But Charlotte witnessed the snog, so Lucy is whisked back to Surrey, where she gets engaged to the horribly priggish Cecil Vyse Daniel Day-Lewis , to the polite distaste of her family, and the Rev Beebe Simon Callow, uncharacteristically subtle. Then the Emersons reappear …. What might have been starched and talky in other hands comes out of the wash alive with spring and spirit.
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Smith's Charlotte — so funny as a curmudgeonly drag "The ground will do for me," she says, as cushions are assigned on a picnic, "I haven't had rheumatism for years. And if I do feel a twinge, I shall stand up" — is just tragic alone, as Lucy might well have been, had her story not had such a happy ending. Then the Emersons reappear … What might have been starched and talky in other hands comes out of the wash alive with spring and spirit. One of the guests at the pension, Mr Emerson, interrupts their "peevish wrangling" by spontaneously offering to swap rooms. She decidedly rejects the offer.
However, another guest at the pension, an Anglican clergyman named Mr Beebe, assures Miss Bartlett that the Emersons only meant to be kind, and persuades the two women to accept the offer. She then suggests that the Emersons are socialists. The following day, while Charlotte rests in the pension, Lucy decides to spend a "long morning" in the Basilica of Santa Croce , accompanied by another guest, Miss Eleanor Lavish, a novelist, who promises to lead her on an adventure.
The older woman immediately takes away Lucy's Baedeker guidebook, which, she says, only touches the surface of things. She will show Lucy the "true Italy". But on the way to Santa Croce , chattering away, the two take a wrong turn and get lost. After drifting for hours through various streets and piazzas, they finally make it back to the square in front of the church only to have the novelist abandon Lucy still having her Baedeker in pursuit of an old man who, she says, is her "local colour box".
Inside the church, Lucy meets the Emersons again. Although their manners are awkward and they have been treated rather coolly by many of the other guests of the pension, Lucy finds that she likes the Emersons, and repeatedly encounters them in Florence. One afternoon while touring Piazza della Signoria , Lucy and George Emerson separately witness a murder.
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George sees that Lucy is overcome, and catches her as she faints. When she recovers, she asks him to retrieve some photographs that she dropped near the murder site. George finds them, but out of confusion, throws them into the river because they were spotted with blood, and confesses why to Lucy; Lucy observes how boyish George is.
As they stop to look over the River Arno before making their way back to the hotel, they have an intimate conversation. After this, Lucy decides to avoid George, partly because she is confused by her feelings, and partly to keep her cousin happy. Miss Bartlett is even more wary of the eccentric Emersons, since hearing a startling comment made by another clergyman, Mr Eager, who says that Mr Emerson, "murdered his wife in the sight of God".
At first the driver is permitted to invite a pretty girl he claims is his sister onto the box of the carriage to accompany them. But later, when they sit closer and he kisses her, Mr Eager promptly requires that she leave them.
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In another carriage, Mr Emerson remarks how it is defeat rather than victory to part two people in love. Wandering about in the high fields after abandoning Miss Lavish and Miss Bartlett to their gossip, Lucy searches for Mr Beebe, and asks in awkward Italian for the driver to show her where everyone is.
Misunderstanding, he leads her to a field where George is admiring the view. Overcome by Lucy's beauty amongst a field of violets, he takes her in his arms and kisses her. However, they are interrupted by a shocked and upset Charlotte, who is ruffled mostly because of her explicit failure at her duty as a chaperone. Lucy promises Miss Bartlett that she will not tell her mother of the "insult" George has paid her.
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The two women leave for Rome the next day before Lucy is able to say goodbye to George. Cecil proposes to Lucy twice in Italy; she rejects him both times.
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Cecil proposes yet again at Windy Corner, and this time she accepts. Cecil is a sophisticated London aesthete who is desirable in terms of rank and class, even though he despises country society; he is also somewhat of a comic figure in the novel, as he gives himself airs and is quite pretentious. The vicar , Mr Beebe, announces that new tenants have leased a local villa; the new arrivals turn out to be the Emersons, who have been told of the available villa at a chance meeting with Cecil. Cecil brought them to the village as a comeuppance to the villa's landlord, whom Cecil who believes himself to be very democratic thinks to be a snob.
Lucy is angry with Cecil, as she had tentatively arranged for the elderly Misses Alan, other guests from the Pension Bertolini, to take the villa.
Freddy invites George for "a bathe" in a nearby pond. Freddy, George and Mr Beebe go to the pond, in the woods. Freddy and George take off their clothes and jump in, eventually convincing Mr. Beebe to join them.
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They enjoy themselves so much they end up splashing in and out of the pond, and running around it and through the bushes, until Lucy, her mother, and Cecil come upon them, having taken a short-cut through the woods. Freddy later invites George to play tennis at Windy Corner. Although Lucy is initially mortified at the thought of facing both George and Cecil who is also visiting Windy Corner that Sunday , she resolves to be gracious.
Cecil annoys everyone by pacing around and reading aloud from a light romance novel that contains a scene suspiciously reminiscent of when George kissed Lucy in Florence. George catches Lucy alone in the garden and kisses her again. Lucy realises that the novel is by Miss Lavish the writer-acquaintance from Florence and that Charlotte must thus have told her about the kiss. Furious with Charlotte for betraying her secret, Lucy forces her cousin to watch as she tells George to leave and never return.
George argues with her, saying that Cecil only sees her as an "object for the shelf" and will never love her enough to grant her independence, while George loves her for who she is. Lucy is moved but remains firm. Later that evening, after Cecil again rudely declines to play tennis, Lucy sees Cecil for what he is and immediately breaks off her engagement.
She decides to flee to Greece with acquaintances from her trip to Florence, but shortly before her departure she accidentally encounters Mr Emerson senior. He is not aware that Lucy has broken her engagement with Cecil, and Lucy cannot lie to the old man.