As Robert escorts Madame Ratignolle back to the house from the beach, she asks him to leave Edna alone: "She is not one of us . . . She might make the unfortunate blunder of taking you seriously." Madame Ratignolle has thus articulated one of the central questions of the book: Where does Edna fit in? To what world does she truly belong? Later, as Robert sits with his mother, conversing with her over the clatter of her sewing machine, he learns that Montel-a man who wishes to take Monsieur Lebrun's place in the family-will be in Vera Cruz at the beginning of the next month, and invites Robert to join him, should he still wish to do so. Robert seems upset that his mother has not relayed this news to him before now.