Treated as a companion by her mistress, in the receipt of the most liberal wages, and with perquisites such as perhaps no lady’s-maid ever had before, it was strange that Phoebe Marks should wish to leave her situation; but it was not the less a fact that she was anxious to exchange all the advantages of Audley Court for the very unpromising prospect which awaited her as the wife of her cousin Luke. (Braddon, 110)
This passage implies the complex relationship between Lady Audley and Pheobe and each of their common/individual interest. And this relationship between them leads us to these questions; What made Lucy so anxious and burdened in her position as an assistant/accomplice to her lady that she wants to give up her benefits of being a maid of wealthy, generous lady as Mrs. Audley? What is Phoebe’s weakness that is seized upon Luke that made her go into an unwanted marriage? What does the ‘unpromising’ prospect of the marriage life with Luke indicate?
Firstly, the existence of huge burden that Phoebe has to bear is evidenced by her explicit and implied practices of running the lady’s errands regarding the secret quest the lady is going through. In the earlier chapter, Phoebe had been to London to run errand that should remain confidential to others except my lady and it seems that she must have been participating in additional works for the quest of lady. And Lady Audley’s referring to a tragic narrative of a beautiful woman who committed crime exposes the fear not only Phoebe but also lady herself even has to bear. It raises questions about what lies in their common fear of being revealed who they are or what they did.
Secondly, regarding the weakness of Phoebe that makes her go through the unwanted marriage, we can guess that it may not matter only to herself but also to the lady. In the later chapter of the book, there is a scene in which Phoebe is reprimanded for her sharing of lady’s secret with Luke. It may explain the fear that Phoebe and lady have in common, which makes up the motivation for cooperation out of necessity.
Finally, I want to explore the possible connotations that the word ‘unpromising’ implies. Given the conservative and women-oppressing environments of the Victorian age, it is very likely that the unpromising aspect/future of Phoebe’s marriage life does not simply mean dissatisfaction, but rather a more critical risk to her life, even to the degree of life-threatening. And it is also possible that Lady Audley herself may have gone through the predicament of unwanted, unsatisfactory, oppressive or threatening marriage before she got married to the ‘sweet’ gentleman like Mr.Audley.