IX. In which Walter confesses.
• "At the first safe opportunity Miss Halcombe cautiously led her half-sister to speak of their mother, of old times, and of Anne Catherick." See, they're treating Laura with kid gloves, like she's a child or an invalid -- while as far as I can tell, she's neither. Is it just because she's Pretty and Gentle? Or is it a cultural thing -- that Proper Victorian Ladies (which Marian is not, of course) shouldn't be exposed to That Sort Of Thing?
• While Walter's confession of love for Miss Fairlie comes as no surprise, the vehemence of his words, his feelings of guilt and shame, do:
Ah! how well I know all the sadness and all the mockery that is contained in those three words. I can sigh over my mournful confession with the tenderest woman who reads it and pities me. I can laugh at it as bitterly as the hardest man who tosses it from him in contempt. I loved her! Feel for me, or despise me, I confess it with the same immovable resolution to own the truth.
Does Laura turn out to be bananas? Evil? Does she die? Is it something more simple -- his position as her teacher? WHAT'S THE DEAL, WALTER??
• Racy!: "It was part of my service to live in the very light of her eyes—at one time to be bending over her, so close to her bosom as to tremble at the thought of touching it..." I am so immature. Sorry.
• Poor old Walter. This chapter is brutally honest, and in its own Victorian way, quite blunt: "I had long since learnt to understand, composedly and as a matter of course, that my situation in life was considered a guarantee against any of my female pupils feeling more than the most ordinary interest in me, and that I was admitted among beautiful and captivating women much as a harmless domestic animal is admitted among them."
• So Laura feels the same way, but it is a Bad Thing, and Marian is aware of it, and it is also a Bad Thing:
Although not a word escaped Miss Halcombe which hinted at an altered state of feeling towards myself, her penetrating eyes had contracted a new habit of always watching me. Sometimes the look was like suppressed anger, sometimes like suppressed dread, sometimes like neither—like nothing, in short, which I could understand.
What's the anger all about, hmmmm?
• So now, though nothing untoward has been said or done, the three of them are completely uncomfortable around one another. But now Marian is going to tell Walter The Truth -- so maybe there is a Bigger Bad here than just a simple he's Not Good Enough.
X. In which Walter learns The Truth.
• Marian seems to be speaking in code at the breakfast table. Or, at least, letting Laura know something without filling Walter in: "I have seen your uncle this morning, Laura," she said. "He thinks the purple room is the one that ought to be got ready, and he confirms what I told you. Monday is the day—not Tuesday." So someone is coming, clearly. Wait! Is Laura unhappily engaged or something? Even the Cabbage's line about winter seems somehow prophetic:
"I suppose it is the change in the wind," said the old lady. "The winter is coming—ah, my love, the winter is coming soon!"
• Marian's bossiness about Laura's letter isn't very cool -- but then again, it fits with the Delicate Flower treatment. Could the letter be from the Woman in White? The under-gardener said she was "well stricken in age", but he was described as a "mere lad". Perspective matters. Maybe I should just shut up and read, rather than doing all of this ridiculous speculating.
• HA! I WAS RIGHT! (Granted, I did kind of cover all the bases, but still!) Laura is engaged.
• Marian was so decent about asking Walter to leave -- it was nice that she threw in the bit about it not being a matter of social inequality. She clearly felt terrible about the entire situation. It all showed a lot of sympathy. And empathy.
• And of COURSE Laura's fiance is a Baronet. But is he THE Baronet? I'm going to take a huge leap here, and say... probably.
XI. In which Walter reads The Letter.
• Walter does love being ominous:
Poignant as it was, the sense of suffering caused by the miserable end of my brief, presumptuous love seemed to be blunted and deadened by the still stronger sense of something obscurely impending, something invisibly threatening, that Time was holding over our heads
• Ha!: "...our neighbours are just the sort of comfortable, jog-trot acquaintances whom one cannot disturb in times of trouble and danger."
• Again, poor Walter! Now he's worrying that he might be going bananas. On reading the letter: "I began to doubt whether my own faculties were not in danger of losing their balance. It seemed almost like a monomania to be tracing back everything strange that happened, everything unexpected that was said, always to the same hidden source and the same sinister influence."
• I rather like Walter's forthrightness. It's hard and embarrassing for him to be so honest about his motivations, but he's continuing to do it -- it feels like this is a confessional/purging as well as the Documentation of a Crime.
• I'm curious about Marian's refusal to make the leap that Walter did -- that she puts no stock whatsoever in the letter, when she is clearly so very protective of Laura.
XII. In which Walter and Marian go to town and investigate.
• Oh, good. He's shaken off his gloom and his snark is back in effect:
Our inquiries at Limmeridge were patiently pursued in all directions, and among all sorts and conditions of people. But nothing came of them. Three of the villagers did certainly assure us that they had seen the woman, but as they were quite unable to describe her, and quite incapable of agreeing about the exact direction in which she was proceeding when they last saw her, these three bright exceptions to the general rule of total ignorance afforded no more real assistance to us than the mass of their unhelpful and unobservant neighbours.
• The schoolroom scene is hilarious, and I wouldn't have been surprised if Marian had jabbed the teacher (or poor Jacob!) with an umbrella (if she'd been carrying one). Oh dear -- now I seem to be re-imagining her as Amelia Peabody (who also has a great figure). I was surprised when, in anger, she pulled out the old The Town Should Be Grateful For My Family line. She hadn't seemed like the type to do that sort of thing.
• I'm a little disappointed that once again, Marian didn't make the leap -- Walter had to hint around before she thought that the ghost, the letter writer, and Anne Catherick might all be the same person. (I still love her, though, and I keep reminding myself that this is Walter's take on things.)
• And now Walter's off for his stakeout!
XIII. In which Walter has his second conversation with the Woman in White.
• This is great (and hideously depressing):
Although I hated myself even for thinking such a thing, still, while I looked at the woman before me, the idea would force itself into my mind that one sad change, in the future, was all that was wanting to make the likeness complete, which I now saw to be so imperfect in detail. If ever sorrow and suffering set their profaning marks on the youth and beauty of Miss Fairlie's face, then, and then only, Anne Catherick and she would be the twin-sisters of chance resemblance, the living reflections of one another.
• Hey, Walter, here's a thought: MAYBE SIR PERCY PUT HER IN THE ASYLUM. Yeesh. Come on, man. Keep up.
• Finally he figures it out. It only took him, like, ten pages.
• And we're back to Ominous Walter:
I looked after Anne Catherick as she disappeared, till all trace of her had faded in the twilight—looked as anxiously and sorrowfully as if that was the last I was to see in this weary world of the woman in white.
• The shot of Walter watching Anne Catherick walking away kind of parallels the shot of Walter watching Laura walking away at the end of the last chapter, doesn't it?
XIV. In which there are no real surprises.
• I shouldn't be surprised that Mr. Fairlie writes about himself in the third person. But, you know. It still threw me. Happily, he's just as hilariously awful on paper as he is in person.
• Aaand, no surprise, Anne Catherick is gone.
• I'm glad that Marian has started to take this all seriously, but I still think it's frustrating that Laura isn't being at all included in any of this -- I mean, especially given that Sir Percival wants to get married sooner rather than later. But maybe it's just that my modern sensibilities are causing trouble again. Also, wow:
"Is there any doubt in your mind, NOW, Miss Halcombe?"
"Sir Percival Glyde shall remove that doubt, Mr. Hartright—or Laura Fairlie shall never be his wife."
I get that Marian loves her sister, but A) she isn't her guardian, and B) it would be nice if Laura was given the opportunity to have some say in her own future.
XV. In which there are many Longing Looks and Mournful Sighs.
• Enter the violet glove-wearing lawyer, Mr. Gilmore:
A sanguine constitution and fair prospects to begin with—a long subsequent career of creditable and comfortable prosperity—a cheerful, diligent, widely-respected old age—such were the general impressions I derived from my introduction to Mr. Gilmore, and it is but fair to him to add, that the knowledge I gained by later and better experience only tended to confirm them.
• Walter tortures himself by Wandering the Grounds and staring at the places where he Fell In Love, and then speaks with Mr. Gilmore, who is possibly the actual personification of the word 'affable', but who doesn't seem to think that the Sir Percival Situation will turn out to bear fruit.
• During dinner, Mr. Gilmore says: "Good bottle of port, that—sound, substantial, old wine. I have got better in my own cellar, though." Good lord -- what sort of guest says something like that??
• Sad. The piano scene was the first time I really felt for Walter and Laura -- maybe because it's practically the first time he's actually given us a transcription of one of their conversations. That said, I thought her tantrum-y moment drove home her child-like nature yet again.
• This was quite the moment: "She caught me by both hands—she pressed them with the strong, steady grasp of a man—her dark eyes glittered—her brown complexion flushed deep—the force and energy of her face glowed and grew beautiful with the pure inner light of her generosity and her pity. "
• I'm starting to feel a little weird about Walter's insistence that everything Laura does is artless and innocent: "Oh!" she said innocently, "how could I let you go, after we have passed so many happy days together!" Because, I don't know -- she loves him and knows that he loves her, so how could that line, coming from her, not have a double meaning?
• Oh, Walter -- you totally had me, and then you wrecked it with the line about "her sacred weakness". (Had me, as in, had me really genuinely feeling for the two of them. I love him as a narrator, but I just can't respect his taste in women.)
The End of Hartright's Narrative.
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