by William Makepeace Thackeray
Vanity Fair Chapter 14 Summary
READ THE BOOK: Chapter 14
Miss Crawley at Home
- Miss Crawley comes back from the country to her London house with a new "young person" in tow to take care of her during her illness. The narrator makes it sort of mysterious who this might be, but – spoiler alert – it's Becky! (Shocking, we know.)
- The two women who used to take care of Miss Crawley are totally jealous that she's suddenly all into Becky.
- Miss Briggs, Miss Crawley's paid companion, has a sobby-weepy conversation with Becky about how sad she is that Miss Crawley has been ignoring her. Becky is half-obnoxious and half-friendly in response and promises to leave as soon as Miss Crawley is feeling better. Miss Briggs is a soft touch and makes up with Becky.
- Becky also removes Mrs. Firkin, Miss Crawley's maid, from dealing with Miss Crawley directly. Firkin and Briggs commiserate and discuss how close to death Miss Crawley might be. Pretty close, they conclude.
- Meanwhile, Becky entertains Miss Crawley by doing spot-on and pretty harsh impressions of Briggs and Firkin. (Yet again, she shows herself to be a truly gifted performer.)
- Now the narrator shows us what's actually going on with the old woman. Turns out Miss Crawley has overeaten herself into her illness (though she's pretending it's from the bad weather). While everyone is stressing about Miss Crawley, however, Lady Crawley (Sir Pitt's wife) is sick for real. But, like always, she is mostly ignored and stays in her room.
- Rawdon and Sir Pitt both come to London. Both hang around Miss Crawley's house to check up on her. Both only want Becky to tell them the news about how she's doing. Knowing what we know about each of them, we can guess just how very deeply they are concerned for her health and how much they want her to get better. (Not all that much.)
- Becky is actually a really good nurse. She's a hard worker and can put in the effort if she thinks it'll be worth it (like she did at Queen's Crawley with Sir Pitt's paperwork and dealing with the estate). And taking care of the super-selfish and super-annoying Miss Crawley really takes a lot of effort.
- Rawdon realizes that he is in love with Becky. He tells Mrs. Bute Crawley about it.
- Mrs. Bute keeps egging him on, and teases him that Sir Pitt would like to marry Becky if he could. This makes Rawdon go a little nuts.
- Rawdon jokes about Sir Pitt to Becky and she gets mad and gives him the cold shoulder. Rawdon is even more in love when she plays hard to get. Honestly, though, he's such a dope that stringing him along is not worth her talents. But whatever.
- Sir Pitt wants Becky back at Queen's Crawley, but Miss Crawley won't let her go and spends all day every day with her.
- One day Becky and Miss Crawley go for a ride in the carriage and stop at the Sedleys' house to visit Amelia. Becky and Amelia have mostly fallen out of touch at this point, but Becky, as always, can act any part, so she puts on her best friend face.
- Miss Crawley thinks Amelia is pretty, and invites her over to her house. Becky tells Miss Crawley about Amelia being engaged to George, and after Rawdon tells Miss Crawley that George could easily pass for a gentleman despite not being born into the nobility, she decides to invite George over too.
- Rawdon is psyched. Turns out that George is such a snob and so desperate a social climber that he'd "go to the deuce to be seen with a lord" (14.70). As a result, George spends time with Rawdon and another winner named Lord Deuceace (think playing cards – "deuce" is the two and "ace" is, well, an ace) and basically loses tons of money to them at cards and billiards.
- George and Amelia come over.
- George sees Becky and decides to demonstrate his superiority to her as a governess.
- Instead, Becky totally cuts him down to size with super-politely given insults about his birth. She is a master of insults and he really can't compete.
- Rawdon sees this exchange and is even more into Becky: "She'd beat the devil, by Jove!" (14.88).
- A little while later, Lady Crawley dies. No one cares, she's such a nonperson.
- The next day, Sir Pitt comes to Miss Crawley's house and demands that Becky come back to Queen's Crawley.
- Becky starts to tell him that she can't leave Miss Crawley, with the usual excuses, when Sir Pitt suddenly busts out with a totally shocking thing. Ready? You're not ready, sit down first. OK, ready? He gets down on his knees and asks her to marry him! Crazy!
- Still sitting down? Because it gets even more nuts.
- Becky says no.
- What?! Why?
- Because...she is already married.
- Now that's what we call a cliffhanger. (Remember, Vanity Fair's original readers had to wait for the next installment to come out.)
READ THE BOOK: Chapter 14