فصل 12

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فصل 12

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Chapter TWELVE

Imprisonment and Violence

Little Rawdon had been sent off to an expensive school paid for by his Lordship, and Briggs had been found another job. Lord Steyne often passed the evening with Becky and Rawdon at their house.

One night Becky and Rawdon went to a party at Lord Steyne’s house. Rawdon stayed behind after his wife left, to smoke a cigar with Lord Steyne’s assistant, Wenham.

The two men strolled through the streets together. Suddenly they were joined by three other men, one of whom touched Rawdon on the shoulder. He knew immediately what it was.

These men had come to arrest him for debt.

‘Lend me a hundred, Wenham,’ Rawdon asked.

‘I haven’t got any money,’ Wenham replied.

The men took Rawdon off to prison. He was not worried, as he was sure that Becky had money to save him. He wrote her a note explaining what had happened. Then he lay down to sleep.

He waited all the next day for some message from Becky. At last a letter arrived in the evening. Becky said she was ill in bed, but that Lord Steyne had some money to send him. Rawdon blushed as he read his wife’s letter. He remembered that he had been walking with Lord Steyne’s assistant when the men arrested him. Had there been a plot to get him out of the way? He wrote to Sir Pitt Crawley now, and in an hour Lady Jane arrived with the money that he needed. Rawdon was ashamed. He realised that Lady Jane was kind, and he wanted to change his life.

Rawdon hurried home. He was surprised to see that the drawing room was lit up, when Becky had told him she was ill. He entered the house quietly and approached the drawing-room door. He could hear Becky singing. When he opened the door he saw that there were only two people in the room, Becky and Lord Steyne. He saw that Becky was wearing the splendid diamonds that were supposed to have been hired and returned.

Becky looked up in horror as she saw her husband.

‘I’m innocent, Rawdon,’ she cried. ‘You must believe me, I’m innocent!’

Lord Steyne, meanwhile, thought that Rawdon and Becky had planned to trap him. He was furious.

‘Innocent, you!’ he shouted at Becky. ‘I’ve given you thousands of pounds that you and this man have spent together. Don’t try to fool me.’

Rawdon hit Lord Steyne, who fell to the floor. Then he made Becky remove all of her jewellery, and he hurled it at the frightened nobleman. One of the pieces struck Lord Steyne on the forehead. It left a scar that he carried for the rest of his life.

Now Rawdon made Becky open her desk. He saw that there was a lot of money inside, including the cheque from Lord Steyne.

‘I’ll send this back to him in the morning,’ he told her grimly. ‘You might have got me out of prison,’ he told her sadly. ‘I always shared with you.’

Then Rawdon left the house. Becky understood that he was gone forever. All her plans had come to nothing.

Rawdon was determined to fight a duel with Lord Steyne. First he went to see Sir Pitt to ask him to look after his son if anything happened to him. Then he went to his club to ask one of his officer friends to arrange the duel.

Later that day Becky came to see Sir Pitt Crawley. Sir Pitt had seen something in that morning’s newspaper that he wanted to discuss with her. There was an article saying that Colonel Rawdon Crawley was expected to be appointed Governor of Coventry Island.

‘It’s true,’ Becky told him. ‘Lord Steyne organised it for him. Don’t you see, Pitt, everything I did was for Rawdon. I’m innocent!’

Lady Jane was not happy to see Becky. She asked her to leave the house.

Rawdon’s army friend had also seen the newspaper article and he showed it to Rawdon. Wenham walked into the club.

‘You’re making a terrible mistake, Crawley,’ Wenham said. ‘It was only by chance that your wife and Lord Steyne were alone in the house that evening. My wife and I had also been invited, but we couldn’t come because Mrs Wenham had a headache.’

Rawdon did not believe Wenham’s story, but he saw that he could not fight Lord Steyne now in the light of Wenham’s evidence.

He thought very carefully about what he should do. In the end he decided to accept the Governorship of Coventry Island. He wrote very regularly to little Rawdon from there, but he never contacted his wife again. Little Rawdon spent his school holidays with Sir Pitt and Lady Jane.

Becky herself was now ruined. Her servants and creditors all demanded to be paid, and Mr Raggles took his house back. He was ruined as well. Thus Vanity Fair makes other people pay for its pleasures. Becky fled the country.

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