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«Vanity fair (Ярмарка тщеславия - на английском). 9 часть.»
"Vanity fair (Ярмарка тщеславия - на английском). 9 часть."
"I wish you would let me buy you some," thought the
Major. "I should like to see any that were too good for you."
In Which Two Lights are Put Out
There came a day when the round of decorous pleasures and solemn gaieties in which Mr. Jos Sedley's family indulged was interrupted by an event which happens in most houses. As you ascend the staircase of your house from the drawing towards the bedroom floors, you may have remarked a little arch in the wall right before you, which at once gives light to the stair which leads from the second story to the third (where the nursery and servants' chambers commonly are) and serves for another purpose of utility, of which the undertaker's men can give you a notion. They rest the coffins upon that arch, or pass them through it so as not to disturb in any unseemly manner the cold tenant slumbering within the black ark.
That second-floor arch in a London house, looking up and down the well of the staircase and commanding the main thoroughfare by which the inhabitants are passing;
by which cook lurks down before daylight to scour her pots and pans in the kitchen; by which young master stealthily ascends, having left his boots in the hall, and let himself in after dawn from a jolly night at the Club;
down which miss comes rustling in fresh ribbons and spreading muslins, brilliant and beautiful, and prepared for conquest and the ball; or Master Tommy slides, preferring the banisters for a mode of conveyance, and disdaining danger and the stair; down which the mother is fondly carried smiling in her strong husband's arms, as he steps steadily step by step, and followed by the monthly nurse, on the day when the medical man has pronounced that the charming patient may go downstairs;
up which John lurks to bed, yawning, with a sputtering tallow candle, and to gather up before sunrise the boots which are awaiting him in the passages-that stair, up or down which babies are carried, old people are helped, guests are marshalled to the ball, the parson walks to the christening, the doctor to the sick-room, and the undertaker's men to the upper floor-what a memento of Life,
Death, and Vanity it is-that arch and stair-if you choose to consider it, and sit on the landing, looking up and down the well! The doctor will come up to us too for the last time there, my friend in motley. The nurse will look in at the curtains, and you take no notice-and then she will fling open the windows for a little and let in the air. Then they will pull down all the front blinds of the house and live in the back rooms-then they will send for the lawyer and other men in black, &c. Your comedy and mine will have been played then, and we shall be removed, oh, how far, from the trumpets, and the shouting, and the posture-making. If we are gentlefolks they will put hatchments over our late domicile, with gilt cherubim, and mottoes stating that there is "Quiet in
Heaven." Your son will new furnish the house, or perhaps let it, and go into a more modern quarter; your name will be among the "Members Deceased" in the lists of your clubs next year. However much you may be mourned, your widow will like to have her weeds neatly made-the cook will send or come up to ask about dinner-the survivor will soon bear to look at your picture over the mantelpiece, which will presently be deposed from the place of honour, to make way for the portrait of the son who reigns.
Which of the dead are most tenderly and passionately deplored? Those who love the survivors the least, I
believe. The death of a child occasions a passion of grief and frantic tears, such as your end, brother reader, will never inspire. The death of an infant which scarce knew you, which a week's absence from you would have caused to forget you, will strike you down more than the loss of your closest friend, or your first-born son-a man grown like yourself, with children of his own. We may be harsh and stern with Judah and Simeon-our love and pity gush out for Benjamin, the little one. And if you are old, as some reader of this may be or shall be old and rich, or old and poor-you may one day be thinking for yourself
-"These people are very good round about me, but they won't grieve too much when I am gone. I am very rich, and they want my inheritance-or very poor, and they are tired of supporting me."
The period of mourning for Mrs. Sedley's death was only just concluded, and Jos scarcely had had time to cast off his black and appear in the splendid waistcoats which he loved, when it became evident to those about
Mr. Sedley that another event was at hand, and that the old man was about to go seek for his wife in the dark land whither she had preceded him. "The state of my father's health," Jos Sedley solemnly remarked at the Club,
"prevents me from giving any LARGE parties this season: but if you will come in quietly at half-past six, Chutney, my boy, and fake a homely dinner with one or two of the old set-I shall be always glad to see you." So Jos and his acquaintances dined and drank their claret among themselves in silence, whilst the sands of life were running out in the old man's glass upstairs. The velvet-footed butler brought them their wine, and they composed themselves to a rubber after dinner, at which Major Dobbin would sometimes come and take a hand; and Mrs.
Osborne would occasionally descend, when her patient above was settled for the night, and had commenced one of those lightly troubled slumbers which visit the pillow of old age.
The old man clung to his daughter during this sickness. He would take his broths and medicines from scarcely any other hand. To tend him became almost the sole business of her life. Her bed was placed close by the door which opened into his chamber, and she was alive at the slightest noise or disturbance from the couch of the querulous invalid. Though, to do him justice, he lay awake many an hour, silent and without stirring, unwilling to awaken his kind and vigilant nurse.
He loved his daughter with more fondness now, perhaps, than ever he had done since the days of her childhood. In the discharge of gentle offices and kind filial duties, this simple creature shone most especially. "She walks into the room as silently as a sunbeam," Mr.
Dobbin thought as he saw her passing in and out from her father's room, a cheerful sweetness lighting up her face as she moved to and fro, graceful and noiseless. When women are brooding over their children, or busied in a sick-room, who has not seen in their faces those sweet angelic beams of love and pity?
A secret feud of some years' standing was thus healed, and with a tacit reconciliation. In these last hours, and touched by her love and goodness, the old man forgot all his grief against her, and wrongs which he and his wife had many a long night debated: how she had given up everything for her boy; how she was careless of her parents in their old age and misfortune, and only thought of the child; how absurdly and foolishly, impiously indeed, she took on when George was removed from her. Old Sedley forgot these charges as he was making up his last account, and did justice to the gentle and uncomplaining little martyr. One night when she stole into his room, she found him awake, when the broken old man made his confession. "Oh, Emmy, I've been thinking we were very unkind and unjust to you,"
he said and put out his cold and feeble hand to her. She knelt down and prayed by his bedside, as he did too, having still hold of her hand. When our turn comes, friend, may we have such company in our prayers!
Perhaps as he was lying awake then, his life may have passed before him-his early hopeful struggles, his manly successes and prosperity, his downfall in his declining years, and his present helpless condition-no chance of revenge against Fortune, which had had the better of him-neither name nor money to bequeath-a spent-out, bootless life of defeat and disappointment, and the end here! Which, I wonder, brother reader, is the better lot, to die prosperous and famous, or poor and disappointed? To have, and to be forced to yield; or to sink out of life, having played and lost the game? That must be a strange feeling, when a day of our life comes and we say, "To-morrow, success or failure won't matter much, and the sun will rise, and all the myriads of mankind go to their work or their pleasure as usual, but
I shall be out of the turmoil."
So there came one morning and sunrise when all the world got up and set about its various works and pleasures, with the exception of old John Sedley, who was not to fight with fortune, or to hope or scheme any more, but to go and take up a quiet and utterly unknown residence in a churchyard at Brompton by the side of his old wife.
Major Dobbin, Jos, and Georgy followed his remains to the grave, in a black cloth coach. Jos came on purpose from the Star and Garter at Richmond, whither he retreated after the deplorable event. He did not care to remain in the house, with the-under the circumstances, you understand. But Emmy stayed and did her duty as usual. She was bowed down by no especial grief, and rather solemn than sorrowful. She prayed that her own end might be as calm and painless, and thought with trust and reverence of the words which she had heard from her father during his illness, indicative of his faith, his resignation, and his future hope.
Yes, I think that will be the better ending of the two, after all. Suppose you are particularly rich and well-to-
do and say on that last day, "I am very rich; I am tolerably well known; I have lived all my life in the best society, and thank Heaven, come of a most respectable family. I have served my King and country with honour.
I was in Parliament for several years, where, I may say, my speeches were listened to and pretty well received.
I don't owe any man a shilling: on the contrary, I lent my old college friend, Jack Lazarus, fifty pounds, for which my executors will not press him. I leave my daughters with ten thousand pounds apiece-very good portions for girls; I bequeath my plate and furniture, my house in
Baker Street, with a handsome jointure, to my widow for her life; and my landed property, besides money in the funds, and my cellar of well-selected wine in Baker Street, to my son. I leave twenty pound a year to my valet; and
I defy any man after I have gone to find anything against my character." Or suppose, on the other hand, your swan sings quite a different sort of dirge and you say,
"I am a poor blighted, disappointed old fellow, and have made an utter failure through life. I was not endowed either with brains or with good fortune, and confess that I have committed a hundred mistakes and blunders.
I own to having forgotten my duty many a time. I can't pay what I owe. On my last bed I lie utterly helpless and humble, and I pray forgiveness for my weakness and throw myself, with a contrite heart, at the feet of the
Divine Mercy." Which of these two speeches, think you, would be the best oration for your own funeral?
Old Sedley made the last; and in that humble frame of mind, and holding by the hand of his daughter, life and disappointment and vanity sank away from under him.
"You see," said old Osborne to George, "what comes of merit, and industry, and judicious speculations, and that. Look at me and my banker's account. Look at your poor Grandfather Sedley and his failure. And yet he was a better man than I was, this day twenty years-a better man, I should say, by ten thousand pound."
Beyond these people and Mr. Clapp's family, who came over from Brompton to pay a visit of condolence, not a single soul alive ever cared a penny piece about old John Sedley, or remembered the existence of such a person.
When old Osborne first heard from his friend Colonel
Buckler (as little Georgy had already informed us) how distinguished an officer Major Dobbin was, he exhibited a great deal of scornful incredulity and expressed his surprise how ever such a feller as that should possess either brains or reputation. But he heard of the Major's fame from various members of his society. Sir William
Dobbin had a great opinion of his son and narrated many stories illustrative of the Major's learning, valour, and estimation in the world's opinion. Finally, his name appeared in the lists of one or two great parties of the nobility, and this circumstance had a prodigious effect upon the old aristocrat of Russell Square.
The Major's position, as guardian to Georgy, whose possession had been ceded to his grandfather, rendered some meetings between the two gentlemen inevitable;
and it was in one of these that old Osborne, a keen man of business, looking into the Major's accounts with his ward and the boy's mother, got a hint, which staggered him very much, and at once pained and pleased him, that it was out of William Dobbin's own pocket that a part of the fund had been supplied upon which the poor widow and the child had subsisted.
When pressed upon the point, Dobbin, who could not tell lies, blushed and stammered a good deal and finally confessed. "The marriage," he said (at which his interlocutor's face grew dark) "was very much my doing. I
thought my poor friend had gone so far that retreat from his engagement would have been dishonour to him and death to Mrs. Osborne, and I could do no less, when she was left without resources, than give what money I could spare to maintain her."
"Major D.," Mr. Osborne said, looking hard at him and turning very red too-"you did me a great injury; but give me leave to tell you, sir, you are an honest feller.
There's my hand, sir, though I little thought that my flesh and blood was living on you-" and the pair shook hands, with great confusion on Major Dobbin's part, thus found out in his act of charitable hypocrisy.
He strove to soften the old man and reconcile him towards his son's memory. "He was such a noble fellow,"
he said, "that all of us loved him, and would have done anything for him. I, as a young man in those days, was flattered beyond measure by his preference for me, and was more pleased to be seen in his company than in that of the Commander-in-Chief. I never saw his equal for pluck and daring and all the qualities of a soldier";
and Dobbin told the old father as many stories as he could remember regarding the gallantry and achievements of his son. "And Georgy is so like him," the
"He's so like him that he makes me tremble sometimes,"
the grandfather said.
On one or two evenings the Major came to dine with
Mr. Osborne (it was during the time of the sickness of
Mr. Sedley), and as the two sat together in the evening after dinner, all their talk was about the departed hero.
The father boasted about him according to his wont, glorifying himself in recounting his son's feats and gallantry, but his mood was at any rate better and more charitable than that in which he had been disposed until now to regard the poor fellow; and the Christian heart of the kind Major was pleased at these symptoms of returning peace and good-will. On the second evening old
Osborne called Dobbin William, just as he used to do at the time when Dobbin and George were boys together, and the honest gentleman was pleased by that mark of reconciliation .
On the next day at breakfast, when Miss Osborne, with the asperity of her age and character, ventured to make some remark reflecting slightingly upon the Major's appearance or behaviour-the master of the house interrupted her. "You'd have been glad enough to git him for yourself, Miss O. But them grapes are sour. Ha! ha!
Major William is a fine feller."
"That he is, Grandpapa," said Georgy approvingly;
and going up close to the old gentleman, he took a hold of his large grey whiskers, and laughed in his face good-humouredly, and kissed him. And he told the story at night to his mother, who fully agreed with the boy.
"Indeed he is," she said. "Your dear father always said so.
He is one of the best and most upright of men." Dobbin happened to drop in very soon after this conversation, which made Amelia blush perhaps, and the young scapegrace increased the confusion by telling Dobbin the other part of the story. "I say, Dob," he said, "there's such an uncommon nice girl wants to marry you. She's plenty of tin; she wears a front; and she scolds the servants from morning till night." "Who is it?" asked
"It's Aunt O.," the boy answered. "Grandpapa said so. And I say, Dob, how prime it would be to have you for my uncle." Old Sedley's quavering voice from the next room at this moment weakly called for Amelia, and the laughing ended.
That old Osborne's mind was changing was pretty clear.
He asked George about his uncle sometimes, and laughed at the boy's imitation of the way in which Jos said
"God-bless-my-soul" and gobbled his soup. Then he said,
"It's not respectful, sir, of you younkers to be imitating of your relations. Miss O., when you go out adriving to-day, leave my card upon Mr. Sedley, do you hear?
There's no quarrel betwigst me and him anyhow."
The card was returned, and Jos and the Major were asked to dinner-to a dinner the most splendid and stupid that perhaps ever Mr. Osborne gave; every inch of the family plate was exhibited, and the best company was asked. Mr. Sedley took down Miss O. to dinner, and she was very gracious to him; whereas she hardly spoke to the Major, who sat apart from her, and by the side of Mr. Osborne, very timid. Jos said, with great solemnity, it was the best turtle soup he had ever tasted in his life, and asked Mr. Osborne where he got his
"It is some of Sedley's wine," whispered the butler to his master. "I've had it a long time, and paid a good figure for it, too," Mr. Osborne said aloud to his guest, and then whispered to his right-hand neighbour how he had got it "at the old chap's sale."
More than once he asked the Major about-about Mrs.
George Osborne-a theme on which the Major could be very eloquent when he chose. He told Mr. Osborne of her sufferings-of her passionate attachment to her husband, whose memory she worshipped still-of the tender and dutiful manner in which she had supported her parents, and given up her boy, when it seemed to her her duty to do so. "You don't know what she endured, sir,"
said honest Dobbin with a tremor in his voice, "and I
hope and trust you will be reconciled to her. If she took your son away from you, she gave hers to you;
and however much you loved your George, depend on it, she loved hers ten times more."
"By God, you are a good feller, sir," was all Mr. Os-
borne said. It had never struck him that the widow would feel any pain at parting from the boy, or that his having a fine fortune could grieve her. A reconciliation was announced as speedy and inevitable, and Amelia's heart already began to beat at the notion of the awful meeting with George's father.
It was never, however, destined to take place. Old
Sedley's lingering illness and death supervened, after which a meeting was for some time impossible. That catastrophe and other events may have worked upon Mr.
Osborne. He was much shaken of late, and aged, and his mind was working inwardly. He had sent for his lawyers, and probably changed something in his will. The medical man who looked in pronounced him shaky, agitated, and talked of a little blood and the seaside; but he took neither of these remedies.
One day when he should have come down to breakfast, his servant missing him, went into his dressing-room and found him lying at the foot of the dressing-table in a fit. Miss Osborne was apprised; the doctors were sent for; Georgy stopped away from school; the bleeders and cuppers came. Osborne partially regained cognizance, but never could speak again, though he tried dreadfully once or twice, and in four days he died. The doctors went down, and the undertaker's men went up the stairs, and all the shutters were shut towards the garden in Russell Square. Bullock rushed from the City in a hurry. "How much money had he left to that boy?
Not half, surely? Surely share and share alike between the three?" It was an agitating moment.
What was it that poor old man tried once or twice in vain to say? I hope it was that he wanted to see
Amelia and be reconciled before he left the world to one dear and faithful wife of his son: it was most likely that, for his will showed that the hatred which he had so long cherished had gone out of his heart.
They found in the pocket of his dressing-gown the letter with the great red seal which George had written him from Waterloo. He had looked at the other papers too, relative to his son, for the key of the box in which he kept them was also in his pocket, and it was found the seals and envelopes had been broken-very likely on the night before the seizure-when the butler had taken him tea into his study, and found him reading in the great red family Bible.
When the will was opened, it was found that half the property was left to George, and the remainder between the two sisters. Mr. Bullock to continue, for their joint benefit, the affairs of the commercial house, or to go out, as he thought fit. An annuity of five hundred pounds, chargeable on George's property, was left to his mother,
"the widow of my beloved son, George Osborne," who was to resume the guardianship of the boy.
"Major William Dobbin, my beloved son's friend," was appointed executor; "and as out of his kindness and bounty, and with his own private funds, he maintained my grandson and my son's widow, when they were otherwise without means of support" (the testator went on to say) "I hereby thank him heartily for his love and regard for them, and beseech him to accept such a sum as may be sufficient to purchase his commission as a
Lieutenant-Colonel, or to be disposed of in any way he may think fit."
When Amelia heard that her father-in-law was reconciled to her, her heart melted, and she was grateful for the fortune left to her. But when she heard how
Georgy was restored to her, and knew how and by whom, and how it was William's bounty that supported her in poverty, how it was William who gave her her husband and her son-oh, then she sank on her knees, and prayed for blessings on that constant and kind heart;
she bowed down and humbled herself, and kissed the feet, as it were, of that beautiful and generous affection.
And gratitude was all that she had to pay back for such admirable devotion and benefits-only gratitude! If she thought of any other return, the image of George stood up out of the grave and said, "You are mine, and mine only, now and forever."
William knew her feelings: had he not passed his whole life in divining them?
When the nature of Mr. Osborne's will became known to the world, it was edifying to remark how Mrs. George
Osborne rose in the estimation of the people forming her circle of acquaintance. The servants of Jos's establishment, who used to question her humble orders and say they would "ask Master" whether or not they could obey, never thought now of that sort of appeal. The cook forgot to sneer at her shabby old gowns (which, indeed, were quite eclipsed by that lady's finery when she was dressed to go to church of a Sunday evening), the others no longer grumbled at the sound of her bell, or delayed to answer that summons. The coachman, who grumbled that his 'osses should be brought out and his carriage made into an hospital for that old feller and
Mrs. O., drove her with the utmost alacrity now, and trembling lest he should be superseded by Mr. Osborne's coachman, asked "what them there Russell Square coachmen knew about town, and whether they was fit to sit on a box before a lady?" Jos's friends, male and female, suddenly became interested about Emmy, and cards of condolence multiplied on her hall table. Jos himself, who had looked on her as a good-natured harmless pauper, to whom it was his duty to give victuals and shelter, paid her and the rich little boy, his nephew, the greatest respect-was anxious that she should have change and amusement after her troubles and trials,
"poor dear girl"-and began to appear at the breakfast-
table, and most particularly to ask how she would like to dispose of the day.
In her capacity of guardian to Georgy, she, with the consent of the Major, her fellow-trustee, begged Miss
Osborne to live in the Russell Square house as long as ever she chose to dwell there; but that lady, with thanks, declared that she never could think of remaining alone in that melancholy mansion, and departed in deep mourning to Cheltenham, with a couple of her old domestics.
The rest were liberally paid and dismissed, the faithful old butler, whom Mrs. Osborne proposed to retain, resigning and preferring to invest his savings in a public-
house, where, let us hope, he was not unprosperous.
Miss Osborne not choosing to live in Russell Square, Mrs.
Osborne also, after consultation, declined to occupy the gloomy old mansion there. The house was dismantled;
the rich furniture and effects, the awful chandeliers and dreary blank mirrors packed away and hidden, the rich rosewood drawing-room suite was muffled in straw, the carpets were rolled up and corded, the small select library of well-bound books was stowed into two wine-
chests, and the whole paraphernalia rolled away in several enormous vans to the Pantechnicon, where they were to lie until Georgy's majority. And the great heavy dark plate-chests went off to Messrs. Stumpy and Rowdy, to lie in the cellars of those eminent bankers until the same period should arrive.
One day Emmy, with George in her hand and clad in deep sables, went to visit the deserted mansion which she had not entered since she was a girl. The place in front was littered with straw where the vans had been laden and rolled off. They went into the great blank rooms, the walls of which bore the marks where the pictures and mirrors had hung. Then they went up the great blank stone staircases into the upper rooms, into that where grandpapa died, as George said in a whisper, and then higher still into George's own room. The boy was still clinging by her side, but she thought of another besides him. She knew that it had been his father's room as well as his own.
She went up to one of the open windows (one of those at which she used to gaze with a sick heart when the child was first taken from her), and thence as she looked out she could see, over the trees of Russell Square, the old house in which she herself was born, and where she had passed so many happy days of sacred youth.
They all came back to her, the pleasant holidays, the kind faces, the careless, joyful past times, and the long pains and trials that had since cast her down.
She thought of these and of the man who had been her constant protector, her good genius, her sole benefactor, her tender and generous friend.
"Look here, Mother," said Georgy, "here's a G.O.
scratched on the glass with a diamond, I never saw it before, I never did it."
"It was your father's room long before you were born,
George," she said, and she blushed as she kissed the boy.
She was very silent as they drove back to Richmond, where they had taken a temporary house: where the smiling lawyers used to come bustling over to see her (and we may be sure noted the visit in the bill): and where of course there was a room for Major Dobbin too, who rode over frequently, having much business to transact on behalf of his little ward.
Georgy at this time was removed from Mr. Veal's on an unlimited holiday, and that gentleman was engaged to prepare an inscription for a fine marble slab, to be placed up in the Foundling under the monument of
Captain George Osborne.
The female Bullock, aunt of Georgy, although despoiled by that little monster of one-half of the sum which she expected from her father, nevertheless showed her charitableness of spirit by being reconciled to the mother and the boy. Roehampton is not far from
Richmond, and one day the chariot, with the golden bullocks emblazoned on the panels, and the flaccid children within, drove to Amelia's house at Richmond; and the Bullock family made an irruption into the garden, where Amelia was reading a book, Jos was in an arbour placidly dipping strawberries into wine, and the Major in one of his Indian jackets was giving a back to Georgy, who chose to jump over him. He went over his head and bounded into the little advance of Bullocks, with immense black bows in their hats, and huge black sashes, accompanying their mourning mamma.
"He is just of the age for Rosa," the fond parent thought, and glanced towards that dear child, an unwholesome little miss of seven years of age.
"Rosa, go and kiss your dear cousin," Mrs. Frederick said. "Don't you know me, George? I am your aunt."
"I know you well enough," George said; "but I don't like kissing, please"; and he retreated from the obedient caresses of his cousin.
"Take me to your dear mamma, you droll child," Mrs.
Frederick said, and those ladies accordingly met, after an absence of more than fifteen years. During Emmy's cares and poverty the other had never once thought about coming to see her, but now that she was decently prosperous in the world, her sister-in-law came to her as a matter of course.
So did numbers more. Our old friend, Miss Swartz, and her husband came thundering over from Hampton Court, with flaming yellow liveries, and was as impetuously fond of Amelia as ever. Miss Swartz would have liked her always if she could have seen her. One must do her that justice. But, que voulez vous?-in this vast town one has not the time to go and seek one's friends; if they drop out of the rank they disappear, and we march on without them. Who is ever missed in Vanity Fair?
But so, in a word, and before the period of grief for
Mr. Osborne's death had subsided, Emmy found herself in the centre of a very genteel circle indeed, the members of which could not conceive that anybody belonging to it was not very lucky. There was scarce one of the ladies that hadn't a relation a Peer, though the husband might be a drysalter in the City. Some of the ladies were very blue and well informed, reading Mrs.
Somerville and frequenting the Royal Institution; others were severe and Evangelical, and held by Exeter Hall.
Emmy, it must be owned, found herself entirely at a loss in the midst of their clavers, and suffered woefully on the one or two occasions on which she was compelled to accept Mrs. Frederick Bullock's hospitalities. That lady persisted in patronizing her and determined most graciously to form her. She found Amelia's milliners for her and regulated her household and her manners. She drove over constantly from Roehampton and entertained her friend with faint fashionable fiddle-faddle and feeble
Court slip-slop. Jos liked to hear it, but the Major used to go off growling at the appearance of this woman, with her twopenny gentility. He went to sleep under Frederick
Bullock's bald head, after dinner, at one of the banker's best parties (Fred was still anxious that the balance of the Osborne property should be transferred from Stumpy and Rowdy's to them), and whilst Amelia, who did not know Latin, or who wrote the last crack article in the
Edinburgh, and did not in the least deplore, or otherwise, Mr. Peel's late extraordinary tergiversation on the fatal Catholic Relief Bill, sat dumb amongst the ladies in the grand drawing-room, looking out upon velvet lawns, trim gravel walks, and glistening hot-houses.
"She seems good-natured but insipid," said Mrs.
Rowdy; "that Major seems to be particularly epris."
"She wants ton sadly," said Mrs. Hollyock. "My dear creature, you never will be able to form her."
"She is dreadfully ignorant or indifferent," said Mrs.
Glowry with a voice as if from the grave, and a sad shake of the head and turban. "I asked her if she thought that it was in 1836, according to Mr. Jowls, or in 1839, according to Mr. Wapshot, that the Pope was to fall: and she said-'Poor Pope! I hope not-What has he done?' "
"She is my brother's widow, my dear friends," Mrs.
Frederick replied, "and as such I think we're all bound to give her every attention and instruction on entering into the world. You may fancy there can be no MERCENARY
motives in those whose DISAPPOINTMENTS are well known."
"That poor dear Mrs. Bullock," said Rowdy to Hollyock, as they drove away together-"she is always scheming and managing. She wants Mrs. Osborne's account to be taken from our house to hers-and the way in which she coaxes that boy and makes him sit by that blear-eyed little Rosa is perfectly ridiculous."
"I wish Glowry was choked with her Man of Sin and her Battle of Armageddon," cried the other, and the carriage rolled away over Putney Bridge.
But this sort of society was too cruelly genteel for
Emmy, and all jumped for joy when a foreign tour was proposed.
The above everyday events had occurred, and a few weeks had passed, when on one fine morning, Parliament being over, the summer advanced, and all the good company in London about to quit that city for their annual tour in search of pleasure or health, the Batavier steamboat left the Tower-stairs laden with a goodly company of English fugitives. The quarter-deck awnings were up, and the benches and gangways crowded with scores of rosy children, bustling nursemaids; ladies in the prettiest pink bonnets and summer dresses; gentlemen in travelling caps and linen-jackets, whose mustachios had just begun to sprout for the ensuing tour; and stout trim old veterans with starched neckcloths and neat-brushed hats, such as have invaded Europe any time since the conclusion of the war, and carry the national Goddem into every city of the Continent. The congregation of hat-boxes, and
Bramah desks, and dressing-cases was prodigious. There were jaunty young Cambridge-men travelling with their tutor, and going for a reading excursion to Nonnenwerth or Konigswinter; there were Irish gentlemen, with the most dashing whiskers and jewellery, talking about horses incessantly, and prodigiously polite to the young ladies on board, whom, on the contrary, the Cambridge lads and their pale-faced tutor avoided with maiden coyness; there were old Pall Mall loungers bound for Ems and Wiesbaden and a course of waters to clear off the dinners of the season, and a little roulette and trente-
et-quarante to keep the excitement going; there was old
Methuselah, who had married his young wife, with Captain
Papillon of the Guards holding her parasol and guide-books; there was young May who was carrying off his bride on a pleasure tour (Mrs. Winter that was, and who had been at school with May's grandmother); there was Sir John and my Lady with a dozen children, and corresponding nursemaids; and the great grandee
Bareacres family that sat by themselves near the wheel, stared at everybody, and spoke to no one. Their carriages, emblazoned with coronets and heaped with shining imperials, were on the foredeck, locked in with a dozen more such vehicles: it was difficult to pass in and out amongst them; and the poor inmates of the fore-cabin had scarcely any space for locomotion. These consisted of a few magnificently attired gentlemen from
Houndsditch, who brought their own provisions, and could have bought half the gay people in the grand saloon; a few honest fellows with mustachios and portfolios, who set to sketching before they had been half an hour on board; one or two French femmes de chambre who began to be dreadfully ill by the time the boat had passed Greenwich; a groom or two who lounged in the neighbourhood of the horse-boxes under their charge, or leaned over the side by the paddle-wheels, and talked about who was good for the Leger, and what they stood to win or lose for the Goodwood cup.
All the couriers, when they had done plunging about the ship and had settled their various masters in the cabins or on the deck, congregated together and began to chatter and smoke; the Hebrew gentlemen joining them and looking at the carriages. There was Sir John's great carriage that would hold thirteen people; my Lord
Methuselah's carriage, my Lord Bareacres' chariot, britzska, and fourgon, that anybody might pay for who liked.
It was a wonder how my Lord got the ready money to pay for the expenses of the journey. The Hebrew gentlemen knew how he got it. They knew what money his
Lordship had in his pocket at that instant, and what interest he paid for it, and who gave it him. Finally there was a very neat, handsome travelling carriage, about which the gentlemen speculated.
"A qui cette voiture la?" said one gentleman-courier with a large morocco money-bag and ear-rings to another with ear-rings and a large morocco money-bag.
"C'est a Kirsch je bense-je l'ai vu toute a l'heure-
qui brenoit des sangviches dans la voiture," said the courier in a fine German French.
Kirsch emerging presently from the neighbourhood of the hold, where he had been bellowing instructions intermingled with polyglot oaths to the ship's men engaged in secreting the passengers' luggage, came to give an account of himself to his brother interpreters. He informed them that the carriage belonged to a Nabob from
Calcutta and Jamaica enormously rich, and with whom he was engaged to travel; and at this moment a young gentleman who had been warned off the bridge between the paddle-boxes, and who had dropped thence on to the roof of Lord Methuselah's carriage, from which he made his way over other carriages and imperials until he had clambered on to his own, descended thence and through the window into the body of the carriage, to the applause of the couriers looking on.
"Nous allons avoir une belle traversee, Monsieur
George," said the courier with a grin, as he lifted his gold-laced cap.
"D- your French," said the young gentleman, "where's the biscuits, ay?" Whereupon Kirsch answered him in the
English language or in such an imitation of it as he could command-for though he was familiar with all languages,
Mr. Kirsch was not acquainted with a single one, and spoke all with indifferent volubility and incorrectness.
The imperious young gentleman who gobbled the biscuits (and indeed it was time to refresh himself, for he had breakfasted at Richmond full three hours before)
was our young friend George Osborne. Uncle Jos and his mamma were on the quarter-deck with a gentleman of whom they used to see a good deal, and the four were about to make a summer tour.
Jos was seated at that moment on deck under the awning, and pretty nearly opposite to the Earl of
Bareacres and his family, whose proceedings absorbed the Bengalee almost entirely. Both the noble couple looked rather younger than in the eventful year '15, when
Jos remembered to have seen them at Brussels (indeed, he always gave out in India that he was intimately acquainted with them). Lady Bareacres' hair, which was then dark, was now a beautiful golden auburn, whereas
Lord Bareacres' whiskers, formerly red, were at present of a rich black with purple and green reflections in the light. But changed as they were, the movements of the noble pair occupied Jos's mind entirely. The presence of a Lord fascinated him, and he could look at nothing else.
"Those people seem to interest you a good deal," said
Dobbin, laughing and watching him. Amelia too laughed.
She was in a straw bonnet with black ribbons, and otherwise dressed in mourning, but the little bustle and holiday of the journey pleased and excited her, and she looked particularly happy.
"What a heavenly day!" Emmy said and added, with great originality, "I hope we shall have a calm passage."
Jos waved his hand, scornfully glancing at the same time under his eyelids at the great folks opposite. "If you had made the voyages we have," he said, "you wouldn't much care about the weather." But nevertheless, traveller as he was, he passed the night direfully sick in his carriage, where his courier tended him with brandy-and-
water and every luxury.
In due time this happy party landed at the quays of
Rotterdam, whence they were transported by another steamer to the city of Cologne. Here the carriage and the family took to the shore, and Jos was not a little gratified to see his arrival announced in the Cologne newspapers as "Herr Graf Lord von Sedley nebst
Begleitung aus London." He had his court dress with him;
he had insisted that Dobbin should bring his regimental paraphernalia; he announced that it was his intention to be presented at some foreign courts, and pay his respects to the Sovereigns of the countries which he honoured with a visit.
Wherever the party stopped, and an opportunity was offered, Mr. Jos left his own card and the Major's upon
"Our Minister." It was with great difficulty that he could be restrained from putting on his cocked hat and tights to wait upon the English consul at the Free City of
Judenstadt, when that hospitable functionary asked our travellers to dinner. He kept a journal of his voyage and noted elaborately the defects or excellences of the various inns at which he put up, and of the wines and dishes of which he partook.
As for Emmy, she was very happy and pleased. Dobbin used to carry about for her her stool and sketch-book, and admired the drawings of the good-natured little artist as they never had been admired before. She sat upon steamers' decks and drew crags and castles, or she mounted upon donkeys and ascended to ancient robber-
towers, attended by her two aides-de-camp, Georgy and
Dobbin. She laughed, and the Major did too, at his droll figure on donkey-back, with his long legs touching the ground. He was the interpreter for the party; having a good military knowledge of the German language, and he and the delighted George fought the campaigns of the
Rhine and the Palatinate. In the course of a few weeks, and by assiduously conversing with Herr Kirsch on the box of the carriage, Georgy made prodigious advance in the knowledge of High Dutch, and could talk to hotel waiters and postilions in a way that charmed his mother and amused his guardian.
Mr. Jos did not much engage in the afternoon excursions of his fellow-travellers. He slept a good deal after dinner, or basked in the arbours of the pleasant inn-gardens. Pleasant Rhine gardens! Fair scenes of peace and sunshine-noble purple mountains, whose crests are reflected in the magnificent stream-who has ever seen you that has not a grateful memory of those scenes of friendly repose and beauty? To lay down the pen and even to think of that beautiful Rhineland makes one happy. At this time of summer evening, the cows are trooping down from the hills, lowing and with their bells tinkling, to the old town, with its old moats, and gates, and spires, and chestnut-trees, with long blue shadows stretching over the grass; the sky and the river below flame in-crimson and gold; and the moon is already out, looking pale towards the sunset. The sun sinks behind the great castle-crested mountains, the night falls suddenly, the river grows darker and darker, lights quiver in it from the windows in the old ramparts, and twinkle peacefully in the villages under the hills on the opposite shore.
So Jos used to go to sleep a good deal with his bandanna over his face and be very comfortable, and read all the English news, and every word of Galignani's admirable newspaper (may the blessings of all Englishmen who have ever been abroad rest on the founders and proprietors of that piratical print! ) and whether he woke or slept, his friends did not very much miss him. Yes, they were very happy. They went to the opera often of evenings-to those snug, unassuming, dear old operas in the
German towns, where the noblesse sits and cries, and knits stockings on the one side, over against the bourgeoisie on the other; and His Transparency the Duke and his
Transparent family, all very fat and good-natured, come and occupy the great box in the middle; and the pit is full of the most elegant slim-waisted officers with straw-
coloured mustachios, and twopence a day on full pay.
Here it was that Emmy found her delight, and was introduced for the first time to the wonders of Mozart and
Cimarosa. The Major's musical taste has been before alluded to, and his performances on the flute commended.
But perhaps the chief pleasure he had in these operas was in watching Emmy's rapture while listening to them.
A new world of love and beauty broke upon her when she was introduced to those divine compositions; this lady had the keenest and finest sensibility, and how could she be indifferent when she heard Mozart? The tender parts of "Don Juan" awakened in her raptures so exquisite that she would ask herself when she went to say her prayers of a night whether it was not wicked to feel so much delight as that with which "Vedrai Carino" and
"Batti Batti" filled her gentle little bosom? But the Major, whom she consulted upon this head, as her theological adviser (and who himself had a pious and reverent soul), said that for his part, every beauty of art or nature made him thankful as well as happy, and that the pleasure to be had in listening to fine music, as in looking at the stars in the sky, or at a beautiful landscape or picture, was a benefit for which we might thank Heaven as sincerely as for any other worldly blessing. And in reply to some faint objections of Mrs. Amelia's (taken from certain theological works like the Washerwoman of Finchley Common and others of that school, with which Mrs. Osborne had been furnished during her life at Brompton) he told her an Eastern fable of the Owl who thought that the sunshine was unbearable for the eyes and that the
Nightingale was a most overrated bird. "It is one's nature to sing and the other's to hoot," he said, laughing, "and with such a sweet voice as you have yourself, you must belong to the Bulbul faction."
I like to dwell upon this period of her life and to think that she was cheerful and happy. You see, she has not had too much of that sort of existence as yet, and has not fallen in the way of means to educate her tastes or her intelligence. She has been domineered over hitherto by vulgar intellects. It is the lot of many a woman. And as every one of the dear sex is the rival of the rest of her kind, timidity passes for folly in their charitable judgments; and gentleness for dulness; and silence-which is but timid denial of the unwelcome assertion of ruling folks, and tacit protestantism-above all, finds no mercy at the hands of the female Inquisition. Thus, my dear and civilized reader, if you and I were to find ourselves this evening in a society of greengrocers, let us say, it is probable that our conversation would not be brilliant; if, on the other hand, a greengrocer should find himself at your refined and polite tea-table, where everybody was saying witty things, and everybody of fashion and repute tearing her friends to pieces in the most delightful manner, it is possible that the stranger would not be very talkative and by no means interesting or interested.
And it must be remembered that this poor lady had never met a gentleman in her life until this present moment. Perhaps these are rarer personages than some of us think for. Which of us can point out many such in his circle-men whose aims are generous, whose truth is constant, and not only constant in its kind but elevated in its degree; whose want of meanness makes them simple; who can look the world honestly in the face with an equal manly sympathy for the great and the small?
We all know a hundred whose coats are very well made, and a score who have excellent manners, and one or two happy beings who are what they call in the inner circles, and have shot into the very centre and bull's-eye of the fashion; but of gentlemen how many? Let us take a little scrap of paper and each make out his list.
My friend the Major I write, without any doubt, in mine. He had very long legs, a yellow face, and a slight lisp, which at first was rather ridiculous. But his thoughts were just, his brains were fairly good, his life was honest and pure, and his heart warm and humble. He certainly had very large hands and feet, which the two George
Osbornes used to caricature and laugh at; and their jeers and laughter perhaps led poor little Emmy astray as to his worth. But have we not all been misled about our heroes and changed our opinions a hundred times? Emmy, in this happy time, found that hers underwent a very great change in respect of the merits of the Major.
Perhaps it was the happiest time of both their lives, indeed, if they did but know it-and who does? Which of us can point out and say that was the culmination-
that was the summit of human joy? But at all events, this couple were very decently contented, and enjoyed as pleasant a summer tour as any pair that left England that year. Georgy was always present at the play, but it was the Major who put Emmy's shawl on after the entertainment; and in the walks and excursions the young lad would be on ahead, and up a tower-stair or a tree, whilst the soberer couple were below, the Major smoking his cigar with great placidity and constancy, whilst Emmy sketched the site or the ruin. It was on this very tour that
I, the present writer of a history of which every word is true, had the pleasure to see them first and to make their acquaintance.
It was at the little comfortable Ducal town of
Pumpernickel (that very place where Sir Pitt Crawley had been so distinguished as an attache; but that was in early early days, and before the news of the Battle of
Austerlitz sent all the English diplomatists in Germany to the right about) that I first saw Colonel Dobbin and his party. They had arrived with the carriage and courier at the Erbprinz Hotel, the best of the town, and the whole party dined at the table d'hote. Everybody remarked the majesty of Jos and the knowing way in which he sipped, or rather sucked, the Johannisberger, which he ordered for dinner. The little boy, too, we observed, had a famous appetite, and consumed schinken, and braten, and kartoffeln, and cranberry jam, and salad, and pudding, and roast fowls, and sweetmeats, with a gallantry that did honour to his nation. After about fifteen dishes, he concluded the repast with dessert, some of which he even carried out of doors, for some young gentlemen at table, amused with his coolness and gallant free-and-easy manner, induced him to pocket a handful of macaroons, which he discussed on his way to the theatre, whither everybody went in the cheery social little German place.
The lady in black, the boy's mamma, laughed and blushed, and looked exceedingly pleased and shy as the dinner went on, and at the various feats and instances of espieglerie on the part of her son. The Colonel-
for so he became very soon afterwards-I remember joked the boy with a great deal of grave fun, pointing out dishes which he hadn't tried, and entreating him not to baulk his appetite, but to have a second supply of this or that.
It was what they call a gast-rolle night at the Royal
Grand Ducal Pumpernickelisch Hof-or Court theatre-
and Madame Schroeder Devrient, then in the bloom of her beauty and genius, performed the part of the heroine in the wonderful opera of Fidelio. From our places in the stalls we could see our four friends of the table d'hote in the loge which Schwendler of the Erbprinz kept for his best guests, and I could not help remarking the effect which the magnificent actress and music produced upon
Mrs. Osborne, for so we heard the stout gentleman in the mustachios call her. During the astonishing Chorus of the Prisoners, over which the delightful voice of the actress rose and soared in the most ravishing harmony, the English lady's face wore such an expression of wonder and delight that it struck even little Fipps, the blase attache, who drawled out, as he fixed his glass upon her,
"Gayd, it really does one good to see a woman caypable of that stayt of excaytement." And in the Prison Scene, where Fidelio, rushing to her husband, cries, "Nichts, nichts, mein Florestan," she fairly lost herself and covered her face with her handkerchief. Every woman in the house was snivelling at the time, but I suppose it was because it was predestined that I was to write this particular lady's memoirs that I remarked her.
The next day they gave another piece of Beethoven,
Die Schlacht bei Vittoria. Malbrook is introduced at the beginning of the performance, as indicative of the brisk advance of the French army. Then come drums, trumpets, thunders of artillery, and groans of the dying, and at last, in a grand triumphal swell, "God Save the King" is performed.
There may have been a score of Englishmen in the house, but at the burst of that beloved and well-known music, every one of them, we young fellows in the stalls,
Sir John and Lady Bullminster (who had taken a house at Pumpernickel for the education of their nine children), the fat gentleman with the mustachios, the long
Major in white duck trousers, and the lady with the little boy upon whom he was so sweet, even Kirsch, the courier in the gallery, stood bolt upright in their places and proclaimed themselves to be members of the dear old British nation. As for Tapeworm, the Charge d'Affaires, he rose up in his box and bowed and simpered, as if he would represent the whole empire. Tapeworm was nephew and heir of old Marshal Tiptoff, who has been introduced in this story as General Tiptoff, just before Waterloo, who was Colonel of the -th regiment in which Major Dobbin served, and who died in this year full of honours, and of an aspic of plovers' eggs; when the regiment was graciously given by his Majesty to Colonel Sir Michael O'Dowd,
K.C.B. who had commanded it in many glorious fields.
Tapeworm must have met with Colonel Dobbin at the house of the Colonel's Colonel, the Marshal, for he recognized him on this night at the theatre, and with the utmost condescension, his Majesty's minister came over from his own box and publicly shook hands with his new-found friend.
"Look at that infernal sly-boots of a Tapeworm,"
Fipps whispered, examining his chief from the stalls.
"Wherever there's a pretty woman he always twists himself in." And I wonder what were diplomatists made for but for that?
"Have I the honour of addressing myself to Mrs.
Dobbin?" asked the Secretary with a most insinuating grin.
Georgy burst out laughing and said, "By Jove, that was a good 'un." Emmy and the Major blushed: we saw them from the stalls.
"This lady is Mrs. George Osborne," said the Major,
"and this is her brother, Mr. Sedley, a distinguished officer of the Bengal Civil Service: permit me to introduce him to your lordship."
My lord nearly sent Jos off his legs with the most fascinating smile. "Are you going to stop in Pumpernickel?"
he said. "It is a dull place, but we want some nice people, and we would try and make it SO agreeable to you. Mr.-
Ahum-Mrs.-Oho. I shall do myself the honour of calling upon you to-morrow at your inn." And he went away with a Parthian grin and glance which he thought must finish Mrs. Osborne completely.
The performance over, the young fellows lounged about the lobbies, and we saw the society take its departure.
The Duchess Dowager went off in her jingling old coach, attended by two faithful and withered old maids of honour, and a little snuffy spindle-shanked gentleman in waiting, in a brown jasey and a green coat covered with orders-of which the star and the grand yellow cordon of the order of St. Michael of Pumpernickel were most conspicuous. The drums rolled, the guards saluted, and the old carriage drove away.
Then came his Transparency the Duke and Transparent family, with his great officers of state and household. He bowed serenely to everybody. And amid the saluting of the guards and the flaring of the torches of the running footmen, clad in scarlet, the Transparent carriages drove away to the old Ducal schloss, with its towers and pinacles standing on the schlossberg. Everybody in
Pumpernickel knew everybody. No sooner was a foreigner seen there than the Minister of Foreign Affairs, or some other great or small officer of state, went round to the Erbprinz and found out the name of the new arrival.
We watched them, too, out of the theatre. Tapeworm had just walked off, enveloped in his cloak, with which his gigantic chasseur was always in attendance, and looking as much as possible like Don Juan. The Prime
Minister's lady had just squeezed herself into her sedan, and her daughter, the charming Ida, had put on her calash and clogs; when the English party came out, the boy yawning drearily, the Major taking great pains in keeping the shawl over Mrs. Osborne's head, and Mr.
Sedley looking grand, with a crush opera-hat on one side of his head and his hand in the stomach of a voluminous white waistcoat. We took off our hats to our acquaintances of the table d'hote, and the lady, in return, presented us with a little smile and a curtsey, for which everybody might be thankful.
The carriage from the inn, under the superintendence of the bustling Mr. Kirsch, was in waiting to convey the party; but the fat man said he would walk and smoke his cigar on his way homewards, so the other three, with nods and smiles to us, went without Mr. Sedley, Kirsch, with the cigar case, following in his master's wake.
We all walked together and talked to the stout gentleman about the agremens of the place. It was very agreeable for the English. There were shooting-parties and battues; there was a plenty of balls and entertainments at the hospitable Court; the society was generally good; the theatre excellent; and the living cheap.
"And our Minister seems a most delightful and affable person," our new friend said. '~With such a representative, and-and a good medical man, I can fancy the place to be most eligible. Good-night, gentlemen." And Jos creaked up the stairs to bedward, followed by Kirsch with a flambeau. We rather hoped that nice-looking woman would be induced to stay some time in the town.
In Which We Meet an Old Acquaintance
Such polite behaviour as that of Lord Tapeworm did not fail to have the most favourable effect upon Mr.
Sedley's mind, and the very next morning, at breakfast, he pronounced his opinion that Pumpernickel was the pleasantest little place of any which he had visited on their tour. Jos's motives and artifices were not very difficult of comprehension, and Dobbin laughed in his sleeve, like a hypocrite as he was, when he found, by the knowing air of the civilian and the offhand manner in which the latter talked about Tapeworm Castle and the other members of the family, that Jos had been up already in the morning, consulting his travelling Peerage. Yes, he had seen the Right Honourable the Earl of Bagwig, his lordship's father; he was sure he had, he had met him at-at the
Levee-didn't Dob remember? and when the Diplomatist called on the party, faithful to his promise, Jos received him with such a salute and honours as were seldom accorded to the little Envoy. He winked at Kirsch on his
Excellency's arrival, and that emissary, instructed before-
hand, went out and superintended an entertainment of cold meats, jellies, and other delicacies, brought in upon trays, and of which Mr. Jos absolutely insisted that his noble guest should partake.
Tapeworm, so long as he could have an opportunity of admiring the bright eyes of Mrs. Osborne (whose freshness of complexion bore daylight remarkably well) was not ill pleased to accept any invitation to stay in Mr.
Sedley's lodgings; he put one or two dexterous questions to him about India and the dancing-girls there; asked
Amelia about that beautiful boy who had been with her;
and complimented the astonished little woman upon the prodigious sensation which she had made in the house;
and tried to fascinate Dobbin by talking of the late war and the exploits of the Pumpernickel contingent under the command of the Hereditary Prince, now Duke of
Lord Tapeworm inherited no little portion of the family gallantry, and it was his happy belief that almost every woman upon whom he himself cast friendly eyes was in love with him. He left Emmy under the persuasion that she was slain by his wit and attractions and went home to his lodgings to write a pretty little note to her. She was not fascinated, only puzzled, by his grinning, his simpering, his scented cambric handkerchief, and his high-heeled lacquered boots. She did not understand one-half the compliments which he paid; she had never, in her small experience of mankind, met a professional ladies' man as yet, and looked upon my lord as something curious rather than pleasant; and if she did not admire, certainly wondered at him. Jos, on the contrary, was delighted. "How very affable his Lordship is," he said; "How very kind of his Lordship to say he would send his medical man!
Kirsch, you will carry our cards to the Count de
Schlusselback directly; the Major and I will have the greatest pleasure in paying our respects at Court as soon as possible. Put out my uniform, Kirsch-both our uniforms. It is a mark of politeness which every English gentleman ought to show to the countries which he visits to pay his respects to the sovereigns of those countries as to the representatives of his own."
When Tapeworm's doctor came, Doctor von Glauber,
Body Physician to H.S.H. the Duke, he speedily convinced Jos that the Pumpernickel mineral springs and the Doctor's particular treatment would infallibly restore the Bengalee to youth and slimness. "Dere came here last year," he said, "Sheneral Bulkeley, an English Sheneral, tvice so pic as you, sir. I sent him back qvite tin after tree months, and he danced vid Baroness Glauber at the end of two."
Jos's mind was made up; the springs, the Doctor, the
Court, and the Charge d'Affaires convinced him, and he proposed to spend the autumn in these delightful quarters. And punctual to his word, on the next day the
Charge d'Affaires presented Jos and the Major to Victor
Aurelius XVII, being conducted to their audience with that sovereign by the Count de Schlusselback, Marshal of the Court.
They were straightway invited to dinner at Court, and their intention of staying in the town being announced, the politest ladies of the whole town instantly called upon
Mrs. Osborne; and as not one of these, however poor they might be, was under the rank of a Baroness, Jos's delight was beyond expression. He wrote off to Chutney at the Club to say that the Service was highly appreciated in Germany, that he was going to show his friend, the
Count de Schlusselback, how to stick a pig in the Indian fashion, and that his august friends, the Duke and
Duchess, were everything that was kind and civil.
Emmy, too, was presented to the august family, and as mourning is not admitted in Court on certain days, she appeared in a pink crape dress with a diamond ornament in the corsage, presented to her by her brother, and she looked so pretty in this costume that the Duke and
Court (putting out of the question the Major, who had scarcely ever seen her before in an evening dress, and vowed that she did not look five-and-twenty) all admired her excessively.
In this dress she walked a Polonaise with Major Dobbin at a Court ball, in which easy dance Mr. Jos had the honour of leading out the Countess of Schlusselback, an old lady with a hump back, but with sixteen good quarters of nobility and related to half the royal houses of Germany.
Pumpernickel stands in the midst of a happy valley through which sparkles-to mingle with the Rhine somewhere, but I have not the map at hand to say exactly at what point-the fertilizing stream of the Pump. In some places the river is big enough to support a ferry-boat, in others to turn a mill; in Pumpernickel itself, the last
Transparency but three, the great and renowned Victor
Aurelius XIV built a magnificent bridge, on which his own statue rises, surrounded by water-nymphs and emblems of victory, peace, and plenty; he has his foot on the neck of a prostrate Turk-history says he engaged and ran a Janissary through the body at the relief of Vienna by Sobieski-but, quite undisturbed by the agonies of that prostrate Mahometan, who writhes at his feet in the most ghastly manner, the Prince smiles blandly and points with his truncheon in the direction of the Aurelius
Platz, where he began to erect a new palace that would have been the wonder of his age had the great-souled
Prince but had funds to complete it. But the completion of Monplaisir (Monblaisir the honest German folks call it) was stopped for lack of ready money, and it and its park and garden are now in rather a faded condition, and not more than ten times big enough to accommodate the Court of the reigning Sovereign.
The gardens were arranged to emulate those of
Versailles, and amidst the terraces and groves there are some huge allegorical waterworks still, which spout and froth stupendously upon fete-days, and frighten one with their enormous aquatic insurrections. There is the
Trophonius' cave in which, by some artifice, the leaden
Tritons are made not only to spout water, but to play the most dreadful groans out of their lead conchs-there is the nymphbath and the Niagara cataract, which the people of the neighbourhood admire beyond expression, when they come to the yearly fair at the opening of the
Chamber, or to the fetes with which the happy little nation still celebrates the birthdays and marriage-days of its princely governors.
Then from all the towns of the Duchy, which stretches for nearly ten mile-from Bolkum, which lies on its western frontier bidding defiance to Prussia, from
Grogwitz, where the Prince has a hunting-lodge, and where his dominions are separated by the Pump River from those of the neighbouring Prince of Potzenthal; from all the little villages, which besides these three great cities, dot over the happy principality-from the farms and the mills along the Pump come troops of people in red petticoats and velvet head-dresses, or with three-
cornered hats and pipes in their mouths, who flock to the
Residenz and share in the pleasures of the fair and the festivities there. Then the theatre is open for nothing, then the waters of Monblaisir begin to play (it is lucky that there is company to behold them, for one would be afraid to see them alone)-then there come mountebanks and riding troops (the way in which his Transparency was fascinated by one of the horse-riders is well known, and it is believed that La Petite Vivandiere, as she was called, was a spy in the French interest), and the delighted people are permitted to march through room after room of the Grand Ducal palace and admire the slippery floor, the rich hangings, and the spittoons at the doors of all the innumerable chambers. There is one
Pavilion at Monblaisir which Aurelius Victor XV had arranged-a great Prince but too fond of pleasure-and which I am told is a perfect wonder of licentious elegance.
It is painted with the story of Bacchus and Ariadne, and the table works in and out of the room by means of a windlass, so that the company was served without any intervention of domestics. But the place was shut up by
Barbara, Aurelius XV's widow, a severe and devout
Princess of the House of Bolkum and Regent of the Duchy during her son's glorious minority, and after the death of her husband, cut off in the pride of his pleasures.
The theatre of Pumpernickel is known and famous in that quarter of Germany. It languished a little when the present Duke in his youth insisted upon having his own operas played there, and it is said one day, in a fury, from his place in the orchestra, when he attended a rehearsal, broke a bassoon on the head of the Chapel
Master, who was conducting, and led too slow; and during which time the Duchess Sophia wrote domestic comedies, which must have been very dreary to witness. But the
Prince executes his music in private now, and the Duchess only gives away her plays to the foreigners of distinction who visit her kind little Court.
It is conducted with no small comfort and splendour.
When there are balls, though there may be four hundred people at supper, there is a servant in scarlet and lace to attend upon every four, and every one is served on silver. There are festivals and entertainments going continually on, and the Duke has his chamberlains and equerries, and the Duchess her mistress of the wardrobe and ladies of honour, just like any other and more potent potentates.
The Constitution is or was a moderate despotism, tempered by a Chamber that might or might not be elected. I never certainly could hear of its sitting in my time at Pumpernickel. The Prime Minister had lodgings in a second floor, and the Foreign Secretary occupied the comfortable lodgings over Zwieback's Conditorey. The army consisted of a magnificent band that also did duty on the stage, where it was quite pleasant to see the worthy fellows marching in Turkish dresses with rouge on and wooden scimitars, or as Roman warriors with ophicleides and trombones-to see them again, I say, at night, after one had listened to them all the morning in the Aurelius Platz, where they performed opposite the cafe where we breakfasted. Besides the band, there was a rich and numerous staff of officers, and, I believe, a few men. Besides the regular sentries, three or four men, habited as hussars, used to do duty at the Palace, but I
never saw them on horseback, and au fait, what was the use of cavalry in a time of profound peace?-and whither the deuce should the hussars ride?
Everybody-everybody that was noble of course, for as for the bourgeois we could not quite be expected to take notice of THEM-visited his neighbour. H. E. Madame de Burst received once a week, H. E. Madame de
Schnurrbart had her night-the theatre was open twice a week, the Court graciously received once, so that a man's life might in fact be a perfect round of pleasure in the unpretending Pumpernickel way.
That there were feuds in the place, no one can deny.
Politics ran very high at Pumpernickel, and parties were very bitter. There was the Strumpff faction and the
Lederlung party, the one supported by our envoy and the other by the French Charge d'Affaires, M. de Macabau.
Indeed it sufficed for our Minister to stand up for
Madame Strumpff, who was clearly the greater singer of the two, and had three more notes in her voice than Madame
Lederlung her rival-it sufficed, I say, for our Minister to advance any opinion to have it instantly contradicted by the French diplomatist.
Everybody in the town was ranged in one or other of these factions. The Lederlung was a prettyish little creature certainly, and her voice (what there was of it) was very sweet, and there is no doubt that the Strumpff was not in her first youth and beauty, and certainly too stout;
when she came on in the last scene of the Sonnambula, for instance, in her night-chemise with a lamp in her hand, and had to go out of the window, and pass over the plank of the mill, it was all she could do to squeeze out of the window, and the plank used to bend and creak again under her weight-but how she poured out the finale of the opera! and with what a burst of feeling she rushed into Elvino's arms-almost fit to smother him! Whereas the little Lederlung-but a truce to this gossip-the fact is that these two women were the two flags of the French and the English party at
Pumpernickel, and the society was divided in its allegiance to those two great nations.
We had on our side the Home Minister, the Master of the Horse, the Duke's Private Secretary, and the Prince's
Tutor; whereas of the French party were the Foreign
Minister, the Commander-in-Chief's Lady, who had served under Napoleon, and the Hof-Marschall and his wife, who was glad enough to get the fashions from
Pans, and always had them and her caps by M. de
Macabau's courier. The Secretary of his Chancery was little
Grignac, a young fellow, as malicious as Satan, and who made caricatures of Tapeworm in all the-albums of the place.
Their headquarters and table d'hote were established at the Pariser Hof, the other inn of the town; and though, of course, these gentlemen were obliged to be civil in public, yet they cut at each other with epigrams that were as sharp as razors, as I have seen a couple of wrestlers in Devonshire, lashing at each other's shins and never showing their agony upon a muscle of their faces. Neither Tapeworm nor Macabau ever sent home a dispatch to his government without a most savage series of attacks upon his rival. For instance, on our side we would write, "The interests of Great Britain in this place, and throughout the whole of Germany, are perilled by the continuance in office of the present French envoy;
this man is of a character so infamous that he will stick at no falsehood, or hesitate at no crime, to attain his ends. He poisons the mind of the Court against the
English minister, represents the conduct of Great Britain in the most odious and atrocious light, and is unhappily backed by a minister whose ignorance and necessities are as notorious as his influence is fatal." On their side they would.say, "M. de Tapeworm continues his system of stupid insular arrogance and vulgar falsehood against the greatest nation in the world. Yesterday he was heard to speak lightly of Her Royal Highness Madame the Duchess of Berri; on a former occasion he insulted the heroic Duke of Angouleme and dared to insinuate that H.R.H. the Duke of Orleans was conspiring against the august throne of the lilies. His gold is prodigated in every direction which his stupid menaces fail to frighten.
By one and the other, he has won over creatures of the
Court here-and, in fine, Pumpernickel will not be quiet, Germany tranquil, France respected, or Europe content until this poisonous viper be crushed under heel": and so on. When one side or the other had written any particularly spicy dispatch, news of it was sure to slip out.
Before the winter was far advanced, it is actually on record that Emmy took a night and received company with great propriety and modesty. She had a French master, who complimented her upon the purity of her accent and her facility of learning; the fact is she had learned long ago and grounded herself subsequently in the grammar so as to be able to teach it to George; and Madam
Strumpff came to give her lessons in singing, which she performed so well and with such a true voice that the
Major's windows, who had lodgings opposite under the
Prime Minister, were always open to hear the lesson.
Some of the German ladies, who are very sentimental and simple in their tastes, fell in love with her and began to call her du at once. These are trivial details, but they relate to happy times. The Major made himself George's tutor and read Caesar and mathematics with him, and they had a German master and rode out of evenings by the side of Emmy's carriage-she was always too timid, and made a dreadful outcry at the slightest disturbance on horse-back. So she drove about with one of her dear
German friends, and Jos asleep on the back-seat of the barouche.
He was becoming very sweet upon the Grafinn Fanny de Butterbrod, a very gentle tender-hearted and unassuming young creature, a Canoness and Countess in her own right, but with scarcely ten pounds per year to her fortune, and Fanny for her part declared that to be
Amelia's sister was the greatest delight that Heaven could bestow on her, and Jos might have put a Countess's shield and coronet by the side of his own arms on his carriage and forks; when-when events occurred, and those grand fetes given upon the marriage of the Hereditary
Prince of Pumpernickel with the lovely Princess Amelia of Humbourg-Schlippenschloppen took place.
At this festival the magnificence displayed was such as had not been known in the little German place since the days of the prodigal Victor XIV. All the neighbouring
Princes, Princesses, and Grandees were invited to the feast. Beds rose to half a crown per night in Pumpernickel, and the Army was exhausted in providing guards of honour for the Highnesses, Serenities, and Excellencies who arrived from all quarters. The Princess was married by proxy, at her father's residence, by the Count de
Schlusselback. Snuff-boxes were given away in profusion
(as we learned from the Court jeweller, who sold and afterwards bought them again), and bushels of the
Order of Saint Michael of Pumpernickel were sent to the nobles of the Court, while hampers of the cordons and decorations of the Wheel of St. Catherine of
Schlippenschloppen were brought to ours. The French envoy got both. "He is covered with ribbons like a prize cart-horse," Tapeworm said, who was not allowed by the rules of his service to take any decorations: "Let him have the cordons; but with whom is the victory?" The fact is, it was a triumph of British diplomacy, the French party having proposed and tried their utmost to carry a marriage with a Princess of the House of
Potztausend-Donnerwetter, whom, as a matter of course, we opposed.
Everybody was asked to the fetes of the marriage.
Garlands and triumphal arches were hung across the road to welcome the young bride. The great Saint Michael's
Fountain ran with uncommonly sour wine, while that in the Artillery Place frothed with beer. The great waters played; and poles were put up in the park and gardens for the happy peasantry, which they might climb at their leisure, carrying off watches, silver forks, prize sausages hung with pink ribbon, &c., at the top. Georgy got one, wrenching it off, having swarmed up the pole to the delight of the spectators, and sliding down with the rapidity of a fall of water. But it was for the glory's sake merely. The boy gave the sausage to a peasant, who had very nearly seized it, and stood at the foot of the mast, blubbering, because he was unsuccessful.
At the French Chancellerie they had six more lampions in their illumination than ours had; but our transparency, which represented the young Couple advancing and
Discord flying away, with the most ludicrous likeness to the
French Ambassador, beat the French picture hollow; and
I have no doubt got Tapeworm the advancement and the
Cross of the Bath which he subsequently attained.
Crowds of foreigners arrived for the fetes, and of
English, of course. Besides the Court balls, public balls were given at the Town Hall and the Redoute, and in the former place there was a room for trente-et-quarante and roulette established, for the week of the festivities only, and by one of the great German companies from
Ems or Aix-la-Chapelle. The officers or inhabitants of the town were not allowed to play at these games, but strangers, peasants, ladies were admitted, and any one who chose to lose or win money.
That little scapegrace Georgy Osborne amongst others, whose pockets were always full of dollars and whose relations were away at the grand festival of the Court, came to the Stadthaus Ball in company of his uncle's courier, Mr. Kirsch, and having only peeped into a play-room at Baden-Baden when he hung on Dobbin's arm, and where, of course, he was not permitted to gamble, came eagerly to this part of the entertainment and hankered round the tables where the croupiers and the punters were at work. Women were playing; they were masked, some of them; this license was allowed in these wild times of carnival.
A woman with light hair, in a low dress by no means so fresh as it had been, and with a black mask on, through the eyelets of which her eyes twinkled strangely, was seated at one of the roulette-tables with a card and a pin and a couple of florins before her. As the croupier called out the colour and number, she pricked on the card with great care and regularity, and only ventured her money on the colours after the red or black had come up a certain number of times. It was strange to look at her.
But in spite of her care and assiduity she guessed wrong and the last two florins followed each other under the croupier's rake, as he cried out with his inexorable voice the winning colour and number. She gave a sigh, a shrug with her shoulders, which were already too much out of her gown, and dashing the pin through the card on to the table, sat thrumming it for a while. Then she looked round her and saw Georgy's honest face staring at the scene. The little scamp! What business had he to be there?
When she saw the boy, at whose face she looked hard through her shining eyes and mask, she said, "Monsieur n'est pas joueur?"
"Non, Madame," said the boy; but she must have known, from his accent, of what country he was, for she answered him with a slight foreign tone. "You have nevare played-will you do me a littl' favor?"
"What is it?" said Georgy, blushing again. Mr. Kirsch was at work for his part at the rouge et noir and did not see his young master.
"Play this for me, if you please; put it on any number, any number." And she took from her bosom a purse, and out of it a gold piece, the only coin there, and she put it into George's hand. The boy laughed and did as he was bid.
The number came up sure enough. There is a power that arranges that, they say, for beginners.
"Thank you," said she, pulling the money towards her,
"thank you. What is your name?"
"My name's Osborne," said Georgy, and was fingering in his own pockets for dollars, and just about to make a trial, when the Major, in his uniform, and Jos, en Marquis, from the Court ball, made their appearance. Other people, finding the entertainment stupid and preferring the fun at the Stadthaus, had quitted the Palace ball earlier;
but it is probable the Major and Jos had gone home and found the boy's absence, for the former instantly went up to him and, taking him by the shoulder, pulled him briskly back from the place of temptation. Then, looking round the room, he saw Kirsch employed as we have said, and going up to him, asked how he dared to bring
Mr. George to such a place.
"Laissez-moi tranquille," said Mr. Kirsch, very much excited by play and wine. "ll faut s'amuser, parbleu.
Je ne suis pas au service de Monsieur."
Seeing his condition the Major did not choose to argue with the man, but contented himself with drawing away
George and asking Jos if he would come away. He was standing close by the lady in the mask, who was playing with pretty good luck now, and looking on much interested at the game.
"Hadn't you better come, Jos," the Major said, "with
George and me?"
"I'll stop and go home with that rascal, Kirsch," Jos said; and for the same reason of modesty, which he thought ought to be preserved before the boy, Dobbin did not care to remonstrate with Jos, but left him and walked home with Georgy.
"Did you play?" asked the Major when they were out and on their way home.
The boy said "No."
"Give me your word of honour as a gentleman that you never will."
"Why?" said the boy; "it seems very good fun." And, in a very eloquent and impressive manner, the Major showed him why he shouldn't, and would have enforced his precepts by the example of Georgy's own father, had he liked to say anything that should reflect on the other's memory. When he had housed him, he went to bed and saw his light, in the little room outside of Amelia's, presently disappear. Amelia's followed half an hour afterwards. I don't know what made the Major note it so accurately.
Jos, however, remained behind over the play-table; he was no gambler, but not averse to the little excitement of the sport now and then, and he had some Napoleons chinking in the embroidered pockets of his court waistcoat. He put down one over the fair shoulder of the little gambler before him, and they won. She made a little movement to make room for him by her side, and just took the skirt of her gown from a vacant chair there.
"Come and give me good luck," she said, still in a foreign accent, quite different from that frank and perfectly English "Thank you," with which she had saluted
Georgy's coup in her favour. The portly gentleman, looking round to see that nobody of rank observed him, sat down; he muttered-"Ah, really, well now, God bless my soul. I'm very fortunate; I'm sure to give you good fortune," and other words of compliment and confusion.
"Do you play much?" the foreign mask said.
"I put a Nap or two down," said Jos with a superb air, flinging down a gold piece.
"Yes; ay nap after dinner," said the mask archly. But
Jos looking frightened, she continued, in her pretty
French accent, "You do not play to win. No more do I.
I play to forget, but I cannot. I cannot forget old times, monsieur. Your little nephew is the image of his father;
and you-you are not changed-but yes, you are.
Everybody changes, everybody forgets; nobody has any heart."
"Good God, who is it?" asked Jos in a flutter.
"Can't you guess, Joseph Sedley?" said the little woman in a sad voice, and undoing her mask, she looked at him. "You have forgotten me."
"Good heavens! Mrs. Crawley!" gasped out Jos.
"Rebecca," said the other, putting her hand on his;
but she followed the game still, all the time she was looking at him.
"I am stopping at the Elephant," she continued. "Ask for Madame de Raudon. I saw my dear Amelia to-day;
how pretty she looked, and how happy! So do you!
Everybody but me, who am wretched, Joseph Sedley."
And she put her money over from the red to the black, as if by a chance movement of her hand, and while she was wiping her eyes with a pocket-handkerchief fringed with torn lace.
The red came up again, and she lost the whole of that stake.~ "Come away," she said. "Come with me a little
-we are old friends, are we not, dear Mr. Sedley?"
And Mr. Kirsch having lost all his money by this time, followed his master out into the moonlight, where the illuminations were winking out and the transparency over our mission was scarcely visible.
A Vagabond Chapter
We must pass over a part of Mrs. Rebecca Crawley's biography with that lightness and delicacy which the world demands-the moral world, that has, perhaps, no particular objection to vice, but an insuperable repugnance to hearing vice called by its proper name. There are things we do and know perfectly well in Vanity Fair, though we never speak of them: as the Ahrimanians worship the devil, but don't mention him: and a polite public will no more bear to read an authentic description of vice than a truly refined English or American female will permit the word breeches to be pronounced in her chaste hearing. And yet, madam, both are walking the world before our faces every day, without much shocking us. If you were to blush every time they went by, what complexions you would have! It is only when their naughty names are called out that your modesty has any occasion to show alarm or sense of outrage, and it has been the wish of the present writer, all through this story, deferentially to submit to the fashion at present prevailing, and only to hint at the existence of wickedness in a light, easy, and agreeable manner, so that nobody's fine feelings may be offended. I defy any one to say that our Becky, who has certainly some vices, has not been presented to the public in a perfectly genteel and inoffensive manner. In describing this Siren, singing and smiling, coaxing and cajoling, the author, with modest pride, asks his readers all round, has he once forgotten the laws of politeness, and showed the monster's hideous tail above water? No! Those who like may peep down under waves that are pretty transparent and see it writhing and twirling, diabolically hideous and slimy, flapping amongst bones, or curling round corpses; but above the waterline,
I ask, has not everything been proper, agreeable, and decorous, and has any the most squeamish immoralist in Vanity Fair a right to cry fie? When, however, the Siren disappears and dives below, down among the dead men, the water of course grows turbid over her, and it is labour lost to look into it ever so curiously. They look pretty enough when they sit upon a rock, twanging their harps and combing their hair, and sing, and beckon to you to come and hold the looking-glass; but when they sink into their native element, depend on it, those mermaids are about no good, and we had best not examine the fiendish marine cannibals, revelling and feasting on their wretched pickled victims. And so, when Becky is out of the way, be sure that she is not particularly well employed, and that the less that is said about her doings is in fact the better.
If we were to give a full account of her proceedings during a couple of years that followed after the Curzon
Street catastrophe, there might be some reason for people to say this book was improper. The actions of very vain, heartless, pleasure-seeking people are very often improper (as are many of yours, my friend with the grave face and spotless reputation-but that is merely by the way); and what are those of a woman without faith-or love-or character? And I am inclined to think that there was a period in Mrs Becky's life when she was seized, not by remorse, but by a kind of despair, and absolutely neglected her person and did not even care for her reputation.
This abattement and degradation did not take place all at once; it was brought about by degrees, after her calamity, and after many struggles to keep up-as a man who goes overboard hangs on to a spar whilst any hope is left, and then flings it away and goes down, when he finds that struggling is in vain.
She lingered about London whilst her husband was making preparations for his departure to his seat of government, and it is believed made more than one attempt to see her brother-in-law, Sir Pitt Crawley, and to work upon his feelings, which she had almost enlisted in her favour. As Sir Pitt and Mr. Wenham were walking down to the House of Commons, the latter spied
Mrs. Rawdon in a black veil, and lurking near the palace of the legislature. She sneaked away when her eyes met those of Wenham, and indeed never succeeded in her designs upon the Baronet.
Probably Lady Jane interposed. I have heard that she quite astonished her husband by the spirit which she exhibited in this quarrel, and her determination to disown
Mrs. Becky. Of her own movement, she invited Rawdon to come and stop in Gaunt Street until his departure for
Coventry Island, knowing that with him for a guard Mrs.
Becky would not try to force her door; and she looked curiously at the superscriptions of all the letters which arrived for Sir Pitt, lest he and his sister-in-law should be corresponding. Not but that Rebecca could have written had she a mind, but she did not try to see or to write to Pitt at his own house, and after one or two attempts consented to his demand that the correspondence regarding her conjugal differences should be carried on by lawyers only.
The fact was that Pitt's mind had been poisoned against her. A short time after Lord Steyne's accident Wenham had been with the Baronet and given him such a biography of Mrs. Becky as had astonished the member for
Queen's Crawley. He knew everything regarding her: who her father was; in what year her mother danced at the opera; what had been her previous history; and what her conduct during her married life-as I have no doubt that the greater part of the story was false and dictated by interested malevolence, it shall not be repeated here. But Becky was left with a sad sad reputation in the esteem of a country gentleman and relative who had been once rather partial to her.
The revenues of the Governor of Coventry Island are not large. A part of them were set aside by his Excellency for the payment of certain outstanding debts and liabilities, the charges incident on his high situation required considerable expense; finally, it was found that he could not spare to his wife more than three hundred pounds a year, which he proposed to pay to her on an undertaking that she would never trouble him.
Otherwise, scandal, separation, Doctors' Commons would ensue. But it was Mr. Wenham's business, Lord Steyne's business, Rawdon's, everybody's-to get her out of the country, and hush up a most disagreeable affair.
She was probably so much occupied in arranging these affairs of business with her husband's lawyers that she forgot to take any step whatever about her son, the little
Rawdon, and did not even once propose to go and see him. That young gentleman was consigned to the entire guardianship of his aunt and uncle, the former of whom had always possessed a great share of the child's affection. His mamma wrote him a neat letter from Boulogne, when she quitted England, in which she requested him to mind his book, and said she was going to take a
Continental tour, during which she would have the pleasure of writing to him again. But she never did for a year afterwards, and not, indeed, until Sir Pitt's only boy, always sickly, died of hooping-cough and measles-then
Rawdon's mamma wrote the most affectionate composition to her darling son, who was made heir of Queen's
Crawley by this accident, and drawn more closely than ever to the kind lady, whose tender heart had already adopted him. Rawdon Crawley, then grown a tall, fine lad, blushed when he got the letter. "Oh, Aunt Jane, you are my mother!" he said; "and not-and not that one."
But he wrote back a kind and respectful letter to Mrs.
Rebecca, then living at a boarding-house at Florence.
But we are advancing matters.
Our darling Becky's first flight was not very far. She perched upon the French coast at Boulogne, that refuge of so much exiled English innocence, and there lived in rather a genteel, widowed manner, with a femme de chambre and a couple of rooms, at an hotel. She dined at the table d'hote, where people thought her very pleasant, and where she entertained her neighbours by stories of her brother, Sir Pitt, and her great London acquaintance, talking that easy, fashionable slip-slop which has so much effect upon certain folks of small breeding. She passed with many of them for a person of importance;
she gave little tea-parties in her private room and shared in the innocent amusements of the place in sea-bathing, and in jaunts in open carriages, in strolls on the sands, and in visits to the play. Mrs. Burjoice, the printer's lady, who was boarding with her family at the hotel for the summer, and to whom her Burjoice came of a
Saturday and Sunday, voted her charming, until that little rogue of a Burjoice began to pay her too much attention. But there was nothing in the story, only that
Becky was always affable, easy, and good-natured-and with men especially.
Numbers of people were going abroad as usual at the end of the season, and Becky had plenty of opportunities of finding out by the behaviour of her acquaintances of the great London world the opinion of "society" as regarded her conduct. One day it was Lady Partlet and her daughters whom Becky confronted as she was walking modestly on Boulogne pier, the cliffs of Albion shining in the distance across the deep blue sea. Lady Partlet marshalled all her daughters round her with a sweep of her parasol and retreated from the pier, darting savage glances at poor little Becky who stood alone there.
On another day the packet came in. It had been blowing fresh, and it always suited Becky's humour to see the droll woe-begone faces of the people as they emerged from the boat. Lady Slingstone happened to be on board this day. Her ladyship had been exceedingly ill in her carriage, and was greatly exhausted and scarcely fit to walk up the plank from the ship to the pier. But all her energies rallied the instant she saw Becky smiling roguishly under a pink bonnet, and giving her a glance of scorn such as would have shrivelled up most women, she walked into the Custom House quite unsupported. Becky only laughed: but I don't think she liked it. She felt she was alone, quite alone, and the far-off shining cliffs of England were impassable to her.
The behaviour of the men had undergone too I don't know what change. Grinstone showed his teeth and laughed in her face with a familiarity that was not pleasant.
Little Bob Suckling, who was cap in hand to her three months before, and would walk a mile in the rain to see for her carriage in the line at Gaunt House, was talking to Fitzoof of the Guards (Lord Heehaw's son)
one day upon the jetty, as Becky took her walk there.
Little Bobby nodded to her over his shoulder, without moving his hat, and continued his conversation with the heir of Heehaw. Tom Raikes tried to walk into her sitting-room at the inn with a cigar in his mouth, but she closed the door upon him, and would have locked it, only that his fingers were inside. She began to feel that she was very lonely indeed. "If HE'D been here," she said,
"those cowards would never have dared to insult me."
She thought about "him" with great sadness and perhaps longing-about his honest, stupid, constant kindness and fidelity; his never-ceasing obedience; his good humour; his bravery and courage. Very likely she cried, for she was particularly lively, and had put on a little extra rouge, when she came down to dinner.
She rouged regularly now; and-and her maid got
Cognac for her besides that which was charged in the hotel bill.
Perhaps the insults of the men were not, however, so intolerable to her as the sympathy of certain women.
Mrs. Crackenbury and Mrs. Washington White passed through Boulogne on their way to Switzerland. ~The party were protected by Colonel Horner, young Beaumoris, and of course old Crackenbury, and Mrs. White's little girl.)
THEY did not avoid her. They giggled, cackled, tattled, condoled, consoled, and patronized her until they drove her almost wild with rage. To be patronized by THEM!
she thought, as they went away simpering after kissing her. And she heard Beaumoris's laugh ringing on the stair and knew quite well how to interpret his hilarity.
It was after this visit that Becky, who had paid her weekly bills, Becky who had made herself agreeable to everybody in the house, who smiled at the landlady, called the waiters "monsieur," and paid the chambermaids in politeness and apologies, what far more than compensated for a little niggardliness in point of money
(of which Becky never was free), that Becky, we say, received a notice to quit from the landlord, who had been told by some one that she was quite an unfit person to have at his hotel, where English ladies would not sit down with her. And she was forced to fly into lodgings of which the dulness and solitude were most wearisome to her.
Still she held up, in spite of these rebuffs, and tried to make a character for herself and conquer scandal. She went to church very regularly and sang louder than anybody there. She took up the cause of the widows of the shipwrecked fishermen, and gave work and drawings for the Quashyboo Mission; she subscribed to the Assembly and WOULDN'T waltz. In a word, she did everything that was respectable, and that is why we dwell upon this part of her career with more fondness than upon subsequent parts of her history, which are not so pleasant.
She saw people avoiding her, and still laboriously smiled upon them; you never could suppose from her countenance what pangs of humiliation she might be enduring inwardly.
Her history was after all a mystery. Parties were divided about her. Some people who took the trouble to busy themselves in the matter said that she was the criminal, whilst others vowed that she was as innocent as a lamb and that her odious husband was in fault.
She won over a good many by bursting into tears about her boy and exhibiting the most frantic grief when his name was mentioned, or she saw anybody like him. She gained good Mrs. Alderney's heart in that way, who was rather the Queen of British Boulogne and gave the most dinners and balls of all the residents there, by weeping when Master Alderney came from Dr. Swishtail's academy to pass his holidays with his mother. "He and her Rawdon were of the same age, and so like," Becky said in a voice choking with agony; whereas there was five years' difference between the boys' ages, and no more likeness between them than between my respected reader and his humble servant. Wenham, when he was going abroad, on his way to Kissingen to join Lord
Steyne, enlightened Mrs. Alderney on this point and told her how he was much more able to describe little
Rawdon than his mamma, who notoriously hated him and never saw him; how he was thirteen years old, while little Alderney was but nine, fair, while the other darling was dark-in a word, caused the lady in question to repent of her good humour.
Whenever Becky made a little circle for herself with incredible toils and labour, somebody came and swept it down rudely, and she had all her work to begin over again. It was very hard; very hard; lonely and disheartening.
There was Mrs. Newbright, who took her up for some time, attracted by the sweetness of her singing at church and by her proper views upon serious subjects, concerning which in former days, at Queen's Crawley, Mrs.
Becky had had a good deal of instruction. Well, she not only took tracts, but she read them. She worked flannel petticoats for the Quashyboos-cotton night-caps for the
Cocoanut Indians-painted handscreens for the conversion of the Pope and the Jews-sat under Mr. Rowls on Wednesdays, Mr. Huggleton on Thursdays, attended two Sunday services at church, besides Mr. Bawler, the
Darbyite, in the evening, and all in vain. Mrs. Newbright had occasion to correspond with the Countess of Southdown about the Warmingpan Fund for the Fiji
Islanders (for the management of which admirable charity both these ladies formed part of a female committee), and having mentioned her "sweet friend," Mrs. Rawdon
Crawley, the Dowager Countess wrote back such a letter regarding Becky, with such particulars, hints, facts, falsehoods, and general comminations, that intimacy between Mrs. Newbright and Mrs. Crawley ceased forthwith, and all the serious world of Tours, where this misfortune took place, immediately parted company with the reprobate. Those who know the English Colonies abroad know that we carry with us us our pride, pills, prejudices,
Harvey-sauces, cayenne-peppers, and other Lares, making a little Britain wherever we settle down.
From one colony to another Becky fled uneasily. From
Boulogne to Dieppe, from Dieppe to Caen, from Caen to Tours-trying with all her might to be respectable, and alas! always found out some day or other and pecked out of the cage by the real daws.
Mrs. Hook Eagles took her up at one of these places-
a woman without a blemish in her character and a house in Portman Square. She was staying at the hotel at Dieppe, whither Becky fled, and they made each other's acquaintance first at sea, where they were swimming together, and subsequently at the table d'hote of the hotel. Mrs
Eagles had heard-who indeed had not?-some of the scandal of the Steyne affair; but after a conversation with Becky, she pronounced that Mrs. Crawley was an angel, her husband a ruffian, Lord Steyne an unprincipled wretch, as everybody knew, and the whole case against Mrs. Crawley an infamous and wicked conspiracy of that rascal Wenham. "If you were a man of any spirit, Mr. Eagles, you would box the wretch's ears the next time you see him at the Club," she said to her husband. But Eagles was only a quiet old gentleman, husband to Mrs. Eagles, with a taste for geology, and not tall enough to reach anybody's ears.
The Eagles then patronized Mrs. Rawdon, took her to live with her at her own house at Paris, quarrelled with the ambassador's wife because she would not receive her protegee, and did all that lay in woman's power to keep
Becky straight in the paths of virtue and good repute.
Becky was very respectable and orderly at first, but the life of humdrum virtue grew utterly tedious to her before long. It was the same routine every day, the same dulness and comfort, the same drive over the same stupid Bois de Boulogne, the same company of an evening, the same Blair's Sermon of a Sunday night-the same opera always being acted over and over again;
Becky was dying of weariness, when, luckily for her, young Mr. Eagles came from Cambridge, and his mother, seeing the impression which her little friend made upon him, straightway gave Becky warning.
Then she tried keeping house with a female friend;
then the double menage began to quarrel and get into debt. Then she determined upon a boarding-house existence and lived for some time at that famous mansion kept by Madame de Saint Amour, in the Rue Royale, at
Paris, where she began exercising her graces and fascinations upon the shabby dandies and fly-blown beauties who frequented her landlady's salons. Becky loved society and, indeed, could no more exist without it than an opium-eater without his dram, and she was happy enough at the period of her boarding-house life. "The women here are as amusing as those in May Fair," she told an old London friend who met her, "only, their dresses are not quite so fresh. The men wear cleaned gloves, and are sad rogues, certainly, but they are not worse than Jack This and Tom That. The mistress of the house is a little vulgar, but I don't think she is so vulgar as Lady -" and here she named the name of a great leader of fashion that I would die rather than reveal. In fact, when you saw Madame de Saint Amour's rooms lighted up of a night, men with plaques and cordons at the ecarte tables, and the women at a little distance, you might fancy yourself for a while in good society, and that Madame was a real Countess. Many people did so fancy, and Becky was for a while one of the most dashing ladies of the Countess's salons.
But it is probable that her old creditors of 1815 found her out and caused her to leave Paris, for the poor little woman was forced to fly from the city rather suddenly, and went thence to Brussels.
How well she remembered the place! She grinned as she looked up at the little entresol which she had occupied, and thought of the Bareacres family, bawling for horses and flight, as their carriage stood in the porte-cochere of the hotel. She went to Waterloo and to
Laeken, where George Osborne's monument much struck her. She made a little sketch of it. "That poor
Cupid!" she said; "how dreadfully he was in love with me, and what a fool he was! I wonder whether little
Emmy is alive. It was a good little creature; and that fat brother of hers. I have his funny fat picture still among my papers. They were kind simple people."
At Brussels Becky arrived, recommended by Madame de Saint Amour to her friend, Madame la Comtesse de
Borodino, widow of Napoleon's General, the famous
Count de Borodino, who was left with no resource by the deceased hero but that of a table d'hote and an ecarte table. Second-rate dandies and roues, widow-ladies who always have a lawsuit, and very simple English folks, who fancy they see "Continental society" at these houses, put down their money, or ate their meals, at Madame de
Borodino's tables. The gallant young fellows treated the company round to champagne at the table d'hote, rode out with the women, or hired horses on country excursions, clubbed money to take boxes at the play or the opera, betted over the fair shoulders of the ladies at the ecarte tables, and wrote home to their parents in
Devonshire about their felicitous introduction to foreign society.
Here, as at Paris, Becky was a boarding-house queen, and ruled in select pensions. She never refused the champagne, or the bouquets, or the drives into the country, or the private boxes; but what she preferred was the ecarte at night,-and she played audaciously. First she played only for a little, then for five-franc pieces, then for
Napoleons, then for notes: then she would not be able to pay her month's pension: then she borrowed from the young gentlemen: then she got into cash again and bullied Madame de Borodino, whom she had coaxed and wheedled before: then she was playing for ten sous at a time, and in a dire state of poverty: then her quarter's allowance would come in, and she would pay off Madame de Borodino's score and would once more take the cards against Monsieur de Rossignol, or the Chevalier de
When Becky left Brussels, the sad truth is that she owed three months' pension to Madame de Borodino, of which fact, and of the gambling, and of the drinking, and of the going down on her knees to the Reverend Mr.
Muff, Ministre Anglican, and borrowing money of him, and of her coaxing and flirting with Milor Noodle, son of
Sir Noodle, pupil of the Rev. Mr. Muff, whom she used to take into her private room, and of whom she won large sums at ecarte-of which fact, I say, and of a hundred of her other knaveries, the Countess de
Borodino informs every English person who stops at her establishment, and announces that Madame Rawdon was no better than a vipere.
So our little wanderer went about setting up her tent in various cities of Europe, as restless as Ulysses or
Bampfylde Moore Carew. Her taste for disrespectability grew more and more remarkable. She became a perfect
Bohemian ere long, herding with people whom it would make your hair stand on end to meet.
There is no town of any mark in Europe but it has its little colony of English raffs-men whose names Mr.
Hemp the officer reads out periodically at the Sheriffs'
Court-young gentlemen of very good family often, only that the latter disowns them; frequenters of billiard-
rooms and estaminets, patrons of foreign races and gaming-tables. They people the debtors' prisons-they drink and swagger-they fight and brawl-they run away without paying-they have duels with French and German officers-they cheat Mr. Spooney at ecarte-they get the money and drive off to Baden in magnificent britzkas
-they try their infallible martingale and lurk about the tables with empty pockets, shabby bullies, penniless bucks, until they can swindle a Jew banker with a sham bill of exchange, or find another Mr. Spooney to rob.
The alternations of splendour and misery which these people undergo are very queer to view. Their life must be one of great excitement. Becky-must it be owned?-
took to this life, and took to it not unkindly. She went about from town to town among these Bohemians. The lucky Mrs. Rawdon was known at every play-table in
Germany. She and Madame de Cruchecassee kept house at
Florence together. It is said she was ordered out of
Munich, and my friend Mr. Frederick Pigeon avers that it was at her house at Lausanne that he was hocussed at supper and lost eight hundred pounds to Major Loder and the Honourable Mr. Deuceace. We are bound, you see, to give some account of Becky's biography, but of this part, the less, perhaps, that is said the better.
They say that, when Mrs. Crawley was particularly down on her luck, she gave concerts and lessons in music here and there. There was a Madame de Raudon, who certainly had a matinee musicale at Wildbad, accompanied by Herr Spoff, premier pianist to the Hospodar of
Wallachia, and my little friend Mr. Eaves, who knew everybody and had travelled everywhere, always used to declare that he was at Strasburg in the year 1830, when a certain Madame Rebecque made her appearance in the opera of the Dame Blanche, giving occasion to a furious row in the theatre there. She was hissed off the stage by the audience, partly from her own incompetency, but chiefly from the ill-advised sympathy of some persons in the parquet, (where the officers of the garrison had their admissions); and Eaves was certain that the unfortunate debutante in question was no other than Mrs.
She was, in fact, no better than a vagabond upon this earth. When she got her money she gambled; when she had gambled it she was put to shifts to live; who knows how or by what means she succeeded? It is said that she was once seen at St. Petersburg, but was summarily dismissed from that capital by the police, so that there cannot be any possibility of truth in the report that she was a Russian spy at Toplitz and Vienna afterwards. I have even been informed that at Paris she discovered a relation of her own, no less a person than her maternal grandmother, who was not by any means a
Montmorenci, but a hideous old box-opener at a theatre on the Boulevards. The meeting between them, of which other persons, as it is hinted elsewhere, seem to have been acquainted, must have been a very affecting interview. The present historian can give no certain details regarding the event.
It happened at Rome once that Mrs. de Rawdon's half-
year's salary had just been paid into the principal banker's there, and, as everybody who had a balance of above five hundred scudi was invited to the balls which this prince of merchants gave during the winter, Becky had the honour of a card, and appeared at one of the
Prince and Princess Polonia's splendid evening entertainments.
The Princess was of the family of Pompili, lineally descended from the second king of Rome, and Egeria of the house of Olympus, while the Prince's grandfather,
Alessandro Polonia, sold wash-balls, essences, tobacco, and pocket-handkerchiefs, ran errands for gentlemen, and lent money in a small way. All the great company in Rome thronged to his saloons-Princes,
Dukes, Ambassadors, artists, fiddlers, monsignori, young bears with their leaders-every rank and condition of man. His halls blazed with light and magnificence; were resplendent with gilt frames (containing pictures), and dubious antiques; and the enormous gilt crown and arms of the princely owner, a gold mushroom on a crimson field (the colour of the pocket-handkerchiefs which he sold), and the silver fountain of the Pompili family shone all over the roof, doors, and panels of the house, and over the grand velvet baldaquins prepared to receive
Popes and Emperors.
So Becky, who had arrived in the diligence from
Florence, and was lodged at an inn in a very modest way, got a card for Prince Polonia's entertainment, and her maid dressed her with unusual care, and she went to this fine ball leaning on the arm of Major Loder, with whom she happened to be travelling at the time-(the same man who shot Prince Ravoli at Naples the next year, and was caned by Sir John Buckskin for carrying four kings in his hat besides those which he used in playing at ecarte )-and this pair went into the rooms together, and Becky saw a number of old faces which she remembered in happier days, when she was not innocent, but not found out. Major Loder knew a great number of foreigners, keen-looking whiskered men with dirty striped ribbons in their buttonholes, and a very small display of linen; but his own countrymen, it might be remarked, eschewed the Major. Becky, too, knew some ladies here and there-French widows, dubious Italian countesses, whose husbands had treated them ill-faugh
-what shall we say, we who have moved among some of the finest company of Vanity Fair, of this refuse and sediment of rascals? If we play, let it be with clean cards, and not with this dirty pack. But every man who has formed one of the innumerable army of travellers has seen these marauding irregulars hanging on, like
Nym and Pistol, to the main force, wearing the king's colours and boasting of his commission, but pillaging for themselves, and occasionally gibbeted by the roadside.
Well, she was hanging on the arm of Major Loder, and they went through the rooms together, and drank a great quantity of champagne at the buffet, where the people, and especially the Major's irregular corps, struggled furiously for refreshments, of which when the pair had had enough, they pushed on until they reached the Duchess's own pink velvet saloon, at the end of the suite of apartments (where the statue of the Venus is, and the great Venice looking-glasses, framed in silver), and where the princely family were entertaining their most distinguished guests at a round table at supper. It was just such a little select banquet as that of which
Becky recollected that she had partaken at Lord Steyne's
-and there he sat at Polonia's table, and she saw him.
The scar cut by the diamond on his white, bald, shining forehead made a burning red mark; his red whiskers were dyed of a purple hue, which made his pale face look still paler. He wore his collar and orders, his blue ribbon and garter. He was a greater Prince than any there, though there was a reigning Duke and a Royal
Highness, with their princesses, and near his Lordship was seated the beautiful Countess of Belladonna, nee de Glandier, whose husband (the Count Paolo della
Belladonna), so well known for his brilliant entomological collections, had been long absent on a mission to the
Emperor of Morocco.
When Becky beheld that familiar and illustrious face, how vulgar all of a sudden did Major Loder appear to her, and how that odious Captain Rook did smell of tobacco! In one instant she reassumed her fine-ladyship and tried to look and feel as if she were in May Fair once more. "That woman looks stupid and ill-humoured,"
she thought; "I am sure she can't amuse him. No, he must be bored by her-he never was by me." A hundred such touching hopes, fears, and memories palpitated in her little heart, as she looked with her brightest eyes (the rouge which she wore up to her eyelids made them twinkle) towards the great nobleman. Of a Star and Garter night Lord Steyne used also to put on his grandest manner and to look and speak like a great prince, as he was.
Becky admired him smiling sumptuously, easy, lofty, and stately. Ah, bon Dieu, what a pleasant companion he was, what a brilliant wit, what a rich fund of talk, what a grand manner!-and she had exchanged this for Major
Loder, reeking of cigars and brandy-and-water, and
Captain Rook with his horsejockey jokes and prize-ring slang, and their like. "I wonder whether he will know me," she thought. Lord Steyne was talking and laughing with a great and illustrious lady at his side, when he looked up and saw Becky.
She was all over in a flutter as their eyes met, and she put on the very best smile she could muster, and dropped him a little, timid, imploring curtsey. He stared aghast at her for a minute, as Macbeth might on beholding
Banquo's sudden appearance at his ball-supper, and remained looking at her with open mouth, when that horrid Major
Loder pulled her away.
"Come away into the supper-room, Mrs. R.," was that gentleman's remark: "seeing these nobs grubbing away has made me peckish too. Let's go and try the old governor's champagne." Becky thought the Major had had a great deal too much already.
The day after she went to walk on the Pincian Hill-
the Hyde Park of the Roman idlers-possibly in hopes to have another sight of Lord Steyne. But she met another acquaintance there: it was Mr. Fiche, his lordship's confidential man, who came up nodding to her rather familiarly and putting a finger to his hat. "I knew that Madame was here," he said; "I followed her from her hotel. I have some advice to give Madame."
"From the Marquis of Steyne?" Becky asked, resuming as much of her dignity as she could muster, and not a little agitated by hope and expectation.
"No," said the valet; "it is from me. Rome is very unwholesome."
"Not at this season, Monsieur Fiche-not till after
"I tell Madame it is unwholesome now. There is always malaria for some people. That cursed marsh wind kills many at all seasons. Look, Madame Crawley, you were always bon enfant, and I have an interest in you, parole d'honneur. Be warned. Go away from Rome, I tell you-
or you will be ill and die."
Becky laughed, though in rage and fury. "What!
assassinate poor little me?" she said. "How romantic! Does my lord carry bravos for couriers, and stilettos in the fourgons? Bah! I will stay, if but to plague him. I have those who will defend me whilst I am here."
It was Monsieur Fiche's turn to laugh now. "Defend you," he said, "and who? The Major, the Captain, any one of those gambling men whom Madame sees would take her life for a hundred louis. We know things about
Major Loder (he is no more a Major than I am my Lord the Marquis) which would send him to the galleys or worse. We know everything and have friends everywhere.
We know whom you saw at Paris, and what relations you found there. Yes, Madame may stare, but we do. How was it that no minister on the Continent would receive
Madame? She has offended somebody: who never forgives-whose rage redoubled when he saw you. He was like a madman last night when he came home. Madame de Belladonna made him a scene about you and fired off in one of her furies."
"Oh, it was Madame de Belladonna, was it?" Becky said, relieved a little, for the information she had just got had scared her.
"No-she does not matter-she is always jealous. I
tell you it was Monseigneur. You did wrong to show yourself to him. And if you stay here you will repent it. Mark my words. Go. Here is my lord's carriage"-and seizing
Becky's arm, he rushed down an alley of the garden as
Lord Steyne's barouche, blazing with heraldic devices, came whirling along the avenue, borne by the almost priceless horses, and bearing Madame de Belladonna lolling on the cushions, dark, sulky, and blooming, a King
Charles in her lap, a white parasol swaying over her head, and old Steyne stretched at her side with a livid face and ghastly eyes. Hate, or anger, or desire caused them to brighten now and then still, but ordinarily, they gave no light, and seemed tired of looking out on a world of which almost all the pleasure and all the best beauty had palled upon the worn-out wicked old man.
"Monseigneur has never recovered the shock of that night, never," Monsieur Fiche whispered to Mrs. Crawley as the carriage flashed by, and she peeped out at it from behind the shrubs that hid her. "That was a consolation at any rate," Becky thought.
Whether my lord really had murderous intentions towards Mrs. Becky as Monsieur Fiche said (since
Monseigneur's death he has returned to his native country, where he lives much respected, and has purchased from his Prince the title of Baron Ficci), and the factotum objected to have to do with assassination; or whether he simply had a commission to frighten Mrs. Crawley out of a city where his Lordship proposed to pass the winter, and the sight of her would be eminently disagreeable to the great nobleman, is a point which has never been ascertained: but the threat had its effect upon the little woman, and she sought no more to intrude herself upon the presence of her old patron.
Everybody knows the melancholy end of that nobleman, which befell at Naples two months after the French
Revolution of 1830; when the Most Honourable George
Gustavus, Marquis of Steyne, Earl of Gaunt and of Gaunt
Castle, in the Peerage of Ireland, Viscount Hellborough,
Baron Pitchley and Grillsby, a Knight of the Most Noble
Order of the Garter, of the Golden Fleece of Spain, of the Russian Order of Saint Nicholas of the First Class, of the Turkish Order of the Crescent, First Lord of the
Powder Closet and Groom of the Back Stairs, Colonel of the Gaunt or Regent's Own Regiment of Militia, a Trustee of the British Museum, an Elder Brother of the Trinity
House, a Governor of the White Friars, and D.C.L.-
died after a series of fits brought on, as the papers said, by the shock occasioned to his lordship's sensibilities by the downfall of the ancient French monarchy.
An eloquent catalogue appeared in a weekly print, describing his virtues, his magnificence, his talents, and his good actions. His sensibility, his attachment to the illustrious House of Bourbon, with which he claimed an alliance, were such that he could not survive the misfortunes of his august kinsmen. His body was buried at
Naples, and his heart-that heart which always beat with every generous and noble emotion was brought back to
Castle Gaunt in a silver urn. "In him," Mr. Wagg said,
"the poor and the Fine Arts have lost a beneficent patron, society one of its most brilliant ornaments, and England one of her loftiest patriots and statesmen," &c., &c.
His will was a good deal disputed, and an attempt was made to force from Madame de Belladonna the celebrated jewel called the "Jew's-eye" diamond, which his lordship always wore on his forefinger, and which it was said that she removed from it after his lamented demise.
But his confidential friend and attendant, Monsieur Fiche proved that the ring had been presented to the said
Madame de Belladonna two days before the Marquis's death, as were the bank-notes, jewels, Neapolitan and
French bonds, &c., found in his lordship's secretaire and claimed by his heirs from that injured woman.
Full of Business and Pleasure
The day after the meeting at the play-table, Jos had himself arrayed with unusual care and splendour, and without thinking it necessary to say a word to any member of his family regarding the occurrences of the previous night, or asking for their company in his walk, he sallied forth at an early hour, and was presently seen making inquiries at the door of the Elephant Hotel. In consequence of the fetes the house was full of company, the tables in the street were already surrounded by persons smoking and drinking the national small-beer, the public rooms were in a cloud of smoke, and Mr. Jos having, in his pompous way, and with his clumsy German, made inquiries for the person of whom he was in search, was directed to the very top of the house, above the first-floor rooms where some travelling pedlars had lived, and were exhibiting their jewellery and brocades; above the second-
floor apartments occupied by the etat major of the gambling firm; above the third-floor rooms, tenanted by the band of renowned Bohemian vaulters and tumblers; and so on to the little cabins of the roof, where, among students, bagmen, small tradesmen, and country-folks come in for the festival, Becky had found a little nest-as dirty a little refuge as ever beauty lay hid in.
Becky liked the life. She was at home with everybody in the place, pedlars, punters, tumblers, students and all.
She was of a wild, roving nature, inherited from father and mother, who were both Bohemians, by taste and circumstance; if a lord was not by, she would talk to his courier with the greatest pleasure; the din, the stir, the drink, the smoke, the tattle of the Hebrew pedlars, the solemn, braggart ways of the poor tumblers, the sournois talk of the gambling-table officials, the songs and swagger of the students, and the general buzz and hum of the place had pleased and tickled the little woman, even when her luck was down and she had not wherewithal to pay her bill. How pleasant was all the bustle to her now that her purse was full of the money which little Georgy had won for her the night before!
As Jos came creaking and puffing up the final stairs, and was speechless when he got to the landing, and began to wipe his face and then to look for No. 92, the room where he was directed to seek for the person he wanted, the door of the opposite chamber, No. 90, was open, and a student, in jack-boots and a dirty schlafrock, was lying on the bed smoking a long pipe; whilst another student in long yellow hair and a braided coat, exceeding smart and dirty too, was actually on his knees at No. 92, bawling through the keyhole supplications to the person within.
"Go away," said a well-known voice, which made Jos thrill, "I expect somebody; I expect my grandpapa. He mustn't see you there."
"Angel Englanderinn!" bellowed the kneeling student with the whity-brown ringlets and the large finger-ring,
"do take compassion upon us. Make an appointment.
Dine with me and Fritz at the inn in the park. We will have roast pheasants and porter, plum-pudding and
French wine. We shall die if you don't."
"That we will," said the young nobleman on the bed;
and this colloquy Jos overheard, though he did not comprehend it, for the reason that he had never studied the language in which it was carried on.
"Newmero kattervang dooze, si vous plait," Jos said in his grandest manner, when he was able to speak.
"Quater fang tooce!" said the student, starting up, and he bounced into his own room, where he locked the door, and where Jos heard him laughing with his comrade on the bed.
The gentleman from Bengal was standing, disconcerted by this incident, when the door of the 92 opened of itself and Becky's little head peeped out full of archness and mischief. She lighted on Jos. "It's you," she said, coming out. "How I have been waiting for you! Stop!
not yet-in one minute you shall come in." In that instant she put a rouge-pot, a brandy bottle, and a plate of broken meat into the bed, gave one smooth to her hair, and finally let in her visitor.
She had, by way of morning robe, a pink domino, a trifle faded and soiled, and marked here and there with pomaturn; but her arms shone out from the loose sleeves of the dress very white and fair, and it was tied round her little waist so as not ill to set off the trim little figure of the wearer. She led Jos by the hand into her garret.
"Come in," she said. "Come and talk to me. Sit yonder on the chair"; and she gave the civilian's hand a little squeeze and laughingly placed him upon it. As for herself, she placed herself on the bed-not on the bottle and plate, you may be sure-on which Jos might have reposed, had he chosen that seat; and so there she sat and talked with her old admirer.
"How little years have changed you," she said with a look of tender interest. "I should have known you anywhere. What a comfort it is amongst strangers to see once more the frank honest face of an old friend!"
The frank honest face, to tell the truth, at this moment bore any expression but one of openness and honesty: it was, on the contrary, much perturbed and puzzled in look. Jos was surveying the queer little apartment in which he found his old flame. One of her gowns hung over the bed, another depending from a hook of the door;
her bonnet obscured half the looking-glass, on which, too, lay the prettiest little pair of bronze boots; a French novel was on the table by the bedside, with a candle, not of wax. Becky thought of popping that into the bed too, but she only put in the little paper night-cap with which she had put the candle out on going to sleep.
"I should have known you anywhere," she continued;
"a woman never forgets some things. And you were the first man I ever-I ever saw."
"Was I really?" said Jos. "God bless my soul, you-
you don't say so."
"When I came with your sister from Chiswick, I was scarcely more than a child," Becky said. "How is that, dear love? Oh, her husband was a sad wicked man, and of course it was of me that the poor dear was jealous.
As if I cared about him, heigho! when there was somebody-but no-don't let us talk of old times"; and she passed her handkerchief with the tattered lace across her eyelids.
"Is not this a strange place," she continued, "for a woman, who has lived in a very different world too, to be found in? I have had so many griefs and wrongs, Joseph
Sedley; I have been made to suffer so cruelly that I am almost made mad sometimes. I can't stay still in any place, but wander about always restless and unhappy.
All my friends have been false to me-all. There is no such thing as an honest man in the world. I was the truest wife that ever lived, though I married my husband out of pique, because somebody else-but never mind that. I
was true, and he trampled upon me and deserted me. I
was the fondest mother. I had but one child, one darling, one hope, one joy, which I held to my heart with a mother's affection, which was my life, my prayer, my-my blessing; and they-they tore it from me-tore it from me"; and she put her hand to her heart with a passionate gesture of despair, burying her face for a moment on the bed.
The brandy-bottle inside clinked up against the plate which held the cold sausage. Both were moved, no doubt, by the exhibition of so much grief. Max and Fritz were at the door, listening with wonder to Mrs. Becky's sobs and cries. Jos, too, was a good deal frightened and affected at seeing his old flame in this condition. And she began, forthwith, to tell her story-a tale so neat, simple, and artless that it was quite evident from hearing her that if ever there was a white-robed angel escaped from heaven to be subject to the infernal machinations and villainy of fiends here below, that spotless being-that miserable unsullied martyr, was present on the bed before Jos-on the bed, sitting on the brandy-bottle.
They had a very long, amicable, and confidential talk there, in the course of which Jos Sedley was somehow made aware (but in a manner that did not in the least scare or offend him) that Becky's heart had first learned to beat at his enchanting presence; that George Osborne had certainly paid an unjustifiable court to HER, which might account for Amelia's jealousy and their little rupture; but that Becky never gave the least encouragement to the unfortunate officer, and that she had never ceased to think about Jos from the very first day she had seen him, though, of course, her duties as a married woman were paramount-duties which she had always preserved, and would, to her dying day, or until the proverbially bad climate in which Colonel Crawley was living should release her from a yoke which his cruelty had rendered odious to her.
Jos went away, convinced that she was the most virtuous, as she was one of the most fascinating of women, and revolving in his mind all sorts of benevolent schemes for her welfare. Her persecutions ought to be ended: she ought to return to the society of which she was an ornament. He would see what ought to be done. She must quit that place and take a quiet lodging. Amelia must come and see her and befriend her. He would go and settle about it, and consult with the Major. She wept tears of heart-felt gratitude as she parted from him, and pressed his hand as the gallant stout gentleman stooped down to kiss hers.
So Becky bowed Jos out of her little garret with as much grace as if it was a palace of which she did the honours; and that heavy gentleman having disappeared down the stairs, Max and Fritz came out of their hole, pipe in mouth, and she amused herself by mimicking Jos to them as she munched her cold bread and sausage and took draughts of her favourite brandy-and-water.
Jos walked over to Dobbin's lodgings with great solemnity and there imparted to him the affecting history with which he had just been made acquainted, without, however, mentioning the play business of the night before.
And the two gentlemen were laying their heads together and consulting as to the best means of being useful to
Mrs. Becky, while she was finishing her interrupted dejeuner a la fourchette.
How was it that she had come to that little town?
How was it that she had no friends and was wandering about alone? Little boys at school are taught in their earliest Latin book that the path of Avernus is very easy of descent. Let us skip over the interval in the history of her downward progress. She was not worse now than she had been in the days of her prosperity-only a little down on her luck.
As for Mrs. Amelia, she was a woman of such a soft and foolish disposition that when she heard of anybody unhappy, her heart straightway melted towards the sufferer; and as she had never thought or done anything mortally guilty herself, she had not that abhorrence for wickedness which distinguishes moralists much more knowing. If she spoiled everybody who came near her with kindness and compliments-if she begged pardon of all her servants for troubling them to answer the bell
-if she apologized to a shopboy who showed her a piece of silk, or made a curtsey to a street-sweeper with a complimentary remark upon the elegant state of his crossing
-and she was almost capable of every one of these follies-the notion that an old acquaintance was miserable was sure to soften her heart; nor would she hear of anybody's being deservedly unhappy. A world under such legislation as hers would not be a very orderly place of abode; but there are not many women, at least not of the rulers, who are of her sort. This lady, I believe, would have abolished all gaols, punishments, handcuffs, whippings, poverty, sickness, hunger, in the world, and was such a mean-spirited creature that-we are obliged to confess it-she could even forget a mortal injury.
When the Major heard from Jos of the sentimental adventure which had just befallen the latter, he was not, it must be owned, nearly as much interested as the gentleman from Bengal. On the contrary, his excitement was quite the reverse from a pleasurable one; he made use of a brief but improper expression regarding a poor woman in distress, saying, in fact, "The little minx, has she come to light again?" He never had had the slightest liking for her, but had heartily mistrusted her from the very first moment when her green eyes had looked at, and turned away from, his own.
"That little devil brings mischief wherever she goes,"
the Major said disrespectfully. "Who knows what sort of life she has been leading? And what business has she here abroad and alone? Don't tell me about persecutors and enemies; an honest woman always has friends and never is separated from her family. Why has she left her husband? He may have been disreputable and wicked, as you say. He always was. I remember the confounded blackleg and the way in which he used to cheat and hoodwink poor George. Wasn't there a scandal about their separation? I think I heard something," cried out Major
Dobbin, who did not care much about gossip, and whom
Jos tried in vain to convince that Mrs. Becky was in all respects a most injured and virtuous female.
"Well, well; let's ask Mrs. George," said that arch-
diplomatist of a Major. "Only let us go and consult her.
I suppose you will allow that she is a good judge at any rate, and knows what is right in such matters."
"Hm! Emmy is very well," said Jos, who did not happen to be in love with his sister.
"Very well? By Gad, sir, she's the finest lady I ever met in my life," bounced out the Major. "I say at once, let us go and ask her if this woman ought to be visited or not-I will be content with her verdict." Now this odious, artful rogue of a Major was thinking in his own mind that he was sure of his case. Emmy, he remembered, was at one time cruelly and deservedly jealous of
Rebecca, never mentioned her name but with a shrinking and terror-a jealous woman never forgives, thought
Dobbin: and so the pair went across the street to Mrs.
George's house, where she was contentedly warbling at a music lesson with Madame Strumpff.
When that lady took her leave, Jos opened the business with his usual pomp of words. "Amelia, my dear,"
said he, "I have just had the most extraordinary-yes-
God bless my soul! the most extraordinary adventure-
an old friend-yes, a most interesting old friend of yours, and I may say in old times, has just arrived here, and I should like you to see her."
"Her!" said Amelia, "who is it? Major Dobbin, if you please not to break my scissors." The Major was twirling them round by the little chain from which they sometimes hung to their lady's waist, and was thereby endangering his own eye.
It is a woman whom I dislike very much," said the
Major, doggedly, "and whom you have no cause to love."
"It is Rebecca, I'm sure it is Rebecca," Amelia said, blushing and being very much agitated.
"You are right; you always are," Dobbin answered.
Brussels, Waterloo, old, old times, griefs, pangs, remembrances, rushed back into Amelia's gentle heart and caused a cruel agitation there.
"Don't let me see her," Emmy continued. "I couldn't see her."
"I told you so," Dobbin said to Jos.
"She is very unhappy, and-and that sort of thing,"
Jos urged. "She is very poor and unprotected, and has been ill-exceedingly ill-and that scoundrel of a husband has deserted her."
"Ah!" said Amelia
"She hasn't a friend in the world," Jos went on, not undexterously, "and she said she thought she might trust in you. She's so miserable, Emmy. She has been almost mad with grief. Her story quite affected me-'pon my word and honour, it did-never was such a cruel persecution borne so angelically, I may say. Her family has been most cruel to her."
"Poor creature!" Amelia said.
"And if she can get no friend, she says she thinks she'll die," Jos proceeded in a low tremulous voice. "God bless my soul! do you know that she tried to kill herself? She carries laudanum with her-I saw the bottle in her room
-such a miserable little room-at a third-rate house, the Elephant, up in the roof at the top of all. I went there."
This did not seem to affect Emmy. She even smiled a little. Perhaps she figured Jos to herself panting up the stair.
"She's beside herself with grief," he resumed. "The agonies that woman has endured are quite frightful to hear of. She had a little boy, of the same age as Georgy."
"Yes, yes, I think I remember," Emmy remarked.
"The most beautiful child ever seen," Jos said, who was very fat, and easily moved, and had been touched by the story Becky told; "a perfect angel, who adored his mother. The ruffians tore him shrieking out of her arms, and have never allowed him to see her."
"Dear Joseph," Emmy cried out, starting up at once,
"let us go and see her this minute." And she ran into her adjoining bedchamber, tied on her bonnet in a flutter, came out with her shawl on her arm, and ordered
Dobbin to follow.
He went and put her shawl-it was a white cashmere, consigned to her by the Major himself from India-over her shoulders. He saw there was nothing for it but to obey, and she put her hand into his arm, and they went away.
"It is number 92, up four pair of stairs," Jos said, perhaps not very willing to ascend the steps again; but he placed himself in the window of his drawing-room, which commands the place on which the Elephant stands, and saw the pair marching through the market.
It was as well that Becky saw them too from her garret, for she and the two students were chattering and laughing there; they had been joking about the appearance of
Becky's grandpapa-whose arrival and departure they had witnessed-but she had time to dismiss them, and have her little room clear before the landlord of the
Elephant, who knew that Mrs. Osborne was a great favourite at the Serene Court, and respected her accordingly, led the way up the stairs to the roof story, encouraging
Miladi and the Herr Major as they achieved the ascent.
"Gracious lady, gracious lady!" said the landlord, knocking at Becky's door; he had called her Madame the day before, and was by no means courteous to her.
"Who is it?" Becky said, putting out her head, and she gave a little scream. There stood Emmy in a tremble, and Dobbin, the tall Major, with his cane.
He stood still watching, and very much interested at the scene; but Emmy sprang forward with open arms towards Rebecca, and forgave her at that moment, and embraced her and kissed her with all her heart. Ah, poor wretch, when was your lip pressed before by such pure kisses?
Frankness and kindness like Amelia's were likely to touch even such a hardened little reprobate as Becky. She returned Emmy's caresses and kind speeches with something very like gratitude, and an emotion which, if it was not lasting, for a moment was almost genuine. That was a lucky stroke of hers about the child "torn from her arms shrieking." It was by that harrowing misfortune that Becky had won her friend back, and it was one of the very first points, we may be certain, upon which our poor simple little Emmy began to talk to her new-found acquaintance.
"And so they took your darling child from you?" our simpleton cried out. "Oh, Rebecca, my poor dear suffering friend, I know what it is to lose a boy, and to feel for those who have lost one. But please Heaven yours will be restored to you, as a merciful merciful Providence has brought me back mine."
"The child, my child? Oh, yes, my agonies were frightful,"
Becky owned, not perhaps without a twinge of conscience.
It jarred upon her to be obliged to commence instantly to tell lies in reply to so much confidence and simplicity. But that is the misfortune of beginning with this kind of forgery. When one fib becomes due as it were, you must forge another to take up the old acceptance; and so the stock of your lies in circulation inevitably multiplies, and the danger of detection increases every day.
"My agonies," Becky continued, "were terrible (I hope she won't sit down on the bottle) when they took him away from me; I thought I should die; but I fortunately had a brain fever, during which my doctor gave me up, and-and I recovered, and-and here I am, poor and friendless."
"How old is he?" Emmy asked.
"Eleven," said Becky.
"Eleven!" cried the other. "Why, he was born the same year with Georgy, who is-"
"I know, I know," Becky cried out, who had in fact quite forgotten all about little Rawdon's age. "Grief has made me forget so many things, dearest Amelia. I am very much changed: half-wild sometimes. He was eleven when they took him away from me. Bless his sweet face; I have never seen it again."
"Was he fair or dark?" went on that absurd little
Emmy. "Show me his hair."
Becky almost laughed at her simplicity. "Not to-day, love-some other time, when my trunks arrive from
Leipzig, whence I came to this place-and a little drawing of him, which I made in happy days."
"Poor Becky, poor Becky!" said Emmy. "How thankful, how thankful I ought to be"; (though I doubt whether that practice of piety inculcated upon us by our womankind in early youth, namely, to be thankful because we are better off than somebody else, be a very rational religious exercise) and then she began to think, as usual, how her son was the handsomest, the best, and the cleverest boy in the whole world.
"You will see my Georgy," was the best thing Emmy could think of to console Becky. If anything could make her comfortable that would.
And so the two women continued talking for an hour or more, during which Becky had the opportunity of giving her new friend a full and complete version of her private history. She showed how her marriage with
Rawdon Crawley had always been viewed by the family with feelings of the utmost hostility; how her sister-in-law
(an artful woman) had poisoned her husband's mind against her; how he had formed odious connections, which had estranged his affections from her: how she had borne everything-poverty, neglect, coldness from the being whom she most loved-and all for the sake of her child; how, finally, and by the most flagrant outrage, she had been driven into demanding a separation from her husband, when the wretch did not scruple to ask that she should sacrifice her own fair fame so that he might procure advancement through the means of a very great and powerful but unprincipled man-the Marquis of Steyne, indeed. The atrocious monster!
This part of her eventful history Becky gave with the utmost feminine delicacy and the most indignant virtue.
Forced to fly her husband's roof by this insult, the coward had pursued his revenge by taking her child from her.
And thus Becky said she was a wanderer, poor, unprotected, friendless, and wretched.
Emmy received this story, which was told at some length, as those persons who are acquainted with her character may imagine that she would. She quivered with indignation at the account of the conduct of the miserable Rawdon and the unprincipled Steyne. Her eyes made notes of admiration for every one of the sentences in which Becky described the persecutions of her aristocratic relatives and the falling away of her husband.
(Becky did not abuse him. She spoke rather in sorrow than in anger. She had loved him only too fondly: and was he not the father of her boy?) And as for the separation scene from the child, while Becky was reciting it,
Emmy retired altogether behind her pocket-handkerchief, so that the consummate little tragedian must have been charmed to see the effect which her performance produced on her audience.
Whilst the ladies were carrying on their conversation,
Amelia's constant escort, the Major (who, of course, did not wish to interrupt their conference, and found himself rather tired of creaking about the narrow stair passage of which the roof brushed the nap from his hat)
descended to the ground-floor of the house and into the great room common to all the frequenters of the Elephant, out of which the stair led. This apartment is always in a fume of smoke and liberally sprinkled with beer. On a dirty table stand scores of corresponding brass candlesticks with tallow candles for the lodgers, whose keys hang up in rows.over the candles. Emmy had passed blushing through the room anon, where all sorts of people were collected; Tyrolese glove-sellers and Danubian linen-merchants, with their packs; students recruiting themselves with butterbrods and meat; idlers, playing cards or dominoes on the sloppy, beery tables; tumblers refreshing during the cessation of their performances-
in a word, all the fumum and strepitus of a German inn in fair time. The waiter brought the Major a mug of beer, as a matter of course, and he took out a cigar and amused himself with that pernicious vegetable and a newspaper until his charge should come down to claim him.
Max and Fritz came presently downstairs, their caps on one side, their spurs jingling, their pipes splendid with coats of arms and full-blown tassels, and they hung up the key of No. 90 on the board and called for the ration of butterbrod and beer. The pair sat down by the Major and fell into a conversation of which he could not help hearing somewhat. It was mainly about "Fuchs" and "Philister,"
and duels and drinking-bouts at the neighbouring
University of Schoppenhausen, from which renowned seat of learning they had just come in the Eilwagen, with Becky, as it appeared, by their side, and in order to be present at the bridal fetes at Pumpernickel.
"The title Englanderinn seems to be en bays de gonnoisance," said Max, who knew the French language, to Fritz, his comrade. "After the fat grandfather went away, there came a pretty little compatriot. I heard them chattering and whimpering together in the little woman's chamber."
"We must take the tickets for her concert," Fritz said.
"Hast thou any money, Max?"
"Bah," said the other, "the concert is a concert in nubibus. Hans said that she advertised one at Leipzig, and the Burschen took many tickets. But she went off without singing. She said in the coach yesterday that her pianist had fallen ill at Dresden. She cannot sing, it is my belief: her voice is as cracked as thine, O thou beer-soaking
"It is cracked; I hear her trying out of her window a schrecklich. English ballad, called 'De Rose upon de
"Saufen and singen go not together," observed Fritz with the red nose, who evidently preferred the former amusement. "No, thou shalt take none of her tickets.
She won money at the trente and quarante last night. I
saw her: she made a little English boy play for her. We will spend thy money there or at the theatre, or we will treat her to French wine or Cognac in the Aurelius
Garden, but the tickets we will not buy. What sayest thou? Yet, another mug of beer?" and one and another successively having buried their blond whiskers in the mawkish draught, curled them and swaggered off into the fair.
The Major, who had seen the key of No. 90 put up on its hook and had heard the conversation of the two young University bloods, was not at a loss to understand that their talk related to Becky. "The little devil is at her old tricks," he thought, and he smiled as he recalled old days, when he had witnessed the desperate flirtation with Jos and the ludicrous end of that adventure.
He and George had often laughed over it subsequently, and until a few weeks after George's marriage, when he also was caught in the little Circe's toils, and had an understanding with her which his comrade certainly suspected, but preferred to ignore. William was too much hurt or ashamed to ask to fathom that disgraceful mystery, although once, and evidently with remorse on his mind, George had alluded to it. It was on the morning of Waterloo, as the young men stood together in front of their line, surveying the black masses of
Frenchmen who crowned the opposite heights, and as the rain was coming down, "I have been mixing in a foolish intrigue with a woman," George said. "I am glad we were marched away. If I drop, I hope Emmy will never know of that business. I wish to God it had never been begun!" And William was pleased to think, and had more than once soothed poor George's widow with the narrative, that Osborne, after quitting his wife, and after the action of Quatre Bras, on the first day, spoke gravely and affectionately to his comrade of his father and his wife. On these facts, too, William had insisted very strongly in his conversations with the elder Osborne, and had thus been the means of reconciling the old gentleman to his son's memory, just at the close of the elder man's life.
"And so this devil is still going on with her intrigues,"
thought William. "I wish she were a hundred miles from here. She brings mischief wherever she goes." And he was pursuing these forebodings and this uncomfortable train of thought, with his head between his hands, and the Pumpernickel Gazette of last week unread under his nose, when somebody tapped his shoulder with a parasol, and he looked up and saw Mrs. Amelia.
This woman had a way of tyrannizing over Major
Dobbin (for the weakest of all people will domineer over somebody), and she ordered him about, and patted him, and made him fetch and carry just as if he was a great Newfoundland dog. He liked, so to speak, to jump into the water if she said "High, Dobbin!" and to trot behind her with her reticule in his mouth. This history has been written to very little purpose if the reader has not perceived that the Major was a spooney.
"Why did you not wait for me, sir, to escort me downstairs?" she said, giving a little toss of her head and a most sarcastic curtsey.
"I couldn't stand up in the passage," he answered with a comical deprecatory look; and, delighted to give her his arm and to take her out of the horrid smoky place, he would have walked off without even so much as remembering the waiter, had not the young fellow run after him and stopped him on the threshold of the Elephant to make him pay for the beer which he had not consumed. Emmy laughed: she called him a naughty man, who wanted to run away in debt, and, in fact, made some jokes suitable to the occasion and the small-beer.
She was in high spirits and good humour, and tripped across the market-place very briskly. She wanted to see
Jos that instant. The Major laughed at the impetuous affection Mrs. Amelia exhibited; for, in truth, it was not very often that she wanted her brother "that instant."
They found the civilian in his saloon on the first-floor;
he had been pacing the room, and biting his nails, and looking over the market-place towards the Elephant a hundred times at least during the past hour whilst Emmy was closeted with her friend in the garret and the Major was beating the tattoo on the sloppy tables of the public room below, and he was, on his side too, very anxious to see Mrs. Osborne.
"Well?" said he.
"The poor dear creature, how she has suffered!"
"God bless my soul, yes," Jos said, wagging his head, so that his cheeks quivered like jellies.
"She may have Payne's room, who can go upstairs,"
Emmy continued. Payne was a staid English maid and personal attendant upon Mrs. Osborne, to whom the courier, as in duty bound, paid court, and whom Georgy used to "lark" dreadfully with accounts of German robbers and ghosts. She passed her time chiefly in grumbling, in ordering about her mistress, and in stating her intention to return the next morning to her native village of
Clapham. "She may have Payne's room," Emmy said.
"Why, you don't mean to say you are going to have that woman into the house?" bounced out the Major, jumping up.
"Of course we are," said Amelia in the most innocent way in the world. "Don't be angry and break the furniture, Major Dobbin. Of course we are going to have her here."
"Of course, my dear," Jos said.
"The poor creature, after all her sufferings," Emmy continued; "her horrid banker broken and run away; her husband-wicked wretch-having deserted her and taken her child away from her" (here she doubled her two little fists and held them in a most menacing attitude before her, so that the Major was charmed to see such a dauntless virago) "the poor dear thing! quite alone and absolutely forced to give lessons in singing to get her bread-and not have her here!"
"Take lessons, my dear Mrs. George," cried the Major,
"but don't have her in the house. I implore you don't."
"Pooh," said Jos.
"You who are always good and kind-always used to be at any rate-I'm astonished at you, Major William,"
Amelia cried. "Why, what is the moment to help her but when she is so miserable? Now is the time to be of service to her. The oldest friend I ever had, and not-"
"She was not always your friend, Amelia," the Major said, for he was quite angry. This allusion was too much for Emmy, who, looking the Major almost fiercely in the face, said, "For shame, Major Dobbin!" and after having fired this shot, she walked out of the room with a most majestic air and shut her own door briskly on herself and her outraged dignity.
"To allude to THAT!" she said, when the door was closed. "Oh, it was cruel of him to remind me of it," and she looked up at George's picture, which hung there as usual, with the portrait of the boy underneath. "It was cruel of him. If I had forgiven it, ought he to have spoken? No. And it is from his own lips that I know how wicked and groundless my jealousy was; and that you were pure-oh, yes, you were pure, my saint in heaven!"
She paced the room, trembling and indignant. She went and leaned on the chest of drawers over which the picture hung, and gazed and gazed at it. Its eyes seemed to look down on her with a reproach that deepened as she looked.
The early dear, dear memories of that brief prime of love rushed back upon her. The wound which years had scarcely cicatrized bled afresh, and oh, how bitterly! She could not bear the reproaches of the husband there before her. It couldn't be. Never, never.
Poor Dobbin; poor old William! That unlucky word had undone the work of many a year-the long laborious edifice of a life of love and constancy-raised too upon what secret and hidden foundations, wherein lay buried passions, uncounted struggles, unknown sacrifices-a little word was spoken, and down fell the fair palace of hope-one word, and away flew the bird which he had been trying all his life to lure!
William, though he saw by Amelia's looks that a great crisis had come, nevertheless continued to implore Sedley, in the most energetic terms, to beware of Rebecca; and he eagerly, almost frantically, adjured Jos not to receive her. He besought Mr. Sedley to inquire at least regarding her; told him how he had heard that she was in the company of gamblers and people of ill repute; pointed out what evil she had done in former days, how she and Crawley had misled poor George into ruin, how she was now parted from her husband, by her own confession, and, perhaps, for good reason. What a dangerous companion she would be for his sister, who knew nothing of the affairs of the world! William implored Jos, with all the eloquence which he could bring to bear, and a great deal more energy than this quiet gentleman was ordinarily in the habit of showing, to keep Rebecca out of his household.
Had he been less violent, or more dexterous, he might have succeeded in his supplications to Jos; but the civilian was not a little jealous of the airs of superiority which the Major constantly exhibited towards him, as he fancied (indeed, he had imparted his opinions to Mr.
Kirsch, the courier, whose bills Major Dobbin checked on this journey, and who sided with his master), and he began a blustering speech about his competency to defend his own honour, his desire not to have his affairs meddled with, his intention, in fine, to rebel against the
Major, when the colloquy-rather a long and stormy one
-was put an end to in the simplest way possible, namely, by the arrival of Mrs. Becky, with a porter from the Elephant Hotel in charge of her very meagre baggage.
She greeted her host with affectionate respect and made a shrinking, but amicable salutation to Major
Dobbin, who, as her instinct assured her at once, was her enemy, and had been speaking against her; and the bustle and clatter consequent upon her arrival brought
Amelia out of her room. Emmy went up and embraced her guest with the greatest warmth, and took no notice of the Major, except to fling him an angry look-the most unjust and scornful glance that had perhaps ever appeared in that poor little woman's face since she was born. But she had private reasons of her own, and was bent upon being angry with him. And Dobbin, indignant at the injustice, not at the defeat, went off, making her a bow quite as haughty as the killing curtsey with which the little woman chose to bid him farewell.
He being gone, Emmy was particularly lively and affectionate to Rebecca, and bustled about the apartments and installed her guest in her room with an eagerness and activity seldom exhibited by our placid little friend. But when an act of injustice is to be done, especially by weak people, it is best that it should be done quickly, and Emmy thought she was displaying a great deal of firmness and proper feeling and veneration for the late
Captain Osborne in her present behaviour.
Georgy came in from the fetes for dinner-time and found four covers laid as usual; but one of the places was occupied by a lady, instead of by Major Dobbin.
"Hullo! where's Dob?" the young gentleman asked with his usual simplicity of language. "Major Dobbin is dining out, I suppose," his mother said, and, drawing the boy to her, kissed him a great deal, and put his hair off his forehead, and introduced him to Mrs. Crawley. "This is my boy, Rebecca," Mrs. Osborne said-as much as to say-can the world produce anything like that? Becky looked at him with rapture and pressed his hand fondly.
"Dear boy!" she said-"he is just like my-" Emotion choked her further utterance, but Amelia understood, as well as if she had spoken, that Becky was thinking of her own blessed child. However, the company of her friend consoled Mrs. Crawley, and she ate a very good dinner.
During the repast, she had occasion to speak several times, when Georgy eyed her and listened to her. At the desert Emmy was gone out to superintend further domestic arrangements; Jos was in his great chair dozing over Galignani; Georgy and the new arrival sat close to each other-he had continued to look at her knowingly more than once, and at last he laid down the nutcrackers.
"I say," said Georgy.
"What do you say?" Becky said, laughing.
"You're the lady I saw in the mask at the Rouge et
"Hush! you little sly creature," Becky said, taking up his hand and kissing it. "Your uncle was there too, and Mamma mustn't know."
"Oh, no-not by no means," answered the little fellow.
"You see we are quite good friends already," Becky said to Emmy, who now re-entered; and it must be owned that Mrs. Osborne had introduced a most judicious and amiable companion into her house.
William, in a state of great indignation, though still unaware of all the treason that was in store for him, walked about the town wildly until he fell upon the Secretary of
Legation, Tapeworm, who invited him to dinner. As they were discussing that meal, he took occasion to ask the
Secretary whether he knew anything about a certain
Mrs. Rawdon Crawley, who had, he believed, made some noise in London; and then Tapeworm, who of course knew all the London gossip, and was besides a relative of Lady Gaunt, poured out into the astonished
Major's ears such a history about Becky and her husband as astonished the querist, and supplied all the points of this narrative, for it was at that very table years ago that the present writer had the pleasure of hearing the tale. Tufto, Steyne, the Crawleys, and their history-
everything connected with Becky and her previous life passed under the record of the bitter diplomatist. He knew everything and a great deal besides, about all the world
-in a word, he made the most astounding revelations to the simple-hearted Major. When Dobbin said that Mrs.
Osborne and Mr. Sedley had taken her into their house,
Tapeworm burst into a peal of laughter which shocked the Major, and asked if they had not better send into the prison and take in one or two of the gentlemen in shaved heads and yellow jackets who swept the streets of
Pumpernickel, chained in pairs, to board and lodge, and act as tutor to that little scapegrace Georgy.
This information astonished and horrified the Major not a little. It had been agreed in the morning (before meeting with Rebecca) that Amelia should go to the Court ball that night. There would be the place where he should tell her. The Major went home, and dressed himself in his uniform, and repaired to Court, in hopes to see Mrs.
Osborne. She never came. When he returned to his lodgings all the lights in the Sedley tenement were put out. He could not see her till the morning. I don't know what sort of a night's rest he had with this frightful secret in bed with him.
At the earliest convenient hour in the morning he sent his servant across the way with a note, saying that he wished very particularly to speak with her. A message came back to say that Mrs. Osborne was exceedingly unwell and was keeping her room.
She, too, had been awake all that night. She had been thinking of a thing which had agitated her mind a hundred times before. A hundred times on the point of yielding, she had shrunk back from a sacrifice which she felt was too much for her. She couldn't, in spite of his love and constancy and her own acknowledged regard, respect, and gratitude. What are benefits, what is constancy, or merit? One curl of a girl's ringlet, one hair of a whisker, will turn the scale against them all in a minute.
They did not weigh with Emmy more than with other women. She had tried them; wanted to make them pass;
could not; and the pitiless little woman had found a pretext, and determined to be free.
When at length, in the afternoon, the Major gained admission to Amelia, instead of the cordial and affectionate greeting, to which he had been accustomed now for many a long day, he received the salutation of a curtsey, and of a little gloved hand, retracted the moment after it was accorded to him.
Rebecca, too, was in the room, and advanced to meet him with a smile and an extended hand. Dobbin drew back rather confusedly, "I-I beg your pardon, m'am,"
he said; "but I am bound to tell you that it is not as your friend that I am come here now."
"Pooh! damn; don't let us have this sort of thing!"
Jos cried out, alarmed, and anxious to get rid of a scene.
"I wonder what Major Dobbin has to say against
Rebecca?" Amelia said in a low, clear voice with a slight quiver in it, and a very determined look about the eyes.
"I will not have this sort of thing in my house," Jos again interposed. "I say I will not have it; and Dobbin, I
beg, sir, you'll stop it." And he looked round, trembling and turning very red, and gave a great puff, and made for his door.
"Dear friend!" Rebecca said with angelic sweetness,
"do hear what Major Dobbin has to say against me."
"I will not hear it, I say," squeaked out Jos at the top of his voice, and, gathering up his dressing-gown, he was gone.
"We are only two women," Amelia said. "You can speak now, sir."
"This manner towards me is one which scarcely becomes you, Amelia," the Major answered haughtily; "nor
I believe am I guilty of habitual harshness to women. It is not a pleasure to me to do the duty which I am come to do."
"Pray proceed with it quickly, if you please, Major
Dobbin," said Amelia, who was more and more in a pet. The expression of Dobbin's face, as she spoke in this imperious manner, was not pleasant.
"I came to say-and as you stay, Mrs. Crawley, I must say it in your presence-that I think you-you ought not to form a member of the family of my friends. A
lady who is separated from her husband, who travels not under her own name, who frequents public gaming-
"It was to the ball I went," cried out Becky.
"-is not a fit companion for Mrs. Osborne and her son," Dobbin went on: "and I may add that there are people here who know you, and who profess to know that regarding your conduct about which I don't even wish to speak before-before Mrs. Osborne."
"Yours is a very modest and convenient sort of calumny,
Major Dobbin," Rebecca said. "You leave me under the weight of an accusation which, after all, is unsaid.
What is it? Is it unfaithfulness to my husband? I scorn it and defy anybody to prove it-I defy you, I say. My honour is as untouched as that of the bitterest enemy who ever maligned me. Is it of being poor, forsaken, wretched, that you accuse me? Yes, I am guilty of those faults, and punished for them every day. Let me go,
Emmy. It is only to suppose that I have not met you, and I am no worse to-day than I was yesterday. It is only to suppose that the night is over and the poor wanderer is on her way. Don't you remember the song we used to sing in old, dear old days? I have been wandering ever since then-a poor castaway, scorned for being miserable, and insulted because I am alone. Let me go: my stay here interferes with the plans of this gentleman."
"Indeed it does, madam," said the Major. "If I have any authority in this house-"
"Authority, none!" broke out Amelia "Rebecca, you stay with me. I won't desert you because you have been persecuted, or insult you because-because Major
Dobbin chooses to do so. Come away, dear." And the two women made towards the door.
William opened it. As they were going out, however, he took Amelia's hand and said-"Will you stay a moment and speak to me?"
"He wishes to speak to you away from me," said
Becky, looking like a martyr. Amelia gripped her hand in reply.
"Upon my honour it is not about you that I am going to speak," Dobbin said. "Come back, Amelia," and she came. Dobbin bowed to Mrs. Crawley, as he shut the door upon her. Amelia looked at him, leaning against the glass: her face and her lips were quite white.
"I was confused when I spoke just now," the Major said after a pause, "and I misused the word authority."
"You did," said Amelia with her teeth chattering.
"At least I have claims to be heard," Dobbin continued.
"It is generous to remind me of our obligations to you,"
the woman answered.
"The claims I mean are those left me by George's father," William said.
"Yes, and you insulted his memory. You did yesterday.
You know you did. And I will never forgive you. Never!"
said Amelia. She shot out each little sentence in a tremor of anger and emotion.
"You don't mean that, Amelia?" William said sadly.
"You don't mean that these words, uttered in a hurried moment, are to weigh against a whole life's devotion? I
think that George's memory has not been injured by the way in which I have dealt with it, and if we are come to bandying reproaches, I at least merit none from his widow and the mother of his son. Reflect, afterwards when
-when you are at leisure, and your conscience will withdraw this accusation. It does even now." Amelia held down her head.
"It is not that speech of yesterday," he continued,
"which moves you. That is but the pretext, Amelia, or I
have loved you and watched you for fifteen years in vain.
Have I not learned in that time to read all your feelings and look into your thoughts? I know what your heart is capable of: it can cling faithfully to a recollection and cherish a fancy, but it can't feel such an attachment as mine deserves to mate with, and such as I would have won from a woman more generous than you. No, you are not worthy of the love which I have devoted to you.
I knew all along that the prize I had set my life on was not worth the winning; that I was a fool, with fond fancies, too, bartering away my all of truth and ardour against your little feeble remnant of love. I will bargain no more: I withdraw. I find no fault with you. You are very good-natured, and have done your best, but you couldn't-you couldn't reach up to the height of the attachment which I bore you, and which a loftier soul than yours might have been proud to share. Good-bye, Amelia!
I have watched your struggle. Let it end. We are both weary of it."
Amelia stood scared and silent as William thus suddenly broke the chain by which she held him and declared his independence and superiority. He had placed himself at her feet so long that the poor little woman had been accustomed to trample upon him. She didn't wish to marry him, but she wished to keep him. She wished to give him nothing, but that he should give her all. It is a bargain not unfrequently levied in love.
William's sally had quite broken and cast her down.
HER assault was long since over and beaten back.
"Am I to understand then, that you are going-away,
William?" she said.
He gave a sad laugh. "I went once before," he said,
"and came back after twelve years. We were young then,
Amelia. Good-bye. I have spent enough of my life at this play."
Whilst they had been talking, the door into Mrs. Osborne's room had opened ever so little; indeed, Becky had kept a hold of the handle and had turned it on the instant when Dobbin quitted it, and she heard every word of the conversation that had passed between these two.
"What a noble heart that man has," she thought, and how shamefully that woman plays with it!" She admired
Dobbin; she bore him no rancour for the part he had taken against her. It was an open move in the game, and played fairly. "Ah!" she thought, "if I could have had such a husband as that-a man with a heart and brains too! I would not have minded his large feet"; and running into her room, she absolutely bethought herself of something, and wrote him a note, beseeching him to stop for a few days-not to think of going-and that she could serve him with A.
The parting was over. Once more poor William walked to the door and was gone; and the little widow, the author of all this work, had her will, and had won her victory, and was left to enjoy it as she best might. Let the ladies envy her triumph.
At the romantic hour of dinner, Mr. Georgy made his appearance and again remarked the absence of "Old
Dob." The meal was eaten in silence by the party. Jos's appetite not being diminished, but Emmy taking nothing at all.
After the meal, Georgy was lolling in the cushions of the old window, a large window, with three sides of glass abutting from the gable, and commanding on one side the market-place, where the Elephant is, his mother being busy hard by, when he remarked symptoms of movement at the Major's house on the other side of the street.
"Hullo!" said he, "there's Dob's trap-they are bringing it out of the court-yard." The "trap" in question was a carriage which the Major had bought for six pounds sterling, and about which they used to rally him a good deal.
Emmy gave a little start, but said nothing.
"Hullo!" Georgy continued, "there's Francis coming out with the portmanteaus, and Kunz, the one-eyed postilion, coming down the market with three schimmels.
Look at his boots and yellow jacket-ain't he a rum one? Why-they're putting the horses to Dob's carriage.
Is he going anywhere?"
"Yes," said Emmy, "he is going on a journey."
"Going on a journey; and when is he coming back?"
"He is-not coming back," answered Emmy.
"Not coming back!" cried out Georgy, jumping up.
"Stay here, sir," roared out Jos. "Stay, Georgy," said his mother with a very sad face. The boy stopped, kicked about the room, jumped up and down from the window-
seat with his knees, and showed every symptom of uneasiness and curiosity.
The horses were put to. The baggage was strapped on. Francis came out with his master's sword, cane, and umbrella tied up together, and laid them in the well, and his desk and old tin cocked-hat case, which he placed under the seat. Francis brought out the stained old blue cloak lined with red camlet, which had wrapped the owner up any time these fifteen years, and had manchen Sturm erlebt, as a favourite song of those days said. It had been new for the campaign of Waterloo and had covered George and William after the night of Quatre Bras.
Old Burcke, the landlord of the lodgings, came out, then Francis, with more packages-final packages-then
Major William-Burcke wanted to kiss him. The Major was adored by all people with whom he had to do. It was with difficulty he could escape from this demonstration of attachment.
"By Jove, I will go!" screamed out George. "Give him this," said Becky, quite interested, and put a paper into the boy's hand. He had rushed down the stairs and flung across the street in a minute-the yellow postilion was cracking his whip gently.
William had got into the carriage, released from the embraces of his landlord. George bounded in afterwards, and flung his arms round the Major's neck (as they saw from the window), and began asking him multiplied questions. Then he felt in his waistcoat pocket and gave him a note. William seized at it rather eagerly, he opened it trembling, but instantly his countenance changed, and he tore the paper in two and dropped it out of the carriage. He kissed Georgy on the head, and the boy got out, doubling his fists into his eyes, and with the aid of
Francis. He lingered with his hand on the panel. Fort,
Schwager! The yellow postilion cracked his whip prodigiously, up sprang Francis to the box, away went the schimmels, and Dobbin with his head on his breast. He never looked up as they passed under Amelia's window, and Georgy, left alone in the street, burst out crying in the face of all the crowd.
Emmy's maid heard him howling again during the night and brought him some preserved apricots to console him. She mingled her lamentations with his. All the poor, all the humble, all honest folks, all good men who knew him, loved that kind-hearted and simple gentleman.
As for Emmy, had she not done her duty? She had her picture of George for a consolation.
Which Contains Births, Marriages, and Deaths
Whatever Becky's private plan might be by which
Dobbin's true love was to be crowned with success, the little woman thought that the secret might keep, and indeed, being by no means so much interested about anybody's welfare as about her own, she had a great number of things pertaining to herself to consider, and which concerned her a great deal more than Major
Dobbin's happiness in this life.
She found herself suddenly and unexpectedly in snug comfortable quarters, surrounded by friends, kindness, and good-natured simple people such as she had not met with for many a long day; and, wanderer as she was by force and inclination, there were moments when rest was pleasant to her. As the most hardened Arab that ever careered across the desert over the hump of a dromedary likes to repose sometimes under the date-
trees by the water, or to come into the cities, walk into the bazaars, refresh himself in the baths, and say his prayers in the mosques, before he goes out again marauding, so Jos's tents and pilau were pleasant to this little Ishmaelite. She picketed her steed, hung up her weapons, and warmed herself comfortably by his fire. The halt in that roving, restless life was inexpressibly soothing and pleasant to her.
So, pleased herself, she tried with all her might to please everybody; and we know that she was eminent and successful as a practitioner in the art of giving pleasure. As for Jos, even in that little interview in the garret at the Elephant Inn, she had found means to win back a great deal of his good-will. In the course of a week, the civilian was her sworn slave and frantic admirer. He didn't go to sleep after dinner, as his custom was in the much less lively society of Amelia. He drove out with Becky in his open carriage. He asked little parties and invented festivities to do her honour.
Tapeworm, the Charge d'Affaires, who had abused her so cruelly, came to dine with Jos, and then came every day to pay his respects to Becky. Poor Emmy, who was never very talkative, and more glum and silent than ever after Dobbin's departure, was quite forgotten when this superior genius made her appearance. The French
Minister was as much charmed with her as his English rival.
The German ladies, never particularly squeamish as regards morals, especially in English people, were delighted with the cleverness and wit of Mrs. Osborne's charming friend, and though she did not ask to go to Court, yet the most august and Transparent Personages there heard of her fascinations and were quite curious to know her. When it became known that she was noble, of an ancient English family, that her husband was a Colonel of the Guard, Excellenz and Governor of an island, only separated from his lady by one of those trifling differences which are of little account in a country where
Werther is still read and the Wahlverwandtschaften of
Goethe is considered an edifying moral book, nobody thought of refusing to receive her in the very highest society of the little Duchy; and the ladies were even more ready to call her du and to swear eternal friendship for her than they had been to bestow the same inestimable benefits upon Amelia. Love and Liberty are interpreted by those simple Germans in a way which honest folks in
Yorkshire and Somersetshire little understand, and a lady might, in some philosophic and civilized towns, be divorced ever so many times from her respective husbands and keep her character in society. Jos's house never was so pleasant since he had a house of his own as Rebecca caused it to be. She sang, she played, she laughed, she talked in two or three languages, she brought everybody to the house, and she made Jos believe that it was his own great social talents and wit which gathered the society of the place round about him.
As for Emmy, who found herself not in the least mistress of her own house, except when the bills were to be paid, Becky soon discovered the way to soothe and please her. She talked to her perpetually about Major
Dobbin sent about his business, and made no scruple of declaring her admiration for that excellent, high-
minded gentleman, and of telling Emmy that she had behaved most cruelly regarding him. Emmy defended her conduct and showed that it was dictated only by the purest religious principles; that a woman once, &c., and to such an angel as him whom she had had the good fortune to marry, was married forever; but she had no objection to hear the Major praised as much as ever
Becky chose to praise him, and indeed, brought the conversation round to the Dobbin subject a score of times every day.
Means were easily found to win the favour of Georgy and the servants. Amelia's maid, it has been said, was heart and soul in favour of the generous Major. Having at first disliked Becky for being the means of dismissing him from the presence of her mistress, she was reconciled to Mrs. Crawley subsequently, because the latter became William's most ardent admirer and champion. And in those nightly conclaves in which the two ladies indulged after their parties, and while Miss Payne was
"brushing their 'airs," as she called the yellow locks of the one and the soft brown tresses of the other, this girl always put in her word for that dear good gentleman
Major Dobbin. Her advocacy did not make Amelia angry any more than Rebecca's admiration of him. She made George write to him constantly and persisted in sending Mamma's kind love in a postscript. And as she looked at her husband's portrait of nights, it no longer reproached her-perhaps she reproached it, now
William was gone.
Emmy was not very happy after her heroic sacrifice.
She was very distraite, nervous, silent, and ill to please.
The family had never known her so peevish. She grew pale and ill. She used to try to sing certain songs
("Einsam bin ich nicht alleine," was one of them, that tender love-song of Weber's which~ in old-fashioned days, young ladies, and when you were scarcely born, showed that those who lived before you knew too how to love and to sing) certain songs, I say, to which the Major was partial; and as she warbled them in the twilight in the drawing-room, she would break off in the midst of the song, and walk into her neighbouring apartment, and there, no doubt, take refuge in the miniature of her husband.
Some books still subsisted, after Dobbin's departure, with his name written in them; a German dictionary, for instance, with "William Dobbin, -th Reg.," in the fly-leaf;
a guide-book with his initials; and one or two other volumes which belonged to the Major. Emmy cleared these away and put them on the drawers, where she placed her work-box, her desk, her Bible, and prayer-book, under the pictures of the two Georges. And the Major, on going away, having left his gloves behind him, it is a fact that
Georgy, rummaging his mother's desk some time afterwards, found the gloves neatly folded up and put away in what they call the secret-drawers of the desk.
Not caring for society, and moping there a great deal,
Emmy's chief pleasure in the summer evenings was to take long walks with Georgy (during which Rebecca was left to the society of Mr. Joseph), and then the mother and son used to talk about the Major in a way which even made the boy smile. She told him that she thought Major William was the best man in all the world
-the gentlest and the kindest, the bravest and the humblest. Over and over again she told him how they owed everything which they possessed in the world to that kind friend's benevolent care of them; how he had befriended them all through their poverty and misfortunes;
watched over them when nobody cared for them; how all his comrades admired him though he never spoke of his own gallant actions; how Georgy's father trusted him beyond all other men, and had been constantly befriended by the good William. "Why, when your papa was a little boy," she said, "he often told me that it was William who defended him against a tyrant at the school where they were; and their friendship never ceased from that day until the last, when your dear father fell."
"Did Dobbin kill the man who killed Papa?" Georgy said. "I'm sure he did, or he would if he could have caught him, wouldn't he, Mother? When I'm in the Army, won't I hate the French?-that's all."
In such colloquies the mother and the child passed a great deal of their time together. The artless woman had made a confidant of the boy. He was as much William's friend as everybody else who knew him well.
By the way, Mrs. Becky, not to be behind hand in sentiment, had got a miniature too hanging up in her room, to the surprise and amusement of most people, and the delight of the original, who was no other than our friend Jos. On her first coming to favour the Sedleys with a visit, the little woman, who had arrived with a remarkably small shabby kit, was perhaps ashamed of the meanness of her trunks and bandboxes, and often spoke with great respect about her baggage left behind at
Leipzig, which she must have from that city. When a traveller talks to you perpetually about the splendour of his luggage, which he does not happen to have with him, my son, beware of that traveller! He is, ten to one, an impostor.
Neither Jos nor Emmy knew this important maxim. It seemed to them of no consequence whether Becky had a quantity of very fine clothes in invisible trunks; but as her present supply was exceedingly shabby, Emmy supplied her out of her own stores, or took her to the best milliner in the town and there fitted her out. It was no more torn collars now, I promise you, and faded silks trailing off at the shoulder. Becky changed her habits with her situation in life-the rouge-pot was suspended
-another excitement to which she had accustomed herself was also put aside, or at least only indulged in in privacy, as when she was prevailed on by Jos of a summer evening, Emmy and the boy being absent on their walks, to take a little spirit-and-water. But if she did not indulge-the courier did: that rascal Kirsch could not be kept from the bottle, nor could he tell how much he took when he applied to it. He was sometimes surprised himself at the way in which Mr. Sedley's Cognac diminished. Well, well, this is a painful subject. Becky did not very likely indulge so much as she used before she entered a decorous family.
At last the much-bragged-about boxes arrived from
Leipzig; three of them not by any means large or splendid;
nor did Becky appear to take out any sort of dresses or ornaments from the boxes when they did arrive. But out of one, which contained a mass of her papers (it was that very box which Rawdon Crawley had ransacked in his furious hunt for Becky's concealed money), she took a picture with great glee, which she pinned up in her room, and to which she introduced Jos. It was the portrait of a gentleman in pencil, his face having the advantage of being painted up in pink. He was riding on an elephant away from some cocoa-nut trees and a pagoda: it was an Eastern scene.
"God bless my soul, it is my portrait," Jos cried out.
It was he indeed, blooming in youth and beauty, in a nankeen jacket of the cut of 1804. It was the old picture that used to hang up in Russell Square.
"I bought it," said Becky in a voice trembling with emotion; "I went to see if I could be of any use to my kind friends. I have never parted with that picture-I never will."
"Won't you?" Jos cried with a look of unutterable rapture and satisfaction. "Did you really now value it for my sake?"
"You know I did, well enough," said Becky; "but why speak-why think-why look back! It is too late now!"
That evening's conversation was delicious for Jos.
Emmy only came in to go to bed very tired and unwell.
Jos and his fair guest had a charming tete-a-tete, and his sister could hear, as she lay awake in her adjoining chamber, Rebecca singing over to Jos the old songs of
1815. He did not sleep, for a wonder, that night, any more than Amelia.
It was June, and, by consequence, high season in
London; Jos, who read the incomparable Galignani (the exile's best friend) through every day, used to favour the ladies with extracts from his paper during their breakfast. Every week in this paper there is a full account of military movements, in which Jos, as a man who had seen service, was especially interested. On one occasion he read out-"Arrival of the -th regiment. Gravesend,
June 20.-The Ramchunder, East Indiaman, came into the river this morning, having on board 14 officers, and 132
rank and file of this gallant corps. They have been absent from England fourteen years, having been embarked the year after Waterloo, in which glorious conflict they took an active part, and having subsequently distinguished themselves in the Burmese war. The veteran colonel, Sir
Michael O'Dowd, K.C.B., with his lady and sister, landed here yesterday, with Captains Posky, Stubble, Macraw,
Malony; Lieutenants Smith, Jones, Thompson, F. Thomson;
Ensigns Hicks and Grady; the band on the pier playing the national anthem, and the crowd loudly cheering the gallant veterans as they went into Wayte's hotel, where a sumptuous banquet was provided for the defenders of Old England. During the repast, which we need not say was served up in Wayte's best style, the cheering continued so enthusiastically that Lady O'Dowd and the
Colonel came forward to the balcony and drank the healths of their fellow-countrymen in a bumper of Wayte's best claret."
On a second occasion Jos read a brief announcement
-Major Dobbin had joined the -th regiment at Chatham;
and subsequently he promulgated accounts of the presentations at the Drawing-room of Colonel Sir
Michael O'Dowd, K.C.B., Lady O'Dowd (by Mrs. Malloy
Malony of Ballymalony), and Miss Glorvina O'Dowd (by
Lady O'Dowd). Almost directly after this, Dobbin's name appeared among the Lieutenant-Colonels: for old Marshal
Tiptoff had died during the passage of the -th from
Madras, and the Sovereign was pleased to advance
Colonel Sir Michael O'Dowd to the rank of Major-General on his return to England, with an intimation that he should be Colonel of the distinguished regiment which he had so long commanded.
Amelia had been made aware of some of these movements. The correspondence between George and his guardian had not ceased by any means: William had even written once or twice to her since his departure, but in a manner so unconstrainedly cold that the poor woman felt now in her turn that she had lost her power over him and that, as he had said, he was free. He had left her, and she was wretched. The memory of his almost countless services, and lofty and affectionate regard, now presented itself to her and rebuked her day and night. She brooded over those recollections according to her wont, saw the purity and beauty of the affection with which she had trifled, and reproached herself for having flung away such a treasure.
It was gone indeed. William had spent it all out. He loved her no more, he thought, as he had loved her.
He never could again. That sort of regard, which he had proffered to her for so many faithful years, can't be flung down and shattered and mended so as to show no scars.
The little heedless tyrant had so destroyed it. No, William thought again and again, "It was myself I deluded and persisted in cajoling; had she been worthy of the love I gave her, she would have returned it long ago. It was a fond mistake. Isn't the whole course of life made up of such? And suppose I had won her, should I not have been disenchanted the day after my victory? Why pine, or be ashamed of my defeat?" The more he thought of this long passage of his life, the more clearly he saw his deception. "I'll go into harness again," he said, "and do my duty in that state of life in which it has pleased
Heaven to place me. I will see that the buttons of the recruits are properly bright and that the sergeants make no mistakes in their accounts. I will dine at mess and listen to the Scotch surgeon telling his stories. When I
am old and broken, I will go on half-pay, and my old sisters shall scold me. I have geliebt und gelebet, as the girl in 'Wallenstein' says. I am done. Pay the bills and get me a cigar: find out what there is at the play to-night,
Francis; to-morrow we cross by the Batavier." He made the above speech, whereof Francis only heard the last two lines, pacing up and down the Boompjes at Rotterdam.
The Batavier was lying in the basin. He could see the place on the quarter-deck where he and Emmy had sat on the happy voyage out. What had that little Mrs.
Crawley to say to him? Psha; to-morrow we will put to sea, and return to England, home, and duty!
After June all the little Court Society of Pumpernickel used to separate, according to the German plan, and make for a hundred watering-places, where they drank at the wells, rode upon donkeys, gambled at the redoutes if they had money and a mind, rushed with hundreds of their kind to gourmandise at the tables d'hote, and idled away the summer. The English diplomatists went off to Teoplitz and Kissingen, their French rivals shut up their chancellerie and whisked away to their darling Boulevard de Gand. The Transparent reigning family took too to the waters, or retired to their hunting lodges. Everybody went away having any pretensions to politeness, and of course, with them, Doctor von
Glauber, the Court Doctor, and his Baroness. The seasons for the baths were the most productive periods of the Doctor's practice-he united business with pleasure, and his chief place of resort was Ostend, which is much frequented by Germans, and where the Doctor treated himself and his spouse to what he called a "dib" in the sea.
His interesting patient, Jos, was a regular milch-cow to the Doctor, and he easily persuaded the civilian, both for his own health's sake and that of his charming sister, which was really very much shattered, to pass the summer at that hideous seaport town. Emmy did not care where she went much. Georgy jumped at the idea of a move. As for Becky, she came as a matter of course in the fourth place inside of the fine barouche Mr. Jos had bought, the two domestics being on the box in front.
She might have some misgivings about the friends whom she should meet at Ostend, and who might be likely to tell ugly stories-but bah! she was strong enough to hold her own. She had cast such an anchor in Jos now as would require a strong storm to shake. That incident of the picture had finished him. Becky took down her elephant and put it into the little box which she had had from Amelia ever so many years ago. Emmy also came off with her Lares-her two pictures-and the party, finally, were, lodged in an exceedingly dear and uncomfortable house at Ostend.
There Amelia began to take baths and get what good she could from them, and though scores of people of
Becky's acquaintance passed her and cut her, yet Mrs.
Osborne, who walked about with her, and who knew nobody, was not aware of the treatment experienced by the friend whom she had chosen so judiciously as a companion; indeed, Becky never thought fit to tell her what was passing under her innocent eyes.
Some of Mrs. Rawdon Crawley's acquaintances, however, acknowledged her readily enough,-perhaps more readily than she would have desired. Among those were
Major Loder (unattached), and Captain Rook (late of the Rifles), who might be seen any day on the Dike, smoking and staring at the women, and who speedily got an introduction to the hospitable board and select circle of Mr. Joseph Sedley. In fact they would take no denial;
they burst into the house whether Becky was at home or not, walked into Mrs. Osborne's drawing-room, which they perfumed with their coats and mustachios, called
Jos "Old buck," and invaded his dinner-table, and laughed and drank for long hours there.
"What can they mean?" asked Georgy, who did not like these gentlemen. "I heard the Major say to Mrs.
Crawley yesterday, 'No, no, Becky, you shan't keep the old buck to yourself. We must have the bones in, or, dammy, I'll split.' What could the Major mean, Mamma?"
"Major! don't call him Major!" Emmy said. "I'm sure
I can't tell what he meant." His presence and that of his friend inspired the little lady with intolerable terror and aversion. They paid her tipsy compliments; they leered at her over the dinner-table. And the Captain made her advances that filled her with sickening dismay, nor would she ever see him unless she had George by her side.
Rebecca, to do her justice, never would let either of these men remain alone with Amelia; the Major was disengaged too, and swore he would be the winner of her.
A couple of ruffians were fighting for this innocent creature, gambling for her at her own table, and though she was not aware of the rascals' designs upon her, yet she felt a horror and uneasiness in their presence and longed to fly.
She besought, she entreated Jos to go. Not he. He was slow of movement, tied to his Doctor, and perhaps to some other leading-strings. At least Becky was not anxious to go to England.
At last she took a great resolution-made the great plunge. She wrote off a letter to a friend whom she had on the other side of the water, a letter about which she did not speak a word to anybody, which she carried herself to the post under her shawl; nor was any remark made about it, only that she looked very much flushed and agitated when Georgy met her, and she kissed him, and hung over him a great deal that night. She did not come out of her room after her return from her walk.
Becky thought it was Major Loder and the Captain who frightened her.
"She mustn't stop here," Becky reasoned with herself.
"She must go away, the silly little fool. She is still whimpering after that gaby of a husband-dead (and served right!) these fifteen years. She shan't marry either of these men. It's too bad of Loder. No; she shall marry the bamboo cane, I'll settle it this very night."
So Becky took a cup of tea to Amelia in her private apartment and found that lady in the company of her miniatures, and in a most melancholy and nervous condition. She laid down the cup of tea.
"Thank you," said Amelia.
"Listen to me, Amelia," said Becky, marching up and down the room before the other and surveying her with a sort of contemptuous kindness. "I want to talk to you.
You must go away from here and from the impertinences of these men. I won't have you harassed by them: and they will insult you if you stay. I tell you they are rascals: men fit to send to the hulks. Never mind how I know them. I know everybody. Jos can't protect you; he is too weak and wants a protector himself. You are no more fit to live in the world than a baby in arms. You must marry, or you and your precious boy will go to ruin. You must have a husband, you fool; and one of the best gentlemen
I ever saw has offered you a hundred times, and you have rejected him, you silly, heartless, ungrateful little creature!"
"I tried-I tried my best, indeed I did, Rebecca," said
Amelia deprecatingly, "but I couldn't forget-"; and she finished the sentence by looking up at the portrait.
"Couldn't forget HIM!" cried out Becky, "that selfish humbug, that low-bred cockney dandy, that padded booby, who had neither wit, nor manners, nor heart, and was no more to be compared to your friend with the bamboo cane than you are to Queen Elizabeth. Why, the man was weary of you, and would have jilted you, but that Dobbin forced him to keep his word. He owned it to me. He never cared for you. He used to sneer about you to me, time after time, and made love to me the week after he married you."
"It's false! It's false! Rebecca," cried out Amelia, starting up.
"Look there, you fool," Becky said, still with provoking good humour, and taking a little paper out of her belt, she opened it and flung it into Emmy's lap. "You know his handwriting. He wrote that to me-wanted me to run away with him-gave it me under your nose, the day before he was shot-and served him right!" Becky repeated.
Emmy did not hear her; she was looking at the letter.
It was that which George had put into the bouquet and given to Becky on the night of the Duchess of Richmond's ball. It was as she said: the foolish young man had asked her to fly.
Emmy's head sank down, and for almost the last time in which she shall be called upon to weep in this history, she commenced that work. Her head fell to her bosom, and her hands went up to her eyes; and there for a while, she gave way to her emotions, as Becky stood on and regarded her. Who shall analyse those tears and say whether they were sweet or bitter? Was she most grieved because the idol of her life was tumbled down and shivered at her feet, or indignant that her love had been so despised, or glad because the barrier was removed which modesty had placed between her and a new, a real affection?
"There is nothing to forbid me now," she thought.
"I may love him with all my heart now. Oh, I will, I will, if he will but let me and forgive me." I believe it was this feeling rushed over all the others which agitated that gentle little bosom.
Indeed, she did not cry so much as Becky expected-
the other soothed and kissed her-a rare mark of sympathy with Mrs. Becky. She treated Emmy like a child and patted her head. "And now let us get pen and ink and write to him to come this minute," she said.
"I-I wrote to him this morning," Emmy said, blushing exceedingly. Becky screamed with laughter-"Un biglietto," she sang out with Rosina, "eccolo qua!"-the whole house echoed with her shrill singing.
Two mornings after this little scene, although the day was rainy and gusty, and Amelia had had an exceedingly wakeful night, listening to the wind roaring, and pitying all travellers by land and by water, yet she got up early and insisted upon taking a walk on the Dike with Georgy;
and there she paced as the rain beat into her face, and she looked out westward across the dark sea line and over the swollen billows which came tumbling and frothing to the shore. Neither spoke much, except now and then, when the boy said a few words to his timid companion, indicative of sympathy and protection.
"I hope he won't cross in such weather," Emmy said.
"I bet ten to one he does," the boy answered. "Look,
Mother, there's the smoke of the steamer." It was that signal, sure enough.
But though the steamer was under way, he might not be on board; he might not have got the letter; he might not choose to come. A hundred fears poured one over the other into the little heart, as fast as the waves on to the
The boat followed the smoke into sight. Georgy had a dandy telescope and got the vessel under view in the most skilful manner. And he made appropriate nautical comments upon the manner of the approach of the steamer as she came nearer and nearer, dipping and rising in the water. The signal of an English steamer in sight went fluttering up to the mast on the pier. I daresay Mrs.
Amelia's heart was in a similar flutter.
Emmy tried to look through the telescope over
George's shoulder, but she could make nothing of it.
She only saw a black eclipse bobbing up and down before her eyes.
George took the glass again and raked the vessel.
"How she does pitch!" he said. "There goes a wave slap over her bows. There's only two people on deck besides the steersman. There's a man lying down, and a-chap in a-cloak with a-Hooray!-it's Dob, by Jingo!"
He clapped to the telescope and flung his arms round his mother. As for that lady, let us say what she did in the words of a favourite poet-"Dakruoen gelasasa." She was sure it was William. It could be no other. What she had said about hoping that he would not come was all hypocrisy. Of course he would come; what could he do else but come? She knew he would come.
The ship came swiftly nearer and nearer. As they went in to meet her at the landing-place at the quay, Emmy's knees trembled so that she scarcely could run. She would have liked to kneel down and say her prayers of thanks there. Oh, she thought, she would be all her life saying them!
It was such a bad day that as the vessel came alongside of the quay there were no idlers abroad, scarcely even a commissioner on the look out for the few passengers in the steamer. That young scapegrace George had fled too, and as the gentleman in the old cloak lined with red stuff stepped on to the shore, there was scarcely any one present to see what took place, which was briefly this:
A lady in a dripping white bonnet and shawl, with her two little hands out before her, went up to him, and in the next minute she had altogether disappeared under the folds of the old cloak, and was kissing one of his hands with all her might; whilst the other, I suppose, was engaged in holding her to his heart (which her head just about reached) and in preventing her from tumbling down. She was murmuring something about-forgive-
dear William-dear, dear, dearest friend-kiss, kiss, kiss, and so forth-and in fact went on under the cloak in an absurd manner.
When Emmy emerged from it, she still kept tight hold of one of William's hands, and looked up in his face. It was full of sadness and tender love and pity. She understood its reproach and hung down her head.
"It was time you sent for me, dear Amelia," he said.
"You will never go again, William?"
"No, never," he answered, and pressed the dear little soul once more to his heart.
As they issued out of the custom-house precincts,
Georgy broke out on them, with his telescope up to his eye, and a loud laugh of welcome; he danced round the couple and performed many facetious antics as he led them up to the house. Jos wasn't up yet; Becky not visible (though she looked at them through the blinds).
Georgy ran off to see about breakfast. Emmy, whose shawl and bonnet were off in the passage in the hands of
Mrs. Payne, now went to undo the clasp of William's cloak, and-we will, if you please, go with George, and look after breakfast for the Colonel. The vessel is in port.
He has got the prize he has been trying for all his life.
The bird has come in at last. There it is with its head on his shoulder, billing and cooing close up to his heart, with soft outstretched fluttering wings. This is what he has asked for every day and hour for eighteen years. This is what he pined after. Here it is-the summit, the end-
the last page of the third volume. Good-bye, Colonel-
God bless you, honest William!-Farewell, dear Amelia
-Grow green again, tender little parasite, round the rugged old oak to which you cling!
Perhaps it was compunction towards the kind and simple creature, who had been the first in life to defend her, perhaps it was a dislike to all such sentimental scenes
-but Rebecca, satisfied with her part in the transaction, never presented herself before Colonel Dobbin and the lady whom he married. "Particular business," she said, took her to Bruges, whither she went, and only Georgy and his uncle were present at the marriage ceremony.
When it was over, and Georgy had rejoined his parents,
Mrs. Becky returned (just for a few days) to comfort the solitary bachelor, Joseph Sedley. He preferred a continental life, he said, and declined to join in housekeeping with his sister and her husband.
Emmy was very glad in her heart to think that she had written to her husband before she read or knew of that letter of George's. "I knew it all along," William said; "but could I use that weapon against the poor fellow's memory? It was that which made me suffer so when you-"
"Never speak of that day again," Emmy cried out, so contrite and humble that William turned off the conversation by his account of Glorvina and dear old Peggy
O'Dowd, with whom he was sitting when the letter of recall reached him. "If you hadn't sent for me," he added with a laugh, "who knows what Glorvina's name might be now?"
At present it is Glorvina Posky (now Mrs. Major
Posky); she took him on the death of his first wife, having resolved never to marry out of the regiment. Lady
O'Dowd is also so attached to it that, she says, if anything were to happen to Mick, bedad she'd come back and marry some of 'em. But the Major-General is quite well and lives in great splendour at O'Dowdstown, with a pack of beagles, and (with the exception of perhaps their neighbour, Hoggarty of Castle Hoggarty) he is the first man of his county. Her Ladyship still dances jigs, and insisted on standing up with the Master of the Horse at the Lord Lieutenant's last ball. Both she and Glorvina declared that Dobbin had used the latter SHEAMFULLY, but
Posky falling in, Glorvina was consoled, and a beautiful turban from Paris appeased the wrath of Lady O'Dowd.
When Colonel Dobbin quitted the service, which he did immediately after his marriage, he rented a pretty little country place in Hampshire, not far from Queen's Crawley, where, after the passing of the Reform Bill, Sir Pitt and his family constantly resided now. All idea of a
Peerage was out of the question, the Baronet's two seats in Parliament being lost. He was both out of pocket and out of spirits by that catastrophe, failed in his health, and prophesied the speedy ruin of the Empire.
Lady Jane and Mrs. Dobbin became great friends-
there was a perpetual crossing of pony-chaises between the Hall and the Evergreens, the Colonel's place (rented of his friend Major Ponto, who was abroad with his family). Her Ladyship was godmother to Mrs. Dobbin's child, which bore her name, and was christened by the Rev.
James Crawley, who succeeded his father in the living: and a pretty close friendship subsisted between the two lads, George and Rawdon, who hunted and shot together in the vacations, were both entered of the same college at Cambridge, and quarrelled with each other about Lady
Jane's daughter, with whom they were both, of course, in love. A match between George and that young lady was long a favourite scheme of both the matrons, though I
have heard that Miss Crawley herself inclined towards her cousin.
Mrs. Rawdon Crawley's name was never mentioned by either family. There were reasons why all should be silent regarding her. For wherever Mr. Joseph Sedley went, she travelled likewise, and that infatuated man seemed to be entirely her slave. The Colonel's lawyers informed him that his brother-in-law had effected a heavy insurance upon his life, whence it was probable that he had been raising money to discharge debts. He procured prolonged leave of absence from the East India House, and indeed, his infirmities were daily increasing.
On hearing the news about the insurance, Amelia, in a good deal of alarm, entreated her husband to go to
Brussels, where Jos then was, and inquire into the state of his affairs. The Colonel quitted home with reluctance
(for he was deeply immersed in his History of the
Punjaub which still occupies him, and much alarmed about his little daughter, whom he idolizes, and who was just recovering from the chicken-pox) and went to Brussels and found Jos living at one of the enormous hotels in that city. Mrs. Crawley, who had her carriage, gave entertainments, and lived in a very genteel manner, occupied another suite of apartments in the same hotel.
The Colonel, of course, did not desire to see that lady, or even think proper to notify his arrival at Brussels, except privately to Jos by a message through his valet. Jos begged the Colonel to come and see him that night, when
Mrs. Crawley would be at a soiree, and when they could meet alone. He found his brother-in-law in a condition of pitiable infirmity-and dreadfully afraid of Rebecca, though eager in his praises of her. She tended him through a series of unheard-of illnesses with a fidelity most admirable. She had been a daughter to him. "But-but-
oh, for God's sake, do come and live near me, and-and
-see me sometimes," whimpered out the unfortunate man.
The Colonel's brow darkened at this. "We can't, Jos,"
he said. "Considering the circumstances, Amelia can't visit you."
"I swear to you-I swear to you on the Bible," gasped out Joseph, wanting to kiss the book, "that she is as innocent as a child, as spotless as your own wife."
"It may be so," said the Colonel gloomily, "but Emmy can't come to you. Be a man, Jos: break off this disreputable connection. Come home to your family. We hear your affairs are involved."
"Involved!" cried Jos. "Who has told such calumnies?
All my money is placed out most advantageously. Mrs.
Crawley-that is-I mean-it is laid out to the best interest."
"You are not in debt, then? Why did you insure your life?"
"I thought-a little present to her-in case anything happened; and you know my health is so delicate-common gratitude you know-and I intend to leave all my money to you-and I can spare it out of my income, indeed I can," cried out William's weak brother-in-law.
The Colonel besought Jos to fly at once-to go back to
India, whither Mrs. Crawley could not follow him; to do anything to break off a connection which might have the most fatal consequences to him.
Jos clasped his hands and cried, "He would go back to
India. He would do anything, only he must have time: they mustn't say anything to Mrs. Crawley-she'd-she'd kill me if she knew it. You don't know what a terrible woman she is," the poor wretch said.
"Then, why not come away with me?" said Dobbin in reply; but Jos had not the courage. "He would see
Dobbin again in the morning; he must on no account say that he had been there. He must go now. Becky might come in." And Dobbin quitted him, full of forebodings.
He never saw Jos more. Three months afterwards
Joseph Sedley died at Aix-la-Chapelle. It was found that all his property had been muddled away in speculations, and was represented by valueless shares in different bubble companies. All his available assets were the two thousand pounds for which his life was insured, and which were left equally between his beloved "sister Amelia, wife of, &c., and his friend and invaluable attendant during sickness, Rebecca, wife of Lieutenant-Colonel
Rawdon Crawley, C.B.," who was appointed administratrix.
The solicitor of the insurance company swore it was the blackest case that ever had come before him, talked of sending a commission to Aix to examine into the death, and the Company refused payment of the policy. But
Mrs., or Lady Crawley, as she styled herself, came to town at once (attended with her solicitors, Messrs. Burke,
Thurtell, and Hayes, of Thavies Inn) and dared the
Company to refuse the payment. They invited examination, they declared that she was the object of an infamous conspiracy, which had been pursuing her all through life, and triumphed finally. The money was paid, and her character established, but Colonel Dobbin sent back his share of the legacy to the insurance office and rigidly declined to hold any communication with Rebecca
She never was Lady Crawley, though she continued so to call herself. His Excellency Colonel Rawdon Crawley died of yellow fever at Coventry Island, most deeply beloved and deplored, and six weeks before the demise of his brother, Sir Pitt. The estate consequently devolved upon the present Sir Rawdon Crawley, Bart.
He, too, has declined to see his mother, to whom he makes a liberal allowance, and who, besides, appears to be very wealthy. The Baronet lives entirely at Queen's
Crawley, with Lady Jane and her daughter, whilst Rebecca,
Lady Crawley, chiefly hangs about Bath and Cheltenham, where a very strong party of excellent people consider her to be a most injured woman. She has her enemies. Who has not? Her life is her answer to them.
She busies herself in works of piety. She goes to church, and never without a footman. Her name is in all the
Charity Lists. The destitute orange-girl, the neglected washerwoman, the distressed muffin-man find in her a fast and generous friend. She is always having stalls at
Fancy Fairs for the benefit of these hapless beings. Emmy, her children, and the Colonel, coming to London some time back, found themselves suddenly before her at one of these fairs. She cast down her eyes demurely and smiled as they started away from her; Emmy scurrying off on the arm of George (now grown a dashing young gentleman) and the Colonel seizing up his little Janey, of whom he is fonder than of anything in the world-
fonder even than of his History of the Punjaub.
"Fonder than he is of me," Emmy thinks with a sigh
But he never said a word to Amelia that was not kind and gentle, or thought of a want of hers that he did not try to gratify.
Ah! Vanitas Vanitatum! which of us is happy in this world? Which of us has his desire? or, having it, is satisfied?
-come, children, let us shut up the box and the puppets, for our play is played out.
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