On his way back to London, Joe drives through the Chilterns and revisits the scene of the ballooning accident. He parks where John Logan’s car was parked and imagines what the woman with Logan might have been able to see from that spot. He imagines the woman’s “terror” and feels that he understands why she hasn’t come forward. Wandering the field, Joe recalls the happiness that he and Clarissa shared before the intrusion of Jed Parry into their lives. He wants to “imagine a route back into that innocence,” but he is unable to do so.
Joe’s thinking in these paragraphs is more emotional than is usually the case. He empathizes with John Logan’s presumed mistress and recalls his own past happiness with Clarissa, in the earlier days of their marriage. Yet Joe’s rationalism eventually reasserts itself in his failure of imagination regarding the potential of that relationship to mend.
Continuing to walk the field, Joe visits each of the important places from the day of the accident, including the spots where John Logan fell and where Jed Parry asked Joe to pray. Joe feels, strangely, as if he has never really left the field, and he imagines all of the characters from the accident rushing toward him now, just as he once rushed toward the balloon. In his imagination, all of these characters have come to accuse him, yet he isn’t sure what he is assumed to have done wrong.
Joe’s desire to sort the anger of the novel’s other characters into knowable categories is yet another example of his desire to treat emotion as a rational good: a strictly-defined entity that can be understood according to the dictates of logic and reason. Joe seems blind to the fact that other characters are motivated not by logic but by shifting, hard-to-define intuition.
Joe returns to his car and thinks ahead to the research he will do about de Clerambault’s syndrome now that he has assigned Parry that diagnosis. He begins to think of de Clerambault’s as a “dark, distorting mirror” that parodies real love, and he wonders what he “could learn about Parry that would restore [him] to Clarissa.”
The novel’s idea that real and delusional love are not entirely different is on display here. Parry and Clarissa are dissimilar characters, yet Joe is open to the possibility that the “love” of one may teach him something about the real love of the other.
Two hours later, Joe has completed his return trip to London and immediately finds Parry waiting for him outside his apartment building. Parry is staring at Joe and is holding an envelope, and when Joe tries to push past him, he thrusts the envelope into Joe’s hand. Before Joe can go inside, Parry tells him that he has “paid a researcher” to gather all of Joe’s articles and books. He states, cryptically, that Joe would never be able to “destroy” what Parry possesses even if Joe “wrote a million” such books. In a threatening voice, Parry tells Joe that he is able to hire people to do “anything” he wants. When Joe says that he will call the police unless Parry steps out of his way, Parry laughs and tells Joe that “everything is going to go [Parry’s] way” in the end.
That Parry’s obsession with Joe is not merely a nuisance but rather a real, physical danger is perhaps the most important message of these paragraphs. Parry’s talk of destruction raises the stakes of his confrontation with Joe—it introduces an element of menace—as does Parry’s grim prediction about the men’s future. Joe’s promise that he will call the police, meanwhile, underscores the fact that he realizes that a change has been wrought in Parry’s behavior. Parry is no longer content to wait for Joe to give in to him.
Joe finally enters the apartment building and realizes that Parry has “frightened” him. He reflects on Parry’s threat that Parry can “hire” people to do his will and wonders if Parry intends to hire “goons to thrash [him] within an inch of [his] life.” Stepping into his apartment, Joe senses that Clarissa is home and that something is wrong, yet he is unable to find her when he searches the place. Finally, moving into the kitchen to fill a tea kettle, Joe sees Clarissa stepping out of his office. When Joe asks why Clarissa didn’t answer when he called her name, she responds that Joe should have looked for her among his private things. After all, Clarissa says, “Isn’t that how it is with us these days?”
These paragraphs reveal a Joe who is trying, with mixed results, to understand and navigate his own emotions. Joe is able to put a name to what he feels—he is “frightened”—but he is reduced to considering that feeling. He can’t simply experience it. Similarly, Joe’s entrance into the apartment finds him unable, at first, to verify what he intuitively senses to be true about Clarissa’s presence. This realm of emotion and intuition is unfamiliar to Joe, and he is somewhat lost in it.
Though her voice is “calm,” Clarissa is clearly “very angry” as she tells Joe that she hasn’t been able to muster the curiosity to go through his own things as revenge for his earlier intrusion into hers, which she has clearly discovered. She tells Joe that she doesn’t care about his “secrets” and that she would have shown him her letters had he simply asked her. As things stand, however, she considers that Joe has left her “a message.” What she doesn’t know is what his message is supposed to mean.
Joe has not sent Clarissa a “message” by going through her things, yet she intuitively believes that Joe’s actions must be coded and that it is her obligation to decipher them. This reveals once more a difference between the two characters: Joe went through Clarissa’s things for a clear, knowable reason; Clarissa insists that he must have had some hidden motive.