Book 1, Chapters 3-4 Summary
Mrs. Assingham and the prince observe Charlotte Stant arriving. The prince inquires of Mrs. Assingham how long Charlotte is to be in London. He thinks Mrs. Assingham might think he does not like Charlotte, so he jokingly offers to take Charlotte off her hands. He and Charlotte greet each other in a tone of suspense. As they talk, the prince senses that Charlotte does not particularly like the United States, and Charlotte confesses this is true. The Prince says this is not encouraging for him because he is to go there soon with Maggie after their marriage.
The prince confides in Charlotte that he had suspected she would be married by now to some rich American; this reveals that they knew each other previously. Charlotte says she never found anyone to suit her. She declares that it is much easier for a woman to remain single now. She asks the prince if the wedding is to take place on Friday (which is an unlucky day). He tells her it is to be on Saturday at three o’clock. The prince tells her that he is to dine with Mr. Verver that evening and asks if she has any message for him. She says she will talk with Maggie soon. The prince offers to send a carriage for her, but she says she will take the omnibus, which costs only a penny. Charlotte asks the prince to help her find a wedding present for Maggie, something that cannot be bought in America. He agrees to accompany her and departs, feeling that he now knows where he stands.
That evening, Colonel Bob Assingham wonders why his wife is taking Charlotte’s arrival so hard. Charlotte came to London from Southampton, settled into a hotel for a few hours, and then relocated to a private home. Mrs. Assingham explains to the Colonel that Charlotte and the prince had previously had a romance but broke it off because neither had money enough to marry. Charlotte can no longer stay in America because she does not fit in. Mrs. Assingham believes that Charlotte has come to help Maggie understand the prince as she herself had come to know him. Mrs. Assingham does not believe Charlotte knows the Prince had any previous romantic attachment, nor has Charlotte told her, fearing that Maggie is not strong enough to take it. Colonel Assingham is confused as to his wife’s involvement in all this and wishes she would not meddle. Mrs. Assingham claims that, in a sense, these people are “hers” and would not resent her meddling. She thinks it would be best if she and her husband arranged a marriage for Charlotte.