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«Vanity fair (Ярмарка тщеславия - на английском). 8 часть.»
"Vanity fair (Ярмарка тщеславия - на английском). 8 часть."
Between the first and second floors of the house represented, you behold a sign on which the Steyne arms are painted. All the bells are ringing all over the house.
In the lower apartment you see a man with a long slip of paper presenting it to another, who shakes his fists, threatens and vows that it is monstrous. "Ostler, bring round my gig," cries another at the door. He chucks
Chambermaid (the Right Honourable Lord Southdown)
under the chin; she seems to deplore his absence, as
Calypso did that of that other eminent traveller Ulysses.
Boots (the Honourable G. Ringwood) passes with a wooden box, containing silver flagons, and cries "Pots"
with such exquisite humour and naturalness that the whole house rings with applause, and a bouquet is thrown to him. Crack, crack, crack, go the whips. Landlord, chambermaid, waiter rush to the door, but just as some distinguished guest is arriving, the curtains close, and the invisible theatrical manager cries out "Second syllable."
"I think it must be 'Hotel,' " says Captain Grigg of the
Life Guards; there is a general laugh at the Captain's cleverness. He is not very far from the mark.
While the third syllable is in preparation, the band begins a nautical medley-"All in the Downs," "Cease Rude
Boreas," "Rule Britannia," "In the Bay of Biscay O!"-
some maritime event is about to take place. A ben is heard ringing as the curtain draws aside. "Now, gents, for the shore!" a voice exclaims. People take leave of each other. They point anxiously as if towards the clouds, which are represented by a dark curtain, and they nod their heads in fear. Lady Squeams (the Right Honourable
Lord Southdown), her lap-dog, her bags, reticules, and husband sit down, and cling hold of some ropes. It is evidently a ship.
The Captain (Colonel Crawley, C.B.), with a cocked hat and a telescope, comes in, holding his hat on his head, and looks out; his coat tails fly about as if in the wind. When he leaves go of his hat to use his telescope, his hat flies off, with immense applause. It is blowing fresh. The music rises and whistles louder and louder;
the mariners go across the stage staggering, as if the ship was in severe motion. The Steward (the Honourable G.
Ringwood) passes reeling by, holding six basins. He puts one rapidly by Lord Squeams-Lady Squeams, giving a pinch to her dog, which begins to howl piteously, puts her pocket-handkerchief to her face, and rushes away as for the cabin. The music rises up to the wildest pitch of stormy excitement, and the third syllable is concluded.
There was a little ballet, "Le Rossignol," in which
Montessu and Noblet used to be famous in those days, and which Mr. Wagg transferred to the English stage as an opera, putting his verse, of which he was a skilful writer, to the pretty airs of the ballet. It was dressed in old French costume, and little Lord Southdown now appeared admirably attired in the disguise of an old woman hobbling about the stage with a faultless crooked stick.
Trills of melody were heard behind the scenes, and gurgling from a sweet pasteboard cottage covered with roses and trellis work. "Philomele, Philomele," cries the old woman, and Philomele comes out.
More applause-it is Mrs. Rawdon Crawley in powder and patches, the most ravissante little Marquise in the world.
She comes in laughing, humming, and frisks about the stage with all the innocence of theatrical youth-she makes a curtsey. Mamma says "Why, child, you are always laughing and singing," and away she goes, with-
THE ROSE UPON MY BALCONY
The rose upon my balcony the morning air perfuming
Was leafless all the winter time and pining for the spring;
You ask me why her breath is sweet and why her cheek is blooming,
It is because the sun is out and birds begin to sing.
The nightingale, whose melody is through the greenwood ringing,
Was silent when the boughs were bare and winds were blowing keen:
And if, Mamma, you ask of me the reason of his singing,
It is because the sun is out and all the leaves are green.
Thus each performs his part, Mamma, the birds have found their voices,
The blowing rose a flush, Mamma, her bonny cheek to dye;
And there's sunshine in my heart, Mamma, which wakens and rejoices,
And so I sing and blush, Mamma, and that's the reason why.
During the intervals of the stanzas of this ditty, the good-natured personage addressed as Mamma by the singer, and whose large whiskers appeared under her cap, seemed very anxious to exhibit her maternal affection by embracing the innocent creature who performed the daughter's part. Every caress was received with loud acclamations of laughter by the sympathizing audience.
At its conclusion (while the music was performing a symphony as if ever so many birds were warbling) the whole house was unanimous for an encore: and applause and bouquets without end were showered upon the
Nightingale of the evening. Lord Steyne's voice of applause was loudest of all. Becky, the nightingale, took the flowers which he threw to her and pressed them to her heart with the air of a consummate comedian. Lord
Steyne was frantic with delight. His guests' enthusiasm harmonized with his own. Where was the beautiful black-eyed Houri whose appearance in the first charade had caused such delight? She was twice as handsome as
Becky, but the brilliancy of the latter had quite eclipsed her. All voices were for her. Stephens, Caradori, Ronzi de Begnis, people compared her to one or the other, and agreed with good reason, very likely, that had she been an actress none on the stage could have surpassed her.
She had reached her culmination: her voice rose trilling and bright over the storm of applause, and soared as high and joyful as her triumph. There was a ball after the dramatic entertainments, and everybody pressed round Becky as the great point of attraction of the evening. The Royal Personage declared with an oath that she was perfection, and engaged her again and again in conversation. Little Becky's soul swelled with pride and delight at these honours; she saw fortune, fame, fashion before her. Lord Steyne was her slave, followed her everywhere, and scarcely spoke to any one in the room beside, and paid her the most marked compliments and attention. She still appeared in her Marquise costume and danced a minuet with Monsieur de Truffigny,
Monsieur Le Duc de la Jabotiere's attache; and the
Duke, who had all the traditions of the ancient court, pronounced that Madame Crawley was worthy to have been a pupil of Vestris, or to have figured at Versailles.
Only a feeling of dignity, the gout, and the strongest sense of duty and personal sacrifice prevented his
Excellency from dancing with her himself, and he declared in public that a lady who could talk and dance like Mrs.
Rawdon was fit to be ambassadress at any court in
Europe. He was only consoled when he heard that she was half a Frenchwoman by birth. "None but a compatriot," his Excellency declared, "could have performed that majestic dance in such a way."
Then she figured in a waltz with Monsieur de
Klingenspohr, the Prince of Peterwaradin's cousin and attache. The delighted Prince, having less retenue than his French diplomatic colleague, insisted upon taking a turn with the charming creature, and twirled round the ball-room with her, scattering the diamonds out of his boot-tassels and hussar jacket until his Highness was fairly out of breath. Papoosh Pasha himself would have liked to dance with her if that amusement had been the custom of his country. The company made a circle round her and applauded as wildly as if she had been a Noblet or a Taglioni. Everybody was in ecstacy; and Becky too, you may be sure. She passed by Lady Stunnington with a look of scorn. She patronized Lady Gaunt and her astonished and mortified sister-in-law-she ecrased all rival charmers. As for poor Mrs. Winkworth, and her long hair and great eyes, which had made such an effect at the commencement of the evening-where was she now? Nowhere in the race. She might tear her long hair and cry her great eyes out, but there was not a person to heed or to deplore the discomfiture.
The greatest triumph of all was at supper time. She was placed at the grand exclusive table with his Royal
Highness the exalted personage before mentioned, and the rest of the great guests. She was served on gold plate. She might have had pearls melted into her champagne if she liked-another Cleopatra-and the potentate of Peterwaradin would have given half the brilliants off his jacket for a kind glance from those dazzling eyes.
Jabotiere wrote home about her to his government. The ladies at the other tables, who supped off mere silver and marked Lord Steyne's constant attention to her, vowed it was a monstrous infatuation, a gross insult to ladies of rank. If sarcasm could have killed, Lady Stunnington would have slain her on the spot.
Rawdon Crawley was scared at these triumphs. They seemed to separate his wife farther than ever from him somehow. He thought with a feeling very like pain how immeasurably she was his superior.
When the hour of departure came, a crowd of young men followed her to her carriage, for which the people without bawled, the cry being caught up by the link-men who were stationed outside the tall gates of Gaunt
House, congratulating each person who issued from the gate and hoping his Lordship had enjoyed this noble party.
Mrs. Rawdon Crawley's carriage, coming up to the gate after due shouting, rattled into the illuminated court-yard and drove up to the covered way. Rawdon put his wife into the carriage, which drove off. Mr.
Wenham had proposed to him to walk home, and offered the Colonel the refreshment of a cigar.
They lighted their cigars by the lamp of one of the many link-boys outside, and Rawdon walked on with his friend Wenham. Two persons separated from the crowd and followed the two gentlemen; and when they had walked down Gaunt Square a few score of paces, one of the men came up and, touching Rawdon on the shoulder, said, "Beg your pardon, Colonel, I vish to speak to you most particular." This gentleman's acquaintance gave a loud whistle as the latter spoke, at which signal a cab came clattering up from those stationed at the gate of Gaunt House-and the aide-de-camp ran round and placed himself in front of Colonel Crawley.
That gallant officer at once knew what had befallen him. He was in the hands of the bailiffs. He started back, falling against the man who had first touched him.
"We're three on us-it's no use bolting," the man behind said.
"It's you, Moss, is it?" said the Colonel, who appeared to know his interlocutor. "How much is it?"
"Only a small thing," whispered Mr. Moss, of Cursitor
Street, Chancery Lane, and assistant officer to the Sheriff of Middlesex-"One hundred and sixty-six, six and eight-
pence, at the suit of Mr. Nathan."
"Lend me a hundred, Wenham, for God's sake," poor
Rawdon said-"I've got seventy at home."
"I've not got ten pounds in the world," said poor Mr.
Wenham-"Good night, my dear fellow."
"Good night," said Rawdon ruefully. And Wenham walked away-and Rawdon Crawley finished his cigar as the cab drove under Temple Bar.
In Which Lord Steyne Shows Himself in a Most Amiable Light
When Lord Steyne was benevolently disposed, he did nothing by halves, and his kindness towards the Crawley family did the greatest honour to his benevolent discrimination. His lordship extended his good-will to little
Rawdon: he pointed out to the boy's parents the necessity of sending him to a public school, that he was of an age now when emulation, the first principles of the
Latin language, pugilistic exercises, and the society of his fellow-boys would be of the greatest benefit to the boy. His father objected that he was not rich enough to send the child to a good public school; his mother that
Briggs was a capital mistress for him, and had brought him on (as indeed was the fact) famously in English, the Latin rudiments, and in general learning: but all these objections disappeared before the generous perseverance of the Marquis of Steyne. His lordship was one of the governors of that famous old collegiate institution called the Whitefriars. It had been a Cistercian Convent in old days, when the Smithfield, which is contiguous to it, was a tournament ground. Obstinate heretics used to be brought thither convenient for burning hard by. Henry
VIII, the Defender of the Faith, seized upon the monastery and its possessions and hanged and tortured some of the monks who could not accommodate themselves to the pace of his reform. Finally, a great merchant bought the house and land adjoining, in which, and with the help of other wealthy endowments of land and money, he established a famous foundation hospital for old men and children. An extern school grew round the old almost monastic foundation, which subsists still with its middle-age costume and usages-and all Cistercians pray that it may long flourish.
Of this famous house, some of the greatest noblemen, prelates, and dignitaries in England are governors: and as the boys are very comfortably lodged, fed, and educated, and subsequently inducted to good scholarships at the University and livings in the Church, many little gentlemen are devoted to the ecclesiastical profession from their tenderest years, and there is considerable emulation to procure nominations for the foundation. It was originally intended for the sons of poor and deserving clerics and laics, but many of the noble governors of the Institution, with an enlarged and rather capricious benevolence, selected all sorts of objects for their bounty.
To get an education for nothing, and a future livelihood and profession assured, was so excellent a scheme that some of the richest people did not disdain it; and not only great men's relations, but great men themselves, sent their sons to profit by the chance-Right Rev. prelates sent their own kinsmen or the sons of their clergy, while, on the other hand, some great noblemen did not disdain to patronize the children of their confidential servants-
so that a lad entering this establishment had every variety of youthful society wherewith to mingle.
Rawdon Crawley, though the only book which he studied was the Racing Calendar, and though his chief recollections of polite learning were connected with the floggings which he received at Eton in his early youth, had that decent and honest reverence for classical learning which all English gentlemen feel, and was glad to think that his son was to have a provision for life, perhaps, and a certain opportunity of becoming a scholar. And although his boy was his chief solace and companion, and endeared to him by a thousand small ties, about which he did not care to speak to his wife, who had all along shown the utmost indifference to their son, yet Rawdon agreed at once to part with him and to give up his own greatest comfort and benefit for the sake of the welfare of the little lad. He did not know how fond he was of the child until it became necessary to let him go away.
When he was gone, he felt more sad and downcast than he cared to own-far sadder than the boy himself, who was happy enough to enter a new career and find companions of his own age. Becky burst out laughing once or twice when the Colonel, in his clumsy, incoherent way, tried to express his sentimental sorrows at the boy's departure. The poor fellow felt that his dearest pleasure and closest friend was taken from him. He looked often and wistfully at the little vacant bed in his dressing-room, where the child used to sleep. He missed him sadly of mornings and tried in vain to walk in the park without him. He did not know how solitary he was until little
Rawdon was gone. He liked the people who were fond of him, and would go and sit for long hours with his good-natured sister Lady Jane, and talk to her about the virtues, and good looks, and hundred good qualities of the child.
Young Rawdon's aunt, we have said, was very fond of him, as was her little girl, who wept copiously when the time for her cousin's departure came. The elder
Rawdon was thankful for the fondness of mother and daughter. The very best and honestest feelings of the man came out in these artless outpourings of paternal feeling in which he indulged in their presence, and encouraged by their sympathy. He secured not only Lady
Jane's kindness, but her sincere regard, by the feelings which he manifested, and which he could not show to his own wife. The two kinswomen met as seldom as possible.
Becky laughed bitterly at Jane's feelings and softness;
the other's kindly and gentle nature could not but revolt at her sister's callous behaviour.
It estranged Rawdon from his wife more than he knew or acknowledged to himself. She did not care for the estrangement. Indeed, she did not miss him or anybody.
She looked upon him as her errand-man and humble slave. He might be ever so depressed or sulky, and she did not mark his demeanour, or only treated it with a sneer. She was busy thinking about her position, or her pleasures, or her advancement in society; she ought to have held a great place in it, that is certain.
It was honest Briggs who made up the little kit for the boy which he was to take to school. Molly, the housemaid, blubbered in the passage when he went away-
Molly kind and faithful in spite of a long arrear of unpaid wages. Mrs. Becky could not let her husband have the carriage to take the boy to school. Take the horses into the City!-such a thing was never heard of. Let a cab be brought. She did not offer to kiss him when he went, nor did the child propose to embrace her; but gave a kiss to old Briggs (whom, in general, he was very shy of caressing), and consoled her by pointing out that he was to come home on Saturdays, when she would have the benefit of seeing him. As the cab rolled towards the City, Becky's carriage rattled off to the park. She was chattering and laughing with a score of young dandies by the Serpentine as the father and son entered at the old gates of the school-where Rawdon left the child and came away with a sadder purer feeling in his heart than perhaps that poor battered fellow had ever known since he himself came out of the nursery.
He walked all the way home very dismally, and dined alone with Briggs. He was very kind to her and grateful for her love and watchfulness over the boy. His conscience smote him that he had borrowed Briggs's money and aided in deceiving her. They talked about little
Rawdon a long time, for Becky only came home to dress and go out to dinner-and then he went off uneasily to drink tea with Lady Jane, and tell her of what had happened, and how little Rawdon went off like a trump, and how he was to wear a gown and little knee-breeches, and how young Blackball, Jack Blackball's son, of the old regiment, had taken him in charge and promised to be kind to him.
In the course of a week, young Blackball had constituted little Rawdon his fag, shoe-black, and breakfast toaster; initiated him into the mysteries of the Latin
Grammar; and thrashed him three or four times, but not severely. The little chap's good-natured honest face won his way for him. He only got that degree of beating which was, no doubt, good for him; and as for blacking shoes, toasting bread, and fagging in general, were these offices not deemed to be necessary parts of every young English gentleman's education?
Our business does not lie with the second generation and Master Rawdon's life at school, otherwise the present tale might be carried to any indefinite length. The Colonel went to see his son a short time afterwards and found the lad sufficiently well and happy, grinning and laughing in his little black gown and little breeches.
His father sagaciously tipped Blackball, his master, a sovereign, and secured that young gentleman's good-will towards his fag. As a protege of the great Lord Steyne, the nephew of a County member, and son of a Colonel and C.B., whose name appeared in some of the most fashionable parties in the Morning Post, perhaps the school authorities were disposed not to look unkindly on the child. He had plenty of pocket-money, which he spent in treating his comrades royally to raspberry tarts, and he was often allowed to come home on Saturdays to his father, who always made a jubilee of that day.
When free, Rawdon would take him to the play, or send him thither with the footman; and on Sundays he went to church with Briggs and Lady Jane and his cousins.
Rawdon marvelled over his stories about school, and fights, and fagging. Before long, he knew the names of all the masters and the principal boys as well as little
Rawdon himself. He invited little Rawdon's crony from school, and made both the children sick with pastry, and oysters, and porter after the play. He tried to look knowing over the Latin grammar when little Rawdon showed him what part of that work he was "in." "Stick to it, my boy," he said to him with much gravity, "there's nothing like a good classical education! Nothing!"
Becky's contempt for her husband grew greater every day. "Do what you like-dine where you please-go and have ginger-beer and sawdust at Astley's, or psalm-
singing with Lady Jane-only don't expect me to busy myself with the boy. I have your interests to attend to, as you can't attend to them yourself. I should like to know where you would have been now, and in what sort of a position in society, if I had not looked after you."
Indeed, nobody wanted poor old Rawdon at the parties whither Becky used to go. She was often asked without him now. She talked about great people as if she had the fee-simple of May Fair, and when the Court went into mourning, she always wore black.
Little Rawdon being disposed of, Lord Steyne, who took such a parental interest in the affairs of this amiable poor family, thought that their expenses might be very advantageously curtailed by the departure of Miss Briggs, and that Becky was quite clever enough to take the management of her own house. It has been narrated in a former chapter how the benevolent nobleman had given his protegee money.to pay off her little debt to Miss
Briggs, who however still remained behind with her friends; whence my lord came to the painful conclusion that Mrs. Crawley had made some other use of the money confided to her than that for which her generous patron had given the loan. However, Lord Steyne was not so rude as to impart his suspicions upon this head to
Mrs. Becky, whose feelings might be hurt by any controversy on the money-question, and who might have a thousand painful reasons for disposing otherwise of his lordship's generous loan. But he determined to satisfy himself of the real state of the case, and instituted the necessary inquiries in a most cautious and delicate manner.
In the first place he took an early opportunity of pumping Miss Briggs. That was not a difficult operation.
A very little encouragement would set that worthy woman to talk volubly and pour out all within her. And one day when Mrs. Rawdon had gone out to drive (as Mr. Fiche, his lordship's confidential servant, easily learned at the livery stables where the Crawleys kept their carriage and horses, or rather, where the livery-man kept a carriage and horses for Mr. and Mrs. Crawley)-my lord dropped in upon the Curzon Street house-asked Briggs for a cup of coffee-told her that he had good accounts of the little boy at school-and in five minutes found out from her that Mrs. Rawdon had given her nothing except a black silk gown, for which Miss Briggs was immensely grateful.
He laughed within himself at this artless story. For the truth is, our dear friend Rebecca had given him a most circumstantial narration of Briggs's delight at receiving her money-eleven hundred and twenty-five pounds-
and in what securities she had invested it; and what a pang Becky herself felt in being obliged to pay away such a delightful sum of money. "Who knows," the dear woman may have thought within herself, "perhaps he may give me a little more?" My lord, however, made no such proposal to the little schemer-very likely thinking that he had been sufficiently generous already.
He had the curiosity, then, to ask Miss Briggs about the state of her private affairs-and she told his lordship candidly what her position was-how Miss Crawley had left her a legacy-how her relatives had had part of it
-how Colonel Crawley had put out another portion, for which she had the best security and interest-and how
Mr. and Mrs. Rawdon had kindly busied themselves with
Sir Pitt, who was to dispose of the remainder most advantageously for her, when he had time. My lord asked how much the Colonel had already invested for her, and
Miss Briggs at once and truly told him that the sum was six hundred and odd pounds.
But as soon as she had told her story, the voluble
Briggs repented of her frankness and besought my lord not to tell Mr. Crawley of the confessions which she had made. "The Colonel was so kind-Mr. Crawley might be offended and pay back the money, for which she could get no such good interest anywhere else." Lord
Steyne, laughing, promised he never would divulge their conversation, and when he and Miss Briggs parted he laughed still more.
"What an accomplished little devil it is!" thought he.
"What a splendid actress and manager! She had almost got a second supply out of me the other day; with her coaxing ways. She beats all the women I have ever seen in the course of all my well-spent life. They are babies compared to her. I am a greenhorn myself, and a fool in her hands-an old fool. She is unsurpassable in lies."
His lordship's admiration for Becky rose immeasurably at this proof of her cleverness. Getting the money was nothing-but getting double the sum she wanted, and paying nobody-it was a magnificent stroke. And Crawley, my lord thought-Crawley is not such a fool as he looks and seems. He has managed the matter cleverly enough on his side. Nobody would ever have supposed from his face and demeanour that he knew anything about this money business; and yet he put her up to it, and has spent the money, no doubt. In this opinion my lord, we know, was mistaken, but it influenced a good deal his behaviour towards Colonel Crawley, whom he began to treat with even less than that semblance of respect which he had formerly shown towards that gentleman. It never entered into the head of Mrs.
Crawley's patron that the little lady might be making a purse for herself; and, perhaps, if the truth must be told, he judged of Colonel Crawley by his experience of other husbands, whom he had known in the course of the long and well-spent life which had made him acquainted with a great deal of the weakness of mankind. My lord had bought so many men during his life that he was surely to be pardoned for supposing that he had found the price of this one.
He taxed Becky upon the point on the very first occasion when he met her alone, and he complimented her, good-humouredly, on her cleverness in getting more than the money which she required. Becky was only a little taken aback. It was not the habit of this dear creature to tell falsehoods, except when necessity compelled, but in these great emergencies it was her practice to lie very freely; and in an instant she was ready with another neat plausible circumstantial story which she administered to her patron. The previous statement which she had made to him was a falsehood-a wicked falsehood-she owned it. But who had made her tell it? "Ah, my Lord,"
she said, "you don't know all I have to suffer and bear in silence; you see me gay and happy before you-you little know what I have to endure when there is no protector near me. It was my husband, by threats and the most savage treatment, forced me to ask for that sum about which I deceived you. It was he who, foreseeing that questions might be asked regarding the disposal of the money, forced me to account for it as I
did. He took the money. He told me he had paid Miss
Briggs; I did not want, I did not dare to doubt him.
Pardon the wrong which a desperate man is forced to commit, and pity a miserable, miserable woman." She burst into tears as she spoke. Persecuted virtue never looked more bewitchingly wretched.
They had a long conversation, driving round and round the Regent's Park in Mrs. Crawley's carriage together, a conversation of which it is not necessary to repeat the details, but the upshot of it was that, when Becky came home, she flew to her dear Briggs with a smiling face and announced that she had some very good news for her. Lord Steyne had acted in the noblest and most generous manner. He was always thinking how and when he could do good. Now that little Rawdon was gone to school, a dear companion and friend was no longer necessary to her. She was grieved beyond measure to part with Briggs, but her means required that she should practise every retrenchment, and her sorrow was mitigated by the idea that her dear Briggs would be far better provided for by her generous patron than in her humble home. Mrs. Pilkington, the housekeeper at Gauntly
Hall, was growing exceedingly old, feeble, and rheumatic: she was not equal to the work of superintending that vast mansion, and must be on the look out for a successor. It was a splendid position. The family did not go to Gauntly once in two years. At other times the housekeeper was the mistress of the magnificent mansion-had four covers daily for her table; was visited by the clergy and the most respectable people of the county
-was the lady of Gauntly, in fact; and the two last housekeepers before Mrs. Pilkington had married rectors of Gauntly-but Mrs. P. could not, being the aunt of the present Rector. The place was not to be hers yet, but she might go down on a visit to Mrs. Pilkington and see whether she would like to succeed her.
What words can paint the ecstatic gratitude of Briggs!
All she stipulated for was that little Rawdon should be allowed to come down and see her at the Hall. Becky promised this-anything. She ran up to her husband when he came home and told him the joyful news. Rawdon was glad, deuced glad; the weight was off his conscience about poor Briggs's money. She was provided for, at any rate, but-but his mind was disquiet. He did not seem to be all right, somehow. He told little Southdown what
Lord Steyne had done, and the young man eyed Crawley with an air which surprised the latter.
He told Lady Jane of this second proof of Steyne's bounty, and she, too, looked odd and alarmed; so did
Sir Pitt. "She is too clever and-and gay to be allowed to go from party to party without a companion," both said. "You must go with her, Rawdon, wherever she goes, and you must have somebody with her-one of the girls from Queen's Crawley, perhaps, though they were rather giddy guardians for her."
Somebody Becky should have. But in the meantime it was clear that honest Briggs must not lose her chance of settlement for life, and so she and her bags were packed, and she set off on her journey. And so two of
Rawdon's out-sentinels were in the hands of the enemy.
Sir Pitt went and expostulated with his sister-in-law upon the subject of the dismissal of Briggs and other matters of delicate family interest. In vain she pointed out to him how necessary was the protection of Lord
Steyne for her poor husband; how cruel it would be on their part to deprive Briggs of the position offered to her.
Cajolements, coaxings, smiles, tears could not satisfy Sir
Pitt, and he had something very like a quarrel with his once admired Becky. He spoke of the honour of the family, the unsullied reputation of the Crawleys;
expressed himself in indignant tones about her receiving those young Frenchmen-those wild young men of fashion, my Lord Steyne himself, whose carriage was always at her door, who passed hours daily in her company, and whose constant presence made the world talk about her. As the head of the house he implored her to be more prudent. Society was already speaking lightly of her. Lord Steyne, though a nobleman of the greatest station and talents, was a man whose attentions would compromise any woman; he besought, he implored, he commanded his sister-in-law to be watchful in her intercourse with that nobleman.
Becky promised anything and everything Pitt wanted;
but Lord Steyne came to her house as often as ever, and Sir Pitt's anger increased. I wonder was Lady Jane angry or pleased that her husband at last found fault with his favourite Rebecca? Lord Steyne's visits continuing, his own ceased, and his wife was for refusing all further intercourse with that nobleman and declining the invitation to the charade-night which the marchioness sent to her; but Sir Pitt thought it was necessary to accept it, as his Royal Highness would be there.
Although he went to the party in question, Sir Pitt quitted it very early, and his wife, too, was very glad to come away. Becky hardly so much as spoke to him or noticed her sister-in-law. Pitt Crawley declared her behaviour was monstrously indecorous, reprobated in strong terms the habit of play-acting and fancy dressing as highly unbecoming a British female, and after the charades were over, took his brother Rawdon severely to task for appearing himself and allowing his wife to join in such improper exhibitions.
Rawdon said she should not join in any more such amusements-but indeed, and perhaps from hints from his elder brother and sister, he had already become a very watchful and exemplary domestic character. He left off his clubs and billiards. He never left home. He took
Becky out to drive; he went laboriously with her to all her parties. Whenever my Lord Steyne called, he was sure to find the Colonel. And when Becky proposed to go out without her husband, or received invitations for herself, he peremptorily ordered her to refuse them: and there was that in the gentleman's manner which enforced obedience. Little Becky, to do her justice, was charmed with Rawdon's gallantry. If he was surly, she never was.
Whether friends were present or absent, she had always a kind smile for him and was attentive to his pleasure and comfort. It was the early days of their marriage over again: the same good humour, prevenances, merriment, and artless confidence and regard. "How much pleasanter it is," she would say, "to have you by my side in the carriage than that foolish old Briggs! Let us always go on so, dear Rawdon. How nice it would be, and how happy we should always be, if we had but the money!" He fell asleep after dinner in his chair; he did not see the face opposite to him, haggard, weary, and terrible; it lighted up with fresh candid smiles when he woke. It kissed him gaily. He wondered that he had ever had suspicions. No, he never had suspicions; all those dumb doubts and surly misgivings which had been gathering on his mind were mere idle jealousies. She was fond of him;
she always had been. As for her shining in society, it was no fault of hers; she was formed to shine there.
Was there any woman who could talk, or sing, or do anything like her? If she would but like the boy!
Rawdon thought. But the mother and son never could be brought together.
And it was while Rawdon's mind was agitated with these doubts and perplexities that the incident occurred which was mentioned in the last chapter, and the unfortunate Colonel found himself a prisoner away from home.
Friend Rawdon drove on then to Mr. Moss's mansion in Cursitor Street, and was duly inducted into that dismal place of hospitality. Morning was breaking over the cheerful house-tops of Chancery Lane as the rattling cab woke up the echoes there. A little pink-eyed Jew-boy, with a head as ruddy as the rising morn, let the party into the house, and Rawdon was welcomed to the ground-floor apartments by Mr. Moss, his travelling companion and host, who cheerfully asked him if he would like a glass of something warm after his drive.
The Colonel was not so depressed as some mortals would be, who, quitting a palace and a placens uxor, find themselves barred into a spunging-house; for, if the truth must be told, he had been a lodger at Mr. Moss's establishment once or twice before. We have not thought it necessary in the previous course of this narrative to mention these trivial little domestic incidents: but the reader may be assured that they can't unfrequently occur in the life of a man who lives on nothing a year.
Upon his first visit to Mr. Moss, the Colonel, then a bachelor, had been liberated by the generosity of his aunt; on the second mishap, little Becky, with the greatest spirit and kindness, had borrowed a sum of money from
Lord Southdown and had coaxed her husband's creditor
(who was her shawl, velvet-gown, lace pocket-handkerchief, trinket, and gim-crack purveyor, indeed) to take a portion of the sum claimed and Rawdon's promissory note for the remainder: so on both these occasions the capture and release had been conducted with the utmost gallantry on all sides, and Moss and the Colonel were therefore on the very best of terms.
"You'll find your old bed, Colonel, and everything comfortable," that gentleman said, "as I may honestly say.
You may be pretty sure its kep aired, and by the best of company, too. It was slep in the night afore last by the Honorable Capting Famish, of the Fiftieth Dragoons, whose Mar took him out, after a fortnight, jest to punish him, she said. But, Law bless you, I promise you, he punished my champagne, and had a party ere every night
-reglar tip-top swells, down from the clubs and the
West End-Capting Ragg, the Honorable Deuceace, who lives in the Temple, and some fellers as knows a good glass of wine, I warrant you. I've got a Doctor of
Diwinity upstairs, five gents in the coffee-room, and Mrs.
Moss has a tably-dy-hoty at half-past five, and a little cards or music afterwards, when we shall be most happy to see you."
"I'll ring when I want anything," said Rawdon and went quietly to his bedroom. He was an old soldier, we have said, and not to be disturbed by any little shocks of fate. A weaker man would have sent off a letter to his wife on the instant of his capture. "But what is the use of disturbing her night's rest?" thought Rawdon. "She won't know whether I am in my room or not. It will be time enough to write to her when she has had her sleep out, and I have had mine. It's only a hundred-
and-seventy, and the deuce is in it if we can't raise that." And so, thinking about little Rawdon (whom he would not have know that he was in such a queer place), the Colonel turned into the bed lately occupied by
Captain Famish and fell asleep. It was ten o'clock when he woke up, and the ruddy-headed youth brought him, with conscious pride, a fine silver dressing-case, wherewith he might perform the operation of shaving. Indeed
Mr. Moss's house, though somewhat dirty, was splendid throughout. There were dirty trays, and wine-coolers en permanence on the sideboard, huge dirty gilt cornices, with dingy yellow satin hangings to the barred windows which looked into Cursitor Street-vast and dirty gilt picture frames surrounding pieces sporting and sacred, all of which works were by the greatest masters-and fetched the greatest prices, too, in the bill transactions, in the course of which they were sold and bought over and over again. The Colonel's breakfast was served to him in the same dingy and gorgeous plated ware. Miss Moss, a dark-eyed maid in curl-papers, appeared with the teapot, and, smiling, asked the Colonel how he had slep?
And she brought him in the Morning Post, with the names of all the great people who had figured at Lord
Steyne's entertainment the night before. It contained a brilliant account of the festivities and of the beautiful and accomplished Mrs. Rawdon Crawley's admirable personifications.
After a lively chat with this lady (who sat on the edge of the breakfast table in an easy attitude displaying the drapery of her stocking and an ex-white satin shoe, which was down at heel), Colonel Crawley called for pens and ink, and paper, and being asked how many sheets, chose one which was brought to him between
Miss Moss's own finger and thumb. Many a sheet had that dark-eyed damsel brought in; many a poor fellow had scrawled and blotted hurried lines of entreaty and paced up and down that awful room until his messenger brought back the reply. Poor men always use messengers instead of the post. Who has not had their letters, with the wafers wet, and the announcement that a person is waiting in the hall?
Now on the score of his application, Rawdon had not many misgivings.
DEAR BECKY, (Rawdon wrote)
I HOPE YOU SLEPT WELL. Don't be FRIGHTENED if I don't bring you in your COFFY. Last night as I was coming home smoaking, I met with an ACCADENT. I was NABBED
by Moss of Cursitor Street-from whose GILT AND SPLENDID
PARLER I write this-the same that had me this time two years. Miss Moss brought in my tea-she is grown very FAT, and, as usual, had her STOCKENS DOWN AT HEAL.
It's Nathan's business-a hundred-and-fifty-with costs, hundred-and-seventy. Please send me my desk and some CLOTHS-I'm in pumps and a white tye (something like Miss M's stockings)-I've seventy in it. And as soon as you get this, Drive to Nathan's-offer him seventy-five down, and ASK HIM TO RENEW-say I'll take wine-we may as well have some dinner sherry; but not
PICTURS, they're too dear.
If he won't stand it. Take my ticker and such of your things as you can SPARE, and send them to Balls-we must, of coarse, have the sum to-night. It won't do to let it stand over, as to-morrow's Sunday; the beds here are not very CLEAN, and there may be other things out against me-I'm glad it an't Rawdon's Saturday for coming home. God bless you.
Yours in haste,
P.S. Make haste and come.
This letter, sealed with a wafer, was dispatched by one of the messengers who are always hanging about
Mr. Moss's establishment, and Rawdon, having seen him depart, went out in the court-yard and smoked his cigar with a tolerably easy mind-in spite of the bars overhead-for Mr. Moss's court-yard is railed in like a cage, lest the gentlemen who are boarding with him should take a fancy to escape from his hospitality.
Three hours, he calculated, would be the utmost time required, before Becky should arrive and open his prison doors, and he passed these pretty cheerfully in smoking, in reading the paper, and in the coffee-room with an acquaintance, Captain Walker, who happened to be there, and with whom he cut for sixpences for some hours, with pretty equal luck on either side.
But the day passed away and no messenger returned-
no Becky. Mr. Moss's tably-dy-hoty was served at the appointed hour of half-past five, when such of the gentlemen lodging in the house as could afford to pay for the banquet came and partook of it in the splendid front parlour before described, and with which Mr. Crawley's temporary lodging communicated, when Miss M. (Miss
Hem, as her papa called her) appeared without the curl-
papers of the morning, and Mrs. Hem did the honours of a prime boiled leg of mutton and turnips, of which the Colonel ate with a very faint appetite. Asked whether he would "stand" a bottle of champagne for the company, he consented, and the ladies drank to his 'ealth, and Mr. Moss, in the most polite manner, "looked towards him."
In the midst of this repast, however, the doorbell was heard-young Moss of the ruddy hair rose up with the keys and answered the summons, and coming back, told the Colonel that the messenger had returned with a bag, a desk and a letter, which he gave him. "No ceramony,
Colonel, I beg," said Mrs. Moss with a wave of her hand, and he opened the letter rather tremulously. It was a beautiful letter, highly scented, on a pink paper, and with a light green seal.
MON PAUVRE CHER PETIT, (Mrs. Crawley wrote)
I could not sleep ONE WINK for thinking of what had become of my odious old monstre, and only got to rest in the morning after sending for Mr. Blench (for I was in a fever), who gave me a composing draught and left orders with Finette that I should be disturbed ON NO
ACCOUNT. So that my poor old man's messenger, who had bien mauvaise mine Finette says, and sentoit le Genievre, remained in the hall for some hours waiting my bell.
You may fancy my state when I read your poor dear old ill-spelt letter.
Ill as I was, I instantly called for the carriage, and as soon as I was dressed (though I couldn't drink a drop of chocolate-I assure you I couldn't without my monstre to bring it to me), I drove ventre a terre to
Nathan's. I saw him-I wept-I cried-I fell at hi~
odious knees. Nothing would mollify the horrid man.
He would have all the money, he said, or keep my poor monstre in prison. I drove home with the intention of paying that triste visite chez mon oncle (when every trinket I have should be at your disposal though they would not fetch a hundred pounds, for some, you know, are with ce cher oncle already), and found Milor there with the Bulgarian old sheep-faced monster, who had come to compliment me upon last night's performances.
Paddington came in, too, drawling and lisping and twiddling his hair; so did Champignac, and his chef-
everybody with foison of compliments and pretty speeches
-plaguing poor me, who longed to be rid of them, and was thinking every moment of the time of mon pauvre prisonnier.
When they were gone, I went down on my knees to
Milor; told him we were going to pawn everything, and begged and prayed him to give me two hundred pounds.
He pish'd and psha'd in a fury-told me not to be such a fool as to pawn-and said he would see whether he could lend me the money. At last he went away, promising that he would send it me in the morning: when
I will bring it to my poor old monster with a kiss fro his affectionate
I am writing in bed. Oh I have such a headache and such a heartache!
When Rawdon read over this letter, he turned so red and looked so savage that the company at the table d'hote easily perceived that bad news had reached him. All his suspicions, which he had been trying to banish, returned upon him. She could not even go out and sell her trinkets to free him. She could laugh and talk about compliments paid to her, whilst he was in prison. Who had put him there? Wenham had walked with him. Was there.... He could hardly bear to think of what he suspected. Leaving the room hurriedly, he ran into his own-opened his desk, wrote two hurried lines, which he directed to Sir Pitt or Lady Crawley, and bade the messenger carry them at once to Gaunt Street, bidding him to take a cab, and promising him a guinea if he was back in an hour.
In the note he besought his dear brother and sister, for the sake of God, for the sake of his dear child and his honour, to come to him and relieve him from his difficulty. He was in prison, he wanted a hundred pounds to set him free-he entreated them to come to him.
He went back to the dining-room after dispatching his messenger and called for more wine. He laughed and talked with a strange boisterousness, as the people thought. Sometimes he laughed madly at his own fears and went on drinking for an hour, listening all the while for the carriage which was to bring his fate back.
At the expiration of that time, wheels were heard whirling up to the gate-the young janitor went out with his gate-keys. It was a lady whom he let in at the bailiff's door.
"Colonel Crawley," she said, trembling very much. He, with a knowing look, locked the outer door upon her-
then unlocked and opened the inner one, and calling out,
"Colonel, you're wanted," led her into the back parlour, which he occupied.
Rawdon came in from the dining-parlour where all those people were carousing, into his back room; a flare of coarse light following him into the apartment where the lady stood, still very nervous.
"It is I, Rawdon," she said in a timid voice, which she strove to render cheerful. "It is Jane." Rawdon was quite overcome by that kind voice and presence. He ran up to her-caught her in his arms-gasped out some inarticulate words of thanks and fairly sobbed on her shoulder. She did not know the cause of his emotion.
The bills of Mr. Moss were quickly settled, perhaps to the disappointment of that gentleman, who had counted on having the Colonel as his guest over Sunday at least;
and Jane, with beaming smiles and happiness in her eyes, carried away Rawdon from the bailiff's house, and they went homewards in the cab in which she had hastened to his release. "Pitt was gone to a parliamentary dinner,"
she said, "when Rawdon's note came, and so, dear
Rawdon, I-I came myself"; and she put her kind hand in his. Perhaps it was well for Rawdon Crawley that Pitt was away at that dinner. Rawdon thanked his sister a hundred times, and with an ardour of gratitude which touched and almost alarmed that soft-hearted woman.
"Oh," said he, in his rude, artless way, "you-you don't know how I'm changed since I've known you, and-and little Rawdy. I-I'd like to change somehow. You see
I want-I want-to be-" He did- not finish the sentence, but she could interpret it. And that night after he left her, and as she sat by her own little boy's bed, she prayed humbly for that poor way-worn sinner.
Rawdon left her and walked home rapidly. It was nine o'clock at night. He ran across the streets and the great squares of Vanity Fair, and at length came up breathless opposite his own house. He started back and fell against the railings, trembling as he looked up. The drawing-
room windows were blazing with light. She had said that she was in bed and ill. He stood there for some time, the light from the rooms on his pale face.
He took out his door-key and let himself into the house. He could hear laughter in the upper rooms. He was in the ball-dress in which he had been captured the night before. He went silently up the stairs, leaning against the banisters at the stair-head. Nobody was stirring in the house besides-all the servants had been sent away. Rawdon heard laughter within-laughter and singing.
Becky was singing a snatch of the song of the night before; a hoarse voice shouted "Brava! Brava!"-it was
Rawdon opened the door and went in. A little table with a dinner was laid out-and wine and plate. Steyne was hanging over the sofa on which Becky sat. The wretched woman was in a brilliant full toilette, her arms and all her fingers sparkling with bracelets and rings, and the brilliants on her breast which Steyne had given her. He had her hand in his, and was bowing over it to kiss it, when Becky started up with a faint scream as she caught sight of Rawdon's white face. At the next instant she tried a smile, a horrid smile, as if to welcome her husband; and Steyne rose up, grinding his teeth, pale, and with fury in his looks.
He, too, attempted a laugh-and came forward holding out his hand. "What, come back! How d'ye do, Crawley?"
he said, the nerves of his mouth twitching as he tried to grin at the intruder.
There was that in Rawdon's face which caused Becky to fling herself before him. "I am innocent, Rawdon,"
she said; "before God, I am innocent." She clung hold of his coat, of his hands; her own were all covered with serpents, and rings, and baubles. "I am innocent. Say I
am innocent," she said to Lord Steyne.
He thought a trap had been laid for him, and was as furious with the wife as with the husband. "You innocent! Damn you," he screamed out. "You innocent! Why every trinket you have on your body is paid for by me.
I have given you thousands of pounds, which this fellow has spent and for which he has sold you. Innocent, by -! You're as innocent as your mother, the ballet-
girl, and your husband the bully. Don't think to frighten me as you have done others. Make way, sir, and let me pass"; and Lord Steyne seized up his hat, and, with flame in his eyes, and looking his enemy fiercely in the face, marched upon him, never for a moment doubting that the other would give way.
But Rawdon Crawley springing out, seized him by the neckcloth, until Steyne, almost strangled, writhed and bent under his arm. "You lie, you dog!" said Rawdon.
"You lie, you coward and villain!" And he struck the
Peer twice over the face with his open hand and flung him bleeding to the ground. It was all done before
Rebecca could interpose. She stood there trembling before him. She admired her husband, strong, brave, and victorious.
"Come here," he said. She came up at once.
"Take off those things." She began, trembling, pulling the jewels from her arms, and the rings from her shaking fingers, and held them all in a heap, quivering and looking up at him. "Throw them down," he said, and she dropped them. He tore the diamond ornament out of her breast and flung it at Lord Steyne. It cut him on his bald forehead. Steyne wore the scar to his dying day.
"Come upstairs," Rawdon said to his wife. "Don't kill me, Rawdon," she said. He laughed savagely. "I want to see if that man lies about the money as he has about me. Has he given you any?"
"No," said Rebecca, "that is-"
"Give me your keys," Rawdon answered, and they went out together.
Rebecca gave him all the keys but one, and she was in hopes that he would not have remarked the absence of that. It belonged to the little desk which Amelia had given her in early days, and which she kept in a secret place. But Rawdon flung open boxes and wardrobes, throwing the multifarious trumpery of their contents here and there, and at last he found the desk. The woman was forced to open it. It contained papers, love-letters many years old-all sorts of small trinkets and woman's memoranda. And it contained a pocket-book with bank-notes.
Some of these were dated ten years back, too, and one was quite a fresh one-a note for a thousand pounds which Lord Steyne had given her.
"Did he give you this?" Rawdon said.
"Yes," Rebecca answered.
"I'll send it to him to-day," Rawdon said (for day had dawned again, and many hours had passed in this search),
"and I will pay Briggs, who was kind to the boy, and some of the debts. You will let me know where I shall send the rest to you. You might have spared me a hundred pounds, Becky, out of all this-I have always shared with you."
"I am innocent," said Becky. And he left her without another word.
What were her thoughts when he left her? She remained for hours after he was gone, the sunshine pouring into the room, and Rebecca sitting alone on the bed's edge. The drawers were all opened and their contents scattered about-dresses and feathers, scarfs and trinkets, a heap of tumbled vanities lying in a wreck. Her hair was falling over her shoulders; her gown was torn where
Rawdon had wrenched the brilliants out of it. She heard him go downstairs a few minutes after he left her, and the door slamming and closing on him. She knew he would never come back. He was gone forever. Would he kill himself?-she thought-not until after he had met Lord Steyne. She thought of her long past life, and all the dismal incidents of it. Ah, how dreary it seemed, how miserable, lonely and profitless! Should she take laudanum, and end it, to have done with all hopes, schemes, debts, and triumphs? The French maid found her in this position-sitting in the midst of her miserable ruins with clasped hands and dry eyes. The woman was her accomplice and in Steyne's pay. "Mon Dieu, madame, what has happened?" she asked.
What had happened? Was she guilty or not? She said not, but who could tell what was truth which came from those lips, or if that corrupt heart was in this case pure?
All her lies and her schemes, an her selfishness and her wiles, all her wit and genius had come to this bankruptcy. The woman closed the curtains and, with some entreaty and show of kindness, persuaded her mistress to lie down on the bed. Then she went below and gathered up the trinkets which had been lying on the floor since Rebecca dropped them there at her husband's orders, and Lord Steyne went away.
Sunday After the Battle
The mansion of Sir Pitt Crawley, in Great Gaunt Street, was just beginning to dress itself for the day, as Rawdon, in his evening costume, which he had now worn two days, passed by the scared female who was scouring the steps and entered into his brother's study. Lady
Jane, in her morning-gown, was up and above stairs in the nursery superintending the toilettes of her children and listening to the morning prayers which the little creatures performed at her knee. Every morning she and they performed this duty privately, and before the public ceremonial at which Sir Pitt presided and at which all the people of the household were expected to assemble.
Rawdon sat down in the study before the Baronet's table, set out with the orderly blue books and the letters, the neatly docketed bills and symmetrical pamphlets, the locked account-books, desks, and dispatch boxes, the
Bible, the Quarterly Review, and the Court Guide, which all stood as if on parade awaiting the inspection of their chief.
A book of family sermons, one of which Sir Pitt was in the habit of administering to his family on Sunday mornings, lay ready on the study table, and awaiting his judicious selection. And by the sermon-book was the
Observer newspaper, damp and neatly folded, and for
Sir Pitt's own private use. His gentleman alone took the opportunity of perusing the newspaper before he laid it by his master's desk. Before he had brought it into the study that morning, he had read in the journal a flaming account of "Festivities at Gaunt House," with the names of all the distinguished personages invited by tho Marquis of Steyne to meet his Royal Highness. Having made comments upon this entertainment to the housekeeper and her niece as they were taking early tea and hot buttered toast in the former lady's apartment, and wondered how the Rawding Crawleys could git on, the valet had damped and folded the paper once more, so that it looked quite fresh and innocent against the arrival of the master of the house.
Poor Rawdon took up the paper and began to try and read it until his brother should arrive. But the print fell blank upon his eyes, and he did not know in the least what he was reading. The Government news and appointments (which Sir Pitt as a public man was bound to peruse, otherwise he would by no means permit the introduction of Sunday papers into his household), the theatrical criticisms, the fight for a hundred pounds a side between the Barking Butcher and the Tutbury
Pet, the Gaunt House chronicle itself, which contained a most complimentary though guarded account of the famous charades of which Mrs. Becky had been the heroine-all these passed as in a haze before Rawdon, as he sat waiting the arrival of the chief of the family.
Punctually, as the shrill-toned bell of the black marble study clock began to chime nine, Sir Pitt made his appearance, fresh, neat, smugly shaved, with a waxy clean face, and stiff shirt collar, his scanty hair combed and oiled, trimming his nails as he descended the stairs majestically, in a starched cravat and a grey flannel dressing-gown-a real old English gentleman, in a word-
a model of neatness and every propriety. He started when he saw poor Rawdon in his study in tumbled clothes, with blood-shot eyes, and his hair over his face. He thought his brother was not sober, and had been out all night on some orgy. "Good gracious, Rawdon," he said, with a blank face, "what brings you here at this time of the morning? Why ain't you at home?"
"Home," said Rawdon with a wild laugh. "Don't be frightened, Pitt. I'm not drunk. Shut the door; I want to speak to you."
Pitt closed the door and came up to the table, where he sat down in the other arm-chair-that one placed for the reception of the steward, agent, or confidential visitor who came to transact business with the Baronet-
and trimmed his nails more vehemently than ever.
"Pitt, it's all over with me," the Colonel said after a pause. "I'm done."
"I always said it would come to this," the Baronet cried peevishly, and beating a tune with his clean-
trimmed nails. "I warned you a thousand times. I can't help you any more. Every shilling of my money is tied up. Even the hundred pounds that Jane took you last night were promised to my lawyer to-morrow morning, and the want of it will put me to great inconvenience.
I don't mean to say that I won't assist you ultimately.
But as for paying your creditors in full, I might as well hope to pay the National Debt. It is madness, sheer madness, to think of such a thing. You must come to a compromise. It's a painful thing for the family, but everybody does it. There was George Kitely, Lord Ragland's son, went through the Court last week, and was what they call whitewashed, I believe. Lord Ragland would not pay a shilling for him, and-"
"It's not money I want," Rawdon broke in. "I'm not come to you about myself. Never mind what happens to me "
"What is the matter, then?" said Pitt, somewhat relieved.
"It's the boy," said Rawdon in a husky voice. "I want you to promise me that you will take charge of him when I'm gone. That dear good wife of yours has always been good to him; and he's fonder of her than he is of his . . .-Damn it. Look here, Pitt-you know that I
was to have had Miss Crawley's money. I wasn't brought up like a younger brother, but was always encouraged to be extravagant and kep idle. But for this I might have been quite a different man. I didn't do my duty with the regiment so bad. You know how I was thrown over about the money, and who got it."
"After the sacrifices I have made, and the manner in which I have stood by you, I think this sort of reproach is useless," Sir Pitt said. "Your marriage was your own doing, not mine."
"That's over now," said Rawdon. "That's over now."
And the words were wrenched from him with a groan, which made his brother start.
"Good God! is she dead?" Sir Pitt said with a voice of genuine alarm and commiseration.
"I wish I was," Rawdon replied. "If it wasn't for little
Rawdon I'd have cut my throat this morning-and that damned villain's too."
Sir Pitt instantly guessed the truth and surmised that
Lord Steyne was the person whose life Rawdon wished to take. The Colonel told his senior briefly, and in broken accents, the circumstances of the case. "It was a regular plan between that scoundrel and her," he said. "The bailiffs were put upon me; I was taken as I was going out of his house; when I wrote to her for money, she said she was ill in bed and put me off to another day.
And when I got home I found her in diamonds and sitting with that villain alone." He then went on to describe hurriedly the personal conflict with Lord Steyne. To an affair of that nature, of course, he said, there was but one issue, and after his conference with his brother, he was going away to make the necessary arrangements for the meeting which must ensue. "And as it may end fatally with me," Rawdon said with a broken voice, "and as the boy has no mother, I must leave him to you and
Jane, Pitt-only it will be a comfort to me if you will promise me to be his friend."
The elder brother was much affected, and shook
Rawdon's hand with a cordiality seldom exhibited by him.
Rawdon passed his hand over his shaggy eyebrows.
"Thank you, brother," said he. "I know I can trust your word."
"I will, upon my honour," the Baronet said. And thus, and almost mutely, this bargain was struck between them.
Then Rawdon took out of his pocket the little pocket-book which he had discovered in Becky's desk, and from which he drew a bundle of the notes which it contained.
"Here's six hundred," he said-"you didn't know I was so rich. I want you to give the money to Briggs, who lent it to us-and who was kind to the boy-and I've always felt ashamed of having taken the poor old woman's money. And here's some more-I've only kept back a few pounds-which Becky may as well have, to get on with." As he spoke he took hold of the other notes to give to his brother, but his hands shook, and he was so agitated that the pocket-book fell from him, and out of it the thousand-pound note which had been the last of the unlucky Becky's winnings.
Pitt stooped and picked them up, amazed at so much wealth. "Not that," Rawdon said. "I hope to put a bullet into the man whom that belongs to." He had thought to himself, it would be a fine revenge to wrap a ball in the note and kill Steyne with it.
After this colloquy the brothers once more shook hands and parted. Lady Jane had heard of the Colonel's arrival, and was waiting for her husband in the adjoining dining-room, with female instinct, auguring evil. The door of the dining-room happened to be left open, and the lady of course was issuing from it as the two brothers passed out of the study. She held out her hand to
Rawdon and said she was glad he was come to breakfast, though she could perceive, by his haggard unshorn face and the dark looks of her husband, that there was very little question of breakfast between them. Rawdon muttered some excuses about an engagement, squeezing hard the timid little hand which his sister-in-law reached out to him. Her imploring eyes could read nothing but calamity in his face, but he went away without another word. Nor did Sir Pitt vouchsafe her any explanation.
The children came up to salute him, and he kissed them in his usual frigid manner. The mother took both of them close to herself, and held a hand of each of them as they knelt down to prayers, which Sir Pitt read to them, and to the servants in their Sunday suits or liveries, ranged upon chairs on the other side of the hissing tea-urn.
Breakfast was so late that day, in consequence of the delays which had occurred, that the church-bells began to ring whilst they were sitting over their meal; and
Lady Jane was too ill, she said, to go to church, though her thoughts had been entirely astray during the period of family devotion.
Rawdon Crawley meanwhile hurried on from Great
Gaunt Street, and knocking at the great bronze
Medusa's head which stands on the portal of Gaunt House, brought out the purple Silenus in a red and silver waistcoat who acts as porter of that palace. The man was scared also by the Colonel's dishevelled appearance, and barred the way as if afraid that the other was going to force it. But Colonel Crawley only took out a card and enjoined him particularly to send it in to Lord Steyne, and to mark the address written on it, and say that
Colonel Crawley would be all day after one o'clock at the
Regent Club in St. James's Street-not at home. The fat red-faced man looked after him with astonishment as he strode away; so did the people in their Sunday clothes who were out so early; the charity-boys with shining faces, the greengrocer lolling at his door, and the publican shutting his shutters in the sunshine, against service commenced. The people joked at the cab-stand about his appearance, as he took a carriage there, and told the driver to drive him to Knightsbridge Barracks.
All the bells were jangling and tolling as he reached that place. He might have seen his old acquaintance
Amelia on her way from Brompton to Russell Square, had he been looking out. Troops of schools were on their march to church, the shiny pavement and outsides of coaches in the suburbs were thronged with people out upon their Sunday pleasure; but the Colonel was much too busy to take any heed of these phenomena, and, arriving at Knightsbridge, speedily made his way up to the room of his old friend and comrade Captain Macmurdo, who Crawley found, to his satisfaction, was in barracks.
Captain Macmurdo, a veteran officer and Waterloo man, greatly liked by his regiment, in which want of money alone prevented him from attaining the highest ranks, was enjoying the forenoon calmly in bed. He had been at a fast supper-party, given the night before by
Captain the Honourable George Cinqbars, at his house in Brompton Square, to several young men of the regiment, and a number of ladies of the corps de ballet, and old Mac, who was at home with people of all ages and ranks, and consorted with generals, dog-fanciers, opera-
dancers, bruisers, and every kind of person, in a word, was resting himself after the night's labours, and, not being on duty, was in bed.
His room was hung round with boxing, sporting, and dancing pictures, presented to him by comrades as they retired from the regiment, and married and settled into quiet life. And as he was now nearly fifty years of age, twenty-four of which he had passed in the corps, he had a singular museum. He was one of the best shots in
England, and, for a heavy man, one of the best riders;
indeed, he and Crawley had been rivals when the latter was in the Army. To be brief, Mr. Macmurdo was lying in bed, reading in Bell's Life an account of that very fight between the Tutbury Pet and the Barking Butcher, which has been before mentioned-a venerable bristly warrior, with a little close-shaved grey head, with a silk nightcap, a red face and nose, and a great dyed moustache.
When Rawdon told the Captain he wanted a friend, the latter knew perfectly well on what duty of friendship he was called to act, and indeed had conducted scores of affairs for his acquaintances with the greatest prudence and skill. His Royal Highness the late lamented
Commander-in-Chief had had the greatest regard for
Macmurdo on this account, and he was the common refuge of gentlemen in trouble.
"What's the row about, Crawley, my boy?" said the old warrior. "No more gambling business, hay, like that when we shot Captain Marker?"
"It's about-about my wife," Crawley answered, casting down his eyes and turning very red.
The other gave a whistle. "I always said she'd throw you over," he began-indeed there were bets in the regiment and at the clubs regarding the probable fate of
Colonel Crawley, so lightly was his wife's character esteemed by his comrades and the world; but seeing the savage look with which Rawdon answered the expression of this opinion, Macmurdo did not think fit to enlarge upon it further.
"Is there no way out of it, old boy?" the Captain continued in a grave tone. "Is it only suspicion, you know, or-or what is it? Any letters? Can't you keep it quiet?
Best not make any noise about a thing of that sort if you can help it." "Think of his only finding her out now," the
Captain thought to himself, and remembered a hundred particular conversations at the mess-table, in which Mrs.
Crawley's reputation had been torn to shreds.
"There's no way but one out of it," Rawdon replied-
"and there's only a way out of it for one of us, Mac-do you understand? I was put out of the way-arrested-I
found 'em alone together. I told him he was a liar and a coward, and knocked him down and thrashed him."
"Serve him right," Macmurdo said. "Who is it?"
Rawdon answered it was Lord Steyne.
"The deuce! a Marquis! they said he-that is, they said you-"
"What the devil do you mean?" roared out Rawdon;
"do you mean that you ever heard a fellow doubt about my wife and didn't tell me, Mac?"
"The world's very censorious, old boy," the other replied. "What the deuce was the good of my telling you what any tom-fools talked about?"
"It was damned unfriendly, Mac," said Rawdon, quite overcome; and, covering his face with his hands, he gave way to an emotion, the sight of which caused the tough old campaigner opposite him to wince with sympathy.
"Hold up, old boy," he said; "great man or not, we'll put a bullet in him, damn him. As for women, they're all so."
"You don't know how fond I was of that one,"
Rawdon said, half-inarticulately. "Damme, I followed her like a footman. I gave up everything I had to her. I'm a beggar because I would marry her. By Jove, sir, I've pawned my own watch in order to get her anything she fancied;
and she she's been making a purse for herself all the time, and grudged me a hundred pound to get me out of quod." He then fiercely and incoherently, and with an agitation under which his counsellor had never before seen him labour, told Macmurdo the circumstances of the story. His adviser caught at some stray hints in it.
"She may be innocent, after all," he said. "She says so. Steyne has been a hundred times alone with her in the house before."
"It may be so," Rawdon answered sadly, "but this don't look very innocent": and he showed the Captain the thousand-pound note which he had found in Becky's pocket-book. "This is what he gave her, Mac, and she kep it unknown to me; and with this money in the house, she refused to stand by me when I was locked up." The
Captain could not but own that the secreting of the money had a very ugly look.
Whilst they were engaged in their conference, Rawdon dispatched Captain Macmurdo's servant to Curzon Street, with an order to the domestic there to give up a bag of clothes of which the Colonel had great need. And during the man's absence, and with great labour and a Johnson's
Dictionary, which stood them in much stead, Rawdon and his second composed a letter, which the latter was to send to Lord Steyne. Captain Macmurdo had the honour of waiting upon the Marquis of Steyne, on the part of Colonel Rawdon Crawley, and begged to intimate that he was empowered by the Colonel to make any arrangements for the meeting which, he had no doubt, it was his
Lordship's intention to demand, and which the circumstances of the morning had rendered inevitable. Captain
Macmurdo begged Lord Steyne, in the most polite manner, to appoint a friend, with whom he (Captain M'M.)
might communicate, and desired that the meeting might take place with as little delay as possible.
In a postscript the Captain stated that he had in his possession a bank-note for a large amount, which
Colonel Crawley had reason to suppose was the property of the Marquis of Steyne. And he was anxious, on the
Colonel's behalf, to give up the note to its owner.
By the time this note was composed, the Captain's servant returned from his mission to Colonel Crawley's house in Curzon Street, but without the carpet-bag and portmanteau, for which he had been sent, and with a very puzzled and odd face.
"They won't give 'em up," said the man; "there's a regular shinty in the house, and everything at sixes and sevens. The landlord's come in and took possession. The servants was a drinkin' up in the drawingroom. They said-they said you had gone off with the plate,
Colonel"-the man added after a pause-"One of the servants is off already. And Simpson, the man as was very noisy and drunk indeed, says nothing shall go out of the house until his wages is paid up."
The account of this little revolution in May Fair astonished and gave a little gaiety to an otherwise very triste conversation. The two officers laughed at Rawdon's discomfiture.
"I'm glad the little 'un isn't at home," Rawdon said, biting his nails. "You remember him, Mac, don't you, in the Riding School? How he sat the kicker to be sure!
"That he did, old boy," said the good-natured Captain.
Little Rawdon was then sitting, one of fifty gown boys, in the Chapel of Whitefriars School, thinking, not about the sermon, but about going home next Saturday, when his father would certainly tip him and perhaps would take him to the play.
"He's a regular trump, that boy," the father went on, still musing about his son. "I say, Mac, if anything goes wrong-if I drop-I should like you to-to go and see him, you know, and say that I was very fond of him, and that. And-dash it-old chap, give him these gold sleeve-
buttons: it's all I've got." He covered his face with his black hands, over which the tears rolled and made furrows of white. Mr. Macmurdo had also occasion to take off his silk night-cap and rub it across his eyes.
"Go down and order some breakfast," he said to his man in a loud cheerful voice. "What'll you have, Crawley?
Some devilled kidneys and a herring-let's say. And,
Clay, lay out some dressing things for the Colonel: we were always pretty much of a size, Rawdon, my boy, and neither of us ride so light as we did when we first entered the corps." With which, and leaving the Colonel to dress himself, Macmurdo turned round towards the wall, and resumed the perusal of Bell's Life, until such time as his friend's toilette was complete and he was at liberty to commence his own.
This, as he was about to meet a lord, Captain
Macmurdo performed with particular care. He waxed his mustachios into a state of brilliant polish and put on a tight cravat and a trim buff waistcoat, so that all the young officers in the mess-room, whither Crawley had preceded his friend, complimented Mac on his appearance at breakfast and asked if he was going to be married that Sunday.
In Which the Same Subject is Pursued
Becky did not rally from the state of stupor and confusion in which the events of the previous night had plunged her intrepid spirit until the bells of the Curzon Street
Chapels were ringing for afternoon service, and rising from her bed she began to ply her own bell, in order to summon the French maid who had left her some hours before.
Mrs. Rawdon Crawley rang many times in vain; and though, on the last occasion, she rang with such vehemence as to pull down the bell-rope, Mademoiselle
Fifine did not make her appearance-no, not though her mistress, in a great pet, and with the bell-rope in her hand, came out to the landing-place with her hair over her shoulders and screamed out repeatedly for her attendant.
The truth is, she had quitted the premises for many hours, and upon that permission which is called French leave among us After picking up the trinkets in the drawing-room, Mademoiselle had ascended to her own apartments, packed and corded her own boxes there, tripped out and called a cab for herself, brought down her trunks with her own hand, and without ever so much as asking the aid of any of the other servants, who would probably have refused it, as they hated her cordially, and without wishing any one of them good-bye, had made her exit from Curzon Street.
The game, in her opinion, was over in that little domestic establishment. Fifine went off in a cab, as we have known more exalted persons of her nation to do under similar circumstances: but, more provident or lucky than these, she secured not only her own property, but some of her mistress's (if indeed that lady could be said to have any property at all)-and not only carried off the trinkets before alluded to, and some favourite dresses on which she had long kept her eye, but four richly gilt Louis Quatorze candlesticks, six gilt albums, keepsakes, and Books of Beauty, a gold enamelled snuff-box which had once belonged to Madame du Barri, and the sweetest little inkstand and mother-of-pearl blotting book, which Becky used when she composed her charming little pink notes, had vanished from the premises in
Curzon Street together with Mademoiselle Fifine, and all the silver laid on the table for the little festin which
Rawdon interrupted. The plated ware Mademoiselle left behind her was too cumbrous, probably for which reason, no doubt, she also left the fire irons, the chimney-glasses, and the rosewood cottage piano.
A lady very like her subsequently kept a milliner's shop in the Rue du Helder at Paris, where she lived with great credit and enjoyed the patronage of my Lord
Steyne. This person always spoke of England as of the most treacherous country in the world, and stated to her young pupils that she had been affreusement vole by natives of that island. It was no doubt compassion for her misfortunes which induced the Marquis of Steyne to be so very kind to Madame de Saint-Amaranthe. May she flourish as she deserves-she appears no more in our quarter of Vanity Fair.
Hearing a buzz and a stir below, and indignant at the impudence of those servants who would not answer her summons, Mrs. Crawley flung her morning robe round her and descended majestically to the drawing-room, whence the noise proceeded.
The cook was there with blackened face, seated on the beautiful chintz sofa by the side of Mrs. Raggles, to whom she was administering Maraschino. The page with the sugar-loaf buttons, who carried about Becky's pink notes, and jumped about her little carriage with such alacrity, was now engaged putting his fingers into a cream dish; the footman was talking to Raggles, who had a face full of perplexity and woe-and yet, though the door was open, and Becky had been screaming a half-dozen of times a few feet off, not one of her attendants had obeyed her call. "Have a little drop, do'ee now, Mrs. Raggles," the cook was saying as Becky entered, the white cashmere dressing-gown flouncing around her.
"Simpson! Trotter!" the mistress of the house cried in great wrath. "How dare you stay here when you heard me call? How dare you sit down in my presence? Where's my maid?" The page withdrew his fingers from his mouth with a momentary terror, but the cook took off a glass of Maraschino, of which Mrs. Raggles had had enough, staring at Becky over the little gilt glass as she drained its contents. The liquor appeared to give the odious rebel courage.
"YOUR sofy, indeed!" Mrs. Cook said. "I'm a settin' on
Mrs. Raggles's sofy. Don't you stir, Mrs. Raggles, Mum.
I'm a settin' on Mr. and Mrs. Raggles's sofy, which they bought with honest money, and very dear it cost 'em, too. And I'm thinkin' if I set here until I'm paid my wages, I shall set a precious long time, Mrs. Raggles;
and set I will, too-ha! ha!" and with this she filled herself another glass of the liquor and drank it with a more hideously satirical air.
"Trotter! Simpson! turn that drunken wretch out,"
screamed Mrs. Crawley.
"I shawn't," said Trotter the footman; "turn out yourself. Pay our selleries, and turn me out too. WE'LL
go fast enough."
"Are you all here to insult me?" cried Becky in a fury;
"when Colonel Crawley comes home I'll-"
At this the servants burst into a horse haw-haw, in which, however, Raggles, who still kept a most melancholy countenance, did not join. "He ain't a coming back,"
Mr. Trotter resumed. "He sent for his things, and I
wouldn't let 'em go, although Mr. Raggles would; and I
don't b'lieve he's no more a Colonel than I am. He's hoff, and I suppose you're a goin' after him. You're no better than swindlers, both on you. Don't be a bullyin'
ME. I won't stand it. Pay us our selleries, I say. Pay us our selleries." It was evident, from Mr. Trotter's flushed countenance and defective intonation, that he, too, had had recourse to vinous stimulus.
"Mr. Raggles," said Becky in a passion of vexation,
"you will not surely let me be insulted by that drunken man?" "Hold your noise, Trotter; do now," said Simpson the page. He was affected by his mistress's deplorable situation, and succeeded in preventing an outrageous denial of the epithet "drunken" on the footman's part.
"Oh, M'am," said Raggles, "I never thought to live to see this year day: I've known the Crawley family ever since I was born. I lived butler with Miss Crawley for thirty years; and I little thought one of that family was a goin' to ruing me-yes, ruing me"-said the poor fellow with tears in his eyes. "Har you a goin' to pay me? You've lived in this 'ouse four year. You've 'ad my substance: my plate and linning. You ho me a milk and butter bill of two 'undred pound, you must 'ave noo laid heggs for your homlets, and cream for your spanil dog."
"She didn't care what her own flesh and blood had,"
interposed the cook. "Many's the time, he'd have starved but for me."
"He's a charaty-boy now, Cooky," said Mr. Trotter, with a drunken "ha! ha!"-and honest Raggles continued, in a lamentable tone, an enumeration of his griefs. All he said was true. Becky and her husband had ruined him.
He had bills coming due next week and no means to meet them. He would be sold up and turned out of his shop and his house, because he had trusted to the Crawley family. His tears and lamentations made Becky more peevish than ever.
"You all seem to be against me," she said bitterly.
"What do you want? I can't pay you on Sunday. Come back to-morrow and I'll pay you everything. I thought
Colonel Crawley had settled with you. He will to-morrow.
I declare to you upon my honour that he left home this morning with fifteen hundred pounds in his pocket-book.
He has left me nothing. Apply to him. Give me a bonnet and shawl and let me go out and find him. There was a difference between us this morning. You all seem to know it. I promise you upon my word that you shall all be paid. He has got a good appointment. Let me go out and find him.''
This audacious statement caused Raggles and the other personages present to look at one another with a wild surprise, and with it Rebecca left them. She went upstairs and dressed herself this time without the aid of her French maid. She went into Rawdon's room, and there saw that a trunk and bag were packed ready for removal, with a pencil direction that they should be given when called for; then she went into the Frenchwoman's garret;
everything was clean, and all the drawers emptied there.
She bethought herself of the trinkets which had been left on the ground and felt certain that the woman had fled.
"Good Heavens! was ever such ill luck as mine?" she said; "to be so near, and to lose all. Is it all too late?"
No; there was one chance more.
She dressed herself and went away unmolested this time, but alone. It was four o'clock. She went swiftly down the streets (she had no money to pay for a carriage), and never stopped until she came to Sir Pitt
Crawley's door, in Great Gaunt Street. Where was Lady
Jane Crawley? She was at church. Becky was not sorry.
Sir Pitt was in his study, and had given orders not to be disturbed-she must see him-she slipped by the sentinel in livery at once, and was in Sir Pitt's room before the astonished Baronet had even laid down the paper.
He turned red and started back from her with a look of great alarm and horror.
"Do not look so," she said. "I am not guilty, Pitt, dear
Pitt; you were my friend once. Before God, I am not guilty. I seem so. Everything is against me. And oh! at such a moment! just when all my hopes were about to be realized: just when happiness was in store for us."
"Is this true, what I see in the paper then?" Sir Pitt said-a paragraph in which had greatly surprised him.
"It is true. Lord Steyne told me on Friday night, the night of that fatal ball. He has been promised an appointment any time these six months. Mr. Martyr, the
Colonial Secretary, told him yesterday that it was made out.
That unlucky arrest ensued; that horrible meeting. I was only guilty of too much devotedness to Rawdon's service. I
have received Lord Steyne alone a hundred times before.
I confess I had money of which Rawdon knew nothing.
Don't you know how careless he is of it, and could I dare to confide it to him?" And so she went on with a perfectly connected story, which she poured into the ears of her perplexed kinsman.
It was to the following effect. Becky owned, and with prefect frankness, but deep contrition, that having remarked Lord Steyne's partiality for her (at the mention of which Pitt blushed), and being secure of her own virtue, she had determined to turn the great peer's attachment to the advantage of herself and her family. "I
looked for a peerage for you, Pitt," she said (the brother-
in-law again turned red). "We have talked about it. Your genius and Lord Steyne's interest made it more than probable, had not this dreadful calamity come to put an end to all our hopes. But, first, I own that it was my object to rescue my dear husband-him whom I love in spite of all his ill usage and suspicions of me-to remove him from the poverty and ruin which was impending over us. I saw Lord Steyne's partiality for me," she said, casting down her eyes. "I own that I did everything in my power to make myself pleasing to him, and as far as an honest woman may, to secure his-his esteem. It was only on Friday morning that the news arrived of the death of the Governor of Coventry Island, and my Lord instantly secured the appointment for my dear husband.
It was intended as a surprise for him-he was to see it in the papers to-day. Even after that horrid arrest took place (the expenses of which Lord Steyne generously said he would settle, so that I was in a manner prevented from coming to my husband's assistance), my Lord was laughing with me, and saying that my dearest Rawdon would be consoled when he read of his appointment in the paper, in that shocking spun-bailiff's house. And then-then he came home. His suspicions were excited,
-the dreadful scene took place between my Lord and my cruel, cruel Rawdon-and, O my God, what will happen next? Pitt, dear Pitt! pity me, and reconcile us!"
And as she spoke she flung herself down on her knees, and bursting into tears, seized hold of Pitt's hand, which she kissed passionately.
It was in this very attitude that Lady Jane, who, returning from church, ran to her husband's room directly she heard Mrs. Rawdon Crawley was closeted there, found the Baronet and his sister-in-law.
"I am surprised that woman has the audacity to enter this house," Lady Jane said, trembling in every limb and turning quite pale. (Her Ladyship had sent out her maid directly after breakfast, who had communicated with Raggles and Rawdon Crawley's household, who had told her all, and a great deal more than they knew, of that story, and many others besides). "How dare Mrs.
Crawley to enter the house of-of an honest family?"
Sir Pitt started back, amazed at his wife's display of vigour. Becky still kept her kneeling posture and clung to Sir Pitt's hand.
"Tell her that she does not know all: Tell her that I
am innocent, dear Pitt," she whimpered out.
"Upon-my word, my love, I think you do Mrs. Crawley injustice," Sir Pitt said; at which speech Rebecca was vastly relieved. "Indeed I believe her to be-"
"To be what?" cried out Lady Jane, her clear voice thrilling and, her heart beating violently as she spoke.
"To be a wicked woman-a heartless mother, a false wife? She never loved her dear little boy, who used to fly here and tell me of her cruelty to him. She never came into a family but she strove to bring misery with her and to weaken the most sacred affections with her wicked flattery and falsehoods. She has deceived her husband, as she has deceived everybody; her soul is black with vanity, worldliness, and all sorts of crime. I tremble when I touch her. I keep my children out of her sight.
"Lady Jane!" cried Sir Pitt, starting up, "this is really language-"
"I have been a true and faithful wife to you, Sir
Pitt," Lady Jane continued, intrepidly; "I have kept my marriage vow as I made it to God and have been obedient and gentle as a wife should. But righteous obedience has its limits, and I declare that I will not bear that-that woman again under my roof; if she enters it,
I and my children will leave it. She is not worthy to sit down with Christian people. You-you must choose, sir, between her and me"; and with this my Lady swept out of the room, fluttering with her own audacity, and leaving
Rebecca and Sir Pitt not a little astonished at it.
As for Becky, she was not hurt; nay, she was pleased.
"It was the diamond-clasp you gave me," she said to Sir
Pitt, reaching him out her hand; and before she left him
(for which event you may be sure my Lady Jane was looking out from her dressing-room window in the upper story) the Baronet had promised to go and seek out his brother, and endeavour to bring about a reconciliation.
Rawdon found some of the young fellows of the regiment seated in the mess-room at breakfast, and was induced without much difficulty to partake of that meal, and of the devilled legs of fowls and soda-water with which these young gentlemen fortified themselves. Then they had a conversation befitting the day and their time of life: about the next pigeon-match at Battersea, with relative bets upon Ross and Osbaldiston; about
Mademoiselle Ariane of the French Opera, and who had left her, and how she was consoled by Panther Carr; and about the fight between the Butcher and the Pet, and the probabilities that it was a cross. Young Tandyman, a hero of seventeen, laboriously endeavouring to get up a pair of mustachios, had seen the fight, and spoke in the most scientific manner about the battle and the condition of the men. It was he who had driven the Butcher on to the ground in his drag and passed the whole of the previous night with him. Had there not been foul play he must have won it. All the old files of the Ring were in it; and Tandyman wouldn't pay; no, dammy, he wouldn't pay. It was but a year since the young Cornet, now so knowing a hand in Cribb's parlour, had a still lingering liking for toffy, and used to be birched at Eton.
So they went on talking about dancers, fights, drinking, demireps, until Macmurdo came down and joined the boys and the conversation. He did not appear to think that any especial reverence was due to their boyhood;
the old fellow cut in with stories, to the full as choice as any the youngest rake present had to tell-nor did his own grey hairs nor their smooth faces detain him. Old
Mac was famous for his good stories. He was not exactly a lady's man; that is, men asked him to dine rather at the houses of their mistresses than of their mothers.
There can scarcely be a life lower, perhaps, than his, but he was quite contented with it, such as it was, and led it in perfect good nature, simplicity, and modesty of demeanour.
By the time Mac had finished a copious breakfast, most of the others had concluded their meal. Young Lord
Varinas was smoking an immense Meerschaum pipe, while Captain Hugues was employed with a cigar: that violent little devil Tandyman, with his little bull-terrier between his legs, was tossing for shillings with all his might (that fellow was always at some game or other)
against Captain Deuceace; and Mac and Rawdon walked off to the Club, neither, of course, having given any hint of the business which was occupying their minds. Both, on the other hand, had joined pretty gaily in the conversation, for why should they interrupt it? Feasting, drinking, ribaldry, laughter, go on alongside of all sorts of other occupations in Vanity Fair-the crowds were pouring out of church as Rawdon and his friend passed down St. James's Street and entered into their Club.
The old bucks and habitues, who ordinarily stand gaping and grinning out of the great front window of the
Club, had not arrived at their posts as yet-the newspaper-room was almost empty. One man was present whom Rawdon did not know; another to whom he owed a little score for whist, and whom, in consequence, he did not care to meet; a third was reading the Royalist
(a periodical famous for its scandal and its attachment to Church and King) Sunday paper at the table, and looking up at Crawley with some interest, said, "Crawley,
I congratulate you."
"What do you mean?" said the Colonel.
"It's in the Observer and the Royalist too," said Mr.
"What?" Rawdon cried, turning very red. He thought that the affair with Lord Steyne was already in the public prints. Smith looked up wondering and smiling at the agitation which the Colonel exhibited as he took up the paper and, trembling, began to read.
Mr. Smith and Mr. Brown (the gentleman with .whom
Rawdon had the outstanding whist account) had been talking about the Colonel just before he came in.
"It is come just in the nick of time," said Smith. "I
suppose Crawley had not a shilling in the world."
"It's a wind that blows everybody good," Mr. Brown said. "He can't go away without paying me a pony he owes me."
"What's the salary?" asked Smith.
"Two or three thousand," answered the other. "But the climate's so infernal, they don't enjoy it long.
Liverseege died after eighteen months of it, and the man before went off in six weeks, I hear."
"Some people say his brother is a very clever man. I
always found him a d- bore," Smith ejaculated. "He must have good interest, though. He must have got the
Colonel the place."
"He!" said Brown. with a sneer. "Pooh. It was Lord
Steyne got it.
"How do you mean?"
"A virtuous woman is a crown to her husband,"
answered the other enigmatically, and went to read his papers.
Rawdon, for his part, read in the Royalist the following astonishing paragraph:
GOVERNORSHIP OF COVENTRY ISLAND.-H.M.S.
Yellowjack, Commander Jaunders, has brought letters and papers from Coventry Island. H. E. Sir Thomas
Liverseege had fallen a victim to the prevailing fever at
Swampton. His loss is deeply felt in the flourishing colony. We hear that the Governorship has been offered to
Colonel Rawdon Crawley, C.B., a distinguished Waterloo officer. We need not only men of acknowledged bravery, but men of administrative talents to superintend the affairs of our colonies, and we have no doubt that the gentleman selected by the Colonial Office to fill the lamented vacancy which has occurred at
Coventry Island is admirably calculated for the post which he is about to occupy."
"Coventry Island! Where was it? Who had appointed him to the government? You must take me out as your secretary, old boy," Captain Macmurdo said laughing;
and as Crawley and his friend sat wondering and perplexed over the announcement, the Club waiter brought in to the Colonel a card on which the name of Mr.
Wenham was engraved, who begged to see Colonel
The Colonel and his aide-de-camp went out to meet the gentleman, rightly conjecturing that he was an emissary of Lord Steyne. "How d'ye do, Crawley? I am glad to see you," said Mr. Wenham with a bland smile, and grasping Crawley's hand with great cordiality.
"You come, I suppose, from- "
"Exactly," said Mr. Wenham.
"Then this is my friend Captain Macmurdo, of the Life
"Delighted to know Captain Macmurdo, I'm sure," Mr.
Wenham said and tendered another smile and shake of the hand to the second, as he had done to the principal.
Mac put out one finger, armed with a buckskin glove, and made a very frigid bow to Mr. Wenham over his tight cravat. He was, perhaps, discontented at being put in communication with a pekin, and thought that Lord
Steyne should have sent him a Colonel at the very least.
"As Macmurdo acts for me, and knows what I mean,"
Crawley said, "I had better retire and leave you together."
"Of course," said Macmurdo.
"By no means, my dear Colonel," Mr. Wenham said;
"the interview which I had the honour of requesting was with you personally, though the company of Captain
Macmurdo cannot fail to be also most pleasing. In fact,
Captain, I hope that our conversation will lead to none but the most agreeable results, very different from those which my friend Colonel Crawley appears to anticipate."
"Humph!" said Captain Macmurdo. Be hanged to these civilians, he thought to himself, they are always for arranging and speechifying. Mr. Wenham took a chair which was not offered to him-took a paper from his pocket, and resumed-
"You have seen this gratifying announcement in the papers this morning, Colonel? Government has secured a most valuable servant, and you, if you accept office, as
I presume you will, an excellent appointment. Three thousand a year, delightful climate, excellent government-
house, all your own way in the Colony, and a certain promotion. I congratulate you with all my heart. I
presume you know, gentlemen, to whom my friend is indebted for this piece of patronage?"
"Hanged if I know," the Captain said; his principal turned very red.
"To one of the most generous and kindest men in the world, as he is one of the greatest-to my excellent friend, the Marquis of Steyne."
"I'll see him d- before I take his place," growled out Rawdon.
"You are irritated against my noble friend," Mr.
Wenham calmly resumed; "and now, in the name of common sense and justice, tell me why?"
"WHY?" cried Rawdon in surprise.
"Why? Dammy!" said the Captain, ringing his stick on the ground.
"Dammy, indeed," said Mr. Wenham with the most agreeable smile; "still, look at the matter as a man of the world-as an honest man-and see if you have not been in the wrong. You come home from a journey, and find-what?-my Lord Steyne supping at your house in
Curzon Street with Mrs. Crawley. Is the circumstance strange or novel? Has he not been a hundred times before in the same position? Upon my honour and word as a gentleman"-Mr. Wenham here put his hand on his waistcoat with a parliamentary air-"I declare I think that your suspicions are monstrous and utterly unfounded, and that they injure an honourable gentleman who has proved his good-will towards you by a thousand benefactions-and a most spotless and innocent lady."
"You don't mean to say that-that Crawley's mistaken?" said Mr. Macmurdo.
"I believe that Mrs. Crawley is as innocent as my wife, Mrs. Wenham," Mr. Wenham said with great energy. "I believe that, misled by an infernal jealousy, my friend here strikes a blow against not only an infirm and old man of high station, his constant friend and benefactor, but against his wife, his own dearest honour, his son's future reputation, and his own prospects in life."
"I will tell you what happened," Mr. Wenham continued with great solemnity; "I was sent for this morning by my Lord Steyne, and found him in a pitiable state, as, I need hardly inform Colonel Crawley, any man of age and infirmity would be after a personal conflict with a man of your strength. I say to your face; it was a cruel advantage you took of that strength, Colonel
Crawley. It was not only the body of my noble and excellent friend which was wounded-his heart, sir, was bleeding. A man whom he had loaded with benefits and regarded with affection had subjected him to the foulest indignity. What was this very appointment, which appears in the journals of to-day, but a proof of his kindness to you? When I saw his Lordship this morning I found him in a state pitiable indeed to see, and as anxious as you are to revenge the outrage committed upon him, by blood. You know he has given his proofs, I presume,
"He has plenty of pluck," said the Colonel. "Nobody ever said he hadn't."
"His first order to me was to write a letter of challenge, and to carry it to Colonel Crawley. One or other of us," he said, "must not survive the outrage of last night."
Crawley nodded. "You're coming to the point,
Wenham," he said.
"I tried my utmost to calm Lord Steyne. Good God!
sir," I said, "how I regret that Mrs. Wenham and myself had not accepted Mrs. Crawley's invitation to sup with her!"
"She asked you to sup with her?" Captain Macmurdo said.
"After the opera. Here's the note of invitation-stop
-no, this is another paper-I thought I had h, but it's of no consequence, and I pledge you my word to the fact. If we had come-and it was only one of Mrs.
Wenham's headaches which prevented us-she suffers under them a good deal, especially in the spring-if we had come, and you had returned home, there would have been no quarrel, no insult, no suspicion-and so it is positively because my poor wife has a headache that you are to bring death down upon two men of honour and plunge two of the most excellent and ancient families in the kingdom into disgrace and sorrow."
Mr. Macmurdo looked at his principal with the air of a man profoundly puzzled, and Rawdon felt with a kind of rage that his prey was escaping him. He did not believe a word of the story, and yet, how discredit or disprove it?
Mr. Wenham continued with the same fluent oratory, which in his place in Parliament he had so often practised-"I sat for an hour or more by Lord Steyne's bedside, beseeching, imploring Lord Steyne to forego his intention of demanding a meeting. I pointed out to him that the circumstances were after all suspicious-they were suspicious. I acknowledge it-any man in your position might have been taken in-I said that a man furious with jealousy is to all intents and purposes a madman, and should be as such regarded-that a duel between you must lead to the disgrace of all parties concerned-that a man of his Lordship's exalted station had no right in these days, when the most atrocious revolutionary principles, and the most dangerous levelling doctrines are preached among the vulgar, to create a public scandal; and that, however innocent, the common people would insist that he was guilty. In fine, I
implored him not to send the challenge."
"I don't believe one word of the whole story," said
Rawdon, grinding his teeth. "I believe it a d- lie, and that you're in it, Mr. Wenham. If the challenge don't come from him, by Jove it shall come from me."
Mr. Wenham turned deadly pale at this savage interruption of the Colonel and looked towards the door.
But he found a champion in Captain Macmurdo. That gentleman rose up with an oath and rebuked Rawdon for his language. "You put the affair into my hands, and you shall act as I think fit, by Jove, and not as you do.
You have no right to insult Mr. Wenham with this sort of language; and dammy, Mr. Wenham, you deserve an apology. And as for a challenge to Lord Steyne, you may get somebody else to carry it, I won't. If my lord, after being thrashed, chooses to sit still, dammy let him.
And as for the affair with-with Mrs. Crawley, my belief is, there's nothing proved at all: that your wife's innocent, as innocent as Mr. Wenham says she is; and at any rate that you would be a d-fool not to take the place and hold your tongue."
"Captain Macmurdo, you speak like a man of sense,"
Mr. Wenham cried out, immensely relieved-"I forget any words that Colonel Crawley has used in the irritation of the moment."
"I thought you would," Rawdon said with a sneer.
"Shut your mouth, you old stoopid," the Captain said good-naturedly. "Mr. Wenham ain't a fighting man; and quite right, too."
"This matter, in my belief," the Steyne emissary cried,
"ought to be buried in the most profound oblivion. A
word concerning it should never pass these doors. I
speak in the interest of my friend, as well as of Colonel
Crawley, who persists in considering me his enemy."
"I suppose Lord Steyne won't talk about it very much," said Captain Macmurdo; "and I don't see why our side should. The affair ain't a very pretty one, any way you take it, and the less said about it the better.
It's you are thrashed, and not us; and if you are satisfied, why, I think, we should be."
Mr. Wenham took his hat, upon this, and Captain
Macmurdo following him to the door, shut it upon himself and Lord Steyne's agent, leaving Rawdon chafing within. When the two were on the other side, Macmurdo looked hard at the other ambassador and with an expression of anything but respect on his round jolly face.
"You don't stick at a trifle, Mr. Wenham," he said.
"You flatter me, Captain Macmurdo," answered the other with a smile. "Upon my honour and conscience now, Mrs. Crawley did ask us to sup after the opera."
"Of course; and Mrs. Wenham had one of her head-
aches. I say, I've got a thousand-pound note here, which
I will give you if you will give me a receipt, please; and
I will put the note up in an envelope for Lord Steyne.
My man shan't fight him. But we had rather not take his money."
"It was all a mistake-all a mistake, my dear sir," the other said with the utmost innocence of manner; and was bowed down the Club steps by Captain Macmurdo, just as Sir Pitt Crawley ascended them. There was a slight acquaintance between these two gentlemen, and the
Captain, going back with the Baronet to the room where the latter's brother was, told Sir Pitt, in confidence, that he had made the affair all right between Lord Steyne and the Colonel.
Sir Pitt was well pleased, of course, at this intelligence, and congratulated his brother warmly upon the peaceful issue of the affair, making appropriate moral remarks upon the evils of duelling and the unsatisfactory nature of that sort of settlement of disputes.
And after this preface, he tried with all his eloquence to effect a reconciliation between Rawdon and his wife.
He recapitulated the statements which Becky had made, pointed out the probabilities of their truth, and asserted his own firm belief in her innocence.
But Rawdon would not hear of it. "She has kep money concealed from me these ten years," he said "She swore, last night only, she had none from Steyne. She knew it was all up, directly I found it. If she's not guilty, Pitt, she's as bad as guilty, and I'll never see her again-
never." His head sank down on his chest as he spoke the words, and he looked quite broken and sad.
"Poor old boy," Macmurdo said, shaking his head.
Rawdon Crawley resisted for some time the idea of taking the place which had been procured for him by so odious a patron, and was also for removing the boy from the school where Lord Steyne's interest had placed him. He was induced, however, to acquiesce in these benefits by the entreaties of his brother and Macmurdo, but mainly by the latter, pointing out to him what a fury Steyne would be in to think that his enemy's fortune was made through his means.
When the Marquis of Steyne came abroad after his accident, the Colonial Secretary bowed up to him and congratulated himself and the Service upon having made so excellent an appointment. These congratulations were received with a degree of gratitude which may be imagined on the part of Lord Steyne.
The secret of the rencontre between him and Colonel
Crawley was buried in the profoundest oblivion, as
Wenham said; that is, by the seconds and the principals.
But before that evening was over it was talked of at fifty dinner-tables in Vanity Fair. Little Cackleby himself went to seven evening parties and told the story with comments and emendations at each place. How Mrs.
Washington White revelled in it! The Bishopess of Ealing was shocked beyond expression; the Bishop went and wrote his name down in the visiting-book at Gaunt House that very day. Little Southdown was sorry; so you may be sure was his sister Lady Jane, very sorry. Lady
Southdown wrote it off to her other daughter at the Cape of
Good Hope. It was town-talk for at least three days, and was only kept out of the newspapers by the exertions of Mr. Wagg, acting upon a hint from Mr. Wenham.
The bailiffs and brokers seized upon poor Raggles in
Curzon Street, and the late fair tenant of that poor little mansion was in the meanwhile-where? Who cared! Who asked after a day or two? Was she guilty or not? We all know how charitable the world is, and how the verdict of Vanity Fair goes when there is a doubt. Some people said she had gone to Naples in pursuit of Lord Steyne, whilst others averred that his Lordship quitted that city and fled to Palermo on hearing of Becky's arrival; some said she was living in Bierstadt, and had become a dame d'honneur to the Queen of Bulgaria; some that she was at Boulogne; and others, at a boarding-house at
Rawdon made her a tolerable annuity, and we may be sure that she was a woman who could make a little money go a great way, as the saying is. He would have paid his debts on leaving England, could he have got any
Insurance Office to take his life, but the climate of
Coventry Island was so bad that he could borrow no money on the strength of his salary. He remitted, however, to his brother punctually, and wrote to his little boy regularly every mail. He kept Macmurdo in cigars and sent over quantities of shells, cayenne pepper, hot pickles, guava jelly, and colonial produce to Lady Jane.
He sent his brother home the Swamp Town Gazette, in which the new Governor was praised with immense enthusiasm; whereas the Swamp Town Sentinel, whose wife was not asked to Government House, declared that his Excellency was a tyrant, compared to whom Nero was an enlightened philanthropist. Little Rawdon used to like to get the papers and read about his Excellency.
His mother never made any movement to see the child.
He went home to his aunt for Sundays and holidays; he soon knew every bird's nest about Queen's Crawley, and rode out with Sir Huddlestone's hounds, which he admired so on his first well-remembered visit to
Georgy is Made a Gentleman
Georgy Osborne was now fairly established in his grandfather's mansion in Russell Square, occupant of his father's room in the house and heir apparent of all the splendours there. The good looks, gallant bearing, and gentlemanlike appearance of the boy won the grandsire's heart for him. Mr. Osborne was as proud of him as ever he had been of the elder George.
The child had many more luxuries and indulgences than had been awarded his father. Osborne's commerce had prospered greatly of late years. His wealth and importance in the City had very much increased. He had been glad enough in former days to put the elder George to a good private school; and a commission in the army for his son had been a source of no small pride to him; for little George and his future prospects the old man looked much higher. He would make a gentleman of the little chap, was Mr. Osborne's constant saying regarding little Georgy. He saw him in his mind's eye, a collegian, a Parliament man, a Baronet, perhaps. The old man thought he would die contented if he could see his grandson in a fair way to such honours. He would have none but a tip-top college man to educate him-
none of your quacks and pretenders-no, no. A few years before, he used to be savage, and inveigh against all parsons, scholars, and the like declaring that they were a pack of humbugs, and quacks that weren't fit to get their living but by grinding Latin and Greek, and a set of supercilious dogs that pretended to look down upon
British merchants and gentlemen, who could buy up half a hundred of 'em. He would mourn now, in a very solemn manner, that his own education had been neglected, and repeatedly point out, in pompous orations to Georgy, the necessity and excellence of classical acquirements.
When they met at dinner the grandsire used to ask the lad what he had been reading during the day, and was greatly interested at the report the boy gave of his own studies, pretending to understand little George when he spoke regarding them. He made a hundred blunders and showed his ignorance many a time. It did not increase the respect which the child had for his senior.
A quick brain and a better education elsewhere showed the boy very soon that his grandsire was a dullard, and he began accordingly to command him and to look down upon him; for his previous education, humble and contracted as it had been, had made a much better gentleman of Georgy than any plans of his grandfather could make him. He had been brought up by a kind, weak, and tender woman, who had no pride about anything but about him, and whose heart was so pure and whose bearing was so meek and humble that she could not but needs be a true lady. She busied herself in gentle offices and quiet duties; if she never said brilliant things, she never spoke or thought unkind ones; guileless and artless, loving and pure, indeed how could our poor little Amelia be other than a real gentlewoman!
Young Georgy lorded over this soft and yielding nature; and the contrast of its simplicity and delicacy with the coarse pomposity of the dull old man with whom he next came in contact made him lord over the latter too. If he had been a Prince Royal he could not have been better brought up to think well of himself.
Whilst his mother was yearning after him at home, and
I do believe every hour of the day, and during most hours of the sad lonely nights, thinking of him, this young gentleman had a number of pleasures and consolations administered to him, which made him for his part bear the separation from Amelia very easily. Little boys who cry when they are going to school cry because they are going to a very uncomfortable place. It is only a few who weep from sheer affection. When you think that the eyes of your childhood dried at the sight of a piece of gingerbread, and that a plum cake was a compensation for the agony of parting with your mamma and sisters, oh my friend and brother, you need not be too confident of your own fine feelings.
Well, then, Master George Osborne had every comfort and luxury that a wealthy and lavish old grandfather thought fit to provide. The coachman was instructed to purchase for him the handsomest pony which could be bought for money, and on this George was taught to ride, first at a riding-school, whence, after having performed satisfactorily without stirrups, and over the leaping-bar, he was conducted through the New Road to
Regent's Park, and then to Hyde Park, where he rode in state with Martin the coachman behind him. Old
Osborne, who took matters more easily in the City now, where he left his affairs to his junior partners, would often ride out with Miss O. in the same fashionable direction.
As little Georgy came cantering up with his dandified air and his heels down, his grandfather would nudge the lad's aunt and say, "Look, Miss O." And he would laugh, and his face would grow red with pleasure, as he nodded out of the window to the boy, as the groom saluted the carriage, and the footman saluted Master
George. Here too his aunt, Mrs. Frederick Bullock
(whose chariot might daily be seen in the Ring, with bullocks or emblazoned on the panels and harness, and three pasty-faced little Bullocks, covered with cockades and feathers, staring from the windows) Mrs. Frederick
Bullock, I say, flung glances of the bitterest hatred at the little upstart as he rode by with his hand on his side and his hat on one ear, as proud as a lord.
Though he was scarcely eleven years of age, Master
George wore straps and the most beautiful little boots like a man. He had gilt spurs, and a gold-headed whip, and a fine pin in his handkerchief, and the neatest little kid gloves which Lamb's Conduit Street could furnish.
His mother had given him a couple of neckcloths, and carefully hemmed and made some little shirts for him;
but when her Eli came to see the widow, they were replaced by much finer linen. He had little jewelled buttons in the lawn shirt fronts. Her humble presents had been put aside-I believe Miss Osborne had given them to the coachman's boy. Amelia tried to think she was pleased at the change. Indeed, she was happy and charmed to see the boy looking so beautiful.
She had had a little black profile of him done for a shilling, and this was hung up by the side of another portrait over her bed. One day the boy came on his accustomed visit, galloping down the little street at
Brompton, and bringing, as usual, all the inhabitants to the windows to admire his splendour, and with great eagerness and a look of triumph in his face, he pulled a case out of his great-coat-it was a natty white great-coat, with a cape and a velvet collar-pulled out a red morocco case, which he gave her.
"I bought it with my own money, Mamma," he said.
"I thought you'd like it."
Amelia opened the case, and giving a little cry of delighted affection, seized the boy and embraced him a hundred times. It was a miniature-of himself, very prettily done (though not half handsome enough, we may be sure, the widow thought). His grandfather had wished to have a picture of him by an artist whose works, exhibited in a shop-window, in Southampton Row, had caught the old gentleman's eye; and George, who had plenty of money, bethought him of asking the painter how much a copy of the little portrait would cost, saying that he would pay for it out of his own money and that he wanted to give it to his mother. The pleased painter executed it for a small price, and old Osborne himself, when he heard of the incident, growled out his satisfaction and gave the boy twice as many sovereigns as he paid for the miniature.
But what was the grandfather's pleasure compared to
Amelia's ecstacy? That proof of the boy's affection charmed her so that she thought no child in the world was like hers for goodness. For long weeks after, the thought of his love made her happy. She slept better with the picture under her pillow, and how many many times did she kiss it and weep and pray over it! A
small kindness from those she loved made that timid heart grateful. Since her parting with George she had had no such joy and consolation.
At his new home Master George ruled like a lord;
at dinner he invited the ladies to drink wine with the utmost coolness, and took off his champagne in a way which charmed his old grandfather. "Look at him," the old man would say, nudging his neighbour with a delighted purple face, "did you ever see such a chap?
Lord, Lord! he'll be ordering a dressing-case next, and razors to shave with; I'm blessed if he won't."
The antics of the lad did not, however, delight Mr.
Osborne's friends so much as they pleased the old gentleman. It gave Mr. Justice Coffin no pleasure to hear
Georgy cut into the conversation and spoil his stories.
Colonel Fogey was not interested in seeing the little boy half tipsy. Mr. Sergeant Toffy's lady felt no particular gratitude, when, with a twist of his elbow, he tilted a glass of port-wine over her yellow satin and laughed at the disaster; nor was she better pleased, although old
Osborne was highly delighted, when Georgy "whopped"
her third boy (a young gentleman a year older than
Georgy, and by chance home for the holidays from Dr.
Tickleus's at Ealing School) in Russell Square. George's grandfather gave the boy a couple of sovereigns for that feat and promised to reward him further for every boy above his own size and age whom he whopped in a similar manner. It is difficult to say what good the old man saw in these combats; he had a vague notion that quarrelling made boys hardy, and that tyranny was a useful accomplishment for them to learn. English youth have been so educated time out of mind, and we have hundreds of thousands of apologists and admirers of injustice, misery, and brutality, as perpetrated among children. Flushed with praise and victory over Master Toffy,
George wished naturally to pursue his conquests further, and one day as he was strutting about in prodigiously dandified new clothes, near St. Pancras, and a young baker's boy made sarcastic comments upon his appearance, the youthful patrician pulled off his dandy jacket with great spirit, and giving it in charge to the friend who accompanied him (Master Todd, of Great Coram
Street, Russell Square, son of the junior partner of the house of Osborne and Co.), George tried to whop the little baker. But the chances of war were unfavourable this time, and the little baker whopped Georgy, who came home with a rueful black eye and all his fine shirt frill dabbled with the claret drawn from his own little nose. He told his grandfather that he had been in combat with a giant, and frightened his poor mother at
Brompton with long, and by no means authentic, accounts of the battle.
This young Todd, of Coram Street, Russell Square, was Master George's great friend and admirer. They both had a taste for painting theatrical characters; for hardbake and raspberry tarts; for sliding and skating in the
Regent's Park and the Serpentine, when the weather permitted; for going to the play, whither they were often conducted, by Mr. Osborne's orders, by Rowson, Master
George's appointed body-servant, with whom they sat in great comfort in the pit.
In the company of this gentleman they visited all the principal theatres of the metropolis; knew the names of all the actors from Drury Lane to Sadler's Wells; and performed, indeed, many of the plays to the Todd family and their youthful friends, with West's famous characters, on their pasteboard theatre. Rowson, the footman, who was of a generous disposition, would not unfrequently, when in cash, treat his young master to oysters after the play, and to a glass of rum-shrub for a night-cap.
We may be pretty certain that Mr. Rowson profited in his turn by his young master's liberality and gratitude for the pleasures to which the footman inducted him.
A famous tailor from the West End of the town-
Mr. Osborne would have none of your City or Holborn bunglers, he said, for the boy (though a City tailor was good enough for HIM)-was summoned to ornament little
George's person, and was told to spare no expense in so doing. So, Mr. Woolsey, of Conduit Street, gave a loose to his imagination and sent the child home fancy trousers, fancy waistcoats, and fancy jackets enough to furnish a school of little dandies. Georgy had little white waistcoats for evening parties, and little cut velvet waistcoats for dinners, and a dear little darling shawl dressing-gown, for all the world like a little man. He dressed for dinner every day, "like a regular West End swell," as his grandfather remarked; one of the domestics was affected to his special service, attended him at his toilette, answered his bell, and brought him his letters always on a silver tray.
Georgy, after breakfast, would sit in the arm-chair in the dining-room and read the Morning Post, just like a grown-up man. "How he DU dam and swear," the servants would cry, delighted at his precocity. Those who remembered the Captain his father, declared Master
George was his Pa, every inch of him. He made the house lively by his activity, his imperiousness, his scolding, and his good-nature.
George's education was confided to a neighbouring scholar and private pedagogue who "prepared young noblemen and gentlemen for the Universities, the senate, and the learned professions: whose system did not embrace the degrading corporal severities still practised at the ancient places of education, and in whose family the pupils would find the elegances of refined society and the confidence and affection of a home." It was in this way that the Reverend Lawrence Veal of Hart Street,
Bloomsbury, and domestic Chaplain to the Earl of
Bareacres, strove with Mrs. Veal his wife to entice pupils.
By thus advertising and pushing sedulously, the domestic Chaplain and his Lady generally succeeded in having one or two scholars by them-who paid a high figure and were thought to be in uncommonly comfortable quarters. There was a large West Indian, whom nobody came to see, with a mahogany complexion, a woolly head, and an exceedingly dandyfied appearance; there was another hulking boy of three-and-twenty whose education had been neglected and whom Mr. and Mrs. Veal were to introduce into the polite world; there were two sons of Colonel Bangles of the East India Company's
Service: these four sat down to dinner at Mrs. Veal's genteel board, when Georgy was introduced to her establishment.
Georgy was, like some dozen other pupils, only a day boy; he arrived in the morning under the guardianship of his friend Mr. Rowson, and if it was fine, would ride away in the afternoon on his pony, followed by the groom. The wealth of his grandfather was reported in the school to be prodigious. The Rev. Mr. Veal used to compliment Georgy upon it personally, warning him that he was destined for a high station; that it became him to prepare, by sedulity and docility in youth, for the lofty duties to which he would be called in mature age;
that obedience in the child was the best preparation for command in the man; and that he therefore begged George would not bring toffee into the school and ruin the health of the Masters Bangles, who had everything they wanted at the elegant and abundant table of Mrs. Veal.
With respect to learning, "the Curriculum," as Mr.
Veal loved to call it, was of prodigious extent, and the young gentlemen in Hart Street might learn a something of every known science. The Rev. Mr. Veal had an orrery, an electrifying machine, a turning lathe, a theatre (in the wash-house), a chemical apparatus, and what he called a select library of all the works of the best authors of ancient and modern times and languages.
He took the boys to the British Museum and descanted upon the antiquities and the specimens of natural history there, so that audiences would gather round him as he spoke, and all Bloomsbury highly admired him as a prodigiously well-informed man. And whenever he spoke
(which he did almost always), he took care to produce the very finest and longest words of which the vocabulary gave him the use, rightly judging that it was as cheap to employ a handsome, large, and sonorous epithet, as to use a little stingy one.
Thus he would say to George in school, "I observed on my return home from taking the indulgence of an evening's scientific conversation with my excellent friend
Doctor Bulders-a true archaeologian, gentlemen, a true archaeologian-that the windows of your venerated grandfather's almost princely mansion in Russell Square were illuminated as if for the purposes of festivity. Am I right in my conjecture that Mr. Osborne entertained a society of chosen spirits round his sumptuous board last night?"
Little Georgy, who had considerable humour, and used to mimic Mr. Veal to his face with great spirit and dexterity, would reply that Mr. V. was quite correct in his surmise.
"Then those friends who had the honour of partaking of Mr. Osborne's hospitality, gentlemen, had no reason,
I will lay any wager, to complain of their repast. I
myself have been more than once so favoured. (By the way,
Master Osborne, you came a little late this morning, and have been a defaulter in this respect more than once.)
I myself, I say, gentlemen, humble as I am, have been found not unworthy to share Mr. Osborne's elegant hospitality. And though I have feasted with the great and noble of the world-for I presume that I may call my excellent friend and patron, the Right Honourable George
Earl of Bareacres, one of the number-yet I assure you that the board of the British merchant was to the full as richly served, and his reception as gratifying and noble. Mr. Bluck, sir, we will resume, if you please, that passage of Eutropis, which was interrupted by the late arrival of Master Osborne."
To this great man George's education was for some time entrusted. Amelia was bewildered by his phrases, but thought him a prodigy of learning. That poor widow made friends of Mrs. Veal, for reasons of her own. She liked to be in the house and see Georgy coming to school there. She liked to be asked to Mrs. Veal's conversazioni, which took place once a month (as you were informed on pink cards, with AOHNH engraved on them), and where the professor welcomed his pupils and their friends to weak tea and scientific conversation. Poor little Amelia never missed one of these entertainments and thought them delicious so long as she might have Georgy sitting by her.
And she would walk from Brompton in any weather, and embrace Mrs. Veal with tearful gratitude for the delightful evening she had passed, when, the company having retired and Georgy gone off with Mr. Rowson, his attendant, poor Mrs. Osborne put on her cloaks and her shawls preparatory to walking home.
As for the learning which Georgy imbibed under this valuable master of a hundred sciences, to judge from the weekly reports which the lad took home to his grandfather, his progress was remarkable. The names of a score or more of desirable branches of knowledge were printed in a table, and the pupil's progress in each was marked by the professor. In Greek Georgy was pronounced aristos, in Latin optimus, in French tres bien, and so forth; and everybody had prizes for everything at the end of the year. Even Mr. Swartz, the wooly-
headed young gentleman, and half-brother to the
Honourable Mrs. Mac Mull, and Mr. Bluck, the neglected young pupil of three-and-twenty from the agricultural district, and that idle young scapegrace of a Master Todd before mentioned, received little eighteen-penny books, with "Athene" engraved on them, and a pompous Latin inscription from the professor to his young friends.
The family of this Master Todd were hangers-on of the house of Osborne. The old gentleman had advanced
Todd from being a clerk to be a junior partner in his establishment.
Mr. Osborne was the godfather of young Master Todd
(who in subsequent life wrote Mr. Osborne Todd on his cards and became a man of decided fashion), while Miss
Osborne had accompanied Miss Maria Todd to the font, and gave her protegee a prayer-book, a collection of tracts, a volume of very low church poetry, or some such memento of her goodness every year. Miss O. drove the Todds out in her carriage now and then; when they were ill, her footman, in large plush smalls and waistcoat, brought jellies and delicacies from Russell Square to
Coram Street. Coram Street trembled and looked up to
Russell Square indeed, and Mrs. Todd, who had a pretty hand at cutting out paper trimmings for haunches of mutton, and could make flowers, ducks, &c., out of turnips and carrots in a very creditable manner, would go to "the
Square," as it was called, and assist in the preparations incident to a great dinner, without even so much as thinking of sitting down to the banquet. If any guest failed at the eleventh hour, Todd was asked to dine. Mrs. Todd and
Maria came across in the evening, slipped in with a muffled knock, and were in the drawing-room by the time Miss
Osborne and the ladies under her convoy reached that apartment-and ready to fire off duets and sing until the gentlemen came up. Poor Maria Todd; poor young lady! How she had to work and thrum at these duets and sonatas in the Street, before they appeared in public in the Square!
Thus it seemed to be decreed by fate that Georgy was to domineer over everybody with whom he came in contact, and that friends, relatives, and domestics were all to bow the knee before the little fellow. It must be owned that he accommodated himself very willingly to this arrangement. Most people do so. And Georgy liked to play the part of master and perhaps had a natural aptitude for it.
In Russell Square everybody was afraid of Mr. Osborne, and Mr. Osborne was afraid of Georgy. The boy's dashing manners, and offhand rattle about books and learning, his likeness to his father (dead unreconciled in
Brussels yonder) awed the old gentleman and gave the young boy the mastery. The old man would start at some hereditary feature or tone unconsciously used by the little lad, and fancy that George's father was again before him. He tried by indulgence to the grandson to make up for harshness to the elder George. People were surprised at his gentleness to the boy. He growled and swore at Miss Osborne as usual, and would smile when
George came down late for breakfast.
Miss Osborne, George's aunt, was a faded old spinster, broken down by more than forty years of dulness and coarse usage. It was easy for a lad of spirit to master her.
And whenever George wanted anything from her, from the jam-pots in her cupboards to the cracked and dry old colours in her paint-box (the old paint-box which she had had when she was a pupil of Mr. Smee and was still almost young and blooming), Georgy took possession of the object of his desire, which obtained, he took no further notice of his aunt.
For his friends and cronies, he had a pompous old schoolmaster, who flattered him, and a toady, his senior, whom he could thrash. It was dear Mrs. Todd's delight to leave him with her youngest daughter, Rosa Jemima, a darling child of eight years old. The little pair looked so well together, she would say (but not to the folks in "the
Square," we may be sure) "who knows what might happen? Don't they make a pretty little couple?" the fond mother thought.
The broken-spirited, old, maternal grandfather was likewise subject to the little tyrant. He could not help respecting a lad who had such fine clothes and rode with a groom behind him. Georgy, on his side, was in the constant habit of hearing coarse abuse and vulgar satire levelled at John Sedley by his pitiless old enemy, Mr.
Osborne. Osborne used to call the other the old pauper, the old coal-man, the old bankrupt, and by many other such names of brutal contumely. How was little George to respect a man so prostrate? A few months after he was with his paternal grandfather, Mrs. Sedley died.
There had been little love between her and the child.
He did not care to show much grief. He came down to visit his mother in a fine new suit of mourning, and was very angry that he could not go to a play upon which he had set his heart.
The illness of that old lady had been the occupation and perhaps the safeguard of Amelia. What do men know about women's martyrdoms? We should go mad had we to endure the hundredth part of those daily pains which are meekly borne by many women. Ceaseless slavery meeting with no reward; constant gentleness and kindness met by cruelty as constant; love, labour, patience, watchfulness, without even so much as the acknowledgement of a good word; all this, how many of them have to bear in quiet, and appear abroad with cheerful faces as if they felt nothing. Tender slaves that they are, they must needs be hypocrites and weak.
From her chair Amelia's mother had taken to her bed, which she had never left, and from which Mrs. Osborne herself was never absent except when she ran to see
George. The old lady grudged her even those rare visits;
she, who had been a kind, smiling, good-natured mother once, in the days of her prosperity, but whom poverty and infirmities had broken down. Her illness or estrangement did not affect Amelia. They rather enabled her to support the other calamity under which she was suffering, and from the thoughts of which she was kept by the ceaseless calls of the invalid. Amelia bore her harshness quite gently; smoothed the uneasy pillow; was always ready with a soft answer to the watchful, querulous voice; soothed the sufferer with words of hope, such as her pious simple heart could best feel and utter, and closed the eyes that had once looked so tenderly upon her.
Then all her time and tenderness were devoted to the consolation and comfort of the bereaved old father, who was stunned by the blow which had befallen him, and stood utterly alone in the world. His wife, his honour, his fortune, everything he loved best had fallen away from him. There was only Amelia to stand by and support with her gentle arms the tottering, heart-broken old man.
We are not going to write the history: it would be too dreary and stupid. I can see Vanity Fair yawning over it d'avance.
One day as the young gentlemen were assembled in the study at the Rev. Mr. Veal's, and the domestic chaplain to the Right Honourable the Earl of Bareacres was spouting away as usual, a smart carriage drove up to the door decorated with the statue of Athene, and two gentlemen stepped out. The young Masters Bangles rushed to the window with a vague notion that their father might have arrived from Bombay. The great hulking scholar of three-and-twenty, who was crying secretly over a passage of Eutropius, flattened his neglected nose against the panes and looked at the drag, as the laquais de place sprang from the box and let out the persons in the carriage.
"It's a fat one and a thin one," Mr. Bluck said as a thundering knock came to the door.
Everybody was interested, from the domestic chaplain himself, who hoped he saw the fathers of some future pupils, down to Master Georgy, glad of any pretext for laying his book down.
The boy in the shabby livery with the faded copper buttons, who always thrust himself into the tight coat to open the door, came into the study and said, "Two gentlemen want to see Master Osborne." The professor had had a trifling altercation in the morning with that young gentleman, owing to a difference about the introduction of crackers in school-time; but his face resumed its habitual expression of bland courtesy as he said, "Master Osborne, I give you full permission to go and see your carriage friends-to whom I beg you to convey the respectful compliments of myself and Mrs.
Georgy went into the reception-room and saw two strangers, whom he looked at with his head up, in his usual haughty manner. One was fat, with mustachios, and the other was lean and long, in a blue frock-coat, with a brown face and a grizzled head.
"My God, how like he is!" said the long gentleman with a start. "Can you guess who we are, George?"
The boy's face flushed up, as it did usually when he was moved, and his eyes brightened. "I don't know the other," he said, "but I should think you must be Major
Indeed it was our old friend. His voice trembled with pleasure as he greeted the boy, and taking both the other's hands in his own, drew the lad to him.
"Your mother has talked to you about me-has she?" he said.
"That she has," Georgy answered, "hundreds and hundreds of times."
It was one of the many causes for personal pride with which old Osborne chose to recreate himself that Sedley, his ancient rival, enemy, and benefactor, was in his last days so utterly defeated and humiliated as to be forced to accept pecuniary obligations at the hands of the man who had most injured and insulted him. The successful man of the world cursed the old pauper and relieved him from time to time. As he furnished George with money for his mother, he gave the boy to understand by hints, delivered in his brutal, coarse way, that George's maternal grandfather was but a wretched old bankrupt and dependant, and that
John Sedley might thank the man to whom he already owed ever so much money for the aid which his generosity now chose to administer. George carried the pompous supplies to his mother and the shattered old widower whom it was now the main business of her life to tend and comfort. The little fellow patronized the feeble and disappointed old man.
It may have shown a want of "proper pride" in
Amelia that she chose to accept these money benefits at the hands of her father's enemy. But proper pride and this poor lady had never had much acquaintance together.
A disposition naturally simple and demanding protection;
a long course of poverty and humility, of daily privations, and hard words, of kind offices and no returns, had been her lot ever since womanhood almost, or since her luckless marriage with George Osborne. You who see your betters bearing up under this shame every day, meekly suffering under the slights of fortune, gentle and unpitied, poor, and rather despised for their poverty, do you ever step down from your prosperity and wash the feet of these poor wearied beggars? The very thought of them is odious and low. "There must be classes-there must be rich and poor," Dives says, smacking his claret (it is well if he even sends the broken meat out to Lazarus sitting under the window). Very true; but think how mysterious and often unaccountable it is-that lottery of life which gives to this man the purple and fine linen and sends to the other rags for garments and dogs for comforters.
So I must own that, without much repining, on the contrary with something akin to gratitude, Amelia took the crumbs that her father-in-law let drop now and then, and with them fed her own parent. Directly she understood it to be her duty, it was this young woman's nature
(ladies, she is but thirty still, and we choose to call her a young woman even at that age) it was, I say, her nature to sacrifice herself and to fling all that she had at the feet of the beloved object. During what long thankless nights had she worked out her fingers for little Georgy whilst at home with her; what buffets, scorns, privations, poverties had she endured for father and mother! And in the midst of all these solitary resignations and unseen sacrifices, she did not respect herself any more than the world respected her, but I believe thought in her heart that she was a poor-spirited, despicable little creature, whose luck in life was only too good for her merits. O
you poor women! O you poor secret martyrs and victims, whose life is a torture, who are stretched on racks in your bedrooms, and who lay your heads down on the block daily at the drawing-room table; every man who watches your pains, or peers into those dark places where the torture is administered to you, must pity you-and
-and thank God that he has a beard. I recollect seeing, years ago, at the prisons for idiots and madmen at
Bicetre, near Paris, a poor wretch bent down under the bondage of his imprisonment and his personal infirmity, to whom one of our party gave a halfpenny worth of snuff in a cornet or "screw" of paper. The kindness was too much for the poor epileptic creature. He cried in an anguish of delight and gratitude: if anybody gave you and me a thousand a year, or saved our lives, we could not be so affected. And so, if you properly tyrannize over a woman, you will find a h'p'orth of kindness act upon her and bring tears into her eyes, as though you were an angel benefiting her.
Some such boons as these were the best which Fortune allotted to poor little Amelia. Her life, begun not unprosperously, had come down to this-to a mean prison and a long, ignoble bondage. Little George visited her captivity sometimes and consoled it with feeble gleams of encouragement. Russell Square was the boundary of her prison: she might walk thither occasionally, but was always back to sleep in her cell at night; to perform cheerless duties; to watch by thankless sick-beds; to suffer the harassment and tyranny of querulous disappointed old age. How many thousands of people are there, women for the most part, who are doomed to endure this long slavery?-who are hospital nurses without wages-sisters of Charity, if you like, without the romance and the sentiment of sacrifice-who strive, fast, watch, and suffer, unpitied, and fade away ignobly and unknown.
The hidden and awful Wisdom which apportions the destinies of mankind is pleased so to humiliate and cast down the tender, good, and wise, and to set up the selfish, the foolish, or the wicked. Oh, be humble, my brother, in your prosperity! Be gentle with those who are less lucky, if not more deserving. Think, what right have you to be scornful, whose virtue is a deficiency of temptation, whose success may be a chance, whose rank may be an ancestor's accident, whose prosperity is very likely a satire.
They buried Amelia's mother in the churchyard at
Brompton, upon just such a rainy, dark day as Amelia recollected when first she had been there to marry George.
Her little boy sat by her side in pompous new sables.
She remembered the old pew-woman and clerk. Her thoughts were away in other times as the parson read.
But that she held George's hand in her own, perhaps she would have liked to change places with.... Then, as usual, she felt ashamed of her selfish thoughts and prayed inwardly to be strengthened to do her duty.
So she determined with all her might and strength to try and make her old father happy. She slaved, toiled, patched, and mended, sang and played backgammon, read out the newspaper, cooked dishes, for old Sedley, walked him out sedulously into Kensington Gardens or the Brompton
Lanes, listened to his stories with untiring smiles and affectionate hypocrisy, or sat musing by his side and communing with her own thoughts and reminiscences, as the old man, feeble and querulous, sunned himself on the garden benches and prattled about his wrongs or his sorrows. What sad, unsatisfactory thoughts those of the widow were! The children running up and down the slopes and broad paths in the gardens reminded her of
George, who was taken from her; the first George was taken from her; her selfish, guilty love, in both instances, had been rebuked and bitterly chastised. She strove to think it was right that she should be so punished. She was such a miserable wicked sinner. She was quite alone in the world.
I know that the account of this kind of solitary imprisonment is insufferably tedious, unless there is some cheerful or humorous incident to enliven it-a tender gaoler, for instance, or a waggish commandant of the fortress, or a mouse to come out and play about Latude's beard and whiskers, or a subterranean passage under the castle, dug by Trenck with his nails and a toothpick: the historian has no such enlivening incident to relate in the narrative of Amelia's captivity. Fancy her, if you please, during this period, very sad, but always ready to smile when spoken to; in a very mean, poor, not to say vulgar position of life; singing songs, making puddings, playing cards, mending stockings, for her old father's benefit. So, never mind, whether she be a heroine or no; or you and I, however old, scolding, and bankrupt-may we have in our last days a kind soft shoulder on which to lean and a gentle hand to soothe our gouty old pillows.
Old Sedley grew very fond of his daughter after his wife's death, and Amelia had her consolation in doing her duty by the old man.
But we are not going to leave these two people long in such a low and ungenteel station of life. Better days, as far as worldly prosperity went, were in store for both.
Perhaps the ingenious reader has guessed who was the stout gentleman who called upon Georgy at his school in company with our old friend Major Dobbin. It was another old acquaintance returned to England, and at a time when his presence was likely to be of great comfort to his relatives there.
Major Dobbin having easily succeeded in getting leave from his good-natured commandant to proceed to
Madras, and thence probably to Europe, on urgent private affairs, never ceased travelling night and day until he reached his journey's end, and had directed his march with such celerity that he arrived at Madras in a high fever. His servants who accompanied him brought him to the house of the friend with whom he had resolved to stay until his departure for Europe in a state of delirium;
and it was thought for many, many days that he would never travel farther than the burying-ground of the church of St. George's, where the troops should fire a salvo over his grave, and where many a gallant officer lies far away from his home.
Here, as the poor fellow lay tossing in his fever, the people who watched him might have heard him raving about Amelia. The idea that he should never see her again depressed him in his lucid hours. He thought his last day was come, and he made his solemn preparations for departure, setting his affairs in this world in order and leaving the little property of which he was possessed to those whom he most desired to benefit. The friend in whose house he was located witnessed his testament. He desired to be buried with a little brown hair-chain which he wore round his neck and which, if the truth must be known, he had got from Amelia's maid at Brussels, when the young widow's hair was cut off, during the fever which prostrated her after the death of George Osborne on the plateau at Mount St. John.
He recovered, rallied, relapsed again, having undergone such a process of blood-letting and calomel as showed the strength of his original constitution. He was almost a skeleton when they put him on board the
Ramchunder East Indiaman, Captain Bragg, from Calcutta, touching at Madras, and so weak and prostrate that his friend who had tended him through his illness prophesied that the honest Major would never survive the voyage, and that he would pass some morning, shrouded in flag and hammock, over the ship's side, and carrying down to the sea with him the relic that he wore at his heart. But whether it was the sea air, or the hope which sprung up in him afresh, from the day that the ship spread her canvas and stood out of the roads towards home, our friend began to amend, and he was quite well (though as gaunt as a greyhound) before they reached the Cape. "Kirk will be disappointed of his majority this time," he said with a smile; "he will expect to find himself gazetted by the time the regiment reaches home." For it must be premised that while the
Major was lying ill at Madras, having made such prodigious haste to go thither, the gallant -th, which had passed many years abroad, which after its return from the West Indies had been baulked of its stay at home by the Waterloo campaign, and had been ordered from
Flanders to India, had received orders home; and the Major might have accompanied his comrades, had he chosen to wait for their arrival at Madras.
Perhaps he was not inclined to put himself in his exhausted state again under the guardianship of Glorvina.
"I think Miss O'Dowd would have done for me," he said laughingly to a fellow-passenger, "if we had had her on board, and when she had sunk me, she would have fallen upon you, depend upon it, and carried you in as a prize to Southampton, Jos, my boy."
For indeed it was no other than our stout friend who was also a passenger on board the Ramchunder. He had passed ten years in Bengal. Constant dinners, tiffins, pale ale and claret, the prodigious labour of cutcherry, and the refreshment of brandy-pawnee which he was forced to take there, had their effect upon Waterloo Sedley.
A voyage to Europe was pronounced necessary for him-
and having served his full time in India and had fine appointments which had enabled him to lay by a considerable sum of money, he was free to come home and stay with a good pension, or to return and resume that rank in the service to which his seniority and his vast talents entitled him.
He was rather thinner than when we last saw him, but had gained in majesty and solemnity of demeanour.
He had resumed the mustachios to which his services at
Waterloo entitled him, and swaggered about on deck in a magnificent velvet cap with a gold band and a profuse ornamentation of pins and jewellery about his person.
He took breakfast in his cabin and dressed as solemnly to appear on the quarter-deck as if he were going to turn out for Bond Street, or the Course at Calcutta. He brought a native servant with him, who was his valet and pipe-
bearer and who wore the Sedley crest in silver on his turban. That oriental menial had a wretched life under the tyranny of Jos Sedley. Jos was as vain of his person as a woman, and took as long a time at his toilette as any fading beauty. The youngsters among the passengers, Young Chaffers of the 150th, and poor little
Ricketts, coming home after his third fever, used to draw out Sedley at the cuddy-table and make him tell prodigious stories about himself and his exploits against tigers and Napoleon. He was great when he visited the
Emperor's tomb at Longwood, when to these gentlemen and the young officers of the ship, Major Dobbin not being by, he described the whole battle of Waterloo and all but announced that Napoleon never would have gone to Saint
Helena at all but for him, Jos Sedley.
After leaving St. Helena he became very generous, disposing of a great quantity of ship stores, claret, preserved meats, and great casks packed with soda-water, brought out for his private delectation. There were no ladies on board; the Major gave the pas of precedency to the civilian, so that he was the first dignitary at table, and treated by Captain Bragg and the officers of the Ramchunder with the respect which his rank warranted. He disappeared rather in a panic during a two-
days' gale, in which he had the portholes of his cabin battened down, and remained in his cot reading the
Washerwoman of Finchley Common, left on board the
Ramchunder by the Right Honourable the Lady Emily
Hornblower, wife of the Rev. Silas Hornblower, when on their passage out to the Cape, where the Reverend gentleman was a missionary; but, for common reading, he had brought a stock of novels and plays which he lent to the rest of the ship, and rendered himself agreeable to all by his kindness and condescension.
Many and many a night as the ship was cutting through the roaring dark sea, the moon and stars shining overhead and the bell singing out the watch, Mr. Sedley and the Major would sit on the quarter-deck of the vessel talking about home, as the Major smoked his cheroot and the civilian puffed at the hookah which his servant prepared for him.
In these conversations it was wonderful with what perseverance and ingenuity Major Dobbin would manage to bring the talk round to the subject of Amelia and her little boy. Jos, a little testy about his father's misfortunes and unceremonious applications to him, was soothed down by the Major, who pointed out the elder's ill fortunes and old age. He would not perhaps like to live with the old couple, whose ways and hours might not agree with those of a younger man, accustomed to different society (Jos bowed at this compliment); but, the Major pointed out, how advantageous it would be for Jos Sedley to have a house of his own in London, and not a mere bachelor's establishment as before; how his sister
Amelia would be the very person to preside over it; how elegant, how gentle she was, and of what refined good manners. He recounted stories of the success which Mrs.
George Osborne had had in former days at Brussels, and in London, where she was much admired by people of very great fashion; and he then hinted how becoming it would be for Jos to send Georgy to a good school and make a man of him, for his mother and her parents would be sure to spoil him. In a word, this artful Major made the civilian promise to take charge of Amelia and her unprotected child. He did not know as yet what events had happened in the little Sedley family, and how death had removed the mother, and riches had carried off George from Amelia. But the fact is that every day and always, this love-smitten and middle-aged gentleman was thinking about Mrs. Osborne, and his whole heart was bent upon doing her good. He coaxed, wheedled, cajoled, and complimented Jos Sedley with a perseverance and cordiality of which he was not aware himself, very likely; but some men who have unmarried sisters or daughters even, may remember how uncommonly agreeable gentlemen are to the male relations when they are courting the females; and perhaps this rogue of a
Dobbin was urged by a similar hypocrisy.
The truth is, when Major Dobbin came on board the
Ramchumder, very sick, and for the three days she lay in the Madras Roads, he did not begin to rally, nor did even the appearance and recognition of his old acquaintance,
Mr. Sedley, on board much cheer him, until after a conversation which they had one day, as the Major was laid languidly on the deck. He said then he thought he was doomed; he had left a little something to his godson in his will, and he trusted Mrs. Osborne would remember him kindly and be happy in the marriage she was about to make. "Married? not the least," Jos answered;
"he had heard from her: she made no mention of the marriage, and by the way, it was curious, she wrote to say that Major Dobbin was going to be married, and hoped that HE would be happy." What were the dates of
Sedley's letters from Europe? The civilian fetched them.
They were two months later than the Major's; and the ship's surgeon congratulated himself upon the treatment adopted by him towards his new patient, who had been consigned to shipboard by the Madras practitioner with very small hopes indeed; for, from that day, the very day that he changed the draught, Major Dobbin began to mend. And thus it was that deserving officer, Captain
Kirk, was disappointed of his majority.
After they passed St. Helena, Major Dobbin's gaiety and strength was such as to astonish all his fellow passengers. He larked with the midshipmen, played single-
stick with the mates, ran up the shrouds like a boy, sang a comic song one night to the amusement of the whole party assembled over their grog after supper, and rendered himself so gay, lively, and amiable that even
Captain Bragg, who thought there was nothing in his passenger, and considered he was a poor-spirited feller at first, was constrained to own that the Major was a reserved but well-informed and meritorious officer. "He ain't got distangy manners, dammy," Bragg observed to his first mate; "he wouldn't do at Government House,
Roper, where his Lordship and Lady William was as kind to me, and shook hands with me before the whole company, and asking me at dinner to take beer with him, before the Commander-in-Chief himself; he ain't got manners, but there's something about him-" And thus
Captain Bragg showed that he possessed discrimination as a man, as well as ability as a commander.
But a calm taking place when the Ramchunder was within ten days' sail of England, Dobbin became so impatient and ill-humoured as to surprise those comrades who had before admired his vivacity and good temper.
He did not recover until the breeze sprang up again, and was in a highly excited state when the pilot came on board. Good God, how his heart beat as the two friendly spires of Southampton came in sight.
Our Friend the Major
Our Major had rendered himself so popular on board the Ramchunder that when he and Mr. Sedley descended into the welcome shore-boat which was to take them from the ship, the whole crew, men and officers, the great Captain Bragg himself leading off, gave three cheers for Major Dobbin, who blushed very much and ducked his head in token of thanks. Jos, who very likely thought the cheers were for himself, took off his gold-laced cap and waved it majestically to his friends, and they were pulled to shore and landed with great dignity at the pier, whence they proceeded to the Royal George Hotel.
Although the sight of that magnificent round of beef, and the silver tankard suggestive of real British home-
brewed ale and porter, which perennially greet the eyes of the traveller returning from foreign parts who enters the coffee-room of the George, are so invigorating and delightful that a man entering such a comfortable snug homely English inn might well like to stop some days there, yet Dobbin began to talk about a post-chaise instantly, and was no sooner at Southampton than he wished to be on the road to London. Jos, however, would not hear of moving that evening. Why was he to pass a night in a post-chaise instead of a great large undulating downy feather-bed which was there ready to replace the horrid little narrow crib in which the portly Bengal gentleman had been confined during the voyage? He could not think of moving till his baggage was cleared, or of travelling until he could do so with his chillum. So the Major was forced to wait over that night, and dispatched a letter to his family announcing his arrival, entreating from Jos a promise to write to his own friends. Jos promised, but didn't keep his promise. The
Captain, the surgeon, and one or two passengers came and dined with our two gentlemen at the inn, Jos exerting himself in a sumptuous way in ordering the dinner and promising to go to town the next day with the Major.
The landlord said it did his eyes good to see Mr. Sedley take off his first pint of porter. If I had time and dared to enter into digressions, I would write a chapter about that first pint of porter drunk upon English ground. Ah, how good it is! It is worth-while to leave home for a year, just to enjoy that one draught.
Major Dobbin made his appearance the next morning very neatly shaved and dressed, according to his wont.
Indeed, it was so early in the morning that nobody was up in the house except that wonderful Boots of an inn who never seems to want sleep; and the Major could hear the snores of the various inmates of the house roaring through the corridors as he creaked about in those dim passages. Then the sleepless Boots went shirking round from door to door, gathering up at each the
Bluchers, Wellingtons, Oxonians, which stood outside. Then
Jos's native servant arose and began to get ready his master's ponderous dressing apparatus and prepare his hookah; then the maidservants got up, and meeting the dark man in the passages, shrieked, and mistook him for the devil. He and Dobbin stumbled over their pails in the passages as they were scouring the decks of the
Royal George. When the first unshorn waiter appeared and unbarred the door of the inn, the Major thought that the time for departure was arrived, and ordered a post-
chaise to be fetched instantly, that they might set off.
He then directed his steps to Mr. Sedley's room and opened the curtains of the great large family bed wherein
Mr. Jos was snoring. "Come, up! Sedley," the Major said, "it's time to be off; the chaise will be at the door in half an hour."
Jos growled from under the counterpane to know what the time was; but when he at last extorted from the blushing Major (who never told fibs, however they might be to his advantage) what was the real hour of the morning, he broke out into a volley of bad language, which we will not repeat here, but by which he gave Dobbin to understand that he would jeopardy his soul if he got up at that moment, that the Major might go and be hanged, that he would not travel with Dobbin, and that it was most unkind and ungentlemanlike to disturb a man out of his sleep in that way; on which the discomfited Major was obliged to retreat, leaving Jos to resume his interrupted slumbers.
The chaise came up presently, and the Major would wait no longer.
If he had been an English nobleman travelling on a pleasure tour, or a newspaper courier bearing dispatches
(government messages are generally carried much more quietly), he could not have travelled more quickly. The post-boys wondered at the fees he flung amongst them.
How happy and green the country looked as the chaise whirled rapidly from mile-stone to mile-stone, through neat country towns where landlords came out to welcome him with smiles and bows; by pretty roadside inns, where the signs hung on the elms, and horses and waggoners were drinking under the chequered shadow of the trees; by old halls and parks; rustic hamlets clustered round ancient grey churches-and through the charming friendly English landscape. Is there any in the world like it? To a traveller returning home it looks so kind-
it seems to shake hands with you as you pass through it.
Well, Major Dobbin passed through all this from
Southampton to London, and without noting much beyond the milestones along the road. You see he was so eager to see his parents at Camberwell.
He grudged the time lost between Piccadilly and his old haunt at the Slaughters', whither he drove faithfully.
Long years had passed since he saw it last, since he and
George, as young men, had enjoyed many a feast, and held many a revel there. He had now passed into the stage of old-fellow-hood. His hair was grizzled, and many a passion and feeling of his youth had grown grey in that interval. There, however, stood the old waiter at the door, in the same greasy black suit, with the same double chin and flaccid face, with the same huge bunch of seals at his fob, rattling his money in his pockets as before, and receiving the Major as if he had gone away only a week ago. "Put the Major's things in twenty-three, that's his room," John said, exhibiting not the least surprise. "Roast fowl for your dinner, I suppose. You ain't got married? They said you was married-the Scotch surgeon of yours was here. No, it was Captain Humby of the thirty-third, as was quartered with the -th in Injee.
Like any warm water? ~What do you come in a chay for-
ain't the coach good enough?" And with this, the faithful waiter, who knew and remembered every officer who used the house, and with whom ten years were but as yesterday, led the way up to Dobbin's old room, where stood the great moreen bed, and the shabby carpet, a thought more dingy, and all the old black furniture covered with faded chintz, just as the Major recollected them in his youth.
He remembered George pacing up and down the room, and biting his nails, and swearing that the Governor must come round, and that if he didn't, he didn't care a straw, on the day before he was married. He could fancy him walking in, banging the door of Dobbin's room, and his own hard by-
"You ain't got young," John said, calmly surveying his friend of former days.
Dobbin laughed. "Ten years and a fever don't make a man young, John," he said. "It is you that are always young-no, you are always old."
"What became of Captain Osborne's widow?" John said. "Fine young fellow that. Lord, how he used to spend his money. He never came back after that day he was marched from here. He owes me three pound at this minute. Look here, I have it in my book. 'April 10,
1815, Captain Osborne: '3pounds.' I wonder whether his father would pay me," and so saying, John of the Slaughters'
pulled out the very morocco pocket-book in which he had noted his loan to the Captain, upon a greasy faded page still extant, with many other scrawled memoranda regarding the bygone frequenters of the house.
Having inducted his customer into the room, John retired with perfect calmness; and Major Dobbin, not without a blush and a grin at his own absurdity, chose out of his kit the very smartest and most becoming civil costume he possessed, and laughed at his own tanned face and grey hair, as he surveyed them in the dreary little toilet-glass on the dressing-table.
"I'm glad old John didn't forget me," he thought.
"She'll know me, too, I hope." And he sallied out of the inn, bending his steps once more in the direction of
Every minute incident of his last meeting with Amelia was present to the constant man's mind as he walked towards her house. The arch and the Achilles statue were up since he had last been in Piccadilly; a hundred changes had occurred which his eye and mind vaguely noted. He began to tremble as he walked up the lane from Brompton, that well-remembered lane leading to the street where she lived. Was she going to be married or not? If he were to meet her with the little boy-Good
God, what should he do? He saw a woman coming to him with a child of five years old-was that she? He began to shake at the mere possibility. When he came up to the row of houses, at last, where she lived, and to the gate, he caught hold of it and paused. He might have heard the thumping of his own heart. "May God Almighty bless her, whatever has happened," he thought to himself. "Psha! she may be gone from here," he said and went in through the gate.
The window of the parlour which she used to occupy was open, and there were no inmates in the room. The
Major thought he recognized the piano, though, with the picture over it, as it used to be in former days, and his perturbations were renewed. Mr. Clapp's brass plate was still on the door, at the knocker of which Dobbin performed a summons.
A buxom-looking lass of sixteen, with bright eyes and purple cheeks, came to answer the knock and looked hard at the Major as he leant back against the little porch.
He was as pale as a ghost and could hardly falter out the words-"Does Mrs. Osborne live here?"
She looked him hard in the face for a moment-and then turning white too-said, "Lord bless me-it's
Major Dobbin." She held out both her hands shaking-
"Don't you remember me?" she said. "I used to call you
Major Sugarplums." On which, and I believe it was for the first time that he ever so conducted himself in his life, the Major took the girl in his arms and kissed her.
She began to laugh and cry hysterically, and calling out
"Ma, Pa!" with all her voice, brought up those worthy people, who had already been surveying the Major from the casement of the ornamental kitchen, and were astonished to find their daughter in the little passage in the embrace of a great tall man in a blue frock-coat and white duck trousers.
"I'm an old friend," he said-not without blushing though. "Don't you remember me, Mrs. Clapp, and those good cakes you used to make for tea? Don't you recollect me, Clapp? I'm George's godfather, and just come back from India." A great shaking of hands ensued-
Mrs. Clapp was greatly affected and delighted; she called upon heaven to interpose a vast many times in that passage.
The landlord and landlady of the house led the worthy
Major into the Sedleys' room (whereof he remembered every single article of furniture, from the old brass ornamented piano, once a natty little instrument, Stothard maker, to the screens and the alabaster miniature tombstone, in the midst of which ticked Mr. Sedley's gold watch), and there, as he sat down in the lodger's vacant arm-chair, the father, the mother, and the daughter, with a thousand ejaculatory breaks in the narrative, informed Major Dobbin of what we know already, but of particulars in Amelia's history of which he was not aware
-namely of Mrs. Sedley's death, of George's reconcilement with his grandfather Osborne, of the way in which the widow took on at leaving him, and of other particulars of her life. Twice or thrice he was going to ask about the marriage question, but his heart failed him.
He did not care to lay it bare to these people. Finally, he was informed that Mrs. O. was gone to walk with her pa in Kensington Gardens, whither she always went with the old gentleman (who was very weak and peevish now, and led her a sad life, though she behaved to him like an angel, to be sure), of a fine afternoon, after dinner.
"I'm very much pressed for time," the Major said,
"and have business to-night of importance. I should like to see Mrs. Osborne tho'. Suppose Miss Polly would come with me and show me the way?"
Miss Polly was charmed and astonished at this proposal. She knew the way. She would show Major
Dobbin. She had often been with Mr. Sedley when Mrs. O.
was gone-was gone Russell Square way-and knew the bench where he liked to sit. She bounced away to her apartment and appeared presently in her best bonnet and her mamma's yellow shawl and large pebble brooch, of which she assumed the loan in order to make herself a worthy companion for the Major.
That officer, then, in his blue frock-coat and buckskin gloves, gave the young lady his arm, and they walked away very gaily. He was glad to have a friend at hand for the scene which he dreaded somehow. He asked a thousand more questions from his companion about
Amelia: his kind heart grieved to think that she should have had to part with her son. How did she bear it? Did she see him often? Was Mr. Sedley pretty comfortable now in a worldly point of view? Polly answered all these questions of Major Sugarplums to the very best of her power.
And in the midst of their walk an incident occurred which, though very simple in its nature, was productive of the greatest delight to Major Dobbin. A pale young man with feeble whiskers and a stiff white neckcloth came walking down the lane, en sandwich-having a lady, that is, on each arm. One was a tall and commanding middle-
aged female, with features and a complexion similar to those of the clergyman of the Church of England by whose side she marched, and the other a stunted little woman with a dark face, ornamented by a fine new bonnet and white ribbons, and in a smart pelisse, with a rich gold watch in the midst of her person. The gentleman, pinioned as he was by these two ladies, carried further a parasol, shawl, and basket, so that his arms were entirely engaged, and of course he was unable to touch his hat in acknowledgement of the curtsey with which Miss Mary
Clapp greeted him.
He merely bowed his head in reply to her salutation, which the two ladies returned with a patronizing air, and at the same time looking severely at the individual in the blue coat and bamboo cane who accompanied Miss Polly.
"Who's that?" asked the Major, amused by the group, and after he had made way for the three to pass up the lane. Mary looked at him rather roguishly.
"That is our curate, the Reverend Mr. Binny (a twitch from Major Dobbin), and his sister Miss B. Lord bless us, how she did use to worret us at Sunday-school; and the other lady, the little one with a cast in her eye and the handsome watch, is Mrs. Binny-Miss Grits that was;
her pa was a grocer, and kept the Little Original Gold
Tea Pot in Kensington Gravel Pits. They were married last month, and are just come back from Margate. She's five thousand pound to her fortune; but her and Miss B., who made the match, have quarrelled already."
If the Major had twitched before, he started now, and slapped the bamboo on the ground with an emphasis which made Miss Clapp cry, "Law," and laugh too. He stood for a moment, silent, with open mouth, looking after the retreating young couple, while Miss Mary told their history; but he did not hear beyond the announcement of the reverend gentleman's marriage; his head was swimming with felicity. After this rencontre he began to walk double quick towards the place of his destination
-and yet they were too soon (for he was in a great tremor at the idea of a meeting for which he had been longing any time these ten years)-through the Brompton lanes, and entering at the little old portal in Kensington
"There they are," said Miss Polly, and she felt him again start back on her arm. She was a confidante at once of the whole business. She knew the story as well as if she had read it in one of her favourite novel-books-
Fatherless Fanny, or the Scottish Chiefs.
"Suppose you were to run on and tell her," the Major said. Polly ran forward, her yellow shawl streaming in the breeze.
Old Sedley was seated on a bench, his handkerchief placed over his knees, prattling away, according to his wont, with some old story about old times to which
Amelia had listened and awarded a patient smile many a time before. She could of late think of her own affairs, and smile or make other marks of recognition of her father's stories, scarcely hearing a word of the old man's tales. As Mary came bouncing along, and Amelia caught sight of her, she started up from her bench. Her first thought was that something had happened to Georgy, but the sight of the messenger's eager and happy face dissipated that fear in the timorous mother's bosom.
"News! News!" cried the emissary of Major Dobbin.
"He's come! He's come!"
"Who is come?" said Emmy, still thinking of her son.
"Look there," answered Miss Clapp, turning round and pointing; in which direction Amelia looking, saw
Dobbin's lean figure and long shadow stalking across the grass. Amelia started in her turn, blushed up, and, of course, began to cry. At all this simple little creature's fetes, the grandes eaux were accustomed to play.
He looked at her-oh, how fondly-as she came running towards him, her hands before her, ready to give them to him. She wasn't changed. She was a little pale, a little stouter in figure. Her eyes were the same, the kind trustful eyes. There were scarce three lines of silver in her soft brown hair. She gave him both her hands as she looked up flushing and smiling through her tears into his honest homely face. He took the two little hands between his two and held them there. He was speechless for a moment. Why did he not take her in his arms and swear that he would never leave her? She must have yielded: she could not but have obeyed him.
"I-I've another arrival to announce," he said after a pause.
"Mrs. Dobbin?" Amelia said, making a movement back-why didn't he speak?
"No," he said, letting her hands go: "Who has told you those lies? I mean, your brother Jos came in the same ship with me, and is come home to make you all happy."
"Papa, Papa!" Emmy cried out, "here are news! My brother is in England. He is come to take care of you.
Here is Major Dobbin."
Mr. Sedley started up, shaking a great deal and gathering up his thoughts. Then he stepped forward and made an old-fashioned bow to the Major, whom he called Mr.
Dobbin, and hoped his worthy father, Sir William, was quite well. He proposed to call upon Sir William, who had done him the honour of a visit a short time ago. Sir
William had not called upon the old gentleman for eight years-it was that visit he was thinking of returning.
"He is very much shaken," Emmy whispered as Dobbin went up and cordially shook hands with the old man.
Although he had such particular business in London that evening, the Major consented to forego it upon Mr.
Sedley's invitation to him to come home and partake of tea. Amelia put her arm under that of her young friend with the yellow shawl and headed the party on their return homewards, so that Mr. Sedley fell to Dobbin's share.
The old man walked very slowly and told a number of ancient histories about himself and his poor Bessy, his former prosperity, and his bankruptcy. His thoughts, as is usual with failing old men, were quite in former times.
The present, with the exception of the one catastrophe which he felt, he knew little about. The Major was glad to let him talk on. His eyes were fixed upon the figure in front of him-the dear little figure always present to his imagination and in his prayers, and visiting his dreams wakeful or slumbering.
Amelia was very happy, smiling, and active all that evening, performing her duties as hostess of the little entertainment with the utmost grace and propriety, as
Dobbin thought. His eyes followed her about as they sat in the twilight. How many a time had he longed for that moment and thought of her far away under hot winds and in weary marches, gentle and happy, kindly ministering to the wants of old age, and decorating poverty with sweet submission-as he saw her now. I do not say that his taste was the highest, or that it is the duty of great intellects to be content with a bread-and-butter paradise, such as sufficed our simple old friend; but his desires were of this sort, whether for good or bad, and, with
Amelia to help him, he was as ready to drink as many cups of tea as Doctor Johnson.
Amelia seeing this propensity, laughingly encouraged it and looked exceedingly roguish as she administered to him cup after cup. It is true she did not know that the
Major had had no dinner and that the cloth was laid for him at the Slaughters', and a plate laid thereon to mark that the table was retained, in that very box in which the Major and George had sat many a time carousing, when she was a child just come home from Miss
The first thing Mrs. Osborne showed the Major was
Georgy's miniature, for which she ran upstairs on her arrival at home. It was not half handsome enough of course for the boy, but wasn't it noble of him to think of bringing it to his mother? Whilst her papa was awake she did not talk much about Georgy. To hear about Mr.
Osborne and Russell Square was not agreeable to the old man, who very likely was unconscious that he had been living for some months past mainly on the bounty of his richer rival, and lost his temper if allusion was made to the other.
Dobbin told him all, and a little more perhaps than all, that had happened on board the Ramchunder, and exaggerated Jos's benevolent dispositions towards his father and resolution to make him comfortable in his old days. The truth is that during the voyage the Major had impressed this duty most strongly upon his fellow-
passenger and extorted promises from him that he would take charge of his sister and her child. He soothed Jos's irritation with regard to the bills which the old gentleman had drawn upon him, gave a laughing account of his own sufferings on the same score and of the famous consignment of wine with which the old man had favoured him, and brought Mr. Jos, who was by no means an ill-
natured person when well-pleased and moderately flattered, to a very good state of feeling regarding his relatives in Europe.
And in fine I am ashamed to say that the Major stretched the truth so far as to tell old Mr. Sedley that it was mainly a desire to see his parent which brought Jos once more to Europe.
At his accustomed hour Mr. Sedley began to doze in his chair, and then it was Amelia's opportunity to commence her conversation, which she did with great eagerness-it related exclusively to Georgy. She did not talk at all about her own sufferings at breaking from him, for indeed, this worthy woman, though she was half-killed by the separation from the child, yet thought it was very wicked in her to repine at losing him; but everything concerning him, his virtues, talents, and prospects, she poured out. She described his angelic beauty; narrated a hundred instances of his generosity and greatness of mind whilst living with her; how a Royal Duchess had stopped and admired him in Kensington Gardens; how splendidly he was cared for now, and how he had a groom and a pony; what quickness and cleverness he had, and what a prodigiously well-read and delightful person the Reverend Lawrence Veal was, George's master. "He knows EVERYTHING," Amelia said. "He has the most delightful parties. You who are so learned yourself, and have read so much, and are so clever and accomplished-don't shake your head and say no-HE
always used to say you were-you will be charmed with
Mr. Veal's parties. The last Tuesday in every month. He says there is no place in the bar or the senate that
Georgy may not aspire to. Look here," and she went to the piano-drawer and drew out a theme of Georgy's composition. This great effort of genius, which is still in the possession of George's mother, is as follows:
On Selfishness-Of all the vices which degrade the human character, Selfishness is the most odious and contemptible. An undue love of Self leads to the most monstrous crimes and occasions the greatest misfortunes both in States and Families. As a selfish man will impoverish his family and often bring them to ruin, so a selfish king brings ruin on his people and often plunges them into war.
Example: The selfishness of Achilles, as remarked by the poet Homer, occasioned a thousand woes to the
Greeks-muri Achaiois alge etheke-(Hom. Il. A. 2).
The selfishness of the late Napoleon Bonaparte occasioned innumerable wars in Europe and caused him to perish, himself, in a miserable island-that of Saint Helena in the Atlantic Ocean.
We see by these examples that we are not to consult our own interest and ambition, but that we are to consider the interests of others as well as our own.
George S. Osborne
Athene House, 24 April, 1827
"Think of him writing such a hand, and quoting Greek too, at his age," the delighted mother said. "Oh, William,"
she added, holding out her hand to the Major, "what a treasure Heaven has given me in that boy! He is the comfort of my life-and he is the image of-of him that's gone!"
"Ought I to be angry with her for being faithful to him?" William thought. "Ought I to be jealous of my friend in the grave, or hurt that such a heart as Amelia's can love only once and for ever? Oh, George, George, how little you knew the prize you had, though." This sentiment passed rapidly through William's mind as he was holding Amelia's hand, whilst the handkerchief was veiling her eyes.
"Dear friend," she said, pressing the hand which held hers, "how good, how kind you always have been to me!
See! Papa is stirring. You will go and see Georgy tomorrow, won't you?"
"Not to-morrow," said poor old Dobbin. "I have business." He did not like to own that he had not as yet been to his parents' and his dear sister Anne-a remissness for which I am sure every well-regulated person will blame the Major. And presently he took his leave, leaving his address behind him for Jos, against the latter's arrival. And so the first day was over, and he had seen her.
When he got back to the Slaughters', the roast fowl was of course cold, in which condition he ate it for supper. And knowing what early hours his family kept, and that it would be needless to disturb their slumbers at so late an hour, it is on record, that Major Dobbin treated himself to half-price at the Haymarket Theatre that evening, where let us hope he enjoyed himself.
The Old Piano
The Major's visit left old John Sedley in a great state of agitation and excitement. His daughter could not induce him to settle down to his customary occupations or amusements that night. He passed the evening fumbling amongst his boxes and desks, untying his papers with trembling hands, and sorting and arranging them against
Jos's arrival. He had them in the greatest order-his tapes and his files, his receipts, and his letters with lawyers and correspondents; the documents relative to the wine project (which failed from a most unaccountable accident, after commencing with the most splendid prospects), the coal project (which only a want of capital prevented from becoming the most successful scheme ever put before the public), the patent saw-mills and sawdust consolidation project, &c., &c. All night, until a very late hour, he passed in the preparation of these documents, trembling about from one room to another, with a quivering candle and shaky hands. Here's the wine papers, here's the sawdust, here's the coals; here's my letters to Calcutta and Madras, and replies from Major
Dobbin, C.B., and Mr. Joseph Sedley to the same. "He shall find no irregularity about ME, Emmy," the old gentleman said.
Emmy smiled. "I don't think Jos will care about seeing those papers, Papa," she said.
"You don't know anything about business, my dear,"
answered the sire, shaking his head with an important air. And it must be confessed that on this point Emmy was very ignorant, and that is a pity some people are so knowing. All these twopenny documents arranged on a side table, old Sedley covered them carefully over with a clean bandanna handkerchief (one out of Major
Dobbin's lot) and enjoined the maid and landlady of the house, in the most solemn way, not to disturb those papers, which were arranged for the arrival of Mr. Joseph
Sedley the next morning, "Mr. Joseph Sedley of the
Honourable East India Company's Bengal Civil Service."
Amelia found him up very early the next morning, more eager, more hectic, and more shaky than ever. "I
didn't sleep much, Emmy, my dear," he said. "I was thinking of my poor Bessy. I wish she was alive, to ride in Jos's carriage once again. She kept her own and became it very well." And his eyes filled with tears, which trickled down his furrowed old face. Amelia wiped them away, and smilingly kissed him, and tied the old man's neckcloth in a smart bow, and put his brooch into his best shirt frill, in which, in his Sunday suit of mourning, he sat from six o'clock in the morning awaiting the arrival of his son.
However, when the postman made his appearance, the little party were put out of suspense by the receipt of a letter from Jos to his sister, who announced that he felt a little fatigued after his voyage, and should not be able to move on that day, but that he would leave Southampton early the next morning and be with his father and mother at evening. Amelia, as she read out the letter to her father, paused over the latter word; her brother, it was clear, did not know what had happened in the family.
Nor could he, for the fact is that, though the Major rightly suspected that his travelling companion never would be got into motion in so short a space as twenty-
four hours, and would find some excuse for delaying, yet
Dobbin had not written to Jos to inform him of the calamity which had befallen the Sedley family, being occupied in talking with Amelia until long after post-hour.
There are some splendid tailors' shops in the High
Street of Southampton, in the fine plate-glass windows of which hang gorgeous waistcoats of all sorts, of silk and velvet, and gold and crimson, and pictures of the last new fashions, in which those wonderful gentlemen with quizzing glasses, and holding on to little boys with the exceeding large eyes and curly hair, ogle ladies in riding habits prancing by the Statue of Achilles at Apsley
House. Jos, although provided with some of the most splendid vests that Calcutta could furnish, thought he could not go to town until he was supplied with one or two of these garments, and selected a crimson satin, embroidered with gold butterflies, and a black and red velvet tartan with white stripes and a rolling collar, with which, and a rich blue satin stock and a gold pin, consisting of a five-barred gate with a horseman in pink enamel jumping over it, he thought he might make his entry into London with some dignity. For Jos's former shyness and blundering blushing timidity had given way to a more candid and courageous self-assertion of his worth. "I don't care about owning it," Waterloo Sedley would say to his friends, "I am a dressy man"; and though rather uneasy if the ladies looked at him at the
Government House balls, and though he blushed and turned away alarmed under their glances, it was chiefly from a dread lest they should make love to him that he avoided them, being averse to marriage altogether. But there was no such swell in Calcutta as Waterloo Sedley,
I have heard say, and he had the handsomest turn-out, gave the best bachelor dinners, and had the finest plate in the whole place.
To make these waistcoats for a man of his size and dignity took at least a day, part of which he employed in hiring a servant to wait upon him and his native and in instructing the agent who cleared his baggage, his boxes, his books, which he never read, his chests of mangoes, chutney, and curry-powders, his shawls for presents to people whom he didn't know as yet, and the rest of his
At length, he drove leisurely to London on the third day and in the new waistcoat, the native, with chattering teeth, shuddering in a shawl on the box by the side of the new European servant; Jos puffing his pipe at intervals within and looking so majestic that the little boys cried
Hooray, and many people thought he must be a
Governor-General. HE, I promise, did not decline the obsequious invitation of the landlords to alight and refresh himself in the neat country towns. Having partaken of a copious breakfast, with fish, and rice, and hard eggs, at
Southampton, he had so far rallied at Winchester as to think a glass of sherry necessary. At Alton he stepped out of the carriage at his servant's request and imbibed some of the ale for which the place is famous. At Farnham he stopped to view the Bishop's Castle and to partake of a light dinner of stewed eels, veal cutlets, and
French beans, with a bottle of claret. He was cold over
Bagshot Heath, where the native chattered more and more, and Jos Sahib took some brandy-and-water; in fact, when he drove into town he was as full of wine, beer, meat, pickles, cherry-brandy, and tobacco as the steward's cabin of a steam-packet. It was evening when his carriage thundered up to the little door in Brompton, whither the affectionate fellow drove first, and before hieing to the apartments secured for him by Mr. Dobbin at the Slaughters'.
All the faces in the street were in the windows; the little maidservant flew to the wicket-gate; the Mesdames
Clapp looked out from the casement of the ornamented kitchen; Emmy, in a great flutter, was in the passage among the hats and coats; and old Sedley in the parlour inside, shaking all over. Jos descended from the post-
chaise and down the creaking swaying steps in awful state, supported by the new valet from Southampton and the shuddering native, whose brown face was now livid with cold and of the colour of a turkey's gizzard. He created an immense sensation in the passage presently, where Mrs. and Miss Clapp, coming perhaps to listen at the parlour door, found Loll Jewab shaking upon the hall-bench under the coats, moaning in a strange piteous way, and showing his yellow eyeballs and white teeth.
For, you see, we have adroitly shut the door upon the meeting between Jos and the old father and the poor little gentle sister inside. The old man was very much affected;
so, of course, was his daughter; nor was Jos without feeling. In that long absence of ten years, the most selfish will think about home and early ties. Distance sanctifies both. Long brooding over those lost pleasures exaggerates their charm and sweetness. Jos was unaffectedly glad to see and shake the hand of his father, between whom and himself there had been a coolness-glad to see his little sister, whom he remembered so pretty and smiling, and pained at the alteration which time, grief, and misfortune had made in the shattered old man. Emmy had come out to the door in her black clothes and whispered to him of her mother's death, and not to speak of it to their father. There was no need of this caution, for the elder Sedley himself began immediately to speak of the event, and prattled about it, and wept over it plenteously.
It shocked the Indian not a little and made him think of himself less than the poor fellow was accustomed to do.
The result of the interview must have been very satisfactory, for when Jos had reascended his post-chaise and had driven away to his hotel, Emmy embraced her father tenderly, appealing to him with an air of triumph, and asking the old man whether she did not always say that her brother had a good heart?
Indeed, Joseph Sedley, affected by the humble position in which he found his relations, and in the expansiveness and overflowing of heart occasioned by the first meeting, declared that they should never suffer want or discomfort any more, that he was at home for some time at any rate, during which his house and everything he had should be theirs: and that Amelia would look very pretty at the head of his table-until she would accept one of her own.
She shook her head sadly and had, as usual, recourse to the waterworks. She knew what he meant. She and her young confidante, Miss Mary, had talked over the matter most fully, the very night of the Major's visit, beyond which time the impetuous Polly could not refrain from talking of the discovery which she had made, and describing the start and tremor of joy by which Major
Dobbin betrayed himself when Mr. Binny passed with his bride and the Major learned that he had no longer a rival to fear. "Didn't you see how he shook all over when you asked if he was married and he said, 'Who told you those lies?' Oh, M'am," Polly said, "he never kept his eyes off you, and I'm sure he's grown grey athinking of you."
But Amelia, looking up at her bed, over which hung the portraits of her husband and son, told her young protegee never, never, to speak on that subject again;
that Major Dobbin had been her husband's dearest friend and her own and George's most kind and affectionate guardian; that she loved him as a brother-but that a woman who had been married to such an angel as that, and she pointed to the wall, could never think of any other union. Poor Polly sighed: she thought what she should do if young Mr. Tomkins, at the surgery, who always looked at her so at church, and who, by those mere aggressive glances had put her timorous little heart into such a flutter that she was ready to surrender at once,-what she should do if he were to die? She knew he was consumptive, his cheeks were so red and he was so uncommon thin in the waist.
Not that Emmy, being made aware of the honest
Major's passion, rebuffed him in any way, or felt displeased with him. Such an attachment from so true and loyal a gentleman could make no woman angry.
Desdemona was not angry with Cassio, though there is very little doubt she saw the Lieutenant's partiality for her (and I for my part believe that many more things took place in that sad affair than the worthy Moorish officer ever knew of); why, Miranda was even very kind to Caliban, and we may be pretty sure for the same reason. Not that she would encourage him in the least-
the poor uncouth monster-of course not. No more would Emmy by any means encourage her admirer, the
Major. She would give him that friendly regard, which so much excellence and fidelity merited; she would treat him with perfect cordiality and frankness until he made his proposals, and THEN it would be time enough for her to speak and to put an end to hopes which never could be realized.
She slept, therefore, very soundly that evening, after the conversation with Miss Polly, and was more than ordinarily happy, in spite of Jos's delaying. "I am glad he is not going to marry that Miss O'Dowd," she thought.
"Colonel O'Dowd never could have a sister fit for such an accomplished man as Major William." Who was there amongst her little circle who would make him a good wife? Not Miss Binny, she was too old and ill-tempered;
Miss Osborne? too old too. Little Polly was too young.
Mrs. Osborne could not find anybody to suit the Major before she went to sleep.
The same morning brought Major Dobbin a letter to the
Slaughters' Coffee-house from his friend at Southampton, begging dear Dob to excuse Jos for being in a rage when awakened the day before (he had a confounded headache, and was just in his first sleep), and entreating Dob to engage comfortable rooms at the Slaughters' for Mr. Sedley and his servants. The Major had become necessary to
Jos during the voyage. He was attached to him, and hung upon him. The other passengers were away to London.
Young Ricketts and little Chaffers went away on the coach that day-Ricketts on the box, and taking the reins from Botley; the Doctor was off to his family at
Portsea; Bragg gone to town to his co-partners; and the first mate busy in the unloading of the Ramchunder. Mr.
Joe was very lonely at Southampton, and got the landlord of the George to take a glass of wine with him that day, at the very hour at which Major Dobbin was seated at the table of his father, Sir William, where his sister found out (for it was impossible for the Major to tell fibs) that he had been to see Mrs. George Osborne.
Jos was so comfortably situated in St. Martin's Lane, he could enjoy his hookah there with such perfect ease, and could swagger down to the theatres, when minded, so agreeably, that, perhaps, he would have remained altogether at the Slaughters' had not his friend, the Major, been at his elbow. That gentleman would not let the
Bengalee rest until he had executed his promise of having a home for Amelia and his father. Jos was a soft fellow in anybody's hands, Dobbin most active in anybody's concerns but his own; the civilian was, therefore, an easy victim to the guileless arts of this good-natured diplomatist and was ready to do, to purchase, hire, or relinquish whatever his friend thought fit. Loll Jewab, of whom the boys about St. Martin's Lane used to make cruel fun whenever he showed his dusky countenance in the street, was sent back to Calcutta in the Lady Kicklebury East
Indiaman, in which Sir William Dobbin had a share, having previously taught Jos's European the art of preparing curries, pilaus, and pipes. It was a matter of great delight and occupation to Jos to superintend the building of a smart chariot which he and the Major ordered in the neighbouring Long Acre: and a pair of handsome horses were jobbed, with which Jos drove about in state in the park, or to call upon his Indian friends. Amelia was not seldom by his side on these excursions, when also Major
Dobbin would be seen in the back seat of the carriage.
At other times old Sedley and his daughter took advantage of it, and Miss Clapp, who frequently accompanied her friend, had great pleasure in being recognized as she sat in the carriage, dressed in the famous yellow shawl, by the young gentleman at the surgery, whose face might commonly be seen over the window-blinds as she passed.
Shortly after Jos's first appearance at Brompton, a dismal scene, indeed, took place at that humble cottage at which the Sedleys had passed the last ten years of their life. Jos's carriage (the temporary one, not the chariot under construction) arrived one day and carried off old
Sedley and his daughter-to return no more. The tears that were shed by the landlady and the landlady's daughter at that event were as genuine tears of sorrow as any that have been outpoured in the course of this history.
In their long acquaintanceship and intimacy they could not recall a harsh word that had been uttered by Amelia
She had been all sweetness and kindness, always thankful, always gentle, even when Mrs. Clapp lost her own temper and pressed for the rent. When the kind creature was going away for good and all, the landlady reproached herself bitterly for ever having used a rough expression to her-how she wept, as they stuck up with wafers on the window, a paper notifying that the little rooms so long occupied were to let! They never would have such lodgers again, that was quite clear. After-life proved the truth of this melancholy prophecy, and Mrs. Clapp revenged herself for the deterioration of mankind by levying the most savage contributions upon the tea-caddies and legs of mutton of her locataires. Most of them scolded and grumbled; some of them did not pay; none of them stayed.
The landlady might well regret those old, old friends, who had left her.
As for Miss Mary, her sorrow at Amelia's departure was such as I shall not attempt to depict. From childhood upwards she had been with her daily and had attached herself so passionately to that dear good lady that when the grand barouche came to carry her off into splendour, she fainted in the arms of her friend, who was indeed scarcely less affected than the good-natured girl. Amelia loved her like a daughter. During eleven years the girl had been her constant friend and associate. The separation was a very painful one indeed to her. But it was of course arranged that Mary was to come and stay often at the grand new house whither Mrs. Osborne was going, and where Mary was sure she would never be so happy as she had been in their humble cot, as Miss Clapp called it, in the language of the novels which she loved.
Let us hope she was wrong in her judgement. Poor
Emmy's days of happiness had been very few in that humble cot. A gloomy Fate had oppressed her there. She never liked to come back to the house after she had left it, or to face the landlady who had tyrannized over her when ill-humoured and unpaid, or when pleased had treated her with a coarse familiarity scarcely less odious.
Her servility and fulsome compliments when Emmy was in prosperity were not more to that lady's liking. She cast about notes of admiration all over the new house, extolling every article of furniture or ornament; she fingered Mrs. Osborne's dresses and calculated their price.
Nothing could be too good for that sweet lady, she vowed and protested. But in the vulgar sycophant who now paid court to her, Emmy always remembered the coarse tyrant who had made her miserable many a time, to whom she had been forced to put up petitions for time, when the rent was overdue; who cried out at her extravagance if she bought delicacies for her ailing mother or father; who had seen her humble and trampled upon her.
Nobody ever heard of these griefs, which had been part of our poor little woman's lot in life. She kept them secret from her father, whose improvidence was the cause of much of her misery. She had to bear all the blame of his misdoings, and indeed was so utterly gentle and humble as to be made by nature for a victim.
I hope she is not to suffer much more of that hard usage. And, as in all griefs there is said to be some consolation, I may mention that poor Mary, when left at her friend's departure in a hysterical condition, was placed under the medical treatment of the young fellow from the surgery, under whose care she rallied after a short period. Emmy, when she went away from Brompton, endowed Mary with every article of furniture that the house contained, only taking away her pictures (the two pictures over the bed) and her piano-that little old piano which had now passed into a plaintive jingling old age, but which she loved for reasons of her own. She was a child when first she played on it, and her parents gave it her. It had been given to her again since, as the reader may remember, when her father's house was gone to ruin and the instrument was recovered out of the wreck.
Major Dobbin was exceedingly pleased when, as he was superintending the arrangements of Jos's new house
-which the Major insisted should be very handsome and comfortable-the cart arrived from Brompton, bringing the trunks and bandboxes of the emigrants from that village, and with them the old piano. Amelia would have it up in her sitting-room, a neat little apartment on the second floor, adjoining her father's chamber, and where the old gentleman sat commonly of evenings.
When the men appeared then bearing this old music-
box, and Amelia gave orders that it should be placed in the chamber aforesaid, Dobbin was quite elated. "I'm glad you've kept it," he said in a very sentimental manner. "I was afraid you didn't care about it."
"I value it more than anything I have in the world,"
"Do you, Amelia?" cried the Major. The fact was, as he had bought it himself, though he never said anything about it, it never entered into his head to suppose that Emmy should think anybody else was the purchaser, and as a matter of course he fancied that she knew the gift came from him. "Do you, Amelia?" he said; and the question, the great question of all, was trembling on his lips, when Emmy replied-
"Can I do otherwise?-did not he give it me?"
"I did not know," said poor old Dob, and his countenance fell.
Emmy did not note the circumstance at the time, nor take immediate heed of the very dismal expression which honest Dobbin's countenance assumed, but she thought of it afterwards. And then it struck her, with inexpressible pain and mortification too, that it was William who was the giver of the piano, and not George, as she had fancied. It was not George's gift; the only one which she had received from her lover, as she thought-the thing she had cherished beyond all others-her dearest relic and prize. She had spoken to it about George; played his favourite airs upon it; sat for long evening hours, touching, to the best of her simple art, melancholy harmonies on the keys, and weeping over them in silence.
It was not George's relic. It was valueless now. The next time that old Sedley asked her to play, she said it was shockingly out of tune, that she had a headache, that she couldn't play.
Then, according to her custom, she rebuked herself for her pettishness and ingratitude and determined to make a reparation to honest William for the slight she had not expressed to him, but had felt for his piano.
A few days afterwards, as they were seated in the drawing-room, where Jos had fallen asleep with great comfort after dinner, Amelia said with rather a faltering voice to Major Dobbin-
"I have to beg your pardon for something."
"About what?" said he.
"About-about that little square piano. I never thanked you for it when you gave it me, many, many years ago, before I was married. I thought somebody else had given it. Thank you, William." She held out her hand, but the poor little woman's heart was bleeding; and as for her eyes, of course they were at their work.
But William could hold no more. "Amelia, Amelia,"
he said, "I did buy it for you. I loved you then as I
do now. I must tell you. I think I loved you from the first minute that I saw you, when George brought me to your house, to show me the Amelia whom he was engaged to. You were but a girl, in white, with large ringlets; you came down singing-do you remember?-
and we went to Vauxhall. Since then I have thought of but one woman in the world, and that was you. I
think there is no hour in the day has passed for twelve years that I haven't thought of you. I came to tell you this before I went to India, but you did not care, and
I hadn't the heart to speak. You did not care whether
I stayed or went."
"I was very ungrateful," Amelia said.
"No, only indifferent," Dobbin continued desperately.
"I have nothing to make a woman to be otherwise. I
know what you are feeling now. You are hurt in your heart at the discovery about the piano, and that it came from me and not from George. I forgot, or I should never have spoken of it so. It is for me to ask your pardon for being a fool for a moment, and thinking that years of constancy and devotion might have pleaded with you."
"It is you who are cruel now," Amelia said with some spirit. "George is my husband, here and in heaven. How could I love any other but him? I am his now as when you first saw me, dear William. It was he who told me how good and generous you were, and who taught me to love you as a brother. Have you not been everything to me and my boy? Our dearest, truest, kindest friend and protector? Had you come a few months sooner perhaps you might have spared me that-that dreadful parting. Oh, it nearly killed me, William-but you didn't come, though I wished and prayed for you to come, and they took him too away from me. Isn't he a noble boy, William? Be his friend still and mine"-and here her voice broke, and she hid her face on his shoulder.
The Major folded his arms round her, holding her to him as if she was a child, and kissed her head. "I will not change, dear Amelia," he said. "I ask for no more than your love. I think I would not have it otherwise.
Only let me stay near you and see you often."
"Yes, often," Amelia said. And so William was at liberty to look and long-as the poor boy at school who has no money may sigh after the contents of the tart-woman's tray.
Returns to the Genteel World
Good fortune now begins to smile upon Amelia. We are glad to get her out of that low sphere in which she has been creeping hitherto and introduce her into a polite circle-not so grand and refined as that in which our other female friend, Mrs. Becky, has appeared, but still having no small pretensions to gentility and fashion. Jos's friends were all from the three presidencies, and his new house was in the comfortable Anglo-Indian district of which Moira Place is the centre. Minto Square, Great
Clive Street, Warren Street, Hastings Street, Ochterlony
Place, Plassy Square, Assaye Terrace ("gardens" was a felicitous word not applied to stucco houses with asphalt terraces in front, so early as 1827)-who does not know these respectable abodes of the retired Indian aristocracy, and the quarter which Mr. Wenham calls the
Black Hole, in a word? Jos's position in life was not grand enough to entitle him to a house in Moira Place, where none can live but retired Members of Council, and partners of Indian firms (who break, after having settled a hundred thousand pounds on their wives, and retire into comparative penury to a country place and four thousand a year); he engaged a comfortable house of a second- or third-rate order in Gillespie Street, purchasing the carpets, costly mirrors, and handsome and appropriate planned furniture by Seddons from the assignees of Mr.
Scape, lately admitted partner into the great Calcutta
House of Fogle, Fake, and Cracksman, in which poor
Scape had embarked seventy thousand pounds, the earnings of a long and honourable life, taking Fake's place, who retired to a princely park in Sussex (the Fogles have been long out of the firm, and Sir Horace Fogle is about to be raised to the peerage as Baron Bandanna)-admitted,
I say, partner into the great agency house of Fogle and Fake two years before it failed for a million and plunged half the Indian public into misery and ruin.
Scape, ruined, honest, and broken-hearted at sixty-five years of age, went out to Calcutta to wind up the affairs of the house. Walter Scape was withdrawn from Eton and put into a merchant's house. Florence Scape, Fanny
Scape, and their mother faded away to Boulogne, and will be heard of no more. To be brief, Jos stepped in and bought their carpets and sideboards and admired himself in the mirrors which had reflected their kind handsome faces. The Scape tradesmen, all honourably paid, left their cards, and were eager to supply the new household. The large men in white waistcoats who waited at
Scape's dinners, greengrocers, bank-porters, and milkmen in their private capacity, left their addresses and ingratiated themselves with the butler. Mr. Chummy, the chimney-purifier, who had swept the last three families, tried to coax the butler and the boy under him, whose duty it was to go out covered with buttons and with stripes down his trousers, for the protection of Mrs.
Amelia whenever she chose to walk abroad.
It was a modest establishment. The butler was Jos's valet also, and never was more drunk than a butler in a small family should be who has a proper regard for his master's wine. Emmy was supplied with a maid, grown on
Sir William Dobbin's suburban estate; a good girl, whose kindness and humility disarmed Mrs. Osborne, who was at first terrified at the idea of having a servant to wait upon herself, who did not in the least know how to use one, and who always spoke to domestics with the most reverential politeness. But this maid was very useful in the family, in dexterously tending old Mr. Sedley, who kept almost entirely to his own quarter of the house and never mixed in any of the gay doings which took place there.
Numbers of people came to see Mrs. Osborne. Lady
Dobbin and daughters were delighted at her change of fortune, and waited upon her. Miss Osborne from Russell
Square came in her grand chariot with the flaming hammer-cloth emblazoned with the Leeds arms. Jos was reported to be immensely rich. Old Osborne had no objection that Georgy should inherit his uncle's property as well as his own. "Damn it, we will make a man of the feller," he said; "and I'll see him in Parliament before I
die. You may go and see his mother, Miss O., though I'll never set eyes on her": and Miss Osborne came. Emmy, you may be sure, was very glad to see her, and so be brought nearer to George. That young fellow was allowed to come much more frequently than before to visit his mother. He dined once or twice a week in Gillespie
Street and bullied the servants and his relations there, just as he did in Russell Square.
He was always respectful to Major Dobbin, however, and more modest in his demeanour when that gentleman was present. He was a clever lad and afraid of the
Major. George could not help admiring his friend's simplicity, his good humour, his various learning quietly imparted, his general love of truth and justice. He had met no such man as yet in the course of his experience, and he had an instinctive liking for a gentleman. He hung fondly by his godfather's side, and it was his delight to walk in the parks and hear Dobbin talk. William told
George about his father, about India and Waterloo, about everything but himself. When George was more than usually pert and conceited, the Major made jokes at him, which Mrs. Osborne thought very cruel. One day, taking him to the play, and the boy declining to go into the pit because it was vulgar, the Major took him to the boxes, left him there, and went down himself to the pit. He had not been seated there very long before he felt an arm thrust under his and a dandy little hand in a kid glove squeezing his arm. George had seen the absurdity of his ways and come down from the upper region. A tender laugh of benevolence lighted up old Dobbin's face and eyes as he looked at the repentant little prodigal. He loved the boy, as he did everything that belonged to
Amelia. How charmed she was when she heard of this instance of George's goodness! Her eyes looked more kindly on Dobbin than they ever had done. She blushed, he thought, after looking at him so.
Georgy never tired of his praises of the Major to his mother. "I like him, Mamma, because he knows such lots of things; and he ain't like old Veal, who is always bragging and using such long words, don't you know? The chaps call him 'Longtail' at school. I gave him the name;
ain't it capital? But Dob reads Latin like English, and
French and that; and when we go out together he tells me stories about my Papa, and never about himself; though I
heard Colonel Buckler, at Grandpapa's, say that he was one of the bravest officers in the army, and had distinguished himself ever so much. Grandpapa was quite surprised, and said, 'THAT feller! Why, I didn't think he could say Bo to a goose'-but l know he could, couldn't he,
Emmy laughed: she thought it was very likely the
Major could do thus much.
If there was a sincere liking between George and the
Major, it must be confessed that between the boy and his uncle no great love existed. George had got a way of blowing out his cheeks, and putting his hands in his waistcoat pockets, and saying, "God bless my soul, you don't say so," so exactly after the fashion of old Jos that it was impossible to refrain from laughter. The servants would explode at dinner if the lad, asking for something which wasn't at table, put on that countenance and used that favourite phrase. Even Dobbin would shoot out a sudden peal at the boy's mimicry. If George did not mimic his uncle to his face, it was only by Dobbin's rebukes and
Amelia's terrified entreaties that the little scapegrace was induced to desist. And the worthy civilian being haunted by a dim consciousness that the lad thought him an ass, and was inclined to turn him into ridicule, used to be extremely timorous and, of course, doubly pompous and dignified in the presence of Master Georgy. When it was announced that the young gentleman was expected in
Gillespie Street to dine with his mother, Mr. Jos commonly found that he had an engagement at the Club.
Perhaps nobody was much grieved at his absence. On those days Mr. Sedley would commonly be induced to come out from his place of refuge in the upper stories, and there would be a small family party, whereof Major
Dobbin pretty generally formed one. He was the ami de la maison-old Sedley's friend, Emmy's friend, Georgy's friend, Jos's counsel and adviser. "He might almost as well be at Madras for anything WE see of him," Miss
Ann Dobbin remarked at Camberwell. Ah! Miss Ann, did it not strike you that it was not YOU whom the Major wanted to marry?
Joseph Sedley then led a life of dignified otiosity such as became a person of his eminence. His very first point, of course, was to become a member of the Oriental Club, where he spent his mornings in the company of his brother Indians, where he dined, or whence he brought home men to dine.
Amelia had to receive and entertain these gentlemen and their ladies. From these she heard how soon Smith would be in Council; how many lacs Jones had brought home with him, how Thomson's House in London had refused the bills drawn by Thomson, Kibobjee, and Co., the Bombay House, and how it was thought the Calcutta
House must go too; how very imprudent, to say the least of it, Mrs. Brown's conduct (wife of Brown of the
Ahmednuggur Irregulars) had been with young Swankey of the Body Guard, sitting up with him on deck until all hours, and losing themselves as they were riding out at the Cape; how Mrs. Hardyman had had out her thirteen sisters, daughters of a country curate, the Rev: Felix
Rabbits, and married eleven of them, seven high up in the service; how Hornby was wild because his wife would stay in Europe, and Trotter was appointed
Collector at Ummerapoora. This and similar talk took place at the grand dinners all round. They had the same conversation; the same silver dishes; the same saddles of mutton, boiled turkeys, and entrees. Politics set in a short time after dessert, when the ladies retired upstairs and talked about their complaints and their children.
Mutato nomine, it is all the same. Don't the barristers'
wives talk about Circuit? Don't the soldiers' ladies gossip about the Regiment? Don't the clergymen's ladies discourse about Sunday-schools and who takes whose duty?
Don't the very greatest ladies of all talk about that small clique of persons to whom they belong? And why should our Indian friends not have their own conversation?-
only I admit it is slow for the laymen whose fate it sometimes is to sit by and listen.
Before long Emmy had a visiting-book, and was driving about regularly in a carriage, calling upon Lady Bludyer
(wife of Major-General Sir Roger Bludyer, K.C.B., Bengal
Army); Lady Huff, wife of Sir G. Huff, Bombay ditto;
Mrs. Pice, the Lady of Pice the Director, &c. We are not long in using ourselves to changes in life. That carriage came round to Gillespie Street every day; that buttony boy sprang up and down from the box with Emmy's and
Jos's visiting-cards; at stated hours Emmy and the carriage went for Jos to the Club and took him an airing;
or, putting old Sedley into the vehicle, she drove the old man round the Regent's Park. The lady's maid and the chariot, the visiting-book and the buttony page, became soon as familiar to Amelia as the humble routine of
Brompton. She accommodated herself to one as to the other. If Fate had ordained that she should be a Duchess, she would even have done that duty too. She was voted, in
Jos's female society, rather a pleasing young person-
not much in her, but pleasing, and that sort of thing.
The men, as usual, liked her artless kindness and simple refined demeanour. The gallant young Indian dandies at home on furlough-immense dandies these-chained and moustached-driving in tearing cabs, the pillars of the theatres, living at West End hotels-nevertheless admired Mrs. Osborne, liked to bow to her carriage in the park, and to be admitted to have the honour of paying her a morning visit. Swankey of the Body Guard himself, that dangerous youth, and the greatest buck of all the Indian army now on leave, was one day discovered by Major Dobbin tete-a-tete with Amelia, and describing the sport of pig-sticking to her with great humour and eloquence; and he spoke afterwards of a d-d king's officer that's always hanging about the house-a long, thin, queer-looking, oldish fellow-a dry fellow though, that took the shine out of a man in the talking line.
Had the Major possessed a little more personal vanity he would have been jealous of so dangerous a young buck as that fascinating Bengal Captain. But Dobbin was of too simple and generous a nature to have any doubts about Amelia. He was glad that the young men should pay her respect, and that others should admire her. Ever since her womanhood almost, had she not been persecuted and undervalued? It pleased him to see how kindness bought out her good qualities and how her spirits gently rose with her prosperity. Any person who appreciated her paid a compliment to the Major's good judgement-that is, if a man may be said to have good judgement who is under the influence of Love's delusion.
After Jos went to Court, which we may be sure he did as a loyal subject of his Sovereign (showing himself in his full court suit at the Club, whither Dobbin came to fetch him in a very shabby old uniform) he who had always been a staunch Loyalist and admirer of George
IV, became such a tremendous Tory and pillar of the
State that he was for having Amelia to go to a
Drawing-room, too. He somehow had worked himself up to believe that he was implicated in the maintenance of the public welfare and that the Sovereign would not be happy unless Jos Sedley and his family appeared to rally round him at St. James's.
Emmy laughed. "Shall I wear the family diamonds,
Jos?" she said.
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