Sir Percival is sinister and creepy.
That pretty much sums up this whole episode, which felt like kind of a lot of filler padding out a couple of important moments that probably could have been expressed in a more streamlined way. But, here goes:
Marian and Walter are justifiably concerned about Anne’s claim that Percival locked her up in a mental institution. They turn to the family lawyer, Mr Gilmore, and tell him what they know. Gilmore, being a good man, is concerned as well and promises to look into the matter.
Unfortunately, he goes to Sir Percival, who churns out a story about how Anne’s mother was a servant at his family’s home, and when her daughter turned out to be… delicate-minded, shall we say, Sir Percival did the magnanimous thing and paid personally for her to be housed in a private mental institution. Which, admittedly, would have been better than a state-run institution, but still wasn’t exactly a comfortable rest cure in the country. He suggests Gilmore write to Anne’s mother and confirm the story, which he does, and which she does. So, it seems the whole thing is all wrapped up.
Walter, meanwhile, has fallen afoul of his employer, Frederick Fairlie, who’s got wind of Walter’s interest in Laura and unceremoniously fires him and kicks him out of the house. Walter returns to London, looks sad a lot, gets paranoid that people are following him, and finally decides to head off to Honduras for a while.
And Laura, well, poor Laura’s being shoved full-force into the marriage with Sir Percival, who, of course, is trying to speed things along. She sits down with him at one point and asks to put an end to the engagement, because she simply doesn’t love him, and Percival’s reaction is basically, ‘Yeah, that’s not going to happen, and I don’t care if you love me or not.’
He has his own lawyer present a demand to Frederick that Laura’s entire fortune pass directly to him should Laura happen to predecease him. Aghast, Gilmore argues strongly against such a thing, since it makes the wife’s early death suddenly seem like a desirable thing, and that’s not good for anybody. Frederick, who apparently doesn’t care at all about his niece’s happiness or wellbeing, whines about how much of a hassle all this is and agrees. Gilmore is not comfortable with ANY of this.
The wedding speeds forward, and Laura accepts her fate. Before the wedding day, she gives Marian a box filled with feathers and things and asks her to give it to Walter, if she should die. Neither of the girls are happy about this wedding, but they are trying to look on the bright side by anticipating the three-month Italian honeymoon that Percival is taking Laura (and Marian) on. But, of course, Percival pulls the rug out from underneath them both at the last second, telling Marian that, actually, it’s best she not come on this particular trip.
So, Laura is married off, and departs on her honeymoon. Three months later, Marian travels to Laura’s new home (Sir Percival’s creepy Gothic home is called Blackwater Park, because apparently Wilkie Collins was not interested in subtlety here. He may as well have called the place Doomton Abbey.) Percival and Laura return, and the threesome are joined by Laura’s aunt, Eleanor, and her husband, Count Fosco. Fosco, by the way, is definitely giving Percival a serious run for his money in the sleezeball stakes.
Do I really need to say that there isn’t a single happily married person in this house? Eleanor is subdued and never smiles, Fosco keeps leering at Marian, Laura’s like a zombie, and Percival keeps putting in passive-aggressive little digs at her. If I were Marian I’d be desperate to get the hell out of there, but, of course, she loves her sister dearly and doesn’t want to abandon her. Also, it seems she’s living at Blackwater Park now, so I guess she’s stuck, for the time being. But Marian’s pretty great, railing at Gilmore about how utterly unfair is the life of woman, rescuing dogs shot by Percival’s gamekeeper, and watching as Anne’s mother has a heated word at a distance with the housekeeper. If anyone can sort through some of this mess, it’s her.