Saturday, November 10, 2007


Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackeray - I

Vanity Fair
by William Makepeace Thackeray
As the manager of the Performance sits before the curtain
on the boards and looks into the Fair, a feeling of profound
melancholy comes over him in his survey of the bustling place.
There is a great quantity of eating and drinking, making love
and jilting, laughing and the contrary, smoking, cheating,
fighting, dancing and fiddling; there are bullies pushing about,
bucks ogling the women, knaves picking pockets, policemen
on the look-out, quacks (OTHER quacks, plague take them!)
bawling in front of their booths, and yokels looking up at
the tinselled dancers and poor old rouged tumblers, while the
light-fingered folk are operating upon their pockets behind.
Yes, this is VANITY FAIR; not a moral place certainly; nor a
merry one, though very noisy. Look at the faces of the actors
and buffoons when they come off from their business; and
Tom Fool washing the paint off his cheeks before he sits down
to dinner with his wife and the little Jack Puddings behind
the canvas. The curtain will be up presently, and he will be
turning over head and heels, and crying, "How are you?"
A man with a reflective turn of mind, walking through an
exhibition of this sort, will not be oppressed, I take it, by his
own or other people's hilarity. An episode of humour or kindness
touches and amuses him here and there--a pretty child
looking at a gingerbread stall; a pretty girl blushing whilst her
lover talks to her and chooses her fairing; poor Tom Fool,
yonder behind the waggon, mumbling his bone with the honest
family which lives by his tumbling; but the general impression
is one more melancholy than mirthful. When you come home
you sit down in a sober, contemplative, not uncharitable frame
of mind, and apply yourself to your books or your business.
I have no other moral than this to tag to the present story
of "Vanity Fair." Some people consider Fairs immoral altogether,
and eschew such, with their servants and families: very
likely they are right. But persons who think otherwise, and are
of a lazy, or a benevolent, or a sarcastic mood, may perhaps
like to step in for half an hour, and look at the performances.
There are scenes of all sorts; some dreadful combats, some
grand and lofty horse-riding, some scenes of high life, and
some of very middling indeed; some love-making for the
sentimental, and some light comic business; the whole
accompanied by appropriate scenery and brilliantly illuminated
with the Author's own candles.
What more has the Manager of the Performance to say?--
To acknowledge the kindness with which it has been received
in all the principal towns of England through which the Show
has passed, and where it has been most favourably noticed by
the respected conductors of the public Press, and by the Nobility
and Gentry. He is proud to think that his Puppets have given
satisfaction to the very best company in this empire. The
famous little Becky Puppet has been pronounced to be uncommonly
flexible in the joints, and lively on the wire; the Amelia
Doll, though it has had a smaller circle of admirers, has yet
been carved and dressed with the greatest care by the artist; the
Dobbin Figure, though apparently clumsy, yet dances in a very
amusing and natural manner; the Little Boys' Dance has been
liked by some; and please to remark the richly dressed figure
of the Wicked Nobleman, on which no expense has been
spared, and which Old Nick will fetch away at the end of this
singular performance.
And with this, and a profound bow to his patrons, the
Manager retires, and the curtain rises.
LONDON, June 28, 1848
Chapter 1
Chiswick Mall
While the present century was in its teens, and on one
sunshiny morning in June, there drove up to the great
iron gate of Miss Pinkerton's academy for young ladies,
on Chiswick Mall, a large family coach, with two fat
horses in blazing harness, driven by a fat coachman in
a three-cornered hat and wig, at the rate of four miles
an hour. A black servant, who reposed on the box beside
the fat coachman, uncurled his bandy legs as soon as
the equipage drew up opposite Miss Pinkerton's shining
brass plate, and as he pulled the bell at least a score of
young heads were seen peering out of the narrow windows
of the stately old brick house. Nay, the acute observer might
have recognized the little red nose of good-natured Miss
Jemima Pinkerton herself, rising over some geranium pots
in the window of that lady's own drawing-room.
"It is Mrs. Sedley's coach, sister," said Miss Jemima.
"Sambo, the black servant, has just rung the bell; and
the coachman has a new red waistcoat."
"Have you completed all the necessary preparations
incident to Miss Sedley's departure, Miss Jemima?" asked
Miss Pinkerton herself, that majestic lady; the Semiramis
of Hammersmith, the friend of Doctor Johnson, the
correspondent of Mrs. Chapone herself.
"The girls were up at four this morning, packing her
trunks, sister," replied Miss Jemima; "we have made her
a bow-pot."
"Say a bouquet, sister Jemima, 'tis more genteel."
"Well, a booky as big almost as a haystack; I have put
up two bottles of the gillyflower water for Mrs. Sedley,
and the receipt for making it, in Amelia's box."
"And I trust, Miss Jemima, you have made a copy of
Miss Sedley's account. This is it, is it? Very good--ninetythree
pounds, four shillings. Be kind enough to address it
to John Sedley, Esquire, and to seal this billet which I
have written to his lady."
In Miss Jemima's eyes an autograph letter of her sister,
Miss Pinkerton, was an object of as deep veneration as
would have been a letter from a sovereign. Only when
her pupils quitted the establishment, or when they were
about to be married, and once, when poor Miss Birch
died of the scarlet fever, was Miss Pinkerton known to
write personally to the parents of her pupils; and it was
Jemima's opinion that if anything could console Mrs.
Birch for her daughter's loss, it would be that pious and
eloquent composition in which Miss Pinkerton announced
the event.
In the present instance Miss Pinkerton's "billet" was
to the following effect:--
The Mall, Chiswick, June 15, 18
MADAM,--After her six years' residence at the Mall, I
have the honour and happiness of presenting Miss Amelia
Sedley to her parents, as a young lady not unworthy
to occupy a fitting position in their polished and refined
circle. Those virtues which characterize the young English gentlewoman, those
accomplishments which become
her birth and station, will not be found wanting in the
amiable Miss Sedley, whose INDUSTRY and OBEDIENCE
have endeared her to her instructors, and whose delightful sweetness of temper has
charmed her AGED and her
YOUTHFUL companions.
In music, in dancing, in orthography, in every variety
of embroidery and needlework, she will be found to
have realized her friends' fondest wishes. In geography
there is still much to be desired; and a careful and
undeviating use of the backboard, for four hours daily
during the next three years, is recommended as necessary
to the acquirement of that dignified DEPORTMENT AND
CARRIAGE, so requisite for every young lady of fashion.
In the principles of religion and morality, Miss Sedley
will be found worthy of an establishment which has
been honoured by the presence of THE GREAT LEXICOGRAPHER,
and the patronage of the admirable Mrs. Chapone. In leaving
the Mall, Miss Amelia carries with her the hearts of her
companions, and the affectionate regards of her mistress,
who has the honour to subscribe herself,
Your most obliged humble servant,
P.S.--Miss Sharp accompanies Miss Sedley. It is particularly requested that Miss Sharp's
stay in Russell Square may not
exceed ten days. The family of distinction with whom she is
engaged, desire to avail themselves of her services as soon as possible.
This letter completed, Miss Pinkerton proceeded to
write her own name, and Miss Sedley's, in the fly-leaf of
a Johnson's Dictionary--the interesting work which she
invariably presented to her scholars, on their departure
from the Mall. On the cover was inserted a copy of "Lines
addressed to a young lady on quitting Miss Pinkerton's
school, at the Mall; by the late revered Doctor Samuel
Johnson." In fact, the Lexicographer's name was always
on the lips of this majestic woman, and a visit he had
paid to her was the cause of her reputation and her fortune.
Being commanded by her elder sister to get "the Dictionary"
from the cupboard, Miss Jemima had extracted two copies
of the book from the receptacle in question. When Miss
Pinkerton had finished the inscription in the first, Jemima,
with rather a dubious and timid air, handed her the second.
"For whom is this, Miss Jemima?" said Miss Pinkerton,
with awful coldness.
"For Becky Sharp," answered Jemima, trembling very
much, and blushing over her withered face and neck, as
she turned her back on her sister. "For Becky Sharp:
she's going too."
"MISS JEMIMA!" exclaimed Miss Pinkerton, in the
largest capitals. "Are you in your senses? Replace the
Dixonary in the closet, and never venture to take such
a liberty in future."
"Well, sister, it's only two-and-ninepence, and poor
Becky will be miserable if she don't get one."
"Send Miss Sedley instantly to me," said Miss Pinkerton.
And so venturing not to say another word, poor
Jemima trotted off, exceedingly flurried and nervous.
Miss Sedley's papa was a merchant in London, and a
man of some wealth; whereas Miss Sharp was an articled
pupil, for whom Miss Pinkerton had done, as she thought,
quite enough, without conferring upon her at parting the
high honour of the Dixonary.
Although schoolmistresses' letters are to be trusted no
more nor less than churchyard epitaphs; yet, as it sometimes happens that a person
departs this life who is really
deserving of all the praises the stone cutter carves over
his bones; who IS a good Christian, a good parent, child,
wife, or husband; who actually DOES leave a disconsolate
family to mourn his loss; so in academies of the male
and female sex it occurs every now and then that the
pupil is fully worthy of the praises bestowed by the
disinterested instructor. Now, Miss Amelia Sedley was a
young lady of this singular species; and deserved not only
all that Miss Pinkerton said in her praise, but had many
charming qualities which that pompous old Minerva of a
woman could not see, from the differences of rank and
age between her pupil and herself.
For she could not only sing like a lark, or a Mrs.
Billington, and dance like Hillisberg or Parisot; and
embroider beautifully; and spell as well as a Dixonary
itself; but she had such a kindly, smiling, tender, gentle,
generous heart of her own, as won the love of everybody
who came near her, from Minerva herself down to the poor
girl in the scullery, and the one-eyed tart-woman's
daughter, who was permitted to vend her wares once a
week to the young ladies in the Mall. She had twelve intimate
and bosom friends out of the twenty-four young ladies.
Even envious Miss Briggs never spoke ill of her; high
and mighty Miss Saltire (Lord Dexter's granddaughter)
allowed that her figure was genteel; and as for Miss
Swartz, the rich woolly-haired mulatto from St. Kitt's, on
the day Amelia went away, she was in such a passion of
tears that they were obliged to send for Dr. Floss, and half
tipsify her with salvolatile. Miss Pinkerton's attachment
was, as may be supposed from the high position and
eminent virtues of that lady, calm and dignified; but Miss
Jemima had already whimpered several times at the idea
of Amelia's departure; and, but for fear of her sister,
would have gone off in downright hysterics, like the
heiress (who paid double) of St. Kitt's. Such luxury of
grief, however, is only allowed to parlour-boarders.
Honest Jemima had all the bills, and the washing, and the
mending, and the puddings, and the plate and crockery,
and the servants to superintend. But why speak about
her? It is probable that we shall not hear of her again
from this moment to the end of time, and that when the
great filigree iron gates are once closed on her, she and
her awful sister will never issue therefrom into this little
world of history.
But as we are to see a great deal of Amelia, there is
no harm in saying, at the outset of our acquaintance, that
she was a dear little creature; and a great mercy it is,
both in life and in novels, which (and the latter especially)
abound in villains of the most sombre sort, that
we are to have for a constant companion so guileless
and good-natured a person. As she is not a heroine, there
is no need to describe her person; indeed I am afraid
that her nose was rather short than otherwise, and her
cheeks a great deal too round and red for a heroine; but
her face blushed with rosy health, and her lips with the
freshest of smiles, and she had a pair of eyes which
sparkled with the brightest and honestest good-humour,
except indeed when they filled with tears, and that was
a great deal too often; for the silly thing would cry over
a dead canary-bird; or over a mouse, that the cat haply
had seized upon; or over the end of a novel, were it ever
so stupid; and as for saying an unkind word to her, were
any persons hard-hearted enough to do so--why, so much
the worse for them. Even Miss Pinkerton, that austere
and godlike woman, ceased scolding her after the first
time, and though she no more comprehended sensibility
than she did Algebra, gave all masters and teachers
particular orders to treat Miss Sedley with the utmost
gentleness, as harsh treatment was injurious to her.
So that when the day of departure came, between her
two customs of laughing and crying, Miss Sedley was
greatly puzzled how to act. She was glad to go home,
and yet most woefully sad at leaving school. For three
days before, little Laura Martin, the orphan, followed her
about like a little dog. She had to make and receive at
least fourteen presents--to make fourteen solemn promises
of writing every week: "Send my letters under cover
to my grandpapa, the Earl of Dexter," said Miss Saltire
(who, by the way, was rather shabby). "Never mind the
postage, but write every day, you dear darling," said the
impetuous and woolly-headed, but generous and
affectionate Miss Swartz; and the orphan little Laura Martin
(who was just in round-hand), took her friend's hand
and said, looking up in her face wistfully, "Amelia, when
I write to you I shall call you Mamma." All which details,
I have no doubt, JONES, who reads this book at his
Club, will pronounce to be excessively foolish, trivial,
twaddling, and ultra-sentimental. Yes; I can see Jones
at this minute (rather flushed with his joint of mutton
and half pint of wine), taking out his pencil and scoring
under the words "foolish, twaddling," &c., and adding to
them his own remark of "QUITE TRUE." Well, he is a lofty
man of genius, and admires the great and heroic in life
and novels; and so had better take warning and go elsewhere.
Well, then. The flowers, and the presents, and the
trunks, and bonnet-boxes of Miss Sedley having been
arranged by Mr. Sambo in the carriage, together with a
very small and weather-beaten old cow's-skin trunk with
Miss Sharp's card neatly nailed upon it, which was
delivered by Sambo with a grin, and packed by the
coachman with a corresponding sneer--the hour for parting
came; and the grief of that moment was considerably
lessened by the admirable discourse which Miss Pinkerton
addressed to her pupil. Not that the parting speech caused
Amelia to philosophise, or that it armed her in any
way with a calmness, the result of argument; but it was
intolerably dull, pompous, and tedious; and having the
fear of her schoolmistress greatly before her eyes, Miss
Sedley did not venture, in her presence, to give way to
any ebullitions of private grief. A seed-cake and a bottle
of wine were produced in the drawing-room, as on the
solemn occasions of the visits of parents, and these
refreshments being partaken of, Miss Sedley was at
liberty to depart.
"You'll go in and say good-by to Miss Pinkerton,
Becky!" said Miss Jemima to a young lady of whom
nobody took any notice, and who was coming downstairs
with her own bandbox.
"I suppose I must," said Miss Sharp calmly, and much
to the wonder of Miss Jemima; and the latter having
knocked at the door, and receiving permission to come
in, Miss Sharp advanced in a very unconcerned manner,
and said in French, and with a perfect accent, "Mademoiselle,
je viens vous faire mes adieux."
Miss Pinkerton did not understand French; she only
directed those who did: but biting her lips and throwing
up her venerable and Roman-nosed head (on the top of
which figured a large and solemn turban), she said, "Miss
Sharp, I wish you a good morning." As the Hammersmith
Semiramis spoke, she waved one hand, both by way of
adieu, and to give Miss Sharp an opportunity of shaking
one of the fingers of the hand which was left out for
that purpose.
Miss Sharp only folded her own hands with a very
frigid smile and bow, and quite declined to accept the
proffered honour; on which Semiramis tossed up her
turban more indignantly than ever. In fact, it was a little
battle between the young lady and the old one, and the
latter was worsted. "Heaven bless you, my child," said
she, embracing Amelia, and scowling the while over the
girl's shoulder at Miss Sharp. "Come away, Becky," said
Miss Jemima, pulling the young woman away in great
alarm, and the drawing-room door closed upon them for
Then came the struggle and parting below. Words
refuse to tell it. All the servants were there in the hall--
all the dear friend--all the young ladies--the dancingmaster
who had just arrived; and there was such a
scuffling, and hugging, and kissing, and crying, with the
hysterical YOOPS of Miss Swartz, the parlour-boarder,
from her room, as no pen can depict, and as the tender
heart would fain pass over. The embracing was over; they
parted--that is, Miss Sedley parted from her friends. Miss
Sharp had demurely entered the carriage some minutes
before. Nobody cried for leaving HER.
Sambo of the bandy legs slammed the carriage door
on his young weeping mistress. He sprang up behind the
carriage. "Stop!" cried Miss Jemima, rushing to the gate
with a parcel.
"It's some sandwiches, my dear," said she to Amelia.
"You may be hungry, you know; and Becky, Becky
Sharp, here's a book for you that my sister--that is, I
--Johnson's Dixonary, you know; you mustn't leave us
without that. Good-by. Drive on, coachman. God bless
And the kind creature retreated into the garden,
overcome with emotion.
But, lo! and just as the coach drove off, Miss Sharp put
her pale face out of the window and actually flung the
book back into the garden.
This almost caused Jemima to faint with terror. "Well,
I never"--said she--"what an audacious"--Emotion
prevented her from completing either sentence. The
carriage rolled away; the great gates were closed; the bell
rang for the dancing lesson. The world is before the two
young ladies; and so, farewell to Chiswick Mall.
In Which Miss Sharp and Miss Sedley
Prepare to Open the Campaign
When Miss Sharp had performed the heroical act
mentioned in the last chapter, and had seen the Dixonary,
flying over the pavement of the little garden, fall at length
at the feet of the astonished Miss Jemima, the young
lady's countenance, which had before worn an almost
livid look of hatred, assumed a smile that perhaps was
scarcely more agreeable, and she sank back in the
carriage in an easy frame of mind, saying--"So much for
the Dixonary; and, thank God, I'm out of Chiswick."
Miss Sedley was almost as flurried at the act of defiance
as Miss Jemima had been; for, consider, it was but one
minute that she had left school, and the impressions of
six years are not got over in that space of time. Nay,
with some persons those awes and terrors of youth last
for ever and ever. I know, for instance, an old gentleman
of sixty-eight, who said to me one morning at breakfast,
with a very agitated countenance, "I dreamed last
night that I was flogged by Dr. Raine." Fancy had carried
him back five-and-fifty years in the course of that
evening. Dr. Raine and his rod were just as awful to him
in his heart, then, at sixty-eight, as they had been at
thirteen. If the Doctor, with a large birch, had appeared
bodily to him, even at the age of threescore and eight,
and had said in awful voice, "Boy, take down your
pant--"? Well, well, Miss Sedley was exceedingly
alarmed at this act of insubordination.
"How could you do so, Rebecca?" at last she said,
after a pause.
"Why, do you think Miss Pinkerton will come out and
order me back to the black-hole?" said Rebecca, laughing.
"No: but--"
"I hate the whole house," continued Miss Sharp in a
fury. "I hope I may never set eyes on it again. I wish it
were in the bottom of the Thames, I do; and if Miss
Pinkerton were there, I wouldn't pick her out, that I
wouldn't. O how I should like to see her floating in the
water yonder, turban and all, with her train streaming
after her, and her nose like the beak of a wherry."
"Hush!" cried Miss Sedley.
"Why, will the black footman tell tales?" cried Miss
Rebecca, laughing. "He may go back and tell Miss
Pinkerton that I hate her with all my soul; and I wish he
would; and I wish I had a means of proving it, too. For
two years I have only had insults and outrage from her.
I have been treated worse than any servant in the kitchen.
I have never had a friend or a kind word, except from
you. I have been made to tend the little girls in the lower
schoolroom, and to talk French to the Misses, until I
grew sick of my mother tongue. But that talking French
to Miss Pinkerton was capital fun, wasn't it? She doesn't
know a word of French, and was too proud to confess
it. I believe it was that which made her part with me;
and so thank Heaven for French. Vive la France! Vive
l'Empereur! Vive Bonaparte!"
"O Rebecca, Rebecca, for shame!" cried Miss Sedley;
for this was the greatest blasphemy Rebecca had as yet
uttered; and in those days, in England, to say, "Long live
Bonaparte!" was as much as to say, "Long live Lucifer!"
"How can you--how dare you have such wicked,
revengeful thoughts?"
"Revenge may be wicked, but it's natural," answered
Miss Rebecca. "I'm no angel." And, to say the truth, she
certainly was not.
For it may be remarked in the course of this little
conversation (which took place as the coach rolled along
lazily by the river side) that though Miss Rebecca Sharp
has twice had occasion to thank Heaven, it has been, in
the first place, for ridding her of some person whom she
hated, and secondly, for enabling her to bring her
enemies to some sort of perplexity or confusion; neither
of which are very amiable motives for religious gratitude,
or such as would be put forward by persons of a kind
and placable disposition. Miss Rebecca was not, then, in
the least kind or placable. All the world used her ill, said
this young misanthropist, and we may be pretty certain
that persons whom all the world treats ill, deserve
entirely the treatment they get. The world is a lookingglass,
and gives back to every man the reflection of his
own face. Frown at it, and it will in turn look sourly
upon you; laugh at it and with it, and it is a jolly kind
companion; and so let all young persons take their choice.
This is certain, that if the world neglected Miss Sharp,
she never was known to have done a good action in
behalf of anybody; nor can it be expected that twentyfour
young ladies should all be as amiable as the heroine
of this work, Miss Sedley (whom we have selected for
the very reason that she was the best-natured of all,
otherwise what on earth was to have prevented us from
putting up Miss Swartz, or Miss Crump, or Miss Hopkins,
as heroine in her place!)it could not be expected that
every one should be of the humble and gentle temper
of Miss Amelia Sedley; should take every opportunity to
vanquish Rebecca's hard-heartedness and ill-humour; and,
by a thousand kind words and offices, overcome, for once
at least, her hostility to her kind.
Miss Sharp's father was an artist, and in that quality
had given lessons of drawing at Miss Pinkerton's school.
He was a clever man; a pleasant companion; a careless
student; with a great propensity for running into debt,
and a partiality for the tavern. When he was drunk, he
used to beat his wife and daughter; and the next morning,
with a headache, he would rail at the world for its neglect
of his genius, and abuse, with a good deal of cleverness,
and sometimes with perfect reason, the fools, his brother
painters. As it was with the utmost difficulty that he
could keep himself, and as he owed money for a mile
round Soho, where he lived, he thought to better his
circumstances by marrying a young woman of the French
nation, who was by profession an opera-girl. The humble
calling of her female parent Miss Sharp never alluded to,
but used to state subsequently that the Entrechats were
a noble family of Gascony, and took great pride in her
descent from them. And curious it is that as she advanced
in life this young lady's ancestors increased in rank and
Rebecca's mother had had some education somewhere,
and her daughter spoke French with purity and a Parisian
accent. It was in those days rather a rare accomplishment,
and led to her engagement with the orthodox Miss
Pinkerton. For her mother being dead, her father, finding
himself not likely to recover, after his third attack of
delirium tremens, wrote a manly and pathetic letter to
Miss Pinkerton, recommending the orphan child to her
protection, and so descended to the grave, after two
bailiffs had quarrelled over his corpse. Rebecca was
seventeen when she came to Chiswick, and was bound
over as an articled pupil; her duties being to talk French,
as we have seen; and her privileges to live cost free, and,
with a few guineas a year, to gather scraps of knowledge
from the professors who attended the school.
She was small and slight in person; pale, sandy-haired,
and with eyes habitually cast down: when they looked up
they were very large, odd, and attractive; so attractive
that the Reverend Mr. Crisp, fresh from Oxford, and
curate to the Vicar of Chiswick, the Reverend Mr.
Flowerdew, fell in love with Miss Sharp; being shot dead
by a glance of her eyes which was fired all the way across
Chiswick Church from the school-pew to the readingdesk.
This infatuated young man used sometimes to take
tea with Miss Pinkerton, to whom he had been presented
by his mamma, and actually proposed something like
marriage in an intercepted note, which the one-eyed
apple-woman was charged to deliver. Mrs. Crisp was
summoned from Buxton, and abruptly carried off her darling
boy; but the idea, even, of such an eagle in the Chiswick
dovecot caused a great flutter in the breast of Miss
Pinkerton, who would have sent away Miss Sharp but that
she was bound to her under a forfeit, and who never
could thoroughly believe the young lady's protestations
that she had never exchanged a single word with Mr.
Crisp, except under her own eyes on the two occasions
when she had met him at tea.
By the side of many tall and bouncing young ladies in
the establishment, Rebecca Sharp looked like a child. But
she had the dismal precocity of poverty. Many a dun had
she talked to, and turned away from her father's door;
many a tradesman had she coaxed and wheedled into
good-humour, and into the granting of one meal more.
She sate commonly with her father, who was very proud
of her wit, and heard the talk of many of his wild
companions--often but ill-suited for a girl to hear. But she
never had been a girl, she said; she had been a woman
since she was eight years old. Oh, why did Miss Pinkerton
let such a dangerous bird into her cage?
The fact is, the old lady believed Rebecca to be the
meekest creature in the world, so admirably, on the
occasions when her father brought her to Chiswick, used
Rebecca to perform the part of the ingenue; and only a
year before the arrangement by which Rebecca had been
admitted into her house, and when Rebecca was sixteen
years old, Miss Pinkerton majestically, and with a little
speech, made her a present of a doll--which was, by
the way, the confiscated property of Miss Swindle,
discovered surreptitiously nursing it in school-hours. How
the father and daughter laughed as they trudged home
together after the evening party (it was on the occasion of
the speeches, when all the professors were invited) and
how Miss Pinkerton would have raged had she seen the
caricature of herself which the little mimic, Rebecca,
managed to make out of her doll. Becky used to go
through dialogues with it; it formed the delight of
Newman Street, Gerrard Street, and the Artists' quarter:
and the young painters, when they came to take their ginand-
water with their lazy, dissolute, clever, jovial senior,
used regularly to ask Rebecca if Miss Pinkerton was at
home: she was as well known to them, poor soul! as
Mr. Lawrence or President West. Once Rebecca had the
honour to pass a few days at Chiswick; after which she
brought back Jemima, and erected another doll as Miss
Jemmy: for though that honest creature had made and
given her jelly and cake enough for three children, and
a seven-shilling piece at parting, the girl's sense of
ridicule was far stronger than her gratitude, and she
sacrificed Miss Jemmy quite as pitilessly as her sister.
The catastrophe came, and she was brought to the
Mall as to her home. The rigid formality of the place
suffocated her: the prayers and the meals, the lessons
and the walks, which were arranged with a conventual
regularity, oppressed her almost beyond endurance; and
she looked back to the freedom and the beggary of the
old studio in Soho with so much regret, that everybody,
herself included, fancied she was consumed with grief
for her father. She had a little room in the garret, where
the maids heard her walking and sobbing at night; but it
was with rage, and not with grief. She had not been much
of a dissembler, until now her loneliness taught her to
feign. She had never mingled in the society of women:
her father, reprobate as he was, was a man of talent; his
conversation was a thousand times more agreeable to her
than the talk of such of her own sex as she now encountered.
The pompous vanity of the old schoolmistress, the foolish
good-humour of her sister, the silly chat and scandal of the
elder girls, and the frigid correctness of the governesses
equally annoyed her; and she had no soft
maternal heart, this unlucky girl, otherwise the prattle
and talk of the younger children, with whose care she
was chiefly intrusted, might have soothed and interested
her; but she lived among them two years, and not one
was sorry that she went away. The gentle tenderhearted
Amelia Sedley was the only person to whom she
could attach herself in the least; and who could help
attaching herself to Amelia?
The happinessthe superior advantages of the young
women round about her, gave Rebecca inexpressible
pangs of envy. "What airs that girl gives herself, because
she is an Earl's grand-daughter," she said of one. "How
they cringe and bow to that Creole, because of her
hundred thousand pounds! I am a thousand times cleverer
and more charming than that creature, for all her wealth.
I am as well bred as the Earl's grand-daughter, for all her
fine pedigree; and yet every one passes me by here. And
yet, when I was at my father's, did not the men give up
their gayest balls and parties in order to pass the evening
with me?" She determined at any rate to get free from
the prison in which she found herself, and now began to
act for herself, and for the first time to make connected
plans for the future.
She took advantage, therefore, of the means of study
the place offered her; and as she was already a musician
and a good linguist, she speedily went through the little
course of study which was considered necessary for ladies
in those days. Her music she practised incessantly, and
one day, when the girls were out, and she had remained
at home, she was overheard to play a piece so well that
Minerva thought, wisely, she could spare herself the
expense of a master for the juniors, and intimated to Miss
Sharp that she was to instruct them in music for the
The girl refused; and for the first time, and to the
astonishment of the majestic mistress of the school. "I
am here to speak French with the children," Rebecca
said abruptly, "not to teach them music, and save money
for you. Give me money, and I will teach them."
Minerva was obliged to yield, and, of course, disliked
her from that day. "For five-and-thirty years," she said,
and with great justice, "I never have seen the individual
who has dared in my own house to question my
authority. I have nourished a viper in my bosom."
"A viper--a fiddlestick," said Miss Sharp to the old
lady, almost fainting with astonishment. "You took me
because I was useful. There is no question of gratitude
between us. I hate this place, and want to leave it. I
will do nothing here but what I am obliged to do."
It was in vain that the old lady asked her if she was
aware she was speaking to Miss Pinkerton? Rebecca
laughed in her face, with a horrid sarcastic demoniacal
laughter, that almost sent the schoolmistress into fits.
"Give me a sum of money," said the girl, "and get rid
of me--or, if you like better, get me a good place as
governess in a nobleman's family--you can do so if you
please." And in their further disputes she always returned
to this point, "Get me a situation--we hate each other,
and I am ready to go."
Worthy Miss Pinkerton, although she had a Roman
nose and a turban, and was as tall as a grenadier, and
had been up to this time an irresistible princess, had no
will or strength like that of her little apprentice, and in
vain did battle against her, and tried to overawe her.
Attempting once to scold her in public, Rebecca hit upon
the before-mentioned plan of answering her in French,
which quite routed the old woman. In order to maintain
authority in her school, it became necessary to remove
this rebel, this monster, this serpent, this firebrand; and
hearing about this time that Sir Pitt Crawley's family
was in want of a governess, she actually recommended
Miss Sharp for the situation, firebrand and serpent as
she was. "I cannot, certainly," she said, "find fault with
Miss Sharp's conduct, except to myself; and must allow
that her talents and accomplishments are of a high order.
As far as the head goes, at least, she does credit to the
educational system pursued at my establishment.''
And so the schoolmistress reconciled the recommendation
to her conscience, and the indentures were cancelled,
and the apprentice was free. The battle here described
in a few lines, of course, lasted for some months. And
as Miss Sedley, being now in her seventeenth year, was
about to leave school, and had a friendship for Miss
Sharp ("'tis the only point in Amelia's behaviour," said
Minerva, "which has not been satisfactory to her
mistress"), Miss Sharp was invited by her friend to
pass a week with her at home, before she entered
upon her duties as governess in a private family.
Thus the world began for these two young ladies. For
Amelia it was quite a new, fresh, brilliant world, with
all the bloom upon it. It was not quite a new one for
Rebecca--(indeed, if the truth must be told with respect
to the Crisp affair, the tart-woman hinted to somebody,
who took an affidavit of the fact to somebody else, that
there was a great deal more than was made public
regarding Mr. Crisp and Miss Sharp, and that his letter
was in answer to another letter). But who can tell you
the real truth of the matter? At all events, if Rebecca
was not beginning the world, she was beginning it over
By the time the young ladies reached Kensington turnpike,
Amelia had not forgotten her companions, but had
dried her tears, and had blushed very much and been
delighted at a young officer of the Life Guards, who spied
her as he was riding by, and said, "A dem fine gal,
egad!" and before the carriage arrived in Russell Square,
a great deal of conversation had taken place about the
Drawing-room, and whether or not young ladies wore
powder as well as hoops when presented, and whether
she was to have that honour: to the Lord Mayor's ball
she knew she was to go. And when at length home was
reached, Miss Amelia Sedley skipped out on Sambo's
arm, as happy and as handsome a girl as any in the whole
big city of London. Both he and coachman agreed on
this point, and so did her father and mother, and so did
every one of the servants in the house, as they stood
bobbing, and curtseying, and smiling, in the hall to
welcome their young mistress.
You may be sure that she showed Rebecca over every
room of the house, and everything in every one of her
drawers; and her books, and her piano, and her dresses,
and all her necklaces, brooches, laces, and gimcracks.
She insisted upon Rebecca accepting the white cornelian
and the turquoise rings, and a sweet sprigged muslin,
which was too small for her now, though it would fit
her friend to a nicety; and she determined in her heart
to ask her mother's permission to present her white
Cashmere shawl to her friend. Could she not spare it? and
had not her brother Joseph just brought her two from
When Rebecca saw the two magnificent Cashmere
shawls which Joseph Sedley had brought home to his
sister, she said, with perfect truth, "that it must be
delightful to have a brother," and easily got the pity of the
tender-hearted Amelia for being alone in the world, an
orphan without friends or kindred.
"Not alone," said Amelia; "you know, Rebecca, I shall
always be your friend, and love you as a sister--indeed
I will."
"Ah, but to have parents, as you have--kind, rich,
affectionate parents, who give you everything you-ask
for; and their love, which is more precious than all!
My poor papa could give me nothing, and I had but two
frocks in all the world! And then, to have a brother, a
dear brother! Oh, how you must love him!"
Amelia laughed.
"What! don't you love him? you, who say you love
everybody?" ~;
"Yes, of course, I do--only--"
"Only what?"
"Only Joseph doesn't seem to care much whether I
love him or not. He gave me two fingers to shake when
he arrived after ten years' absence! He is very kind and
good, but he scarcely ever speaks to me; I think he
loves his pipe a great deal better than his"--but here
Amelia checked herself, for why should she speak ill of
her brother? "He was very kind to me as a child," she
added; "I was but five years old when he went away."
"Isn't he very rich?" said Rebecca. "They say all Indian
nabobs are enormously rich."
"I believe he has a very large income."
"And is your sister-in-law a nice pretty woman?"
"La! Joseph is not married," said Amelia, laughing
Perhaps she had mentioned the fact already to Rebecca,
but that young lady did not appear to have remembered
it; indeed, vowed and protested that she expected to see
a number of Amelia's nephews and nieces. She was quite
disappointed that Mr. Sedley was not married; she was
sure Amelia had said he was, and she doted so on little
"I think you must have had enough of them at
Chiswick," said Amelia, rather wondering at the sudden
tenderness on her friend's part; and indeed in later days
Miss Sharp would never have committed herself so far
as to advance opinions, the untruth of which would have
been so easily detected. But we must remember that she
is but nineteen as yet, unused to the art of deceiving,
poor innocent creature! and making her own experience
in her own person. The meaning of the above series of
queries, as translated in the heart of this ingenious young
woman, was simply this: "If Mr. Joseph Sedley is rich
and unmarried, why should I not marry him? I have
only a fortnight, to be sure, but there is no harm in
trying." And she determined within herself to make this
laudable attempt. She redoubled her caresses to Amelia;
she kissed the white cornelian necklace as she put it
on; and vowed she would never, never part with it. When
the dinner-bell rang she went downstairs with her arm
round her friend's waist, as is the habit of young ladies.
She was so agitated at the drawing-room door, that she
could hardly find courage to enter. "Feel my heart, how
it beats, dear!" said she to her friend.
"No, it doesn't," said Amelia. "Come in, don't be
frightened. Papa won't do you any harm."
Rebecca Is in Presence of the Enemy
A VERY stout, puffy man, in buckskins and Hessian
boots, with several immense neckcloths that rose almost
to his nose, with a red striped waistcoat and an apple
green coat with steel buttons almost as large as crown
pieces (it was the morning costume of a dandy or blood
of those days) was reading the paper by the fire when
the two girls entered, and bounced off his arm-chair,
and blushed excessively, and hid his entire face almost
in his neckcloths at this apparition.
"It's only your sister, Joseph," said Amelia, laughing
and shaking the two fingers which he held out. "I've
come home FOR GOOD, you know; and this is my friend,
Miss Sharp, whom you have heard me mention."
"No, never, upon my word," said the head under the
neckcloth, shaking very much--"that is, yes--what
abominably cold weather, Miss"--and herewith he fell
to poking the fire with all his might, although it was in the
middle of June.
"He's very handsome," whispered Rebecca to Amelia,
rather loud.
"Do you think so?" said the latter. "I'll tell him."
"Darling! not for worlds," said Miss Sharp, starting
back as timid as a fawn. She had previously made a
respectful virgin-like curtsey to the gentleman, and her
modest eyes gazed so perseveringly on the carpet that it
was a wonder how she should have found an opportunity
to see him.
"Thank you for the beautiful shawls, brother," said
Amelia to the fire poker. "Are they not beautiful, Rebecca?"
"O heavenly!" said Miss Sharp, and her eyes went
from the carpet straight to the chandelier.
Joseph still continued a huge clattering at the poker
and tongs, puffing and blowing the while, and turning
as red as his yellow face would allow him. "I can't
make you such handsome presents, Joseph," continued
his sister, "but while I was at school, I have embroidered
for you a very beautiful pair of braces."
"Good Gad! Amelia," cried the brother, in serious
alarm, "what do you mean?" and plunging with all his
might at the bell-rope, that article of furniture came
away in his hand, and increased the honest fellow's
confusion. "For heaven's sake see if my buggy's at the
door. I CAN'T wait. I must go. D-- that groom of mine.
I must go."
At this minute the father of the family walked in,
rattling his seals like a true British merchant. "What's
the matter, Emmy?" says he.
"Joseph wants me to see if his--his buggy is at the
door. What is a buggy, Papa?"
"It is a one-horse palanquin," said the old gentleman,
who was a wag in his way.
Joseph at this burst out into a wild fit of laughter;
in which, encountering the eye of Miss Sharp, he stopped
all of a sudden, as if he had been shot.
"This young lady is your friend? Miss Sharp, I am
very happy to see you. Have you and Emmy been
quarrelling already with Joseph, that he wants to be off?"
"I promised Bonamy of our service, sir," said Joseph,
"to dine with him."
"O fie! didn't you tell your mother you would dine
"But in this dress it's impossible."
"Look at him, isn't he handsome enough to dine
anywhere, Miss Sharp?"
On which, of course, Miss Sharp looked at her friend,
and they both set off in a fit of laughter, highly
agreeable to the old gentleman.
"Did you ever see a pair of buckskins like those at
Miss Pinkerton's?" continued he, following up his
"Gracious heavens! Father," cried Joseph.
"There now, I have hurt his feelings. Mrs. Sedley,
my dear, I have hurt your son's feelings. I have alluded
to his buckskins. Ask Miss Sharp if I haven't? Come,
Joseph, be friends with Miss Sharp, and let us all go to
"There's a pillau, Joseph, just as you like it, and Papa
has brought home the best turbot in Billingsgate."
"Come, come, sir, walk downstairs with Miss Sharp,
and I will follow with these two young women," said
the father, and he took an arm of wife and daughter
and walked merrily off.
If Miss Rebecca Sharp had determined in her heart
upon making the conquest of this big beau, I don't
think, ladies, we have any right to blame her; for though
the task of husband-hunting is generally, and with
becoming modesty, entrusted by young persons to their
mammas, recollect that Miss Sharp had no kind parent
to arrange these delicate matters for her, and that if
she did not get a husband for herself, there was no one
else in the wide world who would take the trouble off
her hands. What causes young people to "come out,"
but the noble ambition of matrimony? What sends them
trooping to watering-places? What keeps them dancing
till five o'clock in the morning through a whole mortal
season? What causes them to labour at pianoforte sonatas,
and to learn four songs from a fashionable master at a
guinea a lesson, and to play the harp if they have
handsome arms and neat elbows, and to wear Lincoln
Green toxophilite hats and feathers, but that they may bring
down some "desirable" young man with those killing bows
and arrows of theirs? What causes respectable parents
to take up their carpets, set their houses topsy-turvy, and
spend a fifth of their year's income in ball suppers and
iced champagne? Is it sheer love of their species, and
an unadulterated wish to see young people happy and
dancing? Psha! they want to marry their daughters; and,
as honest Mrs. Sedley has, in the depths of her kind
heart, already arranged a score of little schemes for the
settlement of her Amelia, so also had our beloved but
unprotected Rebecca determined to do her very best to
secure the husband, who was even more necessary for
her than for her friend. She had a vivid imagination; she
had, besides, read the Arabian Nights and Guthrie's
Geography; and it is a fact that while she was dressing for
dinner, and after she had asked Amelia whether her
brother was very rich, she had built for herself a most
magnificent castle in the air, of which she was mistress,
with a husband somewhere in the background (she had
not seen him as yet, and his figure would not therefore
be very distinct); she had arrayed herself in an infinity
of shawls, turbans, and diamond necklaces, and had
mounted upon an elephant to the sound of the march in
Bluebeard, in order to pay a visit of ceremony to the
Grand Mogul. Charming Alnaschar visions! it is the
happy privilege of youth to construct you, and many
a fanciful young creature besides Rebecca Sharp has
indulged in these delightful day-dreams ere now!
Joseph Sedley was twelve years older than his sister
Amelia. He was in the East India Company's Civil
Service, and his name appeared, at the period of which
we write, in the Bengal division of the East India Register,
as collector of Boggley Wollah, an honourable and
lucrative post, as everybody knows: in order to know
to what higher posts Joseph rose in the service, the
reader is referred to the same periodical.
Boggley Wollah is situated in a fine, lonely, marshy,
jungly district, famous for snipe-shooting, and where
not unfrequently you may flush a tiger. Ramgunge, where
there is a magistrate, is only forty miles off, and there
is a cavalry station about thirty miles farther; so Joseph
wrote home to his parents, when he took possession of
his collectorship. He had lived for about eight years of
his life, quite alone, at this charming place, scarcely
seeing a Christian face except twice a year, when the
detachment arrived to carry off the revenues which he
had collected, to Calcutta.
Luckily, at this time he caught a liver complaint, for
the cure of which he returned to Europe, and which
was the source of great comfort and amusement to him
in his native country. He did not live with his family
while in London, but had lodgings of his own, like
a gay young bachelor. Before he went to India he was
too young to partake of the delightful pleasures of a
man about town, and plunged into them on his return
with considerable assiduity. He drove his horses in the
Park; he dined at the fashionable taverns (for the
Oriental Club was not as yet invented); he frequented
the theatres, as the mode was in those days, or made
his appearance at the opera, laboriously attired in tights
and a cocked hat.
On returning to India, and ever after, he used to talk
of the pleasure of this period of his existence with great
enthusiasm, and give you to understand that he and
Brummel were the leading bucks of the day. But he was
as lonely here as in his jungle at Boggley Wollah. He
scarcely knew a single soul in the metropolis: and were
it not for his doctor, and the society of his blue-pill,
and his liver complaint, he must have died of loneliness.
He was lazy, peevish, and a bon-vivan; the appearance
of a lady frightened him beyond measure; hence it was
but seldom that he joined the paternal circle in Russell
Square, where there was plenty of gaiety, and where the
jokes of his good-natured old father frightened his
amour-propre. His bulk caused Joseph much anxious
thought and alarm; now and then he would make a
desperate attempt to get rid of his superabundant fat;
but his indolence and love of good living speedily got
the better of these endeavours at reform, and he found
himself again at his three meals a day. He never was
well dressed; but he took the hugest pains to adorn his
big person, and passed many hours daily in that occupation.
His valet made a fortune out of his wardrobe: his
toilet-table was covered with as many pomatums and
essences as ever were employed by an old beauty: he had
tried, in order to give himself a waist, every girth, stay,
and waistband then invented. Like most fat men, he
would have his clothes made too tight, and took care
they should be of the most brilliant colours and youthful
cut. When dressed at length, in the afternoon, he would
issue forth to take a drive with nobody in the Park;
and then would come back in order to dress again and
go and dine with nobody at the Piazza Coffee-House.
He was as vain as a girl; and perhaps his extreme
shyness was one of the results of his extreme vanity. If
Miss Rebecca can get the better of him, and at her first
entrance into life, she is a young person of no ordinary
The first move showed considerable skill. When she
called Sedley a very handsome man, she knew that
Amelia would tell her mother, who would probably tell
Joseph, or who, at any rate, would be pleased by the
compliment paid to her son. All mothers are. If you
had told Sycorax that her son Caliban was as handsome
as Apollo, she would have been pleased, witch as she
was. Perhaps, too, Joseph Sedley would overhear the
compliment--Rebecca spoke loud enough--and he did
hear, and (thinking in his heart that he was a very fine
man) the praise thrilled through every fibre of his big
body, and made it tingle with pleasure. Then, however,
came a recoil. "Is the girl making fun of me?" he thought,
and straightway he bounced towards the bell, and was
for retreating, as we have seen, when his father's jokes
and his mother's entreaties caused him to pause and
stay where he was. He conducted the young lady down
to dinner in a dubious and agitated frame of mind.
"Does she really think I am handsome?" thought he,
"or is she only making game of me?" We have talked
of Joseph Sedley being as vain as a girl. Heaven help
us! the girls have only to turn the tables, and say
of one of their own sex, "She is as vain as a man,"
and they will have perfect reason. The bearded creatures
are quite as eager for praise, quite as finikin over their
toilettes, quite as proud of their personal advantages,
quite as conscious of their powers of fascination, as
any coquette in the world.
Downstairs, then, they went, Joseph very red and
blushing, Rebecca very modest, and holding her green
eyes downwards. She was dressed in white, with bare
shoulders as white as snow--the picture of youth,
unprotected innocence, and humble virgin simplicity.
"I must be very quiet," thought Rebecca, "and very much
interested about India."
Now we have heard how Mrs. Sedley had prepared a
fine curry for her son, just as he liked it, and in the
course of dinner a portion of this dish was offered to
Rebecca. "What is it?" said she, turning an appealing
look to Mr. Joseph.
"Capital," said he. His mouth was full of it: his face
quite red with the delightful exercise of gobbling.
"Mother, it's as good as my own curries in India."
"Oh, I must try some, if it is an Indian dish," said
Miss Rebecca. "I am sure everything must be good that
comes from there."
"Give Miss Sharp some curry, my dear," said Mr.
Sedley, laughing.
Rebecca had never tasted the dish before.
"Do you find it as good as everything else from India?"
said Mr. Sedley.
"Oh, excellent!" said Rebecca, who was suffering
tortures with the cayenne pepper.
"Try a chili with it, Miss Sharp," said Joseph, really
"A chili," said Rebecca, gasping. "Oh yes!" She thought
a chili was something cool, as its name imported,
and was served with some. "How fresh and green they
look," she said, and put one into her mouth. It was
hotter than the curry; flesh and blood could bear it no
longer. She laid down her fork. "Water, for Heaven's
sake, water!" she cried. Mr. Sedley burst out laughing
(he was a coarse man, from the Stock Exchange, where
they love all sorts of practical jokes). "They are real
Indian, I assure you," said he. "Sambo, give Miss Sharp
some water."
The paternal laugh was echoed by Joseph, who thought
the joke capital. The ladies only smiled a little. They
thought poor Rebecca suffered too much. She would have
liked to choke old Sedley, but she swallowed her
mortification as well as she had the abominable curry
before it, and as soon as she could speak, said, with a comical,
good-humoured air, "I ought to have remembered the
pepper which the Princess of Persia puts in the creamtarts
in the Arabian Nights. Do you put cayenne into
your cream-tarts in India, sir?"
Old Sedley began to laugh, and thought Rebecca
was a good-humoured girl. Joseph simply said, "Creamtarts,
Miss? Our cream is very bad in Bengal. We
generally use goats' milk; and, 'gad, do you know, I've got
to prefer it!"
"You won't like EVERYTHING from India now, Miss
Sharp," said the old gentleman; but when the ladies had
retired after dinner, the wily old fellow said to his son,
"Have a care, Joe; that girl is setting her cap at you."
"Pooh! nonsense!" said Joe, highly flattered. "I recollect,
sir, there was a girl at Dumdum, a daughter of
Cutler of the Artillery, and afterwards married to Lance,
the surgeon, who made a dead set at me in the year
'4--at me and Mulligatawney, whom I mentioned to you
before dinner--a devilish good fellow Mulligatawney--
he's a magistrate at Budgebudge, and sure to be in
council in five years. Well, sir, the Artillery gave a ball,
and Quintin, of the King's 14th, said to me, 'Sedley,' said
he, 'I bet you thirteen to ten that Sophy Cutler hooks
either you or Mulligatawney before the rains.' 'Done,'
says I; and egad, sir--this claret's very good. Adamson's
or Carbonell's?"
A slight snore was the only reply: the honest stockbroker
was asleep, and so the rest of Joseph's story was lost
for that day. But he was always exceedingly
communicative in a man's party, and has told this
delightful tale many scores of times to his apothecary,
Dr. Gollop, when he came to inquire about the liver and
the blue-pill.
Being an invalid, Joseph Sedley contented himself with
a bottle of claret besides his Madeira at dinner, and
he managed a couple of plates full of strawberries and
cream, and twenty-four little rout cakes that were lying
neglected in a plate near him, and certainly (for
novelists have the privilege of knowing everything)
he thought a great deal about the girl upstairs. "A nice,
gay, merry young creature," thought he to himself. "How
she looked at me when I picked up her handkerchief at
dinner! She dropped it twice. Who's that singing in the
drawing-room? 'Gad! shall I go up and see?"
But his modesty came rushing upon him with
uncontrollable force. His father was asleep: his hat
was in the hall: there was a hackney-coach standing
hard by in Southampton Row. "I'll go and see the Forty
Thieves," said he, "and Miss Decamp's dance"; and he
slipped away gently on the pointed toes of his boots, and disappeared, without waking his
worthy parent.
"There goes Joseph," said Amelia, who was looking
from the open windows of the drawing-room, while
Rebecca was singing at the piano.
"Miss Sharp has frightened him away," said Mrs.
Sedley. "Poor Joe, why WILL he be so shy?"
The Green Silk Purse
Poor Joe's panic lasted for two or three days; during
which he did not visit the house, nor during that period
did Miss Rebecca ever mention his name. She was all
respectful gratitude to Mrs. Sedley; delighted beyond
measure at the Bazaars; and in a whirl of wonder at the
theatre, whither the good-natured lady took her. One
day, Amelia had a headache, and could not go upon some
party of pleasure to which the two young people were
invited: nothing could induce her friend to go without her.
"What! you who have shown the poor orphan what
happiness and love are for the first time in her life--quit
YOU? Never!" and the green eyes looked up to Heaven
and filled with tears; and Mrs. Sedley could not but own
that her daughter's friend had a charming kind heart
of her own.
As for Mr. Sedley's jokes, Rebecca laughed at them
with a cordiality and perseverance which not a little
pleased and softened that good-natured gentleman. Nor
was it with the chiefs of the family alone that Miss
Sharp found favour. She interested Mrs. Blenkinsop by
evincing the deepest sympathy in the raspberry-jam
preserving, which operation was then going on in the
Housekeeper's room; she persisted in calling Sambo "Sir,"
and "Mr. Sambo," to the delight of that attendant; and she
apologised to the lady's maid for giving her trouble in
venturing to ring the bell, with such sweetness and
humility, that the Servants' Hall was almost as charmed
with her as the Drawing Room.
Once, in looking over some drawings which Amelia
had sent from school, Rebecca suddenly came upon one
which caused her to burst into tears and leave the room.
It was on the day when Joe Sedley made his second
Amelia hastened after her friend to know the cause
of this display of feeling, and the good-natured girl came
back without her companion, rather affected too. "You
know, her father was our drawing-master, Mamma, at
Chiswick, and used to do all the best parts of our drawings."
"My love! I'm sure I always heard Miss Pinkerton say
that he did not touch them--he only mounted them."
"It was called mounting, Mamma. Rebecca remembers
the drawing, and her father working at it, and the
thought of it came upon her rather suddenly--and so,
you know, she--"
"The poor child is all heart," said Mrs. Sedley.
"I wish she could stay with us another week," said
"She's devilish like Miss Cutler that I used to meet
at Dumdum, only fairer. She's married now to Lance,
the Artillery Surgeon. Do you know, Ma'am, that once
Quintin, of the 14th, bet me--"
"0 Joseph, we know that story," said Amelia, laughing.
Never mind about telling that; but persuade Mamma
to write to Sir Something Crawley for leave of absence
for poor dear Rebecca: here she comes, her eyes red
with weeping."
"I'm better, now," said the girl, with the sweetest smile
possible, taking good-natured Mrs. Sedley's extended hand
and kissing it respectfully. "How kind you all are to me!
All," she added, with a laugh, "except you, Mr. Joseph."
"Me!" said Joseph, meditating an instant departure
"Gracious Heavens! Good Gad! Miss Sharp!'
"Yes; how could you be so cruel as to make me eat
that horrid pepper-dish at dinner, the first day I ever
saw you? You are not so good to me as dear Amelia."
"He doesn't know you so well," cried Amelia.
"I defy anybody not to be good to you, my dear,"
said her mother.
"The curry was capital; indeed it was," said Joe, quite
gravely. "Perhaps there was NOT enough citron juice in
it--no, there was NOT."
"And the chilis?"
"By Jove, how they made you cry out!" said Joe,
caught by the ridicule of the circumstance, and
exploding in a fit of laughter which ended quite
suddenly, as usual.
"I shall take care how I let YOU choose for me
another time," said Rebecca, as they went down
again to dinner. "I didn't think men were fond of
putting poor harmless girls to pain."
"By Gad, Miss Rebecca, I wouldn't hurt you for the
"No," said she, "I KNOW you wouldn't"; and then she
gave him ever so gentle a pressure with her little hand,
and drew it back quite frightened, and looked first for
one instant in his face, and then down at the carpetrods;
and I am not prepared to say that Joe's heart did
not thump at this little involuntary, timid, gentle motion
of regard on the part of the simple girl.
It was an advance, and as such, perhaps, some ladies
of indisputable correctness and gentility will condemn the
action as immodest; but, you see, poor dear Rebecca
had all this work to do for herself. If a person is too
poor to keep a servant, though ever so elegant, he must
sweep his own rooms: if a dear girl has no dear Mamma
to settle matters with the young man, she must do it
for herself. And oh, what a mercy it is that these women
do not exercise their powers oftener! We can't resist
them, if they do. Let them show ever so little inclination,
and men go down on their knees at once: old or ugly,
it is all the same. And this I set down as a positive
truth. A woman with fair opportunities, and without an
absolute hump, may marry WHOM SHE LIKES. Only let us
be thankful that the darlings are like the beasts of the
field, and don't know their own power. They would
overcome us entirely if they did.
"Egad!" thought Joseph, entering the dining-room, "I
exactly begin to feel as I did at Dumdum with Miss
Cutler." Many sweet little appeals, half tender, half
jocular, did Miss Sharp make to him about the dishes
at dinner; for by this time she was on a footing of
considerable familiarity with the family, and as for the
girls, they loved each other like sisters. Young unmarried
girls always do, if they are in a house together for ten
As if bent upon advancing Rebecca's plans in every
way--what must Amelia do, but remind her brother of
a promise made last Easter holidays--"When I was a
girl at school," said she, laughing--a promise that he,
Joseph, would take her to Vauxhall. "Now," she said,
"that Rebecca is with us, will be the very time."
"O, delightful!" said Rebecca, going to clap her hands;
but she recollected herself, and paused, like a modest
creature, as she was.
"To-night is not the night," said Joe.
"Well, to-morrow."
"To-morrow your Papa and I dine out," said Mrs.
"You don't suppose that I'm going, Mrs. Sed?" said
her husband, "and that a woman of your years and size
is to catch cold, in such an abominable damp place?"
'The children must have someone with them," cried
Mrs. Sedley.
"Let Joe go," said-his father, laughing. "He's big
enough." At which speech even Mr. Sambo at the
sideboard burst out laughing, and poor fat Joe felt
inclined to become a parricide almost.
"Undo his stays!" continued the pitiless old gentleman.
"Fling some water in his face, Miss Sharp, or carry him
upstairs: the dear creature's fainting. Poor victim! carry
him up; he's as light as a feather!"
"If I stand this, sir, I'm d--!" roared Joseph.
"Order Mr. Jos's elephant, Sambo!" cried the father.
"Send to Exeter 'Change, Sambo"; but seeing Jos ready
almost to cry with vexation, the old joker stopped his
laughter, and said, holding out his hand to his son, "It's
all fair on the Stock Exchange, Jos--and, Sambo, never
mind the elephant, but give me and Mr. Jos a glass of
Champagne. Boney himself hasn't got such in his cellar,
my boy!"
A goblet of Champagne restored Joseph's equanimity,
and before the bottle was emptied, of which as an invalid
he took two-thirds, he had agreed to take the young
ladies to Vauxhall.
"The girls must have a gentleman apiece," said the old
gentleman. "Jos will be sure to leave Emmy in the crowd,
he will be so taken up with Miss Sharp here. Send to 96,
and ask George Osborne if he'll come."
At this, I don't know in the least for what reason,
Mrs. Sedley looked at her husband and laughed. Mr.
Sedley's eyes twinkled in a manner indescribably
roguish, and he looked at Amelia; and Amelia, hanging
down her head, blushed as only young ladies of seventeen
know how to blush, and as Miss Rebecca Sharp never
blushed in her life--at least not since she was eight
years old, and when she was caught stealing jam out of
a cupboard by her godmother. "Amelia had better write
a note," said her father; "and let George Osborne see
what a beautiful handwriting we have brought back from
Miss Pinkerton's. Do you remember when you wrote to
him to come on Twelfth-night, Emmy, and spelt twelfth
without the f?"
"That was years ago," said Amelia.
"It seems like yesterday, don't it, John?" said Mrs.
Sedley to her husband; and that night in a conversation
which took place in a front room in the second floor,
in a sort of tent, hung round with chintz of a rich and
fantastic India pattern, and double with calico of a
tender rose-colour; in the interior of which species of
marquee was a featherbed, on which were two pillows,
on which were two round red faces, one in a laced
nightcap, and one in a simple cotton one, ending in a tassel
--in A CURTAIN LECTURE, I say, Mrs. Sedley took her
husband to task for his cruel conduct to poor Joe.
"It was quite wicked of you, Mr. Sedley," said she,
"to torment the poor boy so."
"My dear," said the cotton-tassel in defence of his
conduct, "Jos is a great deal vainer than you ever were
in your life, and that's saying a good deal. Though, some
thirty years ago, in the year seventeen hundred and
eighty--what was it?--perhaps you had a right to be
vain--I don't say no. But I've no patience with Jos and
his dandified modesty. It is out-Josephing Joseph, my dear,
and all the while the boy is only thinking of himself,
and what a fine fellow he is. I doubt, Ma'am, we shall
have some trouble with him yet. Here is Emmy's little
friend making love to him as hard as she can; that's
quite clear; and if she does not catch him some other
will. That man is destined to be a prey to woman, as
I am to go on 'Change every day. It's a mercy he did
not bring us over a black daughter-in-law, my dear. But,
mark my words, the first woman who fishes for him,
hooks him."
"She shall go off to-morrow, the little artful creature,"
said Mrs. Sedley, with great energy.
"Why not she as well as another, Mrs. Sedley? The
girl's a white face at any rate. I don't care who marries
him. Let Joe please himself."
And presently the voices of the two speakers were
hushed, or were replaced by the gentle but unromantic
music of the nose; and save when the church bells
tolled the hour and the watchman called it, all was
silent at the house of John Sedley, Esquire, of Russell
Square, and the Stock Exchange.
When morning came, the good-natured Mrs. Sedley no
longer thought of executing her threats with regard to
Miss Sharp; for though nothing is more keen, nor more
common, nor more justifiable, than maternal jealousy,
yet she could not bring herself to suppose that the little,
humble, grateful, gentle governess would dare to look
up to such a magnificent personage as the Collector of
Boggley Wollah. The petition, too, for an extension of
the young lady's leave of absence had already been
despatched, and it would be difficult to find a pretext for
abruptly dismissing her.
And as if all things conspired in favour of the gentle
Rebecca, the very elements (although she was not
inclined at first to acknowledge their action in her behalf)
interposed to aid her. For on the evening appointed for
the Vauxhall party, George Osborne having come to
dinner, and the elders of the house having departed,
according to invitation, to dine with Alderman Balls at
Highbury Barn, there came on such a thunder-storm as only
happens on Vauxhall nights, and as obliged the young
people, perforce, to remain at home. Mr. Osborne did
not seem in the least disappointed at this occurrence.
He and Joseph Sedley drank a fitting quantity of
port-wine, tete-a-tete, in the dining-room, during the
drinking of which Sedley told a number of his best Indian
stories; for he was extremely talkative in man's society;
and afterwards Miss Amelia Sedley did the honours of
the drawing-room; and these four young persons passed
such a comfortable evening together, that they declared
they were rather glad of the thunder-storm than
otherwise, which had caused them to put off their
visit to Vauxhall.
Osborne was Sedley's godson, and had been one of the
family any time these three-and-twenty years. At six
weeks old, he had received from John Sedley a present
of a silver cup; at six months old, a coral with gold
whistle and bells; from his youth upwards he was
"tipped" regularly by the old gentleman at Christmas:
and on going back to school, he remembered perfectly
well being thrashed by Joseph Sedley, when the latter
was a big, swaggering hobbadyhoy, and George an
impudent urchin of ten years old. In a word, George was
as familiar with the family as such daily acts of
kindness and intercourse could make him.
"Do you remember, Sedley, what a fury you were in,
when I cut off the tassels of your Hessian boots, and
how Miss--hem!--how Amelia rescued me from a
beating, by falling down on her knees and crying out to
her brother Jos, not to beat little George?"
Jos remembered this remarkable circumstance
perfectly well, but vowed that he had totally
forgotten it.
"Well, do you remember coming down in a gig to Dr.
Swishtail's to see me, before you went to India, and
giving me half a guinea and a pat on the head? I always
had an idea that you were at least seven feet high, and
was quite astonished at your return from India to find
you no taller than myself."
"How good of Mr. Sedley to go to your school and
give you the money!" exclaimed Rebecca, in accents of
extreme delight.
"Yes, and after I had cut the tassels of his boots too.
Boys never forget those tips at school, nor the givers."
"I delight in Hessian boots," said Rebecca. Jos Sedley,
who admired his own legs prodigiously, and always
wore this ornamental chaussure, was extremely pleased
at this remark, though he drew his legs under his chair
as it was made.
"Miss Sharp!" said George Osborne, "you who are
so clever an artist, you must make a grand historical
picture of the scene of the boots. Sedley shall be
represented in buckskins, and holding one of the
injured boots in one hand; by the other he shall have
hold of my shirt-frill. Amelia shall be kneeling near him,
with her little hands up; and the picture shall have a
grand allegorical title, as the frontispieces have in the
Medulla and the spelling-book."
"I shan't have time to do it here," said Rebecca. 'I'll
do it when--when I'm gone." And she dropped her voice,
and looked so sad and piteous, that everybody felt how
cruel her lot was, and how sorry they would be to
part with her.
"O that you could stay longer, dear Rebecca," said
"Why?" answered the other, still more sadly. "That
I may be only the more unhap--unwilling to lose you?"
And she turned away her head. Amelia began to give
way to that natural infirmity of tears which, we have
said, was one of the defects of this silly little thing. George
Osborne looked at the two young women with a touched
curiosity; and Joseph Sedley heaved something very like
a sigh out of his big chest, as he cast his eyes down
towards his favourite Hessian boots.
"Let us have some music, Miss Sedley--Amelia," said
George, who felt at that moment an extraordinary,
almost irresistible impulse to seize the above-mentioned
young woman in his arms, and to kiss her in the face of
the company; and she looked at him for a moment, and
if I should say that they fell in love with each other at
that single instant of time, I should perhaps be telling
an untruth, for the fact is that these two young people
had been bred up by their parents for this very purpose,
and their banns had, as it were, been read in their
respective families any time these ten years. They went
off to the piano, which was situated, as pianos usually
are, in the back drawing-room; and as it was rather dark,
Miss Amelia, in the most unaffected way in the world,
put her hand into Mr. Osborne's, who, of course, could
see the way among the chairs and ottomans a great deal
better than she could. But this arrangement left Mr.
Joseph Sedley tete-a-tete with Rebecca, at the
drawing-room table, where the latter was occupied
in knitting a green silk purse.
"There is no need to ask family secrets," said Miss
Sharp. "Those two have told theirs."
"As soon as he gets his company," said Joseph, "I
believe the affair is settled. George Osborne is a capital
"And your sister the dearest creature in the world,"
said Rebecca. "Happy the man who wins her!" With
this, Miss Sharp gave a great sigh.
When two unmarried persons get together, and talk
upon such delicate subjects as the present, a great deal
of confidence and intimacy is presently established
between them. There is no need of giving a special report
of the conversation which now took place between Mr.
Sedley and the young lady; for the conversation, as may
be judged from the foregoing specimen, was not especially
witty or eloquent; it seldom is in private societies, or
anywhere except in very high-flown and ingenious novels.
As there was music in the next room, the talk was
carried on, of course, in a low and becoming tone, though,
for the matter of that, the couple in the next apartment
would not have been disturbed had the talking been ever
so loud, so occupied were they with their own pursuits.
Almost for the first time in his life, Mr. Sedley found
himself talking, without the least timidity or hesitation,
to a person of the other sex. Miss Rebecca asked him a
great number of questions about India, which gave him
an opportunity of narrating many interesting anecdotes
about that country and himself. He described the balls
at Government House, and the manner in which they
kept themselves cool in the hot weather, with punkahs,
tatties, and other contrivances; and he was very witty
regarding the number of Scotchmen whom Lord Minto,
the Governor-General, patronised; and then he described
a tiger-hunt; and the manner in which the mahout of his
elephant had been pulled off his seat by one of the
infuriated animals. How delighted Miss Rebecca was at
the Government balls, and how she laughed at the stories
of the Scotch aides-de-camp, and called Mr. Sedley a
sad wicked satirical creature; and how frightened she was
Joseph Sedley tete-a-tete with Rebecca, at the
drawing-room table, where the latter was occupied
in knitting a green silk purse.
"There is no need to ask family secrets," said Miss
Sharp. "Those two have told theirs."
"As soon as he gets his company," said Joseph, "I
believe the affair is settled. George Osborne is a capital
"And your sister the dearest creature in the world,"
said Rebecca. "Happy the man who wins her!" With
this, Miss Sharp gave a great sigh.
When two unmarried persons get together, and talk
upon such delicate subjects as the present, a great deal
of confidence and intimacy is presently established
between them. There is no need of giving a special report
of the conversation which now took place between Mr.
Sedley and the young lady; for the conversation, as may
be judged from the foregoing specimen, was not especially
witty or eloquent; it seldom is in private societies, or
anywhere except in very high-flown and ingenious novels.
As there was music in the next room, the talk was
carried on, of course, in a low and becoming tone, though,
for the matter of that, the couple in the next apartment
would not have been disturbed had the talking been ever
so loud, so occupied were they with their own pursuits.
Almost for the first time in his life, Mr. Sedley found
himself talking, without the least timidity or hesitation,
to a person of the other sex. Miss Rebecca asked him a
great number of questions about India, which gave him
an opportunity of narrating many interesting anecdotes
about that country and himself. He described the balls
at Government House, and the manner in which they
kept themselves cool in the hot weather, with punkahs,
tatties, and other contrivances; and he was very witty
regarding the number of Scotchmen whom Lord Minto,
the Governor-General, patronised; and then he described
a tiger-hunt; and the manner in which the mahout of his
elephant had been pulled off his seat by one of the
infuriated animals. How delighted Miss Rebecca was at
the Government balls, and how she laughed at the stories
of the Scotch aides-de-camp, and called Mr. Sedley a
sad wicked satirical creature; and how frightened she was
at the story of the elephant! "For your mother's sake,
dear Mr. Sedley," she said, "for the sake of all your
friends, promise NEVER to go on one of those horrid
"Pooh, pooh, Miss Sharp," said he, pulling up his shirtcollars;
"the danger makes the sport only the pleasanter."
He had never been but once at a tiger-hunt, when the
accident in question occurred, and when he was half
killed--not by the tiger, but by the fright. And as he
talked on, he grew quite bold, and actually had the
audacity to ask Miss Rebecca for whom she was
knitting the green silk purse? He was quite surprised
and delighted at his own graceful familiar manner.
"For any one who wants a purse," replied Miss
Rebecca, looking at him in the most gentle winning way.
Sedley was going to make one of the most eloquent
speeches possible, and had begun--"O Miss Sharp,
how--" when some song which was performed in the
other room came to an end, and caused him to hear
his own voice so distinctly that he stopped, blushed, and
blew his nose in great agitation.
"Did you ever hear anything like your brother's
eloquence?" whispered Mr. Osborne to Amelia. "Why,
your friend has worked miracles."
"The more the better," said Miss Amelia; who, like
almost all women who are worth a pin, was a matchmaker
in her heart, and would have been delighted that
Joseph should carry back a wife to India. She had, too,
in the course of this few days' constant intercourse,
warmed into a most tender friendship for Rebecca, and
discovered a million of virtues and amiable qualities in
her which she had not perceived when they were at
Chiswick together. For the affection of young ladies is
of as rapid growth as Jack's bean-stalk, and reaches up
to the sky in a night. It is no blame to them that after
marriage this Sehnsucht nach der Liebe subsides. It is
what sentimentalists, who deal in very big words, call a
yearning after the Ideal, and simply means that women
are commonly not satisfied until they have husbands
and children on whom they may centre affections, which
are spent elsewhere, as it were, in small change.
Having expended her little store of songs, or having
stayed long enough in the back drawing-room, it now
appeared proper to Miss Amelia to ask her friend to
sing. "You would not have listened to me," she said to
Mr. Osborne (though she knew she was telling a fib),
"had you heard Rebecca first."
"I give Miss Sharp warning, though," said Osborne,
"that, right or wrong, I consider Miss Amelia Sedley
the first singer in the world."
"You shall hear," said Amelia; and Joseph Sedley was
actually polite enough to carry the candles to the piano.
Osborne hinted that he should like quite as well to sit
in the dark; but Miss Sedley, laughing, declined to bear
him company any farther, and the two accordingly
followed Mr. Joseph. Rebecca sang far better than her
friend (though of course Osborne was free to keep his
opinion), and exerted herself to the utmost, and,
indeed, to the wonder of Amelia, who had never known
her perform so well. She sang a French song, which
Joseph did not understand in the least, and which George
confessed he did not understand, and then a number of
those simple ballads which were the fashion forty years
ago, and in which British tars, our King, poor Susan,
blue-eyed Mary, and the like, were the principal themes.
They are not, it is said, very brilliant, in a musical point
of view, but contain numberless good-natured, simple
appeals to the affections, which people understood better
than the milk-and-water lagrime, sospiri, and felicita
of the eternal Donizettian music with which we are
favoured now-a-days.
Conversation of a sentimental sort, befitting the
subject, was carried on between the songs, to which
Sambo, after he had brought the tea, the delighted cook,
and even Mrs. Blenkinsop, the housekeeper, condescended
to listen on the landing-place.
Among these ditties was one, the last of the concert,
and to the following effect:
Ah! bleak and barren was the moor,
Ah! loud and piercing was the storm,
The cottage roof was shelter'd sure,
The cottage hearth was bright and warm--
An orphan boy the lattice pass'd,
And, as he mark'd its cheerful glow,
Felt doubly keen the midnight blast,
And doubly cold the fallen snow.
They mark'd him as he onward prest,
With fainting heart and weary limb;
Kind voices bade him turn and rest,
And gentle faces welcomed him.
The dawn is up--the guest is gone,
The cottage hearth is blazing still;
Heaven pity all poor wanderers lone!
Hark to the wind upon the hill!
It was the sentiment of the before-mentioned words,
"When I'm gone," over again. As she came to the last
words, Miss Sharp's "deep-toned voice faltered."
Everybody felt the allusion to her departure, and to her
hapless orphan state. Joseph Sedley, who was fond of music,
and soft-hearted, was in a state of ravishment during the
performance of the song, and profoundly touched at its
conclusion. If he had had the courage; if George and Miss
Sedley had remained, according to the former's proposal,
in the farther room, Joseph Sedley's bachelorhood would
have been at an end, and this work would never have
been written. But at the close of the ditty, Rebecca quitted
the piano, and giving her hand to Amelia, walked away
into the front drawing-room twilight; and, at this
moment, Mr. Sambo made his appearance with a tray,
containing sandwiches, jellies, and some glittering glasses
and decanters, on which Joseph Sedley's attention was
immediately fixed. When the parents of the house of Sedley
returned from their dinner-party, they found the young
people so busy in talking, that they had not heard the
arrival of the carriage, and Mr. Joseph was in the act of
saying, "My dear Miss Sharp, one little teaspoonful of
jelly to recruit you after your immense--your--your
delightful exertions."
"Bravo, Jos!" said Mr. Sedley; on hearing the bantering
of which well-known voice, Jos instantly relapsed
into an alarmed silence, and quickly took his departure.
He did not lie awake all night thinking whether or not he
was in love with Miss Sharp; the passion of love never
interfered with the appetite or the slumber of Mr. Joseph
Sedley; but he thought to himself how delightful it would
be to hear such songs as those after Cutcherry--what a
distinguee girl she was--how she could speak French
better than the Governor-General's lady herself--and
what a sensation she would make at the Calcutta balls.
"It's evident the poor devil's in love with me," thought
he. "She is just as rich as most of the girls who come
out to India. I might go farther, and fare worse, egad!"
And in these meditations he fell asleep.
How Miss Sharp lay awake, thinking, will he come or
not to-morrow? need not be told here. To-morrow came,
and, as sure as fate, Mr. Joseph Sedley made his
appearance before luncheon. He had never been known
before to confer such an honour on Russell Square. George
Osborne was somehow there already (sadly "putting out"
Amelia, who was writing to her twelve dearest friends at
Chiswick Mall), and Rebecca was employed upon her
yesterday's work. As Joe's buggy drove up, and while, after
his usual thundering knock and pompous bustle at the
door, the ex-Collector of Boggley Wollah laboured up
stairs to the drawing-room, knowing glances were
telegraphed between Osborne and Miss Sedley, and the pair,
smiling archly, looked at Rebecca, who actually blushed
as she bent her fair ringlets over her knitting. How her
heart beat as Joseph appeared--Joseph, puffing from the
staircase in shining creaking boots--Joseph, in a new
waistcoat, red with heat and nervousness, and blushing
behind his wadded neckcloth. It was a nervous moment
for all; and as for Amelia, I think she was more frightened
than even the people most concerned.
Sambo, who flung open the door and announced Mr.
Joseph, followed grinning, in the Collector's rear, and
bearing two handsome nosegays of flowers, which the
monster had actually had the gallantry to purchase in
Covent Garden Market that morning--they were not as
big as the haystacks which ladies carry about with them
now-a-days, in cones of filigree paper; but the young
women were delighted with the gift, as Joseph presented
one to each, with an exceedingly solemn bow.
"Bravo, Jos!" cried Osborne.
"Thank you, dear Joseph," said Amelia, quite ready to
kiss her brother, if he were so minded. (And I think for
a kiss from such a dear creature as Amelia, I would
purchase all Mr. Lee's conservatories out of hand.)
"O heavenly, heavenly flowers!" exclaimed Miss Sharp,
and smelt them delicately, and held them to her bosom,
and cast up her eyes to the ceiling, in an ecstasy of
admiration. Perhaps she just looked first into the bouquet,
to see whether there was a billet-doux hidden among the
flowers; but there was no letter.
"Do they talk the language of flowers at Boggley
Wollah, Sedley?" asked Osborne, laughing.
"Pooh, nonsense!" replied the sentimental youth.
"Bought 'em at Nathan's; very glad you like 'em; and eh,
Amelia, my dear, I bought a pine-apple at the same
time, which I gave to Sambo. Let's have it for tiffin;
very cool and nice this hot weather." Rebecca said she
had never tasted a pine, and longed beyond everything
to taste one.
So the conversation went on. I don't know on what
pretext Osborne left the room, or why, presently, Amelia
went away, perhaps to superintend the slicing of the
pine-apple; but Jos was left alone with Rebecca, who had
resumed her work, and the green silk and the shining
needles were quivering rapidly under her white slender
"What a beautiful, BYOO-OOTIFUL song that was you sang
last night, dear Miss Sharp," said the Collector. "It made
me cry almost; 'pon my honour it did."
"Because you have a kind heart, Mr. Joseph; all the
Sedleys have, I think."
"It kept me awake last night, and I was trying to hum
it this morning, in bed; I was, upon my honour. Gollop,
my doctor, came in at eleven (for I'm a sad invalid, you
know, and see Gollop every day), and, 'gad! there I
was, singing away like--a robin."
"O you droll creature! Do let me hear you sing it."
"Me? No, you, Miss Sharp; my dear Miss Sharp, do
sing it.
"Not now, Mr. Sedley," said Rebecca, with a sigh. "My
spirits are not equal to it; besides, I must finish the
purse. Will you help me, Mr. Sedley?" And before he had
time to ask how, Mr. Joseph Sedley, of the East India
Company's service, was actually seated tete-a-tete with
a young lady, looking at her with a most killing expression;
his arms stretched out before her in an imploring attitude,
and his hands bound in a web of green silk, which she
was unwinding.
In this romantic position Osborne and Amelia found
the interesting pair, when they entered to announce that
tiffin was ready. The skein of silk was just wound round
the card; but Mr. Jos had never spoken.
"I am sure he will to-night, dear," Amelia said, as she
pressed Rebecca's hand; and Sedley, too, had communed
with his soul, and said to himself, " 'Gad, I'll pop the
question at Vauxhall."
Dobbin of Ours
Cuff's fight with Dobbin, and the unexpected issue of
that contest, will long be remembered by every man who
was educated at Dr. Swishtail's famous school. The latter
Youth (who used to be called Heigh-ho Dobbin, Gee-ho
Dobbin, and by many other names indicative of puerile
contempt) was the quietest, the clumsiest, and, as it
seemed, the dullest of all Dr. Swishtail's young gentlemen.
His parent was a grocer in the city: and it was bruited
abroad that he was admitted into Dr. Swishtail's academy
upon what are called "mutual principles"--that is to
say, the expenses of his board and schooling were
defrayed by his father in goods, not money; and he
stood there--most at the bottom of the school--in his
scraggy corduroys and jacket, through the seams of
which his great big bones were bursting--as the
representative of so many pounds of tea, candles,
sugar, mottled-soap, plums (of which a very mild
proportion was supplied for the puddings of the
establishment), and other commodities. A dreadful
day it was for young Dobbin when one of the
youngsters of the school, having run into the town upon
a poaching excursion for hardbake and polonies, espied
the cart of Dobbin & Rudge, Grocers and Oilmen, Thames
Street, London, at the Doctor's door, discharging a cargo
of the wares in which the firm dealt.
Young Dobbin had no peace after that. The jokes were
frightful, and merciless against him. "Hullo, Dobbin," one
wag would say, "here's good news in the paper. Sugars
is ris', my boy." Another would set a sum--"If a pound
of mutton-candles cost sevenpence-halfpenny, how much
must Dobbin cost?" and a roar would follow from all the
circle of young knaves, usher and all, who rightly
considered that the selling of goods by retail is a shameful
and infamous practice, meriting the contempt and scorn
of all real gentlemen.
"Your father's only a merchant, Osborne," Dobbin said
in private to the little boy who had brought down the
storm upon him. At which the latter replied haughtily,
"My father's a gentleman, and keeps his carriage"; and
Mr. William Dobbin retreated to a remote outhouse in
the playground, where he passed a half-holiday in the
bitterest sadness and woe. Who amongst us is there that
does not recollect similar hours of bitter, bitter childish
grief? Who feels injustice; who shrinks before a slight;
who has a sense of wrong so acute, and so glowing a
gratitude for kindness, as a generous boy? and how many
of those gentle souls do you degrade, estrange, torture,
for the sake of a little loose arithmetic, and miserable
Now, William Dobbin, from an incapacity to acquire
the rudiments of the above language, as they are
propounded in that wonderful book the Eton Latin Grammar,
was compelled to remain among the very last of Doctor
Swishtail's scholars, and was "taken down" continually by
little fellows with pink faces and pinafores when he
marched up with the lower form, a giant amongst them,
with his downcast, stupefied look, his dog's-eared primer,
and his tight corduroys. High and low, all made fun of
him. They sewed up those corduroys, tight as they were.
They cut his bed-strings. They upset buckets and benches,
so that he might break his shins over them, which he
never failed to do. They sent him parcels, which, when
opened, were found to contain the paternal soap and
candles. There was no little fellow but had his jeer and
joke at Dobbin; and he bore everything quite patiently,
and was entirely dumb and miserable.
Cuff, on the contrary, was the great chief and dandy of
the Swishtail Seminary. He smuggled wine in. He fought
the town-boys. Ponies used to come for him to ride home
on Saturdays. He had his top-boots in his room, in which
he used to hunt in the holidays. He had a gold repeater:
and took snuff like the Doctor. He had been to the Opera,
and knew the merits of the principal actors, preferring
Mr. Kean to Mr. Kemble. He could knock you off forty
Latin verses in an hour. He could make French poetry.
What else didn't he know, or couldn't he do? They said
even the Doctor himself was afraid of him.
Cuff, the unquestioned king of the school, ruled over
his subjects, and bullied them, with splendid superiority.
This one blacked his shoes: that toasted his bread, others
would fag out, and give him balls at cricket during whole
summer afternoons. "Figs" was the fellow whom he
despised most, and with whom, though always abusing him,
and sneering at him, he scarcely ever condescended to
hold personal communication.
One day in private, the two young gentlemen had had
a difference. Figs, alone in the schoolroom, was
blundering over a home letter; when Cuff, entering,
bade him go upon some message, of which tarts were
probably the subject.
"I can't," says Dobbin; "I want to finish my letter."
"You CAN'T?" says Mr. Cuff, laying hold of that
document (in which many words were scratched out,
many were mis-spelt, on which had been spent I don't
know how much thought, and labour, and tears; for the
poor fellow was writing to his mother, who was fond of
him, although she was a grocer's wife, and lived in a back
parlour in Thames Street). "You CAN'T?" says Mr. Cuff:
"I should like to know why, pray? Can't you write to old
Mother Figs to-morrow?"
"Don't call names," Dobbin said, getting off the bench
very nervous.
"Well, sir, will you go?" crowed the cock of the school.
"Put down the letter," Dobbin replied; "no gentleman
readth letterth."
"Well, NOW will you go?" says the other.
"No, I won't. Don't strike, or I'll THMASH you," roars
out Dobbin, springing to a leaden inkstand, and looking
so wicked, that Mr. Cuff paused, turned down his coat
sleeves again, put his hands into his pockets, and walked
away with a sneer. But he never meddled.personally with
the grocer's boy after that; though we must do him the
justice to say he always spoke of Mr. Dobbin with contempt
behind his back.
Some time after this interview, it happened that Mr.
Cuff, on a sunshiny afternoon, was in the neighbourhood
of poor William Dobbin, who was lying under a tree in
the playground, spelling over a favourite copy of the
Arabian Nights which he had apart from the rest of the
school, who were pursuing their various sports--quite
lonely, and almost happy. If people would but leave
children to themselves; if teachers would cease to bully
them; if parents would not insist upon directing their
thoughts, and dominating their feelings--those feelings
and thoughts which are a mystery to all (for how much
do you and I know of each other, of our children, of our
fathers, of our neighbour, and how far more beautiful and
sacred are the thoughts of the poor lad or girl whom you
govern likely to be, than those of the dull and worldcorrupted
person who rules him?)--if, I say, parents and
masters would leave their children alone a little more,
small harm would accrue, although a less quantity of
as in praesenti might be acquired.
Well, William Dobbin had for once forgotten the world,
and was away with Sindbad the Sailor in the Valley of
Diamonds, or with Prince Ahmed and the Fairy Peribanou
in that delightful cavern where the Prince found her, and
whither we should all like to make a tour; when shrill
cries, as of a little fellow weeping, woke up his pleasant
reverie; and looking up, he saw Cuff before him,
belabouring a little boy.
It was the lad who had peached upon him about the
grocer's cart; but he bore little malice, not at least
towards the young and small. "How dare you, sir, break
the bottle?" says Cuff to the little urchin, swinging a
yellow cricket-stump over him.
The boy had been instructed to get over the playground
wall (at a selected spot where the broken glass had been
removed from the top, and niches made convenient in
the brick); to run a quarter of a mile; to purchase a pint
of rum-shrub on credit; to brave all the Doctor's outlying
spies, and to clamber back into the playground again;
during the performance of which feat, his foot had slipt,
and the bottle was broken, and the shrub had been spilt,
and his pantaloons had been damaged, and he appeared
before his employer a perfectly guilty and trembling,
though harmless, wretch.
"How dare you, sir, break it?" says Cuff; "you blundering
little thief. You drank the shrub, and now you pretend
to have broken the bottle. Hold out your hand, sir."
Down came the stump with a great heavy thump on
the child's hand. A moan followed. Dobbin looked up.
The Fairy Peribanou had fled into the inmost cavern
with Prince Ahmed: the Roc had whisked away Sindbad
the Sailor out of the Valley of Diamonds out of sight, far
into the clouds: and there was everyday life before
honest William; and a big boy beating a little one
without cause.
"Hold out your other hand, sir," roars Cuff to his little
schoolfellow, whose face was distorted with pain.
Dobbin quivered, and gathered himself up in his narrow old
"Take that, you little devil!" cried Mr. Cuff, and down
came the wicket again on the child's hand.--Don't be
horrified, ladies, every boy at a public school has done it.
Your children will so do and be done by, in all
probability. Down came the wicket again; and Dobbin
started up.
I can't tell what his motive was. Torture in a public
school is as much licensed as the knout in Russia. It
would be ungentlemanlike (in a manner) to resist it.
Perhaps Dobbin's foolish soul revolted against that exercise
of tyranny; or perhaps he had a hankering feeling of
revenge in his mind, and longed to measure himself
against that splendid bully and tyrant, who had all the
glory, pride, pomp, circumstance, banners flying, drums
beating, guards saluting, in the place. Whatever may have
been his incentive, however, up he sprang, and screamed
out, "Hold off, Cuff; don't bully that child any more; or
"Or you'll what?" Cuff asked in amazement at this
interruption. "Hold out your hand, you little beast."
"I'll give you the worst thrashing you ever had in your
life," Dobbin said, in reply to the first part of Cuff's
sentence; and little Osborne, gasping and in tears, looked
up with wonder and incredulity at seeing this amazing
champion put up suddenly to defend him: while Cuff's
astonishment was scarcely less. Fancy our late monarch
George III when he heard of the revolt of the North
American colonies: fancy brazen Goliath when little
David stepped forward and claimed a meeting; and you
have the feelings of Mr. Reginald Cuff when this
rencontre was proposed to him.
"After school," says he, of course; after a pause and a
look, as much as to say, "Make your will, and
communicate your last wishes to your friends
between this time and that."
"As you please," Dobbin said. "You must be my bottle
holder, Osborne."
"Well, if you like," little Osborne replied; for you see
his papa kept a carriage, and he was rather ashamed of
his champion.
Yes, when the hour of battle came, he was almost
ashamed to say, "Go it, Figs"; and not a single other boy
in the place uttered that cry for the first two or three
rounds of this famous combat; at the commencement of
which the scientific Cuff, with a contemptuous smile on
his face, and as light and as gay as if he was at a ball,
planted his blows upon his adversary, and floored that
unlucky champion three times running. At each fall there
was a cheer; and everybody was anxious to have the
honour of offering the conqueror a knee.
"What a licking I shall get when it's over," young
Osborne thought, picking up his man. "You'd best give in,"
he said to Dobbin; "it's only a thrashing, Figs, and you
know I'm used to it." But Figs, all whose limbs were in a
quiver, and whose nostrils were breathing rage, put his
little bottle-holder aside, and went in for a fourth time.
As he did not in the least know how to parry the blows
that were aimed at himself, and Cuff had begun the
attack on the three preceding occasions, without ever
allowing his enemy to strike, Figs now determined that he
would commence the engagement by a charge on his own
part; and accordingly, being a left-handed man, brought
that arm into action, and hit out a couple of times with
all his might--once at Mr. Cuff's left eye, and once on his
beautiful Roman nose.
Cuff went down this time, to the astonishment of the
assembly. "Well hit, by Jove," says little Osborne, with
the air of a connoisseur, clapping his man on the back.
"Give it him with the left, Figs my boy."
Figs's left made terrific play during all the rest of the
combat. Cuff went down every time. At the sixth round,
there were almost as many fellows shouting out, "Go it,
Figs," as there were youths exclaiming, "Go it, Cuff." At
the twelfth round the latter champion was all abroad, as
the saying is, and had lost all presence of mind and power
of attack or defence. Figs, on the contrary, was as calm
as a quaker. His face being quite pale, his eyes shining
open, and a great cut on his underlip bleeding profusely,
gave this young fellow a fierce and ghastly air, which
perhaps struck terror into many spectators. Nevertheless,
his intrepid adversary prepared to close for the
thirteenth time.
If I had the pen of a Napier, or a Bell's Life, I should
like to describe this combat properly. It was the last
charge of the Guard--(that is, it would have been, only
Waterloo had not yet taken place)--it was Ney's column
breasting the hill of La Haye Sainte, bristling with ten
thousand bayonets, and crowned with twenty eagles--it
was the shout of the beef-eating British, as leaping down
the hill they rushed to hug the enemy in the savage arms
of battle--in other words, Cuff coming up full of pluck,
but quite reeling and groggy, the Fig-merchant put in his
left as usual on his adversary's nose, and sent him down
for the last time.
"I think that will do for him," Figs said, as his opponent
dropped as neatly on the green as I have seen Jack
Spot's ball plump into the pocket at billiards; and the
fact is, when time was called, Mr. Reginald Cuff was not
able, or did not choose, to stand up again.
And now all the boys set up such a shout for Figs as
would have made you think he had been their darling
champion through the whole battle; and as absolutely
brought Dr. Swishtail out of his study, curious to know
the cause of the uproar. He threatened to flog Figs
violently, of course; but Cuff, who had come to himself
by this time, and was washing his wounds, stood up and
said, "It's my fault, sir--not Figs'--not Dobbin's. I was
bullying a little boy; and he served me right." By which
magnanimous speech he not only saved his conqueror a
whipping, but got back all his ascendancy over the boys
which his defeat had nearly cost him.
Young Osborne wrote home to his parents an account
of the transaction.
Sugarcane House, Richmond, March, 18--
DEAR MAMA,--I hope you are quite well. I should be
much obliged to you to send me a cake and five shillings.
There has been a fight here between Cuff & Dobbin.
Cuff, you know, was the Cock of the School. They
fought thirteen rounds, and Dobbin Licked. So Cuff is
now Only Second Cock. The fight was about me. Cuff
was licking me for breaking a bottle of milk, and Figs
wouldn't stand it. We call him Figs because his father is
a Grocer--Figs & Rudge, Thames St., City--I think as
he fought for me you ought to buy your Tea & Sugar
at his father's. Cuff goes home every Saturday, but can't
this, because he has 2 Black Eyes. He has a white Pony
to come and fetch him, and a groom in livery on a bay
mare. I wish my Papa would let me have a Pony, and I
Your dutiful Son,
P.S.--Give my love to little Emmy. I am cutting her
out a Coach in cardboard. Please not a seed-cake, but a
In consequence of Dobbin's victory, his character rose
prodigiously in the estimation of all his schoolfellows, and
the name of Figs, which had been a byword of reproach,
became as respectable and popular a nickname as any
other in use in the school. "After all, it's not his fault
that his father's a grocer," George Osborne said, who,
though a little chap, had a very high popularity among
the Swishtail youth; and his opinion was received with
great applause. It was voted low to sneer at Dobbin
about this accident of birth. "Old Figs" grew to be a
name of kindness and endearment; and the sneak of an
usher jeered at him no longer.
And Dobbin's spirit rose with his altered circumstances.
He made wonderful advances in scholastic learning. The
superb Cuff himself, at whose condescension Dobbin
could only blush and wonder, helped him on with his
Latin verses; "coached" him in play-hours: carried him
triumphantly out of the little-boy class into the middlesized
form; and even there got a fair place for him. It
was discovered, that although dull at classical learning,
at mathematics he was uncommonly quick. To the
contentment of all he passed third in algebra, and got a
French prize-book at the public Midsummer examination.
You should have seen his mother's face when Telemaque
(that delicious romance) was presented to him by
the Doctor in the face of the whole school and the parents
and company, with an inscription to Gulielmo Dobbin. All
the boys clapped hands in token of applause and
sympathy. His blushes, his stumbles, his awkwardness, and
the number of feet which he crushed as he went back to
his place, who shall describe or calculate? Old Dobbin, his
father, who now respected him for the first time, gave
him two guineas publicly; most of which he spent in a
general tuck-out for the school: and he came back in a
tail-coat after the holidays.
Dobbin was much too modest a young fellow to
suppose that this happy change in all his circumstances
arose from his own generous and manly disposition: he
chose, from some perverseness, to attribute his good
fortune to the sole agency and benevolence of little George
Osborne, to whom henceforth he vowed such a love and
affection as is only felt by children--such an affection, as
we read in the charming fairy-book, uncouth Orson had
for splendid young Valentine his conqueror. He flung
himself down at little Osborne's feet, and loved him.
Even before they were acquainted, he had admired
Osborne in secret. Now he was his valet, his dog, his man
Friday. He believed Osborne to be the possessor of
every perfection, to be the handsomest, the bravest, the
most active, the cleverest, the most generous of created
boys. He shared his money with him: bought him
uncountable presents of knives, pencil-cases, gold seals,
toffee, Little Warblers, and romantic books, with large
coloured pictures of knights and robbers, in many of which
latter you might read inscriptions to George Sedley
Osborne, Esquire, from his attached friend William Dobbin
--the which tokens of homage George received very
graciously, as became his superior merit.
So that Lieutenant Osborne, when coming to Russell
Square on the day of the Vauxhall party, said to the
ladies, "Mrs. Sedley, Ma'am, I hope you have room; I've
asked Dobbin of ours to come and dine here, and go with
us to Vauxhall. He's almost as modest as Jos."
"Modesty! pooh," said the stout gentleman, casting a
vainqueur look at Miss Sharp.
"He is--but you are incomparably more graceful,
Sedley," Osborne added, laughing. "I met him at the
Bedford, when I went to look for you; and I told him that
Miss Amelia was come home, and that we were all bent
on going out for a night's pleasuring; and that Mrs. Sedley
had forgiven his breaking the punch-bowl at the child's
party. Don't you remember the catastrophe, Ma'am, seven
years ago?"
"Over Mrs. Flamingo's crimson silk gown," said goodnatured
Mrs. Sedley. "What a gawky it was! And his
sisters are not much more graceful. Lady Dobbin was at
Highbury last night with three of them. Such figures! my
"The Alderman's very rich, isn't he?" Osborne said
archly. "Don't you think one of the daughters would be a
good spec for me, Ma'am?"
"You foolish creature! Who would take you, I should
like to know, with your yellow face?"
"Mine a yellow face? Stop till you see Dobbin. Why, he
had the yellow fever three times; twice at Nassau, and
once at St. Kitts."
"Well, well; yours is quite yellow enough for us. Isn't
it, Emmy?" Mrs. Sedley said: at which speech Miss
Amelia only made a smile and a blush; and looking at Mr.
George Osborne's pale interesting countenance, and those
beautiful black, curling, shining whiskers, which the young
gentleman himself regarded with no ordinary
complacency, she thought in her little heart that in
His Majesty's army, or in the wide world, there never
was such a face or such a hero. "I don't care about Captain
Dobbin's complexion," she said, "or about his awkwardness.
I shall always like him, I know," her little reason being,
that he was the friend and champion of George.
"There's not a finer fellow in the service," Osborne
said, "nor a better officer, though he is not an Adonis,
certainly." And he looked towards the glass himself with
much naivete; and in so doing, caught Miss Sharp's eye
fixed keenly upon him, at which he blushed a little, and
Rebecca thought in her heart, "Ah, mon beau Monsieur!
I think I have YOUR gauge"--the little artful minx!
That evening, when Amelia came tripping into the
drawing-room in a white muslin frock, prepared for
conquest at Vauxhall, singing like a lark, and as fresh as a
rose--a very tall ungainly gentleman, with large hands
and feet, and large ears, set off by a closely cropped head
of black hair, and in the hideous military frogged coat
and cocked hat of those times, advanced to meet her, and
made her one of the clumsiest bows that was ever
performed by a mortal.
This was no other than Captain William Dobbin, of
His Majesty's Regiment of Foot, returned from
yellow fever, in the West Indies, to which the fortune
of the service had ordered his regiment, whilst so many
of his gallant comrades were reaping glory in the Peninsula.
He had arrived with a knock so very timid and quiet
that it was inaudible to the ladies upstairs: otherwise, you
may be sure Miss Amelia would never have been so bold
as to come singing into the room. As it was, the sweet
fresh little voice went right into the Captain's heart, and
nestled there. When she held out her hand for him to
shake, before he enveloped it in his own, he paused, and
thought--"Well, is it possible--are you the little maid I
remember in the pink frock, such a short time ago--the
night I upset the punch-bowl, just after I was gazetted?
Are you the little girl that George Osborne said should
marry him? What a blooming young creature you seem,
and what a prize the rogue has got!" All this he thought,
before he took Amelia's hand into his own, and as he let
his cocked hat fall.
His history since he left school, until the very moment
when we have the pleasure of meeting him again, although
not fully narrated, has yet, I think, been indicated
sufficiently for an ingenious reader by the conversation
in the last page. Dobbin, the despised grocer, was Alderman
Dobbin--Alderman Dobbin was Colonel of the City Light
Horse, then burning with military ardour to resist the
French Invasion. Colonel Dobbin's corps, in which old
Mr. Osborne himself was but an indifferent corporal, had
been reviewed by the Sovereign and the Duke of York;
and the colonel and alderman had been knighted. His
son had entered the army: and young Osborne followed
presently in the same regiment. They had served in the
West Indies and in Canada. Their regiment had just come
home, and the attachment of Dobbin to George Osborne
was as warm and generous now as it had been when the
two were schoolboys.
So these worthy people sat down to dinner presently.
They talked about war and glory, and Boney and Lord
Wellington, and the last Gazette. In those famous days
every gazette had a victory in it, and the two gallant young
men longed to see their own names in the glorious list,
and cursed their unlucky fate to belong to a regiment
which had been away from the chances of honour. Miss
Sharp kindled with this exciting talk, but Miss Sedley
trembled and grew quite faint as she heard it. Mr. Jos
told several of his tiger-hunting stories, finished the one
about Miss Cutler and Lance the surgeon; helped
Rebecca to everything on the table, and himself gobbled
and drank a great deal.
He sprang to open the door for the ladies, when they
retired, with the most killing grace--and coming back to
the table, filled himself bumper after bumper of claret,
which he swallowed with nervous rapidity.
"He's priming himself," Osborne whispered to Dobbin,
and at length the hour and the carriage arrived
for Vauxhall.
I know that the tune I am piping is a very mild
one (although there are some terrific chapters
coming presently), and must beg the good-natured
reader to remember that we are only discoursing
at present about a stockbroker's family in Russell
Square, who are taking walks, or luncheon, or dinner,
or talking and making love as people do in common life,
and without a single passionate and wonderful
incident to mark the progress of their loves. The
argument stands thus--Osborne, in love with Amelia,
has asked an old friend to dinner and to Vauxhall--Jos
Sedley is in love with Rebecca. Will he marry her?
That is the great subject now in hand.
We might have treated this subject in the genteel, or in
the romantic, or in the facetious manner. Suppose we had
laid the scene in Grosvenor Square, with the very same
adventures--would not some people have listened?
Suppose we had shown how Lord Joseph Sedley fell in love,
and the Marquis of Osborne became attached to Lady
Amelia, with the full consent of the Duke, her noble
father: or instead of the supremely genteel, suppose we
had resorted to the entirely low, and described what was
going on in Mr. Sedley's kitchen--how black Sambo was
in love with the cook (as indeed he was), and how he
fought a battle with the coachman in her behalf; how the
knife-boy was caught stealing a cold shoulder of mutton,
and Miss Sedley's new femme de chambre refused to go
to bed without a wax candle; such incidents might be
made to provoke much delightful laughter, and be
supposed to represent scenes of "life." Or if, on the contrary,
we had taken a fancy for the terrible, and made the lover
of the new femme de chambre a professional burglar, who
bursts into the house with his band, slaughters black
Sambo at the feet of his master, and carries off Amelia in
her night-dress, not to be let loose again till the third
volume, we should easily have constructed a tale of
thrilling interest, through the fiery chapters of which the
reader should hurry, panting. But my readers must hope
for no such romance, only a homely story, and must be
content with a chapter about Vauxhall, which is so short
that it scarce deserves to be called a chapter at all. And
yet it is a chapter, and a very important one too. Are not
there little chapters in everybody's life, that seem to be
nothing, and yet affect all the rest of the history?
Let us then step into the coach with the Russell Square
party, and be off to the Gardens. There is barely room
between Jos and Miss Sharp, who are on the front seat. Mr.
Osborne sitting bodkin opposite, between Captain Dobbin
and Amelia.
Every soul in the coach agreed that on that night Jos
would propose to make Rebecca Sharp Mrs. Sedley. The
parents at home had acquiesced in the arrangement,
though, between ourselves, old Mr. Sedley had a feeling
very much akin to contempt for his son. He said he was
vain, selfish, lazy, and effeminate. He could not endure his
airs as a man of fashion, and laughed heartily at his
pompous braggadocio stories. "I shall leave the fellow half
my property," he said; "and he will have, besides, plenty
of his own; but as I am perfectly sure that if you, and I,
and his sister were to die to-morrow, he would say 'Good
Gad!' and eat his dinner just as well as usual, I am not
going to make myself anxious about him. Let him marry
whom he likes. It's no affair of mine."
Amelia, on the other hand, as became a young woman
of her prudence and temperament, was quite enthusiastic
for the match. Once or twice Jos had been on the point
of saying something very important to her, to which she
was most willing to lend an ear, but the fat fellow could
not be brought to unbosom himself of his great secret,
and very much to his sister's disappointment he only rid
himself of a large sigh and turned away.
This mystery served to keep Amelia's gentle bosom in a
perpetual flutter of excitement. If she did not speak with
Rebecca on the tender subject, she compensated herself
with long and intimate conversations with Mrs. Blenkinsop,
the housekeeper, who dropped some hints to the
lady's-maid, who may have cursorily mentioned the matter
to the cook, who carried the news, I have no doubt, to all
the tradesmen, so that Mr. Jos's marriage was now talked
of by a very considerable number of persons in the
Russell Square world.
It was, of course, Mrs. Sedley's opinion that her son
would demean himself by a marriage with an artist's
daughter. "But, lor', Ma'am," ejaculated Mrs. Blenkinsop,
"we was only grocers when we married Mr. S., who
was a stock-broker's clerk, and we hadn't five hundred
pounds among us, and we're rich enough now." And
Amelia was entirely of this opinion, to which, gradually,
the good-natured Mrs. Sedley was brought.
Mr. Sedley was neutral. "Let Jos marry whom he likes,"
he said; "it's no affair of mine. This girl has no fortune;
no more had Mrs. Sedley. She seems good-humoured and
clever, and will keep him in order, perhaps. Better she,
my dear, than a black Mrs. Sedley, and a dozen of
mahogany grandchildren."
So that everything seemed to smile upon Rebecca's
fortunes. She took Jos's arm, as a matter of course, on going
to dinner; she had sate by him on the box of his open
carriage (a most tremendous "buck" he was, as he sat
there, serene, in state, driving his greys), and though
nobody said a word on the subject of the marriage,
everybody seemed to understand it. All she wanted was
the proposal, and ah! how Rebecca now felt the want of a
mother!--a dear, tender mother, who would have managed
the business in ten minutes, and, in the course of a little
delicate confidential conversation, would have extracted
the interesting avowal from the bashful lips of the young
Such was the state of affairs as the carriage crossed
Westminster bridge.
The party was landed at the Royal Gardens in due time.
As the majestic Jos stepped out of the creaking vehicle
the crowd gave a cheer for the fat gentleman, who blushed
and looked very big and mighty, as he walked away with
Rebecca under his arm. George, of course, took charge of
Amelia. She looked as happy as a rose-tree in sunshine.
"I say, Dobbin," says George, "just look to the shawls
and things, there's a good fellow." And so while he paired
off with Miss Sedley, and Jos squeezed through the gate
into the gardens with Rebecca at his side, honest Dobbin
contented himself by giving an arm to the shawls, and by
paying at the door for the whole party.
He walked very modestly behind them. He was not
willing to spoil sport. About Rebecca and Jos he did not
care a fig. But he thought Amelia worthy even of the
brilliant George Osborne, and as he saw that good-looking
couple threading the walks to the girl's delight and
wonder, he watched her artless happiness with a sort of
fatherly pleasure. Perhaps he felt that he would have liked
to have something on his own arm besides a shawl (the
people laughed at seeing the gawky young officer carrying
this female burthen); but William Dobbin was very little
addicted to selfish calculation at all; and so long as his
friend was enjoying himself, how should he be discontented?
And the truth is, that of all the delights of the
Gardens; of the hundred thousand extra lamps, which
were always lighted; the fiddlers in cocked hats, who
played ravishing melodies under the gilded cockle-shell in
the midst of the gardens; the singers, both of comic and
sentimental ballads, who charmed the ears there; the
country dances, formed by bouncing cockneys and
cockneyesses, and executed amidst jumping, thumping and
laughter; the signal which announced that Madame Saqui
was about to mount skyward on a slack-rope ascending
to the stars; the hermit that always sat in the illuminated
hermitage; the dark walks, so favourable to the interviews
of young lovers; the pots of stout handed about by the
people in the shabby old liveries; and the twinkling boxes,
in which the happy feasters made-believe to eat slices of
almost invisible ham--of all these things, and of the
gentle Simpson, that kind smiling idiot, who, I daresay,
presided even then over the place--Captain William Dobbin
did not take the slightest notice.
He carried about Amelia's white cashmere shawl, and
having attended under the gilt cockle-shell, while Mrs.
Salmon performed the Battle of Borodino (a savage
cantata against the Corsican upstart, who had lately met
with his Russian reverses)--Mr. Dobbin tried to hum it
as he walked away, and found he was humming--the tune
which Amelia Sedley sang on the stairs, as she came
down to dinner.
He burst out laughing at himself; for the truth is, he
could sing no better than an owl.
It is to be understood, as a matter of course, that our
young people, being in parties of two and two, made the
most solemn promises to keep together during the evening,
and separated in ten minutes afterwards. Parties at
Vauxhall always did separate, but 'twas only to meet
again at supper-time, when they could talk of their mutual
adventures in the interval.
What were the adventures of Mr. Osborne and Miss
Amelia? That is a secret. But be sure of this--they were
perfectly happy, and correct in their behaviour; and as
they had been in the habit of being together any time these
fifteen years, their tete-a-tete offered no particular
But when Miss Rebecca Sharp and her stout companion
lost themselves in a solitary walk, in which there were not
above five score more of couples similarly straying, they
both felt that the situation was extremely tender and
critical, and now or never was the moment Miss Sharp
thought, to provoke that declaration which was trembling
on the timid lips of Mr. Sedley. They had previously been
to the panorama of Moscow, where a rude fellow, treading
on Miss Sharp's foot, caused her to fall back with a little
shriek into the arms of Mr. Sedley, and this little incident
increased the tenderness and confidence of that gentleman
to such a degree, that he told her several of his favourite
Indian stories over again for, at least, the sixth time.
"How I should like to see India!" said Rebecca.
"SHOULD you?" said Joseph, with a most killing tenderness;
and was no doubt about to follow up this artful
interrogatory by a question still more tender (for he puffed
and panted a great deal, and Rebecca's hand, which was
placed near his heart, could count the feverish pulsations
of that organ), when, oh, provoking! the bell rang for the
fireworks, and, a great scuffling and running taking place,
these interesting lovers were obliged to follow in the
stream of people.
Captain Dobbin had some thoughts of joining the party
at supper: as, in truth, he found the Vauxhall
amusements not particularly lively--but he paraded
twice before the box where the now united couples were
met, and nobody took any notice of him. Covers were laid for
four. The mated pairs were prattling away quite happily,
and Dobbin knew he was as clean forgotten as if he had
never existed in this world.
"I should only be de trop," said the Captain, looking at
them rather wistfully. "I'd best go and talk to the hermit,"
--and so he strolled off out of the hum of men, and noise,
and clatter of the banquet, into the dark walk, at the end
of which lived that well-known pasteboard Solitary. It
wasn't very good fun for Dobbin--and, indeed, to be
alone at Vauxhall, I have found, from my own experience,
to be one of the most dismal sports ever entered into by a
The two couples were perfectly happy then in their
box: where the most delightful and intimate conversation
took place. Jos was in his glory, ordering about the waiters
with great majesty. He made the salad; and uncorked
the Champagne; and carved the chickens; and ate and
drank the greater part of the refreshments on the tables.
Finally, he insisted upon having a bowl of rack punch;
everybody had rack punch at Vauxhall. "Waiter, rack
That bowl of rack punch was the cause of all this
history. And why not a bowl of rack punch as well as any
other cause? Was not a bowl of prussic acid the cause of
Fair Rosamond's retiring from the world? Was not a bowl
of wine the cause of the demise of Alexander the Great,
or, at least, does not Dr. Lempriere say so?--so did this
bowl of rack punch influence the fates of all the principal
characters in this "Novel without a Hero," which we are
now relating. It influenced their life, although most of
them did not taste a drop of it.
The young ladies did not drink it; Osborne did not
like it; and the consequence was that Jos, that fat
gourmand, drank up the whole contents of the bowl;
and the consequence of his drinking up the whole contents
of the bowl was a liveliness which at first was astonishing,
and then became almost painful; for he talked and laughed so
loud as to bring scores of listeners round the box, much
to the confusion of the innocent party within it; and,
volunteering to sing a song (which he did in that maudlin
high key peculiar to gentlemen in an inebriated state), he
almost drew away the audience who were gathered round
the musicians in the gilt scollop-shell, and received from
his hearers a great deal of applause.
"Brayvo, Fat un!" said one; "Angcore, Daniel Lambert!"
said another; "What a figure for the tight-rope!"
exclaimed another wag, to the inexpressible alarm of
the ladies, and the great anger of Mr. Osborne.
"For Heaven's sake, Jos, let us get up and go," cried
that gentleman, and the young women rose.
"Stop, my dearest diddle-diddle-darling," shouted Jos,
now as bold as a lion, and clasping Miss Rebecca round
the waist. Rebecca started, but she could not get away her
hand. The laughter outside redoubled. Jos continued to
drink, to make love, and to sing; and, winking and waving
his glass gracefully to his audience, challenged all or any
to come in and take a share of his punch.
Mr. Osborne was just on the point of knocking down a
gentleman in top-boots, who proposed to take advantage
of this invitation, and a commotion seemed to be
inevitable, when by the greatest good luck a gentleman
of the name of Dobbin, who had been walking about the
gardens, stepped up to the box. "Be off, you fools!" said
this gentleman--shouldering off a great number of the crowd,
who vanished presently before his cocked hat and fierce
appearance--and he entered the box in a most agitated state.
"Good Heavens! Dobbin, where have you been?" 0sborne
said, seizing the white cashmere shawl from his
friend's arm, and huddling up Amelia in it.--"Make
yourself useful, and take charge of Jos here, whilst I
take the ladies to the carriage."
Jos was for rising to interfere--but a single push from
Osborne's finger sent him puffing back into his seat again,
and the lieutenant was enabled to remove the ladies in
safety. Jos kissed his hand to them as they retreated, and
hiccupped out "Bless you! Bless you!" Then, seizing
Captain Dobbin's hand, and weeping in the most pitiful way,
he confided to that gentleman the secret of his loves. He
adored that girl who had just gone out; he had broken
her heart, he knew he had, by his conduct; he would marry
her next morning at St. George's, Hanover Square; he'd
knock up the Archbishop of Canterbury at Lambeth: he
would, by Jove! and have him in readiness; and, acting on
this hint, Captain Dobbin shrewdly induced him to leave
the gardens and hasten to Lambeth Palace, and, when once
out of the gates, easily conveyed Mr. Jos Sedley into a
hackney-coach, which deposited him safely at his lodgings.
George Osborne conducted the girls home in safety:
and when the door was closed upon them, and as he
walked across Russell Square, laughed so as to astonish
the watchman. Amelia looked very ruefully at her friend,
as they went up stairs, and kissed her, and went to bed
without any more talking.
"He must propose to-morrow," thought Rebecca. "He
called me his soul's darling, four times; he squeezed my
hand in Amelia's presence. He must propose to-morrow."
And so thought Amelia, too. And I dare say she thought
of the dress she was to wear as bridesmaid, and of the
presents which she should make to her nice little sister-inlaw,
and of a subsequent ceremony in which she herself
might play a principal part, &c., and &c., and &c., and &c.
Oh, ignorant young creatures! How little do you know
the effect of rack punch! What is the rack in the punch,
at night, to the rack in the head of a morning? To this
truth I can vouch as a man; there is no headache in the
world like that caused by Vauxhall punch. Through the
lapse of twenty years, I can remember the consequence
of two glasses!two wine-glasses!but two, upon the
honour of a gentleman; and Joseph Sedley, who had a
liver complaint, had swallowed at least a quart of the
abominable mixture.
That next morning, which Rebecca thought was to
dawn upon her fortune, found Sedley groaning in agonies
which the pen refuses to describe. Soda-water was not
invented yet. Small beer--will it be believed!--was the
only drink with which unhappy gentlemen soothed the
fever of their previous night's potation. With this mild
beverage before him, George Osborne found the ex-
Collector of Boggley Wollah groaning on the sofa at
his lodgings. Dobbin was already in the room, goodnaturedly
tending his patient of the night before. The two
officers, looking at the prostrate Bacchanalian, and
askance at each other, exchanged the most frightful
sympathetic grins. Even Sedley's valet, the most solemn
and correct of gentlemen, with the muteness and gravity of
an undertaker, could hardly keep his countenance in
order, as he looked at his unfortunate master.
"Mr. Sedley was uncommon wild last night, sir," he
whispered in confidence to Osborne, as the latter mounted
the stair. "He wanted to fight the 'ackney-coachman, sir.
The Capting was obliged to bring him upstairs in his
harms like a babby." A momentary smile flickered over
Mr. Brush's features as he spoke; instantly, however, they
relapsed into their usual unfathomable calm, as he flung
open the drawing-room door, and announced "Mr.
"How are you, Sedley?" that young wag began, after
surveying his victim. "No bones broke? There's a
hackney-coachman downstairs with a black eye, and a
tied-up head, vowing he'll have the law of you."
"What do you mean--law?" Sedley faintly asked.
"For thrashing him last night--didn't he, Dobbin? You
hit out, sir, like Molyneux. The watchman says he never
saw a fellow go down so straight. Ask Dobbin."
"You DID have a round with the coachman," Captain
Dobbin said, "and showed plenty of fight too."
"And that fellow with the white coat at Vauxhall! How
Jos drove at him! How the women screamed! By Jove,
sir, it did my heart good to see you. I thought you civilians
had no pluck; but I'll never get in your way when you
are in your cups, Jos."
"I believe I'm very terrible, when I'm roused,"
ejaculated Jos from the sofa, and made a grimace so
dreary and ludicrous, that the Captain's politeness could
restrain him no longer, and he and Osborne fired off a
ringing volley of laughter.
Osborne pursued his advantage pitilessly. He thought
Jos a milksop. He had been revolving in his mind the
marriage question pending between Jos and Rebecca, and
was not over well pleased that a member of a family into
which he, George Osborne, of the --th, was going
to marry, should make a mesalliance with a little nobody
--a little upstart governess. "You hit, you poor old
fellow!" said Osborne. "You terrible! Why, man, you
couldn't stand--you made everybody laugh in the
Gardens, though you were crying yourself. You were
maudlin, Jos. Don't you remember singing a song?"
"A what?" Jos asked.
"A sentimental song, and calling Rosa, Rebecca, what's
her name, Amelia's little friend--your dearest diddlediddle-
darling?" And this ruthless young fellow, seizing
hold of Dobbin's hand, acted over the scene, to the horror
of the original performer, and in spite of Dobbin's goodnatured
entreaties to him to have mercy.
"Why should I spare him?" Osborne said to his friend's
remonstrances, when they quitted the invalid, leaving him
under the hands of Doctor Gollop. "What the deuce right
has he to give himself his patronizing airs, and make fools
of us at Vauxhall? Who's this little schoolgirl that is
ogling and making love to him? Hang it, the family's
low enough already, without HER. A governess is all very
well, but I'd rather have a lady for my sister-in-law. I'm
a liberal man; but I've proper pride, and know my own
station: let her know hers. And I'll take down that great
hectoring Nabob, and prevent him from being made a
greater fool than he is. That's why I told him to look out,
lest she brought an action against him."
"I suppose you know best," Dobbin said, though rather
dubiously. "You always were a Tory, and your family's
one of the oldest in England. But --"
"Come and see the girls, and make love to Miss Sharp
yourself," the lieutenant here interrupted his friend; but
Captain Dobbin declined to join Osborne in his daily visit
to the young ladies in Russell Square.
As George walked down Southampton Row, from
Holborn, he laughed as he saw, at the Sedley Mansion,
in two different stories two heads on the look-out.
The fact is, Miss Amelia, in the drawing-room balcony,
was looking very eagerly towards the opposite side of the
Square, where Mr. Osborne dwelt, on the watch for the
lieutenant himself; and Miss Sharp, from her little bedroom
on the second floor, was in observation until Mr.
Joseph's great form should heave in sight.
"Sister Anne is on the watch-tower," said he to Amelia,
"but there's nobody coming"; and laughing and enjoying
the joke hugely, he described in the most ludicrous terms
to Miss Sedley, the dismal condition of her brother.
"I think it's very cruel of you to laugh, George," she
said, looking particularly unhappy; but George only
laughed the more at her piteous and discomfited mien,
persisted in thinking the joke a most diverting one, and
when Miss Sharp came downstairs, bantered her with a
great deal of liveliness upon the effect of her charms on
the fat civilian.
"O Miss Sharp! if you could but see him this morning,"
he said--"moaning in his flowered dressing-gown--
writhing on his sofa; if you could but have seen him
lolling out his tongue to Gollop the apothecary."
"See whom?" said Miss Sharp.
"Whom? O whom? Captain Dobbin, of course, to whom
we were all so attentive, by the way, last night."
"We were very unkind to him," Emmy said, blushing
very much. "I--I quite forgot him."
"Of course you did," cried Osborne, still on the laugh.
"One can't be ALWAYS thinking about Dobbin, you know,
Amelia. Can one, Miss Sharp?"
"Except when he overset the glass of wine at dinner,"
Miss Sharp said, with a haughty air and a toss of the
head, "I never gave the existence of Captain Dobbin one
single moment's consideration."
"Very good, Miss Sharp, I'll tell him," Osborne said;
and as he spoke Miss Sharp began to have a feeling of
distrust and hatred towards this young officer, which he
was quite unconscious of having inspired. "He is to make
fun of me, is he?" thought Rebecca. "Has he been
laughing about me to Joseph? Has he frightened him?
Perhaps he won't come."--A film passed over her eyes,
and her heart beat quite quick.
"You're always joking," said she, smiling as innocently
as she could. "Joke away, Mr. George; there's nobody
to defend ME." And George Osborne, as she walked away
--and Amelia looked reprovingly at him--felt some little
manly compunction for having inflicted any unnecessary
unkindness upon this helpless creature. "My dearest
Amelia," said he, "you are too good--too kind. You
don't know the world. I do. And your little friend Miss
Sharp must learn her station."
"Don't you think Jos will--"
"Upon my word, my dear, I don't know. He may, or
may not. I'm not his master. I only know he is a very
foolish vain fellow, and put my dear little girl into a very
painful and awkward position last night. My dearest
diddle-diddle-darling!" He was off laughing again, and he
did it so drolly that Emmy laughed too.
All that day Jos never came. But Amelia had no fear
about this; for the little schemer had actually sent away
the page, Mr. Sambo's aide-de-camp, to Mr. Joseph's
lodgings, to ask for some book he had promised, and how
he was; and the reply through Jos's man, Mr. Brush, was,
that his master was ill in bed, and had just had the doctor
with him. He must come to-morrow, she thought, but she
never had the courage to speak a word on the subject
to Rebecca; nor did that young woman herself allude
to it in any way during the whole evening after the night
at Vauxhall.
The next day, however, as the two young ladies sate on
the sofa, pretending to work, or to write letters, or to
read novels, Sambo came into the room with his usual
engaging grin, with a packet under his arm, and a note
on a tray. "Note from Mr. Jos, Miss," says Sambo.
How Amelia trembled as she opened it!
So it ran:
Dear Amelia,--I send you the "Orphan of the Forest."
I was too ill to come yesterday. I leave town to-day
for Cheltenham. Pray excuse me, if you can, to the
amiable Miss Sharp, for my conduct at Vauxhall, and
entreat her to pardon and forget every word I may have
uttered when excited by that fatal supper. As soon as
I have recovered, for my health is very much shaken, I
shall go to Scotland for some months, and am
Truly yours,
Jos Sedley
It was the death-warrant. All was over. Amelia did
not dare to look at Rebecca's pale face and burning eyes,
but she dropt the letter into her friend's lap; and got up,
and went upstairs to her room, and cried her little heart
Blenkinsop, the housekeeper, there sought her presently
with consolation, on whose shoulder Amelia wept
confidentially, and relieved herself a good deal. "Don't take
on, Miss. I didn't like to tell you. But none of us in the
house have liked her except at fust. I sor her with my
own eyes reading your Ma's letters. Pinner says she's
always about your trinket-box and drawers, and
everybody's drawers, and she's sure she's put your white
ribbing into her box."
"I gave it her, I gave it her," Amelia said.
But this did not alter Mrs. Blenkinsop's opinion of Miss
Sharp. "I don't trust them governesses, Pinner," she
remarked to the maid. "They give themselves the hairs and
hupstarts of ladies, and their wages is no better than
you nor me."
It now became clear to every soul in the house, except
poor Amelia, that Rebecca should take her departure,
and high and low (always with the one exception) agreed
that that event should take place as speedily as possible.
Our good child ransacked all her drawers, cupboards,
reticules, and gimcrack boxes--passed in review all her
gowns, fichus, tags, bobbins, laces, silk stockings, and
fallals--selecting this thing and that and the other, to
make a little heap for Rebecca. And going to her Papa,
that generous British merchant, who had promised to
give her as many guineas as she was years old--she
begged the old gentleman to give the money to dear
Rebecca, who must want it, while she lacked for nothing.
She even made George Osborne contribute, and
nothing loth (for he was as free-handed a young fellow
as any in the army), he went to Bond Street, and bought
the best hat and spenser that money could buy.
"That's George's present to you, Rebecca, dear," said
Amelia, quite proud of the bandbox conveying these
gifts. "What a taste he has! There's nobody like him."
"Nobody," Rebecca answered. "How thankful I am to
him!" She was thinking in her heart, "It was George
Osborne who prevented my marriage."--And she loved
George Osborne accordingly.
She made her preparations for departure with great
equanimity; and accepted all the kind little Amelia's
presents, after just the proper degree of hesitation and
reluctance. She vowed eternal gratitude to Mrs. Sedley,
of course; but did not intrude herself upon that good
lady too much, who was embarrassed, and evidently
wishing to avoid her. She kissed Mr. Sedley's hand, when
he presented her with the purse; and asked permission to
consider him for the future as her kind, kind friend and
protector. Her behaviour was so affecting that he was
going to write her a cheque for twenty pounds more;
but he restrained his feelings: the carriage was in waiting
to take him to dinner, so he tripped away with a "God
bless you, my dear, always come here when you come to
town, you know.--Drive to the Mansion House, James."
Finally came the parting with Miss Amelia, over which
picture I intend to throw a veil. But after a scene in
which one person was in earnest and the other a perfect
performer--after the tenderest caresses, the most pathetic
tears, the smelling-bottle, and some of the very best
feelings of the heart, had been called into requisition--
Rebecca and Amelia parted, the former vowing to love
her friend for ever and ever and ever.
Crawley of Queen's Crawley
Among the most respected of the names beginning in C
which the Court-Guide contained, in the year 18--, was
that of Crawley, Sir Pitt, Baronet, Great Gaunt Street,
and Queen's Crawley, Hants. This honourable name had
figured constantly also in the Parliamentary list for many
years, in conjunction with that of a number of other
worthy gentlemen who sat in turns for the borough.
It is related, with regard to the borough of Queen's
Crawley, that Queen Elizabeth in one of her progresses,
stopping at Crawley to breakfast, was so delighted with
some remarkably fine Hampshire beer which was then
presented to her by the Crawley of the day (a handsome
gentleman with a trim beard and a good leg), that she
forthwith erected Crawley into a borough to send two
members to Parliament; and the place, from the day of
that illustrious visit, took the name of Queen's Crawley,
which it holds up to the present moment. And though, by
the lapse of time, and those mutations which age produces
in empires, cities, and boroughs, Queen's Crawley was no
longer so populous a place as it had been in Queen Bess's
time--nay, was come down to that condition of borough
which used to be denominated rotten--yet, as Sir Pitt
Crawley would say with perfect justice in his elegant
way, "Rotten! be hanged--it produces me a good fifteen
hundred a year."
Sir Pitt Crawley (named after the great Commoner)
was the son of Walpole Crawley, first Baronet, of the
Tape and Sealing-Wax Office in the reign of George II.,
when he was impeached for peculation, as were a great
number of other honest gentlemen of those days; and
Walpole Crawley was, as need scarcely be said, son of
John Churchill Crawley, named after the celebrated
military commander of the reign of Queen Anne. The family
tree (which hangs up at Queen's Crawley) furthermore
mentions Charles Stuart, afterwards called Barebones
Crawley, son of the Crawley of James the First's time;
and finally, Queen Elizabeth's Crawley, who is represented
as the foreground of the picture in his forked beard and
armour. Out of his waistcoat, as usual, grows a tree, on
the main branches of which the above illustrious names
are inscribed. Close by the name of Sir Pitt Crawley,
Baronet (the subject of the present memoir), are written
that of his brother, the Reverend Bute Crawley (the great
Commoner was in disgrace when the reverend gentleman
was born), rector of Crawley-cum-Snailby, and of various
other male and female members of the Crawley family.
Sir Pitt was first married to Grizzel, sixth daughter of
Mungo Binkie, Lord Binkie, and cousin, in consequence,
of Mr. Dundas. She brought him two sons: Pitt, named
not so much after his father as after the heaven-born
minister; and Rawdon Crawley, from the Prince of
Wales's friend, whom his Majesty George IV forgot so
completely. Many years after her ladyship's demise, Sir
Pitt led to the altar Rosa, daughter of Mr. G. Dawson,
of Mudbury, by whom he had two daughters, for whose
benefit Miss Rebecca Sharp was now engaged as
governess. It will be seen that the young lady was come into a
family of very genteel connexions, and was about to move
in a much more distinguished circle than that humble one
which she had just quitted in Russell Square.
She had received her orders to join her pupils, in a
note which was written upon an old envelope, and which
contained the following words:
Sir Pitt Crawley begs Miss Sharp and baggidge may be
hear on Tuesday, as I leaf for Queen's Crawley to-morrow
morning ERLY.
Great Gaunt Street.
Rebecca had never seen a Baronet, as far as she knew,
and as soon as she had taken leave of Amelia, and
counted the guineas which good-natured Mr. Sedley had
put into a purse for her, and as soon as she had done
wiping her eyes with her handkerchief (which operation
she concluded the very moment the carriage had turned
the corner of the street), she began to depict in her own
mind what a Baronet must be. "I wonder, does he wear
a star?" thought she, "or is it only lords that wear stars?
But he will be very handsomely dressed in a court suit,
with ruffles, and his hair a little powdered, like Mr.
Wroughton at Covent Garden. I suppose he will be
awfully proud, and that I shall be treated most
contemptuously. Still I must bear my hard lot as well
as I can--at least, I shall be amongst GENTLEFOLKS, and
not with vulgar city people": and she fell to thinking of
her Russell Square friends with that very same philosophical
bitterness with which, in a certain apologue, the fox is
represented as speaking of the grapes.
Having passed through Gaunt Square into Great Gaunt
Street, the carriage at length stopped at a tall gloomy
house between two other tall gloomy houses, each with a
hatchment over the middle drawing-room window; as is
the custom of houses in Great Gaunt Street, in which
gloomy locality death seems to reign perpetual. The
shutters of the first-floor windows of Sir Pitt's mansion
were closed--those of the dining-room were partially open,
and the blinds neatly covered up in old newspapers.
John, the groom, who had driven the carriage alone,
did not care to descend to ring the bell; and so prayed a
passing milk-boy to perform that office for him. When the
bell was rung, a head appeared between the interstices of
the dining-room shutters, and the door was opened by a
man in drab breeches and gaiters, with a dirty old coat,
a foul old neckcloth lashed round his bristly neck, a
shining bald head, a leering red face, a pair of twinkling grey
eyes, and a mouth perpetually on the grin
"This Sir Pitt Crawley's?" says John, from the box.
"Ees," says the man at the door, with a nod.
"Hand down these 'ere trunks then," said John.
"Hand 'n down yourself," said the porter.
"Don't you see I can't leave my hosses? Come, bear a
hand, my fine feller, and Miss will give you some beer,"
said John, with a horse-laugh, for he was no longer
respectful to Miss Sharp, as her connexion with the family
was broken off, and as she had given nothing to the
servants on coming away.
The bald-headed man, taking his hands out of his
breeches pockets, advanced on this summons, and
throwing Miss Sharp's trunk over his shoulder, carried it into
the house.
"Take this basket and shawl, if you please, and open
the door," said Miss Sharp, and descended from the
carriage in much indignation. "I shall write to Mr. Sedley
and inform him of your conduct," said she to the groom.
"Don't," replied that functionary. "I hope you've forgot
nothink? Miss 'Melia's gownds--have you got them--as
the lady's maid was to have 'ad? I hope they'll fit you.
Shut the door, Jim, you'll get no good out of 'ER,"
continued John, pointing with his thumb towards Miss Sharp:
"a bad lot, I tell you, a bad lot," and so saying, Mr.
Sedley's groom drove away. The truth is, he was attached
to the lady's maid in question, and indignant that she
should have been robbed of her perquisites.
On entering the dining-room, by the orders of the
individual in gaiters, Rebecca found that apartment not
more cheerful than such rooms usually are, when genteel
families are out of town. The faithful chambers seem, as
it were, to mourn the absence of their masters. The turkey
carpet has rolled itself up, and retired sulkily under the
sideboard: the pictures have hidden their faces behind old
sheets of brown paper: the ceiling lamp is muffled up in a
dismal sack of brown holland: the window-curtains have
disappeared under all sorts of shabby envelopes: the
marble bust of Sir Walpole Crawley is looking from its
black corner at the bare boards and the oiled fire-irons,
and the empty card-racks over the mantelpiece: the
cellaret has lurked away behind the carpet: the chairs are
turned up heads and tails along the walls: and in the
dark corner opposite the statue, is an old-fashioned
crabbed knife-box, locked and sitting on a dumb waiter.
Two kitchen chairs, and a round table, and an
attenuated old poker and tongs were, however, gathered
round the fire-place, as was a saucepan over a feeble
sputtering fire. There was a bit of cheese and bread, and
a tin candlestick on the table, and a little black porter
in a pint-pot.
"Had your dinner, I suppose? It is not too warm for
you? Like a drop of beer?"
"Where is Sir Pitt Crawley?" said Miss Sharp
"He, he! I'm Sir Pitt Crawley. Reklect you owe me a
pint for bringing down your luggage. He, he! Ask
Tinker if I aynt. Mrs. Tinker, Miss Sharp; Miss
Governess, Mrs. Charwoman. Ho, ho!"
The lady addressed as Mrs. Tinker at this moment
made her appearance with a pipe and a paper of tobacco,
for which she had been despatched a minute before
Miss Sharp's arrival; and she handed the articles over to
Sir Pitt, who had taken his seat by the fire.
"Where's the farden?" said he. "I gave you three
halfpence. Where's the change, old Tinker?"
"There!" replied Mrs. Tinker, flinging down the coin;
it's only baronets as cares about farthings."
"A farthing a day is seven shillings a year," answered
the M.P.; "seven shillings a year is the interest of seven
guineas. Take care of your farthings, old Tinker, and your
guineas will come quite nat'ral."
"You may be sure it's Sir Pitt Crawley, young woman,"
said Mrs. Tinker, surlily; "because he looks to his
farthings. You'll know him better afore long."
"And like me none the worse, Miss Sharp," said the
old gentleman, with an air almost of politeness. "I must
be just before I'm generous."
"He never gave away a farthing in his life," growled
"Never, and never will: it's against my principle. Go
and get another chair from the kitchen, Tinker, if you
want to sit down; and then we'll have a bit of supper."
Presently the baronet plunged a fork into the saucepan
on the fire, and withdrew from the pot a piece of tripe
and an onion, which he divided into pretty equal
portions, and of which he partook with Mrs. Tinker. "You
see, Miss Sharp, when I'm not here Tinker's on board
wages: when I'm in town she dines with the family.
Haw! haw! I'm glad Miss Sharp's not hungry, ain't you,
Tink?" And they fell to upon their frugal supper.
After supper Sir Pitt Crawley began to smoke his
pipe; and when it became quite dark, he lighted the
rushlight in the tin candlestick, and producing from an
interminable pocket a huge mass of papers, began reading
them, and putting them in order.
"I'm here on law business, my dear, and that's how it
happens that I shall have the pleasure of such a pretty
travelling companion to-morrow."
"He's always at law business," said Mrs. Tinker,
taking up the pot of porter.
"Drink and drink about," said the Baronet. "Yes; my
dear, Tinker is quite right: I've lost and won more
lawsuits than any man in England. Look here at Crawley,
Bart. v. Snaffle. I'll throw him over, or my name's not
Pitt Crawley. Podder and another versus Crawley, Bart.
Overseers of Snaily parish against Crawley, Bart. They
can't prove it's common: I'll defy 'em; the land's mine.
It no more belongs to the parish than it does to you or
Tinker here. I'll beat 'em, if it cost me a thousand guineas.
Look over the papers; you may if you like, my dear.
Do you write a good hand? I'll make you useful when
we're at Queen's Crawley, depend on it, Miss Sharp.
Now the dowager's dead I want some one."
"She was as bad as he," said Tinker. "She took the
law of every one of her tradesmen; and turned away
forty-eight footmen in four year."
"She was close--very close," said the Baronet, simply;
"but she was a valyble woman to me, and saved me a
steward."--And in this confidential strain, and much to
the amusement of the new-comer, the conversation
continued for a considerable time. Whatever Sir Pitt
Crawley's qualities might be, good or bad, he did not make
the least disguise of them. He talked of himself incessantly, sometimes in the coarsest and
vulgarest Hampshire accent; sometimes adopting the tone of a man of the world. And so,
with injunctions to Miss Sharp to be ready at five in the
morning, he bade her good night. "You'll sleep with Tinker
to-night," he said; "it's a big bed, and there's room for two.
Lady Crawley died in it. Good night."
Sir Pitt went off after this benediction, and the solemn
Tinker, rushlight in hand, led the way up the great
bleak stone stairs, past the great dreary drawing-room
doors, with the handles muffled up in paper, into the
great front bedroom, where Lady Crawley had slept her
last. The bed and chamber were so funereal and gloomy,
you might have fancied, not only that Lady Crawley died
in the room, but that her ghost inhabited it. Rebecca
sprang about the apartment, however, with the greatest
liveliness, and had peeped into the huge wardrobes, and
the closets, and the cupboards, and tried the drawers
which were locked, and examined the dreary pictures
and toilette appointments, while the old charwoman
was saying her prayers. "I shouldn't like to sleep in this
yeer bed without a good conscience, Miss," said the old
woman. "There's room for us and a half-dozen of ghosts
in it," says Rebecca. "Tell me all about Lady Crawley
and Sir Pitt Crawley, and everybody, my DEAR Mrs.
But old Tinker was not to be pumped by this little
cross-questioner; and signifying to her that bed was a
place for sleeping, not conversation, set up in her corner
of the bed such a snore as only the nose of innocence
can produce. Rebecca lay awake for a long, long time,
thinking of the morrow, and of the new world into which
she was going, and of her chances of success there. The
rushlight flickered in the basin. The mantelpiece cast up
a great black shadow, over half of a mouldy old sampler,
which her defunct ladyship had worked, no doubt, and
over two little family pictures of young lads, one in a
college gown, and the other in a red jacket like a soldier.
When she went to sleep, Rebecca chose that one to
dream about.
At four o'clock, on such a roseate summer's morning
as even made Great Gaunt Street look cheerful, the
faithful Tinker, having wakened her bedfellow, and bid her
prepare for departure, unbarred and unbolted the great
hall door (the clanging and clapping whereof startled
the sleeping echoes in the street), and taking her way
into Oxford Street, summoned a coach from a stand
there. It is needless to particularize the number of the
vehicle, or to state that the driver was stationed thus
early in the neighbourhood of Swallow Street, in hopes
that some young buck, reeling homeward from the tavern,
might need the aid of his vehicle, and pay him with
the generosity of intoxication.
It is likewise needless to say that the driver, if he had
any such hopes as those.above stated, was grossly
disappointed; and that the worthy Baronet whom he drove
to the City did not give him one single penny more than
his fare. It was in vain that Jehu appealed and stormed;
that he flung down Miss Sharp's bandboxes in the gutter
at the 'Necks, and swore he would take the law of his
"You'd better not," said one of the ostlers; "it's Sir
Pitt Crawley."
"So it is, Joe," cried the Baronet, approvingly; "and
I'd like to see the man can do me."
"So should oi," said Joe, grinning sulkily, and
mounting the Baronet's baggage on the roof of the coach.
"Keep the box for me, Leader," exclaims the Member
of Parliament to the coachman; who replied, "Yes,
Sir Pitt," with a touch of his hat, and rage in his soul
(for he had promised the box to a young gentleman
from Cambridge, who would have given a crown to a
certainty), and Miss Sharp was accommodated with a
back seat inside the carriage, which might be said to be
carrying her into the wide world.
How the young man from Cambridge sulkily put his
five great-coats in front; but was reconciled when little
Miss Sharp was made to quit the carriage, and mount
up beside him--when he covered her up in one of his
Benjamins, and became perfectly good-humoured--how
the asthmatic gentleman, the prim lady, who declared
upon her sacred honour she had never travelled in a
public carriage before (there is always such a lady in a
coach--Alas! was; for the coaches, where are they?),
and the fat widow with the brandy-bottle, took their
places inside--how the porter asked them all for money,
and got sixpence from the gentleman and five greasy
halfpence from the fat widow--and how the carriage
at length drove away--now threading the dark lanes of
Aldersgate, anon clattering by the Blue Cupola of St.
Paul's, jingling rapidly by the strangers' entry of Fleet-
Market, which, with Exeter 'Change, has now departed
to the world of shadows--how they passed the White
Bear in Piccadilly, and saw the dew rising up from the
market-gardens of Knightsbridge--how Turnhamgreen,
Brentwood, Bagshot, were passed--need not be told here.
But the writer of these pages, who has pursued in former
days, and in the same bright weather, the same remarkable
journey, cannot but think of it with a sweet and
tender regret. Where is the road now, and its merry
incidents of life? Is there no Chelsea or Greenwich for
the old honest pimple-nosed coachmen? I wonder where
are they, those good fellows? Is old Weller alive or dead?
and the waiters, yea, and the inns at which they waited,
and the cold rounds of beef inside, and the stunted ostler,
with his blue nose and clinking pail, where is he, and
where is his generation? To those great geniuses now in
petticoats, who shall write novels for the beloved reader's
children, these men and things will be as much legend
and history as Nineveh, or Coeur de Lion, or Jack
Sheppard. For them stage-coaches will have become romances
--a team of four bays as fabulous as Bucephalus or Black
Bess. Ah, how their coats shone, as the stable-men pulled
their clothes off, and away they went--ah, how their
tails shook, as with smoking sides at the stage's end
they demurely walked away into the inn-yard. Alas! we
shall never hear the horn sing at midnight, or see the
pike-gates fly open any more. Whither, however, is the
light four-inside Trafalgar coach carrying us? Let us be
set down at Queen's Crawley without further divagation,
and see how Miss Rebecca Sharp speeds there.
Miss Rebecca Sharp to Miss Amelia Sedley,
Russell Square, London.
(Free.--Pitt Crawley.)
With what mingled joy and sorrow do I take up the
pen to write to my dearest friend! Oh, what a change
between to-day and yesterday! Now I am friendless and
alone; yesterday I was at home, in the sweet company
of a sister, whom I shall ever, ever cherish!
I will not tell you in what tears and sadness I passed
the fatal night in which I separated from you. YOU went
on Tuesday to joy and happiness, with your mother and
YOUR DEVOTED YOUNG SOLDIER by your side; and I thought
of you all night, dancing at the Perkins's, the prettiest,
I am sure, of all the young ladies at the Ball. I was
brought by the groom in the old carriage to Sir Pitt
Crawley's town house, where, after John the groom had
behaved most rudely and insolently to me (alas! 'twas
safe to insult poverty and misfortune!), I was given over
to Sir P.'s care, and made to pass the night in an old
gloomy bed, and by the side of a horrid gloomy old
charwoman, who keeps the house. I did not sleep one
single wink the whole night.
Sir Pitt is not what we silly girls, when we used to
read Cecilia at Chiswick, imagined a baronet must have
been. Anything, indeed, less like Lord Orville cannot be
imagined. Fancy an old, stumpy, short, vulgar, and very
dirty man, in old clothes and shabby old gaiters, who
smokes a horrid pipe, and cooks his own horrid supper
in a saucepan. He speaks with a country accent, and
swore a great deal at the old charwoman, at the hackney
coachman who drove us to the inn where the coach went
from, and on which I made the journey OUTSIDE FOR THE
I was awakened at daybreak by the charwoman, and
having arrived at the inn, was at first placed inside the
coach. But, when we got to a place called Leakington,
where the rain began to fall very heavily--will you
believe it?--I was forced to come outside; for Sir Pitt is a
proprietor of the coach, and as a passenger came at
Mudbury, who wanted an inside place, I was obliged to
go outside in the rain, where, however, a young
gentleman from Cambridge College sheltered me very
kindly in one of his several great coats.
This gentleman and the guard seemed to know Sir
Pitt very well, and laughed at him a great deal. They
both agreed in calling him an old screw; which means a
very stingy, avaricious person. He never gives any money
to anybody, they said (and this meanness I hate); and
the young gentleman made me remark that we drove
very slow for the last two stages on the road, because
Sir Pitt was on the box, and because he is proprietor
of the horses for this part of the journey. "But won't I
flog 'em on to Squashmore, when I take the ribbons?"
said the young Cantab. "And sarve 'em right, Master
Jack," said the guard. When I comprehended the
meaning of this phrase, and that Master Jack intended to
drive the rest of the way, and revenge himself on Sir
Pitt's horses, of course I laughed too.
A carriage and four splendid horses, covered with
armorial bearings, however, awaited us at Mudbury,
four miles from Queen's Crawley, and we made our
entrance to the baronet's park in state. There is a fine
avenue of a mile long leading to the house, and the woman
at the lodge-gate (over the pillars of which are a serpent
and a dove, the supporters of the Crawley arms), made
us a number of curtsies as she flung open the old iron
carved doors, which are something like those at odious
"There's an avenue," said Sir Pitt, "a mile long.
There's six thousand pound of timber in them there
trees. Do you call that nothing?" He pronounced avenue
--EVENUE, and nothing--NOTHINK, so droll; and he had
a Mr. Hodson, his hind from Mudbury, into the carriage
with him, and they talked about distraining, and selling
up, and draining and subsoiling, and a great deal about
tenants and farming--much more than I could
understand. Sam Miles had been caught poaching, and Peter
Bailey had gone to the workhouse at last. "Serve him
right," said Sir Pitt; "him and his family has been
cheating me on that farm these hundred and fifty years."
Some old tenant, I suppose, who could not pay his rent.
Sir Pitt might have said "he and his family," to be sure;
but rich baronets do not need to be careful about
grammar, as poor governesses must be.
As we passed, I remarked a beautiful church-spire
rising above some old elms in the park; and before them,
in the midst of a lawn, and some outhouses, an old red
house with tall chimneys covered with ivy, and the
windows shining in the sun. "Is that your church, sir?"
I said.
"Yes, hang it," (said Sir Pitt, only he used, dear, A MUCH
WICKEDER WORD); "how's Buty, Hodson? Buty's my
brother Bute, my dear--my brother the parson. Buty and
the Beast I call him, ha, ha!"
Hodson laughed too, and then looking more grave
and nodding his head, said, "I'm afraid he's better, Sir
Pitt. He was out on his pony yesterday, looking at our
"Looking after his tithes, hang'un (only he used the
same wicked word). Will brandy and water never kill
him? He's as tough as old whatdyecallum--old
Mr. Hodson laughed again. "The young men is home
from college. They've whopped John Scroggins till he's
well nigh dead."
"Whop my second keeper!" roared out Sir Pitt.
"He was on the parson's ground, sir," replied Mr.
Hodson; and Sir Pitt in a fury swore that if he ever caught
'em poaching on his ground, he'd transport 'em, by the
lord he would. However, he said, "I've sold the
presentation of the living, Hodson; none of that breed
shall get it, I war'nt"; and Mr. Hodson said he was quite right:
and I have no doubt from this that the two brothers are
at variance--as brothers often are, and sisters too. Don't
you remember the two Miss Scratchleys at Chiswick,
how they used always to fight and quarrel--and Mary
Box, how she was always thumping Louisa?
Presently, seeing two little boys gathering sticks in the
wood, Mr. Hodson jumped out of the carriage, at Sir
Pitt's order, and rushed upon them with his whip. "Pitch
into 'em, Hodson," roared the baronet; "flog their little
souls out, and bring 'em up to the house, the vagabonds;
I'll commit 'em as sure as my name's Pitt." And presently
we heard Mr. Hodson's whip cracking on the
shoulders of the poor little blubbering wretches, and
Sir Pitt, seeing that the malefactors were in custody,
drove on to the hall.
All the servants were ready to meet us, and
. . .
Here, my dear, I was interrupted last night by a
dreadful thumping at my door: and who do you think it
was? Sir Pitt Crawley in his night-cap and dressinggown,
such a figure! As I shrank away from such a
visitor, he came forward and seized my candle. "No
candles after eleven o'clock, Miss Becky," said he. "Go to
bed in the dark, you pretty little hussy" (that is what
he called me), "and unless you wish me to come for the
candle every night, mind and be in bed at eleven." And
with this, he and Mr. Horrocks the butler went off
laughing. You may be sure I shall not encourage any more
of their visits. They let loose two immense bloodhounds
at night, which all last night were yelling and howling
at the moon. "I call the dog Gorer," said Sir Pitt; "he's
killed a man that dog has, and is master of a bull, and
the mother I used to call Flora; but now I calls her
Aroarer, for she's too old to bite. Haw, haw!"
Before the house of Queen's Crawley, which is an
odious old-fashioned red brick mansion, with tall
chimneys and gables of the style of Queen Bess, there is a
terrace flanked by the family dove and serpent, and on
which the great hall-door opens. And oh, my dear, the
great hall I am sure is as big and as glum as the great
hall in the dear castle of Udolpho. It has a large
fireplace, in which we might put half Miss Pinkerton's
school, and the grate is big enough to roast an ox at the
very least. Round the room hang I don't know how
many generations of Crawleys, some with beards and
ruffs, some with huge wigs and toes turned out, some
dressed in long straight stays and gowns that look as
stiff as towers, and some with long ringlets, and oh, my
dear! scarcely any stays at all. At one end of the hall is
the great staircase all in black oak, as dismal as may be,
and on either side are tall doors with stags' heads.over
them, leading to the billiard-room and the library, and
the great yellow saloon and the morning-rooms. I think
there are at least twenty bedrooms on the first floor; one
of them has the bed in which Queen Elizabeth slept;
and I have been taken by my new pupils through all
these fine apartments this morning. They are not
rendered less gloomy, I promise you, by having the shutters
always shut; and there is scarce one of the apartments,
but when the light was let into it, I expected to
see a ghost in the room. We have a schoolroom on the
second floor, with my bedroom leading into it on one
side, and that of the young ladies on the other. Then
there are Mr. Pitt's apartments--Mr. Crawley, he is
called--the eldest son, and Mr. Rawdon Crawley's rooms
--he is an officer like SOMEBODY, and away with his
regiment. There is no want of room I assure you. You
might lodge all the people in Russell Square in the
house, I think, and have space to spare.
Half an hour after our arrival, the great dinner-bell
was rung, and I came down with my two pupils (they
are very thin insignificant little chits of ten and eight
years old). I came down in your dear muslin gown
(about which that odious Mrs. Pinner was so rude,
because you gave it me); for I am to be treated as one of
the family, except on company days, when the young
ladies and I are to dine upstairs.
Well, the great dinner-bell rang, and we all assembled
in the little drawing-room where my Lady Crawley
sits. She is the second Lady Crawley, and mother of the
young ladies. She was an ironmonger's daughter, and
her marriage was thought a great match. She looks as
if she had been handsome once, and her eyes are always
weeping for the loss of her beauty. She is pale and
meagre and high-shouldered, and has not a word to say
for herself, evidently. Her stepson Mr. Crawley, was
likewise in the room. He was in full dress, as pompous
as an undertaker. He is pale, thin, ugly, silent; he has
thin legs, no chest, hay-coloured whiskers, and strawcoloured
hair. He is the very picture of his sainted
mother over the mantelpiece--Griselda of the noble
house of Binkie.
"This is the new governess, Mr. Crawley," said Lady
Crawley, coming forward and taking my hand. "Miss
"0!" said Mr. Crawley, and pushed his head once
forward and began again to read a great pamphlet
with which he was busy.
"I hope you will be kind to my girls," said Lady
Crawley, with her pink eyes always full of tears.
"Law, Ma, of course she will," said the eldest: and I
saw at a glance that I need not be afraid of THAT woman.
"My lady is served," says the butler in black, in an
immense white shirt-frill, that looked as if it had been
one of the Queen Elizabeth's ruffs depicted in the hall;
and so, taking Mr. Crawley's arm, she led the way to the
dining-room, whither I followed with my little pupils in
each hand.
Sir Pitt was already in the room with a silver jug. He
had just been to the cellar, and was in full dress too;
that is, he had taken his gaiters off, and showed his little
dumpy legs in black worsted stockings. The sideboard
was covered with glistening old plate--old cups, both
gold and silver; old salvers and cruet-stands, like
Rundell and Bridge's shop. Everything on the table was in
silver too, and two footmen, with red hair and canarycoloured
liveries, stood on either side of the sideboard.
Mr. Crawley said a long grace, and Sir Pitt said amen,
and the great silver dish-covers were removed.
"What have we for dinner, Betsy?' said the Baronet.
"Mutton broth, I believe, Sir Pitt," answered Lady
"Mouton aux navets," added the butler gravely
(pronounce, if you please, moutongonavvy); "and the
soup is potage de mouton a l'Ecossaise. The side-dishes
contain pommes de terre au naturel, and choufleur a l'eau."
"Mutton's mutton," said the Baronet, "and a devilish
good thing. What SHIP was it, Horrocks, and when did
you kill?"
"One of the black-faced Scotch, Sir Pitt: we killed on Thursday.
"Who took any?"
"Steel, of Mudbury, took the saddle and two legs, Sir
Pitt; but he says the last was too young and confounded
woolly, Sir Pitt."
"Will you take some potage, Miss ah--Miss Blunt?
said Mr. Crawley.
"Capital Scotch broth, my dear," said Sir Pitt, "though
they call it by a French name."
"I believe it is the custom, sir, in decent society," said
Mr. Crawley, haughtily, "to call the dish as I have called
it"; and it was served to us on silver soup plates by the
footmen in the canary coats, with the mouton aux
navets. Then "ale and water" were brought, and served
to us young ladies in wine-glasses. I am not a judge of
ale, but I can say with a clear conscience I prefer water.
While we were enjoying our repast, Sir Pitt took
occasion to ask what had become of the shoulders of
the mutton.
"I believe they were eaten in the servants' hall," said
my lady, humbly.
"They was, my lady," said Horrocks, "and precious
little else we get there neither."
Sir Pitt burst into a horse-laugh, and continued his
conversation with Mr. Horrocks. "That there little black
pig of the Kent sow's breed must be uncommon fat
"It's not quite busting, Sir Pitt," said the butler with
the gravest air, at which Sir Pitt, and with him the young
ladies, this time, began to laugh violently.
"Miss Crawley, Miss Rose Crawley," said Mr. Crawley,
"your laughter strikes me as being exceedingly out
of place."
"Never mind, my lord," said the Baronet, "we'll try
the porker on Saturday. Kill un on Saturday morning,
John Horrocks. Miss Sharp adores pork, don't you, Miss
And I think this is all the conversation that I remember
at dinner. When the repast was concluded a jug of
hot water was placed before Sir Pitt, with a case-bottle
containing, I believe, rum. Mr. Horrocks served myself
and my pupils with three little glasses of wine, and a
bumper was poured out for my lady. When we retired,
she took from her work-drawer an enormous interminable
piece of knitting; the young ladies began to play at
cribbage with a dirty pack of cards. We had but one
candle lighted, but it was in a magnificent old silver
candlestick, and after a very few questions from my lady,
I had my choice of amusement between a volume of
sermons, and a pamphlet on the corn-laws, which Mr.
Crawley had been reading before dinner.
So we sat for an hour until steps were heard.
"Put away the cards, girls," cried my lady, in a great
tremor; "put down Mr. Crawley's books, Miss Sharp";
and these orders had been scarcely obeyed, when Mr.
Crawley entered the room.
"We will resume yesterday's discourse, young ladies,"
said he, "and you shall each read a page by turns; so
that Miss a--Miss Short may have an opportunity of
hearing you"; and the poor girls began to spell a long
dismal sermon delivered at Bethesda Chapel, Liverpool,
on behalf of the mission for the Chickasaw Indians.
Was it not a charming evening?
At ten the servants were told to call Sir Pitt and the
household to prayers. Sir Pitt came in first, very much
flushed, and rather unsteady in his gait; and after him
the butler, the canaries, Mr. Crawley's man, three other
men, smelling very much of the stable, and four women,
one of whom, I remarked, was very much overdressed,
and who flung me a look of great scorn as she plumped
down on her knees.
After Mr. Crawley had done haranguing and
expounding, we received our candles, and then we
went to bed; and then I was disturbed in my writing, as
I have described to my dearest sweetest Amelia.
Good night. A thousand, thousand, thousand kisses!
Saturday.--This morning, at five, I heard the
shrieking of the little black pig. Rose and Violet introduced
me to it yesterday; and to the stables, and to the kennel,
and to the gardener, who was picking fruit to send to
market, and from whom they begged hard a bunch of
hot-house grapes; but he said that Sir Pitt had numbered
every "Man Jack" of them, and it would be as much as
his place was worth to give any away. The darling girls
caught a colt in a paddock, and asked me if I would
ride, and began to ride themselves, when the groom,
coming with horrid oaths, drove them away.
Lady Crawley is always knitting the worsted. Sir Pitt
is always tipsy, every night; and, I believe, sits with
Horrocks, the butler. Mr. Crawley always reads sermons
in the evening, and in the morning is locked up in his
study, or else rides to Mudbury, on county business,
or to Squashmore, where he preaches, on Wednesdays
and Fridays, to the tenants there.
A hundred thousand grateful loves to your dear papa
and mamma. Is your poor brother recovered of his rackpunch?
Oh, dear! Oh, dear! How men should beware of
wicked punch!
Ever and ever thine own
Everything considered, I think it is quite as well for
our dear Amelia Sedley, in Russell Square, that Miss
Sharp and she are parted. Rebecca is a droll funny
creature, to be sure; and those descriptions of the poor lady
weeping for the loss of her beauty, and the gentleman
"with hay-coloured whiskers and straw-coloured hair,"
are very smart, doubtless, and show a great knowledge
of the world. That she might, when on her knees, have
been thinking of something better than Miss Horrocks's
ribbons, has possibly struck both of us. But my kind
reader will please to remember that this history has
"Vanity Fair" for a title, and that Vanity Fair is a
very vain, wicked, foolish place, full of all sorts of
humbugs and falsenesses and pretensions. And while the
moralist, who is holding forth on the cover ( an accurate
portrait of your humble servant), professes to wear
neither gown nor bands, but only the very same longeared
livery in which his congregation is arrayed: yet,
look you, one is bound to speak the truth as far as one
knows it, whether one mounts a cap and bells or a shovel
hat; and a deal of disagreeable matter must come out
in the course of such an undertaking.
I have heard a brother of the story-telling trade, at
Naples, preaching to a pack of good-for-nothing honest
lazy fellows by the sea-shore, work himself up into such a
rage and passion with some of the villains whose wicked
deeds he was describing and inventing, that the audience
could not resist it; and they and the poet together would
burst out into a roar of oaths and execrations against
the fictitious monster of the tale, so that the hat went
round, and the bajocchi tumbled into it, in the midst of
a perfect storm of sympathy.
At the little Paris theatres, on the other hand, you will
not only hear the people yelling out "Ah gredin! Ah
monstre:" and cursing the tyrant of the play from the
boxes; but the actors themselves positively refuse to play
the wicked parts, such as those of infames Anglais,
brutal Cossacks, and what not, and prefer to appear
at a smaller salary, in their real characters as loyal
Frenchmen. I set the two stories one against the other,
so that you may see that it is not from mere mercenary
motives that the present performer is desirous to show
up and trounce his villains; but because he has a sincere
hatred of them, which he cannot keep down, and which
must find a vent in suitable abuse and bad language.
I warn my "kyind friends," then, that I am going to
tell a story of harrowing villainy and complicated--but,
as I trust, intensely interesting--crime. My rascals are
no milk-and-water rascals, I promise you. When we come
to the proper places we won't spare fine language--No,
no! But when we are going over the quiet country we
must perforce be calm. A tempest in a slop-basin is
absurd. We will reserve that sort of thing for the mighty
ocean and the lonely midnight. The present Chapter is
very mild. Others--But we will not anticipate THOSE.
And, as we bring our characters forward, I will ask
leave, as a man and a brother, not only to introduce
them, but occasionally to step down from the platform,
and talk about them: if they are good and kindly, to
love them and shake them by the hand: if they are silly,
to laugh at them confidentially in the reader's sleeve:
if they are wicked and heartless, to abuse them in the
strongest terms which politeness admits of.
Otherwise you might fancy it was I who was sneering
at the practice of devotion, which Miss Sharp finds so
ridiculous; that it was I who laughed good-humouredly
at the reeling old Silenus of a baronet--whereas the
laughter comes from one who has no reverence except
for prosperity, and no eye for anything beyond success.
Such people there are living and flourishing in the world
--Faithless, Hopeless, Charityless: let us have at them,
dear friends, with might and main. Some there are, and
very successful too, mere quacks and fools: and it was
to combat and expose such as those, no doubt, that
Laughter was made.
Family Portraits
Sir Pitt Crawley was a philosopher with a taste for what is
called low life. His first marriage with the daughter of
the noble Binkie had been made under the auspices of
his parents; and as he often told Lady Crawley in her
lifetime she was such a confounded quarrelsome high-bred
jade that when she died he was hanged if he would ever take
another of her sort, at her ladyship's demise he kept his
promise, and selected for a second wife Miss Rose Dawson,
daughter of Mr. John Thomas Dawson, ironmonger, of Mudbury.
What a happy woman was Rose to be my Lady Crawley!
Let us set down the items of her happiness. In the
first place, she gave up Peter Butt, a young man who
kept company with her, and in consequence of his
disappointment in love, took to smuggling, poaching, and a
thousand other bad courses. Then she quarrelled, as in
duty bound, with all the friends and intimates of her youth,
who, of course, could not be received by my Lady at
Queen's Crawley--nor did she find in her new rank and
abode any persons who were willing to welcome her.
Who ever did? Sir Huddleston Fuddleston had three
daughters who all hoped to be Lady Crawley. Sir Giles
Wapshot's family were insulted that one of the Wapshot
girls had not the preference in the marriage, and the
remaining baronets of the county were indignant at their
comrade's misalliance. Never mind the commoners, whom
we will leave to grumble anonymously.
Sir Pitt did not care, as he said, a brass farden for
any one of them. He had his pretty Rose, and what
more need a man require than to please himself? So he
used to get drunk every night: to beat his pretty Rose
sometimes: to leave her in Hampshire when he went to
London for the parliamentary session, without a single
friend in the wide world. Even Mrs. Bute Crawley, the
Rector's wife, refused to visit her, as she said she would
never give the pas to a tradesman's daughter.
As the only endowments with which Nature had gifted
Lady Crawley were those of pink cheeks and a white
skin, and as she had no sort of character, nor talents,
nor opinions, nor occupations, nor amusements, nor that
vigour of soul and ferocity of temper which often falls
to the lot of entirely foolish women, her hold upon Sir
Pitt's affections was not very great. Her roses faded out
of her cheeks, and the pretty freshness left her figure
after the birth of a couple of children, and she became
a mere machine in her husband's house of no more use
than the late Lady Crawley's grand piano. Being a lightcomplexioned
woman, she wore light clothes, as most
blondes will, and appeared, in preference, in draggled seagreen,
or slatternly sky-blue. She worked that worsted
day and night, or other pieces like it. She had
counterpanes in the course of a few years to all the beds in
Crawley. She had a small flower-garden, for which she
had rather an affection; but beyond this no other like
or disliking. When her husband was rude to her she was
apathetic: whenever he struck her she cried. She had not
character enough to take to drinking, and moaned about,
slipshod and in curl-papers all day. 0 Vanity Fair--
Vanity Fair! This might have been, but for you, a cheery
lass--Peter Butt and Rose a happy man and wife, in a
snug farm, with a hearty family; and an honest portion
of pleasures, cares, hopes and struggles--but a title and
a coach and four are toys more precious than happiness
in Vanity Fair: and if Harry the Eighth or Bluebeard
were alive now, and wanted a tenth wife, do you suppose
he could not get the prettiest girl that shall be presented
this season?
The languid dulness of their mamma did not, as it
may be supposed, awaken much affection in her little
daughters, but they were very happy in the servants' hall
and in the stables; and the Scotch gardener having
luckily a good wife and some good children, they got a
little wholesome society and instruction in his lodge,
which was the only education bestowed upon them until
Miss Sharp came.
Her engagement was owing to the remonstrances of
Mr. Pitt Crawley, the only friend or protector Lady
Crawley ever had, and the only person, besides her
children, for whom she entertained a little feeble
attachment. Mr. Pitt took after the noble Binkies, from
whom he was descended, and was a very polite and proper
gentleman. When he grew to man's estate, and came
back from Christchurch, he began to reform the
slackened discipline of the hall, in spite of his father, who
stood in awe of him. He was a man of such rigid
refinement, that he would have starved rather than have
dined without a white neckcloth. Once, when just from
college, and when Horrocks the butler brought him a
letter without placing it previously on a tray, he gave
that domestic a look, and administered to him a speech
so cutting, that Horrocks ever after trembled before him;
the whole household bowed to him: Lady Crawley's curlpapers
came off earlier when he was at home: Sir Pitt's
muddy gaiters disappeared; and if that incorrigible old
man still adhered to other old habits, he never fuddled
himself with rum-and-water in his son's presence, and
only talked to his servants in a very reserved and polite
manner; and those persons remarked that Sir Pitt never
swore at Lady Crawley while his son was in the room.
It was he who taught the butler to say, "My lady is
served," and who insisted on handing her ladyship in to
dinner. He seldom spoke to her, but when he did it was
with the most powerful respect; and he never let her
quit the apartment without rising in the most stately
manner to open the door, and making an elegant bow
at her egress.
At Eton he was called Miss Crawley; and there, I
am sorry to say, his younger brother Rawdon used to
lick him violently. But though his parts were not
brilliant, he made up for his lack of talent by meritorious
industry, and was never known, during eight years at
school, to be subject to that punishment which it is
generally thought none but a cherub can escape.
At college his career was of course highly creditable.
And here he prepared himself for public life, into which
he was to be introduced by the patronage of his
grandfather, Lord Binkie, by studying the ancient and modern
orators with great assiduity, and by speaking unceasingly
at the debating societies. But though he had a fine flux
of words, and delivered his little voice with great
pomposity and pleasure to himself, and never advanced
any sentiment or opinion which was not perfectly trite and
stale, and supported by a Latin quotation; yet he failed
somehow, in spite of a mediocrity which ought to have
insured any man a success. He did not even get the
prize poem, which all his friends said he was sure of.
After leaving college he became Private Secretary to
Lord Binkie, and was then appointed Attache to the
Legation at Pumpernickel, which post he filled with
perfect honour, and brought home despatches, consisting of
Strasburg pie, to the Foreign Minister of the day. After
remaining ten years Attache (several years after the
lamented Lord Binkie's demise), and finding the
advancement slow, he at length gave up the diplomatic
service in some disgust, and began to turn country gentleman.
He wrote a pamphlet on Malt on returning to England
(for he was an ambitious man, and always liked
to be before the public), and took a strong part in the
Negro Emancipation question. Then he became a friend
of Mr. Wilberforce's, whose politics he admired, and had
that famous correspondence with the Reverend Silas
Hornblower, on the Ashantee Mission. He was in
London, if not for the Parliament session, at least in May,
for the religious meetings. In the country he was a
magistrate, and an active visitor and speaker among those
destitute of religious instruction. He was said to be
paying his addresses to Lady Jane Sheepshanks, Lord
Southdown's third daughter, and whose sister, Lady Emily,
wrote those sweet tracts, "The Sailor's True Binnacle,"
and "The Applewoman of Finchley Common."
Miss Sharp's accounts of his employment at Queen's
Crawley were not caricatures. He subjected the servants
there to the devotional exercises before mentioned, in
which (and so much the better) he brought his father
to join. He patronised an Independent meeting-house in
Crawley parish, much to the indignation of his uncle the
Rector, and to the consequent delight of Sir Pitt, who
was induced to go himself once or twice, which occasioned
some violent sermons at Crawley parish church, directed
point-blank at the Baronet's old Gothic pew there. Honest
Sir Pitt, however, did not feel the force of these
discourses, as he always took his nap during sermon-time.
Mr. Crawley was very earnest, for the good of the
nation and of the Christian world, that the old gentleman
should yield him up his place in Parliament; but this the
elder constantly refused to do. Both were of course too
prudent to give up the fifteen hundred a year which was
brought in by the second seat (at this period filled by
Mr. Quadroon, with carte blanche on the Slave question);
indeed the family estate was much embarrassed, and the
income drawn from the borough was of great use to the
house of Queen's Crawley.
It had never recovered the heavy fine imposed upon
Walpole Crawley, first baronet, for peculation in the Tape
and Sealing Wax Office. Sir Walpole was a jolly fellow,
eager to seize and to spend money (alieni appetens, sui
profusus, as Mr. Crawley would remark with a sigh),
and in his day beloved by all the county for the
constant drunkenness and hospitality which was maintained
at Queen's Crawley. The cellars were filled with burgundy
then, the kennels with hounds, and the stables with
gallant hunters; now, such horses as Queen's Crawley
possessed went to plough, or ran in the Trafalgar Coach;
and it was with a team of these very horses, on an offday,
that Miss Sharp was brought to the Hall; for boor
as he was, Sir Pitt was a stickler for his dignity while
at home, and seldom drove out but with four horses,
and though he dined off boiled mutton, had always three
footmen to serve it.
If mere parsimony could have made a man rich, Sir
Pitt Crawley might have become very wealthy--if he
had been an attorney in a country town, with no capital
but his brains, it is very possible that he would have
turned them to good account, and might have achieved
for himself a very considerable influence and competency.
But he was unluckily endowed with a good name
and a large though encumbered estate, both of which
went rather to injure than to advance him. He had a
taste for law, which cost him many thousands yearly;
and being a great deal too clever to be robbed, as he
said, by any single agent, allowed his affairs to be
mismanaged by a dozen, whom he all equally mistrusted.
He was such a sharp landlord, that he could hardly find
any but bankrupt tenants; and such a close farmer, as
to grudge almost the seed to the ground, whereupon
revengeful Nature grudged him the crops which she
granted to more liberal husbandmen. He speculated in
every possible way; he worked mines; bought canal-shares;
horsed coaches; took government contracts, and was
the busiest man and magistrate of his county. As he
would not pay honest agents at his granite quarry, he
had the satisfaction of finding that four overseers ran
away, and took fortunes with them to America. For want
of proper precautions, his coal-mines filled with water:
the government flung his contract of damaged beef upon
his hands: and for his coach-horses, every mail proprietor
in the kingdom knew that he lost more horses than any
man in the country, from underfeeding and buying cheap.
In disposition he was sociable, and far from being proud;
nay, he rather preferred the society of a farmer or a
horse-dealer to that of a gentleman, like my lord, his
son: he was fond of drink, of swearing, of joking with
the farmers' daughters: he was never known to give away
a shilling or to do a good action, but was of a pleasant,
sly, laughing mood, and would cut his joke and drink
his glass with a tenant and sell him up the next day;
or have his laugh with the poacher he was transporting
with equal good humour. His politeness for the fair sex
has already been hinted at by Miss Rebecca Sharp--in
a word, the whole baronetage, peerage, commonage of
England, did not contain a more cunning, mean, selfish,
foolish, disreputable old man. That blood-red hand of
Sir Pitt Crawley's would be in anybody's pocket except
his own; and it is with grief and pain, that, as admirers
of the British aristocracy, we find ourselves obliged to
admit the existence of so many ill qualities in a person
whose name is in Debrett.
One great cause why Mr. Crawley had such a hold
over the affections of his father, resulted from money
arrangements. The Baronet owed his son a sum of money
out of the jointure of his mother, which he did not find
it convenient to pay; indeed he had an almost invincible
repugnance to paying anybody, and could only be brought
by force to discharge his debts. Miss Sharp calculated
(for she became, as we shall hear speedily, inducted
into most of the secrets of the family) that the mere
payment of his creditors cost the honourable Baronet
several hundreds yearly; but this was a delight he could
not forego; he had a savage pleasure in making the poor
wretches wait, and in shifting from court to court and
from term to term the period of satisfaction. What's the
good of being in Parliament, he said, if you must pay your
debts? Hence, indeed, his position as a senator was not
a little useful to him.
Vanity Fair--Vanity Fair! Here was a man, who could
not spell, and did not care to read--who had the habits
and the cunning of a boor: whose aim in life was
pettifogging: who never had a taste, or emotion, or
enjoyment, but what was sordid and foul; and yet he had
rank, and honours, and power, somehow: and was a
dignitary of the land, and a pillar of the state. He was
high sheriff, and rode in a golden coach. Great ministers
and statesmen courted him; and in Vanity Fair he had a
higher place than the most brilliant genius or spotless
Sir Pitt had an unmarried half-sister who inherited her
mother's large fortune, and though the Baronet proposed
to borrow this money of her on mortgage, Miss Crawley
declined the offer, and preferred the security of the funds.
She had signified, however, her intention of leaving her
inheritance between Sir Pitt's second son and the family
at the Rectory, and had once or twice paid the debts of
Rawdon Crawley in his career at college and in the army.
Miss Crawley was, in consequence, an object of great
respect when she came to Queen's Crawley, for she had
a balance at her banker's which would have made her
beloved anywhere.
What a dignity it gives an old lady, that balance at
the banker's! How tenderly we look at her faults if she
is a relative (and may every reader have a score of such),
what a kind good-natured old creature we find her! How
the junior partner of Hobbs and Dobbs leads her smiling
to the carriage with the lozenge upon it, and the fat
wheezy coachman! How, when she comes to pay us a
visit, we generally find an opportunity to let our friends
know her station in the world! We say (and with perfect
truth) I wish I had Miss MacWhirter's signature to a
cheque for five thousand pounds. She wouldn't miss it,
says your wife. She is my aunt, say you, in an easy
careless way, when your friend asks if Miss MacWhirter is
any relative. Your wife is perpetually sending her little
testimonies of affection, your little girls work endless
worsted baskets, cushions, and footstools for her. What a
good fire there is in her room when she comes to pay
you a visit, although your wife laces her stays without
one! The house during her stay assumes a festive, neat,
warm, jovial, snug appearance not visible at other
seasons. You yourself, dear sir, forget to go to sleep after
dinner, and find yourself all of a sudden (though you
invariably lose) very fond of a rubber. What good
dinners you have--game every day, Malmsey-Madeira, and
no end of fish from London. Even the servants in the
kitchen share in the general prosperity; and, somehow,
during the stay of Miss MacWhirter's fat coachman, the
beer is grown much stronger, and the consumption of tea
and sugar in the nursery (where her maid takes her
meals) is not regarded in the least. Is it so, or is it not
so? I appeal to the middle classes. Ah, gracious powers!
I wish you would send me an old aunt--a maiden aunt
--an aunt with a lozenge on her carriage, and a front
of light coffee-coloured hair--how my children should
work workbags for her, and my Julia and I would make
her comfortable! Sweet--sweet vision! Foolish--foolish
Miss Sharp Begins to Make Friends
And now, being received as a member of the amiable
family whose portraits we have sketched in the foregoing
pages, it became naturally Rebecca's duty to make
herself, as she said, agreeable to her benefactors, and to
gain their confidence to the utmost of her power. Who
can but admire this quality of gratitude in an unprotected
orphan; and, if there entered some degree of selfishness
into her calculations, who can say but that her
prudence was perfectly justifiable? "I am alone in the
world," said the friendless girl. "I have nothing to look
for but what my own labour can bring me; and while
that little pink-faced chit Amelia, with not half my sense,
has ten thousand pounds and an establishment secure,
poor Rebecca (and my figure is far better than hers)
has only herself and her own wits to trust to. Well, let
us see if my wits cannot provide me with an honourable
maintenance, and if some day or the other I cannot show
Miss Amelia my real superiority over her. Not that I
dislike poor Amelia: who can dislike such a harmless,
good-natured creature?--only it will be a fine day when
I can take my place above her in the world, as why,
indeed, should I not?" Thus it was that our little
romantic friend formed visions of the future for herself--
nor must we be scandalised that, in all her castles in
the air, a husband was the principal inhabitant. Of
what else have young ladies to think, but husbands? Of
what else do their dear mammas think? "I must be my
own mamma," said Rebecca; not without a tingling
consciousness of defeat, as she thought over her little
misadventure with Jos Sedley.
So she wisely determined to render her position with
the Queen's Crawley family comfortable and secure, and
to this end resolved to make friends of every one around
her who could at all interfere with her comfort.
As my Lady Crawley was not one of these personages,
and a woman, moreover, so indolent and void of
character as not to be of the least consequence in her own
house, Rebecca soon found that it was not at all necessary
to cultivate her good will--indeed, impossible to gain it. She
used to talk to her pupils about their "poor mamma"; and,
though she treated that lady with every demonstration
of cool respect, it was to the rest of the family that she
wisely directed the chief part of her attentions.
With the young people, whose applause she thoroughly
gained, her method was pretty simple. She did not
pester their young brains with too much learning, but,
on the contrary, let them have their own way in
regard to educating themselves; for what instruction is more
effectual than self-instruction? The eldest was rather fond
of books, and as there was in the old library at Queen's
Crawley a considerable provision of works of light
literature of the last century, both in the French and English
languages (they had been purchased by the Secretary
of the Tape and Sealing Wax Office at the period of his
disgrace), and as nobody ever troubled the book-shelves
but herself, Rebecca was enabled agreeably, and, as
it were, in playing, to impart a great deal of instruction
to Miss Rose Crawley.
She and Miss Rose thus read together many delightful
French and English works, among which may be
mentioned those of the learned Dr. Smollett, of the ingenious
Mr. Henry Fielding, of the graceful and fantastic
Monsieur Crebillon the younger, whom our immortal poet
Gray so much admired, and of the universal Monsieur de
Voltaire. Once, when Mr. Crawley asked what the young
people were reading, the governess replied "Smollett."
"Oh, Smollett," said Mr. Crawley, quite satisfied. "His
history is more dull, but by no means so dangerous as
that of Mr. Hume. It is history you are reading?" "Yes,"
said Miss Rose; without, however, adding that it was the
history of Mr. Humphrey Clinker. On another occasion
he was rather scandalised at finding his sister with a
book of French plays; but as the governess remarked
that it was for the purpose of acquiring the French idiom
in conversation, he was fain to be content. Mr. Crawley,
as a diplomatist, was exceedingly proud of his own skill
in speaking the French language (for he was of the world
still), and not a little pleased with the compliments which
the governess continually paid him upon his proficiency.
Miss Violet's tastes were, on the contrary, more rude
and boisterous than those of her sister. She knew the
sequestered spots where the hens laid their eggs. She
could climb a tree to rob the nests of the feathered
songsters of their speckled spoils. And her pleasure was to
ride the young colts, and to scour the plains like Camilla.
She was the favourite of her father and of the stablemen.
She was the darling, and withal the terror of the
cook; for she discovered the haunts of the jam-pots, and
would attack them when they were within her reach.
She and her sister were engaged in constant battles. Any
of which peccadilloes, if Miss Sharp discovered, she did
not tell them to Lady Crawley; who would have told
them to the father, or worse, to Mr. Crawley; but
promised not to tell if Miss Violet would be a good girl
and love her governess.
With Mr. Crawley Miss Sharp was respectful and
obedient. She used to consult him on passages of French
which she could not understand, though her mother was
a Frenchwoman, and which he would construe to her
satisfaction: and, besides giving her his aid in profane
literature, he was kind enough to select for her books
of a more serious tendency, and address to her much of
his conversation. She admired, beyond measure, his
speech at the Quashimaboo-Aid Society; took an
interest in his pamphlet on malt: was often affected, even
to tears, by his discourses of an evening, and would
say--"Oh, thank you, sir," with a sigh, and a look up
to heaven, that made him occasionally condescend to
shake hands with her. "Blood is everything, after all,"
would that aristocratic religionist say. "How Miss Sharp
is awakened by my words, when not one of the people
here is touched. I am too fine for them--too delicate.
I must familiarise my style--but she understands it. Her
mother was a Montmorency."
Indeed it was from this famous family, as it appears,
that Miss Sharp, by the mother's side, was descended.
Of course she did not say that her mother had been on
the stage; it would have shocked Mr. Crawley's religious
scruples. How many noble emigres had this horrid
revolution plunged in poverty! She had several stories
about her ancestors ere she had been many months in
the house; some of which Mr. Crawley happened to find
in D'Hozier's dictionary, which was in the library, and
which strengthened his belief in their truth, and in the
high-breeding of Rebecca. Are we to suppose from this
curiosity and prying into dictionaries, could our heroine
suppose that Mr. Crawley was interested in her?--no,
only in a friendly way. Have we not stated that he was
attached to Lady Jane Sheepshanks?
He took Rebecca to task once or twice about the
propriety of playing at backgammon with Sir Pitt, saying
that it was a godless amusement, and that she would be
much better engaged in reading "Thrump's Legacy," or
"The Blind Washerwoman of Moorfields," or any work
of a more serious nature; but Miss Sharp said her dear
mother used often to play the same game with the old
Count de Trictrac and the venerable Abbe du Cornet,
and so found an excuse for this and other worldly
But it was not only by playing at backgammon with
the Baronet, that the little governess rendered herself
agreeable to her employer. She found many different
ways of being useful to him. She read over, with
indefatigable patience, all those law papers, with which,
before she came to Queen's Crawley, he had promised
to entertain her. She volunteered to copy many of his
letters, and adroitly altered the spelling of them so as
to suit the usages of the present day. She became
interested in everything appertaining to the estate, to the
farm, the park, the garden, and the stables; and so delightful
a companion was she, that the Baronet would seldom
take his after-breakfast walk without her (and the
children of course), when she would give her advice as to
the trees which were to be lopped in the shrubberies, the
garden-beds to be dug, the crops which were to be cut,
the horses which were to go to cart or plough. Before
she had been a year at Queen's Crawley she had quite
won the Baronet's confidence; and the conversation at the
dinner-table, which before used to be held between him
and Mr. Horrocks the butler, was now almost exclusively
between Sir Pitt and Miss Sharp. She was almost
mistress of the house when Mr. Crawley was absent, but
conducted herself in her new and exalted situation with
such circumspection and modesty as not to offend the
authorities of the kitchen and stable, among whom her
behaviour was always exceedingly modest and affable. She
was quite a different person from the haughty, shy,
dissatisfied little girl whom we have known previously, and
this change of temper proved great prudence, a sincere
desire of amendment, or at any rate great moral courage
on her part. Whether it was the heart which dictated this
new system of complaisance and humility adopted by our
Rebecca, is to be proved by her after-history. A system
of hypocrisy, which lasts through whole years, is one
seldom satisfactorily practised by a person of one-andtwenty;
however, our readers will recollect, that, though
young in years, our heroine was old in life and experience,
and we have written to no purpose if they have not
discovered that she was a very clever woman.
The elder and younger son of the house of Crawley
were, like the gentleman and lady in the weather-box,
never at home together--they hated each other cordially:
indeed, Rawdon Crawley, the dragoon, had a great
contempt for the establishment altogether, and seldom came
thither except when his aunt paid her annual visit.
The great good quality of this old lady has been
mentioned. She possessed seventy thousand pounds, and
had almost adopted Rawdon. She disliked her elder nephew
exceedingly, and despised him as a milksop. In return
he did not hesitate to state that her soul was irretrievably
lost, and was of opinion that his brother's chance
in the next world was not a whit better. "She is a
godless woman of the world," would Mr. Crawley say; "she
lives with atheists and Frenchmen. My mind shudders
when I think of her awful, awful situation, and that,
near as she is to the grave, she should be so given up
to vanity, licentiousness, profaneness, and folly." In fact,
the old lady declined altogether to hear his hour's lecture
of an evening; and when she came to Queen's Crawley
alone, he was obliged to pretermit his usual devotional
"Shut up your sarmons, Pitt, when Miss Crawley
comes down," said his father; "she has written to say
that she won't stand the preachifying."
"O, sir! consider the servants."
"The servants be hanged," said Sir Pitt; and his son
thought even worse would happen were they deprived of
the benefit of his instruction.
"Why, hang it, Pitt!" said the father to his remonstrance.
"You wouldn't be such a flat as to let three thousand a
year go out of the family?"
"What is money compared to our souls, sir?" continued
Mr. Crawley.
"You mean that the old lady won't leave the money
to you?"--and who knows but it was Mr. Crawley's
Old Miss Crawley was certainly one of the reprobate.
She had a snug little house in Park Lane, and, as she ate
and drank a great deal too much during the season in
London, she went to Harrowgate or Cheltenham for
the summer. She was the most hospitable and jovial of
old vestals, and had been a beauty in her day, she said.
(All old women were beauties once, we very well know.)
She was a bel esprit, and a dreadful Radical for those
days. She had been in France (where St. Just, they say,
inspired her with an unfortunate passion), and loved,
ever after, French novels, French cookery, and French
wines. She read Voltaire, and had Rousseau by heart;
talked very lightly about divorce, and most energetically
of the rights of women. She had pictures of Mr. Fox
in every room in the house: when that statesman was
in opposition, I am not sure that she had not flung a
main with him; and when he came into office, she took
great credit for bringing over to him Sir Pitt and his
colleague for Queen's Crawley, although Sir Pitt would
have come over himself, without any trouble on the honest
lady's part. It is needless to say that Sir Pitt was brought
to change his views after the death of the great Whig
This worthy old lady took a fancy to Rawdon Crawley
when a boy, sent him to Cambridge (in opposition to
his brother at Oxford), and, when the young man was
requested by the authorities of the first-named University
to quit after a residence of two years, she bought him
his commission in the Life Guards Green.
A perfect and celebrated "blood," or dandy about town,
was this young officer. Boxing, rat-hunting, the fives court,
and four-in-hand driving were then the fashion of our
British aristocracy; and he was an adept in all these
noble sciences. And though he belonged to the
household troops, who, as it was their duty to rally round the
Prince Regent, had not shown their valour in foreign
service yet, Rawdon Crawley had already (apropos of
play, of which he was immoderately fond) fought three
bloody duels, in which he gave ample proofs of his
contempt for death.
"And for what follows after death," would Mr.
Crawley observe, throwing his gooseberry-coloured eyes
up to the ceiling. He was always thinking of his brother's
soul, or of the souls of those who differed with him in
opinion: it is a sort of comfort which many of the
serious give themselves.
Silly, romantic Miss Crawley, far from being horrified
at the courage of her favourite, always used to pay his
debts after his duels; and would not listen to a word
that was whispered against his morality. "He will sow
his wild oats," she would say, "and is worth far more
than that puling hypocrite of a brother of his."
Arcadian Simplicity
Besides these honest folks at the Hall (whose simplicity
and sweet rural purity surely show the advantage of a
country life over a town one), we must introduce the
reader to their relatives and neighbours at the Rectory,
Bute Crawley and his wife.
The Reverend Bute Crawley was a tall, stately, jolly,
shovel-hatted man, far more popular in his county than
the Baronet his brother. At college he pulled stroke-oar
in the Christchurch boat, and had thrashed all the best
bruisers of the "town." He carried his taste for boxing
and athletic exercises into private life; there was not a
fight within twenty miles at which he was not present,
nor a race, nor a coursing match, nor a regatta, nor a
ball, nor an election, nor a visitation dinner, nor indeed
a good dinner in the whole county, but he found means
to attend it. You might see his bay mare and gig-lamps
a score of miles away from his Rectory House, whenever
there was any dinner-party at Fuddleston, or at Roxby,
or at Wapshot Hall, or at the great lords of the county,
with all of whom he was intimate. He had a fine voice;
sang "A southerly wind and a cloudy sky"; and gave
the "whoop" in chorus with general applause. He rode
to hounds in a pepper-and-salt frock, and was one of the
best fishermen in the county.
Mrs. Crawley, the rector's wife, was a smart little body,
who wrote this worthy divine's sermons. Being of a
domestic turn, and keeping the house a great deal with her
daughters, she ruled absolutely within the Rectory, wisely
giving her husband full liberty without. He was welcome
to come and go, and dine abroad as many days as his
fancy dictated, for Mrs. Crawley was a saving woman and
knew the price of port wine. Ever since Mrs. Bute carried
off the young Rector of Queen's Crawley (she was of a
good family, daughter of the late Lieut.-Colonel
Hector McTavish, and she and her mother played for
Bute and won him at Harrowgate), she had been a prudent
and thrifty wife to him. In spite of her care, however, he
was always in debt. It took him at least ten years to pay
off his college bills contracted during his father's lifetime.
In the year 179-, when he was just clear of these
incumbrances, he gave the odds of 100 to 1 (in twenties)
against Kangaroo, who won the Derby. The Rector was
obliged to take up the money at a ruinous interest, and
had been struggling ever since. His sister helped him with
a hundred now and then, but of course his great hope was
in her death--when "hang it" (as he would say), "Matilda
must leave me half her money."
So that the Baronet and his brother had every reason
which two brothers possibly can have for being by the
ears. Sir Pitt had had the better of Bute in innumerable
family transactions. Young Pitt not only did not hunt, but
set up a meeting house under his uncle's very nose.
Rawdon, it was known, was to come in for the bulk of Miss
Crawley's property. These money transactions--these
speculations in life and death--these silent battles for
reversionary spoil--make brothers very loving towards
each other in Vanity Fair. I, for my part, have known a
five-pound note to interpose and knock up a half century's
attachment between two brethren; and can't but admire,
as I think what a fine and durable thing Love is among
worldly people.
It cannot be supposed that the arrival of such a
personage as Rebecca at Queen's Crawley, and her gradual
establishment in the good graces of all people there, could
be unremarked by Mrs. Bute Crawley. Mrs. Bute, who
knew how many days the sirloin of beef lasted at the Hall;
how much linen was got ready at the great wash; how
many peaches were on the south wall; how many doses
her ladyship took when she was ill--for such points are
matters of intense interest to certain persons in the
country--Mrs. Bute, I say, could not pass over the Hall
governess without making every inquiry respecting her
history and character. There was always the best understanding
between the servants at the Rectory and the Hall.
There was always a good glass of ale in the kitchen of the
former place for the Hall people, whose ordinary drink
was very small--and, indeed, the Rector's lady knew
exactly how much malt went to every barrel of Hall beer--
ties of relationship existed between the Hall and Rectory
domestics, as between their masters; and through these
channels each family was perfectly well acquainted with
the doings of the other. That, by the way, may be set
down as a general remark. When you and your brother
are friends, his doings are indifferent to you. When you
have quarrelled, all his outgoings and incomings you
know, as if you were his spy.
Very soon then after her arrival, Rebecca began to take
a regular place in Mrs. Crawley's bulletin from the Hall.
It was to this effect: "The black porker's killed--weighed
x stone--salted the sides--pig's pudding and leg of pork
for dinner. Mr. Cramp from Mudbury, over with Sir Pitt
about putting John Blackmore in gaol--Mr. Pitt at
meeting (with all the names of the people who attended)--
my lady as usual--the young ladies with the governess."
Then the report would come--the new governess be a
rare manager--Sir Pitt be very sweet on her--Mr.
Crawley too--He be reading tracts to her--"What an
abandoned wretch!" said little, eager, active, black-faced Mrs.
Bute Crawley.
Finally, the reports were that the governess had "come
round" everybody, wrote Sir Pitt's letters, did his business,
managed his accounts--had the upper hand of the whole
house, my lady, Mr. Crawley, the girls and all--at which
Mrs. Crawley declared she was an artful hussy, and had
some dreadful designs in view. Thus the doings at the
Hall were the great food for conversation at the Rectory,
and Mrs. Bute's bright eyes spied out everything that took
place in the enemy's camp--everything and a great deal
Mrs. Bute Crawley to Miss Pinkerton,
The Mall, Chiswick.
Rectory, Queen's Crawley, December--.
My Dear Madam,--Although it is so many years since
I profited by your delightful and invaluable instructions,
yet I have ever retained the FONDEST and most reverential
regard for Miss Pinkerton, and DEAR Chiswick. I hope
your health is GOOD. The world and the cause of
education cannot afford to lose Miss Pinkerton for MANY MANY
YEARS. When my friend, Lady Fuddleston, mentioned that
her dear girls required an instructress (I am too poor to
engage a governess for mine, but was I not educated at
Chiswick?)--"Who," I exclaimed, "can we consult but
the excellent, the incomparable Miss Pinkerton?" In a
word, have you, dear madam, any ladies on your list,
whose services might be made available to my kind
friend and neighbour? I assure you she will take no
My dear husband is pleased to say that he likes
SCHOOL. How I wish I could present him and my beloved
girls to the friend of my youth, and the ADMIRED of the
great lexicographer of our country! If you ever travel into
Hampshire, Mr. Crawley begs me to say, he hopes you will
adorn our RURAL RECTORY with your presence. 'Tis the
humble but happy home of
Your affectionate
Martha Crawley
P.S. Mr. Crawley's brother, the baronet, with whom
we are not, alas! upon those terms of UNITY in which it
BECOMES BRETHREN TO DWELL, has a governess for his
little girls, who, I am told, had the good fortune to be
educated at Chiswick. I hear various reports of her;
and as I have the tenderest interest in my dearest little
nieces, whom I wish, in spite of family differences, to
see among my own children--and as I long to be
attentive to ANY PUPIL OF YOURS--do, my dear Miss
Pinkerton, tell me the history of this young lady, whom,
for YOUR SAKE, I am most anxious to befriend.--M. C.
Miss Pinkerton to Mrs. Bute Crawley.
Johnson House, Chiswick, Dec. 18--.
Dear Madam,--I have the honour to acknowledge
your polite communication, to which I promptly reply.
'Tis most gratifying to one in my most arduous position
to find that my maternal cares have elicited a responsive
affection; and to recognize in the amiable Mrs. Bute
Crawley my excellent pupil of former years, the sprightly
and accomplished Miss Martha MacTavish. I am happy
to have under my charge now the daughters of many of
those who were your contemporaries at my establishment
--what pleasure it would give me if your own
beloved young ladies had need of my instructive
Presenting my respectful compliments to Lady
Fuddleston, I have the honour (epistolarily) to introduce
to her ladyship my two friends, Miss Tuffin and Miss Hawky.
Either of these young ladies is PERFECTLY QUALIFIED to
instruct in Greek, Latin, and the rudiments of Hebrew;
in mathematics and history; in Spanish, French, Italian,
and geography; in music, vocal and instrumental; in
dancing, without the aid of a master; and in the
elements of natural sciences. In the use of the globes both
are proficients. In addition to these Miss Tuffin, who is
daughter of the late Reverend Thomas Tuffin (Fellow
of Corpus College, Cambridge), can instruct in the
Syriac language, and the elements of Constitutional law.
But as she is only eighteen years of age, and of
exceedingly pleasing personal appearance, perhaps this
young lady may be objectionable in Sir Huddleston
Fuddleston's family.
Miss Letitia Hawky, on the other hand, is not
personally well-favoured. She is-twenty-nine; her face
is much pitted with the small-pox. She has a halt in her
gait, red hair, and a trifling obliquity of vision. Both
ladies are endowed with EVERY MORAL AND RELIGIOUS
VIRTUE. Their terms, of course, are such as their
accomplishments merit. With my most grateful respects
to the Reverend Bute Crawley, I have the honour to be,
Dear Madam,
Your most faithful and obedient servant,
Barbara Pinkerton.
P.S. The Miss Sharp, whom you mention as
governess to Sir Pitt Crawley, Bart., M.P., was a pupil
of mine, and I have nothing to say in her disfavour.
Though her appearance is disagreeable, we cannot
control the operations of nature: and though her parents
were disreputable (her father being a painter, several
times bankrupt, and her mother, as I have since learned,
with horror, a dancer at the Opera); yet her talents are
considerable, and I cannot regret that I received her
OUT OF CHARITY. My dread is, lest the principles of the
mother--who was represented to me as a French
Countess, forced to emigrate in the late revolutionary horrors;
but who, as I have since found, was a person of the
very lowest order and morals--should at any time prove
to be HEREDITARY in the unhappy young woman whom I
took as AN OUTCAST. But her principles have hitherto
been correct (I believe), and I am sure nothing will
occur to injure them in the elegant and refined circle
of the eminent Sir Pitt Crawley.
Miss Rebecca Sharp to Miss Amelia Sedley.
I have not written to my beloved Amelia for these
many weeks past, for what news was there to tell of the
sayings and doings at Humdrum Hall, as I have
christened it; and what do you care whether the turnip crop
is good or bad; whether the fat pig weighed thirteen
stone or fourteen; and whether the beasts thrive well
upon mangelwurzel? Every day since I last wrote has
been like its neighbour. Before breakfast, a walk with
Sir Pitt and his spud; after breakfast studies (such as
they are) in the schoolroom; after schoolroom, reading
and writing about lawyers, leases, coal-mines, canals,
with Sir Pitt (whose secretary I am become); after
dinner, Mr. Crawley's discourses on the baronet's
backgammon; during both of which amusements my lady
looks on with equal placidity. She has become rather
more interesting by being ailing of late, which has
brought a new visitor to the Hall, in the person of a
young doctor. Well, my dear, young women need never
despair. The young doctor gave a certain friend of yours
to understand that, if she chose to be Mrs. Glauber, she
was welcome to ornament the surgery! I told his
impudence that the gilt pestle and mortar was quite
ornament enough; as if I was born, indeed, to be a country
surgeon's wife! Mr. Glauber went home seriously
indisposed at his rebuff, took a cooling draught, and is now
quite cured. Sir Pitt applauded my resolution highly;
he would be sorry to lose his little secretary, I think;
and I believe the old wretch likes me as much as it is in
his nature to like any one. Marry, indeed! and with a
country apothecary, after--No, no, one cannot so
soon forget old associations, about which I will talk no
more. Let us return to Humdrum Hall.
For some time past it is Humdrum Hall no longer.
My dear, Miss Crawley has arrived with her fat horses,
fat servants, fat spaniel--the great rich Miss Crawley,
with seventy thousand pounds in the five per cents.,
whom, or I had better say WHICH, her two brothers
adore. She looks very apoplectic, the dear soul; no
wonder her brothers are anxious about her. You should see
them struggling to settle her cushions, or to hand her
coffee! "When I come into the country," she says (for
she has a great deal of humour), "I leave my toady,
Miss Briggs, at home. My brothers are my toadies here,
my dear, and a pretty pair they are!"
When she comes into the country our hall is thrown
open, and for a month, at least, you would fancy old
Sir Walpole was come to life again. We have dinnerparties,
and drive out in the coach-and-fourthe
footmen put on their newest canary-coloured liveries; we
drink claret and champagne as if we were accustomed
to it every day. We have wax candles in the schoolroom,
and fires to warm ourselves with. Lady Crawley is made
to put on the brightest pea-green in her wardrobe, and
my pupils leave off their thick shoes and tight old
tartan pelisses, and wear silk stockings and muslin frocks,
as fashionable baronets' daughters should. Rose came in
yesterday in a sad plight--the Wiltshire sow (an
enormous pet of hers) ran her down, and destroyed a most
lovely flowered lilac silk dress by dancing over it--had
this happened a week ago, Sir Pitt would have sworn
frightfully, have boxed the poor wretch's ears, and put
her upon bread and water for a month. All he said was,
"I'll serve you out, Miss, when your aunt's gone," and
laughed off the accident as quite trivial. Let us hope his
wrath will have passed away before Miss Crawley's
departure. I hope so, for Miss Rose's sake, I am sure.
What a charming reconciler and peacemaker money is!
Another admirable effect of Miss Crawley and her
seventy thousand pounds is to be seen in the conduct
of the two brothers Crawley. I mean the baronet and
the rector, not OUR brothers--but the former, who hate
each other all the year round, become quite loving at
Christmas. I wrote to you last year how the abominable
horse-racing rector was in the habit of preaching clumsy
sermons at us at church, and how Sir Pitt snored in
answer. When Miss Crawley arrives there is no such thing
as quarrelling heard of--the Hall visits the Rectory, and
vice versa--the parson and the Baronet talk about the
pigs and the poachers, and the county business, in the
most affable manner, and without quarrelling in their
cups, I believe--indeed Miss Crawley won't hear of their
quarrelling, and vows that she will leave her money to
the Shropshire Crawleys if they offend her. If they were
clever people, those Shropshire Crawleys, they might
have it all, I think; but the Shropshire Crawley is a
clergyman like his Hampshire cousin, and mortally offended
Miss Crawley (who had fled thither in a fit of rage
against her impracticable brethren) by some strait-laced
notions of morality. He would have prayers in the house,
I believe.
Our sermon books are shut up when Miss Crawley
arrives, and Mr. Pitt, whom she abominates, finds it
convenient to go to town. On the other hand, the young
dandy--"blood," I believe, is the term--Captain Crawley
makes his appearance, and I suppose you will like to
know what sort of a person he is.
Well, he is a very large young dandy. He is six feet
high, and speaks with a great voice; and swears a great
deal; and orders about the servants, who all adore him
nevertheless; for he is very generous of his money, and
the domestics will do anything for him. Last week the
keepers almost killed a bailiff and his man who came
down from London to arrest the Captain, and who were
found lurking about the Park wall--they beat them,
ducked them, and were going to shoot them for
poachers, but the baronet interfered.
The Captain has a hearty contempt for his father, I
can see, and calls him an old PUT, an old SNOB, an old
CHAW-BACON, and numberless other pretty names. He has
a DREADFUL REPUTATION among the ladies. He brings his
hunters home with him, lives with the Squires of the
county, asks whom he pleases to dinner, and Sir Pitt
dares not say no, for fear of offending Miss Crawley,
and missing his legacy when she dies of her apoplexy.
Shall I tell you a compliment the Captain paid me? I
must, it is so pretty. One evening we actually had a
dance; there was Sir Huddleston Fuddleston and his
family, Sir Giles Wapshot and his young ladies, and I
don't know how many more. Well, I heard him say--
"By Jove, she's a neat little filly!" meaning your humble
servant; and he did me the honour to dance two countrydances
with me. He gets on pretty gaily with the young
Squires, with whom he drinks, bets, rides, and talks
about hunting and shooting; but he says the country
girls are BORES; indeed, I don't think he is far wrong.
You should see the contempt with which they look down
on poor me! When they dance I sit and play the piano
very demurely; but the other night, coming in rather
flushed from the dining-room, and seeing me employed
in this way, he swore out loud that I was the best dancer
in the room, and took a great oath that he would have
the fiddlers from Mudbury.
"I'll go and play a country-dance," said Mrs. Bute
Crawley, very readily (she is a little, black-faced old
woman in a turban, rather crooked, and with very
twinkling eyes); and after the Captain and your poor little
Rebecca had performed a dance together, do you know
she actually did me the honour to compliment me upon
my steps! Such a thing was never heard of before; the
proud Mrs. Bute Crawley, first cousin to the Earl of
Tiptoff, who won't condescend to visit Lady Crawley,
except when her sister is in the country. Poor Lady
Crawley! during most part of these gaieties, she is
upstairs taking pills.
Mrs. Bute has all of a sudden taken a great fancy to
me. "My dear Miss Sharp," she says, "why not bring
over your girls to the Rectory?--their cousins will be so
happy to see them." I know what she means. Signor
Clementi did not teach us the piano for nothing; at
which price Mrs. Bute hopes to get a professor for her
children. I can see through her schemes, as though she
told them to me; but I shall go, as I am determined to
make myself agreeable--is it not a poor governess's
duty, who has not a friend or protector in the world?
The Rector's wife paid me a score of compliments about
the progress my pupils made, and thought, no doubt, to
touch my heart--poor, simple, country soul!--as if I
cared a fig about my pupils!
Your India muslin and your pink silk, dearest Amelia,
are said to become me very well. They are a good deal
worn now; but, you know, we poor girls can't afford des
fraiches toilettes. Happy, happy you! who have but to
drive to St. James's Street, and a dear mother who will
give you any thing you ask. Farewell, dearest girl,
Your affectionate
P.S.--I wish you could have seen the faces of the
Miss Blackbrooks (Admiral Blackbrook's daughters, my
dear), fine young ladies, with dresses from London,
when Captain Rawdon selected poor me for a partner!
When Mrs. Bute Crawley (whose artifices our ingenious
Rebecca had so soon discovered) had procured from
Miss Sharp the promise of a visit, she induced the allpowerful
Miss Crawley to make the necessary application
to Sir Pitt, and the good-natured old lady, who loved to
be gay herself, and to see every one gay and happy round
about her, was quite charmed, and ready to establish a
reconciliation and intimacy between her two brothers.
It was therefore agreed that the young people of both
families should visit each other frequently for the future,
and the friendship of course lasted as long as the jovial
old mediatrix was there to keep the peace.
"Why did you ask that scoundrel, Rawdon Crawley, to
dine?" said the Rector to his lady, as they were walking
home through the park. "I don't want the fellow. He looks
down upon us country people as so many blackamoors.
He's never content unless he gets my yellow-sealed wine,
which costs me ten shillings a bottle, hang him! Besides,
he's such an infernal character--he's a gambler--he's a
drunkard--he's a profligate in every way. He shot a man
in a duel--he's over head and ears in debt, and he's
robbed me and mine of the best part of Miss Crawley's
fortune. Waxy says she has him"--here the Rector shook
his fist at the moon, with something very like an oath,
and added, in a melancholious tone, "--, down in her will
for fifty thousand; and there won't be above thirty to
"I think she's going," said the Rector's wife. "She was
very red in the face when we left dinner. I was obliged
to unlace her."
"She drank seven glasses of champagne," said the
reverend gentleman, in a low voice; "and filthy champagne
it is, too, that my brother poisons us with--but you
women never know what's what."
"We know nothing," said Mrs. Bute Crawley.
"She drank cherry-brandy after dinner," continued his
Reverence, "and took curacao with her coffee. I
wouldn't take a glass for a five-pound note: it kills me
with heartburn. She can't stand it, Mrs. Crawley--she
must go--flesh and blood won't bear it! and I lay five to
two, Matilda drops in a year."
Indulging in these solemn speculations, and thinking
about his debts, and his son Jim at College, and Frank at
Woolwich, and the four girls, who were no beauties, poor
things, and would not have a penny but what they got from
the aunt's expected legacy, the Rector and his lady walked
on for a while.
"Pitt can't be such an infernal villain as to sell the
reversion of the living. And that Methodist milksop of an
eldest son looks to Parliament," continued Mr. Crawley,
after a pause.
"Sir Pitt Crawley will do anything," said the Rector's
wife. "We must get Miss Crawley to make him promise it
to James."
"Pitt will promise anything," replied the brother. "He
promised he'd pay my college bills, when my father died;
he promised he'd build the new wing to the Rectory;
he promised he'd let me have Jibb's field and the Sixacre
Meadow--and much he executed his promises! And
it's to this man's son--this scoundrel, gambler, swindler,
murderer of a Rawdon Crawley, that Matilda leaves the
bulk of her money. I say it's un-Christian. By Jove, it is.
The infamous dog has got every vice except hypocrisy,
and that belongs to his brother."
"Hush, my dearest love! we're in Sir Pitt's grounds,"
interposed his wife.
"I say he has got every vice, Mrs. Crawley. Don't
Ma'am, bully me. Didn't he shoot Captain Marker? Didn't
he rob young Lord Dovedale at the Cocoa-Tree? Didn't
he cross the fight between Bill Soames and the Cheshire
Trump, by which I lost forty pound? You know he did;
and as for the women, why, you heard that before me, in
my own magistrate's room "
"For heaven's sake, Mr. Crawley," said the lady, "spare
me the details."
"And you ask this villain into your house!" continued
the exasperated Rector. "You, the mother of a young
family--the wife of a clergyman of the Church of
England. By Jove!"
"Bute Crawley, you are a fool," said the Rector's wife
"Well, Ma'am, fool or not--and I don't say, Martha,
I'm so clever as you are, I never did. But I won't meet
Rawdon Crawley, that's flat. I'll go over to Huddleston,
that I will, and see his black greyhound, Mrs. Crawley;
and I'll run Lancelot against him for fifty. By Jove, I will;
or against any dog in England. But I won't meet that
beast Rawdon Crawley."
"Mr. Crawley, you are intoxicated, as usual," replied
his wife. And the next morning, when the Rector woke,
and called for small beer, she put him in mind of his
promise to visit Sir Huddleston Fuddleston on Saturday,
and as he knew he should have a wet night, it was agreed
that he might gallop back again in time for church on
Sunday morning. Thus it will be seen that the parishioners
of Crawley were equally happy in their Squire and in their
Miss Crawley had not long been established at the Hall
before Rebecca's fascinations had won the heart of that
good-natured London rake, as they had of the country
innocents whom we have been describing. Taking her
accustomed drive, one day, she thought fit to order that
"that little governess" should accompany her to Mudbury.
Before they had returned Rebecca had made a conquest
of her; having made her laugh four times, and amused her
during the whole of the little journey.
"Not let Miss Sharp dine at table!" said she to Sir Pitt,
who had arranged a dinner of ceremony, and asked all the
neighbouring baronets. "My dear creature, do you
suppose I can talk about the nursery with Lady Fuddleston, or
discuss justices' business with that goose, old Sir Giles
Wapshot? I insist upon Miss Sharp appearing. Let Lady
Crawley remain upstairs, if there is no room. But little
Miss Sharp! Why, she's the only person fit to talk to in
the county!"
Of course, after such a peremptory order as this, Miss
Sharp, the governess, received commands to dine with the
illustrious company below stairs. And when Sir Huddleston
had, with great pomp and ceremony, handed Miss
Crawley in to dinner, and was preparing to take his
place by her side, the old lady cried out, in a shrill
voice, "Becky Sharp! Miss Sharp! Come you and sit by
me and amuse me; and let Sir Huddleston sit by Lady
When the parties were over, and the carriages had
rolled away, the insatiable Miss Crawley would say,
"Come to my dressing room, Becky, and let us abuse the
company"--which, between them, this pair of friends did
perfectly. Old Sir Huddleston wheezed a great deal at
dinner; Sir Giles Wapshot had a particularly noisy manner
of imbibing his soup, and her ladyship a wink of the left
eye; all of which Becky caricatured to admiration; as well
as the particulars of the night's conversation; the politics;
the war; the quarter-sessions; the famous run with the
H.H., and those heavy and dreary themes, about which
country gentlemen converse. As for the Misses Wapshot's
toilettes and Lady Fuddleston's famous yellow hat, Miss
Sharp tore them to tatters, to the infinite amusement
of her audience.
"My dear, you are a perfect trouvaille," Miss Crawley
would say. "I wish you could come to me in London,
but I couldn't make a butt of you as I do of poor Briggs
no, no, you little sly creature; you are too clever--Isn't
she, Firkin?"
Mrs. Firkin (who was dressing the very small
remnant of hair which remained on Miss Crawley's pate),
flung up her head and said, "I think Miss is very clever,"
with the most killing sarcastic air. In fact, Mrs. Firkin
had that natural jealousy which is one of the main
principles of every honest woman.
After rebuffing Sir Huddleston Fuddleston, Miss
Crawley ordered that Rawdon Crawley should lead her in
to dinner every day, and that Becky should follow with her
cushion--or else she would have Becky's arm and
Rawdon with the pillow. "We must sit together," she said.
"We're the only three Christians in the county, my love"
--in which case, it must be confessed, that religion was
at a very low ebb in the county of Hants.
Besides being such a fine religionist, Miss Crawley
was, as we have said, an Ultra-liberal in opinions, and
always took occasion to express these in the most candid
"What is birth, my dear!" she would say to Rebecca--
"Look at my brother Pitt; look at the Huddlestons, who
have been here since Henry II; look at poor Bute at the
parsonage--is any one of them equal to you in intelligence
or breeding? Equal to you--they are not even equal to
poor dear Briggs, my companion, or Bowls, my butler.
You, my love, are a little paragon--positively a little
jewel--You have more brains than half the shire--if
merit had its reward you ought to be a Duchess--no,
there ought to be no duchesses at all--but you ought to
have no superior, and I consider you, my love, as my
equal in every respect; and--will you put some coals on
the fire, my dear; and will you pick this dress of mine, and
alter it, you who can do it so well?" So this old philanthropist
used to make her equal run of her errands, execute her
millinery, and read her to sleep with French novels,
every night.
At this time, as some old readers may recollect, the
genteel world had been thrown into a considerable state
of excitement by two events, which, as the papers say,
might give employment to the gentlemen of the long robe.
Ensign Shafton had run away with Lady Barbara Fitzurse,
the Earl of Bruin's daughter and heiress; and poor Vere
Vane, a gentleman who, up to forty, had maintained a
most respectable character and reared a numerous family,
suddenly and outrageously left his home, for the sake of
Mrs. Rougemont, the actress, who was sixty-five years
of age.
"That was the most beautiful part of dear Lord
Nelson's character," Miss Crawley said. "He went to the
deuce for a woman. There must be good in a man who will
do that. I adore all impudent matches.--What I like
best, is for a nobleman to marry a miller's daughter, as
Lord Flowerdale did--it makes all the women so angry
--I wish some great man would run away with you, my
dear; I'm sure you're pretty enough."
"Two post-boys!--Oh, it would be delightful!" Rebecca
"And what I like next best, is for a poor fellow to run
away with a rich girl. I have set my heart on Rawdon
running away with some one."
"A rich some one, or a poor some one?"
"Why, you goose! Rawdon has not a shilling but what I
give him. He is crible de dettes--he must repair his
fortunes, and succeed in the world."
"Is he very clever?" Rebecca asked.
"Clever, my love?--not an idea in the world beyond his
horses, and his regiment, and his hunting, and his play;
but he must succeed--he's so delightfully wicked. Don't
you know he has hit a man, and shot an injured father
through the hat only? He's adored in his regiment; and all
the young men at Wattier's and the Cocoa-Tree swear by
When Miss Rebecca Sharp wrote to her beloved friend
the account of the little ball at Queen's Crawley, and the
manner in which, for the first time, Captain Crawley had
distinguished her, she did not, strange to relate, give an
altogether accurate account of the transaction. The Captain
had distinguished her a great number of times before. The
Captain had met her in a half-score of walks. The Captain
had lighted upon her in a half-hundred of corridors and
passages. The Captain had hung over her piano twenty
times of an evening (my Lady was now upstairs, being ill,
and nobody heeded her) as Miss Sharp sang. The Captain had
written her notes (the best that the great blundering
dragoon could devise and spell; but dulness gets on
as well as any other quality with women). But when he
put the first of the notes into the leaves of the song she
was singing, the little governess, rising and looking him
steadily in the face, took up the triangular missive daintily,
and waved it about as if it were a cocked hat, and she,
advancing to the enemy, popped the note into the fire, and
made him a very low curtsey, and went back to her
place, and began to sing away again more merrily than
"What's that?" said Miss Crawley, interrupted in her
after-dinner doze by the stoppage of the music.
"It's a false note," Miss Sharp said with a laugh; and
Rawdon Crawley fumed with rage and mortification.
Seeing the evident partiality of Miss Crawley for the
new governess, how good it was of Mrs. Bute Crawley not
to be jealous, and to welcome the young lady to the
Rectory, and not only her, but Rawdon Crawley, her
husband's rival in the Old Maid's five per cents! They
became very fond of each other's society, Mrs. Crawley
and her nephew. He gave up hunting; he declined
entertainments at Fuddleston: he would not dine with the
mess of the depot at Mudbury: his great pleasure was to stroll
over to Crawley parsonage--whither Miss Crawley came
too; and as their mamma was ill, why not the children
with Miss Sharp? So the children (little dears!) came with
Miss Sharp; and of an evening some of the party would
walk back together. Not Miss Crawley--she preferred her
carriage--but the walk over the Rectory fields, and in at
the little park wicket, and through the dark plantation,
and up the checkered avenue to Queen's Crawley, was
charming in the moonlight to two such lovers of the
picturesque as the Captain and Miss Rebecca.
"O those stars, those stars!" Miss Rebecca would say,
turning her twinkling green eyes up towards them. "I
feel myself almost a spirit when I gaze upon them."
"O--ah--Gad--yes, so do I exactly, Miss Sharp," the
other enthusiast replied. "You don't mind my cigar, do
you, Miss Sharp?" Miss Sharp loved the smell of a cigar
out of doors beyond everything in the world--and she just
tasted one too, in the prettiest way possible, and gave a
little puff, and a little scream, and a little giggle, and
restored the delicacy to the Captain, who twirled his
moustache, and straightway puffed it into a blaze that
glowed quite red in the dark plantation, and swore--"Jove
--aw--Gad--aw--it's the finest segaw I ever smoked in
the world aw," for his intellect and conversation were
alike brilliant and becoming to a heavy young dragoon.
Old Sir Pitt, who was taking his pipe and beer, and
talking to John Horrocks about a "ship" that was to be killed,
espied the pair so occupied from his study-window, and
with dreadful oaths swore that if it wasn't for Miss
Crawley, he'd take Rawdon and bundle un out of doors, like a
rogue as he was.
"He be a bad'n, sure enough," Mr. Horrocks remarked;
"and his man Flethers is wuss, and have made such a row
in the housekeeper's room about the dinners and hale, as
no lord would make--but I think Miss Sharp's a match
for'n, Sir Pitt," he added, after a pause.
And so, in truth, she was--for father and son too.
Quite a Sentimental Chapter
We must now take leave of Arcadia, and those amiable
people practising the rural virtues there, and travel back
to London, to inquire what has become of Miss Amelia
"We don't care a fig for her," writes some unknown
correspondent with a pretty little handwriting and a pink seal
to her note. "She is fade and insipid," and adds some more
kind remarks in this strain, which I should never have
repeated at all, but that they are in truth prodigiously
complimentary to the young lady whom they concern.
Has the beloved reader, in his experience of society,
never heard similar remarks by good-natured female
friends; who always wonder what you CAN see in Miss
Smith that is so fascinating; or what COULD induce Major
Jones to propose for that silly insignificant simpering Miss
Thompson, who has nothing but her wax-doll face to
recommend her? What is there in a pair of pink cheeks
and blue eyes forsooth? these dear Moralists ask, and hint
wisely that the gifts of genius, the accomplishments of the
mind, the mastery of Mangnall's Questions, and a ladylike
knowledge of botany and geology, the knack of making
poetry, the power of rattling sonatas in the Herz-manner,
and so forth, are far more valuable endowments for a
female, than those fugitive charms which a few years will
inevitably tarnish. It is quite edifying to hear women
speculate upon the worthlessness and the duration of
But though virtue is a much finer thing, and those
hapless creatures who suffer under the misfortune of good
looks ought to be continually put in mind of the fate
which awaits them; and though, very likely, the heroic
female character which ladies admire is a more glorious
and beautiful object than the kind, fresh, smiling, artless,
tender little domestic goddess, whom men are inclined
to worship--yet the latter and inferior sort of women
must have this consolation--that the men do admire them
after all; and that, in spite of all our kind friends' warnings
and protests, we go on in our desperate error and
folly, and shall to the end of the chapter. Indeed, for my
own part, though I have been repeatedly told by persons
for whom I have the greatest respect, that Miss Brown is
an insignificant chit, and Mrs. White has nothing but her
petit minois chiffonne, and Mrs. Black has not a word to
say for herself; yet I know that I have had the most
delightful conversations with Mrs. Black (of course, my
dear Madam, they are inviolable): I see all the men in a
cluster round Mrs. White's chair: all the young fellows
battling to dance with Miss Brown; and so I am tempted
to think that to be despised by her sex is a very great
compliment to a woman.
The young ladies in Amelia's society did this for her
very satisfactorily. For instance, there was scarcely any
point upon which the Misses Osborne, George's sisters,
and the Mesdemoiselles Dobbin agreed so well as in their
estimate of her very trifling merits: and their wonder that
their brothers could find any charms in her. "We are kind
to her," the Misses Osborne said, a pair of fine blackbrowed
young ladies who had had the best of governesses,
masters, and milliners; and they treated her with
such extreme kindness and condescension, and patronised
her so insufferably, that the poor little thing was in fact
perfectly dumb in their presence, and to all outward
appearance as stupid as they thought her. She made efforts
to like them, as in duty bound, and as sisters of her
future husband. She passed "long mornings" with them
--the most dreary and serious of forenoons. She drove
out solemnly in their great family coach with them, and
Miss Wirt their governess, that raw-boned Vestal. They
took her to the ancient concerts by way of a treat, and
to the oratorio, and to St. Paul's to see the charity
children, where in such terror was she of her friends, she
almost did not dare be affected by the hymn the children
sang. Their house was comfortable; their papa's table
rich and handsome; their society solemn and genteel;
their self-respect prodigious; they had the best pew at
the Foundling: all their habits were pompous and orderly,
and all their amusements intolerably dull and decorous.
After every one of her visits (and oh how glad she was
when they were over!) Miss Osborne and Miss Maria
Osborne, and Miss Wirt, the vestal governess, asked each
other with increased wonder, "What could George find in
that creature?"
How is this? some carping reader exclaims. How is it
that Amelia, who had such a number of friends at
school, and was so beloved there, comes out into the
world and is spurned by her discriminating sex? My dear
sir, there were no men at Miss Pinkerton's establishment
except the old dancing-master; and you would not have
had the girls fall out about HIM? When George, their
handsome brother, ran off directly after breakfast, and
dined from home half-a-dozen times a week, no wonder
the neglected sisters felt a little vexation. When young
Bullock (of the firm of Hulker, Bullock & Co., Bankers,
Lombard Street), who had been making up to Miss Maria
the last two seasons, actually asked Amelia to dance the
cotillon, could you expect that the former young lady
should be pleased? And yet she said she was, like an
artless forgiving creature. "I'm so delighted you like dear
Amelia," she said quite eagerly to Mr. Bullock after the
dance. "She's engaged to my brother George; there's not
much in her, but she's the best-natured and most
unaffected young creature: at home we're all so fond of her."
Dear girl! who can calculate the depth of affection
expressed in that enthusiastic SO?
Miss Wirt and these two affectionate young women so
earnestly and frequently impressed upon George
Osborne's mind the enormity of the sacrifice he was making,
and his romantic generosity in throwing himself away
upon Amelia, that I'm not sure but that he really thought
he was one of the most deserving characters in the British
army, and gave himself up to be loved with a good deal
of easy resignation.
Somehow, although he left home every morning, as was
stated, and dined abroad six days in the week, when his
sisters believed the infatuated youth to be at Miss Sedley's
apron-strings: he was NOT always with Amelia, whilst the
world supposed him at her feet. Certain it is that on more
occasions than one, when Captain Dobbin called to look
for his friend, Miss Osborne (who was very attentive to
the Captain, and anxious to hear his military stories, and
to know about the health of his dear Mamma), would
laughingly point to the opposite side of the square, and
say, "Oh, you must go to the Sedleys' to ask for George;
WE never see him from morning till night." At which kind
of speech the Captain would laugh in rather an absurd
constrained manner, and turn off the conversation, like
a consummate man of the world, to some topic of general
interest, such as the Opera, the Prince's last ball at
Carlton House, or the weather--that blessing to society.
"What an innocent it is, that pet of yours," Miss Maria
would then say to Miss Jane, upon the Captain's
departure. "Did you see how he blushed at the mention of
poor George on duty?"
"It's a pity Frederick Bullock hadn't some of his
modesty, Maria," replies the elder sister, with a toss of he
"Modesty! Awkwardness you mean, Jane. I don't want
Frederick to trample a hole in my muslin frock, as
Captain Dobbin did in yours at Mrs. Perkins'."
"In YOUR frock, he, he! How could he? Wasn't he
dancing with Amelia?"
The fact is, when Captain Dobbin blushed so, and
looked so awkward, he remembered a circumstance of
which he did not think it was necessary to inform the
young ladies, viz., that he had been calling at Mr. Sedley's
house already, on the pretence of seeing George, of
course, and George wasn't there, only poor little Amelia,
with rather a sad wistful face, seated near the drawingroom
window, who, after some very trifling stupid talk,
ventured to ask, was there any truth in the report that
the regiment was soon to be ordered abroad; and had
Captain Dobbin seen Mr. Osborne that day?
The regiment was not ordered abroad as yet; and
Captain Dobbin had not seen George. "He was with his
sister, most likely," the Captain said. "Should he go and
fetch the truant?" So she gave him her hand kindly and
gratefully: and he crossed the square; and she waited
and waited, but George never came.
Poor little tender heart! and so it goes on hoping and
beating, and longing and trusting. You see it is not much
of a life to describe. There is not much of what you call
incident in it. Only one feeling all day--when will he
come? only one thought to sleep and wake upon. I
believe George was playing billiards with Captain Cannon
in Swallow Street at the time when Amelia was asking
Captain Dobbin about him; for George was a jolly
sociable fellow, and excellent in all games of skill.
Once, after three days of absence, Miss Amelia put on
her bonnet, and actually invaded the Osborne house.
"What! leave our brother to come to us?" said the young
ladies. "Have you had a quarrel, Amelia? Do tell us!"
No, indeed, there had been no quarrel. "Who could
quarrel with him?" says she, with her eyes filled with tears.
She only came over to--to see her dear friends; they had
not met for so long. And this day she was so perfectly
stupid and awkward, that the Misses Osborne and their
governess, who stared after her as she went sadly away,
wondered more than ever what George could see in poor
little Amelia.
Of course they did. How was she to bare that timid
little heart for the inspection of those young ladies with
their bold black eyes? It was best that it should shrink
and hide itself. I know the Misses Osborne were excellent
critics of a Cashmere shawl, or a pink satin slip; and
when Miss Turner had hers dyed purple, and made into
a spencer; and when Miss Pickford had her ermine
tippet twisted into a muff and trimmings, I warrant you the
changes did not escape the two intelligent young women
before mentioned. But there are things, look you, of a
finer texture than fur or satin, and all Solomon's glories,
and all the wardrobe of the Queen of Sheba--things
whereof the beauty escapes the eyes of many
connoisseurs. And there are sweet modest little souls on
which you light, fragrant and blooming tenderly in quiet shady
places; and there are garden-ornaments, as big as brass
warming-pans, that are fit to stare the sun itself out of
countenance. Miss Sedley was not of the sunflower sort;
and I say it is out of the rules of all proportion to draw
a violet of the size of a double dahlia.
No, indeed; the life of a good young girl who is in the
paternal nest as yet, can't have many of those thrilling
incidents to which the heroine of romance commonly lays
claim. Snares or shot may take off the old birds foraging
without--hawks may be abroad, from which they escape
or by whom they suffer; but the young ones in the nest
have a pretty comfortable unromantic sort of existence
in the down and the straw, till it comes to their turn,
too, to get on the wing. While Becky Sharp was on her
own wing in the country, hopping on all sorts of twigs,
and amid a multiplicity of traps, and pecking up her food
quite harmless and successful, Amelia lay snug in her
home of Russell Square; if she went into the world, it
was under the guidance of the elders; nor did it seem
that any evil could befall her or that opulent cheery
comfortable home in which she was affectionately sheltered.
Mamma had her morning duties, and her daily drive,
and the delightful round of visits and shopping which
forms the amusement, or the profession as you may call
it, of the rich London lady. Papa conducted his
mysterious operations in the City--a stirring place in those
days, when war was raging all over Europe, and empires
were being staked; when the "Courier" newspaper had
tens of thousands of subscribers; when one day brought
you a battle of Vittoria, another a burning of Moscow, or
a newsman's horn blowing down Russell Square about
dinner-time, announced such a fact as--"Battle of
Leipsic--six hundred thousand men engaged--total
defeat of the French--two hundred thousand killed." Old
Sedley once or twice came home with a very grave face;
and no wonder, when such news as this was agitating all
the hearts and all the Stocks of Europe.
Meanwhile matters went on in Russell Square, Bloomsbury,
just as if matters in Europe were not in the least
disorganised. The retreat from Leipsic made no
difference in the number of meals Mr. Sambo took in the
servants' hall; the allies poured into France, and the
dinner-belI rang at five o'clock just as usual. I don't think
poor Amelia cared anything about Brienne and Montmirail,
or was fairly interested in the war until the abdication
of the Emperor; when she clapped her hands and said
prayers--oh, how grateful! and flung herself into George
Osborne's arms with all her soul, to the astonishment of
everybody who witnessed that ebullition of sentiment.
The fact is, peace was declared, Europe was going to be
at rest; the Corsican was overthrown, and Lieutenant
Osborne's regiment would not be ordered on service. That
was the way in which Miss Amelia reasoned. The fate of
Europe was Lieutenant George Osborne to her. His
dangers being over, she sang Te Deum. He was her Europe:
her emperor: her allied monarchs and august prince
regent. He was her sun and moon; and I believe she
thought the grand illumination and ball at the Mansion
House, given to the sovereigns, were especially in honour
of George Osborne.
We have talked of shift, self, and poverty, as those
dismal instructors under whom poor Miss Becky Sharp
got her education. Now, love was Miss Amelia Sedley's
last tutoress, and it was amazing what progress our young
lady made under that popular teacher. In the course of
fifteen or eighteen months' daily and constant attention to
this eminent finishing governess, what a deal of secrets
Amelia learned, which Miss Wirt and the black-eyed
young ladies over the way, which old Miss Pinkerton of
Chiswick herself, had no cognizance of! As, indeed, how
should any of those prim and reputable virgins? With
Misses P. and W. the tender passion is out of the
question: I would not dare to breathe such an idea regarding
them. Miss Maria Osborne, it is true, was "attached" to
Mr. Frederick Augustus Bullock, of the firm of Hulker,
Bullock & Bullock; but hers was a most respectable
attachment, and she would have taken Bullock Senior just
the same, her mind being fixed--as that of a well-bred
young woman should be--upon a house in Park Lane,
a country house at Wimbledon, a handsome chariot, and
two prodigious tall horses and footmen, and a fourth of
the annual profits of the eminent firm of Hulker &
Bullock, all of which advantages were represented in the
person of Frederick Augustus. Had orange blossoms been
invented then (those touching emblems of female purity
imported by us from France, where people's daughters
are universally sold in marriage), Miss Maria, I say,
would have assumed the spotless wreath, and stepped into
the travelling carriage by the side of gouty, old, baldheaded,
bottle-nosed Bullock Senior; and devoted her
beautiful existence to his happiness with perfect modesty
--only the old gentleman was married already; so she
bestowed her young affections on the junior partner.
Sweet, blooming, orange flowers! The other day I saw
Miss Trotter (that was), arrayed in them, trip into the
travelling carriage at St. George's, Hanover Square, and
Lord Methuselah hobbled in after. With what an engaging
modesty she pulled down the blinds of the chariot--the
dear innocent! There were half the carriages of Vanity
Fair at the wedding.
This was not the sort of love that finished Amelia's
education; and in the course of a year turned a good young
girl into a good young woman--to be a good wife
presently, when the happy time should come. This young
person (perhaps it was very imprudent in her parents to
encourage her, and abet her in such idolatry and silly
romantic ideas) loved, with all her heart, the young
officer in His Majesty's service with whom we have made a
brief acquaintance. She thought about him the very first
moment on waking; and his was the very last name
mentioned m her prayers. She never had seen a man so
beautiful or so clever: such a figure on horseback: such
a dancer: such a hero in general. Talk of the Prince's
bow! what was it to George's? She had seen Mr.
Brummell, whom everybody praised so. Compare such a person
as that to her George! Not amongst all the beaux at the
Opera (and there were beaux in those days with actual
opera hats) was there any one to equal him. He was only
good enough to be a fairy prince; and oh, what
magnanimity to stoop to such a humble Cinderella! Miss
Pinkerton would have tried to check this blind devotion
very likely, had she been Amelia's confidante; but not
with much success, depend upon it. It is in the nature and
instinct of some women. Some are made to scheme, and
some to love; and I wish any respected bachelor that
reads this may take the sort that best likes him.
While under this overpowering impression, Miss Amelia
neglected her twelve dear friends at Chiswick most
cruelly, as such selfish people commonly will do. She had
but this subject, of course, to think about; and Miss
Saltire was too cold for a confidante, and she couldn't
bring her mind to tell Miss Swartz, the woolly-haired
young heiress from St. Kitt's. She had little Laura Martin
home for the holidays; and my belief is, she made a
confidante of her, and promised that Laura should come
and live with her when she was married, and gave Laura
a great deal of information regarding the passion of
love, which must have been singularly useful and novel
to that little person. Alas, alas! I fear poor Emmy had
not a well-regulated mind.
What were her parents doing, not to keep this little
heart from beating so fast? Old Sedley did not seem much
to notice matters. He was graver of late, and his City
affairs absorbed him. Mrs. Sedley was of so easy and
uninquisitive a nature that she wasn't even jealous. Mr.
Jos was away, being besieged by an Irish widow at
Cheltenham. Amelia had the house to herself--ah! too
much to herself sometimes--not that she ever doubted;
for, to be sure, George must be at the Horse Guards;
and he can't always get leave from Chatham; and he must
see his friends and sisters, and mingle in society when
in town (he, such an ornament to every society!); and
when he is with the regiment, he is too tired to write long
letters. I know where she kept that packet she had--and
can steal in and out of her chamber like Iachimo--like
Iachimo? No--that is a bad part. I will only act
Moonshine, and peep harmless into the bed where faith and
beauty and innocence lie dreaming.
But if Osborne's were short and soldierlike letters, it
must be confessed, that were Miss Sedley's letters to Mr.
Osborne to be published, we should have to extend this
novel to such a multiplicity of volumes as not the most
sentimental reader could support; that she not only filled
sheets of large paper, but crossed them with the most
astonishing perverseness; that she wrote whole pages out
of poetry-books without the least pity; that she
underlined words and passages with quite a frantic emphasis;
and, in fine, gave the usual tokens of her condition. She
wasn't a heroine. Her letters were full of repetition. She
wrote rather doubtful grammar sometimes, and in her
verses took all sorts of liberties with the metre. But oh,
mesdames, if you are not allowed to touch the heart
sometimes in spite of syntax, and are not to be loved
until you all know the difference between trimeter and
tetrameter, may all Poetry go to the deuce, and every
schoolmaster perish miserably!
Sentimental and Otherwise
I fear the gentleman to whom Miss Amelia's letters were
addressed was rather an obdurate critic. Such a number
of notes followed Lieutenant Osborne about the country,
that he became almost ashamed of the jokes of his
mess-room companions regarding them, and ordered his
servant never to deliver them except at his private apartment.
He was seen lighting his cigar with one, to the horror of
Captain Dobbin, who, it is my belief, would have given
a bank-note for the document.
For some time George strove to keep the liaison a
secret. There was a woman in the case, that he admitted.
"And not the first either," said Ensign Spooney to Ensign
Stubble. "That Osborne's a devil of a fellow. There was a
judge's daughter at Demerara went almost mad about
him; then there was that beautiful quadroon girl, Miss
Pye, at St. Vincent's, you know; and since he's been
home, they say he's a regular Don Giovanni, by Jove."
Stubble and Spooney thought that to be a "regular
Don Giovanni, by Jove" was one of the finest qualities a
man could possess, and Osborne's reputation was
prodigious amongst the young men of the regiment. He
was famous in field-sports, famous at a song, famous on
parade; free with his money, which was bountifully
supplied by his father. His coats were better made than
any man's in the regiment, and he had more of them. He
was adored by the men. He could drink more than any
officer of the whole mess, including old Heavytop, the
colonel. He could spar better than Knuckles, the private
(who would have been a corporal but for his drunkenness,
and who had been in the prize-ring); and was the best
batter and bowler, out and out, of the regimental club.
He rode his own horse, Greased Lightning, and won the
Garrison cup at Quebec races. There were other people
besides Amelia who worshipped him. Stubble and
Spooney thought him a sort of Apollo; Dobbin took him
to be an Admirable Crichton; and Mrs. Major O'Dowd
acknowledged he was an elegant young fellow, and put
her in mind of Fitzjurld Fogarty, Lord Castlefogarty's
second son.
Well, Stubble and Spooney and the rest indulged in
most romantic conjectures regarding this female
correspondent of Osborne's--opining that it was a Duchess in
London who was in love with him--or that it was a
General's daughter, who was engaged to somebody else,
and madly attached to him--or that it was a Member of
Parliament's lady, who proposed four horses and an
elopement--or that it was some other victim of a passion
delightfully exciting, romantic, and disgraceful to all
parties, on none of which conjectures would Osborne throw
the least light, leaving his young admirers and friends to
invent and arrange their whole history.
And the real state of the case would never have been
known at all in the regiment but for Captain Dobbin's
indiscretion. The Captain was eating his breakfast one
day in the mess-room, while Cackle, the assistant-surgeon,
and the two above-named worthies were speculating upon
Osborne's intrigue--Stubble holding out that the lady
was a Duchess about Queen Charlotte's court, and Cackle
vowing she was an opera-singer of the worst reputation.
At this idea Dobbin became so moved, that though his
mouth was full of eggs and bread-and-butter at the time,
and though he ought not to have spoken at all, yet he
couldn't help blurting out, "Cackle, you're a stupid fool.
You're always talking nonsense and scandal. Osborne is
not going to run off with a Duchess or ruin a milliner.
Miss Sedley is one of the most charming young women
that ever lived. He's been engaged to her ever so long;
and the man who calls her names had better not do so
in my hearing." With which, turning exceedingly red,
Dobbin ceased speaking, and almost choked himself with
a cup of tea. The story was over the regiment in half-anhour;
and that very evening Mrs. Major O'Dowd wrote
off to her sister Glorvina at O'Dowdstown not to hurry
from Dublin--young Osborne being prematurely engaged
She complimented the Lieutenant in an appropriate
speech over a glass of whisky-toddy that evening, and he
went home perfectly furious to quarrel with Dobbin (who
had declined Mrs. Major O'Dowd's party, and sat in his
own room playing the flute, and, I believe, writing poetry
in a very melancholy manner)--to quarrel with Dobbin
for betraying his secret.
"Who the deuce asked you to talk about my affairs?"
Osborne shouted indignantly. "Why the devil is all the
regiment to know that I am going to be married? Why is
that tattling old harridan, Peggy O'Dowd, to make free
with my name at her d--d supper-table, and advertise
my engagement over the three kingdoms? After all, what
right have you to say I am engaged, or to meddle in my
business at all, Dobbin?"
"It seems to me," Captain Dobbin began.
"Seems be hanged, Dobbin," his junior interrupted
him. "I am under obligations to you, I know it, a d--d
deal too well too; but I won't be always sermonised by
you because you're five years my senior. I'm hanged if
I'll stand your airs of superiority and infernal pity and
patronage. Pity and patronage! I should like to know in
what I'm your inferior?"
"Are you engaged?" Captain Dobbin interposed.
"What the devil's that to you or any one here if I am?"
"Are you ashamed of it?" Dobbin resumed.
"What right have you to ask me that question, sir? I
should like to know," George said.
"Good God, you don't mean to say you want to break
off?" asked Dobbin, starting up.
"In other words, you ask me if I'm a man of honour,"
said Osborne, fiercely; "is that what you mean? You've
adopted such a tone regarding me lately that I'm --
if I'll bear it any more."
"What have I done? I've told you you were neglecting
a sweet girl, George. I've told you that when you go to
town you ought to go to her, and not to the gamblinghouses
about St. James's."
"You want your money back, I suppose," said George,
with a sneer.
"Of course I do--I always did, didn't I?" says Dobbin.
"You speak like a generous fellow."
"No, hang it, William, I beg your pardon"--here
George interposed in a fit of remorse; "you have been my
friend in a hundred ways, Heaven knows. You've got me
out of a score of scrapes. When Crawley of the Guards
won that sum of money of me I should have been done
but for you: I know I should. But you shouldn't deal so
hardly with me; you shouldn't be always catechising me.
I am very fond of Amelia; I adore her, and that sort of
thing. Don't look angry. She's faultless; I know she is.
But you see there's no fun in winning a thing unless you
play for it. Hang it: the regiment's just back from the
West Indies, I must have a little fling, and then when I'm
married I'll reform; I will upon my honour, now. And--I
say--Dob--don't be angry with me, and I'll give you a
hundred next month, when I know my father will stand
something handsome; and I'll ask Heavytop for leave,
and I'll go to town, and see Amelia to-morrow--there
now, will that satisfy you?"
"It is impossible to be long angry with you, George,"
said the good-natured Captain; "and as for the money,
old boy, you know if I wanted it you'd share your last
shilling with me."
"That I would, by Jove, Dobbin," George said, with
the greatest generosity, though by the way he never had
any money to spare.
"Only I wish you had sown those wild oats of yours,
George. If you could have seen poor little Miss Emmy's
face when she asked me about you the other day, you
would have pitched those billiard-balls to the deuce. Go
and comfort her, you rascal. Go and write her a long
letter. Do something to make her happy; a very little will."
"I believe she's d--d fond of me," the Lieutenant said,
with a self-satisfied air; and went off to finish the evening
with some jolly fellows in the mess-room.
Amelia meanwhile, in Russell Square, was looking at
the moon, which was shining upon that peaceful spot, as
well as upon the square of the Chatham barracks, where
Lieutenant Osborne was quartered, and thinking to
herself how her hero was employed. Perhaps he is visiting
the sentries, thought she; perhaps he is bivouacking;
perhaps he is attending the couch of a wounded comrade, or
studying the art of war up in his own desolate chamber.
And her kind thoughts sped away as if they were angels
and had wings, and flying down the river to Chatham
and Rochester, strove to peep into the barracks where
George was. . . . All things considered, I think it was
as well the gates were shut, and the sentry allowed no
one to pass; so that the poor little white-robed angel
could not hear the songs those young fellows were
roaring over the whisky-punch.
The day after the little conversation at Chatham
barracks, young Osborne, to show that he would be as good
as his word, prepared to go to town, thereby incurring
Captain Dobbin's applause. "I should have liked to make her
a little present," Osborne said to his friend in confidence,
"only I am quite out of cash until my father tips up." But
Dobbin would not allow this good nature and generosity
to be balked, and so accommodated Mr. Osborne with a
few pound notes, which the latter took after a little faint
And I dare say he would have bought something very
handsome for Amelia; only, getting off the coach in Fleet
Street, he was attracted by a handsome shirt-pin in a
jeweller's window, which he could not resist; and having
paid for that, had very little money to spare for indulging
in any further exercise of kindness. Never mind: you may
be sure it was not his presents Amelia wanted. When he
came to Russell Square, her face lighted up as if he had
been sunshine. The little cares, fears, tears, timid
misgivings, sleepless fancies of I don't know how many days
and nights, were forgotten, under one moment's influence
of that familiar, irresistible smile. He beamed on her
from the drawing-room door--magnificent, with
ambrosial whiskers, like a god. Sambo, whose face as he
announced Captain Osbin (having conferred a brevet rank
on that young officer) blazed with a sympathetic grin, saw
the little girl start, and flush, and jump up from her
watching-place in the window; and Sambo retreated: and
as soon as the door was shut, she went fluttering to
Lieutenant George Osborne's heart as if it was the only natural
home for her to nestle in. Oh, thou poor panting little
soul! The very finest tree in the whole forest, with the
straightest stem, and the strongest arms, and the
thickest foliage, wherein you choose to build and coo, may
be marked, for what you know, and may be down with a
crash ere long. What an old, old simile that is, between
man and timber!
In the meanwhile, George kissed her very kindly on
her forehead and glistening eyes, and was very gracious
and good; and she thought his diamond shirt-pin (which
she had not known him to wear before) the prettiest
ornament ever seen.
The observant reader, who has marked our young
Lieutenant's previous behaviour, and has preserved our
report of the brief conversation which he has just had
with Captain Dobbin, has possibly come to certain
conclusions regarding the character of Mr. Osborne. Some
cynical Frenchman has said that there are two parties to
a love-transaction: the one who loves and the other who
condescends to be so treated. Perhaps the love is
occasionally on the man's side; perhaps on the lady's.
Perhaps some infatuated swain has ere this mistaken
insensibility for modesty, dulness for maiden reserve, mere
vacuity for sweet bashfulness, and a goose, in a word,
for a swan. Perhaps some beloved female subscriber has
arrayed an ass in the splendour and glory of her
imagination; admired his dulness as manly simplicity;
worshipped his selfishness as manly superiority; treated his
stupidity as majestic gravity, and used him as the
brilliant fairy Titania did a certain weaver at Athens. I think
I have seen such comedies of errors going on in the
world. But this is certain, that Amelia believed her lover
to be one of the most gallant and brilliant men in the
empire: and it is possible Lieutenant Osborne thought
so too.
He was a little wild: how many young men are; and
don't girls like a rake better than a milksop? He hadn't
sown his wild oats as yet, but he would soon: and quit
the army now that peace was proclaimed; the Corsican
monster locked up at Elba; promotion by consequence
over; and no chance left for the display of his undoubted
military talents and valour: and his allowance, with
Amelia's settlement, would enable them to take a snug
place in the country somewhere, in a good sporting
neighbourhood; and he would hunt a little, and farm a
little; and they would be very happy. As for remaining
in the army as a married man, that was impossible.
Fancy Mrs. George Osborne in lodgings in a county
town; or, worse still, in the East or West Indies, with a
society of officers, and patronized by Mrs. Major O'Dowd!
Amelia died with laughing at Osborne's stories about
Mrs. Major O'Dowd. He loved her much too fondly to
subject her to that horrid woman and her vulgarities,
and the rough treatment of a soldier's wife. He didn't
care for himself--not he; but his dear little girl should
take the place in society to which, as his wife, she was
entitled: and to these proposals you may be sure she
acceded, as she would to any other from the same author.
Holding this kind of conversation, and building
numberless castles in the air (which Amelia adorned with all
sorts of flower-gardens, rustic walks, country churches,
Sunday schools, and the like; while George had his
mind's eye directed to the stables, the kennel, and the
cellar), this young pair passed away a couple of hours
very pleasantly; and as the Lieutenant had only that
single day in town, and a great deal of most important
business to transact, it was proposed that Miss Emmy should
dine with her future sisters-in-law. This invitation was
accepted joyfully. He conducted her to his sisters; where
he left her talking and prattling in a way that astonished
those ladies, who thought that George might make
something of her; and he then went off to transact
his business.
In a word, he went out and ate ices at a pastry-cook's
shop in Charing Cross; tried a new coat in Pall Mall;
dropped in at the Old Slaughters', and called for Captain
Cannon; played eleven games at billiards with the
Captain, of which he won eight, and returned to Russell
Square half an hour late for dinner, but in very good
It was not so with old Mr. Osborne. When that
gentleman came from the City, and was welcomed in the
drawing-room by his daughters and the elegant Miss
Wirt, they saw at once by his face--which was puffy,
solemn, and yellow at the best of times--and by the
scowl and twitching of his black eyebrows, that the heart
within his large white waistcoat was disturbed and
uneasy. When Amelia stepped forward to salute him, which
she always did with great trembling and timidity, he gave
a surly grunt of recognition, and dropped the little hand
out of his great hirsute paw without any attempt to hold
it there. He looked round gloomily at his eldest daughter; who, comprehending the
meaning of his look, which
asked unmistakably, "Why the devil is she here?" said
at once:
"George is in town, Papa; and has gone to the Horse
Guards, and will be back to dinner."
"O he is, is he? I won't have the dinner kept waiting
for him, Jane"; with which this worthy man lapsed into
his particular chair, and then the utter silence in his
genteel, well-furnished drawing-room was only
interrupted by the alarmed ticking of the great French clock.
When that chronometer, which was surmounted by a
cheerful brass group of the sacrifice of Iphigenia, tolled
five in a heavy cathedral tone, Mr. Osborne pulled the
bell at his right hand-violently, and the butler rushed up.
"Dinner!" roared Mr. Osborne.
"Mr. George isn't come in, sir," interposed the man.
"Damn Mr. George, sir. Am I master of the house?
DINNER!~ Mr. Osborne scowled. Amelia trembled. A
telegraphic communication of eyes passed between the other
three ladies. The obedient bell in the lower regions began
ringing the announcement of the meal. The tolling over,
the head of the family thrust his hands into the great
tail-pockets of his great blue coat with brass buttons, and
without waiting for a further announcement strode
downstairs alone, scowling over his shoulder at the four
"What's the matter now, my dear?" asked one of the
other, as they rose and tripped gingerly behind the sire.
"I suppose the funds are falling," whispered Miss Wirt;
and so, trembling and in silence, this hushed female
company followed their dark leader. They took their places
in silence. He growled out a blessing, which sounded as
gruffly as a curse. The great silver dish-covers were
removed. Amelia trembled in her place, for she was next
to the awful Osborne, and alone on her side of the table
--the gap being occasioned by the absence of George.
"Soup?" says Mr. Osborne, clutching the ladle, fixing
his eyes on her, in a sepulchral tone; and having helped
her and the rest, did not speak for a while.
"Take Miss Sedley's plate away," at last he said. "She
can't eat the soup--no more can I. It's beastly. Take away
the soup, Hicks, and to-morrow turn the cook out of
the house, Jane."
Having concluded his observations upon the soup, Mr.
Osborne made a few curt remarks respecting the fish,
also of a savage and satirical tendency, and cursed
Billingsgate with an emphasis quite worthy of the place.
Then he lapsed into silence, and swallowed sundry
glasses of wine, looking more and more terrible, till a
brisk knock at the door told of George's arrival when
everybody began to rally.
"He could not come before. General Daguilet had kept
him waiting at the Horse Guards. Never mind soup or
fish. Give him anything--he didn't care what. Capital
mutton--capital everything." His good humour contrasted
with his father's severity; and he rattled on unceasingly
during dinner, to the delight of all--of one especially,
who need not be mentioned.
As soon as the young ladies had discussed the orange
and the glass of wine which formed the ordinary
conclusion of the dismal banquets at Mr. Osborne's house,
the signal to make sail for the drawing-room was given,
and they all arose and departed. Amelia hoped George
would soon join them there. She began playing some of
his favourite waltzes (then newly imported) at the great
carved-legged, leather-cased grand piano in the drawingroom
overhead. This little artifice did not bring him. He
was deaf to the waltzes; they grew fainter and fainter;
the discomfited performer left the huge instrument
presently; and though her three friends performed some of
the loudest and most brilliant new pieces of their
repertoire, she did not hear a single note, but sate thinking,
and boding evil. Old Osborne's scowl, terrific always, had
never before looked so deadly to her. His eyes followed
her out of the room, as if she had been guilty of something.
When they brought her coffee, she started as
though it were a cup of poison which Mr. Hicks, the
butler, wished to propose to her. What mystery was
there lurking? Oh, those women! They nurse and cuddle
their presentiments, and make darlings of their ugliest
thoughts, as they do of their deformed children.
The gloom on the paternal countenance had also
impressed George Osborne with anxiety. With such
eyebrows, and a look so decidedly bilious, how was he to
extract that money from the governor, of which George
was consumedly in want? He began praising his father's
wine. That was generally a successful means of cajoling
the old gentleman.
"We never got such Madeira in the West Indies, sir, as
yours. Colonel Heavytop took off three bottles of that you
sent me down, under his belt the other day."
"Did he?" said the old gentleman. "It stands me in
eight shillings a bottle."
"Will you take six guineas a dozen for it, sir?" said
George, with a laugh. "There's one of the greatest men in
the kingdom wants some."
"Does he?" growled the senior. "Wish he may get it."
"When General Daguilet was at Chatham, sir, Heavytop
gave him a breakfast, and asked me for some of the
wine. The General liked it just as well--wanted a pipe
for the Commander-in-Chief. He's his Royal Highness's
right-hand man."
"It is devilish fine wine," said the Eyebrows, and they
looked more good-humoured; and George was going to
take advantage of this complacency, and bring the
supply question on the mahogany, when the father, relapsing
into solemnity, though rather cordial in manner, bade
him ring the bell for claret. "And we'll see if that's as
good as the Madeira, George, to which his Royal
Highness is welcome, I'm sure. And as we are drinking it,
I'll talk to you about a matter of importance."
Amelia heard the claret bell ringing as she sat
nervously upstairs. She thought, somehow, it was a
mysterious and presentimental bell. Of the presentiments
which some people are always having, some surely
must come right.
"What I want to know, George," the old gentleman
said, after slowly smacking his first bumper--"what I
want to know is, how you and--ah--that little thing
upstairs, are carrying on?"
"I think, sir, it is not hard to see," George said, with a
self-satisfied grin. "Pretty clear, sir.--What capital wine!"
"What d'you mean, pretty clear, sir?"
"Why, hang it, sir, don't push me too hard. I'm a
modest man. I--ah--I don't set up to be a lady-killer;
but I do own that she's as devilish fond of me as she
can be. Anybody can see that with half an eye."
"And you yourself?"
"Why, sir, didn't you order me to marry her, and ain't
I a good boy? Haven't our Papas settled it ever so long?"
"A pretty boy, indeed. Haven't I heard of your doings,
sir, with Lord Tarquin, Captain Crawley of the Guards,
~the Honourable Mr. Deuceace and that set. Have a care
sir, have a care."
The old gentleman pronounced these aristocratic
names with the greatest gusto. Whenever he met a great
man he grovelled before him, and my-lorded him as only
a free-born Briton can do. He came home and looked
out his history in the Peerage: he introduced his name
into his daily conversation; he bragged about his
Lordship to his daughters. He fell down prostrate and basked
in him as a Neapolitan beggar does in the sun. George
was alarmed when he heard the names. He feared his
father might have been informed of certain transactions
at play. But the old moralist eased him by saying
"Well, well, young men will be young men. And the
comfort to me is, George, that living in the best society
in England, as I hope you do; as I think you do; as my
means will allow you to do--"
"Thank you, sir," says George, making his point at
once. "One can't live with these great folks for nothing;
and my purse, sir, look at it"; and he held up a little
token which had been netted by Amelia, and contained
the very last of Dobbin's pound notes.
"You shan't want, sir. The British merchant's son
shan't want, sir. My guineas are as good as theirs,
George, my boy; and I don't grudge 'em. Call on Mr.
Chopper as you go through the City to-morrow; he'll
have something for you. I don't grudge money when I
know you're in good society, because I know that good
society can never go wrong. There's no pride in me. I
was a humbly born man--but you have had advantages.
Make a good use of 'em. Mix with the young nobility.
There's many of 'em who can't spend a dollar to your
guinea, my boy. And as for the pink bonnets (here from
under the heavy eyebrows there came a knowing and not
very pleasing leer)--why boys will be boys. Only there's
one thing I order you to avoid, which, if you do not, I'll
cut you off with a shilling, by Jove; and that's gambling,
"Oh, of course, sir," said George.
"But to return to the other business about Amelia:
why shouldn't you marry higher than a stockbroker's
daughter, George--that's what I want to know?"
"It's a family business, sir,".says George, cracking
filberts. "You and Mr. Sedley made the match a hundred
years ago."
"I don't deny it; but people's positions alter, sir. I don't
deny that Sedley made my fortune, or rather put me in
the way of acquiring, by my own talents and genius, that
proud position, which, I may say, I occupy in the tallow
trade and the City of London. I've shown my gratitude
to Sedley; and he's tried it of late, sir, as my cheque-book
can show. George! I tell you in confidence I don't
like the looks of Mr. Sedley's affairs. My chief clerk,
Mr. Chopper, does not like the looks of 'em, and he's an
old file, and knows 'Change as well as any man in
London. Hulker & Bullock are looking shy at him. He's been
dabbling on his own account I fear. They say the Jeune
Amelie was his, which was taken by the Yankee
privateer Molasses. And that's flat--unless I see Amelia's ten
thousand down you don't marry her. I'll have no lame
duck's daughter in my family. Pass the wine, sir--or
ring for coffee."
With which Mr. Osborne spread out the evening
paper, and George knew from this signal that the
colloquy was ended, and that his papa was about to
take a nap.
He hurried upstairs to Amelia in the highest spirits.
What was it that made him more attentive to her on that
night than he had been for a long time--more eager to
amuse her, more tender, more brilliant in talk? Was it
that his generous heart warmed to her at the prospect of
misfortune; or that the idea of losing the dear little prize
made him value it more?
She lived upon the recollections of that happy evening
for many days afterwards, remembering his words; his
looks; the song he sang; his attitude, as he leant over her
or looked at her from a distance. As it seemed to her,
no night ever passed so quickly at Mr. Osborne's house
before; and for once this young person was almost
provoked to be angry by the premature arrival of Mr.
Sambo with her shawl.
George came and took a tender leave of her the next
morning; and then hurried off to the City, where he
visited Mr. Chopper, his father's head man, and received
from that gentleman a document which he exchanged at
Hulker & Bullock's for a whole pocketful of money. As
George entered the house, old John Sedley was passing
out of the banker's parlour, looking very dismal. But his
godson was much too elated to mark the worthy
stockbroker's depression, or the dreary eyes which the kind
old gentleman cast upon him. Young Bullock did not
come grinning out of the parlour with him as had been
his wont in former years.
And as the swinging doors of Hulker, Bullock & Co.
closed upon Mr. Sedley, Mr. Quill, the cashier (whose
benevolent occupation it is to hand out crisp bank-notes
from a drawer and dispense sovereigns out of a copper
shovel), winked at Mr. Driver, the clerk at the desk on
his right. Mr. Driver winked again.
"No go," Mr. D. whispered.
"Not at no price," Mr. Q. said. "Mr. George Osborne,
sir, how will you take it?" George crammed eagerly a
quantity of notes into his pockets, and paid Dobbin fifty
pounds that very evening at mess.
That very evening Amelia wrote him the tenderest of
long letters. Her heart was overflowing with tenderness,
but it still foreboded evil. What was the cause of Mr.
Osborne's dark looks? she asked. Had any difference
arisen between him and her papa? Her poor papa
returned so melancholy from the City, that all were
alarmed about him at home--in fine, there were four
pages of loves and fears and hopes and forebodings.
"Poor little Emmy--dear little Emmy. How fond she
is of me," George said, as he perused the missive--"and
Gad, what a headache that mixed punch has given me!"
Poor little Emmy, indeed.
Miss Crawley at Home
About this time there drove up to an exceedingly snug
and well-appointed house in Park Lane, a travelling chariot
with a lozenge on the panels, a discontented female in a
green veil and crimped curls on the rumble, and a large
and confidential man on the box. It was the equipage of
our friend Miss Crawley, returning from Hants. The
carriage windows were shut; the fat spaniel, whose head and
tongue ordinarily lolled out of one of them, reposed on the
lap of the discontented female. When the vehicle stopped,
a large round bundle of shawls was taken out of the
carriage by the aid of various domestics and a young
lady who accompanied the heap of cloaks. That bundle
contained Miss Crawley, who was conveyed upstairs
forthwith, and put into a bed and chamber warmed properly
as for the reception of an invalid. Messengers went off
for her physician and medical man. They came,
consulted, prescribed, vanished. The young companion of
Miss Crawley, at the conclusion of their interview, came
in to receive their instructions, and administered those
antiphlogistic medicines which the eminent men ordered.
Captain Crawley of the Life Guards rode up from
Knightsbridge Barracks the next day; his black charger
pawed the straw before his invalid aunt's door. He was
most affectionate in his inquiries regarding that amiable
relative. There seemed to be much source of apprehension.
He found Miss Crawley's maid (the discontented
female) unusually sulky and despondent; he found Miss
Briggs, her dame de compagnie, in tears alone in the
drawing-room. She had hastened home, hearing of her
beloved friend's illness. She wished to fly to her couch,
that couch which she, Briggs, had so often smoothed in
the hour of sickness. She was denied admission to Miss
Crawley's apartment. A stranger was administering her
medicines--a stranger from the country--an odious Miss
. . .--tears choked the utterance of the dame de
compagnie, and she buried her crushed affections and her
poor old red nose in her pocket handkerchief.
Rawdon Crawley sent up his name by the sulky femme
de chambre, and Miss Crawley's new companion, coming
tripping down from the sick-room, put a little hand into
his as he stepped forward eagerly to meet her, gave a
glance of great scorn at the bewildered Briggs, and
beckoning the young Guardsman out of the back drawingroom,
led him downstairs into that now desolate diningparlour,
where so many a good dinner had been
Here these two talked for ten minutes, discussing, no
doubt, the symptoms of the old invalid above stairs; at
the end of which period the parlour bell was rung briskly,
and answered on that instant by Mr. Bowls, Miss
Crawley's large confidential butler (who, indeed, happened to
be at the keyhole during the most part of the interview);
and the Captain coming out, curling his mustachios,
mounted the black charger pawing among the straw, to
the admiration of the little blackguard boys collected in
the street. He looked in at the dining-room window,
managing his horse, which curvetted and capered beautifully
--for one instant the young person might be seen at the
window, when her figure vanished, and, doubtless, she
went upstairs again to resume the affecting duties of
Who could this young woman be, I wonder? That
evening a little dinner for two persons was laid in the diningroom--
when Mrs. Firkin, the lady's maid, pushed into her
mistress's apartment, and bustled about there during
the vacancy occasioned by the departure of the new
nurse--and the latter and Miss Briggs sat down to the
neat little meal.
Briggs was so much choked by emotion that she could
hardly take a morsel of meat. The young person carved a
fowl with the utmost delicacy, and asked so distinctly for
egg-sauce, that poor Briggs, before whom that delicious
condiment was placed, started, made a great clattering
with the ladle, and once more fell back in the most
gushing hysterical state.
"Had you not better give Miss Briggs a glass of wine?"
said the person to Mr. Bowls, the large confidential man.
He did so. Briggs seized it mechanically, gasped it down
convulsively, moaned a little, and began to play with the
chicken on her plate.
"I think we shall be able to help each other," said
the person with great suavity: "and shall have no need
of Mr. Bowls's kind services. Mr. Bowls, if you please,
we will ring when we want you." He went downstairs,
where, by the way, he vented the most horrid curses
upon the unoffending footman, his subordinate.
"It is a pity you take on so, Miss Briggs," the young
lady said, with a cool, slightly sarcastic, air.
"My dearest friend is so ill, and wo--o--on't see
me," gurgled out Briggs in an agony of renewed grief.
"She's not very ill any more. Console yourself, dear
Miss Briggs. She has only overeaten herself--that is all.
She is greatly better. She will soon be quite restored again.
She is weak from being cupped and from medical
treatment, but she will rally immediately. Pray console
yourself, and take a little more wine."
"But why, why won't she see me again?" Miss Briggs
bleated out. "Oh, Matilda, Matilda, after three-andtwenty
years' tenderness! is this the return to your poor,
poor Arabella?"
"Don't cry too much, poor Arabella," the other said
(with ever so little of a grin); "she only won't see you,
because she says you don't nurse her as well as I do.
It's no pleasure to me to sit up all night. I wish you
might do it instead."
"Have I not tended that dear couch for years?"
Arabella said, "and now--"
"Now she prefers somebody else. Well, sick people
have these fancies, and must be humoured. When she's
well I shall go."
"Never, never," Arabella exclaimed, madly inhaling her
"Never be well or never go, Miss Briggs?" the other
said, with the same provoking good-nature. "Pooh--she
will be well in a fortnight, when I shall go back to my
little pupils at Queen's Crawley, and to their mother,
who is a great deal more sick than our friend. You need
not be jealous about me, my dear Miss Briggs. I am a
poor little girl without any friends, or any harm in me.
I don't want to supplant you in Miss Crawley's good
graces. She will forget me a week after I am gone: and
her affection for you has been the work of years. Give
me a little wine if you please, my dear Miss Briggs,
and let us be friends. I'm sure I want friends."
The placable and soft-hearted Briggs speechlessly
pushed out her hand at this appeal; but she felt the
desertion most keenly for all that, and bitterly, bitterly
moaned the fickleness of her Matilda. At the end of half
an hour, the meal over, Miss Rebecca Sharp (for such,
astonishing to state, is the name of her who has been
described ingeniously as "the person" hitherto), went
upstairs again to her patient's rooms, from which, with
the most engaging politeness, she eliminated poor Firkin.
"Thank you, Mrs. Firkin, that will quite do; how nicely
you make it! I will ring when anything is wanted." "Thank
you"; and Firkin came downstairs in a tempest of
jealousy, only the more dangerous because she was forced
to confine it in her own bosom.
Could it be the tempest which, as she passed the
landing of the first floor, blew open the drawing-room door?
No; it was stealthily opened by the hand of Briggs.
Briggs had been on the watch. Briggs too well heard the
creaking Firkin descend the stairs, and the clink of the
spoon and gruel-basin the neglected female carried.
"Well, Firkin?" says she, as the other entered the
apartment. "Well, Jane?"
"Wuss and wuss, Miss B.," Firkin said, wagging her
"Is she not better then?"
"She never spoke but once, and I asked her if she felt
a little more easy, and she told me to hold my stupid
tongue. Oh, Miss B., I never thought to have seen this
day!" And the water-works again began to play.
"What sort of a person is this Miss Sharp, Firkin? I
little thought, while enjoying my Christmas revels in the
elegant home of my firm friends, the Reverend Lionel
Delamere and his amiable lady, to find a stranger had
taken my place in the affections of my dearest, my still
dearest Matilda!" Miss Briggs, it will be seen by her
language, was of a literary and sentimental turn, and had
once published a volume of poems--"Trills of the
Nightingale"--by subscription.
"Miss B., they are all infatyated about that young
woman," Firkin replied. "Sir Pitt wouldn't have let her
go, but he daredn't refuse Miss Crawley anything. Mrs.
Bute at the Rectory jist as bad--never happy out of her
sight. The Capting quite wild about her. Mr. Crawley
mortial jealous. Since Miss C. was took ill, she won't
have nobody near her but Miss Sharp, I can't tell for
where nor for why; and I think somethink has bewidged
Rebecca passed that night in constant watching upon
Miss Crawley; the next night the old lady slept so
comfortably, that Rebecca had time for several hours'
comfortable repose herself on the sofa, at the foot of her
patroness's bed; very soon, Miss Crawley was so well
that she sat up and laughed heartily at a perfect
imitation of Miss Briggs and her grief, which Rebecca
described to her. Briggs' weeping snuffle, and her manner
of using the handkerchief, were so completely rendered
that Miss Crawley became quite cheerful, to the
admiration of the doctors when they visited her, who usually
found this worthy woman of the world, when the least
sickness attacked her, under the most abject depression
and terror of death.
Captain Crawley came every day, and received bulletins
from Miss Rebecca respecting his aunt's health.
This improved so rapidly, that poor Briggs was allowed
to see her patroness; and persons with tender hearts
may imagine the smothered emotions of that sentimental
female, and the affecting nature of the interview.
Miss Crawley liked to have Briggs in a good deal
soon. Rebecca used to mimic her to her face with the
most admirable gravity, thereby rendering the imitation
doubly piquant to her worthy patroness.
The causes which had led to the deplorable illness of
Miss Crawley, and her departure from her brother's
house in the country, were of such an unromantic nature
that they are hardly fit to be explained in this genteel
and sentimental novel. For how is it possible to hint of a
delicate female, living in good society, that she ate and
drank too much, and that a hot supper of lobsters
profusely enjoyed at the Rectory was the reason of an
indisposition which Miss Crawley herself persisted was
solely attributable to the dampness of the weather? The
attack was so sharp that Matilda--as his Reverence
expressed it--was very nearly "off the hooks"; all the
family were in a fever of expectation regarding the will,
and Rawdon Crawley was making sure of at least forty
thousand pounds before the commencement of the
London season. Mr. Crawley sent over a choice parcel of
tracts, to prepare her for the change from Vanity Fair
and Park Lane for another world; but a good doctor
from Southampton being called in in time, vanquished
the lobster which was so nearly fatal to her, and gave
her sufficient strength to enable her to return to London.
The Baronet did not disguise his exceeding mortification
at the turn which affairs took.
While everybody was attending on Miss Crawley, and
messengers every hour from the Rectory were carrying
news of her health to the affectionate folks there, there
was a lady in another part of the house, being exceedingly
ill, of whom no one took any notice at all; and this was
the lady of Crawley herself. The good doctor shook his
head after seeing her; to which visit Sir Pitt consented,
as it could be paid without a fee; and she was left fading
away in her lonely chamber, with no more heed paid to
her than to a weed in the park.
The young ladies, too, lost much of the inestimable
benefit of their governess's instruction, So affectionate a
nurse was Miss Sharp, that Miss Crawley would take
her medicines from no other hand. Firkin had been
deposed long before her mistress's departure from the
country. That faithful attendant found a gloomy consolation
on returning to London, in seeing Miss Briggs suffer
the same pangs of jealousy and undergo the same
faithless treatment to which she herself had been subject.
Captain Rawdon got an extension of leave on his
aunt's illness, and remained dutifully at home. He was
always in her antechamber. (She lay sick in the state
bedroom, into which you entered by the little blue
saloon.) His father was always meeting him there; or if he
came down the corridor ever so quietly, his father's
door was sure to open, and the hyena face of the old
gentleman to glare out. What was it set one to watch
the other so? A generous rivalry, no doubt, as to which
should be most attentive to the dear sufferer in the state
bedroom. Rebecca used to come out and comfort both
of them; or one or the other of them rather. Both of
these worthy gentlemen were most anxious to have news
of the invalid from her little confidential messenger.
At dinner--to which meal she descended for half an
hour--she kept the peace between them: after which she
disappeared for the night; when Rawdon would ride over
to the depot of the 150th at Mudbury, leaving his papa
to the society of Mr. Horrocks and his rum and water.
She passed as weary a fortnight as ever mortal spent in
Miss Crawley's sick-room; but her little nerves seemed
to be of iron, as she was quite unshaken by the duty and
the tedium of the sick-chamber.
She never told until long afterwards how painful that
duty was; how peevish a patient was the jovial old lady;
how angry; how sleepless; in what horrors of death;
during what long nights she lay moaning, and in almost
delirious agonies respecting that future world which she
quite ignored when she was in good health.--Picture to
yourself, oh fair young reader, a worldly, selfish,
graceless, thankless, religionless old woman, writhing in pain
and fear, and without her wig. Picture her to yourself,
and ere you be old, learn to love and pray!
Sharp watched this graceless bedside with indomitable
patience. Nothing escaped her; and, like a prudent steward,
she found a use for everything. She told many a
good story about Miss Crawley's illness in after days--
stories which made the lady blush through her artificial
carnations. During the illness she was never out of
temper; always alert; she slept light, having a perfectly clear
conscience; and could take that refreshment at almost
any minute's warning. And so you saw very few traces of
fatigue in her appearance. Her face might be a trifle
paler, and the circles round her eyes a little blacker than
usual; but whenever she came out from the sick-room
she was always smiling, fresh, and neat, and looked as
trim in her little dressing-gown and cap, as in her
smartest evening suit.
The Captain thought so, and raved about her in
uncouth convulsions. The barbed shaft of love had
penetrated his dull hide. Six weeks--appropinquity--
opportunity--had victimised him completely. He made a
confidante of his aunt at the Rectory, of all persons in the
world. She rallied him about it; she had perceived his
folly; she warned him; she finished by owning that little
Sharp was the most clever, droll, odd, good-natured,
simple, kindly creature in England. Rawdon must not
trifle with her affections, though--dear Miss Crawley
would never pardon him for that; for she, too, was quite
overcome by the little governess, and loved Sharp like a
daughter. Rawdon must go away--go back to his
regiment and naughty London, and not play with a poor
artless girl's feelings.
Many and many a time this good-natured lady,
compassionating the forlorn life-guardsman's condition,
gave him an opportunity of seeing Miss Sharp at the Rectory,
and of walking home with her, as we have seen. When
men of a certain sort, ladies, are in love, though they
see the hook and the string, and the whole apparatus
with which they are to be taken, they gorge the bait
nevertheless--they must come to it--they must swallow
it--and are presently struck and landed gasping. Rawdon
saw there was a manifest intention on Mrs. Bute's part
to captivate him with Rebecca. He was not very wise;
but he was a man about town, and had seen several
seasons. A light dawned upon his dusky soul, as he thought,
through a speech of Mrs. Bute's.
"Mark my words, Rawdon," she said. "You will have
Miss Sharp one day for your relation."
"What relation--my cousin, hey, Mrs. Bute? James
sweet on her, hey?" inquired the waggish officer.
"More than that," Mrs. Bute said, with a flash from
her black eyes.
"Not Pitt? He sha'n't have her. The sneak a'n't
worthy of her. He's booked to Lady Jane Sheepshanks."
"You men perceive nothing. You silly, blind creature
--if anything happens to Lady Crawley, Miss Sharp will
be your mother-in-law; and that's what will happen."
Rawdon Crawley, Esquire, gave vent to a prodigious
whistle, in token of astonishment at this announcement.
He couldn't deny it. His father's evident liking for Miss
Sharp had not escaped him. He knew the old gentleman's
character well; and a more unscrupulous old--whyou--
he did not conclude the sentence, but walked home,
curling his mustachios, and convinced he had found a
clue to Mrs. Bute's mystery.
"By Jove, it's too bad," thought Rawdon, "too bad, by
Jove! I do believe the woman wants the poor girl to be
ruined, in order that she shouldn't come into the family
as Lady Crawley."
When he saw Rebecca alone, he rallied her about his
father's attachment in his graceful way. She flung up her
head scornfully, looked him full in the face, and said,
"Well, suppose he is fond of me. I know he is, and
others too. You don't think I am afraid of him, Captain
Crawley? You don't suppose I can't defend my own
honour," said the little woman, looking as stately as a
"Oh, ah, why--give you fair warning--look out, you
know--that's all," said the mustachio-twiddler.
"You hint at something not honourable, then?" said
she, flashing out.
"O Gad--really--Miss Rebecca," the heavy dragoon
"Do you suppose I have no feeling of self-respect,
because I am poor and friendless, and because rich people
have none? Do you think, because I am a governess, I
have not as much sense, and feeling, and good breeding
as you gentlefolks in Hampshire? I'm a Montmorency.
Do you suppose a Montmorency is not as good as a
When Miss Sharp was agitated, and alluded to her
maternal relatives, she spoke with ever so slight a
foreign accent, which gave a great charm to her clear
ringing voice. "No," she continued, kindling as she spoke to
the Captain; "I can endure poverty, but not shame--
neglect, but not insult; and insult from--from you."
Her feelings gave way, and she burst into tears.
"Hang it, Miss Sharp--Rebecca--by Jove--upon my
soul, I wouldn't for a thousand pounds. Stop, Rebecca!"
She was gone. She drove out with Miss Crawley that
day. It was before the latter's illness. At dinner she was
unusually brilliant and lively; but she would take no
notice of the hints, or the nods, or the clumsy expostulations
of the humiliated, infatuated guardsman. Skirmishes
of this sort passed perpetually during the little campaign
--tedious to relate, and similar in result. The Crawley
heavy cavalry was maddened by defeat, and routed
every day.
If the Baronet of Queen's Crawley had not had the
fear of losing his sister's legacy before his eyes, he never
would have permitted his dear girls to lose the educational
blessings which their invaluable governess was conferring
upon them. The old house at home seemed a desert
without her, so useful and pleasant had Rebecca
made herself there. Sir Pitt's letters were not copied and
corrected; his books not made up; his household
business and manifold schemes neglected, now that his little
secretary was away. And it was easy to see how necessary
such an amanuensis was to him, by the tenor and
spelling of the numerous letters which he sent to her,
entreating her and commanding her to return. Almost every
day brought a frank from the Baronet, enclosing the
most urgent prayers to Becky for her return, or conveying
pathetic statements to Miss Crawley, regarding the
neglected state of his daughters' education; of which
documents Miss Crawley took very little heed.
Miss Briggs was not formally dismissed, but her place
as companion was a sinecure and a derision; and her
company was the fat spaniel in the drawing-room, or
occasionally the discontented Firkin in the housekeeper's
closet. Nor though the old lady would by no means
hear of Rebecca's departure, was the latter regularly
installed in office in Park Lane. Like many wealthy people,
it was Miss Crawley's habit to accept as much service as
she could get from her inferiors; and good-naturedly to
take leave of them when she no longer found them
useful. Gratitude among certain rich folks is scarcely natural
or to be thought of. They take needy people's services
as their due. Nor have you, O poor parasite and humble
hanger-on, much reason to complain! Your friendship
for Dives is about as sincere as the return which it usually
gets. It is money you love, and not the man; and were
Croesus and his footman to change places you know,
you poor rogue, who would have the benefit of your
And I am not sure that, in spite of Rebecca's simplicity
and activity, and gentleness and untiring good
humour, the shrewd old London lady, upon whom these
treasures of friendship were lavished, had not a lurking
suspicion all the while of her affectionate nurse and friend.
It must have often crossed Miss Crawley's mind that
nobody does anything for nothing. If she measured her own
feeling towards the world, she must have been pretty
well able to gauge those of the world towards herself;
and perhaps she reflected that it is the ordinary lot of
people to have no friends if they themselves care for
Well, meanwhile Becky was the greatest comfort and
convenience to her, and she gave her a couple of new
gowns, and an old necklace and shawl, and showed her
friendship by abusing all her intimate acquaintances to
her new confidante (than which there can't be a more
touching proof of regard), and meditated vaguely some
great future benefit--to marry her perhaps to Clump,
the apothecary, or to settle her in some advantageous
way of life; or at any rate, to send her back to Queen's
Crawley when she had done with her, and the full
London season had begun.
When Miss Crawley was convalescent and descended
to the drawing-room, Becky sang to her, and otherwise
amused her; when she was well enough to drive out,
Becky accompanied her. And amongst the drives which
they took, whither, of all places in the world, did Miss
Crawley's admirable good-nature and friendship actually
induce her to penetrate, but to Russell Square,
Bloomsbury, and the house of John Sedley, Esquire.
Ere that event, many notes had passed, as may be
imagined, between the two dear friends. During the
months of Rebecca's stay in Hampshire, the eternal
friendship had (must it be owned?) suffered considerable
diminution, and grown so decrepit and feeble with old
age as to threaten demise altogether. The fact is, both
girls had their own real affairs to think of: Rebecca her
advance with her employers--Amelia her own absorbing
topic. When the two girls met, and flew into each other's
arms with that impetuosity which distinguishes the
behaviour of young ladies towards each other, Rebecca
performed her part of the embrace with the most perfect
briskness and energy. Poor little Amelia blushed as she
kissed her friend, and thought she had been guilty of
something very like coldness towards her.
Their first interview was but a very short one. Amelia
was just ready to go out for a walk. Miss Crawley was
waiting in her carriage below, her people wondering at
the locality in which they found themselves, and gazing
upon honest Sambo, the black footman of Bloomsbury,
as one of the queer natives of the place. But when Amelia
came down with her kind smiling looks (Rebecca must
introduce her to her friend, Miss Crawley was longing
to see her, and was too ill to leave her carriage)--when,
I say, Amelia came down, the Park Lane shoulder-knot
aristocracy wondered more and more that such a thing
could come out of Bloomsbury; and Miss Crawley was
fairly captivated by the sweet blushing face of the young
lady who came forward so timidly and so gracefully to
pay her respects to the protector of her friend.
"What a complexion, my dear! What a sweet voice!"
Miss Crawley said, as they drove away westward after
the little interview. "My dear Sharp, your young friend
is charming. Send for her to Park Lane, do you hear?"
Miss Crawley had a good taste. She liked natural
manners--a little timidity only set them off. She liked pretty
faces near her; as she liked pretty pictures and nice
china. She talked of Amelia with rapture half a dozen
times that day. She mentioned her to Rawdon Crawley,
who came dutifully to partake of his aunt's chicken.
Of course, on this Rebecca instantly stated that Amelia
was engaged to be married--to a Lieutenant Osborne--
a very old flame.
"Is he a man in a line-regiment?" Captain Crawley
asked, remembering after an effort, as became a
guardsman, the number of the regiment, the --th.
Rebecca thought that was the regiment. "The
Captain's name," she said, "was Captain Dobbin."
"A lanky gawky fellow," said Crawley, "tumbles over
everybody. I know him; and Osborne's a goodish-looking
fellow, with large black whiskers?"
"Enormous," Miss Rebecca Sharp said, "and
enormously proud of them, I assure you."
Captain Rawdon Crawley burst into a horse-laugh by
way of reply; and being pressed by the ladies to explain,
did so when the explosion of hilarity was over. "He
fancies he can play at billiards," said he. "I won two
hundred of him at the Cocoa-Tree. HE play, the young
flat! He'd have played for anything that day, but his friend
Captain Dobbin carried him off, hang him!"
"Rawdon, Rawdon, don't be so wicked," Miss Crawley
remarked, highly pleased.
"Why, ma'am, of all the young fellows I've seen out
of the line, I think this fellow's the greenest. Tarquin and
Deuceace get what money they like out of him. He'd go
to the deuce to be seen with a lord. He pays their
dinners at Greenwich, and they invite the company."
"And very pretty company too, I dare say."
"Quite right, Miss Sharp. Right, as usual, Miss Sharp.
Uncommon pretty company--haw, haw!" and the
Captain laughed more and more, thinking he had made a
good joke.
"Rawdon, don't be naughty!" his aunt exclaimed.
"Well, his father's a City man--immensely rich, they
say. Hang those City fellows, they must bleed; and I've
not done with him yet, I can tell you. Haw, haw!"
"Fie, Captain Crawley; I shall warn Amelia. A
gambling husband!"
"Horrid, ain't he, hey?" the Captain said with great
solemnity; and then added, a sudden thought having
struck him: "Gad, I say, ma'am, we'll have him here."
"Is he a presentable sort of a person?" the aunt
"Presentable?--oh, very well. You wouldn't see any
difference," Captain Crawley answered. "Do let's have
him, when you begin to see a few people; and his
whatdyecallem--his inamorato--eh, Miss Sharp; that's what
you call it--comes. Gad, I'll write him a note, and have
him; and I'll try if he can play piquet as well as billiards.
Where does he live, Miss Sharp?"
Miss Sharp told Crawley the Lieutenant's town address;
and a few days after this conversation, Lieutenant
Osborne received a letter, in Captain Rawdon's
schoolboy hand, and enclosing a note of invitation from
Miss Crawley.
Rebecca despatched also an invitation to her darling
Amelia, who, you may be sure, was ready enough to
accept it when she heard that George was to be of the
party. It was arranged that Amelia was to spend the
morning with the ladies of Park Lane, where all were
very kind to her. Rebecca patronised her with calm
superiority: she was so much the cleverer of the two, and
her friend so gentle and unassuming, that she always
yielded when anybody chose to command, and so took
Rebecca's orders with perfect meekness and good humour.
Miss Crawley's graciousness was also remarkable. She
continued her raptures about little Amelia, talked about
her before her face as if she were a doll, or a servant,
or a picture, and admired her with the most benevolent
wonder possible. I admire that admiration which the
genteel world sometimes extends to the commonalty.
There is no more agreeable object in life than to see
Mayfair folks condescending. Miss Crawley's prodigious
benevolence rather fatigued poor little Amelia, and I am
not sure that of the three ladies in Park Lane she did
not find honest Miss Briggs the most agreeable. She
sympathised with Briggs as with all neglected or gentle
people: she wasn't what you call a woman of spirit.
George came to dinner--a repast en garcon with
Captain Crawley.
The great family coach of the Osbornes transported
him to Park Lane from Russell Square; where the young
ladies, who were not themselves invited, and professed
the greatest indifference at that slight, nevertheless looked
at Sir Pitt Crawley's name in the baronetage; and learned
everything which that work had to teach about the
Crawley family and their pedigree, and the Binkies, their
relatives, &c., &c. Rawdon Crawley received George Osborne
with great frankness and graciousness: praised his play at
billiards: asked him when he would have his revenge:
was interested about Osborne's regiment: and would have
proposed piquet to him that very evening, but Miss
Crawley absolutely forbade any gambling in her house;
so that the young Lieutenant's purse was not lightened
by his gallant patron, for that day at least. However, they
made an engagement for the next, somewhere: to look
at a horse that Crawley had to sell, and to try him in the
Park; and to dine together, and to pass the evening with
some jolly fellows. "That is, if you're not on duty to that
pretty Miss Sedley," Crawley said, with a knowing wink.
"Monstrous nice girl, 'pon my honour, though, Osborne,"
he was good enough to add. "Lots of tin, I suppose, eh?"
Osborne wasn't on duty; he would join Crawley with
pleasure: and the latter, when they met the next day,
praised his new friend's horsemanship--as he might with
perfect honesty--and introduced him to three or four
young men of the first fashion, whose acquaintance
immensely elated the simple young officer.
"How's little Miss Sharp, by-the-bye?" Osborne inquired
of his friend over their wine, with a dandified air.
"Good-natured little girl that. Does she suit you well at
Queen's Crawley? Miss Sedley liked her a good deal last
Captain Crawley looked savagely at the Lieutenant out
of his little blue eyes, and watched him when he went up
to resume his acquaintance with the fair governess. Her
conduct must have relieved Crawley if there was any
jealousy in the bosom of that life-guardsman.
When the young men went upstairs, and after
Osborne's introduction to Miss Crawley, he walked up to
Rebecca with a patronising, easy swagger. He was going
to be kind to her and protect her. He would even shake
hands with her, as a friend of Amelia's; and saying, "Ah,
Miss Sharp! how-dy-doo?" held out his left hand towards
her, expecting that she would be quite confounded at
the honour.
Miss Sharp put out her right forefinger, and gave him
a little nod, so cool and killing, that Rawdon Crawley,
watching the operations from the other room, could
hardly restrain his laughter as he saw the Lieutenant's
entire discomfiture; the start he gave, the pause, and the
perfect clumsiness with which he at length condescended
to take the finger which was offered for his embrace.
"She'd beat the devil, by Jove!" the Captain said, in a
rapture; and the Lieutenant, by way of beginning the
conversation, agreeably asked Rebecca how she liked her
new place.
"My place?" said Miss Sharp, coolly, "how kind of you
to remind me of it! It's a tolerably good place: the wages
are pretty good--not so good as Miss Wirt's, I believe,
with your sisters in Russell Square. How are those young
ladies?--not that I ought to ask."
"Why not?" Mr. Osborne said, amazed.
"Why, they never condescended to speak to me, or to
ask me into their house, whilst I was staying with Amelia;
but we poor governesses, you know, are used to slights of
this sort."
"My dear Miss Sharp!" Osborne ejaculated.
"At least in some families," Rebecca continued. "You
can't think what a difference there is though. We are not
so wealthy in Hampshire as you lucky folks of the City.
But then I am in a gentleman's family--good old
English stock. I suppose you know Sir Pitt's father refused a
peerage. And you see how I am treated. I am pretty
comfortable. Indeed it is rather a good place. But how
very good of you to inquire!"
Osborne was quite savage. The little governess
patronised him and persiffled him until this young
British Lion felt quite uneasy; nor could he muster sufficient
presence of mind to find a pretext for backing out
of this most delectable conversation.
"I thought you liked the City families pretty well," he
said, haughtily.
"Last year you mean, when I was fresh from that
horrid vulgar school? Of course I did. Doesn't every girl like
to come home for the holidays? And how was I to know
any better? But oh, Mr. Osborne, what a difference
eighteen months' experience makes! eighteen months spent,
pardon me for saying so, with gentlemen. As for dear
Amelia, she, I grant you, is a pearl, and would be charming anywhere. There now, I see
you are beginning to be
in a good humour; but oh these queer odd City people!
And Mr. Jos--how is that wonderful Mr. Joseph?"
"It seems to me you didn't dislike that wonderful Mr.
Joseph last year," Osborne said kindly.
"How severe of you! Well, entre nous, I didn't break
my heart about him; yet if he had asked me to do what
you mean by your looks (and very expressive and kind
they are, too), I wouldn't have said no."
Mr. Osborne gave a look as much as to say, "Indeed,
how very obliging!"
"What an honour to have had you for a brother-in-law,
you are thinking? To be sister-in-law to George
Osborne, Esquire, son of John Osborne, Esquire, son of--
what was your grandpapa, Mr. Osborne? Well, don't be
angry. You can't help your pedigree, and I quite agree
with you that I would have married Mr. Joe Sedley; for
could a poor penniless girl do better? Now you know
the whole secret. I'm frank and open; considering all
things, it was very kind of you to allude to the
circumstance--very kind and polite. Amelia dear, Mr.
Osborne and I were talking about your poor brother Joseph.
How is he?"
Thus was George utterly routed. Not that Rebecca was
in the right; but she had managed most successfully to
put him in the wrong. And he now shamefully fled,
feeling, if he stayed another minute, that he would have
been made to look foolish in the presence of Amelia.
Though Rebecca had had the better of him, George was
above the meanness of talebearing or revenge upon a
lady--only he could not help cleverly confiding to
Captain Crawley, next day, some notions of his regarding
Miss Rebecca--that she was a sharp one, a dangerous
one, a desperate flirt, &c.; in all of which opinions
Crawley agreed laughingly, and with every one of which Miss
Rebecca was made acquainted before twenty-four hours
were over. They added to her original regard for Mr.
Osborne. Her woman's instinct had told her that it was
George who had interrupted the success of her first
love-passage, and she esteemed him accordingly.
"I only just warn you," he said to Rawdon Crawley,
with a knowing look--he had bought the horse, and lost
some score of guineas after dinner, "I just warn you--I
know women, and counsel you to be on the look-out."
"Thank you, my boy," said Crawley, with a look of
peculiar gratitude. "You're wide awake, I see." And
George went off, thinking Crawley was quite right.
He told Amelia of what he had done, and how he had
counselled Rawdon Crawley--a devilish good,
straightforward fellow--to be on his guard against that
little sly, scheming Rebecca.
"Against whom?" Amelia cried.
"Your friend the governess.--Don't look so astonished."
"O George, what have you done?" Amelia said. For her
woman's eyes, which Love had made sharp-sighted, had
in one instant discovered a secret which was invisible to
Miss Crawley, to poor virgin Briggs, and above all,
to the stupid peepers of that young whiskered prig,
Lieutenant Osborne.
For as Rebecca was shawling her in an upper apartment,
where these two friends had an opportunity for a
little of that secret talking and conspiring which form
the delight of female life, Amelia, coming up to Rebecca,
and taking her two little hands in hers, said, "Rebecca,
I see it all."
Rebecca kissed her.
And regarding this delightful secret, not one syllable
more was said by either of the young women. But it was
destined to come out before long.
Some short period after the above events, and Miss
Rebecca Sharp still remaining at her patroness's house
in Park Lane, one more hatchment might have been seen
in Great Gaunt Street, figuring amongst the many which
usually ornament that dismal quarter. It was over Sir
Pitt Crawley's house; but it did not indicate the worthy
baronet's demise. It was a feminine hatchment, and
indeed a few years back had served as a funeral compliment
to Sir Pitt's old mother, the late dowager Lady Crawley.
Its period of service over, the hatchment had come
down from the front of the house, and lived in retirement somewhere in the back premises
of Sir Pitt's mansion.
It reappeared now for poor Rose Dawson. Sir Pitt
was a widower again. The arms quartered on the shield
along with his own were not, to be sure, poor Rose's.
She had no arms. But the cherubs painted on the
scutcheon answered as well for her as for Sir Pitt's
mother, and Resurgam was written under the coat,
flanked by the Crawley Dove and Serpent. Arms and
Hatchments, Resurgam.--Here is an opportunity for
Mr. Crawley had tended that otherwise friendless
bedside. She went out of the world strengthened by such
words and comfort as he could give her. For many years
his was the only kindness she ever knew; the only
friendship that solaced in any way that feeble, lonely soul.
Her heart was dead long before her body. She had sold
it to become Sir Pitt Crawley's wife. Mothers and
daughters are making the same bargain every day in
Vanity Fair.
When the demise took place, her husband was in
London attending to some of his innumerable schemes,
and busy with his endless lawyers. He had found time,
nevertheless, to call often in Park Lane, and to despatch
many notes to Rebecca, entreating her, enjoining her,
commanding her to return to her young pupils in the
country, who were now utterly without companionship
during their mother's illness. But Miss Crawley would
not hear of her departure; for though there was no lady
of fashion in London who would desert her friends more
complacently as soon as she was tired of their society,
and though few tired of them sooner, yet as long as her
engoument lasted her attachment was prodigious, and
she clung still with the greatest energy to Rebecca.
The news of Lady Crawley's death provoked no more
grief or comment than might have been expected in Miss
Crawley's family circle. "I suppose I must put off my
party for the 3rd," Miss Crawley said; and added, after a
pause, "I hope my brother will have the decency not to
marry again." "What a confounded rage Pitt will be in if
he does," Rawdon remarked, with his usual regard for his
elder brother. Rebecca said nothing. She seemed by far the
gravest and most impressed of the family. She left the
room before Rawdon went away that day; but they met
by chance below, as he was going away after taking leave,
and had a parley together.
On the morrow, as Rebecca was gazing from the window,
she startled Miss Crawley, who was placidly occupied
with a French novel, by crying out in an alarmed
tone, "Here's Sir Pitt, Ma'am!" and the Baronet's knock
followed this announcement.
"My dear, I can't see him. I won't see him. Tell Bowls
not at home, or go downstairs and say I'm too ill to
receive any one. My nerves really won't bear my brother
at this moment," cried out Miss Crawley, and resumed
the novel.
"She's too ill to see you, sir," Rebecca said, tripping
down to Sir Pitt, who was preparing to ascend.
"So much the better," Sir Pitt answered. "I want to
see YOU, Miss Becky. Come along a me into the parlour,"
and they entered that apartment together.
"I wawnt you back at Queen's Crawley, Miss," the
baronet said, fixing his eyes upon her, and taking off his
black gloves and his hat with its great crape hat-band.
His eyes had such a strange look, and fixed upon her so
steadfastly, that Rebecca Sharp began almost to tremble.
"I hope to come soon," she said in a low voice, "as
soon as Miss Crawley is better--and return to--to the
dear children."
"You've said so these three months, Becky," replied
Sir Pitt, "and still you go hanging on to my sister, who'll
fling you off like an old shoe, when she's wore you out.
I tell you I want you. I'm going back to the Vuneral.
Will you come back? Yes or no?"
"I daren't--I don't think--it would be right--to be
alone--with you, sir," Becky said, seemingly in great
"I say agin, I want you," Sir Pitt said, thumping the
table. "I can't git on without you. I didn't see what it was
till you went away. The house all goes wrong. It's not
the same place. All my accounts has got muddled agin.
You MUST come back. Do come back. Dear Becky, do
"Come--as what, sir?" Rebecca gasped out.
"Come as Lady Crawley, if you like," the Baronet
said, grasping his crape hat. "There! will that zatusfy you?
Come back and be my wife. Your vit vor't. Birth be
hanged. You're as good a lady as ever I see. You've got
more brains in your little vinger than any baronet's wife
in the county. Will you come? Yes or no?"
"Oh, Sir Pitt!" Rebecca said, very much moved.
"Say yes, Becky," Sir Pitt continued. "I'm an old man,
but a good'n. I'm good for twenty years. I'll make you
happy, zee if I don't. You shall do what you like; spend
what you like; and 'ave it all your own way. I'll make
you a zettlement. I'll do everything reglar. Look year!"
and the old man fell down on his knees and leered at
her like a satyr.
Rebecca started back a picture of consternation. In
the course of this history we have never seen her lose her
presence of mind; but she did now, and wept some of the
most genuine tears that ever fell from her eyes.
"Oh, Sir Pitt!" she said. "Oh, sir--I--I'm married
In Which Rebecca's Husband Appears
for a Short Time
Every reader of a sentimental turn (and we desire
no other) must have been pleased with the
tableau with which the last act of our little
drama concluded; for what can be prettier than
an image of Love on his knees before Beauty?
But when Love heard that awful confession from
Beauty that she was married already, he
bounced up from his attitude of humility on the carpet,
uttering exclamations which caused poor little Beauty to
be more frightened than she was when she made her
avowal. "Married; you're joking," the Baronet cried, after
the first explosion of rage and wonder. "You're
making vun of me, Becky. Who'd ever go to marry you
without a shilling to your vortune?"
"Married! married!" Rebecca said, in an agony of tears
--her voice choking with emotion, her handkerchief up
to her ready eyes, fainting against the mantelpiece a
figure of woe fit to melt the most obdurate heart. "0
Sir Pitt, dear Sir Pitt, do not think me ungrateful for all
your goodness to me. It is only your generosity that has
extorted my secret."
"Generosity be hanged!" Sir Pitt roared out. "Who is
it tu, then, you're married? Where was it?"
"Let me come back with you to the country, sir! Let
me watch over you as faithfully as ever! Don't, don't
separate me from dear Queen's Crawley!"
"The feller has left you, has he?" the Baronet said,
beginning, as he fancied, to comprehend. "Well, Becky--
come back if you like. You can't eat your cake and have
it. Any ways I made you a vair offer. Coom back as
governess--you shall have it all your own way." She
held out one hand. She cried fit to break her heart; her
ringlets fell over her face, and over the marble
mantelpiece where she laid it.
"So the rascal ran off, eh?" Sir Pitt said, with a hideous
attempt at consolation. "Never mind, Becky, I'LL take
care of 'ee."
"Oh, sir! it would be the pride of my life to go back
to Queen's Crawley, and take care of the children, and
of you as formerly, when you said you were pleased with
the services of your little Rebecca. When I think of what
you have just offered me, my heart fills with gratitude
indeed it does. I can't be your wife, sir; let me--let me be
your daughter."
Saying which, Rebecca went down on HER knees in a
most tragical way, and, taking Sir Pitt's horny black
hand between her own two (which were very pretty and
white, and as soft as satin), looked up in his face with an
expression of exquisite pathos and confidence, when--
when the door opened, and Miss Crawley sailed in.
Mrs. Firkin and Miss Briggs, who happened by chance
to be at the parlour door soon after the Baronet and
Rebecca entered the apartment, had also seen accidentally,
through the keyhole, the old gentleman prostrate
before the governess, and had heard the generous proposal
which he made her. It was scarcely out of his mouth
when Mrs. Firkin and Miss Briggs had streamed up the
stairs, had rushed into the drawing-room where Miss
Crawley was reading the French novel, and had given
that old lady the astounding intelligence that Sir Pitt
was on his knees, proposing to Miss Sharp. And if you
calculate the time for the above dialogue to take place
--the time for Briggs and Firkin to fly to the drawingroom--
the time for Miss Crawley to be astonished, and
to drop her volume of Pigault le Brun--and the time for
her to come downstairs--you will see how exactly
accurate this history is, and how Miss Crawley must have
appeared at the very instant when Rebecca had assumed
the attitude of humility.
"It is the lady on the ground, and not the gentleman,"
Miss Crawley said, with a look and voice of great scorn.
"They told me that YOU were on your knees, Sir Pitt: do
kneel once more, and let me see this pretty couple!"
"I have thanked Sir Pitt Crawley, Ma'am," Rebecca
said, rising, "and have told him that--that I never can
become Lady Crawley."
"Refused him!" Miss Crawley said, more bewildered
than ever. Briggs and Firkin at the door opened the eyes
of astonishment and the lips of wonder.
"Yes--refused," Rebecca continued, with a sad,
tearful voice.
"And am I to credit my ears that you absolutely
proposed to her, Sir Pitt?" the old lady asked.
"Ees," said the Baronet, "I did."
"And she refused you as she says?"
"Ees," Sir Pitt said, his features on a broad grin.
"It does not seem to break your heart at any rate,"
Miss Crawley remarked.
"Nawt a bit," answered Sir Pitt, with a coolness and
good-humour which set Miss Crawley almost mad with
bewilderment. That an old gentleman of station should
fall on his knees to a penniless governess, and burst out
laughing because she refused to marry him--that a
penniless governess should refuse a Baronet with four
thousand a year--these were mysteries which Miss Crawley
could never comprehend. It surpassed any complications
of intrigue in her favourite Pigault le Brun.
"I'm glad you think it good sport, brother," she
continued, groping wildly through this amazement.
"Vamous," said Sir Pitt. "Who'd ha' thought it! what a
sly little devil! what a little fox it waws!" he muttered
to himself, chuckling with pleasure.
"Who'd have thought what?" cries Miss Crawley,
stamping with her foot. "Pray, Miss Sharp, are you
waiting for the Prince Regent's divorce, that you don't think
our family good enough for you?"
"My attitude," Rebecca said, "when you came in,
ma'am, did not look as if I despised such an honour as
this good--this noble man has deigned to offer me. Do
you think I have no heart? Have you all loved me, and
been so kind to the poor orphan--deserted--girl, and
am I to feel nothing? O my friends! O my benefactors!
may not my love, my life, my duty, try to repay the
confidence you have shown me? Do you grudge me even
gratitude, Miss Crawley? It is too much--my heart is
too full"; and she sank down in a chair so pathetically,
that most of the audience present were perfectly melted
with her sadness.
"Whether you marry me or not, you're a good little
girl, Becky, and I'm your vriend, mind," said Sir Pitt, and
putting on his crape-bound hat, he walked away--greatly
to Rebecca's relief; for it was evident that her secret
was unrevealed to Miss Crawley, and she had the
advantage of a brief reprieve.
Putting her handkerchief to her eyes, and nodding
away honest Briggs, who would have followed her
upstairs, she went up to her apartment; while Briggs and
Miss Crawley, in a high state of excitement, remained
to discuss the strange event, and Firkin, not less moved,
dived down into the kitchen regions, and talked of it
with all the male and female company there. And so
impressed was Mrs. Firkin with the news, that she thought
proper to write off by that very night's post, "with her
humble duty to Mrs. Bute Crawley and the family at the
Rectory, and Sir Pitt has been and proposed for to marry
Miss Sharp, wherein she has refused him, to the wonder
of all."
The two ladies in the dining-room (where worthy
Miss Briggs was delighted to be admitted once more to
confidential conversation with her patroness) wondered
to their hearts' content at Sir Pitt's offer, and Rebecca's
refusal; Briggs very acutely suggesting that there must
have been some obstacle in the shape of a previous
attachment, otherwise no young woman in her senses would
ever have refused so advantageous a proposal.
"You would have accepted it yourself, wouldn't you,
Briggs?" Miss Crawley said, kindly.
"Would it not be a privilege to be Miss Crawley's
sister?" Briggs replied, with meek evasion.
"Well, Becky would have made a good Lady Crawley,
after all," Miss Crawley remarked (who was mollified by
the girl's refusal, and very liberal and generous now there
was no call for her sacrifices). "She has brains in plenty
(much more wit in her little finger than you have, my
poor dear Briggs, in all your head). Her manners are
excellent, now I have formed her. She is a Montmorency,
Briggs, and blood is something, though I despise it for
my part; and she would have held her own amongst those
pompous stupid Hampshire people much better than that
unfortunate ironmonger's daughter."
Briggs coincided as usual, and the "previous attachment"
was then discussed in conjectures. "You poor
friendless creatures are always having some foolish
tendre," Miss Crawley said. "You yourself, you know,
were in love with a writing-master (don't cry, Briggs--
you're always crying, and it won't bring him to life again),
and I suppose this unfortunate Becky has been silly
and sentimental too--some apothecary, or house-steward,
or painter, or young curate, or something of that sort."
"Poor thing! poor thing!" says Briggs (who was thinking
of twenty-four years back, and that hectic young
writing-master whose lock of yellow hair, and whose
letters, beautiful in their illegibility, she cherished in
her old desk upstairs). "Poor thing, poor thing!" says
Briggs. Once more she was a fresh-cheeked lass of eighteen;
she was at evening church, and the hectic writing-master
and she were quavering out of the same psalm-book.
"After such conduct on Rebecca's part," Miss Crawley
said enthusiastically, "our family should do something.
Find out who is the objet, Briggs. I'll set him up in a
shop; or order my portrait of him, you know; or speak
to my cousin, the Bishopand I'll doter Becky, and
we'll have a wedding, Briggs, and you shall make the
breakfast, and be a bridesmaid."
Briggs declared that it would be delightful, and vowed
that her dear Miss Crawley was always kind and generous,
and went up to Rebecca's bedroom to console her
and prattle about the offer, and the refusal, and the
cause thereof; and to hint at the generous intentions of
Miss Crawley, and to find out who was the gentleman
that had the mastery of Miss Sharp's heart.
Rebecca was very kind, very affectionate and affected
--responded to Briggs's offer of tenderness with grateful
fervour--owned there was a secret attachment--a
delicious mystery--what a pity Miss Briggs had not
remained half a minute longer at the keyhole! Rebecca
might, perhaps, have told more: but five minutes after
Miss Briggs's arrival in Rebecca's apartment, Miss Crawley
actually made her appearance there--an unheard-of
honour--her impatience had overcome her; she could not
wait for the tardy operations of her ambassadress: so
she came in person, and ordered Briggs out of the room.
And expressing her approval of Rebecca's conduct, she
asked particulars of the interview, and the previous
transactions which had brought about the astonishing
offer of Sir Pitt.
Rebecca said she had long had some notion of the
partiality with which Sir Pitt honoured her (for he was
in the habit of making his feelings known in a very frank
and unreserved manner) but, not to mention private
reasons with which she would not for the present trouble
Miss Crawley, Sir Pitt's age, station, and habits were
such as to render a marriage quite impossible; and
could a woman with any feeling of self-respect and any
decency listen to proposals at such a moment, when
the funeral of the lover's deceased wife had not actually
taken place?
"Nonsense, my dear, you would never have refused
him had there not been some one else in the case," Miss
Crawley said, coming to her point at once. "Tell me the
private reasons; what are the private reasons? There is
some one; who is it that has touched your heart?"
Rebecca cast down her eyes, and owned there was.
"You have guessed right, dear lady," she said, with a
sweet simple faltering voice. "You wonder at one so
poor and friendless having an attachment, don't you?
I have never heard that poverty was any safeguard
against it. I wish it were."
"My poor dear child," cried Miss Crawley, who was
always quite ready to be sentimental, "is our passion
unrequited, then? Are we pining in secret? Tell me all,
and let me console you."
"I wish you could, dear Madam," Rebecca said in the
same tearful tone. "Indeed, indeed, I need it." And she
laid her head upon Miss Crawley's shoulder and wept
there so naturally that the old lady, surprised into
sympathy, embraced her with an almost maternal
kindness, uttered many soothing protests of regard and
affection for her, vowed that she loved her as a daughter,
and would do everything in her power to serve her. "And
now who is it, my dear? Is it that pretty Miss Sedley's
brother? You said something about an affair with him.
I'll ask him here, my dear. And you shall have him:
indeed you shall."
"Don't ask me now," Rebecca said. "You shall know
all soon. Indeed you shall. Dear kind Miss Crawley--
dear friend, may I say so?"
"That you may, my child," the old lady replied, kissing
"I can't tell you now," sobbed out Rebecca, "I am
very miserable. But O! love me always--promise you will
love me always." And in the midst of mutual tears--for
the emotions of the younger woman had awakened the
sympathies of the elder--this promise was solemnly given
by Miss Crawley, who left her little protege, blessing
and admiring her as a dear, artless, tender-hearted,
affectionate, incomprehensible creature.
And now she was left alone to think over the sudden
and wonderful events of the day, and of what had been
and what might have been. What think you were the
private feelings of Miss, no (begging her pardon) of
Mrs. Rebecca? If, a few pages back, the present writer
claimed the privilege of peeping into Miss Amelia
Sedley's bedroom, and understanding with the omniscience
of the novelist all the gentle pains and passions which
were tossing upon that innocent pillow, why should he
not declare himself to be Rebecca's confidante too,
master of her secrets, and seal-keeper of that young
woman's conscience?
Well, then, in the first place, Rebecca gave way to
some very sincere and touching regrets that a piece of
marvellous good fortune should have been so near her,
and she actually obliged to decline it. In this natural
emotion every properly regulated mind will certainly
share. What good mother is there that would not
commiserate a penniless spinster, who might have been
my lady, and have shared four thousand a year? What
well-bred young person is there in all Vanity Fair, who
will not feel for a hard-working, ingenious, meritorious
girl, who gets such an honourable, advantageous, provoking
offer, just at the very moment when it is out of her
power to accept it? I am sure our friend Becky's
disappointment deserves and will command every
I remember one night being in the Fair myself, at an
evening party. I observed old Miss Toady there also
present, single out for her special attentions and flattery
little Mrs. Briefless, the barrister's wife, who is of a
good family certainly, but, as we all know, is as poor
as poor can be.
What, I asked in my own mind, can cause this
obsequiousness on the part of Miss Toady; has Briefless
got a county court, or has his wife had a fortune left her?
Miss Toady explained presently, with that simplicity
which distinguishes all her conduct. "You know," she
said, "Mrs.Briefless is granddaughter of Sir John Redhand,
who is so ill at Cheltenham that he can't last six
months. Mrs. Briefless's papa succeeds; so you see she
will be a baronet's daughter." And Toady asked Briefless
and his wife to dinner the very next week.
If the mere chance of becoming a baronet's daughter
can procure a lady such homage in the world, surely,
surely we may respect the agonies of a young woman
who has lost the opportunity of becoming a baronet's
wife. Who would have dreamed of Lady Crawley dying
so soon? She was one of those sickly women that
might have lasted these ten years--Rebecca thought to
herself, in all the woes of repentance--and I might have
been my lady! I might have led that old man whither I
would. I might have thanked Mrs. Bute for her
patronage, and Mr. Pitt for his insufferable condescension. I
would have had the town-house newly furnished and
decorated. I would have had the handsomest carriage in
London, and a box at the opera; and I would have
been presented next season. All this might have been;
and now--now all was doubt and mystery.
But Rebecca was a young lady of too much resolution
and energy of character to permit herself much useless
and unseemly sorrow for the irrevocable past; so, having
devoted only the proper portion of regret to it, she wisely
turned her whole attention towards the future, which
was now vastly more important to her. And she
surveyed her position, and its hopes, doubts, and chances.
In the first place, she was MARRIED--that was a great
fact. Sir Pitt knew it. She was not so much surprised into
the avowal, as induced to make it by a sudden calculation.
It must have come some day: and why not now
as at a later period? He who would have married her
himself must at least be silent with regard to her marriage.
How Miss Crawley would bear the news--was the great
question. Misgivings Rebecca had; but she remembered
all Miss Crawley had said; the old lady's avowed
contempt for birth; her daring liberal opinions; her
general romantic propensities; her almost doting attachment
to her nephew, and her repeatedly expressed fondness for
Rebecca herself. She is so fond of him, Rebecca thought,
that she will forgive him anything: she is so used to me
that I don't think she could be comfortable without
me: when the eclaircissement comes there will be a
scene, and hysterics, and a great quarrel, and then a
great reconciliation. At all events, what use was there
in delaying? the die was thrown, and now or to-morrow
the issue must be the same. And so, resolved that Miss
Crawley should have the news, the young person
debated in her mind as to the best means of conveying it
to her; and whether she should face the storm that must
come, or fly and avoid it until its first fury was blown
over. In this state of meditation she wrote the following
Dearest Friend,
The great crisis which we have debated
about so often is COME. Half of my secret is known, and
I have thought and thought, until I am quite sure that
now is the time to reveal THE WHOLE OF THE MYSTERY. Sir
Pitt came to me this morning, and made--what do you
think?--A DECLARATION IN FORM. Think of that! Poor
little me. I might have been Lady Crawley. How pleased
Mrs. Bute would have been: and ma tante if I had taken
precedence of her! I might have been somebody's
mamma, instead of--O, I tremble, I tremble, when I
think how soon we must tell all!
Sir Pitt knows I am married, and not knowing to
whom, is not very much displeased as yet. Ma tante is
ACTUALLY ANGRY that I should have refused him. But she
is all kindness and graciousness. She condescends to say
I would have made him a good wife; and vows that
she will be a mother to your little Rebecca. She will be
shaken when she first hears the news. But need we fear
anything beyond a momentary anger? I think not: I AM
SURE not. She dotes upon you so (you naughty, good-fornothing
man), that she would pardon you ANYTHING:
and, indeed, I believe, the next place in her heart is
mine: and that she would be miserable without me.
Dearest! something TELLS ME we shall conquer. You shall
leave that odious regiment: quit gaming, racing, and BE
A GOOD BOY; and we shall all live in Park Lane, and ma
tante shall leave us all her money.
I shall try and walk to-morrow at 3 in the usual place.
If Miss B. accompanies me, you must come to dinner,
and bring an answer, and put it in the third volume of
Porteus's Sermons. But, at all events, come to your own
To Miss Eliza Styles,
At Mr. Barnet's, Saddler, Knightsbridge.
And I trust there is no reader of this little story who
has not discernment enough to perceive that the Miss
Eliza Styles (an old schoolfellow, Rebecca said, with
whom she had resumed an active correspondence of late,
and who used to fetch these letters from the saddler's),
wore brass spurs, and large curling mustachios, and was
indeed no other than Captain Rawdon Crawley.
The Letter on the Pincushion
How they were married is not of the slightest
consequence to anybody. What is to hinder a Captain who
is a major, and a young lady who is of age, from purchasing
a licence, and uniting themselves at any church in this
town? Who needs to be told, that if a woman has a will
she will assuredly find a way?--My belief is that one
day, when Miss Sharp had gone to pass the forenoon
with her dear friend Miss Amelia Sedley in Russell
Square, a lady very like her might have been seen
entering a church in the City, in company with a gentleman
with dyed mustachios, who, after a quarter of an hour's
interval, escorted her back to the hackney-coach in
waiting, and that this was a quiet bridal party.
And who on earth, after the daily experience we have,
can question the probability of a gentleman marrying
anybody? How many of the wise and learned have
married their cooks? Did not Lord Eldon himself, the
most prudent of men, make a runaway match? Were not
Achilles and Ajax both in love with their servant maids?
And are we to expect a heavy dragoon with strong
desires and small brains, who had never controlled a
passion in his life, to become prudent all of a sudden,
and to refuse to pay any price for an indulgence to
which he had a mind? If people only made prudent
marriages, what a stop to population there would be!
It seems to me, for my part, that Mr. Rawdon's marriage
was one of the honestest actions which we shall have to
record in any portion of that gentleman's biography which
has to do with the present history. No one will say it is
unmanly to be captivated by a woman, or, being
captivated, to marry her; and the admiration, the delight, the
passion, the wonder, the unbounded confidence, and frantic adoration with which, by
degrees, this big warrior got
to regard the little Rebecca, were feelings which the ladies
at least will pronounce were not altogether discreditable
to him. When she sang, every note thrilled in his dull
soul, and tingled through his huge frame. When she spoke,
he brought all the force of his brains to listen and wonder.
If she was jocular, he used to revolve her jokes in his
mind, and explode over them half an hour afterwards in
the street, to the surprise of the groom in the tilbury by
his side, or the comrade riding with him in Rotten Row.
Her words were oracles to him, her smallest actions
marked by an infallible grace and wisdom. "How she
sings,--how she paints," thought he. "How she rode that
kicking mare at Queen's Crawley!" And he would say to
her in confidential moments, "By Jove, Beck, you're fit
to be Commander-in-Chief, or Archbishop of Canterbury,
by Jove." Is his case a rare one? and don't we see every
day in the world many an honest Hercules at the
apron-strings of Omphale, and great whiskered Samsons
prostrate in Delilah's lap?
When, then, Becky told him that the great crisis was
near, and the time for action had arrived, Rawdon
expressed himself as ready to act under her orders, as he
would be to charge with his troop at the command of his
colonel. There was no need for him to put his letter into
the third volume of Porteus. Rebecca easily found a
means to get rid of Briggs, her companion, and met her
faithful friend in "the usual place" on the next day. She
had thought over matters at night, and communicated to
Rawdon the result of her determinations. He agreed, of
course, to everything; was quite sure that it was all
right: that what she proposed was best; that Miss Crawley
would infallibly relent, or "come round," as he said, after
a time. Had Rebecca's resolutions been entirely different,
he would have followed them as implicitly. "You have
head enough for both of us, Beck," said he. "You're sure
to get us out of the scrape. I never saw your equal, and
I've met with some clippers in my time too." And with
this simple confession of faith, the love-stricken dragoon
left her to execute his part of the project which she had
formed for the pair.
It consisted simply in the hiring of quiet lodgings at
Brompton, or in the neighbourhood of the barracks, for
Captain and Mrs. Crawley. For Rebecca had determined,
and very prudently, we think, to fly. Rawdon was
only too happy at her resolve; he had been entreating
her to take this measure any time for weeks past. He
pranced off to engage the lodgings with all the impetuosity
of love. He agreed to pay two guineas a week so readily,
that the landlady regretted she had asked him so little.
He ordered in a piano, and half a nursery-house full of
flowers: and a heap of good things. As for shawls, kid
gloves, silk stockings, gold French watches, bracelets and
perfumery, he sent them in with the profusion of blind
love and unbounded credit. And having relieved his mind
by this outpouring of generosity, he went and dined
nervously at the club, waiting until the great moment of his
life should come.
The occurrences of the previous day; the admirable
conduct of Rebecca in refusing an offer so advantageous
to her, the secret unhappiness preying upon her, the
sweetness and silence with which she bore her affliction,
made Miss Crawley much more tender than usual. An
event of this nature, a marriage, or a refusal, or a
proposal, thrills through a whole household of women, and
sets all their hysterical sympathies at work. As an
observer of human nature, I regularly frequent St. George's,
Hanover Square, during the genteel marriage season; and
though I have never seen the bridegroom's male friends
give way to tears, or the beadles and officiating clergy
any way affected, yet it is not at all uncommon to see
women who are not in the least concerned in the
operations going on--old ladies who are long past marrying,
stout middle-aged females with plenty of sons and daughters,
let alone pretty young creatures in pink bonnets, who
are on their promotion, and may naturally take an
interest in the ceremony--I say it is quite common to see
the women present piping, sobbing, sniffling; hiding their
little faces in their little useless pocket-handkerchiefs;
and heaving, old and young, with emotion. When my
friend, the fashionable John Pimlico, married the lovely
Lady Belgravia Green Parker, the excitement was so
general that even the little snuffy old pew-opener who let me
into the seat was in tears. And wherefore? I inquired of
my own soul: she was not going to be married.
Miss Crawley and Briggs in a word, after the affair of
Sir Pitt, indulged in the utmost luxury of sentiment, and
Rebecca became an object of the most tender interest to
them. In her absence Miss Crawley solaced herself with
the most sentimental of the novels in her library. Little
Sharp, with her secret griefs, was the heroine of the day.
That night Rebecca sang more sweetly and talked more
pleasantly than she had ever been heard to do in Park
Lane. She twined herself round the heart of Miss Crawley.
She spoke lightly and laughingly of Sir Pitt's proposal,
ridiculed it as the foolish fancy of an old man; and her
eyes filled with tears, and Briggs's heart with unutterable
pangs of defeat, as she said she desired no other lot than
to remain for ever with her dear benefactress. "My dear
little creature," the old lady said, "I don't intend to let
you stir for years, that you may depend upon it. As for
going back to that odious brother of mine after what
has passed, it is out of the question. Here you stay with me
and Briggs. Briggs wants to go to see her relations very
often. Briggs, you may go when you like. But as for you,
my dear, you must stay and take care of the old woman."
If Rawdon Crawley had been then and there present,
instead of being at the club nervously drinking claret, the
pair might have gone down on their knees before the old
spinster, avowed all, and been forgiven in a twinkling.
But that good chance was denied to the young couple,
doubtless in order that this story might be written, in
which numbers of their wonderful adventures are narrated
--adventures which could never have occurred to them
if they had been housed and sheltered under the
comfortable uninteresting forgiveness of Miss Crawley.
Under Mrs. Firkin's orders, in the Park Lane establishment,
was a young woman from Hampshire, whose business it was,
among other duties, to knock at Miss Sharp's door with
that jug of hot water which Firkin would rather have
perished than have presented to the intruder. This
girl, bred on the family estate, had a brother in Captain
Crawley's troop, and if the truth were known, I daresay
it would come out that she was aware of certain arrangements,
which have a great deal to do with this history.
At any rate she purchased a yellow shawl, a pair of green
boots, and a light blue hat with a red feather with three
guineas which Rebecca gave her, and as little Sharp was
by no means too liberal with her money, no doubt it
was for services rendered that Betty Martin was so bribed.
On the second day after Sir Pitt Crawley's offer to
Miss Sharp, the sun rose as usual, and at the usual hour
Betty Martin, the upstairs maid, knocked at the door of
the governess's bedchamber.
No answer was returned, and she knocked again. Silence
was still uninterrupted; and Betty, with the hot water,
opened the door and entered the chamber.
The little white dimity bed was as smooth and trim as
on the day previous, when Betty's own hands had helped
to make it. Two little trunks were corded in one end of
the room; and on the table before the window--on the
pincushionthe great fat pincushion lined with pink
inside, and twilled like a lady's nightcap--lay a letter. It
had been reposing there probably all night.
Betty advanced towards it on tiptoe, as if she were
afraid to awake it--looked at it, and round the room,
with an air of great wonder and satisfaction; took up the
letter, and grinned intensely as she turned it round and
over, and finally carried it into Miss Briggs's room
How could Betty tell that the letter was for Miss Briggs,
I should like to know? All the schooling Betty had had
was at Mrs. Bute Crawley's Sunday school, and she could
no more read writing than Hebrew.
"La, Miss Briggs," the girl exclaimed, "O, Miss,
something must have happened--there's nobody in Miss
Sharp's room; the bed ain't been slep in, and she've run
away, and left this letter for you, Miss."
"WHAT!" cries Briggs, dropping her comb, the thin wisp
of faded hair falling over her shoulders; "an elopement!
Miss Sharp a fugitive! What, what is this?" and she eagerly
broke the neat seal, and, as they say, "devoured the
contents" of the letter addressed to her.
Dear Miss Briggs [the refugee wrote], the kindest
heart in the world, as yours is, will pity and sympathise
with me and excuse me. With tears, and prayers, and
blessings, I leave the home where the poor orphan has
ever met with kindness and affection. Claims even
superior to those of my benefactress call me hence. I go to
my duty--to my HUSBAND. Yes, I am married. My
husband COMMANDS me to seek the HUMBLE HOME which
we call ours. Dearest Miss Briggs, break the news as your
delicate sympathy will know how to do it--to my dear,
my beloved friend and benefactress. Tell her, ere I went,
I shed tears on her dear pillow--that pillow that I have
so often soothed in sickness--that I long AGAIN to watch
--Oh, with what joy shall I return to dear Park Lane!
How I tremble for the answer which is to SEAL MY FATE!
When Sir Pitt deigned to offer me his hand, an honour
of which my beloved Miss Crawley said I was DESERVING
(my blessings go with her for judging the poor orphan
worthy to be HER SISTER!) I told Sir Pitt that I was already
A WIFE. Even he forgave me. But my courage failed me,
when I should have told him all--that I could not be
his wife, for I WAS HIS DAUGHTER! I am wedded to the best
and most generous of men--Miss Crawley's Rawdon is
MY Rawdon. At his COMMAND I open my lips, and
follow him to our humble home, as I would THROUGH THE
WORLD. O, my excellent and kind friend, intercede with
my Rawdon's beloved aunt for him and the poor girl to
whom all HIS NOBLE RACE have shown such UNPARALLELED
AFFECTION. Ask Miss Crawley to receive HER CHILDREN. I
can say no more, but blessings, blessings on all in the
dear house I leave, prays
Your affectionate and GRATEFUL
Rebecca Crawley.
Just as Briggs had finished reading this affecting and
interesting document, which reinstated her in her position
as first confidante of Miss Crawley, Mrs. Firkin entered
the room. "Here's Mrs. Bute Crawley just arrived by
the mail from Hampshire, and wants some tea; will you
come down and make breakfast, Miss?"
And to the surprise of Firkin, clasping her dressing-gown
around her, the wisp of hair floating dishevelled
behind her, the little curl-papers still sticking in bunches
round her forehead, Briggs sailed down to Mrs. Bute with
the letter in her hand containing the wonderful news.
"Oh, Mrs. Firkin," gasped Betty, "sech a business. Miss
Sharp have a gone and run away with the Capting, and
they're off to Gretney Green!" We would devote a chapter
to describe the emotions of Mrs. Firkin, did not the
passions of her mistresses occupy our genteeler muse.
When Mrs. Bute Crawley, numbed with midnight travelling,
and warming herself at the newly crackling parlour
fire, heard from Miss Briggs the intelligence of the
clandestine marriage, she declared it was quite providential
that she should have arrived at such a time to assist poor
dear Miss Crawley in supporting the shock--that Rebecca
was an artful little hussy of whom she had always
had her suspicions; and that as for Rawdon Crawley, she
never could account for his aunt's infatuation regarding
him, and had long considered him a profligate, lost,
and abandoned being. And this awful conduct, Mrs. Bute
said, will have at least this good effect, it will open poor
dear Miss Crawley's eyes to the real character of this
wicked man. Then Mrs. Bute had a comfortable hot toast
and tea; and as there was a vacant room in the house
now, there was no need for her to remain at the Gloster
Coffee House where the Portsmouth mail had set her
down, and whence she ordered Mr. Bowls's aide-de-camp
the footman to bring away her trunks.
Miss Crawley, be it known, did not leave her room until
near noon--taking chocolate in bed in the morning, while
Becky Sharp read the Morning Post to her, or otherwise
amusing herself or dawdling. The conspirators below
agreed that they would spare the dear lady's feelings
until she appeared in her drawing-room: meanwhile it was
announced to her that Mrs. Bute Crawley had come up
from Hampshire by the mail, was staying at the Gloster,
sent her love to Miss Crawley, and asked for breakfast
with Miss Briggs. The arrival of Mrs. Bute, which would
not have caused any extreme delight at another period,
was hailed with pleasure now; Miss Crawley being pleased
at the notion of a gossip with her sister-in-law regarding
the late Lady Crawley, the funeral arrangements pending,
and Sir Pitt's abrupt proposal to Rebecca.
It was not until the old lady was fairly ensconced in
her usual arm-chair in the drawing-room, and the
preliminary embraces and inquiries had taken place between
the ladies, that the conspirators thought it advisable to
submit her to the operation. Who has not admired the
artifices and delicate approaches with which women
"prepare" their friends for bad news? Miss Crawley's two
friends made such an apparatus of mystery before they
broke the intelligence to her, that they worked her up to
the necessary degree of doubt and alarm.
"And she refused Sir Pitt, my dear, dear Miss Crawley,
prepare yourself for it," Mrs. Bute said, "because--
because she couldn't help herself."
"Of course there was a reason," Miss Crawley answered.
"She liked somebody else. I told Briggs so yesterday."
"LIKES somebody else!" Briggs gasped. "O my dear
friend, she is married already."
"Married already," Mrs. Bute chimed in; and both sate
with clasped hands looking from each other at their
"Send her to me, the instant she comes in. The little
sly wretch: how dared she not tell me?" cried out Miss
"She won't come in soon. Prepare yourself, dear friend
--she's gone out for a long time--she's--she's gone
"Gracious goodness, and who's to make my chocolate?
Send for her and have her back; I desire that she come
back," the old lady said.
"She decamped last night, Ma'am," cried Mrs. Bute.
"She left a letter for me," Briggs exclaimed. "She's
married to--"
"Prepare her, for heaven's sake. Don't torture her, my
dear Miss Briggs."
"She's married to whom?" cries the spinster in a
nervous fury.
"To--to a relation of--"
"She refused Sir Pitt," cried the victim. "Speak at once.
Don't drive me mad."
"O Ma'am--prepare her, Miss Briggs--she's married
to Rawdon Crawley."
"Rawdon married Rebecca--governess--nobod--
Get out of my house, you fool, you idiot--you stupid old
Briggs how dare you? You're in the plot--you made
him marry, thinking that I'd leave my money from him--
you did, Martha," the poor old lady screamed in hysteric
"I, Ma'am, ask a member of this family to marry a
drawing-master's daughter?"
"Her mother was a Montmorency," cried out the old
lady, pulling at the bell with all her might.
"Her mother was an opera girl, and she has been on
the stage or worse herself," said Mrs. Bute.
Miss Crawley gave a final scream, and fell back in a
faint. They were forced to take her back to the room
which she had just quitted. One fit of hysterics succeeded
another. The doctor was sent for--the apothecary arrived.
Mrs. Bute took up the post of nurse by her bedside. "Her
relations ought to be round about her," that amiable
woman said.
She had scarcely been carried up to her room, when a
new person arrived to whom it was also necessary to break
the news. This was Sir Pitt. "Where's Becky?" he said,
coming in. "Where's her traps? She's coming with me to
Queen's Crawley."
"Have you not heard the astonishing intelligence
regarding her surreptitious union?" Briggs asked.
"What's that to me?" Sir Pitt asked. "I know she's
married. That makes no odds. Tell her to come down at
once, and not keep me."
"Are you not aware, sir," Miss Briggs asked, "that she
has left our roof, to the dismay of Miss Crawley, who is
nearly killed by the intelligence of Captain Rawdon's union
with her?"
When Sir Pitt Crawley heard that Rebecca was married
to his son, he broke out into a fury of language, which it
would do no good to repeat in this place, as indeed it
sent poor Briggs shuddering out of the room; and with her
we will shut the door upon the figure of the frenzied old
man, wild with hatred and insane with baffled desire.
One day after he went to Queen's Crawley, he burst
like a madman into the room she had used when there
--dashed open her boxes with his foot, and flung about
her papers, clothes, and other relics. Miss Horrocks, the
butler's daughter, took some of them. The children
dressed themselves and acted plays in the others. It was
but a few days after the poor mother had gone to her
lonely burying-place; and was laid, unwept and
disregarded, in a vault full of strangers.
"Suppose the old lady doesn't come to," Rawdon said to
his little wife, as they sate together in the snug little
Brompton lodgings. She had been trying the new piano
all the morning. The new gloves fitted her to a nicety; the
new shawls became her wonderfully; the new rings
glittered on her little hands, and the new watch ticked at her
waist; "suppose she don't come round, eh, Becky?"
"I'LL make your fortune," she said; and Delilah patted
Samson's cheek.
"You can do anything," he said, kissing the little hand.
"By Jove you can; and we'll drive down to the Star and
Garter, and dine, by Jove."
How Captain Dobbin Bought a Piano
If there is any exhibition in all Vanity Fair which Satire
and Sentiment can visit arm in arm together; where you
light on the strangest contrasts laughable and tearful:
where you may be gentle and pathetic, or savage and
cynical with perfect propriety: it is at one of those public
assemblies, a crowd of which are advertised every day in
the last page of the Times newspaper, and over which
the late Mr. George Robins used to preside with so much
dignity. There are very few London people, as I fancy,
who have not attended at these meetings, and all with a
taste for moralizing must have thought, with a sensation
and interest not a little startling and queer, of the day
when their turn shall come too, and Mr. Hammerdown
will sell by the orders of Diogenes' assignees, or will be
instructed by the executors, to offer to public competition,
the library, furniture, plate, wardrobe, and choice cellar
of wines of Epicurus deceased.
Even with the most selfish disposition, the Vanity Fairian,
as he witnesses this sordid part of the obsequies of a
departed friend, can't but feel some sympathies and regret.
My Lord Dives's remains are in the family vault: the
statuaries are cutting an inscription veraciously
commemorating his virtues, and the sorrows of his heir,
who is disposing of his goods. What guest at Dives's table
can pass the familiar house without a sigh? .--the familiar
house of which the lights used to shine so cheerfully at
seven o'clock, of which the hall-doors opened so readily,
of which the obsequious servants, as you passed up the
comfortable stair, sounded your name from landing to
landing, until it reached the apartment where jolly old
Dives welcomed his friends! What a number of them he
had; and what a noble way of entertaining them. How
witty people used to be here who were morose when they
got out of the door; and how courteous and friendly men
who slandered and hated each other everywhere else! He
was pompous, but with such a cook what would one not
swallow? he was rather dull, perhaps, but would not
such wine make any conversation pleasant? We must get
some of his Burgundy at any price, the mourners cry at
his club. "I got this box at old Dives's sale," Pincher says,
handing it round, "one of Louis XV's mistresses--pretty
thing, is it not?--sweet miniature," and they talk of the
way in which young Dives is dissipating his fortune.
How changed the house is, though! The front is patched
over with bills, setting forth the particulars of the furniture
in staring capitals. They have hung a shred of carpet out
of an upstairs window--a half dozen of porters are lounging
on the dirty steps--the hall swarms with dingy guests
of oriental countenance, who thrust printed cards into
your hand, and offer to bid. Old women and amateurs
have invaded the upper apartments, pinching the bedcurtains,
poking into the feathers, shampooing the
mattresses, and clapping the wardrobe drawers to and fro.
Enterprising young housekeepers are measuring the
looking-glasses and hangings to see if they will suit the new
menage (Snob will brag for years that he has purchased
this or that at Dives's sale), and Mr. Hammerdown is
sitting on the great mahogany dining-tables, in the diningroom
below, waving the ivory hammer, and employing all
the artifices of eloquence, enthusiasm, entreaty, reason,
despair; shouting to his people; satirizing Mr. Davids for
his sluggishness; inspiriting Mr. Moss into action;
imploring, commanding, bellowing, until down comes the
hammer like fate, and we pass to the next lot. O Dives,
who would ever have thought, as we sat round the broad
table sparkling with plate and spotless linen, to have seen
such a dish at the head of it as that roaring auctioneer?
It was rather late in the sale. The excellent drawingroom
furniture by the best makers; the rare and famous
wines selected, regardless of cost, and with the well-known
taste of the purchaser; the rich and complete set of family
plate had been sold on the previous days. Certain of the
best wines (which all had a great character among
amateurs in the neighbourhood) had been purchased for his
master, who knew them very well, by the butler of our
friend John Osborne, Esquire, of Russell Square. A small
portion of the most useful articles of the plate had been
bought by some young stockbrokers from the City. And
now the public being invited to the purchase of minor
objects, it happened that the orator on the table was
expatiating on the merits of a picture, which he sought
to recommend to his audience: it was by no means so
select or numerous a company as had attended the
previous days of the auction.
"No. 369," roared Mr. Hammerdown. "Portrait of a
gentleman on an elephant. Who'll bid for the gentleman
on the elephant? Lift up the picture, Blowman, and let
the company examine this lot." A long, pale, militarylooking
gentleman, seated demurely at the mahogany
table, could not help grinning as this valuable lot was
shown by Mr. Blowman. "Turn the elephant to the
Captain, Blowman. What shall we say, sir, for the elephant?"
but the Captain, blushing in a very hurried and discomfited
manner, turned away his head.
"Shall we say twenty guineas for this work of art?--
fifteen, five, name your own price. The gentleman
without the elephant is worth five pound."
"I wonder it ain't come down with him," said a
professional wag, "he's anyhow a precious big one"; at
which (for the elephant-rider was represented as of a very
stout figure) there was a general giggle in the room.
"Don't be trying to deprecate the value of the lot, Mr.
Moss," Mr. Hammerdown said; "let the company
examine it as a work of art--the attitude of the gallant
animal quite according to natur'; the gentleman in a
nankeen jacket, his gun in his hand, is going to the
chase; in the distance a banyhann tree and a pagody,
most likely resemblances of some interesting spot in our
famous Eastern possessions. How much for this lot?
Come, gentlemen, don't keep me here all day."
Some one bid five shillings, at which the military
gentleman looked towards the quarter from which this
splendid offer had come, and there saw another officer
with a young lady on his arm, who both appeared to be
highly amused with the scene, and to whom, finally, this
lot was knocked down for half a guinea. He at the
table looked more surprised and discomposed than ever
when he spied this pair, and his head sank into his
military collar, and he turned his back upon them, so as
to avoid them altogether.
Of all the other articles which Mr. Hammerdown had
the honour to offer for public competition that day it is
not our purpose to make mention, save of one only, a
little square piano, which came down from the upper
regions of the house (the state grand piano having
been disposed of previously); this the young lady tried
with a rapid and skilful hand (making the officer blush
and start again), and for it, when its turn came, her
agent began to bid.
But there was an opposition here. The Hebrew aide-decamp
in the service of the officer at the table bid against
the Hebrew gentleman employed by the elephant
purchasers, and a brisk battle ensued over this little piano,
the combatants being greatly encouraged by Mr.
At last, when the competition had been prolonged for
some time, the elephant captain and lady desisted from
the race; and the hammer coming down, the auctioneer
said:--"Mr. Lewis, twenty-five," and Mr. Lewis's chief
thus became the proprietor of the little square piano.
Having effected the purchase, he sate up as if he was
greatly relieved, and the unsuccessful competitors
catching a glimpse of him at this moment, the lady
said to her friend,
"Why, Rawdon, it's Captain Dobbin."
I suppose Becky was discontented with the new piano
her husband had hired for her, or perhaps the
proprietors of that instrument had fetched it away,
declining farther credit, or perhaps she had a particular
attachment for the one which she had just tried to purchase,
recollecting it in old days, when she used to play upon
it, in the little sitting-room of our dear Amelia Sedley.
The sale was at the old house in Russell Square, where
we passed some evenings together at the beginning of
this story. Good old John Sedley was a ruined man. His
name had been proclaimed as a defaulter on the Stock
Exchange, and his bankruptcy and commercial extermination
had followed. Mr. Osborne's butler came to buy some of the
famous port wine to transfer to the cellars over the way.
As for one dozen well-manufactured silver spoons and
forks at per oz., and one dozen dessert ditto ditto,
there were three young stockbrokers (Messrs. Dale,
Spiggot, and Dale, of Threadneedle Street, indeed),
who, having had dealings with the old man, and
kindnesses from him in days when he was kind to
everybody with whom he dealt, sent this little spar out
of the wreck with their love to good Mrs. Sedley; and with
respect to the piano, as it had been Amelia's, and as she
might miss it and want one now, and as Captain William
Dobbin could no more play upon it than he could dance
on the tight rope, it is probable that he did not purchase
the instrument for his own use.
In a word, it arrived that evening at a wonderful small
cottage in a street leading from the Fulham Road--one
of those streets which have the finest romantic names--
(this was called St. Adelaide Villas, Anna-Maria Road
West), where the houses look like baby-houses; where
the people, looking out of the first-floor windows, must
infallibly, as you think, sit with their feet in the parlours;
where the shrubs in the little gardens in front bloom with
a perennial display of little children's pinafores, little red
socks, caps, &c. (polyandria polygynia); whence you
hear the sound of jingling spinets and women singing;
where little porter pots hang on the railings sunning
themselves; whither of evenings you see City clerks
padding wearily: here it was that Mr. Clapp, the clerk of
Mr. Sedley, had his domicile, and in this asylum the good
old gentleman hid his head with his wife and daughter
when the crash came.
Jos Sedley had acted as a man of his disposition
would, when the announcement of the family misfortune
reached him. He did not come to London, but he wrote
to his mother to draw upon his agents for whatever
money was wanted, so that his kind broken-spirited old
parents had no present poverty to fear. This done, Jos
went on at the boarding-house at Cheltenham pretty
much as before. He drove his curricle; he drank his
claret; he played his rubber; he told his Indian stories,
and the Irish widow consoled and flattered him as usual.
His present of money, needful as it was, made little
impression on his parents; and I have heard Amelia say
that the first day on which she saw her father lift up his
head after the failure was on the receipt of the packet
of forks and spoons with the young stockbrokers' love,
over which he burst out crying like a child, being greatly
more affected than even his wife, to whom the present
was addressed. Edward Dale, the junior of the house,
who purchased the spoons for the firm, was, in fact, very
sweet upon Amelia, and offered for her in spite of all.
He married Miss Louisa Cutts (daughter of Higham and
Cutts, the eminent cornfactors) with a handsome fortune
in 1820; and is now living in splendour, and with a
numerous family, at his elegant villa, Muswell Hill. But
we must not let the recollections of this good fellow
cause us to diverge from the principal history.
I hope the reader has much too good an opinion of
Captain and Mrs. Crawley to suppose that they ever
would have dreamed of paying a visit to so remote a
district as Bloomsbury, if they thought the family whom
they proposed to honour with a visit were not merely
out of fashion, but out of money, and could be
serviceable to them in no possible manner. Rebecca was
entirely surprised at the sight of the comfortable old house
where she had met with no small kindness, ransacked by
brokers and bargainers, and its quiet family treasures
given up to public desecration and plunder. A month
after her flight, she had bethought her of Amelia, and
Rawdon, with a horse-laugh, had expressed a perfect
willingness to see young George Osborne again. "He's a
very agreeable acquaintance, Beck," the wag added. "I'd
like to sell him another horse, Beck. I'd like to play a
few more games at billiards with him. He'd be what I
call useful just now, Mrs. C.--ha, ha!" by which sort of
speech it is not to be supposed that Rawdon Crawley had
a deliberate desire to cheat Mr. Osborne at play, but only
wished to take that fair advantage of him which almost
every sporting gentleman in Vanity Fair considers to be
his due from his neighbour.
The old aunt was long in "coming-to." A month had
elapsed. Rawdon was denied the door by Mr. Bowls; his
servants could not get a lodgment in the house at Park
Lane; his letters were sent back unopened. Miss Crawley
never stirred out--she was unwell--and Mrs. Bute
remained still and never left her. Crawley and his wife both
of them augured evil from the continued presence of
Mrs. Bute.
"Gad, I begin to perceive now why she was always
bringing us together at Queen's Crawley," Rawdon said.
"What an artful little woman!" ejaculated Rebecca.
"Well, I don't regret it, if you don't," the Captain
cried, still in an amorous rapture with his wife, who
rewarded him with a kiss by way of reply, and was
indeed not a little gratified by the generous confidence
of her husband.
"If he had but a little more brains," she thought to
herself, "I might make something of him"; but she never
let him perceive the opinion she had of him; listened
with indefatigable complacency to his stories of the
stable and the mess; laughed at all his jokes; felt the
greatest interest in Jack Spatterdash, whose cab-horse
had come down, and Bob Martingale, who had been
taken up in a gambling-house, and Tom Cinqbars, who
was going to ride the steeplechase. When he came home
she was alert and happy: when he went out she pressed
him to go: when he stayed at home, she played and
sang for him, made him good drinks, superintended his
dinner, warmed his slippers, and steeped his soul in
comfort. The best of women (I have heard my grandmother
say) are hypocrites. We don't know how much
they hide from us: how watchful they are when they
seem most artless and confidential: how often those frank
smiles which they wear so easily, are traps to cajole or
elude or disarm--I don't mean in your mere coquettes,
but your domestic models, and paragons of female virtue.
Who has not seen a woman hide the dulness of a stupid
husband, or coax the fury of a savage one? We accept
this amiable slavishness, and praise a woman for it: we
call this pretty treachery truth. A good housewife is of
necessity a humbug; and Cornelia's husband was
hoodwinked, as Potiphar was--only in a different way.
By these attentions, that veteran rake, Rawdon Crawley,
found himself converted into a very happy and submissive
married man. His former haunts knew him not.
They asked about him once or twice at his clubs, but did
not miss him much: in those booths of Vanity Fair people
seldom do miss each other. His secluded wife ever smiling
and cheerful, his little comfortable lodgings, snug
meals, and homely evenings, had all the charms of novelty
and secrecy. The marriage was not yet declared to the
world, or published in the Morning Post. All his creditors
would have come rushing on him in a body, had they
known that he was united to a woman without fortune.
"My relations won't cry fie upon me," Becky said, with
rather a bitter laugh; and she was quite contented to wait
until the old aunt should be reconciled, before she claimed
her place in society. So she lived at Brompton, and
meanwhile saw no one, or only those few of her husband's
male companions who were admitted into her little
dining-room. These were all charmed with her. The little
dinners, the laughing and chatting, the music afterwards,
delighted all who participated in these enjoyments. Major
Martingale never thought about asking to
see the marriage licence, Captain Cinqbars was perfectly
enchanted with her skill in making punch. And young
Lieutenant Spatterdash (who was fond of piquet, and
whom Crawley would often invite) was evidently and
quickly smitten by Mrs. Crawley; but her own
circumspection and modesty never forsook her for a
moment, and Crawley's reputation as a fire-eating and
jealous warrior was a further and complete defence to
his little wife.
There are gentlemen of very good blood and fashion
in this city, who never have entered a lady's drawingroom;
so that though Rawdon Crawley's marriage might
be talked about in his county, where, of course, Mrs.
Bute had spread the news, in London it was doubted, or
not heeded, or not talked about at all. He lived comfortably
on credit. He had a large capital of debts, which
laid out judiciously, will carry a man along for many
years, and on which certain men about town contrive
to live a hundred times better than even men with ready
money can do. Indeed who is there that walks London
streets, but can point out a half-dozen of men riding
by him splendidly, while he is on foot, courted by fashion,
bowed into their carriages by tradesmen, denying
themselves nothing, and living on who knows what? We
see Jack Thriftless prancing in the park, or darting in his
brougham down Pall Mall: we eat his dinners served on
his miraculous plate. "How did this begin," we say, "or
where will it end?" "My dear fellow," I heard Jack once
say, "I owe money in every capital in Europe." The end
must come some day, but in the meantime Jack thrives
as much as ever; people are glad enough to shake him by
the hand, ignore the little dark stories that are whispered
every now and then against him, and pronounce him a
good-natured, jovial, reckless fellow.
Truth obliges us to confess that Rebecca had married a
gentleman of this order. Everything was plentiful in his
house but ready money, of which their menage pretty
early felt the want; and reading the Gazette one day,
and coming upon the announcement of "Lieutenant G.
Osborne to be Captain by purchase, vice Smith, who
exchanges," Rawdon uttered that sentiment regarding
Amelia's lover, which ended in the visit to Russell Square.
When Rawdon and his wife wished to communicate
with Captain Dobbin at the sale, and to know particulars
of the catastrophe which had befallen Rebecca's
old acquaintances, the Captain had vanished; and such
information as they got was from a stray porter or broker
at the auction.
"Look at them with their hooked beaks," Becky said,
getting into the buggy, her picture under her arm, in
great glee. "They're like vultures after a battle."
"Don't know. Never was in action, my dear. Ask
Martingale; he was in Spain, aide-de-camp to General
"He was a very kind old man, Mr. Sedley," Rebecca
said; "I'm really sorry he's gone wrong."
"O stockbrokers--bankrupts--used to it, you know,"
Rawdon replied, cutting a fly off the horse's ear.
"I wish we could have afforded some of the plate,
Rawdon," the wife continued sentimentally. "Five-andtwenty
guineas was monstrously dear for that little piano.
We chose it at Broadwood's for Amelia, when she came
from school. It only cost five-and-thirty then."
"What-d'-ye-call'em--'Osborne,' will cry off now, I
suppose, since the family is smashed. How cut up your
pretty little friend will be; hey, Becky?"
"I daresay she'll recover it," Becky said with a smile
--and they drove on and talked about something else.
Who Played on the Piano Captain Dobbin Bought
Our surprised story now finds itself for a moment
among very famous events and personages, and
hanging on to the skirts of history. When the eagles
of Napoleon Bonaparte, the Corsican upstart, were
flying from Provence, where they had perched after a brief
sojourn in Elba, and from steeple to steeple until they
reached the towers of Notre Dame, I wonder whether the
Imperial birds had any eye for a little corner of the parish
of Bloomsbury, London, which you might have thought so quiet,
that even the whirring and flapping of those mighty wings
would pass unobserved there?
"Napoleon has landed at Cannes." Such news might
create a panic at Vienna, and cause Russia to drop his
cards, and take Prussia into a corner, and Talleyrand
and Metternich to wag their heads together, while Prince
Hardenberg, and even the present Marquis of Londonderry,
were puzzled; but how was this intelligence to affect a young
lady in Russell Square, before whose door the watchman
sang the hours when she was asleep: who, if she
strolled in the square, was guarded there by the
railings and the beadle: who, if she walked ever so short
a distance to buy a ribbon in Southampton Row, was
followed by Black Sambo with an enormous cane: who
was always cared for, dressed, put to bed, and watched
over by ever so many guardian angels, with and without
wages? Bon Dieu, I say, is it not hard that the fateful
rush of the great Imperial struggle can't take place without
affecting a poor little harmless girl of eighteen, who
is occupied in billing and cooing, or working muslin
collars in Russell Square? You too, kindly, homely flower!
--is the great roaring war tempest coming to sweep you
down, here, although cowering under the shelter of
Holborn? Yes; Napoleon is flinging his last stake, and poor
little Emmy Sedley's happiness forms, somehow, part of it.
In the first place, her father's fortune was swept down
with that fatal news. All his speculations had of late gone
wrong with the luckless old gentleman. Ventures had
failed; merchants had broken; funds had risen when he
calculated they would fall. What need to particularize?
If success is rare and slow, everybody knows how quick
and easy ruin is. Old Sedley had kept his own sad counsel.
Everything seemed to go on as usual in the quiet,
opulent house; the good-natured mistress pursuing, quite
unsuspiciously, her bustling idleness, and daily easy
avocations; the daughter absorbed still in one selfish, tender
thought, and quite regardless of all the world besides,
when that final crash came, under which the worthy
family fell.
One night Mrs. Sedley was writing cards for a party;
the Osbornes had given one, and she must not be
behindhand; John Sedley, who had come home very late from
the City, sate silent at the chimney side, while his wife
was prattling to him; Emmy had gone up to her room
ailing and low-spirited. "She's not happy," the mother
went on. "George Osborne neglects her. I've no patience
with the airs of those people. The girls have not been in
the house these three weeks; and George has been twice
in town without coming. Edward Dale saw him at the
Opera. Edward would marry her I'm sure: and there's
Captain Dobbin who, I think, would--only I hate all
army men. Such a dandy as George has become. With
his military airs, indeed! We must show some folks that
we're as good as they. Only give Edward Dale any
encouragement, and you'll see. We must have a party, Mr.
S. Why don't you speak, John? Shall I say Tuesday fortnight?
Why don't you answer? Good God, John, what has happened?"
John Sedley sprang up out of his chair to meet his
wife, who ran to him. He seized her in his arms, and
said with a hasty voice, "We're ruined, Mary. We've
got the world to begin over again, dear. It's best that you
should know all, and at once." As he spoke, he trembled
in every limb, and almost fell. He thought the news would
have overpowered his wife--his wife, to whom he had
never said a hard word. But it was he that was the most
moved, sudden as the shock was to her. When he sank
back into his seat, it was the wife that took the office of
consoler. She took his trembling hand, and kissed it, and
put it round her neck: she called him her John--her dear
John--her old man--her kind old man; she poured out a
hundred words of incoherent love and tenderness; her
faithful voice and simple caresses wrought this sad heart
up to an inexpressible delight and anguish, and cheered
and solaced his over-burdened soul.
Only once in the course of the long night as they sate
together, and poor Sedley opened his pent-up soul, and
told the story of his losses and embarrassments--the
treason of some of his oldest friends, the manly kindness
of some, from whom he never could have expected it--in
a general confession--only once did the faithful wife give
way to emotion.
"My God, my God, it will break Emmy's heart," she
The father had forgotten the poor girl. She was lying,
awake and unhappy, overhead. In the midst of friends,
home, and kind parents, she was alone. To how many
people can any one tell all? Who will be open where there
is no sympathy, or has call to speak to those who never
can understand? Our gentle Amelia was thus solitary. She
had no confidante, so to speak, ever since she had anything
to confide. She could not tell the old mother her
doubts and cares; the would-be sisters seemed every day
more strange to her. And she had misgivings and fears
which she dared not acknowledge to herself, though she
was always secretly brooding over them.
Her heart tried to persist in asserting that George
Osborne was worthy and faithful to her, though she knew
otherwise. How many a thing had she said, and got no
echo from him. How many suspicions of selfishness and
indifference had she to encounter and obstinately
overcome. To whom could the poor little martyr tell these
daily struggles and tortures? Her hero himself only half
understood her. She did not dare to own that the man she
loved was her inferior; or to feel that she had given her
heart away too soon. Given once, the pure bashful
maiden was too modest, too tender, too trustful, too
weak, too much woman to recall it. We are Turks with
the affections of our women; and have made them
subscribe to our doctrine too. We let their bodies go abroad
liberally enough, with smiles and ringlets and pink
bonnets to disguise them instead of veils and yakmaks. But
their souls must be seen by only one man, and they obey
not unwillingly, and consent to remain at home as our
slaves--ministering to us and doing drudgery for us.
So imprisoned and tortured was this gentle little heart,
when in the month of March, Anno Domini 1815,
Napoleon landed at Cannes, and Louis XVIII fled, and all
Europe was in alarm, and the funds fell, and old John
Sedley was ruined.
We are not going to follow the worthy old stockbroker
through those last pangs and agonies of ruin through
which he passed before his commercial demise befell.
They declared him at the Stock Exchange; he was
absent from his house of business: his bills were protested:
his act of bankruptcy formal. The house and furniture of
Russell Square were seized and sold up, and he and his
family were thrust away, as we have seen, to hide their
heads where they might.
John Sedley had not the heart to review the domestic
establishment who have appeared now and anon in our
pages and of whom he was now forced by poverty to
take leave. The wages of those worthy people were
discharged with that punctuality which men frequently show
who only owe in great sums--they were sorry to leave
good places--but they did not break their hearts at parting
from their adored master and mistress. Amelia's maid
was profuse in condolences, but went off quite resigned
to better herself in a genteeler quarter of the town. Black
Sambo, with the infatuation of his profession, determined
on setting up a public-house. Honest old Mrs. Blenkinsop
indeed, who had seen the birth of Jos and Amelia, and
the wooing of John Sedley and his wife, was for staying
by them without wages, having amassed a considerable
sum in their service: and she accompanied the fallen
people into their new and humble place of refuge, where
she tended them and grumbled against them for a while.
Of all Sedley's opponents in his debates with his creditors
which now ensued, and harassed the feelings of the
humiliated old gentleman so severely, that in six weeks he
oldened more than he had done for fifteen years before--
the most determined and obstinate seemed to be John
Osborne, his old friend and neighbour--John Osborne,
whom he had set up in life--who was under a hundred
obligations to him--and whose son was to marry Sedley's
daughter. Any one of these circumstances would account
for the bitterness of Osborne's opposition.
When one man has been under very remarkable
obligations to another, with whom he subsequently quarrels,
a common sense of decency, as it were, makes of the
former a much severer enemy than a mere stranger
would be. To account for your own hard-heartedness and
ingratitude in such a case, you are bound to prove the
other party's crime. It is not that you are selfish, brutal,
and angry at the failure of a speculation--no, no--it is
that your partner has led you into it by the basest treachery
and with the most sinister motives. From a mere
sense of consistency, a persecutor is bound to show that
the fallen man is a villain--otherwise he, the persecutor,
is a wretch himself.
And as a general rule, which may make all creditors
who are inclined to be severe pretty comfortable in their
minds, no men embarrassed are altogether honest, very
likely. They conceal something; they exaggerate chances
of good luck; hide away the real state of affairs; say that
things are flourishing when they are hopeless, keep a
smiling face (a dreary smile it is) upon the verge of
bankruptcy--are ready to lay hold of any pretext for
delay or of any money, so as to stave off the inevitable
ruin a few days longer. "Down with such dishonesty,"
says the creditor in triumph, and reviles his sinking
enemy. "You fool, why do you catch at a straw?" calm
good sense says to the man that is drowning. "You villain,
why do you shrink from plunging into the irretrievable
Gazette?" says prosperity to the poor devil battling in
that black gulf. Who has not remarked the readiness with
which the closest of friends and honestest of men suspect
and accuse each other of cheating when they fall out
on money matters? Everybody does it. Everybody is right,
I suppose, and the world is a rogue.
Then Osborne had the intolerable sense of former
benefits to goad and irritate him: these are always a
cause of hostility aggravated. Finally, he had to break off
the match between Sedley's daughter and his son; and
as it had gone very far indeed, and as the poor girl's
happiness and perhaps character were compromised, it was
necessary to show the strongest reasons for the rupture,
and for John Osborne to prove John Sedley to be a very
bad character indeed.
At the meetings of creditors, then, he comported himself
with a savageness and scorn towards Sedley, which
almost succeeded in breaking the heart of that ruined
bankrupt man. On George's intercourse with Amelia he
put an instant veto--menacing the youth with maledictions
if he broke his commands, and vilipending the
poor innocent girl as the basest and most artful of vixens.
One of the great conditions of anger and hatred is, that
you must tell and believe lies against the hated object, in
order, as we said, to be consistent.
When the great crash came--the announcement of
ruin, and the departure from Russell Square, and the
declaration that all was over between her and George--all
over between her and love, her and happiness, her and
faith in the world--a brutal letter from John Osborne
told her in a few curt lines that her father's conduct had
been of such a nature that all engagements between the
families were at an end--when the final award came, it
did not shock her so much as her parents, as her mother
rather expected (for John Sedley himself was entirely
prostrate in the ruins of his own affairs and shattered
honour). Amelia took the news very palely and calmly.
It was only the confirmation of the dark presages which
had long gone before. It was the mere reading of the
sentence--of the crime she had long ago been guilty--the
crime of loving wrongly, too violently, against reason.
She told no more of her thoughts now than she had
before. She seemed scarcely more unhappy now when
convinced all hope was over, than before when she felt but
dared not confess that it was gone. So she changed from
the large house to the small one without any mark or
difference; remained in her little room for the most part;
pined silently; and died away day by day. I do not mean
to say that all females are so. My dear Miss Bullock, I
do not think your heart would break in this way. You are
a strong-minded young woman with proper principles.
I do not venture to say that mine would; it has suffered,
and, it must be confessed, survived. But there are some
souls thus gently constituted, thus frail, and delicate, and
Whenever old John Sedley thought of the affair
between George and Amelia, or alluded to it, it was with
bitterness almost as great as Mr. Osborne himself had
shown. He cursed Osborne and his family as heartless,
wicked, and ungrateful. No power on earth, he swore,
would induce him to marry his daughter to the son of
such a villain, and he ordered Emmy to banish George
from her mind, and to return all the presents and letters
which she had ever had from him.
She promised acquiescence, and tried to obey. She put
up the two or three trinkets: and, as for the letters, she
drew them out of the place.where she kept them; and
read them over--as if she did not know them by heart
already: but she could not part with them. That effort
was too much for her; she placed them back in her
bosom again--as you have seen a woman nurse a child
that is dead. Young Amelia felt that she would die or lose
her senses outright, if torn away from this last consolation.
How she used to blush and lighten up when those
letters came! How she used to trip away with a beating
heart, so that she might read unseen! If they were cold,
yet how perversely this fond little soul interpreted them
into warmth. If they were short or selfish, what excuses
she found for the writer!
It was over these few worthless papers that she brooded
and brooded. She lived in her past life--every letter
seemed to recall some circumstance of it. How well she
remembered them all! His looks and tones, his dress,
what he said and how--these relics and remembrances
of dead affection were all that were left her in the world.
And the business of her life, was--to watch the corpse
of Love.
To death she looked with inexpressible longing. Then,
she thought, I shall always be able to follow him. I am not
praising her conduct or setting her up as a model for
Miss Bullock to imitate. Miss B. knows how to regulate
her feelings better than this poor little creature. Miss B.
would never have committed herself as that imprudent
Amelia had done; pledged her love irretrievably;
confessed her heart away, and got back nothing--only a
brittle promise which was snapt and worthless in a
moment. A long engagement is a partnership which one
party is free to keep or to break, but which involves all
the capital of the other.
Be cautious then, young ladies; be wary how you
engage. Be shy of loving frankly; never tell all you feel, or
(a better way still), feel very little. See the consequences
of being prematurely honest and confiding, and mistrust
yourselves and everybody. Get yourselves married as they
do in France, where the lawyers are the bridesmaids and
confidantes. At any rate, never have any feelings which
may make you uncomfortable, or make any promises
which you cannot at any required moment command and
withdraw. That is the way to get on, and be respected,
and have a virtuous character in Vanity Fair.
If Amelia could have heard the comments regarding
her which were made in the circle from which her father's
ruin had just driven her, she would have seen what her
own crimes were, and how entirely her character was
jeopardised. Such criminal imprudence Mrs. Smith never
knew of; such horrid familiarities Mrs. Brown had
always condemned, and the end might be a warning to HER
daughters. "Captain Osborne, of course, could not marry
a bankrupt's daughter," the Misses Dobbin said. "It was
quite enough to have been swindled by the father. As for
that little Amelia, her folly had really passed all--"
"All what?" Captain Dobbin roared out. "Haven't they
been engaged ever since they were children? Wasn't it
as good as a marriage? Dare any soul on earth breathe a
word against the sweetest, the purest, the tenderest, the
most angelical of young women?"
"La, William, don't be so highty-tighty with US. We're
not men. We can't fight you," Miss Jane said. "We've said
nothing against Miss Sedley: but that her conduct
throughout was MOST IMPRUDENT, not to call it by any
worse name; and that her parents are people who
certainly merit their misfortunes."
"Hadn't you better, now that Miss Sedley is free,
propose for her yourself, William?" Miss Ann asked
sarcastically. "It would be a most eligible family
connection. He! he!"
"I marry her!" Dobbin said, blushing very much, and
talking quick. "If you are so ready, young ladies, to chop
and change, do you suppose that she is? Laugh and sneer
at that angel. She can't hear it; and she's miserable and
unfortunate, and deserves to be laughed at. Go on
joking, Ann. You're the wit of the family, and the others
like to hear it."
"I must tell you again we're not in a barrack, William,"
Miss Ann remarked.
"In a barrack, by Jove--I wish anybody in a barrack
would say what you do," cried out this uproused British
lion. "I should like to hear a man breathe a word against
her, by Jupiter. But men don't talk in this way, Ann: it's
only women, who get together and hiss, and shriek, and
cackle. There, get away--don't begin to cry. I only said
you were a couple of geese," Will Dobbin said, perceiving
Miss Ann's pink eyes were beginning to moisten as
usual. "Well, you're not geese, you're swans--anything
you like, only do, do leave Miss Sedley alone."
Anything like William's infatuation about that silly little
flirting, ogling thing was never known, the mamma
and sisters agreed together in thinking: and they trembled
lest, her engagement being off with Osborne, she should
take up immediately her other admirer and Captain.
In which forebodings these worthy young women no
doubt judged according to the best of their experience; or
rather (for as yet they had had no opportunities of
marrying or of jilting) according to their own notions of
right and wrong.
"It is a mercy, Mamma, that the regiment is ordered
abroad," the girls said. "THIS danger, at any rate, is
spared our brother."
Such, indeed, was the fact; and so it is that the French
Emperor comes in to perform a part in this domestic
comedy of Vanity Fair which we are now playing, and
which would never have been enacted without the
intervention of this august mute personage. It was he
that ruined the Bourbons and Mr. John Sedley. It was
he whose arrival in his capital called up all France in
arms to defend him there; and all Europe to oust him.
While the French nation and army were swearing fidelity
round the eagles in the Champ de Mars, four mighty
European hosts were getting in motion for the great
chasse a l'aigle; and one of these was a British army, of
which two heroes of ours, Captain Dobbin and Captain
Osborne, formed a portion.
The news of Napoleon's escape and landing was
received by the gallant --th with a fiery delight and
enthusiasm, which everybody can understand who knows
that famous corps. From the colonel to the smallest
drummer in the regiment, all were filled with hope and
ambition and patriotic fury; and thanked the French Emperor
as for a personal kindness in coming to disturb the peace
of Europe. Now was the time the --th had so long
panted for, to show their comrades in arms that they
could fight as well as the Peninsular veterans, and that
all the pluck and valour of the --th had not been killed
by the West Indies and the yellow fever. Stubble and
Spooney looked to get their companies without purchase.
Before the end of the campaign (which she resolved
to share), Mrs. Major O'Dowd hoped to write
herself Mrs. Colonel O'Dowd, C.B. Our two friends
(Dobbin and Osborne) were quite as much excited as the
rest: and each in his way--Mr. Dobbin very quietly, Mr.
Osborne very loudly and energetically--was bent upon
doing his duty, and gaining his share of honour and
The agitation thrilling through the country and army
in consequence of this news was so great, that private
matters were little heeded: and hence probably George
Osborne, just gazetted to his company, busy with preparations
for the march, which must come inevitably, and
panting for further promotion--was not so much affected
by other incidents which would have interested him at a
more quiet period. He was not, it must be confessed,
very much cast down by good old Mr. Sedley's catastrophe.
He tried his new uniform, which became him
very handsomely, on the day when the first meeting of
the creditors of the unfortunate gentleman took place.
His father told him of the wicked, rascally, shameful
conduct of the bankrupt, reminded him of what he had
said about Amelia, and that their connection was broken
off for ever; and gave him that evening a good sum of
money to pay for the new clothes and epaulets in which
he looked so well. Money was always useful to this freehanded
young fellow, and he took it without many words.
The bills were up in the Sedley house, where he had
passed so many, many happy hours. He could see
them as he walked from home that night (to the Old
Slaughters', where he put up when in town) shining white
in the moon. That comfortable home was shut, then, upon
Amelia and her parents: where had they taken refuge?
The thought of their ruin affected him not a little. He
was very melancholy that night in the coffee-room at
the Slaughters'; and drank a good deal, as his comrades
remarked there.
Dobbin came in presently, cautioned him about the
drink, which he only took, he said, because he was
deuced low; but when his friend began to put to him
clumsy inquiries, and asked him for news in a significant
manner, Osborne declined entering into conversation with
him, avowing, however, that he was devilish disturbed
and unhappy.
Three days afterwards, Dobbin found Osborne in his
room at the barracks--his head on the table, a number
of papers about, the young Captain evidently in a state
of great despondency. "She--she's sent me back some
things I gave her--some damned trinkets. Look here!"
There was a little packet directed in the well-known hand
to Captain George Osborne, and some things lying about
--a ring, a silver knife he had bought, as a boy, for her
at a fair; a gold chain, and a locket with hair in it. "It's
all over," said he, with a groan of sickening remorse.
"Look, Will, you may read it if you like."
There was a little letter of a few lines, to which he
pointed, which said:
My papa has ordered me to return to you these
presents, which you made in happier days to me; and I
am to write to you for the last time. I think, I know you
feel as much as I do the blow which has come upon us.
It is I that absolve you from an engagement which is
impossible in our present misery. I am sure you had no
share in it, or in the cruel suspicions of Mr. Osborne,
which are the hardest of all our griefs to bear. Farewell.
Farewell. I pray God to strengthen me to bear this and
other calamities, and to bless you always. A.
I shall often play upon the piano--your piano. It was
like you to send it.
Dobbin was very soft-hearted. The sight of women
and children in pain always used to melt him. The idea
of Amelia broken-hearted and lonely tore that goodnatured
soul with anguish. And he broke out into an
emotion, which anybody who likes may consider unmanly.
He swore that Amelia was an angel, to which Osborne
said aye with all his heart. He, too, had been reviewing
the history of their lives--and had seen her from her
childhood to her present age, so sweet, so innocent,
so charmingly simple, and artlessly fond and tender.
What a pang it was to lose all that: to have had it and
not prized it! A thousand homely scenes and recollections
crowded on him--in which he always saw her good
and beautiful. And for himself, he blushed with remorse
and shame, as the remembrance of his own selfishness
and indifference contrasted with that perfect purity. For
a while, glory, war, everything was forgotten, and the
pair of friends talked about her only.
"Where are they?" Osborne asked, after a long talk,
and a long pause--and, in truth, with no little shame at
thinking that he had taken no steps to follow her. "Where
are they? There's no address to the note."
Dobbin knew. He had not merely sent the piano; but
had written a note to Mrs. Sedley, and asked permission
to come and see her--and he had seen her, and Amelia
too, yesterday, before he came down to Chatham; and,
what is more, he had brought that farewell letter and
packet which had so moved them.
The good-natured fellow had found Mrs. Sedley only
too willing to receive him, and greatly agitated by the
arrival of the piano, which, as she conjectured, MUST have
come from George, and was a signal of amity on his
part. Captain Dobbin did not correct this error of the
worthy lady, but listened to all her story of complaints
and misfortunes with great sympathy--condoled with
her losses and privations, and agreed in reprehending the
cruel conduct of Mr. Osborne towards his first benefactor.
When she had eased her overflowing bosom somewhat,
and poured forth many of her sorrows, he had the
courage to ask actually to see Amelia, who was above in
her room as usual, and whom her mother led trembling
Her appearance was so ghastly, and her look of despair
so pathetic, that honest William Dobbin was frightened
as he beheld it; and read the most fatal forebodings in
that pale fixed face. After sitting in his company a minute
or two, she put the packet into his hand, and said,
"Take this to Captain Osborne, if you please, and--and I
hope he's quite well--and it was very kind of you to
come and see us--and we like our new house very much.
And I--I think I'll go upstairs, Mamma, for I'm not very
strong." And with this, and a curtsey and a smile, the
poor child went her way. The mother, as she led her up,
cast back looks of anguish towards Dobbin. The good
fellow wanted no such appeal. He loved her himself too
fondly for that. Inexpressible grief, and pity, and terror
pursued him, and he came away as if he was a criminal
after seeing her.
When Osborne heard that his friend had found her,
he made hot and anxious inquiries regarding the poor
child. How was she? How did she look? What did she
say? His comrade took his hand, and looked him in the
"George, she's dying," William Dobbin said--and could
speak no more.
There was a buxom Irish servant-girl, who performed
all the duties of the little house where the Sedley family
had found refuge: and this girl had in vain, on many
previous days, striven to give Amelia aid or consolation.
Emmy was much too sad to answer, or even to be aware
of the attempts the other was making in her favour.
Four hours after the talk between Dobbin and Osborne,
this servant-maid came into Amelia's room, where she
sate as usual, brooding silently over her letters--her
little treasures. The girl, smiling, and looking arch and
happy, made many trials to attract poor Emmy's
attention, who, however, took no heed of her.
"Miss Emmy," said the girl.
"I'm coming," Emmy said, not looking round.
"There's a message," the maid went on. "There's
something--somebody--sure, here's a new letter for you--
don't be reading them old ones any more." And she gave
her a letter, which Emmy took, and read.
"I must see you," the letter said. "Dearest Emmy--
dearest love--dearest wife, come to me."
George and her mother were outside, waiting until she
had read the letter.
Miss Crawley at Nurse
We have seen how Mrs. Firkin, the lady's maid, as soon
as any event of importance to the Crawley family came
to her knowledge, felt bound to communicate it to Mrs.
Bute Crawley, at the Rectory; and have before
mentioned how particularly kind and attentive that goodnatured
lady was to Miss Crawley's confidential servant.
She had been a gracious friend to Miss Briggs, the
companion, also; and had secured the latter's good-will by a
number of those attentions and promises, which cost so
little in the making, and are yet so valuable and agreeable to
the recipient. Indeed every good economist and
manager of a household must know how cheap and yet
how amiable these professions are, and what a flavour
they give to the most homely dish in life. Who was the
blundering idiot who said that "fine words butter no
parsnips"? Half the parsnips of society are served and
rendered palatable with no other sauce. As the immortal
Alexis Soyer can make more delicious soup for a halfpenny
than an ignorant cook can concoct with pounds of
vegetables and meat, so a skilful artist will make a few
simple and pleasing phrases go farther than ever so much
substantial benefit-stock in the hands of a mere bungler.
Nay, we know that substantial benefits often sicken some
stomachs; whereas, most will digest any amount of fine
words, and be always eager for more of the same food.
Mrs. Bute had told Briggs and Firkin so often of the
depth of her affection for them; and what she would do,
if she had Miss Crawley's fortune, for friends so excellent
and attached, that the ladies in question had the deepest
regard for her; and felt as much gratitude and
confidence as if Mrs. Bute had loaded them with the most
expensive favours.
Rawdon Crawley, on the other hand, like a selfish
heavy dragoon as he was, never took the least trouble to
conciliate his aunt's aides-de-camp, showed his contempt
for the pair with entire frankness--made Firkin pull off
his boots on one occasion--sent her out in the rain on
ignominious messages--and if he gave her a guinea, flung
it to her as if it were a box on the ear. As his aunt, too,
made a butt of Briggs, the Captain followed the
example, and levelled his jokes at her--jokes about as
delicate as a kick from his charger. Whereas, Mrs. Bute
consulted her in matters of taste or difficulty, admired
her poetry, and by a thousand acts of kindness and
politeness, showed her appreciation of Briggs; and if she
made Firkin a twopenny-halfpenny present, accompanied
it with so many compliments, that the twopence-halfpenny
was transmuted into gold in the heart of the grateful
waiting-maid, who, besides, was looking forwards
quite contentedly to some prodigious benefit which must
happen to her on the day when Mrs. Bute came into her
The different conduct of these two people is pointed
out respectfully to the attention of persons commencing
the world. Praise everybody, I say to such: never be
squeamish, but speak out your compliment both pointblank
in a man's face, and behind his back, when
you know there is a reasonable chance of his hearing it
again. Never lose a chance of saying a kind word. As
Collingwood never saw a vacant place in his estate but
he took an acorn out of his pocket and popped it in;
so deal with your compliments through life. An acorn
costs nothing; but it may sprout into a prodigious bit of
In a word, during Rawdon Crawley's prosperity, he was
only obeyed with sulky acquiescence; when his disgrace
came, there was nobody to help or pity him. Whereas,
when Mrs. Bute took the command at Miss Crawley's
house, the garrison there were charmed to act under
such a leader, expecting all sorts of promotion from her
promises, her generosity, and her kind words.
That he would consider himself beaten, after one defeat,
and make no attempt to regain the position he had
lost, Mrs. Bute Crawley never allowed herself to suppose.
She knew Rebecca to be too clever and spirited and
desperate a woman to submit without a struggle; and felt
that she must prepare for that combat, and be incessantly
watchful against assault; or mine, or surprise.
In the first place, though she held the town, was she
sure of the principal inhabitant? Would Miss Crawley
herself hold out; and had she not a secret longing to
welcome back the ousted adversary? The old lady liked
Rawdon, and Rebecca, who amused her. Mrs. Bute could
not disguise from herself the fact that none of her party
could so contribute to the pleasures of the town-bred
lady. "My girls' singing, after that little odious governess's,
I know is unbearable," the candid Rector's wife
owned to herself. "She always used to go to sleep when
Martha and Louisa played their duets. Jim's stiff
college manners and poor dear Bute's talk about his dogs
and horses always annoyed her. If I took her to the
Rectory, she would grow angry with us all, and fly, I
know she would; and might fall into that horrid
Rawdon's clutches again, and be the victim of that little
viper of a Sharp. Meanwhile, it is clear to me that she is
exceedingly unwell, and cannot move for some weeks, at
any rate; during which we must think of some plan to
protect her from the arts of those unprincipled people."
In the very best-of moments, if anybody told Miss
Crawley that she was, or looked ill, the trembling old
lady sent off for her doctor; and I daresay she was very
unwell after the sudden family event, which might serve
to shake stronger nerves than hers. At least, Mrs. Bute
thought it was her duty to inform the physician, and the
apothecary, and the dame-de-compagnie, and the domestics,
that Miss Crawley was in a most critical state, and
that they were to act accordingly. She had the street laid
knee-deep with straw; and the knocker put by with Mr.
Bowls's plate. She insisted that the Doctor should call
twice a day; and deluged her patient with draughts every
two hours. When anybody entered the room, she uttered
a shshshsh so sibilant and ominous, that it frightened the
poor old lady in her bed, from which she could
not look without seeing Mrs. Bute's beady eyes eagerly
fixed on her, as the latter sate steadfast in the arm-chair
by the bedside. They seemed to lighten in the dark (for
she kept the curtains closed) as she moved about the
room on velvet paws like a cat. There Miss Crawley lay
for days--ever so many days--Mr. Bute reading books
of devotion to her: for nights, long nights, during which
she had to hear the watchman sing, the night-light sputter;
visited at midnight, the last thing, by the stealthy apothecary;
and then left to look at Mrs. Bute's twinkling eyes,
or the flicks of yellow that the rushlight threw on the
dreary darkened ceiling. Hygeia herself would have
fallen sick under such a regimen; and how much more
this poor old nervous victim? It has been said that when
she was in health and good spirits, this venerable
inhabitant of Vanity Fair had as free notions about religion
and morals as Monsieur de Voltaire himself could desire,
but when illness overtook her, it was aggravated by
the most dreadful terrors of death, and an utter cowardice
took possession of the prostrate old sinner.
Sick-bed homilies and pious reflections are, to be sure,
out of place in mere story-books, and we are not going
(after the fashion of some novelists of the present day)
to cajole the.public into a sermon, when it is only a
comedy that the reader pays his money to witness. But,
without preaching, the truth may surely be borne in mind,
that the bustle, and triumph, and laughter, and gaiety
which Vanity Fair exhibits in public, do not always pursue
the performer into private life, and that the most
dreary depression of spirits and dismal repentances
sometimes overcome him. Recollection of the best ordained
banquets will scarcely cheer sick epicures. Reminiscences
of the most becoming dresses and brilliant ball triumphs
will go very little way to console faded beauties. Perhaps
statesmen, at a particular period of existence, are
not much gratified at thinking over the most triumphant
divisions; and the success or the pleasure of yesterday
becomes of very small account when a certain
(albeit uncertain) morrow is in view, about which all of
us must some day or other be speculating. O brother
wearers of motley! Are there not moments when one
grows sick of grinning and tumbling, and the jingling of
cap and bells? This, dear friends and companions, is my
amiable object--to walk with you through the Fair, to
examine the shops and the shows there; and that we
should all come home after the flare, and the noise, and
the gaiety, and be perfectly miserable in private.
"If that poor man of mine had a head on his shoulders,"
Mrs. Bute Crawley thought to herself, "how useful he
might be, under present circumstances, to this unhappy
old lady! He might make her repent of her shocking
free-thinking ways; he might urge her to do her duty,
and cast off that odious reprobate who has disgraced
himself and his family; and he might induce her to do
justice to my dear girls and the two boys, who require
and deserve, I am sure, every assistance which their
relatives can give them."
And, as the hatred of vice is always a progress towards
virtue, Mrs. Bute Crawley endeavoured to instil
her sister-in-law a proper abhorrence for all Rawdon
Crawley's manifold sins: of which his uncle's wife brought
forward such a catalogue as indeed would have served
to condemn a whole regiment of young officers. If a man
has committed wrong in life, I don't know any moralist
more anxious to point his errors out to the world than
his own relations; so Mrs. Bute showed a perfect family
interest and knowledge of Rawdon's history. She had all
the particulars of that ugly quarrel with Captain Marker,
in which Rawdon, wrong from the beginning, ended in
shooting the Captain. She knew how the unhappy Lord
Dovedale, whose mamma had taken a house at Oxford,
so that he might be educated there, and who had never
touched a card in his life till he came to London, was
perverted by Rawdon at the Cocoa-Tree, made helplessly
tipsy by this abominable seducer and perverter of youth,
and fleeced of four thousand pounds. She described with
the most vivid minuteness the agonies of the country
families whom he had ruined--the sons whom he had
plunged into dishonour and poverty--the daughters
whom he had inveigled into perdition. She knew the poor
tradesmen who were bankrupt by his extravagance--the
mean shifts and rogueries with which he had ministered
to it--the astounding falsehoods by which he had imposed
upon the most generous of aunts, and the ingratitude and
ridicule by which he had repaid her sacrifices. She
imparted these stories gradually to Miss Crawley; gave her
the whole benefit of them; felt it to be her bounden duty
as a Christian woman and mother of a family to do so;
had not the smallest remorse or compunction for the
victim whom her tongue was immolating; nay, very likely
thought her act was quite meritorious, and plumed
herself upon her resolute manner of performing it. Yes,
if a man's character is to be abused, say what you will,
there's nobody like a relation to do the business. And one
is bound to own, regarding this unfortunate wretch of a
Rawdon Crawley, that the mere truth was enough to
condemn him, and that all inventions of scandal were quite
superfluous pains on his friends' parts.
Rebecca, too, being now a relative, came in for the
fullest share of Mrs. Bute's kind inquiries. This indefatigable
pursuer of truth (having given strict orders that the
door was to be denied to all emissaries or letters
from Rawdon), took Miss Crawley's carriage, and drove
to her old friend Miss Pinkerton, at Minerva House,
Chiswick Mall, to whom she announced the dreadful
intelligence of Captain Rawdon's seduction by Miss Sharp,
and from whom she got sundry strange particulars
regarding the ex-governess's birth and early history. The
friend of the Lexicographer had plenty of information
to give. Miss Jemima was made to fetch the drawingmaster's
receipts and letters. This one was from a
spunging-house: that entreated an advance: another was
full of gratitude for Rebecca's reception by the ladies of
Chiswick: and the last document from the unlucky artist's
pen was that in which, from his dying bed, he recommended
his orphan child to Miss Pinkerton's protection. There
were juvenile letters and petitions from Rebecca, too, in
the collection, imploring aid for her father or declaring
her own gratitude. Perhaps in Vanity Fair there are no
better satires than letters. Take a bundle of your dear
friend's of ten years back--your dear friend whom you
hate now. Look at a file of your sister's! how you clung
to each other till you quarrelled about the twenty-pound
legacy! Get down the round-hand scrawls of your son
who has half broken your heart with selfish undutifulness
since; or a parcel of your own, breathing endless
ardour and love eternal, which were sent back by your
mistress when she married the Nabob--your mistress for
whom you now care no more than for Queen Elizabeth.
Vows, love, promises, confidences, gratitude, how queerly
they read after a while! There ought to be a law in
Vanity Fair ordering the destruction of every written
document (except receipted tradesmen's bills) after a
certain brief and proper interval. Those quacks and
misanthropes who advertise indelible Japan ink should be
made to perish along with their wicked discoveries. The
best ink for Vanity Fair use would be one that faded
utterly in a couple of days, and left the paper clean and
blank, so that you might write on it to somebody else.
From Miss Pinkerton's the indefatigable Mrs. Bute
followed the track of Sharp and his daughter back to the
lodgings in Greek Street, which the defunct painter had
occupied; and where portraits of the landlady in white
satin, and of the husband in brass buttons, done by Sharp
in lieu of a quarter's rent, still decorated the parlour
walls. Mrs. Stokes was a communicative person, and
quickly told all she knew about Mr. Sharp; how dissolute
and poor he was; how good-natured and amusing; how he
was always hunted by bailiffs and duns; how, to the landlady's horror, though she never
could abide the woman,
he did not marry his wife till a short time before her
death; and what a queer little wild vixen his daughter
was; how she kept them all laughing with her fun and
mimicry; how she used to fetch the gin from the public-house,
and was known in all the studios in the quarter--in brief,
Mrs. Bute got such a full account of her new niece's
parentage, education, and behaviour as would
scarcely have pleased Rebecca, had the latter known that
such inquiries were being made concerning her.
Of all these industrious researches Miss Crawley had
the full benefit. Mrs. Rawdon Crawley was the daughter
of an opera-girl. She had danced herself. She had been a
model to the painters. She was brought up as became
her mother's daughter. She drank gin with her father,
&c. &c. It was a lost woman who was married to a lost
man; and the moral to be inferred from Mrs. Bute's
tale was, that the knavery of the pair was irremediable,
and that no properly conducted person should ever notice
them again.
These were the materials which prudent Mrs. Bute
gathered together in Park Lane, the provisions and
ammunition as it were with which she fortified the house
against the siege which she knew that Rawdon and his
wife would lay to Miss Crawley.
But if a fault may be found with her arrangements, it
is this, that she was too eager: she managed rather too
well; undoubtedly she made Miss Crawley more ill than
was necessary; and though the old invalid succumbed
to her authority, it was so harassing and severe, that the
victim would be inclined to escape at the very first chance
which fell in her way. Managing women, the ornaments
of their sex--women who order everything for everybody,
and know so much better than any person concerned
what is good for their neighbours, don't sometimes
speculate upon the possibility of a domestic revolt, or
upon other extreme consequences resulting from their
overstrained authority.
Thus, for instance, Mrs. Bute, with the best intentions
no doubt in the world, and wearing herself to death as
she did by foregoing sleep, dinner, fresh air, for the sake
of her invalid sister-in-law, carried her conviction of the
old lady's illness so far that she almost managed her
into her coffin. She pointed out her sacrifices and their
results one day to the constant apothecary, Mr. Clump.
"I am sure, my dear Mr. Clump," she said, "no efforts
of mine have been wanting to restore our dear invalid,
whom the ingratitude of her nephew has laid on the bed
of sickness. I never shrink from personal discomfort: I
never refuse to sacrifice myself."
"Your devotion, it must be confessed, is admirable,"
Mr. Clump says, with a low bow; "but--"
"I have scarcely closed my eyes since my arrival: I
give up sleep, health, every comfort, to my sense of duty.
When my poor James was in the smallpox, did I allow any
hireling to nurse him? No."
"You did what became an excellent mother, my dear
Madam--the best of mothers; but--~'
"As the mother of a family and the wife of an English
clergyman, I humbly trust that my principles are good,"
Mrs. Bute said, with a happy solemnity of conviction;
"and, as long as Nature supports me, never, never, Mr.
Clump, will I desert the post of duty. Others may bring
that grey head with sorrow to the bed of sickness (here
Mrs. Bute, waving her hand, pointed to one of old Miss
Crawley's coffee-coloured fronts, which was perched on
a stand in the dressing-room), but I will never quit it.
Ah, Mr. Clump! I fear, I know, that the couch needs
spiritual as well as medical consolation."
"What I was going to observe, my dear Madam,"--
here the resolute Clump once more interposed with a
bland air--"what I was going to observe when you gave
utterance to sentiments which do you so much honour,
was that I think you alarm yourself needlessly about our
kind friend, and sacrifice your own health too prodigally
in her favour."
"I would lay down my life for my duty, or for any
member of my husband's family," Mrs. Bute interposed.
"Yes, Madam, if need were; but we don't want Mrs
Bute Crawley to be a martyr," Clump said gallantly. "Dr
Squills and myself have both considered Miss Crawley's
case with every anxiety and care, as you may suppose. We
see her low-spirited and nervous; family events have
agitated her."
"Her nephew will come to perdition," Mrs. Crawley
"Have agitated her: and you arrived like a guardian
angel, my dear Madam, a positive guardian angel, I
assure you, to soothe her under the pressure of calamity.
But Dr. Squills and I were thinking that our amiable
friend is not in such a state as renders confinement to her
bed necessary. She is depressed, but this confinement
perhaps adds to her depression. She should have change,
fresh air, gaiety; the most delightful remedies in the
pharmacopoeia," Mr. Clump said, grinning and showing
his handsome teeth. "Persuade her to rise, dear Madam;
drag her from her couch and her low spirits; insist upon
her taking little drives. They will restore the roses too to
your cheeks, if I may so speak to Mrs. Bute Crawley."
"The sight of her horrid nephew casually in the Park,
where I am told the wretch drives with the brazen partner
of his crimes," Mrs. Bute said (letting the cat of selfishness
out of the bag of secrecy), "would cause her such
a shock, that we should have to bring her back to bed
again. She must not go out, Mr. Clump. She shall not go
out as long as I remain to watch over her; And as for my
health, what matters it? I give it cheerfully, sir. I sacrifice
it at the altar of my duty."
"Upon my word, Madam," Mr. Clump now said bluntly,
"I won't answer for her life if she remains locked up
in that dark room. She is so nervous that we may lose
her any day; and if you wish Captain Crawley to be her
heir, I warn you frankly, Madam, that you are doing
your very best to serve him."
"Gracious mercy! is her life in danger?" Mrs. Bute
cried. "Why, why, Mr. Clump, did you not inform me
The night before, Mr. Clump and Dr. Squills had had a
consultation (over a bottle of wine at the house of Sir
Lapin Warren, whose lady was about to present him
with a thirteenth blessing), regarding Miss Crawley and
her case.
"What a little harpy that woman from Hampshire is,
Clump," Squills remarked, "that has seized upon old
Tilly Crawley. Devilish good Madeira."
"What a fool Rawdon Crawley has been," Clump replied,
"to go and marry a governess! There was something
about the girl, too."
"Green eyes, fair skin, pretty figure, famous frontal
development," Squills remarked. "There is something
about her; and Crawley was a fool, Squills."
"A d-- fool--always was," the apothecary replied.
"Of course the old girl will fling him over," said the
physician, and after a pause added, "She'll cut up well, I
"Cut up," says Clump with a grin; "I wouldn't have her
cut up for two hundred a year."
"That Hampshire woman will kill her in two months,
Clump, my boy, if she stops about her," Dr. Squills said.
"Old woman; full feeder; nervous subject; palpitation of
the heart; pressure on the brain; apoplexy; off she goes.
Get her up, Clump; get her out: or I wouldn't give many
weeks' purchase for your two hundred a year." And it was
acting upon this hint that the worthy apothecary spoke
with so much candour to Mrs. Bute Crawley.
Having the old lady under her hand: in bed: with nobody
near, Mrs. Bute had made more than one assault
upon her, to induce her to alter her will. But Miss Crawley's
usual terrors regarding death increased greatly when
such dismal propositions were made to her, and Mrs.
Bute saw that she must get her patient into cheerful spirits
and health before she could hope to attain the pious object
which she had in view. Whither to take her was the
next puzzle. The only place where she is not likely to
meet those odious Rawdons is at church, and that won't
amuse her, Mrs. Bute justly felt. "We must go and visit
our beautiful suburbs of London," she then thought. "I
hear they are the most picturesque in the world"; and so
she had a sudden interest for Hampstead, and Hornsey,
and found that Dulwich had great charms for her, and
getting her victim into her carriage, drove her to those
rustic spots, beguiling the little journeys with conversations
about Rawdon and his wife, and telling every story
to the old lady which could add to her indignation against
this pair of reprobates.
Perhaps Mrs. Bute pulled the string unnecessarily tight.
For though she worked up Miss Crawley to a proper dislike
of her disobedient nephew, the invalid had a great
hatred and secret terror of her victimizer, and panted
to escape from her. After a brief space, she rebelled
against Highgate and Hornsey utterly. She would go into
the Park. Mrs. Bute knew they would meet the abominable
Rawdon there, and she was right. One day in the
ring, Rawdon's stanhope came in sight; Rebecca was
seated by him. In the enemy's equipage Miss Crawley
occupied her usual place, with Mrs. Bute on her left, the
poodle and Miss Briggs on the back seat. It was a nervous
moment, and Rebecca's heart beat quick as she recognized the carriage; and as the two
vehicles crossed each
other in a line, she clasped her hands, and looked towards
the spinster with a face of agonized attachment and devotion. Rawdon himself trembled,
and his face grew purple
behind his dyed mustachios. Only old Briggs was moved
in the other carriage, and cast her great eyes nervously
towards her old friends. Miss Crawley's bonnet was resolutely
turned towards the Serpentine. Mrs. Bute happened to
be in ecstasies with the poodle, and was calling him a little
darling, and a sweet little zoggy, and a pretty pet. The
carriages moved on, each in his line.
"Done, by Jove," Rawdon said to his wife.
"Try once more, Rawdon," Rebecca answered. "Could
not you lock your wheels into theirs, dearest?"
Rawdon had not the heart for that manoeuvre. When
the carriages met again, he stood up in his stanhope; he
raised his hand ready to doff his hat; he looked with all
his eyes. But this time Miss Crawley's face was not turned
away; she and Mrs. Bute looked him full in the face,
and cut their nephew pitilessly. He sank back in his seat
with an oath, and striking out of the ring, dashed away
desperately homewards.
It was a gallant and decided triumph for Mrs. Bute.
But she felt the danger of many such meetings, as she
saw the evident nervousness of Miss Crawley; and she
determined that it was most necessary for her dear
friend's health, that they should leave town for a while,
and recommended Brighton very strongly.
In Which Captain Dobbin Acts as the Messenger of Hymen
Without knowing how, Captain William Dobbin found
himself the great promoter, arranger, and manager of the
match between George Osborne and Amelia. But for him
it never would have taken place: he could not but
confess as much to himself, and smiled rather bitterly as he
thought that he of all men in the world should be the
person upon whom the care of this marriage had fallen.
But though indeed the conducting of this negotiation was
about as painful a task as could be set to him, yet when
he had a duty to perform, Captain Dobbin was accustomed
to go through it without many words or much
hesitation: and, having made up his mind completely,
that if Miss Sedley was balked of her husband she would
die of the disappointment, he was determined to use all
his best endeavours to keep her alive.
I forbear to enter into minute particulars of the interview
between George and Amelia, when the former was
brought back to the feet (or should we venture to say the
arms?) of his young mistress by the intervention of his
friend honest William. A much harder heart than
George's would have melted at the sight of that sweet
face so sadly ravaged by grief and despair, and at the
simple tender accents in which she told her little brokenhearted
story: but as she did not faint when her mother,
trembling, brought Osborne to her; and as she only gave
relief to her overcharged grief, by laying her head on
her lover's shoulder and there weeping for a while the
most tender, copious, and refreshing tears--old Mrs.
Sedley, too greatly relieved, thought it was best to leave
the young persons to themselves; and so quitted Emmy
crying over George's hand, and kissing it humbly, as if he
were her supreme chief and master, and as if she were
quite a guilty and unworthy person needing every favour
and grace from him.
This prostration and sweet unrepining obedience
exquisitely touched and flattered George Osborne. He saw a
slave before him in that simple yielding faithful creature,
and his soul within him thrilled secretly somehow
at the knowledge of his power. He would be generousminded,
Sultan as he was, and raise up this kneeling
Esther and make a queen of her: besides, her sadness
and beauty touched him as much as her submission, and
so he cheered her, and raised her up and forgave her, so
to speak. All her hopes and feelings, which were dying
and withering, this her sun having been removed from
her, bloomed again and at once, its light being restored.
You would scarcely have recognised the beaming little
face upon Amelia's pillow that night as the one that was
laid there the night before, so wan, so lifeless, so
careless of all round about. The honest Irish maid-servant,
delighted with the change, asked leave to kiss the face
that had grown all of a sudden so rosy. Amelia put her
arms round the girl's neck and kissed her with all her
heart, like a child. She was little more. She had that night
a sweet refreshing sleep, like one--and what a spring of
inexpressible happiness as she woke in the morning sunshine!
"He will be here again to-day," Amelia thought. "He is
the greatest and best of men." And the fact is, that
George thought he was one of the generousest creatures
alive: and that he was making a tremendous sacrifice in
marrying this young creature.
While she and Osborne were having their delightful
tete-a-tete above stairs, old Mrs. Sedley and Captain
Dobbin were conversing below upon the state of the
affairs, and the chances and future arrangements of the
young people. Mrs. Sedley having brought the two lovers
together and left them embracing each other with all their
might, like a true woman, was of opinion that no power
on earth would induce Mr. Sedley to consent to the match
between his daughter and the son of a man who had so
shamefully, wickedly, and monstrously treated him. And
she told a long story about happier days and their earlier
splendours, when Osborne lived in a very humble way in
the New Road, and his wife was too glad to receive some
of Jos's little baby things, with which Mrs. Sedley
accommodated her at the birth of one of Osborne's own
children. The fiendish ingratitude of that man, she was
sure, had broken Mr. S.'s heart: and as for a marriage,
he would never, never, never, never consent.
"They must run away together, Ma'am," Dobbin said,
laughing, "and follow the example of Captain Rawdon
Crawley, and Miss Emmy's friend the little governess."
Was it possible? Well she never! Mrs. Sedley was all
excitement about this news. She wished that Blenkinsop were
here to hear it: Blenkinsop always mistrusted that Miss
Sharp.--What an escape Jos had had! and she described
the already well-known love-passages between Rebecca and
the Collector of Boggley Wollah.
It was not, however, Mr. Sedley's wrath which Dobbin
feared, so much as that of the other parent concerned,
and he owned that he had a very considerable doubt
and anxiety respecting the behaviour of the black-browed
old tyrant of a Russia merchant in Russell Square. He
has forbidden the match peremptorily, Dobbin thought.
He knew what a savage determined man Osborne was, and
how he stuck by his word. The only chance George has
of reconcilement," argued his friend, "is by distinguishing
himself in the coming campaign. If he dies they both go
together. If he fails in distinction--what then? He has
some money from his mother, I have heard enough to
purchase his majority--or he must sell out and go and
dig in Canada, or rough it in a cottage in the country."
With such a partner Dobbin thought he would not mind
Siberia--and, strange to say, this absurd and utterly
imprudent young fellow never for a moment considered that
the want of means to keep a nice carriage and horses,
and of an income which should enable its possessors to
entertain their friends genteelly, ought to operate as bars
to the union of George and Miss Sedley.
It was these weighty considerations which made him
think too that the marriage should take place as quickly
as possible. Was he anxious himself, I wonder, to have it
over.?--as people, when death has occurred, like to press
forward the funeral, or when a parting is resolved upon,
hasten it. It is certain that Mr. Dobbin, having taken the
matter in hand, was most extraordinarily eager in the
conduct of it. He urged on George the necessity of immediate
action: he showed the chances of reconciliation with
his father, which a favourable mention of his name in the
Gazette must bring about. If need were he would go himself
and brave both the fathers in the business. At all
events, he besought George to go through with it before
the orders came, which everybody expected, for the
departure of the regiment from England on foreign service.
Bent upon these hymeneal projects, and with the applause
and consent of Mrs. Sedley, who did not care to
break the matter personally to her husband, Mr. Dobbin
went to seek John Sedley at his house of call in the City,
the Tapioca Coffee-house, where, since his own offices
were shut up, and fate had overtaken him, the poor
broken-down old gentleman used to betake himself daily,
and write letters and receive them, and tie them up into
mysterious bundles, several of which he carried in the
flaps of his coat. I don't know anything more dismal than
that business and bustle and mystery of a ruined man: those
letters from the wealthy which he shows you: those worn
greasy documents promising support and offering
condolence which he places wistfully before you, and on
which he builds his hopes of restoration and future fortune.
My beloved reader has no doubt in the course of
his experience been waylaid by many such a luckless
companion. He takes you into the corner; he has his bundle
of papers out of his gaping coat pocket; and the tape off,
and the string in his mouth, and the favourite letters
selected and laid before you; and who does not know the
sad eager half-crazy look which he fixes on you with his
hopeless eyes?
Changed into a man of this sort, Dobbin found the
once florid, jovial, and prosperous John Sedley. His
coat, that used to be so glossy and trim, was white at the
seams, and the buttons showed the copper. His face had
fallen in, and was unshorn; his frill and neckcloth hung
limp under his bagging waistcoat. When he used to treat
the boys in old days at a coffee-house, he would shout
and laugh louder than anybody there, and have all the
waiters skipping round him; it was quite painful to see
how humble and civil he was to John of the Tapioca, a
blear-eyed old attendant in dingy stockings and cracked
pumps, whose business it was to serve glasses of wafers,
and bumpers of ink in pewter, and slices of paper to the
frequenters of this dreary house of entertainment, where
nothing else seemed to be consumed. As for William
Dobbin, whom he had tipped repeatedly in his youth, and
who had been the old gentleman's butt on a thousand
occasions, old Sedley gave his hand to him in a very
hesitating humble manner now, and called him "Sir." A
feeling of shame and remorse took possession of William
Dobbin as the broken old man so received and addressed
him, as if he himself had been somehow guilty of the
misfortunes which had brought Sedley so low.
"I am very glad to see you, Captain Dobbin, sir," says
he, after a skulking look or two at his visitor (whose lanky
figure and military appearance caused some excitement
likewise to twinkle in the blear eyes of the waiter in the
cracked dancing pumps, and awakened the old lady in
black, who dozed among the mouldy old coffee-cups in the
bar). "How is the worthy alderman, and my lady, your
excellent mother, sir?" He looked round at the waiter as
he said, "My lady," as much as to say, "Hark ye, John, I
have friends still, and persons of rank and reputation,
too." "Are you come to do anything in my way, sir? My
young friends Dale and Spiggot do all my business for me
now, until my new offices are ready; for I'm only here
temporarily, you know, Captain. What can we do for you.
sir? Will you like to take anything?"
Dobbin, with a great deal of hesitation and stuttering,
protested that he was not in the least hungry or thirsty;
that he had no business to transact; that he only came
to ask if Mr. Sedley was well, and to shake hands with
an old friend; and, he added, with a desperate perversion
of truth, "My mother is very well--that is, she's been very
unwell, and is only waiting for the first fine day to go out
and call upon Mrs. Sedley. How is Mrs. Sedley, sir? I
hope she's quite well." And here he paused, reflecting on
his own consummate hypocrisy; for the day was as fine,
and the sunshine as bright as it ever is in Coffin Court,
where the Tapioca Coffee-house is situated: and Mr.
Dobbin remembered that he had seen Mrs. Sedley himself
only an hour before, having driven Osborne down to Fulham
in his gig, and left him there tete-a-tete with Miss Amelia.
"My wife will be very happy to see her ladyship,"
Sedley replied, pulling out his papers. "I've a very kind
letter here from your father, sir, and beg my respectful
compliments to him. Lady D. will find us in rather a
smaller house than we were accustomed to receive our
friends in; but it's snug, and the change of air does good
to my daughter, who was suffering in town rather--you
remember little Emmy, sir?--yes, suffering a good deal."
The old gentleman's eyes were wandering as he spoke, and
he was thinking of something else, as he sate thrumming
on his papers and fumbling at the worn red tape.
"You're a military man," he went on; "I ask you, Bill
Dobbin, could any man ever have speculated upon the
return of that Corsican scoundrel from Elba? When the
allied sovereigns were here last year, and we gave 'em
that dinner in the City, sir, and we saw the Temple of
Concord, and the fireworks, and the Chinese bridge in
St. James's Park, could any sensible man suppose that
peace wasn't really concluded, after we'd actually sung Te
Deum for it, sir? I ask you, William, could I suppose that
the Emperor of Austria was a damned traitor--a traitor,
and nothing more? I don't mince words--a double-faced
infernal traitor and schemer, who meant to have his sonin-
law back all along. And I say that the escape of Boney
from Elba was a damned imposition and plot, sir, in
which half the powers of Europe were concerned, to
bring the funds down, and to ruin this country. That's
why I'm here, William. That's why my name's in the
Gazette. Why, sir?--because I trusted the Emperor of
Russia and the Prince Regent. Look here. Look at my
papers. Look what the funds were on the 1st of March
--what the French fives were when I bought for the
count. And what they're at now. There was collusion, sir,
or that villain never would have escaped. Where was the
English Commissioner who allowed him to get away? He
ought to be shot, sir--brought to a court-martial, and
shot, by Jove."
"We're going to hunt Boney out, sir," Dobbin said,
rather alarmed at the fury of the old man, the veins of
whose forehead began to swell, and who sate drumming
his papers with his clenched fist. "We are going to hunt
him out, sir--the Duke's in Belgium already, and we
expect marching orders every day."
"Give him no quarter. Bring back the villain's head, sir.
Shoot the coward down, sir," Sedley roared. "I'd enlist
myself, by--; but I'm a broken old man--ruined by
that damned scoundrel--and by a parcel of swindling
thieves in this country whom I made, sir, and who are
rolling in their carriages now," he added, with a break in
his voice.
Dobbin was not a little affected by the sight of this once
kind old friend, crazed almost with misfortune and raving
with senile anger. Pity the fallen gentleman: you to whom
money and fair repute are the chiefest good; and so,
surely, are they in Vanity Fair.
"Yes," he continued, "there are some vipers that you
warm, and they sting you afterwards. There are some
beggars that you put on horseback, and they're the first
to ride you down. You know whom I mean, William
Dobbin, my boy. I mean a purse-proud villain in Russell
Square, whom I knew without a shilling, and whom I
pray and hope to see a beggar as he was when I
befriended him."
"I have heard something of this, sir, from my friend
George," Dobbin said, anxious to come to his point. "The
quarrel between you and his father has cut him up a great
deal, sir. Indeed, I'm the bearer of a message from him."
"O, THAT'S your errand, is it?" cried the old man,
jumping up. "What! perhaps he condoles with me, does he?
Very kind of him, the stiff-backed prig, with his dandified
airs and West End swagger. He's hankering about my
house, is he still? If my son had the courage of a man,
he'd shoot him. He's as big a villain as his father. I won't
have his name mentioned in my house. I curse the day
that ever I let him into it; and I'd rather see my daughter
dead at my feet than married to him."
"His father's harshness is not George's fault, sir. Your
daughter's love for him is as much your doing as his. Who
are you, that you are to play with two young people's
affections and break their hearts at your will?"
"Recollect it's not his father that breaks the match off,"
old Sedley cried out. "It's I that forbid it. That family and
mine are separated for ever. I'm fallen low, but not so
low as that: no, no. And so you may tell the whole race--
son, and father and sisters, and all."
"It's my belief, sir, that you have not the power or the
right to separate those two," Dobbin answered in a low
voice; "and that if you don't give your daughter your
consent it will be her duty to marry without it. There's no
reason she should die or live miserably because you
are wrong-headed. To my thinking, she's just as much
married as if the banns had been read in all the churches in
London. And what better answer can there be to Osborne's
charges against you, as charges there are, than
that his son claims to enter your family and marry your
A light of something like satisfaction seemed to break
over old Sedley as this point was put to him: but he still
persisted that with his consent the marriage between
Amelia and George should never take place.
"We must do it without," Dobbin said, smiling, and told
Mr. Sedley, as he had told Mrs. Sedley in the day, before,
the story of Rebecca's elopement with Captain Crawley. It
evidently amused the old gentleman. "You're terrible
fellows, you Captains," said he, tying up his papers; and his
face wore something like a smile upon it, to the astonishment
of the blear-eyed waiter who now entered, and had
never seen such an expression upon Sedley's countenance
since he had used the dismal coffee-house.
The idea of hitting his enemy Osborne such a blow
soothed, perhaps, the old gentleman: and, their colloquy
presently ending, he and Dobbin parted pretty good friends.
"My sisters say she has diamonds as big as pigeons'
eggs," George said, laughing. "How they must set off her
complexion! A perfect illumination it must be when her
jewels are on her neck. Her jet-black hair is as curly as
Sambo's. I dare say she wore a nose ring when she went
to court; and with a plume of feathers in her top-knot
she would look a perfect Belle Sauvage."
George, in conversation with Amelia, was rallying the
appearance of a young lady of whom his father and sisters
had lately made the acquaintance, and who was an object
of vast respect to the Russell Square family. She was reported
to have I don't know how many plantations in the
West Indies; a deal of money in the funds; and three
stars to her name in the East India stockholders' list. She
had a mansion in Surrey, and a house in Portland Place.
The name of the rich West India heiress had been mentioned
with applause in the Morning Post. Mrs. Haggistoun,
Colonel Haggistoun's widow, her relative, "chaperoned"
her, and kept her house. She was just from school, where
she had completed her education, and George and his
sisters had met her at an evening party at old Hulker's
house, Devonshire Place (Hulker, Bullock, and Co. were
long the correspondents of her house in the West Indies),
and the girls had made the most cordial advances to her,
which the heiress had received with great good humour.
An orphan in her position--with her money--so interesting!
the Misses Osborne said. They were full of their new
friend when they returned from the Hulker ball to Miss
Wirt, their companion; they had made arrangements for
continually meeting, and had the carriage and drove to see
her the very next day. Mrs. Haggistoun, Colonel Haggistoun's
widow, a relation of Lord Binkie, and always talking
of him, struck the dear unsophisticated girls as rather
haughty, and too much inclined to talk about her great
relations: but Rhoda was everything they could wish--
the frankest, kindest, most agreeable creature--wanting a
little polish, but so good-natured. The girls Christiannamed
each other at once.
"You should have seen her dress for court, Emmy,"
Osborne cried, laughing. "She came to my sisters to show
it off, before she was presented in state by my Lady
Binkie, the Haggistoun's kinswoman. She's related to every
one, that Haggistoun. Her diamonds blazed out like
Vauxhall on the night we were there. (Do you remember
Vauxhall, Emmy, and Jos singing to his dearest diddle
diddle darling?) Diamonds and mahogany, my dear!
think what an advantageous contrast--and the white
feathers in her hair--I mean in her wool. She had
earrings like chandeliers; you might have lighted 'em
up, by Jove--and a yellow satin train that streeled after
her like the tail of a cornet."
"How old is she?" asked Emmy, to whom George was
rattling away regarding this dark paragon, on the morning
of their reunion--rattling away as no other man in the
world surely could.
"Why the Black Princess, though she has only just left
school, must be two or three and twenty. And you should
see the hand she writes! Mrs. Colonel Haggistoun usually
writes her letters, but in a moment of confidence, she put
pen to paper for my sisters; she spelt satin satting, and
Saint James's, Saint Jams."
"Why, surely it must be Miss Swartz, the parlour
boarder," Emmy said, remembering that good-natured
young mulatto girl, who had been so hysterically affected
when Amelia left Miss Pinkerton's academy
"The very name," George said. "Her father was a German
Jew--a slave-owner they say--connected with the
Cannibal Islands in some way or other. He died last year,
and Miss Pinkerton has finished her education. She can
play two pieces on the piano; she knows three songs;
she can write when Mrs. Haggistoun is by to spell for her;
and Jane and Maria already have got to love her as a
"I wish they would have loved me," said Emmy, wistfully.
"They were always very cold to me."
"My dear child, they would have loved you if you had
had two hundred thousand pounds," George replied. "That
is the way in which they have been brought up. Ours is
a ready-money society. We live among bankers and City
big-wigs, and be hanged to them, and every man, as he
talks to you, is jingling his guineas in his pocket. There is
that jackass Fred Bullock is going to marry Maria--
there's Goldmore, the East India Director, there's Dipley,
in the tallow trade--OUR trade," George said, with an
uneasy laugh and a blush. "Curse the whole pack of moneygrubbing
vulgarians! I fall asleep at their great heavy
dinners. I feel ashamed in my father's great stupid
parties. I've been accustomed to live with gentlemen, and
men of the world and fashion, Emmy, not with a parcel
of turtle-fed tradesmen. Dear little woman, you are the only
person of our set who ever looked, or thought, or spoke
like a lady: and you do it because you're an angel and
can't help it. Don't remonstrate. You are the only lady.
Didn't Miss Crawley remark it, who has lived in the
best company in Europe? And as for Crawley, of the Life
Guards, hang it, he's a fine fellow: and I like him for
marrying the girl he had chosen."
Amelia admired Mr. Crawley very much, too, for this;
and trusted Rebecca would be happy with him, and hoped
(with a laugh) Jos would be consoled. And so the pair
went on prattling, as in quite early days. Amelia's
confidence being perfectly restored to her, though she
expressed a great deal of pretty jealousy about Miss Swartz,
and professed to be dreadfully frightened--like a hypocrite
as she was--lest George should forget her for the
heiress and her money and her estates in Saint Kitt's. But
the fact is, she was a great deal too happy to have fears
or doubts or misgivings of any sort: and having George
at her side again, was not afraid of any heiress or beauty,
or indeed of any sort of danger.
When Captain Dobbin came back in the afternoon to
these people--which he did with a great deal of sympathy
for them--it did his heart good to see how Amelia had
grown young again--how she laughed, and chirped, and
sang familiar old songs at the piano, which were only
interrupted by the bell from without proclaiming Mr.
Sedley's return from the City, before whom George received a
signal to retreat.
Beyond the first smile of recognition--and even that was
an hypocrisy, for she thought his arrival rather provoking
--Miss Sedley did not once notice Dobbin during his
visit. But he was content, so that he saw her happy; and
thankful to have been the means of making her so.
A Quarrel About an Heiress
Love may be felt for any young lady endowed with such
qualities as Miss Swartz possessed; and a great dream of
ambition entered into old Mr. Osborne's soul, which she
was to realize. He encouraged, with the utmost enthusiasm
and friendliness, his daughters' amiable attachment to the
young heiress, and protested that it gave him the sincerest
pleasure as a father to see the love of his girls so well disposed.
"You won't find," he would say to Miss Rhoda, "that
splendour and rank to which you are accustomed at the
West End, my dear Miss, at our humble mansion in Russell
Square. My daughters are plain, disinterested girls, but
their hearts are in the right place, and they've conceived
an attachment for you which does them honour--I say,
which does them honour. I'm a plain, simple, humble
British merchant--an honest one, as my respected friends
Hulker and Bullock will vouch, who were the correspondents
of your late lamented father. You'll find us a
united, simple, happy, and I think I may say respected,
family--a plain table, a plain people, but a warm welcome,
my dear Miss Rhoda--Rhoda, let me say, for my
heart warms to you, it does really. I'm a frank man, and
I like you. A glass of Champagne! Hicks, Champagne to
Miss Swartz."
There is little doubt that old Osborne believed all he
said, and that the girls were quite earnest in their
protestations of affection for Miss Swartz. People in Vanity
Fair fasten on to rich folks quite naturally. If the simplest
people are disposed to look not a little kindly on
great Prosperity (for I defy any member of the British
public to say that the notion of Wealth has not something
awful and pleasing to him; and you, if you are told that
the man next you at dinner has got half a million, not to
look at him with a certain interest)--if the simple look
benevolently on money, how much more do your old
worldlings regard it! Their affections rush out to meet and
welcome money. Their kind sentiments awaken spontaneously towards the interesting
possessors of it. I know
some respectable people who don't consider themselves
at liberty to indulge in friendship for any individual who
has not a certain competency, or place in society. They
give a loose to their feelings on proper occasions. And
the proof is, that the major part of the Osborne family,
who had not, in fifteen years, been able to get up a
hearty regard for Amelia Sedley, became as fond of Miss
Swartz in the course of a single evening as the most
romantic advocate of friendship at first sight could desire.
What a match for George she'd be (the sisters and
Miss Wirt agreed), and how much better than that
insignificant little Amelia! Such a dashing young fellow as
he is, with his good looks, rank, and accomplishments,
would be the very husband for her. Visions of balls in
Portland Place, presentations at Court, and introductions
to half the peerage, filled the minds of the young ladies;
who talked of nothing but George and his grand
acquaintances to their beloved new friend.
Old Osborne thought she would be a great match, too,
for his son. He should leave the army; he should go into
Parliament; he should cut a figure in the fashion and in
the state. His blood boiled with honest British exultation,
as he saw the name of Osborne ennobled in the person
of his son, and thought that he might be the progenitor of
a glorious line of baronets. He worked in the City and on
'Change, until he knew everything relating to the fortune
of the heiress, how her money was placed, and where her
estates lay. Young Fred Bullock, one of his chief informants,
would have liked to make a bid for her himself
(it was so the young banker expressed it), only he was
booked to Maria Osborne. But not being able to secure
her as a wife, the disinterested Fred quite approved of her
as a sister-in-law. "Let George cut in directly and win
her," was his advice. "Strike while the iron's hot, you
know--while she's fresh to the town: in a few weeks
some d-- fellow from the West End will come in with a
title and a rotten rent-roll and cut all us City men out, as
Lord Fitzrufus did last year with Miss Grogram, who was
actually engaged to Podder, of Podder & Brown's. The
sooner it is done the better, Mr. Osborne; them's my
sentiments," the wag said; though, when Osborne had left
the bank parlour, Mr. Bullock remembered Amelia, and
what a pretty girl she was, and how attached to George
Osborne; and he gave up at least ten seconds of his
valuable time to regretting the misfortune which had
befallen that unlucky young woman.
While thus George Osborne's good feelings, and his
good friend and genius, Dobbin, were carrying back the
truant to Amelia's feet, George's parent and sisters were
arranging this splendid match for him, which they never
dreamed he would resist.
When the elder Osborne gave what he called "a hint,"
there was no possibility for the most obtuse to mistake
his meaning. He called kicking a footman downstairs a
hint to the latter to leave his service. With his usual
frankness and delicacy he told Mrs. Haggistoun that he
would give her a cheque for five thousand pounds on the
day his son was married to her ward; and called that
proposal a hint, and considered it a very dexterous piece
of diplomacy. He gave George finally such another hint
regarding the heiress; and ordered him to marry her out
of hand, as he would have ordered his butler to draw a
cork, or his clerk to write a letter.
This imperative hint disturbed George a good deal. He
was in the very first enthusiasm and delight of his second
courtship of Amelia, which was inexpressibly sweet
to him. The contrast of her manners and appearance with
those of the heiress, made the idea of a union with the
latter appear doubly ludicrous and odious. Carriages and
opera-boxes, thought he; fancy being seen in them by the
side of such a mahogany charmer as that! Add to all
that the junior Osborne was quite as obstinate as the
senior: when he wanted a thing, quite as firm in his
resolution to get it; and quite as violent when angered,
as his father in his most stern moments.
On the first day when his father formally gave him the
hint that he was to place his affections at Miss Swartz's
feet, George temporised with the old gentleman. "You
should have thought of the matter sooner, sir," he said.
"It can't be done now, when we're expecting every day
to go on foreign service. Wait till my return, if I do
return"; and then he represented, that the time when the
regiment was daily expecting to quit England, was
exceedingly ill-chosen: that the few days or weeks during
which they were still to remain at home, must be
devoted to business and not to love-making: time enough
for that when he came home with his majority; "for, I
promise you," said he, with a satisfied air, "that one
way or other you shall read the name of George Osborne
in the Gazette."
The father's reply to this was founded upon the
information which he had got in the City: that the West
End chaps would infallibly catch hold of the heiress if
any delay took place: that if he didn't marry Miss S., he
might at least have an engagement in writing, to come
into effect when he returned to England; and that a man
who could get ten thousand a year by staying at home,
was a fool to risk his life abroad.
"So that you would have me shown up as a coward, sir,
and our name dishonoured for the sake of Miss Swartz's
money," George interposed.
This remark staggered the old gentleman; but as he
had to reply to it, and as his mind was nevertheless
made up, he said, "You will dine here to-morrow, sir,
and every day Miss Swartz comes, you will be here to
pay your respects to her. If you want for money, call
upon Mr. Chopper." Thus a new obstacle was in George's
way, to interfere with his plans regarding Amelia; and
about which he and Dobbin had more than one confidential consultation. His friend's opinion
respecting the
line of conduct which he ought to pursue, we know
already. And as for Osborne, when he was once bent on a
thing, a fresh obstacle or two only rendered him the
more resolute.
The dark object of the conspiracy into which the chiefs
of the Osborne family had entered, was quite ignorant of
all their plans regarding her (which, strange to say, her
friend and chaperon did not divulge), and, taking all the
young ladies' flattery for genuine sentiment, and being,
as we have before had occasion to show, of a very
warm and impetuous nature, responded to their affection
with quite a tropical ardour. And if the truth may be told,
I dare say that she too had some selfish attraction in the
Russell Square house; and in a word, thought George
Osborne a very nice young man. His whiskers had made
an impression upon her, on the very first night she
beheld them at the ball at Messrs. Hulkers; and, as we
know, she was not the first woman who had been
charmed by them. George had an air at once swaggering
and melancholy, languid and fierce. He looked like a
man who had passions, secrets, and private harrowing
griefs and adventures. His voice was rich and deep. He
would say it was a warm evening, or ask his partner to
take an ice, with a tone as sad and confidential as if he
were breaking her mother's death to her, or preluding a
declaration of love. He trampled over all the young bucks
of his father's circle, and was the hero among those
third-rate men. Some few sneered at him and hated him.
Some, like Dobbin, fanatically admired him. And his whiskers
had begun to do their work, and to curl themselves
round the affections of Miss Swartz.
Whenever there was a chance of meeting him in Russell
Square, that simple and good-natured young woman
was quite in a flurry to see her dear Misses Osborne. She
went to great expenses in new gowns, and bracelets, and
bonnets, and in prodigious feathers. She adorned her
person with her utmost skill to please the Conqueror,
and exhibited all her simple accomplishments to win his
favour. The girls would ask her, with the greatest
gravity, for a little music, and she would sing her three
songs and play her two little pieces as often as ever
they asked, and with an always increasing pleasure to
herself. During these delectable entertainments, Miss
Wirt and the chaperon sate by, and conned over the
peerage, and talked about the nobility.
The day after George had his hint from his father, and
a short time before the hour of dinner, he was lolling
upon a sofa in the drawing-room in a very becoming
and perfectly natural attitude of melancholy. He had
been, at his father's request, to Mr. Chopper in the City
(the old-gentleman, though he gave great sums to his
son, would never specify any fixed allowance for him,
and rewarded him only as he was in the humour). He
had then been to pass three hours with Amelia, his
dear little Amelia, at Fulham; and he came home to
find his sisters spread in starched muslin in the drawingroom,
the dowagers cackling in the background, and
honest Swartz in her favourite amber-coloured satin, with
turquoise bracelets, countless rings, flowers, feathers, and
all sorts of tags and gimcracks, about as elegantly
decorated as a she chimney-sweep on May-day.
The girls, after vain attempts to engage him in conversation,
talked about fashions and the last drawing-room
until he was perfectly sick of their chatter. He
contrasted their behaviour with little Emmy's--their
shrill voices with her tender ringing tones; their attitudes
and their elbows and their starch, with her humble soft
movements and modest graces. Poor Swartz was seated
in a place where Emmy had been accustomed to sit.
Her bejewelled hands lay sprawling in her amber satin
lap. Her tags and ear-rings twinkled, and her big eyes
rolled about. She was doing nothing with perfect contentment,
and thinking herself charming. Anything so becoming
as the satin the sisters had never seen.
"Dammy," George said to a confidential friend, "she
looked like a China doll, which has nothing to do all day
but to grin and wag its head. By Jove, Will, it was all I
I could do to prevent myself from throwing the sofacushion
at her." He restrained that exhibition of
sentiment, however.
The sisters began to play the Battle of Prague. "Stop
that d-- thing," George howled out in a fury from the
sofa. "It makes me mad. You play us something, Miss
Swartz, do. Sing something, anything but the Battle of
"Shall I sing 'Blue Eyed Mary' or the air from the
Cabinet?" Miss Swartz asked.
"That sweet thing from the Cabinet," the sisters said.
"We've had that," replied the misanthrope on the sofa
"I can sing 'Fluvy du Tajy,' " Swartz said, in a meek
voice, "if I had the words." It was the last of the worthy
young woman's collection.
"O, 'Fleuve du Tage,' " Miss Maria cried; "we have the
song," and went off to fetch the book in which it was.
Now it happened that this song, then in the height of
the fashion, had been given to the young ladies by a young
friend of theirs, whose name was on the title, and Miss
Swartz, having concluded the ditty with George's applause
(for he remembered that it was a favourite of Amelia's),
was hoping for an encore perhaps, and fiddling with the
leaves of the music, when her eye fell upon the title, and
she saw "Amelia Sedley" written in the comer.
"Lor!" cried Miss Swartz, spinning swiftly round on
the music-stool, "is it my Amelia? Amelia that was at
Miss P.'s at Hammersmith? I know it is. It's her. and--
Tell me about her--where is she?"
"Don't mention her," Miss Maria Osborne said
hastily. "Her family has disgraced itself. Her father
cheated Papa, and as for her, she is never to be mentioned
HERE." This was Miss Maria's return for George's
rudeness about the Battle of Prague.
"Are you a friend of Amelia's?" George said, bouncing
up. "God bless you for it, Miss Swartz. Don't believe
what,the girls say. SHE'S not to blame at any rate.
She's the best--"
"You know you're not to speak about her, George,"
cried Jane. "Papa forbids it."
"Who's to prevent me?" George cried out. "I will speak
of her. I say she's the best, the kindest, the gentlest, the
sweetest girl in England; and that, bankrupt or no, my
sisters are not fit to hold candles to her. If you like her,
go and see her, Miss Swartz; she wants friends now; and
I say, God bless everybody who befriends her. Anybody
who speaks kindly of her is my friend; anybody who
speaks against her is my enemy. Thank you, Miss Swartz";
and he went up and wrung her hand.
"George! George!" one of the sisters cried imploringly.
"I say," George said fiercely, "I thank everybody who
loves Amelia Sed--" He stopped. Old Osborne was in
the room with a face livid with rage, and eyes like hot
Though George had stopped in his sentence, yet, his
blood being up, he was not to be cowed by all the
generations of Osborne; rallying instantly, he replied to
the bullying look of his father, with another so indicative
of resolution and defiance that the elder man quailed in
his turn, and looked away. He felt that the tussle was
coming. "Mrs. Haggistoun, let me take you down to dinner,"
he said. "Give your arm to Miss Swartz, George,"
and they marched.
"Miss Swartz, I love Amelia, and we've been engaged
almost all our lives," Osborne said to his partner; and
during all the dinner, George rattled on with a volubility
which surprised himself, and made his father doubly
nervous for the fight which was to take place as soon as
the ladies were gone.
The difference between the pair was, that while the
father was violent and a bully, the son had thrice the
nerve and courage of the parent, and could not merely
make an attack, but resist it; and finding that the moment
was now come when the contest between him and
his father was to be decided, he took his dinner with
perfect coolness and appetite before the engagement
began. Old Osborne, on the contrary, was nervous, and
drank much. He floundered in his conversation with the
ladies, his neighbours: George's coolness only rendering
him more angry. It made him half mad to see the calm
way in which George, flapping his napkin, and with a
swaggering bow, opened the door for the ladies to leave
the room; and filling himself a glass of wine, smacked it,
and looked his father full in the face, as if to say,
"Gentlemen of the Guard, fire first." The old man also took a
supply of ammunition, but his decanter clinked against
the glass as he tried to fill it.
After giving a great heave, and with a purple choking
face, he then began. "How dare you, sir, mention that
person's name before Miss Swartz to-day, in my drawingroom?
I ask you, sir, how dare you do it?"
"Stop, sir," says George, "don't say dare, sir. Dare
isn't a word to be used to a Captain in the British Army."
"I shall say what I like to my son, sir. I can cut him off
with a shilling if I like. I can make him a beggar if I like.
I WILL say what I like," the elder said.
"I'm a gentleman though I AM your son, sir," George
answered haughtily. "Any communications which you
have to make to me, or any orders which you may
please to give, I beg may be couched in that kind of
language which I am accustomed to hear."
Whenever the lad assumed his haughty manner, it
always created either great awe or great irritation in the
parent. Old Osborne stood in secret terror of his son as a
better gentleman than himself; and perhaps my readers
may have remarked in their experience of this Vanity Fair
of ours, that there is no character which a low-minded
man so much mistrusts as that of a gentleman.
"My father didn't give me the education you have had,
nor the advantages you have had, nor the money you
have had. If I had kept the company SOME FOLKS have
had through MY MEANS, perhaps my son wouldn't have
any reason to brag, sir, of his SUPERIORITY and WEST END
AIRS (these words were uttered in the elder Osborne's
most sarcastic tones). But it wasn't considered the part
of a gentleman, in MY time, for a man to insult his father.
If I'd done any such thing, mine would have kicked me
downstairs, sir."
"I never insulted you, sir. I said I begged you to
remember your son was a gentleman as well as yourself.
I know very well that you give me plenty of money,"
said George (fingering a bundle of notes which he had
got in the morning from Mr. Chopper). "You tell it me
often enough, sir. There's no fear of my forgetting it."
"I wish you'd remember other things as well, sir," the
sire answered. "I wish you'd remember that in this house
--so long as you choose to HONOUR it with your COMPANY,
Captain--I'm the master, and that name, and that
that--that you--that I say--"
"That what, sir?" George asked, with scarcely a sneer,
filling another glass of claret.
"--!" burst out his father with a screaming oath--
"that the name of those Sedleys never be mentioned
here, sir--not one of the whole damned lot of 'em, sir."
"It wasn't I, sir, that introduced Miss Sedley's name. It
was my sisters who spoke ill of her to Miss Swartz; and
by Jove I'll defend her wherever I go. Nobody shall
speak lightly of that name in my presence. Our family
has done her quite enough injury already, I think, and
may leave off reviling her now she's down. I'll shoot any
man but you who says a word against her."
"Go on, sir, go on," the old gentleman said, his eyes
starting out of his head.
"Go on about what, sir? about the way in which we've
treated that angel of a girl? Who told me to love her? It
was your doing. I might have chosen elsewhere, and
looked higher, perhaps, than your society: but I obeyed
you. And now that her heart's mine you give me orders
to fling it away, and punish her, kill her perhaps--for
the faults of other people. It's a shame, by Heavens,"
said George, working himself up into passion and
enthusiasm as he proceeded, "to play at fast and loose with
a young girl's affections--and with such an angel as that
--one so superior to the people amongst whom she lived,
that she might have excited envy, only she was so good
and gentle, that it's a wonder anybody dared to hate her.
If I desert her, sir, do you suppose she forgets me?"
"I ain't going to have any of this dam sentimental nonsense
and humbug here, sir," the father cried out. "There
shall be no beggar-marriages in my family. If you choose
to fling away eight thousand a year, which you may have
for the asking, you may do it: but by Jove you take your
pack and walk out of this house, sir. Will you do as I tell
you, once for all, sir, or will you not?"
"Marry that mulatto woman?" George said, pulling up
his shirt-collars. "I don't like the colour, sir. Ask the
black that sweeps opposite Fleet Market, sir. I'm not
going to marry a Hottentot Venus."
Mr. Osborne pulled frantically at the cord by which he
was accustomed to summon the butler when he wanted
wine--and almost black in the face, ordered that functionary
to call a coach for Captain Osborne.
"I've done it," said George, coming into the Slaughters'
an hour afterwards, looking very pale.
"What, my boy?" says Dobbin.
George told what had passed between his father and
"I'll marry her to-morrow," he said with an oath. "I
love her more every day, Dobbin."
A Marriage and Part of a Honeymoon
Enemies the most obstinate and courageous can't hold
out against starvation; so the elder Osborne felt himself
pretty easy about his adversary in the encounter we have
just described; and as soon as George's supplies fell
short, confidently expected his unconditional submission.
It was unlucky, to be sure, that the lad should have secured
a stock of provisions on the very day when the first
encounter took place; but this relief was only temporary,
old Osborne thought, and would but delay George's
surrender. No communication passed between father and
son for some days. The former was sulky at this silence,
but not disquieted; for, as he said, he knew where he
could put the screw upon George, and only waited the
result of that operation. He told the sisters the upshot of
the dispute between them, but ordered them to take no
notice of the matter, and welcome George on his return
as if nothing had happened. His cover was laid as usual
every day, and perhaps the old gentleman rather anxiously
expected him; but he never came. Some one inquired
at the Slaughters' regarding him, where it was said
that he and his friend Captain Dobbin had left town.
One gusty, raw day at the end of April--the rain whipping
the pavement of that ancient street where the old
Slaughters' Coffee-house was once situated--George Osborne
came into the coffee-room, looking very haggard
and pale; although dressed rather smartly in a blue coat
and brass buttons, and a neat buff waistcoat of the fashion
of those days. Here was his friend Captain Dobbin,
in blue and brass too, having abandoned the military
frock and French-grey trousers, which were the usual
coverings of his lanky person.
Dobbin had been in the coffee-room for an hour or
more. He had tried all the papers, but could not read
them. He had looked at the clock many scores of times;
and at the street, where the rain was pattering down,
and the people as they clinked by in pattens, left long
reflections on the shining stone: he tattooed at the table:
he bit his nails most completely, and nearly to the quick
(he was accustomed to ornament his great big hands in
this way): he balanced the tea-spoon dexterously on the
milk jug: upset it, &c., &c.; and in fact showed those
signs of disquietude, and practised those desperate
attempts at amusement, which men are accustomed to
employ when very anxious, and expectant, and perturbed
in mind.
Some of his comrades, gentlemen who used the room,
joked him about the splendour of his costume and his
agitation of manner. One asked him if he was going to be
married? Dobbin laughed, and said he would send his
acquaintance (Major Wagstaff of the Engineers) a piece of
cake when that event took place. At length Captain Osborne
made his appearance, very smartly dressed, but
very pale and agitated as we have said. He wiped his
pale face with a large yellow bandanna pocket-handkerchief
that was prodigiously scented. He shook hands with
Dobbin, looked at the clock, and told John, the waiter,
to bring him some curacao. Of this cordial he swallowed
off a couple of glasses with nervous eagerness.
His friend asked with some interest about his health.
"Couldn't get a wink of sleep till daylight, Dob," said
he. "Infernal headache and fever. Got up at nine, and
went down to the Hummums for a bath. I say, Dob, I feel
just as I did on the morning I went out with Rocket at
"So do I," William responded. "I was a deuced deal
more nervous than you were that morning. You made a
famous breakfast, I remember. Eat something now."
"You're a good old fellow, Will. I'll drink your health,
old boy, and farewell to--"
"No, no; two glasses are enough," Dobbin interrupted
him. "Here, take away the liqueurs, John. Have some
cayenne-pepper with your fowl. Make haste though, for it
is time we were there."
It was about half an hour from twelve when this
brief meeting and colloquy took place between the two
captains. A coach, into which Captain Osborne's servant
put his master's desk and dressing-case, had been in
waiting for some time; and into this the two gentlemen
hurried under an umbrella, and the valet mounted on the
box, cursing the rain and the dampness of the coachman
who was steaming beside him. "We shall find a better
trap than this at the church-door," says he; "that's a
comfort." And the carriage drove on, taking the road
down Piccadilly, where Apsley House and St. George's
Hospital wore red jackets still; where there were oillamps;
where Achilles was not yet born; nor the Pimlico
arch raised; nor the hideous equestrian monster which
pervades it and the neighbourhood; and so they drove
down by Brompton to a certain chapel near the Fulham
Road there.
A chariot was in waiting with four horses; likewise a
coach of the kind called glass coaches. Only a very few
idlers were collected on account of the dismal rain.
"Hang it!" said George, "I said only a pair."
"My master would have four," said Mr. Joseph Sedley's
servant, who was in waiting; and he and Mr. Osborne's
man agreed as they followed George and William into
the church, that it was a "reg'lar shabby turn
hout; and with scarce so much as a breakfast or a
wedding faviour."
"Here you are," said our old friend, Jos Sedley, coming
forward. "You're five minutes late, George, my boy.
What a day, eh? Demmy, it's like the commencement of
the rainy season in Bengal. But you'll find my carriage
is watertight. Come along, my mother and Emmy are in the
Jos Sedley was splendid. He was fatter than ever. His
shirt collars were higher; his face was redder; his shirtfrill
flaunted gorgeously out of his variegated waistcoat.
Varnished boots were not invented as yet; but the Hessians
on his beautiful legs shone so, that they must have been
the identical pair in which the gentleman in the old picture
used to shave himself; and on his light green coat
there bloomed a fine wedding favour, like a great white
spreading magnolia.
In a word, George had thrown the great cast. He was
going to be married. Hence his pallor and nervousness--
his sleepless night and agitation in the morning. I have
heard people who have gone through the same thing
own to the same emotion. After three or four ceremonies,
you get accustomed to it, no doubt; but the first
dip, everybody allows, is awful.
The bride was dressed in a brown silk pelisse (as
Captain Dobbin has since informed me), and wore a straw
bonnet with a pink ribbon; over the bonnet she had a
veil of white Chantilly lace, a gift from Mr. Joseph Sedley,
her brother. Captain Dobbin himself had asked leave
to present her with a gold chain and watch, which she
sported on this occasion; and her mother gave her her
diamond brooch--almost the only trinket which was left
to the old lady. As the service went on, Mrs. Sedley sat
and whimpered a great deal in a pew, consoled by the
Irish maid-servant and Mrs. Clapp from the lodgings.
Old Sedley would not be present. Jos acted for his father,
giving away the bride, whilst Captain Dobbin stepped up
as groomsman to his friend George.
There was nobody in the church besides the officiating
persons and the small marriage party and their attendants.
The two valets sat aloof superciliously. The rain
came rattling down on the windows. In the intervals of
the service you heard it, and the sobbing of old Mrs.
Sedley in the pew. The parson's tones echoed sadly
through the empty walls. Osborne's "I will" was sounded
in very deep bass. Emmy's response came fluttering up
to her lips from her heart, but was scarcely heard by
anybody except Captain Dobbin.
When the service was completed, Jos Sedley came
forward and kissed his sister, the bride, for the first time
for many months--George's look of gloom had gone, and
he seemed quite proud and radiant. "It's your turn,
William," says he, putting his hand fondly upon Dobbin's
shoulder; and Dobbin went up and touched Amelia on
the cheek.
Then they went into the vestry and signed the register.
"God bless you, Old Dobbin," George said, grasping him
by the hand, with something very like moisture glistening
in his eyes. William replied only by nodding his head.
His heart was too full to say much.
"Write directly, and come down as soon as you can,
you know," Osborne said. After Mrs. Sedley had taken an
hysterical adieu of her daughter, the pair went off to the
carriage. "Get out of the way, you little devils," George
cried to a small crowd of damp urchins, that were hanging
about the chapel-door. The rain drove into the bride
and bridegroom's faces as they passed to the chariot.
The postilions' favours draggled on their dripping jackets.
The few children made a dismal cheer, as the carriage,
splashing mud, drove away.
William Dobbin stood in the church-porch, looking at it,
a queer figure. The small crew of spectators jeered him.
He was not thinking about them or their laughter.
"Come home and have some tiffin, Dobbin," a voice
cried behind him; as a pudgy hand was laid on his shoulder,
and the honest fellow's reverie was interrupted. But
the Captain had no heart to go a-feasting with Jos Sedley.
He put the weeping old lady and her attendants into the
carriage along with Jos, and left them without any farther
words passing. This carriage, too, drove away, and the
urchins gave another sarcastical cheer.
"Here, you little beggars," Dobbin said, giving some
sixpences amongst them, and then went off by himself
through the rain. It was all over. They were married, and
happy, he prayed God. Never since he was a boy had he
felt so miserable and so lonely. He longed with a heartsick
yearning for the first few days to be over, that he
might see her again.
Some ten days after the above ceremony, three young
men of our acquaintance were enjoying that beautiful
prospect of bow windows on the one side and blue sea
on the other, which Brighton affords to the traveller.
Sometimes it is towards the ocean--smiling with countless
dimples, speckled with white sails, with a hundred
bathing-machines kissing the skirt of his blue garment--
that the Londoner looks enraptured: sometimes, on the
contrary, a lover of human nature rather than of prospects
of any kind, it is towards the bow windows that
he turns, and that swarm of human life which they
exhibit. From one issue the notes of a piano, which a young
lady in ringlets practises six hours daily, to the delight
of the fellow-lodgers: at another, lovely Polly, the nursemaid,
may be seen dandling Master Omnium in her arms:
whilst Jacob, his papa, is beheld eating prawns, and
devouring the Times for breakfast, at the window below.
Yonder are the Misses Leery, who are looking out for the
young officers of the Heavies, who are pretty sure to be
pacing the cliff; or again it is a City man, with a nautical
turn, and a telescope, the size of a six-pounder, who has
his instrument pointed seawards, so as to command every
pleasure-boat, herring-boat, or bathing-machine that
comes to, or quits, the shore, &c., &c. But have we any
leisure for a description of Brighton?--for Brighton, a
clean Naples with genteel lazzaroni--for Brighton, that
always looks brisk, gay, and gaudy, like a harlequin's
jacket--for Brighton, which used to be seven hours
distant from London at the time of our story; which is now
only a hundred minutes off; and which may approach
who knows how much nearer, unless Joinville comes and
untimely bombards it?
"What a monstrous fine girl that is in the lodgings
over the milliner's," one of these three promenaders
remarked to the other; "Gad, Crawley, did you see what a
wink she gave me as I passed?"
"Don't break her heart, Jos, you rascal," said another.
"Don't trifle with her affections, you Don Juan!"
"Get away," said Jos Sedley, quite pleased, and leering up
at the maid-servant in question with a most killing
ogle. Jos was even more splendid at Brighton than he had
been at his sister's marriage. He had brilliant under-waistcoats,
any one of which would have set up a moderate buck.
He sported a military frock-coat, ornamented with
frogs, knobs, black buttons, and meandering embroidery.
He had affected a military appearance and habits of late;
and he walked with his two friends, who were of that
profession, clinking his boot-spurs, swaggering prodigiously,
and shooting death-glances at all the servant girls
who were worthy to be slain.
"What shall we do, boys, till the ladies return?" the
buck asked. The ladies were out to Rottingdean in his
carriage on a drive.
"Let's have a game at billiards," one of his friends
said--the tall one, with lacquered mustachios.
"No, dammy; no, Captain," Jos replied, rather
alarmed. "No billiards to-day, Crawley, my boy;
yesterday was enough."
"You play very well," said Crawley, laughing. "Don't
he, Osborne? How well he made that-five stroke, eh?"
"Famous," Osborne said. "Jos is a devil of a fellow
at billiards, and at everything else, too. I wish there were
any tiger-hunting about here! we might go and kill a few
before dinner. (There goes a fine girl! what an ankle, eh,
Jos?) Tell us that story about the tiger-hunt, and the
way you did for him in the jungle--it's a wonderful story
that, Crawley." Here George Osborne gave a yawn. "It's
rather slow work," said he, "down here; what shall we
"Shall we go and look at some horses that Snaffler's
just brought from Lewes fair?" Crawley said.
"Suppose we go and have some jellies at Dutton's,"
and the rogue Jos, willing to kill two birds with one
stone. "Devilish fine gal at Dutton's."
"Suppose we go and see the Lightning come in, it's
just about time?" George said. This advice prevailing
over the stables and the jelly, they turned towards the
coach-office to witness the Lightning's arrival.
As they passed, they met the carriage--Jos Sedley's
open carriage, with its magnificent armorial bearings--
that splendid conveyance in which he used to drive, about
at Cheltonham, majestic and solitary, with his arms
folded, and his hat cocked; or, more happy, with ladies
by his side.
Two were in the carriage now: one a little person, with
light hair, and dressed in the height of the fashion; the
other in a brown silk pelisse, and a straw bonnet with
pink ribbons, with a rosy, round, happy face, that did
you good to behold. She checked the carriage as it
neared the three gentlemen, after which exercise of
authority she looked rather nervous, and then began to
blush most absurdly. "We have had a delightful drive,
George," she said, "and--and we're so glad to come back;
and, Joseph, don't let him be late."
"Don't be leading our husbands into mischief, Mr.
Sedley, you wicked, wicked man you," Rebecca said,
shaking at Jos a pretty little finger covered with the
neatest French kid glove. "No billiards, no smoking, no
"My dear Mrs. Crawley--Ah now! upon my honour!"
was all Jos could ejaculate by way of reply; but he managed
to fall into a tolerable attitude, with his head lying
on his shoulder, grinning upwards at his victim, with one
hand at his back, which he supported on his cane, and
the other hand (the one with the diamond ring) fumbling
in his shirt-frill and among his under-waistcoats. As the
carriage drove off he kissed the diamond hand to the fair
ladies within. He wished all Cheltenham, all Chowringhee,
all Calcutta, could see him in that position, waving his
hand to such a beauty, and in company with such a
famous buck as Rawdon Crawley of the Guards.
Our young bride and bridegroom had chosen Brighton
as the place where they would pass the first few days after
their marriage; and having engaged apartments at the
Ship Inn, enjoyed themselves there in great comfort and
quietude, until Jos presently joined them. Nor was he
the only companion they found there. As they were
coming into the hotel from a sea-side walk one afternoon,
on whom should they light but Rebecca and her
husband. The recognition was immediate. Rebecca flew
into the arms of her dearest friend. Crawley and Osborne
shook hands together cordially enough: and Becky, in
the course of a very few hours, found means to make the
latter forget that little unpleasant passage of words which
had happened between them. "Do you remember the last
time we met at Miss Crawley's, when I was so rude to
you, dear Captain Osborne? I thought you seemed careless
about dear Amelia. It was that made me angry: and
so pert: and so unkind: and so ungrateful. Do forgive
me!" Rebecca said, and she held out her hand with so
frank and winning a grace, that Osborne could not but
take it. By humbly and frankly acknowledging yourself to
be in the wrong, there is no knowing, my son, what good
you may do. I knew once a gentleman and very worthy
practitioner in Vanity Fair, who used to do little wrongs
to his neighbours on purpose, and in order to apologise
for them in an open and manly way afterwards--and
what ensued? My friend Crocky Doyle was liked everywhere,
and deemed to be rather impetuous--but the honestest
fellow. Becky's humility passed for sincerity with
George Osborne.
These two young couples had plenty of tales to relate
to each other. The marriages of either were discussed;
and their prospects in life canvassed with the greatest
frankness and interest on both sides. George's marriage
was to be made known to his father by his friend
Captain Dobbin; and young Osborne trembled rather for the
result of that communication. Miss Crawley, on whom
all Rawdon's hopes depended, still held out. Unable to
make an entry into her house in Park Lane, her
affectionate nephew and niece had followed her to
Brighton, where they had emissaries continually planted
at her door.
"I wish you could see some of Rawdon's friends who
are always about our door," Rebecca said, laughing. "Did
you ever see a dun, my dear; or a bailiff and his man?
Two of the abominable wretches watched all last week
at the greengrocer's opposite, and we could not get away
until Sunday. If Aunty does not relent, what shall we
Rawdon, with roars of laughter, related a dozen amusing
anecdotes of his duns, and Rebecca's adroit treatment
of them. He vowed with a great oath that there was
no woman in Europe who could talk a creditor over as
she could. Almost immediately after their marriage, her
practice had begun, and her husband found the immense
value of such a wife. They had credit in plenty, but they
had bills also in abundance, and laboured under a scarcity
of ready money. Did these debt-difficulties affect Rawdon's
good spirits? No. Everybody in Vanity Fair must
have remarked how well those live who are comfortably
and thoroughly in debt: how they deny themselves nothing;
how jolly and easy they are in their minds. Rawdon
and his wife had the very best apartments at the inn at
Brighton; the landlord, as he brought in the first dish,
bowed before them as to his greatest customers: and
Rawdon abused the dinners and wine with an audacity
which no grandee in the land could surpass. Long custom,
a manly appearance, faultless boots and clothes,
and a happy fierceness of manner, will often help a man
as much as a great balance at the banker's.
The two wedding parties met constantly in each other's
apartments. After two or three nights the gentlemen of an
evening had a little piquet, as their wives sate and chatted
apart. This pastime, and the arrival of Jos Sedley, who
made his appearance in his grand open carriage, and who
played a few games at billiards with Captain Crawley,
replenished Rawdon's purse somewhat, and gave him the
benefit of that ready money for which the greatest spirits
are sometimes at a stand-still.
So the three gentlemen walked down to see the Lightning
coach come in. Punctual to the minute, the coach
crowded inside and out, the guard blowing his accustomed
tune on the horn--the Lightning came tearing
down the street, and pulled up at the coach-office.
"Hullo! there's old Dobbin," George cried, quite delighted
to see his old friend perched on the roof; and
whose promised visit to Brighton had been delayed until
now. "How are you, old fellow? Glad you're come down.
Emmy'll be delighted to see you," Osborne said, shaking
his comrade warmly by the hand as soon as his descent
from the vehicle was effected--and then he added, in a
lower and agitated voice, "What's the news? Have you
been in Russell Square? What does the governor say?
Tell me everything."
Dobbin looked very pale and grave. "I've seen your
father," said he. "How's Amelia--Mrs. George? I'll tell
you all the news presently: but I've brought the great
news of all: and that is--"
"Out with it, old fellow," George said.
"We're ordered to Belgium. All the army goes--guards
and all. Heavytop's got the gout, and is mad at not being
able to move. O'Dowd goes in command, and we embark
from Chatham next week." This news of war could
not but come with a shock upon our lovers, and caused
all these gentlemen to look very serious.
Captain Dobbin Proceeds on His Canvass
What is the secret mesmerism which friendship
possesses, and under the operation of which a person
ordinarily sluggish, or cold, or timid, becomes wise,
active, and resolute, in another's behalf? As Alexis,
after a few passes from Dr. Elliotson, despises pain,
reads with the back of his head, sees miles off,
looks into next week, and performs other wonders,
of which, in his own private normal condition, he is
quite incapable; so you see, in the affairs of the world
and under the magnetism of friendships, the modest
man becomes bold, the shy confident, the lazy active, or
the impetuous prudent and peaceful. What is it, on the
other hand, that makes the lawyer eschew his own cause,
and call in his learned brother as an adviser? And what causes
the doctor, when ailing, to send for his rival, and not sit
down and examine his own tongue in the chimney Bass,
or write his own prescription at his study-table? I throw
out these queries for intelligent readers to answer, who
know, at once, how credulous we are, and how sceptical,
how soft and how obstinate, how firm for others and how
diffident about ourselves: meanwhile, it is certain that
our friend William Dobbin, who was personally of so
complying a disposition that if his parents had pressed
him much, it is probable he would have stepped down
into the kitchen and married the cook, and who, to further
his own interests, would have found the most insuperable
difficulty in walking across the street, found himself as
busy and eager in the conduct of George Osborne's
affairs, as the most selfish tactician could be in the pursuit
of his own.
Whilst our friend George and his young wife were
enjoying the first blushing days of the honeymoon at
Brighton, honest William was left as George's plenipotentiary
in London, to transact all the business part of the marriage.
His duty it was to call upon old Sedley and his
wife, and to keep the former in good humour: to draw Jos
and his brother-in-law nearer together, so that Jos's position
and dignity, as collector of Boggley Wollah, might
compensate for his father's loss of station, and tend to
reconcile old Osborne to the alliance: and finally, to
communicate it to the latter in such a way as should least
irritate the old gentleman.
Now, before he faced the head of the Osborne house
with the news which it was his duty to tell, Dobbin bethought
him that it would be politic to make friends of the
rest of the family, and, if possible, have the ladies on his
side. They can't be angry in their hearts, thought he. No
woman ever was really angry at a romantic marriage. A
little crying out, and they must come round to their
brother; when the three of us will lay siege to old Mr.
Osborne. So this Machiavellian captain of infantry cast
about him for some happy means or stratagem by which
he could gently and gradually bring the Misses Osborne
to a knowledge of their brother's secret.
By a little inquiry regarding his mother's engagements,
he was pretty soon able to find out by whom of her ladyship's friends parties were given at
that season; where
he would be likely to meet Osborne's sisters; and, though
he had that abhorrence of routs and evening parties
which many sensible men, alas! entertain, he soon found
one where the Misses Osborne were to be present.
Making his appearance at the ball, where he danced a couple
of sets with both of them, and was prodigiously polite, he
actually had the courage to ask Miss Osborne for a few
minutes' conversation at an early hour the next day, when
he had, he said, to communicate to her news of the
very greatest interest.
What was it that made her start back, and gaze upon
him for a moment, and then on the ground at her feet,
and make as if she would faint on his arm, had he not by
opportunely treading on her toes, brought the young lady
back to self-control? Why was she so violently agitated
at Dobbin's request? This can never be known. But when
he came the next day, Maria was not in the drawing-room
with her sister, and Miss Wirt went off for the purpose
of fetching the latter, and the Captain and Miss Osborne
were left together. They were both so silent that the ticktock
of the Sacrifice of Iphigenia clock on the mantelpiece
became quite rudely audible.
"What a nice party it was last night," Miss Osborne at
length began, encouragingly; "and--and how you're
improved in your dancing, Captain Dobbin. Surely somebody
has taught you," she added, with amiable archness.
"You should see me dance a reel with Mrs. Major
O'Dowd of ours; and a jig--did you ever see a jig? But
I think anybody could dance with you, Miss Osborne,
who dance so well."
"Is the Major's lady young and beautiful, Captain?" the
fair questioner continued. "Ah, what a terrible thing it
must be to be a soldier's wife! I wonder they have any
spirits to dance, and in these dreadful times of war, too!
O Captain Dobbin, I tremble sometimes when I think of
our dearest George, and the dangers of the poor soldier.
Are there many married officers of the --th, Captain
"Upon my word, she's playing her hand rather too
openly," Miss Wirt thought; but this observation is merely parenthetic, and was not heard
through the crevice of
the door at which the governess uttered it.
"One of our young men is just married," Dobbin said,
now coming to the point. "It was a very old attachment,
and the young couple are as poor as church mice."
"O, how delightful! O, how romantic!" Miss Osborne
cried, as the Captain said "old attachment" and "poor."
Her sympathy encouraged him.
"The finest young fellow in the regiment," he continued.
"Not a braver or handsomer officer in the army; and
such a charming wife! How you would like her! how
you will like her when you know her, Miss Osborne." The
young lady thought the actual moment had arrived, and
that Dobbin's nervousness which now came on and was
visible in many twitchings of his face, in his manner of
beating the ground with his great feet, in the rapid
buttoning and unbuttoning of his frock-coat, &c.--Miss
Osborne, I say, thought that when he had given himself a
little air, he would unbosom himself entirely, and
prepared eagerly to listen. And the clock, in the altar on
which Iphigenia was situated, beginning, after a preparatory convulsion, to toll twelve, the
mere tolling seemed
as if it would last until one--so prolonged was the knell
to the anxious spinster.
"But it's not about marriage that I came to speak--
that is that marriage--that is--no, I mean--my dear
Miss Osborne, it's about our dear friend George,"
Dobbin said.
"About George?" she said in a tone so discomfited
that Maria and Miss Wirt laughed at the other side of
the door, and even that abandoned wretch of a Dobbin
felt inclined to smile himself; for he was not altogether
unconscious of the state of affairs: George having often
bantered him gracefully and said, "Hang it, Will, why
don't you take old Jane? She'll have you if you ask her.
I'll bet you five to two she will."
"Yes, about George, then," he continued. "There has
been a difference between him and Mr. Osborne. And I
regard him so much--for you know we have been like
brothers--that I hope and pray the quarrel may be
settled. We must go abroad, Miss Osborne. We may be
ordered off at a day's warning. Who knows what may
happen in the campaign? Don't be agitated, dear Miss
Osborne; and those two at least should part friends."
"There has been no quarrel, Captain Dobbin, except
a little usual scene with Papa," the lady said. "We are
expecting George back daily. What Papa wanted was only
for his good. He has but to come back, and I'm sure all
will be well; and dear Rhoda, who went away from here
in sad sad anger, I know will forgive him. Woman forgives
but too readily, Captain."
"Such an angel as YOU I am sure would," Mr. Dobbin
said, with atrocious astuteness. "And no man can pardon
himself for giving a woman pain. What would you feel,
if a man were faithless to you?"
"I should perish--I should throw myself out of window--
I should take poison--I should pine and die. I
know I should," Miss cried, who had nevertheless gone
through one or two affairs of the heart without any idea
of suicide.
"And there are others," Dobbin continued, "as true
and as kind-hearted as yourself. I'm not speaking about
the West Indian heiress, Miss Osborne, but about a poor
girl whom George once loved, and who was bred from
her childhood to think of nobody but him. I've seen her
in her poverty uncomplaining, broken-hearted, without a
fault. It is of Miss Sedley I speak. Dear Miss Osborne,
can your generous heart quarrel with your brother for
being faithful to her? Could his own conscience ever
forgive him if he deserted her? Be her friend--she always
loved you--and--and I am come here charged by George
to tell you that he holds his engagement to her as the
most sacred duty he has; and to entreat you, at least,
to be on his side."
When any strong emotion took possession of Mr. Dobbin,
and after the first word or two of hesitation, he could
speak with perfect fluency, and it was evident that his
eloquence on this occasion made some impression upon
the lady whom he addressed.
"Well," said she, "this is--most surprising--most painful--
most extraordinary--what will Papa say?--that
George should fling away such a superb establishment as
was offered to himbut at any rate he has found a very
brave champion in you, Captain Dobbin. It is of no use,
however," she continued, after a pause; "I feel for poor
Miss Sedley, most certainly--most sincerely, you know.
We never thought the match a good one, though we were
always very kind to her here--very. But Papa will never
consent, I am sure. And a well brought up young woman,
you know--with a well-regulated mind, must--George
must give her up, dear Captain Dobbin, indeed he must."
"Ought a man to give up the woman he loved, just
when misfortune befell her?" Dobbin said, holding out
his hand. "Dear Miss Osborne, is this the counsel I hear
from you? My dear young lady! you must befriend her.
He can't give her up. He must not give her up. Would a
man, think you, give YOU up if you were poor?"
This adroit question touched the heart of Miss Jane
Osborne not a little. "I don't know whether we poor girls
ought to believe what you men say, Captain," she said.
"There is that in woman's tenderness which induces her
to believe too easily. I'm afraid you are cruel, cruel
deceivers,"--and Dobbin certainly thought he felt a
pressure of the hand which Miss Osborne had extended
to him.
He dropped it in some alarm. "Deceivers!" said he.
"No, dear Miss Osborne, all men are not; your brother
is not; George has loved Amelia Sedley ever since they
were children; no wealth would make him marry any but
her. Ought he to forsake her? Would you counsel him to
do so?"
What could Miss Jane say to such a question, and with
her own peculiar views? She could not answer it, so she
parried it by saying, "Well, if you are not a deceiver, at
least you are very romantic"; and Captain William let
this observation pass without challenge.
At length when, by the help of farther polite speeches,
he deemed that Miss Osborne was sufficiently prepared to
receive the whole news, he poured it into her ear.
"George could not give up Amelia--George was married
to her"--and then he related the circumstances of the
marriage as we know them already: how the poor girl
would have died had not her lover kept his faith: how
Old Sedley had refused all consent to the match, and a
licence had been got: and Jos Sedley had come from
Cheltenham to give away the bride: how they had gone
to Brighton in Jos's chariot-and-four to pass the honeymoon:
and how George counted on his dear kind sisters to
befriend him with their father, as women--so true
and tender as they were--assuredly would do. And so,
asking permission (readily granted) to see her again, and
rightly conjecturing that the news he had brought would
be told in the next five minutes to the other ladies,
Captain Dobbin made his bow and took his leave.
He was scarcely out of the house, when Miss Maria
and Miss Wirt rushed in to Miss Osborne, and the
whole wonderful secret was imparted to them by that
lady. To do them justice, neither of the sisters was very
much displeased. There is something about a runaway
match with which few ladies can be seriously angry, and
Amelia rather rose in their estimation, from the spirit
which she had displayed in consenting to the union. As
they debated the story, and prattled about it, and wondered
what Papa would do and say, came a loud knock,
as of an avenging thunder-clap, at the door, which made
these conspirators start. It must be Papa, they thought.
But it was not he. It was only Mr. Frederick Bullock,
who had come from the City according to appointment,
to conduct the ladies to a flower-show.
This gentleman, as may be imagined, was not kept
long in ignorance of the secret. But his face, when he
heard it, showed an amazement which was very different
to that look of sentimental wonder which the countenances
of the sisters wore. Mr. Bullock was a man of the world,
and a junior partner of a wealthy firm. He knew what
money was, and the value of it: and a delightful throb
of expectation lighted up his little eyes, and caused him
to smile on his Maria, as he thought that by this piece
of folly of Mr. George's she might be worth thirty
thousand pounds more than he had ever hoped to
get with her.
"Gad! Jane," said he, surveying even the elder sister
with some interest, "Eels will be sorry he cried off. You
may be a fifty thousand pounder yet."
The sisters had never thought of the money question
up to that moment, but Fred Bullock bantered them
with graceful gaiety about it during their forenoon's
excursion; and they had risen not a little in their own
esteem by the time when, the morning amusement over,
they drove back to dinner. And do not let my respected
reader exclaim against this selfishness as unnatural. It
was but this present morning, as he rode on the omnibus
from Richmond; while it changed horses, this present
chronicler, being on the roof, marked three little children
playing in a puddle below, very dirty, and friendly, and
happy. To these three presently came another little one.
"POLLY," says she, "YOUR SISTER'S GOT A PENNY." At which
the children got up from the puddle instantly, and ran
off to pay their court to Peggy. And as the omnibus drove
off I saw Peggy with the infantine procession at her
tail, marching with great dignity towards the stall of a
neighbouring lollipop-woman.
In Which Mr. Osborne Takes Down the Family Bible
So having prepared the sisters, Dobbin hastened away
to the City to perform the rest and more difficult part
of the task which he had undertaken. The idea of facing
old Osborne rendered him not a little nervous, and more
than once he thought of leaving the young ladies to
communicate the secret, which, as he was aware, they could
not long retain. But he had promised to report to George
upon the manner in which the elder Osborne bore the
intelligence; so going into the City to the paternal
counting-house in Thames Street, he despatched thence
a note to Mr. Osborne begging for a half-hour's conversation
relative to the affairs of his son George. Dobbin's messenger
returned from Mr. Osborne's house of business, with the
compliments of the latter, who would be very happy to see the
Captain immediately, and away accordingly Dobbin went
to confront him.
The Captain, with a half-guilty secret to confess, and
with the prospect of a painful and stormy interview
before him, entered Mr. Osborne's offices with a most
dismal countenance and abashed gait, and, passing through
the outer room where Mr. Chopper presided, was greeted
by that functionary from his desk with a waggish air
which farther discomfited him. Mr. Chopper winked and
nodded and pointed his pen towards his patron's door,
and said, "You'll find the governor all right," with the
most provoking good humour.
Osborne rose too, and shook him heartily by the hand,
and said, "How do, my dear boy?" with a cordiality that
made poor George's ambassador feel doubly guilty. His
hand lay as if dead in the old gentleman's grasp. He felt
that he, Dobbin, was more or less the cause of all that
had happened. It was he had brought back George to
Amelia: it was he had applauded, encouraged, transacted
almost the marriage which he was come to reveal to
George's father: and the latter was receiving him with
smiles of welcome; patting him on the shoulder, and calling
him "Dobbin, my dear boy." The envoy had indeed
good reason to hang his head.
Osborne fully believed that Dobbin had come to
announce his son's surrender. Mr. Chopper and his
principal were talking over the matter between George and
his father, at the very moment when Dobbin's messenger
arrived. Both agreed that George was sending in his
submission. Both had been expecting it for some days--and
"Lord! Chopper, what a marriage we'll have!" Mr.
Osborne said to his clerk, snapping his big fingers, and
jingling all the guineas and shillings in his great pockets
as he eyed his subordinate with a look of triumph.
With similar operations conducted in both pockets,
and a knowing jolly air, Osborne from his chair regarded
Dobbin seated blank and silent opposite to him. "What
a bumpkin he is for a Captain in the army," old Osborne
thought. "I wonder George hasn't taught him better
At last Dobbin summoned courage to begin. "Sir," said
he, "I've brought you some very grave news. I have been
at the Horse Guards this morning, and there's no doubt
that our regiment will be ordered abroad, and on its
way to Belgium before the week is over. And you know,
sir, that we shan't be home again before a tussle which
may be fatal to many of us."
Osborne looked grave. "My s-- , the regiment will
do its duty, sir, I daresay," he said.
"The French are very strong, sir," Dobbin went on.
"The Russians and Austrians will be a long time before
they can bring their troops down. We shall have the first
of the fight, sir; and depend on it Boney will take care
that it shall be a hard one."
"What are you driving at, Dobbin?" his interlocutor
said, uneasy and with a scowl. "I suppose no Briton's
afraid of any d-- Frenchman, hey?"
"I only mean, that before we go, and considering the
great and certain risk that hangs over every one of us--
if there are any differences between you and George--it
would be as well, sir, that--that you should shake hands:
wouldn't it? Should anything happen to him, I think you
would never forgive yourself if you hadn't parted in
As he said this, poor William Dobbin blushed crimson,
and felt and owned that he himself was a traitor. But
for him, perhaps, this severance need never have taken
place. Why had not George's marriage been delayed?
What call was there to press it on so eagerly? He felt that
George would have parted from Amelia at any rate without
a mortal pang. Amelia, too, MIGHT have recovered the
shock of losing him. It was his counsel had brought
about this marriage, and all that was to ensue from it.
And why was it? Because he loved her so much that he
could not bear to see her unhappy: or because his own
sufferings of suspense were so unendurable that he was
glad to crush them at once--as we hasten a funeral
after a death, or, when a separation from those we love
is imminent, cannot rest until the parting be over.
"You are a good fellow, William," said Mr. Osborne in
a softened voice; "and me and George shouldn't part in
anger, that is true. Look here. I've done for him as
much as any father ever did. He's had three times as
much money from me, as I warrant your father ever
gave you. But I don't brag about that. How I've toiled
for him, and worked and employed my talents and energy,
I won't say. Ask Chopper. Ask himself. Ask the City of
London. Well, I propose to him such a marriage as any
nobleman in the land might be proud of--the only thing
in life I ever asked him--and he refuses me. Am I wrong?
Is the quarrel of MY making? What do I seek but his
good, for which I've been toiling like a convict ever since
he was born? Nobody can say there's anything selfish in
me. Let him come back. I say, here's my hand. I say,
forget and forgive. As for marrying now, it's out of the
question. Let him and Miss S. make it up, and make out the
marriage afterwards, when he comes back a Colonel;
for he shall be a Colonel, by G-- he shall, if money
can do it. I'm glad you've brought him round. I know it's
you, Dobbin. You've took him out of many a scrape
before. Let him come. I shan't be hard. Come along, and
dine in Russell Square to-day: both of you. The old shop,
the old hour. You'll find a neck of venison, and no
questions asked."
This praise and confidence smote Dobbin's heart very
keenly. Every moment the colloquy continued in this
tone, he felt more and more guilty. "Sir," said he, "I
fear you deceive yourself. I am sure you do. George is
much too high-minded a man ever to marry for money. A
threat on your part that you would disinherit him in
case of disobedience would only be followed by resistance
on his."
"Why, hang it, man, you don't call offering him eight
or ten thousand a year threatening him?'' Mr. Osborne
said, with still provoking good humour. "'Gad, if Miss
S. will have me, I'm her man. I ain't particular about a
shade or so of tawny." And the old gentleman gave his
knowing grin and coarse laugh.
"You forget, sir, previous engagements into which
Captain Osborne had entered," the ambassador said, gravely.
"What engagements? What the devil do you mean?
You don't mean," Mr. Osborne continued, gathering
wrath and astonishment as the thought now first came
upon him; "you don't mean that he's such a d-- fool
as to be still hankering after that swindling old bankrupt's
daughter? You've not come here for to make me
suppose that he wants to marry HER? Marry HER, that IS
a good one. My son and heir marry a beggar's girl out of
a gutter. D-- him, if he does, let him buy a broom
and sweep a crossing. She was always dangling and ogling
after him, I recollect now; and I've no doubt she was
put on by her old sharper of a father."
"Mr. Sedley was your very good friend, sir," Dobbin
interposed, almost pleased at finding himself growing
angry. "Time was you called him better names than
rogue and swindler. The match was of your making.
George had no right to play fast and loose--"
"Fast and loose!" howled out old Osborne. "Fast and
loose! Why, hang me, those are the very words my
gentleman used himself when he gave himself airs, last
Thursday was a fortnight, and talked about the British army
to his father who made him. What, it's you who have
been a setting of him up--is it? and my service to you,
CAPTAIN. It's you who want to introduce beggars into my
family. Thank you for nothing, Captain. Marry HER indeed
--he, he! why should he? I warrant you she'd go to him
fast enough without."
"Sir," said Dobbin, starting up in undisguised anger;
"no man shall abuse that lady in my hearing, and you
least of all."
"O, you're a-going to call me out, are you? Stop, let me
ring the bell for pistols for two. Mr. George sent you
here to insult his father, did he?" Osborne said, pulling
at the bell-cord.
"Mr. Osborne," said Dobbin, with a faltering voice,
"it's you who are insulting the best creature in the world.
You had best spare her, sir, for she's your son's wife."
And with this, feeling that he could say no more, Dobbin
went away, Osborne sinking back in his chair, and
looking wildly after him. A clerk came in, obedient to the
bell; and the Captain was scarcely out of the court where
Mr. Osborne's offices were, when Mr. Chopper the chief
clerk came rushing hatless after him.
"For God's sake, what is it?" Mr. Chopper said, catching
the Captain by the skirt. "The governor's in a fit.
What has Mr. George been doing?"
"He married Miss Sedley five days ago," Dobbin replied.
"I was his groomsman, Mr. Chopper, and you must
stand his friend."
The old clerk shook his head. "If that's your news,
Captain, it's bad. The governor will never forgive him."
Dobbin begged Chopper to report progress to him at
the hotel where he was stopping, and walked off moodily
westwards, greatly perturbed as to the past and the
When the Russell Square family came to dinner that
evening, they found the father of the house seated in his
usual place, but with that air of gloom on his face, which,
whenever it appeared there, kept the whole circle silent.
The ladies, and Mr. Bullock who dined with them, felt
that the news had been communicated to Mr. Osborne.
His dark looks affected Mr. Bullock so far as to render
him still and quiet: but he was unusually bland and
attentive to Miss Maria, by whom he sat, and to her sister
presiding at the head of the table.
Miss Wirt, by consequence, was alone on her side of
the board, a gap being left between her and Miss Jane
Osborne. Now this was George's place when he dined at
home; and his cover, as we said, was laid for him in
expectation of that truant's return. Nothing occurred
during dinner-time except smiling Mr. Frederick's flagging
confidential whispers, and the clinking of plate and china,
to interrupt the silence of the repast. The servants went
about stealthily doing their duty. Mutes at funerals could
not look more glum than the domestics of Mr. Osborne
The neck of venison of which he had invited Dobbin to
partake, was carved by him in perfect silence; but his
own share went away almost untasted, though he drank
much, and the butler assiduously filled his glass.
At last, just at the end of the dinner, his eyes, which
had been staring at everybody in turn, fixed themselves
for a while upon the plate laid for George. He pointed
to it presently with his left hand. His daughters looked at
him and did not comprehend, or choose to comprehend,
the signal; nor did the servants at first understand it.
"Take that plate away," at last he said, getting up with
an oath--and with this pushing his chair back, he walked
into his own room.
Behind Mr. Osborne's dining-room was the usual
apartment which went in his house by the name of the
study; and was sacred to the master of the house. Hither
Mr. Osborne would retire of a Sunday forenoon when
not minded to go to church; and here pass the morning
in his crimson leather chair, reading the paper. A couple
of glazed book-cases were here, containing standard
works in stout gilt bindings. The "Annual Register," the
"Gentleman's Magazine," "Blair's Sermons," and "Hume
and Smollett." From year's end to year's end he never
took one of these volumes from the shelf; but there was
no member of the family that would dare for his life to
touch one of the books, except upon those rare Sunday
evenings when there was no dinner-party, and when the
great scarlet Bible and Prayer-book were taken out from
the corner where they stood beside his copy of the Peerage,
and the servants being rung up to the dining parlour,
Osborne read the evening service to his family in a
loud grating pompous voice. No member of the household,
child, or domestic, ever entered that room without
a certain terror. Here he checked the housekeeper's accounts,
and overhauled the butler's cellar-book. Hence he
could command, across the clean gravel court-yard, the
back entrance of the stables with which one of his bells
communicated, and into this yard the coachman issued
from his premises as into a dock, and Osborne swore at
him from the study window. Four times a year Miss
Wirt entered this apartment to get her salary; and his
daughters to receive their quarterly allowance. George
as a boy had been horsewhipped in this room many
times; his mother sitting sick on the stair listening to the
cuts of the whip. The boy was scarcely ever known to
cry under the punishment; the poor woman used to
fondle and kiss him secretly, and give him money to
soothe him when he came out.
There was a picture of the family over the mantelpiece,
removed thither from the front room after Mrs. Osborne's
death--George was on a pony, the elder sister
holding him up a bunch of flowers; the younger led by
her mother's hand; all with red cheeks and large red
mouths, simpering on each other in the approved familyportrait
manner. The mother lay underground now, long
since forgotten--the sisters and brother had a hundred
different interests of their own, and, familiar still, were
utterly estranged from each other. Some few score of
years afterwards, when all the parties represented are
grown old, what bitter satire there is in those flaunting
childish family-portraits, with their farce of sentiment and
smiling lies, and innocence so self-conscious and selfsatisfied.
Osborne's own state portrait, with that of his
great silver inkstand and arm-chair, had taken the place
of honour in the dining-room, vacated by the familypiece.
To this study old Osborne retired then, greatly to the
relief of the small party whom he left. When the
servants had withdrawn, they began to talk for a while
volubly but very low; then they went upstairs quietly,
Mr. Bullock accompanying them stealthily on his creaking
shoes. He had no heart to sit alone drinking wine,
and so close to the terrible old gentleman in the study
hard at hand.
An hour at least after dark, the butler, not having
received any summons, ventured to tap at his door and
take him in wax candles and tea. The master of the
house sate in his chair, pretending to read the paper,
and when the servant, placing the lights and refreshment
on the table by him, retired, Mr. Osborne got up and
locked the door after him. This time there was no mistaking
the matter; all the household knew that some great
catastrophe was going to happen which was likely direly
to affect Master George.
In the large shining mahogany escritoire Mr. Osborne
had a drawer especially devoted to his son's affairs and
papers. Here he kept all the documents relating to him
ever since he had been a boy: here were his prize copybooks
and drawing-books, all bearing George's hand,
and that of the master: here were his first letters in large
round-hand sending his love to papa and mamma, and
conveying his petitions for a cake. His dear godpapa
Sedley was more than once mentioned in them. Curses
quivered on old Osborne's livid lips, and horrid hatred
and disappointment writhed in his heart, as looking
through some of these papers he came on that name.
They were all marked and docketed, and tied with red tape.
It was--From Georgy, requesting 5s., April 23, 18--;
answered, April 25"--or "Georgy about a pony, October
13"--and so forth. In another packet were "Dr. S.'s accounts"
--"G.'s tailor's bills and outfits, drafts on me by
G. Osborne, jun.," &c.--his letters from the West Indies
--his agent's letters, and the newspapers containing his
commissions: here was a whip he had when a boy, and in
a paper a locket containing his hair, which his mother
used to wear.
Turning one over after another, and musing over these
memorials, the unhappy man passed many hours. His
dearest vanities, ambitious hopes, had all been here. What
pride he had in his boy! He was the handsomest child
ever seen. Everybody said he was like a nobleman's
son. A royal princess had remarked him, and kissed
him, and asked his name in Kew Gardens. What City
man could show such another? Could a prince have been
better cared for? Anything that money could buy had
been his son's. He used to go down on speech-days with
four horses and new liveries, and scatter new shillings
among the boys at the school where George was: when
he went with George to the depot of his regiment, before
the boy embarked for Canada, he gave the officers
such a dinner as the Duke of York might have sat down
to. Had he ever refused a bill when George drew one?
There they were--paid without a word. Many a general
in the army couldn't ride the horses he had! He had the
child before his eyes, on a hundred different days when
he remembered George after dinner, when he used
to come in as bold as a lord and drink off his glass by
his father's side, at the head of the table--on the pony
at Brighton, when he cleared the hedge and kept up with
the huntsman--on the day when he was presented to
the Prince Regent at the levee, when all Saint James's
couldn't produce a finer young fellow. And this, this was
the end of all!--to marry a bankrupt and fly in the face
of duty and fortune! What humiliation and fury: what
pangs of sickening rage, balked ambition and love; what
wounds of outraged vanity, tenderness even, had this
old worldling now to suffer under!
Having examined these papers, and pondered over this
one and the other, in that bitterest of all helpless woe,
with which miserable men think of happy past times--
George's father took the whole of the documents out of
the drawer in which he had kept them so long, and locked
them into a writing-box, which he tied, and sealed with
his seal. Then he opened the book-case, and took down
the great red Bible we have spoken of a pompous
book, seldom looked at, and shining all over with gold.
There was a frontispiece to the volume, representing
Abraham sacrificing Isaac. Here, according to custom,
Osborne had recorded on the fly-leaf, and in his large
clerk-like hand, the dates of his marriage and his wife's
death, and the births and Christian names of his children.
Jane came first, then George Sedley Osborne, then Maria
Frances, and the days of the christening of each. Taking
a pen, he carefully obliterated George's names from
the page; and when the leaf was quite dry, restored the
volume to the place from which he had moved it. Then
he took a document out of another drawer, where his
own private papers were kept; and having read it, crumpled
it up and lighted it at one of the candles, and saw it
burn entirely away in the grate. It was his will; which
being burned, he sate down and wrote off a letter, and
rang for his servant, whom he charged to deliver it in the
morning. It was morning already: as he went up to bed,
the whole house was alight with the sunshine; and the
birds were singing among the fresh green leaves in
Russell Square.
Anxious to keep all Mr. Osborne's family and dependants
in good humour, and to make as many friends as
possible for George in his hour of adversity, William Dobbin,
who knew the effect which good dinners and good
wines have upon the soul of man, wrote off immediately
on his return to his inn the most hospitable of invitations
to Thomas Chopper, Esquire, begging that gentleman to
dine with him at the Slaughters' next day. The note
reached Mr. Chopper before he left the City, and the
instant reply was, that "Mr. Chopper presents his
respectful compliments, and will have the honour and
pleasure of waiting on Captain D." The invitation and the
rough draft of the answer were shown to Mrs. Chopper
and her daughters on his return to Somers' Town that
evening, and they talked about military gents and West
End men with great exultation as the family sate and
partook of tea. When the girls had gone to rest, Mr. and
Mrs. C. discoursed upon the strange events which were
occurring in the governor's family. Never had the clerk
seen his principal so moved. When he went in to Mr.
Osborne, after Captain Dobbin's departure, Mr. Chopper
found his chief black in the face, and all but in a fit:
some dreadful quarrel, he was certain, had occurred
between Mr. O. and the young Captain. Chopper had been
instructed to make out an account of all sums paid to
Captain Osborne within the last three years. "And a
precious lot of money he has had too," the chief clerk said,
and respected his old and young master the more, for
the liberal way in which the guineas had been flung about.
The dispute was something about Miss Sedley. Mrs.
Chopper vowed and declared she pitied that poor young
lady to lose such a handsome young fellow as the Capting.
As the daughter of an unlucky speculator, who had paid a
very shabby dividend, Mr. Chopper had no great regard
for Miss Sedley. He respected the house of Osborne
before all others in the City of London: and his hope and
wish was that Captain George should marry a nobleman's
daughter. The clerk slept a great deal sounder than
his principal that night; and, cuddling his children after
breakfast (of which he partook with a very hearty
appetite, though his modest cup of life was only
sweetened with brown sugar), he set off in his best Sunday
suit and frilled shirt for business, promising his admiring
wife not to punish Captain D.'s port too severely that
Mr. Osborne's countenance, when he arrived in the
City at his usual time, struck those dependants who were
accustomed, for good reasons, to watch its expression,
as peculiarly ghastly and worn. At twelve o'clock Mr.
Higgs (of the firm of Higgs & Blatherwick, solicitors,
Bedford Row) called by appointment, and was ushered
into the governor's private room, and closeted there for
more than an hour. At about one Mr. Chopper
received a note brought by Captain Dobbin's man, and
containing an inclosure for Mr. Osborne, which the clerk
went in and delivered. A short time afterwards Mr.
Chopper and Mr. Birch, the next clerk, were summoned, and
requested to witness a paper. "I've been making a new
will," Mr. Osborne said, to which these gentlemen
appended their names accordingly. No conversation
passed. Mr. Higgs looked exceedingly grave as he came
into the outer rooms, and very hard in Mr. Chopper's
face; but there were not any explanations. It was
remarked that Mr. Osborne was particularly quiet and
gentle all day, to the surprise of those who had augured ill
from his darkling demeanour. He called no man names
that day, and was not heard to swear once. He left business
early; and before going away, summoned his chief
clerk once more, and having given him general instructions,
asked him, after some seeming hesitation and reluctance
to speak, if he knew whether Captain Dobbin was in town?
Chopper said he believed he was. Indeed both of them
knew the fact perfectly.
Osborne took a letter directed to that officer, and
giving it to the clerk, requested the latter to deliver it
into Dobbin's own hands immediately.
"And now, Chopper," says he, taking his hat, and with
a strange look, "my mind will be easy." Exactly as the
clock struck two (there was no doubt an appointment
between the pair) Mr. Frederick Bullock called, and he
and Mr. Osborne walked away together.
The Colonel of the --th regiment, in which Messieurs
Dobbin and Osborne had companies, was an old General
who had made his first campaign under Wolfe at Quebec,
and was long since quite too old and feeble for command;
but he took some interest in the regiment of which
he was the nominal head, and made certain of his young
officers welcome at his table, a kind of hospitality
which I believe is not now common amongst his
brethren. Captain Dobbin was an especial favourite
of this old General. Dobbin was versed in the literature
of his profession, and could talk about the great Frederick,
and the Empress Queen, and their wars, almost as well
as the General himself, who was indifferent to the triumphs
of the present day, and whose heart was with the
tacticians of fifty years back. This officer sent a summons
to Dobbin to come and breakfast with him, on the
morning when Mr. Osborne altered his will and Mr. Chopper
put on his best shirt frill, and then informed his young
favourite, a couple of days in advance, of that which they
were all expecting--a marching order to go to Belgium.
The order for the regiment to hold itself in readiness
would leave the Horse Guards in a day or two; and as
transports were in plenty, they would get their route
before the week was over. Recruits had come in during
the stay of the regiment at Chatham; and the old General
hoped that the regiment which had helped to beat
Montcalm in Canada, and to rout Mr. Washington on
Long Island, would prove itself worthy of its historical
reputation on the oft-trodden battle-grounds of the Low
Countries. "And so, my good friend, if you have any
affaire la, said the old General, taking a pinch of snuff
with his trembling white old hand, and then pointing to
the spot of his robe de chambre under which his heart
was still feebly beating, "if you have any Phillis to console,
or to bid farewell to papa and mamma, or any will
to make, I recommend you to set about your business
without delay." With which the General gave his young
friend a finger to shake, and a good-natured nod of his
powdered and pigtailed head; and the door being closed
upon Dobbin, sate down to pen a poulet (he was
exceedingly vain of his French) to Mademoiselle
Amenaide of His Majesty's Theatre.
This news made Dobbin grave, and he thought of our
friends at Brighton, and then he was ashamed of himself
that Amelia was always the first thing in his thoughts
(always before anybody--before father and mother,
sisters and duty--always at waking and sleeping indeed,
and all day long); and returning to his hotel, he sent off a
brief note to Mr. Osborne acquainting him with the
information which he had received, and which might tend
farther, he hoped, to bring about a reconciliation with
This note, despatched by the same messenger who had
carried the invitation to Chopper on the previous day,
alarmed the worthy clerk not a little. It was inclosed to
him, and as he opened the letter he trembled lest the
dinner should be put off on which he was calculating. His
mind was inexpressibly relieved when he found that the
envelope was only a reminder for himself. ("I shall
expect you at half-past five," Captain Dobbin wrote.) He was
very much interested about his employer's family; but,
que voulez-vous? a grand dinner was of more concern to
him than the affairs of any other mortal.
Dobbin was quite justified in repeating the General's
information to any officers of the regiment whom he
should see in the course of his peregrinations; accordingly
he imparted it to Ensign Stubble, whom he met at the
agent's, and who--such was his military ardour--went
off instantly to purchase a new sword at the
accoutrement-maker's. Here this young fellow, who,
though only seventeen years of age, and about sixty-five
inches high, with a constitution naturally rickety and
much impaired by premature brandy and water, had an
undoubted courage and a lion's heart, poised, tried, bent,
and balanced a weapon such as he thought would do execution amongst Frenchmen.
Shouting "Ha, ha!" and stamping his little
feet with tremendous energy, he delivered the point twice
or thrice at Captain Dobbin, who parried the thrust
laughingly with his bamboo walking-stick.
Mr. Stubble, as may be supposed from his size and
slenderness, was of the Light Bobs. Ensign Spooney, on
the contrary, was a tall youth, and belonged to (Captain
Dobbin's) the Grenadier Company, and he tried on a new
bearskin cap, under which he looked savage beyond his
years. Then these two lads went off to the Slaughters', and
having ordered a famous dinner, sate down and wrote off
letters to the kind anxious parents at home--letters full of
love and heartiness, and pluck and bad spelling. Ah! there
were many anxious hearts beating through England at
that time; and mothers' prayers and tears flowing in many
Seeing young Stubble engaged in composition at one of
the coffee-room tables at the Slaughters', and the tears
trickling down his nose on to the paper (for the youngster
was thinking of his mamma, and that he might never see
her again), Dobbin, who was going to write off a letter to
George Osborne, relented, and locked up his desk. "Why
should I?" said he. "Let her have this night happy. I'll go
and see my parents early in the morning, and go down to
Brighton myself to-morrow."
So he went up and laid his big hand on young Stubble's
shoulder, and backed up that young champion, and told
him if he would leave off brandy and water he would
be a good soldier, as he always was a gentlemanly goodhearted
fellow. Young Stubble's eyes brightened up at this,
for Dobbin was greatly respected in the regiment, as the
best officer and the cleverest man in it.
"Thank you, Dobbin," he said, rubbing his eyes with
his knuckles, "I was just--just telling her I would. And,
O Sir, she's so dam kind to me." The water pumps were
at work again, and I am not sure that the soft-hearted
Captain's eyes did not also twinkle.
The two ensigns, the Captain, and Mr. Chopper, dined
together in the same box. Chopper brought the letter from
Mr. Osborne, in which the latter briefly presented his
compliments to Captain Dobbin, and requested him to
forward the inclosed to Captain George Osborne. Chopper
knew nothing further; he described Mr. Osborne's appearance,
it is true, and his interview with his lawyer, wondered
how the governor had sworn at nobody, and--especially
as the wine circled round--abounded in speculations
and conjectures. But these grew more vague with
every glass, and at length became perfectly unintelligible.
At a late hour Captain Dobbin put his guest into a hackney
coach, in a hiccupping state, and swearing that he would
be the kick--the kick--Captain's friend for ever and ever.
When Captain Dobbin took leave of Miss Osborne we
have said that he asked leave to come and pay her
another visit, and the spinster expected him for some hours
the next day, when, perhaps, had he come, and had he
asked her that question which she was prepared to answer,
she would have declared herself as her brother's
friend, and a reconciliation might have been effected
between George and his angry father. But though she waited
at home the Captain never came. He had his own affairs
to pursue; his own parents to visit and console; and at an
early hour of the day to take his place on the Lightning
coach, and go down to his friends at Brighton. In the
course of the day Miss Osborne heard her father give
orders that that meddling scoundrel, Captain Dobbin,
should never be admitted within his doors again, and any
hopes in which she may have indulged privately were thus
abruptly brought to an end. Mr. Frederick Bullock came,
and was particularly affectionate to Maria, and attentive
to the broken-spirited old gentleman. For though he said
his mind would be easy, the means which he had taken to
secure quiet did not seem to have succeeded as yet, and
the events of the past two days had visibly shattered him.
In Which All the Principal Personages Think Fit
to Leave Brighton
Conducted to the ladies, at the Ship Inn, Dobbin assumed
a jovial and rattling manner, which proved that this
young officer was becoming a more consummate hypocrite
every day of his life. He was trying to hide his own
private feelings, first upon seeing Mrs. George Osborne
in her new condition, and secondly to mask the
apprehensions he entertained as to the effect which
the dismal news brought down by him would certainly
have upon her.
"It is my opinion, George," he said, "that the French
Emperor will be upon us, horse and foot, before three
weeks are over, and will give the Duke such a dance as
shall make the Peninsula appear mere child's play. But
you need not say that to Mrs. Osborne, you know. There
mayn't be any fighting on our side after all, and our
business in Belgium may turn out to be a mere military
occupation. Many persons think so; and Brussels is full
of fine people and ladies of fashion." So it was agreed to
represent the duty of the British army in Belgium in this
harmless light to Amelia.
This plot being arranged, the hypocritical Dobbin saluted
Mrs. George Osborne quite gaily, tried to pay her
one or two compliments relative to her new position as a
bride (which compliments, it must be confessed, were
exceedingly clumsy and hung fire woefully), and then fell
to talking about Brighton, and the sea-air, and the gaieties
of the place, and the beauties of the road and the merits
of the Lightning coach and horses--all in a manner
quite incomprehensible to Amelia, and very amusing to
Rebecca, who was watching the Captain, as indeed she
watched every one near whom she came.
Little Amelia, it must be owned, had rather a mean
opinion of her husband's friend, Captain Dobbin. He lisped
--he was very plain and homely-looking: and exceedingly
awkward and ungainly. She liked him for his attachment
to her husband (to be sure there was very little merit in
that), and she thought George was most generous and
kind in extending his friendship to his brother officer.
George had mimicked Dobbin's lisp and queer manners
many times to her, though to do him justice, he always
spoke most highly of his friend's good qualities. In her
little day of triumph, and not knowing him intimately as
yet, she made light of honest William--and he knew her
opinions of him quite well, and acquiesced in them very
humbly. A time came when she knew him better, and
changed her notions regarding him; but that was distant as
As for Rebecca, Captain Dobbin had not been two hours
in the ladies' company before she understood his secret
perfectly. She did not like him, and feared him privately;
nor was he very much prepossessed in her favour. He
was so honest, that her arts and cajoleries did not affect
him, and he shrank from her with instinctive repulsion.
And, as she was by no means so far superior to her sex as
to be above jealousy, she disliked him the more for his
adoration of Amelia. Nevertheless, she was very respectful
and cordial in her manner towards him. A friend to
the Osbornes! a friend to her dearest benefactors! She
vowed she should always love him sincerely: she remembered
him quite well on the Vauxhall night, as she told
Amelia archly, and she made a little fun of him when the
two ladies went to dress for dinner. Rawdon Crawley paid
scarcely any attention to Dobbin, looking upon him as a
good-natured nincompoop and under-bred City man. Jos
patronised him with much dignity.
When George and Dobbin were alone in the latter's
room, to which George had followed him, Dobbin took
from his desk the letter which he had been charged by
Mr. Osborne to deliver to his son. "It's not in my father's
handwriting," said George, looking rather alarmed; nor
was it: the letter was from Mr. Osborne's lawyer, and to
the following effect:
Bedford Row, May 7, 1815.
I am commissioned by Mr. Osborne to inform you,
that he abides by the determination which he before
expressed to you, and that in consequence of the marriage
which you have been pleased to contract, he ceases to
consider you henceforth as a member of his family.
This determination is final and irrevocable.
Although the monies expended upon you in your
minority, and the bills which you have drawn upon
him so unsparingly of late years, far exceed in amount
the sum to which you are entitled in your own right
(being the third part of the fortune of your mother,
the late Mrs. Osborne and which reverted to you at her
decease, and to Miss Jane Osborne and Miss Maria
Frances Osborne); yet I am instructed by Mr. Osborne
to say, that he waives all claim upon your estate, and
that the sum of 2,0001., 4 per cent. annuities, at the
value of the day (being your one-third share of the sum
of 6,0001.), shall be paid over to yourself or your agents
upon your receipt for the same, by
Your obedient Servt.,
P.S.--Mr. Osborne desires me to say, once for all,
that he declines to receive any messages, letters, or
communications from you on this or any other subject.
"A pretty way you have managed the affair," said
George, looking savagely at William Dobbin. "Look there,
Dobbin," and he flung over to the latter his parent's letter.
"A beggar, by Jove, and all in consequence of my d--d
sentimentality. Why couldn't we have waited? A ball might
have done for me in the course of the war, and may still,
and how will Emmy be bettered by being left a beggar's
widow? It was all your doing. You were never easy until
you had got me married and ruined. What the deuce am
I to do with two thousand pounds? Such a sum won't
last two years. I've lost a hundred and forty to Crawley at
cards and billiards since I've been down here. A pretty
manager of a man's matters YOU are, forsooth."
"There's no denying that the position is a hard one,"
Dobbin replied, after reading over the letter with a blank
countenance; "and as you say, it is partly of my making.
There are some men who wouldn't mind changing with
you," he added, with a bitter smile. "How many captains
in the regiment have two thousand pounds to the fore,
think you? You must live on your pay till your father
relents, and if you die, you leave your wife a hundred a
"Do you suppose a man of my habits call live on his
pay and a hundred a year?" George cried out in great
anger. "You must be a fool to talk so, Dobbin. How the
deuce am I to keep up my position in the world upon
such a pitiful pittance? I can't change my habits. I must
have my comforts. I wasn't brought up on porridge, like
MacWhirter, or on potatoes, like old O'Dowd. Do you
expect my wife to take in soldiers' washing, or ride after
the regiment in a baggage waggon?"
"Well, well," said Dobbin, still good-naturedly, "we'll
get her a better conveyance. But try and remember that
you are only a dethroned prince now, George, my boy;
and be quiet whilst the tempest lasts. It won't be for
long. Let your name be mentioned in the Gazette, and
I'll engage the old father relents towards you:"
"Mentioned in the Gazette!" George answered. "And in
what part of it? Among the killed and wounded returns,
and at the top of the list, very likely."
"Psha! It will be time enough to cry out when we are
hurt," Dobbin said. "And if anything happens, you know,
George, I have got a little, and I am not a marrying
man, and I shall not forget my godson in my will," he
added, with a smile. Whereupon the dispute ended--as
many scores of such conversations between Osborne
and his friend had concluded previously--by the former
declaring there was no possibility of being angry with
Dobbin long, and forgiving him very generously after
abusing him without cause.
"I say, Becky," cried Rawdon Crawley out of his
dressing-room, to his lady, who was attiring herself for
dinner in her own chamber.
"What?" said Becky's shrill voice. She was looking
over her shoulder in the glass. She had put on the neatest
and freshest white frock imaginable, and with bare
shoulders and a little necklace, and a light blue sash, she
looked the image of youthful innocence and girlish
"I say, what'll Mrs. O. do, when 0. goes out with the
regiment?" Crawley said coming into the room, performing
a duet on his head with two huge hair-brushes, and
looking out from under his hair with admiration on his
pretty little wife.
"I suppose she'll cry her eyes out," Becky answered.
"She has been whimpering half a dozen times, at the
very notion of it, already to me."
"YOU don't care, I suppose?" Rawdon said, half angry
at his wife's want of feeling.
"You wretch! don't you know that I intend to go with
you," Becky replied. "Besides, you're different. You go
as General Tufto's aide-de-camp. We don't belong to the
line," Mrs. Crawley said, throwing up her head with an
air that so enchanted her husband that he stooped down
and kissed it.
"Rawdon dear--don't you think--you'd better get that
--money from Cupid, before he goes?" Becky continued,
fixing on a killing bow. She called George Osborne,
Cupid. She had flattered him about his good looks a
score of times already. She watched over him kindly at
ecarte of a night when he would drop in to Rawdon's
quarters for a half-hour before bed-time.
She had often called him a horrid dissipated wretch,
and threatened to tell Emmy of his wicked ways and
naughty extravagant habits. She brought his cigar and
lighted it for him; she knew the effect of that manoeuvre,
having practised it in former days upon Rawdon Crawley.
He thought her gay, brisk, arch, distinguee, delightful.
In their little drives and dinners, Becky, of course,
quite outshone poor Emmy, who remained very mute
and timid while Mrs. Crawley and her husband rattled
away together, and Captain Crawley (and Jos after he
joined the young married people) gobbled in silence.
Emmy's mind somehow misgave her about her friend.
Rebecca's wit, spirits, and accomplishments troubled her
with a rueful disquiet. They were only a week married,
and here was George already suffering ennui, and eager
for others' society! She trembled for the future. How
shall I be a companion for him, she thought--so clever
and so brilliant, and I such a humble foolish creature?
How noble it was of him to marry me--to give up everything
and stoop down to me! I ought to have refused
him, only I had not the heart. I ought to have stopped at
home and taken care of poor Papa. And her neglect of
her parents (and indeed there was some foundation for
this charge which the poor child's uneasy conscience
brought against her) was now remembered for the first
time, and caused her to blush with humiliation. Oh!
thought she, I have been very wicked and selfish--selfish
in forgetting them in their sorrows--selfish in forcing
George to marry me. I know I'm not worthy of him--I
know he would have been happy without me--and yet--
I tried, I tried to give him up.
It is hard when, before seven days of marriage are
over, such thoughts and confessions as these force
themselves on a little bride's mind. But so it was, and the
night before Dobbin came to join these young people--
on a fine brilliant moonlight night of May--so warm
and balmy that the windows were flung open to the balcony,
from which George and Mrs. Crawley were gazing upon
the calm ocean spread shining before them,
while Rawdon and Jos were engaged at backgammon
within--Amelia couched in a great chair quite neglected, and
watching both these parties, felt a despair and remorse
such as were bitter companions for that tender lonely
soul. Scarce a week was past, and it was come to this!
The future, had she regarded it, offered a dismal prospect;
but Emmy was too shy, so to speak, to look to that,
and embark alone on that wide sea, and unfit to navigate
it without a guide and protector. I know Miss Smith has
a mean opinion of her. But how many, my dear Madam,
are endowed with your prodigious strength of mind?
"Gad, what a fine night, and how bright the moon is!"
George said, with a puff of his cigar, which went soaring
up skywards.
"How delicious they smell in the open air! I adore
them. Who'd think the moon was two hundred and thirtysix
thousand eight hundred and forty-seven miles off?"
Becky added, gazing at that orb with a smile. "Isn't it
clever of me to remember that? Pooh! we learned it all
at Miss Pinkerton's! How calm the sea is, and how clear
everything. I declare I can almost see the coast of
France!" and her bright green eyes streamed out, and
shot into the night as if they could see through it.
"Do you know what I intend to do one morning?" she
said; "I find I can swim beautifully, and some day, when
my Aunt Crawley's companion--old Briggs, you know
--you remember her--that hook-nosed woman, with the
long wisps of hair--when Briggs goes out to bathe, I
intend to dive under her awning, and insist on a
reconciliation in the water. Isn't that a stratagem?"
George burst out laughing at the idea of this aquatic
meeting. "What's the row there, you two?" Rawdon
shouted out, rattling the box. Amelia was making a fool
of herself in an absurd hysterical manner, and retired
to her own room to whimper in private.
Our history is destined in this chapter to go backwards
and forwards in a very irresolute manner seemingly, and
having conducted our story to to-morrow presently, we
shall immediately again have occasion to step back to
yesterday, so that the whole of the tale may get a hearing.
As you behold at her Majesty's drawing-room, the
ambassadors' and high dignitaries' carriages whisk off
from a private door, while Captain Jones's ladies are waiting
for their fly: as you see in the Secretary of the Treasury's antechamber, a half-dozen of
petitioners waiting
patiently for their audience, and called out one by one,
when suddenly an Irish member or some eminent personage
enters the apartment, and instantly walks into Mr.
Under-Secretary over the heads of all the people present:
so in the conduct of a tale, the romancer is obliged to
exercise this most partial sort of justice. Although all the
little incidents must be heard, yet they must be put off
when the great events make their appearance; and surely
such a circumstance as that which brought Dobbin to
Brighton, viz., the ordering out of the Guards and the line
to Belgium, and the mustering of the allied armies in that
country under the command of his Grace the Duke of
Wellington--such a dignified circumstance as that, I say,
was entitled to the pas over all minor occurrences whereof
this history is composed mainly, and hence a little
trifling disarrangement and disorder was excusable and
becoming. We have only now advanced in time so far
beyond Chapter XXII as to have got our various characters
up into their dressing-rooms before the dinner,
which took place as usual on the day of Dobbin's arrival.
George was too humane or too much occupied with the
tie of his neckcloth to convey at once all the news to
Amelia which his comrade had brought with him from
London. He came into her room, however, holding the
attorney's letter in his hand, and with so solemn and
important an air that his wife, always ingeniously on
the watch for calamity, thought the worst was about to
befall, and running up to her husband, besought her
dearest George to tell her everything--he was ordered
abroad; there would be a battle next week--she knew
there would.
Dearest George parried the question about foreign
service, and with a melancholy shake of the head said,
"No, Emmy; it isn't that: it's not myself I care about:
it's you. I have had bad news from my father. He refuses
any communication with me; he has flung us off; and
leaves us to poverty. I can rough it well enough; but
you, my dear, how will you bear it? read here." And he
handed her over the letter.
Amelia, with a look of tender alarm in her eyes,
listened to her noble hero as he uttered the above generous
sentiments, and sitting down on the bed, read the letter
which George gave her with such a pompous martyr-like
air. Her face cleared up as she read the document, however.
The idea of sharing poverty and privation in company
with the beloved object is, as we have before said,
far from being disagreeable to a warm-hearted woman.
The notion was actually pleasant to little Amelia. Then,
as usual, she was ashamed of herself for feeling happy at
such an indecorous moment, and checked her pleasure,
saying demurely, "O, George, how your poor heart must
bleed at the idea of being separated from your papa!"
"It does," said George, with an agonised countenance.
"But he can't be angry with you long," she continued.
"Nobody could, I'm sure. He must forgive you, my
dearest, kindest husband. O, I shall never forgive myself
if he does not."
"What vexes me, my poor Emmy, is not my misfortune,
but yours," George said. "I don't care for a little
poverty; and I think, without vanity, I've talents enough
to make my own way."
"That you have," interposed his wife, who thought that
war should cease, and her husband should be made a
general instantly.
"Yes, I shall make my way as well as another," Osborne
went on; "but you, my dear girl, how can I bear
your being deprived of the comforts and station in
society which my wife had a right to expect? My dearest
girl in barracks; the wife of a soldier in a marching
regiment; subject to all sorts of annoyance and privation!
It makes me miserable."
Emmy, quite at ease, as this was her husband's only
cause of disquiet, took his hand, and with a radiant face
and smile began to warble that stanza from the favourite
song of "Wapping Old Stairs," in which the heroine, after
rebuking her Tom for inattention, promises "his trousers
to mend, and his grog too to make," if he will be constant
and kind, and not forsake her. "Besides," she said,
after a pause, during which she looked as pretty and
happy as any young woman need, "isn't two thousand
pounds an immense deal of money, George?"
George laughed at her naivete; and finally they went
down to dinner, Amelia clinging to George's arm, still
warbling the tune of "Wapping Old Stairs," and more
pleased and light of mind than she had been for some
days past.
Thus the repast, which at length came off, instead of
being dismal, was an exceedingly brisk and merry one.
The excitement of the campaign counteracted in George's
mind the depression occasioned by the disinheriting letter.
Dobbin still kept up his character of rattle. He amused
the company with accounts of the army in Belgium;
where nothing but fetes and gaiety and fashion were
going on. Then, having a particular end in view, this
dexterous captain proceeded to describe Mrs. Major
O'Dowd packing her own and her Major's wardrobe, and
how his best epaulets had been stowed into a tea canister,
whilst her own famous yellow turban, with the bird of
paradise wrapped in brown paper, was locked up in the
Major's tin cocked-hat case, and wondered what effect
it would have at the French king's court at Ghent, or the
great military balls at Brussels.
"Ghent! Brussels!" cried out Amelia with a sudden
shock and start. "Is the regiment ordered away, George
--is it ordered away?" A look of terror came over the
sweet smiling face, and she clung to George as by an
"Don't be afraid, dear," he said good-naturedly; "it
is but a twelve hours' passage. It won't hurt you. You
shall go, too, Emmy."
"I intend to go," said Becky. "I'm on the staff. General
Tufto is a great flirt of mine. Isn't he, Rawdon?"
Rawdon laughed out with his usual roar. William
Dobbin flushed up quite red. "She can't go," he said; "think
of the--of the danger," he was going to add; but had
not all his conversation during dinner-time tended to
prove there was none? He became very confused and
"I must and will go," Amelia cried with the greatest
spirit; and George, applauding her resolution, patted her
under the chin, and asked all the persons present if
they ever saw such a termagant of a wife, and agreed
that the lady should bear him company. "We'll have
Mrs. O'Dowd to chaperon you," he said. What cared she
so long as her husband was near her? Thus somehow
the bitterness of a parting was juggled away. Though war
and danger were in store, war and danger might not
befall for months to come. There was a respite at any rate,
which made the timid little Amelia almost as happy as
a full reprieve would have done, and which even Dobbin
owned in his heart was very welcome. For, to be permitted
to see her was now the greatest privilege and hope
of his life, and he thought with himself secretly how he
would watch and protect her. I wouldn't have let her go
if I had been married to her, he thought. But George was
the master, and his friend did not think fit to remonstrate.
Putting her arm round her friend's waist, Rebecca at
length carried Amelia off from the dinner-table where so
much business of importance had been discussed, and
left the gentlemen in a highly exhilarated state, drinking
and talking very gaily.
In the course of the evening Rawdon got a little familynote
from his wife, which, although he crumpled it up
and burnt it instantly in the candle, we had the good
luck to read over Rebecca's shoulder. "Great news," she
wrote. "Mrs. Bute is gone. Get the money from Cupid tonight,
as he'll be off to-morrow most likely. Mind this.
--R." So when the little company was about adjourning
to coffee in the women's apartment, Rawdon touched
Osborne on the elbow, and said gracefully, "I say, Osborne,
my boy, if quite convenient, I'll trouble you for
that 'ere small trifle." It was not quite convenient, but
nevertheless George gave him a considerable present
instalment in bank-notes from his pocket-book, and a bill
on his agents at a week's date, for the remaining sum.
This matter arranged, George, and Jos, and Dobbin,
held a council of war over their cigars, and agreed that a
general move should be made for London in Jos's open
carriage the next day. Jos, I think, would have preferred
staying until Rawdon Crawley quitted Brighton, but Dobbin
and George overruled him, and he agreed to carry
the party to town, and ordered four horses, as became his
dignity. With these they set off in state, after breakfast,
the next day. Amelia had risen very early in the morning,
and packed her little trunks with the greatest alacrity,
while Osborne lay in bed deploring that she had not a
maid to help her. She was only too glad, however, to
perform this office for herself. A dim uneasy sentiment
about Rebecca filled her mind already; and although they
kissed each other most tenderly at parting, yet we know
what jealousy is; and Mrs. Amelia possessed that among
other virtues of her sex.
Besides these characters who are coming and going
away, we must remember that there were some other old
friends of ours at Brighton; Miss Crawley, namely, and
the suite in attendance upon her. Now, although Rebecca
and her husband were but at a few stones' throw of the
lodgings which the invalid Miss Crawley occupied, the
old lady's door remained as pitilessly closed to them as it
had been heretofore in London. As long as she remained
by the side of her sister-in-law, Mrs. Bute Crawley took
care that her beloved Matilda should not be agitated by a
meeting with her nephew. When the spinster took her
drive, the faithful Mrs. Bute sate beside her in the carriage.
When Miss Crawley took the air in a chair, Mrs.
Bute marched on one side of the vehicle, whilst honest
Briggs occupied the other wing. And if they met Rawdon
and his wife by chance--although the former constantly
and obsequiously took off his hat, the Miss-Crawley party
passed him by with such a frigid and killing indifference,
that Rawdon began to despair.
"We might as well be in London as here," Captain
Rawdon often said, with a downcast air.
"A comfortable inn in Brighton is better than a
spunging-house in Chancery Lane," his wife answered, who was
of a more cheerful temperament. "Think of those two
aides-de-camp of Mr. Moses, the sheriff's-officer, who
watched our lodging for a week. Our friends here are
very stupid, but Mr. Jos and Captain Cupid are better
companions than Mr. Moses's men, Rawdon, my love."
"I wonder the writs haven't followed me down here,"
Rawdon continued, still desponding.
"When they do, we'll find means to give them the slip,"
said dauntless little Becky, and further pointed out to her
husband the great comfort and advantage of meeting
Jos and Osborne, whose acquaintance had brought to
Rawdon Crawley a most timely little supply of ready
"It will hardly be enough to pay the inn bill," grumbled
the Guardsman.
"Why need we pay it?" said the lady, who had an answer
for everything.
Through Rawdon's valet, who still kept up a trifling
acquaintance with the male inhabitants of Miss Crawley's
servants' hall, and was instructed to treat the coachman
to drink whenever they met, old Miss Crawley's movements
were pretty well known by our young couple; and
Rebecca luckily bethought herself of being unwell, and of
calling in the same apothecary who was in attendance
upon the spinster, so that their information was on the
whole tolerably complete. Nor was Miss Briggs, although
forced to adopt a hostile attitude, secretly inimical to
Rawdon and his wife. She was naturally of a kindly and
forgiving disposition. Now that the cause of jealousy was
removed, her dislike for Rebecca disappeared also, and
she remembered the latter's invariable good words
and good humour. And, indeed, she and Mrs.
Firkin, the lady's-maid, and the whole of Miss Crawley's
household, groaned under the tyranny of the
triumphant Mrs. Bute.
As often will be the case, that good but imperious
woman pushed her advantages too far, and her successes
quite unmercifully. She had in the course of a few weeks
brought the invalid to such a state of helpless docility,
that the poor soul yielded herself entirely to her sister's
orders, and did not even dare to complain of her slavery
to Briggs or Firkin. Mrs. Bute measured out the glasses
of wine which Miss Crawley was daily allowed to take,
with irresistible accuracy, greatly to the annoyance of
Firkin and the butler, who found themselves deprived of
control over even the sherry-bottle. She apportioned the
sweetbreads, jellies, chickens; their quantity and order.
Night and noon and morning she brought the abominable
drinks ordained by the Doctor, and made her patient
swallow them with so affecting an obedience that Firkin
said "my poor Missus du take her physic like a lamb." She
prescribed the drive in the carriage or the ride in the
chair, and, in a word, ground down the old lady in her
convalescence in such a way as only belongs to your
proper-managing, motherly moral woman. If ever the
patient faintly resisted, and pleaded for a little bit more
dinner or a little drop less medicine, the nurse threatened
her with instantaneous death, when Miss Crawley
instantly gave in. "She's no spirit left in her," Firkin
remarked to Briggs; "she ain't ave called me a fool these
three weeks." Finally, Mrs. Bute had made up her mind
to dismiss the aforesaid honest lady's-maid, Mr. Bowls
the large confidential man, and Briggs herself, and to
send for her daughters from the Rectory, previous to
removing the dear invalid bodily to Queen's Crawley, when
an odious accident happened which called her away from
duties so pleasing. The Reverend Bute Crawley, her
husband, riding home one night, fell with his horse and
broke his collar-bone. Fever and inflammatory symptoms
set in, and Mrs. Bute was forced to leave Sussex for
Hampshire. As soon as ever Bute was restored, she
promised to return to her dearest friend, and departed,
leaving the strongest injunctions with the household
regarding their behaviour to their mistress; and as soon as
she got into the Southampton coach, there was such a
jubilee and sense of relief in all Miss Crawley's house,
as the company of persons assembled there had not
experienced for many a week before. That very day Miss
Crawley left off her afternoon dose of medicine: that
afternoon Bowls opened an independent bottle of sherry
for himself and Mrs. Firkin: that night Miss Crawley
and Miss Briggs indulged in a game of piquet instead
of one of Porteus's sermons. It was as in the old nurserystory,
when the stick forgot to beat the dog, and the
whole course of events underwent a peaceful and happy
At a very early hour in the morning, twice or thrice a
week, Miss Briggs used to betake herself to a bathingmachine,
and disport in the water in a flannel gown and
an oilskin cap. Rebecca, as we have seen, was aware of
this circumstance, and though she did not attempt to
storm Briggs as she had threatened, and actually dive
into that lady's presence and surprise her under the
sacredness of the awning, Mrs. Rawdon determined to
attack Briggs as she came away from her bath, refreshed
and invigorated by her dip, and likely to be in good
So getting up very early the next morning, Becky
brought the telescope in their sitting-room, which faced
the sea, to bear upon the bathing-machines on the beach;
saw Briggs arrive, enter her box; and put out to sea;
and was on the shore just as the nymph of whom she
came in quest stepped out of the little caravan on to the
shingles. It was a pretty picture: the beach; the bathingwomen's
faces; the long line of rocks and building were
blushing and bright in the sunshine. Rebecca wore a kind,
tender smile on her face, and was holding out her pretty
white hand as Briggs emerged from the box. What could
Briggs do but accept the salutation?
"Miss Sh--Mrs. Crawley," she said.
Mrs. Crawley seized her hand, pressed it to her heart,
and with a sudden impulse, flinging her arms round
Briggs, kissed her affectionately. "Dear, dear friend!" she
said, with a touch of such natural feeling, that Miss
Briggs of course at once began to melt, and even the
bathing-woman was mollified.
Rebecca found no difficulty in engaging Briggs in a long,
intimate, and delightful conversation. Everything that had
passed since the morning of Becky's sudden departure
from Miss Crawley's house in Park Lane up to the present
day, and Mrs. Bute's happy retreat, was discussed and
described by Briggs. All Miss Crawley's symptoms, and
the particulars of her illness and medical treatment, were
narrated by the confidante with that fulness and
accuracy which women delight in. About their complaints
and their doctors do ladies ever tire of talking to each
other? Briggs did not on this occasion; nor did Rebecca
weary of listening. She was thankful, truly thankful, that
the dear kind Briggs, that the faithful, the invaluable
Firkin, had been permitted to remain with their benefactress
through her illness. Heaven bless her! though she,
Rebecca, had seemed to act undutifully towards Miss
Crawley; yet was not her fault a natural and excusable one?
Could she help giving her hand to the man who had won
her heart? Briggs, the sentimental, could only turn up
her eyes to heaven at this appeal, and heave a
sympathetic sigh, and think that she, too, had given
away her affections long years ago, and own that Rebecca
was no very great criminal.
"Can I ever forget her who so befriended the friendless
orphan? No, though she has cast me off," the latter
said, "I shall never cease to love her, and I would devote
my life to her service. As my own benefactress, as my
beloved Rawdon's adored relative, I love and admire Miss
Crawley, dear Miss Briggs, beyond any woman in the
world, and next to her I love all those who are faithful
to her. I would never have treated Miss Crawley's
faithful friends as that odious designing Mrs. Bute has
done. Rawdon, who was all heart," Rebecca continued,
"although his outward manners might seem rough and
careless, had said a hundred times, with tears in his eyes,
that he blessed Heaven for sending his dearest Aunty two
such admirable nurses as her attached Firkin and her
admirable Miss Briggs. Should the machinations of the
horrible Mrs. Bute end, as she too much feared they would,
in banishing everybody that Miss Crawley loved from her
side, and leaving that poor lady a victim to those harpies
at the Rectory, Rebecca besought her (Miss Briggs) to
remember that her own home, humble as it was, was
always open to receive Briggs. Dear friend," she
exclaimed, in a transport of enthusiasm, "some hearts
can never forget benefits; all women are not Bute
Crawleys! Though why should I complain of her," Rebecca
added; "though I have been her tool and the victim to her
arts, do I not owe my dearest Rawdon to her?" And
Rebecca unfolded to Briggs all Mrs. Bute's conduct at
Queen's Crawley, which, though unintelligible to her then,
was clearly enough explained by the events now--now
that the attachment had sprung up which Mrs. Bute had
encouraged by a thousand artifices--now that two
innocent people had fallen into the snares which she had
laid for them, and loved and married and been ruined
through her schemes.
It was all very true. Briggs saw the stratagems as
clearly as possible. Mrs. Bute had made the match
between Rawdon and Rebecca. Yet, though the latter was a
perfectly innocent victim, Miss Briggs could not disguise
from her friend her fear that Miss Crawley's affections
were hopelessly estranged from Rebecca, and that the old
lady would never forgive her nephew for making so
imprudent a marriage.
On this point Rebecca had her own opinion, and
still kept up a good heart. If Miss Crawley did not
forgive them at present, she might at least relent on a
future day. Even now, there was only that puling, sickly
Pitt Crawley between Rawdon and a baronetcy; and should
anything happen to the former, all would be well. At all
events, to have Mrs. Bute's designs exposed, and herself
well abused, was a satisfaction, and might be advantageous
to Rawdon's interest; and Rebecca, after an hour's
chat with her recovered friend, left her with the most
tender demonstrations of regard, and quite assured that
the conversation they had had together would be
reported to Miss Crawley before many hours were over.
This interview ended, it became full time for Rebecca
to return to her inn, where all the party of the previous
day were assembled at a farewell breakfast. Rebecca took
such a tender leave of Amelia as became two women who
loved each other as sisters; and having used her handkerchief plentifully, and hung on her
friend's neck as if they
were parting for ever, and waved the handkerchief
(which was quite dry, by the way) out of window, as the
carriage drove off, she came back to the breakfast table,
and ate some prawns with a good deal of appetite,
considering her emotion; and while she was munching these
delicacies, explained to Rawdon what had occurred in her
morning walk between herself and Briggs. Her hopes
were very high: she made her husband share them. She
generally succeeded in making her husband share all her
opinions, whether melancholy or cheerful.
"You will now, if you please, my dear, sit down at the
writing-table and pen me a pretty little letter to Miss
Crawley, in which you'll say that you are a good boy,
and that sort of thing." So Rawdon sate down, and wrote
off, "Brighton, Thursday," and "My dear Aunt," with
great rapidity: but there the gallant officer's imagination
failed him. He mumbled the end of his pen, and looked
up in his wife's face. She could not help laughing at his
rueful countenance, and marching up and down the room
with her hands behind her, the little woman began to
dictate a letter, which he took down.
"Before quitting the country and commencing a campaign,
which very possibly may be fatal."
"What?" said Rawdon, rather surprised, but took the
humour of the phrase, and presently wrote it down with
a grin.
"Which very possibly may be fatal, I have come
"Why not say come here, Becky? Come here's grammar,"
the dragoon interposed.
"I have come hither," Rebecca insisted, with a stamp
of her foot, "to say farewell to my dearest and earliest
friend. I beseech you before I go, not perhaps to
return, once more to let me press the hand from which
I have received nothing but kindnesses all my life."
"Kindnesses all my life," echoed Rawdon, scratching
down the words, and quite amazed at his own facility of
"I ask nothing from you but that we should part not in
anger. I have the pride of my family on some points,
though not on all. I married a painter's daughter, and am
not ashamed of the union."
"No, run me through the body if I am!" Rawdon ejaculated.
"You old booby," Rebecca said, pinching his ear and
looking over to see that he made no mistakes in spelling
--"beseech is not spelt with an a, and earliest is." So he
altered these words, bowing to the superior knowledge of
his little Missis.
"I thought that you were aware of the progress of my
attachment," Rebecca continued: "I knew that Mrs. Bute
Crawley confirmed and encouraged it. But I make no
reproaches. I married a poor woman, and am content to
abide by what I have done. Leave your property, dear
Aunt, as you will. I shall never complain of the way in
which you dispose of it. I would have you believe that I
love you for yourself, and not for money's sake. I want to
be reconciled to you ere I leave England. Let me, let
me see you before I go. A few weeks or months hence it
may be too late, and I cannot bear the notion of quitting
the country without a kind word of farewell from you."
"She won't recognise my style in that," said Becky. "I
made the sentences short and brisk on purpose." And
this authentic missive was despatched under cover to Miss
Old Miss Crawley laughed when Briggs, with great
mystery, handed her over this candid and simple
statement. "We may read it now Mrs. Bute is away,"
she said. "Read it to me, Briggs."
When Briggs had read the epistle out, her patroness
laughed more. "Don't you see, you goose," she said to
Briggs, who professed to be much touched by the honest
affection which pervaded the composition, "don't you
see that Rawdon never wrote a word of it. He never
wrote to me without asking for money in his life, and all
his letters are full of bad spelling, and dashes, and bad
grammar. It is that little serpent of a governess who rules
him." They are all alike, Miss Crawley thought in her
heart. They all want me dead, and are hankering for my
"I don't mind seeing Rawdon," she added, after a
pause, and in a tone of perfect indifference. "I had just
as soon shake hands with him as not. Provided there is
no scene, why shouldn't we meet? I don't mind. But
human patience has its limits; and mind, my dear, I
respectfully decline to receive Mrs. Rawdon--I can't
support that quite"--and Miss Briggs was fain to be content
with this half-message of conciliation; and thought that
the best method of bringing the old lady and her nephew
together, was to warn Rawdon to be in waiting on the
Cliff, when Miss Crawley went out for her air in her
There they met. I don't know whether Miss Crawley
had any private feeling of regard or emotion upon seeing
her old favourite; but she held out a couple of fingers
to him with as smiling and good-humoured an air, as if
they had met only the day before. And as for Rawdon,
he turned as red as scarlet, and wrung off Briggs's hand,
so great was his rapture and his confusion at the meeting.
Perhaps it was interest that moved him: or perhaps
affection: perhaps he was touched by the change which
the illness of the last weeks had wrought in his aunt.
"The old girl has always acted like a trump to me," he
said to his wife, as he narrated the interview, "and I felt,
you know, rather queer, and that sort of thing. I walked
by the side of the what-dy'e-call-'em, you know, and to
her own door, where Bowls came to help her in. And I
wanted to go in very much, only--"
"YOU DIDN'T GO IN, Rawdon!" screamed his wife.
"No, my dear; I'm hanged if I wasn't afraid when it
came to the point."
"You fool! you ought to have gone in, and never come
out again," Rebecca said.
"Don't call me names," said the big Guardsman, sulkily.
"Perhaps I WAS a fool, Becky, but you shouldn't say
so"; and he gave his wife a look, such as his countenance
could wear when angered, and such as was not pleasant
to face.
"Well, dearest, to-morrow you must be on the look-out,
and go and see her, mind, whether she asks you or no,"
Rebecca said, trying to soothe her angry yoke-mate. On
which he replied, that he would do exactly as he liked,
and would just thank her to keep a civil tongue in her
head--and the wounded husband went away, and passed
the forenoon at the billiard-room, sulky, silent, and
But before the night was over he was compelled to
give in, and own, as usual, to his wife's superior prudence
and foresight, by the most melancholy confirmation of the
presentiments which she had regarding the consequences
of the mistake which he had made. Miss Crawley must
have had some emotion upon seeing him and shaking
hands with him after so long a rupture. She mused upon
the meeting a considerable time. "Rawdon is getting very
fat and old, Briggs," she said to her companion. "His
nose has become red, and he is exceedingly coarse in
appearance. His marriage to that woman has hopelessly
vulgarised him. Mrs. Bute always said they drank together;
and I have no doubt they do. Yes: he smelt of gin
abominably. I remarked it. Didn't you?"
In vain Briggs interposed that Mrs. Bute spoke ill of
everybody: and, as far as a person in her humble position
could judge, was an--
"An artful designing woman? Yes, so she is, and she
does speak ill of every one--but I am certain that woman
has made Rawdon drink. All those low people do--"
"He was very much affected at seeing you, ma'am," the
companion said; "and I am sure, when you remember that
he is going to the field of danger--"
"How much money has he promised you, Briggs?" the
old spinster cried out, working herself into a nervous
rage--"there now, of course you begin to cry. I hate
scenes. Why am I always to be worried? Go and cry up in
your own room, and send Firkin to me-- no, stop, sit
down and blow your nose, and leave off crying, and write
a letter to Captain Crawley." Poor Briggs went and
placed herself obediently at the writing-book. Its leaves
were blotted all over with relics of the firm, strong, rapid
handwriting of the spinster's late amanuensis, Mrs. Bute
"Begin 'My dear sir,' or 'Dear sir,' that will be better,
and say you are desired by Miss Crawley--no, by Miss
Crawley's medical man, by Mr. Creamer, to state that
my health is such that all strong emotions would be
dangerous in my present delicate condition--and that I must
decline any family discussions or interviews whatever.
And thank him for coming to Brighton, and so forth, and
beg him not to stay any longer on my account. And, Miss
Briggs, you may add that I wish him a bon voyage, and
that if he will take the trouble to call upon my lawyer's
in Gray's Inn Square, he will find there a communication
for him. Yes, that will do; and that will make him leave
Brighton." The benevolent Briggs penned this sentence
with the utmost satisfaction.
"To seize upon me the very day after Mrs. Bute was
gone," the old lady prattled on; "it was too indecent.
Briggs, my dear, write to Mrs. Crawley, and say SHE
needn't come back. No--she needn't--and she shan't--
and I won't be a slave in my own house--and I won't be
starved and choked with poison. They all want to kill me
--all--all"--and with this the lonely old woman burst
into a scream of hysterical tears.
The last scene of her dismal Vanity Fair comedy was
fast approaching; the tawdry lamps were going out one
by one; and the dark curtain was almost ready to
That final paragraph, which referred Rawdon to Miss
Crawley's solicitor in London, and which Briggs had
written so good-naturedly, consoled the dragoon and his
wife somewhat, after their first blank disappointment, on
reading the spinster's refusal of a reconciliation. And it
effected the purpose for which the old lady had caused it
to be written, by making Rawdon very eager to get to
Out of Jos's losings and George Osborne's bank-notes,
he paid his bill at the inn, the landlord whereof does not
probably know to this day how doubtfully his account
once stood. For, as a general sends his baggage to the
rear before an action, Rebecca had wisely packed up all
their chief valuables and sent them off under care of
George's servant, who went in charge of the trunks on
the coach back to London. Rawdon and his wife
returned by the same conveyance next day.
"I should have liked to see the old girl before we went,"
Rawdon said. "She looks so cut up and altered that I'm
sure she can't last long. I wonder what sort of a cheque
I shall have at Waxy's. Two hundred--it can't be less
than two hundred--hey, Becky?"
In consequence of the repeated visits of the aides-decamp
of the Sheriff of Middlesex, Rawdon and his wife
did not go back to their lodgings at Brompton, but put
up at an inn. Early the next morning, Rebecca had an
opportunity of seeing them as she skirted that suburb
on her road to old Mrs. Sedley's house at Fulham, whither
she went to look for her dear Amelia and her Brighton
friends. They were all off to Chatham, thence to Harwich,
to take shipping for Belgium with the regiment--
kind old Mrs. Sedley very much depressed and tearful,
solitary. Returning from this visit, Rebecca found her
husband, who had been off to Gray's Inn, and learnt his
fate. He came back furious.
"By Jove, Becky," says he, "she's only given me twenty
Though it told against themselves, the joke was too
good, and Becky burst out laughing at Rawdon's
Between London and Chatham
On quitting Brighton, our friend George, as became a
person of rank and fashion travelling in a barouche with
four horses, drove in state to a fine hotel in Cavendish
Square, where a suite of splendid rooms, and a table
magnificently furnished with plate and surrounded by a
half-dozen of black and silent waiters, was ready to
receive the young gentleman and his bride. George did the
honours of the place with a princely air to Jos and
Dobbin; and Amelia, for the first time, and with exceeding
shyness and timidity, presided at what George called her
own table.
George pooh-poohed the wine and bullied the waiters
royally, and Jos gobbled the turtle with immense satisfaction.
Dobbin helped him to it; for the lady of the house,
before whom the tureen was placed, was so ignorant of
the contents, that she was going to help Mr. Sedley without bestowing upon him either
calipash or calipee.
The splendour of the entertainment, and the apartments
in which it was given, alarmed Mr. Dobbin, who
remonstrated after dinner, when Jos was asleep in the great
chair. But in vain he cried out against the enormity of
turtle and champagne that was fit for an archbishop.
"I've always been accustomed to travel like a gentleman,"
George said, "and, damme, my wife shall travel like a
lady. As long as there's a shot in the locker, she shall
want for nothing," said the generous fellow, quite pleased
with himself for his magnificence of spirit. Nor did
Dobbin try and convince him that Amelia's happiness was not
centred in turtle-soup.
A while after dinner, Amelia timidly expressed a wish
to go and see her mamma, at Fulham: which permission
George granted her with some grumbling. And she tripped
away to her enormous bedroom, in the centre of which
stood the enormous funereal bed, "that the Emperor
Halixander's sister slep in when the allied sufferings was
here," and put on her little bonnet and shawl with the
utmost eagerness and pleasure. George was still drinking
claret when she returned to the dining-room, and made
no signs of moving. "Ar'n't you coming with me, dearest?"
she asked him. No; the "dearest" had "business"
that night. His man should get her a coach and go with
her. And the coach being at the door of the hotel, Amelia
made George a little disappointed curtsey after looking
vainly into his face once or twice, and went sadly down
the great staircase, Captain Dobbin after, who handed her
into the vehicle, and saw it drive away to its destination.
The very valet was ashamed of mentioning the address to
the hackney-coachman before the hotel waiters, and
promised to instruct him when they got further on.
Dobbin walked home to his old quarters and the
Slaughters', thinking very likely that it would be delightful
to be in that hackney-coach, along with Mrs. Osborne.
George was evidently of quite a different taste; for when
he had taken wine enough, he went off to half-price at
the play, to see Mr. Kean perform in Shylock. Captain
Osborne was a great lover of the drama, and had himself
performed high-comedy characters with great distinction
in several garrison theatrical entertainments. Jos slept on
until long after dark, when he woke up with a start at
the motions of his servant, who was removing and
emptying the decanters on the table; and the hackney-coach
stand was again put into requisition for a carriage to
convey this stout hero to his lodgings and bed.
Mrs. Sedley, you may be sure, clasped her daughter to
her heart with all maternal eagerness and affection,
running out of the door as the carriage drew up before the
little garden-gate, to welcome the weeping, trembling,
young bride. Old Mr. Clapp, who was in his shirt-sleeves,
trimming the garden-plot, shrank back alarmed. The Irish
servant-lass rushed up from the kitchen and smiled a
"God bless you." Amelia could hardly walk along the
flags and up the steps into the parlour.
How the floodgates were opened, and mother and
daughter wept, when they were together embracing each
other in this sanctuary, may readily be imagined by every
reader who possesses the least sentimental turn. When
don't ladies weep? At what occasion of joy, sorrow, or
other business of life, and, after such an event as a
marriage, mother and daughter were surely at liberty to give
way to a sensibility which is as tender as it is refreshing.
About a question of marriage I have seen women
who hate each other kiss and cry together quite fondly.
How much more do they feel when they love! Good mothers
are married over again at their daughters' weddings:
and as for subsequent events, who does not know how
ultra-maternal grandmothers are?--in fact a woman, until
she is a grandmother, does not often really know what to
be a mother is. Let us respect Amelia and her mamma
whispering and whimpering and laughing and crying in
the parlour and the twilight. Old Mr. Sedley did. HE had
not divined who was in the carriage when it drove up. He
had not flown out to meet his daughter, though he kissed
her very warmly when she entered the room (where he
was occupied, as usual, with his papers and tapes and
statements of accounts), and after sitting with the mother
and daughter for a short time, he very wisely left the
little apartment in their possession.
George's valet was looking on in a very supercilious
manner at Mr. Clapp in his shirt-sleeves, watering his
rose-bushes. He took off his hat, however, with much
condescension to Mr. Sedley, who asked news about
his son-in-law, and about Jos's carriage, and whether his
horses had been down to Brighton, and about that
infernal traitor Bonaparty, and the war; until the Irish
maid-servant came with a plate and a bottle of wine,
from which the old gentleman insisted upon helping the
valet. He gave him a half-guinea too, which the servant
pocketed with a mixture of wonder and contempt. "To
the health of your master and mistress, Trotter," Mr.
Sedley said, "and here's something to drink your health
when you get home, Trotter."
There were but nine days past since Amelia had left
that little cottage and home--and yet how far off the
time seemed since she had bidden it farewell. What a
gulf lay between her and that past life. She could look
back to it from her present standing-place, and contemplate,
almost as another being, the young unmarried girl
absorbed in her love, having no eyes but for one special
object, receiving parental affection if not ungratefully,
at least indifferently, and as if it were her due--her
whole heart and thoughts bent on the accomplishment of
one desire. The review of those days, so lately gone yet
so far away, touched her with shame; and the aspect of
the kind parents filled her with tender remorse. Was the
prize gained--the heaven of life--and the winner still
doubtful and unsatisfied? As his hero and heroine pass
the matrimonial barrier, the novelist generally drops the
curtain, as if the drama were over then: the doubts and
struggles of life ended: as if, once landed in the marriage
country, all were green and pleasant there: and wife
and husband had nothing to do but to link each other's
arms together, and wander gently downwards towards
old age in happy and perfect fruition. But our little
Amelia was just on the bank of her new country, and was
already looking anxiously back towards the sad friendly
figures waving farewell to her across the stream, from the
other distant shore.
In honour of the young bride's arrival, her mother
thought it necessary to prepare I don't know what festive
entertainment, and after the first ebullition of talk, took
leave of Mrs. George Osborne for a while, and dived
down to the lower regions of the house to a sort of
kitchen-parlour (occupied by Mr. and Mrs. Clapp, and
in the evening, when her dishes were washed and her
curl-papers removed, by Miss Flannigan, the Irish servant),
there to take measures for the preparing of a magnificent ornamented tea. All people have
their ways of
expressing kindness, and it seemed to Mrs. Sedley that a
muffin and a quantity of orange marmalade spread out
in a little cut-glass saucer would be peculiarly agreeable
refreshments to Amelia in her most interesting situation.
While these delicacies were being transacted below,
Amelia, leaving the drawing-room, walked upstairs and
found herself, she scarce knew how, in the little room
which she had occupied before her marriage, and in that
very chair in which she had passed so many bitter hours.
She sank back in its arms as if it were an old friend;
and fell to thinking over the past week, and the life
beyond it. Already to be looking sadly and vaguely back:
always to be pining for something which, when obtained,
brought doubt and sadness rather than pleasure; here
was the lot of our poor little creature and harmless lost
wanderer in the great struggling crowds of Vanity Fair.
Here she sate, and recalled to herself fondly that image
of George to which she had knelt before marriage. Did
she own to herself how different the real man was from
that superb young hero whom she had worshipped? It
requires many, many years--and a man must be very bad
indeed--before a woman's pride and vanity will let her
own to such a confession. Then Rebecca's twinkling
green eyes and baleful smile lighted upon her, and filled
her with dismay. And so she sate for awhile indulging
in her usual mood of selfish brooding, in that very
listless melancholy attitude in which the honest maid-servant
had found her, on the day when she brought up the
letter in which George renewed his offer of marriage.
She looked at the little white bed, which had been hers
a few days before, and thought she would like to sleep
in it that night, and wake, as formerly, with her mother
smiling over her in the morning: Then she thought with
terror of the great funereal damask pavilion in the vast
and dingy state bedroom, which was awaiting her at the
grand hotel in Cavendish Square. Dear little white bed!
how many a long night had she wept on its pillow!
How she had despaired and hoped to die there; and now
were not all her wishes accomplished, and the lover of
whom she had despaired her own for ever? Kind mother!
how patiently and tenderly she had watched round that
bed! She went and knelt down by the bedside; and there
this wounded and timorous, but gentle and loving soul,
sought for consolation, where as yet, it must be owned,
our little girl had but seldom looked for it. Love had
been her faith hitherto; and the sad, bleeding disappointed
heart began to feel the want of another consoler.
Have we a right to repeat or to overhear her prayers?
These, brother, are secrets, and out of the domain of
Vanity Fair, in which our story lies.
But this may be said, that when the tea was finally
announced, our young lady came downstairs a great deal
more cheerful; that she did not despond, or deplore her
fate, or think about George's coldness, or Rebecca's eyes,
as she had been wont to do of late. She went downstairs,

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