How has the relationship between Mrs. Slade and Mrs. Ansley evolved in "Roman Fever"? 

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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During their second trip to Rome, Mrs. Slade and Mrs. Ansley sit on the terrace overlooking "the outspread glories of the Palatine and the Forum" and reveal to each other the treacheries of long ago that belong to their shared past. This revelation exposes the falseness of any friendship they may have had.

In Rome, away from New York City, the two women relax on the parapet after bidding good-bye to their daughters who have dates with two Italian men. There they reflect upon how little they really know of each other. Then, when a reference to the full moon causes Mrs. Slade to react "as though references to the moon were out of place" the tension builds as Mrs. Ansley remarks further that she and Mrs. Slade really did not know each other well when they were young. Still, each woman has "a label ready to attach to each other's name," not to mention unkind thoughts about each other, such as those about the other's beauty and the personalities of their daughters--that is, they "visualized each other, each through the wrong end of her little telescope."

As both women sit on the parapet and Grace Ansley knits, they have their private interior monologues. In truth, they only associated while they were young because they were neighbors. As they speak of their daughters, Mrs. Slade reveals her envy of Grace Ansley: "I always wanted a brilliant daughter...and never quite understood why I got an angel instead." Memories arise from the shadows as she leans upon the parapet. As one memory ignites another, Mrs. Slade reveals having tricked Mrs. Ansley into a rendezvous with Delphin Slade so that Grace would contract Roman Fever because she knew Grace was in love with Delphin, who was engaged to the young Mrs. Slade.

   "...I hated you, hated you. I knew you were in love with Delphin--and I was afraid of you...your sweetness....Well, I wanted you out of the way....I don't know why I'm telling you now."
   "I suppose," said Mrs. Ansley slowly, "it's because you've gone on hating me."

Then Mrs. Slade accuses Mrs. Ansley of trying to take Delphin away from her:

"I kept him. That's all."
"Yes. That's all."

Further, as they sit in the dark, Mrs. Slade reveals that she wrote the letter as a "sort of joke." This remark perplexes Mrs. Ansley who tells her old friend that in fact she did not wait because Delphin made all the arrangements, and he came because she answered the letter. At this news, Mrs. Slade is shocked. Mrs. Ansley tells her that she is sorry for her, but Mrs. Slade replies that she does not know why Mrs. Ansley should feel sorry for her when she had Delphin for twenty-five years, and she had nothing.

"I had Barbara," she quietly replies and moves ahead of Mrs. Sloan.

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