Vanity Fair By William Makepeace Thackeray Chapters 26-29



Mr. Jos had hired a pair of horses for his open carriage, with which cattle, and the smart London vehicle, he made a very tolerable figure in the drives about Brussels. George purchased a horse for his private riding, and he and Captain Dobbin would often accompany the carriage in which Jos and his sister took daily excursions of pleasure. They went out that day in the park for their accustomed diversion, and there, sure enough, George's remark with regard to the arrival of Rawdon Crawley and his wife proved to be correct. In the midst of a little troop of horsemen, consisting of some of the very greatest persons in Brussels, Rebecca was seen in the prettiest and tightest of riding-habits, mounted on a beautiful little Arab, which she rode to perfection (having acquired the art at Queen's Crawley, where the Baronet, Mr. Pitt, and Rawdon himself had given her many lessons), and by the side of the gallant General Tufto.

"Sure it's the Juke himself," cried Mrs. Major O'Dowd to Jos, who began to blush violently; "and that's Lord Uxbridge on the bay. How elegant he looks! Me brother, Molloy Malony, is as like him as two pays."

Rebecca did not make for the carriage; but as soon as she perceived her old acquaintance Amelia seated in it, acknowledged her presence by a gracious nod and smile, and by kissing and shaking her fingers playfully in the direction of the vehicle. Then she resumed her conversation with General Tufto, who asked "who the fat officer was in the gold-laced cap?" on which Becky replied, "that he was an officer in the East Indian service." But Rawdon Crawley rode out of the ranks of his company, and came up and shook hands heartily with Amelia, and said to Jos, "Well, old boy, how are you?" and stared in Mrs. O'Dowd's face and at the black cock's feathers until she began to think she had made a conquest of him.

George, who had been delayed behind, rode up almost immediately with Dobbin, and they touched their caps to the august personages, among whom Osborne at once perceived Mrs. Crawley. He was delighted to see Rawdon leaning over his carriage familiarly and talking to Amelia, and met the aide-de-camp's cordial greeting with more than corresponding warmth. The nods between Rawdon and Dobbin were of the very faintest specimens of politeness.

Crawley told George where they were stopping with General Tufto at the Hotel du Parc, and George made his friend promise to come speedily to Osborne's own residence. "Sorry I hadn't seen you three days ago," George said. "Had a dinner at the Restaurateur's — rather a nice thing. Lord Bareacres, and the Countess, and Lady Blanche, were good enough to dine with us — wish we'd had you." Having thus let his friend know his claims to be a man of fashion, Osborne parted from Rawdon, who followed the august squadron down an alley into which they cantered, while George and Dobbin resumed their places, one on each side of Amelia's carriage.

"How well the Juke looked," Mrs. O'Dowd remarked. "The Wellesleys and Malonys are related; but, of course, poor I would never dream of introjuicing myself unless his Grace thought proper to remember our family-tie."

"He's a great soldier," Jos said, much more at ease now the great man was gone. "Was there ever a battle won like Salamanca? Hey, Dobbin? But where was it he learnt his art? In India, my boy! The jungle's the school for a general, mark me that. I knew him myself, too, Mrs. O'Dowd: we both of us danced the same evening with Miss Cutler, daughter of Cutler of the Artillery, and a devilish fine girl, at Dumdum."

The apparition of the great personages held them all in talk during the drive; and at dinner; and until the hour came when they were all to go to the Opera.

It was almost like Old England. The house was filled with familiar British faces, and those toilettes for which the British female has long been celebrated. Mrs. O'Dowd's was not the least splendid amongst these, and she had a curl on her forehead, and a set of Irish diamonds and Cairngorms, which outshone all the decorations in the house, in her notion. Her presence used to excruciate Osborne; but go she would upon all parties of pleasure on which she heard her young friends were bent. It never entered into her thought but that they must be charmed with her company.

"She's been useful to you, my dear," George said to his wife, whom he could leave alone with less scruple when she had this society. "But what a comfort it is that Rebecca's come: you will have her for a friend, and we may get rid now of this damn'd Irishwoman." To this Amelia did not answer, yes or no: and how do we know what her thoughts were?

The coup d'oeil of the Brussels opera-house did not strike Mrs. O'Dowd as being so fine as the theatre in Fishamble Street, Dublin, nor was French music at all equal, in her opinion, to the melodies of her native country. She favoured her friends with these and other opinions in a very loud tone of voice, and tossed about a great clattering fan she sported, with the most splendid complacency.

"Who is that wonderful woman with Amelia, Rawdon, love?" said a lady in an opposite box (who, almost always civil to her husband in private, was more fond than ever of him in company).

"Don't you see that creature with a yellow thing in her turban, and a red satin gown, and a great watch?"

"Near the pretty little woman in white?" asked a middle-aged gentleman seated by the querist's side, with orders in his button, and several under-waistcoats, and a great, choky, white stock.

"That pretty woman in white is Amelia, General: you are remarking all the pretty women, you naughty man."

"Only one, begad, in the world!" said the General, delighted, and the lady gave him a tap with a large bouquet which she had.

"Bedad it's him," said Mrs. O'Dowd; "and that's the very bokay he bought in the Marshy aux Flures!" and when Rebecca, having caught her friend's eye, performed the little hand-kissing operation once more, Mrs. Major O'D., taking the compliment to herself, returned the salute with a gracious smile, which sent that unfortunate Dobbin shrieking out of the box again.

At the end of the act, George was out of the box in a moment, and he was even going to pay his respects to Rebecca in her loge. He met Crawley in the lobby, however, where they exchanged a few sentences upon the occurrences of the last fortnight.

"You found my cheque all right at the agent's? George said, with a knowing air.

"All right, my boy," Rawdon answered. "Happy to give you your revenge. Governor come round?"

"Not yet," said George, "but he will; and you know I've some private fortune through my mother. Has Aunty relented?"

"Sent me twenty pound, damned old screw. When shall we have a meet? The General dines out on Tuesday. Can't you come Tuesday? I say, make Sedley cut off his moustache. What the devil does a civilian mean with a moustache and those infernal frogs to his coat! By-bye. Try and come on Tuesday"; and Rawdon was going-off with two brilliant young gentlemen of fashion, who were, like himself, on the staff of a general officer.

George was only half pleased to be asked to dinner on that particular day when the General was not to dine. "I will go in and pay my respects to your wife," said he; at which Rawdon said, "Hm, as you please," looking very glum, and at which the two young officers exchanged knowing glances. George parted from them and strutted down the lobby to the General's box, the number of which he had carefully counted.

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