The narrator, in this chapter, traces Heyst's history through his impressionable years with his father, his young manhood, and his years of wandering over the Far East. Imbued by his father with a "profound distrust of life," Heyst learns to reflect, to reckon the cost. Out of this reflection comes his decision to drift like a detached leaf without ever catching onto anything. He has become an outcast, not as others do through drink, vice, or weakness of character, but from a conviction that there can be no other worthy alternative. Fifteen years of such detachment lie back of him on this disturbing night.
The next day, when Heyst returns from town where he is trying to arrange their escape, he meets the girl and she flashes him a glance of frank tenderness which leaves a "secret touch" upon his heart. Yet he dreads to have anyone else observe her look — more of his fastidiousness.
Schomberg, who has no doubt of his own charms, continues to harass the girl, offering her himself, a man "in the prime of life" (he is forty-five), his business, adventures of thrilling excitement. With reckless abandon, he promises her everything.
When Heyst and the girl cannot be found, Schomberg at first refuses to believe what is obvious to everyone else. At first he thinks Zangiacomo has double-crossed him and fights with the orchestra leader. Later, when the truth forces itself into his mind, his hatred of Heyst blackens and deepens to a frenzy bordering on madness. In this state of confusion, Schomberg allows himself to be corrupted.
Heyst's character is further developed in this chapter. Motivation for his detachment appears in his acceptance of his father's philosophy. He is an honest man. He believes his detached habit of living is right — the only good way to live.
Heyst's shame and fear under the girl's tender look show that he pities her, but he is too fastidious to accept her as an equal. Lovers are ordinarily proud of tender glances. Yet there is a "secret touch" upon his heart. Lena is making an impression on him. There are signs of his awakening.