death faked, obv
but then he met with her father and they were like, And then she went into a decline and died, and I am like, That is harder to pull off, especially for a woman of little means in Victorian England. But THEN George noted that the lock of hair was different than his wife's and the landlady was like, Oh yes, an illness can change the nature of the hair, so now I am firmly in Camp Body Swap (which, seriously, if Helen/Lucy/Hellucy managed to pull this off, I will like her so much more now matter HOW perfect her every curl is).
(Also making me suspicious is every time Lady Audley narrowly misses having to meet with George Talboys face to face, or Robert is like, Come check out the sexy penmanship on this letter, George [Victorians, you were SO WEIRD], and he is like, Doo be doo, no thanks. Although the portrait scene, where he notably DOESN'T holler HOLY SHIT THAT IS MY DEAD WIFE, gives me pause. M.E. Braddon, keeping me guessing.)
So George returns to reclaim his son, or something, and is all, 'I am your father, come across the sea to find you. Will you love me?' and his son is (very sanely) like, 'I don't know you.' So, no. Stop saying he's spoiled, Helen's Father, that is a very practical and sage reaction.
I'm warming up to Robert Audley, who can only understand feelings of foreboding as the result of a heavy supper. Also, Robert on marriage: 'Who is to say which shall be the one judicious selection out of nine hundred and ninety-nine mistakes? Who shall decide from the first aspect of the slimy creature, which is to be the one eel out of the colossal bag of snakes?'
I also really enjoy things like 'If any one could at that moment have told the young barrister that so simple a thing as his cousin's brief letter would one day come to be a link in that terrible chain of evidence afterward to be slowly forged in the only criminal case in which he was ever to be concerned, perhaps Mr Robert Audley would have lifted his eyebrows a little higher than usual.' So, good work on the foreshadowing and the wryness, Ms Braddon.
I know I said I'd like Lucy more if she'd turned out to have faked her own death, but the 'innocence and candor of an infant' in her 'large and liquid blue eyes' and her 'fragile figure, which she loved to dress in heavy velvets, and stiff, rustling silks, till she looked like a child tricked out for a masquerade' are just killing me. The Victorians were so gross about their infantilization of women and I feel like Lucy does it on purpose and even if it's part of some nefarious scheme I'm still throwing up in my mouth a little bit.
Me when faced with basically a lot of Victorian shit.
Also, the dog doesn't like her, and when the dog doesn't like someone...
So. Is Lucy Helen? Is Robert adorable? Do we pity George? HOW SHORT ARE THESE CHAPTERS, AMIRITE?