The Big Read V: The Woman in White -- Wilkie Collins The Story Continued by Walter Hartright, Chapters VII-XI
VII. In which we learn about A Scandal involving Mrs. Catherick and Sir Percival Glyde.
• Oh ho ho! So there are two Welminghams... and Mrs. Clements makes specific mention that "the old parish church is the parish church still". Could there be relevant documents there? But... no. If there was something to do with Sir Percival there, SOMEONE other than Mrs. Catherick would know about it. Wouldn't they? I need to just let the story unfold and stop making ridiculous guesses.
He brought his newly-married wife along with him, and we heard in course of time she had been lady's-maid in a family that lived at Varneck Hall, near Southampton. Catherick had found it a hard matter to get her to marry him, in consequence of her holding herself uncommonly high. He had asked and asked, and given the thing up at last, seeing she was so contrary about it. When he HAD given it up she turned contrary just the other way, and came to him of her own accord, without rhyme or reason seemingly.
Knocked up by a gentleman in the household, waited to be made an honest woman, disappointed, and then marrying Mr. Catherick to avoid scandal? Possibly???
• OH HO HO! There was a scandal involving Mrs. Catherick and Sir Percival!
• Hmm. So everyone assumed that Sir Percival was actually Anne's father -- to the point where Mr. Catherick attacked Sir Percival (and got seriously beaten) -- and the result was that Mr. Catherick ran away to America. But I wonder if it could really be that easy. I'm thinking not.
• I love how convoluted Walter's reasoning has gotten (which is good, since if he thinks all this out as if it were a straight-forward crime, he'll never solve it): "Had Sir Percival, by any chance, courted the suspicion that was wrong for the sake of diverting from himself some other suspicion that was right?"
• Also, if Sir Percival had fathered a bastard, I don't see why he wouldn't have admitted that to Fosco. The Secret has to be something much bigger.
• I hadn't thought of that -- if Anne didn't really know The Secret (if she just thought she did, or was confused) -- then everything that happened to her would be that much more tragic.
• Oh, good. Walter as good as told Mrs. Clements about Anne's death. And he informed her of his intention to meet with Mrs. Catherick. To which she replied:
"An old woman's advice is sometimes worth taking, sir," she said. "Think twice before you go to Welmingham."
OOOOOooo. A Vague Warning! LOVE IT.
VIII. In which we finally meet Mrs. Catherick in my favorite scene so far.
• Ugh. Laura's situation continues to break my heart -- especially now, as she begged Walter not to treat her like a child, and... that's exactly what he's doing. Then again, I really don't know what else he could do, or how else he could treat her. I've really come around about all three characters -- I liked Walter and Marian very much before, but now I love them, and for their sake, I want Laura to get better. (But it would be nice for her to get better in a way that gives her a bit of confidence and strength, too.)
• Oh, hell, this doesn't sound promising: "I have all those hidden drawings in my possession still—they are my treasures beyond price—the dear remembrances that I love to keep alive—the friends in past adversity that my heart will never part from, my tenderness never forget."
Oh, BUT WAIT! He follows that up with this:
Am I trifling, here, with the necessities of my task? am I looking forward to the happier time which my narrative has not yet reached? Yes. Back again—back to the days of doubt and dread, when the spirit within me struggled hard for its life, in the icy stillness of perpetual suspense.
So it all may work out in the end. God, it had better.
• I'm really hope that they don't miss some easy way of solving the mystery by NOT visiting Mrs. Rubelle. That would be unfortunate.
• As for whether or not Walter is a match for Sir Percival -- after what Walter survived in South America, I think he'll be okay. Also, he's the one writing this.
• Oh, Walter, you're so manly and British:
As I crossed the railway platform, and looked right and left among the people congregated on it, to search for any faces among them that I knew, the doubt occurred to me whether it might not have been to my advantage if I had adopted a disguise before setting out for Hampshire. But there was something so repellent to me in the idea—something so meanly like the common herd of spies and informers in the mere act of adopting a disguise—that I dismissed the question from consideration almost as soon as it had risen in my mind.
• Well, then. Mrs. Catherick is... formidable:
"I came," I said, "because I thought Anne Catherick's mother might have some natural interest in knowing whether she was alive or dead."
"Just so," said Mrs. Catherick, with additional self-possession. "Had you no other motive?"
I hesitated. The right answer to that question was not easy to find at a moment's notice.
"If you have no other motive," she went on, deliberately taking off her slate-coloured mittens, and rolling them up, "I have only to thank you for your visit, and to say that I will not detain you here any longer. Your information would be more satisfactory if you were willing to explain how you became possessed of it. However, it justifies me, I suppose, in going into mourning. There is not much alteration necessary in my dress, as you see. When I have changed my mittens, I shall be all in black."
She searched in the pocket of her gown, drew out a pair of black lace mittens, put them on with the stoniest and steadiest composure, and then quietly crossed her hands in her lap.
Criminy. How do you even react to that?
• What an fantastic, fantastic scene. Yowza. And what's up with the remark she made about Sir Percival's mother, eh?? It isn't her, is it? Which would -- if it were the case -- make Anne his sister. I've had a hard time figuring ages -- she's described as elderly, as was Madame Fosco, but if Percival is only in his forties, that could work. But if they were so far removed in age, would people have suspected them of having an affair so quickly? Maybe my idea of elderly isn't nearly the same as Walter's idea of elderly. No, I don't think that could be it, anyway -- she's so adamant that she's a Wronged Woman. Well, we'll see.
IX. In which Walter does some detecting at the church.
• THE MAN IN BLACK APPEARS AGAIN. Did he eavesdrop on the conversation between Walter and Mrs. Catherick?
• I feel that the mail is way too easily intercepted for Walter and Marian to be doing all of this corresponding.
• Uh oh... he's got two guys on his tail.
• I can't imagine that Sir Percival wouldn't have stolen any incriminating records from the parish, but we'll see...
• AHA. But the old parish clerk has a second copy...
• "The register of the marriage of Sir Felix Glyde was in no respect remarkable except for the narrowness of the space into which it was compressed at the bottom of the page." LIKE MAYBE IT WAS WRITTEN IN LATER??? Wasn't there an Agatha Christie that hinged on something like that? WALTER. GET YOUR HANDS ON THE OTHER COPY OF THE MARRIAGE RECORD. MY BET? IT'S DIFFERENT.
• Did Sir Percival drive Mr. Catherick out of town so he could get access to the records? It seems like there must have been an easier way to go about it, no? Then again, it's not like he'd care about ruining lives as long as his was comfortable.
X. In which there is some Serious Action.
• Sir Percival's thugs get Walter arrested! But Walter gets out on bail! But now he knows that he has only a few hours to Get To The Bottom Of The Mystery! And HE'S REALIZED THAT HE SHOULD TAKE A LOOK AT THE DUPLICATE REGISTER! Oh, hooray. It makes me happy that he figures stuff out so quickly -- in so many books, I wait and wait and wait for the main character to have a Lightbulb Moment -- it's so refreshing.
• YES! I was RIGHT! I LOVE BEING RIGHT. So we think that Sir Percival is a bastard, yes? And if that's true, than he doesn't really have any claim to his title, his land, the money (well, he already spent all of that...) I mean, he wouldn't have attempted to cover all this up if he wasn't... Oh, tra la, tra la.
• "I was not then aware that a legally-certified copy was necessary, and that no document merely drawn out by myself could claim the proper importance as a proof. I was not aware of this, and my determination to keep my present proceedings a secret prevented me from asking any questions which might have procured the necessary information." 1. I really love how Wilkie very carefully avoids plot holes and second guessing on the part of the reader. 2. Does this mean that ultimately, Walter's detecting will be ALL FOR NAUGHT??
• Walter got JUMPED! But he fought 'em off and out ran them. AND he's going to continue on back to the church. HE RULES.
• Sir Percival is trapped in the burning church? FOR REAL???
• Walter, being Heroic, tries his damnedest to save him.
• Is the dead body really Sir Percival?? I mean, it would be fitting for him to set fire for the church and then die in it -- and we are coming to the end of the book -- but is it him, for real?
XI. In which there is an inquest.
• It appears that Sir Percival is, indeed, dead.
• Walter is Down in the Dumps, feeling that there is no way to fix things for Laura, and then he gets back to his hotel room to FIND A LETTER FROM MRS. CATHERICK!! Man, Wilkie was the MASTER of cliffhangers.
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
The Second Epoch: The Story Continued by Marian Halcombe, Chapters VI-X; Postscript
The Second Epoch: The Story Continued by Frederick Fairlie, Esq.; The Story Continued by Eliza Michelson
The Second Epoch: The Story Continued in Several Narratives
The Third Epoch: The Story Continued by Walter Hartright, Chapters I-VI
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