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The next night, Charlie comes to see Marion and Peter again. He explains that he wants his daughter back – that's what he came to Paris to see them about.
He admits that his behavior back in the 20s was unacceptable, but maintains that he's changed his ways, and that he's reformed for the better since then. He stopped drinking, and he has only one drink a day "so that the idea of alcohol won't get too big in [his] mind" (3.6).
Charlie knows that he's going to have to take a beating now – especially from Marion – but feels prepared to take it. He silently wills himself to keep his temper.
Lincoln admits that he and Marion have been talking it over. Marion wants to know how long Charlie plans on staying sober.
Permanently, Charlie says. He starts to mention Helen – his deceased wife, Marion's sister – but Marion cuts him off. She doesn't want to hear him mention her name.
Charlie refers to the night of his "collapse," and claims that he hasn't drunk since then. Marion says she hasn't been able to forgive him since the night he did "that terrible thing" to Helen (3.22).
We learn that Charlie was in a sanatorium, presumably recovering from alcoholism, when Helen died. That is why the Peters got custody of Honoria.
It turns out that Charlie got drunk on the night he was quarreling with Helen and locked her out of their place in Paris. Helen, confused, went wandering around Paris in the snow until she found her way to her sister's place.
To help Charlie out, Lincoln brings the conversation back to the present – the topic of custody of Honoria.
Charlie, grateful, explains that he only has a few years left to get to know his daughter while she's still in her childhood.
He plans to hire a French governess in Prague who will live with them and be responsible for Honoria's education. Charlie stops himself, realizing that it sounds as though he's bragging about his own income, especially since the Peters don't have a lot of money.
Marion picks up on this right away – she knows that Charlie has always been extravagant and wasteful with money. Charlie insists that no, he's not like that anymore.
The strain of the conversation is getting to him – he wishes "for the first time in a year" that he could have a drink (3.40).
Marion bursts out that she blames Charlie for Helen's death. Lincoln thinks she is going too far.
Charlie simply says that she died from heart trouble.
Finally, Marion tells the men to do what they like, as she can't argue about it anymore. She leaves the room to lie down.
Lincoln tells Charlie that yes, he can have Honoria. Charlie thanks him and leaves for the night.
On the way home, Charlie is still shaking from trying to restrain himself in his conversation with Marion. Back in his hotel, he feels haunted by his wife, "Helen whom he had loved until they had senselessly begun to abuse each other's love, tear it into shreds" (3.56).
He remembers the night to which Marion referred.
Charlie and Helen had an argument at a bar, and Helen kissed some other guy. Charlie went home and locked the door. How could he know that she would arrive an hour later, that there would be a snowstorm, that she would be too confused to find a taxi, that she would get pneumonia afterwards?
But then he imagines that Helen is talking to him. She tells him that it's all right, that she wants him to have Honoria.