Excellent Women - Chapters 13-18 Summary & Analysis

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Chapters 13-18 Summary

Every time Mildred finds herself attracted to Rocky she reminds herself of the Italian girlfriends, hoping that the image will keep her from falling in love.

The parishioners get together to decorate the sanctuary for Whit Sunday. There are traditional roles for each person and the longer one is involved with the church, the more important the role becomes. It is apparent that Allegra has ingratiated herself to Winifred even more as she dares to suggest that the arrangement of the flowers on the altar could be changed to be more attractive. Winifred argues that this is the way it has always been done, and the group is shocked that anyone should try to interfere with the job that has always belonged to Winifred. Winifred's centerpiece is always groups of lilies donated by the congregation's most illustrious member. Allegra takes over, and the new centerpiece become peonies and delphiniums.

Allegra approaches Mildred and asks her to go to lunch. Mildred is taken aback by the offer, curious as to why the woman would want to have lunch with her. Mildred tries to put her own feelings aside and realizes that she should probably get to know Allegra if the woman is going to be an integral member of the church.

During lunch, Allegra tells Mildred that Julian has proposed. Mildred congratulates Allegra. Allegra says that she and Julian were worried that Mildred would be upset so it was appropriate that Mildred was one of the first people to know. Mildred convinces Allegra that she is not in love with Julian and is happy for the couple. During the conversation Allegra surmises what will happen to Winifred when they marry as it would not be appropriate for Winifred to stay in the house with her and Julian. Allegra suggests that Winifred move in with Mildred since they are such good friends. Mildred is so shocked that she is speechless. The idea is so completely inappropriate and absurd that Mildred laughs and refuses.

Mildred runs into Julian and congratulates him on his engagement to Allegra. For the first time in their relationship, Julian seems somewhat uneasy with Mildred and explains that he was concerned about hurting her feelings. Julian says that Winifred had always hoped that Mildred would become his wife. Once again, Mildred says that she is not in love with Julian and is very happy for the couple.

More than ever, Mildred considers herself to be one of the rejected ones. Apparently no one considers her to be the marrying kind.

Rocky comes to Mildred's apartment to visit. Rocky tells Mildred about Italy and makes the offhand comment that perhaps he never should have married Helena.

Mildred runs into Everard on the street as she is coming out of her office. Everard says he was waiting for her and wants to go for drinks. Mildred is horrified and says she is not appropriately dressed to be in the company of a man but Everard disagrees. Over drinks Everard says that Helena is in love with him, but that the feelings are not returned. Even if Everard did love Helena, he does not believe in divorce and therefore could never marry her.

Everard invites Mildred to have dinner at his mother's house. Before they go Everard warns Mildred that his mother is eccentric. Mildred says that as a clergyman's daughter, she is used to dealing with all kinds of people, and besides, everyone's mother is eccentric in some way. Mrs. Bone is fascinated by birds and worms among other things and chats easily with Mildred. During the conversation Mildred discovers that Mrs. Bone is not a Christian and seems to simply tolerate Everard's conversion. On the way home Everard tells Mildred he admires the way she handled the dinner and his mother.

As Mildred passes by the Napiers' door on her way home she smells burnt potatoes. There is no answer at the door so Mildred goes in and finds a saucepan on the stove with the water boiled out of it and potatoes hopelessly scorched. Rocky says he completely forgot about the potatoes and he is upset because Helena has left him. Rocky knows that Helena is in love with Everard and assumes that she has gone to his flat. Mildred calls Everard to find that Helena is not there. In fact, Everard is going to be leaving town for a while. Mildred relays the news to Rocky and sets about taking care of him in his hour of need.

During the evening Julian appears and seems uneasy, particularly when he finds Rocky in Mildred's apartment. Rocky tells the story about Helena leaving him. Julian slips into the role of a pastor and consoles Rocky. Mildred feels increasingly uncomfortable and escapes to clean up the mess in the Napiers' apartment. While Mildred is cleaning, Helena calls and asks Mildred to pack a suitcase. She has gone to stay with Miss Clovis from the Learned Society. Mildred continues her work and Rocky and Julian go to a local pub to talk.

When Mildred delivers the suitcase to Miss Clovis, the woman says that Rocky is a brute and that it is a good thing Helena has left him. There seems to be no hope of a reconciliation.

Mildred goes to visit Winifred and the two commiserate about their individual situations. Mildred is upset about Rocky and Helena and Winifred is becoming disenchanted with Allegra.

Unable to stand being in the London flat, Rocky goes to the Napiers' cottage in the country. Rocky leaves Mildred in charge of the apartment and the removal of the furniture. Mildred gladly takes on the task.

Mrs. Morris comes to Mildred's apartment and talks about the Napiers' breakup. Mrs. Morris feels that Helena is not a good wife and that men should never be expected to keep house. Mrs. Morris goes on to talk about how it is unnatural for a woman to live alone. The conversation only reinforces Mildred's current belief that excellent women are always left behind. Mildred becomes increasingly sad and upset.

Chapters 13-18 Analysis

Mildred is shocked by Allegra's boldness, particularly when it comes to the decorating of the church. Winifred has always served in the role of the pastor's wife and handles the appropriate jobs. Apparently, Allegra is trying to assume the same role and is edging Winifred out. Although Winifred is obviously upset, Allegra gets her way. The parishioners discuss the event and realize that Allegra must be involved with Julian to a greater degree than they had expected.

Mildred is surprised by Allegra's invitation and the news of the proposal. Mildred works hard to convince Allegra and herself that she is not in love with Julian and is happy for the couple. Mildred is completely astonished when Allegra says that Winifred will need to move out of the vicar's house after the wedding. It is obviously not something that anyone but Allegra has considered. When Allegra suggests that Winifred move into Mildred's apartment, Mildred does not know what to say. Although Winifred is a good friend, Mildred likes living alone, even though many people think it is an unacceptable arrangement.

Mildred is somewhat confused by Everard's actions. When Mildred meets Everard on the street she says that he could have called rather than waiting outside the office. Mildred is somewhat surprised by Everard's confession regarding Helena, especially when he says that he does not love her. It seems that since the paper has been finished Everard is going to take pains to avoid Helena.

It is easy for Mildred to slip into the caretaker position when she finds Rocky upset. Mildred begins to understand that her empathy often overtakes her personality to the point of being considered as interference. Rocky is grateful for Mildred's help and relies heavily on her while he attempts to deal with the fact that Helena is gone.

This section contains 1,320 words
(approx. 4 pages at 400 words per page)
Excellent Women from Gale. ©2005-2006 Thomson Gale, a part of the Thomson Corporation. All rights reserved.
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