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Barbara Ansley
Barbara Ansley is the brilliant and vivacious daughter of Mrs. Ansley. Barbara and her mother are vacationing in Rome with their neighbors, Mrs. Slade and her daughter Jenny Slade. Barabara and Jenny are away spending time with some Italian aviators during the story's conversation between Mrs. Slade and Mrs. Ansley. Mrs. Slade envies Mrs. Ansley for her brilliant daughter. During the course of this conversation, Mrs. Ansley reveals to Mrs. Slade that Barbara is the daughter of Mrs. Slade's late husband, Delphin.

Grace Ansley
Mrs. Grace Ansley, a middle-aged widow, is a wealthy New Yorker who is vacationing in Italy with her daughter Barbara, and her neighbor Mrs. Slade, and her daughter Jenny Slade. In Mrs. Slade's opinion, Mrs. Ansley has led a staid, uneventful life. Although she presents the picture of the proper middle-aged widow, for instance, knitting and looking at the Roman view, her calm exterior hides a secret past.

As a young lady in Italy, Grace (Mrs. Ansley) fell in love with Alida's (Mrs. Slade's) fiance, Delphin. However, after meeting him one night at the ruins of the Colosseum, she had become quite ill. When she rose from her sickbed, she immediately married Mr. Ansley.

Despite her marriage to Mr. Ansley, she has always nursed the memory of her evening with Delphin, and the letter he had sent her. When Mrs. Slade reveals that she, in fact, sent the letter, not Delphin, Mrs. Ansley's fantasy is destroyed. She, in turn, reveals to her friend an even more devastating secret: that her dynamic daughter, who Mrs. Ansley has long noted is so different from either of her parents, is in fact Delphin's daughter.

Mrs. Ansley
See Grace Ansley

Alida Slade
Mrs. Alida Slade, a middle-aged, wealthy, New York widow, is vacationing in Italy with her daughter Jenny, her neighbor Mrs. Ansley, and her daughter Barbara Ansley. The wife of a famous corporate lawyer, Mrs. Slade found her married days filled with excitement and adventure. She prided herself on being a charming entertainer, a good hostess, and a vibrant woman in her own right. After the death of her husband Delphin, Mrs. Slade finds life dull, with only her daughter to divert her; however, Jenny is quiet and self-sufficient.

Mrs. Slade feels both superior to and envious of her lifelong friend, Mrs. Ansley. She also has been nursing a decades-long resentment against Mrs. Ansley, for falling in love with Delphin when Mrs. Ansley and Mrs. Slade were both young ladies on vacation in Italy. Afraid that Grace (Mrs. Ansley) would steal away her fiance, Alida (Mrs. Slade) sent Grace a note, signing Delphin's name. When Grace went to meet Delphin, she became quite ill.

During this trip to Italy, Mrs. Slade, wanting to hurt her friend even after all these years, confesses to Mrs. Ansley that she, not Delphin, sent the letter. Mrs. Slade immediately regrets her action, and she can't help but feel sorry for her friend, after she sees how Mrs. Ansley has cherished the memory of that letter. When Mrs. Slade expresses this feeling, however, Mrs. Ansley shocks her with the revelation that Barbara (the daughter of Mrs. Ansley) is Delphin's daughter.

Delphin Slade
Although Delphin Slade is dead at the time the story takes place, he remains a prominent figure in the minds of both his wife and his former lover, Grace (Mrs. Ansley). The story hinges on his past actions. As a young man, while engaged to Alida (Mrs. Slade), Delphin met Grace at the Colosseum one night and fathered Barbara. This secret has been concealed from his wife for the past 25 years.

Jenny Slade
Jenny Slade is the quiet, staid, self-sufficient daughter of Mrs. Slade. She is accompanying her mother to Rome along with Mrs. Ansley and her daughter Barbara Ansley. Jenny and Barbara are away spending time with some Italian aviators during the story's conversation between Mrs. Slade and Mrs. Ansley.

Mrs. Slade
See Alida Slade

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