“‘Do you remember, Phoebe. . . that French story we read – the story of a beautiful woman who committed some crime – I forget what – in the zenith of her power and loveliness, when all Paris drank to her every night, and when the people ran away from the carriage of the king to flock about hers, and get a peep at her face?’” (Braddon 109)
This passage emphasizes the juxtaposition between beauty and sins, how a woman of such loveliness, with such grand fortune could sink so low. As she recounts the story to Phoebe, Lady Audley emphasizes the woman’s fame, her beauty, and belovedness over the actual crime she committed. She never actually states the woman’s crime, as if her popularity was more important than her wrongdoings. Lucy seems to justify malevolence with beauty and fame; she pities this woman, expressing more sympathy for her loss of followership than concern over her sin. This tale mirrors her own life story, as she conveys herself as this fresh, youthful, fairy-like woman, while she seems to be hiding a much darker interior.
Nonetheless, this story seems to reflect Lady Audley’s fears of growing old and losing the support of those around her. Eventually, when her beauty has faded, Lucy will not hold the same power over her followers. As Lucy asks Phoebe, “‘What is to become of me when I grow old?’” she expresses a fear of losing the adoration of her followers after her beauty has faded (Braddon 109); she fears a loss of power, that she will no longer be able to enchant and seduce a crowd with her looks, and that they will inevitably turn on her. The question arises: what is Lady Audley concerned that they will discover? Or, more succinctly, what is Lady Audley’s secret?