Lucy goes to her room, determined to stifle “love felt and returned, love which our bodies exact and our hearts have transfigured, love which is the most real thing that we shall ever meet.” The narrator says that Lucy’s aim is “to defeat herself.” She calls for Charlotte, and then tells Charlotte about Miss Lavish’s novel. She asks Charlotte if she told Miss Lavish about the kiss, and Charlotte confesses that she did.
Lucy has been dedicated to trying to be honest, but in stifling her love for George she is only lying to herself. Despite Lucy’s efforts, she cannot completely get rid of love, which the narrator describes as a powerful force.
Upset, Lucy now realizes why Charlotte encouraged her to tell Cecil about the kiss earlier and warned of Cecil finding out from someone else. Charlotte wonders what is to be done, feeling that she is “a visitor, not a chaperon.” Lucy asks if Charlotte can talk to George as she did in Florence, but Charlotte doesn’t think she can help. Lucy resolves to speak to George herself.
Lucy realizes that Charlotte has not been entirely honest with her—and has been using her advice about how to act properly to hide her own improper actions! The customs of society, it is clear here, can be manipulated to hide lying or other unkind actions. In other words, propriety does not equal goodness. In great contrast to the beginning of the novel, it is now Lucy who must act on behalf of both herself and Charlotte, showing how much more independent and mature she has become.
Lucy and Charlotte go down to the dining room, where George is. Lucy tells George that she doesn’t want a long, dramatic discussion, and simply tells George to leave Windy Corner immediately. George asks if she is really going to marry Cecil, and says that Cecil is fine with books, but doesn’t know how to handle people. He describes how snobbish Cecil is.
Lucy continues to deny her love for George. George points out how snobbish Cecil is, in contrast to himself, as he has repeatedly shown how little he cares about social conventions and class.
George goes on to say that Cecil doesn’t treat women well. For example, when they encountered George near the Sacred Lake, George tells Lucy that Cecil was “teaching you and your mother to be shocked, when it was for you to settle whether you were shocked or no.” He says that Cecil “daren’t let a woman decide,” and tells Lucy what to think. George refuses to apologize for kissing Lucy, saying that he loves her.
George offers an impassioned critique of Cecil’s sexism and patronizing attitude towards women. Unlike Lucy, George is honest about his feelings, and straightforwardly tells Lucy that he loves her.
Lucy retorts that George is criticizing Cecil for telling her what to think, when he is essentially doing the same thing now. George actually agrees and says, “this desire to govern a woman—it lies very deep, and men and women must fight it together.” But, he says, he loves Lucy “in a better way” than Cecil does. George finally says that he has “been into the dark,” and is “going back into it,” unless Lucy will be with him. Lucy and Charlotte do not say anything, and George leaves. Charlotte compliments Lucy on her bravery in dealing with George, telling her she is “so unlike the girls of my day.”
Lucy’s reply gets to the problem with George telling her about Cecil’s sexism: he is also a man telling a woman what to do and think. To George’s credit, he admits this is true, proving himself to be forthright and honest again. Charlotte compliments Lucy on her bravery, exceptional for a woman of her own generation, but this is ironically at the moment in which Lucy is least honest and perhaps least worthy of such a compliment, as Lucy is still lying to herself about her feelings for George. (Incidentally, there is a suggestion in Charlotte’s comment that perhaps Charlotte at some time in the past was too passionate in love and was damaged in some way, leaving her in her present spinster state and motivating her actions up to this point).
Freddy enters and tells Lucy there is time for another set of tennis. She says that George has had to leave, so Freddy asks Cecil to play. Cecil again declines, saying that he is not an athlete and is “no good for anything but books.” Suddenly, Lucy realizes her true feelings and wonders how she has ever put up with Cecil. She concludes that he is “absolutely intolerable,” and later that very evening she breaks off her engagement to him.