Jos went away, convinced that she was the most virtuous, as she was one of the most fascinating of women, and revolving in his mind all sorts of benevolent schemes for her welfare. Her persecutions ought to be ended: she ought to return to the society of which she was an ornament. He would see what ought to be done. She must quit that place and take a quiet lodging. Amelia must come and see her and befriend her. He would go and settle about it, and consult with the Major. She wept tears of heart-felt gratitude as she parted from him, and pressed his hand as the gallant stout gentleman stooped down to kiss hers.
So Becky bowed Jos out of her little garret with as much grace as if it was a palace of which she did the honours; and that heavy gentleman having disappeared down the stairs, Max and Fritz came out of their hole, pipe in mouth, and she amused herself by mimicking Jos to them as she munched her cold bread and sausage and took draughts of her favourite brandy-and-water.
Jos walked over to Dobbin's lodgings with great solemnity and there imparted to him the affecting history with which he had just been made acquainted, without, however, mentioning the play business of the night before. And the two gentlemen were laying their heads together and consulting as to the best means of being useful to Mrs. Becky, while she was finishing her interrupted dejeuner a la fourchette.
How was it that she had come to that little town? How was it that she had no friends and was wandering about alone? Little boys at school are taught in their earliest Latin book that the path of Avernus is very easy of descent. Let us skip over the interval in the history of her downward progress. She was not worse now than she had been in the days of her prosperity — only a little down on her luck.
As for Mrs. Amelia, she was a woman of such a soft and foolish disposition that when she heard of anybody unhappy, her heart straightway melted towards the sufferer; and as she had never thought or done anything mortally guilty herself, she had not that abhorrence for wickedness which distinguishes moralists much more knowing. If she spoiled everybody who came near her with kindness and compliments — if she begged pardon of all her servants for troubling them to answer the bell — if she apologized to a shopboy who showed her a piece of silk, or made a curtsey to a street- sweeper with a complimentary remark upon the elegant state of his crossing — and she was almost capable of every one of these follies — the notion that an old acquaintance was miserable was sure to soften her heart; nor would she hear of anybody's being deservedly unhappy. A world under such legislation as hers would not be a very orderly place of abode; but there are not many women, at least not of the rulers, who are of her sort. This lady, I believe, would have abolished all gaols, punishments, handcuffs, whippings, poverty, sickness, hunger, in the world, and was such a mean-spirited creature that — we are obliged to confess it — she could even forget a mortal injury.
When the Major heard from Jos of the sentimental adventure which had just befallen the latter, he was not, it must be owned, nearly as much interested as the gentleman from Bengal. On the contrary, his excitement was quite the reverse from a pleasurable one; he made use of a brief but improper expression regarding a poor woman in distress, saying, in fact, "The little minx, has she come to light again?" He never had had the slightest liking for her, but had heartily mistrusted her from the very first moment when her green eyes had looked at, and turned away from, his own.
"That little devil brings mischief wherever she goes," the Major said disrespectfully. "Who knows what sort of life she has been leading? And what business has she here abroad and alone? Don't tell me about persecutors and enemies; an honest woman always has friends and never is separated from her family. Why has she left her husband? He may have been disreputable and wicked, as you say. He always was. I remember the confounded blackleg and the way in which he used to cheat and hoodwink poor George. Wasn't there a scandal about their separation? I think I heard something," cried out Major Dobbin, who did not care much about gossip, and whom Jos tried in vain to convince that Mrs. Becky was in all respects a most injured and virtuous female.
"Well, well; let's ask Mrs. George," said that arch-diplomatist of a Major. "Only let us go and consult her. I suppose you will allow that she is a good judge at any rate, and knows what is right in such matters."
"Hm! Emmy is very well," said Jos, who did not happen to be in love with his sister.
"Very well? By Gad, sir, she's the finest lady I ever met in my life," bounced out the Major. "I say at once, let us go and ask her if this woman ought to be visited or not — I will be content with her verdict." Now this odious, artful rogue of a Major was thinking in his own mind that he was sure of his case. Emmy, he remembered, was at one time cruelly and deservedly jealous of Rebecca, never mentioned her name but with a shrinking and terror — a jealous woman never forgives, thought Dobbin: and so the pair went across the street to Mrs. George's house, where she was contentedly warbling at a music lesson with Madame Strumpff.
When that lady took her leave, Jos opened the business with his usual pomp of words. "Amelia, my dear," said he, "I have just had the most extraordinary — yes — God bless my soul! the most extraordinary adventure — an old friend — yes, a most interesting old friend of yours, and I may say in old times, has just arrived here, and I should like you to see her."
"Her!" said Amelia, "who is it? Major Dobbin, if you please not to break my scissors." The Major was twirling them round by the little chain from which they sometimes hung to their lady's waist, and was thereby endangering his own eye.
It is a woman whom I dislike very much," said the Major, doggedly, "and whom you have no cause to love."
"It is Rebecca, I'm sure it is Rebecca," Amelia said, blushing and being very much agitated.
"You are right; you always are," Dobbin answered. Brussels, Waterloo, old, old times, griefs, pangs, remembrances, rushed back into Amelia's gentle heart and caused a cruel agitation there.
"Don't let me see her," Emmy continued. "I couldn't see her."
"I told you so," Dobbin said to Jos.
"She is very unhappy, and — and that sort of thing," Jos urged. "She is very poor and unprotected, and has been ill — exceedingly ill — and that scoundrel of a husband has deserted her."
"Ah!" said Amelia
"She hasn't a friend in the world," Jos went on, not undexterously, "and she said she thought she might trust in you. She's so miserable, Emmy. She has been almost mad with grief. Her story quite affected me — 'pon my word and honour, it did — never was such a cruel persecution borne so angelically, I may say. Her family has been most cruel to her."