Summary Part 5
Charlie goes to the Ritz bar, determined to find Lorraine and Duncan, but they are not there. He talks with Paul, the barman, who tells him they only do half the business they did before the stock market crash. This prompts some unpleasant memories for Charlie about the foolish escapades he and Helen had been up to when the money was flowing.
He calls the Peters’ apartment. Lincoln answers. He says Marion is sick and he cannot take the risk of upsetting her further, so Honoria’s departure must be postponed for six months. Chastened, Charlie returns to his table. He refuses another drink and is about to leave. He knows that eventually he will get Honoria, but he is upset at the postponement. Nothing else seems to matter. He feels alone, and he is sure that Helen would not have wanted him to live like that.
In some ways Charlie Wales comes close to being a tragic figure at the end of the story. He realizes completely the magnitude of his folly, and he can never undo what happened. Although he is doing well again financially and seems sober and responsible, he has lost his daughter and still cannot get her back, and he is lonely. Despite his best efforts, his weakness and foolishness just a few years ago is still costing him his happiness. He will get his daughter back eventually, and he obviously has a good relationship with her, but precious months will have slipped by in which he will have been denied the chance to have an influence on the growing girl. This is what Charlie had worried about when he took Honoria to lunch: “She was already an individual with a code of her own, and Charlie was more and more absorbed by the desire of putting a little of himself into her before she crystallized utterly.” This will now have to wait, and Honoria will be that much more grown up when he next sees her.
Despite the somber ending, however, the reader may feel that there is some hope for Charlie. The fact that he twice refuses another drink shows that he is not likely to slip back to his bad old ways, and eventually it seems possible that he will be able to overcome the legacy of his earlier foolishness.