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
that deepened as she looked. The early dear, dear memories of that
brief prime of love rushed back upon her. The wound which years had
scarcely cicatrized bled afresh, and oh, how bitterly! She could
not bear the reproaches of the husband there before her. It
couldn't be. Never, never.
Poor Dobbin; poor old William! That unlucky word had undone the
work of many a year - the long laborious edifice of a life of love
and constancy - raised too upon what secret and hidden foundations,
wherein lay buried passions, uncounted struggles, unknown
sacrifices - a little word was spoken, and down fell the fair palace
of hope - one word, and away flew the bird which he had been trying
all his life to lure!
William, though he saw by Amelia's looks that a great crisis had
come, nevertheless continued to implore Sedley, in the most
energetic terms, to beware of Rebecca; and he eagerly, almost
frantically, adjured Jos not to receive her. He besought Mr. Sedley
to inquire at least regarding her; told him how he had heard that
she was in the company of gamblers and people of ill repute; pointed
out what evil she had done in former days, how she and Crawley had
misled poor George into ruin, how she was now parted from her
husband, by her own confession, and, perhaps, for good reason. What
a dangerous companion she would be for his sister, who knew nothing
of the affairs of the world! William implored Jos, with all the
eloquence which he could bring to bear, and a great deal more energy
than this quiet gentleman was ordinarily in the habit of showing, to
keep Rebecca out of his household.
Had he been less violent, or more dexterous, he might have succeeded
in his supplications to Jos; but the civilian was not a little
jealous of the airs of superiority which the Major constantly
exhibited towards him, as he fancied (indeed, he had imparted his
opinions to Mr. Kirsch, the courier, whose bills Major Dobbin
checked on this journey, and who sided with his master), and he
began a blustering speech about his competency to defend his own
honour, his desire not to have his affairs meddled with, his
intention, in fine, to rebel against the Major, when the colloquy -
rather a long and stormy one - was put an end to in the simplest way
possible, namely, by the arrival of Mrs. Becky, with a porter from
the Elephant Hotel in charge of her very meagre baggage.
She greeted her host with affectionate respect and made a shrinking,
but amicable salutation to Major Dobbin, who, as her instinct
assured her at once, was her enemy, and had been speaking against
her; and the bustle and clatter consequent upon her arrival brought
Amelia out of her room. Emmy went up and embraced her guest with
the greatest warmth, and took no notice of the Major, except to
fling him an angry look - the most unjust and scornful glance that
had perhaps ever appeared in that poor little woman's face since she
was born. But she had private reasons of her own, and was bent upon
being angry with him. And Dobbin, indignant at the injustice, not
at the defeat, went off, making her a bow quite as haughty as the
killing curtsey with which the little woman chose to bid him
He being gone, Emmy was particularly lively and affectionate to
Rebecca, and bustled about the apartments and installed her guest in
her room with an eagerness and activity seldom exhibited by our
placid little friend. But when an act of injustice is to be done,
especially by weak people, it is best that it should be done
quickly, and Emmy thought she was displaying a great deal of
firmness and proper feeling and veneration for the late Captain
Osborne in her present behaviour.
Georgy came in from the fetes for dinner-time and found four covers
laid as usual; but one of the places was occupied by a lady, instead
of by Major Dobbin. "Hullo! where's Dob?" the young gentleman asked
with his usual simplicity of language. "Major Dobbin is dining out,
I suppose," his mother said, and, drawing the boy to her, kissed him
a great deal, and put his hair off his forehead, and introduced him
to Mrs. Crawley. "This is my boy, Rebecca," Mrs. Osborne said - as
much as to say - can the world produce anything like that? Becky
looked at him with rapture and pressed his hand fondly. "Dear boy!"
she said - "he is just like my - " Emotion choked her further
utterance, but Amelia understood, as well as if she had spoken, that
Becky was thinking of her own blessed child. However, the company
of her friend consoled Mrs. Crawley, and she ate a very good dinner.
During the repast, she had occasion to speak several times, when
Georgy eyed her and listened to her. At the desert Emmy was gone
out to superintend further domestic arrangements; Jos was in his
great chair dozing over Galignani; Georgy and the new arrival sat
close to each other - he had continued to look at her knowingly more
than once, and at last he laid down the nutcrackers.
"I say," said Georgy.
"What do you say?" Becky said, laughing.
"You're the lady I saw in the mask at the Rouge et Noir."
"Hush! you little sly creature," Becky said, taking up his hand and
kissing it. "Your uncle was there too, and Mamma mustn't know."
"Oh, no - not by no means," answered the little fellow.
"You see we are quite good friends already," Becky said to Emmy, who
now re-entered; and it must be owned that Mrs. Osborne had
introduced a most judicious and amiable companion into her house.
William, in a state of great indignation, though still unaware of
all the treason that was in store for him, walked about the town
wildly until he fell upon the Secretary of Legation, Tapeworm, who
invited him to dinner. As they were discussing that meal, he took
occasion to ask the Secretary whether he knew anything about a
certain Mrs. Rawdon Crawley, who had, he believed, made some noise
in London; and then Tapeworm, who of course knew all the London
gossip, and was besides a relative of Lady Gaunt, poured out into
the astonished Major's ears such a history about Becky and her
husband as astonished the querist, and supplied all the points of
this narrative, for it was at that very table years ago that the
present writer had the pleasure of hearing the tale. Tufto, Steyne,
the Crawleys, and their history - everything connected with Becky and
her previous life passed under the record of the bitter diplomatist.
He knew everything and a great deal besides, about all the world - in
a word, he made the most astounding revelations to the simple-
hearted Major. When Dobbin said that Mrs. Osborne and Mr. Sedley
had taken her into their house, Tapeworm burst into a peal of
laughter which shocked the Major, and asked if they had not better
send into the prison and take in one or two of the gentlemen in
shaved heads and yellow jackets who swept the streets of
Pumpernickel, chained in pairs, to board and lodge, and act as tutor
to that little scapegrace Georgy.
This information astonished and horrified the Major not a little.
It had been agreed in the morning (before meeting with Rebecca) that
Amelia should go to the Court ball that night. There would be the
place where he should tell her. The Major went home, and dressed
himself in his uniform, and repaired to Court, in hopes to see Mrs.
Osborne. She never came. When he returned to his lodgings all the
lights in the Sedley tenement were put out. He could not see her
till the morning. I don't know what sort of a night's rest he had
with this frightful secret in bed with him.
At the earliest convenient hour in the morning he sent his servant
across the way with a note, saying that he wished very particularly
to speak with her. A message came back to say that Mrs. Osborne was
exceedingly unwell and was keeping her room.
She, too, had been awake all that night. She had been thinking of a
thing which had agitated her mind a hundred times before. A hundred
times on the point of yielding, she had shrunk back from a sacrifice
which she felt was too much for her. She couldn't, in spite of his
love and constancy and her own acknowledged regard, respect, and
gratitude. What are benefits, what is constancy, or merit? One curl
of a girl's ringlet, one hair of a whisker, will turn the scale
against them all in a minute. They did not weigh with Emmy more than
with other women. She had tried them; wanted to make them pass;
could not; and the pitiless little woman had found a pretext, and
determined to be free.
When at length, in the afternoon, the Major gained admission to
Amelia, instead of the cordial and affectionate greeting, to which
he had been accustomed now for many a long day, he received the
salutation of a curtsey, and of a little gloved hand, retracted the
moment after it was accorded to him.
Rebecca, too, was in the room, and advanced to meet him with a smile
and an extended hand. Dobbin drew back rather confusedly, "I - I beg
your pardon, m'am," he said; "but I am bound to tell you that it is
not as your friend that I am come here now."
"Pooh! damn; don't let us have this sort of thing!" Jos cried out,
alarmed, and anxious to get rid of a scene.
"I wonder what Major Dobbin has to say against Rebecca?" Amelia said
in a low, clear voice with a slight quiver in it, and a very
determined look about the eyes.
"I will not have this sort of thing in my house," Jos again
interposed. "I say I will not have it; and Dobbin, I beg, sir,
you'll stop it." And he looked round, trembling and turning very
red, and gave a great puff, and made for his door.
"Dear friend!" Rebecca said with angelic sweetness, "do hear what
Major Dobbin has to say against me."
"I will not hear it, I say," squeaked out Jos at the top of his
voice, and, gathering up his dressing-gown, he was gone.
"We are only two women," Amelia said. "You can speak now, sir."
"This manner towards me is one which scarcely becomes you, Amelia,"
the Major answered haughtily; "nor I believe am I guilty of habitual
harshness to women. It is not a pleasure to me to do the duty which
I am come to do."
"Pray proceed with it quickly, if you please, Major Dobbin," said
Amelia, who was more and more in a pet. The expression of Dobbin's
face, as she spoke in this imperious manner, was not pleasant.
"I came to say - and as you stay, Mrs. Crawley, I must say it in your
presence - that I think you - you ought not to form a member of the
family of my friends. A lady who is separated from her husband, who
travels not under her own name, who frequents public gaming-tables - "
"It was to the ball I went," cried out Becky.
" - is not a fit companion for Mrs. Osborne and her son," Dobbin went
on: "and I may add that there are people here who know you, and who
profess to know that regarding your conduct about which I don't even
wish to speak before - before Mrs. Osborne."
"Yours is a very modest and convenient sort of calumny, Major
Dobbin," Rebecca said. "You leave me under the weight of an
accusation which, after all, is unsaid. What is it? Is it
unfaithfulness to my husband? I scorn it and defy anybody to prove
it - I defy you, I say. My honour is as untouched as that of the
bitterest enemy who ever maligned me. Is it of being poor,
forsaken, wretched, that you accuse me? Yes, I am guilty of those
faults, and punished for them every day. Let me go, Emmy. It is
only to suppose that I have not met you, and I am no worse to-day
than I was yesterday. It is only to suppose that the night is over
and the poor wanderer is on her way. Don't you remember the song we
used to sing in old, dear old days? I have been wandering ever since
then - a poor castaway, scorned for being miserable, and insulted
because I am alone. Let me go: my stay here interferes with the
plans of this gentleman."
"Indeed it does, madam," said the Major. "If I have any authority
in this house - "
"Authority, none!" broke out Amelia "Rebecca, you stay with me. I
won't desert you because you have been persecuted, or insult you
because - because Major Dobbin chooses to do so. Come away, dear."
And the two women made towards the door.
William opened it. As they were going out, however, he took
Amelia's hand and said - "Will you stay a moment and speak to me?"
"He wishes to speak to you away from me," said Becky, looking like a
martyr. Amelia gripped her hand in reply.
"Upon my honour it is not about you that I am going to speak,"
Dobbin said. "Come back, Amelia," and she came. Dobbin bowed to
Mrs. Crawley, as he shut the door upon her. Amelia looked at him,
leaning against the glass: her face and her lips were quite white.
"I was confused when I spoke just now," the Major said after a
pause, "and I misused the word authority."
"You did," said Amelia with her teeth chattering.
"At least I have claims to be heard," Dobbin continued.
"It is generous to remind me of our obligations to you," the woman
"The claims I mean are those left me by George's father," William
"Yes, and you insulted his memory. You did yesterday. You know you
did. And I will never forgive you. Never!" said Amelia. She shot
out each little sentence in a tremor of anger and emotion.
"You don't mean that, Amelia?" William said sadly. "You don't mean
that these words, uttered in a hurried moment, are to weigh against
a whole life's devotion? I think that George's memory has not been
injured by the way in which I have dealt with it, and if we are come
to bandying reproaches, I at least merit none from his widow and the
mother of his son. Reflect, afterwards when - when you are at
leisure, and your conscience will withdraw this accusation. It does
even now." Amelia held down her head.
"It is not that speech of yesterday," he continued, "which moves
you. That is but the pretext, Amelia, or I have loved you and
watched you for fifteen years in vain. Have I not learned in that
time to read all your feelings and look into your thoughts? I know
what your heart is capable of: it can cling faithfully to a
recollection and cherish a fancy, but it can't feel such an
attachment as mine deserves to mate with, and such as I would have
won from a woman more generous than you. No, you are not worthy of
the love which I have devoted to you. I knew all along that the
prize I had set my life on was not worth the winning; that I was a
fool, with fond fancies, too, bartering away my all of truth and
ardour against your little feeble remnant of love. I will bargain
no more: I withdraw. I find no fault with you. You are very good-
natured, and have done your best, but you couldn't - you couldn't
reach up to the height of the attachment which I bore you, and which
a loftier soul than yours might have been proud to share. Good-bye,
Amelia! I have watched your struggle. Let it end. We are both
weary of it."
Amelia stood scared and silent as William thus suddenly broke the
chain by which she held him and declared his independence and
superiority. He had placed himself at her feet so long that the
poor little woman had been accustomed to trample upon him. She
didn't wish to marry him, but she wished to keep him. She wished to
give him nothing, but that he should give her all. It is a bargain
not unfrequently levied in love.
William's sally had quite broken and cast her down. HER assault was
long since over and beaten back.
"Am I to understand then, that you are going - away, William?" she
He gave a sad laugh. "I went once before," he said, "and came back
after twelve years. We were young then, Amelia. Good-bye. I have
spent enough of my life at this play."
Whilst they had been talking, the door into Mrs. Osborne's room had
opened ever so little; indeed, Becky had kept a hold of the handle
and had turned it on the instant when Dobbin quitted it, and she
heard every word of the conversation that had passed between these
two. "What a noble heart that man has," she thought, "and how
shamefully that woman plays with it!" She admired Dobbin; she bore
him no rancour for the part he had taken against her. It was an
open move in the game, and played fairly. "Ah!" she thought, "if I
could have had such a husband as that - a man with a heart and brains
too! I would not have minded his large feet"; and running into her
room, she absolutely bethought herself of something, and wrote him a
note, beseeching him to stop for a few days - not to think of going -
and that she could serve him with A.
The parting was over. Once more poor William walked to the door and
was gone; and the little widow, the author of all this work, had her
will, and had won her victory, and was left to enjoy it as she best
might. Let the ladies envy her triumph.
At the romantic hour of dinner, Mr. Georgy made his appearance and
again remarked the absence of "Old Dob." The meal was eaten in
silence by the party. Jos's appetite not being diminished, but Emmy
taking nothing at all.
After the meal, Georgy was lolling in the cushions of the old
window, a large window, with three sides of glass abutting from the
gable, and commanding on one side the market-place, where the
Elephant is, his mother being busy hard by, when he remarked
symptoms of movement at the Major's house on the other side of the
"Hullo!" said he, "there's Dob's trap - they are bringing it out of
the court-yard." The "trap" in question was a carriage which the
Major had bought for six pounds sterling, and about which they used
to rally him a good deal.
Emmy gave a little start, but said nothing.
"Hullo!" Georgy continued, "there's Francis coming out with the
portmanteaus, and Kunz, the one-eyed postilion, coming down the
market with three schimmels. Look at his boots and yellow jacket -
ain't he a rum one? Why - they're putting the horses to Dob's
carriage. Is he going anywhere?"
"Yes," said Emmy, "he is going on a journey."
"Going on a journey; and when is he coming back?"
"He is - not coming back," answered Emmy.
"Not coming back!" cried out Georgy, jumping up. "Stay here, sir,"
roared out Jos. "Stay, Georgy," said his mother with a very sad
face. The boy stopped, kicked about the room, jumped up and down
from the window-seat with his knees, and showed every symptom of
uneasiness and curiosity.
The horses were put to. The baggage was strapped on. Francis came
out with his master's sword, cane, and umbrella tied up together,
and laid them in the well, and his desk and old tin cocked-hat case,
which he placed under the seat. Francis brought out the stained old
blue cloak lined with red camlet, which had wrapped the owner up any
time these fifteen years, and had manchen Sturm erlebt, as a
favourite song of those days said. It had been new for the campaign
of Waterloo and had covered George and William after the night of
Old Burcke, the landlord of the lodgings, came out, then Francis,
with more packages - final packages - then Major William - Burcke
wanted to kiss him. The Major was adored by all people with whom he
had to do. It was with difficulty he could escape from this
demonstration of attachment.
"By Jove, I will go!" screamed out George. "Give him this," said
Becky, quite interested, and put a paper into the boy's hand. He
had rushed down the stairs and flung across the street in a minute -
the yellow postilion was cracking his whip gently.
William had got into the carriage, released from the embraces of his
landlord. George bounded in afterwards, and flung his arms round
the Major's neck (as they saw from the window), and began asking him
multiplied questions. Then he felt in his waistcoat pocket and gave