The Big Read V: The Woman in White -- Wilkie Collins The Story Continued by Vincent Gilmore
The First Epoch: The Story Continued by Vincent Gilmore (of Chancery Lane, Solicitor)
I. In which we meet Sir Percival Glyde.
• I'm rather loving Mr. Gilmore -- his voice is very different from Walter's, and he's one that I can hear in my head. I love that he seems to be one of those The World Is Not What It Was types -- but not without humor, as nothing seems to be What It Was... except Mr. Fairlie, who is, as ever, unchanged. Oh, and I'm really glad that he threw this in, since he's writing it for Walter in the first place:
There are three things that none of the young men of the present generation can do. They can't sit over their wine, they can't play at whist, and they can't pay a lady a compliment. Mr. Hartright was no exception to the general rule. Otherwise, even in those early days and on that short acquaintance, he struck me as being a modest and gentlemanlike young man.
• Sir Percival Glyde doesn't seem evil. His explanation of the Anne Catherick situation is reasonable and sounds logic and plausible... but I'm continuing to keep it in mind that Mr. Gilmore (and, to a point, probably Marian) are "allow[ing] all due force to the high reputation of the gentleman who offered it".
• Sir Percival's insistence that Marian write to Mrs. Catherick (she's alive?) felt pushy and even a little threatening to me, but I might be reading too much into that -- and it's likely that an innocent, proud man would want it all cleared up with no doubts on anyone's part. Ah, but later it's clear that she's still uneasy -- it was probably a good move for her to use her poker face.
• AH HA! BUT THE DOG HATES HIM! GUILTY! YOU ARE A BAD MAN. AND he has an irritable temper! Not good. Somehow, I think, Mr. Gilmore, that your irritable temper is very different from Sir Percival's bad temper.
• Mr. Gilmore is just wonderful:
I could see no cause for any uneasiness or any doubt, but she had made me a little uneasy, and a little doubtful, nevertheless. In my youth, I should have chafed and fretted under the irritation of my own unreasonable state of mind. In my age, I knew better, and went out philosophically to walk it off.
II. In which Mr. Gilmore changes his mind.
• You know, Laura seems young, innocent and unsure of herself -- but never silly. It would be nice to know what goes on in her head -- and I noticed that while Walter often used the past tense in talking about her, Mr. Gilmore used the present in the last chapter. So I still have no guess as to her fate.
• It has occurred to me that it's possible that as Sir Percival addressed the letter, he could have directed it somewhere other than its intended recipient. Or that Mrs. Catherick is not to be trusted, either. Didn't we get that impression from the Woman in White?
• Huh. So Sir Percival said he'd give Laura up if she, herself, told him she wanted out? But he's got to know that she'd never do that? (I mean, unless she has a spine hidden under all of her blushes?) I'm sticking with the dog.
• Ha!: "I liked to feel her hearty indignation flash out on me in that way. We see so much malice and so little indignation in my profession." Mr. Gilmore is so appreciative of Marian.
• I was not aware of this, and will have to watch myself in future times: "When a sensible woman has a serious question put to her, and evades it by a flippant answer, it is a sure sign, in ninety-nine cases out of a hundred, that she has something to conceal."
• If she hadn't been coddled and protected QUITE SO MUCH her entire life, she'd probably have less difficulty in just breaking the engagement, ESPECIALLY since Sir Dogs Hate Me said he'd let it drop. Grrr. Trying to not let my sensibilities cloud my reading of her actions, but it's HARD. I do continue to feel sorry for her, though.
• So Laura wants to leave all of her money to Marian. And maybe a little something, I assume, to Walter, but she never said it because she was too busy having a meltdown. And Mr. Gilmore is not immune to Laura's lovely weakness -- he's now on her side and hopes that the engagement will be broken. (Man, all it takes is smiling through your tears? I have GOT to remember this stuff!)
• Mr. Gilmore is just as prone to making sweeping generalizations as Walter, but his are so much more amusing: "No sensible man ever engages, unprepared, in a fencing match of words with a woman."
III. In which there is much talk of the marriage settlement.
• NOOOOOOO. WHAT HAPPENED? WHY DID LAURA FINALLY BREAK DOWN? ... Wow. I had no idea that I was so invested. Oh, okay. Marian will explain in the next section.
• The settlement: Once Mr. Fairlie dies (though I suspect he might be the I'm So Sick, I'm Dying, I'm Dying, Oh, Wait, I Just Celebrated My 147th Birthday type), and when Laura is of age, she gets the income from the land (and if she marries, her husband has access to that money through her). If she marries and then dies, her husband gets that money for the rest of his life. If she has a son, it passes on down to him.
But there's also the matter of the twenty thousand pound fortune plus another ten thousand pound fortune -- Wait, there's a COUNT involved? Are Counts EVER not evil? -- if Laura dies before her aunt, the ten thousand goes to her aunt (and to the Count). Now for the twenty: Mr. Gilmore wants to set it up so that if Laura dies without an heir, the principal goes to Marian and whoever (Whomever? Is 'whom' dead? I keep seeing essays about The Death of Whom.) else Laura names. Do I have that right? (I wish he hadn't said this was important. Now I'm all stressed out.)
• AH HA. But Sir Percival won't accept that version. He wants the twenty thou. Yep. I've officially made up my mind: He's Evil, and he's Plotting.
• Ha ha. Lawyer snark:
The answer I wrote to this audacious proposal was as short and sharp as I could make it. "My dear sir. Miss Fairlie's settlement. I maintain the clause to which you object, exactly as it stands. Yours truly." The rejoinder came back in a quarter of an hour. "My dear sir. Miss Fairlie's settlement. I maintain the red ink to which you object, exactly as it stands. Yours truly."
• Mr. Gilmore is WONDERFUL. Not only is he hilarious:
There are many varieties of sharp practitioners in this world, but I think the hardest of all to deal with are the men who overreach you under the disguise of inveterate good-humour. A fat, well fed, smiling, friendly man of business is of all parties to a bargain the most hopeless to deal with. Mr. Merriman was one of this class.
...but he's also stubborn, and isn't backing down about the money, even though Mr. Fairlie told him to let it go.
• Oh no! Walter is a disaster! Sad. And is he the one Sir Percival's men are watching? Judging by his paranoia, I rather think so.
IV. In which Mr. Gilmore returns to Limmeridge.
• Oh, good. Mr. Gilmore is all cranky. I hope he rips into Mr. Fairlie. Someone should shake that guy.
• GAH!! Mr. Fairlie is such a MONSTER:
"Man?" he repeated. "You provoking old Gilmore, what can you possibly mean by calling him a man? He's nothing of the sort. He might have been a man half an hour ago, before I wanted my etchings, and he may be a man half an hour hence, when I don't want them any longer. At present he is simply a portfolio stand. Why object, Gilmore, to a portfolio stand?"
I am DESPERATELY hoping for a Crime of Passion.
• If I could reach through my book and throttle Mr. Fairlie myself, I would. He's WORSE than a Plotting Villain. Mr. Gilmore's frustration and indignation affected me much more emotionally than Walter's angst. Interesting, that. What a great parting shot:
"As the faithful friend and servant of your family, I tell you, at parting, that no daughter of mine should be married to any man alive under such a settlement as you are forcing me to make for Miss Fairlie."
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