It means “dismissal.” The more you know!
In the first chapter of this segment of readalong, Robert gets chucked out of the Audley house for paying too much attention to Lady Audley. Here is Braddon’s representation of how the conversation went down. I, um, it sounds like Sir Audley could have minced his words a little bit more.
Sir Michael Audley told his nephew that the Court was no home for him, and that my lady was too young and pretty to accept the attentions of a handsome nephew of eight-and-twenty.
Deprived of the ability to spend all day saying “I know what you did” to Lady Audley, Robert hies himself to Phoebe and Luke’s inn so that he can spend all day saying “I know what you did” to Phoebe and Luke. This seems like particularly hard luck on poor little Phoebe, who really has done very little wrong, but who is now implicated in a blackmail scheme, and who probably also knows that George is down a well.
Anyway, Lady Audley comes to visit Robert at the inn, giving him the opportunity to tip his hand by explaining how he intends to reveal her infamy. This is foolish of Robert. Lady Audley may be babyish and prone to fainting, but she has shown herself to be not-terrible at covering her tracks. She takes off for London and either steals George’s letters or arranges for them to be stolen. It’s not clear yet how she manages this.
Robert goes to question the locksmith who apparently changed one of his locks (?at Lucy’s bequest? ?after Lucy broke the locks when she broke in herself?). The guy doesn’t know anything, but Robert does take the opportunity to make a posh-lad-sneery face at his having a drink in the middle of the day. Then he goes to George’s father-in-law’s place to organize schooling for George’s son (fuckin finally — it has been bothering me all along that the child is living in this ridiculous situation), whereupon he makes another posh-lad-sneery face at George’s father-in-law for drinking, then takes Little Georgey out to get him started on a raging alcohol dependency.
[Little Georgey] drank Bass’ pale ale to an extent which considerably alarmed his entertainer, and enjoyed himself amazingly, showing an appreciation of roast pheasant and bread-sauce which was beyond his years.
How shocked am I supposed to be about this? Did little kids drink beer all the time back then, or does it bother Robert to see the child for whom he is now responsible downing pints?
Anyway, the section ends with Robert meeting the Society-Approved-George-Talboys-Proxy that he can marry at the end of the book. (I guess this means Alicia will relent and marry Lord Harry after all.) It’s George’s sister! He has a sister who looks just like him! Robert thinks she’s beautiful!
PS this doesn’t really apply to us right now, but I wanted to share it with you anyway because it rocks: How to Tell You’re Reading a Gothic Novel.