فصل 03

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فصل 03

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Chapter THREE

Young Lovers

He must now leave the good people enjoying themselves at Queen’s Crawley, and return to London to find out what is happening to Amelia.

The ladies in Amelia’s social circle agreed that she was very good-natured but dull. The Misses Osbornes and Dobbins patronised the poor girl terribly, and Amelia was very shy in their company. ‘What does George see in her?’ they asked each other in wonder.

George Osborne himself became used to the idea that he was making an enormous sacrifice in marrying Amelia. He continued to visit the Sedley household, of course, but days went by when he ignored Amelia. She suffered, but she told no one about her suffering. Only George’s friend Dobbin realised that the girl was unhappy.

Meanwhile great events were taking place in Europe. Napoleon’s army was defeated by the allies, and the emperor was forced to abdicate and take up residence on the island of Elba. The financial markets of the world were disturbed. Mr Sedley suffered heavy losses in his investments on the stock exchange.

One day George Osborne visited Amelia, and invited her to dine with his family at Russell Square that evening. Amelia was delighted, and accepted happily.

Amelia arrived early at the house, and was talking with George’s sisters when Mr Osborne came home. Mr Osborne seemed surprised to see her there.

‘George is home today, Papa,’ one of the sisters explained. ‘He’ll be coming in to dinner soon.’

‘Will he indeed?’ Mr Osborne said crossly. ‘He’d better come in on time. I won’t hold dinner for him.’

Mr Osborne sat down gloomily. When the clock struck the usual time for dinner, he rang for the butler.

‘Dinner!’ he ordered angrily.

‘Mr George isn’t in yet,’ the man replied.

‘Damn Mr George, sir. I’m the master here!’ Mr Osborne commented angrily. ‘Dinner, I say!’

The ladies looked at each other in fright.

Dinner was a silent affair. Mr Osborne said nothing, and no one else knew how to make conversation. George arrived halfway through the meal, and did not seem to notice his father’s bad humour. He talked amusingly to Amelia and his sisters.

At last the ladies retired to the drawing room, leaving Mr Osborne and George to their wine. The older man was still bad-tempered. George did his best to cheer him up. The real reason for his visit was that he had run out of money. He was hoping for some money from his father. At last his father spoke.

‘How are you and Amelia getting on?’ he asked.

‘Anyone can see that she loves me, sir,’ George replied proudly.

‘And you?’ his father asked sharply, ‘What about you, my boy?’

George laughed easily.

‘Didn’t you tell me to marry Amelia, sir?’ he joked. ‘You and Mr Sedley arranged it all years ago!’

‘Hmm,’ commented his father. ‘Haven’t I heard about you and your wild amusements with Captain Crawley and that set? You should be careful, sir.’

Mr Osborne was secretly delighted that his son was mixing in such aristocratic company. He was very ambitious for George.

‘Well, well,’ he went on. ‘I suppose young men will be young men. I’m glad you live in the best society of England.’

‘One can’t live in that kind of society for nothing, you know,’ George said quietly.

‘Don’t worry about money, my boy,’ Mr Osborne interrupted him. ‘My money’s as good as theirs. Call on Mr Chopper in the City tomorrow - he’ll have something for you.’

‘Thank you, sir.’

‘You could marry higher than Amelia, you know,’ Mr Osborne told him. ‘I don’t like the look of Sedley’s affairs. There are rumours about his losses. If I don’t see Amelia’s ten thousand pounds you won’t marry her. I won’t have any lame ducks in my family.’

George was very attentive to Amelia when he went to join the ladies after his talk with his father. She remembered long afterwards the pleasure of that evening with him.

George hurried off to the City the next morning, and obtained a document from Mr Chopper. Then he hurried to the bank. He noticed that Mr Sedley was also in the bank, but he was too excited to notice the grim look on the older man’s face.

Meanwhile Miss Crawley had returned to London from her visit to Queen’s Crawley, bringing Becky Sharp with her. The old lady had eaten and drunk far too much, and was feeling unwell. She retired immediately to bed, and summoned her doctor.

Captain Crawley was one of the first people to arrive at her house to ask after her. He received gloomy reports from the maid and from Miss Briggs her companion. Captain Crawley was unable to see the patient, but he did manage to have a few minutes of private conversation with Becky. He left the house looking very cheerful.

Miss Briggs tried to gain admission to the sick lady’s bedroom, but was refused. The poor lady had been a loyal and faithful companion for many years and was wounded by Miss Crawley’s behaviour.

‘But why won’t she see me?’ she asked Becky. ‘I always look after her when she’s ill.’

‘Don’t be so upset,’ Becky advised her. ‘She won’t see you because she prefers my nursing to yours, that’s all. Sick people are like that sometimes. She’ll be well again in a few weeks, and then I’ll go back to Queen’s Crawley.’

‘Never, never,’ Miss Briggs said sadly.

‘She’ll never be well, or I’ll never go?’ Becky asked with a little smile.

Captain Crawley called every day to receive the latest news from Becky. Every day the news was better, and soon Miss Crawley allowed the faithful Briggs to spend time with her once more. Becky used to mimic the good woman to her face for the amusement of the old lady.

Once Miss Crawley was well again, she agreed to accompany Becky to Russell Square so that the girl could be reunited with her old school friend, Amelia.

The visit was a short one, but Amelia made a good impression on the rich old lady. She talked enthusiastically about Becky’s friend, and mentioned her to Captain Crawley. Becky was quick to explain that Amelia had a fiance - a certain Lieutenant George Osborne.

‘What regiment is he in?’ Rawdon asked.

‘I don’t recall,’ Becky replied, ‘but his Captain’s name is Dobbin.’

‘I know Dobbin,’ Rawdon told her. ‘And I know Osborne too, now that I think of it. Osborne’s a fool,’ he commented happily. ‘He wants to be seen in the company of a lord. He pays for their dinners, and they invite the guests.’

‘Pretty guests,’ Becky suggested with a smile.

‘Quite right, Miss Sharp,’ Rawdon laughed. ‘Very pretty guests indeed.’

‘Don’t be so naughty, Rawdon!’ the old lady laughed excitedly. Her nephew’s cynicism delighted her enormously.

‘Why don’t we have him here?’ Rawdon suggested.

Lieutenant Osborne and Amelia were invited for dinner at Miss Crawley’s house.

The meeting between Becky and George Osborne was not an easy one. Becky suspected that it was George who had discouraged Jos Sedley from proposing to her after the dinner at Vauxhall Gardens. She greeted him very coolly. For his part, Osborne thought her vain and ambitious.

Amelia saw immediately that there was a friendship between Becky and Rawdon. Before leaving the house she went up to her friend.

‘I see it all,’ she said quietly.

Becky kissed her.

One day Sir Pitt Crawley came to London. His wife had just died, and the baronet was desperate to have Becky back at the house.

‘You must come,’ he told her.

‘I’ll come as soon as I can,’ Becky replied.

‘Everything’s in a mess without you,’ Sir Pitt complained. ‘Dear Becky, do come!’

Becky looked at him closely.

‘Come as what?’ she asked quietly.

‘Come as Lady Crawley, if you like,’ the old man cried impatiently. ‘Come back and be my wife. There! Does that satisfy you?’

‘Oh Sir Pitt!’ Becky cried.

‘Say yes,’ Sir Pit begged her. ‘I’m an old man, Becky, but I’ll make you happy, you see if I don’t.’ The old man got down on his knees before her.

Becky jumped back. For once she did not know what to say.

‘Oh, Sir Pitt!’ she cried again. ‘Oh - sir - I’m married already!’

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