Book 3, Chapters 9-10 Summary
Lady Castledean, the hostess at Matcham, had invited Charlotte to stay for luncheon as an excuse and a cover for her desire to have a young man, Mr. Blint, stay while her husband was away. Charlotte was to serve merely a message to the other guests that Lady Castledean would not be alone with the young man.
The Prince, standing on the balcony and looking over the English countryside, thinks of going to Gloucester to visit the cathedrals and tombs. Charlotte arrives and reveals Lady Castledean’s intentions, that their hostess does not really want them to stay. Charlotte reminds the Prince of the golden bowl she had wanted to buy for Maggie for a wedding present and the Prince’s objection to it because it had an indiscernible crack. The crack remains, he says, in their marriages, of which the bowl is a symbol. Charlotte tells him that she risks the cracks and wonders what happened to the bowl and the “swindling Jew” who wanted her to buy it. The Prince speculates that he has kept the bowl for Charlotte, sure that she would one day return for it. Charlotte proposes that they leave at once, before luncheon, and take the train to Gloucester. They are assured of having three or four hours alone before being compelled to return to London and their spouses.
Mrs. Assingham returns to London and sends the Colonel off to luncheon at his club. Later, she tells her husband that she believes there is nothing going on between Charlotte and the Prince. The Colonel is confused because his wife had previously felt sure there was a clandestine affair between the two. He asks if they told her, but she dismisses this as absurd—as well as being unreliable if it were true. She decides that she does not want to be responsible in any way for a relationship between Charlotte and Amerigo. She is worried that, whatever her actions, she might be seen as abetting them or protecting them. She is unsure what Maggie thinks, though she sees Maggie as having some responsibility in driving them together because she maintains a bedroom at the home of her father as well as a second nursery for her infant son. Mrs. Assingham confesses that her own friendship with Maggie is not what it used to be. She suspects that Charlotte and the Prince may have not stayed at Matcham after all but could have gone on to a secret location. The Colonel remains confused about the whole situation and his wife’s involvement with it.