Meanwhile, Isabel has continued to visit her unwell cousin, Ralph, at his hotel in Rome, despite Osmond’s displeasure in her actions. Isabel is concerned that Osmond will go so far as to soon ban Isabel from visiting Ralph at all. Ralph is unable to leave Rome due to poor weather.
Isabel is bound by Victorian social duty to obey her husband’s commands, which is why she fears he will ban her from seeing Ralph.
Isabel contemplates the extreme but plausible actions of breaking her marriage to Osmond, but realizes this option as being “odious and monstrous.” Isabel asks Ralph if he believes that Lord Warburton is truly in love with Pansy. Ralph confirms that the nobleman is in love, but with Isabel rather than Pansy, even though the nobleman denies it to himself.
Although it would ensure her happiness, Isabel’s consideration of leaving Osmond is an extreme and scandalous action by Victorian standards. Her unhappy marriage is further complicated by Ralph’s confirmation that Lord Warburton is still in love with Isabel.
In her despair, Isabel emotionally cries out “Ah, Ralph, you give me no help!” Her cousin is both shocked and relieved by her acknowledgement that she needs his help. He feels that they have finally repaired their friendship and states “How unhappy you must be!” As soon as he speaks, though, Isabel retracts her emotion and claims that Lord Warburton should let Pansy and Edward Rosier pursue their love match. Ralph defends Warburton’s good character, admitting that he would treat Pansy very well, although Ralph dislikes the thought of the two getting married.
Isabel’s fickle character is on show yet again, as she flips between entreating Ralph for help and closing him out. Ralph defends his friend Lord Warburton; in fact, Ralph has proven himself a stalwart friend to Isabel and Warburton—despite their turbulent history—throughout the story. This is another reason why he can be viewed as the novel’s moral compass.
Ralph is concerned that if he and Isabel could convince Lord Warburton to stop pursuing Pansy’s hand in marriage, Osmond would retaliate by punishing Isabel for failing to persuade Warburton to marry Pansy.
Ralph’s love for Isabel means that he is constantly concerned for her wellbeing. His concern is intensified with the knowledge that Osmond is a wicked character and has the great power of a husband over Isabel.
As they continue their discussion, Ralph is disappointed that Isabel’s mask has dropped back firmly into place. He offends Isabel in his desire to prove Osmond’s ill character, and she leaves him to speak with Pansy.
Isabel is constantly misinterpreting her family and friends’ concern; her self-conceit means that she often interprets their advice as criticisms.
Isabel seeks out Pansy and asks her stepdaughter how she feels about Lord Warburton. Isabel suggests that a father’s advice is more important than one’s own desires, but the usually obedient Pansy surprises Isabel by claiming that she would prefer Isabel’s advice, for a lady can offer a girl better advice than a man can.
For the second time in the story, Pansy shows surprising individuality and stands up for herself. Her reasoning is also sound and suggests Pansy has a sharp intellect.
Pansy then reveals to Isabel that her greatest desire in life is to marry Edward Rosier, for she loves him. Osmond’s disapproval is the only things that stops her. Isabel tries to be loyal to her husband and again encourages Pansy to obey her father’s wishes; Pansy acknowledges that she can live without marrying Rosier but she will always love him.
Pansy demonstrates a strong will and a desire to follow her heart. Isabel, who privileged personal freedom so heavily before her marriage, disappoints readers by trying to encourage Pansy to obey her father’s wishes.
Pansy seeks Isabel’s advice on what to do if a man different to Rosier proposed to her. The young woman is crushed when Isabel hears herself advise the girl to accept such a proposal. Isabel speaks directly to Pansy about Lord Warburton’s affection for her, outlining that he would propose immediately to Pansy if he knew she was interested in him. It is Osmond’s great wish that Pansy encourages Warburton’s affections.
Isabel once more shows her loyalty to Osmond and marriage’s social responsibilities by advising Pansy to accept the marriage proposal. Pansy is devastated by this advice because it goes against her desires yet is coming from her role model.
Pansy surprises Isabel with her astute take on the situation: Lord Warburton has some affection for Pansy (although he does not love her), but knows from her behavior that she has no interest in him. Therefore, although Osmond desires the match, Warburton will never pursue it any further. Isabel encourages Pansy to share these revelations with her father, but Pansy is afraid to do so. Furthermore, Pansy knows that she benefits from Lord Warburton’s pretending to humor her father’s desire, because it means that Osmond is not trying to find other eligible suitors for Pansy.
Surprisingly, Pansy takes charge and explains the truth of the situation to Isabel. Pansy reveals she is an extremely intelligent, and even somewhat manipulative, character, for she uses Lord Warburton’s feigned affections to her own advantage.
Isabel feels quite relieved after her talk with Pansy that clarifies the situation with Lord Warburton and Rosier. Isabel’s final piece of advice for her stepdaughter is that Osmond expects her to marry a nobleman; Pansy, standing in an open doorway and drawing a curtain aside for Isabel to pass through, comments seriously that Edward Rosier looks like a nobleman.
Isabel’s relief stems from the realization that her stepdaughter is intelligent enough to look after herself to a certain degree. Pansy, the apparently meek and mundane woman, has even shows a flash of humor when she compares Rosier to a nobleman.