Lucy goes to stay with Cecil's family in London, where she receives a letter from Charlotte, forwarded from Windy Corner. Charlotte has found out that the Emersons are moving to Summer Street. Lucy and Charlotte had a falling-out in Rome and have not been on such good terms since then. Charlotte wants Lucy to tell her mother and Cecil about what happened with her and George Emerson in the violets, but Lucy writes back reminding Charlotte that she herself made Lucy promise not to tell her mother.
Cecil and his mother introduce Lucy to the London society that they know, and Lucy realizes that in this urbane, sophisticated world where everyone seems a little bored with everything, she will need to become somewhat estranged from her own past. She plays the piano for her hosts, but refuses to play Beethoven, Cecil's request, and instead plays mournful Schumann. Mrs. Vyse is thrilled with her and asks Cecil to make Lucy "one of us." Lucy has a bad dream that night from which she awakes with a shriek.
Back at Summer Street, Mr. Beebe takes Freddy to call on the Emersons, who are moving into their new house. Their rooms are full of books written by the latest novelists and philosophers, which impresses Freddy. George appears and Freddy invites him for a swim in the forest pool. Mr. Emerson also arrives, speaking philosophically about a return to Nature.
Mr. Beebe accompanies the young men into the woods, awkwardly and unsuccessfully trying to make conversation on such topics as Nature and Italy. George and Mr. Beebe briefly debate whether their lives are ruled by coincidence, as Mr. Beebe suggests, or Fate, as George heavily believes. At the pool, Freddy excitedly strips and jumps in, and George apathetically follows. Mr. Beebe is convinced to join them. They tentatively start a water fight, which escalates until they are running naked around the pool and tossing clothes everywhere.
Suddenly Mrs. Honeychurch, Lucy, and Cecil are seen making their way down the path on the way to visit old Mrs. Butterworth, a neighbor. Cecil tries to take command, but everything is chaotic, with Freddy hiding in the bracken and Mr. Beebe in the pond. George, with only his pants on, greets Lucy, who bows.
Cecil, Lucy, and Mrs. Honeychurch have tea with Mrs. Butterworth, where Lucy reflects that it is impossible to plan ahead for situations. She had been planning to bow when she met George, but the situation and his "shout of the morning star" made her bow seem inappropriate, a meaningless gesture. Cecil is cross with Mrs. Butterworth, whom he despises, while Lucy, aware from Charlotte's teaching that everyone has faults, tries to smooth over her fiancé's curtness.