and believes that he has done so. Charlie pursues a careful strategy in his dealings with Marion. He admits that he behaved badly and presents himself as a “reformed sinner.” He tells himself to avoid getting angry and focus simply on getting what he wants rather than trying to justify or defend himself, or argue with Marion. Whatever he does, though, Marion is not likely to let go of her view that he was to blame for the fact that his marriage to Helen went downhill. When Charlie says his wife died of “heart trouble,” making it clear that being locked out in the snow was not the cause of her death, Marion repeats the phrase in a way that makes it clear she applies a different meaning to it, believing that Helen’s unhappiness in the marriage was a contributing factor in her death. Nevertheless, it seems at the end of this section of the story that despite Marion’s lack of confidence in him and the fact that she feels he bears some responsibility for Helen’s death, Charlie is going to be successful in his quest to be reunited with his daughter. The needs of the present will triumph over the shadows of the past, and Charlie can again envision a happy future—or so it appears.