Mrs. Touchett telegrams Isabel, notifying her of Ralph’s imminent death. She asks Isabel to come to Gardencourt.
Isabel goes to Osmond to let him know that she’s going. Osmond forbids her to go.
Osmond tells her that it would be an indecent thing to go against his wishes, as they are still a married couple, like it or not.
Isabel wonders if he would expect her to come back if she leaves.
Countess Gemini hears of Ralph’s condition, and her first thought is that Isabel will not give any more parties when she is mourning (oh, that Countess – what a saint). Of course, Countess Gemini has been waiting for Isabel to set Osmond off, so she is excited that going to England might be it. Lest you think she’s totally heartless, don’t worry – she’s also somewhat sympathetic to her sister-in-law.
After pondering her options, Countess Gemini decides to play her trump card: she tells Isabel the grim truth about her brother.
Countess Gemini tells Isabel that Pansy was not the child of Osmond’s first wife. And Isabel has a good idea who Pansy’s birth mother is: Madame Merle!
Countess Gemini tells Isabel that Osmond and Madame Merle were romantically involved for six or seven years.
Isabel, torn between revulsion and pity, actually feels bad for Madame Merle, who’s had to see another woman care for her daughter.
Countess Gemini claims that Madame Merle arranged Isabel’s marriage to Osmond so that Pansy would be financially supported, and could marry well.
Osmond and Madame Merle never married because she never had enough money for him.
Countess Gemini says that Madame Merle has done a lot for Osmond, but Osmond has done nothing for her.
Isabel, shocked and appalled, can only say that she must see Ralph.