I have a sneaking suspicion that we've seen the last of George Talboys (poooor George); so let’s look back fondly on his friendship with Robert Audley. And, oh, what a friendship it was.
George swooned, and Rob was there to pick him up and tuck him into bed. George wanted to go to a cemetery in the middle of the night, and Rob said that was dumb. George was sad that his son didn't love him immediately, and Rob said, "Manage your expectations, man."
The young man looked at him with a pitiful, bewildered expression. The big dragoon was as helpless as a baby; Robert Audley, the most vacillating and unenergetic of men, found himself called upon to act for another. He rose superior to himself and equal to the occasion.
And a professional underachiever who had avoided responsibility his whole life suddenly found himself tied to this mopey, heartsick fellow.
George is forever talking about his emotional wounds, and Rob is forever talking about the value of a good cigar, and between the two of them, we get conversations that vacillate between poignancy and absurdity, which is just how I like my conversations.
George: “I am like a man standing upon a long low shore, with hideous cliffs frowning down upon him from behind, and the rising tide crawling slowly but surely about his feet. It seems to grow nearer and nearer every day, that black, pitiless tide; not rushing upon me with a great noise and a mighty impetus, but crawling, creeping, stealing, gliding towards me, ready to close in above my head when I am least prepared for the end.”
Rob: “Are you quite sure you haven’t just eaten some bad pork?”
Things that Rob has attributed to indigestion:
- Feelings of existential dread
Rob has a very particular way of viewing the world. If there’s only one candle, you’ll take turns viewing the portrait, and if he says you’re afraid of the lightning, then you’re afraid of the lightning DO YOU HEAR ME?
Where this will work against Rob the most, I’m afraid, is when he has to start seeing Lucy Audley for what she is . . . and I think what she may be is a sociopath. Unless this is all clever misdirection on Braddon’s part, Lucy clearly arranged matters so she wouldn’t come face-to-face with George. But she hasn’t seemed particularly panicked about any of this. Every action is calm and calculated. And if she has, as I’m sure we’re supposed to believe, just returned to the house from offing George, she does so with a bounce in her step and a pile of flowers in her skirts.
|Don't fight it, George. I have flower-picking to do.|
And Caesar knows something is wrong with Lucy. Always listen to the dog.
Alicia (beautiful, clever Alicia, let me love thee in Robert's stead) knows something is off, too, but I don’t think she’s taking it very seriously. Aside from her brilliant theory about the painter capturing Lucy’s true, dark self (which Rob did not appreciate: “Don’t be German, Alicia, if you love me…I’m not metaphysical; don’t unsettle me.”), she seems to think Lucy is just a vapid, cheerful bore who hates reading and loves pretty dresses.
But what if Lucy is playing the child to disarm everyone? If she hates reading so much, why was she taking a book out to the lime walk the night George paid Audley Court an unscheduled visit?
And why does she try to give compliments when she’s so bad at it?
Not at all, Phoebe; you are like me, and your features are very nice; it is only colour that you want. My hair is pale yellow shot with gold, and yours is drab; my eyebrows and eyelashes are dark brown, and yours are almost—I scarcely like to say it, but they’re almost white, my dear Phoebe; your complexion is sallow, and mine is pink and rosy.BECAUSE SHE IS SCHEMING THAT’S WHY.