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Vanity Fair

Vanity Fair

by William Makepeace Thackeray

Vanity Fair Chapter 48 Summary

In which the Reader is introduced to the very best of Company

  • Finally, finally, all of Becky's striving and work and effort are about to pay off. She is ready to climb to the very top of the social ladder – or least its public side. At last she gets to...wait for it...be presented to the King of England at Court!
  • Yay!
  • Sort of.
  • So what is this presented-at-Court thing all about? Well, think of it as a combination of Oscars red carpet (because all the newspapers report what Becky was wearing in detail) and a private audience with the Pope (because having met the King somehow makes her more respectable in the eyes of society).
  • The whole thing is arranged by Pitt and Lady Jane, who take Becky and Rawdon in the family carriage to be presented.
  • Becky easily tops the best-dressed list, though the narrator jokes about the fact that twenty years from now what she is wearing will be seen as thoroughly ridiculous. (Fashion was fickle back then just like it is today.)
  • Lady Jane sees that Becky's dress is made out of extremely expensive fabric, which even she herself could probably not afford. (This might sound strange, but at a time before fabric was factory-made, it had to be woven by hand, so anything complex like lace or brocade was crazy expensive.) Becky brushes this off and says these are bits and bobs she's had forever. In reality, though, they are things she found in – and stole from – the Crawleys' London mansion while she was managing the restoration.
  • She also has some fantastic diamonds going on. Rawdon wonders where they're from, and Pitt suddenly is very uncomfortable. Turns out he gave her one of the small bracelets she is wearing.
  • Becky laughs and deflects this question too, saying that she rented all the diamonds.
  • At the Court, Becky sees Lord Steyne, who has a Court Appointment as Lord of the Powder Closet (yes, that's meant to be funny). He sees her diamonds and knows where they are really from – him.
  • The narrator then says basically that what happens at Court stays at Court, and that he will not tell us what Becky and the King talked about.
  • Still, afterwards Becky becomes a super-patriot. Or at least really, really loyal to the King. OK, mostly just a very inspired name-dropper.
  • A few days later, Becky finally gets visiting cards from Lady Steyne and her daughter-in-law, the Countess of Gaunt (she's the one married to Lord Gaunt, Lord Steyne's older son).
  • This means these two women, who are at the very top of social mountain, acknowledge her existence.
  • Becky is really thrilled.
  • Lord Steyne comes to visit and tell her that she will be invited to dinner at Gaunt House, his mansion, next week. Talk about finally making it to the cool lunch table. As usual, Becky flirts with him until Briggs comes in and interrupts.
  • Steyne is angry and demands in a whisper that Becky get rid of Briggs. Becky sends Briggs out with Rawdon Jr., then tells Lord Steyne that she can't get rid of her because she owes her a ton of money – which is true. Steyne asks how much and Becky tells him double the actual amount. He curses, then leaves.
  • That night, Becky gets an invitation to dine at Gaunt House, along with a check for twice the amount of her debt to Briggs.
  • Becky is half-tempted to pay back Briggs, or to pay Raggles the landlord, or any number of other people she owes money to. It's a passing fancy. Instead, she gives a little bit of money to Raggles, buys Briggs a new dress, and puts the rest of the money into a locked drawer of her desk, where she also keeps the jewelry from Lord Steyne.
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