After dinner, Robert adds more information to his document on George’s case. Then he opens the trunk that belonged to George. There, he finds George’s letters but cannot find the ones from Helen. He knows they exist because George previously referenced his wife’s letters. In the trunk, he finds a few miscellaneous books, which he sets aside.
The missing letters suggest that someone (most likely Lady Audley, given her strange behavior in the previous two chapters) stole them. The books are another example of a crucial clue that is considered insignificant upon first glance.
Robert tries to read his usual French novels and contemplates giving up on his investigation. He worries that the facts seem to be leading him to a conclusion he does not want to know. But he is experiencing a powerful sentiment he has never felt before, giving purpose to his previously careless life. This sentiment is a commitment to justice he cannot waver from. He returns to his investigation, stating, “Justice to the dead first…mercy to the living afterwards.”
Robert can no longer care for his idle, upper-class hobbies because the mystery of George’s disappearance has transformed him and consumed his life. The powerful sentiments he feels could be interpreted as a commitment to justice, as he perceives it to be, or as an intense love for George, given his personal relationship to the case he now investigates.
Robert studies George’s books. In one, he finds a lock of hair, which has a similar color but different texture than the lock of hair the Southampton landlady gave to George. In the same book, he finds two pages stuck together. On one of the pages, he finds three inscriptions. The first states that the book belongs to Miss Bince. The second, written by Miss Bince, states that she is giving the book to her friend, Helen Maldon. The third, written by Helen, states she is giving the book to George.
This scene reveals two clues. The lock of the hair, which came from Helen, is distinct from the hair taken from the person buried in Helen’s grave. The handwriting is also key, as this is what finally convinces Robert that Lady Audley and Helen Talboys are the same person, since he recognizes Lady Audley’s unique handwriting in the inscription in the book.
Robert closes the book, stating that he “thought it would be so.” He “prepared for the worst, and the worst has come.” He knows that he must first place Georgey in a new home.
Robert fully realizes the consequences of his investigation, given that it involves a complicated plot concerning his own family.