Septimus returns from an early-morning hunt, carrying a dead rabbit, which he gives to Jellaby. Jellaby tells Septimus that while he was off sleeping in the boat house, Brice, Mr. Chater, and Mrs. Chater all left, followed by Byron. Septimus bribes Jellaby to get the gossip. Last night, Lady Croom, on a late-night visit to Byron, found Mrs. Chater exiting. The two of them had a noisy fight.
All the lines of romance begin to cross. From Jellaby’s gossip, we can gather that Lady Croom thought Byron was having an affair exclusively with her. She was therefore not pleased to find Mrs. Chater on her way out of Byron’s bedroom.
Lady Croom enters, sending Jellaby away for tea. She tosses down two letters and begins to yell at Septimus. We can gather that one letter was a confession of love to her, and the other a letter about rice pudding to Thomasina. Septimus left both because he expected he might be killed in a duel this morning, but, it’s now clear, the duel never took place because Chater left after the previous night’s drama.
This scene touchingly shows that Septimus didn’t feel as invincible as he pretended at the end of Scene 3. Expecting death, he finally felt he could spill his feelings to Lady Croom. Despite his statement that sex is better than love, he is a real romantic.
Jellaby delivers tea and a letter from Byron to Septimus. Lady Croom doesn’t want Septimus to read the letter from Byron, whom she no longer considers a friend, so Septimus burns it. Lady Croom explains that Brice, Chater and Mrs. Chater are sailing for the West Indies. Brice is funding Chater to be the expedition’s botanist, but, Lady Croom explains, Brice’s real goal is to continue his affair with Mrs. Chater. Chater still wants to believe in his wife’s virtue.
Lady Croom’s explanation of the Chater-Brice expedition gives us a link that Bernard is still missing. The botanist Chater who died by monkey bite is, we realize, the same as the “Couch of Eros” Chater. They’re not relatives, as Bernard assumes, and Chater certainly didn’t die in a duel.
Lady Croom mentions that Septimus’s passionate love letter to her rings false because of Septimus’s fling with Mrs. Chater. Septimus explains that he only got with Mrs. Chater because of his unquenched passion for Lady Croom. Lady Croom, with characteristic ironic humor and high manners, invites Septimus to come to her sitting room that evening.
Not even the untouchably high-society and elegant Lady Croom is free of lust or immune to flirting and compliments. Her invitation to Septimus corresponds to Hannah’s rejection of Bernard’s invitation.