Robert tells Maldon that he intends to take Georgey away. Maldon admits that he always knew either Robert or George would take Georgey away. Robert says that George is allegedly in Australia, but Maldon says that George might come back someday. Maldon repeats this several times and then struggles to light a cigarette in his trembling hands.
Maldon’s behavior here shows how he is broken down both physically and mentally from years of heavy drinking and poverty. Though the novel has previously portrayed him as selfish and swindling, here he could inspire pity in both the reader and Robert.
Robert confronts Maldon and tells him that George never left for Australia, and that Maldon only repeated what the telegram told him to say. Robert says that he is certain George is dead. Maldon begins hitting himself over the head and shrieking that it is cruel of Robert to interrogate an old man when he is drunk.
Maldon’s pitiful state becomes even more so. His outburst could be the result of either extreme distress or a way for him to avoid further interrogation. Either way, the extremity of his actions characterizes the novel’s melodramatic style.
Maldon breaks down sobbing. Because of this, and the incredible poverty surrounding him, Robert takes pity on him. Robert tells him that he wishes he did not have to investigate such dark matters, but the truth cannot be hidden, and he feels called to discover the fate of his friend. He says that the person responsible for George’s death should flee the country, because Robert will not spare them.
Robert’s sparing of Maldon shows Robert’s specific type of merciful justice. At this point in the novel, he is not committed to exacting legal punishment or personal revenge, only to find out the truth about what happened to his friend. He sends a coded warning to Lady Audley so that she may flee.
Maldon repeats over and over that he does not believe that George is dead. Mrs. Plowson and Georgey reenter the room and Georgey attempts to comfort his crying grandpa by saying that he can have the watch. Mrs. Plowson asks why Maldon is so upset. Robert says it is because George died a year and a half after Helen did. Mrs. Plowson’s face shifts slightly as Robert says this.
Georgey displays a childlike tenderness for Maldon, thus creating more sympathy for him. Maldon also appears not to know about the violent aspects of Lady Audley’s scheme, showing he is at least less violent than she is. Mrs. Plowson’s expression changes because she knows Helen is not dead.
Maldon agrees to let Robert take Georgey away. Robert assures him that he will take Georgey to a good school and will not try to exploit him for information regarding his investigation. Maldon again tells him that he would never hurt George and does not believe that he is dead.
Though Maldon is complicit in Lady Audley’s scheme and he is still trying to keep Robert away from the truth, this scene shows him as a morally weak participant rather than a wicked orchestrator like Lady Audley.
Robert finds a good school in Southampton and meets with the headmaster. He tells the headmaster that Georgey is to have no visitors unless they have a letter with Robert’s authorization. Robert then attempts to find Georgey something to eat but cannot think of what to get. Eventually he orders Georgey a great feast. Robert decides he will soon leave for Harcourt Talboys’ house. Georgey talks of someone named Matilda, but before he can finish his story, he goes off to school.
Robert’s inability to properly feed Georgey shows how unprepared he is for the new responsibilities thrust upon him. Georgey’s mention of the name Matilda foreshadows Lady Audley’s confession in Volume 3, where she will reveal that Matilda is Mrs. Plowson’s dead daughter who is buried in Helen’s grave.