Hugh Whitbread examines the shoes and socks in a shop window on Oxford Street before he lunches at Lady Bruton’s with Richard Dalloway. Hugh is not a deep person, but he is very courteous in an old-fashioned way and always brings Lady Bruton a bunch of carnations when he visits. Lady Bruton’s assistant, Milly Brush, cannot stand Hugh, but he is oblivious to her distain.
Lady Bruton, at sixty-two, prefers Richard to Hugh, but she feels Hugh is kind. She does not see the point of ”cutting people up,” the way Clarissa does. Lady Bruton announces to her two guests that she wants their help but says they will discuss business after they eat. A magnificent lunch appears like magic, served by discreet white-capped maids. Nobody seems to have paid for the food and the table seems to have set itself.
Richard thinks Lady Bruton, the descendent of a great general, should have been a general herself. She has a reputation for talking like a man. Richard has great respect for her and enjoys the notion of a well-set-up woman from a great family. Lady Bruton is anxious to talk to the men about her business, but decides to wait until after they drink their coffee.
Lady Bruton asks after Clarissa, who thinks Lady Bruton does not like her. Hugh brags that he met Clarissa that morning. Lady Bruton tells them that Peter Walsh is in town. They all remember how passionately in love with Clarissa Peter once was, as well as how he went to India and made a mess of things. Richard decides to go home after lunch and tell Clarissa he loves her. Milly Brush watches Richard and feels she might once have fallen in love with him. Lady Bruton, Richard, and Hugh all like Peter but feel helping him is impossible because of his flawed character.
Emigration to Canada is Lady Bruton’s cause. Her letter-writing skills are poor, and she is unable to write to the Times about the issue. She has invited Hugh and Richard to lunch so they can help her. She thinks Hugh knows how to write a letter that appeals to editors. Richard finds Hugh’s letter to be nonsense, but Lady Bruton is thrilled with it. She stuffs Hugh’s carnations into the front of her dress and calls him “[m]y Prime Minister.” Richard plans to write a history of Lady Bruton’s family, and she tells him the papers are all in order for when the time comes, by which she means when the Labour Party comes into power. Richard reminds Lady Bruton about Clarissa’s party.
The men leave and Lady Bruton lies on the sofa. She remembers herself as a girl, riding on her pony in the country and roughhousing with her brothers. Hugh and Richard seem attached to her by a thread, which grows thinner as they move farther from her.