“Foul deeds have been done under the most hospitable roofs, terrible crimes have been committed amid the fairest scenes, and have left no trace upon the spot where they were done. I do not believe in mandrake or in blood-stains that no time can efface. I believe rather that we may walk unconsciously in an atmosphere of crime, and breathe none the less freely. I believe that we may look into the smiling face of a murder, and admire its tranquil beauty.”
I’d like to draw attention to the fact that in the book, there’s an ongoing theme of facades and of harmless, even positive and pleasurable things, concealing dark secrets, even if said dark secret is only ever hinted at within the work (as of yet). Lady Audley is–we know full well, both from the way the world reacts to her (as outlined in my classmates’ blog posts) and from other evidence in the story–the primary example of a beautiful façade versus a dark and underlying truth. We know nothing about her; she shows up out of the blue; dogs are frightened of her; and there are other hints.
There are also some fairly obvious inferences that can be made (Braddon is not adept at hiding her mysteries–but maybe that’s a topic for another post) that as of the end of volume 1 have not been laid out clearly for to the reader. So even though it’s not been stated outright, we know that Lady Audley is almost certainly George Talboys’ “deceased” wife.
I believe Robert is wrong about this. Robert thinks that any number of atrocities can be committed in a place, by a person, involving an object–and there could be no trace. But maybe he doesn’t want to see those traces. In the case of Lady Audley, there IS a trace. There are several traces that Robert has only begun to see.
Indeed, it is very possible that Robert has done what he has described many times–he has looked into the smiling face of someone who may very well be a murderer.