The mysterious woman in white is Anne Catherick, the girl who once received dresses from Laura and Marian’s mother. Walter is sure of it now that he has spoken to her. And he believes her warning about Sir Percival Glyde, whom she claims put her in an asylum. Walter tells Marian about Anne, and she in turn informs Mr. Gilmore, the lawyer who helped to arrange Laura’s marriage to Sir Percival. Gilmore is skeptical, but promises to interrogate Sir Percival. (In a flash-forward, we see that Gilmore no longer has any doubt that Sir Percival is an evil man.)
Before the matter can be investigated further, Mr. Fairlie terminates Walter’s employment at Limmeridge, on the grounds that the young painter has neglected his duties and formed an improper relationship with Laura. Walter gives Laura an album before leaving; Sir Percival prevents a proper farewell.
Sir Percival confirms to Marian and Mr. Gilmore that he did send Anne to an asylum. She is the daughter of one of his servants and was “not of sound mind.” Anne hates both Sir Percival and her mother for confining her, but it had to be done: she’s dangerous, and must be found immediately for her own safety. Sir Percival tells Marian to write to Anne’s mother – she will corroborate his account.
Sir Percival suspects that there was something between Laura and Walter. But when she tells him that her affection now belongs to another and that he should break off the engagement, he refuses. She’s simply the nobler for having told him, he says.
This is a man with the assured confidence that all the world is his for the taking, regardless of anyone else’s feelings.
Marian also has doubts about the engagement and is infuriated when Gilmore suggests that it would be reckless to break it off. A man would have a say in the matter, she retorts. But when a letter from Mrs. Catherick finally arrives and confirms Sir Percival’s story, Marian reluctantly accepts the wedding. This assurance given, Sir Percival’s lawyer proceeds to negotiate “extortionate” terms for the marriage, as Gilmore calls them. Despite Gilmore’s protestations, Mr. Fairlie, Laura’s guardian, agrees that Laura’s entire estate will go to Sir Percival in the event of her death, even though she’s much younger than Sir Percival. Seems ominous…
Mr. Fairlie also agrees to push up the date of the wedding. Marian is furious, but Laura has become resigned to being Sir Percival’s bride. Sir Percival organizes a three-month tour of Italy for the honeymoon, and initially promises Laura that Marian will join them. But later, he asks Marian to stay in England – the newly married couple will need some time alone as man and wife. After the honeymoon, however, they will all live together as a happy family at Blackwater, Sir Percival’s estate.
Meanwhile in London, Walter has been searching for Anne, desperate to learn more about Sir Percival. He is struggling to paint and has become paranoid that he’s being followed, even attacking a stranger whom he suspects is tailing him. When he learns that the wedding will go through, he sneaks a visit to Limmeridge to bid farewell to Marian and Laura. He has taken a job in Honduras; England has become too painful for him.
Before her wedding, Laura puts together a case of things for her true love, Walter: the album he gave her, a lock of her hair, and other sentimental keepsakes. She asks Marian to give it to Walter and tell him she loved him if something should happen to her. Then Laura is married and off to Italy and Walter ships out to the other side of the globe.
Another flash-forward gives credence to Laura’s concerns about her safety. Mrs. Vesey, the caretaker of Laura and Marian since they were young, shows a lawyer a letter from Laura saying that she fears for her life and is planning to flee to Mrs. Vesey. She never arrived.
The day before Laura and Sir Percival are due to return to England from Italy, Marian arrives at Blackwater. Through a window, she sees a woman with a dog approach the estate and overhears her ask the housekeeper if there has been news of her daughter. When the housekeeper responds that there has not, the woman leaves, requesting that her visit be kept secret from Sir Percival.
Marian later hears whimpering while walking the grounds of the estate and finds the woman’s dog dying of a gunshot wound – the groundskeeper shoots any dogs he finds on the property. Marian brings the animal to the housekeeper, who reveals that the dog’s owner was Mrs. Catherick, Anne’s mother.
But Marian has other new characters to occupy her. Laura and Sir Percival have arrived, along with Sir Percival’s friend Count Fosco and his wife, Laura’s aunt. Madam Fosco seems more subdued than she once was, Laura remarks. And the Sicilian Count Fosco is creepily solicitous towards Marian, no matter that his wife is watching.
In their leering attention to Marian and Laura, Fosco and Sir Percival are gross birds of a feather. Laura has not warmed to Sir Percival’s advances: when he possessively fondles her, she turns rigid. This is not a happy or even consensual marriage – and it’s bound to get worse.