The narrator describes “the society out of which Cecil proposed to rescue Lucy.” Lucy’s father had been “a prosperous local solicitor,” who built Windy Corner and then moved in. Nearby neighbors from London assumed that the Honeychurches were “the remnants of an indigenous aristocracy,” and by the time people found out that Lucy was not as noble as they thought she was, “they liked her, and it did not seem to matter.”
Cecil patronizingly thinks that Lucy is in need of his rescuing from what he pretentiously deems a dreary local society. At this transitional time, the Honeychurches have been able to pass off as aristocracy, showing the growing possibilities for social mobility.
For Lucy at Windy Corner, life “was a circle of rich, pleasant people, with identical interests and identical foes.” Only after her trip to Italy did she start to think that one could jump over and transgress “social barriers,” and that this could be a pleasant thing. Time in Italy had changed Cecil, as well, who now sees “local society” as narrow and insignificant. He seeks a better society, but fails to realize that Lucy really wants “not a wider dwelling-room, but equality beside the man she loved.”
Growing up, Lucy saw no real problems with her immediate social circles. But the experience of leaving British society and seeing more of the world has educated her, so that she is more inclined to transgress class barriers now. By contrast, Italy has only made Cecil more pretentious. He attempts to be generous to Lucy, but doesn’t realize what she really wants: equality.
One day, outside Windy Corner, Lucy is playing a made-up game with some tennis balls with Freddy and Mr. Beebe’s niece Minnie, while talking to Mr. Beebe. Mr. Beebe says that he has written to the Miss Alans, the spinsters Lucy thought could move into Sir Harry’s villa, and they are going to come. But then Freddy tells Lucy that he has heard someone else is moving into Sir Harry’s place. Freddy says that Cecil just recently told him that he has gotten someone by the name of Emerson to move in.
Cecil appears to have gone behind Lucy’s back and disregarded her efforts to get the Alans to move in, in order to carry out his own plan, showing a lack of concern for Lucy’s opinions.
Lucy tries to ascertain if this is the same Emerson family from Florence, and Mrs. Honeychurch says that she hopes the new tenants are “the right sort of person.” She says that Lucy is probably annoyed by her snobbery, but insists that “there is a right and a wrong sort, and it’s affectation to pretend there isn’t.” Freddy says that the new tenants are friends of Cecil, and Lucy is annoyed that her own fiancé would ruin her plans to have the Miss Alans move in.
Mrs. Honeychurch continues to offer forth traditional sentiments, insisting that class distinctions are natural and true. Lucy is annoyed with Cecil, but is probably more troubled by the prospect of seeing the Emersons again, showing that she has strong feelings regarding them that she’s like to avoid, and for George in particular.
Lucy says that these Emersons are probably not the same ones as were in Florence, and Mr. Beebe agrees. He calls the Florentine Emersons “the oddest people! The queerest people!” He says that there was a rumor Mr. Emerson killed his wife. Mrs. Honeychurch comments that this makes two accused murderers in the Pension Bertolini, as there was also an accused murderer named Harris. Realizing that she never corrected her mistake about the name Harris to her mother, Lucy thinks to herself that she must take care not to tell any more lies.
Lucy is worried about seeing the Emersons again, because she has unresolved feelings for George. Mr. Beebe sees the Emersons as odd because they disregard social conventions. The unsubstantiated rumor about Mr. Emerson killing his wife now circulates even further. Lucy realizes that she has unintentionally spread a bit of a lie about someone named Harris—try as she might, she can’t help but not be entirely honest in her life.
Lucy goes inside to see Cecil, and chides him for ruining her plan about the Miss Alans. Cecil describes the Emersons he has met, and says that he ran into them in the National Gallery in London, and that they are not his friends, but strangers. He is excited for these commoners to move in, because he is fed up with Sir Harry’s snobbery. He tells Lucy that he thinks “the classes ought to mix,” and “there ought to be intermarriage.” He tells Lucy he believes “in Democracy,” and Lucy snaps that he doesn’t know the meaning of that word. Cecil chalks Lucy’s temper up to snobbishness at the lowly Emersons moving in, instead of the gentlewomen Alans.
Cecil is fed up with Sir Harry’s snobbery, but not because he disapproves of class snobbery in principle. Rather, he simply thinks that Sir Harry is too full of himself and is not truly upper-class enough to hold such judgments. He claims to believe in equality to some degree, but this does not seem truthful, as he doesn’t exhibit such values—especially not in his relationship with Lucy, where he makes decisions by himself without consulting her.