Three days afterwards, Dobbin found Osborne in his room at the barracks — his head on the table, a number of papers about, the young Captain evidently in a state of great despondency. "She — she's sent me back some things I gave her — some damned trinkets. Look here!" There was a little packet directed in the well-known hand to Captain George Osborne, and some things lying about — a ring, a silver knife he had bought, as a boy, for her at a fair; a gold chain, and a locket with hair in it. "It's all over," said he, with a groan of sickening remorse. "Look, Will, you may read it if you like."
There was a little letter of a few lines, to which he pointed, which said:
My papa has ordered me to return to you these presents, which you made in happier days to me; and I am to write to you for the last time. I think, I know you feel as much as I do the blow which has come upon us. It is I that absolve you from an engagement which is impossible in our present misery. I am sure you had no share in it, or in the cruel suspicions of Mr. Osborne, which are the hardest of all our griefs to bear. Farewell. Farewell. I pray God to strengthen me to bear this and other calamities, and to bless you always. A.
I shall often play upon the piano — your piano. It was like you to send it.
Dobbin was very soft-hearted. The sight of women and children in pain always used to melt him. The idea of Amelia broken-hearted and lonely tore that good-natured soul with anguish. And he broke out into an emotion, which anybody who likes may consider unmanly. He swore that Amelia was an angel, to which Osborne said aye with all his heart. He, too, had been reviewing the history of their lives — and had seen her from her childhood to her present age, so sweet, so innocent, so charmingly simple, and artlessly fond and tender.
What a pang it was to lose all that: to have had it and not prized it! A thousand homely scenes and recollections crowded on him — in which he always saw her good and beautiful. And for himself, he blushed with remorse and shame, as the remembrance of his own selfishness and indifference contrasted with that perfect purity. For a while, glory, war, everything was forgotten, and the pair of friends talked about her only.
"Where are they?" Osborne asked, after a long talk, and a long pause — and, in truth, with no little shame at thinking that he had taken no steps to follow her. "Where are they? There's no address to the note."
Dobbin knew. He had not merely sent the piano; but had written a note to Mrs. Sedley, and asked permission to come and see her — and he had seen her, and Amelia too, yesterday, before he came down to Chatham; and, what is more, he had brought that farewell letter and packet which had so moved them.
The good-natured fellow had found Mrs. Sedley only too willing to receive him, and greatly agitated by the arrival of the piano, which, as she conjectured, MUST have come from George, and was a signal of amity on his part. Captain Dobbin did not correct this error of the worthy lady, but listened to all her story of complaints and misfortunes with great sympathy — condoled with her losses and privations, and agreed in reprehending the cruel conduct of Mr. Osborne towards his first benefactor. When she had eased her overflowing bosom somewhat, and poured forth many of her sorrows, he had the courage to ask actually to see Amelia, who was above in her room as usual, and whom her mother led trembling downstairs.
Her appearance was so ghastly, and her look of despair so pathetic, that honest William Dobbin was frightened as he beheld it; and read the most fatal forebodings in that pale fixed face. After sitting in his company a minute or two, she put the packet into his hand, and said, "Take this to Captain Osborne, if you please, and — and I hope he's quite well — and it was very kind of you to come and see us — and we like our new house very much. And I — I think I'll go upstairs, Mamma, for I'm not very strong." And with this, and a curtsey and a smile, the poor child went her way. The mother, as she led her up, cast back looks of anguish towards Dobbin. The good fellow wanted no such appeal. He loved her himself too fondly for that. Inexpressible grief, and pity, and terror pursued him, and he came away as if he was a criminal after seeing her.
When Osborne heard that his friend had found her, he made hot and anxious inquiries regarding the poor child. How was she? How did she look? What did she say? His comrade took his hand, and looked him in the face.
"George, she's dying," William Dobbin said — and could speak no more.
There was a buxom Irish servant-girl, who performed all the duties of the little house where the Sedley family had found refuge: and this girl had in vain, on many previous days, striven to give Amelia aid or consolation. Emmy was much too sad to answer, or even to be aware of the attempts the other was making in her favour.
Four hours after the talk between Dobbin and Osborne, this servant- maid came into Amelia's room, where she sate as usual, brooding silently over her letters — her little treasures. The girl, smiling, and looking arch and happy, made many trials to attract poor Emmy's attention, who, however, took no heed of her.
"Miss Emmy," said the girl.
"I'm coming," Emmy said, not looking round.
"There's a message," the maid went on. "There's something — somebody — sure, here's a new letter for you — don't be reading them old ones any more." And she gave her a letter, which Emmy took, and read.
"I must see you," the letter said. "Dearest Emmy — dearest love — dearest wife, come to me."
George and her mother were outside, waiting until she had read the letter.