Part 5 out of 16
maid came into Amelia's room, where she sate as usual, brooding
silently over her letters--her little treasures. The girl, smiling,
and looking arch and happy, made many trials to attract poor Emmy's
attention, who, however, took no heed of her.
"Miss Emmy," said the girl.
"I'm coming," Emmy said, not looking round.
"There's a message," the maid went on. "There's something--
somebody--sure, here's a new letter for you--don't be reading them
old ones any more." And she gave her a letter, which Emmy took, and
"I must see you," the letter said. "Dearest Emmy--dearest love--
dearest wife, come to me."
George and her mother were outside, waiting until she had read the
Miss Crawley at Nurse
We have seen how Mrs. Firkin, the lady's maid, as soon as any event
of importance to the Crawley family came to her knowledge, felt
bound to communicate it to Mrs. Bute Crawley, at the Rectory; and
have before mentioned how particularly kind and attentive that good-
natured lady was to Miss Crawley's confidential servant. She had
been a gracious friend to Miss Briggs, the companion, also; and had
secured the latter's good-will by a number of those attentions and
promises, which cost so little in the making, and are yet so
valuable and agreeable to the recipient. Indeed every good
economist and manager of a household must know how cheap and yet how
amiable these professions are, and what a flavour they give to the
most homely dish in life. Who was the blundering idiot who said
that "fine words butter no parsnips"? Half the parsnips of society
are served and rendered palatable with no other sauce. As the
immortal Alexis Soyer can make more delicious soup for a half-penny
than an ignorant cook can concoct with pounds of vegetables and
meat, so a skilful artist will make a few simple and pleasing
phrases go farther than ever so much substantial benefit-stock in
the hands of a mere bungler. Nay, we know that substantial benefits
often sicken some stomachs; whereas, most will digest any amount of
fine words, and be always eager for more of the same food. Mrs. Bute
had told Briggs and Firkin so often of the depth of her affection
for them; and what she would do, if she had Miss Crawley's fortune,
for friends so excellent and attached, that the ladies in question
had the deepest regard for her; and felt as much gratitude and
confidence as if Mrs. Bute had loaded them with the most expensive
Rawdon Crawley, on the other hand, like a selfish heavy dragoon as
he was, never took the least trouble to conciliate his aunt's aides-
de-camp, showed his contempt for the pair with entire frankness--
made Firkin pull off his boots on one occasion--sent her out in the
rain on ignominious messages--and if he gave her a guinea, flung it
to her as if it were a box on the ear. As his aunt, too, made a
butt of Briggs, the Captain followed the example, and levelled his
jokes at her--jokes about as delicate as a kick from his charger.
Whereas, Mrs. Bute consulted her in matters of taste or difficulty,
admired her poetry, and by a thousand acts of kindness and
politeness, showed her appreciation of Briggs; and if she made
Firkin a twopenny-halfpenny present, accompanied it with so many
compliments, that the twopence-half-penny was transmuted into gold
in the heart of the grateful waiting-maid, who, besides, was looking
forwards quite contentedly to some prodigious benefit which must
happen to her on the day when Mrs. Bute came into her fortune.
The different conduct of these two people is pointed out
respectfully to the attention of persons commencing the world.
Praise everybody, I say to such: never be squeamish, but speak out
your compliment both point-blank in a man's face, and behind his
back, when you know there is a reasonable chance of his hearing it
again. Never lose a chance of saying a kind word. As Collingwood
never saw a vacant place in his estate but he took an acorn out of
his pocket and popped it in; so deal with your compliments through
life. An acorn costs nothing; but it may sprout into a prodigious
bit of timber.
In a word, during Rawdon Crawley's prosperity, he was only obeyed
with sulky acquiescence; when his disgrace came, there was nobody to
help or pity him. Whereas, when Mrs. Bute took the command at Miss
Crawley's house, the garrison there were charmed to act under such a
leader, expecting all sorts of promotion from her promises, her
generosity, and her kind words.
That he would consider himself beaten, after one defeat, and make no
attempt to regain the position he had lost, Mrs. Bute Crawley never
allowed herself to suppose. She knew Rebecca to be too clever and
spirited and desperate a woman to submit without a struggle; and
felt that she must prepare for that combat, and be incessantly
watchful against assault; or mine, or surprise.
In the first place, though she held the town, was she sure of the
principal inhabitant? Would Miss Crawley herself hold out; and had
she not a secret longing to welcome back the ousted adversary? The
old lady liked Rawdon, and Rebecca, who amused her. Mrs. Bute could
not disguise from herself the fact that none of her party could so
contribute to the pleasures of the town-bred lady. "My girls'
singing, after that little odious governess's, I know is
unbearable," the candid Rector's wife owned to herself. "She always
used to go to sleep when Martha and Louisa played their duets.
Jim's stiff college manners and poor dear Bute's talk about his dogs
and horses always annoyed her. If I took her to the Rectory, she
would grow angry with us all, and fly, I know she would; and might
fall into that horrid Rawdon's clutches again, and be the victim of
that little viper of a Sharp. Meanwhile, it is clear to me that she
is exceedingly unwell, and cannot move for some weeks, at any rate;
during which we must think of some plan to protect her from the arts
of those unprincipled people."
In the very best-of moments, if anybody told Miss Crawley that she
was, or looked ill, the trembling old lady sent off for her doctor;
and I daresay she was very unwell after the sudden family event,
which might serve to shake stronger nerves than hers. At least,
Mrs. Bute thought it was her duty to inform the physician, and the
apothecary, and the dame-de-compagnie, and the domestics, that Miss
Crawley was in a most critical state, and that they were to act
accordingly. She had the street laid knee-deep with straw; and the
knocker put by with Mr. Bowls's plate. She insisted that the Doctor
should call twice a day; and deluged her patient with draughts every
two hours. When anybody entered the room, she uttered a shshshsh so
sibilant and ominous, that it frightened the poor old lady in her
bed, from which she could not look without seeing Mrs. Bute's beady
eyes eagerly fixed on her, as the latter sate steadfast in the arm-
chair by the bedside. They seemed to lighten in the dark (for she
kept the curtains closed) as she moved about the room on velvet paws
like a cat. There Miss Crawley lay for days--ever so many days--Mr.
Bute reading books of devotion to her: for nights, long nights,
during which she had to hear the watchman sing, the night-light
sputter; visited at midnight, the last thing, by the stealthy
apothecary; and then left to look at Mrs. Bute's twinkling eyes, or
the flicks of yellow that the rushlight threw on the dreary darkened
ceiling. Hygeia herself would have fallen sick under such a
regimen; and how much more this poor old nervous victim? It has
been said that when she was in health and good spirits, this
venerable inhabitant of Vanity Fair had as free notions about
religion and morals as Monsieur de Voltaire himself could desire,
but when illness overtook her, it was aggravated by the most
dreadful terrors of death, and an utter cowardice took possession of
the prostrate old sinner.
Sick-bed homilies and pious reflections are, to be sure, out of
place in mere story-books, and we are not going (after the fashion
of some novelists of the present day) to cajole the public into a
sermon, when it is only a comedy that the reader pays his money to
witness. But, without preaching, the truth may surely be borne in
mind, that the bustle, and triumph, and laughter, and gaiety which
Vanity Fair exhibits in public, do not always pursue the performer
into private life, and that the most dreary depression of spirits
and dismal repentances sometimes overcome him. Recollection of the
best ordained banquets will scarcely cheer sick epicures.
Reminiscences of the most becoming dresses and brilliant ball
triumphs will go very little way to console faded beauties. Perhaps
statesmen, at a particular period of existence, are not much
gratified at thinking over the most triumphant divisions; and the
success or the pleasure of yesterday becomes of very small account
when a certain (albeit uncertain) morrow is in view, about which all
of us must some day or other be speculating. O brother wearers of
motley! Are there not moments when one grows sick of grinning and
tumbling, and the jingling of cap and bells? This, dear friends and
companions, is my amiable object--to walk with you through the Fair,
to examine the shops and the shows there; and that we should all
come home after the flare, and the noise, and the gaiety, and be
perfectly miserable in private.
"If that poor man of mine had a head on his shoulders," Mrs. Bute
Crawley thought to herself, "how useful he might be, under present
circumstances, to this unhappy old lady! He might make her repent
of her shocking free-thinking ways; he might urge her to do her
duty, and cast off that odious reprobate who has disgraced himself
and his family; and he might induce her to do justice to my dear
girls and the two boys, who require and deserve, I am sure, every
assistance which their relatives can give them."
And, as the hatred of vice is always a progress towards virtue, Mrs.
Bute Crawley endeavoured to instil her sister-in-law a proper
abhorrence for all Rawdon Crawley's manifold sins: of which his
uncle's wife brought forward such a catalogue as indeed would have
served to condemn a whole regiment of young officers. If a man has
committed wrong in life, I don't know any moralist more anxious to
point his errors out to the world than his own relations; so Mrs.
Bute showed a perfect family interest and knowledge of Rawdon's
history. She had all the particulars of that ugly quarrel with
Captain Marker, in which Rawdon, wrong from the beginning, ended in
shooting the Captain. She knew how the unhappy Lord Dovedale, whose
mamma had taken a house at Oxford, so that he might be educated
there, and who had never touched a card in his life till he came to
London, was perverted by Rawdon at the Cocoa-Tree, made helplessly
tipsy by this abominable seducer and perverter of youth, and fleeced
of four thousand pounds. She described with the most vivid
minuteness the agonies of the country families whom he had ruined--
the sons whom he had plunged into dishonour and poverty--the
daughters whom he had inveigled into perdition. She knew the poor
tradesmen who were bankrupt by his extravagance--the mean shifts and
rogueries with which he had ministered to it--the astounding
falsehoods by which he had imposed upon the most generous of aunts,
and the ingratitude and ridicule by which he had repaid her
sacrifices. She imparted these stories gradually to Miss Crawley;
gave her the whole benefit of them; felt it to be her bounden duty
as a Christian woman and mother of a family to do so; had not the
smallest remorse or compunction for the victim whom her tongue was
immolating; nay, very likely thought her act was quite meritorious,
and plumed herself upon her resolute manner of performing it. Yes,
if a man's character is to be abused, say what you will, there's
nobody like a relation to do the business. And one is bound to own,
regarding this unfortunate wretch of a Rawdon Crawley, that the mere
truth was enough to condemn him, and that all inventions of scandal
were quite superfluous pains on his friends' parts.
Rebecca, too, being now a relative, came in for the fullest share of
Mrs. Bute's kind inquiries. This indefatigable pursuer of truth
(having given strict orders that the door was to be denied to all
emissaries or letters from Rawdon), took Miss Crawley's carriage,
and drove to her old friend Miss Pinkerton, at Minerva House,
Chiswick Mall, to whom she announced the dreadful intelligence of
Captain Rawdon's seduction by Miss Sharp, and from whom she got
sundry strange particulars regarding the ex-governess's birth and
early history. The friend of the Lexicographer had plenty of
information to give. Miss Jemima was made to fetch the drawing-
master's receipts and letters. This one was from a spunging-house:
that entreated an advance: another was full of gratitude for
Rebecca's reception by the ladies of Chiswick: and the last document
from the unlucky artist's pen was that in which, from his dying bed,
he recommended his orphan child to Miss Pinkerton's protection.
There were juvenile letters and petitions from Rebecca, too, in the
collection, imploring aid for her father or declaring her own
gratitude. Perhaps in Vanity Fair there are no better satires than
letters. Take a bundle of your dear friend's of ten years back--
your dear friend whom you hate now. Look at a file of your
sister's! how you clung to each other till you quarrelled about the
twenty-pound legacy! Get down the round-hand scrawls of your son
who has half broken your heart with selfish undutifulness since; or
a parcel of your own, breathing endless ardour and love eternal,
which were sent back by your mistress when she married the Nabob--
your mistress for whom you now care no more than for Queen
Elizabeth. Vows, love, promises, confidences, gratitude, how queerly
they read after a while! There ought to be a law in Vanity Fair
ordering the destruction of every written document (except receipted
tradesmen's bills) after a certain brief and proper interval. Those
quacks and misanthropes who advertise indelible Japan ink should be
made to perish along with their wicked discoveries. The best ink
for Vanity Fair use would be one that faded utterly in a couple of
days, and left the paper clean and blank, so that you might write on
it to somebody else.
From Miss Pinkerton's the indefatigable Mrs. Bute followed the track
of Sharp and his daughter back to the lodgings in Greek Street,
which the defunct painter had occupied; and where portraits of the
landlady in white satin, and of the husband in brass buttons, done
by Sharp in lieu of a quarter's rent, still decorated the parlour
walls. Mrs. Stokes was a communicative person, and quickly told all
she knew about Mr. Sharp; how dissolute and poor he was; how good-
natured and amusing; how he was always hunted by bailiffs and duns;
how, to the landlady's horror, though she never could abide the
woman, he did not marry his wife till a short time before her death;
and what a queer little wild vixen his daughter was; how she kept
them all laughing with her fun and mimicry; how she used to fetch
the gin from the public-house, and was known in all the studios in
the quarter--in brief, Mrs. Bute got such a full account of her new
niece's parentage, education, and behaviour as would scarcely have
pleased Rebecca, had the latter known that such inquiries were being
made concerning her.
Of all these industrious researches Miss Crawley had the full
benefit. Mrs. Rawdon Crawley was the daughter of an opera-girl.
She had danced herself. She had been a model to the painters. She
was brought up as became her mother's daughter. She drank gin with
her father, &c. &c. It was a lost woman who was married to a lost
man; and the moral to be inferred from Mrs. Bute's tale was, that
the knavery of the pair was irremediable, and that no properly
conducted person should ever notice them again.
These were the materials which prudent Mrs. Bute gathered together
in Park Lane, the provisions and ammunition as it were with which
she fortified the house against the siege which she knew that Rawdon
and his wife would lay to Miss Crawley.
But if a fault may be found with her arrangements, it is this, that
she was too eager: she managed rather too well; undoubtedly she made
Miss Crawley more ill than was necessary; and though the old invalid
succumbed to her authority, it was so harassing and severe, that the
victim would be inclined to escape at the very first chance which
fell in her way. Managing women, the ornaments of their sex--women
who order everything for everybody, and know so much better than any
person concerned what is good for their neighbours, don't sometimes
speculate upon the possibility of a domestic revolt, or upon other
extreme consequences resulting from their overstrained authority.
Thus, for instance, Mrs. Bute, with the best intentions no doubt in
the world, and wearing herself to death as she did by foregoing
sleep, dinner, fresh air, for the sake of her invalid sister-in-law,
carried her conviction of the old lady's illness so far that she
almost managed her into her coffin. She pointed out her sacrifices
and their results one day to the constant apothecary, Mr. Clump.
"I am sure, my dear Mr. Clump," she said, "no efforts of mine have
been wanting to restore our dear invalid, whom the ingratitude of
her nephew has laid on the bed of sickness. I never shrink from
personal discomfort: I never refuse to sacrifice myself."
"Your devotion, it must be confessed, is admirable," Mr. Clump says,
with a low bow; "but--"
"I have scarcely closed my eyes since my arrival: I give up sleep,
health, every comfort, to my sense of duty. When my poor James was
in the smallpox, did I allow any hireling to nurse him? No."
"You did what became an excellent mother, my dear Madam--the best of
"As the mother of a family and the wife of an English clergyman, I
humbly trust that my principles are good," Mrs. Bute said, with a
happy solemnity of conviction; "and, as long as Nature supports me,
never, never, Mr. Clump, will I desert the post of duty. Others may
bring that grey head with sorrow to the bed of sickness (here Mrs.
Bute, waving her hand, pointed to one of old Miss Crawley's coffee-
coloured fronts, which was perched on a stand in the dressing-room),
but I will never quit it. Ah, Mr. Clump! I fear, I know, that the
couch needs spiritual as well as medical consolation."
"What I was going to observe, my dear Madam,"--here the resolute
Clump once more interposed with a bland air--"what I was going to
observe when you gave utterance to sentiments which do you so much
honour, was that I think you alarm yourself needlessly about our
kind friend, and sacrifice your own health too prodigally in her
"I would lay down my life for my duty, or for any member of my
husband's family," Mrs. Bute interposed.
"Yes, Madam, if need were; but we don't want Mrs Bute Crawley to be
a martyr," Clump said gallantly. "Dr Squills and myself have both
considered Miss Crawley's case with every anxiety and care, as you
may suppose. We see her low-spirited and nervous; family events
have agitated her."
"Her nephew will come to perdition," Mrs. Crawley cried.
"Have agitated her: and you arrived like a guardian angel, my dear
Madam, a positive guardian angel, I assure you, to soothe her under
the pressure of calamity. But Dr. Squills and I were thinking that
our amiable friend is not in such a state as renders confinement to
her bed necessary. She is depressed, but this confinement perhaps
adds to her depression. She should have change, fresh air, gaiety;
the most delightful remedies in the pharmacopoeia," Mr. Clump said,
grinning and showing his handsome teeth. "Persuade her to rise,
dear Madam; drag her from her couch and her low spirits; insist upon
her taking little drives. They will restore the roses too to your
cheeks, if I may so speak to Mrs. Bute Crawley."
"The sight of her horrid nephew casually in the Park, where I am
told the wretch drives with the brazen partner of his crimes," Mrs.
Bute said (letting the cat of selfishness out of the bag of
secrecy), "would cause her such a shock, that we should have to
bring her back to bed again. She must not go out, Mr. Clump. She
shall not go out as long as I remain to watch over her; And as for
my health, what matters it? I give it cheerfully, sir. I sacrifice
it at the altar of my duty."
"Upon my word, Madam," Mr. Clump now said bluntly, "I won't answer
for her life if she remains locked up in that dark room. She is so
nervous that we may lose her any day; and if you wish Captain
Crawley to be her heir, I warn you frankly, Madam, that you are
doing your very best to serve him."
"Gracious mercy! is her life in danger?" Mrs. Bute cried. "Why,
why, Mr. Clump, did you not inform me sooner?"
The night before, Mr. Clump and Dr. Squills had had a consultation
(over a bottle of wine at the house of Sir Lapin Warren, whose lady
was about to present him with a thirteenth blessing), regarding Miss
Crawley and her case.
"What a little harpy that woman from Hampshire is, Clump," Squills
remarked, "that has seized upon old Tilly Crawley. Devilish good
"What a fool Rawdon Crawley has been," Clump replied, "to go and
marry a governess! There was something about the girl, too."
"Green eyes, fair skin, pretty figure, famous frontal development,"
Squills remarked. "There is something about her; and Crawley was a
"A d--- fool--always was," the apothecary replied.
"Of course the old girl will fling him over," said the physician,
and after a pause added, "She'll cut up well, I suppose."
"Cut up," says Clump with a grin; "I wouldn't have her cut up for
two hundred a year."
"That Hampshire woman will kill her in two months, Clump, my boy, if
she stops about her," Dr. Squills said. "Old woman; full feeder;
nervous subject; palpitation of the heart; pressure on the brain;
apoplexy; off she goes. Get her up, Clump; get her out: or I
wouldn't give many weeks' purchase for your two hundred a year." And
it was acting upon this hint that the worthy apothecary spoke with
so much candour to Mrs. Bute Crawley.
Having the old lady under her hand: in bed: with nobody near, Mrs.
Bute had made more than one assault upon her, to induce her to alter
her will. But Miss Crawley's usual terrors regarding death
increased greatly when such dismal propositions were made to her,
and Mrs. Bute saw that she must get her patient into cheerful
spirits and health before she could hope to attain the pious object
which she had in view. Whither to take her was the next puzzle.
The only place where she is not likely to meet those odious Rawdons
is at church, and that won't amuse her, Mrs. Bute justly felt. "We
must go and visit our beautiful suburbs of London," she then
thought. "I hear they are the most picturesque in the world"; and
so she had a sudden interest for Hampstead, and Hornsey, and found
that Dulwich had great charms for her, and getting her victim into
her carriage, drove her to those rustic spots, beguiling the little
journeys with conversations about Rawdon and his wife, and telling
every story to the old lady which could add to her indignation
against this pair of reprobates.
Perhaps Mrs. Bute pulled the string unnecessarily tight. For though
she worked up Miss Crawley to a proper dislike of her disobedient
nephew, the invalid had a great hatred and secret terror of her
victimizer, and panted to escape from her. After a brief space, she
rebelled against Highgate and Hornsey utterly. She would go into
the Park. Mrs. Bute knew they would meet the abominable Rawdon
there, and she was right. One day in the ring, Rawdon's stanhope
came in sight; Rebecca was seated by him. In the enemy's equipage
Miss Crawley occupied her usual place, with Mrs. Bute on her left,
the poodle and Miss Briggs on the back seat. It was a nervous
moment, and Rebecca's heart beat quick as she recognized the
carriage; and as the two vehicles crossed each other in a line, she
clasped her hands, and looked towards the spinster with a face of
agonized attachment and devotion. Rawdon himself trembled, and his
face grew purple behind his dyed mustachios. Only old Briggs was
moved in the other carriage, and cast her great eyes nervously
towards her old friends. Miss Crawley's bonnet was resolutely
turned towards the Serpentine. Mrs. Bute happened to be in
ecstasies with the poodle, and was calling him a little darling, and
a sweet little zoggy, and a pretty pet. The carriages moved on,
each in his line.
"Done, by Jove," Rawdon said to his wife.
"Try once more, Rawdon," Rebecca answered. "Could not you lock your
wheels into theirs, dearest?"
Rawdon had not the heart for that manoeuvre. When the carriages met
again, he stood up in his stanhope; he raised his hand ready to doff
his hat; he looked with all his eyes. But this time Miss Crawley's
face was not turned away; she and Mrs. Bute looked him full in the
face, and cut their nephew pitilessly. He sank back in his seat
with an oath, and striking out of the ring, dashed away desperately
It was a gallant and decided triumph for Mrs. Bute. But she felt the
danger of many such meetings, as she saw the evident nervousness of
Miss Crawley; and she determined that it was most necessary for her
dear friend's health, that they should leave town for a while, and
recommended Brighton very strongly.
In Which Captain Dobbin Acts as the Messenger of Hymen
Without knowing how, Captain William Dobbin found himself the great
promoter, arranger, and manager of the match between George Osborne
and Amelia. But for him it never would have taken place: he could
not but confess as much to himself, and smiled rather bitterly as he
thought that he of all men in the world should be the person upon
whom the care of this marriage had fallen. But though indeed the
conducting of this negotiation was about as painful a task as could
be set to him, yet when he had a duty to perform, Captain Dobbin was
accustomed to go through it without many words or much hesitation:
and, having made up his mind completely, that if Miss Sedley was
balked of her husband she would die of the disappointment, he was
determined to use all his best endeavours to keep her alive.
I forbear to enter into minute particulars of the interview between
George and Amelia, when the former was brought back to the feet (or
should we venture to say the arms?) of his young mistress by the
intervention of his friend honest William. A much harder heart than
George's would have melted at the sight of that sweet face so sadly
ravaged by grief and despair, and at the simple tender accents in
which she told her little broken-hearted story: but as she did not
faint when her mother, trembling, brought Osborne to her; and as she
only gave relief to her overcharged grief, by laying her head on her
lover's shoulder and there weeping for a while the most tender,
copious, and refreshing tears--old Mrs. Sedley, too greatly
relieved, thought it was best to leave the young persons to
themselves; and so quitted Emmy crying over George's hand, and
kissing it humbly, as if he were her supreme chief and master, and
as if she were quite a guilty and unworthy person needing every
favour and grace from him.
This prostration and sweet unrepining obedience exquisitely touched
and flattered George Osborne. He saw a slave before him in that
simple yielding faithful creature, and his soul within him thrilled
secretly somehow at the knowledge of his power. He would be
generous-minded, Sultan as he was, and raise up this kneeling Esther
and make a queen of her: besides, her sadness and beauty touched
him as much as her submission, and so he cheered her, and raised her
up and forgave her, so to speak. All her hopes and feelings, which
were dying and withering, this her sun having been removed from her,
bloomed again and at once, its light being restored. You would
scarcely have recognised the beaming little face upon Amelia's
pillow that night as the one that was laid there the night before,
so wan, so lifeless, so careless of all round about. The honest
Irish maid-servant, delighted with the change, asked leave to kiss
the face that had grown all of a sudden so rosy. Amelia put her
arms round the girl's neck and kissed her with all her heart, like a
child. She was little more. She had that night a sweet refreshing
sleep, like one--and what a spring of inexpressible happiness as she
woke in the morning sunshine!
"He will be here again to-day," Amelia thought. "He is the greatest
and best of men." And the fact is, that George thought he was one
of the generousest creatures alive: and that he was making a
tremendous sacrifice in marrying this young creature.
While she and Osborne were having their delightful tete-a-tete above
stairs, old Mrs. Sedley and Captain Dobbin were conversing below
upon the state of the affairs, and the chances and future
arrangements of the young people. Mrs. Sedley having brought the
two lovers together and left them embracing each other with all
their might, like a true woman, was of opinion that no power on
earth would induce Mr. Sedley to consent to the match between his
daughter and the son of a man who had so shamefully, wickedly, and
monstrously treated him. And she told a long story about happier
days and their earlier splendours, when Osborne lived in a very
humble way in the New Road, and his wife was too glad to receive
some of Jos's little baby things, with which Mrs. Sedley
accommodated her at the birth of one of Osborne's own children. The
fiendish ingratitude of that man, she was sure, had broken Mr. S.'s
heart: and as for a marriage, he would never, never, never, never
"They must run away together, Ma'am," Dobbin said, laughing, "and
follow the example of Captain Rawdon Crawley, and Miss Emmy's friend
the little governess." Was it possible? Well she never! Mrs. Sedley
was all excitement about this news. She wished that Blenkinsop were
here to hear it: Blenkinsop always mistrusted that Miss Sharp.--
What an escape Jos had had! and she described the already well-known
love-passages between Rebecca and the Collector of Boggley Wollah.
It was not, however, Mr. Sedley's wrath which Dobbin feared, so much
as that of the other parent concerned, and he owned that he had a
very considerable doubt and anxiety respecting the behaviour of the
black-browed old tyrant of a Russia merchant in Russell Square. He
has forbidden the match peremptorily, Dobbin thought. He knew what a
savage determined man Osborne was, and how he stuck by his word.
"The only chance George has of reconcilement," argued his friend, "is
by distinguishing himself in the coming campaign. If he dies they
both go together. If he fails in distinction--what then? He has
some money from his mother, I have heard enough to purchase his
majority--or he must sell out and go and dig in Canada, or rough it
in a cottage in the country." With such a partner Dobbin thought he
would not mind Siberia--and, strange to say, this absurd and utterly
imprudent young fellow never for a moment considered that the want
of means to keep a nice carriage and horses, and of an income which
should enable its possessors to entertain their friends genteelly,
ought to operate as bars to the union of George and Miss Sedley.
It was these weighty considerations which made him think too that
the marriage should take place as quickly as possible. Was he
anxious himself, I wonder, to have it over?--as people, when death
has occurred, like to press forward the funeral, or when a parting
is resolved upon, hasten it. It is certain that Mr. Dobbin, having
taken the matter in hand, was most extraordinarily eager in the
conduct of it. He urged on George the necessity of immediate
action: he showed the chances of reconciliation with his father,
which a favourable mention of his name in the Gazette must bring
about. If need were he would go himself and brave both the fathers
in the business. At all events, he besought George to go through
with it before the orders came, which everybody expected, for the
departure of the regiment from England on foreign service.
Bent upon these hymeneal projects, and with the applause and consent
of Mrs. Sedley, who did not care to break the matter personally to
her husband, Mr. Dobbin went to seek John Sedley at his house of
call in the City, the Tapioca Coffee-house, where, since his own
offices were shut up, and fate had overtaken him, the poor broken-
down old gentleman used to betake himself daily, and write letters
and receive them, and tie them up into mysterious bundles, several
of which he carried in the flaps of his coat. I don't know anything
more dismal than that business and bustle and mystery of a ruined
man: those letters from the wealthy which he shows you: those worn
greasy documents promising support and offering condolence which he
places wistfully before you, and on which he builds his hopes of
restoration and future fortune. My beloved reader has no doubt in
the course of his experience been waylaid by many such a luckless
companion. He takes you into the corner; he has his bundle of
papers out of his gaping coat pocket; and the tape off, and the
string in his mouth, and the favourite letters selected and laid
before you; and who does not know the sad eager half-crazy look
which he fixes on you with his hopeless eyes?
Changed into a man of this sort, Dobbin found the once florid,
jovial, and prosperous John Sedley. His coat, that used to be so
glossy and trim, was white at the seams, and the buttons showed the
copper. His face had fallen in, and was unshorn; his frill and
neckcloth hung limp under his bagging waistcoat. When he used to
treat the boys in old days at a coffee-house, he would shout and
laugh louder than anybody there, and have all the waiters skipping
round him; it was quite painful to see how humble and civil he was
to John of the Tapioca, a blear-eyed old attendant in dingy
stockings and cracked pumps, whose business it was to serve glasses
of wafers, and bumpers of ink in pewter, and slices of paper to the
frequenters of this dreary house of entertainment, where nothing
else seemed to be consumed. As for William Dobbin, whom he had
tipped repeatedly in his youth, and who had been the old gentleman's
butt on a thousand occasions, old Sedley gave his hand to him in a
very hesitating humble manner now, and called him "Sir." A feeling
of shame and remorse took possession of William Dobbin as the broken
old man so received and addressed him, as if he himself had been
somehow guilty of the misfortunes which had brought Sedley so low.
"I am very glad to see you, Captain Dobbin, sir," says he, after a
skulking look or two at his visitor (whose lanky figure and military
appearance caused some excitement likewise to twinkle in the blear
eyes of the waiter in the cracked dancing pumps, and awakened the
old lady in black, who dozed among the mouldy old coffee-cups in the
bar). "How is the worthy alderman, and my lady, your excellent
mother, sir?" He looked round at the waiter as he said, "My lady,"
as much as to say, "Hark ye, John, I have friends still, and persons
of rank and reputation, too." "Are you come to do anything in my
way, sir? My young friends Dale and Spiggot do all my business for
me now, until my new offices are ready; for I'm only here
temporarily, you know, Captain. What can we do for you. sir? Will
you like to take anything?"
Dobbin, with a great deal of hesitation and stuttering, protested
that he was not in the least hungry or thirsty; that he had no
business to transact; that he only came to ask if Mr. Sedley was
well, and to shake hands with an old friend; and, he added, with a
desperate perversion of truth, "My mother is very well--that is,
she's been very unwell, and is only waiting for the first fine day
to go out and call upon Mrs. Sedley. How is Mrs. Sedley, sir? I
hope she's quite well." And here he paused, reflecting on his own
consummate hypocrisy; for the day was as fine, and the sunshine as
bright as it ever is in Coffin Court, where the Tapioca Coffee-house
is situated: and Mr. Dobbin remembered that he had seen Mrs. Sedley
himself only an hour before, having driven Osborne down to Fulham in
his gig, and left him there tete-a-tete with Miss Amelia.
"My wife will be very happy to see her ladyship," Sedley replied,
pulling out his papers. "I've a very kind letter here from your
father, sir, and beg my respectful compliments to him. Lady D. will
find us in rather a smaller house than we were accustomed to receive
our friends in; but it's snug, and the change of air does good to my
daughter, who was suffering in town rather--you remember little
Emmy, sir?--yes, suffering a good deal." The old gentleman's eyes
were wandering as he spoke, and he was thinking of something else,
as he sate thrumming on his papers and fumbling at the worn red
"You're a military man," he went on; "I ask you, Bill Dobbin, could
any man ever have speculated upon the return of that Corsican
scoundrel from Elba? When the allied sovereigns were here last
year, and we gave 'em that dinner in the City, sir, and we saw the
Temple of Concord, and the fireworks, and the Chinese bridge in St.
James's Park, could any sensible man suppose that peace wasn't
really concluded, after we'd actually sung Te Deum for it, sir? I
ask you, William, could I suppose that the Emperor of Austria was a
damned traitor--a traitor, and nothing more? I don't mince words--a
double-faced infernal traitor and schemer, who meant to have his
son-in-law back all along. And I say that the escape of Boney from
Elba was a damned imposition and plot, sir, in which half the powers
of Europe were concerned, to bring the funds down, and to ruin this
country. That's why I'm here, William. That's why my name's in the
Gazette. Why, sir?--because I trusted the Emperor of Russia and the
Prince Regent. Look here. Look at my papers. Look what the funds
were on the 1st of March--what the French fives were when I bought
for the count. And what they're at now. There was collusion, sir,
or that villain never would have escaped. Where was the English
Commissioner who allowed him to get away? He ought to be shot, sir
--brought to a court-martial, and shot, by Jove."
"We're going to hunt Boney out, sir," Dobbin said, rather alarmed at
the fury of the old man, the veins of whose forehead began to swell,
and who sate drumming his papers with his clenched fist. "We are
going to hunt him out, sir--the Duke's in Belgium already, and we
expect marching orders every day."
"Give him no quarter. Bring back the villain's head, sir. Shoot the
coward down, sir," Sedley roared. "I'd enlist myself, by--; but I'm
a broken old man--ruined by that damned scoundrel--and by a parcel
of swindling thieves in this country whom I made, sir, and who are
rolling in their carriages now," he added, with a break in his
Dobbin was not a little affected by the sight of this once kind old
friend, crazed almost with misfortune and raving with senile anger.
Pity the fallen gentleman: you to whom money and fair repute are the
chiefest good; and so, surely, are they in Vanity Fair.
"Yes," he continued, "there are some vipers that you warm, and they
sting you afterwards. There are some beggars that you put on
horseback, and they're the first to ride you down. You know whom I
mean, William Dobbin, my boy. I mean a purse-proud villain in
Russell Square, whom I knew without a shilling, and whom I pray and
hope to see a beggar as he was when I befriended him."
"I have heard something of this, sir, from my friend George," Dobbin
said, anxious to come to his point. "The quarrel between you and
his father has cut him up a great deal, sir. Indeed, I'm the bearer
of a message from him."
"O, THAT'S your errand, is it?" cried the old man, jumping up.
"What! perhaps he condoles with me, does he? Very kind of him, the
stiff-backed prig, with his dandified airs and West End swagger.
He's hankering about my house, is he still? If my son had the
courage of a man, he'd shoot him. He's as big a villain as his
father. I won't have his name mentioned in my house. I curse the
day that ever I let him into it; and I'd rather see my daughter dead
at my feet than married to him."
"His father's harshness is not George's fault, sir. Your daughter's
love for him is as much your doing as his. Who are you, that you
are to play with two young people's affections and break their
hearts at your will?"
"Recollect it's not his father that breaks the match off," old
Sedley cried out. "It's I that forbid it. That family and mine are
separated for ever. I'm fallen low, but not so low as that: no, no.
And so you may tell the whole race--son, and father and sisters, and
"It's my belief, sir, that you have not the power or the right to
separate those two," Dobbin answered in a low voice; "and that if
you don't give your daughter your consent it will be her duty to
marry without it. There's no reason she should die or live
miserably because you are wrong-headed. To my thinking, she's just
as much married as if the banns had been read in all the churches in
London. And what better answer can there be to Osborne's charges
against you, as charges there are, than that his son claims to enter
your family and marry your daughter?"
A light of something like satisfaction seemed to break over old
Sedley as this point was put to him: but he still persisted that
with his consent the marriage between Amelia and George should never
"We must do it without," Dobbin said, smiling, and told Mr. Sedley,
as he had told Mrs. Sedley in the day, before, the story of
Rebecca's elopement with Captain Crawley. It evidently amused the
old gentleman. "You're terrible fellows, you Captains," said he,
tying up his papers; and his face wore something like a smile upon
it, to the astonishment of the blear-eyed waiter who now entered,
and had never seen such an expression upon Sedley's countenance
since he had used the dismal coffee-house.
The idea of hitting his enemy Osborne such a blow soothed, perhaps,
the old gentleman: and, their colloquy presently ending, he and
Dobbin parted pretty good friends.
"My sisters say she has diamonds as big as pigeons' eggs," George
said, laughing. "How they must set off her complexion! A perfect
illumination it must be when her jewels are on her neck. Her jet-
black hair is as curly as Sambo's. I dare say she wore a nose ring
when she went to court; and with a plume of feathers in her top-knot
she would look a perfect Belle Sauvage."
George, in conversation with Amelia, was rallying the appearance of
a young lady of whom his father and sisters had lately made the
acquaintance, and who was an object of vast respect to the Russell
Square family. She was reported to have I don't know how many
plantations in the West Indies; a deal of money in the funds; and
three stars to her name in the East India stockholders' list. She
had a mansion in Surrey, and a house in Portland Place. The name of
the rich West India heiress had been mentioned with applause in the
Morning Post. Mrs. Haggistoun, Colonel Haggistoun's widow, her
relative, "chaperoned" her, and kept her house. She was just from
school, where she had completed her education, and George and his
sisters had met her at an evening party at old Hulker's house,
Devonshire Place (Hulker, Bullock, and Co. were long the
correspondents of her house in the West Indies), and the girls had
made the most cordial advances to her, which the heiress had
received with great good humour. An orphan in her position--with her
money--so interesting! the Misses Osborne said. They were full of
their new friend when they returned from the Hulker ball to Miss
Wirt, their companion; they had made arrangements for continually
meeting, and had the carriage and drove to see her the very next
day. Mrs. Haggistoun, Colonel Haggistoun's widow, a relation of
Lord Binkie, and always talking of him, struck the dear
unsophisticated girls as rather haughty, and too much inclined to
talk about her great relations: but Rhoda was everything they could
wish--the frankest, kindest, most agreeable creature--wanting a
little polish, but so good-natured. The girls Christian-named each
other at once.
"You should have seen her dress for court, Emmy," Osborne cried,
laughing. "She came to my sisters to show it off, before she was
presented in state by my Lady Binkie, the Haggistoun's kinswoman.
She's related to every one, that Haggistoun. Her diamonds blazed
out like Vauxhall on the night we were there. (Do you remember
Vauxhall, Emmy, and Jos singing to his dearest diddle diddle
darling?) Diamonds and mahogany, my dear! think what an
advantageous contrast--and the white feathers in her hair--I mean in
her wool. She had earrings like chandeliers; you might have lighted
'em up, by Jove--and a yellow satin train that streeled after her
like the tail of a cornet."
"How old is she?" asked Emmy, to whom George was rattling away
regarding this dark paragon, on the morning of their reunion--
rattling away as no other man in the world surely could.
"Why the Black Princess, though she has only just left school, must
be two or three and twenty. And you should see the hand she writes!
Mrs. Colonel Haggistoun usually writes her letters, but in a moment
of confidence, she put pen to paper for my sisters; she spelt satin
satting, and Saint James's, Saint Jams."
"Why, surely it must be Miss Swartz, the parlour boarder," Emmy
said, remembering that good-natured young mulatto girl, who had been
so hysterically affected when Amelia left Miss Pinkerton's academy.
"The very name," George said. "Her father was a German Jew--a
slave-owner they say--connected with the Cannibal Islands in some
way or other. He died last year, and Miss Pinkerton has finished
her education. She can play two pieces on the piano; she knows
three songs; she can write when Mrs. Haggistoun is by to spell for
her; and Jane and Maria already have got to love her as a sister."
"I wish they would have loved me," said Emmy, wistfully. "They were
always very cold to me."
"My dear child, they would have loved you if you had had two hundred
thousand pounds," George replied. "That is the way in which they
have been brought up. Ours is a ready-money society. We live among
bankers and City big-wigs, and be hanged to them, and every man, as
he talks to you, is jingling his guineas in his pocket. There is
that jackass Fred Bullock is going to marry Maria--there's Goldmore,
the East India Director, there's Dipley, in the tallow trade--OUR
trade," George said, with an uneasy laugh and a blush. "Curse the
whole pack of money-grubbing vulgarians! I fall asleep at their
great heavy dinners. I feel ashamed in my father's great stupid
parties. I've been accustomed to live with gentlemen, and men of
the world and fashion, Emmy, not with a parcel of turtle-fed
tradesmen. Dear little woman, you are the only person of our set
who ever looked, or thought, or spoke like a lady: and you do it
because you're an angel and can't help it. Don't remonstrate. You
are the only lady. Didn't Miss Crawley remark it, who has lived in
the best company in Europe? And as for Crawley, of the Life Guards,
hang it, he's a fine fellow: and I like him for marrying the girl he
Amelia admired Mr. Crawley very much, too, for this; and trusted
Rebecca would be happy with him, and hoped (with a laugh) Jos would
be consoled. And so the pair went on prattling, as in quite early
days. Amelia's confidence being perfectly restored to her, though
she expressed a great deal of pretty jealousy about Miss Swartz, and
professed to be dreadfully frightened--like a hypocrite as she was--
lest George should forget her for the heiress and her money and her
estates in Saint Kitt's. But the fact is, she was a great deal too
happy to have fears or doubts or misgivings of any sort: and having
George at her side again, was not afraid of any heiress or beauty,
or indeed of any sort of danger.
When Captain Dobbin came back in the afternoon to these people--
which he did with a great deal of sympathy for them--it did his
heart good to see how Amelia had grown young again--how she laughed,
and chirped, and sang familiar old songs at the piano, which were
only interrupted by the bell from without proclaiming Mr. Sedley's
return from the City, before whom George received a signal to
Beyond the first smile of recognition--and even that was an
hypocrisy, for she thought his arrival rather provoking--Miss Sedley
did not once notice Dobbin during his visit. But he was content, so
that he saw her happy; and thankful to have been the means of making
A Quarrel About an Heiress
Love may be felt for any young lady endowed with such qualities as
Miss Swartz possessed; and a great dream of ambition entered into
old Mr. Osborne's soul, which she was to realize. He encouraged,
with the utmost enthusiasm and friendliness, his daughters' amiable
attachment to the young heiress, and protested that it gave him the
sincerest pleasure as a father to see the love of his girls so well
"You won't find," he would say to Miss Rhoda, "that splendour and
rank to which you are accustomed at the West End, my dear Miss, at
our humble mansion in Russell Square. My daughters are plain,
disinterested girls, but their hearts are in the right place, and
they've conceived an attachment for you which does them honour--I
say, which does them honour. I'm a plain, simple, humble British
merchant--an honest one, as my respected friends Hulker and Bullock
will vouch, who were the correspondents of your late lamented
father. You'll find us a united, simple, happy, and I think I may
say respected, family--a plain table, a plain people, but a warm
welcome, my dear Miss Rhoda--Rhoda, let me say, for my heart warms
to you, it does really. I'm a frank man, and I like you. A glass
of Champagne! Hicks, Champagne to Miss Swartz."
There is little doubt that old Osborne believed all he said, and
that the girls were quite earnest in their protestations of
affection for Miss Swartz. People in Vanity Fair fasten on to rich
folks quite naturally. If the simplest people are disposed to look
not a little kindly on great Prosperity (for I defy any member of
the British public to say that the notion of Wealth has not
something awful and pleasing to him; and you, if you are told that
the man next you at dinner has got half a million, not to look at
him with a certain interest)--if the simple look benevolently on
money, how much more do your old worldlings regard it! Their
affections rush out to meet and welcome money. Their kind
sentiments awaken spontaneously towards the interesting possessors
of it. I know some respectable people who don't consider themselves
at liberty to indulge in friendship for any individual who has not a
certain competency, or place in society. They give a loose to their
feelings on proper occasions. And the proof is, that the major part
of the Osborne family, who had not, in fifteen years, been able to
get up a hearty regard for Amelia Sedley, became as fond of Miss
Swartz in the course of a single evening as the most romantic
advocate of friendship at first sight could desire.
What a match for George she'd be (the sisters and Miss Wirt agreed),
and how much better than that insignificant little Amelia! Such a
dashing young fellow as he is, with his good looks, rank, and
accomplishments, would be the very husband for her. Visions of
balls in Portland Place, presentations at Court, and introductions
to half the peerage, filled the minds of the young ladies; who
talked of nothing but George and his grand acquaintances to their
beloved new friend.
Old Osborne thought she would be a great match, too, for his son.
He should leave the army; he should go into Parliament; he should
cut a figure in the fashion and in the state. His blood boiled with
honest British exultation, as he saw the name of Osborne ennobled in
the person of his son, and thought that he might be the progenitor
of a glorious line of baronets. He worked in the City and on
'Change, until he knew everything relating to the fortune of the
heiress, how her money was placed, and where her estates lay. Young
Fred Bullock, one of his chief informants, would have liked to make
a bid for her himself (it was so the young banker expressed it),
only he was booked to Maria Osborne. But not being able to secure
her as a wife, the disinterested Fred quite approved of her as a
sister-in-law. "Let George cut in directly and win her," was his
advice. "Strike while the iron's hot, you know--while she's fresh
to the town: in a few weeks some d--- fellow from the West End will
come in with a title and a rotten rent-roll and cut all us City men
out, as Lord Fitzrufus did last year with Miss Grogram, who was
actually engaged to Podder, of Podder & Brown's. The sooner it is
done the better, Mr. Osborne; them's my sentiments," the wag said;
though, when Osborne had left the bank parlour, Mr. Bullock
remembered Amelia, and what a pretty girl she was, and how attached
to George Osborne; and he gave up at least ten seconds of his
valuable time to regretting the misfortune which had befallen that
unlucky young woman.
While thus George Osborne's good feelings, and his good friend and
genius, Dobbin, were carrying back the truant to Amelia's feet,
George's parent and sisters were arranging this splendid match for
him, which they never dreamed he would resist.
When the elder Osborne gave what he called "a hint," there was no
possibility for the most obtuse to mistake his meaning. He called
kicking a footman downstairs a hint to the latter to leave his
service. With his usual frankness and delicacy he told Mrs.
Haggistoun that he would give her a cheque for five thousand pounds
on the day his son was married to her ward; and called that proposal
a hint, and considered it a very dexterous piece of diplomacy. He
gave George finally such another hint regarding the heiress; and
ordered him to marry her out of hand, as he would have ordered his
butler to draw a cork, or his clerk to write a letter.
This imperative hint disturbed George a good deal. He was in the
very first enthusiasm and delight of his second courtship of Amelia,
which was inexpressibly sweet to him. The contrast of her manners
and appearance with those of the heiress, made the idea of a union
with the latter appear doubly ludicrous and odious. Carriages and
opera-boxes, thought he; fancy being seen in them by the side of
such a mahogany charmer as that! Add to all that the junior Osborne
was quite as obstinate as the senior: when he wanted a thing, quite
as firm in his resolution to get it; and quite as violent when
angered, as his father in his most stern moments.
On the first day when his father formally gave him the hint that he
was to place his affections at Miss Swartz's feet, George temporised
with the old gentleman. "You should have thought of the matter
sooner, sir," he said. "It can't be done now, when we're expecting
every day to go on foreign service. Wait till my return, if I do
return"; and then he represented, that the time when the regiment
was daily expecting to quit England, was exceedingly ill-chosen:
that the few days or weeks during which they were still to remain at
home, must be devoted to business and not to love-making: time
enough for that when he came home with his majority; "for, I promise
you," said he, with a satisfied air, "that one way or other you
shall read the name of George Osborne in the Gazette."
The father's reply to this was founded upon the information which he
had got in the City: that the West End chaps would infallibly catch
hold of the heiress if any delay took place: that if he didn't marry
Miss S., he might at least have an engagement in writing, to come
into effect when he returned to England; and that a man who could
get ten thousand a year by staying at home, was a fool to risk his
"So that you would have me shown up as a coward, sir, and our name
dishonoured for the sake of Miss Swartz's money," George interposed.
This remark staggered the old gentleman; but as he had to reply to
it, and as his mind was nevertheless made up, he said, "You will
dine here to-morrow, sir, and every day Miss Swartz comes, you will
be here to pay your respects to her. If you want for money, call
upon Mr. Chopper." Thus a new obstacle was in George's way, to
interfere with his plans regarding Amelia; and about which he and
Dobbin had more than one confidential consultation. His friend's
opinion respecting the line of conduct which he ought to pursue, we
know already. And as for Osborne, when he was once bent on a thing,
a fresh obstacle or two only rendered him the more resolute.
The dark object of the conspiracy into which the chiefs of the
Osborne family had entered, was quite ignorant of all their plans
regarding her (which, strange to say, her friend and chaperon did
not divulge), and, taking all the young ladies' flattery for genuine
sentiment, and being, as we have before had occasion to show, of a
very warm and impetuous nature, responded to their affection with
quite a tropical ardour. And if the truth may be told, I dare say
that she too had some selfish attraction in the Russell Square
house; and in a word, thought George Osborne a very nice young man.
His whiskers had made an impression upon her, on the very first
night she beheld them at the ball at Messrs. Hulkers; and, as we
know, she was not the first woman who had been charmed by them.
George had an air at once swaggering and melancholy, languid and
fierce. He looked like a man who had passions, secrets, and private
harrowing griefs and adventures. His voice was rich and deep. He
would say it was a warm evening, or ask his partner to take an ice,
with a tone as sad and confidential as if he were breaking her
mother's death to her, or preluding a declaration of love. He
trampled over all the young bucks of his father's circle, and was
the hero among those third-rate men. Some few sneered at him and
hated him. Some, like Dobbin, fanatically admired him. And his
whiskers had begun to do their work, and to curl themselves round
the affections of Miss Swartz.
Whenever there was a chance of meeting him in Russell Square, that
simple and good-natured young woman was quite in a flurry to see her
dear Misses Osborne. She went to great expenses in new gowns, and
bracelets, and bonnets, and in prodigious feathers. She adorned her
person with her utmost skill to please the Conqueror, and exhibited
all her simple accomplishments to win his favour. The girls would
ask her, with the greatest gravity, for a little music, and she
would sing her three songs and play her two little pieces as often
as ever they asked, and with an always increasing pleasure to
herself. During these delectable entertainments, Miss Wirt and the
chaperon sate by, and conned over the peerage, and talked about the
The day after George had his hint from his father, and a short time
before the hour of dinner, he was lolling upon a sofa in the
drawing-room in a very becoming and perfectly natural attitude of
melancholy. He had been, at his father's request, to Mr. Chopper in
the City (the old-gentleman, though he gave great sums to his son,
would never specify any fixed allowance for him, and rewarded him
only as he was in the humour). He had then been to pass three hours
with Amelia, his dear little Amelia, at Fulham; and he came home to
find his sisters spread in starched muslin in the drawing-room, the
dowagers cackling in the background, and honest Swartz in her
favourite amber-coloured satin, with turquoise bracelets, countless
rings, flowers, feathers, and all sorts of tags and gimcracks, about
as elegantly decorated as a she chimney-sweep on May-day.
The girls, after vain attempts to engage him in conversation, talked
about fashions and the last drawing-room until he was perfectly sick
of their chatter. He contrasted their behaviour with little Emmy's
--their shrill voices with her tender ringing tones; their attitudes
and their elbows and their starch, with her humble soft movements
and modest graces. Poor Swartz was seated in a place where Emmy had
been accustomed to sit. Her bejewelled hands lay sprawling in her
amber satin lap. Her tags and ear-rings twinkled, and her big eyes
rolled about. She was doing nothing with perfect contentment, and
thinking herself charming. Anything so becoming as the satin the
sisters had never seen.
"Dammy," George said to a confidential friend, "she looked like a
China doll, which has nothing to do all day but to grin and wag its
head. By Jove, Will, it was all I I could do to prevent myself from
throwing the sofa-cushion at her." He restrained that exhibition of
The sisters began to play the Battle of Prague. "Stop that d---
thing," George howled out in a fury from the sofa. "It makes me
mad. You play us something, Miss Swartz, do. Sing something,
anything but the Battle of Prague."
"Shall I sing 'Blue Eyed Mary' or the air from the Cabinet?" Miss
"That sweet thing from the Cabinet," the sisters said.
"We've had that," replied the misanthrope on the sofa
"I can sing 'Fluvy du Tajy,'" Swartz said, in a meek voice, "if I
had the words." It was the last of the worthy young woman's
"O, 'Fleuve du Tage,'" Miss Maria cried; "we have the song," and
went off to fetch the book in which it was.
Now it happened that this song, then in the height of the fashion,
had been given to the young ladies by a young friend of theirs,
whose name was on the title, and Miss Swartz, having concluded the
ditty with George's applause (for he remembered that it was a
favourite of Amelia's), was hoping for an encore perhaps, and
fiddling with the leaves of the music, when her eye fell upon the
title, and she saw "Amelia Sedley" written in the comer.
"Lor!" cried Miss Swartz, spinning swiftly round on the music-stool,
"is it my Amelia? Amelia that was at Miss P.'s at Hammersmith? I
know it is. It's her. and--Tell me about her--where is she?"
"Don't mention her," Miss Maria Osborne said hastily. "Her family
has disgraced itself. Her father cheated Papa, and as for her, she
is never to be mentioned HERE." This was Miss Maria's return for
George's rudeness about the Battle of Prague.
"Are you a friend of Amelia's?" George said, bouncing up. "God
bless you for it, Miss Swartz. Don't believe what the girls say.
SHE'S not to blame at any rate. She's the best--"
"You know you're not to speak about her, George," cried Jane. "Papa
"Who's to prevent me?" George cried out. "I will speak of her. I
say she's the best, the kindest, the gentlest, the sweetest girl in
England; and that, bankrupt or no, my sisters are not fit to hold
candles to her. If you like her, go and see her, Miss Swartz; she
wants friends now; and I say, God bless everybody who befriends her.
Anybody who speaks kindly of her is my friend; anybody who speaks
against her is my enemy. Thank you, Miss Swartz"; and he went up
and wrung her hand.
"George! George!" one of the sisters cried imploringly.
"I say," George said fiercely, "I thank everybody who loves Amelia
Sed--" He stopped. Old Osborne was in the room with a face livid
with rage, and eyes like hot coals.
Though George had stopped in his sentence, yet, his blood being up,
he was not to be cowed by all the generations of Osborne; rallying
instantly, he replied to the bullying look of his father, with
another so indicative of resolution and defiance that the elder man
quailed in his turn, and looked away. He felt that the tussle was
coming. "Mrs. Haggistoun, let me take you down to dinner," he said.
"Give your arm to Miss Swartz, George," and they marched.
"Miss Swartz, I love Amelia, and we've been engaged almost all our
lives," Osborne said to his partner; and during all the dinner,
George rattled on with a volubility which surprised himself, and
made his father doubly nervous for the fight which was to take place
as soon as the ladies were gone.
The difference between the pair was, that while the father was
violent and a bully, the son had thrice the nerve and courage of the
parent, and could not merely make an attack, but resist it; and
finding that the moment was now come when the contest between him
and his father was to be decided, he took his dinner with perfect
coolness and appetite before the engagement began. Old Osborne, on
the contrary, was nervous, and drank much. He floundered in his
conversation with the ladies, his neighbours: George's coolness only
rendering him more angry. It made him half mad to see the calm way
in which George, flapping his napkin, and with a swaggering bow,
opened the door for the ladies to leave the room; and filling
himself a glass of wine, smacked it, and looked his father full in
the face, as if to say, "Gentlemen of the Guard, fire first." The
old man also took a supply of ammunition, but his decanter clinked
against the glass as he tried to fill it.
After giving a great heave, and with a purple choking face, he then
began. "How dare you, sir, mention that person's name before Miss
Swartz to-day, in my drawing-room? I ask you, sir, how dare you do
"Stop, sir," says George, "don't say dare, sir. Dare isn't a word
to be used to a Captain in the British Army."
"I shall say what I like to my son, sir. I can cut him off with a
shilling if I like. I can make him a beggar if I like. I WILL say
what I like," the elder said.
"I'm a gentleman though I AM your son, sir," George answered
haughtily. "Any communications which you have to make to me, or any
orders which you may please to give, I beg may be couched in that
kind of language which I am accustomed to hear."
Whenever the lad assumed his haughty manner, it always created
either great awe or great irritation in the parent. Old Osborne
stood in secret terror of his son as a better gentleman than
himself; and perhaps my readers may have remarked in their
experience of this Vanity Fair of ours, that there is no character
which a low-minded man so much mistrusts as that of a gentleman.
"My father didn't give me the education you have had, nor the
advantages you have had, nor the money you have had. If I had kept
the company SOME FOLKS have had through MY MEANS, perhaps my son
wouldn't have any reason to brag, sir, of his SUPERIORITY and WEST
END AIRS (these words were uttered in the elder Osborne's most
sarcastic tones). But it wasn't considered the part of a gentleman,
in MY time, for a man to insult his father. If I'd done any such
thing, mine would have kicked me downstairs, sir."
"I never insulted you, sir. I said I begged you to remember your
son was a gentleman as well as yourself. I know very well that you
give me plenty of money," said George (fingering a bundle of notes
which he had got in the morning from Mr. Chopper). "You tell it me
often enough, sir. There's no fear of my forgetting it."
"I wish you'd remember other things as well, sir," the sire
answered. "I wish you'd remember that in this house--so long as you
choose to HONOUR it with your COMPANY, Captain--I'm the master, and
that name, and that that--that you--that I say--"
"That what, sir?" George asked, with scarcely a sneer, filling
another glass of claret.
"----!" burst out his father with a screaming oath--"that the name of
those Sedleys never be mentioned here, sir--not one of the whole
damned lot of 'em, sir."
"It wasn't I, sir, that introduced Miss Sedley's name. It was my
sisters who spoke ill of her to Miss Swartz; and by Jove I'll defend
her wherever I go. Nobody shall speak lightly of that name in my
presence. Our family has done her quite enough injury already, I
think, and may leave off reviling her now she's down. I'll shoot
any man but you who says a word against her."
"Go on, sir, go on," the old gentleman said, his eyes starting out
of his head.
"Go on about what, sir? about the way in which we've treated that
angel of a girl? Who told me to love her? It was your doing. I
might have chosen elsewhere, and looked higher, perhaps, than your
society: but I obeyed you. And now that her heart's mine you give
me orders to fling it away, and punish her, kill her perhaps--for
the faults of other people. It's a shame, by Heavens," said George,
working himself up into passion and enthusiasm as he proceeded, "to
play at fast and loose with a young girl's affections--and with such
an angel as that--one so superior to the people amongst whom she
lived, that she might have excited envy, only she was so good and
gentle, that it's a wonder anybody dared to hate her. If I desert
her, sir, do you suppose she forgets me?"
"I ain't going to have any of this dam sentimental nonsense and
humbug here, sir," the father cried out. "There shall be no beggar-
marriages in my family. If you choose to fling away eight thousand
a year, which you may have for the asking, you may do it: but by
Jove you take your pack and walk out of this house, sir. Will you
do as I tell you, once for all, sir, or will you not?"
"Marry that mulatto woman?" George said, pulling up his shirt-
collars. "I don't like the colour, sir. Ask the black that sweeps
opposite Fleet Market, sir. I'm not going to marry a Hottentot
Mr. Osborne pulled frantically at the cord by which he was
accustomed to summon the butler when he wanted wine--and almost
black in the face, ordered that functionary to call a coach for
"I've done it," said George, coming into the Slaughters' an hour
afterwards, looking very pale.
"What, my boy?" says Dobbin.
George told what had passed between his father and himself.
"I'll marry her to-morrow," he said with an oath. "I love her more
every day, Dobbin."
A Marriage and Part of a Honeymoon
Enemies the most obstinate and courageous can't hold out against
starvation; so the elder Osborne felt himself pretty easy about his
adversary in the encounter we have just described; and as soon as
George's supplies fell short, confidently expected his unconditional
submission. It was unlucky, to be sure, that the lad should have
secured a stock of provisions on the very day when the first
encounter took place; but this relief was only temporary, old
Osborne thought, and would but delay George's surrender. No
communication passed between father and son for some days. The
former was sulky at this silence, but not disquieted; for, as he
said, he knew where he could put the screw upon George, and only
waited the result of that operation. He told the sisters the upshot
of the dispute between them, but ordered them to take no notice of
the matter, and welcome George on his return as if nothing had
happened. His cover was laid as usual every day, and perhaps the
old gentleman rather anxiously expected him; but he never came.
Some one inquired at the Slaughters' regarding him, where it was
said that he and his friend Captain Dobbin had left town.
One gusty, raw day at the end of April--the rain whipping the
pavement of that ancient street where the old Slaughters' Coffee-
house was once situated--George Osborne came into the coffee-room,
looking very haggard and pale; although dressed rather smartly in a
blue coat and brass buttons, and a neat buff waistcoat of the
fashion of those days. Here was his friend Captain Dobbin, in blue
and brass too, having abandoned the military frock and French-grey
trousers, which were the usual coverings of his lanky person.
Dobbin had been in the coffee-room for an hour or more. He had
tried all the papers, but could not read them. He had looked at the
clock many scores of times; and at the street, where the rain was
pattering down, and the people as they clinked by in pattens, left
long reflections on the shining stone: he tattooed at the table: he
bit his nails most completely, and nearly to the quick (he was
accustomed to ornament his great big hands in this way): he balanced
the tea-spoon dexterously on the milk jug: upset it, &c., &c.; and
in fact showed those signs of disquietude, and practised those
desperate attempts at amusement, which men are accustomed to employ
when very anxious, and expectant, and perturbed in mind.
Some of his comrades, gentlemen who used the room, joked him about
the splendour of his costume and his agitation of manner. One asked
him if he was going to be married? Dobbin laughed, and said he
would send his acquaintance (Major Wagstaff of the Engineers) a
piece of cake when that event took place. At length Captain Osborne
made his appearance, very smartly dressed, but very pale and
agitated as we have said. He wiped his pale face with a large
yellow bandanna pocket-handkerchief that was prodigiously scented.
He shook hands with Dobbin, looked at the clock, and told John, the
waiter, to bring him some curacao. Of this cordial he swallowed off
a couple of glasses with nervous eagerness. His friend asked with
some interest about his health.
"Couldn't get a wink of sleep till daylight, Dob," said he.
"Infernal headache and fever. Got up at nine, and went down to the
Hummums for a bath. I say, Dob, I feel just as I did on the morning
I went out with Rocket at Quebec."
"So do I," William responded. "I was a deuced deal more nervous
than you were that morning. You made a famous breakfast, I
remember. Eat something now."
"You're a good old fellow, Will. I'll drink your health, old boy,
and farewell to--"
"No, no; two glasses are enough," Dobbin interrupted him. "Here,
take away the liqueurs, John. Have some cayenne-pepper with your
fowl. Make haste though, for it is time we were there."
It was about half an hour from twelve when this brief meeting and
colloquy took place between the two captains. A coach, into which
Captain Osborne's servant put his master's desk and dressing-case,
had been in waiting for some time; and into this the two gentlemen
hurried under an umbrella, and the valet mounted on the box, cursing
the rain and the dampness of the coachman who was steaming beside
him. "We shall find a better trap than this at the church-door,"
says he; "that's a comfort." And the carriage drove on, taking the
road down Piccadilly, where Apsley House and St. George's Hospital
wore red jackets still; where there were oil-lamps; where Achilles
was not yet born; nor the Pimlico arch raised; nor the hideous
equestrian monster which pervades it and the neighbourhood; and so
they drove down by Brompton to a certain chapel near the Fulham Road
A chariot was in waiting with four horses; likewise a coach of the
kind called glass coaches. Only a very few idlers were collected on
account of the dismal rain.
"Hang it!" said George, "I said only a pair."
"My master would have four," said Mr. Joseph Sedley's servant, who
was in waiting; and he and Mr. Osborne's man agreed as they followed
George and William into the church, that it was a "reg'lar shabby
turn hout; and with scarce so much as a breakfast or a wedding
"Here you are," said our old friend, Jos Sedley, coming forward.
"You're five minutes late, George, my boy. What a day, eh? Demmy,
it's like the commencement of the rainy season in Bengal. But
you'll find my carriage is watertight. Come along, my mother and
Emmy are in the vestry."
Jos Sedley was splendid. He was fatter than ever. His shirt
collars were higher; his face was redder; his shirt-frill flaunted
gorgeously out of his variegated waistcoat. Varnished boots were not
invented as yet; but the Hessians on his beautiful legs shone so,
that they must have been the identical pair in which the gentleman
in the old picture used to shave himself; and on his light green
coat there bloomed a fine wedding favour, like a great white
In a word, George had thrown the great cast. He was going to be
married. Hence his pallor and nervousness--his sleepless night and
agitation in the morning. I have heard people who have gone through
the same thing own to the same emotion. After three or four
ceremonies, you get accustomed to it, no doubt; but the first dip,
everybody allows, is awful.
The bride was dressed in a brown silk pelisse (as Captain Dobbin has
since informed me), and wore a straw bonnet with a pink ribbon; over
the bonnet she had a veil of white Chantilly lace, a gift from Mr.
Joseph Sedley, her brother. Captain Dobbin himself had asked leave
to present her with a gold chain and watch, which she sported on
this occasion; and her mother gave her her diamond brooch--almost
the only trinket which was left to the old lady. As the service
went on, Mrs. Sedley sat and whimpered a great deal in a pew,
consoled by the Irish maid-servant and Mrs. Clapp from the lodgings.
Old Sedley would not be present. Jos acted for his father, giving
away the bride, whilst Captain Dobbin stepped up as groomsman to his
There was nobody in the church besides the officiating persons and
the small marriage party and their attendants. The two valets sat
aloof superciliously. The rain came rattling down on the windows.
In the intervals of the service you heard it, and the sobbing of old
Mrs. Sedley in the pew. The parson's tones echoed sadly through the
empty walls. Osborne's "I will" was sounded in very deep bass.
Emmy's response came fluttering up to her lips from her heart, but
was scarcely heard by anybody except Captain Dobbin.
When the service was completed, Jos Sedley came forward and kissed
his sister, the bride, for the first time for many months--George's
look of gloom had gone, and he seemed quite proud and radiant.
"It's your turn, William," says he, putting his hand fondly upon
Dobbin's shoulder; and Dobbin went up and touched Amelia on the
Then they went into the vestry and signed the register. "God bless
you, Old Dobbin," George said, grasping him by the hand, with
something very like moisture glistening in his eyes. William
replied only by nodding his head. His heart was too full to say
"Write directly, and come down as soon as you can, you know,"
Osborne said. After Mrs. Sedley had taken an hysterical adieu of
her daughter, the pair went off to the carriage. "Get out of the
way, you little devils," George cried to a small crowd of damp
urchins, that were hanging about the chapel-door. The rain drove
into the bride and bridegroom's faces as they passed to the chariot.
The postilions' favours draggled on their dripping jackets. The few
children made a dismal cheer, as the carriage, splashing mud, drove
William Dobbin stood in the church-porch, looking at it, a queer
figure. The small crew of spectators jeered him. He was not
thinking about them or their laughter.
"Come home and have some tiffin, Dobbin," a voice cried behind him;
as a pudgy hand was laid on his shoulder, and the honest fellow's
reverie was interrupted. But the Captain had no heart to go a-
feasting with Jos Sedley. He put the weeping old lady and her
attendants into the carriage along with Jos, and left them without
any farther words passing. This carriage, too, drove away, and the
urchins gave another sarcastical cheer.
"Here, you little beggars," Dobbin said, giving some sixpences
amongst them, and then went off by himself through the rain. It was
all over. They were married, and happy, he prayed God. Never since
he was a boy had he felt so miserable and so lonely. He longed with
a heart-sick yearning for the first few days to be over, that he
might see her again.
Some ten days after the above ceremony, three young men of our
acquaintance were enjoying that beautiful prospect of bow windows on
the one side and blue sea on the other, which Brighton affords to
the traveller. Sometimes it is towards the ocean--smiling with
countless dimples, speckled with white sails, with a hundred
bathing-machines kissing the skirt of his blue garment--that the
Londoner looks enraptured: sometimes, on the contrary, a lover of
human nature rather than of prospects of any kind, it is towards the
bow windows that he turns, and that swarm of human life which they
exhibit. From one issue the notes of a piano, which a young lady in
ringlets practises six hours daily, to the delight of the fellow-
lodgers: at another, lovely Polly, the nurse-maid, may be seen
dandling Master Omnium in her arms: whilst Jacob, his papa, is
beheld eating prawns, and devouring the Times for breakfast, at the
window below. Yonder are the Misses Leery, who are looking out for
the young officers of the Heavies, who are pretty sure to be pacing
the cliff; or again it is a City man, with a nautical turn, and a
telescope, the size of a six-pounder, who has his instrument pointed
seawards, so as to command every pleasure-boat, herring-boat, or
bathing-machine that comes to, or quits, the shore, &c., &c. But
have we any leisure for a description of Brighton?--for Brighton, a
clean Naples with genteel lazzaroni--for Brighton, that always looks
brisk, gay, and gaudy, like a harlequin's jacket--for Brighton,
which used to be seven hours distant from London at the time of our
story; which is now only a hundred minutes off; and which may
approach who knows how much nearer, unless Joinville comes and
untimely bombards it?
"What a monstrous fine girl that is in the lodgings over the
milliner's," one of these three promenaders remarked to the other;
"Gad, Crawley, did you see what a wink she gave me as I passed?"
"Don't break her heart, Jos, you rascal," said another. "Don't
trifle with her affections, you Don Juan!"
"Get away," said Jos Sedley, quite pleased, and leering up at the
maid-servant in question with a most killing ogle. Jos was even
more splendid at Brighton than he had been at his sister's marriage.
He had brilliant under-waistcoats, any one of which would have set
up a moderate buck. He sported a military frock-coat, ornamented
with frogs, knobs, black buttons, and meandering embroidery. He had
affected a military appearance and habits of late; and he walked
with his two friends, who were of that profession, clinking his
boot-spurs, swaggering prodigiously, and shooting death-glances at
all the servant girls who were worthy to be slain.
"What shall we do, boys, till the ladies return?" the buck asked.
The ladies were out to Rottingdean in his carriage on a drive.
"Let's have a game at billiards," one of his friends said--the tall
one, with lacquered mustachios.
"No, dammy; no, Captain," Jos replied, rather alarmed. "No
billiards to-day, Crawley, my boy; yesterday was enough."
"You play very well," said Crawley, laughing. "Don't he, Osborne?
How well he made that-five stroke, eh?"
"Famous," Osborne said. "Jos is a devil of a fellow at billiards,
and at everything else, too. I wish there were any tiger-hunting
about here! we might go and kill a few before dinner. (There goes a
fine girl! what an ankle, eh, Jos?) Tell us that story about the
tiger-hunt, and the way you did for him in the jungle--it's a
wonderful story that, Crawley." Here George Osborne gave a yawn.
"It's rather slow work," said he, "down here; what shall we do?"
"Shall we go and look at some horses that Snaffler's just brought
from Lewes fair?" Crawley said.
"Suppose we go and have some jellies at Dutton's," and the rogue
Jos, willing to kill two birds with one stone. "Devilish fine gal
"Suppose we go and see the Lightning come in, it's just about time?"
George said. This advice prevailing over the stables and the jelly,
they turned towards the coach-office to witness the Lightning's
As they passed, they met the carriage--Jos Sedley's open carriage,
with its magnificent armorial bearings--that splendid conveyance in
which he used to drive, about at Cheltonham, majestic and solitary,
with his arms folded, and his hat cocked; or, more happy, with
ladies by his side.
Two were in the carriage now: one a little person, with light hair,
and dressed in the height of the fashion; the other in a brown silk
pelisse, and a straw bonnet with pink ribbons, with a rosy, round,
happy face, that did you good to behold. She checked the carriage
as it neared the three gentlemen, after which exercise of authority
she looked rather nervous, and then began to blush most absurdly.
"We have had a delightful drive, George," she said, "and--and we're
so glad to come back; and, Joseph, don't let him be late."
"Don't be leading our husbands into mischief, Mr. Sedley, you
wicked, wicked man you," Rebecca said, shaking at Jos a pretty
little finger covered with the neatest French kid glove. "No
billiards, no smoking, no naughtiness!"
"My dear Mrs. Crawley--Ah now! upon my honour!" was all Jos could
ejaculate by way of reply; but he managed to fall into a tolerable
attitude, with his head lying on his shoulder, grinning upwards at
his victim, with one hand at his back, which he supported on his
cane, and the other hand (the one with the diamond ring) fumbling in
his shirt-frill and among his under-waistcoats. As the carriage
drove off he kissed the diamond hand to the fair ladies within. He
wished all Cheltenham, all Chowringhee, all Calcutta, could see him
in that position, waving his hand to such a beauty, and in company
with such a famous buck as Rawdon Crawley of the Guards.
Our young bride and bridegroom had chosen Brighton as the place
where they would pass the first few days after their marriage; and
having engaged apartments at the Ship Inn, enjoyed themselves there
in great comfort and quietude, until Jos presently joined them. Nor
was he the only companion they found there. As they were coming
into the hotel from a sea-side walk one afternoon, on whom should
they light but Rebecca and her husband. The recognition was
immediate. Rebecca flew into the arms of her dearest friend.
Crawley and Osborne shook hands together cordially enough: and
Becky, in the course of a very few hours, found means to make the
latter forget that little unpleasant passage of words which had
happened between them. "Do you remember the last time we met at
Miss Crawley's, when I was so rude to you, dear Captain Osborne? I
thought you seemed careless about dear Amelia. It was that made me
angry: and so pert: and so unkind: and so ungrateful. Do forgive
me!" Rebecca said, and she held out her hand with so frank and
winning a grace, that Osborne could not but take it. By humbly and
frankly acknowledging yourself to be in the wrong, there is no
knowing, my son, what good you may do. I knew once a gentleman and
very worthy practitioner in Vanity Fair, who used to do little
wrongs to his neighbours on purpose, and in order to apologise for
them in an open and manly way afterwards--and what ensued? My
friend Crocky Doyle was liked everywhere, and deemed to be rather
impetuous--but the honestest fellow. Becky's humility passed for
sincerity with George Osborne.
These two young couples had plenty of tales to relate to each other.
The marriages of either were discussed; and their prospects in life
canvassed with the greatest frankness and interest on both sides.
George's marriage was to be made known to his father by his friend
Captain Dobbin; and young Osborne trembled rather for the result of
that communication. Miss Crawley, on whom all Rawdon's hopes
depended, still held out. Unable to make an entry into her house in
Park Lane, her affectionate nephew and niece had followed her to
Brighton, where they had emissaries continually planted at her door.
"I wish you could see some of Rawdon's friends who are always about
our door," Rebecca said, laughing. "Did you ever see a dun, my
dear; or a bailiff and his man? Two of the abominable wretches
watched all last week at the greengrocer's opposite, and we could
not get away until Sunday. If Aunty does not relent, what shall we
Rawdon, with roars of laughter, related a dozen amusing anecdotes of
his duns, and Rebecca's adroit treatment of them. He vowed with a
great oath that there was no woman in Europe who could talk a
creditor over as she could. Almost immediately after their
marriage, her practice had begun, and her husband found the immense
value of such a wife. They had credit in plenty, but they had bills
also in abundance, and laboured under a scarcity of ready money.
Did these debt-difficulties affect Rawdon's good spirits? No.
Everybody in Vanity Fair must have remarked how well those live who
are comfortably and thoroughly in debt: how they deny themselves
nothing; how jolly and easy they are in their minds. Rawdon and his
wife had the very best apartments at the inn at Brighton; the
landlord, as he brought in the first dish, bowed before them as to
his greatest customers: and Rawdon abused the dinners and wine with
an audacity which no grandee in the land could surpass. Long
custom, a manly appearance, faultless boots and clothes, and a happy
fierceness of manner, will often help a man as much as a great
balance at the banker's.
The two wedding parties met constantly in each other's apartments.
After two or three nights the gentlemen of an evening had a little
piquet, as their wives sate and chatted apart. This pastime, and
the arrival of Jos Sedley, who made his appearance in his grand open
carriage, and who played a few games at billiards with Captain
Crawley, replenished Rawdon's purse somewhat, and gave him the
benefit of that ready money for which the greatest spirits are
sometimes at a stand-still.
So the three gentlemen walked down to see the Lightning coach come
in. Punctual to the minute, the coach crowded inside and out, the
guard blowing his accustomed tune on the horn--the Lightning came
tearing down the street, and pulled up at the coach-office.
"Hullo! there's old Dobbin," George cried, quite delighted to see
his old friend perched on the roof; and whose promised visit to
Brighton had been delayed until now. "How are you, old fellow?
Glad you're come down. Emmy'll be delighted to see you," Osborne
said, shaking his comrade warmly by the hand as soon as his descent
from the vehicle was effected--and then he added, in a lower and
agitated voice, "What's the news? Have you been in Russell Square?
What does the governor say? Tell me everything."
Dobbin looked very pale and grave. "I've seen your father," said
he. "How's Amelia--Mrs. George? I'll tell you all the news
presently: but I've brought the great news of all: and that is--"
"Out with it, old fellow," George said.
"We're ordered to Belgium. All the army goes--guards and all.
Heavytop's got the gout, and is mad at not being able to move.
O'Dowd goes in command, and we embark from Chatham next week." This
news of war could not but come with a shock upon our lovers, and
caused all these gentlemen to look very serious.
Captain Dobbin Proceeds on His Canvass
What is the secret mesmerism which friendship possesses, and under
the operation of which a person ordinarily sluggish, or cold, or
timid, becomes wise, active, and resolute, in another's behalf? As
Alexis, after a few passes from Dr. Elliotson, despises pain, reads
with the back of his head, sees miles off, looks into next week, and
performs other wonders, of which, in his own private normal
condition, he is quite incapable; so you see, in the affairs of the
world and under the magnetism of friendships, the modest man becomes
bold, the shy confident, the lazy active, or the impetuous prudent
and peaceful. What is it, on the other hand, that makes the lawyer
eschew his own cause, and call in his learned brother as an adviser?
And what causes the doctor, when ailing, to send for his rival, and
not sit down and examine his own tongue in the chimney Bass, or
write his own prescription at his study-table? I throw out these
queries for intelligent readers to answer, who know, at once, how
credulous we are, and how sceptical, how soft and how obstinate, how
firm for others and how diffident about ourselves: meanwhile, it is
certain that our friend William Dobbin, who was personally of so
complying a disposition that if his parents had pressed him much, it
is probable he would have stepped down into the kitchen and married
the cook, and who, to further his own interests, would have found
the most insuperable difficulty in walking across the street, found
himself as busy and eager in the conduct of George Osborne's
affairs, as the most selfish tactician could be in the pursuit of
Whilst our friend George and his young wife were enjoying the first
blushing days of the honeymoon at Brighton, honest William was left
as George's plenipotentiary in London, to transact all the business
part of the marriage. His duty it was to call upon old Sedley and
his wife, and to keep the former in good humour: to draw Jos and
his brother-in-law nearer together, so that Jos's position and
dignity, as collector of Boggley Wollah, might compensate for his
father's loss of station, and tend to reconcile old Osborne to the
alliance: and finally, to communicate it to the latter in such a
way as should least irritate the old gentleman.
Now, before he faced the head of the Osborne house with the news
which it was his duty to tell, Dobbin bethought him that it would be
politic to make friends of the rest of the family, and, if possible,
have the ladies on his side. They can't be angry in their hearts,
thought he. No woman ever was really angry at a romantic marriage.
A little crying out, and they must come round to their brother; when
the three of us will lay siege to old Mr. Osborne. So this
Machiavellian captain of infantry cast about him for some happy
means or stratagem by which he could gently and gradually bring the
Misses Osborne to a knowledge of their brother's secret.
By a little inquiry regarding his mother's engagements, he was
pretty soon able to find out by whom of her ladyship's friends
parties were given at that season; where he would be likely to meet
Osborne's sisters; and, though he had that abhorrence of routs and
evening parties which many sensible men, alas! entertain, he soon
found one where the Misses Osborne were to be present. Making his
appearance at the ball, where he danced a couple of sets with both
of them, and was prodigiously polite, he actually had the courage to
ask Miss Osborne for a few minutes' conversation at an early hour
the next day, when he had, he said, to communicate to her news of
the very greatest interest.
What was it that made her start back, and gaze upon him for a
moment, and then on the ground at her feet, and make as if she would
faint on his arm, had he not by opportunely treading on her toes,
brought the young lady back to self-control? Why was she so
violently agitated at Dobbin's request? This can never be known.
But when he came the next day, Maria was not in the drawing-room
with her sister, and Miss Wirt went off for the purpose of fetching
the latter, and the Captain and Miss Osborne were left together.
They were both so silent that the ticktock of the Sacrifice of
Iphigenia clock on the mantelpiece became quite rudely audible.
"What a nice party it was last night," Miss Osborne at length began,
encouragingly; "and--and how you're improved in your dancing,
Captain Dobbin. Surely somebody has taught you," she added, with
"You should see me dance a reel with Mrs. Major O'Dowd of ours; and
a jig--did you ever see a jig? But I think anybody could dance with
you, Miss Osborne, who dance so well."
"Is the Major's lady young and beautiful, Captain?" the fair
questioner continued. "Ah, what a terrible thing it must be to be a
soldier's wife! I wonder they have any spirits to dance, and in
these dreadful times of war, too! O Captain Dobbin, I tremble
sometimes when I think of our dearest George, and the dangers of the
poor soldier. Are there many married officers of the --th, Captain
"Upon my word, she's playing her hand rather too openly," Miss Wirt
thought; but this observation is merely parenthetic, and was not
heard through the crevice of the door at which the governess uttered
"One of our young men is just married," Dobbin said, now coming to
the point. "It was a very old attachment, and the young couple are
as poor as church mice." "O, how delightful! O, how romantic!" Miss
Osborne cried, as the Captain said "old attachment" and "poor." Her
sympathy encouraged him.
"The finest young fellow in the regiment," he continued. "Not a
braver or handsomer officer in the army; and such a charming wife!
How you would like her! how you will like her when you know her,
Miss Osborne." The young lady thought the actual moment had
arrived, and that Dobbin's nervousness which now came on and was
visible in many twitchings of his face, in his manner of beating the
ground with his great feet, in the rapid buttoning and unbuttoning
of his frock-coat, &c.--Miss Osborne, I say, thought that when he
had given himself a little air, he would unbosom himself entirely,
and prepared eagerly to listen. And the clock, in the altar on
which Iphigenia was situated, beginning, after a preparatory
convulsion, to toll twelve, the mere tolling seemed as if it would
last until one--so prolonged was the knell to the anxious spinster.
"But it's not about marriage that I came to speak--that is that
marriage--that is--no, I mean--my dear Miss Osborne, it's about our
dear friend George," Dobbin said.
"About George?" she said in a tone so discomfited that Maria and
Miss Wirt laughed at the other side of the door, and even that
abandoned wretch of a Dobbin felt inclined to smile himself; for he
was not altogether unconscious of the state of affairs: George
having often bantered him gracefully and said, "Hang it, Will, why
don't you take old Jane? She'll have you if you ask her. I'll bet
you five to two she will."
"Yes, about George, then," he continued. "There has been a
difference between him and Mr. Osborne. And I regard him so much--
for you know we have been like brothers--that I hope and pray the
quarrel may be settled. We must go abroad, Miss Osborne. We may be
ordered off at a day's warning. Who knows what may happen in the
campaign? Don't be agitated, dear Miss Osborne; and those two at
least should part friends."
"There has been no quarrel, Captain Dobbin, except a little usual
scene with Papa," the lady said. "We are expecting George back
daily. What Papa wanted was only for his good. He has but to come
back, and I'm sure all will be well; and dear Rhoda, who went away
from here in sad sad anger, I know will forgive him. Woman forgives
but too readily, Captain."
"Such an angel as YOU I am sure would," Mr. Dobbin said, with
atrocious astuteness. "And no man can pardon himself for giving a
woman pain. What would you feel, if a man were faithless to you?"
"I should perish--I should throw myself out of window--I should take
poison--I should pine and die. I know I should," Miss cried, who
had nevertheless gone through one or two affairs of the heart
without any idea of suicide.
"And there are others," Dobbin continued, "as true and as kind-
hearted as yourself. I'm not speaking about the West Indian
heiress, Miss Osborne, but about a poor girl whom George once loved,
and who was bred from her childhood to think of nobody but him.
I've seen her in her poverty uncomplaining, broken-hearted, without
a fault. It is of Miss Sedley I speak. Dear Miss Osborne, can your
generous heart quarrel with your brother for being faithful to her?
Could his own conscience ever forgive him if he deserted her? Be
her friend--she always loved you--and--and I am come here charged by
George to tell you that he holds his engagement to her as the most
sacred duty he has; and to entreat you, at least, to be on his
When any strong emotion took possession of Mr. Dobbin, and after the
first word or two of hesitation, he could speak with perfect
fluency, and it was evident that his eloquence on this occasion made
some impression upon the lady whom he addressed.
"Well," said she, "this is--most surprising--most painful--most
extraordinary--what will Papa say?--that George should fling away
such a superb establishment as was offered to him but at any rate he
has found a very brave champion in you, Captain Dobbin. It is of no
use, however," she continued, after a pause; "I feel for poor Miss
Sedley, most certainly--most sincerely, you know. We never thought
the match a good one, though we were always very kind to her here--
very. But Papa will never consent, I am sure. And a well brought
up young woman, you know--with a well-regulated mind, must--George
must give her up, dear Captain Dobbin, indeed he must."
"Ought a man to give up the woman he loved, just when misfortune
befell her?" Dobbin said, holding out his hand. "Dear Miss Osborne,
is this the counsel I hear from you? My dear young lady! you must
befriend her. He can't give her up. He must not give her up. Would
a man, think you, give YOU up if you were poor?"
This adroit question touched the heart of Miss Jane Osborne not a
little. "I don't know whether we poor girls ought to believe what
you men say, Captain," she said. "There is that in woman's
tenderness which induces her to believe too easily. I'm afraid you
are cruel, cruel deceivers,"--and Dobbin certainly thought he felt a
pressure of the hand which Miss Osborne had extended to him.
He dropped it in some alarm. "Deceivers!" said he. "No, dear Miss
Osborne, all men are not; your brother is not; George has loved
Amelia Sedley ever since they were children; no wealth would make
him marry any but her. Ought he to forsake her? Would you counsel
him to do so?"
What could Miss Jane say to such a question, and with her own
peculiar views? She could not answer it, so she parried it by
saying, "Well, if you are not a deceiver, at least you are very
romantic"; and Captain William let this observation pass without
At length when, by the help of farther polite speeches, he deemed
that Miss Osborne was sufficiently prepared to receive the whole
news, he poured it into her ear. "George could not give up Amelia--
George was married to her"--and then he related the circumstances of
the marriage as we know them already: how the poor girl would have
died had not her lover kept his faith: how Old Sedley had refused
all consent to the match, and a licence had been got: and Jos Sedley
had come from Cheltenham to give away the bride: how they had gone
to Brighton in Jos's chariot-and-four to pass the honeymoon: and how
George counted on his dear kind sisters to befriend him with their
father, as women--so true and tender as they were--assuredly would
do. And so, asking permission (readily granted) to see her again,
and rightly conjecturing that the news he had brought would be told
in the next five minutes to the other ladies, Captain Dobbin made
his bow and took his leave.
He was scarcely out of the house, when Miss Maria and Miss Wirt
rushed in to Miss Osborne, and the whole wonderful secret was
imparted to them by that lady. To do them justice, neither of the
sisters was very much displeased. There is something about a
runaway match with which few ladies can be seriously angry, and
Amelia rather rose in their estimation, from the spirit which she
had displayed in consenting to the union. As they debated the
story, and prattled about it, and wondered what Papa would do and
say, came a loud knock, as of an avenging thunder-clap, at the door,
which made these conspirators start. It must be Papa, they thought.
But it was not he. It was only Mr. Frederick Bullock, who had come
from the City according to appointment, to conduct the ladies to a
This gentleman, as may be imagined, was not kept long in ignorance
of the secret. But his face, when he heard it, showed an amazement
which was very different to that look of sentimental wonder which
the countenances of the sisters wore. Mr. Bullock was a man of the
world, and a junior partner of a wealthy firm. He knew what money
was, and the value of it: and a delightful throb of expectation
lighted up his little eyes, and caused him to smile on his Maria, as
he thought that by this piece of folly of Mr. George's she might be
worth thirty thousand pounds more than he had ever hoped to get with
"Gad! Jane," said he, surveying even the elder sister with some
interest, "Eels will be sorry he cried off. You may be a fifty
thousand pounder yet."
The sisters had never thought of the money question up to that
moment, but Fred Bullock bantered them with graceful gaiety about it
during their forenoon's excursion; and they had risen not a little
in their own esteem by the time when, the morning amusement over,
they drove back to dinner. And do not let my respected reader
exclaim against this selfishness as unnatural. It was but this
present morning, as he rode on the omnibus from Richmond; while it
changed horses, this present chronicler, being on the roof, marked
three little children playing in a puddle below, very dirty, and
friendly, and happy. To these three presently came another little
one. "POLLY," says she, "YOUR SISTER'S GOT A PENNY." At which the
children got up from the puddle instantly, and ran off to pay their
court to Peggy. And as the omnibus drove off I saw Peggy with the
infantine procession at her tail, marching with great dignity
towards the stall of a neighbouring lollipop-woman.
In Which Mr. Osborne Takes Down the Family Bible
So having prepared the sisters, Dobbin hastened away to the City to
perform the rest and more difficult part of the task which he had
undertaken. The idea of facing old Osborne rendered him not a
little nervous, and more than once he thought of leaving the young
ladies to communicate the secret, which, as he was aware, they could
not long retain. But he had promised to report to George upon the
manner in which the elder Osborne bore the intelligence; so going
into the City to the paternal counting-house in Thames Street, he
despatched thence a note to Mr. Osborne begging for a half-hour's
conversation relative to the affairs of his son George. Dobbin's
messenger returned from Mr. Osborne's house of business, with the
compliments of the latter, who would be very happy to see the
Captain immediately, and away accordingly Dobbin went to confront
The Captain, with a half-guilty secret to confess, and with the
prospect of a painful and stormy interview before him, entered Mr.
Osborne's offices with a most dismal countenance and abashed gait,
and, passing through the outer room where Mr. Chopper presided, was
greeted by that functionary from his desk with a waggish air which
farther discomfited him. Mr. Chopper winked and nodded and pointed
his pen towards his patron's door, and said, "You'll find the
governor all right," with the most provoking good humour.
Osborne rose too, and shook him heartily by the hand, and said, "How
do, my dear boy?" with a cordiality that made poor George's
ambassador feel doubly guilty. His hand lay as if dead in the old
gentleman's grasp. He felt that he, Dobbin, was more or less the
cause of all that had happened. It was he had brought back George
to Amelia: it was he had applauded, encouraged, transacted almost
the marriage which he was come to reveal to George's father: and
the latter was receiving him with smiles of welcome; patting him on
the shoulder, and calling him "Dobbin, my dear boy." The envoy had
indeed good reason to hang his head.
Osborne fully believed that Dobbin had come to announce his son's
surrender. Mr. Chopper and his principal were talking over the
matter between George and his father, at the very moment when
Dobbin's messenger arrived. Both agreed that George was sending in
his submission. Both had been expecting it for some days--and
"Lord! Chopper, what a marriage we'll have!" Mr. Osborne said to his
clerk, snapping his big fingers, and jingling all the guineas and
shillings in his great pockets as he eyed his subordinate with a
look of triumph.