The next morning, Margaret greets Henry at breakfast and tells him what she had meant to write the previous night: his former affair “will make no difference” to her. Initially he refuses to talk about it, insisting that it is only right that the engagement be called off in light of his broken honor and his unworthiness to marry her. He declares that his transgression was inexcusable and refuses to believe that she could forgive him. Yet she persists until he, too, becomes hopeful that they can move past this. He backpedals and begins to explain himself, trying to win her sympathy: “If you knew all, you would excuse me. I was far from good influences—far even from England.”
Margaret reiterates her absolute commitment to Henry, who is absurdly a bit irked that his ex-fiancée has taken it upon herself to pronounce her own judgment upon him instead of deferring to his say in the matter. He even tries to convince her that she’s wrong, and he can’t become her husband under the moral code of society. He wants to preempt his own rejection in order to spare himself the humiliation of Margaret’s rebuke. Yet eventually he accepts her forgiveness as her ultimate submission to him, upholding her future husband above all else.
Margaret is not moved by Henry’s shallow emotional appeals and wishes he would plainly acknowledge the real wrong he did to Ruth. But she nonetheless reassures him, “I have already forgiven you, Henry,” and peace is restored. When she casually refers back to these events later, however, he declares the issue has been closed and makes her promise never to mention Leonard, Jacky, or the affair again. Margaret still feels responsible for the Basts’ plight, not wishing them to starve, but she is absorbed in her own crisis. She and Henry drive away from Oniton, never to return.
Margaret does not buy Henry’s self-indictment, nor his later justifications. She understands that he is simply trying to avoid having to acknowledge the real wrong that he did to his first wife. To finally silence him, she declares, “I have already forgiven you.” If she was still hoping to help him learn from his past mistakes, she was surely disappointed when he later refused to ever talk about the matter again.