Previously on The Pallisers: Plantagenet and Glencora got married, reluctantly, and went on a very unromantic honeymoon. For some reason, Alice started falling for her crappy cousin, George, again.
Glencora’s driving Alice back from the station, I suppose, so they can start Alice’s visit to Matching. Over the course of their conversation, we learn that Plantagenet doesn’t approve of his wife riding, but he’s fine with her driving, so she does that a lot just to keep from going insane. Jesus, Plantagenet, ease up a little!
They drive through the gates of the park and Alice remarks on some ruins and Glencora acts out a supposed meeting between an early Palliser and King Richard the Lionhearted that established the Palliser wealth.
Alice asks after the other guests, none of whom she’s likely to know, although she’s heard of Mr. Bott. They arrive at the house at last and Plantagenet warmly greets Alice just inside the front door. The Duke of St. Bungay, an older, nice gentleman Glencora clearly likes, is there as well and gets his own introduction. Glencora tries to ignore Bott, but gives him a hurried intro when prodded by her husband before she whisks Alice upstairs for tea. Bott stares really creepily after them as the ladies go up the stairs.
Glencora swirls Alice into a pretty room she calls her boudoir, which was decorated by the Duke before she and Plantagenet came to the house. The Duke, unlike his nephew, appreciates and understands pretty things. Glencora starts fretting over whether she’s going grey and getting ugly, and then she asks Alice how old she is. Twenty-five is the answer. Bullshit. Sorry to be unkind, but there is no way in hell that woman’s 25 or has been for at least 10 years. Glencora apologizes for prying, and then proceeds to pry a little more by bringing up Alice’s marital possibilities and asking after Alice’s cousin George. Alice tersely reminds her cousin that she’s engaged to Mr. Grey and Glencora tells her she should hurry up and make up her mind or risk being given away to the first prospect, as Glencora was. “They say such marriages can be very happy,” Alice says cluelessly. Glencora would be content with her husband just being pleased with her, and she knows he’d be pleased with her if she’d just pop out a son promptly. She’s clearly stressed out by the fact that she’s not pregnant yet, even though she’s only been married a short time. She steers the talk back Alice’s way, asking if she’s seen or heard of Burgo in London, and Alice snaps at her not to speak of him anymore. Sad Glencora goes back to her tea.
George and Burgo head into the gaming room of some casino or club, where they sit down for a game and Burgo asks if George has heard from Alice. Alice hasn’t mentioned much about Glencora—certainly nothing of use to Burgo—but she’s promised to write more about the politicians, like Burgo gives a crap about any of that.
Oh, god, we’re not done with Glencora’s awful aunts. One of them reasons that, with Glencora at Matching and Burgo in London, they don’t have much to worry about at the moment. The other one says they still need to keep an ear to the ground, because Burgo could leave town, or Glencora could start to get restless. Charlotte says the presence of Alice should act as a nice buffer, but Adelaide wonders if Alice is quite as straight and narrow as they thought. Gossip about Alice and George has clearly gotten out. Adelaide decides to go to Matching herself and urge Alice to marry Grey as soon as possible. Charlotte offers to come along, but Adelaide is sensible enough to know that Charlotte’s presence would never be acceptable to Glencora.
Alice, looking nervous, heads down to dinner. The guests are gathered in the sitting room for pre-meal chats, and as soon as Alice comes in Glencora sweetly hurries over to her and starts introducing her around and making her comfortable. She leaves her with St. Bungay and Mr. Barrington Earle, who talk politics with her and find she can more than hold her own. Earle peels off and goes to speak with Plantagenet about the possibility of making him Chancellor of the Exchequer, which is Plantagenet’s dream job. Earle tells him that St. Bungay, who’s president of the council, likes the idea of naming him to the post, which naturally pleases Plantagenet.
Earle asks about Alice, complimenting her sharp mind and asking Plantagenet if she’s related to George, who’s on the road to winning the Chelsea districts. Plantagenet confirms it, but then Bott butts in and says there are a few of them who aren’t too keen on George joining them in the House. Plantagenet refrains from offering an opinion on the matter until George has had a chance to prove himself.
After dinner, Glencora and Alice return to Glencora’s room, and Glencora complains a bit about the politicians talking of nothing other than how to keep power. Alice reminds her that some of them use it to do some good, and Glencora throws her husband a bone by saying he might, since he’s such a nice man. Alice nicely comments that Glencora looks tired and should go to bed. Glencora says she will, but first she has news: Adelaide is coming. Alice doesn’t care, but Glencora knows what Adelaide’s plans are. Alice says she’ll ignore the lady’s impertinence and Glencora applauds her merrily, then gets serious as she begs Alice not to take Grey if she’s not really in love with him. Alice says she has no intention of doing so.
Glencora goes all in, treating Alice like a sister (and apparently Glencora had an older sister once who died, for those who are interested). She admits that she’ll never stop thinking about and loving Burgo. Alice firmly tells her she needs to put him out of her mind, but Glencora knows that her marriage was purely an arrangement, and one she can’t stop resenting. She doesn’t think Plantagenet needs her, and she hasn’t given him the child he wants, so she’s really of no use to him.
George and Burgo have moved on to a game of pool. George tells him he’s had a letter from Matching, but Alice still hasn’t said anything about Glencora. Burgo says he’s had word from his aunt, Lady Monk, who’s invited Glencora and Plantagenet to her country house for Christmas, and she’s invited Burgo too. Lady M. apparently always wanted Glencora for Burgo, and she’ll be a willing accomplice in an elopement. He asks George for the money he promised to lend. George promises to get it through a moneylender, who’s charging the ruinous interest rate of 60% and wants both their names on the note. Burgo says that if he manages to pull this off and Glencora gets to keep her money, it’ll all work out ok.
On his way home, Burgo’s accosted by a raggedy woman who begs him for a penny to buy some gin. He tells her they’re in the same boat, for all his rich appearance, and he has nothing to share. She looks up into his face and tells him he’s beautiful, and that people like him are never poor. He informs her he’s worse off than she, because she has nothing, whereas he’s in the hole to the tune of 30K. Yikes! He does, however, manage to find her some money, which he gives her, only insisting she not spend it on booze. She thanks him and he tips a hat to her before moving off.
Glencora’s reading poetry aloud to Alice when they’re joined by Plantagenet, who compliments her on her dramatic reading before asking Alice to give them a few minutes. Alice excuses herself and Plantagenet tells Glencora they’re invited to Lady Monk’s for Christmas. He starts to tell her that this is a politically important gathering, but she interrupts him to tell him that Burgo will be there, which might be a problem. Plantagenet plays obtuse, saying that now they’re married her previous feelings for Burgo must be forgotten. He orders her to behave civilly towards Burgo and suck it up, because they’re going to Monkshade (a deadly poison—heh) whether she likes it or not.
Alice finds Bott down in the drawing room, presumably reading something naughty, because he hides it quickly when she comes in. He asks how much longer she’ll be there and she tells him she’ll be around a while. He’s soooo glad to hear that, advancing on her creepily and telling her he, too, will be staying a while. God, this guy’s icky. He says he looks to Plantagenet as one of their great rising political stars, but finds Glencora very young and very much under Alice’s influence. He asks Alice to, essentially, spy on Glencora for him, which she absolutely refuses to do. He inches closer and closer to her on the sofa until she gets up and goes to leave, but Glencora comes bursting in and Bott hurries out. Glencora’s there to present Alice to Adelaide, who’s just arrived.
The three ladies sit down and Adelaide wastes no time bringing up Alice’s engagement and asking when the marriage will be. Alice admits she’s not established a date yet, which Adelaide tells her is absurd. Alice tells her, politely, to mind her own business, so Adelaide drops all pretense of friendship and tells Alice she knows about George and that it’s Alice’s duty to carry out the engagement she got herself into with Grey. Alice once again tells her to buzz off, and everyone gets to their feet and it almost looks like we might have a Victorian-style cage match, but then Plantagenet comes in and is told by Alice that Adelaide’s sticking her nose in where it most assuredly doesn’t belong. Glencora applauds Alice’s spirit and Adelaide calls Alice too strong willed for her own good. Adelaide stalks out and Glencora runs after her to try and talk her down. Adelaide takes a moment to call after Alice that she intends to speak with Alice’s father about this whole confrontation. She whirls out and Plantagenet quietly apologizes for Adelaide’s behavior. Slightly stunned, Alice goes to sit on the sofa, so Glencora jumps in and says that Alice was just worked up because she’s excited about a planned outing to the priory ruins the girls intended to make that night, since it’s going to be a full moon. Plantagenet doesn’t think it’s a good idea for them to be wandering around at night in December. Glencora dares him to forbid it outright, but he doesn’t, so it’s a girls’ night, then.
Burgo arrives at Monkshade a few days early, as requested by his aunt. After dinner, she gets down to brass tacks, telling him to leave the brandy alone and listen up to what she has to say. Using barely veiled language, she tells him she’s going to arrange it so he can mess around with Glencora. The interaction between these two is just this side of totally inappropriate and creepy. And then Burgo kisses her neck and it crosses right on over to the other side. Ick.
Glencora and Alice arrive in the ruins, which are very Gothic indeed and hung with unlikely cobwebs. The ladies wander around, Glencora looking transported and Alice looking shaky and nervous. Glencora looks up and comments that it was under just such a moon that she met Burgo for the first time. She admits that if Burgo were to come to her again, she’d run away with him. Alice tells her for the 80th time that she mustn’t say such things. Glencora starts to cry and says she knows she owes Plantagenet a son, but that’s not forthcoming. Alice delicately asks if Plantagenet’s, um, getting the job done, and Glencora spits that he does well enough, when he can spare a few minutes from his books and his politics. Most nights he works so late she’s barely awake by the time he comes to her room. Victorian romance, folks!
Glencora suddenly throws off her shawl, and when Alice tells her she’ll catch cold. Glencora says that’s exactly her goal, because if she’s sick, she can’t go to Monkshade, and she doesn’t want to go because Burgo will be there and she’s afraid of what she’ll do if she sees him. Alice urges Glencora to just tell her husband she can’t go, but Glencora tells her that Plantagenet won’t listen to her on the matter. Alice puts an arm around Glencora’s shoulders and leads her back to the house.
The following morning, Plantagenet finds Alice reading in the sitting room and tells her that Glencora’s feeling a bit under the weather and won’t be coming down. He’s annoyed with Alice for failing to talk Glencora out of their late-night walk. Nonetheless, Alice takes the opportunity to bring up this Christmas visit and how uncomfortable Glencora is with going. Once again, Plantagenet refuses to believe there’s any issue here, and furthermore he’s so annoyed with Alice for interfering he tells her she might want to get lost until Glencora’s recovered her health. Alice is clearly taken aback but offers to return home to London before she spends her own Christmas at her grandfather’s in the country.
Glencora’s stretched out on a daybed in her room, reading a book when Plantagenet swings by to ask how she’s feeling. Glencora tucks the book away and tells him she’s feeling awful, but still alive, and could he send Alice up to amuse her? He tells her Alice is packing, which upsets Glencora, but Plantagenet tells her it’s all for the best. This way, she can focus on getting better in time for their visit to Monkshade. She tells him yet again that she can’t go there, but he insists, because he’s already accepted for both of them, and her absence might cause gossip. As soon as he goes, she runs over to the window, throws it open, and sticks her head outside into the cold.
Alice arrives home and greets her father with a kiss. He informs her that Grey’s going to be in town that week and wants to see them before they leave. Alice tells him that she’s broken off her engagement. Through a letter, no less. Wow, Alice, way to be unfeeling. You couldn’t even do it face to face? Her father’s upset to hear this and tells her she’s acting like a fool. Nonetheless, it’s done, and her father accepts it, although he does say he hopes this has nothing to do with her “damn cousin George”.
At their club, George counts out the dearly borrowed money and hands it over to Burgo, wishing him a very merry Christmas. Maybe I missed something here, but why is George helping Burgo this way? It’s one thing to loan a friend a few pounds, but to borrow huge sums under your own name at such a usurious interest rate is just bizarre to me, especially since the payoff is so uncertain.
Dolly and Earle arrive and note the two other men sitting together. Dolly drawls that they’re two of a kind, but Earle’s not sure, because at least George is trying to do something with his life. Dolly tells Earle that he thinks there’s something a bit fishy about George and his cashflow. He’s been spending a lot of time with Burgo, and there’s gossip George has been trying to raise money on Vavasor Hall, his grandfather’s home. Earle’s not crazy about this, but he doesn’t think it’ll make him a bad politician.
George pays a visit to Alice and instantly figures out that she’s broken off her engagement, allegedly just by looking at her. Yeah, right, you heard it from someone. Alice falls for it and even lets him kiss her. He immediately asks her to marry him. She weakly protests that her father and grandfather won’t like it. George urges her to talk to their grandfather when she’s at Vavasor Hall over the holiday, because she could bring him around to the idea of their marriage. Oh, and while she’s there, can she hit the old man up for some money? Alice, who has apparently lost all her brains somewhere along the way, tells George she has money and she’ll be happy to front him. Alice, how can you be so blind? How can you not see that he’s using you to hit your grandfather up for cash? Not to mention, he’s blown through all his money in months! Why would you want to marry someone like that? You’ll be in the poorhouse before you know it!
George tells her that he can’t touch her money unless they’re married, or at the very least engaged, so Alice, of course, accepts his proposal. She deserves all the misery coming her way. What a moron. And what a hypocritical bitch, constantly telling Glencora (even before her marriage) to just be content with what she’s being forced into and to forget any past loves, even as she herself does the exact opposite and jerks poor Grey around for months for absolutely no reason. George says she’s back to the old Alice, and she has been ever since she got back from Matching (which was, what, a day ago? And this is the first time George has seen her since then, so what’s he basing that on?) He asks her what happened there and she tells him that she learned the heart must be given its freedom while there’s still time. Whatever. My opinion of her remains low.
Alice, her dad, and Kate are all gathered at Vavasor Hall, a slightly inhospitable looking place in a snowy landscape. Over dinner, Alice announces her re-engagement to George, which pleases Kate but pisses off her father and grandfather, who was another fan of Grey’s. Her father doesn’t approve of the match and refuses to receive George as his son-in-law before stomping out of the dining room. Alice next turns to her grandfather and asks him to receive George at Vavasor Hall again, but grandfather won’t have it. He knows that George will squander everything that’s given to him. I’m glad someone else sees it. Alice insists that George has changed, but grandfather still won’t have him in the house, and he won’t give George a penny of his money before he inherits the Hall.
Monkshade. Lady Monk reassures everyone that Plantagenet and Glencora are expected later. St. Bungay and Earle are there, along with Burgo, of course, who’s already hitting the booze pretty hard. His aunt tells him to lay off so he can be at his best when Glencora arrives.
Unfortunately for him, Plantagenet shows up with Bott, not his wife, who’s too ill to attend. Oh dear. Bott comes down hard on both Glencora and Alice for being so foolish as to wander around at night. Burgo’s pissed by this turn of events, and decides to get pissed too, as he immediately falls on the decanter again. His aunt nervously tells him to keep his discontent to himself or risk gossip. In possibly the creepiest single line of this series yet, she snaps at him to go upstairs and she’ll “come to him later.” Ummmm…okaaay. I don’t even want to know what the nature of their relationship is at this point. As Burgo goes to leave, he runs into Plantagenet, who greets him. Burgo says he’s sorry they won’t be seeing Glencora, before he brushes past Plantagenet and goes upstairs.
Earle and St. Bungay take in the little show and talk about how sweet Glencora is, and whether Plantagenet really appreciates such sweetness. St. Bungay thinks he could do with a little more sympathy, which worries him if Plantagenet becomes Chancellor. He’ll do fine on the money and the political end of it, but socially he needs to up his game, because he needs to learn how to deal carefully with people.
Burgo, clearly drunk, is getting ready for dinner when his aunt comes in to nag him and tell him that Glencora stayed home because she’s afraid of meeting Burgo. But she won’t be able to make a cold last forever, so she’ll have to come to Lady Monk’s ball in London that February. Geez, why doesn’t Burgo just go to Matching, knowing Glencora’s there alone? I guess that doesn’t occur to him, because instead he starts getting all touchy-feely with his auntie as he asks her for money again. She promises to come up with cash for him somehow. I turn off the TV and immediately go take a shower. Ick.