The mystery is explained when Mr. Leonard Bast visits Wickham Place the next day. The Schlegels don’t recognize him, but he reminds them that Margaret gave him her card after Helen took his umbrella years ago. His wife, Jacky, later found the card, and when he was out on a call, she looked for him at Wickham Place, he explains. Helen presses him on this story, and he objects to their insinuation that he lied to his wife to go see a mistress. Instead, he confides that he spent the night out walking.
Leonard knows who the Schlegels are, but they don’t recognize him. He has held onto Margaret’s card for all these years, while she and Helen don’t even remember meeting him. They made a much greater impact upon him than he did on them. Despite being unfamiliar with him, Helen boldly casts doubt on his excuse for why he wasn’t at home. But instead of escaping to the bed of another woman, he seeks to escape his unhappy existence by walking into nature.
Helen and Margaret are thrilled by Leonard’s departure from mundane life. Though it was just a haphazard march through the lonely roads and woods outside London, they think it even better than the adventures in great novels that first inspired him. He tries to refer back to other writers, but the Schlegels only want to hear about his experience. They reassure him that his impulsive walking expedition was not foolish, and he is grateful that they understand his urge to witness the world outside the relentless daily routine.
Leonard tries to explain how his expedition was inspired by the works of literature he had been reading, wishing to show off his familiarity with great writers, but Margaret and Helen don’t care about what he’s read—they care about what he’s done. The idea that books are not everything surprises Leonard, but he still enjoys the praise of his efforts by a pair of intellectuals. Margaret and Helen recognize Leonard’s kindred desire to find something more meaningful than the grey grind of daily life.
Helen and Margaret invite Leonard to call again, but he refuses, claiming that the connection they shared today could never be recreated, so better not to spoil the memory with a poor shadow. They protest to no avail, and Leonard parts from them. It is important to him that the elevated world of culture and “Romance” which he associates with the Schlegels remains separate from his dull existence as a common clerk married to the coarse Jacky.
Leonard lacks the Schlegels’ faith that people from different backgrounds can happily associate with one another, and he feels insecure about his ability to keep up with their intellectual talk. He would rather end on a memory of triumph than risk failing. He dreads having his common life intrude on the extraordinary world he has briefly seized for himself.