Nancy’s conversation with Leonora helps put everything in perspective. Nancy knows now that she is in love with Edward and Edward is in love with her. However, because Edward is married to Leonora and Nancy was too innocent to know better, these feelings only make sense to her after Leonora spells everything out. Although Nancy wants to go on caring for Edward, she feels she can only do so by loving him from far away. To do anything else would be immoral.
Ironically, Leonora holds the opposite position. She wants Nancy to stay at Branshaw Manor and act as Edward’s mistress. Leonora knows that what she is asking of Nancy is wrong, but it is the only option she feels she has left. However, Nancy refuses to give in to Leonora’s demands and give up her moral purity. Nancy and Leonora continue their argument for hours, as Edward listens through the wall. However, neither changes the other’s mind. Ultimately, Nancy ends up returning to India. Although she wanted to go to Glasgow to be with her mother, Edward insisted that she return to India instead. Realizing that anything would be better than Branshaw Manor, Nancy does as Edward says.
Leonora’s declining health coincides with the decline of her moral sensibility. At this point, she is desperate and will do anything to try to fix her life. This conversation with Leonora only reinforces what Nancy already knew—she needs to get as far away as possible from Branshaw Manor.