Robert arrives in London but has to wait a long time to get his luggage. When he finally leaves the train platform, he runs into Lady Audley, who is rushing to catch a train. Robert puzzles at her wretched, helpless appearance, very different from her usually pleasant, cheerful demeanor. Lady Audley explains that she came to town to settle a large bill she did not want her husband to know about. She leaves, but Robert still questions why she really came to London.
Lady Audley’s deceptive appearance falters when she is under distress, a phenomenon that will reoccur throughout the novel. This shows that Lady Audley’s disguise is carefully curated, and she works hard to maintain her deception. Robert’s suspicion of Lady Audley grows even stronger with this concerning incident.
Robert returns to his apartment to find everything in order, with no dust on his portmanteau or his trunk. He calls for his housekeeper, Mrs. Maloney, and asks her if anyone has been here. Mrs. Maloney says just the blacksmith that Robert had ordered to fix a broken lock. Robert did not order a blacksmith, however, and thinks Mrs. Maloney must be drunk. Robert asks if the blacksmith was ever left alone in his apartment. Mrs. Maloney says he was but only briefly.
Robert shows his keen detective eye here, noticing there is no dust on his belongings, meaning that either his usually incompetent housekeeper has been working hard in his absence or that someone else has been inside his apartment. This scene builds the sense of mystery within the work.
Robert goes to see the blacksmith, who appears to be having a celebration with his family, complete with fine wine. He is in the middle of a story about a woman who “walked off, as graceful as you please.” The blacksmith tells Robert that he mistook another customer’s name and address for his and thus came by accident. Robert remarks on the oddness of the blacksmith’s excuse and leaves. He wonders about the story the blacksmith was telling before Robert approached.
The blacksmith’s party suggests he has recently come into money, possibly from a payoff by Lady Audley for breaking into Robert’s apartment. The woman in the story is, of course, most likely Lady Audley. All these details point towards Lady Audley without explicitly assuring Robert his aunt is involved, thus building tension while keeping the mystery unsolved.
Robert returns home while contemplating how the mystery of George’s disappearance seems to be circling closer and closer to Robert’s family. He eats his dinner, lamenting that he has not had a good dinner at Fig-tree Court since George disappeared.
The investigation further challenges Robert’s carefree nature as not only does he have to delve into dark subjects, but that darkness appears to involve his own family.