The card was returned, and Jos and the Major were asked to dinner — to a dinner the most splendid and stupid that perhaps ever Mr. Osborne gave; every inch of the family plate was exhibited, and the best company was asked. Mr. Sedley took down Miss O. to dinner, and she was very gracious to him; whereas she hardly spoke to the Major, who sat apart from her, and by the side of Mr. Osborne, very timid. Jos said, with great solemnity, it was the best turtle soup he had ever tasted in his life, and asked Mr. Osborne where he got his Madeira.
"It is some of Sedley's wine," whispered the butler to his master. "I've had it a long time, and paid a good figure for it, too," Mr. Osborne said aloud to his guest, and then whispered to his right- hand neighbour how he had got it "at the old chap's sale."
More than once he asked the Major about — about Mrs. George Osborne — a theme on which the Major could be very eloquent when he chose. He told Mr. Osborne of her sufferings — of her passionate attachment to her husband, whose memory she worshipped still — of the tender and dutiful manner in which she had supported her parents, and given up her boy, when it seemed to her her duty to do so. "You don't know what she endured, sir," said honest Dobbin with a tremor in his voice, "and I hope and trust you will be reconciled to her. If she took your son away from you, she gave hers to you; and however much you loved your George, depend on it, she loved hers ten times more."
"By God, you are a good feller, sir," was all Mr. Osborne said. It had never struck him that the widow would feel any pain at parting from the boy, or that his having a fine fortune could grieve her. A reconciliation was announced as speedy and inevitable, and Amelia's heart already began to beat at the notion of the awful meeting with George's father.
It was never, however, destined to take place. Old Sedley's lingering illness and death supervened, after which a meeting was for some time impossible. That catastrophe and other events may have worked upon Mr. Osborne. He was much shaken of late, and aged, and his mind was working inwardly. He had sent for his lawyers, and probably changed something in his will. The medical man who looked in pronounced him shaky, agitated, and talked of a little blood and the seaside; but he took neither of these remedies.
One day when he should have come down to breakfast, his servant missing him, went into his dressing-room and found him lying at the foot of the dressing-table in a fit. Miss Osborne was apprised; the doctors were sent for; Georgy stopped away from school; the bleeders and cuppers came. Osborne partially regained cognizance, but never could speak again, though he tried dreadfully once or twice, and in four days he died. The doctors went down, and the undertaker's men went up the stairs, and all the shutters were shut towards the garden in Russell Square. Bullock rushed from the City in a hurry. "How much money had he left to that boy? Not half, surely? Surely share and share alike between the three?" It was an agitating moment.
What was it that poor old man tried once or twice in vain to say? I hope it was that he wanted to see Amelia and be reconciled before he left the world to one dear and faithful wife of his son: it was most likely that, for his will showed that the hatred which he had so long cherished had gone out of his heart.
They found in the pocket of his dressing-gown the letter with the great red seal which George had written him from Waterloo. He had looked at the other papers too, relative to his son, for the key of the box in which he kept them was also in his pocket, and it was found the seals and envelopes had been broken — very likely on the night before the seizure — when the butler had taken him tea into his study, and found him reading in the great red family Bible.
When the will was opened, it was found that half the property was left to George, and the remainder between the two sisters. Mr. Bullock to continue, for their joint benefit, the affairs of the commercial house, or to go out, as he thought fit. An annuity of five hundred pounds, chargeable on George's property, was left to his mother, "the widow of my beloved son, George Osborne," who was to resume the guardianship of the boy.
"Major William Dobbin, my beloved son's friend," was appointed executor; "and as out of his kindness and bounty, and with his own private funds, he maintained my grandson and my son's widow, when they were otherwise without means of support" (the testator went on to say) "I hereby thank him heartily for his love and regard for them, and beseech him to accept such a sum as may be sufficient to purchase his commission as a Lieutenant-Colonel, or to be disposed of in any way he may think fit."
When Amelia heard that her father-in-law was reconciled to her, her heart melted, and she was grateful for the fortune left to her. But when she heard how Georgy was restored to her, and knew how and by whom, and how it was William's bounty that supported her in poverty, how it was William who gave her her husband and her son — oh, then she sank on her knees, and prayed for blessings on that constant and kind heart; she bowed down and humbled herself, and kissed the feet, as it were, of that beautiful and generous affection.
And gratitude was all that she had to pay back for such admirable devotion and benefits — only gratitude! If she thought of any other return, the image of George stood up out of the grave and said, "You are mine, and mine only, now and forever."
William knew her feelings: had he not passed his whole life in divining them?
When the nature of Mr. Osborne's will became known to the world, it was edifying to remark how Mrs. George Osborne rose in the estimation of the people forming her circle of acquaintance. The servants of Jos's establishment, who used to question her humble orders and say they would "ask Master" whether or not they could obey, never thought now of that sort of appeal. The cook forgot to sneer at her shabby old gowns (which, indeed, were quite eclipsed by that lady's finery when she was dressed to go to church of a Sunday evening), the others no longer grumbled at the sound of her bell, or delayed to answer that summons. The coachman, who grumbled that his 'osses should be brought out and his carriage made into an hospital for that old feller and Mrs. O., drove her with the utmost alacrity now, and trembling lest he should be superseded by Mr. Osborne's coachman, asked "what them there Russell Square coachmen knew about town, and whether they was fit to sit on a box before a lady?" Jos's friends, male and female, suddenly became interested about Emmy, and cards of condolence multiplied on her hall table. Jos himself, who had looked on her as a good-natured harmless pauper, to whom it was his duty to give victuals and shelter, paid her and the rich little boy, his nephew, the greatest respect — was anxious that she should have change and amusement after her troubles and trials, "poor dear girl" — and began to appear at the breakfast-table, and most particularly to ask how she would like to dispose of the day.
In her capacity of guardian to Georgy, she, with the consent of the Major, her fellow-trustee, begged Miss Osborne to live in the Russell Square house as long as ever she chose to dwell there; but that lady, with thanks, declared that she never could think of remaining alone in that melancholy mansion, and departed in deep mourning to Cheltenham, with a couple of her old domestics. The rest were liberally paid and dismissed, the faithful old butler, whom Mrs. Osborne proposed to retain, resigning and preferring to invest his savings in a public-house, where, let us hope, he was not unprosperous. Miss Osborne not choosing to live in Russell Square, Mrs. Osborne also, after consultation, declined to occupy the gloomy old mansion there. The house was dismantled; the rich furniture and effects, the awful chandeliers and dreary blank mirrors packed away and hidden, the rich rosewood drawing-room suite was muffled in straw, the carpets were rolled up and corded, the small select library of well-bound books was stowed into two wine-chests, and the whole paraphernalia rolled away in several enormous vans to the Pantechnicon, where they were to lie until Georgy's majority. And the great heavy dark plate-chests went off to Messrs. Stumpy and Rowdy, to lie in the cellars of those eminent bankers until the same period should arrive.