Two days after Ezra's death, a group of townspeople appear on the front steps bidding Christine goodnight. A funeral wreath hangs on the door. Lavinia has gone to meet Orin at the train station, accompanied, at her mother's insistence, by Peter.
Mrs. Borden, the wife of the manager of the Mannon shipping company, remarks that, strangely, Christine appears utterly grief-stricken at Ezra's death while and Lavinia calm as an icicle. Mrs. Hills then tactlessly ruminates that, as her husband the local minister once said, that fate brought Ezra down. The others chastise her. Dr. Blake smugly remarks that, from the symptoms he supposedly described to Christine, he knew his heart would give out. As the group disperses, he smirks to Mr. Borden that lovemaking probably killed him.
Christine emerges from the house. Alone for a moment, she relaxes her mask, letting her eyes and mouth twitch in terror. Hazel joins her on the porch and offers her sympathy and Christine stiffens. When Hazel looks forward to Orin's arrival, Christine declares that she wants Hazel to become Orin's wife, she invites Hazel to become her "secret conspirator" and keep him from Lavinia's crazy fantasies. Lavinia has been following her since Ezra's death, refusing to speak a word. Christine invites an embarrassed Hazel back into the house. At times Orin resembles his father so much that she could not bear to him come up the drive.
As soon they shut the door, Peter, Lavinia, and Orin arrive, all of whom startlingly resemble both Ezra and Brant. Orin is wearing a head-bandage. Peter leaves them alone to catch up. Orin disappointedly complains of Christine's absence. He is awed by the house's tomb-like appearance. When Lavinia reproaches him for his insensitivity, Orin hurriedly and somewhat resentfully replies that he cannot believe Ezra is dead, as he was sure he would outlive him. The war, moreover, has long inured him to death. To him, Ezra was the war, the war that would not end until Orin died.
Abruptly changing the subject, he jealously asks Lavinia about what she wrote him regarding Brant and Christine. Lavinia replies that they have no time to speak now but warns him against believing Christine and letting her baby him again. Suddenly Christine hurries out, reproaching Peter for leaving Orin alone.
Mother and son embrace jubilantly. Noting that his mother has changed, Peter thrusts Christine back and asks what has happened to her. Lavinia warns Orin anew. Christine leads Orin into the house and then suddenly reappears, winningly asking Lavinia to stop tormenting her. She asks if she happened to find her pillbox. When Lavinia does not respond, Christine becomes desperate, insisting that she tell her what she plans to do. Lavinia stalks off. Orin calls Christine from inside, and she tensely re-enters.