A Strange Decision

Passage: Page 34, “‘What’s this… the public-house, Luke.'”

This passage is short, only a few lines of description and dialogue as Phoebe and her cousin Luke go through Lady Audley’s jewelry. Luke finds a secret drawer, the contents of which Phoebe steals. The biggest point of repetition here is “rubbish”. The little shoe and lock of hair Phoebe takes are only of sentimental worth, nothing else. So why take it? Perhaps the secretiveness is what inspired her. She seems mischievous and cryptic with her “curious smile” and her comment to Luke about “[his] public-house”. Additionally, the narrator takes the time to describe Phoebe’s eyes dilating as she sees the contents of the drawer. The parcel was, after all, kept in a secret, locked drawer that presumably only Lady Audley had access to. But say the secretiveness is not why she took it–maybe it was the implications of the objects. A local widowed baronet marries a young, impoverished governess… only for it to be revealed she might have, or once had, a child. The situation, especially combined with Lucy’s refusal to share anything of her past with anyone, could quickly become a blazing scandal. Yes, Phoebe is well taken care of by the Audleys, but what else could she get if she held that threat over Lady Audley’s head, both for herself and for her fiancĂ©? The passage is a lovely piece of could-be foreshadowing that sinks its hooks into the reader with how infuriatingly vague it is about Phoebe’s motives compared to the other characters.

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