Part 3 out of 16
throwing his gooseberry-coloured eyes up to the ceiling. He was
always thinking of his brother's soul, or of the souls of those who
differed with him in opinion: it is a sort of comfort which many of
the serious give themselves.
Silly, romantic Miss Crawley, far from being horrified at the
courage of her favourite, always used to pay his debts after his
duels; and would not listen to a word that was whispered against his
morality. "He will sow his wild oats," she would say, "and is worth
far more than that puling hypocrite of a brother of his."
Besides these honest folks at the Hall (whose simplicity and sweet
rural purity surely show the advantage of a country life over a town
one), we must introduce the reader to their relatives and neighbours
at the Rectory, Bute Crawley and his wife.
The Reverend Bute Crawley was a tall, stately, jolly, shovel-hatted
man, far more popular in his county than the Baronet his brother.
At college he pulled stroke-oar in the Christchurch boat, and had
thrashed all the best bruisers of the "town." He carried his taste
for boxing and athletic exercises into private life; there was not a
fight within twenty miles at which he was not present, nor a race,
nor a coursing match, nor a regatta, nor a ball, nor an election,
nor a visitation dinner, nor indeed a good dinner in the whole
county, but he found means to attend it. You might see his bay mare
and gig-lamps a score of miles away from his Rectory House, whenever
there was any dinner-party at Fuddleston, or at Roxby, or at Wapshot
Hall, or at the great lords of the county, with all of whom he was
intimate. He had a fine voice; sang "A southerly wind and a cloudy
sky"; and gave the "whoop" in chorus with general applause. He rode
to hounds in a pepper-and-salt frock, and was one of the best
fishermen in the county.
Mrs. Crawley, the rector's wife, was a smart little body, who wrote
this worthy divine's sermons. Being of a domestic turn, and keeping
the house a great deal with her daughters, she ruled absolutely
within the Rectory, wisely giving her husband full liberty without.
He was welcome to come and go, and dine abroad as many days as his
fancy dictated, for Mrs. Crawley was a saving woman and knew the
price of port wine. Ever since Mrs. Bute carried off the young
Rector of Queen's Crawley (she was of a good family, daughter of the
late Lieut.-Colonel Hector McTavish, and she and her mother played
for Bute and won him at Harrowgate), she had been a prudent and
thrifty wife to him. In spite of her care, however, he was always
in debt. It took him at least ten years to pay off his college
bills contracted during his father's lifetime. In the year 179-,
when he was just clear of these incumbrances, he gave the odds of
100 to 1 (in twenties) against Kangaroo, who won the Derby. The
Rector was obliged to take up the money at a ruinous interest, and
had been struggling ever since. His sister helped him with a
hundred now and then, but of course his great hope was in her death--
when "hang it" (as he would say), "Matilda must leave me half her
So that the Baronet and his brother had every reason which two
brothers possibly can have for being by the ears. Sir Pitt had had
the better of Bute in innumerable family transactions. Young Pitt
not only did not hunt, but set up a meeting house under his uncle's
very nose. Rawdon, it was known, was to come in for the bulk of Miss
Crawley's property. These money transactions--these speculations in
life and death--these silent battles for reversionary spoil--make
brothers very loving towards each other in Vanity Fair. I, for my
part, have known a five-pound note to interpose and knock up a half
century's attachment between two brethren; and can't but admire, as
I think what a fine and durable thing Love is among worldly people.
It cannot be supposed that the arrival of such a personage as
Rebecca at Queen's Crawley, and her gradual establishment in the
good graces of all people there, could be unremarked by Mrs. Bute
Crawley. Mrs. Bute, who knew how many days the sirloin of beef
lasted at the Hall; how much linen was got ready at the great wash;
how many peaches were on the south wall; how many doses her ladyship
took when she was ill--for such points are matters of intense
interest to certain persons in the country--Mrs. Bute, I say, could
not pass over the Hall governess without making every inquiry
respecting her history and character. There was always the best
understanding between the servants at the Rectory and the Hall.
There was always a good glass of ale in the kitchen of the former
place for the Hall people, whose ordinary drink was very small--and,
indeed, the Rector's lady knew exactly how much malt went to every
barrel of Hall beer--ties of relationship existed between the Hall
and Rectory domestics, as between their masters; and through these
channels each family was perfectly well acquainted with the doings
of the other. That, by the way, may be set down as a general
remark. When you and your brother are friends, his doings are
indifferent to you. When you have quarrelled, all his outgoings and
incomings you know, as if you were his spy.
Very soon then after her arrival, Rebecca began to take a regular
place in Mrs. Crawley's bulletin from the Hall. It was to this
effect: "The black porker's killed--weighed x stone--salted the
sides--pig's pudding and leg of pork for dinner. Mr. Cramp from
Mudbury, over with Sir Pitt about putting John Blackmore in gaol--
Mr. Pitt at meeting (with all the names of the people who attended)
--my lady as usual--the young ladies with the governess."
Then the report would come--the new governess be a rare manager--Sir
Pitt be very sweet on her--Mr. Crawley too--He be reading tracts to
her--"What an abandoned wretch!" said little, eager, active, black-
faced Mrs. Bute Crawley.
Finally, the reports were that the governess had "come round"
everybody, wrote Sir Pitt's letters, did his business, managed his
accounts--had the upper hand of the whole house, my lady, Mr.
Crawley, the girls and all--at which Mrs. Crawley declared she was
an artful hussy, and had some dreadful designs in view. Thus the
doings at the Hall were the great food for conversation at the
Rectory, and Mrs. Bute's bright eyes spied out everything that took
place in the enemy's camp--everything and a great deal besides.
Mrs. Bute Crawley to Miss Pinkerton, The Mall, Chiswick.
Rectory, Queen's Crawley, December--.
My Dear Madam,--Although it is so many years since I profited by
your delightful and invaluable instructions, yet I have ever
retained the FONDEST and most reverential regard for Miss Pinkerton,
and DEAR Chiswick. I hope your health is GOOD. The world and the
cause of education cannot afford to lose Miss Pinkerton for MANY
MANY YEARS. When my friend, Lady Fuddleston, mentioned that her
dear girls required an instructress (I am too poor to engage a
governess for mine, but was I not educated at Chiswick?)--"Who," I
exclaimed, "can we consult but the excellent, the incomparable Miss
Pinkerton?" In a word, have you, dear madam, any ladies on your
list, whose services might be made available to my kind friend and
neighbour? I assure you she will take no governess BUT OF YOUR
My dear husband is pleased to say that he likes EVERYTHING WHICH
COMES FROM MISS PINKERTON'S SCHOOL. How I wish I could present him
and my beloved girls to the friend of my youth, and the ADMIRED of
the great lexicographer of our country! If you ever travel into
Hampshire, Mr. Crawley begs me to say, he hopes you will adorn our
RURAL RECTORY with your presence. 'Tis the humble but happy home of
Your affectionate Martha Crawley
P.S. Mr. Crawley's brother, the baronet, with whom we are not,
alas! upon those terms of UNITY in which it BECOMES BRETHREN TO
DWELL, has a governess for his little girls, who, I am told, had the
good fortune to be educated at Chiswick. I hear various reports of
her; and as I have the tenderest interest in my dearest little
nieces, whom I wish, in spite of family differences, to see among my
own children--and as I long to be attentive to ANY PUPIL OF YOURS--
do, my dear Miss Pinkerton, tell me the history of this young lady,
whom, for YOUR SAKE, I am most anxious to befriend.--M. C.
Miss Pinkerton to Mrs. Bute Crawley.
Johnson House, Chiswick, Dec. 18--.
Dear Madam,--I have the honour to acknowledge your polite
communication, to which I promptly reply. 'Tis most gratifying to
one in my most arduous position to find that my maternal cares have
elicited a responsive affection; and to recognize in the amiable
Mrs. Bute Crawley my excellent pupil of former years, the sprightly
and accomplished Miss Martha MacTavish. I am happy to have under my
charge now the daughters of many of those who were your
contemporaries at my establishment--what pleasure it would give me
if your own beloved young ladies had need of my instructive
Presenting my respectful compliments to Lady Fuddleston, I have the
honour (epistolarily) to introduce to her ladyship my two friends,
Miss Tuffin and Miss Hawky.
Either of these young ladies is PERFECTLY QUALIFIED to instruct in
Greek, Latin, and the rudiments of Hebrew; in mathematics and
history; in Spanish, French, Italian, and geography; in music, vocal
and instrumental; in dancing, without the aid of a master; and in
the elements of natural sciences. In the use of the globes both are
proficients. In addition to these Miss Tuffin, who is daughter of
the late Reverend Thomas Tuffin (Fellow of Corpus College,
Cambridge), can instruct in the Syriac language, and the elements of
Constitutional law. But as she is only eighteen years of age, and of
exceedingly pleasing personal appearance, perhaps this young lady
may be objectionable in Sir Huddleston Fuddleston's family.
Miss Letitia Hawky, on the other hand, is not personally well-
favoured. She is-twenty-nine; her face is much pitted with the
small-pox. She has a halt in her gait, red hair, and a trifling
obliquity of vision. Both ladies are endowed with EVERY MORAL AND
RELIGIOUS VIRTUE. Their terms, of course, are such as their
accomplishments merit. With my most grateful respects to the
Reverend Bute Crawley, I have the honour to be,
Your most faithful and obedient servant, Barbara Pinkerton.
P.S. The Miss Sharp, whom you mention as governess to Sir Pitt
Crawley, Bart., M.P., was a pupil of mine, and I have nothing to say
in her disfavour. Though her appearance is disagreeable, we cannot
control the operations of nature: and though her parents were
disreputable (her father being a painter, several times bankrupt,
and her mother, as I have since learned, with horror, a dancer at
the Opera); yet her talents are considerable, and I cannot regret
that I received her OUT OF CHARITY. My dread is, lest the
principles of the mother--who was represented to me as a French
Countess, forced to emigrate in the late revolutionary horrors; but
who, as I have since found, was a person of the very lowest order
and morals--should at any time prove to be HEREDITARY in the unhappy
young woman whom I took as AN OUTCAST. But her principles have
hitherto been correct (I believe), and I am sure nothing will occur
to injure them in the elegant and refined circle of the eminent Sir
Miss Rebecca Sharp to Miss Amelia Sedley.
I have not written to my beloved Amelia for these many weeks past,
for what news was there to tell of the sayings and doings at Humdrum
Hall, as I have christened it; and what do you care whether the
turnip crop is good or bad; whether the fat pig weighed thirteen
stone or fourteen; and whether the beasts thrive well upon
mangelwurzel? Every day since I last wrote has been like its
neighbour. Before breakfast, a walk with Sir Pitt and his spud;
after breakfast studies (such as they are) in the schoolroom; after
schoolroom, reading and writing about lawyers, leases, coal-mines,
canals, with Sir Pitt (whose secretary I am become); after dinner,
Mr. Crawley's discourses on the baronet's backgammon; during both of
which amusements my lady looks on with equal placidity. She has
become rather more interesting by being ailing of late, which has
brought a new visitor to the Hall, in the person of a young doctor.
Well, my dear, young women need never despair. The young doctor
gave a certain friend of yours to understand that, if she chose to
be Mrs. Glauber, she was welcome to ornament the surgery! I told his
impudence that the gilt pestle and mortar was quite ornament enough;
as if I was born, indeed, to be a country surgeon's wife! Mr.
Glauber went home seriously indisposed at his rebuff, took a cooling
draught, and is now quite cured. Sir Pitt applauded my resolution
highly; he would be sorry to lose his little secretary, I think; and
I believe the old wretch likes me as much as it is in his nature to
like any one. Marry, indeed! and with a country apothecary, after--
No, no, one cannot so soon forget old associations, about which I
will talk no more. Let us return to Humdrum Hall.
For some time past it is Humdrum Hall no longer. My dear, Miss
Crawley has arrived with her fat horses, fat servants, fat spaniel--
the great rich Miss Crawley, with seventy thousand pounds in the
five per cents., whom, or I had better say WHICH, her two brothers
adore. She looks very apoplectic, the dear soul; no wonder her
brothers are anxious about her. You should see them struggling to
settle her cushions, or to hand her coffee! "When I come into the
country," she says (for she has a great deal of humour), "I leave my
toady, Miss Briggs, at home. My brothers are my toadies here, my
dear, and a pretty pair they are!"
When she comes into the country our hall is thrown open, and for a
month, at least, you would fancy old Sir Walpole was come to life
again. We have dinner-parties, and drive out in the coach-and-four
the footmen put on their newest canary-coloured liveries; we drink
claret and champagne as if we were accustomed to it every day. We
have wax candles in the schoolroom, and fires to warm ourselves
with. Lady Crawley is made to put on the brightest pea-green in her
wardrobe, and my pupils leave off their thick shoes and tight old
tartan pelisses, and wear silk stockings and muslin frocks, as
fashionable baronets' daughters should. Rose came in yesterday in a
sad plight--the Wiltshire sow (an enormous pet of hers) ran her
down, and destroyed a most lovely flowered lilac silk dress by
dancing over it--had this happened a week ago, Sir Pitt would have
sworn frightfully, have boxed the poor wretch's ears, and put her
upon bread and water for a month. All he said was, "I'll serve you
out, Miss, when your aunt's gone," and laughed off the accident as
quite trivial. Let us hope his wrath will have passed away before
Miss Crawley's departure. I hope so, for Miss Rose's sake, I am
sure. What a charming reconciler and peacemaker money is!
Another admirable effect of Miss Crawley and her seventy thousand
pounds is to be seen in the conduct of the two brothers Crawley. I
mean the baronet and the rector, not OUR brothers--but the former,
who hate each other all the year round, become quite loving at
Christmas. I wrote to you last year how the abominable horse-racing
rector was in the habit of preaching clumsy sermons at us at church,
and how Sir Pitt snored in answer. When Miss Crawley arrives there
is no such thing as quarrelling heard of--the Hall visits the
Rectory, and vice versa--the parson and the Baronet talk about the
pigs and the poachers, and the county business, in the most affable
manner, and without quarrelling in their cups, I believe--indeed
Miss Crawley won't hear of their quarrelling, and vows that she will
leave her money to the Shropshire Crawleys if they offend her. If
they were clever people, those Shropshire Crawleys, they might have
it all, I think; but the Shropshire Crawley is a clergyman like his
Hampshire cousin, and mortally offended Miss Crawley (who had fled
thither in a fit of rage against her impracticable brethren) by some
strait-laced notions of morality. He would have prayers in the
house, I believe.
Our sermon books are shut up when Miss Crawley arrives, and Mr.
Pitt, whom she abominates, finds it convenient to go to town. On
the other hand, the young dandy--"blood," I believe, is the term--
Captain Crawley makes his appearance, and I suppose you will like to
know what sort of a person he is.
Well, he is a very large young dandy. He is six feet high, and
speaks with a great voice; and swears a great deal; and orders about
the servants, who all adore him nevertheless; for he is very
generous of his money, and the domestics will do anything for him.
Last week the keepers almost killed a bailiff and his man who came
down from London to arrest the Captain, and who were found lurking
about the Park wall--they beat them, ducked them, and were going to
shoot them for poachers, but the baronet interfered.
The Captain has a hearty contempt for his father, I can see, and
calls him an old PUT, an old SNOB, an old CHAW-BACON, and numberless
other pretty names. He has a DREADFUL REPUTATION among the ladies.
He brings his hunters home with him, lives with the Squires of the
county, asks whom he pleases to dinner, and Sir Pitt dares not say
no, for fear of offending Miss Crawley, and missing his legacy when
she dies of her apoplexy. Shall I tell you a compliment the Captain
paid me? I must, it is so pretty. One evening we actually had a
dance; there was Sir Huddleston Fuddleston and his family, Sir Giles
Wapshot and his young ladies, and I don't know how many more. Well,
I heard him say--"By Jove, she's a neat little filly!" meaning your
humble servant; and he did me the honour to dance two country-dances
with me. He gets on pretty gaily with the young Squires, with whom
he drinks, bets, rides, and talks about hunting and shooting; but he
says the country girls are BORES; indeed, I don't think he is far
wrong. You should see the contempt with which they look down on poor
me! When they dance I sit and play the piano very demurely; but the
other night, coming in rather flushed from the dining-room, and
seeing me employed in this way, he swore out loud that I was the
best dancer in the room, and took a great oath that he would have
the fiddlers from Mudbury.
"I'll go and play a country-dance," said Mrs. Bute Crawley, very
readily (she is a little, black-faced old woman in a turban, rather
crooked, and with very twinkling eyes); and after the Captain and
your poor little Rebecca had performed a dance together, do you know
she actually did me the honour to compliment me upon my steps! Such
a thing was never heard of before; the proud Mrs. Bute Crawley,
first cousin to the Earl of Tiptoff, who won't condescend to visit
Lady Crawley, except when her sister is in the country. Poor Lady
Crawley! during most part of these gaieties, she is upstairs taking
Mrs. Bute has all of a sudden taken a great fancy to me. "My dear
Miss Sharp," she says, "why not bring over your girls to the
Rectory?--their cousins will be so happy to see them." I know what
she means. Signor Clementi did not teach us the piano for nothing;
at which price Mrs. Bute hopes to get a professor for her children.
I can see through her schemes, as though she told them to me; but I
shall go, as I am determined to make myself agreeable--is it not a
poor governess's duty, who has not a friend or protector in the
world? The Rector's wife paid me a score of compliments about the
progress my pupils made, and thought, no doubt, to touch my heart--
poor, simple, country soul!--as if I cared a fig about my pupils!
Your India muslin and your pink silk, dearest Amelia, are said to
become me very well. They are a good deal worn now; but, you know,
we poor girls can't afford des fraiches toilettes. Happy, happy
you! who have but to drive to St. James's Street, and a dear mother
who will give you any thing you ask. Farewell, dearest girl,
Your affectionate Rebecca.
P.S.--I wish you could have seen the faces of the Miss Blackbrooks
(Admiral Blackbrook's daughters, my dear), fine young ladies, with
dresses from London, when Captain Rawdon selected poor me for a
When Mrs. Bute Crawley (whose artifices our ingenious Rebecca had so
soon discovered) had procured from Miss Sharp the promise of a
visit, she induced the all-powerful Miss Crawley to make the
necessary application to Sir Pitt, and the good-natured old lady,
who loved to be gay herself, and to see every one gay and happy
round about her, was quite charmed, and ready to establish a
reconciliation and intimacy between her two brothers. It was
therefore agreed that the young people of both families should visit
each other frequently for the future, and the friendship of course
lasted as long as the jovial old mediatrix was there to keep the
"Why did you ask that scoundrel, Rawdon Crawley, to dine?" said the
Rector to his lady, as they were walking home through the park. "I
don't want the fellow. He looks down upon us country people as so
many blackamoors. He's never content unless he gets my yellow-sealed
wine, which costs me ten shillings a bottle, hang him! Besides, he's
such an infernal character--he's a gambler--he's a drunkard--he's a
profligate in every way. He shot a man in a duel--he's over head
and ears in debt, and he's robbed me and mine of the best part of
Miss Crawley's fortune. Waxy says she has him"--here the Rector
shook his fist at the moon, with something very like an oath, and
added, in a melancholious tone, "--down in her will for fifty
thousand; and there won't be above thirty to divide."
"I think she's going," said the Rector's wife. "She was very red in
the face when we left dinner. I was obliged to unlace her."
"She drank seven glasses of champagne," said the reverend gentleman,
in a low voice; "and filthy champagne it is, too, that my brother
poisons us with--but you women never know what's what."
"We know nothing," said Mrs. Bute Crawley.
"She drank cherry-brandy after dinner," continued his Reverence,
"and took curacao with her coffee. I wouldn't take a glass for a
five-pound note: it kills me with heartburn. She can't stand it,
Mrs. Crawley--she must go--flesh and blood won't bear it! and I lay
five to two, Matilda drops in a year."
Indulging in these solemn speculations, and thinking about his
debts, and his son Jim at College, and Frank at Woolwich, and the
four girls, who were no beauties, poor things, and would not have a
penny but what they got from the aunt's expected legacy, the Rector
and his lady walked on for a while.
"Pitt can't be such an infernal villain as to sell the reversion of
the living. And that Methodist milksop of an eldest son looks to
Parliament," continued Mr. Crawley, after a pause.
"Sir Pitt Crawley will do anything," said the Rector's wife. "We
must get Miss Crawley to make him promise it to James."
"Pitt will promise anything," replied the brother. "He promised
he'd pay my college bills, when my father died; he promised he'd
build the new wing to the Rectory; he promised he'd let me have
Jibb's field and the Six-acre Meadow--and much he executed his
promises! And it's to this man's son--this scoundrel, gambler,
swindler, murderer of a Rawdon Crawley, that Matilda leaves the bulk
of her money. I say it's un-Christian. By Jove, it is. The
infamous dog has got every vice except hypocrisy, and that belongs
to his brother."
"Hush, my dearest love! we're in Sir Pitt's grounds," interposed his
"I say he has got every vice, Mrs. Crawley. Don't Ma'am, bully me.
Didn't he shoot Captain Marker? Didn't he rob young Lord Dovedale at
the Cocoa-Tree? Didn't he cross the fight between Bill Soames and
the Cheshire Trump, by which I lost forty pound? You know he did;
and as for the women, why, you heard that before me, in my own
"For heaven's sake, Mr. Crawley," said the lady, "spare me the
"And you ask this villain into your house!" continued the
exasperated Rector. "You, the mother of a young family--the wife of
a clergyman of the Church of England. By Jove!"
"Bute Crawley, you are a fool," said the Rector's wife scornfully.
"Well, Ma'am, fool or not--and I don't say, Martha, I'm so clever as
you are, I never did. But I won't meet Rawdon Crawley, that's flat.
I'll go over to Huddleston, that I will, and see his black
greyhound, Mrs. Crawley; and I'll run Lancelot against him for
fifty. By Jove, I will; or against any dog in England. But I won't
meet that beast Rawdon Crawley."
"Mr. Crawley, you are intoxicated, as usual," replied his wife. And
the next morning, when the Rector woke, and called for small beer,
she put him in mind of his promise to visit Sir Huddleston
Fuddleston on Saturday, and as he knew he should have a wet night,
it was agreed that he might gallop back again in time for church on
Sunday morning. Thus it will be seen that the parishioners of
Crawley were equally happy in their Squire and in their Rector.
Miss Crawley had not long been established at the Hall before
Rebecca's fascinations had won the heart of that good-natured London
rake, as they had of the country innocents whom we have been
describing. Taking her accustomed drive, one day, she thought fit
to order that "that little governess" should accompany her to
Mudbury. Before they had returned Rebecca had made a conquest of
her; having made her laugh four times, and amused her during the
whole of the little journey.
"Not let Miss Sharp dine at table!" said she to Sir Pitt, who had
arranged a dinner of ceremony, and asked all the neighbouring
baronets. "My dear creature, do you suppose I can talk about the
nursery with Lady Fuddleston, or discuss justices' business with
that goose, old Sir Giles Wapshot? I insist upon Miss Sharp
appearing. Let Lady Crawley remain upstairs, if there is no room.
But little Miss Sharp! Why, she's the only person fit to talk to in
Of course, after such a peremptory order as this, Miss Sharp, the
governess, received commands to dine with the illustrious company
below stairs. And when Sir Huddleston had, with great pomp and
ceremony, handed Miss Crawley in to dinner, and was preparing to
take his place by her side, the old lady cried out, in a shrill
voice, "Becky Sharp! Miss Sharp! Come you and sit by me and amuse
me; and let Sir Huddleston sit by Lady Wapshot."
When the parties were over, and the carriages had rolled away, the
insatiable Miss Crawley would say, "Come to my dressing room, Becky,
and let us abuse the company"--which, between them, this pair of
friends did perfectly. Old Sir Huddleston wheezed a great deal at
dinner; Sir Giles Wapshot had a particularly noisy manner of
imbibing his soup, and her ladyship a wink of the left eye; all of
which Becky caricatured to admiration; as well as the particulars of
the night's conversation; the politics; the war; the quarter-
sessions; the famous run with the H.H., and those heavy and dreary
themes, about which country gentlemen converse. As for the Misses
Wapshot's toilettes and Lady Fuddleston's famous yellow hat, Miss
Sharp tore them to tatters, to the infinite amusement of her
"My dear, you are a perfect trouvaille," Miss Crawley would say. "I
wish you could come to me in London, but I couldn't make a butt of
you as I do of poor Briggs no, no, you little sly creature; you are
too clever--Isn't she, Firkin?"
Mrs. Firkin (who was dressing the very small remnant of hair which
remained on Miss Crawley's pate), flung up her head and said, "I
think Miss is very clever," with the most killing sarcastic air. In
fact, Mrs. Firkin had that natural jealousy which is one of the main
principles of every honest woman.
After rebuffing Sir Huddleston Fuddleston, Miss Crawley ordered that
Rawdon Crawley should lead her in to dinner every day, and that
Becky should follow with her cushion--or else she would have Becky's
arm and Rawdon with the pillow. "We must sit together," she said.
"We're the only three Christians in the county, my love"--in which
case, it must be confessed, that religion was at a very low ebb in
the county of Hants.
Besides being such a fine religionist, Miss Crawley was, as we have
said, an Ultra-liberal in opinions, and always took occasion to
express these in the most candid manner.
"What is birth, my dear!" she would say to Rebecca--"Look at my
brother Pitt; look at the Huddlestons, who have been here since
Henry II; look at poor Bute at the parsonage--is any one of them
equal to you in intelligence or breeding? Equal to you--they are not
even equal to poor dear Briggs, my companion, or Bowls, my butler.
You, my love, are a little paragon--positively a little jewel--You
have more brains than half the shire--if merit had its reward you
ought to be a Duchess--no, there ought to be no duchesses at all--
but you ought to have no superior, and I consider you, my love, as
my equal in every respect; and--will you put some coals on the fire,
my dear; and will you pick this dress of mine, and alter it, you who
can do it so well?" So this old philanthropist used to make her
equal run of her errands, execute her millinery, and read her to
sleep with French novels, every night.
At this time, as some old readers may recollect, the genteel world
had been thrown into a considerable state of excitement by two
events, which, as the papers say, might give employment to the
gentlemen of the long robe. Ensign Shafton had run away with Lady
Barbara Fitzurse, the Earl of Bruin's daughter and heiress; and poor
Vere Vane, a gentleman who, up to forty, had maintained a most
respectable character and reared a numerous family, suddenly and
outrageously left his home, for the sake of Mrs. Rougemont, the
actress, who was sixty-five years of age.
"That was the most beautiful part of dear Lord Nelson's character,"
Miss Crawley said. "He went to the deuce for a woman. There must
be good in a man who will do that. I adore all impudent matches.--
What I like best, is for a nobleman to marry a miller's daughter, as
Lord Flowerdale did--it makes all the women so angry--I wish some
great man would run away with you, my dear; I'm sure you're pretty
"Two post-boys!--Oh, it would be delightful!" Rebecca owned.
"And what I like next best, is for a poor fellow to run away with a
rich girl. I have set my heart on Rawdon running away with some
"A rich some one, or a poor some one?"
"Why, you goose! Rawdon has not a shilling but what I give him. He
is crible de dettes--he must repair his fortunes, and succeed in the
"Is he very clever?" Rebecca asked.
"Clever, my love?--not an idea in the world beyond his horses, and
his regiment, and his hunting, and his play; but he must succeed--
he's so delightfully wicked. Don't you know he has hit a man, and
shot an injured father through the hat only? He's adored in his
regiment; and all the young men at Wattier's and the Cocoa-Tree
swear by him."
When Miss Rebecca Sharp wrote to her beloved friend the account of
the little ball at Queen's Crawley, and the manner in which, for the
first time, Captain Crawley had distinguished her, she did not,
strange to relate, give an altogether accurate account of the
transaction. The Captain had distinguished her a great number of
times before. The Captain had met her in a half-score of walks.
The Captain had lighted upon her in a half-hundred of corridors and
passages. The Captain had hung over her piano twenty times of an
evening (my Lady was now upstairs, being ill, and nobody heeded her)
as Miss Sharp sang. The Captain had written her notes (the best
that the great blundering dragoon could devise and spell; but
dulness gets on as well as any other quality with women). But when
he put the first of the notes into the leaves of the song she was
singing, the little governess, rising and looking him steadily in
the face, took up the triangular missive daintily, and waved it
about as if it were a cocked hat, and she, advancing to the enemy,
popped the note into the fire, and made him a very low curtsey, and
went back to her place, and began to sing away again more merrily
"What's that?" said Miss Crawley, interrupted in her after-dinner
doze by the stoppage of the music.
"It's a false note," Miss Sharp said with a laugh; and Rawdon
Crawley fumed with rage and mortification.
Seeing the evident partiality of Miss Crawley for the new governess,
how good it was of Mrs. Bute Crawley not to be jealous, and to
welcome the young lady to the Rectory, and not only her, but Rawdon
Crawley, her husband's rival in the Old Maid's five per cents! They
became very fond of each other's society, Mrs. Crawley and her
nephew. He gave up hunting; he declined entertainments at
Fuddleston: he would not dine with the mess of the depot at Mudbury:
his great pleasure was to stroll over to Crawley parsonage--whither
Miss Crawley came too; and as their mamma was ill, why not the
children with Miss Sharp? So the children (little dears!) came with
Miss Sharp; and of an evening some of the party would walk back
together. Not Miss Crawley--she preferred her carriage--but the
walk over the Rectory fields, and in at the little park wicket, and
through the dark plantation, and up the checkered avenue to Queen's
Crawley, was charming in the moonlight to two such lovers of the
picturesque as the Captain and Miss Rebecca.
"O those stars, those stars!" Miss Rebecca would say, turning her
twinkling green eyes up towards them. "I feel myself almost a
spirit when I gaze upon them."
"O--ah--Gad--yes, so do I exactly, Miss Sharp," the other enthusiast
replied. "You don't mind my cigar, do you, Miss Sharp?" Miss Sharp
loved the smell of a cigar out of doors beyond everything in the
world--and she just tasted one too, in the prettiest way possible,
and gave a little puff, and a little scream, and a little giggle,
and restored the delicacy to the Captain, who twirled his moustache,
and straightway puffed it into a blaze that glowed quite red in the
dark plantation, and swore--"Jove--aw--Gad--aw--it's the finest
segaw I ever smoked in the world aw," for his intellect and
conversation were alike brilliant and becoming to a heavy young
Old Sir Pitt, who was taking his pipe and beer, and talking to John
Horrocks about a "ship" that was to be killed, espied the pair so
occupied from his study-window, and with dreadful oaths swore that
if it wasn't for Miss Crawley, he'd take Rawdon and bundle un out of
doors, like a rogue as he was.
"He be a bad'n, sure enough," Mr. Horrocks remarked; "and his man
Flethers is wuss, and have made such a row in the housekeeper's room
about the dinners and hale, as no lord would make--but I think Miss
Sharp's a match for'n, Sir Pitt," he added, after a pause.
And so, in truth, she was--for father and son too.
Quite a Sentimental Chapter
We must now take leave of Arcadia, and those amiable people
practising the rural virtues there, and travel back to London, to
inquire what has become of Miss Amelia "We don't care a fig for
her," writes some unknown correspondent with a pretty little
handwriting and a pink seal to her note. "She is fade and insipid,"
and adds some more kind remarks in this strain, which I should never
have repeated at all, but that they are in truth prodigiously
complimentary to the young lady whom they concern.
Has the beloved reader, in his experience of society, never heard
similar remarks by good-natured female friends; who always wonder
what you CAN see in Miss Smith that is so fascinating; or what COULD
induce Major Jones to propose for that silly insignificant simpering
Miss Thompson, who has nothing but her wax-doll face to recommend
her? What is there in a pair of pink cheeks and blue eyes forsooth?
these dear Moralists ask, and hint wisely that the gifts of genius,
the accomplishments of the mind, the mastery of Mangnall's
Questions, and a ladylike knowledge of botany and geology, the knack
of making poetry, the power of rattling sonatas in the Herz-manner,
and so forth, are far more valuable endowments for a female, than
those fugitive charms which a few years will inevitably tarnish. It
is quite edifying to hear women speculate upon the worthlessness and
the duration of beauty.
But though virtue is a much finer thing, and those hapless creatures
who suffer under the misfortune of good looks ought to be
continually put in mind of the fate which awaits them; and though,
very likely, the heroic female character which ladies admire is a
more glorious and beautiful object than the kind, fresh, smiling,
artless, tender little domestic goddess, whom men are inclined to
worship--yet the latter and inferior sort of women must have this
consolation--that the men do admire them after all; and that, in
spite of all our kind friends' warnings and protests, we go on in
our desperate error and folly, and shall to the end of the chapter.
Indeed, for my own part, though I have been repeatedly told by
persons for whom I have the greatest respect, that Miss Brown is an
insignificant chit, and Mrs. White has nothing but her petit minois
chiffonne, and Mrs. Black has not a word to say for herself; yet I
know that I have had the most delightful conversations with Mrs.
Black (of course, my dear Madam, they are inviolable): I see all the
men in a cluster round Mrs. White's chair: all the young fellows
battling to dance with Miss Brown; and so I am tempted to think that
to be despised by her sex is a very great compliment to a woman.
The young ladies in Amelia's society did this for her very
satisfactorily. For instance, there was scarcely any point upon
which the Misses Osborne, George's sisters, and the Mesdemoiselles
Dobbin agreed so well as in their estimate of her very trifling
merits: and their wonder that their brothers could find any charms
in her. "We are kind to her," the Misses Osborne said, a pair of
fine black-browed young ladies who had had the best of governesses,
masters, and milliners; and they treated her with such extreme
kindness and condescension, and patronised her so insufferably, that
the poor little thing was in fact perfectly dumb in their presence,
and to all outward appearance as stupid as they thought her. She
made efforts to like them, as in duty bound, and as sisters of her
future husband. She passed "long mornings" with them--the most
dreary and serious of forenoons. She drove out solemnly in their
great family coach with them, and Miss Wirt their governess, that
raw-boned Vestal. They took her to the ancient concerts by way of a
treat, and to the oratorio, and to St. Paul's to see the charity
children, where in such terror was she of her friends, she almost
did not dare be affected by the hymn the children sang. Their house
was comfortable; their papa's table rich and handsome; their society
solemn and genteel; their self-respect prodigious; they had the best
pew at the Foundling: all their habits were pompous and orderly, and
all their amusements intolerably dull and decorous. After every one
of her visits (and oh how glad she was when they were over!) Miss
Osborne and Miss Maria Osborne, and Miss Wirt, the vestal governess,
asked each other with increased wonder, "What could George find in
How is this? some carping reader exclaims. How is it that Amelia,
who had such a number of friends at school, and was so beloved
there, comes out into the world and is spurned by her discriminating
sex? My dear sir, there were no men at Miss Pinkerton's
establishment except the old dancing-master; and you would not have
had the girls fall out about HIM? When George, their handsome
brother, ran off directly after breakfast, and dined from home half-
a-dozen times a week, no wonder the neglected sisters felt a little
vexation. When young Bullock (of the firm of Hulker, Bullock & Co.,
Bankers, Lombard Street), who had been making up to Miss Maria the
last two seasons, actually asked Amelia to dance the cotillon, could
you expect that the former young lady should be pleased? And yet she
said she was, like an artless forgiving creature. "I'm so delighted
you like dear Amelia," she said quite eagerly to Mr. Bullock after
the dance. "She's engaged to my brother George; there's not much in
her, but she's the best-natured and most unaffected young creature:
at home we're all so fond of her." Dear girl! who can calculate the
depth of affection expressed in that enthusiastic SO?
Miss Wirt and these two affectionate young women so earnestly and
frequently impressed upon George Osborne's mind the enormity of the
sacrifice he was making, and his romantic generosity in throwing
himself away upon Amelia, that I'm not sure but that he really
thought he was one of the most deserving characters in the British
army, and gave himself up to be loved with a good deal of easy
Somehow, although he left home every morning, as was stated, and
dined abroad six days in the week, when his sisters believed the
infatuated youth to be at Miss Sedley's apron-strings: he was NOT
always with Amelia, whilst the world supposed him at her feet.
Certain it is that on more occasions than one, when Captain Dobbin
called to look for his friend, Miss Osborne (who was very attentive
to the Captain, and anxious to hear his military stories, and to
know about the health of his dear Mamma), would laughingly point to
the opposite side of the square, and say, "Oh, you must go to the
Sedleys' to ask for George; WE never see him from morning till
night." At which kind of speech the Captain would laugh in rather an
absurd constrained manner, and turn off the conversation, like a
consummate man of the world, to some topic of general interest, such
as the Opera, the Prince's last ball at Carlton House, or the
weather--that blessing to society.
"What an innocent it is, that pet of yours," Miss Maria would then
say to Miss Jane, upon the Captain's departure. "Did you see how he
blushed at the mention of poor George on duty?"
"It's a pity Frederick Bullock hadn't some of his modesty, Maria,"
replies the elder sister, with a toss of he head.
"Modesty! Awkwardness you mean, Jane. I don't want Frederick to
trample a hole in my muslin frock, as Captain Dobbin did in yours at
"In YOUR frock, he, he! How could he? Wasn't he dancing with
The fact is, when Captain Dobbin blushed so, and looked so awkward,
he remembered a circumstance of which he did not think it was
necessary to inform the young ladies, viz., that he had been calling
at Mr. Sedley's house already, on the pretence of seeing George, of
course, and George wasn't there, only poor little Amelia, with
rather a sad wistful face, seated near the drawing-room window, who,
after some very trifling stupid talk, ventured to ask, was there any
truth in the report that the regiment was soon to be ordered abroad;
and had Captain Dobbin seen Mr. Osborne that day?
The regiment was not ordered abroad as yet; and Captain Dobbin had
not seen George. "He was with his sister, most likely," the Captain
said. "Should he go and fetch the truant?" So she gave him her
hand kindly and gratefully: and he crossed the square; and she
waited and waited, but George never came.
Poor little tender heart! and so it goes on hoping and beating, and
longing and trusting. You see it is not much of a life to describe.
There is not much of what you call incident in it. Only one feeling
all day--when will he come? only one thought to sleep and wake upon.
I believe George was playing billiards with Captain Cannon in
Swallow Street at the time when Amelia was asking Captain Dobbin
about him; for George was a jolly sociable fellow, and excellent in
all games of skill.
Once, after three days of absence, Miss Amelia put on her bonnet,
and actually invaded the Osborne house. "What! leave our brother to
come to us?" said the young ladies. "Have you had a quarrel,
Amelia? Do tell us!" No, indeed, there had been no quarrel. "Who
could quarrel with him?" says she, with her eyes filled with tears.
She only came over to--to see her dear friends; they had not met for
so long. And this day she was so perfectly stupid and awkward, that
the Misses Osborne and their governess, who stared after her as she
went sadly away, wondered more than ever what George could see in
poor little Amelia.
Of course they did. How was she to bare that timid little heart for
the inspection of those young ladies with their bold black eyes? It
was best that it should shrink and hide itself. I know the Misses
Osborne were excellent critics of a Cashmere shawl, or a pink satin
slip; and when Miss Turner had hers dyed purple, and made into a
spencer; and when Miss Pickford had her ermine tippet twisted into a
muff and trimmings, I warrant you the changes did not escape the two
intelligent young women before mentioned. But there are things,
look you, of a finer texture than fur or satin, and all Solomon's
glories, and all the wardrobe of the Queen of Sheba--things whereof
the beauty escapes the eyes of many connoisseurs. And there are
sweet modest little souls on which you light, fragrant and blooming
tenderly in quiet shady places; and there are garden-ornaments, as
big as brass warming-pans, that are fit to stare the sun itself out
of countenance. Miss Sedley was not of the sunflower sort; and I
say it is out of the rules of all proportion to draw a violet of the
size of a double dahlia.
No, indeed; the life of a good young girl who is in the paternal
nest as yet, can't have many of those thrilling incidents to which
the heroine of romance commonly lays claim. Snares or shot may take
off the old birds foraging without--hawks may be abroad, from which
they escape or by whom they suffer; but the young ones in the nest
have a pretty comfortable unromantic sort of existence in the down
and the straw, till it comes to their turn, too, to get on the wing.
While Becky Sharp was on her own wing in the country, hopping on all
sorts of twigs, and amid a multiplicity of traps, and pecking up her
food quite harmless and successful, Amelia lay snug in her home of
Russell Square; if she went into the world, it was under the
guidance of the elders; nor did it seem that any evil could befall
her or that opulent cheery comfortable home in which she was
affectionately sheltered. Mamma had her morning duties, and her
daily drive, and the delightful round of visits and shopping which
forms the amusement, or the profession as you may call it, of the
rich London lady. Papa conducted his mysterious operations in the
City--a stirring place in those days, when war was raging all over
Europe, and empires were being staked; when the "Courier" newspaper
had tens of thousands of subscribers; when one day brought you a
battle of Vittoria, another a burning of Moscow, or a newsman's horn
blowing down Russell Square about dinner-time, announced such a fact
as--"Battle of Leipsic--six hundred thousand men engaged--total
defeat of the French--two hundred thousand killed." Old Sedley once
or twice came home with a very grave face; and no wonder, when such
news as this was agitating all the hearts and all the Stocks of
Meanwhile matters went on in Russell Square, Bloomsbury, just as if
matters in Europe were not in the least disorganised. The retreat
from Leipsic made no difference in the number of meals Mr. Sambo
took in the servants' hall; the allies poured into France, and the
dinner-bell rang at five o'clock just as usual. I don't think poor
Amelia cared anything about Brienne and Montmirail, or was fairly
interested in the war until the abdication of the Emperor; when she
clapped her hands and said prayers--oh, how grateful! and flung
herself into George Osborne's arms with all her soul, to the
astonishment of everybody who witnessed that ebullition of
sentiment. The fact is, peace was declared, Europe was going to be
at rest; the Corsican was overthrown, and Lieutenant Osborne's
regiment would not be ordered on service. That was the way in which
Miss Amelia reasoned. The fate of Europe was Lieutenant George
Osborne to her. His dangers being over, she sang Te Deum. He was
her Europe: her emperor: her allied monarchs and august prince
regent. He was her sun and moon; and I believe she thought the
grand illumination and ball at the Mansion House, given to the
sovereigns, were especially in honour of George Osborne.
We have talked of shift, self, and poverty, as those dismal
instructors under whom poor Miss Becky Sharp got her education.
Now, love was Miss Amelia Sedley's last tutoress, and it was amazing
what progress our young lady made under that popular teacher. In
the course of fifteen or eighteen months' daily and constant
attention to this eminent finishing governess, what a deal of
secrets Amelia learned, which Miss Wirt and the black-eyed young
ladies over the way, which old Miss Pinkerton of Chiswick herself,
had no cognizance of! As, indeed, how should any of those prim and
reputable virgins? With Misses P. and W. the tender passion is out
of the question: I would not dare to breathe such an idea regarding
them. Miss Maria Osborne, it is true, was "attached" to Mr.
Frederick Augustus Bullock, of the firm of Hulker, Bullock &
Bullock; but hers was a most respectable attachment, and she would
have taken Bullock Senior just the same, her mind being fixed--as
that of a well-bred young woman should be--upon a house in Park
Lane, a country house at Wimbledon, a handsome chariot, and two
prodigious tall horses and footmen, and a fourth of the annual
profits of the eminent firm of Hulker & Bullock, all of which
advantages were represented in the person of Frederick Augustus.
Had orange blossoms been invented then (those touching emblems of
female purity imported by us from France, where people's daughters
are universally sold in marriage), Miss Maria, I say, would have
assumed the spotless wreath, and stepped into the travelling
carriage by the side of gouty, old, bald-headed, bottle-nosed
Bullock Senior; and devoted her beautiful existence to his happiness
with perfect modesty--only the old gentleman was married already; so
she bestowed her young affections on the junior partner. Sweet,
blooming, orange flowers! The other day I saw Miss Trotter (that
was), arrayed in them, trip into the travelling carriage at St.
George's, Hanover Square, and Lord Methuselah hobbled in after.
With what an engaging modesty she pulled down the blinds of the
chariot--the dear innocent! There were half the carriages of Vanity
Fair at the wedding.
This was not the sort of love that finished Amelia's education; and
in the course of a year turned a good young girl into a good young
woman--to be a good wife presently, when the happy time should come.
This young person (perhaps it was very imprudent in her parents to
encourage her, and abet her in such idolatry and silly romantic
ideas) loved, with all her heart, the young officer in His Majesty's
service with whom we have made a brief acquaintance. She thought
about him the very first moment on waking; and his was the very last
name mentioned m her prayers. She never had seen a man so beautiful
or so clever: such a figure on horseback: such a dancer: such a hero
in general. Talk of the Prince's bow! what was it to George's? She
had seen Mr. Brummell, whom everybody praised so. Compare such a
person as that to her George! Not amongst all the beaux at the Opera
(and there were beaux in those days with actual opera hats) was
there any one to equal him. He was only good enough to be a fairy
prince; and oh, what magnanimity to stoop to such a humble
Cinderella! Miss Pinkerton would have tried to check this blind
devotion very likely, had she been Amelia's confidante; but not with
much success, depend upon it. It is in the nature and instinct of
some women. Some are made to scheme, and some to love; and I wish
any respected bachelor that reads this may take the sort that best
While under this overpowering impression, Miss Amelia neglected her
twelve dear friends at Chiswick most cruelly, as such selfish people
commonly will do. She had but this subject, of course, to think
about; and Miss Saltire was too cold for a confidante, and she
couldn't bring her mind to tell Miss Swartz, the woolly-haired young
heiress from St. Kitt's. She had little Laura Martin home for the
holidays; and my belief is, she made a confidante of her, and
promised that Laura should come and live with her when she was
married, and gave Laura a great deal of information regarding the
passion of love, which must have been singularly useful and novel to
that little person. Alas, alas! I fear poor Emmy had not a well-
What were her parents doing, not to keep this little heart from
beating so fast? Old Sedley did not seem much to notice matters.
He was graver of late, and his City affairs absorbed him. Mrs.
Sedley was of so easy and uninquisitive a nature that she wasn't
even jealous. Mr. Jos was away, being besieged by an Irish widow at
Cheltenham. Amelia had the house to herself--ah! too much to
herself sometimes--not that she ever doubted; for, to be sure,
George must be at the Horse Guards; and he can't always get leave
from Chatham; and he must see his friends and sisters, and mingle in
society when in town (he, such an ornament to every society!); and
when he is with the regiment, he is too tired to write long letters.
I know where she kept that packet she had--and can steal in and out
of her chamber like Iachimo--like Iachimo? No--that is a bad part.
I will only act Moonshine, and peep harmless into the bed where
faith and beauty and innocence lie dreaming.
But if Osborne's were short and soldierlike letters, it must be
confessed, that were Miss Sedley's letters to Mr. Osborne to be
published, we should have to extend this novel to such a
multiplicity of volumes as not the most sentimental reader could
support; that she not only filled sheets of large paper, but crossed
them with the most astonishing perverseness; that she wrote whole
pages out of poetry-books without the least pity; that she
underlined words and passages with quite a frantic emphasis; and, in
fine, gave the usual tokens of her condition. She wasn't a heroine.
Her letters were full of repetition. She wrote rather doubtful
grammar sometimes, and in her verses took all sorts of liberties
with the metre. But oh, mesdames, if you are not allowed to touch
the heart sometimes in spite of syntax, and are not to be loved
until you all know the difference between trimeter and tetrameter,
may all Poetry go to the deuce, and every schoolmaster perish
Sentimental and Otherwise
I fear the gentleman to whom Miss Amelia's letters were addressed
was rather an obdurate critic. Such a number of notes followed
Lieutenant Osborne about the country, that he became almost ashamed
of the jokes of his mess-room companions regarding them, and ordered
his servant never to deliver them except at his private apartment.
He was seen lighting his cigar with one, to the horror of Captain
Dobbin, who, it is my belief, would have given a bank-note for the
For some time George strove to keep the liaison a secret. There was
a woman in the case, that he admitted. "And not the first either,"
said Ensign Spooney to Ensign Stubble. "That Osborne's a devil of a
fellow. There was a judge's daughter at Demerara went almost mad
about him; then there was that beautiful quadroon girl, Miss Pye, at
St. Vincent's, you know; and since he's been home, they say he's a
regular Don Giovanni, by Jove."
Stubble and Spooney thought that to be a "regular Don Giovanni, by
Jove" was one of the finest qualities a man could possess, and
Osborne's reputation was prodigious amongst the young men of the
regiment. He was famous in field-sports, famous at a song, famous
on parade; free with his money, which was bountifully supplied by
his father. His coats were better made than any man's in the
regiment, and he had more of them. He was adored by the men. He
could drink more than any officer of the whole mess, including old
Heavytop, the colonel. He could spar better than Knuckles, the
private (who would have been a corporal but for his drunkenness, and
who had been in the prize-ring); and was the best batter and bowler,
out and out, of the regimental club. He rode his own horse, Greased
Lightning, and won the Garrison cup at Quebec races. There were
other people besides Amelia who worshipped him. Stubble and Spooney
thought him a sort of Apollo; Dobbin took him to be an Admirable
Crichton; and Mrs. Major O'Dowd acknowledged he was an elegant young
fellow, and put her in mind of Fitzjurld Fogarty, Lord
Castlefogarty's second son.
Well, Stubble and Spooney and the rest indulged in most romantic
conjectures regarding this female correspondent of Osborne's--
opining that it was a Duchess in London who was in love with him--or
that it was a General's daughter, who was engaged to somebody else,
and madly attached to him--or that it was a Member of Parliament's
lady, who proposed four horses and an elopement--or that it was some
other victim of a passion delightfully exciting, romantic, and
disgraceful to all parties, on none of which conjectures would
Osborne throw the least light, leaving his young admirers and
friends to invent and arrange their whole history.
And the real state of the case would never have been known at all in
the regiment but for Captain Dobbin's indiscretion. The Captain was
eating his breakfast one day in the mess-room, while Cackle, the
assistant-surgeon, and the two above-named worthies were speculating
upon Osborne's intrigue--Stubble holding out that the lady was a
Duchess about Queen Charlotte's court, and Cackle vowing she was an
opera-singer of the worst reputation. At this idea Dobbin became so
moved, that though his mouth was full of eggs and bread-and-butter
at the time, and though he ought not to have spoken at all, yet he
couldn't help blurting out, "Cackle, you're a stupid fool. You're
always talking nonsense and scandal. Osborne is not going to run
off with a Duchess or ruin a milliner. Miss Sedley is one of the
most charming young women that ever lived. He's been engaged to her
ever so long; and the man who calls her names had better not do so
in my hearing." With which, turning exceedingly red, Dobbin ceased
speaking, and almost choked himself with a cup of tea. The story
was over the regiment in half-an-hour; and that very evening Mrs.
Major O'Dowd wrote off to her sister Glorvina at O'Dowdstown not to
hurry from Dublin--young Osborne being prematurely engaged already.
She complimented the Lieutenant in an appropriate speech over a
glass of whisky-toddy that evening, and he went home perfectly
furious to quarrel with Dobbin (who had declined Mrs. Major O'Dowd's
party, and sat in his own room playing the flute, and, I believe,
writing poetry in a very melancholy manner)--to quarrel with Dobbin
for betraying his secret.
"Who the deuce asked you to talk about my affairs?" Osborne shouted
indignantly. "Why the devil is all the regiment to know that I am
going to be married? Why is that tattling old harridan, Peggy
O'Dowd, to make free with my name at her d--d supper-table, and
advertise my engagement over the three kingdoms? After all, what
right have you to say I am engaged, or to meddle in my business at
"It seems to me," Captain Dobbin began.
"Seems be hanged, Dobbin," his junior interrupted him. "I am under
obligations to you, I know it, a d--d deal too well too; but I won't
be always sermonised by you because you're five years my senior.
I'm hanged if I'll stand your airs of superiority and infernal pity
and patronage. Pity and patronage! I should like to know in what
I'm your inferior?"
"Are you engaged?" Captain Dobbin interposed.
"What the devil's that to you or any one here if I am?"
"Are you ashamed of it?" Dobbin resumed.
"What right have you to ask me that question, sir? I should like to
know," George said.
"Good God, you don't mean to say you want to break off?" asked
Dobbin, starting up.
"In other words, you ask me if I'm a man of honour," said Osborne,
fiercely; "is that what you mean? You've adopted such a tone
regarding me lately that I'm ------ if I'll bear it any more."
"What have I done? I've told you you were neglecting a sweet girl,
George. I've told you that when you go to town you ought to go to
her, and not to the gambling-houses about St. James's."
"You want your money back, I suppose," said George, with a sneer.
"Of course I do--I always did, didn't I?" says Dobbin. "You speak
like a generous fellow."
"No, hang it, William, I beg your pardon"--here George interposed in
a fit of remorse; "you have been my friend in a hundred ways, Heaven
knows. You've got me out of a score of scrapes. When Crawley of
the Guards won that sum of money of me I should have been done but
for you: I know I should. But you shouldn't deal so hardly with me;
you shouldn't be always catechising me. I am very fond of Amelia; I
adore her, and that sort of thing. Don't look angry. She's
faultless; I know she is. But you see there's no fun in winning a
thing unless you play for it. Hang it: the regiment's just back
from the West Indies, I must have a little fling, and then when I'm
married I'll reform; I will upon my honour, now. And--I say--Dob--
don't be angry with me, and I'll give you a hundred next month, when
I know my father will stand something handsome; and I'll ask
Heavytop for leave, and I'll go to town, and see Amelia to-morrow--
there now, will that satisfy you?"
"It is impossible to be long angry with you, George," said the good-
natured Captain; "and as for the money, old boy, you know if I
wanted it you'd share your last shilling with me."
"That I would, by Jove, Dobbin," George said, with the greatest
generosity, though by the way he never had any money to spare.
"Only I wish you had sown those wild oats of yours, George. If you
could have seen poor little Miss Emmy's face when she asked me about
you the other day, you would have pitched those billiard-balls to
the deuce. Go and comfort her, you rascal. Go and write her a long
letter. Do something to make her happy; a very little will."
"I believe she's d--d fond of me," the Lieutenant said, with a self-
satisfied air; and went off to finish the evening with some jolly
fellows in the mess-room.
Amelia meanwhile, in Russell Square, was looking at the moon, which
was shining upon that peaceful spot, as well as upon the square of
the Chatham barracks, where Lieutenant Osborne was quartered, and
thinking to herself how her hero was employed. Perhaps he is
visiting the sentries, thought she; perhaps he is bivouacking;
perhaps he is attending the couch of a wounded comrade, or studying
the art of war up in his own desolate chamber. And her kind thoughts
sped away as if they were angels and had wings, and flying down the
river to Chatham and Rochester, strove to peep into the barracks
where George was. . . . All things considered, I think it was as
well the gates were shut, and the sentry allowed no one to pass; so
that the poor little white-robed angel could not hear the songs
those young fellows were roaring over the whisky-punch.
The day after the little conversation at Chatham barracks, young
Osborne, to show that he would be as good as his word, prepared to
go to town, thereby incurring Captain Dobbin's applause. "I should
have liked to make her a little present," Osborne said to his friend
in confidence, "only I am quite out of cash until my father tips
up." But Dobbin would not allow this good nature and generosity to
be balked, and so accommodated Mr. Osborne with a few pound notes,
which the latter took after a little faint scruple.
And I dare say he would have bought something very handsome for
Amelia; only, getting off the coach in Fleet Street, he was
attracted by a handsome shirt-pin in a jeweller's window, which he
could not resist; and having paid for that, had very little money to
spare for indulging in any further exercise of kindness. Never
mind: you may be sure it was not his presents Amelia wanted. When
he came to Russell Square, her face lighted up as if he had been
sunshine. The little cares, fears, tears, timid misgivings,
sleepless fancies of I don't know how many days and nights, were
forgotten, under one moment's influence of that familiar,
irresistible smile. He beamed on her from the drawing-room door--
magnificent, with ambrosial whiskers, like a god. Sambo, whose face
as he announced Captain Osbin (having conferred a brevet rank on
that young officer) blazed with a sympathetic grin, saw the little
girl start, and flush, and jump up from her watching-place in the
window; and Sambo retreated: and as soon as the door was shut, she
went fluttering to Lieutenant George Osborne's heart as if it was
the only natural home for her to nestle in. Oh, thou poor panting
little soul! The very finest tree in the whole forest, with the
straightest stem, and the strongest arms, and the thickest foliage,
wherein you choose to build and coo, may be marked, for what you
know, and may be down with a crash ere long. What an old, old
simile that is, between man and timber!
In the meanwhile, George kissed her very kindly on her forehead and
glistening eyes, and was very gracious and good; and she thought his
diamond shirt-pin (which she had not known him to wear before) the
prettiest ornament ever seen.
The observant reader, who has marked our young Lieutenant's previous
behaviour, and has preserved our report of the brief conversation
which he has just had with Captain Dobbin, has possibly come to
certain conclusions regarding the character of Mr. Osborne. Some
cynical Frenchman has said that there are two parties to a love-
transaction: the one who loves and the other who condescends to be
so treated. Perhaps the love is occasionally on the man's side;
perhaps on the lady's. Perhaps some infatuated swain has ere this
mistaken insensibility for modesty, dulness for maiden reserve, mere
vacuity for sweet bashfulness, and a goose, in a word, for a swan.
Perhaps some beloved female subscriber has arrayed an ass in the
splendour and glory of her imagination; admired his dulness as manly
simplicity; worshipped his selfishness as manly superiority; treated
his stupidity as majestic gravity, and used him as the brilliant
fairy Titania did a certain weaver at Athens. I think I have seen
such comedies of errors going on in the world. But this is certain,
that Amelia believed her lover to be one of the most gallant and
brilliant men in the empire: and it is possible Lieutenant Osborne
thought so too.
He was a little wild: how many young men are; and don't girls like a
rake better than a milksop? He hadn't sown his wild oats as yet,
but he would soon: and quit the army now that peace was proclaimed;
the Corsican monster locked up at Elba; promotion by consequence
over; and no chance left for the display of his undoubted military
talents and valour: and his allowance, with Amelia's settlement,
would enable them to take a snug place in the country somewhere, in
a good sporting neighbourhood; and he would hunt a little, and farm
a little; and they would be very happy. As for remaining in the
army as a married man, that was impossible. Fancy Mrs. George
Osborne in lodgings in a county town; or, worse still, in the East
or West Indies, with a society of officers, and patronized by Mrs.
Major O'Dowd! Amelia died with laughing at Osborne's stories about
Mrs. Major O'Dowd. He loved her much too fondly to subject her to
that horrid woman and her vulgarities, and the rough treatment of a
soldier's wife. He didn't care for himself--not he; but his dear
little girl should take the place in society to which, as his wife,
she was entitled: and to these proposals you may be sure she
acceded, as she would to any other from the same author.
Holding this kind of conversation, and building numberless castles
in the air (which Amelia adorned with all sorts of flower-gardens,
rustic walks, country churches, Sunday schools, and the like; while
George had his mind's eye directed to the stables, the kennel, and
the cellar), this young pair passed away a couple of hours very
pleasantly; and as the Lieutenant had only that single day in town,
and a great deal of most important business to transact, it was
proposed that Miss Emmy should dine with her future sisters-in-law.
This invitation was accepted joyfully. He conducted her to his
sisters; where he left her talking and prattling in a way that
astonished those ladies, who thought that George might make
something of her; and he then went off to transact his business.
In a word, he went out and ate ices at a pastry-cook's shop in
Charing Cross; tried a new coat in Pall Mall; dropped in at the Old
Slaughters', and called for Captain Cannon; played eleven games at
billiards with the Captain, of which he won eight, and returned to
Russell Square half an hour late for dinner, but in very good
It was not so with old Mr. Osborne. When that gentleman came from
the City, and was welcomed in the drawing-room by his daughters and
the elegant Miss Wirt, they saw at once by his face--which was
puffy, solemn, and yellow at the best of times--and by the scowl and
twitching of his black eyebrows, that the heart within his large
white waistcoat was disturbed and uneasy. When Amelia stepped
forward to salute him, which she always did with great trembling and
timidity, he gave a surly grunt of recognition, and dropped the
little hand out of his great hirsute paw without any attempt to hold
it there. He looked round gloomily at his eldest daughter; who,
comprehending the meaning of his look, which asked unmistakably,
"Why the devil is she here?" said at once:
"George is in town, Papa; and has gone to the Horse Guards, and will
be back to dinner."
"O he is, is he? I won't have the dinner kept waiting for him,
Jane"; with which this worthy man lapsed into his particular chair,
and then the utter silence in his genteel, well-furnished drawing-
room was only interrupted by the alarmed ticking of the great French
When that chronometer, which was surmounted by a cheerful brass
group of the sacrifice of Iphigenia, tolled five in a heavy
cathedral tone, Mr. Osborne pulled the bell at his right hand-
violently, and the butler rushed up.
"Dinner!" roared Mr. Osborne.
"Mr. George isn't come in, sir," interposed the man.
"Damn Mr. George, sir. Am I master of the house? DINNER!" Mr.
Osborne scowled. Amelia trembled. A telegraphic communication of
eyes passed between the other three ladies. The obedient bell in
the lower regions began ringing the announcement of the meal. The
tolling over, the head of the family thrust his hands into the great
tail-pockets of his great blue coat with brass buttons, and without
waiting for a further announcement strode downstairs alone, scowling
over his shoulder at the four females.
"What's the matter now, my dear?" asked one of the other, as they
rose and tripped gingerly behind the sire. "I suppose the funds
are falling," whispered Miss Wirt; and so, trembling and in silence,
this hushed female company followed their dark leader. They took
their places in silence. He growled out a blessing, which sounded
as gruffly as a curse. The great silver dish-covers were removed.
Amelia trembled in her place, for she was next to the awful Osborne,
and alone on her side of the table--the gap being occasioned by the
absence of George.
"Soup?" says Mr. Osborne, clutching the ladle, fixing his eyes on
her, in a sepulchral tone; and having helped her and the rest, did
not speak for a while.
"Take Miss Sedley's plate away," at last he said. "She can't eat
the soup--no more can I. It's beastly. Take away the soup, Hicks,
and to-morrow turn the cook out of the house, Jane."
Having concluded his observations upon the soup, Mr. Osborne made a
few curt remarks respecting the fish, also of a savage and satirical
tendency, and cursed Billingsgate with an emphasis quite worthy of
the place. Then he lapsed into silence, and swallowed sundry glasses
of wine, looking more and more terrible, till a brisk knock at the
door told of George's arrival when everybody began to rally.
"He could not come before. General Daguilet had kept him waiting at
the Horse Guards. Never mind soup or fish. Give him anything--he
didn't care what. Capital mutton--capital everything." His good
humour contrasted with his father's severity; and he rattled on
unceasingly during dinner, to the delight of all--of one especially,
who need not be mentioned.
As soon as the young ladies had discussed the orange and the glass
of wine which formed the ordinary conclusion of the dismal banquets
at Mr. Osborne's house, the signal to make sail for the drawing-room
was given, and they all arose and departed. Amelia hoped George
would soon join them there. She began playing some of his favourite
waltzes (then newly imported) at the great carved-legged, leather-
cased grand piano in the drawing-room overhead. This little
artifice did not bring him. He was deaf to the waltzes; they grew
fainter and fainter; the discomfited performer left the huge
instrument presently; and though her three friends performed some of
the loudest and most brilliant new pieces of their repertoire, she
did not hear a single note, but sate thinking, and boding evil. Old
Osborne's scowl, terrific always, had never before looked so deadly
to her. His eyes followed her out of the room, as if she had been
guilty of something. When they brought her coffee, she started as
though it were a cup of poison which Mr. Hicks, the butler, wished
to propose to her. What mystery was there lurking? Oh, those women!
They nurse and cuddle their presentiments, and make darlings of
their ugliest thoughts, as they do of their deformed children.
The gloom on the paternal countenance had also impressed George
Osborne with anxiety. With such eyebrows, and a look so decidedly
bilious, how was he to extract that money from the governor, of
which George was consumedly in want? He began praising his father's
wine. That was generally a successful means of cajoling the old
"We never got such Madeira in the West Indies, sir, as yours.
Colonel Heavytop took off three bottles of that you sent me down,
under his belt the other day."
"Did he?" said the old gentleman. "It stands me in eight shillings
"Will you take six guineas a dozen for it, sir?" said George, with a
laugh. "There's one of the greatest men in the kingdom wants some."
"Does he?" growled the senior. "Wish he may get it."
"When General Daguilet was at Chatham, sir, Heavytop gave him a
breakfast, and asked me for some of the wine. The General liked it
just as well--wanted a pipe for the Commander-in-Chief. He's his
Royal Highness's right-hand man."
"It is devilish fine wine," said the Eyebrows, and they looked more
good-humoured; and George was going to take advantage of this
complacency, and bring the supply question on the mahogany, when the
father, relapsing into solemnity, though rather cordial in manner,
bade him ring the bell for claret. "And we'll see if that's as good
as the Madeira, George, to which his Royal Highness is welcome, I'm
sure. And as we are drinking it, I'll talk to you about a matter of
Amelia heard the claret bell ringing as she sat nervously upstairs.
She thought, somehow, it was a mysterious and presentimental bell.
Of the presentiments which some people are always having, some
surely must come right.
"What I want to know, George," the old gentleman said, after slowly
smacking his first bumper--"what I want to know is, how you and--ah-
-that little thing upstairs, are carrying on?"
"I think, sir, it is not hard to see," George said, with a self-
satisfied grin. "Pretty clear, sir.--What capital wine!"
"What d'you mean, pretty clear, sir?"
"Why, hang it, sir, don't push me too hard. I'm a modest man. I--
ah--I don't set up to be a lady-killer; but I do own that she's as
devilish fond of me as she can be. Anybody can see that with half
"And you yourself?"
"Why, sir, didn't you order me to marry her, and ain't I a good boy?
Haven't our Papas settled it ever so long?"
"A pretty boy, indeed. Haven't I heard of your doings, sir, with
Lord Tarquin, Captain Crawley of the Guards, the Honourable Mr.
Deuceace and that set. Have a care sir, have a care."
The old gentleman pronounced these aristocratic names with the
greatest gusto. Whenever he met a great man he grovelled before
him, and my-lorded him as only a free-born Briton can do. He came
home and looked out his history in the Peerage: he introduced his
name into his daily conversation; he bragged about his Lordship to
his daughters. He fell down prostrate and basked in him as a
Neapolitan beggar does in the sun. George was alarmed when he heard
the names. He feared his father might have been informed of certain
transactions at play. But the old moralist eased him by saying
"Well, well, young men will be young men. And the comfort to me is,
George, that living in the best society in England, as I hope you
do; as I think you do; as my means will allow you to do--"
"Thank you, sir," says George, making his point at once. "One can't
live with these great folks for nothing; and my purse, sir, look at
it"; and he held up a little token which had been netted by Amelia,
and contained the very last of Dobbin's pound notes.
"You shan't want, sir. The British merchant's son shan't want, sir.
My guineas are as good as theirs, George, my boy; and I don't grudge
'em. Call on Mr. Chopper as you go through the City to-morrow;
he'll have something for you. I don't grudge money when I know
you're in good society, because I know that good society can never
go wrong. There's no pride in me. I was a humbly born man--but you
have had advantages. Make a good use of 'em. Mix with the young
nobility. There's many of 'em who can't spend a dollar to your
guinea, my boy. And as for the pink bonnets (here from under the
heavy eyebrows there came a knowing and not very pleasing leer)--why
boys will be boys. Only there's one thing I order you to avoid,
which, if you do not, I'll cut you off with a shilling, by Jove; and
"Oh, of course, sir," said George.
"But to return to the other business about Amelia: why shouldn't you
marry higher than a stockbroker's daughter, George--that's what I
want to know?"
"It's a family business, sir,".says George, cracking filberts. "You
and Mr. Sedley made the match a hundred years ago."
"I don't deny it; but people's positions alter, sir. I don't deny
that Sedley made my fortune, or rather put me in the way of
acquiring, by my own talents and genius, that proud position, which,
I may say, I occupy in the tallow trade and the City of London.
I've shown my gratitude to Sedley; and he's tried it of late, sir,
as my cheque-book can show. George! I tell you in confidence I
don't like the looks of Mr. Sedley's affairs. My chief clerk, Mr.
Chopper, does not like the looks of 'em, and he's an old file, and
knows 'Change as well as any man in London. Hulker & Bullock are
looking shy at him. He's been dabbling on his own account I fear.
They say the Jeune Amelie was his, which was taken by the Yankee
privateer Molasses. And that's flat--unless I see Amelia's ten
thousand down you don't marry her. I'll have no lame duck's
daughter in my family. Pass the wine, sir--or ring for coffee."
With which Mr. Osborne spread out the evening paper, and George knew
from this signal that the colloquy was ended, and that his papa was
about to take a nap.
He hurried upstairs to Amelia in the highest spirits. What was it
that made him more attentive to her on that night than he had been
for a long time--more eager to amuse her, more tender, more
brilliant in talk? Was it that his generous heart warmed to her at
the prospect of misfortune; or that the idea of losing the dear
little prize made him value it more?
She lived upon the recollections of that happy evening for many days
afterwards, remembering his words; his looks; the song he sang; his
attitude, as he leant over her or looked at her from a distance. As
it seemed to her, no night ever passed so quickly at Mr. Osborne's
house before; and for once this young person was almost provoked to
be angry by the premature arrival of Mr. Sambo with her shawl.
George came and took a tender leave of her the next morning; and
then hurried off to the City, where he visited Mr. Chopper, his
father's head man, and received from that gentleman a document which
he exchanged at Hulker & Bullock's for a whole pocketful of money.
As George entered the house, old John Sedley was passing out of the
banker's parlour, looking very dismal. But his godson was much too
elated to mark the worthy stockbroker's depression, or the dreary
eyes which the kind old gentleman cast upon him. Young Bullock did
not come grinning out of the parlour with him as had been his wont
in former years.
And as the swinging doors of Hulker, Bullock & Co. closed upon Mr.
Sedley, Mr. Quill, the cashier (whose benevolent occupation it is to
hand out crisp bank-notes from a drawer and dispense sovereigns out
of a copper shovel), winked at Mr. Driver, the clerk at the desk on
his right. Mr. Driver winked again.
"No go," Mr. D. whispered.
"Not at no price," Mr. Q. said. "Mr. George Osborne, sir, how will
you take it?" George crammed eagerly a quantity of notes into his
pockets, and paid Dobbin fifty pounds that very evening at mess.
That very evening Amelia wrote him the tenderest of long letters.
Her heart was overflowing with tenderness, but it still foreboded
evil. What was the cause of Mr. Osborne's dark looks? she asked.
Had any difference arisen between him and her papa? Her poor papa
returned so melancholy from the City, that all were alarmed about
him at home--in fine, there were four pages of loves and fears and
hopes and forebodings.
"Poor little Emmy--dear little Emmy. How fond she is of me," George
said, as he perused the missive--"and Gad, what a headache that
mixed punch has given me!" Poor little Emmy, indeed.
Miss Crawley at Home
About this time there drove up to an exceedingly snug and well-
appointed house in Park Lane, a travelling chariot with a lozenge on
the panels, a discontented female in a green veil and crimped curls
on the rumble, and a large and confidential man on the box. It was
the equipage of our friend Miss Crawley, returning from Hants. The
carriage windows were shut; the fat spaniel, whose head and tongue
ordinarily lolled out of one of them, reposed on the lap of the
discontented female. When the vehicle stopped, a large round bundle
of shawls was taken out of the carriage by the aid of various
domestics and a young lady who accompanied the heap of cloaks. That
bundle contained Miss Crawley, who was conveyed upstairs forthwith,
and put into a bed and chamber warmed properly as for the reception
of an invalid. Messengers went off for her physician and medical
man. They came, consulted, prescribed, vanished. The young
companion of Miss Crawley, at the conclusion of their interview,
came in to receive their instructions, and administered those
antiphlogistic medicines which the eminent men ordered.
Captain Crawley of the Life Guards rode up from Knightsbridge
Barracks the next day; his black charger pawed the straw before his
invalid aunt's door. He was most affectionate in his inquiries
regarding that amiable relative. There seemed to be much source of
apprehension. He found Miss Crawley's maid (the discontented female)
unusually sulky and despondent; he found Miss Briggs, her dame de
compagnie, in tears alone in the drawing-room. She had hastened
home, hearing of her beloved friend's illness. She wished to fly to
her couch, that couch which she, Briggs, had so often smoothed in
the hour of sickness. She was denied admission to Miss Crawley's
apartment. A stranger was administering her medicines--a stranger
from the country--an odious Miss . . . --tears choked the utterance
of the dame de compagnie, and she buried her crushed affections and
her poor old red nose in her pocket handkerchief.
Rawdon Crawley sent up his name by the sulky femme de chambre, and
Miss Crawley's new companion, coming tripping down from the sick-
room, put a little hand into his as he stepped forward eagerly to
meet her, gave a glance of great scorn at the bewildered Briggs, and
beckoning the young Guardsman out of the back drawing-room, led him
downstairs into that now desolate dining-parlour, where so many a
good dinner had been celebrated.
Here these two talked for ten minutes, discussing, no doubt, the
symptoms of the old invalid above stairs; at the end of which period
the parlour bell was rung briskly, and answered on that instant by
Mr. Bowls, Miss Crawley's large confidential butler (who, indeed,
happened to be at the keyhole during the most part of the
interview); and the Captain coming out, curling his mustachios,
mounted the black charger pawing among the straw, to the admiration
of the little blackguard boys collected in the street. He looked in
at the dining-room window, managing his horse, which curvetted and
capered beautifully--for one instant the young person might be seen
at the window, when her figure vanished, and, doubtless, she went
upstairs again to resume the affecting duties of benevolence.
Who could this young woman be, I wonder? That evening a little
dinner for two persons was laid in the dining-room--when Mrs.
Firkin, the lady's maid, pushed into her mistress's apartment, and
bustled about there during the vacancy occasioned by the departure
of the new nurse--and the latter and Miss Briggs sat down to the
neat little meal.
Briggs was so much choked by emotion that she could hardly take a
morsel of meat. The young person carved a fowl with the utmost
delicacy, and asked so distinctly for egg-sauce, that poor Briggs,
before whom that delicious condiment was placed, started, made a
great clattering with the ladle, and once more fell back in the most
gushing hysterical state.
"Had you not better give Miss Briggs a glass of wine?" said the
person to Mr. Bowls, the large confidential man. He did so. Briggs
seized it mechanically, gasped it down convulsively, moaned a
little, and began to play with the chicken on her plate.
"I think we shall be able to help each other," said the person with
great suavity: "and shall have no need of Mr. Bowls's kind services.
Mr. Bowls, if you please, we will ring when we want you." He went
downstairs, where, by the way, he vented the most horrid curses upon
the unoffending footman, his subordinate.
"It is a pity you take on so, Miss Briggs," the young lady said,
with a cool, slightly sarcastic, air.
"My dearest friend is so ill, and wo-o-on't see me," gurgled out
Briggs in an agony of renewed grief.
"She's not very ill any more. Console yourself, dear Miss Briggs.
She has only overeaten herself--that is all. She is greatly better.
She will soon be quite restored again. She is weak from being cupped
and from medical treatment, but she will rally immediately. Pray
console yourself, and take a little more wine."
"But why, why won't she see me again?" Miss Briggs bleated out.
"Oh, Matilda, Matilda, after three-and-twenty years' tenderness! is
this the return to your poor, poor Arabella?"
"Don't cry too much, poor Arabella," the other said (with ever so
little of a grin); "she only won't see you, because she says you
don't nurse her as well as I do. It's no pleasure to me to sit up
all night. I wish you might do it instead."
"Have I not tended that dear couch for years?" Arabella said, "and
"Now she prefers somebody else. Well, sick people have these
fancies, and must be humoured. When she's well I shall go."
"Never, never," Arabella exclaimed, madly inhaling her salts-bottle.
"Never be well or never go, Miss Briggs?" the other said, with the
same provoking good-nature. "Pooh--she will be well in a fortnight,
when I shall go back to my little pupils at Queen's Crawley, and to
their mother, who is a great deal more sick than our friend. You
need not be jealous about me, my dear Miss Briggs. I am a poor
little girl without any friends, or any harm in me. I don't want to
supplant you in Miss Crawley's good graces. She will forget me a
week after I am gone: and her affection for you has been the work of
years. Give me a little wine if you please, my dear Miss Briggs,
and let us be friends. I'm sure I want friends."
The placable and soft-hearted Briggs speechlessly pushed out her
hand at this appeal; but she felt the desertion most keenly for all
that, and bitterly, bitterly moaned the fickleness of her Matilda.
At the end of half an hour, the meal over, Miss Rebecca Sharp (for
such, astonishing to state, is the name of her who has been
described ingeniously as "the person" hitherto), went upstairs again
to her patient's rooms, from which, with the most engaging
politeness, she eliminated poor Firkin. "Thank you, Mrs. Firkin,
that will quite do; how nicely you make it! I will ring when
anything is wanted." "Thank you"; and Firkin came downstairs in a
tempest of jealousy, only the more dangerous because she was forced
to confine it in her own bosom.
Could it be the tempest which, as she passed the landing of the
first floor, blew open the drawing-room door? No; it was stealthily
opened by the hand of Briggs. Briggs had been on the watch. Briggs
too well heard the creaking Firkin descend the stairs, and the clink
of the spoon and gruel-basin the neglected female carried.
"Well, Firkin?" says she, as the other entered the apartment. "Well,
"Wuss and wuss, Miss B.," Firkin said, wagging her head.
"Is she not better then?"
"She never spoke but once, and I asked her if she felt a little more
easy, and she told me to hold my stupid tongue. Oh, Miss B., I never
thought to have seen this day!" And the water-works again began to
"What sort of a person is this Miss Sharp, Firkin? I little thought,
while enjoying my Christmas revels in the elegant home of my firm
friends, the Reverend Lionel Delamere and his amiable lady, to find
a stranger had taken my place in the affections of my dearest, my
still dearest Matilda!" Miss Briggs, it will be seen by her
language, was of a literary and sentimental turn, and had once
published a volume of poems--"Trills of the Nightingale"--by
"Miss B., they are all infatyated about that young woman," Firkin
replied. "Sir Pitt wouldn't have let her go, but he daredn't refuse
Miss Crawley anything. Mrs. Bute at the Rectory jist as bad--never
happy out of her sight. The Capting quite wild about her. Mr.
Crawley mortial jealous. Since Miss C. was took ill, she won't have
nobody near her but Miss Sharp, I can't tell for where nor for why;
and I think somethink has bewidged everybody."
Rebecca passed that night in constant watching upon Miss Crawley;
the next night the old lady slept so comfortably, that Rebecca had
time for several hours' comfortable repose herself on the sofa, at
the foot of her patroness's bed; very soon, Miss Crawley was so well
that she sat up and laughed heartily at a perfect imitation of Miss
Briggs and her grief, which Rebecca described to her. Briggs'
weeping snuffle, and her manner of using the handkerchief, were so
completely rendered that Miss Crawley became quite cheerful, to the
admiration of the doctors when they visited her, who usually found
this worthy woman of the world, when the least sickness attacked
her, under the most abject depression and terror of death.
Captain Crawley came every day, and received bulletins from Miss
Rebecca respecting his aunt's health. This improved so rapidly, that
poor Briggs was allowed to see her patroness; and persons with
tender hearts may imagine the smothered emotions of that sentimental
female, and the affecting nature of the interview.
Miss Crawley liked to have Briggs in a good deal soon. Rebecca used
to mimic her to her face with the most admirable gravity, thereby
rendering the imitation doubly piquant to her worthy patroness.
The causes which had led to the deplorable illness of Miss Crawley,
and her departure from her brother's house in the country, were of
such an unromantic nature that they are hardly fit to be explained
in this genteel and sentimental novel. For how is it possible to
hint of a delicate female, living in good society, that she ate and
drank too much, and that a hot supper of lobsters profusely enjoyed
at the Rectory was the reason of an indisposition which Miss Crawley
herself persisted was solely attributable to the dampness of the
weather? The attack was so sharp that Matilda--as his Reverence
expressed it--was very nearly "off the hooks"; all the family were
in a fever of expectation regarding the will, and Rawdon Crawley was
making sure of at least forty thousand pounds before the
commencement of the London season. Mr. Crawley sent over a choice
parcel of tracts, to prepare her for the change from Vanity Fair and
Park Lane for another world; but a good doctor from Southampton
being called in in time, vanquished the lobster which was so nearly
fatal to her, and gave her sufficient strength to enable her to
return to London. The Baronet did not disguise his exceeding
mortification at the turn which affairs took.
While everybody was attending on Miss Crawley, and messengers every
hour from the Rectory were carrying news of her health to the
affectionate folks there, there was a lady in another part of the
house, being exceedingly ill, of whom no one took any notice at all;
and this was the lady of Crawley herself. The good doctor shook his
head after seeing her; to which visit Sir Pitt consented, as it
could be paid without a fee; and she was left fading away in her
lonely chamber, with no more heed paid to her than to a weed in the
The young ladies, too, lost much of the inestimable benefit of their
governess's instruction, So affectionate a nurse was Miss Sharp,
that Miss Crawley would take her medicines from no other hand.
Firkin had been deposed long before her mistress's departure from
the country. That faithful attendant found a gloomy consolation on
returning to London, in seeing Miss Briggs suffer the same pangs of
jealousy and undergo the same faithless treatment to which she
herself had been subject.
Captain Rawdon got an extension of leave on his aunt's illness, and
remained dutifully at home. He was always in her antechamber. (She
lay sick in the state bedroom, into which you entered by the little
blue saloon.) His father was always meeting him there; or if he came
down the corridor ever so quietly, his father's door was sure to
open, and the hyena face of the old gentleman to glare out. What
was it set one to watch the other so? A generous rivalry, no doubt,
as to which should be most attentive to the dear sufferer in the
state bedroom. Rebecca used to come out and comfort both of them;
or one or the other of them rather. Both of these worthy gentlemen
were most anxious to have news of the invalid from her little
At dinner--to which meal she descended for half an hour--she kept
the peace between them: after which she disappeared for the night;
when Rawdon would ride over to the depot of the 150th at Mudbury,
leaving his papa to the society of Mr. Horrocks and his rum and
water. She passed as weary a fortnight as ever mortal spent in Miss
Crawley's sick-room; but her little nerves seemed to be of iron, as
she was quite unshaken by the duty and the tedium of the sick-
She never told until long afterwards how painful that duty was; how
peevish a patient was the jovial old lady; how angry; how sleepless;
in what horrors of death; during what long nights she lay moaning,
and in almost delirious agonies respecting that future world which
she quite ignored when she was in good health.--Picture to yourself,
oh fair young reader, a worldly, selfish, graceless, thankless,
religionless old woman, writhing in pain and fear, and without her
wig. Picture her to yourself, and ere you be old, learn to love and
Sharp watched this graceless bedside with indomitable patience.
Nothing escaped her; and, like a prudent steward, she found a use
for everything. She told many a good story about Miss Crawley's
illness in after days--stories which made the lady blush through her
artificial carnations. During the illness she was never out of
temper; always alert; she slept light, having a perfectly clear
conscience; and could take that refreshment at almost any minute's
warning. And so you saw very few traces of fatigue in her
appearance. Her face might be a trifle paler, and the circles round
her eyes a little blacker than usual; but whenever she came out from
the sick-room she was always smiling, fresh, and neat, and looked as
trim in her little dressing-gown and cap, as in her smartest evening
The Captain thought so, and raved about her in uncouth convulsions.
The barbed shaft of love had penetrated his dull hide. Six weeks--
appropinquity--opportunity--had victimised him completely. He made
a confidante of his aunt at the Rectory, of all persons in the
world. She rallied him about it; she had perceived his folly; she
warned him; she finished by owning that little Sharp was the most
clever, droll, odd, good-natured, simple, kindly creature in
England. Rawdon must not trifle with her affections, though--dear
Miss Crawley would never pardon him for that; for she, too, was
quite overcome by the little governess, and loved Sharp like a
daughter. Rawdon must go away--go back to his regiment and naughty
London, and not play with a poor artless girl's feelings.
Many and many a time this good-natured lady, compassionating the
forlorn life-guardsman's condition, gave him an opportunity of
seeing Miss Sharp at the Rectory, and of walking home with her, as
we have seen. When men of a certain sort, ladies, are in love,
though they see the hook and the string, and the whole apparatus
with which they are to be taken, they gorge the bait nevertheless--
they must come to it--they must swallow it--and are presently struck
and landed gasping. Rawdon saw there was a manifest intention on
Mrs. Bute's part to captivate him with Rebecca. He was not very
wise; but he was a man about town, and had seen several seasons. A
light dawned upon his dusky soul, as he thought, through a speech of
"Mark my words, Rawdon," she said. "You will have Miss Sharp one
day for your relation."
"What relation--my cousin, hey, Mrs. Bute? James sweet on her, hey?"
inquired the waggish officer.
"More than that," Mrs. Bute said, with a flash from her black eyes.
"Not Pitt? He sha'n't have her. The sneak a'n't worthy of her.
He's booked to Lady Jane Sheepshanks."
"You men perceive nothing. You silly, blind creature--if anything
happens to Lady Crawley, Miss Sharp will be your mother-in-law; and
that's what will happen."
Rawdon Crawley, Esquire, gave vent to a prodigious whistle, in token
of astonishment at this announcement. He couldn't deny it. His
father's evident liking for Miss Sharp had not escaped him. He knew
the old gentleman's character well; and a more unscrupulous old--
whyou--he did not conclude the sentence, but walked home, curling
his mustachios, and convinced he had found a clue to Mrs. Bute's
"By Jove, it's too bad," thought Rawdon, "too bad, by Jove! I do
believe the woman wants the poor girl to be ruined, in order that
she shouldn't come into the family as Lady Crawley."
When he saw Rebecca alone, he rallied her about his father's
attachment in his graceful way. She flung up her head scornfully,
looked him full in the face, and said,
"Well, suppose he is fond of me. I know he is, and others too. You
don't think I am afraid of him, Captain Crawley? You don't suppose
I can't defend my own honour," said the little woman, looking as
stately as a queen.
"Oh, ah, why--give you fair warning--look out, you know--that's
all," said the mustachio-twiddler.
"You hint at something not honourable, then?" said she, flashing
"O Gad--really--Miss Rebecca," the heavy dragoon interposed.
"Do you suppose I have no feeling of self-respect, because I am poor
and friendless, and because rich people have none? Do you think,
because I am a governess, I have not as much sense, and feeling, and
good breeding as you gentlefolks in Hampshire? I'm a Montmorency. Do
you suppose a Montmorency is not as good as a Crawley?"
When Miss Sharp was agitated, and alluded to her maternal relatives,
she spoke with ever so slight a foreign accent, which gave a great
charm to her clear ringing voice. "No," she continued, kindling as
she spoke to the Captain; "I can endure poverty, but not shame--
neglect, but not insult; and insult from--from you."
Her feelings gave way, and she burst into tears.
"Hang it, Miss Sharp--Rebecca--by Jove--upon my soul, I wouldn't for
a thousand pounds. Stop, Rebecca!"
She was gone. She drove out with Miss Crawley that day. It was
before the latter's illness. At dinner she was unusually brilliant
and lively; but she would take no notice of the hints, or the nods,
or the clumsy expostulations of the humiliated, infatuated
guardsman. Skirmishes of this sort passed perpetually during the
little campaign--tedious to relate, and similar in result. The
Crawley heavy cavalry was maddened by defeat, and routed every day.
If the Baronet of Queen's Crawley had not had the fear of losing his
sister's legacy before his eyes, he never would have permitted his
dear girls to lose the educational blessings which their invaluable
governess was conferring upon them. The old house at home seemed a
desert without her, so useful and pleasant had Rebecca made herself
there. Sir Pitt's letters were not copied and corrected; his books
not made up; his household business and manifold schemes neglected,
now that his little secretary was away. And it was easy to see how
necessary such an amanuensis was to him, by the tenor and spelling
of the numerous letters which he sent to her, entreating her and
commanding her to return. Almost every day brought a frank from the
Baronet, enclosing the most urgent prayers to Becky for her return,
or conveying pathetic statements to Miss Crawley, regarding the
neglected state of his daughters' education; of which documents Miss
Crawley took very little heed.
Miss Briggs was not formally dismissed, but her place as companion
was a sinecure and a derision; and her company was the fat spaniel
in the drawing-room, or occasionally the discontented Firkin in the
housekeeper's closet. Nor though the old lady would by no means
hear of Rebecca's departure, was the latter regularly installed in
office in Park Lane. Like many wealthy people, it was Miss
Crawley's habit to accept as much service as she could get from her
inferiors; and good-naturedly to take leave of them when she no
longer found them useful. Gratitude among certain rich folks is
scarcely natural or to be thought of. They take needy people's
services as their due. Nor have you, O poor parasite and humble
hanger-on, much reason to complain! Your friendship for Dives is
about as sincere as the return which it usually gets. It is money
you love, and not the man; and were Croesus and his footman to
change places you know, you poor rogue, who would have the benefit
of your allegiance.
And I am not sure that, in spite of Rebecca's simplicity and
activity, and gentleness and untiring good humour, the shrewd old
London lady, upon whom these treasures of friendship were lavished,
had not a lurking suspicion all the while of her affectionate nurse
and friend. It must have often crossed Miss Crawley's mind that
nobody does anything for nothing. If she measured her own feeling
towards the world, she must have been pretty well able to gauge
those of the world towards herself; and perhaps she reflected that
it is the ordinary lot of people to have no friends if they
themselves care for nobody.
Well, meanwhile Becky was the greatest comfort and convenience to
her, and she gave her a couple of new gowns, and an old necklace and
shawl, and showed her friendship by abusing all her intimate
acquaintances to her new confidante (than which there can't be a
more touching proof of regard), and meditated vaguely some great
future benefit--to marry her perhaps to Clump, the apothecary, or to
settle her in some advantageous way of life; or at any rate, to send
her back to Queen's Crawley when she had done with her, and the full
London season had begun.
When Miss Crawley was convalescent and descended to the drawing-
room, Becky sang to her, and otherwise amused her; when she was well
enough to drive out, Becky accompanied her. And amongst the drives
which they took, whither, of all places in the world, did Miss
Crawley's admirable good-nature and friendship actually induce her
to penetrate, but to Russell Square, Bloomsbury, and the house of
John Sedley, Esquire.
Ere that event, many notes had passed, as may be imagined, between
the two dear friends. During the months of Rebecca's stay in
Hampshire, the eternal friendship had (must it be owned?) suffered
considerable diminution, and grown so decrepit and feeble with old
age as to threaten demise altogether. The fact is, both girls had
their own real affairs to think of: Rebecca her advance with her
employers--Amelia her own absorbing topic. When the two girls met,
and flew into each other's arms with that impetuosity which
distinguishes the behaviour of young ladies towards each other,
Rebecca performed her part of the embrace with the most perfect
briskness and energy. Poor little Amelia blushed as she kissed her
friend, and thought she had been guilty of something very like
coldness towards her.
Their first interview was but a very short one. Amelia was just
ready to go out for a walk. Miss Crawley was waiting in her
carriage below, her people wondering at the locality in which they
found themselves, and gazing upon honest Sambo, the black footman of
Bloomsbury, as one of the queer natives of the place. But when
Amelia came down with her kind smiling looks (Rebecca must introduce
her to her friend, Miss Crawley was longing to see her, and was too
ill to leave her carriage)--when, I say, Amelia came down, the Park
Lane shoulder-knot aristocracy wondered more and more that such a
thing could come out of Bloomsbury; and Miss Crawley was fairly
captivated by the sweet blushing face of the young lady who came
forward so timidly and so gracefully to pay her respects to the
protector of her friend.
"What a complexion, my dear! What a sweet voice!" Miss Crawley said,
as they drove away westward after the little interview. "My dear
Sharp, your young friend is charming. Send for her to Park Lane, do