The narrator sums up the events of the afternoon, which had played out like “some complicated game.” The driver says that bad weather is coming in, and wants to hurry, so everyone leaves without George, who has wandered off on his own, leaving him to walk back. A storm begins as the party rides back into Florence, and two close lightning strikes cause Miss Lavish and Lucy to scream.
The fact that George walks back alone could symbolize a separation from mainstream society. It also gives Lucy a chance to try to make sense of her confused thoughts on George. George alone in the storm also seems to connect him with the storm and passion.
Worried, Mr. Emerson asks Mr. Eager to ask the driver where George is. Charlotte, meanwhile, slips some money to the driver, who saw the kiss earlier, and asks him not to tell anyone about it. Ahead of the carriage on the road, lightning strikes the wire of a tramline, and a support falls. The carriage stops in time to avoid being hit by it, and everyone feels “the floods of love and sincerity,” at coming so close to a disaster.
Charlotte is willing to sacrifice a little honesty and integrity—bribing the driver to keep quiet about the kiss—in order to protect her younger cousin. She doesn’t think that Lucy is able to handle the situation entirely on her own. And Charlotte thinks that gossip about Lucy’s involvement in such a kiss could ruin her in society.
Emotional, Lucy apologizes to Charlotte and says that Charlotte warned her to be careful, but she simply thought she was “developing.” She tries to explain what had happened on the river with George, and then assures Charlotte that she is “not to blame,” for the kiss. But then she admits that she is “a little to blame,” and says that when she saw George among the flowers she thought he looked like something out of a book of mythology. She tells Charlotte that she wants to be truthful and says, “It is so hard to be absolutely truthful.”
Lucy attempts to be “absolutely truthful,” and honest but is unable to put her feelings and experiences into words. She doesn’t actually lie, but still feels guilty about not being able to tell the entire truth. She concedes that she is a little bit to blame, but does not admit—even to herself--that she actually does have feelings for George.
Charlotte consoles Lucy and tells her that everything is okay. The storm calms down as the carriage enters Florence. Back at the Pension, Lucy thinks of “how she should describe,” what has happened with George and her—“all her sensations, her spasms of courage, her moments of unreasonable joy, her mysterious discontent.” She hopes to “disentangle and interpret” all her feelings.
Charlotte acts like a protective maternal figure toward Lucy. Lucy again finds herself unable to put her feelings into words, which prevents her from being entirely honest. The fact that she has such difficulty expressing her thoughts about George suggests that her love for him is irrational, and even unintentional.
Lucy talks with Charlotte in her room, and Charlotte asks her “what is to be done?” She asks how they are to “silence” George, and Lucy says that she is sure George will not say anything about the event to anyone. Charlotte says that George does not seem like the type to keep quiet about his “exploits,” and says that he is not wicked, but is “thoroughly unrefined.” Lucy suggests that she speak to George to settle the matter.
Although Lucy calls George “unrefined,” she still thinks highly of him and trusts him. Lucy wants to be entirely honest, but now she has another secret that she must keep. Charlotte treats this as a very serious matter, showing how significant a mere kiss can be in the social world of Edwardian England.
Charlotte is reluctant to agree to Lucy’s plan, since Lucy is “so young and inexperienced,” that she doesn’t “realize what men can be.” Charlotte asks what Lucy would have done if Charlotte had not happened upon George and her, and Lucy has no answer. Charlotte wishes that a “real man” like Lucy’s brother were present, to help them with the situation. Charlotte tells Lucy that they will take a train to Rome the next day.
Charlotte doesn’t think Lucy can handle the situation herself, because she is so young but especially because she is a young woman, and doesn’t have experience with men. Charlotte takes control of the situation, but still doesn’t think she can manage it as well as a man could. Charlotte thinks the best way to deal with the situation is to avoid it, to literally go to a place where George isn’t.
As Charlotte and Lucy start to pack their things, Lucy feels inexplicably compelled to embrace Charlotte. Charlotte returns the gesture, and then apologizes for vexing Lucy “at every turn.” She says she is “too uninteresting and old-fashioned,” and has failed Lucy, as well as failing Lucy’s mother in not protecting her.
At this point, Lucy still relies on Charlotte and listens to her. Charlotte notes that there is a significant generational gap between Lucy and her, but still insists on the importance of protecting Lucy.
Lucy insists that Charlotte is not to blame for anything, and promises that she will not tell her mother about what has happened. The narrator comments that Charlotte had “worked like a great artist,” and taken advantage of Lucy’s “craving for sympathy and love.” George finally returns to the Pension and Lucy considers saying goodbye to him, but Charlotte finds him first and has a talk with him. From her own room, Lucy cries out, “I want not to be muddled. I want to grow older quickly.” Charlotte suggests she go to bed.
Charlotte is in a sense not being entirely honest, as she manipulates Lucy. Lucy wants “not to be muddled,” and isn’t exactly sure what to think about all that has happened. She wants to grow up, be more mature, and understand complicated things, but for now Charlotte continues to handle matters for her and to make herself look like the responsible party here while making Lucy see herself and her feelings for George as products of her naiveté.