Robert’s thoughts wander until Luke asks his mother if she remembers the 7th of last September (the date of George’s disappearance). Luke’s mother says her memory is poor. Robert says it doesn’t matter because he doesn’t want to hear it. Luke says he wants to tell the truth, since he never told Lady Audley.
Luke’s telling of the truth not only defies Lady Audley but allows him to redeem himself for some the deception and blackmail he has committed in the past.
Luke asks his mother if she remembers when he worked at a neighbor’s farm before marrying Phoebe. He asks if she remembers him bringing home a gentleman covered in mud and slime with a broken arm, the man they nursed back to health.
The idea of Luke nursing someone back to health presents a new side of him, different from the blackmailing, alcoholic brute he has been for the majority of the novel.
Robert realizes who Luke is talking about and exclaims, “George Talboys is alive!” Luke asks his mother to fetch a box that contains two pieces of paper. The first paper is addressed to Robert from George, saying that something awful has happened and he must leave England forever. The second is to Helen from George, saying he forgives her for what she has done and that she will never hear from him again.
With this revelation, all of Robert’s despair throughout the novel turns out to be based on a false assumption. The novel can now have a happy ending, with Robert reunited with the two people he loves most in the world, George and Clara.
Luke says that on the 7th of September he went to visit Phoebe at Audley Court. As he snuck through the lime-walk, he heard a man groaning in the bushes. This man then grabbed Luke by the wrist and asked him who he was. Luke could tell by his speech the man was a gentleman. The man told Luke he needed to leave the Court without being seen, and needed a place to mend his broken arm. Luke offered his mother’s cottage, and the man said he would pay him for his service.
Luke is not completely altruistic in his aid to George. He infers that George is a member of the upper class, meaning he is most likely wealthy, and George promises payment. This makes his aid of George more in line with his greedy character, though he does seem to feel some real sympathy for this injured man.
Luke brought the man to his mother’s cottage, and as they bandaged him up, he seemed unresponsive. Luke gave the man some brandy and he fell asleep. The man awoke some time later and hurried to leave the cottage. Luke walked with him to Brentwood, where they found a doctor to set the man’s broken arm. Robert remembers the clerk in Liverpool who mentioned a passenger with his arm in a sling.
George’s state of shock, followed by his hurry to run away, show his distress over Lady Audley’s betrayal. The detail of George’s arm in a sling connects to the very beginning of Robert’s investigation into his disappearance.
The man wrote the two letters and left for the train station with Luke. He gave Luke the letters, telling him to deliver them to Lady Audley and Robert. Then the man left. Luke went to the Sun Inn looking for Robert, but Robert had already left for London.
George’s letters show that he never intended to leave Robert in the dark about his disappearance, just as Robert knew George would never be so cruel as to leave without a word.
Luke then went to Audley Court to visit Phoebe in the garden. When he tried to sit on the well, Phoebe yelled at him not to. Phoebe told Luke she was feeling off because something had frightened her yesterday. She then said Lady Audley would give her the money for a public house. Luke said this news was sudden, and Phoebe should not keep secrets from the man she wanted to marry. Luke asked if a “tall young gentleman” had come to visit Lady Audley yesterday.
Though the narrative doesn’t specifically state it, one can infer that Phoebe saw Lady Audley push George down the well. Phoebe possesses a more cunning mind than Luke, since she thought of using the situation for blackmail before Luke did. Once again the novel suggests that women can be crueler and smarter than men.
Phoebe started crying and told Luke she was sitting by a window yesterday when she saw Lady Audley and a gentleman on the lime-walk. She saw what Lady Audley did to the gentleman and could now blackmail Lady Audley. Luke kept George’s letter, planning on giving it to Lady Audley if she was always generous to them, which she was not. Luke finishes his story and expects Robert to scold him. Robert takes pity on the dying man, who has already suffered for his actions.
Even Phoebe, who seemed to be like Lady Audley in ruthless ambition, is horrified by Lady Audley’s attempted murder of George. Robert’s pity for Luke suggests that deception often creates its own punishment. Once again, Robert shows his merciful nature.
Robert sits by sleeping Luke’s bedside until daybreak. He thinks about how he can now tell Clara that George is alive. Robert leaves and goes to sleep in a hotel. When he wakes up, the landlord tells him Luke has died peacefully. Robert writes a letter to Lady Audley, telling her George is alive.
Even though the mystery is over, Robert still feels Clara’s influence and wishes to make her happy. Luke dies in peace because he has confessed to all the secrets he held, showing that telling the truth can grant a kind of absolution.