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Henrietta Stackpole tells Isabel that Caspar Goodwood is in Rome. Madame Merle has left Rome for a short trip. Her departure has set Isabel thinking once again of her relationship with Gilbert. Isabel has an inkling that Madame Merle is very dangerous. She also feels such a dread at the thought that she will suddenly realize something about the two of them that she often pushes the thoughts away. Isabel also spends time worrying over the thought of Caspar Goodwood in her mind. She feels that he is the only person in her life whom she has wronged. She has thought about him over the past few years and has always had an impression that he is a lonely man. She thinks of him now as one of a group of people to whom she could appeal if she were in trouble. She finds Henrietta Stackpole changed. She has "grown vague." Still, Isabel realizes that Henrietta Stackpole has come to Rome in the dead of winter just because she suspected that Isabel is sad. As soon as they first spoke, she asked Isabel is she was wretched and Isabel told her yes, she was. Henrietta wants to know why Isabel wonít just leave Osmond. Isabel says she would rather die that let everyone know of her mistake. She says sheíll always be ashamed.
Gilbert for his part is not happy that so many of Isabelís intimates are in town. He doesnít like Ralph at all. He finds Henrietta Stackpole monstrous. Yet he finds a way to like Caspar Goodwood and impress him even. Isabel wants to find a way to get Goodwood out of the way, so she asks him to do her the favor of visiting Ralph. He does so and finds in Ralph a pleasant friend. Ralph has been having a wonderful time with Henrietta Stackpole who visits him every day and has come to like him immensely. Isabel hopes that when the weather gets warmer, Caspar Goodwood will take Ralph back to England. She ahs a horror that heíll die in his hotel instead of where he should, at Gardencourt. When she thinks of Gardencourt, tears come to her eyes. It has become something of a sacred place to her.
As the chapter closes, Isabel finds that the Countess Gemini has arrived in her house, Edward Rosier has returned to Rome after a mysterious absence and has commenced to writing long letters to Pansy, and Madame Merle has returned with the impertinent question, "What did you do with Lord Warburton?"
This chapter brings all the most important people of Isabelís past aside from Lord Warburton together. Isabel gets Caspar Goodwood to visit Ralph and Henrietta takes this duty on herself and becomes fast friends with him. The chapter has the feel of being prelude to some action. Here, we get caught up on their characters which have been absent for so long in the narrative. Later, they will perhaps be put into play.