Part 3 out of 6
"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 hay-stack; I have put up two bottles of
the gillyflower-water for Mrs. Sedley, and the receipt for making it, in
"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 have consoled Mrs. Birch for her daughter's loss, it would have
been that pious and eloquent composition in which Miss Pinkerton
announced the event.
In the present instance Miss Pinkerton's "billet" was to the
* * * * *
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 characterise the young English
gentlewoman; those accomplishments which become her birth and station,
will not be found wanting in the amiable Miss Sedley, whose industry and
obedience have endeared her to her instructors, and whose delightful
sweetness of temper has charmed her aged and her youthful companions.
In music, dancing, in orthography, in every variety of embroidery and
needle-work, she will be found to have realised her friends' fondest
wishes. In geography there is still much to be desired; and a careful and
undeviating use of the back-board, 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
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 them all, 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
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 as governess 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 Dr. Samuel Johnson." In fact, the Lexicographer's name was always
on the lips of this majestic woman, and a visit he had paid to her was
the cause of her reputation and her fortune.
Being commanded by her elder sister to get The Dixonary 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 nine-pence, and poor Becky will be
miserable if she don't get one."
"Send Miss Sedley instantly to me," was Miss Pinkerton's only answer.
And, venturing not to say another word, poor Jemima trotted off,
exceedingly flurried and nervous, while the two pupils, Miss Sedley and
Miss Sharp, were making final preparation for their departure for Miss
Now, Miss Sedley's papa was a merchant in London, and a man of some
wealth, whereas Miss Sharp was only 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. Miss Sharp's father
had been an artist, and in former years had given lessons in 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. 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, who had had
some education somewhere, and her daughter Rebecca 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
fatally ill, as a consequence of his bad habits, 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
almost habitually cast down. When they looked up, they were very large,
odd, and attractive. 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 had sat
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 had never been a girl, she said; she had been a woman since
she was eight years old.
Miss Jemima, however, believed her to be the most innocent creature in
the world, so admirably did Rebecca play the part of a child on the
occasions when her father brought her to Chiswick as a young girl, and
only a year before her father's death, and when she 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, and how Miss Pinkerton would have raged had she seen the
caricature of herself which the little mimic, Rebecca, managed to make
out of the doll. Becky used to go through dialogues with it; it formed
the delight of the circle of young painters who frequented the studio,
who used regularly to ask Rebecca if Miss Pinkerton was at home. Once
Rebecca had the honour to pass a few days at Chiswick, after which she
brought back another doll which she called Miss Jemmy; for, though that
honest creature had made and given her jelly and cake enough for three
children, and a seven-shillings piece at parting, the girl's sense of
ridicule was far stronger than her gratitude; and she sacrificed Miss
Jemmy as pitilessly as her sister.
Then came the ending of Becky's studio days, and, an orphan, she was
transplanted to the Mall as her home.
The rigid formality of the place suffocated her; the prayers and meals,
the lessons and the walks, which were arranged with the regularity of a
convent, oppressed her almost beyond endurance; and she looked back to
the freedom and the beggary of her father's old studio with bitter
regret. 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 silly chat and scandal of the
schoolgirls, and the frigid correctness of the governesses equally
annoyed her. She had no soft maternal heart, this unlucky girl. The
prattle of the younger children, with whose care she was chiefly
entrusted, 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 granddaughter," she said of
one. "How they cringe and bow to the 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 granddaughter, for all her fine pedigree; and yet everyone
passes me by here."
She determined 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 considered necessary for ladies
in those days. Her music she practised incessantly; and one day, when the
girls were out, and she remained at home, she was overheard to play a
piece so well that Miss 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."
Miss 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, who was 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. "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--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 plan of answering her in
French, which quite routed the old woman, who did not understand or speak
that language. In order to maintain authority in her school, it became
necessary to remove this rebel, 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 apprentice was free. 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 Miss
Minerva, "which has not been satisfactory to her mistress"), Miss Sharp
was invited by her friend to pass a week with her in London, before Becky
entered upon her duties as governess in a private family; which
thoughtfulness on the part of Amelia was only an additional proof of the
girl's affectionate nature. In fact, Miss Amelia Sedley was a young lady
who deserved not only all that Miss Pinkerton said in her praise, but had
many charming qualities which that pompous old woman could not see, from
the differences of rank and age between her pupil and herself. She could
not only sing like a lark, and dance divinely, 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 Miss 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 allowed that her figure was genteel; and as for Miss Swartz,
the rich woolly-haired mulatto from St. Kitts, 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 of St. Kitts.
As Amelia 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 woman, ceased scolding
her after the first time, and, though she no more comprehended
sensibility than she did capital Algebra, gave all masters and teachers
particular orders to treat Miss Sedley with the utmost gentleness, as
harsh treatment was injurious to her.
So that when the day of departure came, between her two customs of
laughing and crying, Miss Sedley was greatly puzzled how to act. She was
glad to go home, and yet most woefully sad at leaving school. For three
days before, little Laura Martin, the orphan, followed her about like a
little dog. She had to make and receive at least fourteen presents, to
make fourteen solemn promises of writing every week.
"Send my letters under cover to my grandpa, the Earl of Dexter," said
"Never mind the postage, but write every day, you dear darling," said the
impetuous and woolly-headed, but generous and affectionate, Miss
Schwartz; and little Laura Martin 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 of these details, foolish and sentimental as they may seem, go to
show the extreme popularity and personal charm of Amelia.
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 cowskin 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, and having the fear of her schoolmistress greatly
before her eyes, Miss Sedley did not venture, in her presence, to give
way to any ablutions of private grief. A seed-cake and a bottle of wine
were produced in the drawing-room, as on the solemn occasions of the
visits of parents, and these refreshments being partaken of, Miss Sedley
was at liberty to depart.
"You'll go in and say good-bye to Miss Pinkerton, Becky!" said Miss
Jemima to that 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, as we know; she only directed
those who did; but biting her lips and throwing up her venerable and
Roman-nosed head, she said: "Miss Sharp, I wish you a good-morning." As
she 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 Miss
Pinkerton 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," she exclaimed,
embracing Amelia, and scowling the while over the girl's shoulder at
"Come away, Becky," said Miss Jemima, pulling the young woman away in
great alarm, and the drawing-room door closed upon them forever.
Then came the struggle and parting below. Words refuse to tell it. All
the servants were there in the hall--all the dear friends--all the young
ladies--even 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 Schwartz, the parlour boarder, from her room, as no pen
can depict, and as the tender heart would feign 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," she called 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-bye! 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 suddenly put her
pale face out of the window, and flung the book back into the
garden--flung it far and fast--watching it fall at the feet of astonished
Miss Jemima; then sank back in the carriage, exclaiming: "So much for the
'Dixonary'; and, thank God, I am out of Chiswick!"
The shock of such an act almost caused Jemima to faint with terror.
"Well, I never--" she began. "What an audacious--" she gasped.
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.
CUFFS FIGHT WITH "FIGS"
[Illustration: CUFF'S FIGHT WITH "FIGS."]
Cuff's fight with Figs, 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, Figs, 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. Swishtails
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--almost at the bottom of the school--in his
scraggy corduroys and jacket, through the seams of which his great big
bones were bursting, as the representative of so many pounds of tea,
candles, sugar, mottled-soap, plums (of which a very mild proportion was
supplied for the puddings of the establishment), and other commodities. A
dreadful day it was for young Dobbin when one of the youngsters of the
school, having run into the town upon a poaching excursion for hardbake
and polonies, espied the cart of Dobbin & Rudge, Grocers and Oilmen,
Thames Street, London, at the Doctor's door, discharging a cargo of the
wares in which the firm dealt.
Young Dobbin had no peace after that. The jokes were frightful and
merciless against him.
"Hullo, Dobbin," one wag would say, "here's good news in the paper. Sugar
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 out-house in the playground,
where he passed a half-holiday in the bitterest sadness and woe.
Now, William Dobbin, from an incapacity to acquire the rudiments of the
Latin language, as they are propounded in that wonderful book, the Eton
Latin Grammar, was compelled to remain among the very last of Dr.
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-springs.
They upset buckets and benches, so that he might break his shins over
them, which he never failed to do. They sent him parcels, which, when
opened, were found to contain the paternal soap and candles. There was
no little fellow but had his jeer and joke at Dobbin; and he bore
everything quite patiently, and was entirely dumb and miserable.
Cuff, on the contrary, was the great chief and dandy of the Swishtail
Seminary. He smuggled wine in. He fought the town-boys. Ponies used to
come for him to ride home on Saturdays. He had his top-boots in his room
in which he used to hunt in the holidays. He had a gold repeater, and
took snuff like the Doctor. He had been to the Opera, and knew the merits
of the principal actors, preferring Mr. Kean to Mr. Kemble. He could
knock you off forty Latin verses in an hour. He could make French poetry.
What else didn't he know, or couldn't he do? They said even the Doctor
himself was afraid of him.
Cuff, the unquestioned king of the school, ruled over his subjects, and
bullied them, with splendid superiority. This one blacked his shoes, that
toasted his bread, others would fag out, and give him balls at cricket
during whole summer afternoons. Figs was the fellow whom he despised
most, and with whom, though always abusing him, and sneering at him, he
scarcely ever condescended to hold personal communication.
One day in private the two young gentlemen had had a difference. Figs,
alone in the school-room, 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 misspelt, 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 tomorrow?"
"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.
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 slipped, and the bottle 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
"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 every-day 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 school-fellow,
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. Down came the wicket again, and Dobbin
I can't tell what his motive was. Perhaps his 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 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 the little
lad, 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 feeling of Mr. Reginald Cuff when
this encounter 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 to 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 under lip
bleeding profusely, gave this young fellow a fierce and ghastly air,
which perhaps struck terror into many spectators. Nevertheless, his
intrepid adversary prepared to close for the thirteenth time.
If I had the pen of a Napier, or a Bell's Life, I should like to describe
this combat properly. It was the last charge of the Guard--(that is, it
_would_ have been, only Waterloo had not yet taken place); it was Ney's
column breasting the hill of La Haye Sainte, bristling with ten thousand
bayonets, and crowned with twenty eagles; it was the shout of the
beef-eating British, as, leaping down the hill, they rushed to hug the
enemy in the savage arms of battle; in other words, Cuff, coming up full
of pluck, but quite reeling and groggy, the Fig-merchant put in his left
as usual on his adversary's nose, and sent him down for the last time.
"I think _that_ will do for him," Figs said, as his opponent dropped as
neatly on the green as I have seen Jack Spot's ball plump into the pocket
at billiards; and the fact is, when time was called, Mr. Reginald Cuff
was not able, or did not choose, to stand up again.
And now all the boys set up such a shout for Figs as would have made you
think he had been their darling champion through the whole battle; and as
absolutely brought Dr. Swishtail out of his study, curious to know the
cause of the uproar. He threatened to flog Figs violently, of course; but
Cuff, who had come to himself by this time, and was washing his wounds,
stood up and said, "It's my fault, sir--not Figs's--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 Mamma_: 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
and 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
card-board. 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 school fellows, and the name of Figs, which had
been a byword of reproach, became as respectable and popular a nickname
as any other in use in the school. "After all, it's not his fault that
his father's a grocer," George Osborne said, who, though a little chap,
had a very high popularity among the Swishtail youth; and his opinion was
received with great applause. It was voted low to sneer at Dobbin about
this accident of birth. "Old Figs" grew to be a name of kindness and
endearment, and the sneak of an usher jeered at him no longer.
And Dobbin's spirit rose with his altered circumstances. He made
wonderful advances in scholastic learning. The superb Cuff himself, at
whose condenscension 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 Guielmo 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, an affection as we read of in the charming fairy-book, which
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 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--which tokens of homage George received very graciously,
as became his superior merit, as often and as long as they were
In after years Dobbin's father, the despised grocer, became Alderman, and
Colonel of the City Light Horse, in which corps George Osborne's father
was but an indifferent Corporal. Colonel Dobbin was knighted by his
sovereign, which honour placed his son William in a social position above
that of the old school friends who had once been so scornful of him at
Swishtail Academy; even above the object of his deepest admiration,
But this did not in the least alter honest, simple-minded William
Dobbin's feelings, and his adoration for young Osborne remained
unchanged. The two entered the army in the same regiment, and served
together, and Dobbin's attachment for George was as warm and loyal then
as when they were school-boys together.
Honest William Dobbin,--I would that there were more such staunch
comrades as you to answer to the name of friend!
GEORGE OSBORNE--RAWDON CRAWLEY
[Illustration: GEORGE OSBORNE AND RAWDON CRAWLEY.]
Rebecca sharp, the teacher of French at Miss Pinkerton's Academy for
young ladies, and intimate friend of Miss Amelia Sedley, the most popular
scholar in Miss Pinkerton's select establishment, left the institution at
the same time to become a governess in the family of Sir Pitt Crawley.
Amelia was the only daughter of John Sedley, a wealthy London stock
broker, and upon leaving school was to take her place in fashionable
society. Being the sweetest, most kind-hearted girl in the world, Amelia
invited Becky to visit her in London before taking up her new duties as
governess; which invitation Becky was only too glad to accept.
Now, Miss Sharp was in no way like the gentle Amelia, but as keen,
brilliant, and selfish a young person of eighteen as ever schemed to have
events turn to her advantage. These characteristics she showed so plainly
while visiting at the Sedleys' that she left anything but a good
impression behind her. In fact, her visit was cut short because of some
unpleasant circumstances connected with her behaviour.
From that time she and Amelia did not meet for many months, during which
Amelia had become the wife of George Osborne, and Rebecca Sharp had
married Rawdon Crawley, son of Sir Pitt Crawley, Baronet.
The circumstances of Amelia's life during these months altered greatly,
for shortly after she left school honest John Sedley met with such severe
losses that his family were obliged to live in a much more modest way
than formerly. Because of this misfortune, the course of Amelia's love
affair with young Lieutenant Osborne did not run smoothly; for his father
was far too ambitious to consent to his only son's marriage with the
daughter of a ruined man, although John Sedley was his son's godfather,
and George had been devoted to Amelia since early boyhood.
Lieutenant Osborne therefore went away with his regiment, and poor little
Amelia was left behind, to pine and mourn until it seemed there was no
hope of saving her life unless happiness should speedily come to her.
Then it was that Major Dobbin, George Osborne's staunch friend of
schooldays, and also an ardent admirer of Amelia's, saw how she was
grieving and took upon himself to inform George Osborne of the state of
affairs. The young lieutenant came hurrying home just in time to save a
gentle little heart from wearing itself away with sorrowing, and married
Amelia without his father's consent. This so enraged the old gentleman
that he refused to have his name mentioned in the home where the boy had
grown up; the veriest tyrant and idol of his sisters and father.
To Brighton George and Amelia went on their honeymoon, and there they met
Becky Sharp and her husband. Though the circumstances of the two young
women's career had altered, Amelia and Becky were unchanged in character,
but that is of small concern to us, except as it affects their children,
to whose lives we now turn with keen interest, noting how they reflect
the dispositions, and are affected by the characters of their mothers.
As for little Rawdon Crawley, Becky's only child, he had few early happy
recollections of his mother. She had not, to say the truth, seen much of
the young gentleman since his birth. After the amiable fashion of French
mothers, she had placed him out at nurse in a village in the
neighbourhood of Paris, where little Rawdon lived, not unhappily, with a
numerous family of foster brothers in wooden shoes. His father, who was
devotedly attached to the little fellow, would ride over many a time to
see him here, and the elder Rawdon's paternal heart glowed to see him
rosy and dirty, shouting lustily, and happy in the making of mud-pies
under the superintendence of the gardener's wife, his nurse.
Rebecca, however, did not care much to go and see her son and heir, who
as a result preferred his nurse's caresses to his mamma's, and when
finally he quitted that jolly nurse, he cried loudly for hours. He was
only consoled by his mother's promise that he should return to his nurse
the next day; which promise, it is needless to say, was not kept; instead
the boy was consigned to the care of a French maid, Genevieve, while his
mother was seldom with him, and the French woman was so neglectful of her
young charge that at one time he very narrowly escaped drowning on Calais
sands, where Genevieve had left and lost him.
So with little care and less love his childhood passed until presently
he went with his father and mother, Colonel and Mrs. Crawley, to London,
to their new home in Curzon Street, Mayfair. There little Rawdon's time
was mostly spent hidden upstairs in a garret somewhere, or crawling
below into the kitchen for companionship. His mother scarcely ever took
notice of him. He passed the days with his French nurse as long as she
remained in the family, and when she went away, a housemaid took
compassion on the little fellow, who was howling in the loneliness of
the night, and got him out of his solitary nursery into her bed in the
garret and comforted him.
Rebecca, her friend, my Lord Steyne, and one or two more were in the
drawing-room taking tea after the opera, when this shouting was heard
overhead. "It's my cherub crying for his nurse," said his mother, who did
not offer to move and go and see the child. "Don't agitate your feelings
by going to look after him," said Lord Steyne sardonically. "Bah!"
exclaimed Becky, with a sort of blush. "He'll cry himself to sleep"; and
they fell to talking about the opera.
Mr. Rawdon Crawley had stolen off, however, to look after his son and
heir; and came back to the company when he found that honest Dolly was
consoling the child. The Colonel's dressing-room was in those upper
regions. He used to see the boy there in private. They had interviews
together every morning when he shaved; Rawdon minor sitting on a box by
his father's side, and watching the operation with never-ceasing
pleasure. He and the sire were great friends. The father would bring him
sweet-meats from the dessert, and hide them in a certain old epaulet box
where the child went to seek them, and laughed with joy on discovering
the treasure; laughed, but not too loud; for mamma was asleep and must
not be disturbed. She did not go to rest until very late, and seldom rose
His father bought the boy plenty of picture books, and crammed his
nursery with toys. Its walls were covered with pictures pasted up by the
father's own hand. He passed hours with the boy, who rode on his chest,
pulled his great moustaches as if they were driving reins, and spent days
with him in indefatigable gambols. The room was a low one, and once, when
the child was not five years old, his father, who was tossing him wildly
up in his arms, hit the poor little chap's scull so violently against the
ceiling that he almost dropped him, so terrified was he at the disaster.
Rawdon minor had made up his face for a tremendous howl, but just as he
was going to begin, the father interposed.
"For God's sake, Rawdy, don't wake mamma," he cried. And the child,
looking in a very hard and piteous way at his father, bit his lips,
clenched his hands, and didn't cry a bit. Rawdon told that story at the
clubs, at the mess, to everybody in town. "By Gad, sir," he explained to
the public in general, "what a good plucky one that boy of mine is. What
a trump he is! I half sent his head through the ceiling, and he wouldn't
cry for fear of disturbing mother!"
Sometimes, once or twice in a week, that lady visited the upper regions
in which the child lived. She came like a vivified picture, blandly
smiling in the most beautiful new clothes and little gloves and boots.
Wonderful scarfs, laces, and jewels glittered about her. She had always a
new bonnet on; and flowers bloomed perpetually in it, or else magnificent
curling ostrich feathers, soft and snowy as camellias. She nodded twice
or thrice patronisingly to the little boy, who looked up from his dinner
or from the pictures of soldiers he was painting. When she left the room,
an odour of rose, or some other magical fragrance, lingered about the
nursery. She was an unearthly being in his eyes, superior to his father,
to all the world, to be worshipped and admired at a distance. To drive
with that lady in a carriage was an awful rite. He sat in the back seat,
and did not dare to speak; he gazed with all his eyes at the beautifully
dressed princess opposite to him. Gentlemen on splendid prancing horses
came up, and smiled and talked with her. How her eyes beamed upon all of
them! Her hand used to quiver and wave gracefully as they passed. When he
went out with her he had his new red dress on. His old brown holland was
good enough when he stayed at home. Sometimes, when she was away, and
Dolly the maid was making his bed, he came into his mother's room. It was
as the abode of a fairy to him--a mystic chamber of splendour and
delight. There in the wardrobe hung those wonderful robes--pink and blue
and many-tinted. There was the jewel case, silver clasped; and a hundred
rings on the dressing table. There was a cheval glass, that miracle of
art, in which he could just see his own wondering head, and the
reflection of Dolly, plumping and patting the pillows of the bed. Poor
lonely little benighted boy! Mother is the name for God in the lips and
hearts of little children; and here was one who was worshipping a stone!
His father used to take him out of mornings, when they would go to the
stables together and to the park. Little Lord Southdown, the best natured
of men, who would make you a present of a hat from his head, and whose
main occupation in life was to buy nicknacks that he might give them away
afterwards, bought the little chap a pony, not much bigger than a large
rat, and on this little black Shetland pony young Rawdon's great father
would mount the boy, and walk by his side in the Park.
One Sunday morning as Rawdon Crawley, his little son, and the pony were
taking their accustomed walk, they passed an old acquaintance of the
Colonel's, Corporal Clink, who was in conversation with an old gentleman,
who held a boy in his arms about the age of little Rawdon. The other
youngster had seized hold of the Waterloo medal which the Corporal wore,
and was examining it with delight.
"Good-morning, your honour," said Clink, in reply to the "How do,
Clink?" of the Colonel. "This 'ere young gentleman is about the little
Colonel's age, sir," continued the Corporal.
"His father was a Waterloo man, too," said the old gentleman who carried
the boy. "Wasn't he, Georgie?"
"Yes, sir," said Georgie. He and the little chap on the pony were looking
at each other with all their might, solemnly scanning each other as
"His father was a captain in the--the regiment," said the old gentleman
rather pompously. "Captain George Osborne, sir--perhaps you knew him. He
died the death of a hero, sir, fighting against the Corsican tyrant"
"I knew him very well, sir," said Colonel Crawley, "and his wife, his
dear little wife, sir--how is she?"
"She is my daughter, sir," said the old gentleman proudly, putting down
the boy, and taking out his card, which he handed to the Colonel, while
little Georgie went up and looked at the Shetland pony.
"Should you like to have a ride?" said Rawdon minor from the saddle.
"Yes," said Georgie. The Colonel, who had been looking at him with some
interest, took up the child and put him on the pony behind Rawdon minor.
"Take hold of him, Georgie," he said; "take my little boy around the
waist; his name is Rawdon." And both the children began to laugh.
"You won't see a prettier pair, I think, this summer's day, sir," said
the good-natured Corporal; and the Colonel, the Corporal, and old Mr.
Sedley, with his umbrella, walked by the side of the children, who
enjoyed each other and the pony enormously. In later years they often
talked of that first meeting.
But this is anticipating our story, for between the time of their first
ride together, and the time when circumstances brought them together
again, the little chaps saw nothing of one another for a number of years,
during which the incidents of their lives differed as widely as did the
lives of their parents.
About the time when the little boys first met, Sir Pitt Crawley,
Baronet, father of Pitt and Rawdon Crawley, died, and Rebecca and her
husband hastened to Queen's Crawley, the old family home, where Rebecca
had once been governess, to shed a last tear over the departed Baronet.
Rebecca was not bowed down with grief, we must confess, but keenly alive
to the benefits which might come to herself and Rawdon if she could
please Sir Pitt Crawley, the new Baronet, and Lady Jane his wife, a
simple-minded woman mostly absorbed in the affairs of her nursery. This
interest aroused Becky's private scorn, but the first thing that clever
little lady did was to attack Lady Jane at her vulnerable point. After
being conducted to the apartments prepared for her, and having taken off
her bonnet and cloak, Becky asked her sister-in-law in what more she
could be useful.
"What I should like best," she added, "would be to see your dear little
nursery," at which the two ladies looked very kindly at each other, and
went to the nursery hand in hand.
Becky admired little Matilda, who was not quite four years old, as the
most charming little love in the world; and the boy, Pitt Blinkie
Southdown, a little fellow of two years, pale, heavy-eyed, and
large-headed, she pronounced to be a perfect prodigy in size,
intelligence and beauty.
The funeral over, Rebecca and her husband remained for a visit at Queen's
Crawley, which assumed its wonted aspect. Rawdon senior received constant
bulletins respecting little Rawdon, who was left behind in London, and
sent messages of his own. "I am very well," he wrote. "I hope you are
very well. I hope mamma is very well. The pony is very well. Grey takes
me to ride in the Park. I can canter. I met the little boy who rode
before. He cried when he cantered. I do not cry."
Rawdon read these letters to his brother, and Lady Jane, who was
delighted with them, gave Rebecca a banknote, begging her to buy a
present with it for her little nephew.
Like all other good things, the visit came to an end, and one night the
London lamps flashed joyfully as the stage rolled into Piccadilly, and
Briggs had made a beautiful fire on the hearth in Curzon Street, and
little Rawdon was up to welcome back his papa and mamma.
At this time he was a fine open-faced boy, with blue eyes and waving
flaxen hair, sturdy in limb, but generous and soft in heart, fondly
attaching himself to all who were good to him: to the pony, to Lord
Southdown, who gave him the horse; to the groom who had charge of the
pony; to Molly the cook, who crammed him with ghost stories at night and
with good things from the dinner; to Briggs, his meek, devoted attendant,
whom he plagued and laughed at; and to his father especially. Here, as he
grew to be about eight years old, his attachment may be said to have
ended. The beautiful mother vision had faded away after a while. During
nearly two years his mother had scarcely spoken to the child. She
disliked him. He had the measles and the whooping cough. He bored her.
One day when he was standing at the landing-place, having crept down from
the upper regions, attracted by the sound of his mother's voice, who was
singing to Lord Steyne, the drawing-room door opening suddenly discovered
the little spy, who but a moment before had been rapt in delight and
listening to the music.
His mother came out and struck him violently a couple of boxes on the
ear. He heard a laugh from the Marquis in the inner room, and fled down
below to his friends of the kitchen, bursting in an agony of grief.
"It is not because it hurts me," little Rawdon gasped out,
"only--only--" sobs and tears wound up the sentence in a storm. It was
the little boy's heart that was bleeding. "Why mayn't I hear her
singing? Why don't she ever sing to me, as she does to that bald-headed
man with the large teeth?" He gasped out at various intervals these
exclamations of grief and rage. The cook looked at the housemaid; the
housemaid looked knowingly at the footman, who all sat in judgment on
Rebecca from that moment.
After this incident the mother's dislike increased to hatred; the
consciousness that the child was in the house was a reproach and a pain
to her. His very sight annoyed her. Fear, doubt, and resistance sprang up
too, in the boy's own bosom.
He and his mother were separated from that day of the boxes on the ear.
Lord Steyne also disliked the boy. When they met he made sarcastic bows
or remarks to the child, or glared at him with savage-looking eyes.
Rawdon used to stare him in the face and double his little fists in
return. Had it not been for his father, the child would have been
desolate indeed, in his own home.
But an unexpected good time came to him a day or two before Christmas,
when he was taken by his father and mother to pass the holidays at
Queen's Crawley. Becky would have liked to leave him at home, but for
Lady Jane's urgent invitation to the youngster; and the symptoms of
revolt and discontent manifested by Rawdon at her neglect of her son. "He
is the finest boy in England," the father said reproachfully, "and you
don't seem to care for him as much as you do for your spaniel. He shan't
bother you much; at home he will be away from you in the nursery, and he
shall go outside on the coach with me."
So little Rawdon was wrapped up in shawls and comforters for the winter's
journey, and hoisted respectfully onto the roof of the coach in the dark
morning; with no small delight watched the dawn arise, and made his first
journey to the place which his father still called home. It was a journey
of infinite pleasure to the boy, to whom the incidents of the road
afforded endless interest; his father answering all questions connected
with it, and telling him who lived in the great white house to the right,
and whom the park belonged to.
Presently the boy fell asleep, and it was dark when he was wakened up to
enter his uncle's carriage at Mudbury, and he sat and looked out of it
wondering as the great iron gates flew open, and at the white trunks of
the limes as they swept by, until they stopped at length before the
lighted windows of the Hall, which were blazing and comfortable with
Christmas welcome. The hall-door was flung open; a big fire was burning
in the great old fireplace, a carpet was down over the chequered black
flags, and the next instant Becky was kissing Lady Jane.
She and Sir Pitt performed the same salute with great gravity, while Sir
Pitt's two children came up to their cousin. Matilda held out her hand
and kissed him. Pitt Blinkie Southdown, the son and heir, stood aloof,
and examined him as a little dog does a big one.
Then the kind hostess conducted her guests to snug apartments blazing
with cheerful fires, and after some conversation with the fine young
ladies of the house, the great dinner bell having rung, the family
assembled at dinner, at which meal Rawdon junior was placed by his aunt,
and exhibited not only a fine appetite, but a gentlemanlike behaviour.
"I like to dine here," he said to his aunt when he had completed his
meal, at the conclusion of which, and after a decent grace by Sir Pitt,
the younger son and heir was introduced and was perched on a high chair
by the Baronet's side, while the daughter took possession of the place
prepared for her, near her mother. "I like to dine here," said Rawdon
minor, looking up at his relation's kind face.
"Why?" said the good Lady Jane.
"I dine in the kitchen when I am at home," replied Rawdon minor, "or else
with Briggs." This honest confession was fortunately not heard by Becky,
who was deep in conversation with the Baronet, or it might have been
worse for little Rawdon.
As a guest, and it being the first night of his arrival, he was allowed
to sit up until the hour when, tea being over and a great gilt book being
laid on the table before Sir Pitt, all the domestics of the family
streamed in and Sir Pitt read prayers. It was the first time the poor
little boy had ever witnessed or heard of such a ceremonial.
Queen's Crawley had been much improved since the young Baronet's brief
reign, and was pronounced by Becky to be perfect, charming, delightful,
when she surveyed it in his company. As for little Rawdon, who examined
it with the children for his guides, it seemed to him a perfect palace of
enchantment and wonder. There were long galleries, and ancient state
bed-rooms; there were pictures and old china and armour which enchanted
little Rawdon, who had never seen their like before, and who, poor child,
had never before been in such an atmosphere of kindness and good cheer.
On Christmas day a great family gathering took place, and one and all
agreed that little Rawdon was a fine boy. They respected a possible
Baronet in the boy between whom and the title there was only the little
sickly, pale Pitt Blinkie.
The children were very good friends. Pitt Blinkie was too little a dog
for such a big dog as Rawdon to play with, and Matilda, being only a
girl, of course not fit companion for a young gentleman who was near
eight years old, and going into jackets very soon. He took the command of
this small party at once, the little girl and the little boy following
him about with great reverence at such times as he condescended to sport
with them. His happiness and pleasure in the country were extreme. The
kitchen-garden pleased him hugely, the flowers moderately; but the
pigeons and the poultry, and the stables, when he was allowed to visit
them, were delightful objects to him. He resisted being kissed by the
Misses Crawley; but he allowed Lady Jane sometimes to embrace him, and it
was by her side that he liked to sit rather than by his mother. Rebecca,
seeing that tenderness was the fashion, called Rawdon to her one evening,
and stooped down and kissed him in the presence of all the ladies.
He looked her full in the face after the operation, trembling and turning
very red, as his wont was when moved. "You never kiss me at home, Mamma,"
he said; at which there was a general silence and consternation, and by
no means a pleasant look in Becky's eyes; but she was obliged to allow
the incident to pass in silence.
But the greatest day of all was that on which Sir Huddlestone
Fuddlestone's hounds met upon the lawn at Queen's Crawley.
That was a famous sight for little Rawdon. At half-past ten Tom Moody,
Sir Huddlestone Fuddlestone's huntsman, was seen trotting up the avenue,
followed by the noble pack of hounds in a compact body, the rear being
brought up by the two whips clad in stained scarlet frocks, light,
hard-featured lads on well-bred lean horses, possessing marvellous
dexterity in casting the points of their long, heavy whips at the
thinnest part of any dog's skin who dared to straggle from the main body,
or to take the slightest notice, or even so much as wink at the hares and
rabbits starting under their noses.
Next came boy Jack, Tom Moody's son, who weighed five stone, measured
eight and forty inches, and would never be any bigger. He was perched on
a large raw-boned hunter, half covered by a capacious saddle. This animal
was Sir Huddlestone Fuddlestone's favourite horse, the Nob. Other horses
ridden by other small boys arrived from time to time, awaiting their
masters, who came cantering on anon.
Tom Moody rode up presently, and he and his pack drew off into a
sheltered corner of the lawn, where the dogs rolled on the grass, and
played or growled angrily at one another, ever and anon breaking out into
furious fights, speedily to be quelled by Tom's voice, unmatched at
rating, or the snaky thongs of the whips.
Many young gentlemen cantered up on thoroughbred hacks, spatter-dashed to
the knee, and entered the house to pay their respects to the ladies, or,
more modest and sportsmanlike, divested themselves of their mud-boots,
exchanged their hacks for their hunters, and warmed their blood by a
preliminary gallop round the lawn. Then they collected round the pack in
the corner, and talked with Tom Moody of past sport, and the merits of
Sniveller and Diamond, and of the state of the country and of the
wretched breed of foxes.
Sir Huddlestone presently appears mounted on a clever cob, and rides up
to the Hall, where he enters and does the civil thing by the ladies,
after which, being a man of few words, he proceeds to business. The
hounds are drawn up to the hall-door, and little Rawdon descends among
them, excited yet half alarmed by the caresses which they bestow upon
him, at the thumps he receives from their waving tails, and at their
canine bickerings, scarcely restrained by Tom Moody's tongue and lash.
Meanwhile, Sir Huddlestone has hoisted himself unwieldily on the Nob.
"Let's try Sowster's Spinney, Tom," says the Baronet; "Farmer Mangle
tells me there are two foxes in it." Tom blows his horn and trots off,
followed by the pack, by the whips, by the young gents from Winchester,
by the farmers of the neighbourhood, by the labourers of the parish on
foot, with whom the day is a great holiday; Sir Huddlestone bringing up
the rear with Colonel Crawley; and the whole train of hounds and horsemen
disappears down the avenue, leaving little Rawdon alone on the doorsteps,
wondering and happy.
During the progress of this memorable holiday little Rawdon, if he had
got no special liking for his uncle, always awful and cold, and locked up
in his study, plunged in justice business and surrounded by bailiffs and
farmers, has gained the good graces of his married and maiden aunts, of
the two little folks of the Hall, and of Jim of the Rectory, and he had
become extremely fond of Lady Jane, who told such beautiful stories with
the children clustered about her knees. Naturally, after having his first
glimpse of happy home life and his first taste of genuine motherly
affection, it was a sad day to little Rawdon when he was obliged to
return to Curzon Street. But there was an unexpected pleasure awaiting
him on his return. Lord Steyne, though he wasted no affection upon the
boy, yet for reasons of his own concerning only himself and Mrs. Becky,
extended his good will to little Rawdon. Wishing to have the boy out of
his way, he pointed out to Rawdon's parents the necessity of sending him
to a public school; that he was of an age now when emulation, the first
principles of the Latin language, pugilistic exercises, and the society
of his fellow boys would be of the greatest benefit to him. His father
objected that he was not rich enough to send the child to a good school;
his mother, that Briggs was a capital mistress for him, and had brought
him on, as indeed was the fact, famously in English, Latin, and in
general learning; but all these objections were overruled by the Marquis
of Steyne. His lordship was one of the Governors of that famous old
collegiate institution called the White Friars, where he desired that
little Rawdon should be sent, and sent he was; for Rawdon Crawley, though
the only book which he studied was the racing calendar, and though his
chief recollections of learning were connected with the floggings which
he received at Eton in his early youth, had that reverence for classical
learning which all English gentlemen feel, and was glad to think that his
son was to have the chance of becoming a scholar. And although his boy
was his chief solace and companion, he agreed at once to part with him
for the sake of the welfare of the little lad.
It was honest Briggs who made up the little kit for the boy which he was
to take to school. Molly, the housemaid, blubbered in the passage when he
went away. Mrs. Becky could not let her husband have the carriage to take
the boy to school. Take the horses into the city! Such a thing was never
heard of. Let a cab be brought. She did not offer to kiss him when he
went, nor did the child propose to embrace her, but gave a kiss to old
Briggs and consoled her by pointing out that he was to come home on
Saturdays, when she would have the benefit of seeing him. As the cab
rolled towards the city Becky's carriage rattled off to the park. She
gave no thought to either of them when the father and son entered at the
old gates of the school, where Rawdon left the child, then walked home
very dismally, and dined alone with Briggs, to whom he was grateful for
her love and watchfulness over the boy. They talked about little Rawdon a
long time, and Mr. Crawley went off to drink tea with Lady Jane, who was
very fond of Rawdon, as was her little girl, who cried bitterly when the
time for her cousin's departure came. Rawdon senior now told Lady Jane
how little Rawdon went off like a trump, and how he was to wear a gown
and little knee breeches, and Jack Blackball's son of the old regiment
had taken him in charge and promised to be kind to him.
The Colonel went to see his son a short time afterwards, and found the
lad sufficiently well and happy, grinning and laughing in his little
black gown and little breeches. As a protege of the great Lord Steyne,
the nephew of a county member, and son of a Colonel and C.B. whose
names appeared in some of the most fashionable parties in the Morning
Post, perhaps the school authorities were disposed not to look unkindly
on the child.
He had plenty of pocket-money, which he spent in treating his comrades
royally to raspberry tarts, and he was often allowed to come home on
Saturdays to his father, who always made a jubilee of that day. When
free, Rawdon would take him to the play, or send him thither with the
footman; and on Sundays he went to church with Briggs and Lady Jane and
his cousins. Rawdon marvelled over his stories about school, and fights,
and fagging. Before long he knew the names of all the masters and the
principal boys as well as little Rawdon himself. He invited little
Rawdon's crony from school and made both the children sick with pastry,
and oysters, and porter after the play. He tried to look knowing over the
Latin grammar when little Rawdon showed him what part of that work he was
"in." "Stick to it, my boy," he said to him with much gravity, "there's
nothing like a good classical education! Nothing!"
While little Rawdon was still one of the fifty gown-boys of White Friar
school, the Colonel, his poor father, got into great trouble through no
fault of his own, but as a result of which Mrs. Becky was obliged to make
her exit from Curzon Street forever, and the Colonel in bitter dejection
and humiliation accepted an appointment as Governor of Coventry Island.
For some time he resisted the idea of taking this place, because it had
been procured for him through the influence of Lord Steyne, whose
patronage was odious to him, as he had been the means of ruining the
Colonel's homelife. The Colonel's instinct also was for at once removing
the boy from the school where Lord Steyne's interest had placed him. He
was induced, however, not to do this, and little Rawden was allowed to
round out his days in the school, where he was very happy. After his
mother's departure from Curzon Street she disappeared entirely from her
son's life, and never made any movement to see the child.
He went home to his aunt, Lady Jane, for Sundays and holidays; and soon
knew every bird's-nest about Queen's Crawley, and rode out with Sir
Huddlestone's hounds, which he had admired so on his first
well-remembered visit to the home of his ancestor. In fact, Rawdon was
consigned to the entire guardianship of his aunt and uncle, to whom he
was fortunately deeply devoted; and although he received several letters
at various times from his mother, they made little impression upon him,
and indeed it was easy to see where his affections were placed. When Sir
Pitt's only boy died of whooping-cough and measles--then Mrs. Becky wrote
the most affectionate letter to her darling son, who was made heir of
Queen's Crawley by this accident, and drawn more closely than ever by it
to Lady Jane, whose tender heart had already adopted him. Rawdon Crawley,
then grown a tall, fine lad, blushed when he got the letter.
"Oh, Aunt Jane, you are my mother!" he said; "and not--and not _that_
one!" But he wrote a kind and respectful letter in response to Mrs.
Becky, and the incident was closed. As for the Colonel, he wrote to the
boy regularly every mail from his post on Coventry Island, and little
Rawdon used to like to get the papers and read about his Excellency, his
father, of whom he had been truly fond. But the image gradually faded as
the images of childhood do fade, and each year he grew more tenderly
attached to Lady Jane and her husband, who had become father and mother
to him in his hour of need.
As for George Osborne, the little boy whom Rawdon Crawley had given a
ride on his pony long years before, the fates had been much kinder to him
than to Rawdon. He had had no lonely childhood, for although he had no
recollection of his handsome young father, from baby days he was
surrounded by the utmost adoration by a doting mother. Poor Amelia,
deprived of the husband whom she adored, lavished all the pent-up love of
her gentle bosom upon the little boy with the eyes of George who was
gone--a little boy as beautiful as a cherub, and there was never a moment
when the child missed any office which love or affection could give him.
His grandfather Sedley also adored the child, and it was the old man's
delight to take out his little grandson to the neighbouring parks of
Kensington Gardens, to see the soldiers or to feed the ducks. Georgie
loved the red coats, and his grandpapa told him how his father had been a
famous soldier, and introduced him to many sergeants and others with
Waterloo medals on their breasts, to whom the old grandfather pompously
presented the child; as on the occasion of their meeting with Colonel
Rawdon Crawley and his little son.
Old Sedley was disposed to spoil little Georgie, sadly gorging the boy
with apples and peppermint to the detriment of his health, until Amelia
declared that Georgie should never go out with his grandpapa again unless
the latter solemnly promised on his honour not to give the child any
cakes, lollipops, or stall produce whatever.
Amelia's days were full of active employment, for besides caring for
Georgie, she devoted much time to her old father and mother, with whom
she and the child lived, and who were much broken by their financial
reverses. She also personally superintended her little son's education
for several years. She taught him to read and to write, and a little to
draw. She read books, in order that she might tell him stories. As his
eyes opened, and his mind expanded, she taught him to the best of her
humble power to acknowledge the Maker of All; and every night and every
morning he and she--the mother and the little boy--prayed to our Father
together, the mother pleading with all her gentle heart, the child
lisping after her as she spoke. And each time they prayed to God to bless
dear papa, as if he were alive and in the room with them.
Besides her pension of fifty pounds a year, as an army officer's widow,
there had been five hundred pounds left with the agent of her estate for
her, for which Amelia did not know that she was indebted to Major Dobbin,
until years later. This same Major, by the way, was stationed at Madras,
where twice or thrice in the year she wrote to him about herself and the
boy, and he in turn sent over endless remembrances to his godson and to
her. He sent a box of scarfs, and a grand ivory set of chess-men from
China. The pawns were little green and white men, with real swords and
shields; the knights were on horseback, the castles were on the backs of
elephants. These chessmen were the delight of Georgie's life, who printed
his first letter of acknowledgment of this gift of his godpapa. Major
Dobbin also sent over preserves and pickles, which latter the young
gentleman tried surreptitiously in the sideboard, and half killed himself
with eating. He thought it was a judgment upon him for stealing, they
were so hot. Amelia wrote a comical little account of this mishap to the
Major; it pleased him to think that her spirits were rallying, and that
she could be merry sometimes now. He sent over a pair of shawls, a white
one for her, and a black one with palm-leaves for her mother, and a pair
of red scarfs, as winter wrappers, for old Mr. Sedley and George. The
shawls were worth fifty guineas apiece, at the very least, as Mrs. Sedley
knew. She wore hers in state at church at Brompton, and was congratulated
by her female friends upon the splendid acquisition. Amelia's, too,
became prettily her modest black gown.
Amidst humble scenes and associates Georgie's early youth was passed, and
the boy grew up delicate, sensitive, imperious, woman-bred--domineering
over the gentle mother whom he loved with passionate affection. He ruled
all the rest of the little world round about him. As he grew, the elders
were amazed at his haughty manner and his constant likeness to his
father. He asked questions about everything, as inquiring youth will do.
The profundity of his remarks and questions astonished his old
grandfather, who perfectly bored the club at the tavern with stories
about the little lad's learning and genius. He suffered his grandmother
with a good-humoured indifference. The small circle round about him
believed that the equal of the boy did not exist upon the earth. Georgie
inherited his father's pride, and perhaps thought they were not wrong.
When he grew to be about six years old, Dobbin began to write to him very
much. The Major wanted to hear that Georgie was going to a school, and
hoped he would acquit himself with credit there; or would he have a good
tutor at home? It was time that he should begin to learn; and his
godfather and guardian hinted that he hoped to be allowed to defray the
charges of the boy's education, which would fall heavily upon his
mother's straitened income. The Major, in a word, was always thinking
about Amelia and her little boy, and by orders to his agents kept the
latter provided with picture-books, paint-boxes, desks, and all
conceivable implements of amusement and instruction. Three days before
Georgie's sixth birthday a gentleman in a gig, accompanied by a servant,
drove up to Mrs. Sedley's house and asked to be conducted to Master
George Osborne. It was Woolsey, military tailor, who came at the Major's
order, to measure George for a suit of clothes. He had had the honour of
making for the Captain, the young gentleman's father.
Sometimes, too, the Major's sisters, the Misses Dobbin, would call in the
family carriage to take Amelia and the little boy a drive. The patronage
of these ladies was very uncomfortable to Amelia, but she bore it meekly
enough, for her nature was to yield; and besides, the carriage and its
splendours gave little Georgie immense pleasure. The ladies begged
occasionally that the child might pass a day with them, and he was always
glad to go to that fine villa on Denmark Hill, where there were such
fine grapes in the hot-house and peaches on the walls.
Miss Osborne, Georgie's aunt, who, since old Osborne's quarrel with his
son, had not been allowed to have any intercourse with Amelia or little
Georgie, was kept acquainted with the state of Amelia's affairs by the
Misses Dobbin, who told how she was living with her father and mother;
how poor they were; but how the boy was really the noblest little boy
ever seen; which praise raised a great desire to see the child in the
heart of his maiden aunt, and one night when he came back from Denmark
Hill in the pony carriage in which he rejoiced, he had round his neck a
fine gold chain and watch. He said an old lady, not pretty, had been
there and had given it to him, who cried and kissed him a great deal. But
he didn't like her. He liked grapes very much and he only liked his
mamma. Amelia shrunk and started; she felt a presentiment of terror, for
she knew that Georgie's relations had seen him.
Miss Osborne,--for it was indeed she who had seen Georgie,--went home
that night to give her father his dinner. He was in rather a good-humour,
and chanced to remark her excitement "What's the matter, Miss Osborne?"
he deigned to ask.
The woman burst into tears. "Oh, sir," she said, "I've seen little
Georgie. He is as beautiful as an angel--and so like _him!_"
The old man opposite to her did not say a word, but flushed up, and began
to tremble in every limb, and that night he bade his daughter good-night
in rather a kindly voice. And he must have made some inquiries of the
Misses Dobbin regarding her visit to them when she had seen Georgie, for
a fortnight afterwards he asked her where was her little French watch and
chain she used to wear.
"I bought it with my money, sir," she said in a great fright, not daring
to tell what she had done with it.
"Go and order another like it, or a better, if you can get it," said the
old gentleman, and lapsed again into silence.
After that time the Misses Dobbin frequently invited Georgie to visit
them, and hinted to Amelia that his aunt had shown her inclination;
perhaps his grandfather himself might be disposed to be reconciled to him
in time. Surely, Amelia could not refuse such advantageous chances for
the boy. Nor could she; but she acceded to their overtures with a very
heavy and suspicious heart, was always uneasy during the child's absence
from her, and welcomed him back as if he was rescued out of some danger.
He brought back money and toys, at which the widow looked with alarm and
jealousy; she asked him always if he had seen any gentleman. "Only old
Sir William, who drove him about in the four-wheeled chaise, and Mr.
Dobbin, who arrived on the beautiful bay horse in the afternoon, in the
green coat and pink neckcloth, with the gold-headed whip, who promised to
show him the Tower of London and take him out with the Surrey hounds." At
last he said: "There was an old gentleman, with thick eyebrows and a
brown hat and large chain and seals. He came one day as the coachman was
leading Georgie around the lawn on the grey pony. He looked at me very
much. He shook very much. I said, 'My name is Norval,' after dinner. My
aunt began to cry. She is always crying." Such was George's report on
Then Amelia knew that the boy had seen his grandfather; and looked out
feverishly for a proposal which she was sure would follow, and which
came, in fact, a few days afterwards. Mr. Osborne formally offered to
take the boy, and make him heir to the fortune which he had intended
that his father should inherit. He would make Mrs. George Osborne an
allowance, such as to assure her a decent competency. But it must be
understood that the child would live entirely with his grandfather and be
only occasionally permitted to see Mrs. George Osborne at her own home.
This message was brought to her in a letter one day. She had only been
seen angry a few times in her life, but now Mr. Osborne's lawyer so
beheld her. She rose up trembling and flushing very much after reading
the letter, and she tore the paper into a hundred fragments, which she
trod on. "_I_ take money to part from my child! Who dares insult me
proposing such a thing? Tell Mr. Osborne it is a cowardly letter, sir--a
cowardly letter--I will not answer it! I wish you good-morning," and she
bowed the lawyer out of the room like a tragedy queen.
Her parents did not remark her agitation on that day. They were absorbed
in their own affairs, and the old gentleman, her father, was deep in
speculation, in which he was sinking the remittances regularly sent from
India by his son, Joseph, for the support of his aged parents; and also
that portion of Amelia's slender income which she gave each month to her
father. Of this dangerous pastime of her father's Amelia was kept in
ignorance, until the day came when he was obliged to confess that he was
penniless. At once Amelia handed over to him what little money she had
retained for her own and Georgie's expenses. She did this without a word
of regret, but returned to her room to cry her eyes out, for she had made
plans which would now be impossible, to have a new suit made for Georgie.
This she was obliged to countermand, and, hardest of all, she had to
break the matter to Georgie, who made a loud outcry. Everybody had new
clothes at Christmas. The other boys would laugh at him. He would have
new clothes, she had promised them to him. The poor widow had only
kisses to give him. She cast about among her little ornaments to see if
she could sell anything to procure the desired novelties. She remembered
her India shawl that Dobbin sent her, which might be of value to a
merchant with whom ladies had all sorts of dealings and bargains in these
articles. She smiled brightly as she kissed away Georgie to school in the
morning, and the boy felt that there was good news in her look.
As soon as he had gone she hurried away to the merchant with her shawl
hidden under her cloak. As she walked she calculated how, with the
proceeds of her shawl, besides the clothes, she would buy the books that
he wanted, and pay his half year's schooling at the little school to
which he went; and how she would buy a new coat for her father. She was
not mistaken as to the value of the shawl. It was a very fine one, for
which the merchant gave her twenty guineas. She ran on, amazed and
flurried with her riches, to a shop where she purchased the books Georgie
longed for, and went home exulting. And she pleased herself by writing in
the fly leaf in her neatest little hand, "George Osborne, A Christmas
gift from his affectionate mother."
She was going to place the books on Georgie's table, when in the passage
she and her mother met. The gilt bindings of the little volumes caught
the old lady's eye.
"What are those?" she said.
"Some books for Georgie," Amelia replied. "I--I promised them to him at
"Books!" cried the old lady indignantly; books! when the whole house
wants bread! Oh, Amelia! You break my heart with your books, and that boy
of yours, whom you are ruining, though part with him you will not! Oh,
Amelia, may God send you a more dutiful child than I have had! There's
Joseph deserts his father in his old age; and there's George, who might
be rich, going to school like a lord, with a gold watch and chain round
his neck, while my dear, dear, old man is without a sh-shilling."
Hysterical sobs ended Mrs. Sedley's grief, which quite melted Amelia's
"Oh, mother, mother!" she cried. "You told me nothing. I--I promised
him the books. I--I only sold my shawl this morning. Take the money--take
everything--" taking out her precious golden sovereigns, which she
thrust into her mother's hands, and then went into her room, and sank
down in despair and utter misery. She saw it all. Her selfishness was
sacrificing the boy. But for her, he might have wealth, station,
education, and his father's place, which the elder George had forfeited
for her sake. She had but to speak the words, and her father was restored
to comfort, and the boy raised to fortune. Oh, what a conviction it was
to that tender and stricken heart!
The combat between inclination and duty lasted for many weeks in poor
Amelia's heart. Meanwhile by every means in her power she attempted to
earn money, but was always unsuccessful. Then, when matters had become
tragic in the little family circle, she could bear the burden of pain no
longer. Her decision was made. For the sake of others the child must go
from her. She must give him up,--she must--she must.
She put on her bonnet, scarcely knowing what she did, and went out to
walk in the lanes, where she was in the habit of going to meet Georgie on
his return from school. It was May, a half-holiday. The leaves were all
coming out, the weather was brilliant. The boy came running to her
flushed with health, singing, his bundle of school-books hanging by a
thong. There he was. Both her arms were round him. No, it was impossible.
They could not be going to part. "What is the matter, mother?" said he.
"You look very sad."
"Nothing, my child," she said, and stooped down and kissed him. That
night Amelia made the boy read the story of Samuel to her, and how
Hannah, his mother, having weaned him, brought him to Eli the High Priest
to minister before the Lord. And he read the song of gratitude which
Hannah sang; and which says: "Who is it who maketh poor and maketh rich,
and bringeth low and exalteth, how the poor shall be raised up out of the
dust, and how, in his own might, no man shall be strong." Then he read
how Samuel's mother made him a little coat, and brought it to him from
year to year when she came up to offer the yearly sacrifice. And then, in
her sweet, simple way, George's mother made commentaries to the boy upon
this affecting story. How Hannah, though she loved her son so much, yet
gave him up because of her vow. And how she must always have thought of
him as she sat at home, far away, making the little coat, and Samuel, she
was sure, never forgot his mother; and how happy she must have been as
the time came when she should see her boy, and how good and wise he had
grown. This little sermon she spoke with a gentle, solemn voice, and dry
eyes, until she came to the account of their meeting. Then the discourse
broke off suddenly, the tender heart overflowed, and taking the boy to
her breast, she rocked him in her arms, and wept silently over him.
Her mind being made up, the widow began at once to take such measures as
seemed right to her for achieving her purpose. One day, Miss Osborne, in
Russell Square, got a letter from Amelia, which made her blush very much,
and look towards her father, sitting glooming in his place at the other
end of the table.
In simple terms, Amelia told her the reasons which had induced her to
change her mind respecting her boy. Her father had met with fresh
misfortunes which had entirely ruined him. Her own pittance was so small
that it would barely enable her to support her parents and would not
suffice to give George the advantages which were his due. Great as her
sufferings would be at parting with him, she would, by God's help, endure
them for the boy's sake. She knew that those to whom he was going would
do all in their power to make him happy. She described his disposition,
such as she fancied it; quick and impatient of control or harshness,
easily to be moved by love and kindness. In a postscript, she stipulated
that she should have a written agreement that she should see the child as
often as she wished; she could not part with him under any other terms.
"What? Mrs. Pride has come down, has she?" old Osborne said, when with a
tremulous voice Miss Osborne read him the letter. "Reg'lar starved out,
hey? Ha, ha! I knew she would!" He tried to keep his dignity and to read
his paper as usual, but he could not follow it. At last he flung it down:
and scowling at his daughter, as his wont was, went out of the room and
presently returned with a key. He flung it to Miss Osborne.
"Get the room over mine--his room that was--ready," he said.
"Yes, sir," his daughter replied in a tremble.
It was George's room. It had not been opened for more than ten years.
Some of his clothes, papers, handkerchiefs, whips and caps, fishing-rods
and sporting gear, were still there. An army list of 1814, with his name
written on the cover; a little dictionary he was wont to use in writing;
and the Bible his mother had given him, were on the mantelpiece; with a
pair of spurs, and a dried inkstand covered with the dust of ten years.
Ah! since that ink was wet, what days and people had passed away! The
writing-book still on the table was blotted with his hand.
Miss Osborne was much affected when she first entered this room. She sank
quite pale on the little bed. "This is blessed news, ma'am--indeed,
ma'am," the housekeeper said; "the good old times is returning! The dear
little feller, to be sure, ma'am; how happy he will be! But some folks in
Mayfair, ma'am, will owe him a grudge!" and she clicked back the bolt
which held the window-sash, and let the air into the chamber.
"You had better send that woman some money," Mr. Osborne said, before he
went out. "She shan't want for nothing. Send her a hundred pound."
"And I'll go and see her to-morrow?" Miss Osborne asked.
"That's your lookout. She don't come in _here_, mind. But she mustn't
want now. So look out, and get things right." With which brief speeches
Mr. Osborne took leave of his daughter, and went on his accustomed way.
That night, when Amelia kissed her father, she put a bill for a hundred
pounds into his hands, adding, "And--and, mamma, don't be harsh with
Georgie. He--he is not going to stop with us long." She could say nothing
more, and walked away silently to her room.
Miss Osborne came the next day, according to the promise contained in her
note, and saw Amelia. The meeting between them was friendly. A look and a
few words from Miss Osborne showed the poor widow that there need be no
fear lest she should take the first place in her son's affection. She
was cold, sensible, not unkind. Miss Osborne, on the other hand, could
not but be touched with the poor mother's situation, and their
arrangements were made together with kindness on both sides.
Georgie was kept from school the next day, and saw his aunt. Days were
passed in talks, visits, preparations. The widow broke the matter to him
with great caution; and was saddened to find him rather elated than
otherwise. He bragged about the news that day to the boys at school; told
them how he was going to live with his grandpapa, his father's father,
not the one who comes here sometimes; and that he would be very rich, and
have a carriage, and a pony, and go to a much finer school, and when he
was rich he would buy Leader's pencil-case, and pay the tart woman.
At last the day came, the carriage drove up, the little humble packets
containing tokens of love and remembrance were ready and disposed in the
hall long since. George was in his new suit, for which the tailor had
come previously to measure him. He had sprung up with the sun and put on
the new clothes. Days before Amelia had been making preparations for the
end; purchasing little stores for the boy's use; marking his books and
linen; talking with him and preparing him for the change, fondly fancying
that he needed preparation.
So that he had change, what cared he? He was longing for it. By a
thousand eager declarations as to what he would do when he went to live
with his grandfather, he had shown the poor widow how little the idea of
parting had cast him down. He would come and see his mamma often on the
pony, he said; he would come and fetch her in the carriage; they would
drive in the Park, and she would have everything she wanted.
George stood by his mother, watching her final arrangements without the
least concern, then said a gay farewell, went away smiling, and the widow
was quite alone.
The boy came to see her often, after that, to be sure. He rode on a pony
with the coachman behind him, to the delight of his old grandfather,
Sedley, who walked proudly down the lane by his side. Amelia saw him, but
he was not her boy any more. Why, he rode to see the boys at the little
school, too, and to show off before them his new wealth and splendour. In
two days he had adopted a slightly imperious air and patronising manner,
and once fairly established in his grandfather Osborne's mansion in
Russell Square, won the grandsire's heart by his good looks, gallant
bearing, and gentlemanlike appearance. Mr. Osborne was as proud of him as
ever he had been of the elder George, and the child had many more
luxuries and indulgences than had been awarded to his father. Osborne's
wealth and importance in the city had very much increased of late years.
He had been glad enough to put the elder George in a good private school,
and a commission in the army for his son had been a source of no small
pride to him; but for little George and his future prospects the old man
looked much higher. He would make a gentleman of the little chap, a
collegian, a parliament man--a baronet, perhaps. He would have none but a
tip-top college man to educate him. He would mourn in a solemn manner
that his own education had been neglected, and repeatedly point out the
necessity of classical acquirements.
When they met at dinner the grandfather used to ask the lad what he had
been reading during the day, and was greatly interested at the report the
boy gave of his studies, pretending to understand little George when he
spoke regarding them. He made a hundred blunders, and showed his
ignorance many a time, which George was quick to see and which did not
increase the respect which the child had for his senior.
In fact, as young George had lorded it over the tender, yielding nature
of his mother, so the coarse pomposity of the dull old man with whom he
next came in contact, made him lord over the latter, too. If he had been
a prince royal, he could not have been better brought up to think well of
himself, and while his mother was yearning after him at home, he was
having a number of pleasures and consolations administered to him which
made the separation from Amelia a very easy matter to him. In fact,
Master George Osborne had every comfort and luxury that a wealthy and
lavish old grandfather thought fit to provide. He had the handsomest pony
which could be bought, and on this was taught to ride, first at a
riding-school, then in state to Regent's Park, and then to Hyde Park with
Martin the coachman behind him.
Though he was scarcely eleven years of age, Master George wore straps,
and the most beautiful little boots, like a man. He had gilt spurs and a
gold-headed whip and a fine pin in his neckerchief, and the neatest
little kid gloves which could be bought. His mother had given him a
couple of neckcloths, and carefully made some little shirts for him; but
when her Samuel came to see the widow, they were replaced by much finer
linen. He had little jewelled buttons in the lawn shirt fronts. Her
humble presents had been put aside--I believe Miss Osborne had given them
to the coachman's boy.
Amelia tried to think she was pleased at the change. Indeed, she was
happy and charmed to see the boy looking so beautiful. She had a little
black profile of him done for a shilling, which was hung over her bed.
One day the boy came galloping down on his accustomed visit to her, and
with great eagerness pulled a red morocco case out of his coat pocket.
"I bought it with my own money, mamma," he said. "I thought you'd like
Amelia opened the case, and giving a little cry of delighted affection,
seized him and embraced him a hundred times. It was a miniature of
himself, very prettily done by an artist who had just executed his
portrait for his grandfather. Georgie, who had plenty of money, bethought
him to ask the painter how much a copy of the portrait would cost, saying
that he would pay for it out of his own money, and that he wanted to give
it to his mother. The pleased painter executed it for a small price, and
old Osborne himself, when he heard of the incident, growled out his
satisfaction, and gave the boy twice as many sovereigns as he paid for
At his new home Master George ruled like a lord, and charmed his old
grandfather by his ways. "Look at him," the old man would say, nudging
his neighbour with a delighted purple face, "did you ever see such a
chap? Lord, Lord! he'll be ordering a dressing-case next, and razors to
shave with; I'm blessed if he won't."
The antics of the lad did not, however, delight Mr. Osborne's friends so
much as they pleased the old gentleman. It gave Mr. Justice Coffin no
pleasure to hear Georgie cut into the conversation and spoil his stories.
Mr. Sergeant Toffy's lady felt no particular gratitude when he tilted a
glass of port wine over her yellow satin, and laughed at the disaster;
nor was she better pleased, although old Osborne was highly delighted,
when Georgie "whopped" her third boy, a young gentleman a year older than
Georgie, and by chance home for the holidays. George's grandfather gave
the boy a couple of sovereigns for that feat, and promised to reward him
further for every boy above his own size and age whom he whopped in a
similar manner. It is difficult to say what good the old man saw in these
combats; he had a vague notion that quarrelling made boys hardy, and that
tyranny was a useful accomplishment for them to learn. Flushed with
praise and victory over Master Toffy, George wished naturally to pursue
his conquests further, and one day as he was strutting about in new
clothes, near St. Paneras, and a young baker's boy made sarcastic
comments upon his appearance, the youthful patrician pulled off his dandy
jacket with great spirit, and giving it in charge to the friend who
accompanied him (Master Todd, of Great Coram Street, Russell Square, son
of the junior partner of the house of Osborne & Co.), tried to whop the
little baker. But the chances of war were unfavourable this time, and the
little baker whopped Georgie, who came home with a rueful black eye and
all his fine shirt frill dabbled with the claret drawn from his own
little nose. He told his grandfather that he had been in combat with a
giant; and frightened his poor mother at Brampton with long, and by no
means authentic, accounts of the battle.
This young Todd, of Coram Street, Russell Square, was Master George's
great friend and admirer. They both had a taste for painting theatrical
characters; for hardbake and raspberry tarts; for sliding and skating in
the Regent's Park and the Serpentine, when the weather permitted; for
going to the play, whither they were often conducted, by Mr. Osborne's
orders, by Rowson, Master George's appointed body-servant, with whom they
sate in great comfort in the pit.
In the company of this gentleman they visited all the principal theatres
of the metropolis--knew the names of all the actors from Drury Lane to
Sadler's Wells; and performed, indeed, many of the plays to the Todd
family and their youthful friends, with West's famous characters, on
their pasteboard theatre.
A famous tailor from the West End of the town was summoned to ornament
little Georgie's person, and was told to spare no expense in so doing.
So, Mr. Woolsey, of Conduit Street, gave a loose rein to his imagination,
and sent the child home fancy trowsers, fancy waistcoats, and fancy
jackets enough to furnish a school of little dandies. George had little
white waistcoats for evening parties, and little cut velvet waistcoats
for evening parties, and little cut velvet waistcoats for dinners, and a
dear little darling shawl dressing-gown, for all the world like a little
man. He dressed for dinner every day, "like a regular West End swell," as
his grandfather remarked; one of the domestics was affected to his
special service, attended him at his toilette, answered his bell, and
brought him his letters always on a silver tray.
Georgie, after breakfast, would sit in the arm-chair in the dining-room,
and read the Morning Post, just like a grown-up man. Those who remembered
the Captain, his father, declared Master George was his pa, every inch of
him. He made the house lively by his activity, his imperiousness, his
scolding, and his good-nature.
George's education was confided to the Reverend Lawrence Veal, a private
pedagogue who "prepared young noblemen and gentlemen for the
Universities, the Senate, and the learned professions; whose system did
not embrace the degrading corporal severities still practised at the
ancient places of education, and in whose family the pupils would find
the elegances of refined society and the confidence and affection of a
home," as his prospectus stated.
Georgie was only a day pupil; he arrived in the morning, and if it was
fine would ride away in the afternoon, on his pony. The wealth of his
grandfather was reported in the school to be prodigious. The Reverend Mr.
Veal used to compliment Georgie upon it personally, warning him that he
was destined for a high station; that it became him to prepare for the
lofty duties to which he would be called later; that obedience in the
child was the best preparation for command in the man; and that he
therefore begged George would not bring toffee into the school and ruin
the health of the other pupils, who had everything they wanted at the
elegant and abundant table of Mrs. Veal.
Whenever Mr. Veal spoke he took care to produce the very finest and
longest words of which the vocabulary gave him the use, and his manner
was so pompous that little Georgie, who had considerable humour, used to
mimic him to his face with great spirit and dexterity, without ever being
discovered. Amelia was bewildered by Mr. Veal's phrases, but thought him
a prodigy of learning, and made friends with his wife, that she might be
asked to Mrs. Veal's receptions, which took place once a month, and where
the professor welcomed his pupils and their friends to weak tea and
scientific conversation. Poor little Amelia never missed one of these
entertainments, and thought them delicious so long as she might have
George sitting by her.
As for the learning which George imbibed under Mr. Veal, to judge from
the weekly reports which the lad took home, his progress was remarkable.
The name of a score or more of desirable branches of knowledge were
printed in a table, and the pupil's progress in each was marked by the
professor. In Greek Georgie was pronounced _Aristos_, in Latin
_Optimus_, in French _Tres bien_, etc.; and everybody had prizes for
everything at the end of the year. Even that idle young scapegrace of a
Master Todd, godson of Mr. Osborne, received a little eighteen-penny
book, with _Athene_ engraved on it, and a pompous Latin inscription from
the professor to his young friend. An example of Georgie's facility in
the art of composition is still treasured by his proud mother, and reads
_Example_: The selfishness of Achilles, as remarked by the poet Homer,
occasioned a thousand woes to the Greeks (Hom. II A 2). The selfishness
of the late Napoleon Bonaparte occasioned innumerable wars in Europe, and
caused him to perish himself in a miserable island--that of St. Helena in
the Atlantic Ocean.
We see by these examples that we are not to consult our own interest
and ambition, but that we are to consider the interests of others as
well as our own.
GEORGE SEDLEY OSBORNE.
ATHENE HOUSE, 24 April, 1827.
While Georgie's days were so full of new interests, Amelia's life was
anything but one of pleasure, for it was passed almost entirely in the
sickroom of her mother, with only the gleams of joy when little George
visited her, or with an occasional walk to Russell Square. Then came the
day when the invalid was buried in the churchyard at Brompton and
Amelia's little boy sat by her side at the service in pompous new sables
and quite angry that he could not go to a play upon which he had set his
heart, while his mother's thoughts went back to just such another rainy,
dark day, when she had married George Osborne in that very church.
After the funeral the widow went back to the bereaved old father, who
was stunned and broken by the loss of his wife, his honour, his
fortune, in fact, everything he loved best. There was only Amelia now
to stand by the tottering, heart-broken old man. This she did, to the
best of her ability, all unconscious that on life's ocean a bark was
sailing headed towards her with those aboard who were to bring change
and comfort to her life.
One day when the young gentlemen of Mr. Veal's select school were
assembled in the study, a smart carriage drove up to the door and two
gentlemen stepped out. Everybody was interested, from Mr. Veal himself,
who hoped he saw the fathers of some future pupils arriving, down to
Master George, glad of any pretext of laying his book down.
The boy who always opened the door came into the study, and said: "Two
gentlemen want to see Master Osborne." The Professor had had a trifling
dispute in the morning with that young gentleman, owing to a difference
about the introduction of crackers in school-time; but his face resumed
its habitual expression of bland courtesy, as he said, "Master Osborne, I
give you full permission to go and see your carriage friends,--to whom I
beg you to convey the respectful compliments of myself and Mrs. Veal."
George went into the reception room, and saw two strangers, whom he
looked at with his head up, in his usual haughty manner. One was fat,
with moustaches, and the other was lean and long in a blue frock coat,
with a brown face, and a grizzled head.
"My God, how like he is!" said the long gentleman, with a start. "Can you
guess who we are, George?"
The boy's face flushed up, and his eyes brightened. "I don't know the
other," he said, "but I should think you must be Major Dobbin."
Indeed, it _was_ Major Dobbin, who had come home on urgent private
affairs, and who on board the Ramchunder, East Indiaman, had fallen in
with no other than the Widow Osborne's stout brother, Joseph, who had
passed the last ten years in Bengal. A voyage to Europe was pronounced
necessary for him, and having served his full time in India, and having
laid by a considerable sum of money, he was free to come home and stay
with a good pension, or to return and resume that rank in the service to
which he was entitled.
Many and many a night as the ship was cutting through the roaring dark
sea, the moon and stars shining overhead, and the bell singing out the
watch, Mr. Sedley and the Major would sit on the quarter deck of the
vessel, talking about home as they smoked. In these conversations, with
wonderful perseverance, Major Dobbin would always manage to bring the
talk round to the subject of Amelia. Jos was a little testy about his
father's misfortunes and application to him for money, but was soothed
down by the Major, who pointed out the elder's ill fortunes in old age.
He pointed out how advantageous it would be for Jos Sedley to have a
house of his own in London, and how his sister Amelia would be the very
person to preside over it; how elegant, how gentle she was, and of what
refined good manners. He then hinted how becoming it would be for Jos to
send Georgy to a good school and make a man of him. In a word, this
artful Major made Jos promise to take charge of Amelia and her
unprotected child before that pompous civilian made the discovery that he
was binding himself.
Then came the arrival of the Ramchunder, the going ashore, and the
entrance of the two men into the little home where Amelia was keeping her
faithful watch over her feeble father. The excitement and surprise were a
great shock to the old man, while to Amelia they were the greatest
happiness that could have come to her. Of course the first thing she did
was to show Georgie's miniature, and to tell of his great
accomplishments, and then she secured the promise that the Major and her
brother would visit the Reverend Mr. Veal's school at the earliest
possible moment. This promise we have seen redeemed. Major Dobbin and
Joseph Sedley, having become acquainted with the details of Amelia's
lonely life, and of Georgie's happy one, lost no time in altering such
circumstances as were within their power to change. Jos Sedley,
notwithstanding his pompous selfishness and egoism, had a very tender
heart, and shortly after his first appearance at Brompton, old Sedley and
his daughter were carried away from the humble cottage in which they had
passed the last ten years of their life to the handsome new home which
Jos Sedley had provided for himself and them.
Good fortune now began to smile upon Amelia. Jos's friends were all from
three presidencies, and his new house was in the centre of the
comfortable Anglo-Indian district. Owing to Jos Sedley's position numbers
of people came to see Mrs. Osborne who before had never noticed her. Lady
Dobbin and her daughters were delighted at her change of fortune, and
called upon her. Miss Osborne, herself, came in her grand chariot; Jos
was reported to be immensely rich. Old Osborne had no objection that
George should inherit his uncle's property as well as his own. "We will
make a man of the fellow," he said; "and I will see him in parliament
before I die. You may go and see his mother, Miss Osborne, though _I'll_
never set eyes on her"; and Miss Osborne came. George was allowed to dine
once or twice a week with his mother, and bullied the servants and his
relations there, just as he did in Russell Square.
He was always respectful to Major Dobbin, however, and more modest in
his demeanour when that gentleman was present. He was a clever lad, and
afraid of the Major. George could not help admiring his friend's
simplicity, his good-humour, his various learning quietly imparted, his
general love of truth and justice. He had met no such man as yet in the
course of his experience, and he had an instinctive liking for a
gentleman. He hung fondly by his god-father's side; and it was his
delight to walk in the Parks and hear Dobbin talk. William told George
about his father, about India and Waterloo, about everything but
himself. When George was more than usually pert and conceited, the Major
joked at him, which Mrs. Osborne thought very cruel. One day taking him
to the play, and the boy declining to go into the pit because it was
vulgar, the Major took him to the boxes, left him there, and went down
himself to the pit. He had not been seated there very long before he
felt an arm thrust under his, and a dandy little hand in a kid-glove
squeezing his arm. George had seen the absurdity of his ways, and come
down from the upper region. A tender laugh of benevolence lighted up old
Dobbin's face and eyes as he looked at the repentant little prodigal. He
loved the boy very deeply.
If there was a sincere liking between George and the Major, it must be
confessed that between the boy and his Uncle Joseph no great love
existed. George had got a way of blowing out his cheeks, and putting his
hands in his waistcoat pockets, and saying, "God bless my soul, you don't
say so," so exactly after the fashion of old Jos, that it was impossible
to refrain from laughter. The servants would explode at dinner if the
lad, asking for something which wasn't at table, put on that countenance
and used that favourite phrase. Even Dobbin would shoot out a sudden peal
at the boy's mimicry. If George did not mimic his uncle to his face, it
was only by Dobbin's rebukes and Amelia's terrified entreaties that the
little scapegrace was induced to desist. And Joseph, having a dim
consciousness that the lad thought him an ass, and was inclined to turn
him into ridicule, used to be of course doubly pompous and dignified in
the presence of Master George. When it was announced that the young
gentleman was expected to dine with his mother, Mr. Jos commonly found
that he had an engagement at the Club, and perhaps nobody was much
grieved at his absence.
Before long Amelia had a visiting-book, and was driving about regularly
in a carriage, from which a buttony boy sprang from the box with Amelia's
and Jos's visiting cards. At stated hours Emmy and the carriage went to
the Club, and took Jos for an airing; or, putting old Sedley into the
vehicle, she drove the old man round the Regent's Park. We are not long
in growing used to changes in life. Her lady's-maid and the chariot, her
visiting book, and the buttony page became soon as familiar to Amelia as
the humble routine of Brompton. She accommodated herself to one as to the
other, and entertained Jos's friends with the same unselfish charm with
which she cared for and amused old John Sedley.
Then came the day when that poor old man closed his eyes on the familiar
scenes of earth, and Major Dobbin, Jos, and George followed his
remains-to the grave in a black cloth coach. "You see," said old Osborne
to George, when the burial was over, "what comes of merit and industry
and good speculation, and that. Look at me and my bank account. Look at
your poor Grandfather Sedley, and his failure. And yet he was a better
man than I was, this day twenty years--a better man, I should say, by ten