“if folks hadn’t been so precious stingy, I might have had a public in a thrivin’ market…” (139)
I am more drawn to this page than simply this quote, but to say that this one line is interesting and revealing would be a gross understatement. Luke, in the room with both Phoebe and Robert, gives up a very important clue. A few things can be taken from this scene and the first is that Luke knows something worth a high price. Luke also feels that his price should have been higher. Another is that Phoebe is far more protective of this payoff than Luke. Robert then asks “What, indeed, is a hundred pounds to a man possessed of the power which you hold, or rather which your wife holds, over the person in question. Phoebe proceeds to look ghostly as Robert appears to have her at checkmate. What does he do? He goes to bed.
Why is that important? First is the trend that has developed which has defined Robert now as the barrister that always seems to have an upper hand and then just taps out. He does the very same thing when Lady Audley fainted after hearing Roberts evidence (123). While her fainting and having a “ghastly ashen grey” look is even more incriminating, the two instances show that Robert is intelligent enough to get these main figures to all but say they know something. If one looks at how methodical and knowledgeable Robert is about the data, he has collected there is very little reason to believe he cannot connect it. It then makes sense that Robert is waiting for one of these characters who knows the secret to give the firsthand admission. Either that or he is waiting for Lady Audley to reveal it herself as she seems to have become increasingly active around her interactions with Robert.
Lady Audley’s Secret wastes little time in bringing this story to focus on secrecy. When the narrator is describing Lime-tree walk they are careful to include every detail about the place. One of those details was “that it seemed a chosen place for secret meetings or for stolen interviews.” (9) This place, which is “scarcely twenty paces from the house” (9), is an opening into the thread of secrecy this piece follows. In this moment the deceitful actions are outside the home still. That all changes when Luke and Phoebe are going to take a look at Lady Audley’s jewelry.
The first action of deception was attempted by Luke. “Why, one of those diamond things would set us up for life, Phoebe.” (34) Despite that proclamation she is not willing to steal. That attitude changes quickly when Luke discovers the secret box. Now Lady Audley had something to hide and Phoebe was now willing to steal it. It is still something that will get Luke “the public-house” (34). These items labeled as more desirable than diamonds by Phoebe were a baby’s shoe and a lock of hair. Despite the initial reluctance to steal, Phoebe now is more than will steal and has confidence in the value of what she is taking. The question then is why? Lady Audley appears to be hiding a secret life and a hidden past that I think could be related to George Talboys or Robert Audley. The relation there is because of the quick transition from this secret of Lady Audley, possibly a hidden son or daughter, quickly transitioning on the next few pages to talking about both Robert Audley and George Talboys. It cannot be a coincidence that these two characters would be introduced immediately following the opening of Lady Audley’s past. I am not quite sure whether the relation would be knowledge of the secret or being father of the hidden child. Nonetheless there is a connection between these two very closely position characters and event.