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Preparations are underway for the Greek voyage, and Lucy seems to have patched things up with the Miss Alans. She and her mother visit the two sisters in London.
Lucy makes no comment on her breakup with Cecil, and the Miss Alans suffer under the misapprehension that the couple is still together. After mother and daughter leave to head back to Summer Street, Mrs. Honeychurch attempts to understand her daughter’s motivations. Lucy tells her that she and Cecil agreed not to announce their breakup until after she leaves.
Lucy can’t admit her real problem to her mother – she can’t even admit her confusion about George to herself. Defensively, she gets a little nasty and picks a fight with her poor mom, suggesting that she might move out of Windy Corner entirely when she comes into her inheritance.
The tension carries through all the way back to Surrey. To make matters worse, Lucy notices that the Emersons are moving out of Cissie Villa – and she feels as though her Greek trip, planned solely to avoid George, has been rendered redundant.
Before they can go home, though, the carriage has to stop to pick up Charlotte from the Rectory of the Summer Street church, where she’s been waiting for them.
Charlotte, ever one to cause trouble, asks if she might stay for the sermon. Mrs. Honeychurch agrees and goes into the church with her, while Lucy elects to wait in the Rectory for them.
There, she finds an unexpected companion – Mr. Emerson. He immediately apologizes to her for George. Apparently, his son just told him everything that happened between him and Lucy. Lucy doesn’t know how to react.
The kind old man opens up to her, and tries to make her see how sorry George is. He tells Lucy that George has “gone under” – he’s lost hope since her rejection of him. He says that George’s mother suffered from just the same thing.
We finally learn how Mrs. Emerson died: apparently, Mr. Emerson refused to have George baptized when he was born. Unfortunately, George fell ill with typhoid as a small child, and Mrs. Emerson, under the influence of the dastardly Reverend Eager, “went under,” worrying that it was their fault for never baptizing the boy. By the time George got better, his mother was sick with worry and regret, and died.
Mr. Emerson is worried that George too will never recover from this disappointment. He’s confused, and plans to return to London, where he can look after his boy.
Lucy, distraught, tells Mr. Emerson not to leave his comfortable home at Cissie Villa – she’s going to Greece, after all. She neglects to tell him that she and Cecil have broken off their engagement.
Mr. Beebe bursts in, fresh from church, and accidentally reveals Lucy’s lie to Mr. Emerson, by mentioning that she’s traveling with the Miss Alans, not Cecil. He dashes out again.
Lucy instantly comes out with the truth – she tells Mr. Emerson that she has broken her engagement.
Mr. Emerson sees the real truth behind all of this: Lucy loves George, but won’t admit it. He gently tells her that she’s in a bit of a “muddle,” and has to figure it out and come to terms with her real feelings. He gives an impassioned speech about how love, once discovered, is eternal. Lucy, realizing that he’s right, breaks down in tears.
Though Lucy finally peers down to the “bottom of her soul” and sees that she really loves George, she’s still overwhelmed by the “muddle” of events – she’s committed to so many things already, like the trip to Greece, and the life of solitude that she’s announced to her family and Mr. Beebe, that she feels trapped in the circumstances she herself has constructed. She states miserably that everyone trusts her – and Mr. Emerson tells her that she’s not worthy of their trust.
On that note, Mr. Beebe enters again. He demands to know what’s going on; Mr. Emerson tells all. Lucy, still weeping, claims that she will never marry George.
Mr. Beebe is suddenly an alarming presence. Though he has invested his efforts in sending Lucy away, he knows that she must marry the man she loves, whether he wants her to or not. His former affection for Lucy turns to contempt at the sight of her betrayal of herself and everyone else. He orders Lucy to marry George, who “will do admirably,” and departs.
Thus abandoned, Lucy turns again to Mr. Emerson. He acknowledges the fact that her family and friends will “despise” her for this change of heart, but that she must struggle on through the muddle in the name of Love – but furthermore, in the name of Truth. He kisses her, and somehow manages to give her the strength to see her path, despite the barriers of the world around her.