Tantissimi classici della letteratura e della cultura politica,
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Abbe Prevost - MANON LESCAUT
Alcott, Louisa M. - AN OLDFASHIONED GIRL
Alcott, Louisa M. - LITTLE MEN
Alcott, Louisa M. - LITTLE WOMEN
Alcott, Louisa May - JACK AND JILL
Alcott, Louisa May - LIFE LETTERS AND JOURNALS
Andersen, Hans Christian - FAIRY TALES
Anonimo - BEOWULF
Ariosto, Ludovico - ORLANDO ENRAGED
Aurelius, Marcus - MEDITATIONS
Austen, Jane - EMMA
Austen, Jane - MANSFIELD PARK
Austen, Jane - NORTHANGER ABBEY
Austen, Jane - PERSUASION
Austen, Jane - PRIDE AND PREJUDICE
Austen, Jane - SENSE AND SENSIBILITY
Authors, Various - LETTERS OF ABELARD AND HELOISE
Authors, Various - SELECTED ENGLISH LETTERS
Autori Vari - THE WORLD ENGLISH BIBLE
Bacon, Francis - THE ADVANCEMENT OF LEARNING
Balzac, Honore de - EUGENIE GRANDET
Balzac, Honore de - FATHER GORIOT
Baroness Orczy - THE SCARLET PIMPERNEL
Barrie, J. M. - PETER AND WENDY
Barrie, James M. - PETER PAN
Bierce, Ambrose - THE DEVIL'S DICTIONARY
Blake, William - SONGS OF INNOCENCE AND EXPERIENCE
Boccaccio, Giovanni - DECAMERONE
Brent, Linda - INCIDENTS IN THE LIFE OF A SLAVE GIRL
Bronte, Charlotte - JANE EYRE
Bronte, Charlotte - VILLETTE
Buchan, John - GREENMANTLE
Buchan, John - MR STANDFAST
Buchan, John - THE 39 STEPS
Bunyan, John - THE PILGRIM'S PROGRESS
Burckhardt, Jacob - THE CIVILIZATION OF THE RENAISSANCE IN ITALY
Burnett, Frances H. - A LITTLE PRINCESS
Burnett, Frances H. - LITTLE LORD FAUNTLEROY
Burnett, Frances H. - THE SECRET GARDEN
Butler, Samuel - EREWHON
Carlyle, Thomas - PAST AND PRESENT
Carlyle, Thomas - THE FRENCH REVOLUTION
Cellini, Benvenuto - AUTOBIOGRAPHY
Cervantes - DON QUIXOTE
Chaucer, Geoffrey - THE CANTERBURY TALES
Chesterton, G. K. - A SHORT HISTORY OF ENGLAND
Chesterton, G. K. - THE BALLAD OF THE WHITE HORSE
Chesterton, G. K. - THE INNOCENCE OF FATHER BROWN
Chesterton, G. K. - THE MAN WHO KNEW TOO MUCH
Chesterton, G. K. - THE MAN WHO WAS THURSDAY
Chesterton, G. K. - THE WISDOM OF FATHER BROWN
Chesterton, G. K. - TWELVE TYPES
Chesterton, G. K. - WHAT I SAW IN AMERICA
Chesterton, Gilbert K. - HERETICS
Chopin, Kate - AT FAULT
Chopin, Kate - BAYOU FOLK
Chopin, Kate - THE AWAKENING AND SELECTED SHORT STORIES
Clark Hall, John R. - A CONCISE ANGLOSAXON DICTIONARY
Clarkson, Thomas - AN ESSAY ON THE SLAVERY AND COMMERCE OF THE HUMAN SPECIES
Clausewitz, Carl von - ON WAR
Coleridge, Herbert - A DICTIONARY OF THE FIRST OR OLDEST WORDS IN THE ENGLISH
Coleridge, S. T. - COMPLETE POETICAL WORKS
Coleridge, S. T. - HINTS TOWARDS THE FORMATION OF A MORE COMPREHENSIVE THEORY
Coleridge, S. T. - THE RIME OF THE ANCIENT MARINER
Collins, Wilkie - THE MOONSTONE
Collodi - PINOCCHIO
Conan Doyle, Arthur - A STUDY IN SCARLET
Conan Doyle, Arthur - MEMOIRS OF SHERLOCK HOLMES
Conan Doyle, Arthur - THE HOUND OF THE BASKERVILLES
Conan Doyle, Arthur - THE RETURN OF SHERLOCK HOLMES
Conan Doyle, Arthur - THE SIGN OF THE FOUR
Conrad, Joseph - HEART OF DARKNESS
Conrad, Joseph - LORD JIM
Conrad, Joseph - NOSTROMO
Conrad, Joseph - THE NIGGER OF THE NARCISSUS
Conrad, Joseph - TYPHOON
Crane, Stephen - LAST WORDS
Crane, Stephen - MAGGIE
Crane, Stephen - THE RED BADGE OF COURAGE
Crane, Stephen - WOUNDS IN THE RAIN
Dante - THE DIVINE COMEDY: HELL
Dante - THE DIVINE COMEDY: PARADISE
Dante - THE DIVINE COMEDY: PURGATORY
Darwin, Charles - THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF CHARLES DARWIN
Darwin, Charles - THE ORIGIN OF SPECIES
Defoe, Daniel - A GENERAL HISTORY OF THE PYRATES
Defoe, Daniel - A JOURNAL OF THE PLAGUE YEAR
Defoe, Daniel - CAPTAIN SINGLETON
Defoe, Daniel - MOLL FLANDERS
Defoe, Daniel - ROBINSON CRUSOE
Defoe, Daniel - THE COMPLETE ENGLISH TRADESMAN
Defoe, Daniel - THE FURTHER ADVENTURES OF ROBINSON CRUSOE
Deledda, Grazia - AFTER THE DIVORCE
Dickens, Charles - A CHRISTMAS CAROL
Dickens, Charles - A TALE OF TWO CITIES
Dickens, Charles - BLEAK HOUSE
Dickens, Charles - DAVID COPPERFIELD
Dickens, Charles - DONBEY AND SON
Dickens, Charles - GREAT EXPECTATIONS
Dickens, Charles - HARD TIMES
Dickens, Charles - LETTERS VOLUME 1
Dickens, Charles - LITTLE DORRIT
Dickens, Charles - MARTIN CHUZZLEWIT
Dickens, Charles - NICHOLAS NICKLEBY
Dickens, Charles - OLIVER TWIST
Dickens, Charles - OUR MUTUAL FRIEND
Dickens, Charles - PICTURES FROM ITALY
Dickens, Charles - THE MYSTERY OF EDWIN DROOD
Dickens, Charles - THE OLD CURIOSITY SHOP
Dickens, Charles - THE PICKWICK PAPERS
Dickinson, Emily - POEMS
Dostoevsky, Fyodor - CRIME AND PUNISHMENT
Dostoyevsky, Fyodor - THE BROTHERS KARAMAZOV
Du Maurier, George - TRILBY
Dumas, Alexandre - THE COUNT OF MONTE CRISTO
Dumas, Alexandre - THE MAN IN THE IRON MASK
Dumas, Alexandre - THE THREE MUSKETEERS
Eliot, George - DANIEL DERONDA
Eliot, George - MIDDLEMARCH
Eliot, George - SILAS MARNER
Eliot, George - THE MILL ON THE FLOSS
Engels, Frederick - THE CONDITION OF THE WORKING-CLASS IN ENGLAND IN 1844
Equiano - AUTOBIOGRAPHY
Esopo - FABLES
Fenimore Cooper, James - THE LAST OF THE MOHICANS
Fielding, Henry - TOM JONES
France, Anatole - THAIS
France, Anatole - THE GODS ARE ATHIRST
France, Anatole - THE LIFE OF JOAN OF ARC
France, Anatole - THE SEVEN WIVES OF BLUEBEARD
Frank Baum, L. - THE PATCHWORK GIRL OF OZ
Frank Baum, L. - THE WONDERFUL WIZARD OF OZ
Franklin, Benjamin - AUTOBIOGRAPHY
Frazer, James George - THE GOLDEN BOUGH
Freud, Sigmund - DREAM PSYCHOLOGY
Galsworthy, John - COMPLETE PLAYS
Galsworthy, John - STRIFE
Galsworthy, John - STUDIES AND ESSAYS
Galsworthy, John - THE FIRST AND THE LAST
Galsworthy, John - THE FORSYTE SAGA
Galsworthy, John - THE LITTLE MAN
Galsworthy, John - THE SILVER BOX
Galsworthy, John - THE SKIN GAME
Gaskell, Elizabeth - CRANFORD
Gaskell, Elizabeth - MARY BARTON
Gaskell, Elizabeth - NORTH AND SOUTH
Gaskell, Elizabeth - THE LIFE OF CHARLOTTE BRONTE
Gay, John - THE BEGGAR'S OPERA
Gentile, Maria - THE ITALIAN COOK BOOK
Gilbert and Sullivan - PLAYS
Goethe - FAUST
Gogol - DEAD SOULS
Goldsmith, Oliver - SHE STOOPS TO CONQUER
Goldsmith, Oliver - THE VICAR OF WAKEFIELD
Grahame, Kenneth - THE WIND IN THE WILLOWS
Grimm, Brothers - FAIRY TALES
Harding, A. R. - GINSENG AND OTHER MEDICINAL PLANTS
Hardy, Thomas - A CHANGED MAN AND OTHER TALES
Hardy, Thomas - FAR FROM THE MADDING CROWD
Hardy, Thomas - JUDE THE OBSCURE
Hardy, Thomas - TESS OF THE D'URBERVILLES
Hardy, Thomas - THE MAYOR OF CASTERBRIDGE
Hartley, Cecil B. - THE GENTLEMEN'S BOOK OF ETIQUETTE
Hawthorne, Nathaniel - LITTLE MASTERPIECES
Hawthorne, Nathaniel - THE SCARLET LETTER
Henry VIII - LOVE LETTERS TO ANNE BOLEYN
Henry, O. - CABBAGES AND KINGS
Henry, O. - SIXES AND SEVENS
Henry, O. - THE FOUR MILLION
Henry, O. - THE TRIMMED LAMP
Henry, O. - WHIRLIGIGS
Hindman Miller, Gustavus - TEN THOUSAND DREAMS INTERPRETED
Hobbes, Thomas - LEVIATHAN
Homer - THE ILIAD
Homer - THE ODYSSEY
Hornaday, William T. - THE EXTERMINATION OF THE AMERICAN BISON
Hume, David - A TREATISE OF HUMAN NATURE
Hume, David - AN ENQUIRY CONCERNING HUMAN UNDERSTANDING
Hume, David - DIALOGUES CONCERNING NATURAL RELIGION
Ibsen, Henrik - A DOLL'S HOUSE
Ibsen, Henrik - AN ENEMY OF THE PEOPLE
Ibsen, Henrik - GHOSTS
Ibsen, Henrik - HEDDA GABLER
Ibsen, Henrik - JOHN GABRIEL BORKMAN
Ibsen, Henrik - ROSMERHOLM
Ibsen, Henrik - THE LADY FROM THE SEA
Ibsen, Henrik - THE MASTER BUILDER
Ibsen, Henrik - WHEN WE DEAD AWAKEN
Irving, Washington - THE LEGEND OF SLEEPY HOLLOW
James, Henry - ITALIAN HOURS
James, Henry - THE ASPERN PAPERS
James, Henry - THE BOSTONIANS
James, Henry - THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY
James, Henry - THE TURN OF THE SCREW
James, Henry - WASHINGTON SQUARE
Jerome, Jerome K. - THREE MEN IN A BOAT
Jerome, Jerome K. - THREE MEN ON THE BUMMEL
Jevons, Stanley - POLITICAL ECONOMY
Johnson, Samuel - A GRAMMAR OF THE ENGLISH TONGUE
Jonson, Ben - THE ALCHEMIST
Jonson, Ben - VOLPONE
Joyce, James - A PORTRAIT OF THE ARTIST AS A YOUNG MAN
Joyce, James - CHAMBER MUSIC
Joyce, James - DUBLINERS
Joyce, James - ULYSSES
Keats, John - ENDYMION
Keats, John - POEMS PUBLISHED IN 1817
Keats, John - POEMS PUBLISHED IN 1820
King James - THE BIBLE
Kipling, Rudyard - CAPTAINS COURAGEOUS
Kipling, Rudyard - INDIAN TALES
Kipling, Rudyard - JUST SO STORIES
Kipling, Rudyard - KIM
Kipling, Rudyard - THE JUNGLE BOOK
Kipling, Rudyard - THE MAN WHO WOULD BE KING
Kipling, Rudyard - THE SECOND JUNGLE BOOK
Lawrence, D. H - THE RAINBOW
Lawrence, D. H - THE WHITE PEACOCK
Lawrence, D. H - TWILIGHT IN ITALY
Lawrence, D. H. - AARON'S ROD
Lawrence, D. H. - SONS AND LOVERS
Lawrence, D. H. - THE LOST GIRL
Lawrence, D. H. - WOMEN IN LOVE
Lear, Edward - BOOK OF NONSENSE
Lear, Edward - LAUGHABLE LYRICS
Lear, Edward - MORE NONSENSE
Lear, Edward - NONSENSE SONG
Leblanc, Maurice - ARSENE LUPIN VS SHERLOCK HOLMES
Leblanc, Maurice - THE ADVENTURES OF ARSENE LUPIN
Leblanc, Maurice - THE CONFESSIONS OF ARSENE LUPIN
Leblanc, Maurice - THE HOLLOW NEEDLE
Leblanc, Maurice - THE RETURN OF ARSENE LUPIN
Lehmann, Lilli - HOW TO SING
Leroux, Gaston - THE MAN WITH THE BLACK FEATHER
Leroux, Gaston - THE MYSTERY OF THE YELLOW ROOM
Leroux, Gaston - THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA
London, Jack - MARTIN EDEN
London, Jack - THE CALL OF THE WILD
London, Jack - WHITE FANG
Machiavelli, Nicolo' - THE PRINCE
Malthus, Thomas - PRINCIPLE OF POPULATION
Mansfield, Katherine - THE GARDEN PARTY AND OTHER STORIES
Marlowe, Christopher - THE JEW OF MALTA
Marryat, Captain - THE CHILDREN OF THE NEW FOREST
Maupassant, Guy De - BEL AMI
Melville, Hermann - MOBY DICK
Melville, Hermann - TYPEE
Mill, John Stuart - PRINCIPLES OF POLITICAL ECONOMY
Milton, John - PARADISE LOST
Mitra, S. M. - HINDU TALES FROM THE SANSKRIT
Montaigne, Michel de - ESSAYS
Montgomery, Lucy Maud - ANNE OF GREEN GABLES
More, Thomas - UTOPIA
Nesbit, E. - FIVE CHILDREN AND IT
Nesbit, E. - THE PHOENIX AND THE CARPET
Nesbit, E. - THE RAILWAY CHILDREN
Nesbit, E. - THE STORY OF THE AMULET
Newton, Isaac - OPTICKS
Nietsche, Friedrich - BEYOND GOOD AND EVIL
Nietsche, Friedrich - THUS SPAKE ZARATHUSTRA
Nightingale, Florence - NOTES ON NURSING
Owen, Wilfred - POEMS
Ozaki, Yei Theodora - JAPANESE FAIRY TALES
Pascal, Blaise - PENSEES
Pellico, Silvio - MY TEN YEARS IMPRISONMENT
Perrault, Charles - FAIRY TALES
Pirandello, Luigi - THREE PLAYS
Plato - THE REPUBLIC
Poe, Edgar Allan - THE COMPLETE POETICAL WORKS 1
Poe, Edgar Allan - THE COMPLETE POETICAL WORKS 2
Poe, Edgar Allan - THE COMPLETE POETICAL WORKS 3
Poe, Edgar Allan - THE COMPLETE POETICAL WORKS 4
Poe, Edgar Allan - THE COMPLETE POETICAL WORKS 5
Poe, Edgar Allan - THE FALL OF THE HOUSE OF USHER
Potter, Beatrix - THE TALE OF PETER RABBIT
Proust, Marcel - SWANN'S WAY
Radcliffe, Ann - A SICILIAN ROMANCE
Ricardo, David - ON THE PRINCIPLES OF POLITICAL ECONOMY AND TAXATION
Richardson, Samuel - PAMELA
Rider Haggard, H. - ALLAN QUATERMAIN
Rider Haggard, H. - KING SOLOMON'S MINES
Rousseau, J. J. - THE ORIGIN AND FOUNDATION OF INEQUALITY AMONG MANKIND
Ruskin, John - THE SEVEN LAMPS OF ARCHITECTURE
Schiller, Friedrich - THE DEATH OF WALLENSTEIN
Schiller, Friedrich - THE PICCOLOMINI
Schopenhauer, Arthur - THE ART OF CONTROVERSY
Schopenhauer, Arthur - THE WISDOM OF LIFE
Scott Fitzgerald, F. - FLAPPERS AND PHILOSOPHERS
Scott Fitzgerald, F. - TALES OF THE JAZZ AGE
Scott Fitzgerald, F. - THE BEAUTIFUL AND DAMNED
Scott Fitzgerald, F. - THIS SIDE OF PARADISE
Scott, Walter - IVANHOE
Scott, Walter - QUENTIN DURWARD
Scott, Walter - ROB ROY
Scott, Walter - THE BRIDE OF LAMMERMOOR
Scott, Walter - WAVERLEY
Sedgwick, Anne Douglas - THE THIRD WINDOW
Sewell, Anna - BLACK BEAUTY
Shakespeare, William - COMPLETE WORKS
Shakespeare, William - HAMLET
Shakespeare, William - OTHELLO
Shakespeare, William - ROMEO AND JULIET
Shelley, Mary - FRANKENSTEIN
Shelley, Percy Bysshe - A DEFENCE OF POETRY AND OTHER ESSAYS
Shelley, Percy Bysshe - COMPLETE POETICAL WORKS
Sheridan, Richard B. - THE SCHOOL FOR SCANDAL
Sienkiewicz, Henryk - QUO VADIS
Smith, Adam - THE WEALTH OF NATIONS
Smollett, Tobias - TRAVELS THROUGH FRANCE AND ITALY
Spencer, Herbert - ESSAYS ON EDUCATION AND KINDRED SUBJECTS
Spyri, Johanna - HEIDI
Sterne, Laurence - A SENTIMENTAL JOURNEY
Sterne, Laurence - TRISTRAM SHANDY
Stevenson, Robert Louis - A CHILD'S GARDEN OF VERSES
Stevenson, Robert Louis - ESSAYS IN THE ART OF WRITING
Stevenson, Robert Louis - KIDNAPPED
Stevenson, Robert Louis - NEW ARABIAN NIGHTS
Stevenson, Robert Louis - THE BLACK ARROW
Stevenson, Robert Louis - THE STRANGE CASE OF DR. JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE
Stevenson, Robert Louis - TREASURE ISLAND
Stoker, Bram - DRACULA
Strindberg, August - LUCKY PEHR
Strindberg, August - MASTER OLOF
Strindberg, August - THE RED ROOM
Strindberg, August - THE ROAD TO DAMASCUS
Strindberg, August - THERE ARE CRIMES AND CRIMES
Swift, Jonathan - A MODEST PROPOSAL
Swift, Jonathan - A TALE OF A TUB
Swift, Jonathan - GULLIVER'S TRAVELS
Swift, Jonathan - THE BATTLE OF THE BOOKS AND OTHER SHORT PIECES
Tagore, Rabindranath - FRUIT GATHERING
Tagore, Rabindranath - THE GARDENER
Tagore, Rabindranath - THE HUNGRY STONES AND OTHER STORIES
Thackeray, William - BARRY LYNDON
Thackeray, William - VANITY FAIR
Thackeray, William Makepeace - THE BOOK OF SNOBS
Thackeray, William Makepeace - THE ROSE AND THE RING
Thackeray, William Makepeace - THE VIRGINIANS
Thoreau, Henry David - WALDEN
Tolstoi, Leo - A LETTER TO A HINDU
Tolstoy, Lev - ANNA KARENINA
Tolstoy, Lev - WAR AND PEACE
Trollope, Anthony - AN AUTOBIOGRAPHY
Trollope, Anthony - BARCHESTER TOWERS
Trollope, Anthony - FRAMLEY PARSONAGE
Trollope, Anthony - THE EUSTACE DIAMONDS
Trollope, Anthony - THE MAN WHO KEPT HIS MONEY IN A BOX
Trollope, Anthony - THE WARDEN
Trollope, Anthony - THE WAY WE LIVE NOW
Twain, Mark - LIFE ON THE MISSISSIPPI
Twain, Mark - SPEECHES
Twain, Mark - THE ADVENTURES OF HUCKLEBERRY FINN
Twain, Mark - THE ADVENTURES OF TOM SAWYER
Twain, Mark - THE PRINCE AND THE PAUPER
Vari, Autori - THE MAGNA CARTA
Verga, Giovanni - SICILIAN STORIES
Verne, Jules - 20000 LEAGUES UNDER THE SEAS
Verne, Jules - A JOURNEY TO THE CENTRE OF THE EARTH
Verne, Jules - ALL AROUND THE MOON
Verne, Jules - AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 DAYS
Verne, Jules - FIVE WEEKS IN A BALLOON
Verne, Jules - FROM THE EARTH TO THE MOON
Verne, Jules - MICHAEL STROGOFF
Verne, Jules - THE MYSTERIOUS ISLAND
Voltaire - PHILOSOPHICAL DICTIONARY
Vyasa - MAHABHARATA
Wallace, Edgar - SANDERS OF THE RIVER
Wallace, Edgar - THE DAFFODIL MYSTERY
Wallace, Lew - BEN HUR
Webster, Jean - DADDY LONG LEGS
Wedekind, Franz - THE AWAKENING OF SPRING
Wells, H. G. - KIPPS
Wells, H. G. - THE INVISIBLE MAN
Wells, H. G. - THE ISLAND OF DOCTOR MOREAU
Wells, H. G. - THE STOLEN BACILLUS AND OTHER INCIDENTS
Wells, H. G. - THE TIME MACHINE
Wells, H. G. - THE WAR OF THE WORLDS
Wells, H. G. - WHAT IS COMING
Wharton, Edith - THE AGE OF INNOCENCE
White, Andrew Dickson - FIAT MONEY INFLATION IN FRANCE
Wilde, Oscar - A WOMAN OF NO IMPORTANCE
Wilde, Oscar - AN IDEAL HUSBAND
Wilde, Oscar - DE PROFUNDIS
Wilde, Oscar - LADY WINDERMERE'S FAN
Wilde, Oscar - SALOME
Wilde, Oscar - SELECTED POEMS
Wilde, Oscar - THE BALLAD OF READING GAOL
Wilde, Oscar - THE CANTERVILLE GHOST
Wilde, Oscar - THE HAPPY PRINCE AND OTHER TALES
Wilde, Oscar - THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARNEST
Wilde, Oscar - THE PICTURE OF DORIAN GREY
Wilde, Oscar - THE SOUL OF MAN
Wilson, Epiphanius - SACRED BOOKS OF THE EAST
Wollstonecraft, Mary - A VINDICATION OF THE RIGHTS OF WOMAN
Woolf, Virgina - NIGHT AND DAY
Woolf, Virgina - THE VOYAGE OUT
Woolf, Virginia - JACOB'S ROOM
Woolf, Virginia - MONDAY OR TUESDAY
Wordsworth, William - POEMS
Wordsworth, William - PROSE WORKS
Zola, Emile - THERESE RAQUIN
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ISTRUZIONI D'USO DETTAGLIATE
by William Makepeace Thackeray.
BEFORE THE CURTAIN.
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
I Chiswick Mall
II In Which Miss Sharp and Miss Sedley Prepare to Open the
III Rebecca Is in Presence of the Enemy
IV The Green Silk Purse
V Dobbin of Ours
VII Crawley of Queen's Crawley
VIII Private and Confidential
IX Family Portraits
X Miss Sharp Begins to Make Friends
XI Arcadian Simplicity
XII Quite a Sentimental Chapter
XIII Sentimental and Otherwise
XIV Miss Crawley at Home
XV In Which Rebecca's Husband Appears for a Short Time
XVI The Letter on the Pincushion
XVII How Captain Dobbin Bought a Piano
XVIII Who Played on the Piano Captain Dobbin Bought
XIX Miss Crawley at Nurse
XX In Which Captain Dobbin Acts as the Messenger of Hymen
XXI A Quarrel About an Heiress
XXII A Marriage and Part of a Honeymoon
XXIII Captain Dobbin Proceeds on His Canvass
XXIV In Which Mr. Osborne Takes Down the Family Bible
XXV In Which All the Principal Personages Think Fit to Leave
XXVI Between London and Chatham
XXVII In Which Amelia Joins Her Regiment
XXVIII In Which Amelia Invades the Low Countries
XXX "The Girl I Left Behind Me"
XXXI In Which Jos Sedley Takes Care of His Sister
XXXII In Which Jos Takes Flight, and the War Is Brought to a Close
XXXIII In Which Miss Crawley's Relations Are Very Anxious About Her
XXXIV James Crawley's Pipe Is Put Out
XXXV Widow and Mother
XXXVI How to Live Well on Nothing a Year
XXXVII The Subject Continued
XXXVIII A Family in a Very Small Way
XXXIX A Cynical Chapter
XL In Which Becky Is Recognized by the Family
XLI In Which Becky Revisits the Halls of Her Ancestors
XLII Which Treats of the Osborne Family
XLIII In Which the Reader Has to Double the Cape
XLIV A Round-about Chapter between London and Hampshire
XLV Between Hampshire and London
XLVI Struggles and Trials
XLVII Gaunt House
XLVIII In Which the Reader Is Introduced to the Very Best of Company
XLIX In Which We Enjoy Three Courses and a Dessert
L Contains a Vulgar Incident
LI In Which a Charade Is Acted Which May or May Not Puzzle the
LII In Which Lord Steyne Shows Himself in a Most Amiable Light
LIII A Rescue and a Catastrophe
LIV Sunday After the Battle
LV In Which the Same Subject is Pursued
LVI Georgy is Made a Gentleman
LVIII Our Friend the Major
LIX The Old Piano
LX Returns to the Genteel World
LXI In Which Two Lights are Put Out
LXII Am Rhein
LXIII In Which We Meet an Old Acquaintance
LXIV A Vagabond Chapter
LXV Full of Business and Pleasure
LXVI Amantium Irae
LXVII Which Contains Births, Marriages, and Deaths
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
"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--ninety-three 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
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
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,
Madam, Your most obliged humble servant, BARBARA PINKERTON
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
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
"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
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
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
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
"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 ever.
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 dancing-master 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 you!"
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.
"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
"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 looking-glass, 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 twenty-four 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
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 splendour.
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 reading-desk. 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 gin-and-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 tender-hearted Amelia Sedley was
the only person to whom she could attach herself in the least; and who
could help attaching herself to Amelia?
The happiness the 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 future.
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 again.
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 India?
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!"
"What! don't you love him? you, who say you love everybody?"
"Yes, of course, I do--only--"
"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
"Isn't he very rich?" said Rebecca. "They say all Indian nabobs are
"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 again.
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 children.
"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
"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
"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
"It is a one-horse palanquin," said the old gentleman, who was a wag in
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
"O fie! didn't you tell your mother you would dine here?"
"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 advantage.
"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 dinner."
"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-vivant; 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 cleverness.
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
"Try a chili with it, Miss Sharp," said Joseph, really interested.
"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
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 cream-tarts 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, "Cream-tarts, 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
"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 Amelia.
"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--"
"O 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
"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 world."
"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 carpet-rods; 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 days.
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.
"To-morrow your Papa and I dine out," said Mrs. Sedley.
"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
"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
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
"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 Amelia.
"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 fellow."
"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 expeditions."
"Pooh, pooh, Miss Sharp," said he, pulling up his shirt-collars; "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 match-maker 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
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
"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
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
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
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
"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
"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 fingers.
"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
"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
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 dog-latin?
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
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
"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
world-corrupted 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 clothes.
"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
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 am
Your dutiful Son, GEORGE SEDLEY OSBORNE
P.S.--Give my love to little Emmy. I am cutting her out a Coach in
cardboard. Please not a seed-cake, but a plum-cake.
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
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 middle-sized 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
"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 good-natured 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 dears."
"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
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
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
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
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 man!
Such was the state of affairs as the carriage crossed Westminster
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
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 bachelor.
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 punch."
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?" Osborne 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
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-in-law, 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, good-naturedly
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. Hosbin."
"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 diddle-diddle-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 good-natured 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.
"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
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 bed-room 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
"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
"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,
"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
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 out.
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
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
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
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
"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
"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
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
"Had your dinner, I suppose? It is not too warm for you? Like a drop of
"Where is Sir Pitt Crawley?" said Miss Sharp majestically.
"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
"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 Tinker.
"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
"He's always at law business," said Mrs. Tinker, taking up the pot of
"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. Tinker."
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 fare.
"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.
Private and Confidential
Miss Rebecca Sharp to Miss Amelia Sedley, Russell Square, London.
MY DEAREST, SWEETEST AMELIA,
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
GREATER PART OF THE WAY.
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
"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
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 corn."
"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
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 dressing-gown, 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
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 straw-coloured 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 Sharp."
"O!" 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 canary-coloured 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 Crawley.
"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
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 now."
"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 Sharp?"
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
A hundred thousand grateful loves to your dear papa and mamma. Is your
poor brother recovered of his rack-punch? Oh, dear! Oh, dear! How men
should beware of wicked punch!
Ever and ever thine own REBECCA
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 long-eared 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
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
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
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.
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
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
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 light-complexioned woman,
she wore light clothes, as most blondes will, and appeared, in
preference, in draggled sea-green, 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. O 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
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
curl-papers 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 off-day, 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
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
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 virtue.
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 dream!
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
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
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 bookshelves 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
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 amusements.
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-and-twenty; 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
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
"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
"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 meaning?
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 statesman.
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
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."
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 besides.
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 governess BUT OF YOUR CHOOSING.
My dear husband is pleased to say that he likes EVERYTHING WHICH COMES
FROM MISS PINKERTON'S 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 superintendence!
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
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 dinner-parties, and drive out in the coach-and-four the
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
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 country-dances 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 Rebecca.
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 all-powerful 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 divide."
"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 Six-acre 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
"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
"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 scornfully.
"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
"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 Rector.
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 Wapshot."
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
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 manner.
"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
"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 owned.
"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
"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 him."
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 ever.
"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 beauty.
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 black-browed
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
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 head.
"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
"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 drawing-room 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
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-bell 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, bald-headed,
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
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
in 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-an-hour; 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 already.
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
"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
"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,
"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 gambling-houses 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 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 scruple.
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 humour.
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
"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
"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
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 drawing-room 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
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
"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
"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
"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 serenely:
"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
"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
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
"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
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 drawing-room, led him downstairs into
that now desolate dining-parlour, 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 benevolence.
Who could this young woman be, I wonder? That evening a little dinner
for two persons was laid in the dining-room--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
"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-and-twenty 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 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 salts-bottle.
"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
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