Margaret returns to Aunt Juley’s house with her news. Helen bursts into tears when she realizes Margaret intends to accept Henry’s proposal. She heatedly objects to the marriage, having been so disturbed by the flaws in the Wilcox mentality that became painfully apparent in the terrible debacle with Paul: “‘Panic and emptiness,’ sobbed Helen. ‘Don’t!’” Margaret admits that she does not love Henry but believes she will in time. She maintains that she is well aware of the Wilcoxes’ weaknesses by now and has made a fully informed decision: “I know all Mr. Wilcox’s faults. He’s afraid of emotion. He cares too much about success, too little about the past.” She denies that marrying him will change her, but the narrator warns that this will not be strictly true. Margaret will bow before “a social pressure that would have her think conjugally,” or start to think of life in terms of her marriage. As Helen insists, “One would lose something.”
Helen is shocked that Margaret plans to marry Henry, having never imagined that her sister could love a Wilcox. Margaret believes that she can reckon with the Wilcox flaws and even help Henry to become a better man through her loving influence. Moreover, she doesn’t feel as strongly opposed to the “outer life” as Helen does. She feels that the country owes its prosperity and security to men with such “public qualities” as Henry embodies. She believes that without types like the Wilcoxes, England would descend into “savagery.” She doesn’t consider that unchecked self-interest could be equally damaging to the public good.