THE WYCHERLY WOMAN Part Three
A GLIMPSE INTO PHOEBE’S COLLEGE DAYS
The ride to the college town produces only one piece of useful information. Homer is the nominal head of the oil corporation, but most of the business is run by his brother-in-law, Carl Trevor, who is married to Homer’s sister Helen. There will be a test later.
Archer drops off Homer at the administration building and goes to Phoebe’s apartment where he encounters a staple of the canon, the nosy landlady.
- This particular landlady, Mrs. Doncaster, strongly disapproved of Phoebe and thinks the girl was bored with the college and drifted off—even though she left all her things. The only missing item was her car, a green Volkswagen. The test will include that, too.
- Archer next visits Phoebe’s roommate, Dolly, who is typing a paper on juvenile delinquency. She asks Archer whether it’s the parents or the children who are to blame. The person who answers is Archer but it’s clearly Macdonald whose thoughts we hear about his daughter Linda:
“I don’t blame anybody, if you want an honest answer. I think blame is one of the things we have to get rid of. When children blame the parents for what’s happened to them, or parents blame their children for what they’ve done, it’s part of the problem, and it makes the problem worse. People should take a close look at themselves. Blaming is the opposite of doing that.”
- Dolly has no insight into what happened, only a sense that Phoebe didn’t mean to stay away because she only took her overnight bag with just enough clothes for the weekend.
- Dolly confirms what Homer said, that Phoebe was estranged from her mother and blamed her rather than her father for the divorce.
- Phoebe told Dolly that before the divorce, when she was home from Stanford on break, several anonymous letters came to the house, accusing her mother of adultery. The divorce followed a few months later.
- Phoebe said she felt responsible for the divorce, but Dolly insists that Phoebe never said that she wrote the letters. This will be part of the test, too.
- Dolly is reluctant to admit it, but Archer is on the scent about the landlady’s distaste for Phoebe; he finally gets Dolly to admit that Phoebe’s boyfriend is Bobby, Mrs. Doncaster’s son. Phoebe met Bobby last summer and it was he who convinced her to transfer to Boulder Beach College.
- The relationship is serious; Bobby wants to marry her.
- As Archer is leaving he glances at the sheet in the typewriter. “The e’s were out of alignment. Maybe it was a clue.” You think?
This being the world of Ross Macdonald, of all the people in a busy college town, the first person he meets when he leaves the apartment building is Bobby Doncaster.
- Bobby is suspicious and hostile, and in response to nearly every question, he asks Archer who he has been talking to. He couldn’t do a better job of convincing Archer that he is hiding a great deal.
- Bobby describes Phoebe as having a troubled relationship with her parents. She said as little as possible about them.
- She and Bobby were planning to get married in a year when he graduated. He says that his mother knew all about their plans and opposed them.
- Phoebe left Stanford because of emotional problems.
- Bobby admits that he didn’t meet her when she came to start school—they had the summer together first, at a beach town up the coast where he taught her to surf. He denies that two red-blooded California college students had a physical relationship. Right.
- The conversation gets around to Homer’s bon voyage party in November. Bobby says she drove off in her green VW to see her father off and he didn’t see her again. Before Archer can question him about whether he was planning to spend the weekend with Phoebe at the hotel in San Francisco, his mother shows up. End of interview.