The Schlegels discover that the Wilcoxes have moved into the house next door. Aunt Juley is anxious that a proximity to Paul may rekindle Helen’s disastrous infatuation, but Margaret declares that there can be no great risk of real disaster as long as one has money. She tells her aunt, “You and I and the Wilcoxes stand upon money as upon islands. It is so firm beneath our feet that we forget its very existence.” With their wealth, they can escape from messes like foolish engagements, or laugh at those who worry about losing an umbrella to theft—but they rarely recognize or acknowledge their privileged position. Margaret reminds Helen, “There’s no reason we should be near people who displease us or whom we displease, thanks to our money.” Helen assures her sister that she will never again fall for Paul, but she is going to visit Germany with Frieda, anyway.
After their encounter with Leonard, Margaret has reflected on what separates her life from his. She compares the wealth that her family enjoys to isolated “islands” in the turbulent sea of everyday life. Their solid islands insulate them from life’s hardship so completely that they risk forgetting that such hardship exists. They also risk forgetting that they are spared such hardship because of the unequal advantages that are the foundations of their islands. She sees no point in denying that their privilege exists, but neither is she keen on losing any part of it, given how much it simplifies difficult situations like Helen and Paul’s.