And now, returning from this fruitless mission, Falkner realizes that he must tell Elizabeth the truth—a truth that he fears (knows?) will damage—or perhaps permanently sever—their relationship.
And so begins his narrative, his confession … and, once, again, Mary employs the story-within-a-story technique to advance her narrative.
Mary tells us that as Falkner considered the effects of telling his story, the blood stood chilled in his heart when he thought of thus losing the only thing he loved on earth.
Elizabeth—unwitting—is eager to hear her father’s story and rises the next morning with great happiness to hear it. But he says little more than this: I am Rupert Falkner, your mother’s destroyer. He immediately leaves for business in London—but gives Elizabeth the explanation/confession he previously wrote for her. And now … we get a text-within-a-story, another device Mary was fond of. He begins by telling a bit of his earlier biography. We reach a key point—that a love of his young life, Althea, does not share his passion; in current parlance, she says the equivalent of “We can still be friends.” Depressed, he flees to India for ten years, returns, discovers she has married another.
By chance, he is part of a dinner party that includes Neville, her husband, a boor and a beast (thinks Falkner), and he is horrified. He goes to see her, and she, initially, is happy—it’s been a decade. But when she discovers his romantic intentions, she stops. Cold. She is a wife. And although she no longer cares for her husband, she will, she says, persevere. She says we do not live to be happy, but to perform our duties; to fulfill mine is the aim of my life.
So Falkner—deeply disturbed—leaves her in tears. And begins to plot …