Robert joins Sir Michael, Lady Audley, and Alicia in the drawing room, announcing that George has gone back to London without him. Lady Audley seems surprised by this news. Robert admits that he is worried about his friend. When Lady Audley asks why, Robert states that George has seemed troubled ever since the death of his wife. Lady Audley says she didn’t know a man could form such strong attachments to a woman.
Lady Audley is surprised by the news that George has gone back to London because, as the reader will later learn, she made sure George wouldn’t go anywhere at all. Lady Audley’s comments on male attachments suggests she believes men often get over the women that they love, thus making her crime of bigamy less harmful.
Lady Audley says, “It seems almost cruel of Mrs. Talboys to die, and grieve her poor husband so much.” Robert thinks that Alicia is right: Lady Audley is childish.
Lady Audley’s comment reveals how women’s suffering is often seen through a man’s perspective, with the woman blamed for actions that are not her fault.
Over dinner, Lady Audley tells Robert about how when she and Sir Michael went to find Mrs. Vincent in London, they could not locate her. Mrs. Vincent had moved from her old address and no one could tell them where she had gone. Robert remarks that Mrs. Vincent was foolish not to send an address with the original telegram.
Robert realizes the telegram situation is strange, but neither he nor anyone questions Lady Audley’s intentions because they are charmed by her beauty and do not believe she could ever be anything but the lovely lady she appears to be.
After dinner, Robert chats with Lady Audley, but all he can think about is George. He wishes George was never his friend so that he would not have to care about another person so much. Robert imagines George going down to Southampton to see Georgey, then imagines him looking for a ship to go back to Australia, and finally imagines George dead at the bottom of a stream. Lady Audley asks Robert what he is thinking about, and when Robert says George, she scolds him for acting like something horrible happened to his friend.
The image of George’s grizzly death is typical of Braddon’s melodramatic style, but not that far off from what has actually happened to George (as the reader will learn later). Robert’s regret over his concern for George shows that his character is transforming into one who can care for another person, but this transformation will be reluctant on Robert’s part.
Lady Audley plays the piano and Robert turns her sheet music for her. He is mesmerized by her beautiful hands covered in jewelry, but then he notices, beneath a gold bracelet, a bruise on her wrist. The bruise looks like a handprint, but Lady Audley says she got it from absentmindedly winding a ribbon around her wrist. Robert doesn’t believe her.
The pleasant domestic scene of Lady Audley playing the piano, complimented by the display of her luxurious accessories, is disrupted by the sign of violence in the form of the bruise. Here, Robert begins to suspect Lady Audley might not be all she seems.
Robert says goodbye to Sir Michael, Lady Audley, and Alicia, telling them that he will go back to London to look for George. If he does not find him there, he will go to Southampton. If he does not find him there, he will “think something strange has happened.” As Robert walks back to the inn, he muses on how he could suddenly care so much for a person. The narrator states that although Robert is lazy, one should not underestimate his abilities.
Robert’s suspicions about George are beginning to grow. Again, Robert muses on how his life has changed from careless to careful. The narrator’s mention of Robert’s unrealized potential foreshadows what Robert will accomplish through the events of the novel.