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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
 
Becky Admires her Husband
By William Makepeace Thackeray (1811–1863)
 
From ‘Vanity Fair

RAWDON [just let out of the debtors’ prison] 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.  1
  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 stairhead. 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.  2
  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 sate. 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.  3
  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.  4
  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.  5
  He thought a trap had been laid for him, and was as furious with the wife as with the husband. “You innocent, damn you!” he screamed out. “You innocent! Why, every trinket you have on your body is paid for by me. I have given you thousands of pounds which this fellow has spent, and for which he has sold you. Innocent, by ——! You’re as innocent as your mother the ballet-girl, and your husband the bully. Don’t think to frighten me as you have done others. Make way, sir, and let me pass;” and Lord Steyne seized up his hat, and with flame in his eyes, and looking his enemy fiercely in the face, marched upon him, never for a moment doubting that the other would give way.  6
  But Rawdon Crawley, springing out, seized him by the neckcloth, until Steyne, almost strangled, writhed, and bent under his arm. “You lie, you dog!” said Rawdon. “You lie, you coward and villain!” And he struck the peer twice over the face with his open hand, and flung him bleeding to the ground. It was all done before Rebecca could interpose. She stood there trembling before him. She admired her husband, strong, brave, and victorious.  7
  “Come here,” he said. She came up at once.  8
  “Take off those things.” She began, trembling, pulling the jewels from her arms and the rings from her shaking fingers, and held them all in a heap, quivering and looking up at him. “Throw them down,” he said, and she dropped them. He tore the diamond ornament out of her breast, and flung it at Lord Steyne. It cut him on his bald forehead. Steyne wore the scar I to his dying day.  9
  “Come up-stairs,” Rawdon said to his wife. “Don’t kill me, Rawdon,” she said.—He laughed savagely. “I want to see if that man lies about the money as he has about me. Has he given you any?”  10
  “No,” said Rebecca; “that is—”  11
  “Give me your keys,” Rawdon answered, and they went out together.  12
  Rebecca gave him all the keys but one; and she was in hopes that he would not have remarked the absence of that. It belonged to the little desk which Amelia had given her in early days, and which she kept in a secret place. But Rawdon flung open boxes and wardrobes, throwing the multifarious trumpery of their contents here and there, and at last he found the desk. The woman was forced to open it. It contained papers, love-letters many years old—all sorts of small trinkets and woman’s memoranda. And it contained a pocket-book with bank-notes. Some of these were dated ten years back, too; and one was quite a fresh one,—a note for a thousand pounds which Lord Steyne had given her.  13
  “Did he give you this?” Rawdon said.  14
  “Yes,” Rebecca answered.  15
  “I’ll send it to him to-day,” Rawdon said (for day had dawned again, and many hours had passed in this search); “and I will pay Briggs, who was kind to the boy, and some of the debts. You will let me know where I shall send the rest to you. You might have spared me a hundred pounds, Becky, out of all this: I have always shared with you.”  16
  “I am innocent,” said Becky. And he left her without another word.  17
  What were her thoughts when he left her? She remained for hours after he was gone, the sunshine pouring into the room, and Rebecca sitting alone on the bed’s edge. The drawers were all opened and their contents scattered about,—dresses and feathers, scarfs and trinkets, a heap of tumbled vanities lying in a wreck. Her hair was falling over her shoulders; her gown was torn where Rawdon had wrenched the brilliants out of it. She heard him go down-stairs a few minutes after he left her, and the door slamming and closing on him. She knew he would never come back. He was gone forever. Would he kill himself? she thought;—not until after he had met Lord Steyne, She thought of her long past life, and all the dismal incidents of it. Ah, how dreary it seemed, how miserable, lonely, and profitless! Should she take laudanum and end it, too—have done with all hopes, schemes, debts, and triumphs? The French maid found her in this position,—sitting in the midst of her miserable ruins with clasped hands and dry eyes. The woman was her accomplice and in Steyne’s pay. “Mon Dieu, madame, what has happened?” she asked.  18
  What had happened? Was she guilty or not? She said not; but who could tell what was truth which came from those lips; or if that corrupt heart was in this case pure? All her lies and her schemes, all her selfishness and her wiles, all her wit and genius had come to this bankruptcy. The woman closed the curtains, and with some entreaty and show of kindness, persuaded her mistress to lie down on the bed. Then she went below and gathered up the trinkets which had been lying on the floor since Rebecca dropped them there at her husband’s orders, and Lord Steyne went away.  19
 
 
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