“It isn’t kind of George Talboys to treat me like this.”
But even at the moment that he uttered the reproach a strange thrill of remorse shot through his heart.
“It isn’t like him,” he said, “it isn’t like George Talboys.” (Braddon, Chapter 12)
In this excerpt from chapter twelve, Robert Audley is confused and in great disbelief by the sudden disappearance of George Talboys. Robert has searched up the stream and even where George Talboys stayed in London without any trace of him until he finds out from his father-in-law that George has “left to sail for Sydney.” This was particularly interesting to me as Robert simply cannot believe by the thought that George left quite strangely. However, upon reflecting on George’s character, this seems to be not uncommon as he has already portrayed this pattern of behavior before when he sailed for Sydney without even telling his beloved wife and child for three years. He did the same to Robert too. Mary Braddon’s phrasing of the description of George Talboys is quite perplexing as it was quite obvious to the reader and even for Robert as a character that it was something he had done before.
Robert also seems ravaged by the fact that George, who he considers a dear friend, left without even a proper goodbye. Although their friendship is of old, and the situation is slightly different now, it isn’t clear why he is so deeply impacted by George’s disappearance now. This made me question why Robert has gone lengths to find out about his whereabouts now and not when he found out he disappeared three years ago. The lines “even at the moment that he uttered the reproach a strange thrill of remorse shot through his heart” could also further have a double meaning of Robert playing some part in George’s disappearance for which he feels guilty.
What I am really trying to say here is that, I think these lines hint on underlying traits and motivations of Robert and George that will unfold in the later chapters. The use of contradicting thought processes despite obvious evidence of a certain behavioral pattern of characters also intrigued me.