Sam and Mary are as astonished to see Charles as he is to see them. They’re all frozen until Sarah appears briefly in the doorway, and Sam’s mouth falls open. Charles demands to know what Sam is doing here. He says he’s just walking, and everything is ready for them to leave already. He promises they didn’t know Charles was here. Charles asks Mary to leave them alone, which she does. Sam acts humble. Charles tells him that he’s here to help the doctor who’s treating Sarah, and Sam and Mary must say nothing about seeing him here. Sam promises, and Charles tries to pay him off, but Sam refuses to take money. He goes to find Mary. It’s unclear why they were heading for the barn, and it may seem odd that Mary was so upset about Sam being gone for only a few days. They walk into the woods and then collapse into silent laughter.
This situation upends the class hierarchy in which Charles is comfortable—Sam has the power here, as he’s just caught Charles illicitly meeting a woman who not only isn’t his fiancée, but who also has a reputation for promiscuity. Charles knows this and scrambles for his power back by commanding Mary and making excuses, which Sam easily sees through. Though Sam pretends to be honorable in refusing to take Charles’s bribe money, he’s also preventing himself from being financially bound to his promise. The narrator remarks on the circumstances from the reader’s point of view, but declines to elucidate them.
Charles decides that he has acted in a way that could be hurting Sarah, so he returns to the barn. She’s standing by the window. Charles asks her forgiveness for taking advantage of her. He blames himself for everything. He says he’s going to London, and he thinks she should go to Exeter. He offers her money. He knows this speech sounds awful. Sarah says she’ll never see him again, but she lives for seeing him. Charles feels trapped in the implicit threat, but she says she would have killed herself before now if she meant to. She thanks him for the money and agrees to go to Exeter.
Charles’s ability to blame himself entirely for the situation results in part from the assumption of his time that women don’t experience sexual desire. His offer of money could be seen as a bribe for Sarah to leave the area and not publicly expose their relationship. Although Sarah continues to seem to be on the edge of suicide, she also seems more rational—according to Charles’s conventional viewpoint—than she has for a while.
Charles tells Sarah that certain people want to put her in an asylum, so she shouldn’t return to Lyme. He’ll send her box to Exeter. He suggests she walk to Axmouth Cross to avoid possible scandal, though this is a walk of nine miles. Sarah agrees. She points out that she doesn’t have any references, but Charles says she can use Mrs. Talbot and Mrs. Tranter. Mrs. Tranter will also be willing to give her financial assistance. Sarah thanks him, and he thanks her, saying that she’s remarkable. She repeats the compliment simply. A silence stretches out until Charles makes to leave, feeling clumsy.
Though Charles himself sought out Dr. Grogan’s help, he’s ironically now telling Sarah how to avoid Dr. Grogan’s plan to help her. Charles continues to prioritize avoiding scandal, the burden of which always seems to fall on Sarah. However, Charles also seems to realize that Sarah has affected him in some positive ways as well, despite all of the anguish that has resulted from their relationship.
Charles doesn’t want to seem ashamed, so he invites Sarah to walk back to the path with him, which she does. When they reach it, they shake hands. Charles says he’ll never forget her. She looks at him as though there’s some knowledge he must perceive there. After a moment, he leaves. When he looks back, she’s still there. Ten minutes later, he stops at a view towards the Cobb and sees Sarah far away, coming towards him. He hesitates, then goes on his way.
Charles believes this is the last time he’ll ever see Sarah; it’s impossible to say whether Sarah thinks the same thing. Her mysterious look suggests she might not think so. The fact that Charles considers returning to speak to Sarah again indicates that he’s not actually ready to part with her for good.