People continue to dispose of their roses. The narrator comes across a woman who once won a prize for the beauty of her roses, who tells her that they are the “last and most beautiful memento” she has of her late father (since raising roses was her family business). However, her voice contains no sadness as she says this.
The narrator’s interaction with this woman demonstrates again how objects are closely tied to memories, and how much is lost when something disappears. The woman’s lack of sadness proves that people’s emotions are starting to dull with each disappearance.
Soon, the river is back to normal. The old man saw all this happen from the ferry. The narrator, visiting him, asks how the wind knows to get rid of only the rose petals during the disappearance, and he says that there’s no way of knowing. They continue to talk, mentioning how empty the area will be without the rose garden. The narrator worries that things are disappearing quicker than people on the island can create things.
This is one of the first direct conversations in the book about the mechanics of “disappearances.” It is clear, from the old man’s response, that no one quite knows how they work, only that there is a force greater than themselves at play. The old man and the narrator seem to feel victims of fate—since they do not know what is causing the disappearances, and all they can do is worry about when the next one will come. The narrator’s concern that things will disappear faster than people can create sets up a recurring worry she has throughout the story.
The old man tries to reassure the narrator, telling her she doesn’t need to worry because it’s possible to get used to any type of disappearance—he was even fine after the ferry disappeared though he’d loved working on it. The narrator asks if it makes him sad that the ferry is nothing more than a scrap of metal. The old man responds that even though the island feels more “diluted” since the disappearances began, people’s hearts, too, have gotten “thinner,” so everything is kept in balance. The narrator notices that she can no longer see a single rose petal in the river.
The old man is trying to be reassuring to the narrator, but there is something tragic about the fact that people’s hearts need to get “thinner” to match island’s “dilution.” In other words, even the kind old man is admitting that people are hollowing out because of the disappearances on the island, which shows that their identities and connections to each other are getting weaker. The narrator worrying about the disappearances shows that she wants to offer some kind of resistance, but it is unclear if this will be enough to make a difference. The chapter ends with the narrator noticing how all of the rose petals are officially gone, which strikes a pessimistic and somber tone for the island’s future.