Aunt Shaw is appalled by Milton and prevails upon a heartsick Margaret to return home with her as soon as possible. Mr. Bell, back in Oxford, sends her an affectionate letter assuring her of his provision for her needs and her status as his heiress, although she will be living with the Shaws. The day before they’re to leave, Margaret insists on visiting her friends, and Aunt Shaw won’t let her go unchaperoned.
Aunt Shaw’s interference is humorous to the reader, but jarring, after the independence Margaret has developed over her time in Milton. Aunt Shaw’s notions of propriety have stood still, while Margaret’s have evolved in response to her environment.
Margaret first bids Mary Higgins a tearful goodbye, taking with her a drinking-cup to remind her of Bessy. Then she reluctantly visits Mrs. Thornton, who shows greater warmth now that Margaret is leaving, and apologizes for her manner the last time they spoke. As Thornton says goodbye to Margaret, he can’t help thinking about the last time they stood together on his door-step (the riot), but his tone is emotionless, and he then disappears, “busily engaged” for the rest of the day. Higgins stops by that evening to bid Margaret a warm farewell, and she gives him Mr. Hale’s Bible.
Margaret’s goodbye to each of her acquaintances is in keeping with the relationship during their time in Milton—her care of Bessy, the coldness of Mrs. Thornton, and the initially guarded but increasingly warm and intimate conversations with Higgins.