Part 13 out of 16
What had happened? Was she guilty or not? She said not, but who
could tell what was truth which came from those lips, or if that
corrupt heart was in this case pure?
All her lies and her schemes, an her selfishness and her wiles, all
her wit and genius had come to this bankruptcy. The woman closed
the curtains and, with some entreaty and show of kindness, persuaded
her mistress to lie down on the bed. Then she went below and
gathered up the trinkets which had been lying on the floor since
Rebecca dropped them there at her husband's orders, and Lord Steyne
Sunday After the Battle
The mansion of Sir Pitt Crawley, in Great Gaunt Street, was just
beginning to dress itself for the day, as Rawdon, in his evening
costume, which he had now worn two days, passed by the scared female
who was scouring the steps and entered into his brother's study.
Lady Jane, in her morning-gown, was up and above stairs in the
nursery superintending the toilettes of her children and listening
to the morning prayers which the little creatures performed at her
knee. Every morning she and they performed this duty privately, and
before the public ceremonial at which Sir Pitt presided and at which
all the people of the household were expected to assemble. Rawdon
sat down in the study before the Baronet's table, set out with the
orderly blue books and the letters, the neatly docketed bills and
symmetrical pamphlets, the locked account-books, desks, and dispatch
boxes, the Bible, the Quarterly Review, and the Court Guide, which
all stood as if on parade awaiting the inspection of their chief.
A book of family sermons, one of which Sir Pitt was in the habit of
administering to his family on Sunday mornings, lay ready on the
study table, and awaiting his judicious selection. And by the
sermon-book was the Observer newspaper, damp and neatly folded, and
for Sir Pitt's own private use. His gentleman alone took the
opportunity of perusing the newspaper before he laid it by his
master's desk. Before he had brought it into the study that
morning, he had read in the journal a flaming account of
"Festivities at Gaunt House," with the names of all the
distinguished personages invited by tho Marquis of Steyne to meet
his Royal Highness. Having made comments upon this entertainment to
the housekeeper and her niece as they were taking early tea and hot
buttered toast in the former lady's apartment, and wondered how the
Rawding Crawleys could git on, the valet had damped and folded the
paper once more, so that it looked quite fresh and innocent against
the arrival of the master of the house.
Poor Rawdon took up the paper and began to try and read it until his
brother should arrive. But the print fell blank upon his eyes, and
he did not know in the least what he was reading. The Government
news and appointments (which Sir Pitt as a public man was bound to
peruse, otherwise he would by no means permit the introduction of
Sunday papers into his household), the theatrical criticisms, the
fight for a hundred pounds a side between the Barking Butcher and
the Tutbury Pet, the Gaunt House chronicle itself, which contained a
most complimentary though guarded account of the famous charades of
which Mrs. Becky had been the heroine--all these passed as in a haze
before Rawdon, as he sat waiting the arrival of the chief of the
Punctually, as the shrill-toned bell of the black marble study clock
began to chime nine, Sir Pitt made his appearance, fresh, neat,
smugly shaved, with a waxy clean face, and stiff shirt collar, his
scanty hair combed and oiled, trimming his nails as he descended the
stairs majestically, in a starched cravat and a grey flannel
dressing-gown--a real old English gentleman, in a word--a model of
neatness and every propriety. He started when he saw poor Rawdon in
his study in tumbled clothes, with blood-shot eyes, and his hair
over his face. He thought his brother was not sober, and had been
out all night on some orgy. "Good gracious, Rawdon," he said, with
a blank face, "what brings you here at this time of the morning? Why
ain't you at home?"
"Home," said Rawdon with a wild laugh. "Don't be frightened, Pitt.
I'm not drunk. Shut the door; I want to speak to you."
Pitt closed the door and came up to the table, where he sat down in
the other arm-chair--that one placed for the reception of the
steward, agent, or confidential visitor who came to transact
business with the Baronet--and trimmed his nails more vehemently
"Pitt, it's all over with me," the Colonel said after a pause. "I'm
"I always said it would come to this," the Baronet cried peevishly,
and beating a tune with his clean-trimmed nails. "I warned you a
thousand times. I can't help you any more. Every shilling of my
money is tied up. Even the hundred pounds that Jane took you last
night were promised to my lawyer to-morrow morning, and the want of
it will put me to great inconvenience. I don't mean to say that I
won't assist you ultimately. But as for paying your creditors in
full, I might as well hope to pay the National Debt. It is madness,
sheer madness, to think of such a thing. You must come to a
compromise. It's a painful thing for the family, but everybody does
it. There was George Kitely, Lord Ragland's son, went through the
Court last week, and was what they call whitewashed, I believe.
Lord Ragland would not pay a shilling for him, and--"
"It's not money I want," Rawdon broke in. "I'm not come to you
about myself. Never mind what happens to me."
"What is the matter, then?" said Pitt, somewhat relieved.
"It's the boy," said Rawdon in a husky voice. "I want you to
promise me that you will take charge of him when I'm gone. That
dear good wife of yours has always been good to him; and he's fonder
of her than he is of his . . .--Damn it. Look here, Pitt--you
know that I was to have had Miss Crawley's money. I wasn't brought
up like a younger brother, but was always encouraged to be
extravagant and kep idle. But for this I might have been quite a
different man. I didn't do my duty with the regiment so bad. You
know how I was thrown over about the money, and who got it."
"After the sacrifices I have made, and the manner in which I have
stood by you, I think this sort of reproach is useless," Sir Pitt
said. "Your marriage was your own doing, not mine."
"That's over now," said Rawdon. "That's over now." And the words
were wrenched from him with a groan, which made his brother start.
"Good God! is she dead?" Sir Pitt said with a voice of genuine
alarm and commiseration.
"I wish I was," Rawdon replied. "If it wasn't for little Rawdon I'd
have cut my throat this morning--and that damned villain's too."
Sir Pitt instantly guessed the truth and surmised that Lord Steyne
was the person whose life Rawdon wished to take. The Colonel told
his senior briefly, and in broken accents, the circumstances of the
case. "It was a regular plan between that scoundrel and her," he
said. "The bailiffs were put upon me; I was taken as I was going
out of his house; when I wrote to her for money, she said she was
ill in bed and put me off to another day. And when I got home I
found her in diamonds and sitting with that villain alone." He then
went on to describe hurriedly the personal conflict with Lord
Steyne. To an affair of that nature, of course, he said, there was
but one issue, and after his conference with his brother, he was
going away to make the necessary arrangements for the meeting which
must ensue. "And as it may end fatally with me," Rawdon said with a
broken voice, "and as the boy has no mother, I must leave him to you
and Jane, Pitt--only it will be a comfort to me if you will promise
me to be his friend."
The elder brother was much affected, and shook Rawdon's hand with a
cordiality seldom exhibited by him. Rawdon passed his hand over his
shaggy eyebrows. "Thank you, brother," said he. "I know I can trust
"I will, upon my honour," the Baronet said. And thus, and almost
mutely, this bargain was struck between them.
Then Rawdon took out of his pocket the little pocket-book which he
had discovered in Becky's desk, and from which he drew a bundle of
the notes which it contained. "Here's six hundred," he said--"you
didn't know I was so rich. I want you to give the money to Briggs,
who lent it to us--and who was kind to the boy--and I've always felt
ashamed of having taken the poor old woman's money. And here's some
more--I've only kept back a few pounds--which Becky may as well
have, to get on with." As he spoke he took hold of the other notes
to give to his brother, but his hands shook, and he was so agitated
that the pocket-book fell from him, and out of it the thousand-pound
note which had been the last of the unlucky Becky's winnings.
Pitt stooped and picked them up, amazed at so much wealth. "Not
that," Rawdon said. "I hope to put a bullet into the man whom that
belongs to." He had thought to himself, it would be a fine revenge
to wrap a ball in the note and kill Steyne with it.
After this colloquy the brothers once more shook hands and parted.
Lady Jane had heard of the Colonel's arrival, and was waiting for
her husband in the adjoining dining-room, with female instinct,
auguring evil. The door of the dining-room happened to be left
open, and the lady of course was issuing from it as the two brothers
passed out of the study. She held out her hand to Rawdon and said
she was glad he was come to breakfast, though she could perceive, by
his haggard unshorn face and the dark looks of her husband, that
there was very little question of breakfast between them. Rawdon
muttered some excuses about an engagement, squeezing hard the timid
little hand which his sister-in-law reached out to him. Her
imploring eyes could read nothing but calamity in his face, but he
went away without another word. Nor did Sir Pitt vouchsafe her any
explanation. The children came up to salute him, and he kissed them
in his usual frigid manner. The mother took both of them close to
herself, and held a hand of each of them as they knelt down to
prayers, which Sir Pitt read to them, and to the servants in their
Sunday suits or liveries, ranged upon chairs on the other side of
the hissing tea-urn. Breakfast was so late that day, in consequence
of the delays which had occurred, that the church-bells began to
ring whilst they were sitting over their meal; and Lady Jane was too
ill, she said, to go to church, though her thoughts had been
entirely astray during the period of family devotion.
Rawdon Crawley meanwhile hurried on from Great Gaunt Street, and
knocking at the great bronze Medusa's head which stands on the
portal of Gaunt House, brought out the purple Silenus in a red and
silver waistcoat who acts as porter of that palace. The man was
scared also by the Colonel's dishevelled appearance, and barred the
way as if afraid that the other was going to force it. But Colonel
Crawley only took out a card and enjoined him particularly to send
it in to Lord Steyne, and to mark the address written on it, and say
that Colonel Crawley would be all day after one o'clock at the
Regent Club in St. James's Street--not at home. The fat red-faced
man looked after him with astonishment as he strode away; so did the
people in their Sunday clothes who were out so early; the charity-
boys with shining faces, the greengrocer lolling at his door, and
the publican shutting his shutters in the sunshine, against service
commenced. The people joked at the cab-stand about his appearance,
as he took a carriage there, and told the driver to drive him to
All the bells were jangling and tolling as he reached that place.
He might have seen his old acquaintance Amelia on her way from
Brompton to Russell Square, had he been looking out. Troops of
schools were on their march to church, the shiny pavement and
outsides of coaches in the suburbs were thronged with people out
upon their Sunday pleasure; but the Colonel was much too busy to
take any heed of these phenomena, and, arriving at Knightsbridge,
speedily made his way up to the room of his old friend and comrade
Captain Macmurdo, who Crawley found, to his satisfaction, was in
Captain Macmurdo, a veteran officer and Waterloo man, greatly liked
by his regiment, in which want of money alone prevented him from
attaining the highest ranks, was enjoying the forenoon calmly in
bed. He had been at a fast supper-party, given the night before by
Captain the Honourable George Cinqbars, at his house in Brompton
Square, to several young men of the regiment, and a number of ladies
of the corps de ballet, and old Mac, who was at home with people of
all ages and ranks, and consorted with generals, dog-fanciers,
opera-dancers, bruisers, and every kind of person, in a word, was
resting himself after the night's labours, and, not being on duty,
was in bed.
His room was hung round with boxing, sporting, and dancing pictures,
presented to him by comrades as they retired from the regiment, and
married and settled into quiet life. And as he was now nearly fifty
years of age, twenty-four of which he had passed in the corps, he
had a singular museum. He was one of the best shots in England,
and, for a heavy man, one of the best riders; indeed, he and Crawley
had been rivals when the latter was in the Army. To be brief, Mr.
Macmurdo was lying in bed, reading in Bell's Life an account of that
very fight between the Tutbury Pet and the Barking Butcher, which
has been before mentioned--a venerable bristly warrior, with a
little close-shaved grey head, with a silk nightcap, a red face and
nose, and a great dyed moustache.
When Rawdon told the Captain he wanted a friend, the latter knew
perfectly well on what duty of friendship he was called to act, and
indeed had conducted scores of affairs for his acquaintances with
the greatest prudence and skill. His Royal Highness the late
lamented Commander-in-Chief had had the greatest regard for Macmurdo
on this account, and he was the common refuge of gentlemen in
"What's the row about, Crawley, my boy?" said the old warrior. "No
more gambling business, hay, like that when we shot Captain Marker?"
"It's about--about my wife," Crawley answered, casting down his eyes
and turning very red.
The other gave a whistle. "I always said she'd throw you over," he
began--indeed there were bets in the regiment and at the clubs
regarding the probable fate of Colonel Crawley, so lightly was his
wife's character esteemed by his comrades and the world; but seeing
the savage look with which Rawdon answered the expression of this
opinion, Macmurdo did not think fit to enlarge upon it further.
"Is there no way out of it, old boy?" the Captain continued in a
grave tone. "Is it only suspicion, you know, or--or what is it? Any
letters? Can't you keep it quiet? Best not make any noise about a
thing of that sort if you can help it." "Think of his only finding
her out now," the Captain thought to himself, and remembered a
hundred particular conversations at the mess-table, in which Mrs.
Crawley's reputation had been torn to shreds.
"There's no way but one out of it," Rawdon replied--"and there's
only a way out of it for one of us, Mac--do you understand? I was
put out of the way--arrested--I found 'em alone together. I told
him he was a liar and a coward, and knocked him down and thrashed
"Serve him right," Macmurdo said. "Who is it?"
Rawdon answered it was Lord Steyne.
"The deuce! a Marquis! they said he--that is, they said you--"
"What the devil do you mean?" roared out Rawdon; "do you mean that
you ever heard a fellow doubt about my wife and didn't tell me,
"The world's very censorious, old boy," the other replied. "What
the deuce was the good of my telling you what any tom-fools talked
"It was damned unfriendly, Mac," said Rawdon, quite overcome; and,
covering his face with his hands, he gave way to an emotion, the
sight of which caused the tough old campaigner opposite him to wince
with sympathy. "Hold up, old boy," he said; "great man or not, we'll
put a bullet in him, damn him. As for women, they're all so."
"You don't know how fond I was of that one," Rawdon said, half-
inarticulately. "Damme, I followed her like a footman. I gave up
everything I had to her. I'm a beggar because I would marry her.
By Jove, sir, I've pawned my own watch in order to get her anything
she fancied; and she she's been making a purse for herself all the
time, and grudged me a hundred pound to get me out of quod." He then
fiercely and incoherently, and with an agitation under which his
counsellor had never before seen him labour, told Macmurdo the
circumstances of the story. His adviser caught at some stray hints
in it. "She may be innocent, after all," he said. "She says so.
Steyne has been a hundred times alone with her in the house before."
"It may be so," Rawdon answered sadly, "but this don't look very
innocent": and he showed the Captain the thousand-pound note which
he had found in Becky's pocket-book. "This is what he gave her,
Mac, and she kep it unknown to me; and with this money in the house,
she refused to stand by me when I was locked up." The Captain could
not but own that the secreting of the money had a very ugly look.
Whilst they were engaged in their conference, Rawdon dispatched
Captain Macmurdo's servant to Curzon Street, with an order to the
domestic there to give up a bag of clothes of which the Colonel had
great need. And during the man's absence, and with great labour and
a Johnson's Dictionary, which stood them in much stead, Rawdon and
his second composed a letter, which the latter was to send to Lord
Steyne. Captain Macmurdo had the honour of waiting upon the Marquis
of Steyne, on the part of Colonel Rawdon Crawley, and begged to
intimate that he was empowered by the Colonel to make any
arrangements for the meeting which, he had no doubt, it was his
Lordship's intention to demand, and which the circumstances of the
morning had rendered inevitable. Captain Macmurdo begged Lord
Steyne, in the most polite manner, to appoint a friend, with whom he
(Captain M.M.) might communicate, and desired that the meeting might
take place with as little delay as possible.
In a postscript the Captain stated that he had in his possession a
bank-note for a large amount, which Colonel Crawley had reason to
suppose was the property of the Marquis of Steyne. And he was
anxious, on the Colonel's behalf, to give up the note to its owner.
By the time this note was composed, the Captain's servant returned
from his mission to Colonel Crawley's house in Curzon Street, but
without the carpet-bag and portmanteau, for which he had been sent,
and with a very puzzled and odd face.
"They won't give 'em up," said the man; "there's a regular shinty in
the house, and everything at sixes and sevens. The landlord's come
in and took possession. The servants was a drinkin' up in the
drawingroom. They said--they said you had gone off with the plate,
Colonel"--the man added after a pause--"One of the servants is off
already. And Simpson, the man as was very noisy and drunk indeed,
says nothing shall go out of the house until his wages is paid up."
The account of this little revolution in May Fair astonished and
gave a little gaiety to an otherwise very triste conversation. The
two officers laughed at Rawdon's discomfiture.
"I'm glad the little 'un isn't at home," Rawdon said, biting his
nails. "You remember him, Mac, don't you, in the Riding School? How
he sat the kicker to be sure! didn't he?"
"That he did, old boy," said the good-natured Captain.
Little Rawdon was then sitting, one of fifty gown boys, in the
Chapel of Whitefriars School, thinking, not about the sermon, but
about going home next Saturday, when his father would certainly tip
him and perhaps would take him to the play.
"He's a regular trump, that boy," the father went on, still musing
about his son. "I say, Mac, if anything goes wrong--if I drop--I
should like you to--to go and see him, you know, and say that I was
very fond of him, and that. And--dash it--old chap, give him these
gold sleeve-buttons: it's all I've got." He covered his face with
his black hands, over which the tears rolled and made furrows of
white. Mr. Macmurdo had also occasion to take off his silk night-
cap and rub it across his eyes.
"Go down and order some breakfast," he said to his man in a loud
cheerful voice. "What'll you have, Crawley? Some devilled kidneys
and a herring--let's say. And, Clay, lay out some dressing things
for the Colonel: we were always pretty much of a size, Rawdon, my
boy, and neither of us ride so light as we did when we first entered
the corps." With which, and leaving the Colonel to dress himself,
Macmurdo turned round towards the wall, and resumed the perusal of
Bell's Life, until such time as his friend's toilette was complete
and he was at liberty to commence his own.
This, as he was about to meet a lord, Captain Macmurdo performed
with particular care. He waxed his mustachios into a state of
brilliant polish and put on a tight cravat and a trim buff
waistcoat, so that all the young officers in the mess-room, whither
Crawley had preceded his friend, complimented Mac on his appearance
at breakfast and asked if he was going to be married that Sunday.
In Which the Same Subject is Pursued
Becky did not rally from the state of stupor and confusion in which
the events of the previous night had plunged her intrepid spirit
until the bells of the Curzon Street Chapels were ringing for
afternoon service, and rising from her bed she began to ply her own
bell, in order to summon the French maid who had left her some hours
Mrs. Rawdon Crawley rang many times in vain; and though, on the last
occasion, she rang with such vehemence as to pull down the bell-
rope, Mademoiselle Fifine did not make her appearance--no, not
though her mistress, in a great pet, and with the bell-rope in her
hand, came out to the landing-place with her hair over her shoulders
and screamed out repeatedly for her attendant.
The truth is, she had quitted the premises for many hours, and upon
that permission which is called French leave among us After picking
up the trinkets in the drawing-room, Mademoiselle had ascended to
her own apartments, packed and corded her own boxes there, tripped
out and called a cab for herself, brought down her trunks with her
own hand, and without ever so much as asking the aid of any of the
other servants, who would probably have refused it, as they hated
her cordially, and without wishing any one of them good-bye, had
made her exit from Curzon Street.
The game, in her opinion, was over in that little domestic
establishment. Fifine went off in a cab, as we have known more
exalted persons of her nation to do under similar circumstances:
but, more provident or lucky than these, she secured not only her
own property, but some of her mistress's (if indeed that lady could
be said to have any property at all)--and not only carried off the
trinkets before alluded to, and some favourite dresses on which she
had long kept her eye, but four richly gilt Louis Quatorze
candlesticks, six gilt albums, keepsakes, and Books of Beauty, a
gold enamelled snuff-box which had once belonged to Madame du Barri,
and the sweetest little inkstand and mother-of-pearl blotting book,
which Becky used when she composed her charming little pink notes,
had vanished from the premises in Curzon Street together with
Mademoiselle Fifine, and all the silver laid on the table for the
little festin which Rawdon interrupted. The plated ware
Mademoiselle left behind her was too cumbrous, probably for which
reason, no doubt, she also left the fire irons, the chimney-glasses,
and the rosewood cottage piano.
A lady very like her subsequently kept a milliner's shop in the Rue
du Helder at Paris, where she lived with great credit and enjoyed
the patronage of my Lord Steyne. This person always spoke of
England as of the most treacherous country in the world, and stated
to her young pupils that she had been affreusement vole by natives
of that island. It was no doubt compassion for her misfortunes
which induced the Marquis of Steyne to be so very kind to Madame de
Saint-Amaranthe. May she flourish as she deserves--she appears no
more in our quarter of Vanity Fair.
Hearing a buzz and a stir below, and indignant at the impudence of
those servants who would not answer her summons, Mrs. Crawley flung
her morning robe round her and descended majestically to the
drawing-room, whence the noise proceeded.
The cook was there with blackened face, seated on the beautiful
chintz sofa by the side of Mrs. Raggles, to whom she was
administering Maraschino. The page with the sugar-loaf buttons, who
carried about Becky's pink notes, and jumped about her little
carriage with such alacrity, was now engaged putting his fingers
into a cream dish; the footman was talking to Raggles, who had a
face full of perplexity and woe--and yet, though the door was open,
and Becky had been screaming a half-dozen of times a few feet off,
not one of her attendants had obeyed her call. "Have a little drop,
do'ee now, Mrs. Raggles," the cook was saying as Becky entered, the
white cashmere dressing-gown flouncing around her.
"Simpson! Trotter!" the mistress of the house cried in great wrath.
"How dare you stay here when you heard me call? How dare you sit
down in my presence? Where's my maid?" The page withdrew his fingers
from his mouth with a momentary terror, but the cook took off a
glass of Maraschino, of which Mrs. Raggles had had enough, staring
at Becky over the little gilt glass as she drained its contents.
The liquor appeared to give the odious rebel courage.
"YOUR sofy, indeed!" Mrs. Cook said. "I'm a settin' on Mrs.
Raggles's sofy. Don't you stir, Mrs. Raggles, Mum. I'm a settin' on
Mr. and Mrs. Raggles's sofy, which they bought with honest money,
and very dear it cost 'em, too. And I'm thinkin' if I set here
until I'm paid my wages, I shall set a precious long time, Mrs.
Raggles; and set I will, too--ha! ha!" and with this she filled
herself another glass of the liquor and drank it with a more
hideously satirical air.
"Trotter! Simpson! turn that drunken wretch out," screamed Mrs.
"I shawn't," said Trotter the footman; "turn out yourself. Pay our
selleries, and turn me out too. WE'LL go fast enough."
"Are you all here to insult me?" cried Becky in a fury; "when
Colonel Crawley comes home I'll--"
At this the servants burst into a horse haw-haw, in which, however,
Raggles, who still kept a most melancholy countenance, did not join.
"He ain't a coming back," Mr. Trotter resumed. "He sent for his
things, and I wouldn't let 'em go, although Mr. Raggles would; and I
don't b'lieve he's no more a Colonel than I am. He's hoff, and I
suppose you're a goin' after him. You're no better than swindlers,
both on you. Don't be a bullyin' ME. I won't stand it. Pay us our
selleries, I say. Pay us our selleries." It was evident, from Mr.
Trotter's flushed countenance and defective intonation, that he,
too, had had recourse to vinous stimulus.
"Mr. Raggles," said Becky in a passion of vexation, "you will not
surely let me be insulted by that drunken man?" "Hold your noise,
Trotter; do now," said Simpson the page. He was affected by his
mistress's deplorable situation, and succeeded in preventing an
outrageous denial of the epithet "drunken" on the footman's part.
"Oh, M'am," said Raggles, "I never thought to live to see this year
day: I've known the Crawley family ever since I was born. I lived
butler with Miss Crawley for thirty years; and I little thought one
of that family was a goin' to ruing me--yes, ruing me"--said the
poor fellow with tears in his eyes. "Har you a goin' to pay me?
You've lived in this 'ouse four year. You've 'ad my substance: my
plate and linning. You ho me a milk and butter bill of two 'undred
pound, you must 'ave noo laid heggs for your homlets, and cream for
your spanil dog."
"She didn't care what her own flesh and blood had," interposed the
cook. "Many's the time, he'd have starved but for me."
"He's a charaty-boy now, Cooky," said Mr. Trotter, with a drunken
"ha! ha!"--and honest Raggles continued, in a lamentable tone, an
enumeration of his griefs. All he said was true. Becky and her
husband had ruined him. He had bills coming due next week and no
means to meet them. He would be sold up and turned out of his shop
and his house, because he had trusted to the Crawley family. His
tears and lamentations made Becky more peevish than ever.
"You all seem to be against me," she said bitterly. "What do you
want? I can't pay you on Sunday. Come back to-morrow and I'll pay
you everything. I thought Colonel Crawley had settled with you. He
will to-morrow. I declare to you upon my honour that he left home
this morning with fifteen hundred pounds in his pocket-book. He has
left me nothing. Apply to him. Give me a bonnet and shawl and let
me go out and find him. There was a difference between us this
morning. You all seem to know it. I promise you upon my word that
you shall all be paid. He has got a good appointment. Let me go
out and find him."
This audacious statement caused Raggles and the other personages
present to look at one another with a wild surprise, and with it
Rebecca left them. She went upstairs and dressed herself this time
without the aid of her French maid. She went into Rawdon's room,
and there saw that a trunk and bag were packed ready for removal,
with a pencil direction that they should be given when called for;
then she went into the Frenchwoman's garret; everything was clean,
and all the drawers emptied there. She bethought herself of the
trinkets which had been left on the ground and felt certain that the
woman had fled. "Good Heavens! was ever such ill luck as mine?" she
said; "to be so near, and to lose all. Is it all too late?" No;
there was one chance more.
She dressed herself and went away unmolested this time, but alone.
It was four o'clock. She went swiftly down the streets (she had no
money to pay for a carriage), and never stopped until she came to
Sir Pitt Crawley's door, in Great Gaunt Street. Where was Lady Jane
Crawley? She was at church. Becky was not sorry. Sir Pitt was in
his study, and had given orders not to be disturbed--she must see
him--she slipped by the sentinel in livery at once, and was in Sir
Pitt's room before the astonished Baronet had even laid down the
He turned red and started back from her with a look of great alarm
"Do not look so," she said. "I am not guilty, Pitt, dear Pitt; you
were my friend once. Before God, I am not guilty. I seem so.
Everything is against me. And oh! at such a moment! just when all
my hopes were about to be realized: just when happiness was in
store for us."
"Is this true, what I see in the paper then?" Sir Pitt said--a
paragraph in which had greatly surprised him.
"It is true. Lord Steyne told me on Friday night, the night of that
fatal ball. He has been promised an appointment any time these six
months. Mr. Martyr, the Colonial Secretary, told him yesterday that
it was made out. That unlucky arrest ensued; that horrible meeting.
I was only guilty of too much devotedness to Rawdon's service. I
have received Lord Steyne alone a hundred times before. I confess I
had money of which Rawdon knew nothing. Don't you know how careless
he is of it, and could I dare to confide it to him?" And so she went
on with a perfectly connected story, which she poured into the ears
of her perplexed kinsman.
It was to the following effect. Becky owned, and with prefect
frankness, but deep contrition, that having remarked Lord Steyne's
partiality for her (at the mention of which Pitt blushed), and being
secure of her own virtue, she had determined to turn the great
peer's attachment to the advantage of herself and her family. "I
looked for a peerage for you, Pitt," she said (the brother-in-law
again turned red). "We have talked about it. Your genius and Lord
Steyne's interest made it more than probable, had not this dreadful
calamity come to put an end to all our hopes. But, first, I own
that it was my object to rescue my dear husband--him whom I love in
spite of all his ill usage and suspicions of me--to remove him from
the poverty and ruin which was impending over us. I saw Lord
Steyne's partiality for me," she said, casting down her eyes. "I
own that I did everything in my power to make myself pleasing to
him, and as far as an honest woman may, to secure his--his esteem.
It was only on Friday morning that the news arrived of the death of
the Governor of Coventry Island, and my Lord instantly secured the
appointment for my dear husband. It was intended as a surprise for
him--he was to see it in the papers to-day. Even after that horrid
arrest took place (the expenses of which Lord Steyne generously said
he would settle, so that I was in a manner prevented from coming to
my husband's assistance), my Lord was laughing with me, and saying
that my dearest Rawdon would be consoled when he read of his
appointment in the paper, in that shocking spun--bailiff's house.
And then--then he came home. His suspicions were excited,--the
dreadful scene took place between my Lord and my cruel, cruel
Rawdon--and, O my God, what will happen next? Pitt, dear Pitt! pity
me, and reconcile us!" And as she spoke she flung herself down on
her knees, and bursting into tears, seized hold of Pitt's hand,
which she kissed passionately.
It was in this very attitude that Lady Jane, who, returning from
church, ran to her husband's room directly she heard Mrs. Rawdon
Crawley was closeted there, found the Baronet and his sister-in-law.
"I am surprised that woman has the audacity to enter this house,"
Lady Jane said, trembling in every limb and turning quite pale.
(Her Ladyship had sent out her maid directly after breakfast, who
had communicated with Raggles and Rawdon Crawley's household, who
had told her all, and a great deal more than they knew, of that
story, and many others besides). "How dare Mrs. Crawley to enter
the house of--of an honest family?"
Sir Pitt started back, amazed at his wife's display of vigour.
Becky still kept her kneeling posture and clung to Sir Pitt's hand.
"Tell her that she does not know all: Tell her that I am innocent,
dear Pitt," she whimpered out.
"Upon-my word, my love, I think you do Mrs. Crawley injustice," Sir
Pitt said; at which speech Rebecca was vastly relieved. "Indeed I
believe her to be--"
"To be what?" cried out Lady Jane, her clear voice thrilling and,
her heart beating violently as she spoke. "To be a wicked woman--a
heartless mother, a false wife? She never loved her dear little boy,
who used to fly here and tell me of her cruelty to him. She never
came into a family but she strove to bring misery with her and to
weaken the most sacred affections with her wicked flattery and
falsehoods. She has deceived her husband, as she has deceived
everybody; her soul is black with vanity, worldliness, and all sorts
of crime. I tremble when I touch her. I keep my children out of
"Lady Jane!" cried Sir Pitt, starting up, "this is really language--"
"I have been a true and faithful wife to you, Sir Pitt," Lady
Jane continued, intrepidly; "I have kept my marriage vow as I made
it to God and have been obedient and gentle as a wife should. But
righteous obedience has its limits, and I declare that I will not
bear that--that woman again under my roof; if she enters it, I and
my children will leave it. She is not worthy to sit down with
Christian people. You--you must choose, sir, between her and me";
and with this my Lady swept out of the room, fluttering with her own
audacity, and leaving Rebecca and Sir Pitt not a little astonished
As for Becky, she was not hurt; nay, she was pleased. "It was the
diamond-clasp you gave me," she said to Sir Pitt, reaching him out
her hand; and before she left him (for which event you may be sure
my Lady Jane was looking out from her dressing-room window in the
upper story) the Baronet had promised to go and seek out his
brother, and endeavour to bring about a reconciliation.
Rawdon found some of the young fellows of the regiment seated in the
mess-room at breakfast, and was induced without much difficulty to
partake of that meal, and of the devilled legs of fowls and soda-
water with which these young gentlemen fortified themselves. Then
they had a conversation befitting the day and their time of life:
about the next pigeon-match at Battersea, with relative bets upon
Ross and Osbaldiston; about Mademoiselle Ariane of the French Opera,
and who had left her, and how she was consoled by Panther Carr; and
about the fight between the Butcher and the Pet, and the
probabilities that it was a cross. Young Tandyman, a hero of
seventeen, laboriously endeavouring to get up a pair of mustachios,
had seen the fight, and spoke in the most scientific manner about
the battle and the condition of the men. It was he who had driven
the Butcher on to the ground in his drag and passed the whole of the
previous night with him. Had there not been foul play he must have
won it. All the old files of the Ring were in it; and Tandyman
wouldn't pay; no, dammy, he wouldn't pay. It was but a year since
the young Cornet, now so knowing a hand in Cribb's parlour, had a
still lingering liking for toffy, and used to be birched at Eton.
So they went on talking about dancers, fights, drinking, demireps,
until Macmurdo came down and joined the boys and the conversation.
He did not appear to think that any especial reverence was due to
their boyhood; the old fellow cut in with stories, to the full as
choice as any the youngest rake present had to tell--nor did his own
grey hairs nor their smooth faces detain him. Old Mac was famous
for his good stories. He was not exactly a lady's man; that is, men
asked him to dine rather at the houses of their mistresses than of
their mothers. There can scarcely be a life lower, perhaps, than
his, but he was quite contented with it, such as it was, and led it
in perfect good nature, simplicity, and modesty of demeanour.
By the time Mac had finished a copious breakfast, most of the others
had concluded their meal. Young Lord Varinas was smoking an immense
Meerschaum pipe, while Captain Hugues was employed with a cigar:
that violent little devil Tandyman, with his little bull-terrier
between his legs, was tossing for shillings with all his might (that
fellow was always at some game or other) against Captain Deuceace;
and Mac and Rawdon walked off to the Club, neither, of course,
having given any hint of the business which was occupying their
minds. Both, on the other hand, had joined pretty gaily in the
conversation, for why should they interrupt it? Feasting, drinking,
ribaldry, laughter, go on alongside of all sorts of other
occupations in Vanity Fair--the crowds were pouring out of church as
Rawdon and his friend passed down St. James's Street and entered
into their Club.
The old bucks and habitues, who ordinarily stand gaping and grinning
out of the great front window of the Club, had not arrived at their
posts as yet--the newspaper-room was almost empty. One man was
present whom Rawdon did not know; another to whom he owed a little
score for whist, and whom, in consequence, he did not care to meet;
a third was reading the Royalist (a periodical famous for its
scandal and its attachment to Church and King) Sunday paper at the
table, and looking up at Crawley with some interest, said, "Crawley,
I congratulate you."
"What do you mean?" said the Colonel.
"It's in the Observer and the Royalist too," said Mr. Smith.
"What?" Rawdon cried, turning very red. He thought that the affair
with Lord Steyne was already in the public prints. Smith looked up
wondering and smiling at the agitation which the Colonel exhibited
as he took up the paper and, trembling, began to read.
Mr. Smith and Mr. Brown (the gentleman with .whom Rawdon had the
outstanding whist account) had been talking about the Colonel just
before he came in.
"It is come just in the nick of time," said Smith. "I suppose
Crawley had not a shilling in the world."
"It's a wind that blows everybody good," Mr. Brown said. "He can't
go away without paying me a pony he owes me."
"What's the salary?" asked Smith.
"Two or three thousand," answered the other. "But the climate's so
infernal, they don't enjoy it long. Liverseege died after eighteen
months of it, and the man before went off in six weeks, I hear."
"Some people say his brother is a very clever man. I always found
him a d----- bore," Smith ejaculated. "He must have good interest,
though. He must have got the Colonel the place."
"He!" said Brown. with a sneer. "Pooh. It was Lord Steyne got it.
"How do you mean?"
"A virtuous woman is a crown to her husband," answered the other
enigmatically, and went to read his papers.
Rawdon, for his part, read in the Royalist the following astonishing
GOVERNORSHIP OF COVENTRY ISLAND.--H.M.S. Yellowjack, Commander
Jaunders, has brought letters and papers from Coventry Island. H.
E. Sir Thomas Liverseege had fallen a victim to the prevailing
fever at Swampton. His loss is deeply felt in the flourishing
colony. We hear that the Governorship has been offered to Colonel
Rawdon Crawley, C.B., a distinguished Waterloo officer. We need not
only men of acknowledged bravery, but men of administrative talents
to superintend the affairs of our colonies, and we have no doubt
that the gentleman selected by the Colonial Office to fill the
lamented vacancy which has occurred at Coventry Island is admirably
calculated for the post which he is about to occupy."
"Coventry Island! Where was it? Who had appointed him to the
government? You must take me out as your secretary, old boy,"
Captain Macmurdo said laughing; and as Crawley and his friend sat
wondering and perplexed over the announcement, the Club waiter
brought in to the Colonel a card on which the name of Mr. Wenham was
engraved, who begged to see Colonel Crawley.
The Colonel and his aide-de-camp went out to meet the gentleman,
rightly conjecturing that he was an emissary of Lord Steyne. "How
d'ye do, Crawley? I am glad to see you," said Mr. Wenham with a
bland smile, and grasping Crawley's hand with great cordiality.
"You come, I suppose, from--"
"Exactly," said Mr. Wenham.
"Then this is my friend Captain Macmurdo, of the Life Guards Green."
"Delighted to know Captain Macmurdo, I'm sure," Mr. Wenham said and
tendered another smile and shake of the hand to the second, as he
had done to the principal. Mac put out one finger, armed with a
buckskin glove, and made a very frigid bow to Mr. Wenham over his
tight cravat. He was, perhaps, discontented at being put in
communication with a pekin, and thought that Lord Steyne should have
sent him a Colonel at the very least.
"As Macmurdo acts for me, and knows what I mean," Crawley said, "I
had better retire and leave you together."
"Of course," said Macmurdo.
"By no means, my dear Colonel," Mr. Wenham said; "the interview
which I had the honour of requesting was with you personally, though
the company of Captain Macmurdo cannot fail to be also most
pleasing. In fact, Captain, I hope that our conversation will lead
to none but the most agreeable results, very different from those
which my friend Colonel Crawley appears to anticipate."
"Humph!" said Captain Macmurdo. Be hanged to these civilians, he
thought to himself, they are always for arranging and speechifying.
Mr. Wenham took a chair which was not offered to him--took a paper
from his pocket, and resumed--
"You have seen this gratifying announcement in the papers this
morning, Colonel? Government has secured a most valuable servant,
and you, if you accept office, as I presume you will, an excellent
appointment. Three thousand a year, delightful climate, excellent
government-house, all your own way in the Colony, and a certain
promotion. I congratulate you with all my heart. I presume you
know, gentlemen, to whom my friend is indebted for this piece of
"Hanged if I know," the Captain said; his principal turned very red.
"To one of the most generous and kindest men in the world, as he is
one of the greatest--to my excellent friend, the Marquis of Steyne."
"I'll see him d--- before I take his place," growled out Rawdon.
"You are irritated against my noble friend," Mr. Wenham calmly
resumed; "and now, in the name of common sense and justice, tell me
"WHY?" cried Rawdon in surprise.
"Why? Dammy!" said the Captain, ringing his stick on the ground.
"Dammy, indeed," said Mr. Wenham with the most agreeable smile;
"still, look at the matter as a man of the world--as an honest man--
and see if you have not been in the wrong. You come home from a
journey, and find--what?--my Lord Steyne supping at your house in
Curzon Street with Mrs. Crawley. Is the circumstance strange or
novel? Has he not been a hundred times before in the same position?
Upon my honour and word as a gentleman"--Mr. Wenham here put his
hand on his waistcoat with a parliamentary air--"I declare I think
that your suspicions are monstrous and utterly unfounded, and that
they injure an honourable gentleman who has proved his good-will
towards you by a thousand benefactions--and a most spotless and
"You don't mean to say that--that Crawley's mistaken?" said Mr.
"I believe that Mrs. Crawley is as innocent as my wife, Mrs.
Wenham," Mr. Wenham said with great energy. "I believe that, misled
by an infernal jealousy, my friend here strikes a blow against not
only an infirm and old man of high station, his constant friend and
benefactor, but against his wife, his own dearest honour, his son's
future reputation, and his own prospects in life."
"I will tell you what happened," Mr. Wenham continued with great
solemnity; "I was sent for this morning by my Lord Steyne, and found
him in a pitiable state, as, I need hardly inform Colonel Crawley,
any man of age and infirmity would be after a personal conflict with
a man of your strength. I say to your face; it was a cruel
advantage you took of that strength, Colonel Crawley. It was not
only the body of my noble and excellent friend which was wounded--
his heart, sir, was bleeding. A man whom he had loaded with
benefits and regarded with affection had subjected him to the
foulest indignity. What was this very appointment, which appears in
the journals of to-day, but a proof of his kindness to you? When I
saw his Lordship this morning I found him in a state pitiable indeed
to see, and as anxious as you are to revenge the outrage committed
upon him, by blood. You know he has given his proofs, I presume,
"He has plenty of pluck," said the Colonel. "Nobody ever said he
"His first order to me was to write a letter of challenge, and to
carry it to Colonel Crawley. One or other of us," he said, "must
not survive the outrage of last night."
Crawley nodded. "You're coming to the point, Wenham," he said.
"I tried my utmost to calm Lord Steyne. Good God! sir," I said,
"how I regret that Mrs. Wenham and myself had not accepted Mrs.
Crawley's invitation to sup with her!"
"She asked you to sup with her?" Captain Macmurdo said.
"After the opera. Here's the note of invitation--stop--no, this is
another paper--I thought I had h, but it's of no consequence, and I
pledge you my word to the fact. If we had come--and it was only one
of Mrs. Wenham's headaches which prevented us--she suffers under
them a good deal, especially in the spring--if we had come, and you
had returned home, there would have been no quarrel, no insult, no
suspicion--and so it is positively because my poor wife has a
headache that you are to bring death down upon two men of honour and
plunge two of the most excellent and ancient families in the kingdom
into disgrace and sorrow."
Mr. Macmurdo looked at his principal with the air of a man
profoundly puzzled, and Rawdon felt with a kind of rage that his
prey was escaping him. He did not believe a word of the story, and
yet, how discredit or disprove it?
Mr. Wenham continued with the same fluent oratory, which in his
place in Parliament he had so often practised--"I sat for an hour or
more by Lord Steyne's bedside, beseeching, imploring Lord Steyne to
forego his intention of demanding a meeting. I pointed out to him
that the circumstances were after all suspicious--they were
suspicious. I acknowledge it--any man in your position might have
been taken in--I said that a man furious with jealousy is to all
intents and purposes a madman, and should be as such regarded--that
a duel between you must lead to the disgrace of all parties
concerned--that a man of his Lordship's exalted station had no right
in these days, when the most atrocious revolutionary principles, and
the most dangerous levelling doctrines are preached among the
vulgar, to create a public scandal; and that, however innocent, the
common people would insist that he was guilty. In fine, I implored
him not to send the challenge."
"I don't believe one word of the whole story," said Rawdon, grinding
his teeth. "I believe it a d----- lie, and that you're in it, Mr.
Wenham. If the challenge don't come from him, by Jove it shall come
Mr. Wenham turned deadly pale at this savage interruption of the
Colonel and looked towards the door.
But he found a champion in Captain Macmurdo. That gentleman rose up
with an oath and rebuked Rawdon for his language. "You put the
affair into my hands, and you shall act as I think fit, by Jove, and
not as you do. You have no right to insult Mr. Wenham with this sort
of language; and dammy, Mr. Wenham, you deserve an apology. And as
for a challenge to Lord Steyne, you may get somebody else to carry
it, I won't. If my lord, after being thrashed, chooses to sit
still, dammy let him. And as for the affair with--with Mrs. Crawley,
my belief is, there's nothing proved at all: that your wife's
innocent, as innocent as Mr. Wenham says she is; and at any rate
that you would be a d--fool not to take the place and hold your
"Captain Macmurdo, you speak like a man of sense," Mr. Wenham cried
out, immensely relieved--"I forget any words that Colonel Crawley
has used in the irritation of the moment."
"I thought you would," Rawdon said with a sneer.
"Shut your mouth, you old stoopid," the Captain said good-naturedly.
"Mr. Wenham ain't a fighting man; and quite right, too."
"This matter, in my belief," the Steyne emissary cried, "ought to be
buried in the most profound oblivion. A word concerning it should
never pass these doors. I speak in the interest of my friend, as
well as of Colonel Crawley, who persists in considering me his
"I suppose Lord Steyne won't talk about it very much," said Captain
Macmurdo; "and I don't see why our side should. The affair ain't a
very pretty one, any way you take it, and the less said about it the
better. It's you are thrashed, and not us; and if you are satisfied,
why, I think, we should be."
Mr. Wenham took his hat, upon this, and Captain Macmurdo following
him to the door, shut it upon himself and Lord Steyne's agent,
leaving Rawdon chafing within. When the two were on the other side,
Macmurdo looked hard at the other ambassador and with an expression
of anything but respect on his round jolly face.
"You don't stick at a trifle, Mr. Wenham," he said.
"You flatter me, Captain Macmurdo," answered the other with a smile.
"Upon my honour and conscience now, Mrs. Crawley did ask us to sup
after the opera."
"Of course; and Mrs. Wenham had one of her head-aches. I say, I've
got a thousand-pound note here, which I will give you if you will
give me a receipt, please; and I will put the note up in an envelope
for Lord Steyne. My man shan't fight him. But we had rather not
take his money."
"It was all a mistake--all a mistake, my dear sir," the other said
with the utmost innocence of manner; and was bowed down the Club
steps by Captain Macmurdo, just as Sir Pitt Crawley ascended them.
There was a slight acquaintance between these two gentlemen, and the
Captain, going back with the Baronet to the room where the latter's
brother was, told Sir Pitt, in confidence, that he had made the
affair all right between Lord Steyne and the Colonel.
Sir Pitt was well pleased, of course, at this intelligence, and
congratulated his brother warmly upon the peaceful issue of the
affair, making appropriate moral remarks upon the evils of duelling
and the unsatisfactory nature of that sort of settlement of
And after this preface, he tried with all his eloquence to effect a
reconciliation between Rawdon and his wife. He recapitulated the
statements which Becky had made, pointed out the probabilities of
their truth, and asserted his own firm belief in her innocence.
But Rawdon would not hear of it. "She has kep money concealed from
me these ten years," he said "She swore, last night only, she had
none from Steyne. She knew it was all up, directly I found it. If
she's not guilty, Pitt, she's as bad as guilty, and I'll never see
her again--never." His head sank down on his chest as he spoke the
words, and he looked quite broken and sad.
"Poor old boy," Macmurdo said, shaking his head.
Rawdon Crawley resisted for some time the idea of taking the place
which had been procured for him by so odious a patron, and was also
for removing the boy from the school where Lord Steyne's interest
had placed him. He was induced, however, to acquiesce in these
benefits by the entreaties of his brother and Macmurdo, but mainly
by the latter, pointing out to him what a fury Steyne would be in to
think that his enemy's fortune was made through his means.
When the Marquis of Steyne came abroad after his accident, the
Colonial Secretary bowed up to him and congratulated himself and the
Service upon having made so excellent an appointment. These
congratulations were received with a degree of gratitude which may
be imagined on the part of Lord Steyne.
The secret of the rencontre between him and Colonel Crawley was
buried in the profoundest oblivion, as Wenham said; that is, by the
seconds and the principals. But before that evening was over it was
talked of at fifty dinner-tables in Vanity Fair. Little Cackleby
himself went to seven evening parties and told the story with
comments and emendations at each place. How Mrs. Washington White
revelled in it! The Bishopess of Ealing was shocked beyond
expression; the Bishop went and wrote his name down in the visiting-
book at Gaunt House that very day. Little Southdown was sorry; so
you may be sure was his sister Lady Jane, very sorry. Lady
Southdown wrote it off to her other daughter at the Cape of Good
Hope. It was town-talk for at least three days, and was only kept
out of the newspapers by the exertions of Mr. Wagg, acting upon a
hint from Mr. Wenham.
The bailiffs and brokers seized upon poor Raggles in Curzon Street,
and the late fair tenant of that poor little mansion was in the
meanwhile--where? Who cared! Who asked after a day or two? Was she
guilty or not? We all know how charitable the world is, and how the
verdict of Vanity Fair goes when there is a doubt. Some people said
she had gone to Naples in pursuit of Lord Steyne, whilst others
averred that his Lordship quitted that city and fled to Palermo on
hearing of Becky's arrival; some said she was living in Bierstadt,
and had become a dame d'honneur to the Queen of Bulgaria; some that
she was at Boulogne; and others, at a boarding-house at Cheltenham.
Rawdon made her a tolerable annuity, and we may be sure that she was
a woman who could make a little money go a great way, as the saying
is. He would have paid his debts on leaving England, could he have
got any Insurance Office to take his life, but the climate of
Coventry Island was so bad that he could borrow no money on the
strength of his salary. He remitted, however, to his brother
punctually, and wrote to his little boy regularly every mail. He
kept Macmurdo in cigars and sent over quantities of shells, cayenne
pepper, hot pickles, guava jelly, and colonial produce to Lady Jane.
He sent his brother home the Swamp Town Gazette, in which the new
Governor was praised with immense enthusiasm; whereas the Swamp Town
Sentinel, whose wife was not asked to Government House, declared
that his Excellency was a tyrant, compared to whom Nero was an
enlightened philanthropist. Little Rawdon used to like to get the
papers and read about his Excellency.
His mother never made any movement to see the child. He went home to
his aunt for Sundays and holidays; he soon knew every bird's nest
about Queen's Crawley, and rode out with Sir Huddlestone's hounds,
which he admired so on his first well-remembered visit to Hampshire.
Georgy is Made a Gentleman
Georgy Osborne was now fairly established in his grandfather's
mansion in Russell Square, occupant of his father's room in the
house and heir apparent of all the splendours there. The good
looks, gallant bearing, and gentlemanlike appearance of the boy won
the grandsire's heart for him. Mr. Osborne was as proud of him as
ever he had been of the elder George.
The child had many more luxuries and indulgences than had been
awarded his father. Osborne's commerce had prospered greatly of
late years. His wealth and importance in the City had very much
increased. He had been glad enough in former days to put the elder
George to a good private school; and a commission in the army for
his son had been a source of no small pride to him; for little
George and his future prospects the old man looked much higher. He
would make a gentleman of the little chap, was Mr. Osborne's
constant saying regarding little Georgy. He saw him in his mind's
eye, a collegian, a Parliament man, a Baronet, perhaps. The old man
thought he would die contented if he could see his grandson in a
fair way to such honours. He would have none but a tip-top college
man to educate him--none of your quacks and pretenders--no, no. A
few years before, he used to be savage, and inveigh against all
parsons, scholars, and the like declaring that they were a pack of
humbugs, and quacks that weren't fit to get their living but by
grinding Latin and Greek, and a set of supercilious dogs that
pretended to look down upon British merchants and gentlemen, who
could buy up half a hundred of 'em. He would mourn now, in a very
solemn manner, that his own education had been neglected, and
repeatedly point out, in pompous orations to Georgy, the necessity
and excellence of classical acquirements.
When they met at dinner the grandsire used to ask the lad what he
had been reading during the day, and was greatly interested at the
report the boy gave of his own studies, pretending to understand
little George when he spoke regarding them. He made a hundred
blunders and showed his ignorance many a time. It did not increase
the respect which the child had for his senior. A quick brain and a
better education elsewhere showed the boy very soon that his
grandsire was a dullard, and he began accordingly to command him and
to look down upon him; for his previous education, humble and
contracted as it had been, had made a much better gentleman of
Georgy than any plans of his grandfather could make him. He had
been brought up by a kind, weak, and tender woman, who had no pride
about anything but about him, and whose heart was so pure and whose
bearing was so meek and humble that she could not but needs be a
true lady. She busied herself in gentle offices and quiet duties;
if she never said brilliant things, she never spoke or thought
unkind ones; guileless and artless, loving and pure, indeed how
could our poor little Amelia be other than a real gentlewoman!
Young Georgy lorded over this soft and yielding nature; and the
contrast of its simplicity and delicacy with the coarse pomposity of
the dull old man with whom he next came in contact made him lord
over the latter too. If he had been a Prince Royal he could not
have been better brought up to think well of himself.
Whilst his mother was yearning after him at home, and I do believe
every hour of the day, and during most hours of the sad lonely
nights, thinking of him, this young gentleman had a number of
pleasures and consolations administered to him, which made him for
his part bear the separation from Amelia very easily. Little boys
who cry when they are going to school cry because they are going to
a very uncomfortable place. It is only a few who weep from sheer
affection. When you think that the eyes of your childhood dried at
the sight of a piece of gingerbread, and that a plum cake was a
compensation for the agony of parting with your mamma and sisters,
oh my friend and brother, you need not be too confident of your own
Well, then, Master George Osborne had every comfort and luxury that
a wealthy and lavish old grandfather thought fit to provide. The
coachman was instructed to purchase for him the handsomest pony
which could be bought for money, and on this George was taught to
ride, first at a riding-school, whence, after having performed
satisfactorily without stirrups, and over the leaping-bar, he was
conducted through the New Road to Regent's Park, and then to Hyde
Park, where he rode in state with Martin the coachman behind him.
Old Osborne, who took matters more easily in the City now, where he
left his affairs to his junior partners, would often ride out with
Miss O. in the same fashionable direction. As little Georgy came
cantering up with his dandified air and his heels down, his
grandfather would nudge the lad's aunt and say, "Look, Miss O." And
he would laugh, and his face would grow red with pleasure, as he
nodded out of the window to the boy, as the groom saluted the
carriage, and the footman saluted Master George. Here too his aunt,
Mrs. Frederick Bullock (whose chariot might daily be seen in the
Ring, with bullocks or emblazoned on the panels and harness, and
three pasty-faced little Bullocks, covered with cockades and
feathers, staring from the windows) Mrs. Frederick Bullock, I say,
flung glances of the bitterest hatred at the little upstart as he
rode by with his hand on his side and his hat on one ear, as proud
as a lord.
Though he was scarcely eleven years of age, Master George wore
straps and the most beautiful little boots like a man. He had gilt
spurs, and a gold-headed whip, and a fine pin in his handkerchief,
and the neatest little kid gloves which Lamb's Conduit Street could
furnish. His mother had given him a couple of neckcloths, and
carefully hemmed and made some little shirts for him; but when her
Eli came to see the widow, they were replaced by much finer linen.
He had little jewelled buttons in the lawn shirt fronts. Her humble
presents had been put aside--I believe Miss Osborne had given them
to the coachman's boy. Amelia tried to think she was pleased at the
change. Indeed, she was happy and charmed to see the boy looking so
She had had a little black profile of him done for a shilling, and
this was hung up by the side of another portrait over her bed. One
day the boy came on his accustomed visit, galloping down the little
street at Brompton, and bringing, as usual, all the inhabitants to
the windows to admire his splendour, and with great eagerness and a
look of triumph in his face, he pulled a case out of his great-coat
--it was a natty white great-coat, with a cape and a velvet collar--
pulled out a red morocco case, which he gave her.
"I bought it with my own money, Mamma," he said. "I thought you'd
Amelia opened the case, and giving a little cry of delighted
affection, seized the boy and embraced him a hundred times. It was
a miniature-of himself, very prettily done (though not half handsome
enough, we may be sure, the widow thought). His grandfather had
wished to have a picture of him by an artist whose works, exhibited
in a shop-window, in Southampton Row, had caught the old gentleman's
eye; and George, who had plenty of money, bethought him of asking
the painter how much a copy of the little portrait would cost,
saying that he would pay for it out of his own money and that he
wanted to give it to his mother. The pleased painter executed it
for a small price, and old Osborne himself, when he heard of the
incident, growled out his satisfaction and gave the boy twice as
many sovereigns as he paid for the miniature.
But what was the grandfather's pleasure compared to Amelia's
ecstacy? That proof of the boy's affection charmed her so that she
thought no child in the world was like hers for goodness. For long
weeks after, the thought of his love made her happy. She slept
better with the picture under her pillow, and how many many times
did she kiss it and weep and pray over it! A small kindness from
those she loved made that timid heart grateful. Since her parting
with George she had had no such joy and consolation.
At his new home Master George ruled like a lord; at dinner he
invited the ladies to drink wine with the utmost coolness, and took
off his champagne in a way which charmed his old grandfather. "Look
at him," the old man would say, nudging his neighbour with a
delighted purple face, "did you ever see such a chap? Lord, Lord!
he'll be ordering a dressing-case next, and razors to shave with;
I'm blessed if he won't."
The antics of the lad did not, however, delight Mr. Osborne's
friends so much as they pleased the old gentleman. It gave Mr.
Justice Coffin no pleasure to hear Georgy cut into the conversation
and spoil his stories. Colonel Fogey was not interested in seeing
the little boy half tipsy. Mr. Sergeant Toffy's lady felt no
particular gratitude, when, with a twist of his elbow, he tilted a
glass of port-wine over her yellow satin and laughed at the
disaster; nor was she better pleased, although old Osborne was
highly delighted, when Georgy "whopped" her third boy (a young
gentleman a year older than Georgy, and by chance home for the
holidays from Dr. Tickleus's at Ealing School) in Russell Square.
George's grandfather gave the boy a couple of sovereigns for that
feat and promised to reward him further for every boy above his own
size and age whom he whopped in a similar manner. It is difficult
to say what good the old man saw in these combats; he had a vague
notion that quarrelling made boys hardy, and that tyranny was a
useful accomplishment for them to learn. English youth have been so
educated time out of mind, and we have hundreds of thousands of
apologists and admirers of injustice, misery, and brutality, as
perpetrated among children. Flushed with praise and victory over
Master Toffy, George wished naturally to pursue his conquests
further, and one day as he was strutting about in prodigiously
dandified new clothes, near St. Pancras, and a young baker's boy
made sarcastic comments upon his appearance, the youthful patrician
pulled off his dandy jacket with great spirit, and giving it in
charge to the friend who accompanied him (Master Todd, of Great
Coram Street, Russell Square, son of the junior partner of the house
of Osborne and Co.), George tried to whop the little baker. But the
chances of war were unfavourable this time, and the little baker
whopped Georgy, who came home with a rueful black eye and all his
fine shirt frill dabbled with the claret drawn from his own little
nose. He told his grandfather that he had been in combat with a
giant, and frightened his poor mother at Brompton with long, and by
no means authentic, accounts of the battle.
This young Todd, of Coram Street, Russell Square, was Master
George's great friend and admirer. They both had a taste for
painting theatrical characters; for hardbake and raspberry tarts;
for sliding and skating in the Regent's Park and the Serpentine,
when the weather permitted; for going to the play, whither they were
often conducted, by Mr. Osborne's orders, by Rowson, Master George's
appointed body-servant, with whom they sat in great comfort in the
In the company of this gentleman they visited all the principal
theatres of the metropolis; knew the names of all the actors from
Drury Lane to Sadler's Wells; and performed, indeed, many of the
plays to the Todd family and their youthful friends, with West's
famous characters, on their pasteboard theatre. Rowson, the
footman, who was of a generous disposition, would not unfrequently,
when in cash, treat his young master to oysters after the play, and
to a glass of rum-shrub for a night-cap. We may be pretty certain
that Mr. Rowson profited in his turn by his young master's
liberality and gratitude for the pleasures to which the footman
A famous tailor from the West End of the town--Mr. Osborne would
have none of your City or Holborn bunglers, he said, for the boy
(though a City tailor was good enough for HIM)--was summoned to
ornament little George's person, and was told to spare no expense in
so doing. So, Mr. Woolsey, of Conduit Street, gave a loose to his
imagination and sent the child home fancy trousers, fancy
waistcoats, and fancy jackets enough to furnish a school of little
dandies. Georgy had little white waistcoats for evening parties,
and little cut velvet waistcoats for dinners, and a dear little
darling shawl dressing-gown, for all the world like a little man.
He dressed for dinner every day, "like a regular West End swell," as
his grandfather remarked; one of the domestics was affected to his
special service, attended him at his toilette, answered his bell,
and brought him his letters always on a silver tray.
Georgy, after breakfast, would sit in the arm-chair in the dining-
room and read the Morning Post, just like a grown-up man. "How he
DU dam and swear," the servants would cry, delighted at his
precocity. Those who remembered the Captain his father, declared
Master George was his Pa, every inch of him. He made the house
lively by his activity, his imperiousness, his scolding, and his
George's education was confided to a neighbouring scholar and
private pedagogue who "prepared young noblemen and gentlemen for the
Universities, the senate, and the learned professions: whose system
did not embrace the degrading corporal severities still practised at
the ancient places of education, and in whose family the pupils
would find the elegances of refined society and the confidence and
affection of a home." It was in this way that the Reverend Lawrence
Veal of Hart Street, Bloomsbury, and domestic Chaplain to the Earl
of Bareacres, strove with Mrs. Veal his wife to entice pupils.
By thus advertising and pushing sedulously, the domestic Chaplain
and his Lady generally succeeded in having one or two scholars by
them--who paid a high figure and were thought to be in uncommonly
comfortable quarters. There was a large West Indian, whom nobody
came to see, with a mahogany complexion, a woolly head, and an
exceedingly dandyfied appearance; there was another hulking boy of
three-and-twenty whose education had been neglected and whom Mr. and
Mrs. Veal were to introduce into the polite world; there were two
sons of Colonel Bangles of the East India Company's Service: these
four sat down to dinner at Mrs. Veal's genteel board, when Georgy
was introduced to her establishment.
Georgy was, like some dozen other pupils, only a day boy; he arrived
in the morning under the guardianship of his friend Mr. Rowson, and
if it was fine, would ride away in the afternoon on his pony,
followed by the groom. The wealth of his grandfather was reported
in the school to be prodigious. The Rev. Mr. Veal used to
compliment Georgy upon it personally, warning him that he was
destined for a high station; that it became him to prepare, by
sedulity and docility in youth, for the lofty duties to which he
would be called in mature age; that obedience in the child was the
best preparation for command in the man; and that he therefore
begged George would not bring toffee into the school and ruin the
health of the Masters Bangles, who had everything they wanted at the
elegant and abundant table of Mrs. Veal.
With respect to learning, "the Curriculum," as Mr. Veal loved to
call it, was of prodigious extent, and the young gentlemen in Hart
Street might learn a something of every known science. The Rev.
Mr. Veal had an orrery, an electrifying machine, a turning lathe, a
theatre (in the wash-house), a chemical apparatus, and what he
called a select library of all the works of the best authors of
ancient and modern times and languages. He took the boys to the
British Museum and descanted upon the antiquities and the specimens
of natural history there, so that audiences would gather round him
as he spoke, and all Bloomsbury highly admired him as a prodigiously
well-informed man. And whenever he spoke (which he did almost
always), he took care to produce the very finest and longest words
of which the vocabulary gave him the use, rightly judging that it
was as cheap to employ a handsome, large, and sonorous epithet, as
to use a little stingy one.
Thus he would say to George in school, "I observed on my return home
from taking the indulgence of an evening's scientific conversation
with my excellent friend Doctor Bulders--a true archaeologian,
gentlemen, a true archaeologian--that the windows of your venerated
grandfather's almost princely mansion in Russell Square were
illuminated as if for the purposes of festivity. Am I right in my
conjecture that Mr. Osborne entertained a society of chosen spirits
round his sumptuous board last night?"
Little Georgy, who had considerable humour, and used to mimic Mr.
Veal to his face with great spirit and dexterity, would reply that
Mr. V. was quite correct in his surmise.
"Then those friends who had the honour of partaking of Mr. Osborne's
hospitality, gentlemen, had no reason, I will lay any wager, to
complain of their repast. I myself have been more than once so
favoured. (By the way, Master Osborne, you came a little late this
morning, and have been a defaulter in this respect more than once.)
I myself, I say, gentlemen, humble as I am, have been found not
unworthy to share Mr. Osborne's elegant hospitality. And though I
have feasted with the great and noble of the world--for I presume
that I may call my excellent friend and patron, the Right Honourable
George Earl of Bareacres, one of the number--yet I assure you that
the board of the British merchant was to the full as richly served,
and his reception as gratifying and noble. Mr. Bluck, sir, we will
resume, if you please, that passage of Eutropis, which was
interrupted by the late arrival of Master Osborne."
To this great man George's education was for some time entrusted.
Amelia was bewildered by his phrases, but thought him a prodigy of
learning. That poor widow made friends of Mrs. Veal, for reasons of
her own. She liked to be in the house and see Georgy coming to
school there. She liked to be asked to Mrs. Veal's conversazioni,
which took place once a month (as you were informed on pink cards,
with AOHNH engraved on them), and where the professor welcomed his
pupils and their friends to weak tea and scientific conversation.
Poor little Amelia never missed one of these entertainments and
thought them delicious so long as she might have Georgy sitting by
her. And she would walk from Brompton in any weather, and embrace
Mrs. Veal with tearful gratitude for the delightful evening she had
passed, when, the company having retired and Georgy gone off with
Mr. Rowson, his attendant, poor Mrs. Osborne put on her cloaks and
her shawls preparatory to walking home.
As for the learning which Georgy imbibed under this valuable master
of a hundred sciences, to judge from the weekly reports which the
lad took home to his grandfather, his progress was remarkable. The
names of a score or more of desirable branches of knowledge were
printed in a table, and the pupil's progress in each was marked by
the professor. In Greek Georgy was pronounced aristos, in Latin
optimus, in French tres bien, and so forth; and everybody had prizes
for everything at the end of the year. Even Mr. Swartz, the wooly-
headed young gentleman, and half-brother to the Honourable Mrs. Mac
Mull, and Mr. Bluck, the neglected young pupil of three-and-twenty
from the agricultural district, and that idle young scapegrace of a
Master Todd before mentioned, received little eighteen-penny books,
with "Athene" engraved on them, and a pompous Latin inscription from
the professor to his young friends.
The family of this Master Todd were hangers-on of the house of
Osborne. The old gentleman had advanced Todd from being a clerk to
be a junior partner in his establishment.
Mr. Osborne was the godfather of young Master Todd (who in
subsequent life wrote Mr. Osborne Todd on his cards and became a man
of decided fashion), while Miss Osborne had accompanied Miss Maria
Todd to the font, and gave her protegee a prayer-book, a collection
of tracts, a volume of very low church poetry, or some such memento
of her goodness every year. Miss O. drove the Todds out in her
carriage now and then; when they were ill, her footman, in large
plush smalls and waistcoat, brought jellies and delicacies from
Russell Square to Coram Street. Coram Street trembled and looked up
to Russell Square indeed, and Mrs. Todd, who had a pretty hand at
cutting out paper trimmings for haunches of mutton, and could make
flowers, ducks, &c., out of turnips and carrots in a very creditable
manner, would go to "the Square," as it was called, and assist in
the preparations incident to a great dinner, without even so much as
thinking of sitting down to the banquet. If any guest failed at the
eleventh hour, Todd was asked to dine. Mrs. Todd and Maria came
across in the evening, slipped in with a muffled knock, and were in
the drawing-room by the time Miss Osborne and the ladies under her
convoy reached that apartment--and ready to fire off duets and sing
until the gentlemen came up. Poor Maria Todd; poor young lady! How
she had to work and thrum at these duets and sonatas in the Street,
before they appeared in public in the Square!
Thus it seemed to be decreed by fate that Georgy was to domineer
over everybody with whom he came in contact, and that friends,
relatives, and domestics were all to bow the knee before the little
fellow. It must be owned that he accommodated himself very
willingly to this arrangement. Most people do so. And Georgy liked
to play the part of master and perhaps had a natural aptitude for
In Russell Square everybody was afraid of Mr. Osborne, and Mr.
Osborne was afraid of Georgy. The boy's dashing manners, and
offhand rattle about books and learning, his likeness to his father
(dead unreconciled in Brussels yonder) awed the old gentleman and
gave the young boy the mastery. The old man would start at some
hereditary feature or tone unconsciously used by the little lad, and
fancy that George's father was again before him. He tried by
indulgence to the grandson to make up for harshness to the elder
George. People were surprised at his gentleness to the boy. He
growled and swore at Miss Osborne as usual, and would smile when
George came down late for breakfast.
Miss Osborne, George's aunt, was a faded old spinster, broken down
by more than forty years of dulness and coarse usage. It was easy
for a lad of spirit to master her. And whenever George wanted
anything from her, from the jam-pots in her cupboards to the cracked
and dry old colours in her paint-box (the old paint-box which she
had had when she was a pupil of Mr. Smee and was still almost young
and blooming), Georgy took possession of the object of his desire,
which obtained, he took no further notice of his aunt.
For his friends and cronies, he had a pompous old schoolmaster, who
flattered him, and a toady, his senior, whom he could thrash. It
was dear Mrs. Todd's delight to leave him with her youngest
daughter, Rosa Jemima, a darling child of eight years old. The
little pair looked so well together, she would say (but not to the
folks in "the Square," we may be sure) "who knows what might happen?
Don't they make a pretty little couple?" the fond mother thought.
The broken-spirited, old, maternal grandfather was likewise subject
to the little tyrant. He could not help respecting a lad who had
such fine clothes and rode with a groom behind him. Georgy, on his
side, was in the constant habit of hearing coarse abuse and vulgar
satire levelled at John Sedley by his pitiless old enemy, Mr.
Osborne. Osborne used to call the other the old pauper, the old
coal-man, the old bankrupt, and by many other such names of brutal
contumely. How was little George to respect a man so prostrate? A
few months after he was with his paternal grandfather, Mrs. Sedley
died. There had been little love between her and the child. He did
not care to show much grief. He came down to visit his mother in a
fine new suit of mourning, and was very angry that he could not go
to a play upon which he had set his heart.
The illness of that old lady had been the occupation and perhaps the
safeguard of Amelia. What do men know about women's martyrdoms? We
should go mad had we to endure the hundredth part of those daily
pains which are meekly borne by many women. Ceaseless slavery
meeting with no reward; constant gentleness and kindness met by
cruelty as constant; love, labour, patience, watchfulness, without
even so much as the acknowledgement of a good word; all this, how
many of them have to bear in quiet, and appear abroad with cheerful
faces as if they felt nothing. Tender slaves that they are, they
must needs be hypocrites and weak.
From her chair Amelia's mother had taken to her bed, which she had
never left, and from which Mrs. Osborne herself was never absent
except when she ran to see George. The old lady grudged her even
those rare visits; she, who had been a kind, smiling, good-natured
mother once, in the days of her prosperity, but whom poverty and
infirmities had broken down. Her illness or estrangement did not
affect Amelia. They rather enabled her to support the other
calamity under which she was suffering, and from the thoughts of
which she was kept by the ceaseless calls of the invalid. Amelia
bore her harshness quite gently; smoothed the uneasy pillow; was
always ready with a soft answer to the watchful, querulous voice;
soothed the sufferer with words of hope, such as her pious simple
heart could best feel and utter, and closed the eyes that had once
looked so tenderly upon her.
Then all her time and tenderness were devoted to the consolation and
comfort of the bereaved old father, who was stunned by the blow
which had befallen him, and stood utterly alone in the world. His
wife, his honour, his fortune, everything he loved best had fallen
away from him. There was only Amelia to stand by and support with
her gentle arms the tottering, heart-broken old man. We are not
going to write the history: it would be too dreary and stupid. I
can see Vanity Fair yawning over it d'avance.
One day as the young gentlemen were assembled in the study at the
Rev. Mr. Veal's, and the domestic chaplain to the Right Honourable
the Earl of Bareacres was spouting away as usual, a smart carriage
drove up to the door decorated with the statue of Athene, and two
gentlemen stepped out. The young Masters Bangles rushed to the
window with a vague notion that their father might have arrived from
Bombay. The great hulking scholar of three-and-twenty, who was
crying secretly over a passage of Eutropius, flattened his neglected
nose against the panes and looked at the drag, as the laquais de
place sprang from the box and let out the persons in the carriage.
"It's a fat one and a thin one," Mr. Bluck said as a thundering
knock came to the door.
Everybody was interested, from the domestic chaplain himself, who
hoped he saw the fathers of some future pupils, down to Master
Georgy, glad of any pretext for laying his book down.
The boy in the shabby livery with the faded copper buttons, who
always thrust himself into the tight coat to open the door, came
into the study and said, "Two gentlemen want to see Master Osborne."
The professor had had a trifling altercation in the morning with
that young gentleman, owing to a difference about the introduction
of crackers in school-time; but his face resumed its habitual
expression of bland courtesy as he said, "Master Osborne, I give you
full permission to go and see your carriage friends--to whom I beg
you to convey the respectful compliments of myself and Mrs. Veal."
Georgy went into the reception-room and saw two strangers, whom he
looked at with his head up, in his usual haughty manner. One was
fat, with mustachios, and the other was lean and long, in a blue
frock-coat, with a brown face and a grizzled head.
"My God, how like he is!" said the long gentleman with a start.
"Can you guess who we are, George?"
The boy's face flushed up, as it did usually when he was moved, and
his eyes brightened. "I don't know the other," he said, "but I
should think you must be Major Dobbin."
Indeed it was our old friend. His voice trembled with pleasure as
he greeted the boy, and taking both the other's hands in his own,
drew the lad to him.
"Your mother has talked to you about me--has she?" he said.
"That she has," Georgy answered, "hundreds and hundreds of times."
It was one of the many causes for personal pride with which old
Osborne chose to recreate himself that Sedley, his ancient rival,
enemy, and benefactor, was in his last days so utterly defeated and
humiliated as to be forced to accept pecuniary obligations at the
hands of the man who had most injured and insulted him. The
successful man of the world cursed the old pauper and relieved him
from time to time. As he furnished George with money for his
mother, he gave the boy to understand by hints, delivered in his
brutal, coarse way, that George's maternal grandfather was but a
wretched old bankrupt and dependant, and that John Sedley might
thank the man to whom he already owed ever so much money for the aid
which his generosity now chose to administer. George carried the
pompous supplies to his mother and the shattered old widower whom it
was now the main business of her life to tend and comfort. The
little fellow patronized the feeble and disappointed old man.
It may have shown a want of "proper pride" in Amelia that she chose
to accept these money benefits at the hands of her father's enemy.
But proper pride and this poor lady had never had much acquaintance
together. A disposition naturally simple and demanding protection; a
long course of poverty and humility, of daily privations, and hard
words, of kind offices and no returns, had been her lot ever since
womanhood almost, or since her luckless marriage with George
Osborne. You who see your betters bearing up under this shame every
day, meekly suffering under the slights of fortune, gentle and
unpitied, poor, and rather despised for their poverty, do you ever
step down from your prosperity and wash the feet of these poor
wearied beggars? The very thought of them is odious and low. "There
must be classes--there must be rich and poor," Dives says, smacking
his claret (it is well if he even sends the broken meat out to
Lazarus sitting under the window). Very true; but think how
mysterious and often unaccountable it is--that lottery of life which
gives to this man the purple and fine linen and sends to the other
rags for garments and dogs for comforters.
So I must own that, without much repining, on the contrary with
something akin to gratitude, Amelia took the crumbs that her father-
in-law let drop now and then, and with them fed her own parent.
Directly she understood it to be her duty, it was this young woman's
nature (ladies, she is but thirty still, and we choose to call her a
young woman even at that age) it was, I say, her nature to sacrifice
herself and to fling all that she had at the feet of the beloved
object. During what long thankless nights had she worked out her
fingers for little Georgy whilst at home with her; what buffets,
scorns, privations, poverties had she endured for father and mother!
And in the midst of all these solitary resignations and unseen
sacrifices, she did not respect herself any more than the world
respected her, but I believe thought in her heart that she was a
poor-spirited, despicable little creature, whose luck in life was
only too good for her merits. O you poor women! O you poor secret
martyrs and victims, whose life is a torture, who are stretched on
racks in your bedrooms, and who lay your heads down on the block
daily at the drawing-room table; every man who watches your pains,
or peers into those dark places where the torture is administered to
you, must pity you--and--and thank God that he has a beard. I
recollect seeing, years ago, at the prisons for idiots and madmen at
Bicetre, near Paris, a poor wretch bent down under the bondage of
his imprisonment and his personal infirmity, to whom one of our
party gave a halfpenny worth of snuff in a cornet or "screw" of
paper. The kindness was too much for the poor epileptic creature.
He cried in an anguish of delight and gratitude: if anybody gave
you and me a thousand a year, or saved our lives, we could not be so
affected. And so, if you properly tyrannize over a woman, you will
find a h'p'orth of kindness act upon her and bring tears into her
eyes, as though you were an angel benefiting her.
Some such boons as these were the best which Fortune allotted to
poor little Amelia. Her life, begun not unprosperously, had come
down to this--to a mean prison and a long, ignoble bondage. Little
George visited her captivity sometimes and consoled it with feeble
gleams of encouragement. Russell Square was the boundary of her
prison: she might walk thither occasionally, but was always back to
sleep in her cell at night; to perform cheerless duties; to watch by
thankless sick-beds; to suffer the harassment and tyranny of
querulous disappointed old age. How many thousands of people are
there, women for the most part, who are doomed to endure this long
slavery?--who are hospital nurses without wages--sisters of Charity,
if you like, without the romance and the sentiment of sacrifice--who
strive, fast, watch, and suffer, unpitied, and fade away ignobly and
The hidden and awful Wisdom which apportions the destinies of
mankind is pleased so to humiliate and cast down the tender, good,
and wise, and to set up the selfish, the foolish, or the wicked.
Oh, be humble, my brother, in your prosperity! Be gentle with those
who are less lucky, if not more deserving. Think, what right have
you to be scornful, whose virtue is a deficiency of temptation,
whose success may be a chance, whose rank may be an ancestor's
accident, whose prosperity is very likely a satire.
They buried Amelia's mother in the churchyard at Brompton, upon just
such a rainy, dark day as Amelia recollected when first she had been
there to marry George. Her little boy sat by her side in pompous new
sables. She remembered the old pew-woman and clerk. Her thoughts
were away in other times as the parson read. But that she held
George's hand in her own, perhaps she would have liked to change
places with.... Then, as usual, she felt ashamed of her selfish
thoughts and prayed inwardly to be strengthened to do her duty.
So she determined with all her might and strength to try and make
her old father happy. She slaved, toiled, patched, and mended, sang
and played backgammon, read out the newspaper, cooked dishes, for
old Sedley, walked him out sedulously into Kensington Gardens or the
Brompton Lanes, listened to his stories with untiring smiles and
affectionate hypocrisy, or sat musing by his side and communing with
her own thoughts and reminiscences, as the old man, feeble and
querulous, sunned himself on the garden benches and prattled about
his wrongs or his sorrows. What sad, unsatisfactory thoughts those
of the widow were! The children running up and down the slopes and
broad paths in the gardens reminded her of George, who was taken
from her; the first George was taken from her; her selfish, guilty
love, in both instances, had been rebuked and bitterly chastised.
She strove to think it was right that she should be so punished.
She was such a miserable wicked sinner. She was quite alone in the
I know that the account of this kind of solitary imprisonment is
insufferably tedious, unless there is some cheerful or humorous
incident to enliven it--a tender gaoler, for instance, or a waggish
commandant of the fortress, or a mouse to come out and play about
Latude's beard and whiskers, or a subterranean passage under the
castle, dug by Trenck with his nails and a toothpick: the historian
has no such enlivening incident to relate in the narrative of
Amelia's captivity. Fancy her, if you please, during this period,
very sad, but always ready to smile when spoken to; in a very mean,
poor, not to say vulgar position of life; singing songs, making
puddings, playing cards, mending stockings, for her old father's
benefit. So, never mind, whether she be a heroine or no; or you and
I, however old, scolding, and bankrupt--may we have in our last days
a kind soft shoulder on which to lean and a gentle hand to soothe
our gouty old pillows.
Old Sedley grew very fond of his daughter after his wife's death,
and Amelia had her consolation in doing her duty by the old man.
But we are not going to leave these two people long in such a low
and ungenteel station of life. Better days, as far as worldly
prosperity went, were in store for both. Perhaps the ingenious
reader has guessed who was the stout gentleman who called upon
Georgy at his school in company with our old friend Major Dobbin.
It was another old acquaintance returned to England, and at a time
when his presence was likely to be of great comfort to his relatives
Major Dobbin having easily succeeded in getting leave from his good-
natured commandant to proceed to Madras, and thence probably to
Europe, on urgent private affairs, never ceased travelling night and
day until he reached his journey's end, and had directed his march
with such celerity that he arrived at Madras in a high fever. His
servants who accompanied him brought him to the house of the friend
with whom he had resolved to stay until his departure for Europe in
a state of delirium; and it was thought for many, many days that he
would never travel farther than the burying-ground of the church of
St. George's, where the troops should fire a salvo over his grave,
and where many a gallant officer lies far away from his home.
Here, as the poor fellow lay tossing in his fever, the people who
watched him might have heard him raving about Amelia. The idea that
he should never see her again depressed him in his lucid hours. He
thought his last day was come, and he made his solemn preparations
for departure, setting his affairs in this world in order and
leaving the little property of which he was possessed to those whom
he most desired to benefit. The friend in whose house he was
located witnessed his testament. He desired to be buried with a
little brown hair-chain which he wore round his neck and which, if
the truth must be known, he had got from Amelia's maid at Brussels,
when the young widow's hair was cut off, during the fever which
prostrated her after the death of George Osborne on the plateau at
Mount St. John.
He recovered, rallied, relapsed again, having undergone such a
process of blood-letting and calomel as showed the strength of his
original constitution. He was almost a skeleton when they put him
on board the Ramchunder East Indiaman, Captain Bragg, from Calcutta,
touching at Madras, and so weak and prostrate that his friend who
had tended him through his illness prophesied that the honest Major
would never survive the voyage, and that he would pass some morning,
shrouded in flag and hammock, over the ship's side, and carrying
down to the sea with him the relic that he wore at his heart. But
whether it was the sea air, or the hope which sprung up in him
afresh, from the day that the ship spread her canvas and stood out
of the roads towards home, our friend began to amend, and he was
quite well (though as gaunt as a greyhound) before they reached the
Cape. "Kirk will be disappointed of his majority this time," he
said with a smile; "he will expect to find himself gazetted by the
time the regiment reaches home." For it must be premised that while
the Major was lying ill at Madras, having made such prodigious haste
to go thither, the gallant --th, which had passed many years abroad,
which after its return from the West Indies had been baulked of its
stay at home by the Waterloo campaign, and had been ordered from
Flanders to India, had received orders home; and the Major might
have accompanied his comrades, had he chosen to wait for their
arrival at Madras.
Perhaps he was not inclined to put himself in his exhausted state
again under the guardianship of Glorvina. "I think Miss O'Dowd would
have done for me," he said laughingly to a fellow-passenger, "if we
had had her on board, and when she had sunk me, she would have
fallen upon you, depend upon it, and carried you in as a prize to
Southampton, Jos, my boy."
For indeed it was no other than our stout friend who was also a
passenger on board the Ramchunder. He had passed ten years in
Bengal. Constant dinners, tiffins, pale ale and claret, the
prodigious labour of cutcherry, and the refreshment of brandy-pawnee
which he was forced to take there, had their effect upon Waterloo
Sedley. A voyage to Europe was pronounced necessary for him--and
having served his full time in India and had fine appointments which
had enabled him to lay by a considerable sum of money, he was free
to come home and stay with a good pension, or to return and resume
that rank in the service to which his seniority and his vast talents
He was rather thinner than when we last saw him, but had gained in
majesty and solemnity of demeanour. He had resumed the mustachios to
which his services at Waterloo entitled him, and swaggered about on
deck in a magnificent velvet cap with a gold band and a profuse
ornamentation of pins and jewellery about his person. He took
breakfast in his cabin and dressed as solemnly to appear on the
quarter-deck as if he were going to turn out for Bond Street, or the
Course at Calcutta. He brought a native servant with him, who was
his valet and pipe-bearer and who wore the Sedley crest in silver on
his turban. That oriental menial had a wretched life under the
tyranny of Jos Sedley. Jos was as vain of his person as a woman,
and took as long a time at his toilette as any fading beauty. The
youngsters among the passengers, Young Chaffers of the 150th, and
poor little Ricketts, coming home after his third fever, used to
draw out Sedley at the cuddy-table and make him tell prodigious
stories about himself and his exploits against tigers and Napoleon.
He was great when he visited the Emperor's tomb at Longwood, when to
these gentlemen and the young officers of the ship, Major Dobbin not
being by, he described the whole battle of Waterloo and all but
announced that Napoleon never would have gone to Saint Helena at all
but for him, Jos Sedley.
After leaving St. Helena he became very generous, disposing of a
great quantity of ship stores, claret, preserved meats, and great
casks packed with soda-water, brought out for his private
delectation. There were no ladies on board; the Major gave the pas
of precedency to the civilian, so that he was the first dignitary at
table, and treated by Captain Bragg and the officers of the
Ramchunder with the respect which his rank warranted. He
disappeared rather in a panic during a two-days' gale, in which he
had the portholes of his cabin battened down, and remained in his
cot reading the Washerwoman of Finchley Common, left on board the
Ramchunder by the Right Honourable the Lady Emily Hornblower, wife
of the Rev. Silas Hornblower, when on their passage out to the
Cape, where the Reverend gentleman was a missionary; but, for common
reading, he had brought a stock of novels and plays which he lent to
the rest of the ship, and rendered himself agreeable to all by his
kindness and condescension.
Many and many a night as the ship was cutting through the roaring
dark sea, the moon and stars shining overhead and the bell singing
out the watch, Mr. Sedley and the Major would sit on the quarter-
deck of the vessel talking about home, as the Major smoked his
cheroot and the civilian puffed at the hookah which his servant
prepared for him.
In these conversations it was wonderful with what perseverance and
ingenuity Major Dobbin would manage to bring the talk round to the
subject of Amelia and her little boy. Jos, a little testy about his
father's misfortunes and unceremonious applications to him, was
soothed down by the Major, who pointed out the elder's ill fortunes
and old age. He would not perhaps like to live with the old couple,
whose ways and hours might not agree with those of a younger man,
accustomed to different society (Jos bowed at this compliment); but,
the Major pointed out, how advantageous it would be for Jos Sedley
to have a house of his own in London, and not a mere bachelor's
establishment as before; how his sister Amelia would be the very
person to preside over it; how elegant, how gentle she was, and of
what refined good manners. He recounted stories of the success
which Mrs. George Osborne had had in former days at Brussels, and in
London, where she was much admired by people of very great fashion;
and he then hinted how becoming it would be for Jos to send Georgy
to a good school and make a man of him, for his mother and her
parents would be sure to spoil him. In a word, this artful Major
made the civilian promise to take charge of Amelia and her
unprotected child. He did not know as yet what events had happened
in the little Sedley family, and how death had removed the mother,
and riches had carried off George from Amelia. But the fact is that
every day and always, this love-smitten and middle-aged gentleman
was thinking about Mrs. Osborne, and his whole heart was bent upon
doing her good. He coaxed, wheedled, cajoled, and complimented Jos
Sedley with a perseverance and cordiality of which he was not aware
himself, very likely; but some men who have unmarried sisters or
daughters even, may remember how uncommonly agreeable gentlemen are
to the male relations when they are courting the females; and
perhaps this rogue of a Dobbin was urged by a similar hypocrisy.
The truth is, when Major Dobbin came on board the Ramchumder, very
sick, and for the three days she lay in the Madras Roads, he did not
begin to rally, nor did even the appearance and recognition of his
old acquaintance, Mr. Sedley, on board much cheer him, until after a
conversation which they had one day, as the Major was laid languidly
on the deck. He said then he thought he was doomed; he had left a
little something to his godson in his will, and he trusted Mrs.
Osborne would remember him kindly and be happy in the marriage she
was about to make. "Married? not the least," Jos answered; "he had
heard from her: she made no mention of the marriage, and by the
way, it was curious, she wrote to say that Major Dobbin was going to
be married, and hoped that HE would be happy." What were the dates
of Sedley's letters from Europe? The civilian fetched them. They
were two months later than the Major's; and the ship's surgeon
congratulated himself upon the treatment adopted by him towards his
new patient, who had been consigned to shipboard by the Madras
practitioner with very small hopes indeed; for, from that day, the
very day that he changed the draught, Major Dobbin began to mend.
And thus it was that deserving officer, Captain Kirk, was
disappointed of his majority.
After they passed St. Helena, Major Dobbin's gaiety and strength
was such as to astonish all his fellow passengers. He larked with
the midshipmen, played single-stick with the mates, ran up the
shrouds like a boy, sang a comic song one night to the amusement of
the whole party assembled over their grog after supper, and rendered
himself so gay, lively, and amiable that even Captain Bragg, who
thought there was nothing in his passenger, and considered he was a
poor-spirited feller at first, was constrained to own that the Major
was a reserved but well-informed and meritorious officer. "He ain't
got distangy manners, dammy," Bragg observed to his first mate; "he
wouldn't do at Government House, Roper, where his Lordship and Lady
William was as kind to me, and shook hands with me before the whole
company, and asking me at dinner to take beer with him, before the
Commander-in-Chief himself; he ain't got manners, but there's
something about him--" And thus Captain Bragg showed that he
possessed discrimination as a man, as well as ability as a
But a calm taking place when the Ramchunder was within ten days'
sail of England, Dobbin became so impatient and ill-humoured as to
surprise those comrades who had before admired his vivacity and good
temper. He did not recover until the breeze sprang up again, and was
in a highly excited state when the pilot came on board. Good God,
how his heart beat as the two friendly spires of Southampton came in
Our Friend the Major
Our Major had rendered himself so popular on board the Ramchunder
that when he and Mr. Sedley descended into the welcome shore-boat
which was to take them from the ship, the whole crew, men and
officers, the great Captain Bragg himself leading off, gave three
cheers for Major Dobbin, who blushed very much and ducked his head
in token of thanks. Jos, who very likely thought the cheers were
for himself, took off his gold-laced cap and waved it majestically
to his friends, and they were pulled to shore and landed with great
dignity at the pier, whence they proceeded to the Royal George
Although the sight of that magnificent round of beef, and the silver
tankard suggestive of real British home-brewed ale and porter, which
perennially greet the eyes of the traveller returning from foreign
parts who enters the coffee-room of the George, are so invigorating
and delightful that a man entering such a comfortable snug homely
English inn might well like to stop some days there, yet Dobbin
began to talk about a post-chaise instantly, and was no sooner at
Southampton than he wished to be on the road to London. Jos,
however, would not hear of moving that evening. Why was he to pass
a night in a post-chaise instead of a great large undulating downy
feather-bed which was there ready to replace the horrid little
narrow crib in which the portly Bengal gentleman had been confined
during the voyage? He could not think of moving till his baggage was
cleared, or of travelling until he could do so with his chillum. So
the Major was forced to wait over that night, and dispatched a
letter to his family announcing his arrival, entreating from Jos a
promise to write to his own friends. Jos promised, but didn't keep
his promise. The Captain, the surgeon, and one or two passengers
came and dined with our two gentlemen at the inn, Jos exerting
himself in a sumptuous way in ordering the dinner and promising to
go to town the next day with the Major. The landlord said it did his
eyes good to see Mr. Sedley take off his first pint of porter. If I
had time and dared to enter into digressions, I would write a
chapter about that first pint of porter drunk upon English ground.
Ah, how good it is! It is worth-while to leave home for a year,
just to enjoy that one draught.
Major Dobbin made his appearance the next morning very neatly shaved
and dressed, according to his wont. Indeed, it was so early in the
morning that nobody was up in the house except that wonderful Boots
of an inn who never seems to want sleep; and the Major could hear
the snores of the various inmates of the house roaring through the
corridors as he creaked about in those dim passages. Then the
sleepless Boots went shirking round from door to door, gathering up
at each the Bluchers, Wellingtons, Oxonians, which stood outside.
Then Jos's native servant arose and began to get ready his master's
ponderous dressing apparatus and prepare his hookah; then the
maidservants got up, and meeting the dark man in the passages,
shrieked, and mistook him for the devil. He and Dobbin stumbled