Part 8 out of 16
tail rode through the English regiments that were behind them, and
scattered in all directions. The regiment in fact did not exist any
more. It was nowhere. It had no head-quarters. Regulus found
himself galloping many miles from the field of action, entirely
alone; and whither should he fly for refuge so naturally as to that
kitchen and those faithful arms in which Pauline had so often
At some ten o'clock the clinking of a sabre might have been heard up
the stair of the house where the Osbornes occupied a story in the
continental fashion. A knock might have been heard at the kitchen
door; and poor Pauline, come back from church, fainted almost with
terror as she opened it and saw before her her haggard hussar. He
looked as pale as the midnight dragoon who came to disturb Leonora.
Pauline would have screamed, but that her cry would have called her
masters, and discovered her friend. She stifled her scream, then,
and leading her hero into the kitchen, gave him beer, and the choice
bits from the dinner, which Jos had not had the heart to taste. The
hussar showed he was no ghost by the prodigious quantity of flesh
and beer which he devoured--and during the mouthfuls he told his
tale of disaster.
His regiment had performed prodigies of courage, and had withstood
for a while the onset of the whole French army. But they were
overwhelmed at last, as was the whole British army by this time.
Ney destroyed each regiment as it came up. The Belgians in vain
interposed to prevent the butchery of the English. The Brunswickers
were routed and had fled--their Duke was killed. It was a general
debacle. He sought to drown his sorrow for the defeat in floods of
Isidor, who had come into the kitchen, heard the conversation and
rushed out to inform his master. "It is all over," he shrieked to
Jos. "Milor Duke is a prisoner; the Duke of Brunswick is killed;
the British army is in full flight; there is only one man escaped,
and he is in the kitchen now--come and hear him." So Jos tottered
into that apartment where Regulus still sate on the kitchen table,
and clung fast to his flagon of beer. In the best French which he
could muster, and which was in sooth of a very ungrammatical sort,
Jos besought the hussar to tell his tale. The disasters deepened as
Regulus spoke. He was the only man of his regiment not slain on the
field. He had seen the Duke of Brunswick fall, the black hussars
fly, the Ecossais pounded down by the cannon. "And the --th?" gasped
"Cut in pieces," said the hussar--upon which Pauline cried out, "O
my mistress, ma bonne petite dame," went off fairly into hysterics,
and filled the house with her screams.
Wild with terror, Mr. Sedley knew not how or where to seek for
safety. He rushed from the kitchen back to the sitting-room, and
cast an appealing look at Amelia's door, which Mrs. O'Dowd had
closed and locked in his face; but he remembered how scornfully the
latter had received him, and after pausing and listening for a brief
space at the door, he left it, and resolved to go into the street,
for the first time that day. So, seizing a candle, he looked about
for his gold-laced cap, and found it lying in its usual place, on a
console-table, in the anteroom, placed before a mirror at which Jos
used to coquet, always giving his side-locks a twirl, and his cap
the proper cock over his eye, before he went forth to make
appearance in public. Such is the force of habit, that even in the
midst of his terror he began mechanically to twiddle with his hair,
and arrange the cock of his hat. Then he looked amazed at the pale
face in the glass before him, and especially at his mustachios,
which had attained a rich growth in the course of near seven weeks,
since they had come into the world. They WILL mistake me for a
military man, thought he, remembering Isidor's warning as to the
massacre with which all the defeated British army was threatened;
and staggering back to his bedchamber, he began wildly pulling the
bell which summoned his valet.
Isidor answered that summons. Jos had sunk in a chair--he had torn
off his neckcloths, and turned down his collars, and was sitting
with both his hands lifted to his throat.
"Coupez-moi, Isidor," shouted he; "vite! Coupez-moi!"
Isidor thought for a moment he had gone mad, and that he wished his
valet to cut his throat.
"Les moustaches," gasped Joe; "les moustaches--coupy, rasy, vite!"--
his French was of this sort--voluble, as we have said, but not
remarkable for grammar.
Isidor swept off the mustachios in no time with the razor, and heard
with inexpressible delight his master's orders that he should fetch
a hat and a plain coat. "Ne porty ploo--habit militair--bonn--bonny
a voo, prenny dehors"--were Jos's words--the coat and cap were at
last his property.
This gift being made, Jos selected a plain black coat and waistcoat
from his stock, and put on a large white neckcloth, and a plain
beaver. If he could have got a shovel hat he would have worn it.
As it was, you would have fancied he was a flourishing, large parson
of the Church of England.
"Venny maintenong," he continued, "sweevy--ally--party--dong la
roo." And so having said, he plunged swiftly down the stairs of the
house, and passed into the street.
Although Regulus had vowed that he was the only man of his regiment
or of the allied army, almost, who had escaped being cut to pieces
by Ney, it appeared that his statement was incorrect, and that a
good number more of the supposed victims had survived the massacre.
Many scores of Regulus's comrades had found their way back to
Brussels, and all agreeing that they had run away--filled the whole
town with an idea of the defeat of the allies. The arrival of the
French was expected hourly; the panic continued, and preparations
for flight went on everywhere. No horses! thought Jos, in terror.
He made Isidor inquire of scores of persons, whether they had any to
lend or sell, and his heart sank within him, at the negative answers
returned everywhere. Should he take the journey on foot? Even fear
could not render that ponderous body so active.
Almost all the hotels occupied by the English in Brussels face the
Parc, and Jos wandered irresolutely about in this quarter, with
crowds of other people, oppressed as he was by fear and curiosity.
Some families he saw more happy than himself, having discovered a
team of horses, and rattling through the streets in retreat; others
again there were whose case was like his own, and who could not for
any bribes or entreaties procure the necessary means of flight.
Amongst these would-be fugitives, Jos remarked the Lady Bareacres
and her daughter, who sate in their carriage in the porte-cochere of
their hotel, all their imperials packed, and the only drawback to
whose flight was the same want of motive power which kept Jos
Rebecca Crawley occupied apartments in this hotel; and had before
this period had sundry hostile meetings with the ladies of the
Bareacres family. My Lady Bareacres cut Mrs. Crawley on the stairs
when they met by chance; and in all places where the latter's name
was mentioned, spoke perseveringly ill of her neighbour. The
Countess was shocked at the familiarity of General Tufto with the
aide-de-camp's wife. The Lady Blanche avoided her as if she had
been an infectious disease. Only the Earl himself kept up a sly
occasional acquaintance with her, when out of the jurisdiction of
Rebecca had her revenge now upon these insolent enemies. If became
known in the hotel that Captain Crawley's horses had been left
behind, and when the panic began, Lady Bareacres condescended to
send her maid to the Captain's wife with her Ladyship's compliments,
and a desire to know the price of Mrs. Crawley's horses. Mrs.
Crawley returned a note with her compliments, and an intimation that
it was not her custom to transact bargains with ladies' maids.
This curt reply brought the Earl in person to Becky's apartment; but
he could get no more success than the first ambassador. "Send a
lady's maid to ME!" Mrs. Crawley cried in great anger; "why didn't
my Lady Bareacres tell me to go and saddle the horses! Is it her
Ladyship that wants to escape, or her Ladyship's femme de chambre?"
And this was all the answer that the Earl bore back to his Countess.
What will not necessity do? The Countess herself actually came to
wait upon Mrs. Crawley on the failure of her second envoy. She
entreated her to name her own price; she even offered to invite
Becky to Bareacres House, if the latter would but give her the means
of returning to that residence. Mrs. Crawley sneered at her.
"I don't want to be waited on by bailiffs in livery," she said; "you
will never get back though most probably--at least not you and your
diamonds together. The French will have those They will be here in
two hours, and I shall be half way to Ghent by that time. I would
not sell you my horses, no, not for the two largest diamonds that
your Ladyship wore at the ball." Lady Bareacres trembled with rage
and terror. The diamonds were sewed into her habit, and secreted in
my Lord's padding and boots. "Woman, the diamonds are at the
banker's, and I WILL have the horses," she said. Rebecca laughed in
her face. The infuriate Countess went below, and sate in her
carriage; her maid, her courier, and her husband were sent once more
through the town, each to look for cattle; and woe betide those who
came last! Her Ladyship was resolved on departing the very instant
the horses arrived from any quarter--with her husband or without
Rebecca had the pleasure of seeing her Ladyship in the horseless
carriage, and keeping her eyes fixed upon her, and bewailing, in the
loudest tone of voice, the Countess's perplexities. "Not to be able
to get horses!" she said, "and to have all those diamonds sewed into
the carriage cushions! What a prize it will be for the French when
they come!--the carriage and the diamonds, I mean; not the lady!"
She gave this information to the landlord, to the servants, to the
guests, and the innumerable stragglers about the courtyard. Lady
Bareacres could have shot her from the carriage window.
It was while enjoying the humiliation of her enemy that Rebecca
caught sight of Jos, who made towards her directly he perceived her.
That altered, frightened, fat face, told his secret well enough. He
too wanted to fly, and was on the look-out for the means of escape.
"HE shall buy my horses," thought Rebecca, "and I'll ride the mare."
Jos walked up to his friend, and put the question for the hundredth
time during the past hour, "Did she know where horses were to be
"What, YOU fly?" said Rebecca, with a laugh. "I thought you were
the champion of all the ladies, Mr. Sedley."
"I--I'm not a military man," gasped he.
"And Amelia?--Who is to protect that poor little sister of yours?"
asked Rebecca. "You surely would not desert her?"
"What good can I do her, suppose--suppose the enemy arrive?" Jos
answered. "They'll spare the women; but my man tells me that they
have taken an oath to give no quarter to the men--the dastardly
"Horrid!" cried Rebecca, enjoying his perplexity.
"Besides, I don't want to desert her," cried the brother. "She
SHAN'T be deserted. There is a seat for her in my carriage, and one
for you, dear Mrs. Crawley, if you will come; and if we can get
horses--" sighed he--
"I have two to sell," the lady said. Jos could have flung himself
into her arms at the news. "Get the carriage, Isidor," he cried;
"we've found them--we have found them."
My horses never were in harness," added the lady. "Bullfinch would
kick the carriage to pieces, if you put him in the traces."
"But he is quiet to ride?" asked the civilian.
"As quiet as a lamb, and as fast as a hare," answered Rebecca.
"Do you think he is up to my weight?" Jos said. He was already on
his back, in imagination, without ever so much as a thought for poor
Amelia. What person who loved a horse-speculation could resist such
In reply, Rebecca asked him to come into her room, whither he
followed her quite breathless to conclude the bargain. Jos seldom
spent a half-hour in his life which cost him so much money.
Rebecca, measuring the value of the goods which she had for sale by
Jos's eagerness to purchase, as well as by the scarcity of the
article, put upon her horses a price so prodigious as to make even
the civilian draw back. "She would sell both or neither," she said,
resolutely. Rawdon had ordered her not to part with them for a
price less than that which she specified. Lord Bareacres below would
give her the same money--and with all her love and regard for the
Sedley family, her dear Mr. Joseph must conceive that poor people
must live--nobody, in a word, could be more affectionate, but more
firm about the matter of business.
Jos ended by agreeing, as might be supposed of him. The sum he had
to give her was so large that he was obliged to ask for time; so
large as to be a little fortune to Rebecca, who rapidly calculated
that with this sum, and the sale of the residue of Rawdon's effects,
and her pension as a widow should he fall, she would now be
absolutely independent of the world, and might look her weeds
steadily in the face.
Once or twice in the day she certainly had herself thought about
flying. But her reason gave her better counsel. "Suppose the
French do come," thought Becky, "what can they do to a poor
officer's widow? Bah! the times of sacks and sieges are over. We
shall be let to go home quietly, or I may live pleasantly abroad
with a snug little income."
Meanwhile Jos and Isidor went off to the stables to inspect the
newly purchased cattle. Jos bade his man saddle the horses at once.
He would ride away that very night, that very hour. And he left the
valet busy in getting the horses ready, and went homewards himself
to prepare for his departure. It must be secret. He would go to
his chamber by the back entrance. He did not care to face Mrs.
O'Dowd and Amelia, and own to them that he was about to run.
By the time Jos's bargain with Rebecca was completed, and his horses
had been visited and examined, it was almost morning once more. But
though midnight was long passed, there was no rest for the city; the
people were up, the lights in the houses flamed, crowds were still
about the doors, and the streets were busy. Rumours of various
natures went still from mouth to mouth: one report averred that the
Prussians had been utterly defeated; another that it was the English
who had been attacked and conquered: a third that the latter had
held their ground. This last rumour gradually got strength. No
Frenchmen had made their appearance. Stragglers had come in from
the army bringing reports more and more favourable: at last an
aide-de-camp actually reached Brussels with despatches for the
Commandant of the place, who placarded presently through the town an
official announcement of the success of the allies at Quatre Bras,
and the entire repulse of the French under Ney after a six hours'
battle. The aide-de-camp must have arrived sometime while Jos and
Rebecca were making their bargain together, or the latter was
inspecting his purchase. When he reached his own hotel, he found a
score of its numerous inhabitants on the threshold discoursing of
the news; there was no doubt as to its truth. And he went up to
communicate it to the ladies under his charge. He did not think it
was necessary to tell them how he had intended to take leave of
them, how he had bought horses, and what a price he had paid for
But success or defeat was a minor matter to them, who had only
thought for the safety of those they loved. Amelia, at the news of
the victory, became still more agitated even than before. She was
for going that moment to the army. She besought her brother with
tears to conduct her thither. Her doubts and terrors reached their
paroxysm; and the poor girl, who for many hours had been plunged
into stupor, raved and ran hither and thither in hysteric insanity--
a piteous sight. No man writhing in pain on the hard-fought field
fifteen miles off, where lay, after their struggles, so many of the
brave--no man suffered more keenly than this poor harmless victim of
the war. Jos could not bear the sight of her pain. He left his
sister in the charge of her stouter female companion, and descended
once more to the threshold of the hotel, where everybody still
lingered, and talked, and waited for more news.
It grew to be broad daylight as they stood here, and fresh news
began to arrive from the war, brought by men who had been actors in
the scene. Wagons and long country carts laden with wounded came
rolling into the town; ghastly groans came from within them, and
haggard faces looked up sadly from out of the straw. Jos Sedley was
looking at one of these carriages with a painful curiosity--the
moans of the people within were frightful--the wearied horses could
hardly pull the cart. "Stop! stop!" a feeble voice cried from the
straw, and the carriage stopped opposite Mr. Sedley's hotel.
"It is George, I know it is!" cried Amelia, rushing in a moment to
the balcony, with a pallid face and loose flowing hair. It was not
George, however, but it was the next best thing: it was news of
It was poor Tom Stubble, who had marched out of Brussels so
gallantly twenty-four hours before, bearing the colours of the
regiment, which he had defended very gallantly upon the field. A
French lancer had speared the young ensign in the leg, who fell,
still bravely holding to his flag. At the conclusion of the
engagement, a place had been found for the poor boy in a cart, and
he had been brought back to Brussels.
"Mr. Sedley, Mr. Sedley!" cried the boy, faintly, and Jos came up
almost frightened at the appeal. He had not at first distinguished
who it was that called him.
Little Tom Stubble held out his hot and feeble hand. "I'm to be
taken in here," he said. "Osborne--and--and Dobbin said I was; and
you are to give the man two napoleons: my mother will pay you." This
young fellow's thoughts, during the long feverish hours passed in
the cart, had been wandering to his father's parsonage which he had
quitted only a few months before, and he had sometimes forgotten his
pain in that delirium.
The hotel was large, and the people kind, and all the inmates of the
cart were taken in and placed on various couches. The young ensign
was conveyed upstairs to Osborne's quarters. Amelia and the Major's
wife had rushed down to him, when the latter had recognised him from
the balcony. You may fancy the feelings of these women when they
were told that the day was over, and both their husbands were safe;
in what mute rapture Amelia fell on her good friend's neck, and
embraced her; in what a grateful passion of prayer she fell on her
knees, and thanked the Power which had saved her husband.
Our young lady, in her fevered and nervous condition, could have had
no more salutary medicine prescribed for her by any physician than
that which chance put in her way. She and Mrs. O'Dowd watched
incessantly by the wounded lad, whose pains were very severe, and in
the duty thus forced upon her, Amelia had not time to brood over her
personal anxieties, or to give herself up to her own fears and
forebodings after her wont. The young patient told in his simple
fashion the events of the day, and the actions of our friends of the
gallant --th. They had suffered severely. They had lost very many
officers and men. The Major's horse had been shot under him as the
regiment charged, and they all thought that O'Dowd was gone, and
that Dobbin had got his majority, until on their return from the
charge to their old ground, the Major was discovered seated on
Pyramus's carcase, refreshing him-self from a case-bottle. It was
Captain Osborne that cut down the French lancer who had speared the
ensign. Amelia turned so pale at the notion, that Mrs. O'Dowd
stopped the young ensign in this story. And it was Captain Dobbin
who at the end of the day, though wounded himself, took up the lad
in his arms and carried him to the surgeon, and thence to the cart
which was to bring him back to Brussels. And it was he who promised
the driver two louis if he would make his way to Mr. Sedley's hotel
in the city; and tell Mrs. Captain Osborne that the action was over,
and that her husband was unhurt and well.
"Indeed, but he has a good heart that William Dobbin," Mrs. O'Dowd
said, "though he is always laughing at me."
Young Stubble vowed there was not such another officer in the army,
and never ceased his praises of the senior captain, his modesty, his
kindness, and his admirable coolness in the field. To these parts
of the conversation, Amelia lent a very distracted attention: it
was only when George was spoken of that she listened, and when he
was not mentioned, she thought about him.
In tending her patient, and in thinking of the wonderful escapes of
the day before, her second day passed away not too slowly with
Amelia. There was only one man in the army for her: and as long as
he was well, it must be owned that its movements interested her
little. All the reports which Jos brought from the streets fell very
vaguely on her ears; though they were sufficient to give that
timorous gentleman, and many other people then in Brussels, every
disquiet. The French had been repulsed certainly, but it was after
a severe and doubtful struggle, and with only a division of the
French army. The Emperor, with the main body, was away at Ligny,
where he had utterly annihilated the Prussians, and was now free to
bring his whole force to bear upon the allies. The Duke of
Wellington was retreating upon the capital, and a great battle must
be fought under its walls probably, of which the chances were more
than doubtful. The Duke of Wellington had but twenty thousand
British troops on whom he could rely, for the Germans were raw
militia, the Belgians disaffected, and with this handful his Grace
had to resist a hundred and fifty thousand men that had broken into
Belgium under Napoleon. Under Napoleon! What warrior was there,
however famous and skilful, that could fight at odds with him?
Jos thought of all these things, and trembled. So did all the rest
of Brussels--where people felt that the fight of the day before was
but the prelude to the greater combat which was imminent. One of
the armies opposed to the Emperor was scattered to the winds
already. The few English that could be brought to resist him would
perish at their posts, and the conqueror would pass over their
bodies into the city. Woe be to those whom he found there!
Addresses were prepared, public functionaries assembled and debated
secretly, apartments were got ready, and tricoloured banners and
triumphal emblems manufactured, to welcome the arrival of His
Majesty the Emperor and King.
The emigration still continued, and wherever families could find
means of departure, they fled. When Jos, on the afternoon of the
17th of June, went to Rebecca's hotel, he found that the great
Bareacres' carriage had at length rolled away from the porte-
cochere. The Earl had procured a pair of horses somehow, in spite
of Mrs. Crawley, and was rolling on the road to Ghent. Louis the
Desired was getting ready his portmanteau in that city, too. It
seemed as if Misfortune was never tired of worrying into motion that
Jos felt that the delay of yesterday had been only a respite, and
that his dearly bought horses must of a surety be put into
requisition. His agonies were very severe all this day. As long as
there was an English army between Brussels and Napoleon, there was
no need of immediate flight; but he had his horses brought from
their distant stables, to the stables in the court-yard of the hotel
where he lived; so that they might be under his own eyes, and beyond
the risk of violent abduction. Isidor watched the stable-door
constantly, and had the horses saddled, to be ready for the start.
He longed intensely for that event.
After the reception of the previous day, Rebecca did not care to
come near her dear Amelia. She clipped the bouquet which George had
brought her, and gave fresh water to the flowers, and read over the
letter which he had sent her. "Poor wretch," she said, twirling
round the little bit of paper in her fingers, "how I could crush her
with this!--and it is for a thing like this that she must break her
heart, forsooth--for a man who is stupid--a coxcomb--and who does
not care for her. My poor good Rawdon is worth ten of this
creature." And then she fell to thinking what she should do if--if
anything happened to poor good Rawdon, and what a great piece of
luck it was that he had left his horses behind.
In the course of this day too, Mrs. Crawley, who saw not without
anger the Bareacres party drive off, bethought her of the precaution
which the Countess had taken, and did a little needlework for her
own advantage; she stitched away the major part of her trinkets,
bills, and bank-notes about her person, and so prepared, was ready
for any event--to fly if she thought fit, or to stay and welcome the
conqueror, were he Englishman or Frenchman. And I am not sure that
she did not dream that night of becoming a duchess and Madame la
Marechale, while Rawdon wrapped in his cloak, and making his bivouac
under the rain at Mount Saint John, was thinking, with all the force
of his heart, about the little wife whom he had left behind him.
The next day was a Sunday. And Mrs. Major O'Dowd had the
satisfaction of seeing both her patients refreshed in health and
spirits by some rest which they had taken during the night. She
herself had slept on a great chair in Amelia's room, ready to wait
upon her poor friend or the ensign, should either need her nursing.
When morning came, this robust woman went back to the house where
she and her Major had their billet; and here performed an elaborate
and splendid toilette, befitting the day. And it is very possible
that whilst alone in that chamber, which her husband had inhabited,
and where his cap still lay on the pillow, and his cane stood in the
corner, one prayer at least was sent up to Heaven for the welfare of
the brave soldier, Michael O'Dowd.
When she returned she brought her prayer-book with her, and her
uncle the Dean's famous book of sermons, out of which she never
failed to read every Sabbath; not understanding all, haply, not
pronouncing many of the words aright, which were long and abstruse--
for the Dean was a learned man, and loved long Latin words--but with
great gravity, vast emphasis, and with tolerable correctness in the
main. How often has my Mick listened to these sermons, she thought,
and me reading in the cabin of a calm! She proposed to resume this
exercise on the present day, with Amelia and the wounded ensign for
a congregation. The same service was read on that day in twenty
thousand churches at the same hour; and millions of British men and
women, on their knees, implored protection of the Father of all.
They did not hear the noise which disturbed our little congregation
at Brussels. Much louder than that which had interrupted them two
days previously, as Mrs. O'Dowd was reading the service in her best
voice, the cannon of Waterloo began to roar.
When Jos heard that dreadful sound, he made up his mind that he
would bear this perpetual recurrence of terrors no longer, and would
fly at once. He rushed into the sick man's room, where our three
friends had paused in their prayers, and further interrupted them by
a passionate appeal to Amelia.
"I can't stand it any more, Emmy," he said; 'I won't stand it; and
you must come with me. I have bought a horse for you--never mind at
what price--and you must dress and come with me, and ride behind
"God forgive me, Mr. Sedley, but you are no better than a coward,"
Mrs. O'Dowd said, laying down the book.
"I say come, Amelia," the civilian went on; "never mind what she
says; why are we to stop here and be butchered by the Frenchmen?"
"You forget the --th, my boy," said the little Stubble, the wounded
hero, from his bed--"and and you won't leave me, will you, Mrs.
"No, my dear fellow," said she, going up and kissing the boy. "No
harm shall come to you while I stand by. I don't budge till I get
the word from Mick. A pretty figure I'd be, wouldn't I, stuck
behind that chap on a pillion?"
This image caused the young patient to burst out laughing in his
bed, and even made Amelia smile. "I don't ask her," Jos shouted
out--"I don't ask that--that Irishwoman, but you Amelia; once for
all, will you come?"
"Without my husband, Joseph?" Amelia said, with a look of wonder,
and gave her hand to the Major's wife. Jos's patience was exhausted.
"Good-bye, then," he said, shaking his fist in a rage, and slamming
the door by which he retreated. And this time he really gave his
order for march: and mounted in the court-yard. Mrs. O'Dowd heard
the clattering hoofs of the horses as they issued from the gate; and
looking on, made many scornful remarks on poor Joseph as he rode
down the street with Isidor after him in the laced cap. The horses,
which had not been exercised for some days, were lively, and sprang
about the street. Jos, a clumsy and timid horseman, did not look to
advantage in the saddle. "Look at him, Amelia dear, driving into
the parlour window. Such a bull in a china-shop I never saw." And
presently the pair of riders disappeared at a canter down the street
leading in the direction of the Ghent road, Mrs. O'Dowd pursuing
them with a fire of sarcasm so long as they were in sight.
All that day from morning until past sunset, the cannon never ceased
to roar. It was dark when the cannonading stopped all of a sudden.
All of us have read of what occurred during that interval. The tale
is in every Englishman's mouth; and you and I, who were children
when the great battle was won and lost, are never tired of hearing
and recounting the history of that famous action. Its remembrance
rankles still in the bosoms of millions of the countrymen of those
brave men who lost the day. They pant for an opportunity of
revenging that humiliation; and if a contest, ending in a victory on
their part, should ensue, elating them in their turn, and leaving
its cursed legacy of hatred and rage behind to us, there is no end
to the so-called glory and shame, and to the alternations of
successful and unsuccessful murder, in which two high-spirited
nations might engage. Centuries hence, we Frenchmen and Englishmen
might be boasting and killing each other still, carrying out bravely
the Devil's code of honour.
All our friends took their share and fought like men in the great
field. All day long, whilst the women were praying ten miles away,
the lines of the dauntless English infantry were receiving and
repelling the furious charges of the French horsemen. Guns which
were heard at Brussels were ploughing up their ranks, and comrades
falling, and the resolute survivors closing in. Towards evening,
the attack of the French, repeated and resisted so bravely,
slackened in its fury. They had other foes besides the British to
engage, or were preparing for a final onset. It came at last: the
columns of the Imperial Guard marched up the hill of Saint Jean, at
length and at once to sweep the English from the height which they
had maintained all day, and spite of all: unscared by the thunder
of the artillery, which hurled death from the English line--the dark
rolling column pressed on and up the hill. It seemed almost to
crest the eminence, when it began to wave and falter. Then it
stopped, still facing the shot. Then at last the English troops
rushed from the post from which no enemy had been able to dislodge
them, and the Guard turned and fled.
No more firing was heard at Brussels--the pursuit rolled miles away.
Darkness came down on the field and city: and Amelia was praying
for George, who was lying on his face, dead, with a bullet through
In Which Miss Crawley's Relations Are Very Anxious About Her
The kind reader must please to remember--while the army is marching
from Flanders, and, after its heroic actions there, is advancing to
take the fortifications on the frontiers of France, previous to an
occupation of that country--that there are a number of persons
living peaceably in England who have to do with the history at
present in hand, and must come in for their share of the chronicle.
During the time of these battles and dangers, old Miss Crawley was
living at Brighton, very moderately moved by the great events that
were going on. The great events rendered the newspapers rather
interesting, to be sure, and Briggs read out the Gazette, in which
Rawdon Crawley's gallantry was mentioned with honour, and his
promotion was presently recorded.
"What a pity that young man has taken such an irretrievable step in
the world!" his aunt said; "with his rank and distinction he might
have married a brewer's daughter with a quarter of a million--like
Miss Grains; or have looked to ally himself with the best families
in England. He would have had my money some day or other; or his
children would--for I'm not in a hurry to go, Miss Briggs, although
you may be in a hurry to be rid of me; and instead of that, he is a
doomed pauper, with a dancing-girl for a wife."
"Will my dear Miss Crawley not cast an eye of compassion upon the
heroic soldier, whose name is inscribed in the annals of his
country's glory?" said Miss Briggs, who was greatly excited by the
Waterloo proceedings, and loved speaking romantically when there was
an occasion. "Has not the Captain--or the Colonel as I may now
style him--done deeds which make the name of Crawley illustrious?"
"Briggs, you are a fool," said Miss Crawley: "Colonel Crawley has
dragged the name of Crawley through the mud, Miss Briggs. Marry a
drawing-master's daughter, indeed!--marry a dame de compagnie--for
she was no better, Briggs; no, she was just what you are--only
younger, and a great deal prettier and cleverer. Were you an
accomplice of that abandoned wretch, I wonder, of whose vile arts he
became a victim, and of whom you used to be such an admirer? Yes, I
daresay you were an accomplice. But you will find yourself
disappointed in my will, I can tell you: and you will have the
goodness to write to Mr. Waxy, and say that I desire to see him
immediately." Miss Crawley was now in the habit of writing to Mr.
Waxy her solicitor almost every day in the week, for her
arrangements respecting her property were all revoked, and her
perplexity was great as to the future disposition of her money.
The spinster had, however, rallied considerably; as was proved by
the increased vigour and frequency of her sarcasms upon Miss Briggs,
all which attacks the poor companion bore with meekness, with
cowardice, with a resignation that was half generous and half
hypocritical--with the slavish submission, in a word, that women of
her disposition and station are compelled to show. Who has not seen
how women bully women? What tortures have men to endure, comparable
to those daily repeated shafts of scorn and cruelty with which poor
women are riddled by the tyrants of their sex? Poor victims! But
we are starting from our proposition, which is, that Miss Crawley
was always particularly annoying and savage when she was rallying
from illness--as they say wounds tingle most when they are about to
While thus approaching, as all hoped, to convalescence, Miss Briggs
was the only victim admitted into the presence of the invalid; yet
Miss Crawley's relatives afar off did not forget their beloved
kinswoman, and by a number of tokens, presents, and kind
affectionate messages, strove to keep themselves alive in her
In the first place, let us mention her nephew, Rawdon Crawley. A
few weeks after the famous fight of Waterloo, and after the Gazette
had made known to her the promotion and gallantry of that
distinguished officer, the Dieppe packet brought over to Miss
Crawley at Brighton, a box containing presents, and a dutiful
letter, from the Colonel her nephew. In the box were a pair of
French epaulets, a Cross of the Legion of Honour, and the hilt of a
sword--relics from the field of battle: and the letter described
with a good deal of humour how the latter belonged to a commanding
officer of the Guard, who having sworn that "the Guard died, but
never surrendered," was taken prisoner the next minute by a private
soldier, who broke the Frenchman's sword with the butt of his
musket, when Rawdon made himself master of the shattered weapon. As
for the cross and epaulets, they came from a Colonel of French
cavalry, who had fallen under the aide-de-camp's arm in the battle:
and Rawdon Crawley did not know what better to do with the spoils
than to send them to his kindest and most affectionate old friend.
Should he continue to write to her from Paris, whither the army was
marching? He might be able to give her interesting news from that
capital, and of some of Miss Crawley's old friends of the
emigration, to whom she had shown so much kindness during their
The spinster caused Briggs to write back to the Colonel a gracious
and complimentary letter, encouraging him to continue his
correspondence. His first letter was so excessively lively and
amusing that she should look with pleasure for its successors.--"Of
course, I know," she explained to Miss Briggs, "that Rawdon could
not write such a good letter any more than you could, my poor
Briggs, and that it is that clever little wretch of a Rebecca, who
dictates every word to him; but that is no reason why my nephew
should not amuse me; and so I wish to let him understand that I am
in high good humour."
I wonder whether she knew that it was not only Becky who wrote the
letters, but that Mrs. Rawdon actually took and sent home the
trophies which she bought for a few francs, from one of the
innumerable pedlars who immediately began to deal in relics of the
war. The novelist, who knows everything, knows this also. Be this,
however, as it may, Miss Crawley's gracious reply greatly encouraged
our young friends, Rawdon and his lady, who hoped for the best from
their aunt's evidently pacified humour: and they took care to
entertain her with many delightful letters from Paris, whither, as
Rawdon said, they had the good luck to go in the track of the
To the rector's lady, who went off to tend her husband's broken
collar-bone at the Rectory at Queen's Crawley, the spinster's
communications were by no means so gracious. Mrs. Bute, that brisk,
managing, lively, imperious woman, had committed the most fatal of
all errors with regard to her sister-in-law. She had not merely
oppressed her and her household--she had bored Miss Crawley; and if
poor Miss Briggs had been a woman of any spirit, she might have been
made happy by the commission which her principal gave her to write a
letter to Mrs. Bute Crawley, saying that Miss Crawley's health was
greatly improved since Mrs. Bute had left her, and begging the
latter on no account to put herself to trouble, or quit her family
for Miss Crawley's sake. This triumph over a lady who had been very
haughty and cruel in her behaviour to Miss Briggs, would have
rejoiced most women; but the truth is, Briggs was a woman of no
spirit at all, and the moment her enemy was discomfited, she began
to feel compassion in her favour.
"How silly I was," Mrs. Bute thought, and with reason, "ever to hint
that I was coming, as I did, in that foolish letter when we sent
Miss Crawley the guinea-fowls. I ought to have gone without a word
to the poor dear doting old creature, and taken her out of the hands
of that ninny Briggs, and that harpy of a femme de chambre. Oh!
Bute, Bute, why did you break your collar-bone?"
Why, indeed? We have seen how Mrs. Bute, having the game in her
hands, had really played her cards too well. She had ruled over Miss
Crawley's household utterly and completely, to be utterly and
completely routed when a favourable opportunity for rebellion came.
She and her household, however, considered that she had been the
victim of horrible selfishness and treason, and that her sacrifices
in Miss Crawley's behalf had met with the most savage ingratitude.
Rawdon's promotion, and the honourable mention made of his name in
the Gazette, filled this good Christian lady also with alarm. Would
his aunt relent towards him now that he was a Lieutenant-Colonel and
a C.B.? and would that odious Rebecca once more get into favour?
The Rector's wife wrote a sermon for her husband about the vanity of
military glory and the prosperity of the wicked, which the worthy
parson read in his best voice and without understanding one syllable
of it. He had Pitt Crawley for one of his auditors--Pitt, who had
come with his two half-sisters to church, which the old Baronet
could now by no means be brought to frequent.
Since the departure of Becky Sharp, that old wretch had given
himself up entirely to his bad courses, to the great scandal of the
county and the mute horror of his son. The ribbons in Miss
Horrocks's cap became more splendid than ever. The polite families
fled the hall and its owner in terror. Sir Pitt went about tippling
at his tenants' houses; and drank rum-and-water with the farmers at
Mudbury and the neighbouring places on market-days. He drove the
family coach-and-four to Southampton with Miss Horrocks inside: and
the county people expected, every week, as his son did in speechless
agony, that his marriage with her would be announced in the
provincial paper. It was indeed a rude burthen for Mr. Crawley to
bear. His eloquence was palsied at the missionary meetings, and
other religious assemblies in the neighbourhood, where he had been
in the habit of presiding, and of speaking for hours; for he felt,
when he rose, that the audience said, "That is the son of the old
reprobate Sir Pitt, who is very likely drinking at the public house
at this very moment." And once when he was speaking of the benighted
condition of the king of Timbuctoo, and the number of his wives who
were likewise in darkness, some gipsy miscreant from the crowd
asked, "How many is there at Queen's Crawley, Young Squaretoes?" to
the surprise of the platform, and the ruin of Mr. Pitt's speech.
And the two daughters of the house of Queen's Crawley would have
been allowed to run utterly wild (for Sir Pitt swore that no
governess should ever enter into his doors again), had not Mr.
Crawley, by threatening the old gentleman, forced the latter to send
them to school.
Meanwhile, as we have said, whatever individual differences there
might be between them all, Miss Crawley's dear nephews and nieces
were unanimous in loving her and sending her tokens of affection.
Thus Mrs. Bute sent guinea-fowls, and some remarkably fine
cauliflowers, and a pretty purse or pincushion worked by her darling
girls, who begged to keep a LITTLE place in the recollection of
their dear aunt, while Mr. Pitt sent peaches and grapes and venison
from the Hall. The Southampton coach used to carry these tokens of
affection to Miss Crawley at Brighton: it used sometimes to convey
Mr. Pitt thither too: for his differences with Sir Pitt caused Mr.
Crawley to absent himself a good deal from home now: and besides,
he had an attraction at Brighton in the person of the Lady Jane
Sheepshanks, whose engagement to Mr. Crawley has been formerly
mentioned in this history. Her Ladyship and her sisters lived at
Brighton with their mamma, the Countess Southdown, that strong-
minded woman so favourably known in the serious world.
A few words ought to be said regarding her Ladyship and her noble
family, who are bound by ties of present and future relationship to
the house of Crawley. Respecting the chief of the Southdown family,
Clement William, fourth Earl of Southdown, little need be told,
except that his Lordship came into Parliament (as Lord Wolsey) under
the auspices of Mr. Wilberforce, and for a time was a credit to his
political sponsor, and decidedly a serious young man. But words
cannot describe the feelings of his admirable mother, when she
learned, very shortly after her noble husband's demise, that her son
was a member of several worldly clubs, had lost largely at play at
Wattier's and the Cocoa Tree; that he had raised money on post-
obits, and encumbered the family estate; that he drove four-in-hand,
and patronised the ring; and that he actually had an opera-box,
where he entertained the most dangerous bachelor company. His name
was only mentioned with groans in the dowager's circle.
The Lady Emily was her brother's senior by many years; and took
considerable rank in the serious world as author of some of the
delightful tracts before mentioned, and of many hymns and spiritual
pieces. A mature spinster, and having but faint ideas of marriage,
her love for the blacks occupied almost all her feelings. It is to
her, I believe, we owe that beautiful poem.
Lead us to some sunny isle,
Yonder in the western deep;
Where the skies for ever smile,
And the blacks for ever weep, &c.
She had correspondences with clerical gentlemen in most of our East
and West India possessions; and was secretly attached to the
Reverend Silas Hornblower, who was tattooed in the South Sea
As for the Lady Jane, on whom, as it has been said, Mr. Pitt
Crawley's affection had been placed, she was gentle, blushing,
silent, and timid. In spite of his falling away, she wept for her
brother, and was quite ashamed of loving him still. Even yet she
used to send him little hurried smuggled notes, and pop them into
the post in private. The one dreadful secret which weighed upon her
life was, that she and the old housekeeper had been to pay Southdown
a furtive visit at his chambers in the Albany; and found him--O the
naughty dear abandoned wretch!--smoking a cigar with a bottle of
Curacao before him. She admired her sister, she adored her mother,
she thought Mr. Crawley the most delightful and accomplished of men,
after Southdown, that fallen angel: and her mamma and sister, who
were ladies of the most superior sort, managed everything for her,
and regarded her with that amiable pity, of which your really
superior woman always has such a share to give away. Her mamma
ordered her dresses, her books, her bonnets, and her ideas for her.
She was made to take pony-riding, or piano-exercise, or any other
sort of bodily medicament, according as my Lady Southdown saw meet;
and her ladyship would have kept her daughter in pinafores up to her
present age of six-and-twenty, but that they were thrown off when
Lady Jane was presented to Queen Charlotte.
When these ladies first came to their house at Brighton, it was to
them alone that Mr. Crawley paid his personal visits, contenting
himself by leaving a card at his aunt's house, and making a modest
inquiry of Mr. Bowls or his assistant footman, with respect to the
health of the invalid. When he met Miss Briggs coming home from the
library with a cargo of novels under her arm, Mr. Crawley blushed in
a manner quite unusual to him, as he stepped forward and shook Miss
Crawley's companion by the hand. He introduced Miss Briggs to the
lady with whom he happened to be walking, the Lady Jane Sheepshanks,
saying, "Lady Jane, permit me to introduce to you my aunt's kindest
friend and most affectionate companion, Miss Briggs, whom you know
under another title, as authoress of the delightful 'Lyrics of the
Heart,' of which you are so fond." Lady Jane blushed too as she
held out a kind little hand to Miss Briggs, and said something very
civil and incoherent about mamma, and proposing to call on Miss
Crawley, and being glad to be made known to the friends and
relatives of Mr. Crawley; and with soft dove-like eyes saluted Miss
Briggs as they separated, while Pitt Crawley treated her to a
profound courtly bow, such as he had used to H.H. the Duchess of
Pumpernickel, when he was attache at that court.
The artful diplomatist and disciple of the Machiavellian Binkie! It
was he who had given Lady Jane that copy of poor Briggs's early
poems, which he remembered to have seen at Queen's Crawley, with a
dedication from the poetess to his father's late wife; and he
brought the volume with him to Brighton, reading it in the
Southampton coach and marking it with his own pencil, before he
presented it to the gentle Lady Jane.
It was he, too, who laid before Lady Southdown the great advantages
which might occur from an intimacy between her family and Miss
Crawley--advantages both worldly and spiritual, he said: for Miss
Crawley was now quite alone; the monstrous dissipation and alliance
of his brother Rawdon had estranged her affections from that
reprobate young man; the greedy tyranny and avarice of Mrs. Bute
Crawley had caused the old lady to revolt against the exorbitant
pretensions of that part of the family; and though he himself had
held off all his life from cultivating Miss Crawley's friendship,
with perhaps an improper pride, he thought now that every becoming
means should be taken, both to save her soul from perdition, and to
secure her fortune to himself as the head of the house of Crawley.
The strong-minded Lady Southdown quite agreed in both proposals of
her son-in-law, and was for converting Miss Crawley off-hand. At
her own home, both at Southdown and at Trottermore Castle, this tall
and awful missionary of the truth rode about the country in her
barouche with outriders, launched packets of tracts among the
cottagers and tenants, and would order Gaffer Jones to be converted,
as she would order Goody Hicks to take a James's powder, without
appeal, resistance, or benefit of clergy. My Lord Southdown, her
late husband, an epileptic and simple-minded nobleman, was in the
habit of approving of everything which his Matilda did and thought.
So that whatever changes her own belief might undergo (and it
accommodated itself to a prodigious variety of opinion, taken from
all sorts of doctors among the Dissenters) she had not the least
scruple in ordering all her tenants and inferiors to follow and
believe after her. Thus whether she received the Reverend Saunders
McNitre, the Scotch divine; or the Reverend Luke Waters, the mild
Wesleyan; or the Reverend Giles Jowls, the illuminated Cobbler, who
dubbed himself Reverend as Napoleon crowned himself Emperor--the
household, children, tenantry of my Lady Southdown were expected to
go down on their knees with her Ladyship, and say Amen to the
prayers of either Doctor. During these exercises old Southdown, on
account of his invalid condition, was allowed to sit in his own
room, and have negus and the paper read to him. Lady Jane was the
old Earl's favourite daughter, and tended him and loved him
sincerely: as for Lady Emily, the authoress of the "Washerwoman of
Finchley Common," her denunciations of future punishment (at this
period, for her opinions modified afterwards) were so awful that
they used to frighten the timid old gentleman her father, and the
physicians declared his fits always occurred after one of her
"I will certainly call," said Lady Southdown then, in reply to the
exhortation of her daughter's pretendu, Mr. Pitt Crawley--"Who is
Miss Crawley's medical man?"
Mr. Crawley mentioned the name of Mr. Creamer.
"A most dangerous and ignorant practitioner, my dear Pitt. I have
providentially been the means of removing him from several houses:
though in one or two instances I did not arrive in time. I could
not save poor dear General Glanders, who was dying under the hands
of that ignorant man--dying. He rallied a little under the Podgers'
pills which I administered to him; but alas! it was too late. His
death was delightful, however; and his change was only for the
better; Creamer, my dear Pitt, must leave your aunt."
Pitt expressed his perfect acquiescence. He, too, had been carried
along by the energy of his noble kinswoman, and future mother-in-
law. He had been made to accept Saunders McNitre, Luke Waters,
Giles Jowls, Podgers' Pills, Rodgers' Pills, Pokey's Elixir, every
one of her Ladyship's remedies spiritual or temporal. He never left
her house without carrying respectfully away with him piles of her
quack theology and medicine. O, my dear brethren and fellow-
sojourners in Vanity Fair, which among you does not know and suffer
under such benevolent despots? It is in vain you say to them, "Dear
Madam, I took Podgers' specific at your orders last year, and
believe in it. Why, why am I to recant and accept the Rodgers'
articles now?" There is no help for it; the faithful proselytizer,
if she cannot convince by argument, bursts into tears, and the
refusant finds himself, at the end of the contest, taking down the
bolus, and saying, "Well, well, Rodgers' be it."
"And as for her spiritual state," continued the Lady, "that of
course must be looked to immediately: with Creamer about her, she
may go off any day: and in what a condition, my dear Pitt, in what
a dreadful condition! I will send the Reverend Mr. Irons to her
instantly. Jane, write a line to the Reverend Bartholomew Irons, in
the third person, and say that I desire the pleasure of his company
this evening at tea at half-past six. He is an awakening man; he
ought to see Miss Crawley before she rests this night. And Emily,
my love, get ready a packet of books for Miss Crawley. Put up 'A
Voice from the Flames,' 'A Trumpet-warning to Jericho,' and the
'Fleshpots Broken; or, the Converted Cannibal.'"
"And the 'Washerwoman of Finchley Common,' Mamma," said Lady Emily.
"It is as well to begin soothingly at first."
"Stop, my dear ladies," said Pitt, the diplomatist. "With every
deference to the opinion of my beloved and respected Lady Southdown,
I think it would be quite unadvisable to commence so early upon
serious topics with Miss Crawley. Remember her delicate condition,
and how little, how very little accustomed she has hitherto been to
considerations connected with her immortal welfare."
"Can we then begin too early, Pitt?" said Lady Emily, rising with
six little books already in her hand.
"If you begin abruptly, you will frighten her altogether. I know my
aunt's worldly nature so well as to be sure that any abrupt attempt
at conversion will be the very worst means that can be employed for
the welfare of that unfortunate lady. You will only frighten and
annoy her. She will very likely fling the books away, and refuse all
acquaintance with the givers."
"You are as worldly as Miss Crawley, Pitt," said Lady Emily, tossing
out of the room, her books in her hand.
"And I need not tell you, my dear Lady Southdown," Pitt continued,
in a low voice, and without heeding the interruption, "how fatal a
little want of gentleness and caution may be to any hopes which we
may entertain with regard to the worldly possessions of my aunt.
Remember she has seventy thousand pounds; think of her age, and her
highly nervous and delicate condition; I know that she has destroyed
the will which was made in my brother's (Colonel Crawley's) favour:
it is by soothing that wounded spirit that we must lead it into the
right path, and not by frightening it; and so I think you will agree
with me that--that--'
"Of course, of course," Lady Southdown remarked. "Jane, my love, you
need not send that note to Mr. Irons. If her health is such that
discussions fatigue her, we will wait her amendment. I will call
upon Miss Crawley tomorrow."
"And if I might suggest, my sweet lady," Pitt said in a bland tone,
"it would be as well not to take our precious Emily, who is too
enthusiastic; but rather that you should be accompanied by our sweet
and dear Lady Jane."
"Most certainly, Emily would ruin everything," Lady Southdown said;
and this time agreed to forego her usual practice, which was, as we
have said, before she bore down personally upon any individual whom
she proposed to subjugate, to fire in a quantity of tracts upon the
menaced party (as a charge of the French was always preceded by a
furious cannonade). Lady Southdown, we say, for the sake of the
invalid's health, or for the sake of her soul's ultimate welfare, or
for the sake of her money, agreed to temporise.
The next day, the great Southdown female family carriage, with the
Earl's coronet and the lozenge (upon which the three lambs trottant
argent upon the field vert of the Southdowns, were quartered with
sable on a bend or, three snuff-mulls gules, the cognizance of the
house of Binkie), drove up in state to Miss Crawley's door, and the
tall serious footman handed in to Mr. Bowls her Ladyship's cards for
Miss Crawley, and one likewise for Miss Briggs. By way of
compromise, Lady Emily sent in a packet in the evening for the
latter lady, containing copies of the "Washerwoman," and other mild
and favourite tracts for Miss B.'s own perusal; and a few for the
servants' hall, viz.: "Crumbs from the Pantry," "The Frying Pan and
the Fire," and "The Livery of Sin," of a much stronger kind.
James Crawley's Pipe Is Put Out
The amiable behaviour of Mr. Crawley, and Lady Jane's kind reception
of her, highly flattered Miss Briggs, who was enabled to speak a
good word for the latter, after the cards of the Southdown family
had been presented to Miss Crawley. A Countess's card left
personally too for her, Briggs, was not a little pleasing to the
poor friendless companion. "What could Lady Southdown mean by
leaving a card upon you, I wonder, Miss Briggs?" said the republican
Miss Crawley; upon which the companion meekly said "that she hoped
there could be no harm in a lady of rank taking notice of a poor
gentlewoman," and she put away this card in her work-box amongst her
most cherished personal treasures. Furthermore, Miss Briggs
explained how she had met Mr. Crawley walking with his cousin and
long affianced bride the day before: and she told how kind and
gentle-looking the lady was, and what a plain, not to say common,
dress she had, all the articles of which, from the bonnet down to
the boots, she described and estimated with female accuracy.
Miss Crawley allowed Briggs to prattle on without interrupting her
too much. As she got well, she was pining for society. Mr.
Creamer, her medical man, would not hear of her returning to her old
haunts and dissipation in London. The old spinster was too glad to
find any companionship at Brighton, and not only were the cards
acknowledged the very next day, but Pitt Crawley was graciously
invited to come and see his aunt. He came, bringing with him Lady
Southdown and her daughter. The dowager did not say a word about
the state of Miss Crawley's soul; but talked with much discretion
about the weather: about the war and the downfall of the monster
Bonaparte: and above all, about doctors, quacks, and the particular
merits of Dr. Podgers, whom she then patronised.
During their interview Pitt Crawley made a great stroke, and one
which showed that, had his diplomatic career not been blighted by
early neglect, he might have risen to a high rank in his profession.
When the Countess Dowager of Southdown fell foul of the Corsican
upstart, as the fashion was in those days, and showed that he was a
monster stained with every conceivable crime, a coward and a tyrant
not fit to live, one whose fall was predicted, &c., Pitt Crawley
suddenly took up the cudgels in favour of the man of Destiny. He
described the First Consul as he saw him at Paris at the peace of
Amiens; when he, Pitt Crawley, had the gratification of making the
acquaintance of the great and good Mr. Fox, a statesman whom,
however much he might differ with him, it was impossible not to
admire fervently--a statesman who had always had the highest opinion
of the Emperor Napoleon. And he spoke in terms of the strongest
indignation of the faithless conduct of the allies towards this
dethroned monarch, who, after giving himself generously up to their
mercy, was consigned to an ignoble and cruel banishment, while a
bigoted Popish rabble was tyrannising over France in his stead.
This orthodox horror of Romish superstition saved Pitt Crawley in
Lady Southdown's opinion, whilst his admiration for Fox and Napoleon
raised him immeasurably in Miss Crawley's eyes. Her friendship with
that defunct British statesman was mentioned when we first
introduced her in this history. A true Whig, Miss Crawley had been
in opposition all through the war, and though, to be sure, the
downfall of the Emperor did not very much agitate the old lady, or
his ill-treatment tend to shorten her life or natural rest, yet Pitt
spoke to her heart when he lauded both her idols; and by that single
speech made immense progress in her favour.
"And what do you think, my dear?" Miss Crawley said to the young
lady, for whom she had taken a liking at first sight, as she always
did for pretty and modest young people; though it must be owned her
affections cooled as rapidly as they rose.
Lady Jane blushed very much, and said "that she did not understand
politics, which she left to wiser heads than hers; but though Mamma
was, no doubt, correct, Mr. Crawley had spoken beautifully." And
when the ladies were retiring at the conclusion of their visit, Miss
Crawley hoped "Lady Southdown would be so kind as to send her Lady
Jane sometimes, if she could be spared to come down and console a
poor sick lonely old woman." This promise was graciously accorded,
and they separated upon great terms of amity.
"Don't let Lady Southdown come again, Pitt," said the old lady.
"She is stupid and pompous, like all your mother's family, whom I
never could endure. But bring that nice good-natured little Jane as
often as ever you please." Pitt promised that he would do so. He
did not tell the Countess of Southdown what opinion his aunt had
formed of her Ladyship, who, on the contrary, thought that she had
made a most delightful and majestic impression on Miss Crawley.
And so, nothing loth to comfort a sick lady, and perhaps not sorry
in her heart to be freed now and again from the dreary spouting of
the Reverend Bartholomew Irons, and the serious toadies who gathered
round the footstool of the pompous Countess, her mamma, Lady Jane
became a pretty constant visitor to Miss Crawley, accompanied her in
her drives, and solaced many of her evenings. She was so naturally
good and soft, that even Firkin was not jealous of her; and the
gentle Briggs thought her friend was less cruel to her when kind
Lady Jane was by. Towards her Ladyship Miss Crawley's manners were
charming. The old spinster told her a thousand anecdotes about her
youth, talking to her in a very different strain from that in which
she had been accustomed to converse with the godless little Rebecca;
for there was that in Lady Jane's innocence which rendered light
talking impertinence before her, and Miss Crawley was too much of a
gentlewoman to offend such purity. The young lady herself had never
received kindness except from this old spinster, and her brother and
father: and she repaid Miss Crawley's engoument by artless
sweetness and friendship.
In the autumn evenings (when Rebecca was flaunting at Paris, the
gayest among the gay conquerors there, and our Amelia, our dear
wounded Amelia, ah! where was she?) Lady Jane would be sitting in
Miss Crawley's drawing-room singing sweetly to her, in the twilight,
her little simple songs and hymns, while the sun was setting and the
sea was roaring on the beach. The old spinster used to wake up when
these ditties ceased, and ask for more. As for Briggs, and the
quantity of tears of happiness which she now shed as she pretended
to knit, and looked out at the splendid ocean darkling before the
windows, and the lamps of heaven beginning more brightly to shine--
who, I say can measure the happiness and sensibility of Briggs?
Pitt meanwhile in the dining-room, with a pamphlet on the Corn Laws
or a Missionary Register by his side, took that kind of recreation
which suits romantic and unromantic men after dinner. He sipped
Madeira: built castles in the air: thought himself a fine fellow:
felt himself much more in love with Jane than he had been any time
these seven years, during which their liaison had lasted without the
slightest impatience on Pitt's part--and slept a good deal. When
the time for coffee came, Mr. Bowls used to enter in a noisy manner,
and summon Squire Pitt, who would be found in the dark very busy
with his pamphlet.
"I wish, my love, I could get somebody to play piquet with me," Miss
Crawley said one night when this functionary made his appearance
with the candles and the coffee. "Poor Briggs can no more play than
an owl, she is so stupid" (the spinster always took an opportunity
of abusing Briggs before the servants); "and I think I should sleep
better if I had my game."
At this Lady Jane blushed to the tips of her little ears, and down
to the ends of her pretty fingers; and when Mr. Bowls had quitted
the room, and the door was quite shut, she said:
"Miss Crawley, I can play a little. I used to--to play a little
with poor dear papa."
"Come and kiss me. Come and kiss me this instant, you dear good
little soul," cried Miss Crawley in an ecstasy: and in this
picturesque and friendly occupation Mr. Pitt found the old lady and
the young one, when he came upstairs with him pamphlet in his hand.
How she did blush all the evening, that poor Lady Jane!
It must not be imagined that Mr. Pitt Crawley's artifices escaped
the attention of his dear relations at the Rectory at Queen's
Crawley. Hampshire and Sussex lie very close together, and Mrs.
Bute had friends in the latter county who took care to inform her of
all, and a great deal more than all, that passed at Miss Crawley's
house at Brighton. Pitt was there more and more. He did not come
for months together to the Hall, where his abominable old father
abandoned himself completely to rum-and-water, and the odious
society of the Horrocks family. Pitt's success rendered the Rector's
family furious, and Mrs. Bute regretted more (though she confessed
less) than ever her monstrous fault in so insulting Miss Briggs, and
in being so haughty and parsimonious to Bowls and Firkin, that she
had not a single person left in Miss Crawley's household to give her
information of what took place there. "It was all Bute's collar-
bone," she persisted in saying; "if that had not broke, I never
would have left her. I am a martyr to duty and to your odious
unclerical habit of hunting, Bute."
"Hunting; nonsense! It was you that frightened her, Barbara," the
divine interposed. "You're a clever woman, but you've got a devil
of a temper; and you're a screw with your money, Barbara."
"You'd have been screwed in gaol, Bute, if I had not kept your
"I know I would, my dear," said the Rector, good-naturedly. "You ARE
a clever woman, but you manage too well, you know": and the pious
man consoled himself with a big glass of port.
"What the deuce can she find in that spooney of a Pitt Crawley?" he
continued. "The fellow has not pluck enough to say Bo to a goose.
I remember when Rawdon, who is a man, and be hanged to him, used to
flog him round the stables as if he was a whipping-top: and Pitt
would go howling home to his ma--ha, ha! Why, either of my boys
would whop him with one hand. Jim says he's remembered at Oxford as
Miss Crawley still--the spooney.
"I say, Barbara," his reverence continued, after a pause.
"What?" said Barbara, who was biting her nails, and drumming the
"I say, why not send Jim over to Brighton to see if he can do
anything with the old lady. He's very near getting his degree, you
know. He's only been plucked twice--so was I--but he's had the
advantages of Oxford and a university education. He knows some of
the best chaps there. He pulls stroke in the Boniface boat. He's a
handsome feller. D--- it, ma'am, let's put him on the old woman, hey,
and tell him to thrash Pitt if he says anything. Ha, ha, ha!
"Jim might go down and see her, certainly," the housewife said;
adding with a sigh, "If we could but get one of the girls into the
house; but she could never endure them, because they are not
pretty!" Those unfortunate and well-educated women made themselves
heard from the neighbouring drawing-room, where they were thrumming
away, with hard fingers, an elaborate music-piece on the piano-
forte, as their mother spoke; and indeed, they were at music, or at
backboard, or at geography, or at history, the whole day long. But
what avail all these accomplishments, in Vanity Fair, to girls who
are short, poor, plain, and have a bad complexion? Mrs. Bute could
think of nobody but the Curate to take one of them off her hands;
and Jim coming in from the stable at this minute, through the
parlour window, with a short pipe stuck in his oilskin cap, he and
his father fell to talking about odds on the St. Leger, and the
colloquy between the Rector and his wife ended.
Mrs. Bute did not augur much good to the cause from the sending of
her son James as an ambassador, and saw him depart in rather a
despairing mood. Nor did the young fellow himself, when told what
his mission was to be, expect much pleasure or benefit from it; but
he was consoled by the thought that possibly the old lady would give
him some handsome remembrance of her, which would pay a few of his
most pressing bills at the commencement of the ensuing Oxford term,
and so took his place by the coach from Southampton, and was safely
landed at Brighton on the same evening? with his portmanteau, his
favourite bull-dog Towzer, and an immense basket of farm and garden
produce, from the dear Rectory folks to the dear Miss Crawley.
Considering it was too late to disturb the invalid lady on the first
night of his arrival, he put up at an inn, and did not wait upon
Miss Crawley until a late hour in the noon of next day.
James Crawley, when his aunt had last beheld him, was a gawky lad,
at that uncomfortable age when the voice varies between an unearthly
treble and a preternatural bass; when the face not uncommonly blooms
out with appearances for which Rowland's Kalydor is said to act as a
cure; when boys are seen to shave furtively with their sister's
scissors, and the sight of other young women produces intolerable
sensations of terror in them; when the great hands and ankles
protrude a long way from garments which have grown too tight for
them; when their presence after dinner is at once frightful to the
ladies, who are whispering in the twilight in the drawing-room, and
inexpressibly odious to the gentlemen over the mahogany, who are
restrained from freedom of intercourse and delightful interchange of
wit by the presence of that gawky innocence; when, at the conclusion
of the second glass, papa says, "Jack, my boy, go out and see if the
evening holds up," and the youth, willing to be free, yet hurt at
not being yet a man, quits the incomplete banquet. James, then a
hobbadehoy, was now become a young man, having had the benefits of a
university education, and acquired the inestimable polish which is
gained by living in a fast set at a small college, and contracting
debts, and being rusticated, and being plucked.
He was a handsome lad, however, when he came to present himself to
his aunt at Brighton, and good looks were always a title to the
fickle old lady's favour. Nor did his blushes and awkwardness take
away from it: she was pleased with these healthy tokens of the
young gentleman's ingenuousness.
He said "he had come down for a couple of days to see a man of his
college, and--and to pay my respects to you, Ma'am, and my father's
and mother's, who hope you are well."
Pitt was in the room with Miss Crawley when the lad was announced,
and looked very blank when his name was mentioned. The old lady had
plenty of humour, and enjoyed her correct nephew's perplexity. She
asked after all the people at the Rectory with great interest; and
said she was thinking of paying them a visit. She praised the lad
to his face, and said he was well-grown and very much improved, and
that it was a pity his sisters had not some of his good looks; and
finding, on inquiry, that he had taken up his quarters at an hotel,
would not hear of his stopping there, but bade Mr. Bowls send for
Mr. James Crawley's things instantly; "and hark ye, Bowls," she
added, with great graciousness, "you will have the goodness to pay
Mr. James's bill."
She flung Pitt a look of arch triumph, which caused that diplomatist
almost to choke with envy. Much as he had ingratiated himself with
his aunt, she had never yet invited him to stay under her roof, and
here was a young whipper-snapper, who at first sight was made
"I beg your pardon, sir," says Bowls, advancing with a profound bow;
"what 'otel, sir, shall Thomas fetch the luggage from?"
"O, dam," said young James, starting up, as if in some alarm, "I'll
"What!" said Miss Crawley.
"The Tom Cribb's Arms," said James, blushing deeply.
Miss Crawley burst out laughing at this title. Mr. Bowls gave one
abrupt guffaw, as a confidential servant of the family, but choked
the rest of the volley; the diplomatist only smiled.
"I--I didn't know any better," said James, looking down. "I've never
been here before; it was the coachman told me." The young story-
teller! The fact is, that on the Southampton coach, the day
previous, James Crawley had met the Tutbury Pet, who was coming to
Brighton to make a match with the Rottingdean Fibber; and enchanted
by the Pet's conversation, had passed the evening in company with
that scientific man and his friends, at the inn in question.
"I--I'd best go and settle the score," James continued. "Couldn't
think of asking you, Ma'am," he added, generously.
This delicacy made his aunt laugh the more.
"Go and settle the bill, Bowls," she said, with a wave of her hand,
"and bring it to me."
Poor lady, she did not know what she had done! "There--there's a
little dawg," said James, looking frightfully guilty. "I'd best go
for him. He bites footmen's calves."
All the party cried out with laughing at this description; even
Briggs and Lady Jane, who was sitting mute during the interview
between Miss Crawley and her nephew: and Bowls, without a word,
quitted the room.
Still, by way of punishing her elder nephew, Miss Crawley persisted
in being gracious to the young Oxonian. There were no limits to her
kindness or her compliments when they once began. She told Pitt he
might come to dinner, and insisted that James should accompany her
in her drive, and paraded him solemnly up and down the cliff, on the
back seat of the barouche. During all this excursion, she
condescended to say civil things to him: she quoted Italian and
French poetry to the poor bewildered lad, and persisted that he was
a fine scholar, and was perfectly sure he would gain a gold medal,
and be a Senior Wrangler.
"Haw, haw," laughed James, encouraged by these compliments; "Senior
Wrangler, indeed; that's at the other shop."
"What is the other shop, my dear child?" said the lady.
"Senior Wranglers at Cambridge, not Oxford," said the scholar, with
a knowing air; and would probably have been more confidential, but
that suddenly there appeared on the cliff in a tax-cart, drawn by a
bang-up pony, dressed in white flannel coats, with mother-of-pearl
buttons, his friends the Tutbury Pet and the Rottingdean Fibber,
with three other gentlemen of their acquaintance, who all saluted
poor James there in the carriage as he sate. This incident damped
the ingenuous youth's spirits, and no word of yea or nay could he be
induced to utter during the rest of the drive.
On his return he found his room prepared, and his portmanteau ready,
and might have remarked that Mr. Bowls's countenance, when the
latter conducted him to his apartments, wore a look of gravity,
wonder, and compassion. But the thought of Mr. Bowls did not enter
his head. He was deploring the dreadful predicament in which he
found himself, in a house full of old women, jabbering French and
Italian, and talking poetry to him. "Reglarly up a tree, by jingo!"
exclaimed the modest boy, who could not face the gentlest of her
sex--not even Briggs--when she began to talk to him; whereas, put
him at Iffley Lock, and he could out-slang the boldest bargeman.
At dinner, James appeared choking in a white neckcloth, and had the
honour of handing my Lady Jane downstairs, while Briggs and Mr.
Crawley followed afterwards, conducting the old lady, with her
apparatus of bundles, and shawls, and cushions. Half of Briggs's
time at dinner was spent in superintending the invalid's comfort,
and in cutting up chicken for her fat spaniel. James did not talk
much, but he made a point of asking all the ladies to drink wine,
and accepted Mr. Crawley's challenge, and consumed the greater part
of a bottle of champagne which Mr. Bowls was ordered to produce in
his honour. The ladies having withdrawn, and the two cousins being
left together, Pitt, the ex-diplomatist, be came very communicative
and friendly. He asked after James's career at college--what his
prospects in life were--hoped heartily he would get on; and, in a
word, was frank and amiable. James's tongue unloosed with the port,
and he told his cousin his life, his prospects, his debts, his
troubles at the little-go, and his rows with the proctors, filling
rapidly from the bottles before him, and flying from Port to Madeira
with joyous activity.
"The chief pleasure which my aunt has," said Mr. Crawley, filling
his glass, "is that people should do as they like in her house.
This is Liberty Hall, James, and you can't do Miss Crawley a greater
kindness than to do as you please, and ask for what you will. I
know you have all sneered at me in the country for being a Tory.
Miss Crawley is liberal enough to suit any fancy. She is a
Republican in principle, and despises everything like rank or
"Why are you going to marry an Earl's daughter?" said James.
"My dear friend, remember it is not poor Lady Jane's fault that she
is well born," Pitt replied, with a courtly air. "She cannot help
being a lady. Besides, I am a Tory, you know."
"Oh, as for that," said Jim, "there's nothing like old blood; no,
dammy, nothing like it. I'm none of your radicals. I know what it
is to be a gentleman, dammy. See the chaps in a boat-race; look at
the fellers in a fight; aye, look at a dawg killing rats--which is
it wins? the good-blooded ones. Get some more port, Bowls, old boy,
whilst I buzz this bottle-here. What was I asaying?"
"I think you were speaking of dogs killing rats," Pitt remarked
mildly, handing his cousin the decanter to "buzz."
"Killing rats was I? Well, Pitt, are you a sporting man? Do you want
to see a dawg as CAN kill a rat? If you do, come down with me to Tom
Corduroy's, in Castle Street Mews, and I'll show you such a bull-
terrier as--Pooh! gammon," cried James, bursting out laughing at his
own absurdity--"YOU don't care about a dawg or rat; it's all
nonsense. I'm blest if I think you know the difference between a
dog and a duck."
"No; by the way," Pitt continued with increased blandness, "it was
about blood you were talking, and the personal advantages which
people derive from patrician birth. Here's the fresh bottle."
"Blood's the word," said James, gulping the ruby fluid down.
"Nothing like blood, sir, in hosses, dawgs, AND men. Why, only last
term, just before I was rusticated, that is, I mean just before I
had the measles, ha, ha--there was me and Ringwood of Christchurch,
Bob Ringwood, Lord Cinqbars' son, having our beer at the Bell at
Blenheim, when the Banbury bargeman offered to fight either of us
for a bowl of punch. I couldn't. My arm was in a sling; couldn't
even take the drag down--a brute of a mare of mine had fell with me
only two days before, out with the Abingdon, and I thought my arm
was broke. Well, sir, I couldn't finish him, but Bob had his coat
off at once--he stood up to the Banbury man for three minutes, and
polished him off in four rounds easy. Gad, how he did drop, sir,
and what was it? Blood, sir, all blood."
"You don't drink, James," the ex-attache continued. "In my time at
Oxford, the men passed round the bottle a little quicker than you
young fellows seem to do."
"Come, come," said James, putting his hand to his nose and winking
at his cousin with a pair of vinous eyes, "no jokes, old boy; no
trying it on on me. You want to trot me out, but it's no go. In
vino veritas, old boy. Mars, Bacchus, Apollo virorum, hey? I wish
my aunt would send down some of this to the governor; it's a
precious good tap."
"You had better ask her," Machiavel continued, "or make the best of
your time now. What says the bard? 'Nunc vino pellite curas, Cras
ingens iterabimus aequor,'" and the Bacchanalian, quoting the above
with a House of Commons air, tossed off nearly a thimbleful of wine
with an immense flourish of his glass.
At the Rectory, when the bottle of port wine was opened after
dinner, the young ladies had each a glass from a bottle of currant
wine. Mrs. Bute took one glass of port, honest James had a couple
commonly, but as his father grew very sulky if he made further
inroads on the bottle, the good lad generally refrained from trying
for more, and subsided either into the currant wine, or to some
private gin-and-water in the stables, which he enjoyed in the
company of the coachman and his pipe. At Oxford, the quantity of
wine was unlimited, but the quality was inferior: but when quantity
and quality united as at his aunt's house, James showed that he
could appreciate them indeed; and hardly needed any of his cousin's
encouragement in draining off the second bottle supplied by Mr.
When the time for coffee came, however, and for a return to the
ladies, of whom he stood in awe, the young gentleman's agreeable
frankness left him, and he relapsed into his usual surly timidity;
contenting himself by saying yes and no, by scowling at Lady Jane,
and by upsetting one cup of coffee during the evening.
If he did not speak he yawned in a pitiable manner, and his presence
threw a damp upon the modest proceedings of the evening, for Miss
Crawley and Lady Jane at their piquet, and Miss Briggs at her work,
felt that his eyes were wildly fixed on them, and were uneasy under
that maudlin look.
"He seems a very silent, awkward, bashful lad," said Miss Crawley to
"He is more communicative in men's society than with ladies,"
Machiavel dryly replied: perhaps rather disappointed that the port
wine had not made Jim speak more.
He had spent the early part of the next morning in writing home to
his mother a most flourishing account of his reception by Miss
Crawley. But ah! he little knew what evils the day was bringing for
him, and how short his reign of favour was destined to be. A
circumstance which Jim had forgotten--a trivial but fatal
circumstance--had taken place at the Cribb's Arms on the night
before he had come to his aunt's house. It was no other than this--
Jim, who was always of a generous disposition, and when in his cups
especially hospitable, had in the course of the night treated the
Tutbury champion and the Rottingdean man, and their friends, twice
or thrice to the refreshment of gin-and-water--so that no less than
eighteen glasses of that fluid at eightpence per glass were charged
in Mr. James Crawley's bill. It was not the amount of eightpences,
but the quantity of gin which told fatally against poor James's
character, when his aunt's butler, Mr. Bowls, went down at his
mistress's request to pay the young gentleman's bill. The landlord,
fearing lest the account should be refused altogether, swore
solemnly that the young gent had consumed personally every
farthing's worth of the liquor: and Bowls paid the bill finally,
and showed it on his return home to Mrs. Firkin, who was shocked at
the frightful prodigality of gin; and took the bill to Miss Briggs
as accountant-general; who thought it her duty to mention the
circumstance to her principal, Miss Crawley.
Had he drunk a dozen bottles of claret, the old spinster could have
pardoned him. Mr. Fox and Mr. Sheridan drank claret. Gentlemen
drank claret. But eighteen glasses of gin consumed among boxers in
an ignoble pot-house--it was an odious crime and not to be pardoned
readily. Everything went against the lad: he came home perfumed
from the stables, whither he had been to pay his dog Towzer a visit--
and whence he was going to take his friend out for an airing, when
he met Miss Crawley and her wheezy Blenheim spaniel, which Towzer
would have eaten up had not the Blenheim fled squealing to the
protection of Miss Briggs, while the atrocious master of the bull-
dog stood laughing at the horrible persecution.
This day too the unlucky boy's modesty had likewise forsaken him.
He was lively and facetious at dinner. During the repast he levelled
one or two jokes against Pitt Crawley: he drank as much wine as
upon the previous day; and going quite unsuspiciously to the
drawing-room, began to entertain the ladies there with some choice
Oxford stories. He described the different pugilistic qualities of
Molyneux and Dutch Sam, offered playfully to give Lady Jane the odds
upon the Tutbury Pet against the Rottingdean man, or take them, as
her Ladyship chose: and crowned the pleasantry by proposing to back
himself against his cousin Pitt Crawley, either with or without the
gloves. "And that's a fair offer, my buck," he said, with a loud
laugh, slapping Pitt on the shoulder, "and my father told me to make
it too, and he'll go halves in the bet, ha, ha!" So saying, the
engaging youth nodded knowingly at poor Miss Briggs, and pointed his
thumb over his shoulder at Pitt Crawley in a jocular and exulting
Pitt was not pleased altogether perhaps, but still not unhappy in
the main. Poor Jim had his laugh out: and staggered across the
room with his aunt's candle, when the old lady moved to retire, and
offered to salute her with the blandest tipsy smile: and he took
his own leave and went upstairs to his bedroom perfectly satisfied
with himself, and with a pleased notion that his aunt's money would
be left to him in preference to his father and all the rest of the
Once up in the bedroom, one would have thought he could not make
matters worse; and yet this unlucky boy did. The moon was shining
very pleasantly out on the sea, and Jim, attracted to the window by
the romantic appearance of the ocean and the heavens, thought he
would further enjoy them while smoking. Nobody would smell the
tobacco, he thought, if he cunningly opened the window and kept his
head and pipe in the fresh air. This he did: but being in an
excited state, poor Jim had forgotten that his door was open all
this time, so that the breeze blowing inwards and a fine thorough
draught being established, the clouds of tobacco were carried
downstairs, and arrived with quite undiminished fragrance to Miss
Crawley and Miss Briggs.
The pipe of tobacco finished the business: and the Bute-Crawleys
never knew how many thousand pounds it cost them. Firkin rushed
downstairs to Bowls who was reading out the "Fire and the Frying
Pan" to his aide-de-camp in a loud and ghostly voice. The dreadful
secret was told to him by Firkin with so frightened a look, that for
the first moment Mr. Bowls and his young man thought that robbers
were in the house, the legs of whom had probably been discovered by
the woman under Miss Crawley's bed. When made aware of the fact,
however--to rush upstairs at three steps at a time to enter the
unconscious James's apartment, calling out, "Mr. James," in a voice
stifled with alarm, and to cry, "For Gawd's sake, sir, stop that
'ere pipe," was the work of a minute with Mr. Bowls. "O, Mr. James,
what 'AVE you done!" he said in a voice of the deepest pathos, as he
threw the implement out of the window. "What 'ave you done, sir!
Missis can't abide 'em."
"Missis needn't smoke," said James with a frantic misplaced laugh,
and thought the whole matter an excellent joke. But his feelings
were very different in the morning, when Mr. Bowls's young man, who
operated upon Mr. James's boots, and brought him his hot water to
shave that beard which he was so anxiously expecting, handed a note
in to Mr. James in bed, in the handwriting of Miss Briggs.
"Dear sir," it said, "Miss Crawley has passed an exceedingly
disturbed night, owing to the shocking manner in which the house has
been polluted by tobacco; Miss Crawley bids me say she regrets that
she is too unwell to see you before you go--and above all that she
ever induced you to remove from the ale-house, where she is sure you
will be much more comfortable during the rest of your stay at
And herewith honest James's career as a candidate for his aunt's
favour ended. He had in fact, and without knowing it, done what he
menaced to do. He had fought his cousin Pitt with the gloves.
Where meanwhile was he who had been once first favourite for this
race for money? Becky and Rawdon, as we have seen, were come
together after Waterloo, and were passing the winter of 1815 at
Paris in great splendour and gaiety. Rebecca was a good economist,
and the price poor Jos Sedley had paid for her two horses was in
itself sufficient to keep their little establishment afloat for a
year, at the least; there was no occasion to turn into money "my
pistols, the same which I shot Captain Marker," or the gold
dressing-case, or the cloak lined with sable. Becky had it made
into a pelisse for herself, in which she rode in the Bois de
Boulogne to the admiration of all: and you should have seen the
scene between her and her delighted husband, whom she rejoined after
the army had entered Cambray, and when she unsewed herself, and let
out of her dress all those watches, knick-knacks, bank-notes,
cheques, and valuables, which she had secreted in the wadding,
previous to her meditated flight from Brussels! Tufto was charmed,
and Rawdon roared with delighted laughter, and swore that she was
better than any play he ever saw, by Jove. And the way in which she
jockeyed Jos, and which she described with infinite fun, carried up
his delight to a pitch of quite insane enthusiasm. He believed in
his wife as much as the French soldiers in Napoleon.
Her success in Paris was remarkable. All the French ladies voted
her charming. She spoke their language admirably. She adopted at
once their grace, their liveliness, their manner. Her husband was
stupid certainly--all English are stupid--and, besides, a dull
husband at Paris is always a point in a lady's favour. He was the
heir of the rich and spirituelle Miss Crawley, whose house had been
open to so many of the French noblesse during the emigration. They
received the colonel's wife in their own hotels--"Why," wrote a
great lady to Miss Crawley, who had bought her lace and trinkets at
the Duchess's own price, and given her many a dinner during the
pinching times after the Revolution--"Why does not our dear Miss
come to her nephew and niece, and her attached friends in Paris? All
the world raffoles of the charming Mistress and her espiegle beauty.
Yes, we see in her the grace, the charm, the wit of our dear friend
Miss Crawley! The King took notice of her yesterday at the
Tuileries, and we are all jealous of the attention which Monsieur
pays her. If you could have seen the spite of a certain stupid
Miladi Bareacres (whose eagle-beak and toque and feathers may be
seen peering over the heads of all assemblies) when Madame, the
Duchess of Angouleme, the august daughter and companion of kings,
desired especially to be presented to Mrs. Crawley, as your dear
daughter and protegee, and thanked her in the name of France, for
all your benevolence towards our unfortunates during their exile!
She is of all the societies, of all the balls--of the balls--yes--of
the dances, no; and yet how interesting and pretty this fair
creature looks surrounded by the homage of the men, and so soon to
be a mother! To hear her speak of you, her protectress, her mother,
would bring tears to the eyes of ogres. How she loves you! how we
all love our admirable, our respectable Miss Crawley!"
It is to be feared that this letter of the Parisian great lady did
not by any means advance Mrs. Becky's interest with her admirable,
her respectable, relative. On the contrary, the fury of the old
spinster was beyond bounds, when she found what was Rebecca's
situation, and how audaciously she had made use of Miss Crawley's
name, to get an entree into Parisian society. Too much shaken in
mind and body to compose a letter in the French language in reply to
that of her correspondent, she dictated to Briggs a furious answer
in her own native tongue, repudiating Mrs. Rawdon Crawley
altogether, and warning the public to beware of her as a most artful
and dangerous person. But as Madame the Duchess of X--had only been
twenty years in England, she did not understand a single word of the
language, and contented herself by informing Mrs. Rawdon Crawley at
their next meeting, that she had received a charming letter from
that chere Mees, and that it was full of benevolent things for Mrs.
Crawley, who began seriously to have hopes that the spinster would
Meanwhile, she was the gayest and most admired of Englishwomen: and
had a little European congress on her reception-night. Prussians
and Cossacks, Spanish and English--all the world was at Paris during
this famous winter: to have seen the stars and cordons in Rebecca's
humble saloon would have made all Baker Street pale with envy.
Famous warriors rode by her carriage in the Bois, or crowded her
modest little box at the Opera. Rawdon was in the highest spirits.
There were no duns in Paris as yet: there were parties every day at
Very's or Beauvilliers'; play was plentiful and his luck good. Tufto
perhaps was sulky. Mrs. Tufto had come over to Paris at her own
invitation, and besides this contretemps, there were a score of
generals now round Becky's chair, and she might take her choice of a
dozen bouquets when she went to the play. Lady Bareacres and the
chiefs of the English society, stupid and irreproachable females,
writhed with anguish at the success of the little upstart Becky,
whose poisoned jokes quivered and rankled in their chaste breasts.
But she had all the men on her side. She fought the women with
indomitable courage, and they could not talk scandal in any tongue
but their own.
So in fetes, pleasures, and prosperity, the winter of 1815-16 passed
away with Mrs. Rawdon Crawley, who accommodated herself to polite
life as if her ancestors had been people of fashion for centuries
past--and who from her wit, talent, and energy, indeed merited a
place of honour in Vanity Fair. In the early spring of 1816,
Galignani's Journal contained the following announcement in an
interesting corner of the paper: "On the 26th of March--the Lady of
Lieutenant-Colonel Crawley, of the Life Guards Green--of a son and
This event was copied into the London papers, out of which Miss
Briggs read the statement to Miss Crawley, at breakfast, at
Brighton. The intelligence, expected as it might have been, caused
a crisis in the affairs of the Crawley family. The spinster's rage
rose to its height, and sending instantly for Pitt, her nephew, and
for the Lady Southdown, from Brunswick Square, she requested an
immediate celebration of the marriage which had been so long pending
between the two families. And she announced that it was her
intention to allow the young couple a thousand a year during her
lifetime, at the expiration of which the bulk of her property would
be settled upon her nephew and her dear niece, Lady Jane Crawley.
Waxy came down to ratify the deeds--Lord Southdown gave away his
sister--she was married by a Bishop, and not by the Rev.
Bartholomew Irons--to the disappointment of the irregular prelate.
When they were married, Pitt would have liked to take a hymeneal
tour with his bride, as became people of their condition. But the
affection of the old lady towards Lady Jane had grown so strong,
that she fairly owned she could not part with her favourite. Pitt
and his wife came therefore and lived with Miss Crawley: and
(greatly to the annoyance of poor Pitt, who conceived himself a most
injured character--being subject to the humours of his aunt on one
side, and of his mother-in-law on the other) Lady Southdown, from
her neighbouring house, reigned over the whole family--Pitt, Lady
Jane, Miss Crawley, Briggs, Bowls, Firkin, and all. She pitilessly
dosed them with her tracts and her medicine, she dismissed Creamer,
she installed Rodgers, and soon stripped Miss Crawley of even the
semblance of authority. The poor soul grew so timid that she
actually left off bullying Briggs any more, and clung to her niece,
more fond and terrified every day. Peace to thee, kind and selfish,
vain and generous old heathen!--We shall see thee no more. Let us
hope that Lady Jane supported her kindly, and led her with gentle
hand out of the busy struggle of Vanity Fair.
Widow and Mother
The news of the great fights of Quatre Bras and Waterloo reached
England at the same time. The Gazette first published the result of
the two battles; at which glorious intelligence all England thrilled
with triumph and fear. Particulars then followed; and after the
announcement of the victories came the list of the wounded and the
slain. Who can tell the dread with which that catalogue was opened
and read! Fancy, at every village and homestead almost through the
three kingdoms, the great news coming of the battles in Flanders,
and the feelings of exultation and gratitude, bereavement and
sickening dismay, when the lists of the regimental losses were gone
through, and it became known whether the dear friend and relative
had escaped or fallen. Anybody who will take the trouble of looking
back to a file of the newspapers of the time, must, even now, feel
at second-hand this breathless pause of expectation. The lists of
casualties are carried on from day to day: you stop in the midst as
in a story which is to be continued in our next. Think what the
feelings must have been as those papers followed each other fresh
from the press; and if such an interest could be felt in our
country, and about a battle where but twenty thousand of our people
were engaged, think of the condition of Europe for twenty years
before, where people were fighting, not by thousands, but by
millions; each one of whom as he struck his enemy wounded horribly
some other innocent heart far away.
The news which that famous Gazette brought to the Osbornes gave a
dreadful shock to the family and its chief. The girls indulged
unrestrained in their grief. The gloom-stricken old father was
still more borne down by his fate and sorrow. He strove to think
that a judgment was on the boy for his disobedience. He dared not
own that the severity of the sentence frightened him, and that its
fulfilment had come too soon upon his curses. Sometimes a
shuddering terror struck him, as if he had been the author of the
doom which he had called down on his son. There was a chance before
of reconciliation. The boy's wife might have died; or he might have
come back and said, Father I have sinned. But there was no hope
now. He stood on the other side of the gulf impassable, haunting
his parent with sad eyes. He remembered them once before so in a
fever, when every one thought the lad was dying, and he lay on his
bed speechless, and gazing with a dreadful gloom. Good God! how the
father clung to the doctor then, and with what a sickening anxiety
he followed him: what a weight of grief was off his mind when,
after the crisis of the fever, the lad recovered, and looked at his
father once more with eyes that recognised him. But now there was no
help or cure, or chance of reconcilement: above all, there were no
humble words to soothe vanity outraged and furious, or bring to its
natural flow the poisoned, angry blood. And it is hard to say which
pang it was that tore the proud father's heart most keenly--that his
son should have gone out of the reach of his forgiveness, or that
the apology which his own pride expected should have escaped him.
Whatever his sensations might have been, however, the stem old man
would have no confidant. He never mentioned his son's name to his
daughters; but ordered the elder to place all the females of the
establishment in mourning; and desired that the male servants should
be similarly attired in deep black. All parties and entertainments,
of course, were to be put off. No communications were made to his
future son-in-law, whose marriage-day had been fixed: but there was
enough in Mr. Osborne's appearance to prevent Mr. Bullock from
making any inquiries, or in any way pressing forward that ceremony.
He and the ladies whispered about it under their voices in the
drawing-room sometimes, whither the father never came. He remained
constantly in his own study; the whole front part of the house being
closed until some time after the completion of the general mourning.
About three weeks after the 18th of June, Mr. Osborne's
acquaintance, Sir William Dobbin, called at Mr. Osborne's house in
Russell Square, with a very pale and agitated face, and insisted
upon seeing that gentleman. Ushered into his room, and after a few
words, which neither the speaker nor the host understood, the former
produced from an inclosure a letter sealed with a large red seal.
"My son, Major Dobbin," the Alderman said, with some hesitation,
"despatched me a letter by an officer of the --th, who arrived in
town to-day. My son's letter contains one for you, Osborne." The
Alderman placed the letter on the table, and Osborne stared at him
for a moment or two in silence. His looks frightened the
ambassador, who after looking guiltily for a little time at the
grief-stricken man, hurried away without another word.
The letter was in George's well-known bold handwriting. It was that
one which he had written before daybreak on the 16th of June, and
just before he took leave of Amelia. The great red seal was
emblazoned with the sham coat of arms which Osborne had assumed from
the Peerage, with "Pax in bello" for a motto; that of the ducal
house with which the vain old man tried to fancy himself connected.
The hand that signed it would never hold pen or sword more. The
very seal that sealed it had been robbed from George's dead body as
it lay on the field of battle. The father knew nothing of this, but
sat and looked at the letter in terrified vacancy. He almost fell
when he went to open it.
Have you ever had a difference with a dear friend? How his letters,
written in the period of love and confidence, sicken and rebuke you!
What a dreary mourning it is to dwell upon those vehement protests
of dead affection! What lying epitaphs they make over the corpse of
love! What dark, cruel comments upon Life and Vanities! Most of us
have got or written drawers full of them. They are closet-skeletons
which we keep and shun. Osborne trembled long before the letter from
his dead son.
The poor boy's letter did not say much. He had been too proud to
acknowledge the tenderness which his heart felt. He only said, that
on the eve of a great battle, he wished to bid his father farewell,
and solemnly to implore his good offices for the wife--it might be
for the child--whom he left behind him. He owned with contrition
that his irregularities and his extravagance had already wasted a
large part of his mother's little fortune. He thanked his father
for his former generous conduct; and he promised him that if he fell
on the field or survived it, he would act in a manner worthy of the
name of George Osborne.
His English habit, pride, awkwardness perhaps, had prevented him
from saying more. His father could not see the kiss George had
placed on the superscription of his letter. Mr. Osborne dropped it
with the bitterest, deadliest pang of balked affection and revenge.
His son was still beloved and unforgiven.
About two months afterwards, however, as the young ladies of the
family went to church with their father, they remarked how he took a
different seat from that which he usually occupied when he chose to
attend divine worship; and that from his cushion opposite, he looked
up at the wall over their heads. This caused the young women
likewise to gaze in the direction towards which their father's
gloomy eyes pointed: and they saw an elaborate monument upon the
wall, where Britannia was represented weeping over an urn, and a
broken sword and a couchant lion indicated that the piece of
sculpture had been erected in honour of a deceased warrior. The
sculptors of those days had stocks of such funereal emblems in hand;
as you may see still on the walls of St. Paul's, which are covered
with hundreds of these braggart heathen allegories. There was a
constant demand for them during the first fifteen years of the
Under the memorial in question were emblazoned the well-known and
pompous Osborne arms; and the inscription said, that the monument
was "Sacred to the memory of George Osborne, Junior, Esq., late a
Captain in his Majesty's --th regiment of foot, who fell on the 18th
of June, 1815, aged 28 years, while fighting for his king and
country in the glorious victory of Waterloo. Dulce et decorum est
pro patria mori."
The sight of that stone agitated the nerves of the sisters so much,
that Miss Maria was compelled to leave the church. The congregation
made way respectfully for those sobbing girls clothed in deep black,
and pitied the stern old father seated opposite the memorial of the
dead soldier. "Will he forgive Mrs. George?" the girls said to
themselves as soon as their ebullition of grief was over. Much
conversation passed too among the acquaintances of the Osborne
family, who knew of the rupture between the son and father caused by
the former's marriage, as to the chance of a reconciliation with the
young widow. There were bets among the gentlemen both about Russell
Square and in the City.
If the sisters had any anxiety regarding the possible recognition of
Amelia as a daughter of the family, it was increased presently, and
towards the end of the autumn, by their father's announcement that
he was going abroad. He did not say whither, but they knew at once
that his steps would be turned towards Belgium, and were aware that
George's widow was still in Brussels. They had pretty accurate news
indeed of poor Amelia from Lady Dobbin and her daughters. Our
honest Captain had been promoted in consequence of the death of the
second Major of the regiment on the field; and the brave O'Dowd, who
had distinguished himself greatly here as upon all occasions where
he had a chance to show his coolness and valour, was a Colonel and
Companion of the Bath.
Very many of the brave --th, who had suffered severely upon both days
of action, were still at Brussels in the autumn, recovering of their
wounds. The city was a vast military hospital for months after the
great battles; and as men and officers began to rally from their
hurts, the gardens and places of public resort swarmed with maimed
warriors, old and young, who, just rescued out of death, fell to
gambling, and gaiety, and love-making, as people of Vanity Fair will
do. Mr. Osborne found out some of the --th easily. He knew their
uniform quite well, and had been used to follow all the promotions
and exchanges in the regiment, and loved to talk about it and its
officers as if he had been one of the number. On the day after his
arrival at Brussels, and as he issued from his hotel, which faced
the park, he saw a soldier in the well-known facings, reposing on a
stone bench in the garden, and went and sate down trembling by the
wounded convalescent man.
"Were you in Captain Osborne's company?" he said, and added, after a
pause, "he was my son, sir."
The man was not of the Captain's company, but he lifted up his
unwounded arm and touched-his cap sadly and respectfully to the
haggard broken-spirited gentleman who questioned him. "The whole
army didn't contain a finer or a better officer," the soldier said.
"The Sergeant of the Captain's company (Captain Raymond had it now),
was in town, though, and was just well of a shot in the shoulder.
His honour might see him if he liked, who could tell him anything he
wanted to know about--about the --th's actions. But his honour had
seen Major Dobbin, no doubt, the brave Captain's great friend; and
Mrs. Osborne, who was here too, and had been very bad, he heard
everybody say. They say she was out of her mind like for six weeks
or more. But your honour knows all about that--and asking your
pardon"--the man added.
Osborne put a guinea into the soldier's hand, and told him he should
have another if he would bring the Sergeant to the Hotel du Parc; a
promise which very soon brought the desired officer to Mr. Osborne's
presence. And the first soldier went away; and after telling a
comrade or two how Captain Osborne's father was arrived, and what a
free-handed generous gentleman he was, they went and made good cheer
with drink and feasting, as long as the guineas lasted which had
come from the proud purse of the mourning old father.
In the Sergeant's company, who was also just convalescent, Osborne
made the journey of Waterloo and Quatre Bras, a journey which
thousands of his countrymen were then taking. He took the Sergeant
with him in his carriage, and went through both fields under his
guidance. He saw the point of the road where the regiment marched
into action on the 16th, and the slope down which they drove the
French cavalry who were pressing on the retreating Belgians. There
was the spot where the noble Captain cut down the French officer who
was grappling with the young Ensign for the colours, the Colour-
Sergeants having been shot down. Along this road they retreated on
the next day, and here was the bank at which the regiment bivouacked
under the rain of the night of the seventeenth. Further on was the
position which they took and held during the day, forming time after
time to receive the charge of the enemy's horsemen and lying down
under the shelter of the bank from the furious French cannonade.
And it was at this declivity when at evening the whole English line
received the order to advance, as the enemy fell back after his last
charge, that the Captain, hurraying and rushing down the hill waving
his sword, received a shot and fell dead. "It was Major Dobbin who
took back the Captain's body to Brussels," the Sergeant said, in a
low voice, "and had him buried, as your honour knows." The peasants
and relic-hunters about the place were screaming round the pair, as
the soldier told his story, offering for sale all sorts of mementoes
of the fight, crosses, and epaulets, and shattered cuirasses, and
Osborne gave a sumptuous reward to the Sergeant when he parted with
him, after having visited the scenes of his son's last exploits.
His burial-place he had already seen. Indeed, he had driven thither
immediately after his arrival at Brussels. George's body lay in the
pretty burial-ground of Laeken, near the city; in which place,
having once visited it on a party of pleasure, he had lightly
expressed a wish to have his grave made. And there the young
officer was laid by his friend, in the unconsecrated corner of the
garden, separated by a little hedge from the temples and towers and
plantations of flowers and shrubs, under which the Roman Catholic