The Big Read V: The Woman in White -- Wilkie Collins The Second Epoch: The Story Continued by Marian Halcombe, Chapters VI-X; Postscript

Bigread5 By this time, I'm sure you know that spoilers follow.

The Second Epoch: 
The Story Continued by Marian Halcombe

VI.  In which the Woman in White makes an appearance.

•  Marian re-read her journal and realized, as we already had, that she wasn't to blame for Laura's predicament.  So that's good.

• Okay, also good:  the lawyer wrote back and said that Sir Percival probably wants to draw from the principal of Laura's fortune, and not to sign anything unless he's there.  Which is solid advice.  Here's hoping that the ladies don't get manipulated into signing anyway.  It probably doesn't bode well that Count Fosco just appeared.

• So, knowing that the document wasn't going to happen, Fosco talked Sir Percival out of pushing it any further -- do they have a new plan now?  Will they make an attempt on Laura's life??  And is Marian all dizzy and weak because she was up all night, or is her health taking a turn?

• Okay.  So Marian did some astral projecting, à la Jane Eyre, and there was more what-looked-to-me-like foreshadowing about Laura's future:

I saw him for the last time. He was kneeling by a tomb of white marble, and the shadow of a veiled woman rose out of the grave beneath and waited by his side. The unearthly quiet of his face had changed to an unearthly sorrow. But the terrible certainty of his words remained the same. "Darker and darker," he said; "farther and farther yet. Death takes the good, the beautiful, and the young—and spares me. The Pestilence that wastes, the Arrow that strikes, the Sea that drowns, the Grave that closes over Love and Hope, are steps of my journey, and take me nearer and nearer to the End."

My heart sank under a dread beyond words, under a grief beyond tears. The darkness closed round the pilgrim at the marble tomb—closed round the veiled woman from the grave—closed round the dreamer who looked on them. I saw and heard no more.

I was aroused by a hand laid on my shoulder. It was Laura's.

Unless there's a switcheroo and Anne Catherick dies -- I think Laura Fairlie might be totally screwed.  Damn it.  Oh, but Laura just told Marian that she's talked with the Woman in White -- so we'll see.

•  Oh.  Anne Catherick is dying, so she isn't scared of horrid Sir Percival anymore.  (On the one hand, sad.  But on the other, if she dies, Laura might live -- because Wilkie wouldn't kill both of them, would he?)


•  OH, COME ON!  Seriously?  Another miss?  But now they know that there IS a Secret, so that's something.  (It had really better not be that he's broke.  That would be worse than Laura's My Husband Doesn't Love Me secret.)

• Bad times are coming:  "I felt the ominous future coming close, chilling me with an unutterable awe, forcing on me the conviction of an unseen design in the long series of complications which had now fastened round us. I thought of Hartright—as I saw him in the body when he said farewell; as I saw him in the spirit in my dream—and I too began to doubt now whether we were not advancing blindfold to an appointed and an inevitable end."  Suddenly I'm concerned about Marian again -- if her contribution to this manuscript is her journal... well, we really don't know that she's survived all of this.

VII.  In which Sir Percival shows his even truer colors.

•  I'm a bit concerned that Sir Percival is around somewhere, that Marian can't find Laura or Anne Catherick, AND that they were supposed to meet at the boat house, which is exactly the spot that Sir Percival thought was a good spot for a murder.

•  Color me flabbergasted.  So Sir Percival locks Laura up and fires her maid; Marian protests; Sir Percival threatens to lock her up, TOO; Madame Fosco protests (clearly at the behest of the Count); Sir Percival backs down.  I have given up trying to figure out what the Count's game is.  And I really don't know if it'll bother him that Laura called him a spy -- but it sure bothered his wife.

•  Rather than writing letters to find out their legal options, I would like for Marian and Laura to just run away.  Like, NOW.  Even if they never solve the mystery, and even if it ruins their respectability.  This book is STRESSING.  ME.  OUT.

VIII.  In which letters are written and the Foscos (maybe?) take action.

•  Marian attempts to smooth things over with the Count and his wife -- and on the surface, she does.  But she finally realizes just how strongly she feels about Fosco:

With that polite speech he took my hand—oh, how I despise myself! oh, how little comfort there is even in knowing that I submitted to it for Laura's sake!—he took my hand and put it to his poisonous lips. Never did I know all my horror of him till then. That innocent familiarity turned my blood as if it had been the vilest insult that a man could offer me. Yet I hid my disgust from him—I tried to smile—I, who once mercilessly despised deceit in other women, was as false as the worst of them, as false as the Judas whose lips had touched my hand.

It's interesting, too, that this entire experience has made Marian much more forgiving of her sex -- maybe because previously, she'd never really been trapped before?  Or felt unable to speak her mind without Serious Repercussions?

•  The Count is "hot and flushed" at dinner -- does that mean that he followed Marian into town?  Does he know about the letters she gave to Fanny?  And he keeps looking "at his wife with an expression of furtive uneasiness".  Does that mean that they've taken action in something together, or that he's worried she will do something on her own?

•  Is Fosco refusing to stay with Percival after dinner because he doesn't want to talk to Percival, or because he wants to keep tabs on his wife?

•  And now Madame Fosco is Up To Something (searching Marian's room?), while the Count is keeping Marian from checking up on her.  Oh, the trials of polite society! 

•  Uh oh.  I rather think that Madame Fosco read Marian's journal.  And she seems really smirky about Marian's pallor.  At this point, I'm much more worried about Marian than I am about Laura.  Of course, it's hard to get all worried about Laura since she's locked herself in her room.  (But she trusts the food that they give her?  I wouldn't.)

IX.  In which Marian eavesdrops from the veranda roof in the pouring rain.

•  It's finally official -- we know now that Percival and Fosco are in cahoots because they both need money.  And Fosco, though he is at odds with Marian, certainly appreciates her:

With that woman for my friend I would snap these fingers of mine at the world. With that woman for my enemy, I, with all my brains and experience—I, Fosco, cunning as the devil himself, as you have told me a hundred times—I walk, in your English phrase, upon egg-shells! And this grand creature—I drink her health in my sugar-and-water—this grand creature, who stands in the strength of her love and her courage, firm as a rock, between us two and that poor, flimsy, pretty blonde wife of yours—this magnificent woman, whom I admire with all my soul, though I oppose her in your interests and in mine, you drive to extremities as if she was no sharper and no bolder than the rest of her sex. Percival! Percival! you deserve to fail, and you HAVE failed.

•  Ha.  Without even meeting him, Fosco has Mr. Fairlie's number:  "Men of that sort, Percival, live long, and marry malevolently when you least expect it. I don't give you much, my friend, for your chance of the three thousand a year."

•  So Fosco puts the situation to Percival very bluntly:  If Laura lives, Percival has a remote chance at three thousand a year.  If she dies, he gets twenty.  (And Fosco gets ten.)  Percival, interestingly, seems rather horrified by the idea of offing his wife.

•  Ah.  And Fosco doesn't know what The Secret is -- no wonder he's been so interested in Anne Catherick.

•  Staying out in the rain like this can't be good for Marian.  It almost killed Jane Bennet.  And Marianne Dashwood.

•  Fosco's description of himself:  "I am a man of the antique type! I am capable of the most exalted acts of virtue—when I have the chance of performing them. It has been the misfortune of my life that I have had few chances."  Thoughts?

•  Percival on Anne Catherick:  "She's just mad enough to be shut up, and just sane enough to ruin me when she's at large—if you understand that?" 

•  They're going to have this entire conversation without revealing The Secret, aren't they?  ARRRG!

•  So The Secret involves Anne Catherick's mother, and therefore she won't reveal it.  So is it something about Percival's parentage?  About Anne Catherick's?  According to Sir Percival, despite their physical similarities, Anne Catherick and Laura aren't related. 

•  Fosco seems to be a little bit too happy about the fact that the women look alike.  I'm concerned that he's just Hatched A Plan.

X.  In which DAMMIT.

•  Oh, hell.  She IS sick.  Really sick.  Really, really, really sick.

Postscript:  In which we get Fosco's voice -- which is wonderful and so perfectly him -- but also, DOUBLE DAMMIT.

•  So, wait.  IS SHE DEAD?  She isn't -- yet -- right?  Has Fosco "helped" the doctor to keep Marian Out Of The Way?  If circumstances had been very, very different... would he have wanted to marry her? 

•  So she is still alive at the end of this chapter -- but incapacitated. 

•  If Wilkie offs her, I'm going to have to stomp off to Kensal Green Cemetery, Grave Number 31754, Square 141, Row 1, and give him a piece of my mind.

•  I just double-checked the table of contents -- no more Marian.  !!?!?!  Gulp.



The Reading Schedule
The First Epoch: The Story Begun by Walter Hartright, Chapters I-VIII
The First Epoch: The Story Begun by Walter Hartright, Chapters IX-XV
The First Epoch: The Story Continued by Vincent Gilmore
The First Epoch: The Story Continued by Marian Halcombe
The Second Epoch: The Story Continued by Marian Halcombe, Chapters I-V


Other reader/bloggers:


Book source:  My local library.  Well, I was planning on using the library copy.  But after forgetting it at work, I ended up giving it to a patron.  Thank goodness for Project Gutenberg and BookGlutton.


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