**DISCLAIMER: This post is part of a read-along, and I intend to ruin the entire plot in the most roundabout way possible.**
By some terrible/wonderful coincidence, the end of our read-along exactly coincided with the monster deadline that’s been plaguing me all month. I present to you my excuse for this post happening in *GASP* MAY. I guess this means I won’t get any cake at our end-of-read-along pizza party.
I found this last section to be pretty unspectacular, because it seemed to reiterate a lot of the things we already knew and/or had figured out with our powers of deduction and plot prediction.
My reading went thusly:
Oh, hello, world’s longest letter from Mrs. Catherick, in which she creepily flirts with Walter. Boring boring boring. She appears to like presents. Yep, she traded her own daughter for a gold watch and chain. Boring boring. Percival’s parents weren’t married to each other. Yes, yes, Catherick, we knew that. Get on with it. Boring. Anne never actually knew the Secret that basically claimed her life. Poor Anne. Boring boring. Mrs. Catherick protests too much about the question of Anne’s parentage. (Surprise! Mr. Fairlie was her father! Anne and Laura were half-sisters! WE WERE RIGHT ALL ALONG.) Mrs. Catherick issues the best invitation to tea that I have ever heard.
“My hour for tea is half-past five, and my buttered toast waits for nobody.” (p. 673)
Walter divulges that he’s been telling the story using feigned names THIS WHOLE TIME. I feel betrayed, Walter . . . or, whatever your name is.
Fosco has the opportunity to expose Laura’s hiding place to the owner of the asylum but changes his mind at the last moment because his devotion to Marian will not allow him to cause her such suffering. Marian is not flattered.
“No words can say how degraded I feel in my own estimation when I think of it—but the one weak point in that man’s iron character is the horrible admiration he feels for me.” (p. 683)
Then Walter sums up our feelings about Fosco’s villainy, and also what makes him such a wonderfully complex character.
“The best men are not consistent in good—why should the worst men be consistent in evil?” (p. 683)
Then Walter waxes sentimental.
“There (I said in my own heart)—there, if ever I have the power to will it, all that is mortal of her shall remain, and share the grave-bed with the loved friend of her childhood, with the dear remembrance of her life. That rest shall be sacred—that companionship always undisturbed!” (p. 693)
Then Walter and Laura, predictably, are wed.
And THEN, my dear friends, this lackluster section was lackluster no longer.
I have never been so happy in my LIFE for a character’s return. And even though we’ve heard no mention of Pesca since the earliest pages of the book, it turns out he's been a true and faithful friend to Walter all along, but it just didn’t happen to be relevant to the Big Mystery so we didn’t get to hear anything about it. I take back every nice thing I ever said about Walter.
Anyway, they go to the opera to see if Pesca recognizes Fosco, because all Italians know each other, apparently. (Did anyone else read that sentence about Fosco occupying a place 12 or 14 seats from the end of the bench and picture Fosco literally occupying 12 or 14 seats?) Pesca declares, in Pesca fashion, “I have never set my two eyes on that big fat man before, in all my life” (p. 713). But when the Fat Man sees Pesca (who, might I remind you, is so tiny that he had to get a boost so he could see over the heads of ladies who were SITTING DOWN), his enviably unflappable nerves are decidedly flapped.
And HOW does our delightful little Pesca strike terror into the heart of the great and powerful Fosco? Well, because Pesca is at the top of a secret Brotherhood, and Fosco is scheduled to be assassinated any day now for betraying the oath of that Brotherhood. HOLY TINY ITALIAN ASSASSIN. My heart, it swells.
And then we have the big confrontation between Fosco and Walter, to which, thank goodness, Walter remembered to bring his brain. Fosco agrees, under threat of exposure to the Brotherhood, to write his confession of the Great Switcheroo. There aren’t too many grand revelations in his confession, but he does show once and for all how creepily fond he is of Marian. Like, dirty-old-man levels of fondness. Also, he reveals that he actually WAS trying to help Marian get better when she was sick and the doctor attending to her actually WAS an idiot. And he wants us to know, also, that Anne died most inconveniently of natural causes . . . but if she hadn’t, he would have killed her probably the next day. Admirable. And off he toddles to Paris to be tossed in the river by someone in the Brotherhood who isn’t Pesca.
I was somewhat bothered by the fact that Marian vowed never to leave Laura and Walter. I suspect Wilkie is making some sort of statement here about how Marian doesn’t need a husband to be happy, but I don’t like the idea of her being the eternal third wheel. She deserves better than that.
But other than Marian, who will be providing Walter and Laura free babysitting for the rest of her days, everyone lives happily ever after in Limmeridge House because Mr. Fairlie's nerves finally killed him.
And now, we dance the dance of the victorious read-alongers!