Who knows! Perhaps the little woman thought she might play the part
of a Maintenon or a Pompadour.
But the finest sport of all after her presentation was to hear her
talk virtuously. She had a few female acquaintances, not, it must
be owned, of the very highest reputation in Vanity Fair. But being
made an honest woman of, so to speak, Becky would not consort any
longer with these dubious ones, and cut Lady Crackenbury when the
latter nodded to her from her opera-box, and gave Mrs. Washington
White the go-by in the Ring. "One must, my dear, show one is
somebody," she said. "One mustn't be seen with doubtful people. I
pity Lady Crackenbury from my heart, and Mrs. Washington White may
be a very good-natured person. YOU may go and dine with them, as
you like your rubber. But I mustn't, and won't; and you will have
the goodness to tell Smith to say I am not at home when either of
The particulars of Becky's costume were in the newspapers - feathers,
lappets, superb diamonds, and all the rest. Lady Crackenbury read
the paragraph in bitterness of spirit and discoursed to her
followers about the airs which that woman was giving herself. Mrs.
Bute Crawley and her young ladies in the country had a copy of the
Morning Post from town, and gave a vent to their honest indignation.
"If you had been sandy-haired, green-eyed, and a French rope-
dancer's daughter," Mrs. Bute said to her eldest girl (who, on the
contrary, was a very swarthy, short, and snub-nosed young lady),
"You might have had superb diamonds forsooth, and have been
presented at Court by your cousin, the Lady Jane. But you're only a
gentlewoman, my poor dear child. You have only some of the best
blood in England in your veins, and good principles and piety for
your portion. I, myself, the wife of a Baronet's younger brother,
too, never thought of such a thing as going to Court - nor would
other people, if good Queen Charlotte had been alive." In this way
the worthy Rectoress consoled herself, and her daughters sighed and
sat over the Peerage all night.
A few days after the famous presentation, another great and
exceeding honour was vouchsafed to the virtuous Becky. Lady
Steyne's carriage drove up to Mr. Rawdon Crawley's door, and the
footman, instead of driving down the front of the house, as by his
tremendous knocking he appeared to be inclined to do, relented and
only delivered in a couple of cards, on which were engraven the
names of the Marchioness of Steyne and the Countess of Gaunt. If
these bits of pasteboard had been beautiful pictures, or had had a
hundred yards of Malines lace rolled round them, worth twice the
number of guineas, Becky could not have regarded them with more
pleasure. You may be sure they occupied a conspicuous place in the
china bowl on the drawing-room table, where Becky kept the cards of
her visitors. Lord! lord! how poor Mrs. Washington White's card and
Lady Crackenbury's card - which our little friend had been glad
enough to get a few months back, and of which the silly little
creature was rather proud once - Lord! lord! I say, how soon at the
appearance of these grand court cards, did those poor little
neglected deuces sink down to the bottom of the pack. Steyne!
Bareacres, Johnes of Helvellyn! and Caerylon of Camelot! we may be
sure that Becky and Briggs looked out those august names in the
Peerage, and followed the noble races up through all the
ramifications of the family tree.
My Lord Steyne coming to call a couple of hours afterwards, and
looking about him, and observing everything as was his wont, found
his ladies' cards already ranged as the trumps of Becky's hand, and
grinned, as this old cynic always did at any naive display of human
weakness. Becky came down to him presently; whenever the dear girl
expected his lordship, her toilette was prepared, her hair in
perfect order, her mouchoirs, aprons, scarfs, little morocco
slippers, and other female gimcracks arranged, and she seated in
some artless and agreeable posture ready to receive him - whenever
she was surprised, of course, she had to fly to her apartment to
take a rapid survey of matters in the glass, and to trip down again
to wait upon the great peer.
She found him grinning over the bowl. She was discovered, and she
blushed a little. "Thank you, Monseigneur," she said. "You see
your ladies have been here. How good of you! I couldn't come
before - I was in the kitchen making a pudding."
"I know you were, I saw you through the area-railings as I drove
up," replied the old gentleman.
"You see everything," she replied.
"A few things, but not that, my pretty lady," he said good-
naturedly. "You silly little fibster! I heard you in the room
overhead, where I have no doubt you were putting a little rouge on -
you must give some of yours to my Lady Gaunt, whose complexion is
quite preposterous - and I heard the bedroom door open, and then you
"Is it a crime to try and look my best when YOU come here?" answered
Mrs. Rawdon plaintively, and she rubbed her cheek with her
handkerchief as if to show there was no rouge at all, only genuine
blushes and modesty in her case. About this who can tell? I know
there is some rouge that won't come off on a pocket-handkerchief,
and some so good that even tears will not disturb it.
"Well," said the old gentleman, twiddling round his wife's card,
"you are bent on becoming a fine lady. You pester my poor old life
out to get you into the world. You won't be able to hold your own
there, you silly little fool. You've got no money."
"You will get us a place," interposed Becky, "as quick as possible."
"You've got no money, and you want to compete with those who have.
You poor little earthenware pipkin, you want to swim down the stream
along with the great copper kettles. All women are alike.
Everybody is striving for what is not worth the having! Gad! I
dined with the King yesterday, and we had neck of mutton and
turnips. A dinner of herbs is better than a stalled ox very often.
You will go to Gaunt House. You give an old fellow no rest until
you get there. It's not half so nice as here. You'll be bored
there. I am. My wife is as gay as Lady Macbeth, and my daughters
as cheerful as Regan and Goneril. I daren't sleep in what they call
my bedroom. The bed is like the baldaquin of St. Peter's, and the
pictures frighten me. I have a little brass bed in a dressing-room,
and a little hair mattress like an anchorite. I am an anchorite.
Ho! ho! You'll be asked to dinner next week. And gare aux femmes,
look out and hold your own! How the women will bully you!" This was
a very long speech for a man of few words like my Lord Steyne; nor
was it the first which he uttered for Becky's benefit on that day.
Briggs looked up from the work-table at which she was seated in the
farther room and gave a deep sigh as she heard the great Marquis
speak so lightly of her sex.
"If you don't turn off that abominable sheep-dog," said Lord Steyne,
with a savage look over his shoulder at her, "I will have her
"I always give my dog dinner from my own plate," said Rebecca,
laughing mischievously; and having enjoyed for some time the
discomfiture of my lord, who hated poor Briggs for interrupting his
tete-a-tete with the fair Colonel's wife, Mrs. Rawdon at length had
pity upon her admirer, and calling to Briggs, praised the fineness
of the weather to her and bade her to take out the child for a walk.
"I can't send her away," Becky said presently, after a pause, and in
a very sad voice. Her eyes filled with tears as she spoke, and she
turned away her head.
"You owe her her wages, I suppose?" said the Peer.
"Worse than that," said Becky, still casting down her eyes; "I have
"Ruined her? Then why don't you turn her out?" the gentleman asked.
"Men do that," Becky answered bitterly. "Women are not so bad as
you. Last year, when we were reduced to our last guinea, she gave
us everything. She shall never leave me, until we are ruined
utterly ourselves, which does not seem far off, or until I can pay
her the utmost farthing."
" - - - it, how much is it?" said the Peer with an oath. And Becky,
reflecting on the largeness of his means, mentioned not only the sum
which she had borrowed from Miss Briggs, but one of nearly double
This caused the Lord Steyne to break out in another brief and
energetic expression of anger, at which Rebecca held down her head
the more and cried bitterly. "I could not help it. It was my only
chance. I dare not tell my husband. He would kill me if I told him
what I have done. I have kept it a secret from everybody but you -
and you forced it from me. Ah, what shall I do, Lord Steyne? for I
am very, very unhappy!"
Lord Steyne made no reply except by beating the devil's tattoo and
biting his nails. At last he clapped his hat on his head and flung
out of the room. Rebecca did not rise from her attitude of misery
until the door slammed upon him and his carriage whirled away. Then
she rose up with the queerest expression of victorious mischief
glittering in her green eyes. She burst out laughing once or twice
to herself, as she sat at work, and sitting down to the piano, she
rattled away a triumphant voluntary on the keys, which made the
people pause under her window to listen to her brilliant music.
That night, there came two notes from Gaunt House for the little
woman, the one containing a card of invitation from Lord and Lady
Steyne to a dinner at Gaunt House next Friday, while the other
enclosed a slip of gray paper bearing Lord Steyne's signature and
the address of Messrs. Jones, Brown, and Robinson, Lombard Street.
Rawdon heard Becky laughing in the night once or twice. It was only
her delight at going to Gaunt House and facing the ladies there, she
said, which amused her so. But the truth was that she was occupied
with a great number of other thoughts. Should she pay off old
Briggs and give her her conge? Should she astonish Raggles by
settling his account? She turned over all these thoughts on her
pillow, and on the next day, when Rawdon went out to pay his morning
visit to the Club, Mrs. Crawley (in a modest dress with a veil on)
whipped off in a hackney-coach to the City: and being landed at
Messrs. Jones and Robinson's bank, presented a document there to the
authority at the desk, who, in reply, asked her "How she would take
She gently said "she would take a hundred and fifty pounds in small
notes and the remainder in one note": and passing through St.
Paul's Churchyard stopped there and bought the handsomest black silk
gown for Briggs which money could buy; and which, with a kiss and
the kindest speeches, she presented to the simple old spinster.
Then she walked to Mr. Raggles, inquired about his children
affectionately, and gave him fifty pounds on account. Then she went
to the livery-man from whom she jobbed her carriages and gratified
him with a similar sum. "And I hope this will be a lesson to you,
Spavin," she said, "and that on the next drawing-room day my
brother, Sir Pitt, will not be inconvenienced by being obliged to
take four of us in his carriage to wait upon His Majesty, because my
own carriage is not forthcoming." It appears there had been a
difference on the last drawing-room day. Hence the degradation
which the Colonel had almost suffered, of being obliged to enter the
presence of his Sovereign in a hack cab.
These arrangements concluded, Becky paid a visit upstairs to the
before-mentioned desk, which Amelia Sedley had given her years and
years ago, and which contained a number of useful and valuable
little things - in which private museum she placed the one note which
Messrs. Jones and Robinson's cashier had given her.
In Which We Enjoy Three Courses and a Dessert
When the ladies of Gaunt House were at breakfast that morning, Lord
Steyne (who took his chocolate in private and seldom disturbed the
females of his household, or saw them except upon public days, or
when they crossed each other in the hall, or when from his pit-box
at the opera he surveyed them in their box on the grand tier) his
lordship, we say, appeared among the ladies and the children who
were assembled over the tea and toast, and a battle royal ensued
apropos of Rebecca.
"My Lady Steyne," he said, "I want to see the list for your dinner
on Friday; and I want you, if you please, to write a card for
Colonel and Mrs. Crawley."
"Blanche writes them," Lady Steyne said in a flutter. "Lady Gaunt
"I will not write to that person," Lady Gaunt said, a tall and
stately lady, who looked up for an instant and then down again after
she had spoken. It was not good to meet Lord Steyne's eyes for
those who had offended him.
"Send the children out of the room. Go!" said he pulling at the
bell-rope. The urchins, always frightened before him, retired:
their mother would have followed too. "Not you," he said. "You
"My Lady Steyne," he said, "once more will you have the goodness to
go to the desk and write that card for your dinner on Friday?"
"My Lord, I will not be present at it," Lady Gaunt said; "I will go
"I wish you would, and stay there. You will find the bailiffs at
Bareacres very pleasant company, and I shall be freed from lending
money to your relations and from your own damned tragedy airs. Who
are you to give orders here? You have no money. You've got no
brains. You were here to have children, and you have not had any.
Gaunt's tired of you, and George's wife is the only person in the
family who doesn't wish you were dead. Gaunt would marry again if
"I wish I were," her Ladyship answered with tears and rage in her
"You, forsooth, must give yourself airs of virtue, while my wife,
who is an immaculate saint, as everybody knows, and never did wrong
in her life, has no objection to meet my young friend Mrs. Crawley.
My Lady Steyne knows that appearances are sometimes against the best
of women; that lies are often told about the most innocent of them.
Pray, madam, shall I tell you some little anecdotes about my Lady
Bareacres, your mamma?"
"You may strike me if you like, sir, or hit any cruel blow," Lady
Gaunt said. To see his wife and daughter suffering always put his
Lordship into a good humour.
"My sweet Blanche," he said, "I am a gentleman, and never lay my
hand upon a woman, save in the way of kindness. I only wish to
correct little faults in your character. You women are too proud,
and sadly lack humility, as Father Mole, I'm sure, would tell my
Lady Steyne if he were here. You mustn't give yourselves airs; you
must be meek and humble, my blessings. For all Lady Steyne knows,
this calumniated, simple, good-humoured Mrs. Crawley is quite
innocent - even more innocent than herself. Her husband's character
is not good, but it is as good as Bareacres', who has played a
little and not paid a great deal, who cheated you out of the only
legacy you ever had and left you a pauper on my hands. And Mrs.
Crawley is not very well-born, but she is not worse than Fanny's
illustrious ancestor, the first de la Jones."
"The money which I brought into the family, sir," Lady George cried
"You purchased a contingent reversion with it," the Marquis said
darkly. "If Gaunt dies, your husband may come to his honours; your
little boys may inherit them, and who knows what besides? In the
meanwhile, ladies, be as proud and virtuous as you like abroad, but
don't give ME any airs. As for Mrs. Crawley's character, I shan't
demean myself or that most spotless and perfectly irreproachable
lady by even hinting that it requires a defence. You will be
pleased to receive her with the utmost cordiality, as you will
receive all persons whom I present in this house. This house?" He
broke out with a laugh. "Who is the master of it? and what is it?
This Temple of Virtue belongs to me. And if I invite all Newgate or
all Bedlam here, by - - - they shall be welcome."
After this vigorous allocution, to one of which sort Lord Steyne
treated his "Hareem" whenever symptoms of insubordination appeared
in his household, the crestfallen women had nothing for it but to
obey. Lady Gaunt wrote the invitation which his Lordship required,
and she and her mother-in-law drove in person, and with bitter and
humiliated hearts, to leave the cards on Mrs. Rawdon, the reception
of which caused that innocent woman so much pleasure.
There were families in London who would have sacrificed a year's
income to receive such an honour at the hands of those great ladies.
Mrs. Frederick Bullock, for instance, would have gone on her knees
from May Fair to Lombard Street, if Lady Steyne and Lady Gaunt had
been waiting in the City to raise her up and say, "Come to us next
Friday" - not to one of the great crushes and grand balls of Gaunt
House, whither everybody went, but to the sacred, unapproachable,
mysterious, delicious entertainments, to be admitted to one of which
was a privilege, and an honour, and a blessing indeed.
Severe, spotless, and beautiful, Lady Gaunt held the very highest
rank in Vanity Fair. The distinguished courtesy with which Lord
Steyne treated her charmed everybody who witnessed his behaviour,
caused the severest critics to admit how perfect a gentleman he was,
and to own that his Lordship's heart at least was in the right
The ladies of Gaunt House called Lady Bareacres in to their aid, in
order to repulse the common enemy. One of Lady Gaunt's carriages
went to Hill Street for her Ladyship's mother, all whose equipages
were in the hands of the bailiffs, whose very jewels and wardrobe,
it was said, had been seized by those inexorable Israelites.
Bareacres Castle was theirs, too, with all its costly pictures,
furniture, and articles of vertu - the magnificent Vandykes; the
noble Reynolds pictures; the Lawrence portraits, tawdry and
beautiful, and, thirty years ago, deemed as precious as works of
real genius; the matchless Dancing Nymph of Canova, for which Lady
Bareacres had sat in her youth - Lady Bareacres splendid then, and
radiant in wealth, rank, and beauty - a toothless, bald, old woman
now - a mere rag of a former robe of state. Her lord, painted at the
same time by Lawrence, as waving his sabre in front of Bareacres
Castle, and clothed in his uniform as Colonel of the Thistlewood
Yeomanry, was a withered, old, lean man in a greatcoat and a Brutus
wig, slinking about Gray's Inn of mornings chiefly and dining alone
at clubs. He did not like to dine with Steyne now. They had run
races of pleasure together in youth when Bareacres was the winner.
But Steyne had more bottom than he and had lasted him out. The
Marquis was ten times a greater man now than the young Lord Gaunt of
'85, and Bareacres nowhere in the race - old, beaten, bankrupt, and
broken down. He had borrowed too much money of Steyne to find it
pleasant to meet his old comrade often. The latter, whenever he
wished to be merry, used jeeringly to ask Lady Gaunt why her father
had not come to see her. "He has not been here for four months,"
Lord Steyne would say. "I can always tell by my cheque-book
afterwards, when I get a visit from Bareacres. What a comfort it
is, my ladies, I bank with one of my sons' fathers-in-law, and the
other banks with me!"
Of the other illustrious persons whom Becky had the honour to
encounter on this her first presentation to the grand world, it does
not become the present historian to say much. There was his
Excellency the Prince of Peterwaradin, with his Princess - a nobleman
tightly girthed, with a large military chest, on which the plaque of
his order shone magnificently, and wearing the red collar of the
Golden Fleece round his neck. He was the owner of countless flocks.
"Look at his face. I think he must be descended from a sheep,"
Becky whispered to Lord Steyne. Indeed, his Excellency's
countenance, long, solemn, and white, with the ornament round his
neck, bore some resemblance to that of a venerable bell-wether.
There was Mr. John Paul Jefferson Jones, titularly attached to the
American Embassy and correspondent of the New York Demagogue, who,
by way of making himself agreeable to the company, asked Lady
Steyne, during a pause in the conversation at dinner, how his dear
friend, George Gaunt, liked the Brazils? He and George had been most
intimate at Naples and had gone up Vesuvius together. Mr. Jones
wrote a full and particular account of the dinner, which appeared
duly in the Demagogue. He mentioned the names and titles of all the
guests, giving biographical sketches of the principal people. He
described the persons of the ladies with great eloquence; the
service of the table; the size and costume of the servants;
enumerated the dishes and wines served; the ornaments of the
sideboard; and the probable value of the plate. Such a dinner he
calculated could not be dished up under fifteen or eighteen dollars
per head. And he was in the habit, until very lately, of sending
over proteges, with letters of recommendation to the present Marquis
of Steyne, encouraged to do so by the intimate terms on which he had
lived with his dear friend, the late lord. He was most indignant
that a young and insignificant aristocrat, the Earl of Southdown,
should have taken the pas of him in their procession to the dining-
room. "Just as I was stepping up to offer my hand to a very
pleasing and witty fashionable, the brilliant and exclusive Mrs.
Rawdon Crawley," - he wrote - "the young patrician interposed between
me and the lady and whisked my Helen off without a word of apology.
I was fain to bring up the rear with the Colonel, the lady's
husband, a stout red-faced warrior who distinguished himself at
Waterloo, where he had better luck than befell some of his brother
redcoats at New Orleans."
The Colonel's countenance on coming into this polite society wore as
many blushes as the face of a boy of sixteen assumes when he is
confronted with his sister's schoolfellows. It has been told before
that honest Rawdon had not been much used at any period of his life
to ladies' company. With the men at the Club or the mess room, he
was well enough; and could ride, bet, smoke, or play at billiards
with the boldest of them. He had had his time for female
friendships too, but that was twenty years ago, and the ladies were
of the rank of those with whom Young Marlow in the comedy is
represented as having been familiar before he became abashed in the
presence of Miss Hardcastle. The times are such that one scarcely
dares to allude to that kind of company which thousands of our young
men in Vanity Fair are frequenting every day, which nightly fills
casinos and dancing-rooms, which is known to exist as well as the
Ring in Hyde Park or the Congregation at St. James's - but which the
most squeamish if not the most moral of societies is determined to
ignore. In a word, although Colonel Crawley was now five-and-forty
years of age, it had not been his lot in life to meet with a half
dozen good women, besides his paragon of a wife. All except her and
his kind sister Lady Jane, whose gentle nature had tamed and won
him, scared the worthy Colonel, and on occasion of his first dinner
at Gaunt House he was not heard to make a single remark except to
state that the weather was very hot. Indeed Becky would have left
him at home, but that virtue ordained that her husband should be by
her side to protect the timid and fluttering little creature on her
first appearance in polite society.
On her first appearance Lord Steyne stepped forward, taking her
hand, and greeting her with great courtesy, and presenting her to
Lady Steyne, and their ladyships, her daughters. Their ladyships
made three stately curtsies, and the elder lady to be sure gave her
hand to the newcomer, but it was as cold and lifeless as marble.
Becky took it, however, with grateful humility, and performing a
reverence which would have done credit to the best dancer-master,
put herself at Lady Steyne's feet, as it were, by saying that his
Lordship had been her father's earliest friend and patron, and that
she, Becky, had learned to honour and respect the Steyne family from
the days of her childhood. The fact is that Lord Steyne had once
purchased a couple of pictures of the late Sharp, and the
affectionate orphan could never forget her gratitude for that
The Lady Bareacres then came under Becky's cognizance - to whom the
Colonel's lady made also a most respectful obeisance: it was
returned with severe dignity by the exalted person in question.