Monday, April 23, 2012

Woman in White Week 3: The Great Chicanery

**DISCLAIMER: This post is part of a read-along, and I intend to ruin the entire plot in the most roundabout way possible.**

What I didn't talk about last week even though I was DYING to was Marian getting sick and the Fat Man INVADING her diary with his fat hands and his ho-ho-hum, you clever woman, you. And all her plans! Foiled by the curse of a delicate female constitution!

Then, FINALLY, we get to hear Mr. Fairlie's opinion on the whole matter. Why can't anyone ever leave him alone so he can polish his coins and photograph his art collection? Even the clumsy English language is set against him. And then here comes Laura's maid and her potentially squeaky shoes. IS THERE NO END TO THE IRRITATIONS HE MUST ENDURE?

And I basically underlined everything he said, because---yes, I'm really about to say this---I liked his section more than Marian's. Can we just reread his narrative out loud via group conference call? No? Fine, but I'm making you reread these two parts, because I admire his use of parenthetical statements.
"Miss Halcombe had come to say good-by, and had given her two letters, one for me, and one for a gentleman in London. (I am not the gentleman in London---hang the gentleman in London!) She had carefully put the two letters into her bosom (what have I to do with her bosom?)" (p. 419)
"(Am I responsible for any of these vulgar fluctuations, which begin with unhappiness and end with tea?)" (p. 419)
Basically, what we learn from this section is that the Countess went to the inn and DRUGGED Fanny and groped under her dress to steal Marian's letter to the attorney. You know things are serious when people are being drugged and felt up. Team Percival just stepped up their game, yo.

The other thing we learn is that Mr. Fairlie is not impressed by Fosco (he is immune to the Fat Man's charms), but he does admire his seeming lack of nerves. Personally, I think Fosco HAS nerves, but all the fat is insulating them from shock. Oh, and the OTHER thing we learned from Mr. Fairlie is that Louis, his valet, is a god among men. Seriously, Louis, I salute you.

Then Mrs. Michelson describes what I like to call "The Great Chicanery," in which Fosco and Percival HIDE OUR DEAR SWEET FEVERISH MARIAN from Laura so they can convince Laura to go to London in search of her.

And I can't quite figure out Mrs. Rubelle's motives in all this, but she gives me the heebies and the jeebies.

Much like this overzealous Ewok.

BUT YOU GUYS, our woman in white is dead! This is what we get for demanding a ghost. Poor Anne, come face-to-face with her nemesis at last . . . and it was too much for her poor heart to bear. That makes me sad. Let's not think about that anymore. BUT because everyone thinks she's Laura, she gets her one wish, which is to be buried next to her beloved Mrs. Fairlie.

Was anyone else kind of impressed by Walter's newfound bad-assitude? He survived disease and Indians in Central America and a shipwreck in the Gulf of Mexico. But he can still weep into his mommy's bosom when he hears the news of Laura's death. That's my kind of man.

When Walter runs into Marian and Laura in the graveyard, Marian's first instinct is to protect him. She doesn't want him to see Laura's face. Maybe because she wants to spare him the pain of their situation, even though she could certainly use his help. I was so struck by the way she cried out to God to give Walter strength and to spare him. That was a powerful Marian moment.

But Walter will not be spared. He makes it his mission to support Marian and Laura and to expose Fosco and Percival's trickery.
"And those two men shall answer for their crime to ME, though the justice that sits in tribunals is powerless to pursue them. I have given my life to that purpose; and, alone as I stand, if God spares me, I will accomplish it." (p. 549)

Can we talk about Marian again? (As if I have to ask.) When people refer to wives as being helpmates to their husbands, I believe they are talking about what Marian is to Walter. WHY AREN'T THEY IN LOVE?
"'Don't doubt my courage, Walter,' she pleaded, 'it's my weakness that cries, not me. The house-work shall conquer it, if I can't.' . . . 'I am not quite broken down yet,' she said; 'I am worth trusting with my share of the work.' Before I could answer, she added in a whisper, 'And worth trusting with my share in the risk and the danger, too. Remember that, if the time comes!'" (p. 534)
This woman is a warrior princess. Speaking of which . . . *begin tangent* Marian and Laura as Xena and Gabrielle. Discuss.

*End tangent*

Meanwhile, not only is Laura clueless as to how she arrived in the asylum, she can't be included in current investigations because her mental state is too delicate to bear any strain. Walter even says that he has essentially stopped thinking of her romantically and compares his tenderness toward her to that of a father or brother. But maybe we're not giving Laura enough credit for her ability to assess the situation.
"You will end in liking Marian better than you like me---you will, because I am so helpless!" (p. 592)
Just let it happen, Laura. It's for the best.

This is about the time when I get really sick of hearing myself type. Speed discussion! There is detectiving, and Walter learns about Anne's childhood from Mrs. Clements, and he meets her wretched mother (SUCH a wretched mother), and, most important of all, he uncovers Percival's Secret with a capital S.

Turns out, Percival's father never officially married his mother, so he has no legal claim to the title of Baronet OR to Blackwater Park. And all he had to do to execute this magnificent scam was add a marriage listing to the church register . . . because it's the olden days, and important legal matters are recorded in a Trapper Keeper.

But before we can pat Percy on the back for his clever forgery, he accidentally burns himself to death trying to destroy the evidence. Really . . . he shouldn't be allowed to leave the house without Fosco. No good ever comes of it. But what's done is done, and Percival is out of the picture. Unfortunately, so is the only evidence of the Secret.

We have just a tiny distance to go before all is known. Onward, brave travelers!


  1. Mr. Fairlie's section is the best and I'm all for everyone getting on Skype and reading it together because that would be fantastic and not at all super awkward. We'd all have wine too, yes?

    Walter still hasn't quite won me over but he's so dismissive of Laura. Oh look at this pretty picture you've drawn. I'd put it up on the fridge if those were a thing. I appreciate him stepping up (finally) but really, he's so boring. Or maybe if he realized how much better Marian is....

    That ewok gif is burned into my brain and I'm pretty sure it just ate my soul. 

  2. Your post has so many excellent points that I feel the need to organize my many thoughts:

    1) When is this this group-read conference call scheduled?  Times and places, please.  I'll need to pencil it in.
    2) THAT GIF.  Who knew removing a scarf could be so manly?

    3)  If Marian and Laura are Xena and Gabrielle, does that make Hartright Hercules?  Hm. Disturbing thought.  

    4) I hope you're not making fun of Trapper Keepers, because that would not be cool.  My fourth grade self is raising her tiny fists, indignant.

    5) I'm really pissed that Percival's dead.  I wanted to watch him get sent to prison.  I suppose there's still Fosco.  Although he'd probably love prison -- lots of mice around to train.

  3. Let's schedule the conference for next Tuesday. We'll all wear pantsuits.

    Benedict is an EXPERT at scarf removal.

    Hartright. Hercules. YES.

    I would NEVER besmirch the name of Trapper Keeper...but they're not the height of security, as I'm sure your fourth-grade self can attest.

    Burning to death seems an appropriate end for Percival...but I can't think of anything punishy enough for Fosco. You're right about him probably enjoying prison. He would be king of all the other prisoners.

  4. Wine is a necessity at all serious gatherings. I'll also light a candle.

    I agree that Walter is patronizing Laura excessively, but I guess it doesn't bother me as much as it should because...I just don't really like her.

    I'm sorry about the Ewok. They're generally such peaceful creatures...but every group has a bad egg, and I accidentally found theirs.

  5. Your Trapper Keeper comment is great and so true.

    And Laura might as well be saying that " you will end up liking Marian better than me" to the readers. It's just the way things are, Laura. Sorry!

    I am apparently immune to Walter's newly acquired awesomeness. I mean, I'm reading it but just not being impressed by it. I think I'm maybe too hard on him. That is a great gif of Benedict Cumberbatch though. It's mesmerizing.

    Mrs. Rubelle is definitely still a cryptic character for me. I'm guessing she was paid for her part by Fosco, and money might have been her only motive, but I wonder if there is something more to her than we have been told.

    And hear hear for Louis, who should get a narrative of his own, with his perspective on the Fairlie household.

  6. OF COURSE Walter still likes Laura because he's a Victorian man, and Victorian men don't want no women that can think for themselves! That whole thing just depresses me...

    You have said so many things and they are awesome. And YES for it being really sad that Anne's dead! I don't think her death is treated with the sadness it deserves because it's all like 'ooh, boring Laura's still alive!' whereas I'm like 'BUT POOR ANNE, I LOVE HER!'

    Oh yeah, and I'm amused that Walter thinks he could take on Fosco. Fosco would CRUSH him!

  7. "(what have I to do with her bosom?)"

    Yesssss I highlighted this because bosom = always hilarious.

    That Ewok is terrifying. And I'm SO GLAD you also appreciate Walter's new-found stoicism and badassery, even if it's a bit Victorian/up-his-own-ass.

    Four years at a conservative Christian high school makes me cringe a bit at 'helpmate' (or 'helpmeet' as my mind still sees it), what with the whole 'dude is the head and the woman is an equal but still a helper to his headly duties' thing behind it. But I KIND of still believe that but it's KIND of because it was impressed upon me when I was 13 and I therefore rebel against it while still kind of believing it.

    Everyone needs to be better to Laura, even though they are being pretty great overall. And NO THE READALONG IS ALMOST OVER WHAT SHALL WE DOOOOOOOO.

  8. Pantsuit pressed and ready. This is a conference call NOT TO BE MISSED.

  9. There's that copy of the records in the other town that was missing Percy's forgery ... does that help us? Does show that his parents weren't married, but it doesn't show that he's tampered with anything. Accidental combustion may be the only thing we get from the Perce.

  10. I agree that Mr. Fairlie's narrative was the best part of the whole book. Oh why can't it be longer?
    I especially like how his whole narrative is full of remarks on how stupid Louis, his living piece of furniture is: exactly the narrative he is dictating to Louis! I'm really wondering why "he is so attached to his master, in his unintelligent way"...

    Yes, Walter has some newly acquired awesomeness, but I have a better plan for Marian in my head: SHE IS GOING TO FALL MADLY IN LOVE WITH PROFESSOR PESCA!
    He's the only man who really deserves her!

  11. Poor Louis...I'm sure he has to say several times a day, "Sir...I'm right HERE. I can HEAR you."

    Your idea is the most brilliant idea of EVER. Marian and Pesca forever!

  12. I don't THINK that helps us. It all seems to be leading to some epic standoff with Fosco. I CAN'T WAIT.

  13. Hey...I WENT TO A CHRISTIAN HIGH SCHOOL TOO! I think we've already talked about this, but sometimes I forget. ANYway, I do get the negative connotations of "helpmate," but I like to think of it as another word for "partner" or "teammate." Maybe that's not at all the right way to interpret that word, but I make my own rules, and I do what I want!

  14. WHY doesn't anyone CARE THAT ANNE IS DEAD? (Anyone in the book, that is.) That poor girl was abused her entire life basically, and now she's been used as a pawn in this game she has nothing to do with. I WEEP for her.

    It seriously looks like Walter is about to face off with Fosco...I'll make some popcorn.

  15. We pretty much started out liking Marian better than Laura, and things haven't changed much. Poor Laura.

    Maybe Mrs. Rubelle was just a paid servant in the whole matter, and she'll be part of the unraveling of Fosco's plan? Maybe? She definitely knows things.


  17. We were fighting? OH NO! NO MORE FIGHTING.

  18. I forgot about the drugging and slight molestation! I love Mr. Fairlie's section too, so well done but I think my favourite was Hartrights encounter with Mrs Catherick, now she's one tough cookie! 

    Oh and I don't know who that scarf man is but that gif even made me swoon! 

  19. Mrs. Catherick is a special, special lady. No wonder Anne idolizes Mrs. Fairlie so much.

    That scarf man is one Benedict Cumberbatch, most recently of BBC Sherlock fame...and owner of quite a large chunk of my heart, whether he wants it or not.

  20.  Benedict Cumberbatch - now that is one awesome name! :)