Book 5, Chapters 4-5 Summary
Maggie feels that both she and Charlotte have been helped by the guests walking in on their seeming embrace. The others at Fawns assume that the two women had a quarrel that has caused a certain tension in the country home but that they have now patched up their differences and are friends again. Maggie is amazed at this misunderstanding, but she lets it go, seeing it as beneficial to her own plans for restoring her marriage. She views Charlotte as a caged animal that has broken free and is roaming at large. Now, Charlotte is playing the perfect hostess to the incoming guests and visitors. Her sense of duty—brought on by Amerigo’s keeping his distance from her even to the point of absenting himself from Fawns frequently—breaks Maggie’s heart. She feels sorry for the isolation that Charlotte now finds herself inhabiting. When Amerigo is at Fawns, he wanders the galleries, lost in his thoughts. Maggie views him as wishing for isolation, wearied by the constant strain of being the dutiful husband. They hear a piercing cry from Charlotte, as of a wounded animal. Amerigo turns away as if he does not hear it.
One Sunday, the only people present at Fawns are the Ververs, the Assinghams, and Amerigo and Maggie (along with Father Mitchell, who is tending the local church for a few weeks). Fanny Assingham asks Maggie if she would rather that they leave, though she would like to stay and be a help to Maggie. Maggie encourages her to stay.
Charlotte isolates herself from the others. She goes for a walk in the garden even though it is the hottest part of an August afternoon. She has taken with her a book Maggie has recommended, but it is the second volume of a three-volume set. Maggie uses this as an excuse to talk to her privately. She takes the first volume to her, and Charlotte invites her to stay and talk. Charlotte tells Maggie that she is tired of the life she is living at Fawns. She announces to Maggie that she and Mr. Verver are leaving for America immediately, as soon as they can gather their things. Maggie asks her if she is indeed taking her father from her. Charlotte explains that she wants to be alone with the man she married. She believes he is worth the trouble and asks Maggie if she does not think so as well. Maggie agrees that he is worth the trouble. Charlotte tells Maggie that her step-daughter loathed her marriage to her father. She confronts Maggie, asking if she has been working against her. Maggie asks if it would matter if she failed, which she confesses she has done.