MON PAUVRE CHER PETIT, (Mrs. Crawley wrote)
I could not sleep ONE WINK for thinking of what had become of my odious old monstre, and only got to rest in the morning after sending for Mr. Blench (for I was in a fever), who gave me a composing draught and left orders with Finette that I should be disturbed ON NO ACCOUNT. So that my poor old man's messenger, who had bien mauvaise mine Finette says, and sentoit le Genievre, remained in the hall for some hours waiting my bell. You may fancy my state when I read your poor dear old ill-spelt letter.
Ill as I was, I instantly called for the carriage, and as soon as I was dressed (though I couldn't drink a drop of chocolate — I assure you I couldn't without my monstre to bring it to me), I drove ventre a terre to Nathan's. I saw him — I wept — I cried — I fell at his odious knees. Nothing would mollify the horrid man. He would have all the money, he said, or keep my poor monstre in prison. I drove home with the intention of paying that triste visite chez mon oncle (when every trinket I have should be at your disposal though they would not fetch a hundred pounds, for some, you know, are with ce cher oncle already), and found Milor there with the Bulgarian old sheep-faced monster, who had come to compliment me upon last night's performances. Paddington came in, too, drawling and lisping and twiddling his hair; so did Champignac, and his chef — everybody with foison of compliments and pretty speeches — plaguing poor me, who longed to be rid of them, and was thinking every moment of the time of mon pauvre prisonnier.
When they were gone, I went down on my knees to Milor; told him we were going to pawn everything, and begged and prayed him to give me two hundred pounds. He pish'd and psha'd in a fury — told me not to be such a fool as to pawn — and said he would see whether he could lend me the money. At last he went away, promising that he would send it me in the morning: when I will bring it to my poor old monster with a kiss from his affectionate
I am writing in bed. Oh I have such a headache and such a heartache!
When Rawdon read over this letter, he turned so red and looked so savage that the company at the table d'hote easily perceived that bad news had reached him. All his suspicions, which he had been trying to banish, returned upon him. She could not even go out and sell her trinkets to free him. She could laugh and talk about compliments paid to her, whilst he was in prison. Who had put him there? Wenham had walked with him. Was there.... He could hardly bear to think of what he suspected. Leaving the room hurriedly, he ran into his own — opened his desk, wrote two hurried lines, which he directed to Sir Pitt or Lady Crawley, and bade the messenger carry them at once to Gaunt Street, bidding him to take a cab, and promising him a guinea if he was back in an hour.
In the note he besought his dear brother and sister, for the sake of God, for the sake of his dear child and his honour, to come to him and relieve him from his difficulty. He was in prison, he wanted a hundred pounds to set him free — he entreated them to come to him.
He went back to the dining-room after dispatching his messenger and called for more wine. He laughed and talked with a strange boisterousness, as the people thought. Sometimes he laughed madly at his own fears and went on drinking for an hour, listening all the while for the carriage which was to bring his fate back.
At the expiration of that time, wheels were heard whirling up to the gate — the young janitor went out with his gate-keys. It was a lady whom he let in at the bailiff's door.
"Colonel Crawley," she said, trembling very much. He, with a knowing look, locked the outer door upon her — then unlocked and opened the inner one, and calling out, "Colonel, you're wanted," led her into the back parlour, which he occupied.
Rawdon came in from the dining-parlour where all those people were carousing, into his back room; a flare of coarse light following him into the apartment where the lady stood, still very nervous.
"It is I, Rawdon," she said in a timid voice, which she strove to render cheerful. "It is Jane." Rawdon was quite overcome by that kind voice and presence. He ran up to her — caught her in his arms — gasped out some inarticulate words of thanks and fairly sobbed on her shoulder. She did not know the cause of his emotion.
The bills of Mr. Moss were quickly settled, perhaps to the disappointment of that gentleman, who had counted on having the Colonel as his guest over Sunday at least; and Jane, with beaming smiles and happiness in her eyes, carried away Rawdon from the bailiff's house, and they went homewards in the cab in which she had hastened to his release. "Pitt was gone to a parliamentary dinner," she said, "when Rawdon's note came, and so, dear Rawdon, I — I came myself"; and she put her kind hand in his. Perhaps it was well for Rawdon Crawley that Pitt was away at that dinner. Rawdon thanked his sister a hundred times, and with an ardour of gratitude which touched and almost alarmed that soft-hearted woman. "Oh," said he, in his rude, artless way, "you — you don't know how I'm changed since I've known you, and — and little Rawdy. I — I'd like to change somehow. You see I want — I want — to be — " He did not finish the sentence, but she could interpret it. And that night after he left her, and as she sat by her own little boy's bed, she prayed humbly for that poor way-worn sinner.
Rawdon left her and walked home rapidly. It was nine o'clock at night. He ran across the streets and the great squares of Vanity Fair, and at length came up breathless opposite his own house. He started back and fell against the railings, trembling as he looked up. The drawing-room windows were blazing with light. She had said that she was in bed and ill. He stood there for some time, the light from the rooms on his pale face.
He took out his door-key and let himself into the house. He could hear laughter in the upper rooms. He was in the ball-dress in which he had been captured the night before. He went silently up the stairs, leaning against the banisters at the stair-head. Nobody was stirring in the house besides — all the servants had been sent away. Rawdon heard laughter within — laughter and singing. Becky was singing a snatch of the song of the night before; a hoarse voice shouted "Brava! Brava!" — it was Lord Steyne's.
Rawdon opened the door and went in. A little table with a dinner was laid out — and wine and plate. Steyne was hanging over the sofa on which Becky sat. The wretched woman was in a brilliant full toilette, her arms and all her fingers sparkling with bracelets and rings, and the brilliants on her breast which Steyne had given her. He had her hand in his, and was bowing over it to kiss it, when Becky started up with a faint scream as she caught sight of Rawdon's white face. At the next instant she tried a smile, a horrid smile, as if to welcome her husband; and Steyne rose up, grinding his teeth, pale, and with fury in his looks.
He, too, attempted a laugh — and came forward holding out his hand. "What, come back! How d'ye do, Crawley?" he said, the nerves of his mouth twitching as he tried to grin at the intruder.
There was that in Rawdon's face which caused Becky to fling herself before him. "I am innocent, Rawdon," she said; "before God, I am innocent." She clung hold of his coat, of his hands; her own were all covered with serpents, and rings, and baubles. "I am innocent. Say I am innocent," she said to Lord Steyne.