We ended the last chapter with Rob showing up very much NOT dead, though I'd like to imagine a bit singed, asking if he could have a word with Lady A. He makes a very dramatic announcement that Lady Audley set fire to the Castle Inn and...yeah. Was that not clear? Is that something that would have needed pointed out to the Victorian audience, or is this just more of MEB's sledgehammer? Anyway, Rob survived the inferno cos he wasn't asleep in his room. Which, OK. Bit anticlimactic but whatever.
Rob tells Lady A she has to confess to Sir Michael and we find out her other secret. She is a mad woman. Or I'm sorry MAD WOMAN. She killed George because SHE IS MAD! Except if you acknowledge that you're mad doesn't that mean you're sane enough to know it and thus not all that mad?
Lady A confesses a bunch of stuff, much of which we already know (Lady A = Helen Talboys, pushed George down well, was pretty pissed off over George's whole abandonment thing), some new stuff that we assumed (she was focused on marrying for money, her dad helped her fake her death), and stuff we didn't know (her mother was mad and it's the hereditary kind of madness). There were moments when I felt bad for her but then she had moments when you realize she's super selfish. Like when she learned that George was coming back from Australia and was trying to figure out how she was going to keep her rich life and she goes to scheme with her dad, where she meets Mrs. Plowson. This woman has the nerve to prattle on about her own insignificant problems which include a DYING CHILD.
I [Lady Audley] had miseries of my own, and worse miseries than her coarse nature could ever have to endure. These sort of people always had sick husbands or sick children, and expected to be helped in their illness by the rich.
Ugh poor people, always whining about how their children are dying or how they have no money for food. Wah wah wah. Don't they know that Lady A could end up poorer than she is now?? Her problems are WAY WORSE. Of course then she realized that she could use this tragedy for her own gain. She makes some comment about how the girl, Mathilda, wasn't going to last a fortnight and George was due back in 3 weeks and ISN'T THAT CONVENIENT??
Although Lady A hasn't actually confessed to pushing George down the well and I really thought there was going to be some technicality there, but no, she just saves that confession for later. I dunno why we had to hold on to that.
After hearing the confession Sir Michael silently walks out of the room and has a bit of a nervous breakdown. Rob is afraid he's going to have a heart attack when the shock wears off. He has Alicia keep an eye on Sir Michael as they pack to get away from Audley Court. They'll spend some time traveling around Europe. Meanwhile Rob has to deal with Lady A.
He ships her off to a sanatorium in Belgium. But he takes her there so that's pretty nice of him. And he makes sure to set her up in I guess a nice sanatorium. Now she doesn't have to go to court and thus Sir Michael isn't shamed but she still gets punished. Kinda.
Clara, who has not been present nearly enough, sends Rob a letter telling him he has to come visit Luke Marks cos Luke is dying and wants to see him. I'm not sure exactly how it works out that Clara is the one sending this message but I'm going to assume she already has things figured out and is trying to guide Rob the right way. Considering how fast she figured out the Lady A bit, I wouldn't be surprised if this is the case.
Rob goes to talk to Luke and GUESS WHAT! George did fall down the well but he crawled back up. Yup, crawled right up the well. The extra deep and empty well. With a broken arm.
Rob tells Clara George is alive...somewhere. Probably Australia. Clara tells her dad, who remains nonplussed. Rob goes to stay with George's dad and Clara for...reasons? I'm not really sure. But it does give him the opportunity to sort of compliment Clara by saying things like:
[Clara was] more beautiful than the morning - for that was sometimes dull and cloudy, while she was always fresh and bright.
Thanks, Rob. I'm sure Clara likes being told "You're more beautiful than a really dreary morning." I'm sure he followed that up with things like "I like her even better than cold, weak tea."
I have noticed that in all of Clara's interactions with Rob in none of them does she display any affection for him. It's all "Avenge my brother, or I'll do it" and "Haven't you figured this out yet?" and "Man, you are wasting your life. Have you thought about not doing that?" He proposes to her, awkwardly, and her response is to just slowly pull her hand out of his. This by the way, right after he said he'd go search Australia for George if she would marry him, so yeah her hesitation makes sense.
Turns out Rob doesn't need to go to Australia to try to find George (which I assume would have ended up with Rob wandering around yelling "George" and eventually getting bitten by SOMETHING poisonous) because George is just chilling in Rob's London apartment. Just haaaaanging out.
Rob and Clara end up married and they live together with George and Georgey so I'm going to assume that Clara is just the beard but at least now George and Rob and be together and raise Georgey together and that is adorable. Oh and Alicia married that other guy that she didn't really seem to care for but everyone has to be paired off, even if the woman doesn't care for him so fine. Whatever. Maybe Clara and Alicia are secretly together. And Lady A dies in the sanatorium. The end.
So what'd we think? I think we've read too many mysteries cos I mean, I am BAD at guessing what's coming next in a mystery. Which is good for me cos then I'm surprised exactly when the storyteller wants me to be. But here, we guessed it fairly early on which meant a lot of the time was spent waiting for the characters to catch up. I liked it but I wanted there to be more twists, more mystery. But I was entertained so kudos MEB.
Title quote from page 233, location 4532
Braddon, Mary Elizabeth. Lady Audley's Secret. Amazon Digital Services. Originally published 1862.