The Divers head south to their villa on the Riviera. They live comfortably with few interruptions, spending a great deal of time with their children, until they go to visit Mary North. After her husband's death, Mary remarried Hosain, the Conte di Minghetti, a wealthy man from southwestern Asia. Dick gets drunk to relieve the boredom of their stay. Through a misunderstanding about their child's bath, the Divers inadvertently insult Hosain's sister, whom they mistook for a maid. Mary, furious, demands an apology, but instead Dick insults her for being so boring.
After an altercation with their drunken cook back at their villa, who accused Dick of drinking too much and threatened him with a knife, the Divers' marriage reaches a low point. Rather than confronting the problem, Dick decides to obnoxiously board the boat of one of their acquaintances. On the boat, Dick drinks heavily and offends an English woman, Lady Caroline, while Nicole finds Tommy Barban and they talk through the night. Tommy drives the couple home and stays the night.
In the morning, Nicole gives Tommy the family's whole bottle of cough medicine despite Dick's objections. That morning she overhears two gardeners discussing an affair one of them had had with a young woman, after which the Divers receive letters from both Rosemary and Tommy.
The following morning the Divers go to the beach together and find Rosemary. They go out in a boat with some of Rosemary's friends and Dick tries to impress the starlet with a trick he was once able to do on the water-skis, riding with a man on his shoulders. Despite his best efforts, Dick can no longer perform the trick. Mary North appears and snubs the Divers, but even that cannot cause Dick to tumble too far in Rosemary's estimation. They continue to flirt, even in the face of Nicole's obvious anger.
Rosemary senses Nicole's anger and tries to change the subject to the Divers' children. She asks the younger girl, Topsy, if she wants to be an actress. Nicole rebukes Rosemary for even suggesting it, storms away back to her villa and sends a provocative letter to Tommy Barban.
The Divers spend that evening with their children, but feel estranged from one another. Upon returning from shopping the following morning, Nicole discovers that Dick has gone to Provence to spend some time alone. Tommy Barban calls and says that he is coming to see Nicole.
Dick's decision to spend such a great deal of time with his children indicates his lack of interest in work. Dick has seemingly abandoned his legacy as a scholar and so devotes himself to the legacy of his children. The children begin to play a role in the narrative as well. Their prominent importance in the scene with Mary acts as a prime example.
But this scene contains far more. On a basic level it reveals Dick's complete lack of regard for the people around him. He no longer makes everybody feel comfortable and happy; he causes disasters and does not care to repair them. On another level, Mary has succeeded and she represents the surviving legacy of the self-destructive husband. If Dick is mimicking the path of Abe, Mary's example suggests that Nicole can emerge from Dick's self-destruction without being consumed.
Dick does continue to act self-destructively, but his actions in many ways lead to the healthy emergence of a new Nicole. When Nicole confronts her husband with the fact that their marriage is not working, Dick chooses not to respond with conversation but instead makes the problems worse by obnoxiously, and carelessly, boarding a private boat party. His tactic has a positive effect however, in that Nicole reestablishes contact with Tommy, the man through whom her salvation comes. That affair, though it will help destroy Dick, will save Nicole. Dick's insulting, obnoxious behavior on the boat only pushes Nicole toward Tommy more forcefully. The question of whether Dick is to some extent purposefully trying to push Nicole from him to Tommy is an interesting one that the book leaves unresolved. The seemingly trivial cough medicine incident makes it clear to Dick that Nicole has found a new love.
Dick's decision to leave for Provence--it is unclear whether he goes with Rosemary or not--allows Nicole to have her affair with Tommy. Partially because of Dick's disintegration and infidelity, and partially because of the conversation of her employees that she overhears, Nicole decides that she wants to have an affair. She wants to make the final break with Dick that he had made with her long ago. Her decision to do so completes her cure. Up to this point, she had placed her sanity in the hands of Dick; now she is finally ready to act in an independent way. /PARAGRAPH An interesting stylistic shift takes place here as well. The novel's perspective shifts to follow Nicole. It remains with her through the end of the book. We follow Nicole toward her final achievement of mental health. Dick becomes an almost superfluous character at this point since he has already done all he can to help his wife.