Part 15 out of 16
cigar with great placidity and constancy, whilst Emmy sketched the
site or the ruin. It was on this very tour that I, the present
writer of a history of which every word is true, had the pleasure to
see them first and to make their acquaintance.
It was at the little comfortable Ducal town of Pumpernickel (that
very place where Sir Pitt Crawley had been so distinguished as an
attache; but that was in early early days, and before the news of
the Battle of Austerlitz sent all the English diplomatists in
Germany to the right about) that I first saw Colonel Dobbin and his
party. They had arrived with the carriage and courier at the
Erbprinz Hotel, the best of the town, and the whole party dined at
the table d'hote. Everybody remarked the majesty of Jos and the
knowing way in which he sipped, or rather sucked, the
Johannisberger, which he ordered for dinner. The little boy, too,
we observed, had a famous appetite, and consumed schinken, and
braten, and kartoffeln, and cranberry jam, and salad, and pudding,
and roast fowls, and sweetmeats, with a gallantry that did honour to
his nation. After about fifteen dishes, he concluded the repast
with dessert, some of which he even carried out of doors, for some
young gentlemen at table, amused with his coolness and gallant free-
and-easy manner, induced him to pocket a handful of macaroons, which
he discussed on his way to the theatre, whither everybody went in
the cheery social little German place. The lady in black, the boy's
mamma, laughed and blushed, and looked exceedingly pleased and shy
as the dinner went on, and at the various feats and instances of
espieglerie on the part of her son. The Colonel--for so he became
very soon afterwards--I remember joked the boy with a great deal of
grave fun, pointing out dishes which he hadn't tried, and entreating
him not to baulk his appetite, but to have a second supply of this
It was what they call a gast-rolle night at the Royal Grand Ducal
Pumpernickelisch Hof--or Court theatre--and Madame Schroeder
Devrient, then in the bloom of her beauty and genius, performed the
part of the heroine in the wonderful opera of Fidelio. From our
places in the stalls we could see our four friends of the table
d'hote in the loge which Schwendler of the Erbprinz kept for his
best guests, and I could not help remarking the effect which the
magnificent actress and music produced upon Mrs. Osborne, for so we
heard the stout gentleman in the mustachios call her. During the
astonishing Chorus of the Prisoners, over which the delightful voice
of the actress rose and soared in the most ravishing harmony, the
English lady's face wore such an expression of wonder and delight
that it struck even little Fipps, the blase attache, who drawled
out, as he fixed his glass upon her, "Gayd, it really does one good
to see a woman caypable of that stayt of excaytement." And in the
Prison Scene, where Fidelio, rushing to her husband, cries, "Nichts,
nichts, mein Florestan," she fairly lost herself and covered her
face with her handkerchief. Every woman in the house was snivelling
at the time, but I suppose it was because it was predestined that I
was to write this particular lady's memoirs that I remarked her.
The next day they gave another piece of Beethoven, Die Schlacht bei
Vittoria. Malbrook is introduced at the beginning of the
performance, as indicative of the brisk advance of the French army.
Then come drums, trumpets, thunders of artillery, and groans of the
dying, and at last, in a grand triumphal swell, "God Save the King"
There may have been a score of Englishmen in the house, but at the
burst of that beloved and well-known music, every one of them, we
young fellows in the stalls, Sir John and Lady Bullminster (who had
taken a house at Pumpernickel for the education of their nine
children), the fat gentleman with the mustachios, the long Major in
white duck trousers, and the lady with the little boy upon whom he
was so sweet, even Kirsch, the courier in the gallery, stood bolt
upright in their places and proclaimed themselves to be members of
the dear old British nation. As for Tapeworm, the Charge
d'Affaires, he rose up in his box and bowed and simpered, as if he
would represent the whole empire. Tapeworm was nephew and heir of
old Marshal Tiptoff, who has been introduced in this story as
General Tiptoff, just before Waterloo, who was Colonel of the --th
regiment in which Major Dobbin served, and who died in this year
full of honours, and of an aspic of plovers' eggs; when the regiment
was graciously given by his Majesty to Colonel Sir Michael O'Dowd,
K.C.B. who had commanded it in many glorious fields.
Tapeworm must have met with Colonel Dobbin at the house of the
Colonel's Colonel, the Marshal, for he recognized him on this night
at the theatre, and with the utmost condescension, his Majesty's
minister came over from his own box and publicly shook hands with
his new-found friend.
"Look at that infernal sly-boots of a Tapeworm," Fipps whispered,
examining his chief from the stalls. "Wherever there's a pretty
woman he always twists himself in." And I wonder what were
diplomatists made for but for that?
"Have I the honour of addressing myself to Mrs. Dobbin?" asked the
Secretary with a most insinuating grin.
Georgy burst out laughing and said, "By Jove, that was a good 'un."
Emmy and the Major blushed: we saw them from the stalls.
"This lady is Mrs. George Osborne," said the Major, "and this is her
brother, Mr. Sedley, a distinguished officer of the Bengal Civil
Service: permit me to introduce him to your lordship."
My lord nearly sent Jos off his legs with the most fascinating
smile. "Are you going to stop in Pumpernickel?" he said. "It is a
dull place, but we want some nice people, and we would try and make
it SO agreeable to you. Mr.--Ahum--Mrs.--Oho. I shall do myself
the honour of calling upon you to-morrow at your inn." And he went
away with a Parthian grin and glance which he thought must finish
Mrs. Osborne completely.
The performance over, the young fellows lounged about the lobbies,
and we saw the society take its departure. The Duchess Dowager went
off in her jingling old coach, attended by two faithful and withered
old maids of honour, and a little snuffy spindle-shanked gentleman
in waiting, in a brown jasey and a green coat covered with orders--
of which the star and the grand yellow cordon of the order of St.
Michael of Pumpernickel were most conspicuous. The drums rolled,
the guards saluted, and the old carriage drove away.
Then came his Transparency the Duke and Transparent family, with his
great officers of state and household. He bowed serenely to
everybody. And amid the saluting of the guards and the flaring of
the torches of the running footmen, clad in scarlet, the Transparent
carriages drove away to the old Ducal schloss, with its towers and
pinacles standing on the schlossberg. Everybody in Pumpernickel
knew everybody. No sooner was a foreigner seen there than the
Minister of Foreign Affairs, or some other great or small officer of
state, went round to the Erbprinz and found out the name of the new
We watched them, too, out of the theatre. Tapeworm had just walked
off, enveloped in his cloak, with which his gigantic chasseur was
always in attendance, and looking as much as possible like Don Juan.
The Prime Minister's lady had just squeezed herself into her sedan,
and her daughter, the charming Ida, had put on her calash and clogs;
when the English party came out, the boy yawning drearily, the Major
taking great pains in keeping the shawl over Mrs. Osborne's head,
and Mr. Sedley looking grand, with a crush opera-hat on one side of
his head and his hand in the stomach of a voluminous white
waistcoat. We took off our hats to our acquaintances of the table
d'hote, and the lady, in return, presented us with a little smile
and a curtsey, for which everybody might be thankful.
The carriage from the inn, under the superintendence of the bustling
Mr. Kirsch, was in waiting to convey the party; but the fat man said
he would walk and smoke his cigar on his way homewards, so the other
three, with nods and smiles to us, went without Mr. Sedley, Kirsch,
with the cigar case, following in his master's wake.
We all walked together and talked to the stout gentleman about the
agremens of the place. It was very agreeable for the English.
There were shooting-parties and battues; there was a plenty of balls
and entertainments at the hospitable Court; the society was
generally good; the theatre excellent; and the living cheap.
"And our Minister seems a most delightful and affable person," our
new friend said. "With such a representative, and--and a good
medical man, I can fancy the place to be most eligible. Good-night,
gentlemen." And Jos creaked up the stairs to bedward, followed by
Kirsch with a flambeau. We rather hoped that nice-looking woman
would be induced to stay some time in the town.
In Which We Meet an Old Acquaintance
Such polite behaviour as that of Lord Tapeworm did not fail to have
the most favourable effect upon Mr. Sedley's mind, and the very next
morning, at breakfast, he pronounced his opinion that Pumpernickel
was the pleasantest little place of any which he had visited on
their tour. Jos's motives and artifices were not very difficult of
comprehension, and Dobbin laughed in his sleeve, like a hypocrite as
he was, when he found, by the knowing air of the civilian and the
offhand manner in which the latter talked about Tapeworm Castle and
the other members of the family, that Jos had been up already in the
morning, consulting his travelling Peerage. Yes, he had seen the
Right Honourable the Earl of Bagwig, his lordship's father; he was
sure he had, he had met him at--at the Levee--didn't Dob remember?
and when the Diplomatist called on the party, faithful to his
promise, Jos received him with such a salute and honours as were
seldom accorded to the little Envoy. He winked at Kirsch on his
Excellency's arrival, and that emissary, instructed before-hand,
went out and superintended an entertainment of cold meats, jellies,
and other delicacies, brought in upon trays, and of which Mr. Jos
absolutely insisted that his noble guest should partake.
Tapeworm, so long as he could have an opportunity of admiring the
bright eyes of Mrs. Osborne (whose freshness of complexion bore
daylight remarkably well) was not ill pleased to accept any
invitation to stay in Mr. Sedley's lodgings; he put one or two
dexterous questions to him about India and the dancing-girls there;
asked Amelia about that beautiful boy who had been with her; and
complimented the astonished little woman upon the prodigious
sensation which she had made in the house; and tried to fascinate
Dobbin by talking of the late war and the exploits of the
Pumpernickel contingent under the command of the Hereditary Prince,
now Duke of Pumpernickel.
Lord Tapeworm inherited no little portion of the family gallantry,
and it was his happy belief that almost every woman upon whom he
himself cast friendly eyes was in love with him. He left Emmy under
the persuasion that she was slain by his wit and attractions and
went home to his lodgings to write a pretty little note to her. She
was not fascinated, only puzzled, by his grinning, his simpering,
his scented cambric handkerchief, and his high-heeled lacquered
boots. She did not understand one-half the compliments which he
paid; she had never, in her small experience of mankind, met a
professional ladies' man as yet, and looked upon my lord as
something curious rather than pleasant; and if she did not admire,
certainly wondered at him. Jos, on the contrary, was delighted.
"How very affable his Lordship is," he said; "How very kind of his
Lordship to say he would send his medical man! Kirsch, you will
carry our cards to the Count de Schlusselback directly; the Major
and I will have the greatest pleasure in paying our respects at
Court as soon as possible. Put out my uniform, Kirsch--both our
uniforms. It is a mark of politeness which every English gentleman
ought to show to the countries which he visits to pay his respects
to the sovereigns of those countries as to the representatives of
When Tapeworm's doctor came, Doctor von Glauber, Body Physician to
H.S.H. the Duke, he speedily convinced Jos that the Pumpernickel
mineral springs and the Doctor's particular treatment would
infallibly restore the Bengalee to youth and slimness. "Dere came
here last year," he said, "Sheneral Bulkeley, an English Sheneral,
tvice so pic as you, sir. I sent him back qvite tin after tree
months, and he danced vid Baroness Glauber at the end of two."
Jos's mind was made up; the springs, the Doctor, the Court, and the
Charge d'Affaires convinced him, and he proposed to spend the autumn
in these delightful quarters. And punctual to his word, on the next
day the Charge d'Affaires presented Jos and the Major to Victor
Aurelius XVII, being conducted to their audience with that sovereign
by the Count de Schlusselback, Marshal of the Court.
They were straightway invited to dinner at Court, and their
intention of staying in the town being announced, the politest
ladies of the whole town instantly called upon Mrs. Osborne; and as
not one of these, however poor they might be, was under the rank of
a Baroness, Jos's delight was beyond expression. He wrote off to
Chutney at the Club to say that the Service was highly appreciated
in Germany, that he was going to show his friend, the Count de
Schlusselback, how to stick a pig in the Indian fashion, and that
his august friends, the Duke and Duchess, were everything that was
kind and civil.
Emmy, too, was presented to the august family, and as mourning is
not admitted in Court on certain days, she appeared in a pink crape
dress with a diamond ornament in the corsage, presented to her by
her brother, and she looked so pretty in this costume that the Duke
and Court (putting out of the question the Major, who had scarcely
ever seen her before in an evening dress, and vowed that she did not
look five-and-twenty) all admired her excessively.
In this dress she walked a Polonaise with Major Dobbin at a Court
ball, in which easy dance Mr. Jos had the honour of leading out the
Countess of Schlusselback, an old lady with a hump back, but with
sixteen good quarters of nobility and related to half the royal
houses of Germany.
Pumpernickel stands in the midst of a happy valley through which
sparkles--to mingle with the Rhine somewhere, but I have not the map
at hand to say exactly at what point--the fertilizing stream of the
Pump. In some places the river is big enough to support a ferry-
boat, in others to turn a mill; in Pumpernickel itself, the last
Transparency but three, the great and renowned Victor Aurelius XIV
built a magnificent bridge, on which his own statue rises,
surrounded by water-nymphs and emblems of victory, peace, and
plenty; he has his foot on the neck of a prostrate Turk--history
says he engaged and ran a Janissary through the body at the relief
of Vienna by Sobieski--but, quite undisturbed by the agonies of that
prostrate Mahometan, who writhes at his feet in the most ghastly
manner, the Prince smiles blandly and points with his truncheon in
the direction of the Aurelius Platz, where he began to erect a new
palace that would have been the wonder of his age had the great-
souled Prince but had funds to complete it. But the completion of
Monplaisir (Monblaisir the honest German folks call it) was stopped
for lack of ready money, and it and its park and garden are now in
rather a faded condition, and not more than ten times big enough to
accommodate the Court of the reigning Sovereign.
The gardens were arranged to emulate those of Versailles, and amidst
the terraces and groves there are some huge allegorical waterworks
still, which spout and froth stupendously upon fete-days, and
frighten one with their enormous aquatic insurrections. There is
the Trophonius' cave in which, by some artifice, the leaden Tritons
are made not only to spout water, but to play the most dreadful
groans out of their lead conchs--there is the nymphbath and the
Niagara cataract, which the people of the neighbourhood admire
beyond expression, when they come to the yearly fair at the opening
of the Chamber, or to the fetes with which the happy little nation
still celebrates the birthdays and marriage-days of its princely
Then from all the towns of the Duchy, which stretches for nearly ten
mile--from Bolkum, which lies on its western frontier bidding
defiance to Prussia, from Grogwitz, where the Prince has a hunting-
lodge, and where his dominions are separated by the Pump River from
those of the neighbouring Prince of Potzenthal; from all the little
villages, which besides these three great cities, dot over the happy
principality--from the farms and the mills along the Pump come
troops of people in red petticoats and velvet head-dresses, or with
three-cornered hats and pipes in their mouths, who flock to the
Residenz and share in the pleasures of the fair and the festivities
there. Then the theatre is open for nothing, then the waters of
Monblaisir begin to play (it is lucky that there is company to
behold them, for one would be afraid to see them alone)--then there
come mountebanks and riding troops (the way in which his
Transparency was fascinated by one of the horse-riders is well
known, and it is believed that La Petite Vivandiere, as she was
called, was a spy in the French interest), and the delighted people
are permitted to march through room after room of the Grand Ducal
palace and admire the slippery floor, the rich hangings, and the
spittoons at the doors of all the innumerable chambers. There is
one Pavilion at Monblaisir which Aurelius Victor XV had arranged--a
great Prince but too fond of pleasure--and which I am told is a
perfect wonder of licentious elegance. It is painted with the story
of Bacchus and Ariadne, and the table works in and out of the room
by means of a windlass, so that the company was served without any
intervention of domestics. But the place was shut up by Barbara,
Aurelius XV's widow, a severe and devout Princess of the House of
Bolkum and Regent of the Duchy during her son's glorious minority,
and after the death of her husband, cut off in the pride of his
The theatre of Pumpernickel is known and famous in that quarter of
Germany. It languished a little when the present Duke in his youth
insisted upon having his own operas played there, and it is said one
day, in a fury, from his place in the orchestra, when he attended a
rehearsal, broke a bassoon on the head of the Chapel Master, who was
conducting, and led too slow; and during which time the Duchess
Sophia wrote domestic comedies, which must have been very dreary to
witness. But the Prince executes his music in private now, and the
Duchess only gives away her plays to the foreigners of distinction
who visit her kind little Court.
It is conducted with no small comfort and splendour. When there are
balls, though there may be four hundred people at supper, there is a
servant in scarlet and lace to attend upon every four, and every one
is served on silver. There are festivals and entertainments going
continually on, and the Duke has his chamberlains and equerries, and
the Duchess her mistress of the wardrobe and ladies of honour, just
like any other and more potent potentates.
The Constitution is or was a moderate despotism, tempered by a
Chamber that might or might not be elected. I never certainly could
hear of its sitting in my time at Pumpernickel. The Prime Minister
had lodgings in a second floor, and the Foreign Secretary occupied
the comfortable lodgings over Zwieback's Conditorey. The army
consisted of a magnificent band that also did duty on the stage,
where it was quite pleasant to see the worthy fellows marching in
Turkish dresses with rouge on and wooden scimitars, or as Roman
warriors with ophicleides and trombones--to see them again, I say,
at night, after one had listened to them all the morning in the
Aurelius Platz, where they performed opposite the cafe where we
breakfasted. Besides the band, there was a rich and numerous staff
of officers, and, I believe, a few men. Besides the regular
sentries, three or four men, habited as hussars, used to do duty at
the Palace, but I never saw them on horseback, and au fait, what was
the use of cavalry in a time of profound peace?--and whither the
deuce should the hussars ride?
Everybody--everybody that was noble of course, for as for the
bourgeois we could not quite be expected to take notice of THEM--
visited his neighbour. H. E. Madame de Burst received once a
week, H. E. Madame de Schnurrbart had her night--the theatre was
open twice a week, the Court graciously received once, so that a
man's life might in fact be a perfect round of pleasure in the
unpretending Pumpernickel way.
That there were feuds in the place, no one can deny. Politics ran
very high at Pumpernickel, and parties were very bitter. There was
the Strumpff faction and the Lederlung party, the one supported by
our envoy and the other by the French Charge d'Affaires, M. de
Macabau. Indeed it sufficed for our Minister to stand up for Madame
Strumpff, who was clearly the greater singer of the two, and had
three more notes in her voice than Madame Lederlung her rival--it
sufficed, I say, for our Minister to advance any opinion to have it
instantly contradicted by the French diplomatist.
Everybody in the town was ranged in one or other of these factions.
The Lederlung was a prettyish little creature certainly, and her
voice (what there was of it) was very sweet, and there is no doubt
that the Strumpff was not in her first youth and beauty, and
certainly too stout; when she came on in the last scene of the
Sonnambula, for instance, in her night-chemise with a lamp in her
hand, and had to go out of the window, and pass over the plank of
the mill, it was all she could do to squeeze out of the window, and
the plank used to bend and creak again under her weight--but how she
poured out the finale of the opera! and with what a burst of
feeling she rushed into Elvino's arms--almost fit to smother him!
Whereas the little Lederlung--but a truce to this gossip--the fact
is that these two women were the two flags of the French and the
English party at Pumpernickel, and the society was divided in its
allegiance to those two great nations.
We had on our side the Home Minister, the Master of the Horse, the
Duke's Private Secretary, and the Prince's Tutor; whereas of the
French party were the Foreign Minister, the Commander-in-Chief's
Lady, who had served under Napoleon, and the Hof-Marschall and his
wife, who was glad enough to get the fashions from Pans, and always
had them and her caps by M. de Macabau's courier. The Secretary of
his Chancery was little Grignac, a young fellow, as malicious as
Satan, and who made caricatures of Tapeworm in all the-albums of the
Their headquarters and table d'hote were established at the Pariser
Hof, the other inn of the town; and though, of course, these
gentlemen were obliged to be civil in public, yet they cut at each
other with epigrams that were as sharp as razors, as I have seen a
couple of wrestlers in Devonshire, lashing at each other's shins and
never showing their agony upon a muscle of their faces. Neither
Tapeworm nor Macabau ever sent home a dispatch to his government
without a most savage series of attacks upon his rival. For
instance, on our side we would write, "The interests of Great
Britain in this place, and throughout the whole of Germany, are
perilled by the continuance in office of the present French envoy;
this man is of a character so infamous that he will stick at no
falsehood, or hesitate at no crime, to attain his ends. He poisons
the mind of the Court against the English minister, represents the
conduct of Great Britain in the most odious and atrocious light, and
is unhappily backed by a minister whose ignorance and necessities
are as notorious as his influence is fatal." On their side they
would say, "M. de Tapeworm continues his system of stupid insular
arrogance and vulgar falsehood against the greatest nation in the
world. Yesterday he was heard to speak lightly of Her Royal
Highness Madame the Duchess of Berri; on a former occasion he
insulted the heroic Duke of Angouleme and dared to insinuate that
H.R.H. the Duke of Orleans was conspiring against the august throne
of the lilies. His gold is prodigated in every direction which his
stupid menaces fail to frighten. By one and the other, he has won
over creatures of the Court here--and, in fine, Pumpernickel will
not be quiet, Germany tranquil, France respected, or Europe content
until this poisonous viper be crushed under heel": and so on. When
one side or the other had written any particularly spicy dispatch,
news of it was sure to slip out.
Before the winter was far advanced, it is actually on record that
Emmy took a night and received company with great propriety and
modesty. She had a French master, who complimented her upon the
purity of her accent and her facility of learning; the fact is she
had learned long ago and grounded herself subsequently in the
grammar so as to be able to teach it to George; and Madam Strumpff
came to give her lessons in singing, which she performed so well and
with such a true voice that the Major's windows, who had lodgings
opposite under the Prime Minister, were always open to hear the
lesson. Some of the German ladies, who are very sentimental and
simple in their tastes, fell in love with her and began to call her
du at once. These are trivial details, but they relate to happy
times. The Major made himself George's tutor and read Caesar and
mathematics with him, and they had a German master and rode out of
evenings by the side of Emmy's carriage--she was always too timid,
and made a dreadful outcry at the slightest disturbance on horse-
back. So she drove about with one of her dear German friends, and
Jos asleep on the back-seat of the barouche.
He was becoming very sweet upon the Grafinn Fanny de Butterbrod, a
very gentle tender-hearted and unassuming young creature, a Canoness
and Countess in her own right, but with scarcely ten pounds per year
to her fortune, and Fanny for her part declared that to be Amelia's
sister was the greatest delight that Heaven could bestow on her, and
Jos might have put a Countess's shield and coronet by the side of
his own arms on his carriage and forks; when--when events occurred,
and those grand fetes given upon the marriage of the Hereditary
Prince of Pumpernickel with the lovely Princess Amelia of Humbourg-
Schlippenschloppen took place.
At this festival the magnificence displayed was such as had not been
known in the little German place since the days of the prodigal
Victor XIV. All the neighbouring Princes, Princesses, and Grandees
were invited to the feast. Beds rose to half a crown per night in
Pumpernickel, and the Army was exhausted in providing guards of
honour for the Highnesses, Serenities, and Excellencies who arrived
from all quarters. The Princess was married by proxy, at her
father's residence, by the Count de Schlusselback. Snuff-boxes were
given away in profusion (as we learned from the Court jeweller, who
sold and afterwards bought them again), and bushels of the Order of
Saint Michael of Pumpernickel were sent to the nobles of the Court,
while hampers of the cordons and decorations of the Wheel of St.
Catherine of Schlippenschloppen were brought to ours. The French
envoy got both. "He is covered with ribbons like a prize cart-
horse," Tapeworm said, who was not allowed by the rules of his
service to take any decorations: "Let him have the cordons; but
with whom is the victory?" The fact is, it was a triumph of British
diplomacy, the French party having proposed and tried their utmost
to carry a marriage with a Princess of the House of Potztausend-
Donnerwetter, whom, as a matter of course, we opposed.
Everybody was asked to the fetes of the marriage. Garlands and
triumphal arches were hung across the road to welcome the young
bride. The great Saint Michael's Fountain ran with uncommonly sour
wine, while that in the Artillery Place frothed with beer. The
great waters played; and poles were put up in the park and gardens
for the happy peasantry, which they might climb at their leisure,
carrying off watches, silver forks, prize sausages hung with pink
ribbon, &c., at the top. Georgy got one, wrenching it off, having
swarmed up the pole to the delight of the spectators, and sliding
down with the rapidity of a fall of water. But it was for the
glory's sake merely. The boy gave the sausage to a peasant, who had
very nearly seized it, and stood at the foot of the mast,
blubbering, because he was unsuccessful.
At the French Chancellerie they had six more lampions in their
illumination than ours had; but our transparency, which represented
the young Couple advancing and Discord flying away, with the most
ludicrous likeness to the French Ambassador, beat the French picture
hollow; and I have no doubt got Tapeworm the advancement and the
Cross of the Bath which he subsequently attained.
Crowds of foreigners arrived for the fetes, and of English, of
course. Besides the Court balls, public balls were given at the
Town Hall and the Redoute, and in the former place there was a room
for trente-et-quarante and roulette established, for the week of the
festivities only, and by one of the great German companies from Ems
or Aix-la-Chapelle. The officers or inhabitants of the town were
not allowed to play at these games, but strangers, peasants, ladies
were admitted, and any one who chose to lose or win money.
That little scapegrace Georgy Osborne amongst others, whose pockets
were always full of dollars and whose relations were away at the
grand festival of the Court, came to the Stadthaus Ball in company
of his uncle's courier, Mr. Kirsch, and having only peeped into a
play-room at Baden-Baden when he hung on Dobbin's arm, and where, of
course, he was not permitted to gamble, came eagerly to this part of
the entertainment and hankered round the tables where the croupiers
and the punters were at work. Women were playing; they were masked,
some of them; this license was allowed in these wild times of
A woman with light hair, in a low dress by no means so fresh as it
had been, and with a black mask on, through the eyelets of which her
eyes twinkled strangely, was seated at one of the roulette-tables
with a card and a pin and a couple of florins before her. As the
croupier called out the colour and number, she pricked on the card
with great care and regularity, and only ventured her money on the
colours after the red or black had come up a certain number of
times. It was strange to look at her.
But in spite of her care and assiduity she guessed wrong and the
last two florins followed each other under the croupier's rake, as
he cried out with his inexorable voice the winning colour and
number. She gave a sigh, a shrug with her shoulders, which were
already too much out of her gown, and dashing the pin through the
card on to the table, sat thrumming it for a while. Then she looked
round her and saw Georgy's honest face staring at the scene. The
little scamp! What business had he to be there?
When she saw the boy, at whose face she looked hard through her
shining eyes and mask, she said, "Monsieur n'est pas joueur?"
"Non, Madame," said the boy; but she must have known, from his
accent, of what country he was, for she answered him with a slight
foreign tone. "You have nevare played--will you do me a littl'
"What is it?" said Georgy, blushing again. Mr. Kirsch was at work
for his part at the rouge et noir and did not see his young master.
"Play this for me, if you please; put it on any number, any number."
And she took from her bosom a purse, and out of it a gold piece, the
only coin there, and she put it into George's hand. The boy laughed
and did as he was bid.
The number came up sure enough. There is a power that arranges
that, they say, for beginners.
"Thank you," said she, pulling the money towards her, "thank you.
What is your name?"
"My name's Osborne," said Georgy, and was fingering in his own
pockets for dollars, and just about to make a trial, when the Major,
in his uniform, and Jos, en Marquis, from the Court ball, made their
appearance. Other people, finding the entertainment stupid and
preferring the fun at the Stadthaus, had quitted the Palace ball
earlier; but it is probable the Major and Jos had gone home and
found the boy's absence, for the former instantly went up to him
and, taking him by the shoulder, pulled him briskly back from the
place of temptation. Then, looking round the room, he saw Kirsch
employed as we have said, and going up to him, asked how he dared to
bring Mr. George to such a place.
"Laissez-moi tranquille," said Mr. Kirsch, very much excited by play
and wine. "ll faut s'amuser, parbleu. Je ne suis pas au service de
Seeing his condition the Major did not choose to argue with the man,
but contented himself with drawing away George and asking Jos if he
would come away. He was standing close by the lady in the mask, who
was playing with pretty good luck now, and looking on much
interested at the game.
"Hadn't you better come, Jos," the Major said, "with George and me?"
"I'll stop and go home with that rascal, Kirsch," Jos said; and for
the same reason of modesty, which he thought ought to be preserved
before the boy, Dobbin did not care to remonstrate with Jos, but
left him and walked home with Georgy.
"Did you play?" asked the Major when they were out and on their way
The boy said "No."
"Give me your word of honour as a gentleman that you never will."
"Why?" said the boy; "it seems very good fun." And, in a very
eloquent and impressive manner, the Major showed him why he
shouldn't, and would have enforced his precepts by the example of
Georgy's own father, had he liked to say anything that should
reflect on the other's memory. When he had housed him, he went to
bed and saw his light, in the little room outside of Amelia's,
presently disappear. Amelia's followed half an hour afterwards. I
don't know what made the Major note it so accurately.
Jos, however, remained behind over the play-table; he was no
gambler, but not averse to the little excitement of the sport now
and then, and he had some Napoleons chinking in the embroidered
pockets of his court waistcoat. He put down one over the fair
shoulder of the little gambler before him, and they won. She made a
little movement to make room for him by her side, and just took the
skirt of her gown from a vacant chair there.
"Come and give me good luck," she said, still in a foreign accent,
quite different from that frank and perfectly English "Thank you,"
with which she had saluted Georgy's coup in her favour. The portly
gentleman, looking round to see that nobody of rank observed him,
sat down; he muttered--"Ah, really, well now, God bless my soul.
I'm very fortunate; I'm sure to give you good fortune," and other
words of compliment and confusion. "Do you play much?" the foreign
"I put a Nap or two down," said Jos with a superb air, flinging down
a gold piece.
"Yes; ay nap after dinner," said the mask archly. But Jos looking
frightened, she continued, in her pretty French accent, "You do not
play to win. No more do I. I play to forget, but I cannot. I
cannot forget old times, monsieur. Your little nephew is the image
of his father; and you--you are not changed--but yes, you are.
Everybody changes, everybody forgets; nobody has any heart."
"Good God, who is it?" asked Jos in a flutter.
"Can't you guess, Joseph Sedley?" said the little woman in a sad
voice, and undoing her mask, she looked at him. "You have forgotten
"Good heavens! Mrs. Crawley!" gasped out Jos.
"Rebecca," said the other, putting her hand on his; but she followed
the game still, all the time she was looking at him.
"I am stopping at the Elephant," she continued. "Ask for Madame de
Raudon. I saw my dear Amelia to-day; how pretty she looked, and how
happy! So do you! Everybody but me, who am wretched, Joseph
Sedley." And she put her money over from the red to the black, as if
by a chance movement of her hand, and while she was wiping her eyes
with a pocket-handkerchief fringed with torn lace.
The red came up again, and she lost the whole of that stake. "Come
away," she said. "Come with me a little--we are old friends, are we
not, dear Mr. Sedley?"
And Mr. Kirsch having lost all his money by this time, followed his
master out into the moonlight, where the illuminations were winking
out and the transparency over our mission was scarcely visible.
A Vagabond Chapter
We must pass over a part of Mrs. Rebecca Crawley's biography with
that lightness and delicacy which the world demands--the moral
world, that has, perhaps, no particular objection to vice, but an
insuperable repugnance to hearing vice called by its proper name.
There are things we do and know perfectly well in Vanity Fair,
though we never speak of them: as the Ahrimanians worship the
devil, but don't mention him: and a polite public will no more bear
to read an authentic description of vice than a truly refined
English or American female will permit the word breeches to be
pronounced in her chaste hearing. And yet, madam, both are walking
the world before our faces every day, without much shocking us. If
you were to blush every time they went by, what complexions you
would have! It is only when their naughty names are called out that
your modesty has any occasion to show alarm or sense of outrage, and
it has been the wish of the present writer, all through this story,
deferentially to submit to the fashion at present prevailing, and
only to hint at the existence of wickedness in a light, easy, and
agreeable manner, so that nobody's fine feelings may be offended. I
defy any one to say that our Becky, who has certainly some vices,
has not been presented to the public in a perfectly genteel and
inoffensive manner. In describing this Siren, singing and smiling,
coaxing and cajoling, the author, with modest pride, asks his
readers all round, has he once forgotten the laws of politeness, and
showed the monster's hideous tail above water? No! Those who like
may peep down under waves that are pretty transparent and see it
writhing and twirling, diabolically hideous and slimy, flapping
amongst bones, or curling round corpses; but above the waterline, I
ask, has not everything been proper, agreeable, and decorous, and
has any the most squeamish immoralist in Vanity Fair a right to cry
fie? When, however, the Siren disappears and dives below, down among
the dead men, the water of course grows turbid over her, and it is
labour lost to look into it ever so curiously. They look pretty
enough when they sit upon a rock, twanging their harps and combing
their hair, and sing, and beckon to you to come and hold the
looking-glass; but when they sink into their native element, depend
on it, those mermaids are about no good, and we had best not examine
the fiendish marine cannibals, revelling and feasting on their
wretched pickled victims. And so, when Becky is out of the way, be
sure that she is not particularly well employed, and that the less
that is said about her doings is in fact the better.
If we were to give a full account of her proceedings during a couple
of years that followed after the Curzon Street catastrophe, there
might be some reason for people to say this book was improper. The
actions of very vain, heartless, pleasure-seeking people are very
often improper (as are many of yours, my friend with the grave face
and spotless reputation--but that is merely by the way); and what
are those of a woman without faith--or love--or character? And I am
inclined to think that there was a period in Mrs Becky's life when
she was seized, not by remorse, but by a kind of despair, and
absolutely neglected her person and did not even care for her
This abattement and degradation did not take place all at once; it
was brought about by degrees, after her calamity, and after many
struggles to keep up--as a man who goes overboard hangs on to a spar
whilst any hope is left, and then flings it away and goes down, when
he finds that struggling is in vain.
She lingered about London whilst her husband was making preparations
for his departure to his seat of government, and it is believed made
more than one attempt to see her brother-in-law, Sir Pitt Crawley,
and to work upon his feelings, which she had almost enlisted in her
favour. As Sir Pitt and Mr. Wenham were walking down to the House
of Commons, the latter spied Mrs. Rawdon in a black veil, and
lurking near the palace of the legislature. She sneaked away when
her eyes met those of Wenham, and indeed never succeeded in her
designs upon the Baronet.
Probably Lady Jane interposed. I have heard that she quite
astonished her husband by the spirit which she exhibited in this
quarrel, and her determination to disown Mrs. Becky. Of her own
movement, she invited Rawdon to come and stop in Gaunt Street until
his departure for Coventry Island, knowing that with him for a guard
Mrs. Becky would not try to force her door; and she looked curiously
at the superscriptions of all the letters which arrived for Sir
Pitt, lest he and his sister-in-law should be corresponding. Not
but that Rebecca could have written had she a mind, but she did not
try to see or to write to Pitt at his own house, and after one or
two attempts consented to his demand that the correspondence
regarding her conjugal differences should be carried on by lawyers
The fact was that Pitt's mind had been poisoned against her. A
short time after Lord Steyne's accident Wenham had been with the
Baronet and given him such a biography of Mrs. Becky as had
astonished the member for Queen's Crawley. He knew everything
regarding her: who her father was; in what year her mother danced at
the opera; what had been her previous history; and what her conduct
during her married life--as I have no doubt that the greater part of
the story was false and dictated by interested malevolence, it shall
not be repeated here. But Becky was left with a sad sad reputation
in the esteem of a country gentleman and relative who had been once
rather partial to her.
The revenues of the Governor of Coventry Island are not large. A
part of them were set aside by his Excellency for the payment of
certain outstanding debts and liabilities, the charges incident on
his high situation required considerable expense; finally, it was
found that he could not spare to his wife more than three hundred
pounds a year, which he proposed to pay to her on an undertaking
that she would never trouble him. Otherwise, scandal, separation,
Doctors' Commons would ensue. But it was Mr. Wenham's business,
Lord Steyne's business, Rawdon's, everybody's--to get her out of the
country, and hush up a most disagreeable affair.
She was probably so much occupied in arranging these affairs of
business with her husband's lawyers that she forgot to take any step
whatever about her son, the little Rawdon, and did not even once
propose to go and see him. That young gentleman was consigned to
the entire guardianship of his aunt and uncle, the former of whom
had always possessed a great share of the child's affection. His
mamma wrote him a neat letter from Boulogne, when she quitted
England, in which she requested him to mind his book, and said she
was going to take a Continental tour, during which she would have
the pleasure of writing to him again. But she never did for a year
afterwards, and not, indeed, until Sir Pitt's only boy, always
sickly, died of hooping-cough and measles--then Rawdon's mamma wrote
the most affectionate composition to her darling son, who was made
heir of Queen's Crawley by this accident, and drawn more closely
than ever to the kind lady, whose tender heart had already adopted
him. Rawdon Crawley, then grown a tall, fine lad, blushed when he
got the letter. "Oh, Aunt Jane, you are my mother!" he said; "and
not--and not that one." But he wrote back a kind and respectful
letter to Mrs. Rebecca, then living at a boarding-house at Florence.
But we are advancing matters.
Our darling Becky's first flight was not very far. She perched upon
the French coast at Boulogne, that refuge of so much exiled English
innocence, and there lived in rather a genteel, widowed manner, with
a femme de chambre and a couple of rooms, at an hotel. She dined at
the table d'hote, where people thought her very pleasant, and where
she entertained her neighbours by stories of her brother, Sir Pitt,
and her great London acquaintance, talking that easy, fashionable
slip-slop which has so much effect upon certain folks of small
breeding. She passed with many of them for a person of importance;
she gave little tea-parties in her private room and shared in the
innocent amusements of the place in sea-bathing, and in jaunts in
open carriages, in strolls on the sands, and in visits to the play.
Mrs. Burjoice, the printer's lady, who was boarding with her family
at the hotel for the summer, and to whom her Burjoice came of a
Saturday and Sunday, voted her charming, until that little rogue of
a Burjoice began to pay her too much attention. But there was
nothing in the story, only that Becky was always affable, easy, and
good-natured--and with men especially.
Numbers of people were going abroad as usual at the end of the
season, and Becky had plenty of opportunities of finding out by the
behaviour of her acquaintances of the great London world the opinion
of "society" as regarded her conduct. One day it was Lady Partlet
and her daughters whom Becky confronted as she was walking modestly
on Boulogne pier, the cliffs of Albion shining in the distance
across the deep blue sea. Lady Partlet marshalled all her daughters
round her with a sweep of her parasol and retreated from the pier,
darting savage glances at poor little Becky who stood alone there.
On another day the packet came in. It had been blowing fresh, and
it always suited Becky's humour to see the droll woe-begone faces of
the people as they emerged from the boat. Lady Slingstone happened
to be on board this day. Her ladyship had been exceedingly ill in
her carriage, and was greatly exhausted and scarcely fit to walk up
the plank from the ship to the pier. But all her energies rallied
the instant she saw Becky smiling roguishly under a pink bonnet, and
giving her a glance of scorn such as would have shrivelled up most
women, she walked into the Custom House quite unsupported. Becky
only laughed: but I don't think she liked it. She felt she was
alone, quite alone, and the far-off shining cliffs of England were
impassable to her.
The behaviour of the men had undergone too I don't know what change.
Grinstone showed his teeth and laughed in her face with a
familiarity that was not pleasant. Little Bob Suckling, who was cap
in hand to her three months before, and would walk a mile in the
rain to see for her carriage in the line at Gaunt House, was talking
to Fitzoof of the Guards (Lord Heehaw's son) one day upon the jetty,
as Becky took her walk there. Little Bobby nodded to her over his
shoulder, without moving his hat, and continued his conversation
with the heir of Heehaw. Tom Raikes tried to walk into her sitting-
room at the inn with a cigar in his mouth, but she closed the door
upon him, and would have locked it, only that his fingers were
inside. She began to feel that she was very lonely indeed. "If
HE'D been here," she said, "those cowards would never have dared to
insult me." She thought about "him" with great sadness and perhaps
longing--about his honest, stupid, constant kindness and fidelity;
his never-ceasing obedience; his good humour; his bravery and
courage. Very likely she cried, for she was particularly lively,
and had put on a little extra rouge, when she came down to dinner.
She rouged regularly now; and--and her maid got Cognac for her
besides that which was charged in the hotel bill.
Perhaps the insults of the men were not, however, so intolerable to
her as the sympathy of certain women. Mrs. Crackenbury and Mrs.
Washington White passed through Boulogne on their way to
Switzerland. The party were protected by Colonel Horner, young
Beaumoris, and of course old Crackenbury, and Mrs. White's little
girl. THEY did not avoid her. They giggled, cackled, tattled,
condoled, consoled, and patronized her until they drove her almost
wild with rage. To be patronized by THEM! she thought, as they went
away simpering after kissing her. And she heard Beaumoris's laugh
ringing on the stair and knew quite well how to interpret his
It was after this visit that Becky, who had paid her weekly bills,
Becky who had made herself agreeable to everybody in the house, who
smiled at the landlady, called the waiters "monsieur," and paid the
chambermaids in politeness and apologies, what far more than
compensated for a little niggardliness in point of money (of which
Becky never was free), that Becky, we say, received a notice to quit
from the landlord, who had been told by some one that she was quite
an unfit person to have at his hotel, where English ladies would not
sit down with her. And she was forced to fly into lodgings of which
the dulness and solitude were most wearisome to her.
Still she held up, in spite of these rebuffs, and tried to make a
character for herself and conquer scandal. She went to church very
regularly and sang louder than anybody there. She took up the cause
of the widows of the shipwrecked fishermen, and gave work and
drawings for the Quashyboo Mission; she subscribed to the Assembly
and WOULDN'T waltz. In a word, she did everything that was
respectable, and that is why we dwell upon this part of her career
with more fondness than upon subsequent parts of her history, which
are not so pleasant. She saw people avoiding her, and still
laboriously smiled upon them; you never could suppose from her
countenance what pangs of humiliation she might be enduring
Her history was after all a mystery. Parties were divided about
her. Some people who took the trouble to busy themselves in the
matter said that she was the criminal, whilst others vowed that she
was as innocent as a lamb and that her odious husband was in fault.
She won over a good many by bursting into tears about her boy and
exhibiting the most frantic grief when his name was mentioned, or
she saw anybody like him. She gained good Mrs. Alderney's heart in
that way, who was rather the Queen of British Boulogne and gave the
most dinners and balls of all the residents there, by weeping when
Master Alderney came from Dr. Swishtail's academy to pass his
holidays with his mother. "He and her Rawdon were of the same age,
and so like," Becky said in a voice choking with agony; whereas
there was five years' difference between the boys' ages, and no more
likeness between them than between my respected reader and his
humble servant. Wenham, when he was going abroad, on his way to
Kissingen to join Lord Steyne, enlightened Mrs. Alderney on this
point and told her how he was much more able to describe little
Rawdon than his mamma, who notoriously hated him and never saw him;
how he was thirteen years old, while little Alderney was but nine,
fair, while the other darling was dark--in a word, caused the lady
in question to repent of her good humour.
Whenever Becky made a little circle for herself with incredible
toils and labour, somebody came and swept it down rudely, and she
had all her work to begin over again. It was very hard; very hard;
lonely and disheartening.
There was Mrs. Newbright, who took her up for some time, attracted
by the sweetness of her singing at church and by her proper views
upon serious subjects, concerning which in former days, at Queen's
Crawley, Mrs. Becky had had a good deal of instruction. Well, she
not only took tracts, but she read them. She worked flannel
petticoats for the Quashyboos--cotton night-caps for the Cocoanut
Indians--painted handscreens for the conversion of the Pope and the
Jews--sat under Mr. Rowls on Wednesdays, Mr. Huggleton on Thursdays,
attended two Sunday services at church, besides Mr. Bawler, the
Darbyite, in the evening, and all in vain. Mrs. Newbright had
occasion to correspond with the Countess of Southdown about the
Warmingpan Fund for the Fiji Islanders (for the management of which
admirable charity both these ladies formed part of a female
committee), and having mentioned her "sweet friend," Mrs. Rawdon
Crawley, the Dowager Countess wrote back such a letter regarding
Becky, with such particulars, hints, facts, falsehoods, and general
comminations, that intimacy between Mrs. Newbright and Mrs. Crawley
ceased forthwith, and all the serious world of Tours, where this
misfortune took place, immediately parted company with the
reprobate. Those who know the English Colonies abroad know that we
carry with us us our pride, pills, prejudices, Harvey-sauces,
cayenne-peppers, and other Lares, making a little Britain wherever
we settle down.
From one colony to another Becky fled uneasily. From Boulogne to
Dieppe, from Dieppe to Caen, from Caen to Tours--trying with all her
might to be respectable, and alas! always found out some day or
other and pecked out of the cage by the real daws.
Mrs. Hook Eagles took her up at one of these places--a woman without
a blemish in her character and a house in Portman Square. She was
staying at the hotel at Dieppe, whither Becky fled, and they made
each other's acquaintance first at sea, where they were swimming
together, and subsequently at the table d'hote of the hotel. Mrs
Eagles had heard--who indeed had not?--some of the scandal of the
Steyne affair; but after a conversation with Becky, she pronounced
that Mrs. Crawley was an angel, her husband a ruffian, Lord Steyne
an unprincipled wretch, as everybody knew, and the whole case
against Mrs. Crawley an infamous and wicked conspiracy of that
rascal Wenham. "If you were a man of any spirit, Mr. Eagles, you
would box the wretch's ears the next time you see him at the Club,"
she said to her husband. But Eagles was only a quiet old gentleman,
husband to Mrs. Eagles, with a taste for geology, and not tall
enough to reach anybody's ears.
The Eagles then patronized Mrs. Rawdon, took her to live with her at
her own house at Paris, quarrelled with the ambassador's wife
because she would not receive her protegee, and did all that lay in
woman's power to keep Becky straight in the paths of virtue and good
Becky was very respectable and orderly at first, but the life of
humdrum virtue grew utterly tedious to her before long. It was the
same routine every day, the same dulness and comfort, the same drive
over the same stupid Bois de Boulogne, the same company of an
evening, the same Blair's Sermon of a Sunday night--the same opera
always being acted over and over again; Becky was dying of
weariness, when, luckily for her, young Mr. Eagles came from
Cambridge, and his mother, seeing the impression which her little
friend made upon him, straightway gave Becky warning.
Then she tried keeping house with a female friend; then the double
menage began to quarrel and get into debt. Then she determined upon
a boarding-house existence and lived for some time at that famous
mansion kept by Madame de Saint Amour, in the Rue Royale, at Paris,
where she began exercising her graces and fascinations upon the
shabby dandies and fly-blown beauties who frequented her landlady's
salons. Becky loved society and, indeed, could no more exist
without it than an opium-eater without his dram, and she was happy
enough at the period of her boarding-house life. "The women here
are as amusing as those in May Fair," she told an old London friend
who met her, "only, their dresses are not quite so fresh. The men
wear cleaned gloves, and are sad rogues, certainly, but they are not
worse than Jack This and Tom That. The mistress of the house is a
little vulgar, but I don't think she is so vulgar as Lady ------"
and here she named the name of a great leader of fashion that I
would die rather than reveal. In fact, when you saw Madame de Saint
Amour's rooms lighted up of a night, men with plaques and cordons at
the ecarte tables, and the women at a little distance, you might
fancy yourself for a while in good society, and that Madame was a
real Countess. Many people did so fancy, and Becky was for a while
one of the most dashing ladies of the Countess's salons.
But it is probable that her old creditors of 1815 found her out and
caused her to leave Paris, for the poor little woman was forced to
fly from the city rather suddenly, and went thence to Brussels.
How well she remembered the place! She grinned as she looked up at
the little entresol which she had occupied, and thought of the
Bareacres family, bawling for horses and flight, as their carriage
stood in the porte-cochere of the hotel. She went to Waterloo and
to Laeken, where George Osborne's monument much struck her. She
made a little sketch of it. "That poor Cupid!" she said; "how
dreadfully he was in love with me, and what a fool he was! I wonder
whether little Emmy is alive. It was a good little creature; and
that fat brother of hers. I have his funny fat picture still among
my papers. They were kind simple people."
At Brussels Becky arrived, recommended by Madame de Saint Amour to
her friend, Madame la Comtesse de Borodino, widow of Napoleon's
General, the famous Count de Borodino, who was left with no resource
by the deceased hero but that of a table d'hote and an ecarte table.
Second-rate dandies and roues, widow-ladies who always have a
lawsuit, and very simple English folks, who fancy they see
"Continental society" at these houses, put down their money, or ate
their meals, at Madame de Borodino's tables. The gallant young
fellows treated the company round to champagne at the table d'hote,
rode out with the women, or hired horses on country excursions,
clubbed money to take boxes at the play or the opera, betted over
the fair shoulders of the ladies at the ecarte tables, and wrote
home to their parents in Devonshire about their felicitous
introduction to foreign society.
Here, as at Paris, Becky was a boarding-house queen, and ruled in
select pensions. She never refused the champagne, or the bouquets,
or the drives into the country, or the private boxes; but what she
preferred was the ecarte at night,--and she played audaciously.
First she played only for a little, then for five-franc pieces, then
for Napoleons, then for notes: then she would not be able to pay
her month's pension: then she borrowed from the young gentlemen:
then she got into cash again and bullied Madame de Borodino, whom
she had coaxed and wheedled before: then she was playing for ten
sous at a time, and in a dire state of poverty: then her quarter's
allowance would come in, and she would pay off Madame de Borodino's
score and would once more take the cards against Monsieur de
Rossignol, or the Chevalier de Raff.
When Becky left Brussels, the sad truth is that she owed three
months' pension to Madame de Borodino, of which fact, and of the
gambling, and of the drinking, and of the going down on her knees to
the Reverend Mr. Muff, Ministre Anglican, and borrowing money of
him, and of her coaxing and flirting with Milor Noodle, son of Sir
Noodle, pupil of the Rev. Mr. Muff, whom she used to take into her
private room, and of whom she won large sums at ecarte--of which
fact, I say, and of a hundred of her other knaveries, the Countess
de Borodino informs every English person who stops at her
establishment, and announces that Madame Rawdon was no better than a
So our little wanderer went about setting up her tent in various
cities of Europe, as restless as Ulysses or Bampfylde Moore Carew.
Her taste for disrespectability grew more and more remarkable. She
became a perfect Bohemian ere long, herding with people whom it
would make your hair stand on end to meet.
There is no town of any mark in Europe but it has its little colony
of English raffs--men whose names Mr. Hemp the officer reads out
periodically at the Sheriffs' Court--young gentlemen of very good
family often, only that the latter disowns them; frequenters of
billiard-rooms and estaminets, patrons of foreign races and gaming-
tables. They people the debtors' prisons--they drink and swagger--
they fight and brawl--they run away without paying--they have duels
with French and German officers--they cheat Mr. Spooney at ecarte--
they get the money and drive off to Baden in magnificent britzkas--
they try their infallible martingale and lurk about the tables with
empty pockets, shabby bullies, penniless bucks, until they can
swindle a Jew banker with a sham bill of exchange, or find another
Mr. Spooney to rob. The alternations of splendour and misery which
these people undergo are very queer to view. Their life must be one
of great excitement. Becky--must it be owned?--took to this life,
and took to it not unkindly. She went about from town to town among
these Bohemians. The lucky Mrs. Rawdon was known at every play-
table in Germany. She and Madame de Cruchecassee kept house at
Florence together. It is said she was ordered out of Munich, and my
friend Mr. Frederick Pigeon avers that it was at her house at
Lausanne that he was hocussed at supper and lost eight hundred
pounds to Major Loder and the Honourable Mr. Deuceace. We are
bound, you see, to give some account of Becky's biography, but of
this part, the less, perhaps, that is said the better.
They say that, when Mrs. Crawley was particularly down on her luck,
she gave concerts and lessons in music here and there. There was a
Madame de Raudon, who certainly had a matinee musicale at Wildbad,
accompanied by Herr Spoff, premier pianist to the Hospodar of
Wallachia, and my little friend Mr. Eaves, who knew everybody and
had travelled everywhere, always used to declare that he was at
Strasburg in the year 1830, when a certain Madame Rebecque made her
appearance in the opera of the Dame Blanche, giving occasion to a
furious row in the theatre there. She was hissed off the stage by
the audience, partly from her own incompetency, but chiefly from the
ill-advised sympathy of some persons in the parquet, (where the
officers of the garrison had their admissions); and Eaves was
certain that the unfortunate debutante in question was no other than
Mrs. Rawdon Crawley.
She was, in fact, no better than a vagabond upon this earth. When
she got her money she gambled; when she had gambled it she was put
to shifts to live; who knows how or by what means she succeeded? It
is said that she was once seen at St. Petersburg, but was summarily
dismissed from that capital by the police, so that there cannot be
any possibility of truth in the report that she was a Russian spy at
Toplitz and Vienna afterwards. I have even been informed that at
Paris she discovered a relation of her own, no less a person than
her maternal grandmother, who was not by any means a Montmorenci,
but a hideous old box-opener at a theatre on the Boulevards. The
meeting between them, of which other persons, as it is hinted
elsewhere, seem to have been acquainted, must have been a very
affecting interview. The present historian can give no certain
details regarding the event.
It happened at Rome once that Mrs. de Rawdon's half-year's salary
had just been paid into the principal banker's there, and, as
everybody who had a balance of above five hundred scudi was invited
to the balls which this prince of merchants gave during the winter,
Becky had the honour of a card, and appeared at one of the Prince
and Princess Polonia's splendid evening entertainments. The Princess
was of the family of Pompili, lineally descended from the second
king of Rome, and Egeria of the house of Olympus, while the Prince's
grandfather, Alessandro Polonia, sold wash-balls, essences, tobacco,
and pocket-handkerchiefs, ran errands for gentlemen, and lent money
in a small way. All the great company in Rome thronged to his
saloons--Princes, Dukes, Ambassadors, artists, fiddlers, monsignori,
young bears with their leaders--every rank and condition of man.
His halls blazed with light and magnificence; were resplendent with
gilt frames (containing pictures), and dubious antiques; and the
enormous gilt crown and arms of the princely owner, a gold mushroom
on a crimson field (the colour of the pocket-handkerchiefs which he
sold), and the silver fountain of the Pompili family shone all over
the roof, doors, and panels of the house, and over the grand velvet
baldaquins prepared to receive Popes and Emperors.
So Becky, who had arrived in the diligence from Florence, and was
lodged at an inn in a very modest way, got a card for Prince
Polonia's entertainment, and her maid dressed her with unusual care,
and she went to this fine ball leaning on the arm of Major Loder,
with whom she happened to be travelling at the time--(the same man
who shot Prince Ravoli at Naples the next year, and was caned by Sir
John Buckskin for carrying four kings in his hat besides those which
he used in playing at ecarte )--and this pair went into the rooms
together, and Becky saw a number of old faces which she remembered
in happier days, when she was not innocent, but not found out.
Major Loder knew a great number of foreigners, keen-looking
whiskered men with dirty striped ribbons in their buttonholes, and a
very small display of linen; but his own countrymen, it might be
remarked, eschewed the Major. Becky, too, knew some ladies here and
there--French widows, dubious Italian countesses, whose husbands had
treated them ill--faugh--what shall we say, we who have moved among
some of the finest company of Vanity Fair, of this refuse and
sediment of rascals? If we play, let it be with clean cards, and not
with this dirty pack. But every man who has formed one of the
innumerable army of travellers has seen these marauding irregulars
hanging on, like Nym and Pistol, to the main force, wearing the
king's colours and boasting of his commission, but pillaging for
themselves, and occasionally gibbeted by the roadside.
Well, she was hanging on the arm of Major Loder, and they went
through the rooms together, and drank a great quantity of champagne
at the buffet, where the people, and especially the Major's
irregular corps, struggled furiously for refreshments, of which when
the pair had had enough, they pushed on until they reached the
Duchess's own pink velvet saloon, at the end of the suite of
apartments (where the statue of the Venus is, and the great Venice
looking-glasses, framed in silver), and where the princely family
were entertaining their most distinguished guests at a round table
at supper. It was just such a little select banquet as that of
which Becky recollected that she had partaken at Lord Steyne's--and
there he sat at Polonia's table, and she saw him. The scar cut by
the diamond on his white, bald, shining forehead made a burning red
mark; his red whiskers were dyed of a purple hue, which made his
pale face look still paler. He wore his collar and orders, his blue
ribbon and garter. He was a greater Prince than any there, though
there was a reigning Duke and a Royal Highness, with their
princesses, and near his Lordship was seated the beautiful Countess
of Belladonna, nee de Glandier, whose husband (the Count Paolo della
Belladonna), so well known for his brilliant entomological
collections, had been long absent on a mission to the Emperor of
When Becky beheld that familiar and illustrious face, how vulgar all
of a sudden did Major Loder appear to her, and how that odious
Captain Rook did smell of tobacco! In one instant she reassumed her
fine-ladyship and tried to look and feel as if she were in May Fair
once more. "That woman looks stupid and ill-humoured," she thought;
"I am sure she can't amuse him. No, he must be bored by her--he
never was by me." A hundred such touching hopes, fears, and memories
palpitated in her little heart, as she looked with her brightest
eyes (the rouge which she wore up to her eyelids made them twinkle)
towards the great nobleman. Of a Star and Garter night Lord Steyne
used also to put on his grandest manner and to look and speak like a
great prince, as he was. Becky admired him smiling sumptuously,
easy, lofty, and stately. Ah, bon Dieu, what a pleasant companion
he was, what a brilliant wit, what a rich fund of talk, what a grand
manner!--and she had exchanged this for Major Loder, reeking of
cigars and brandy-and-water, and Captain Rook with his horsejockey
jokes and prize-ring slang, and their like. "I wonder whether he
will know me," she thought. Lord Steyne was talking and laughing
with a great and illustrious lady at his side, when he looked up and
She was all over in a flutter as their eyes met, and she put on the
very best smile she could muster, and dropped him a little, timid,
imploring curtsey. He stared aghast at her for a minute, as Macbeth
might on beholding Banquo's sudden appearance at his ball-supper,
and remained looking at her with open mouth, when that horrid Major
Loder pulled her away.
"Come away into the supper-room, Mrs. R.," was that gentleman's
remark: "seeing these nobs grubbing away has made me peckish too.
Let's go and try the old governor's champagne." Becky thought the
Major had had a great deal too much already.
The day after she went to walk on the Pincian Hill--the Hyde Park of
the Roman idlers--possibly in hopes to have another sight of Lord
Steyne. But she met another acquaintance there: it was Mr. Fiche,
his lordship's confidential man, who came up nodding to her rather
familiarly and putting a finger to his hat. "I knew that Madame was
here," he said; "I followed her from her hotel. I have some advice
to give Madame."
"From the Marquis of Steyne?" Becky asked, resuming as much of her
dignity as she could muster, and not a little agitated by hope and
"No," said the valet; "it is from me. Rome is very unwholesome."
"Not at this season, Monsieur Fiche--not till after Easter."
"I tell Madame it is unwholesome now. There is always malaria for
some people. That cursed marsh wind kills many at all seasons.
Look, Madame Crawley, you were always bon enfant, and I have an
interest in you, parole d'honneur. Be warned. Go away from Rome, I
tell you--or you will be ill and die."
Becky laughed, though in rage and fury. "What! assassinate poor
little me?" she said. "How romantic! Does my lord carry bravos for
couriers, and stilettos in the fourgons? Bah! I will stay, if but
to plague him. I have those who will defend me whilst I am here."
It was Monsieur Fiche's turn to laugh now. "Defend you," he said,
"and who? The Major, the Captain, any one of those gambling men whom
Madame sees would take her life for a hundred louis. We know things
about Major Loder (he is no more a Major than I am my Lord the
Marquis) which would send him to the galleys or worse. We know
everything and have friends everywhere. We know whom you saw at
Paris, and what relations you found there. Yes, Madame may stare,
but we do. How was it that no minister on the Continent would
receive Madame? She has offended somebody: who never forgives--
whose rage redoubled when he saw you. He was like a madman last
night when he came home. Madame de Belladonna made him a scene
about you and fired off in one of her furies."
"Oh, it was Madame de Belladonna, was it?" Becky said, relieved a
little, for the information she had just got had scared her.
"No--she does not matter--she is always jealous. I tell you it was
Monseigneur. You did wrong to show yourself to him. And if you
stay here you will repent it. Mark my words. Go. Here is my
lord's carriage"--and seizing Becky's arm, he rushed down an alley
of the garden as Lord Steyne's barouche, blazing with heraldic
devices, came whirling along the avenue, borne by the almost
priceless horses, and bearing Madame de Belladonna lolling on the
cushions, dark, sulky, and blooming, a King Charles in her lap, a
white parasol swaying over her head, and old Steyne stretched at her
side with a livid face and ghastly eyes. Hate, or anger, or desire
caused them to brighten now and then still, but ordinarily, they
gave no light, and seemed tired of looking out on a world of which
almost all the pleasure and all the best beauty had palled upon the
worn-out wicked old man.
"Monseigneur has never recovered the shock of that night, never,"
Monsieur Fiche whispered to Mrs. Crawley as the carriage flashed by,
and she peeped out at it from behind the shrubs that hid her. "That
was a consolation at any rate," Becky thought.
Whether my lord really had murderous intentions towards Mrs. Becky
as Monsieur Fiche said (since Monseigneur's death he has returned to
his native country, where he lives much respected, and has purchased
from his Prince the title of Baron Ficci), and the factotum objected
to have to do with assassination; or whether he simply had a
commission to frighten Mrs. Crawley out of a city where his Lordship
proposed to pass the winter, and the sight of her would be eminently
disagreeable to the great nobleman, is a point which has never been
ascertained: but the threat had its effect upon the little woman,
and she sought no more to intrude herself upon the presence of her
Everybody knows the melancholy end of that nobleman, which befell at
Naples two months after the French Revolution of 1830; when the Most
Honourable George Gustavus, Marquis of Steyne, Earl of Gaunt and of
Gaunt Castle, in the Peerage of Ireland, Viscount Hellborough, Baron
Pitchley and Grillsby, a Knight of the Most Noble Order of the
Garter, of the Golden Fleece of Spain, of the Russian Order of Saint
Nicholas of the First Class, of the Turkish Order of the Crescent,
First Lord of the Powder Closet and Groom of the Back Stairs,
Colonel of the Gaunt or Regent's Own Regiment of Militia, a Trustee
of the British Museum, an Elder Brother of the Trinity House, a
Governor of the White Friars, and D.C.L.--died after a series of
fits brought on, as the papers said, by the shock occasioned to his
lordship's sensibilities by the downfall of the ancient French
An eloquent catalogue appeared in a weekly print, describing his
virtues, his magnificence, his talents, and his good actions. His
sensibility, his attachment to the illustrious House of Bourbon,
with which he claimed an alliance, were such that he could not
survive the misfortunes of his august kinsmen. His body was buried
at Naples, and his heart--that heart which always beat with every
generous and noble emotion was brought back to Castle Gaunt in a
silver urn. "In him," Mr. Wagg said, "the poor and the Fine Arts
have lost a beneficent patron, society one of its most brilliant
ornaments, and England one of her loftiest patriots and statesmen,"
His will was a good deal disputed, and an attempt was made to force
from Madame de Belladonna the celebrated jewel called the "Jew's-
eye" diamond, which his lordship always wore on his forefinger, and
which it was said that she removed from it after his lamented
demise. But his confidential friend and attendant, Monsieur Fiche
proved that the ring had been presented to the said Madame de
Belladonna two days before the Marquis's death, as were the bank-
notes, jewels, Neapolitan and French bonds, &c., found in his
lordship's secretaire and claimed by his heirs from that injured
Full of Business and Pleasure
The day after the meeting at the play-table, Jos had himself arrayed
with unusual care and splendour, and without thinking it necessary
to say a word to any member of his family regarding the occurrences
of the previous night, or asking for their company in his walk, he
sallied forth at an early hour, and was presently seen making
inquiries at the door of the Elephant Hotel. In consequence of the
fetes the house was full of company, the tables in the street were
already surrounded by persons smoking and drinking the national
small-beer, the public rooms were in a cloud of smoke, and Mr. Jos
having, in his pompous way, and with his clumsy German, made
inquiries for the person of whom he was in search, was directed to
the very top of the house, above the first-floor rooms where some
travelling pedlars had lived, and were exhibiting their jewellery
and brocades; above the second-floor apartments occupied by the etat
major of the gambling firm; above the third-floor rooms, tenanted by
the band of renowned Bohemian vaulters and tumblers; and so on to
the little cabins of the roof, where, among students, bagmen, small
tradesmen, and country-folks come in for the festival, Becky had
found a little nest--as dirty a little refuge as ever beauty lay hid
Becky liked the life. She was at home with everybody in the place,
pedlars, punters, tumblers, students and all. She was of a wild,
roving nature, inherited from father and mother, who were both
Bohemians, by taste and circumstance; if a lord was not by, she
would talk to his courier with the greatest pleasure; the din, the
stir, the drink, the smoke, the tattle of the Hebrew pedlars, the
solemn, braggart ways of the poor tumblers, the sournois talk of the
gambling-table officials, the songs and swagger of the students, and
the general buzz and hum of the place had pleased and tickled the
little woman, even when her luck was down and she had not
wherewithal to pay her bill. How pleasant was all the bustle to her
now that her purse was full of the money which little Georgy had won
for her the night before!
As Jos came creaking and puffing up the final stairs, and was
speechless when he got to the landing, and began to wipe his face
and then to look for No. 92, the room where he was directed to seek
for the person he wanted, the door of the opposite chamber, No. 90,
was open, and a student, in jack-boots and a dirty schlafrock, was
lying on the bed smoking a long pipe; whilst another student in long
yellow hair and a braided coat, exceeding smart and dirty too, was
actually on his knees at No. 92, bawling through the keyhole
supplications to the person within.
"Go away," said a well-known voice, which made Jos thrill, "I expect
somebody; I expect my grandpapa. He mustn't see you there."
"Angel Englanderinn!" bellowed the kneeling student with the whity-
brown ringlets and the large finger-ring, "do take compassion upon
us. Make an appointment. Dine with me and Fritz at the inn in the
park. We will have roast pheasants and porter, plum-pudding and
French wine. We shall die if you don't."
"That we will," said the young nobleman on the bed; and this
colloquy Jos overheard, though he did not comprehend it, for the
reason that he had never studied the language in which it was
"Newmero kattervang dooze, si vous plait," Jos said in his grandest
manner, when he was able to speak.
"Quater fang tooce!" said the student, starting up, and he bounced
into his own room, where he locked the door, and where Jos heard him
laughing with his comrade on the bed.
The gentleman from Bengal was standing, disconcerted by this
incident, when the door of the 92 opened of itself and Becky's
little head peeped out full of archness and mischief. She lighted
on Jos. "It's you," she said, coming out. "How I have been waiting
for you! Stop! not yet--in one minute you shall come in." In that
instant she put a rouge-pot, a brandy bottle, and a plate of broken
meat into the bed, gave one smooth to her hair, and finally let in
She had, by way of morning robe, a pink domino, a trifle faded and
soiled, and marked here and there with pomaturn; but her arms shone
out from the loose sleeves of the dress very white and fair, and it
was tied round her little waist so as not ill to set off the trim
little figure of the wearer. She led Jos by the hand into her
garret. "Come in," she said. "Come and talk to me. Sit yonder on
the chair"; and she gave the civilian's hand a little squeeze and
laughingly placed him upon it. As for herself, she placed herself
on the bed--not on the bottle and plate, you may be sure--on which
Jos might have reposed, had he chosen that seat; and so there she
sat and talked with her old admirer. "How little years have
changed you," she said with a look of tender interest. "I should
have known you anywhere. What a comfort it is amongst strangers to
see once more the frank honest face of an old friend!"
The frank honest face, to tell the truth, at this moment bore any
expression but one of openness and honesty: it was, on the
contrary, much perturbed and puzzled in look. Jos was surveying the
queer little apartment in which he found his old flame. One of her
gowns hung over the bed, another depending from a hook of the door;
her bonnet obscured half the looking-glass, on which, too, lay the
prettiest little pair of bronze boots; a French novel was on the
table by the bedside, with a candle, not of wax. Becky thought of
popping that into the bed too, but she only put in the little paper
night-cap with which she had put the candle out on going to sleep.
"I should have known you anywhere," she continued; "a woman never
forgets some things. And you were the first man I ever--I ever
"Was I really?" said Jos. "God bless my soul, you--you don't say
"When I came with your sister from Chiswick, I was scarcely more
than a child," Becky said. "How is that, dear love? Oh, her husband
was a sad wicked man, and of course it was of me that the poor dear
was jealous. As if I cared about him, heigho! when there was
somebody--but no--don't let us talk of old times"; and she passed
her handkerchief with the tattered lace across her eyelids.
"Is not this a strange place," she continued, "for a woman, who has
lived in a very different world too, to be found in? I have had so
many griefs and wrongs, Joseph Sedley; I have been made to suffer so
cruelly that I am almost made mad sometimes. I can't stay still in
any place, but wander about always restless and unhappy. All my
friends have been false to me--all. There is no such thing as an
honest man in the world. I was the truest wife that ever lived,
though I married my husband out of pique, because somebody else--but
never mind that. I was true, and he trampled upon me and deserted
me. I was the fondest mother. I had but one child, one darling,
one hope, one joy, which I held to my heart with a mother's
affection, which was my life, my prayer, my--my blessing; and they--
they tore it from me--tore it from me"; and she put her hand to her
heart with a passionate gesture of despair, burying her face for a
moment on the bed.
The brandy-bottle inside clinked up against the plate which held the
cold sausage. Both were moved, no doubt, by the exhibition of so
much grief. Max and Fritz were at the door, listening with wonder
to Mrs. Becky's sobs and cries. Jos, too, was a good deal
frightened and affected at seeing his old flame in this condition.
And she began, forthwith, to tell her story--a tale so neat, simple,
and artless that it was quite evident from hearing her that if ever
there was a white-robed angel escaped from heaven to be subject to
the infernal machinations and villainy of fiends here below, that
spotless being--that miserable unsullied martyr, was present on the
bed before Jos--on the bed, sitting on the brandy-bottle.
They had a very long, amicable, and confidential talk there, in the
course of which Jos Sedley was somehow made aware (but in a manner
that did not in the least scare or offend him) that Becky's heart
had first learned to beat at his enchanting presence; that George
Osborne had certainly paid an unjustifiable court to HER, which
might account for Amelia's jealousy and their little rupture; but
that Becky never gave the least encouragement to the unfortunate
officer, and that she had never ceased to think about Jos from the
very first day she had seen him, though, of course, her duties as a
married woman were paramount--duties which she had always preserved,
and would, to her dying day, or until the proverbially bad climate
in which Colonel Crawley was living should release her from a yoke
which his cruelty had rendered odious to her.
Jos went away, convinced that she was the most virtuous, as she was
one of the most fascinating of women, and revolving in his mind all
sorts of benevolent schemes for her welfare. Her persecutions ought
to be ended: she ought to return to the society of which she was an
ornament. He would see what ought to be done. She must quit that
place and take a quiet lodging. Amelia must come and see her and
befriend her. He would go and settle about it, and consult with the
Major. She wept tears of heart-felt gratitude as she parted from
him, and pressed his hand as the gallant stout gentleman stooped
down to kiss hers.
So Becky bowed Jos out of her little garret with as much grace as if
it was a palace of which she did the honours; and that heavy
gentleman having disappeared down the stairs, Max and Fritz came out
of their hole, pipe in mouth, and she amused herself by mimicking
Jos to them as she munched her cold bread and sausage and took
draughts of her favourite brandy-and-water.
Jos walked over to Dobbin's lodgings with great solemnity and there
imparted to him the affecting history with which he had just been
made acquainted, without, however, mentioning the play business of
the night before. And the two gentlemen were laying their heads
together and consulting as to the best means of being useful to Mrs.
Becky, while she was finishing her interrupted dejeuner a la
How was it that she had come to that little town? How was it that
she had no friends and was wandering about alone? Little boys at
school are taught in their earliest Latin book that the path of
Avernus is very easy of descent. Let us skip over the interval in
the history of her downward progress. She was not worse now than
she had been in the days of her prosperity--only a little down on
As for Mrs. Amelia, she was a woman of such a soft and foolish
disposition that when she heard of anybody unhappy, her heart
straightway melted towards the sufferer; and as she had never
thought or done anything mortally guilty herself, she had not that
abhorrence for wickedness which distinguishes moralists much more
knowing. If she spoiled everybody who came near her with kindness
and compliments--if she begged pardon of all her servants for
troubling them to answer the bell--if she apologized to a shopboy
who showed her a piece of silk, or made a curtsey to a street-
sweeper with a complimentary remark upon the elegant state of his
crossing--and she was almost capable of every one of these follies--
the notion that an old acquaintance was miserable was sure to soften
her heart; nor would she hear of anybody's being deservedly unhappy.
A world under such legislation as hers would not be a very orderly
place of abode; but there are not many women, at least not of the
rulers, who are of her sort. This lady, I believe, would have
abolished all gaols, punishments, handcuffs, whippings, poverty,
sickness, hunger, in the world, and was such a mean-spirited
creature that--we are obliged to confess it--she could even forget a
When the Major heard from Jos of the sentimental adventure which had
just befallen the latter, he was not, it must be owned, nearly as
much interested as the gentleman from Bengal. On the contrary, his
excitement was quite the reverse from a pleasurable one; he made use
of a brief but improper expression regarding a poor woman in
distress, saying, in fact, "The little minx, has she come to light
again?" He never had had the slightest liking for her, but had
heartily mistrusted her from the very first moment when her green
eyes had looked at, and turned away from, his own.
"That little devil brings mischief wherever she goes," the Major
said disrespectfully. "Who knows what sort of life she has been
leading? And what business has she here abroad and alone? Don't tell
me about persecutors and enemies; an honest woman always has friends
and never is separated from her family. Why has she left her
husband? He may have been disreputable and wicked, as you say. He
always was. I remember the confounded blackleg and the way in which
he used to cheat and hoodwink poor George. Wasn't there a scandal
about their separation? I think I heard something," cried out Major
Dobbin, who did not care much about gossip, and whom Jos tried in
vain to convince that Mrs. Becky was in all respects a most injured
and virtuous female.
"Well, well; let's ask Mrs. George," said that arch-diplomatist of a
Major. "Only let us go and consult her. I suppose you will allow
that she is a good judge at any rate, and knows what is right in
"Hm! Emmy is very well," said Jos, who did not happen to be in love
with his sister.
"Very well? By Gad, sir, she's the finest lady I ever met in my
life," bounced out the Major. "I say at once, let us go and ask her
if this woman ought to be visited or not--I will be content with her
verdict." Now this odious, artful rogue of a Major was thinking in
his own mind that he was sure of his case. Emmy, he remembered, was
at one time cruelly and deservedly jealous of Rebecca, never
mentioned her name but with a shrinking and terror--a jealous woman
never forgives, thought Dobbin: and so the pair went across the
street to Mrs. George's house, where she was contentedly warbling at
a music lesson with Madame Strumpff.
When that lady took her leave, Jos opened the business with his
usual pomp of words. "Amelia, my dear," said he, "I have just had
the most extraordinary--yes--God bless my soul! the most
extraordinary adventure--an old friend--yes, a most interesting old
friend of yours, and I may say in old times, has just arrived here,
and I should like you to see her."
"Her!" said Amelia, "who is it? Major Dobbin, if you please not to
break my scissors." The Major was twirling them round by the little
chain from which they sometimes hung to their lady's waist, and was
thereby endangering his own eye.
It is a woman whom I dislike very much," said the Major, doggedly,
"and whom you have no cause to love."
"It is Rebecca, I'm sure it is Rebecca," Amelia said, blushing and
being very much agitated.
"You are right; you always are," Dobbin answered. Brussels,
Waterloo, old, old times, griefs, pangs, remembrances, rushed back
into Amelia's gentle heart and caused a cruel agitation there.
"Don't let me see her," Emmy continued. "I couldn't see her."
"I told you so," Dobbin said to Jos.
"She is very unhappy, and--and that sort of thing," Jos urged. "She
is very poor and unprotected, and has been ill--exceedingly ill--and
that scoundrel of a husband has deserted her."
"Ah!" said Amelia
"She hasn't a friend in the world," Jos went on, not undexterously,
"and she said she thought she might trust in you. She's so
miserable, Emmy. She has been almost mad with grief. Her story
quite affected me--'pon my word and honour, it did--never was such a
cruel persecution borne so angelically, I may say. Her family has
been most cruel to her."
"Poor creature!" Amelia said.
"And if she can get no friend, she says she thinks she'll die," Jos
proceeded in a low tremulous voice. "God bless my soul! do you
know that she tried to kill herself? She carries laudanum with her--
I saw the bottle in her room--such a miserable little room--at a
third-rate house, the Elephant, up in the roof at the top of all. I
This did not seem to affect Emmy. She even smiled a little.
Perhaps she figured Jos to herself panting up the stair.
"She's beside herself with grief," he resumed. "The agonies that
woman has endured are quite frightful to hear of. She had a little
boy, of the same age as Georgy."
"Yes, yes, I think I remember," Emmy remarked. "Well?"
"The most beautiful child ever seen," Jos said, who was very fat,
and easily moved, and had been touched by the story Becky told; "a
perfect angel, who adored his mother. The ruffians tore him
shrieking out of her arms, and have never allowed him to see her."
"Dear Joseph," Emmy cried out, starting up at once, "let us go and
see her this minute." And she ran into her adjoining bedchamber,
tied on her bonnet in a flutter, came out with her shawl on her arm,
and ordered Dobbin to follow.
He went and put her shawl--it was a white cashmere, consigned to her
by the Major himself from India--over her shoulders. He saw there
was nothing for it but to obey, and she put her hand into his arm,
and they went away.
"It is number 92, up four pair of stairs," Jos said, perhaps not
very willing to ascend the steps again; but he placed himself in the
window of his drawing-room, which commands the place on which the
Elephant stands, and saw the pair marching through the market.
It was as well that Becky saw them too from her garret, for she and
the two students were chattering and laughing there; they had been
joking about the appearance of Becky's grandpapa--whose arrival and
departure they had witnessed--but she had time to dismiss them, and
have her little room clear before the landlord of the Elephant, who
knew that Mrs. Osborne was a great favourite at the Serene Court,
and respected her accordingly, led the way up the stairs to the roof
story, encouraging Miladi and the Herr Major as they achieved the
"Gracious lady, gracious lady!" said the landlord, knocking at
Becky's door; he had called her Madame the day before, and was by no
means courteous to her.
"Who is it?" Becky said, putting out her head, and she gave a little
scream. There stood Emmy in a tremble, and Dobbin, the tall Major,
with his cane.
He stood still watching, and very much interested at the scene; but
Emmy sprang forward with open arms towards Rebecca, and forgave her
at that moment, and embraced her and kissed her with all her heart.
Ah, poor wretch, when was your lip pressed before by such pure
Frankness and kindness like Amelia's were likely to touch even such
a hardened little reprobate as Becky. She returned Emmy's caresses
and kind speeches with something very like gratitude, and an emotion
which, if it was not lasting, for a moment was almost genuine. That
was a lucky stroke of hers about the child "torn from her arms
shrieking." It was by that harrowing misfortune that Becky had won
her friend back, and it was one of the very first points, we may be
certain, upon which our poor simple little Emmy began to talk to her
"And so they took your darling child from you?" our simpleton cried
out. "Oh, Rebecca, my poor dear suffering friend, I know what it is
to lose a boy, and to feel for those who have lost one. But please
Heaven yours will be restored to you, as a merciful merciful
Providence has brought me back mine."
"The child, my child? Oh, yes, my agonies were frightful," Becky
owned, not perhaps without a twinge of conscience. It jarred upon
her to be obliged to commence instantly to tell lies in reply to so
much confidence and simplicity. But that is the misfortune of
beginning with this kind of forgery. When one fib becomes due as it
were, you must forge another to take up the old acceptance; and so
the stock of your lies in circulation inevitably multiplies, and the
danger of detection increases every day.
"My agonies," Becky continued, "were terrible (I hope she won't sit
down on the bottle) when they took him away from me; I thought I
should die; but I fortunately had a brain fever, during which my
doctor gave me up, and--and I recovered, and--and here I am, poor
"How old is he?" Emmy asked.
"Eleven," said Becky.
"Eleven!" cried the other. "Why, he was born the same year with
Georgy, who is--"
"I know, I know," Becky cried out, who had in fact quite forgotten
all about little Rawdon's age. "Grief has made me forget so many
things, dearest Amelia. I am very much changed: half-wild
sometimes. He was eleven when they took him away from me. Bless
his sweet face; I have never seen it again."
"Was he fair or dark?" went on that absurd little Emmy. "Show me
Becky almost laughed at her simplicity. "Not to-day, love--some
other time, when my trunks arrive from Leipzig, whence I came to
this place--and a little drawing of him, which I made in happy
"Poor Becky, poor Becky!" said Emmy. "How thankful, how thankful I
ought to be"; (though I doubt whether that practice of piety
inculcated upon us by our womankind in early youth, namely, to be
thankful because we are better off than somebody else, be a very
rational religious exercise) and then she began to think, as usual,
how her son was the handsomest, the best, and the cleverest boy in
the whole world.
"You will see my Georgy," was the best thing Emmy could think of to
console Becky. If anything could make her comfortable that would.
And so the two women continued talking for an hour or more, during
which Becky had the opportunity of giving her new friend a full and
complete version of her private history. She showed how her
marriage with Rawdon Crawley had always been viewed by the family
with feelings of the utmost hostility; how her sister-in-law (an
artful woman) had poisoned her husband's mind against her; how he
had formed odious connections, which had estranged his affections
from her: how she had borne everything--poverty, neglect, coldness
from the being whom she most loved--and all for the sake of her
child; how, finally, and by the most flagrant outrage, she had been
driven into demanding a separation from her husband, when the wretch
did not scruple to ask that she should sacrifice her own fair fame
so that he might procure advancement through the means of a very
great and powerful but unprincipled man--the Marquis of Steyne,
indeed. The atrocious monster!
This part of her eventful history Becky gave with the utmost
feminine delicacy and the most indignant virtue. Forced to fly her
husband's roof by this insult, the coward had pursued his revenge by
taking her child from her. And thus Becky said she was a wanderer,
poor, unprotected, friendless, and wretched.
Emmy received this story, which was told at some length, as those
persons who are acquainted with her character may imagine that she
would. She quivered with indignation at the account of the conduct
of the miserable Rawdon and the unprincipled Steyne. Her eyes made
notes of admiration for every one of the sentences in which Becky
described the persecutions of her aristocratic relatives and the
falling away of her husband. (Becky did not abuse him. She spoke
rather in sorrow than in anger. She had loved him only too fondly:
and was he not the father of her boy?) And as for the separation
scene from the child, while Becky was reciting it, Emmy retired
altogether behind her pocket-handkerchief, so that the consummate
little tragedian must have been charmed to see the effect which her
performance produced on her audience.
Whilst the ladies were carrying on their conversation, Amelia's
constant escort, the Major (who, of course, did not wish to
interrupt their conference, and found himself rather tired of
creaking about the narrow stair passage of which the roof brushed
the nap from his hat) descended to the ground-floor of the house and
into the great room common to all the frequenters of the Elephant,
out of which the stair led. This apartment is always in a fume of
smoke and liberally sprinkled with beer. On a dirty table stand
scores of corresponding brass candlesticks with tallow candles for
the lodgers, whose keys hang up in rows over the candles. Emmy had
passed blushing through the room anon, where all sorts of people
were collected; Tyrolese glove-sellers and Danubian linen-merchants,
with their packs; students recruiting themselves with butterbrods
and meat; idlers, playing cards or dominoes on the sloppy, beery
tables; tumblers refreshing during the cessation of their
performances--in a word, all the fumum and strepitus of a German inn
in fair time. The waiter brought the Major a mug of beer, as a
matter of course, and he took out a cigar and amused himself with
that pernicious vegetable and a newspaper until his charge should
come down to claim him.
Max and Fritz came presently downstairs, their caps on one side,
their spurs jingling, their pipes splendid with coats of arms and
full-blown tassels, and they hung up the key of No. 90 on the board
and called for the ration of butterbrod and beer. The pair sat down
by the Major and fell into a conversation of which he could not help
hearing somewhat. It was mainly about "Fuchs" and "Philister," and
duels and drinking-bouts at the neighbouring University of
Schoppenhausen, from which renowned seat of learning they had just
come in the Eilwagen, with Becky, as it appeared, by their side, and
in order to be present at the bridal fetes at Pumpernickel.
"The title Englanderinn seems to be en bays de gonnoisance," said
Max, who knew the French language, to Fritz, his comrade. "After
the fat grandfather went away, there came a pretty little
compatriot. I heard them chattering and whimpering together in the
little woman's chamber."
"We must take the tickets for her concert," Fritz said. "Hast thou
any money, Max?"
"Bah," said the other, "the concert is a concert in nubibus. Hans
said that she advertised one at Leipzig, and the Burschen took many
tickets. But she went off without singing. She said in the coach
yesterday that her pianist had fallen ill at Dresden. She cannot
sing, it is my belief: her voice is as cracked as thine, O thou
"It is cracked; I hear her trying out of her window a schrecklich.
English ballad, called 'De Rose upon de Balgony.'"
"Saufen and singen go not together," observed Fritz with the red
nose, who evidently preferred the former amusement. "No, thou shalt
take none of her tickets. She won money at the trente and quarante
last night. I saw her: she made a little English boy play for her.
We will spend thy money there or at the theatre, or we will treat
her to French wine or Cognac in the Aurelius Garden, but the tickets
we will not buy. What sayest thou? Yet, another mug of beer?" and
one and another successively having buried their blond whiskers in
the mawkish draught, curled them and swaggered off into the fair.
The Major, who had seen the key of No. 90 put up on its hook and had
heard the conversation of the two young University bloods, was not
at a loss to understand that their talk related to Becky. "The
little devil is at her old tricks," he thought, and he smiled as he
recalled old days, when he had witnessed the desperate flirtation
with Jos and the ludicrous end of that adventure. He and George had
often laughed over it subsequently, and until a few weeks after
George's marriage, when he also was caught in the little Circe's
toils, and had an understanding with her which his comrade certainly
suspected, but preferred to ignore. William was too much hurt or
ashamed to ask to fathom that disgraceful mystery, although once,
and evidently with remorse on his mind, George had alluded to it.
It was on the morning of Waterloo, as the young men stood together
in front of their line, surveying the black masses of Frenchmen who
crowned the opposite heights, and as the rain was coming down, "I
have been mixing in a foolish intrigue with a woman," George said.
"I am glad we were marched away. If I drop, I hope Emmy will never
know of that business. I wish to God it had never been begun!" And
William was pleased to think, and had more than once soothed poor
George's widow with the narrative, that Osborne, after quitting his
wife, and after the action of Quatre Bras, on the first day, spoke
gravely and affectionately to his comrade of his father and his
wife. On these facts, too, William had insisted very strongly in
his conversations with the elder Osborne, and had thus been the
means of reconciling the old gentleman to his son's memory, just at
the close of the elder man's life.
"And so this devil is still going on with her intrigues," thought
William. "I wish she were a hundred miles from here. She brings
mischief wherever she goes." And he was pursuing these forebodings
and this uncomfortable train of thought, with his head between his
hands, and the Pumpernickel Gazette of last week unread under his
nose, when somebody tapped his shoulder with a parasol, and he
looked up and saw Mrs. Amelia.
This woman had a way of tyrannizing over Major Dobbin (for the
weakest of all people will domineer over somebody), and she ordered
him about, and patted him, and made him fetch and carry just as if
he was a great Newfoundland dog. He liked, so to speak, to jump
into the water if she said "High, Dobbin!" and to trot behind her
with her reticule in his mouth. This history has been written to
very little purpose if the reader has not perceived that the Major
was a spooney.
"Why did you not wait for me, sir, to escort me downstairs?" she
said, giving a little toss of her head and a most sarcastic curtsey.
"I couldn't stand up in the passage," he answered with a comical
deprecatory look; and, delighted to give her his arm and to take her
out of the horrid smoky place, he would have walked off without even
so much as remembering the waiter, had not the young fellow run
after him and stopped him on the threshold of the Elephant to make
him pay for the beer which he had not consumed. Emmy laughed: she
called him a naughty man, who wanted to run away in debt, and, in
fact, made some jokes suitable to the occasion and the small-beer.
She was in high spirits and good humour, and tripped across the
market-place very briskly. She wanted to see Jos that instant. The
Major laughed at the impetuous affection Mrs. Amelia exhibited; for,
in truth, it was not very often that she wanted her brother "that
instant." They found the civilian in his saloon on the first-floor;
he had been pacing the room, and biting his nails, and looking over
the market-place towards the Elephant a hundred times at least
during the past hour whilst Emmy was closeted with her friend in the
garret and the Major was beating the tattoo on the sloppy tables of
the public room below, and he was, on his side too, very anxious to
see Mrs. Osborne.
"Well?" said he.
"The poor dear creature, how she has suffered!" Emmy said.
"God bless my soul, yes," Jos said, wagging his head, so that his
cheeks quivered like jellies.
"She may have Payne's room, who can go upstairs," Emmy continued.
Payne was a staid English maid and personal attendant upon Mrs.
Osborne, to whom the courier, as in duty bound, paid court, and whom
Georgy used to "lark" dreadfully with accounts of German robbers and
ghosts. She passed her time chiefly in grumbling, in ordering about
her mistress, and in stating her intention to return the next
morning to her native village of Clapham. "She may have Payne's
room," Emmy said.
"Why, you don't mean to say you are going to have that woman into
the house?" bounced out the Major, jumping up.
"Of course we are," said Amelia in the most innocent way in the
world. "Don't be angry and break the furniture, Major Dobbin. Of
course we are going to have her here."
"Of course, my dear," Jos said.
"The poor creature, after all her sufferings," Emmy continued; "her
horrid banker broken and run away; her husband--wicked wretch--
having deserted her and taken her child away from her" (here she
doubled her two little fists and held them in a most menacing
attitude before her, so that the Major was charmed to see such a
dauntless virago) "the poor dear thing! quite alone and absolutely
forced to give lessons in singing to get her bread--and not have her
"Take lessons, my dear Mrs. George," cried the Major, "but don't
have her in the house. I implore you don't."
"Pooh," said Jos.
"You who are always good and kind--always used to be at any rate--
I'm astonished at you, Major William," Amelia cried. "Why, what is
the moment to help her but when she is so miserable? Now is the time
to be of service to her. The oldest friend I ever had, and not--"
"She was not always your friend, Amelia," the Major said, for he was
quite angry. This allusion was too much for Emmy, who, looking the
Major almost fiercely in the face, said, "For shame, Major Dobbin!"
and after having fired this shot, she walked out of the room with a
most majestic air and shut her own door briskly on herself and her
"To allude to THAT!" she said, when the door was closed. "Oh, it
was cruel of him to remind me of it," and she looked up at George's
picture, which hung there as usual, with the portrait of the boy
underneath. "It was cruel of him. If I had forgiven it, ought he
to have spoken? No. And it is from his own lips that I know how
wicked and groundless my jealousy was; and that you were pure--oh,
yes, you were pure, my saint in heaven!"
She paced the room, trembling and indignant. She went and leaned on
the chest of drawers over which the picture hung, and gazed and
gazed at it. Its eyes seemed to look down on her with a reproach