Like Charles, Evie was unhappy at the news that her father was engaged to Margaret Schlegel, viewing it as an insult to their mother’s memory. But the onset of her wedding restores her good mood. Henry expects Margaret to play a prominent role in the wedding, which is to take place at Oniton. Margaret goes down on the train with the rest of the wedding party, comprised of friends of Henry’s who are less progressive than her own circle. The men are chivalrous but patronizing towards the women, especially once the group changes from train to car for the final leg of the journey. The men are engrossed with pointing out landmarks to the women, and eventually the distracted driver is forced to slam on his brakes after paying more attention to the scenery than to the road. The women are ushered into a different car and driven away as a girl runs screaming out of a roadside cottage: they have run over her cat.
Margaret faces her first public occasion as Henry’s fiancée and learns the behavior required of her. Henry’s friends expect his new fiancée to conform with their narrow ideas of genteel femininity: a woman who is less intelligent and worldly than a man, more helpless than a man, less sensible and more sentimental than a man. Upper-class ladies require constant careful attention, lest they collapse in the event of any inconvenience. The closed environments, train and car, that the party travels in create a claustrophobic pressure to comply with expectations, until the accident critically raises the stakes.
Margaret is distraught that only men have been left behind to manage the accident, and she asks Charles repeatedly to turn the car around. Charles dismisses her wishes, confident that “The men are there … They will see to it.” Infuriated, Margaret jumps out of the moving car and cuts her hand. Charles is shocked. The other gentleman who stayed behind comes down the hill, having left the chauffeurs to deal with the girl. Margaret is disgusted at the cowardice of them all, but aware that she has disgraced herself in front of Henry’s friends. She decides to play up her feminine hysteria as a pretense for acting so dramatically: she “had lost her nerve, as any woman might.” Better to pretend to be the foolish kind of woman they patronize rather than the brazen kind of woman they suspect.
Margaret realizes that the men who remained at the scene of the accident to handle the girl will show her no genuine compassion and treat her as silly and hysterical. She feels this isn’t right, and wants to go back to defend the girl from their misogynistic attitudes. Charles confirms her fear when he refuses to listen to her and utterly fails to empathize with the girl’s loss. She fiercely defies his expectations by fearlessly jumping from the car. But it is too late for her to intervene, and now she risks alienating Henry and his friends.
When they arrive at Oniton, Charles tells Henry what happened. They agree all too easily that Margaret was simply overcome by nerves and lost her senses. Nonetheless, Charles remains suspicious of the woman who is to be his new stepmother. He disapproves of her tongue and feels certain that she will bring his father disgrace. He stands outside and thinks about how his father’s money is being split up among more and more people now that both Evie and Margaret may have their own children. Having failed so far to build his own fortune, Charles worries about how he will continue to support his children and begrudges the rest of his family their share of Henry’s money. Paranoid about losing his inheritance, he suspects the Schlegels of conspiring against his father for his wealth.
Charles reports on Margaret’s antics to his father, and they readily swallow her excuse that she became unnerved and hysterical. Hysterics fit nicely into the men’s preconceptions of female behavior, while rebellion and boldness do not. Charles is not entirely won over by this example of Margaret’s feminine weakness. He still suspects her of plotting to seize his father’s fortune. His misogyny becomes convoluted, as he thinks she might by manipulating his father but refuses to believe that she could be clever enough to fool a man.
While Charles speculates, he sees Margaret wander outside and happily behold her new home. She exclaims to herself, “I love this place … I hate London,” and declares, “what a comfort to have arrived!” Little does she know, unfortunately, that this is to be her first and last time there. The house in Oniton is nothing but another “one of her innumerable false starts.”
Margaret has grown jaded with the constant flux and grind of urban London, and she wishes to stake her roots in a place made to last, where she can find peace and see life plainly. But she is subject to Henry’s whims, and he finds Oniton boring. He rents the property out after the wedding.