The third section of Alice‘s Lady Audley’s Secret readalong starts with a bang. Or, I suppose, a resounding well-falling-down. (I’m not a hundred percent sure about this, but like — he fell down the well, right? That’s obviously what happened. Right?) Robert wakes up and discovers that George Talboys is nowhere to be found. In some anxiety, he makes inquiries and establishes to his satisfaction that George must have gone back to London by train. Oh, foolish Robert! George is beyond help!
In the face of George’s new
deadness disappearance, Robert forgets about his crush on Lady Audley and realizes that George Talboys was his true love all along, and that he must track him down wherever he is and declare his love for him. (This isn’t directly stated, but I’m very attentive to subtext; it’s one of my many strengths as a reader.) Sorry, Robert, your forbidden love is forbidden! It’s forbidden by the Offences against the Person Act, but also because George is for sure dead at the bottom of a well right now.
Again, though, all the respect for Lady Audley’s remarkable cool. It seems obvious that she killed a guy this morning, but here she is chattering with her husband and his guest at dinner about how bad she is at carving up pheasant.
Lucy/Helen’s father alibis her out. Wait, is that one of the errands Phoebe ran, to send the telegram to the father telling him what to say to the authorities or anyone who asked? Because I’ve been assuming Lucy well-dumped George as a crime of passion — they quarreled, he wouldn’t consent to leave her in peace to her bigamy, so she pushed him down a well. This new information makes it seem like Lucy cold-bloodedly planned to murder George in a well all along, as soon as she heard he was in town. THAT IS INSANE, LUCY.
Alternate solution: Lucy gives her father a whole bunch of money to take her kid to Australia/America/Scotland. George would follow them, surely, in order to stay in touch with the son? That would be a much safer, less murdery plan.
The section ends with Robert telling Lady Audley in coded terms that this is a very nice life she has here with Lord Audley and it would be a shame if anything should happen to this life. Lady Audley faints. I retract everything I ever said about her being a cool customer. You jerk, Lady Audley. First you say this to my girl Alicia:
“Why, I can’t help smiling at people, and speaking prettily to them. I know I’m no better than the rest of the world; but I can’t help it if I’m pleasanter. It’s constitutional.”
And now you BRING UP THE SUBJECT OF THE GUY YOU MURDERED to Robert, and when Robert gives you the side-eye, YOU FAINT? Keep it together, woman!