Robert contemplates how he has become the judge and now the “gaoler” for Lady Audley. His job will only be done once he places Lady Audley in the asylum. He writes to her, telling her to prepare for a journey from which she won’t return. Lady Audley delights in packing up her expensive possessions, knowing wherever she goes she can use her beauty to succeed.
Robert’s responsibilities are a dramatic change from the beginning of the novel, when he couldn’t even bother to act as a barrister. Lady Audley’s character remains static, as she holds onto the same vain ideas about her beauty and her material possessions, seeing them as evidence of her agency.
Robert and Lady Audley take a steamship to the Continent. Lady Audley sits comfortably in her cabin surrounded by the luxurious tea cups, vases, and clothing she hoarded. Robert anxiously awaits the completion of his task. He thinks about George with regret and grief.
Lady Audley, remaining vain and greedy, takes comfort in her wealth of possessions. By contrast, Robert has found a higher purpose in his connection to his friend.
Robert and Lady Audley travel to an ancient, remote Belgian town. Lady Audley has not spoken during the journey. Robert leaves her at a hotel in town in order to go make arrangements at the asylum. He returns to take Lady Audley to be committed.
The remoteness of the town reflects Robert’s isolation and loneliness as he carries out his mission. It also represents Lady Audley’s forthcoming separation for society.
Finally, Lady Audley asks where they are going. Robert answers they are going to a place where she can repent. As they pull up to the asylum, Lady Audley screams. She tells Robert she knows it’s a madhouse. They enter the building and Lady Audley tells Robert he cannot treat her as a child and must tell her where they are.
Once again, Robert expresses a belief in retribution and forgiveness from God. Lady Audley expresses one of her greatest fears, a loss of her agency and privilege by being committed to a madhouse. That fear is about to come true.
Robert says they are in a maison de santé. Lady Audley says that is just the French phrase for a madhouse. The attendant at the asylum tells Lady Audley that this establishment offers every comfort. Monsieur Val arrives and directs them to an apartment decorated with velvet and black and white marble. Lady Audley examines the dark dismal room and throws herself down in a chair with her face in her hands.
During the Victorian era, madhouses ranged from dismal, chaotic public facilities to luxurious, comfortable resorts for the upper-class, thus explaining Lady Audley’s terror. Even in an expensive facility like the one Robert is committing Lady Audley to, a patient lost much of their agency and identity, as Lady Audley fears.
Robert and Monsieur Val talk privately. Robert says Lady Audley’s name is Mrs. Taylor and she is a distant relative of his who inherited madness from her mother. He says she should be treated with “tenderness and compassion.” She should never leave the asylum without supervision and should meet with a clergyman for spiritual consolation.
Lady Audley has assumed many different identities and appearances throughout the story, but Mrs. Taylor is her final one. Despite all she has done, Robert does not wish to hurt Lady Audley, showing the morality of his character and the mercy present in his form of justice (a mercy that is probably also informed by her gender, class status, and beauty, however).
Robert returns to Lady Audley and explains that her name is Madame Taylor now. Monsieur Val comes in and assures Madame Taylor she shall have every comfort she wants, within reason. Lady Audley hisses at Val to leave her alone with Robert. Val calls her a “beautiful devil” and leaves.
Monsieur Val’s labeling of Lady Audley as a “beautiful devil” shows that he understands how a person can be pleasant on the outside and wicked on the inside. Lady Audley’s usual tricks will not work with him.
Lady Audley tells Robert that he has brought her to her “grave” and used his “power basely and cruelly.” Robert says he has been merciful and asks that, in exchange, Lady Audley repent her sins. Lady Audley says she will not, asking, “‘Has my beauty brought me to this?’”
Lady Audley can’t confess her sins because she doesn’t believe she has committed any. In her perspective, her crimes are the logical conclusion of being born into poverty, and with such a powerful beauty.
Lady Audley tells Robert that George’s body lies at the bottom of the well at the end of the lime-walk. She says she planned on bribing or begging George into letting her keep her new rich life, but he said he couldn’t forgive her for telling the lie that broke his heart. He said he would expose her to Sir Michael, but George didn’t know she was mad and therefore dangerous.
George, like Robert, is not motivated by bribery, so Lady Audley only knows how to respond to him with violence. Lady Audley is so desperate to keep her wealth that she will do anything to avoid Sir Michael finding out her secret previous marriage.
Lady Audley told George she would convince Sir Michael that George was a madman and a liar. She tried to leave but George grabbed her wrist, creating the bruise Robert later saw. Lady Audley became mad and pushed George down the well.
Lady Audley’s claim that she was overcome with madness argues that she wasn’t in control of her actions and therefore not truly responsible for George’s death.
Lady Audley says she is making this confession now because she knows Robert would not put Sir Michael through a criminal trial, and no trial could sentence her to anything worse than a madhouse. In despair, Robert says nothing and leaves her forever.
This confession confirms what Robert has been wondering for the majority of the novel. Robert’s despair shows that truth, though a virtuous pursuit, can be devastating.