A little background on the Honeychurches: the late Mr. Honeychurch moved to Summer Street and built his house before it became fashionable, and thus he and his family were accepted by the wealthy newcomers when they arrived. Thus did the Honeychurch family become real members of the slightly higher social class that started to populate the neighborhood, which constitutes “the best society obtainable.”
Until Italy happened, Lucy had been happy to accept the likes and dislikes of the people she grew up with, including their restrictive views on society. Now, though, she feels that she can like anyone from any class, and that social restrictions aren’t permanent barriers.
Cecil, on the other hand, just grew more irritable and less tolerant in Italy. He is appalled by the local society that the Honeychurches circulate in, and wants to remove Lucy from it. What he doesn’t – can’t possibly – see about his fiancé is that she has reached a new stage in social understanding that he’s not even close to. What Lucy needs is not a new social circle, but real, one-on-one personal relationships, especially with the man she loves. As Forster puts it, somewhat dramatically, Lucy found her soul in Italy.
From this introspective view, we move immediately to an especially unserious pursuit – the game of bumble-puppy. Lucy and Minnie, Mr. Beebe’s young niece, are playing bumble-puppy in the yard, as the adults discuss the coming of Miss and Miss Alan.
Freddy arrives, and there’s a brief and hilarious discussion of tennis balls appropriate for bumble-puppy (a game that mostly consists of hitting a tennis ball as high as possible). The Honeychurches, in typical Honeychurch form, name all of their tennis balls. The one’s they’re playing with currently are called Saturn and the Beautiful White Devil. The children (Lucy, Freddy, and Minnie) all engage in pleasantly un-regulated horseplay. It’s great to see Lucy let go and not have to worry about society for once.
Freddy is certain that Cissie’s new tenants aren’t the Miss Alans – he thinks their name is Emerson. Oh no!
Lucy is unpleasantly shocked, and tries not to let it show. The Emersons from Florence come up, and Mr. Beebe describes them briefly. Freddy claims that these Summer Street Emersons are friends of Cecil’s, which makes Lucy, Mr. Beebe, and all of us particularly suspicious.
Mr. Beebe, trying to save Lucy from her embarrassment, repeats the story of Mr. Emerson and his “murdered” wife; Mrs. Honeychurch mentions that she just heard the same story (from her daughter) about a tourist named Harris. This is too much for Lucy to handle, and she goes to talk to Cecil in the house.
Irritatingly, Cecil is in a great mood. We quickly learn why: these Emersons are certainly no friends of his, but are nutty people that he met in an art museum. He’s pleased with himself because he arranged for Sir Harry to rent the cottage to them, and knows that when Sir Harry actually meets them, he’ll be terrifically unhappy. It becomes increasingly clear that these are the very same Emersons that we know already. Furthermore, he tries to put a moralizing spin on this whole thing, saying that he thinks the classes should mix, and that he believes in democracy, et cetera.
This is too much for Lucy to take, and she calls Cecil out on these ridiculous statements. She’s also justifiably upset with her fiancé for ruining the work she’d done to get the Miss Alans to take the villa.
Cecil is so not pleased with Lucy’s reaction – it’s not at all artistic.
Lucy, upset at Cecil for so many reasons, leaves. Cecil thinks about what has happened, getting more and more angry. He convinces himself that he was trying to do a good thing all around by bringing the Emersons to Summer Street, both for their sake and his own.