William Makepeace Thackeray
Part 4 out of 16
you hear?" Miss Crawley had a good taste. She liked natural
manners--a little timidity only set them off. She liked pretty
faces near her; as she liked pretty pictures and nice china. She
talked of Amelia with rapture half a dozen times that day. She
mentioned her to Rawdon Crawley, who came dutifully to partake of
his aunt's chicken.
Of course, on this Rebecca instantly stated that Amelia was engaged
to be married--to a Lieutenant Osborne--a very old flame.
"Is he a man in a line-regiment?" Captain Crawley asked, remembering
after an effort, as became a guardsman, the number of the regiment,
Rebecca thought that was the regiment. "The Captain's name," she
said, "was Captain Dobbin."
"A lanky gawky fellow," said Crawley, "tumbles over everybody. I
know him; and Osborne's a goodish-looking fellow, with large black
"Enormous," Miss Rebecca Sharp said, "and enormously proud of them,
I assure you."
Captain Rawdon Crawley burst into a horse-laugh by way of reply; and
being pressed by the ladies to explain, did so when the explosion of
hilarity was over. "He fancies he can play at billiards," said he.
"I won two hundred of him at the Cocoa-Tree. HE play, the young
flat! He'd have played for anything that day, but his friend
Captain Dobbin carried him off, hang him!"
"Rawdon, Rawdon, don't be so wicked," Miss Crawley remarked, highly
"Why, ma'am, of all the young fellows I've seen out of the line, I
think this fellow's the greenest. Tarquin and Deuceace get what
money they like out of him. He'd go to the deuce to be seen with a
lord. He pays their dinners at Greenwich, and they invite the
"And very pretty company too, I dare say."
"Quite right, Miss Sharp. Right, as usual, Miss Sharp. Uncommon
pretty company--haw, haw!" and the Captain laughed more and more,
thinking he had made a good joke.
"Rawdon, don't be naughty!" his aunt exclaimed.
"Well, his father's a City man--immensely rich, they say. Hang
those City fellows, they must bleed; and I've not done with him yet,
I can tell you. Haw, haw!"
"Fie, Captain Crawley; I shall warn Amelia. A gambling husband!"
"Horrid, ain't he, hey?" the Captain said with great solemnity; and
then added, a sudden thought having struck him: "Gad, I say, ma'am,
we'll have him here."
"Is he a presentable sort of a person?" the aunt inquired.
"Presentable?--oh, very well. You wouldn't see any difference,"
Captain Crawley answered. "Do let's have him, when you begin to see
a few people; and his whatdyecallem--his inamorato--eh, Miss Sharp;
that's what you call it--comes. Gad, I'll write him a note, and
have him; and I'll try if he can play piquet as well as billiards.
Where does he live, Miss Sharp?"
Miss Sharp told Crawley the Lieutenant's town address; and a few
days after this conversation, Lieutenant Osborne received a letter,
in Captain Rawdon's schoolboy hand, and enclosing a note of
invitation from Miss Crawley.
Rebecca despatched also an invitation to her darling Amelia, who,
you may be sure, was ready enough to accept it when she heard that
George was to be of the party. It was arranged that Amelia was to
spend the morning with the ladies of Park Lane, where all were very
kind to her. Rebecca patronised her with calm superiority: she was
so much the cleverer of the two, and her friend so gentle and
unassuming, that she always yielded when anybody chose to command,
and so took Rebecca's orders with perfect meekness and good humour.
Miss Crawley's graciousness was also remarkable. She continued her
raptures about little Amelia, talked about her before her face as if
she were a doll, or a servant, or a picture, and admired her with
the most benevolent wonder possible. I admire that admiration which
the genteel world sometimes extends to the commonalty. There is no
more agreeable object in life than to see Mayfair folks
condescending. Miss Crawley's prodigious benevolence rather
fatigued poor little Amelia, and I am not sure that of the three
ladies in Park Lane she did not find honest Miss Briggs the most
agreeable. She sympathised with Briggs as with all neglected or
gentle people: she wasn't what you call a woman of spirit.
George came to dinner--a repast en garcon with Captain Crawley.
The great family coach of the Osbornes transported him to Park Lane
from Russell Square; where the young ladies, who were not themselves
invited, and professed the greatest indifference at that slight,
nevertheless looked at Sir Pitt Crawley's name in the baronetage;
and learned everything which that work had to teach about the
Crawley family and their pedigree, and the Binkies, their relatives,
&c., &c. Rawdon Crawley received George Osborne with great
frankness and graciousness: praised his play at billiards: asked him
when he would have his revenge: was interested about Osborne's
regiment: and would have proposed piquet to him that very evening,
but Miss Crawley absolutely forbade any gambling in her house; so
that the young Lieutenant's purse was not lightened by his gallant
patron, for that day at least. However, they made an engagement for
the next, somewhere: to look at a horse that Crawley had to sell,
and to try him in the Park; and to dine together, and to pass the
evening with some jolly fellows. "That is, if you're not on duty to
that pretty Miss Sedley," Crawley said, with a knowing wink.
"Monstrous nice girl, 'pon my honour, though, Osborne," he was good
enough to add. "Lots of tin, I suppose, eh?"
Osborne wasn't on duty; he would join Crawley with pleasure: and the
latter, when they met the next day, praised his new friend's
horsemanship--as he might with perfect honesty--and introduced him
to three or four young men of the first fashion, whose acquaintance
immensely elated the simple young officer.
"How's little Miss Sharp, by-the-bye?" Osborne inquired of his
friend over their wine, with a dandified air. "Good-natured little
girl that. Does she suit you well at Queen's Crawley? Miss Sedley
liked her a good deal last year."
Captain Crawley looked savagely at the Lieutenant out of his little
blue eyes, and watched him when he went up to resume his
acquaintance with the fair governess. Her conduct must have
relieved Crawley if there was any jealousy in the bosom of that
When the young men went upstairs, and after Osborne's introduction
to Miss Crawley, he walked up to Rebecca with a patronising, easy
swagger. He was going to be kind to her and protect her. He would
even shake hands with her, as a friend of Amelia's; and saying, "Ah,
Miss Sharp! how-dy-doo?" held out his left hand towards her,
expecting that she would be quite confounded at the honour.
Miss Sharp put out her right forefinger, and gave him a little nod,
so cool and killing, that Rawdon Crawley, watching the operations
from the other room, could hardly restrain his laughter as he saw
the Lieutenant's entire discomfiture; the start he gave, the pause,
and the perfect clumsiness with which he at length condescended to
take the finger which was offered for his embrace.
"She'd beat the devil, by Jove!" the Captain said, in a rapture; and
the Lieutenant, by way of beginning the conversation, agreeably
asked Rebecca how she liked her new place.
"My place?" said Miss Sharp, coolly, "how kind of you to remind me
of it! It's a tolerably good place: the wages are pretty good--not
so good as Miss Wirt's, I believe, with your sisters in Russell
Square. How are those young ladies?--not that I ought to ask."
"Why not?" Mr. Osborne said, amazed.
"Why, they never condescended to speak to me, or to ask me into
their house, whilst I was staying with Amelia; but we poor
governesses, you know, are used to slights of this sort."
"My dear Miss Sharp!" Osborne ejaculated.
"At least in some families," Rebecca continued. "You can't think
what a difference there is though. We are not so wealthy in
Hampshire as you lucky folks of the City. But then I am in a
gentleman's family--good old English stock. I suppose you know Sir
Pitt's father refused a peerage. And you see how I am treated. I
am pretty comfortable. Indeed it is rather a good place. But how
very good of you to inquire!"
Osborne was quite savage. The little governess patronised him and
persiffled him until this young British Lion felt quite uneasy; nor
could he muster sufficient presence of mind to find a pretext for
backing out of this most delectable conversation.
"I thought you liked the City families pretty well," he said,
"Last year you mean, when I was fresh from that horrid vulgar
school? Of course I did. Doesn't every girl like to come home for
the holidays? And how was I to know any better? But oh, Mr.
Osborne, what a difference eighteen months' experience makes!
eighteen months spent, pardon me for saying so, with gentlemen. As
for dear Amelia, she, I grant you, is a pearl, and would be charming
anywhere. There now, I see you are beginning to be in a good
humour; but oh these queer odd City people! And Mr. Jos--how is that
wonderful Mr. Joseph?"
"It seems to me you didn't dislike that wonderful Mr. Joseph last
year," Osborne said kindly.
"How severe of you! Well, entre nous, I didn't break my heart about
him; yet if he had asked me to do what you mean by your looks (and
very expressive and kind they are, too), I wouldn't have said no."
Mr. Osborne gave a look as much as to say, "Indeed, how very
"What an honour to have had you for a brother-in-law, you are
thinking? To be sister-in-law to George Osborne, Esquire, son of
John Osborne, Esquire, son of--what was your grandpapa, Mr. Osborne?
Well, don't be angry. You can't help your pedigree, and I quite
agree with you that I would have married Mr. Joe Sedley; for could a
poor penniless girl do better? Now you know the whole secret. I'm
frank and open; considering all things, it was very kind of you to
allude to the circumstance--very kind and polite. Amelia dear, Mr.
Osborne and I were talking about your poor brother Joseph. How is
Thus was George utterly routed. Not that Rebecca was in the right;
but she had managed most successfully to put him in the wrong. And
he now shamefully fled, feeling, if he stayed another minute, that
he would have been made to look foolish in the presence of Amelia.
Though Rebecca had had the better of him, George was above the
meanness of talebearing or revenge upon a lady--only he could not
help cleverly confiding to Captain Crawley, next day, some notions
of his regarding Miss Rebecca--that she was a sharp one, a dangerous
one, a desperate flirt, &c.; in all of which opinions Crawley agreed
laughingly, and with every one of which Miss Rebecca was made
acquainted before twenty-four hours were over. They added to her
original regard for Mr. Osborne. Her woman's instinct had told her
that it was George who had interrupted the success of her first
love-passage, and she esteemed him accordingly.
"I only just warn you," he said to Rawdon Crawley, with a knowing
look--he had bought the horse, and lost some score of guineas after
dinner, "I just warn you--I know women, and counsel you to be on the
"Thank you, my boy," said Crawley, with a look of peculiar
gratitude. "You're wide awake, I see." And George went off,
thinking Crawley was quite right.
He told Amelia of what he had done, and how he had counselled Rawdon
Crawley--a devilish good, straightforward fellow--to be on his guard
against that little sly, scheming Rebecca.
"Against whom?" Amelia cried.
"Your friend the governess.--Don't look so astonished."
"O George, what have you done?" Amelia said. For her woman's eyes,
which Love had made sharp-sighted, had in one instant discovered a
secret which was invisible to Miss Crawley, to poor virgin Briggs,
and above all, to the stupid peepers of that young whiskered prig,
For as Rebecca was shawling her in an upper apartment, where these
two friends had an opportunity for a little of that secret talking
and conspiring which form the delight of female life, Amelia, coming
up to Rebecca, and taking her two little hands in hers, said,
"Rebecca, I see it all."
Rebecca kissed her.
And regarding this delightful secret, not one syllable more was said
by either of the young women. But it was destined to come out
Some short period after the above events, and Miss Rebecca Sharp
still remaining at her patroness's house in Park Lane, one more
hatchment might have been seen in Great Gaunt Street, figuring
amongst the many which usually ornament that dismal quarter. It was
over Sir Pitt Crawley's house; but it did not indicate the worthy
baronet's demise. It was a feminine hatchment, and indeed a few
years back had served as a funeral compliment to Sir Pitt's old
mother, the late dowager Lady Crawley. Its period of service over,
the hatchment had come down from the front of the house, and lived
in retirement somewhere in the back premises of Sir Pitt's mansion.
It reappeared now for poor Rose Dawson. Sir Pitt was a widower
again. The arms quartered on the shield along with his own were
not, to be sure, poor Rose's. She had no arms. But the cherubs
painted on the scutcheon answered as well for her as for Sir Pitt's
mother, and Resurgam was written under the coat, flanked by the
Crawley Dove and Serpent. Arms and Hatchments, Resurgam.--Here is
an opportunity for moralising!
Mr. Crawley had tended that otherwise friendless bedside. She went
out of the world strengthened by such words and comfort as he could
give her. For many years his was the only kindness she ever knew;
the only friendship that solaced in any way that feeble, lonely
soul. Her heart was dead long before her body. She had sold it to
become Sir Pitt Crawley's wife. Mothers and daughters are making
the same bargain every day in Vanity Fair.
When the demise took place, her husband was in London attending to
some of his innumerable schemes, and busy with his endless lawyers.
He had found time, nevertheless, to call often in Park Lane, and to
despatch many notes to Rebecca, entreating her, enjoining her,
commanding her to return to her young pupils in the country, who
were now utterly without companionship during their mother's
illness. But Miss Crawley would not hear of her departure; for
though there was no lady of fashion in London who would desert her
friends more complacently as soon as she was tired of their society,
and though few tired of them sooner, yet as long as her engoument
lasted her attachment was prodigious, and she clung still with the
greatest energy to Rebecca.
The news of Lady Crawley's death provoked no more grief or comment
than might have been expected in Miss Crawley's family circle. "I
suppose I must put off my party for the 3rd," Miss Crawley said; and
added, after a pause, "I hope my brother will have the decency not
to marry again." "What a confounded rage Pitt will be in if he
does," Rawdon remarked, with his usual regard for his elder brother.
Rebecca said nothing. She seemed by far the gravest and most
impressed of the family. She left the room before Rawdon went away
that day; but they met by chance below, as he was going away after
taking leave, and had a parley together.
On the morrow, as Rebecca was gazing from the window, she startled
Miss Crawley, who was placidly occupied with a French novel, by
crying out in an alarmed tone, "Here's Sir Pitt, Ma'am!" and the
Baronet's knock followed this announcement.
"My dear, I can't see him. I won't see him. Tell Bowls not at
home, or go downstairs and say I'm too ill to receive any one. My
nerves really won't bear my brother at this moment," cried out Miss
Crawley, and resumed the novel.
"She's too ill to see you, sir," Rebecca said, tripping down to Sir
Pitt, who was preparing to ascend.
"So much the better," Sir Pitt answered. "I want to see YOU, Miss
Becky. Come along a me into the parlour," and they entered that
"I wawnt you back at Queen's Crawley, Miss," the baronet said,
fixing his eyes upon her, and taking off his black gloves and his
hat with its great crape hat-band. His eyes had such a strange look,
and fixed upon her so steadfastly, that Rebecca Sharp began almost
"I hope to come soon," she said in a low voice, "as soon as Miss
Crawley is better--and return to--to the dear children."
"You've said so these three months, Becky," replied Sir Pitt, "and
still you go hanging on to my sister, who'll fling you off like an
old shoe, when she's wore you out. I tell you I want you. I'm going
back to the Vuneral. Will you come back? Yes or no?"
"I daren't--I don't think--it would be right--to be alone--with you,
sir," Becky said, seemingly in great agitation.
"I say agin, I want you," Sir Pitt said, thumping the table. "I
can't git on without you. I didn't see what it was till you went
away. The house all goes wrong. It's not the same place. All my
accounts has got muddled agin. You MUST come back. Do come back.
Dear Becky, do come."
"Come--as what, sir?" Rebecca gasped out.
"Come as Lady Crawley, if you like," the Baronet said, grasping his
crape hat. "There! will that zatusfy you? Come back and be my wife.
Your vit vor't. Birth be hanged. You're as good a lady as ever I
see. You've got more brains in your little vinger than any
baronet's wife in the county. Will you come? Yes or no?"
"Oh, Sir Pitt!" Rebecca said, very much moved.
"Say yes, Becky," Sir Pitt continued. "I'm an old man, but a
good'n. I'm good for twenty years. I'll make you happy, zee if I
don't. You shall do what you like; spend what you like; and 'ave it
all your own way. I'll make you a zettlement. I'll do everything
reglar. Look year!" and the old man fell down on his knees and
leered at her like a satyr.
Rebecca started back a picture of consternation. In the course of
this history we have never seen her lose her presence of mind; but
she did now, and wept some of the most genuine tears that ever fell
from her eyes.
"Oh, Sir Pitt!" she said. "Oh, sir--I--I'm married ALREADY."
In Which Rebecca's Husband Appears for a Short Time
Every reader of a sentimental turn (and we desire no other) must
have been pleased with the tableau with which the last act of our
little drama concluded; for what can be prettier than an image of
Love on his knees before Beauty?
But when Love heard that awful confession from Beauty that she was
married already, he bounced up from his attitude of humility on the
carpet, uttering exclamations which caused poor little Beauty to be
more frightened than she was when she made her avowal. "Married;
you're joking," the Baronet cried, after the first explosion of rage
and wonder. "You're making vun of me, Becky. Who'd ever go to
marry you without a shilling to your vortune?"
"Married! married!" Rebecca said, in an agony of tears--her voice
choking with emotion, her handkerchief up to her ready eyes,
fainting against the mantelpiece a figure of woe fit to melt the
most obdurate heart. "O Sir Pitt, dear Sir Pitt, do not think me
ungrateful for all your goodness to me. It is only your generosity
that has extorted my secret."
"Generosity be hanged!" Sir Pitt roared out. "Who is it tu, then,
you're married? Where was it?"
"Let me come back with you to the country, sir! Let me watch over
you as faithfully as ever! Don't, don't separate me from dear
"The feller has left you, has he?" the Baronet said, beginning, as
he fancied, to comprehend. "Well, Becky--come back if you like.
You can't eat your cake and have it. Any ways I made you a vair
offer. Coom back as governess--you shall have it all your own way."
She held out one hand. She cried fit to break her heart; her
ringlets fell over her face, and over the marble mantelpiece where
she laid it.
"So the rascal ran off, eh?" Sir Pitt said, with a hideous attempt
at consolation. "Never mind, Becky, I'LL take care of 'ee."
"Oh, sir! it would be the pride of my life to go back to Queen's
Crawley, and take care of the children, and of you as formerly, when
you said you were pleased with the services of your little Rebecca.
When I think of what you have just offered me, my heart fills with
gratitude indeed it does. I can't be your wife, sir; let me--let me
be your daughter." Saying which, Rebecca went down on HER knees in
a most tragical way, and, taking Sir Pitt's horny black hand between
her own two (which were very pretty and white, and as soft as
satin), looked up in his face with an expression of exquisite pathos
and confidence, when--when the door opened, and Miss Crawley sailed
Mrs. Firkin and Miss Briggs, who happened by chance to be at the
parlour door soon after the Baronet and Rebecca entered the
apartment, had also seen accidentally, through the keyhole, the old
gentleman prostrate before the governess, and had heard the generous
proposal which he made her. It was scarcely out of his mouth when
Mrs. Firkin and Miss Briggs had streamed up the stairs, had rushed
into the drawing-room where Miss Crawley was reading the French
novel, and had given that old lady the astounding intelligence that
Sir Pitt was on his knees, proposing to Miss Sharp. And if you
calculate the time for the above dialogue to take place--the time
for Briggs and Firkin to fly to the drawing-room--the time for Miss
Crawley to be astonished, and to drop her volume of Pigault le Brun
--and the time for her to come downstairs--you will see how exactly
accurate this history is, and how Miss Crawley must have appeared at
the very instant when Rebecca had assumed the attitude of humility.
"It is the lady on the ground, and not the gentleman," Miss Crawley
said, with a look and voice of great scorn. "They told me that YOU
were on your knees, Sir Pitt: do kneel once more, and let me see
this pretty couple!"
"I have thanked Sir Pitt Crawley, Ma'am," Rebecca said, rising, "and
have told him that--that I never can become Lady Crawley."
"Refused him!" Miss Crawley said, more bewildered than ever.
Briggs and Firkin at the door opened the eyes of astonishment and
the lips of wonder.
"Yes--refused," Rebecca continued, with a sad, tearful voice.
"And am I to credit my ears that you absolutely proposed to her, Sir
Pitt?" the old lady asked.
"Ees," said the Baronet, "I did."
"And she refused you as she says?"
"Ees," Sir Pitt said, his features on a broad grin.
"It does not seem to break your heart at any rate," Miss Crawley
"Nawt a bit," answered Sir Pitt, with a coolness and good-humour
which set Miss Crawley almost mad with bewilderment. That an old
gentleman of station should fall on his knees to a penniless
governess, and burst out laughing because she refused to marry him--
that a penniless governess should refuse a Baronet with four
thousand a year--these were mysteries which Miss Crawley could never
comprehend. It surpassed any complications of intrigue in her
favourite Pigault le Brun.
"I'm glad you think it good sport, brother," she continued, groping
wildly through this amazement.
"Vamous," said Sir Pitt. "Who'd ha' thought it! what a sly little
devil! what a little fox it waws!" he muttered to himself, chuckling
"Who'd have thought what?" cries Miss Crawley, stamping with her
foot. "Pray, Miss Sharp, are you waiting for the Prince Regent's
divorce, that you don't think our family good enough for you?"
"My attitude," Rebecca said, "when you came in, ma'am, did not look
as if I despised such an honour as this good--this noble man has
deigned to offer me. Do you think I have no heart? Have you all
loved me, and been so kind to the poor orphan--deserted--girl, and
am I to feel nothing? O my friends! O my benefactors! may not my
love, my life, my duty, try to repay the confidence you have shown
me? Do you grudge me even gratitude, Miss Crawley? It is too much-
-my heart is too full"; and she sank down in a chair so
pathetically, that most of the audience present were perfectly
melted with her sadness.
"Whether you marry me or not, you're a good little girl, Becky, and
I'm your vriend, mind," said Sir Pitt, and putting on his crape-
bound hat, he walked away--greatly to Rebecca's relief; for it was
evident that her secret was unrevealed to Miss Crawley, and she had
the advantage of a brief reprieve.
Putting her handkerchief to her eyes, and nodding away honest
Briggs, who would have followed her upstairs, she went up to her
apartment; while Briggs and Miss Crawley, in a high state of
excitement, remained to discuss the strange event, and Firkin, not
less moved, dived down into the kitchen regions, and talked of it
with all the male and female company there. And so impressed was
Mrs. Firkin with the news, that she thought proper to write off by
that very night's post, "with her humble duty to Mrs. Bute Crawley
and the family at the Rectory, and Sir Pitt has been and proposed
for to marry Miss Sharp, wherein she has refused him, to the wonder
The two ladies in the dining-room (where worthy Miss Briggs was
delighted to be admitted once more to confidential conversation with
her patroness) wondered to their hearts' content at Sir Pitt's
offer, and Rebecca's refusal; Briggs very acutely suggesting that
there must have been some obstacle in the shape of a previous
attachment, otherwise no young woman in her senses would ever have
refused so advantageous a proposal.
"You would have accepted it yourself, wouldn't you, Briggs?" Miss
Crawley said, kindly.
"Would it not be a privilege to be Miss Crawley's sister?" Briggs
replied, with meek evasion.
"Well, Becky would have made a good Lady Crawley, after all," Miss
Crawley remarked (who was mollified by the girl's refusal, and very
liberal and generous now there was no call for her sacrifices).
"She has brains in plenty (much more wit in her little finger than
you have, my poor dear Briggs, in all your head). Her manners are
excellent, now I have formed her. She is a Montmorency, Briggs, and
blood is something, though I despise it for my part; and she would
have held her own amongst those pompous stupid Hampshire people much
better than that unfortunate ironmonger's daughter."
Briggs coincided as usual, and the "previous attachment" was then
discussed in conjectures. "You poor friendless creatures are always
having some foolish tendre," Miss Crawley said. "You yourself, you
know, were in love with a writing-master (don't cry, Briggs--you're
always crying, and it won't bring him to life again), and I suppose
this unfortunate Becky has been silly and sentimental too--some
apothecary, or house-steward, or painter, or young curate, or
something of that sort."
"Poor thing! poor thing!" says Briggs (who was thinking of twenty-
four years back, and that hectic young writing-master whose lock of
yellow hair, and whose letters, beautiful in their illegibility, she
cherished in her old desk upstairs). "Poor thing, poor thing!" says
Briggs. Once more she was a fresh-cheeked lass of eighteen; she was
at evening church, and the hectic writing-master and she were
quavering out of the same psalm-book.
"After such conduct on Rebecca's part," Miss Crawley said
enthusiastically, "our family should do something. Find out who is
the objet, Briggs. I'll set him up in a shop; or order my portrait
of him, you know; or speak to my cousin, the Bishop and I'll doter
Becky, and we'll have a wedding, Briggs, and you shall make the
breakfast, and be a bridesmaid."
Briggs declared that it would be delightful, and vowed that her dear
Miss Crawley was always kind and generous, and went up to Rebecca's
bedroom to console her and prattle about the offer, and the refusal,
and the cause thereof; and to hint at the generous intentions of
Miss Crawley, and to find out who was the gentleman that had the
mastery of Miss Sharp's heart.
Rebecca was very kind, very affectionate and affected--responded to
Briggs's offer of tenderness with grateful fervour--owned there was
a secret attachment--a delicious mystery--what a pity Miss Briggs
had not remained half a minute longer at the keyhole! Rebecca
might, perhaps, have told more: but five minutes after Miss Briggs's
arrival in Rebecca's apartment, Miss Crawley actually made her
appearance there--an unheard-of honour--her impatience had overcome
her; she could not wait for the tardy operations of her
ambassadress: so she came in person, and ordered Briggs out of the
room. And expressing her approval of Rebecca's conduct, she asked
particulars of the interview, and the previous transactions which
had brought about the astonishing offer of Sir Pitt.
Rebecca said she had long had some notion of the partiality with
which Sir Pitt honoured her (for he was in the habit of making his
feelings known in a very frank and unreserved manner) but, not to
mention private reasons with which she would not for the present
trouble Miss Crawley, Sir Pitt's age, station, and habits were such
as to render a marriage quite impossible; and could a woman with any
feeling of self-respect and any decency listen to proposals at such
a moment, when the funeral of the lover's deceased wife had not
actually taken place?
"Nonsense, my dear, you would never have refused him had there not
been some one else in the case," Miss Crawley said, coming to her
point at once. "Tell me the private reasons; what are the private
reasons? There is some one; who is it that has touched your heart?"
Rebecca cast down her eyes, and owned there was. "You have guessed
right, dear lady," she said, with a sweet simple faltering voice.
"You wonder at one so poor and friendless having an attachment,
don't you? I have never heard that poverty was any safeguard against
it. I wish it were."
"My poor dear child," cried Miss Crawley, who was always quite ready
to be sentimental, "is our passion unrequited, then? Are we pining
in secret? Tell me all, and let me console you."
"I wish you could, dear Madam," Rebecca said in the same tearful
tone. "Indeed, indeed, I need it." And she laid her head upon Miss
Crawley's shoulder and wept there so naturally that the old lady,
surprised into sympathy, embraced her with an almost maternal
kindness, uttered many soothing protests of regard and affection for
her, vowed that she loved her as a daughter, and would do everything
in her power to serve her. "And now who is it, my dear? Is it that
pretty Miss Sedley's brother? You said something about an affair
with him. I'll ask him here, my dear. And you shall have him:
indeed you shall."
"Don't ask me now," Rebecca said. "You shall know all soon. Indeed
you shall. Dear kind Miss Crawley--dear friend, may I say so?"
"That you may, my child," the old lady replied, kissing her.
"I can't tell you now," sobbed out Rebecca, "I am very miserable.
But O! love me always--promise you will love me always." And in the
midst of mutual tears--for the emotions of the younger woman had
awakened the sympathies of the elder--this promise was solemnly
given by Miss Crawley, who left her little protege, blessing and
admiring her as a dear, artless, tender-hearted, affectionate,
And now she was left alone to think over the sudden and wonderful
events of the day, and of what had been and what might have been.
What think you were the private feelings of Miss, no (begging her
pardon) of Mrs. Rebecca? If, a few pages back, the present writer
claimed the privilege of peeping into Miss Amelia Sedley's bedroom,
and understanding with the omniscience of the novelist all the
gentle pains and passions which were tossing upon that innocent
pillow, why should he not declare himself to be Rebecca's confidante
too, master of her secrets, and seal-keeper of that young woman's
Well, then, in the first place, Rebecca gave way to some very
sincere and touching regrets that a piece of marvellous good fortune
should have been so near her, and she actually obliged to decline
it. In this natural emotion every properly regulated mind will
certainly share. What good mother is there that would not
commiserate a penniless spinster, who might have been my lady, and
have shared four thousand a year? What well-bred young person is
there in all Vanity Fair, who will not feel for a hard-working,
ingenious, meritorious girl, who gets such an honourable,
advantageous, provoking offer, just at the very moment when it is
out of her power to accept it? I am sure our friend Becky's
disappointment deserves and will command every sympathy.
I remember one night being in the Fair myself, at an evening party.
I observed old Miss Toady there also present, single out for her
special attentions and flattery little Mrs. Briefless, the
barrister's wife, who is of a good family certainly, but, as we all
know, is as poor as poor can be.
What, I asked in my own mind, can cause this obsequiousness on the
part of Miss Toady; has Briefless got a county court, or has his
wife had a fortune left her? Miss Toady explained presently, with
that simplicity which distinguishes all her conduct. "You know,"
she said, "Mrs Briefless is granddaughter of Sir John Redhand, who
is so ill at Cheltenham that he can't last six months. Mrs.
Briefless's papa succeeds; so you see she will be a baronet's
daughter." And Toady asked Briefless and his wife to dinner the very
If the mere chance of becoming a baronet's daughter can procure a
lady such homage in the world, surely, surely we may respect the
agonies of a young woman who has lost the opportunity of becoming a
baronet's wife. Who would have dreamed of Lady Crawley dying so
soon? She was one of those sickly women that might have lasted
these ten years--Rebecca thought to herself, in all the woes of
repentance--and I might have been my lady! I might have led that
old man whither I would. I might have thanked Mrs. Bute for her
patronage, and Mr. Pitt for his insufferable condescension. I would
have had the town-house newly furnished and decorated. I would have
had the handsomest carriage in London, and a box at the opera; and I
would have been presented next season. All this might have been;
and now--now all was doubt and mystery.
But Rebecca was a young lady of too much resolution and energy of
character to permit herself much useless and unseemly sorrow for the
irrevocable past; so, having devoted only the proper portion of
regret to it, she wisely turned her whole attention towards the
future, which was now vastly more important to her. And she
surveyed her position, and its hopes, doubts, and chances.
In the first place, she was MARRIED--that was a great fact. Sir
Pitt knew it. She was not so much surprised into the avowal, as
induced to make it by a sudden calculation. It must have come some
day: and why not now as at a later period? He who would have married
her himself must at least be silent with regard to her marriage. How
Miss Crawley would bear the news--was the great question.
Misgivings Rebecca had; but she remembered all Miss Crawley had
said; the old lady's avowed contempt for birth; her daring liberal
opinions; her general romantic propensities; her almost doting
attachment to her nephew, and her repeatedly expressed fondness for
Rebecca herself. She is so fond of him, Rebecca thought, that she
will forgive him anything: she is so used to me that I don't think
she could be comfortable without me: when the eclaircissement comes
there will be a scene, and hysterics, and a great quarrel, and then
a great reconciliation. At all events, what use was there in
delaying? the die was thrown, and now or to-morrow the issue must be
the same. And so, resolved that Miss Crawley should have the news,
the young person debated in her mind as to the best means of
conveying it to her; and whether she should face the storm that must
come, or fly and avoid it until its first fury was blown over. In
this state of meditation she wrote the following letter:
The great crisis which we have debated about so often is COME. Half
of my secret is known, and I have thought and thought, until I am
quite sure that now is the time to reveal THE WHOLE OF THE MYSTERY.
Sir Pitt came to me this morning, and made--what do you think?--A
DECLARATION IN FORM. Think of that! Poor little me. I might have
been Lady Crawley. How pleased Mrs. Bute would have been: and ma
tante if I had taken precedence of her! I might have been somebody's
mamma, instead of--O, I tremble, I tremble, when I think how soon we
must tell all!
Sir Pitt knows I am married, and not knowing to whom, is not very
much displeased as yet. Ma tante is ACTUALLY ANGRY that I should
have refused him. But she is all kindness and graciousness. She
condescends to say I would have made him a good wife; and vows that
she will be a mother to your little Rebecca. She will be shaken
when she first hears the news. But need we fear anything beyond a
momentary anger? I think not: I AM SURE not. She dotes upon you so
(you naughty, good-for-nothing man), that she would pardon you
ANYTHING: and, indeed, I believe, the next place in her heart is
mine: and that she would be miserable without me. Dearest! something
TELLS ME we shall conquer. You shall leave that odious regiment:
quit gaming, racing, and BE A GOOD BOY; and we shall all live in
Park Lane, and ma tante shall leave us all her money.
I shall try and walk to-morrow at 3 in the usual place. If Miss B.
accompanies me, you must come to dinner, and bring an answer, and
put it in the third volume of Porteus's Sermons. But, at all
events, come to your own
To Miss Eliza Styles, At Mr. Barnet's, Saddler, Knightsbridge.
And I trust there is no reader of this little story who has not
discernment enough to perceive that the Miss Eliza Styles (an old
schoolfellow, Rebecca said, with whom she had resumed an active
correspondence of late, and who used to fetch these letters from the
saddler's), wore brass spurs, and large curling mustachios, and was
indeed no other than Captain Rawdon Crawley.
The Letter on the Pincushion
How they were married is not of the slightest consequence to
anybody. What is to hinder a Captain who is a major, and a young
lady who is of age, from purchasing a licence, and uniting
themselves at any church in this town? Who needs to be told, that
if a woman has a will she will assuredly find a way?--My belief is
that one day, when Miss Sharp had gone to pass the forenoon with her
dear friend Miss Amelia Sedley in Russell Square, a lady very like
her might have been seen entering a church in the City, in company
with a gentleman with dyed mustachios, who, after a quarter of an
hour's interval, escorted her back to the hackney-coach in waiting,
and that this was a quiet bridal party.
And who on earth, after the daily experience we have, can question
the probability of a gentleman marrying anybody? How many of the
wise and learned have married their cooks? Did not Lord Eldon
himself, the most prudent of men, make a runaway match? Were not
Achilles and Ajax both in love with their servant maids? And are we
to expect a heavy dragoon with strong desires and small brains, who
had never controlled a passion in his life, to become prudent all of
a sudden, and to refuse to pay any price for an indulgence to which
he had a mind? If people only made prudent marriages, what a stop
to population there would be!
It seems to me, for my part, that Mr. Rawdon's marriage was one of
the honestest actions which we shall have to record in any portion
of that gentleman's biography which has to do with the present
history. No one will say it is unmanly to be captivated by a woman,
or, being captivated, to marry her; and the admiration, the delight,
the passion, the wonder, the unbounded confidence, and frantic
adoration with which, by degrees, this big warrior got to regard the
little Rebecca, were feelings which the ladies at least will
pronounce were not altogether discreditable to him. When she sang,
every note thrilled in his dull soul, and tingled through his huge
frame. When she spoke, he brought all the force of his brains to
listen and wonder. If she was jocular, he used to revolve her jokes
in his mind, and explode over them half an hour afterwards in the
street, to the surprise of the groom in the tilbury by his side, or
the comrade riding with him in Rotten Row. Her words were oracles to
him, her smallest actions marked by an infallible grace and wisdom.
"How she sings,--how she paints," thought he. "How she rode that
kicking mare at Queen's Crawley!" And he would say to her in
confidential moments, "By Jove, Beck, you're fit to be Commander-in-
Chief, or Archbishop of Canterbury, by Jove." Is his case a rare
one? and don't we see every day in the world many an honest Hercules
at the apron-strings of Omphale, and great whiskered Samsons
prostrate in Delilah's lap?
When, then, Becky told him that the great crisis was near, and the
time for action had arrived, Rawdon expressed himself as ready to
act under her orders, as he would be to charge with his troop at the
command of his colonel. There was no need for him to put his letter
into the third volume of Porteus. Rebecca easily found a means to
get rid of Briggs, her companion, and met her faithful friend in
"the usual place" on the next day. She had thought over matters at
night, and communicated to Rawdon the result of her determinations.
He agreed, of course, to everything; was quite sure that it was all
right: that what she proposed was best; that Miss Crawley would
infallibly relent, or "come round," as he said, after a time. Had
Rebecca's resolutions been entirely different, he would have
followed them as implicitly. "You have head enough for both of us,
Beck," said he. "You're sure to get us out of the scrape. I never
saw your equal, and I've met with some clippers in my time too." And
with this simple confession of faith, the love-stricken dragoon left
her to execute his part of the project which she had formed for the
It consisted simply in the hiring of quiet lodgings at Brompton, or
in the neighbourhood of the barracks, for Captain and Mrs. Crawley.
For Rebecca had determined, and very prudently, we think, to fly.
Rawdon was only too happy at her resolve; he had been entreating her
to take this measure any time for weeks past. He pranced off to
engage the lodgings with all the impetuosity of love. He agreed to
pay two guineas a week so readily, that the landlady regretted she
had asked him so little. He ordered in a piano, and half a nursery-
house full of flowers: and a heap of good things. As for shawls,
kid gloves, silk stockings, gold French watches, bracelets and
perfumery, he sent them in with the profusion of blind love and
unbounded credit. And having relieved his mind by this outpouring
of generosity, he went and dined nervously at the club, waiting
until the great moment of his life should come.
The occurrences of the previous day; the admirable conduct of
Rebecca in refusing an offer so advantageous to her, the secret
unhappiness preying upon her, the sweetness and silence with which
she bore her affliction, made Miss Crawley much more tender than
usual. An event of this nature, a marriage, or a refusal, or a
proposal, thrills through a whole household of women, and sets all
their hysterical sympathies at work. As an observer of human
nature, I regularly frequent St. George's, Hanover Square, during
the genteel marriage season; and though I have never seen the
bridegroom's male friends give way to tears, or the beadles and
officiating clergy any way affected, yet it is not at all uncommon
to see women who are not in the least concerned in the operations
going on--old ladies who are long past marrying, stout middle-aged
females with plenty of sons and daughters, let alone pretty young
creatures in pink bonnets, who are on their promotion, and may
naturally take an interest in the ceremony--I say it is quite common
to see the women present piping, sobbing, sniffling; hiding their
little faces in their little useless pocket-handkerchiefs; and
heaving, old and young, with emotion. When my friend, the
fashionable John Pimlico, married the lovely Lady Belgravia Green
Parker, the excitement was so general that even the little snuffy
old pew-opener who let me into the seat was in tears. And
wherefore? I inquired of my own soul: she was not going to be
Miss Crawley and Briggs in a word, after the affair of Sir Pitt,
indulged in the utmost luxury of sentiment, and Rebecca became an
object of the most tender interest to them. In her absence Miss
Crawley solaced herself with the most sentimental of the novels in
her library. Little Sharp, with her secret griefs, was the heroine
of the day.
That night Rebecca sang more sweetly and talked more pleasantly than
she had ever been heard to do in Park Lane. She twined herself
round the heart of Miss Crawley. She spoke lightly and laughingly of
Sir Pitt's proposal, ridiculed it as the foolish fancy of an old
man; and her eyes filled with tears, and Briggs's heart with
unutterable pangs of defeat, as she said she desired no other lot
than to remain for ever with her dear benefactress. "My dear little
creature," the old lady said, "I don't intend to let you stir for
years, that you may depend upon it. As for going back to that
odious brother of mine after what has passed, it is out of the
question. Here you stay with me and Briggs. Briggs wants to go to
see her relations very often. Briggs, you may go when you like.
But as for you, my dear, you must stay and take care of the old
If Rawdon Crawley had been then and there present, instead of being
at the club nervously drinking claret, the pair might have gone down
on their knees before the old spinster, avowed all, and been
forgiven in a twinkling. But that good chance was denied to the
young couple, doubtless in order that this story might be written,
in which numbers of their wonderful adventures are narrated--
adventures which could never have occurred to them if they had been
housed and sheltered under the comfortable uninteresting forgiveness
of Miss Crawley.
Under Mrs. Firkin's orders, in the Park Lane establishment, was a
young woman from Hampshire, whose business it was, among other
duties, to knock at Miss Sharp's door with that jug of hot water
which Firkin would rather have perished than have presented to the
intruder. This girl, bred on the family estate, had a brother in
Captain Crawley's troop, and if the truth were known, I daresay it
would come out that she was aware of certain arrangements, which
have a great deal to do with this history. At any rate she purchased
a yellow shawl, a pair of green boots, and a light blue hat with a
red feather with three guineas which Rebecca gave her, and as little
Sharp was by no means too liberal with her money, no doubt it was
for services rendered that Betty Martin was so bribed.
On the second day after Sir Pitt Crawley's offer to Miss Sharp, the
sun rose as usual, and at the usual hour Betty Martin, the upstairs
maid, knocked at the door of the governess's bedchamber.
No answer was returned, and she knocked again. Silence was still
uninterrupted; and Betty, with the hot water, opened the door and
entered the chamber.
The little white dimity bed was as smooth and trim as on the day
previous, when Betty's own hands had helped to make it. Two little
trunks were corded in one end of the room; and on the table before
the window--on the pincushion the great fat pincushion lined with
pink inside, and twilled like a lady's nightcap--lay a letter. It
had been reposing there probably all night.
Betty advanced towards it on tiptoe, as if she were afraid to awake
it--looked at it, and round the room, with an air of great wonder
and satisfaction; took up the letter, and grinned intensely as she
turned it round and over, and finally carried it into Miss Briggs's
How could Betty tell that the letter was for Miss Briggs, I should
like to know? All the schooling Betty had had was at Mrs. Bute
Crawley's Sunday school, and she could no more read writing than
"La, Miss Briggs," the girl exclaimed, "O, Miss, something must have
happened--there's nobody in Miss Sharp's room; the bed ain't been
slep in, and she've run away, and left this letter for you, Miss."
"WHAT!" cries Briggs, dropping her comb, the thin wisp of faded hair
falling over her shoulders; "an elopement! Miss Sharp a fugitive!
What, what is this?" and she eagerly broke the neat seal, and, as
they say, "devoured the contents" of the letter addressed to her.
Dear Miss Briggs [the refugee wrote], the kindest heart in the
world, as yours is, will pity and sympathise with me and excuse me.
With tears, and prayers, and blessings, I leave the home where the
poor orphan has ever met with kindness and affection. Claims even
superior to those of my benefactress call me hence. I go to my
duty--to my HUSBAND. Yes, I am married. My husband COMMANDS me to
seek the HUMBLE HOME which we call ours. Dearest Miss Briggs, break
the news as your delicate sympathy will know how to do it--to my
dear, my beloved friend and benefactress. Tell her, ere I went, I
shed tears on her dear pillow--that pillow that I have so often
soothed in sickness--that I long AGAIN to watch--Oh, with what joy
shall I return to dear Park Lane! How I tremble for the answer which
is to SEAL MY FATE! When Sir Pitt deigned to offer me his hand, an
honour of which my beloved Miss Crawley said I was DESERVING (my
blessings go with her for judging the poor orphan worthy to be HER
SISTER!) I told Sir Pitt that I was already A WIFE. Even he forgave
me. But my courage failed me, when I should have told him all--that
I could not be his wife, for I WAS HIS DAUGHTER! I am wedded to the
best and most generous of men--Miss Crawley's Rawdon is MY Rawdon.
At his COMMAND I open my lips, and follow him to our humble home, as
I would THROUGH THE WORLD. O, my excellent and kind friend,
intercede with my Rawdon's beloved aunt for him and the poor girl to
whom all HIS NOBLE RACE have shown such UNPARALLELED AFFECTION. Ask
Miss Crawley to receive HER CHILDREN. I can say no more, but
blessings, blessings on all in the dear house I leave, prays
Your affectionate and GRATEFUL
Just as Briggs had finished reading this affecting and interesting
document, which reinstated her in her position as first confidante
of Miss Crawley, Mrs. Firkin entered the room. "Here's Mrs. Bute
Crawley just arrived by the mail from Hampshire, and wants some tea;
will you come down and make breakfast, Miss?"
And to the surprise of Firkin, clasping her dressing-gown around
her, the wisp of hair floating dishevelled behind her, the little
curl-papers still sticking in bunches round her forehead, Briggs
sailed down to Mrs. Bute with the letter in her hand containing the
"Oh, Mrs. Firkin," gasped Betty, "sech a business. Miss Sharp have
a gone and run away with the Capting, and they're off to Gretney
Green!" We would devote a chapter to describe the emotions of Mrs.
Firkin, did not the passions of her mistresses occupy our genteeler
When Mrs. Bute Crawley, numbed with midnight travelling, and warming
herself at the newly crackling parlour fire, heard from Miss Briggs
the intelligence of the clandestine marriage, she declared it was
quite providential that she should have arrived at such a time to
assist poor dear Miss Crawley in supporting the shock--that Rebecca
was an artful little hussy of whom she had always had her
suspicions; and that as for Rawdon Crawley, she never could account
for his aunt's infatuation regarding him, and had long considered
him a profligate, lost, and abandoned being. And this awful
conduct, Mrs. Bute said, will have at least this good effect, it
will open poor dear Miss Crawley's eyes to the real character of
this wicked man. Then Mrs. Bute had a comfortable hot toast and
tea; and as there was a vacant room in the house now, there was no
need for her to remain at the Gloster Coffee House where the
Portsmouth mail had set her down, and whence she ordered Mr. Bowls's
aide-de-camp the footman to bring away her trunks.
Miss Crawley, be it known, did not leave her room until near noon--
taking chocolate in bed in the morning, while Becky Sharp read the
Morning Post to her, or otherwise amusing herself or dawdling. The
conspirators below agreed that they would spare the dear lady's
feelings until she appeared in her drawing-room: meanwhile it was
announced to her that Mrs. Bute Crawley had come up from Hampshire
by the mail, was staying at the Gloster, sent her love to Miss
Crawley, and asked for breakfast with Miss Briggs. The arrival of
Mrs. Bute, which would not have caused any extreme delight at
another period, was hailed with pleasure now; Miss Crawley being
pleased at the notion of a gossip with her sister-in-law regarding
the late Lady Crawley, the funeral arrangements pending, and Sir
Pitt's abrupt proposal to Rebecca.
It was not until the old lady was fairly ensconced in her usual arm-
chair in the drawing-room, and the preliminary embraces and
inquiries had taken place between the ladies, that the conspirators
thought it advisable to submit her to the operation. Who has not
admired the artifices and delicate approaches with which women
"prepare" their friends for bad news? Miss Crawley's two friends
made such an apparatus of mystery before they broke the intelligence
to her, that they worked her up to the necessary degree of doubt and
"And she refused Sir Pitt, my dear, dear Miss Crawley, prepare
yourself for it," Mrs. Bute said, "because--because she couldn't
"Of course there was a reason," Miss Crawley answered. "She liked
somebody else. I told Briggs so yesterday."
"LIKES somebody else!" Briggs gasped. "O my dear friend, she is
"Married already," Mrs. Bute chimed in; and both sate with clasped
hands looking from each other at their victim.
"Send her to me, the instant she comes in. The little sly wretch:
how dared she not tell me?" cried out Miss Crawley.
"She won't come in soon. Prepare yourself, dear friend--she's gone
out for a long time--she's--she's gone altogether."
"Gracious goodness, and who's to make my chocolate? Send for her and
have her back; I desire that she come back," the old lady said.
"She decamped last night, Ma'am," cried Mrs. Bute.
"She left a letter for me," Briggs exclaimed. "She's married to--"
"Prepare her, for heaven's sake. Don't torture her, my dear Miss
"She's married to whom?" cries the spinster in a nervous fury.
"To--to a relation of--"
"She refused Sir Pitt," cried the victim. "Speak at once. Don't
drive me mad."
"O Ma'am--prepare her, Miss Briggs--she's married to Rawdon
"Rawdon married Rebecca--governess--nobod-- Get out of my house, you
fool, you idiot--you stupid old Briggs--how dare you? You're in the
plot--you made him marry, thinking that I'd leave my money from him--
you did, Martha," the poor old lady screamed in hysteric sentences.
"I, Ma'am, ask a member of this family to marry a drawing-master's
"Her mother was a Montmorency," cried out the old lady, pulling at
the bell with all her might.
"Her mother was an opera girl, and she has been on the stage or
worse herself," said Mrs. Bute.
Miss Crawley gave a final scream, and fell back in a faint. They
were forced to take her back to the room which she had just quitted.
One fit of hysterics succeeded another. The doctor was sent for--
the apothecary arrived. Mrs. Bute took up the post of nurse by her
bedside. "Her relations ought to be round about her," that amiable
She had scarcely been carried up to her room, when a new person
arrived to whom it was also necessary to break the news. This was
Sir Pitt. "Where's Becky?" he said, coming in. "Where's her traps?
She's coming with me to Queen's Crawley."
"Have you not heard the astonishing intelligence regarding her
surreptitious union?" Briggs asked.
"What's that to me?" Sir Pitt asked. "I know she's married. That
makes no odds. Tell her to come down at once, and not keep me."
"Are you not aware, sir," Miss Briggs asked, "that she has left our
roof, to the dismay of Miss Crawley, who is nearly killed by the
intelligence of Captain Rawdon's union with her?"
When Sir Pitt Crawley heard that Rebecca was married to his son, he
broke out into a fury of language, which it would do no good to
repeat in this place, as indeed it sent poor Briggs shuddering out
of the room; and with her we will shut the door upon the figure of
the frenzied old man, wild with hatred and insane with baffled
One day after he went to Queen's Crawley, he burst like a madman
into the room she had used when there--dashed open her boxes with
his foot, and flung about her papers, clothes, and other relics.
Miss Horrocks, the butler's daughter, took some of them. The
children dressed themselves and acted plays in the others. It was
but a few days after the poor mother had gone to her lonely burying-
place; and was laid, unwept and disregarded, in a vault full of
"Suppose the old lady doesn't come to," Rawdon said to his little
wife, as they sate together in the snug little Brompton lodgings.
She had been trying the new piano all the morning. The new gloves
fitted her to a nicety; the new shawls became her wonderfully; the
new rings glittered on her little hands, and the new watch ticked at
her waist; "suppose she don't come round, eh, Becky?"
"I'LL make your fortune," she said; and Delilah patted Samson's
"You can do anything," he said, kissing the little hand. "By Jove
you can; and we'll drive down to the Star and Garter, and dine, by
How Captain Dobbin Bought a Piano
If there is any exhibition in all Vanity Fair which Satire and
Sentiment can visit arm in arm together; where you light on the
strangest contrasts laughable and tearful: where you may be gentle
and pathetic, or savage and cynical with perfect propriety: it is at
one of those public assemblies, a crowd of which are advertised
every day in the last page of the Times newspaper, and over which
the late Mr. George Robins used to preside with so much dignity.
There are very few London people, as I fancy, who have not attended
at these meetings, and all with a taste for moralizing must have
thought, with a sensation and interest not a little startling and
queer, of the day when their turn shall come too, and Mr. Hammerdown
will sell by the orders of Diogenes' assignees, or will be
instructed by the executors, to offer to public competition, the
library, furniture, plate, wardrobe, and choice cellar of wines of
Even with the most selfish disposition, the Vanity Fairian, as he
witnesses this sordid part of the obsequies of a departed friend,
can't but feel some sympathies and regret. My Lord Dives's remains
are in the family vault: the statuaries are cutting an inscription
veraciously commemorating his virtues, and the sorrows of his heir,
who is disposing of his goods. What guest at Dives's table can pass
the familiar house without a sigh?--the familiar house of which
the lights used to shine so cheerfully at seven o'clock, of which
the hall-doors opened so readily, of which the obsequious servants,
as you passed up the comfortable stair, sounded your name from
landing to landing, until it reached the apartment where jolly old
Dives welcomed his friends! What a number of them he had; and what
a noble way of entertaining them. How witty people used to be here
who were morose when they got out of the door; and how courteous and
friendly men who slandered and hated each other everywhere else! He
was pompous, but with such a cook what would one not swallow? he was
rather dull, perhaps, but would not such wine make any conversation
pleasant? We must get some of his Burgundy at any price, the
mourners cry at his club. "I got this box at old Dives's sale,"
Pincher says, handing it round, "one of Louis XV's mistresses--
pretty thing, is it not?--sweet miniature," and they talk of the way
in which young Dives is dissipating his fortune.
How changed the house is, though! The front is patched over with
bills, setting forth the particulars of the furniture in staring
capitals. They have hung a shred of carpet out of an upstairs
window--a half dozen of porters are lounging on the dirty steps--the
hall swarms with dingy guests of oriental countenance, who thrust
printed cards into your hand, and offer to bid. Old women and
amateurs have invaded the upper apartments, pinching the bed-
curtains, poking into the feathers, shampooing the mattresses, and
clapping the wardrobe drawers to and fro. Enterprising young
housekeepers are measuring the looking-glasses and hangings to see
if they will suit the new menage (Snob will brag for years that he
has purchased this or that at Dives's sale), and Mr. Hammerdown is
sitting on the great mahogany dining-tables, in the dining-room
below, waving the ivory hammer, and employing all the artifices of
eloquence, enthusiasm, entreaty, reason, despair; shouting to his
people; satirizing Mr. Davids for his sluggishness; inspiriting Mr.
Moss into action; imploring, commanding, bellowing, until down comes
the hammer like fate, and we pass to the next lot. O Dives, who
would ever have thought, as we sat round the broad table sparkling
with plate and spotless linen, to have seen such a dish at the head
of it as that roaring auctioneer?
It was rather late in the sale. The excellent drawing-room
furniture by the best makers; the rare and famous wines selected,
regardless of cost, and with the well-known taste of the purchaser;
the rich and complete set of family plate had been sold on the
previous days. Certain of the best wines (which all had a great
character among amateurs in the neighbourhood) had been purchased
for his master, who knew them very well, by the butler of our friend
John Osborne, Esquire, of Russell Square. A small portion of the
most useful articles of the plate had been bought by some young
stockbrokers from the City. And now the public being invited to the
purchase of minor objects, it happened that the orator on the table
was expatiating on the merits of a picture, which he sought to
recommend to his audience: it was by no means so select or numerous
a company as had attended the previous days of the auction.
"No. 369," roared Mr. Hammerdown. "Portrait of a gentleman on an
elephant. Who'll bid for the gentleman on the elephant? Lift up
the picture, Blowman, and let the company examine this lot." A long,
pale, military-looking gentleman, seated demurely at the mahogany
table, could not help grinning as this valuable lot was shown by Mr.
Blowman. "Turn the elephant to the Captain, Blowman. What shall we
say, sir, for the elephant?" but the Captain, blushing in a very
hurried and discomfited manner, turned away his head.
"Shall we say twenty guineas for this work of art?--fifteen, five,
name your own price. The gentleman without the elephant is worth
"I wonder it ain't come down with him," said a professional wag,
"he's anyhow a precious big one"; at which (for the elephant-rider
was represented as of a very stout figure) there was a general
giggle in the room.
"Don't be trying to deprecate the value of the lot, Mr. Moss," Mr.
Hammerdown said; "let the company examine it as a work of art--the
attitude of the gallant animal quite according to natur'; the
gentleman in a nankeen jacket, his gun in his hand, is going to the
chase; in the distance a banyhann tree and a pagody, most likely
resemblances of some interesting spot in our famous Eastern
possessions. How much for this lot? Come, gentlemen, don't keep me
here all day."
Some one bid five shillings, at which the military gentleman looked
towards the quarter from which this splendid offer had come, and
there saw another officer with a young lady on his arm, who both
appeared to be highly amused with the scene, and to whom, finally,
this lot was knocked down for half a guinea. He at the table looked
more surprised and discomposed than ever when he spied this pair,
and his head sank into his military collar, and he turned his back
upon them, so as to avoid them altogether.
Of all the other articles which Mr. Hammerdown had the honour to
offer for public competition that day it is not our purpose to make
mention, save of one only, a little square piano, which came down
from the upper regions of the house (the state grand piano having
been disposed of previously); this the young lady tried with a rapid
and skilful hand (making the officer blush and start again), and for
it, when its turn came, her agent began to bid.
But there was an opposition here. The Hebrew aide-de-camp in the
service of the officer at the table bid against the Hebrew gentleman
employed by the elephant purchasers, and a brisk battle ensued over
this little piano, the combatants being greatly encouraged by Mr.
At last, when the competition had been prolonged for some time, the
elephant captain and lady desisted from the race; and the hammer
coming down, the auctioneer said:--"Mr. Lewis, twenty-five," and Mr.
Lewis's chief thus became the proprietor of the little square piano.
Having effected the purchase, he sate up as if he was greatly
relieved, and the unsuccessful competitors catching a glimpse of him
at this moment, the lady said to her friend,
"Why, Rawdon, it's Captain Dobbin."
I suppose Becky was discontented with the new piano her husband had
hired for her, or perhaps the proprietors of that instrument had
fetched it away, declining farther credit, or perhaps she had a
particular attachment for the one which she had just tried to
purchase, recollecting it in old days, when she used to play upon
it, in the little sitting-room of our dear Amelia Sedley.
The sale was at the old house in Russell Square, where we passed
some evenings together at the beginning of this story. Good old
John Sedley was a ruined man. His name had been proclaimed as a
defaulter on the Stock Exchange, and his bankruptcy and commercial
extermination had followed. Mr. Osborne's butler came to buy some
of the famous port wine to transfer to the cellars over the way. As
for one dozen well-manufactured silver spoons and forks at per oz.,
and one dozen dessert ditto ditto, there were three young
stockbrokers (Messrs. Dale, Spiggot, and Dale, of Threadneedle
Street, indeed), who, having had dealings with the old man, and
kindnesses from him in days when he was kind to everybody with whom
he dealt, sent this little spar out of the wreck with their love to
good Mrs. Sedley; and with respect to the piano, as it had been
Amelia's, and as she might miss it and want one now, and as Captain
William Dobbin could no more play upon it than he could dance on the
tight rope, it is probable that he did not purchase the instrument
for his own use.
In a word, it arrived that evening at a wonderful small cottage in a
street leading from the Fulham Road--one of those streets which have
the finest romantic names--(this was called St. Adelaide Villas,
Anna-Maria Road West), where the houses look like baby-houses; where
the people, looking out of the first-floor windows, must infallibly,
as you think, sit with their feet in the parlours; where the shrubs
in the little gardens in front bloom with a perennial display of
little children's pinafores, little red socks, caps, &c. (polyandria
polygynia); whence you hear the sound of jingling spinets and women
singing; where little porter pots hang on the railings sunning
themselves; whither of evenings you see City clerks padding wearily:
here it was that Mr. Clapp, the clerk of Mr. Sedley, had his
domicile, and in this asylum the good old gentleman hid his head
with his wife and daughter when the crash came.
Jos Sedley had acted as a man of his disposition would, when the
announcement of the family misfortune reached him. He did not come
to London, but he wrote to his mother to draw upon his agents for
whatever money was wanted, so that his kind broken-spirited old
parents had no present poverty to fear. This done, Jos went on at
the boarding-house at Cheltenham pretty much as before. He drove
his curricle; he drank his claret; he played his rubber; he told his
Indian stories, and the Irish widow consoled and flattered him as
usual. His present of money, needful as it was, made little
impression on his parents; and I have heard Amelia say that the
first day on which she saw her father lift up his head after the
failure was on the receipt of the packet of forks and spoons with
the young stockbrokers' love, over which he burst out crying like a
child, being greatly more affected than even his wife, to whom the
present was addressed. Edward Dale, the junior of the house, who
purchased the spoons for the firm, was, in fact, very sweet upon
Amelia, and offered for her in spite of all. He married Miss Louisa
Cutts (daughter of Higham and Cutts, the eminent cornfactors) with a
handsome fortune in 1820; and is now living in splendour, and with a
numerous family, at his elegant villa, Muswell Hill. But we must
not let the recollections of this good fellow cause us to diverge
from the principal history.
I hope the reader has much too good an opinion of Captain and Mrs.
Crawley to suppose that they ever would have dreamed of paying a
visit to so remote a district as Bloomsbury, if they thought the
family whom they proposed to honour with a visit were not merely out
of fashion, but out of money, and could be serviceable to them in no
possible manner. Rebecca was entirely surprised at the sight of the
comfortable old house where she had met with no small kindness,
ransacked by brokers and bargainers, and its quiet family treasures
given up to public desecration and plunder. A month after her
flight, she had bethought her of Amelia, and Rawdon, with a horse-
laugh, had expressed a perfect willingness to see young George
Osborne again. "He's a very agreeable acquaintance, Beck," the wag
added. "I'd like to sell him another horse, Beck. I'd like to play
a few more games at billiards with him. He'd be what I call useful
just now, Mrs. C.--ha, ha!" by which sort of speech it is not to be
supposed that Rawdon Crawley had a deliberate desire to cheat Mr.
Osborne at play, but only wished to take that fair advantage of him
which almost every sporting gentleman in Vanity Fair considers to be
his due from his neighbour.
The old aunt was long in "coming-to." A month had elapsed. Rawdon
was denied the door by Mr. Bowls; his servants could not get a
lodgment in the house at Park Lane; his letters were sent back
unopened. Miss Crawley never stirred out--she was unwell--and Mrs.
Bute remained still and never left her. Crawley and his wife both
of them augured evil from the continued presence of Mrs. Bute.
"Gad, I begin to perceive now why she was always bringing us
together at Queen's Crawley," Rawdon said.
"What an artful little woman!" ejaculated Rebecca.
"Well, I don't regret it, if you don't," the Captain cried, still in
an amorous rapture with his wife, who rewarded him with a kiss by
way of reply, and was indeed not a little gratified by the generous
confidence of her husband.
"If he had but a little more brains," she thought to herself, "I
might make something of him"; but she never let him perceive the
opinion she had of him; listened with indefatigable complacency to
his stories of the stable and the mess; laughed at all his jokes;
felt the greatest interest in Jack Spatterdash, whose cab-horse had
come down, and Bob Martingale, who had been taken up in a gambling-
house, and Tom Cinqbars, who was going to ride the steeplechase.
When he came home she was alert and happy: when he went out she
pressed him to go: when he stayed at home, she played and sang for
him, made him good drinks, superintended his dinner, warmed his
slippers, and steeped his soul in comfort. The best of women (I
have heard my grandmother say) are hypocrites. We don't know how
much they hide from us: how watchful they are when they seem most
artless and confidential: how often those frank smiles which they
wear so easily, are traps to cajole or elude or disarm--I don't mean
in your mere coquettes, but your domestic models, and paragons of
female virtue. Who has not seen a woman hide the dulness of a stupid
husband, or coax the fury of a savage one? We accept this amiable
slavishness, and praise a woman for it: we call this pretty
treachery truth. A good housewife is of necessity a humbug; and
Cornelia's husband was hoodwinked, as Potiphar was--only in a
By these attentions, that veteran rake, Rawdon Crawley, found
himself converted into a very happy and submissive married man. His
former haunts knew him not. They asked about him once or twice at
his clubs, but did not miss him much: in those booths of Vanity Fair
people seldom do miss each other. His secluded wife ever smiling
and cheerful, his little comfortable lodgings, snug meals, and
homely evenings, had all the charms of novelty and secrecy. The
marriage was not yet declared to the world, or published in the
Morning Post. All his creditors would have come rushing on him in a
body, had they known that he was united to a woman without fortune.
"My relations won't cry fie upon me," Becky said, with rather a
bitter laugh; and she was quite contented to wait until the old aunt
should be reconciled, before she claimed her place in society. So
she lived at Brompton, and meanwhile saw no one, or only those few
of her husband's male companions who were admitted into her little
dining-room. These were all charmed with her. The little dinners,
the laughing and chatting, the music afterwards, delighted all who
participated in these enjoyments. Major Martingale never thought
about asking to see the marriage licence, Captain Cinqbars was
perfectly enchanted with her skill in making punch. And young
Lieutenant Spatterdash (who was fond of piquet, and whom Crawley
would often invite) was evidently and quickly smitten by Mrs.
Crawley; but her own circumspection and modesty never forsook her
for a moment, and Crawley's reputation as a fire-eating and jealous
warrior was a further and complete defence to his little wife.
There are gentlemen of very good blood and fashion in this city, who
never have entered a lady's drawing-room; so that though Rawdon
Crawley's marriage might be talked about in his county, where, of
course, Mrs. Bute had spread the news, in London it was doubted, or
not heeded, or not talked about at all. He lived comfortably on
credit. He had a large capital of debts, which laid out
judiciously, will carry a man along for many years, and on which
certain men about town contrive to live a hundred times better than
even men with ready money can do. Indeed who is there that walks
London streets, but can point out a half-dozen of men riding by him
splendidly, while he is on foot, courted by fashion, bowed into
their carriages by tradesmen, denying themselves nothing, and living
on who knows what? We see Jack Thriftless prancing in the park, or
darting in his brougham down Pall Mall: we eat his dinners served on
his miraculous plate. "How did this begin," we say, "or where will
it end?" "My dear fellow," I heard Jack once say, "I owe money in
every capital in Europe." The end must come some day, but in the
meantime Jack thrives as much as ever; people are glad enough to
shake him by the hand, ignore the little dark stories that are
whispered every now and then against him, and pronounce him a good-
natured, jovial, reckless fellow.
Truth obliges us to confess that Rebecca had married a gentleman of
this order. Everything was plentiful in his house but ready money,
of which their menage pretty early felt the want; and reading the
Gazette one day, and coming upon the announcement of "Lieutenant G.
Osborne to be Captain by purchase, vice Smith, who exchanges,"
Rawdon uttered that sentiment regarding Amelia's lover, which ended
in the visit to Russell Square.
When Rawdon and his wife wished to communicate with Captain Dobbin
at the sale, and to know particulars of the catastrophe which had
befallen Rebecca's old acquaintances, the Captain had vanished; and
such information as they got was from a stray porter or broker at
"Look at them with their hooked beaks," Becky said, getting into the
buggy, her picture under her arm, in great glee. "They're like
vultures after a battle."
"Don't know. Never was in action, my dear. Ask Martingale; he was
in Spain, aide-de-camp to General Blazes."
"He was a very kind old man, Mr. Sedley," Rebecca said; "I'm really
sorry he's gone wrong."
"O stockbrokers--bankrupts--used to it, you know," Rawdon replied,
cutting a fly off the horse's ear.
"I wish we could have afforded some of the plate, Rawdon," the wife
continued sentimentally. "Five-and-twenty guineas was monstrously
dear for that little piano. We chose it at Broadwood's for Amelia,
when she came from school. It only cost five-and-thirty then."
"What-d'-ye-call'em--'Osborne,' will cry off now, I suppose, since
the family is smashed. How cut up your pretty little friend will
be; hey, Becky?"
"I daresay she'll recover it," Becky said with a smile--and they
drove on and talked about something else.
Who Played on the Piano Captain Dobbin Bought
Our surprised story now finds itself for a moment among very famous
events and personages, and hanging on to the skirts of history.
When the eagles of Napoleon Bonaparte, the Corsican upstart, were
flying from Provence, where they had perched after a brief sojourn
in Elba, and from steeple to steeple until they reached the towers
of Notre Dame, I wonder whether the Imperial birds had any eye for a
little corner of the parish of Bloomsbury, London, which you might
have thought so quiet, that even the whirring and flapping of those
mighty wings would pass unobserved there?
"Napoleon has landed at Cannes." Such news might create a panic at
Vienna, and cause Russia to drop his cards, and take Prussia into a
corner, and Talleyrand and Metternich to wag their heads together,
while Prince Hardenberg, and even the present Marquis of
Londonderry, were puzzled; but how was this intelligence to affect a
young lady in Russell Square, before whose door the watchman sang
the hours when she was asleep: who, if she strolled in the square,
was guarded there by the railings and the beadle: who, if she
walked ever so short a distance to buy a ribbon in Southampton Row,
was followed by Black Sambo with an enormous cane: who was always
cared for, dressed, put to bed, and watched over by ever so many
guardian angels, with and without wages? Bon Dieu, I say, is it not
hard that the fateful rush of the great Imperial struggle can't take
place without affecting a poor little harmless girl of eighteen, who
is occupied in billing and cooing, or working muslin collars in
Russell Square? You too, kindly, homely flower!--is the great
roaring war tempest coming to sweep you down, here, although
cowering under the shelter of Holborn? Yes; Napoleon is flinging
his last stake, and poor little Emmy Sedley's happiness forms,
somehow, part of it.
In the first place, her father's fortune was swept down with that
fatal news. All his speculations had of late gone wrong with the
luckless old gentleman. Ventures had failed; merchants had broken;
funds had risen when he calculated they would fall. What need to
particularize? If success is rare and slow, everybody knows how
quick and easy ruin is. Old Sedley had kept his own sad counsel.
Everything seemed to go on as usual in the quiet, opulent house; the
good-natured mistress pursuing, quite unsuspiciously, her bustling
idleness, and daily easy avocations; the daughter absorbed still in
one selfish, tender thought, and quite regardless of all the world
besides, when that final crash came, under which the worthy family
One night Mrs. Sedley was writing cards for a party; the Osbornes
had given one, and she must not be behindhand; John Sedley, who had
come home very late from the City, sate silent at the chimney side,
while his wife was prattling to him; Emmy had gone up to her room
ailing and low-spirited. "She's not happy," the mother went on.
"George Osborne neglects her. I've no patience with the airs of
those people. The girls have not been in the house these three
weeks; and George has been twice in town without coming. Edward
Dale saw him at the Opera. Edward would marry her I'm sure: and
there's Captain Dobbin who, I think, would--only I hate all army
men. Such a dandy as George has become. With his military airs,
indeed! We must show some folks that we're as good as they. Only
give Edward Dale any encouragement, and you'll see. We must have a
party, Mr. S. Why don't you speak, John? Shall I say Tuesday
fortnight? Why don't you answer? Good God, John, what has happened?"
John Sedley sprang up out of his chair to meet his wife, who ran to
him. He seized her in his arms, and said with a hasty voice, "We're
ruined, Mary. We've got the world to begin over again, dear. It's
best that you should know all, and at once." As he spoke, he
trembled in every limb, and almost fell. He thought the news would
have overpowered his wife--his wife, to whom he had never said a
hard word. But it was he that was the most moved, sudden as the
shock was to her. When he sank back into his seat, it was the wife
that took the office of consoler. She took his trembling hand, and
kissed it, and put it round her neck: she called him her John--her
dear John--her old man--her kind old man; she poured out a hundred
words of incoherent love and tenderness; her faithful voice and
simple caresses wrought this sad heart up to an inexpressible
delight and anguish, and cheered and solaced his over-burdened soul.
Only once in the course of the long night as they sate together, and
poor Sedley opened his pent-up soul, and told the story of his
losses and embarrassments--the treason of some of his oldest
friends, the manly kindness of some, from whom he never could have
expected it--in a general confession--only once did the faithful
wife give way to emotion.
"My God, my God, it will break Emmy's heart," she said.
The father had forgotten the poor girl. She was lying, awake and
unhappy, overhead. In the midst of friends, home, and kind parents,
she was alone. To how many people can any one tell all? Who will
be open where there is no sympathy, or has call to speak to those
who never can understand? Our gentle Amelia was thus solitary. She
had no confidante, so to speak, ever since she had anything to
confide. She could not tell the old mother her doubts and cares;
the would-be sisters seemed every day more strange to her. And she
had misgivings and fears which she dared not acknowledge to herself,
though she was always secretly brooding over them.
Her heart tried to persist in asserting that George Osborne was
worthy and faithful to her, though she knew otherwise. How many a
thing had she said, and got no echo from him. How many suspicions
of selfishness and indifference had she to encounter and obstinately
overcome. To whom could the poor little martyr tell these daily
struggles and tortures? Her hero himself only half understood her.
She did not dare to own that the man she loved was her inferior; or
to feel that she had given her heart away too soon. Given once, the
pure bashful maiden was too modest, too tender, too trustful, too
weak, too much woman to recall it. We are Turks with the affections
of our women; and have made them subscribe to our doctrine too. We
let their bodies go abroad liberally enough, with smiles and
ringlets and pink bonnets to disguise them instead of veils and
yakmaks. But their souls must be seen by only one man, and they
obey not unwillingly, and consent to remain at home as our slaves--
ministering to us and doing drudgery for us.
So imprisoned and tortured was this gentle little heart, when in the
month of March, Anno Domini 1815, Napoleon landed at Cannes, and
Louis XVIII fled, and all Europe was in alarm, and the funds fell,
and old John Sedley was ruined.
We are not going to follow the worthy old stockbroker through those
last pangs and agonies of ruin through which he passed before his
commercial demise befell. They declared him at the Stock Exchange;
he was absent from his house of business: his bills were protested:
his act of bankruptcy formal. The house and furniture of Russell
Square were seized and sold up, and he and his family were thrust
away, as we have seen, to hide their heads where they might.
John Sedley had not the heart to review the domestic establishment
who have appeared now and anon in our pages and of whom he was now
forced by poverty to take leave. The wages of those worthy people
were discharged with that punctuality which men frequently show who
only owe in great sums--they were sorry to leave good places--but
they did not break their hearts at parting from their adored master
and mistress. Amelia's maid was profuse in condolences, but went
off quite resigned to better herself in a genteeler quarter of the
town. Black Sambo, with the infatuation of his profession,
determined on setting up a public-house. Honest old Mrs. Blenkinsop
indeed, who had seen the birth of Jos and Amelia, and the wooing of
John Sedley and his wife, was for staying by them without wages,
having amassed a considerable sum in their service: and she
accompanied the fallen people into their new and humble place of
refuge, where she tended them and grumbled against them for a while.
Of all Sedley's opponents in his debates with his creditors which
now ensued, and harassed the feelings of the humiliated old
gentleman so severely, that in six weeks he oldened more than he had
done for fifteen years before--the most determined and obstinate
seemed to be John Osborne, his old friend and neighbour--John
Osborne, whom he had set up in life--who was under a hundred
obligations to him--and whose son was to marry Sedley's daughter.
Any one of these circumstances would account for the bitterness of
When one man has been under very remarkable obligations to another,
with whom he subsequently quarrels, a common sense of decency, as it
were, makes of the former a much severer enemy than a mere stranger
would be. To account for your own hard-heartedness and ingratitude
in such a case, you are bound to prove the other party's crime. It
is not that you are selfish, brutal, and angry at the failure of a
speculation--no, no--it is that your partner has led you into it by
the basest treachery and with the most sinister motives. From a
mere sense of consistency, a persecutor is bound to show that the
fallen man is a villain--otherwise he, the persecutor, is a wretch
And as a general rule, which may make all creditors who are inclined
to be severe pretty comfortable in their minds, no men embarrassed
are altogether honest, very likely. They conceal something; they
exaggerate chances of good luck; hide away the real state of
affairs; say that things are flourishing when they are hopeless,
keep a smiling face (a dreary smile it is) upon the verge of
bankruptcy--are ready to lay hold of any pretext for delay or of any
money, so as to stave off the inevitable ruin a few days longer.
"Down with such dishonesty," says the creditor in triumph, and
reviles his sinking enemy. "You fool, why do you catch at a straw?"
calm good sense says to the man that is drowning. "You villain, why
do you shrink from plunging into the irretrievable Gazette?" says
prosperity to the poor devil battling in that black gulf. Who has
not remarked the readiness with which the closest of friends and
honestest of men suspect and accuse each other of cheating when they
fall out on money matters? Everybody does it. Everybody is right, I
suppose, and the world is a rogue.
Then Osborne had the intolerable sense of former benefits to goad
and irritate him: these are always a cause of hostility aggravated.
Finally, he had to break off the match between Sedley's daughter and
his son; and as it had gone very far indeed, and as the poor girl's
happiness and perhaps character were compromised, it was necessary
to show the strongest reasons for the rupture, and for John Osborne
to prove John Sedley to be a very bad character indeed.
At the meetings of creditors, then, he comported himself with a
savageness and scorn towards Sedley, which almost succeeded in
breaking the heart of that ruined bankrupt man. On George's
intercourse with Amelia he put an instant veto--menacing the youth
with maledictions if he broke his commands, and vilipending the poor
innocent girl as the basest and most artful of vixens. One of the
great conditions of anger and hatred is, that you must tell and
believe lies against the hated object, in order, as we said, to be
When the great crash came--the announcement of ruin, and the
departure from Russell Square, and the declaration that all was over
between her and George--all over between her and love, her and
happiness, her and faith in the world--a brutal letter from John
Osborne told her in a few curt lines that her father's conduct had
been of such a nature that all engagements between the families were
at an end--when the final award came, it did not shock her so much
as her parents, as her mother rather expected (for John Sedley
himself was entirely prostrate in the ruins of his own affairs and
shattered honour). Amelia took the news very palely and calmly. It
was only the confirmation of the dark presages which had long gone
before. It was the mere reading of the sentence--of the crime she
had long ago been guilty--the crime of loving wrongly, too
violently, against reason. She told no more of her thoughts now than
she had before. She seemed scarcely more unhappy now when convinced
all hope was over, than before when she felt but dared not confess
that it was gone. So she changed from the large house to the small
one without any mark or difference; remained in her little room for
the most part; pined silently; and died away day by day. I do not
mean to say that all females are so. My dear Miss Bullock, I do not
think your heart would break in this way. You are a strong-minded
young woman with proper principles. I do not venture to say that
mine would; it has suffered, and, it must be confessed, survived.
But there are some souls thus gently constituted, thus frail, and
delicate, and tender.
Whenever old John Sedley thought of the affair between George and
Amelia, or alluded to it, it was with bitterness almost as great as
Mr. Osborne himself had shown. He cursed Osborne and his family as
heartless, wicked, and ungrateful. No power on earth, he swore,
would induce him to marry his daughter to the son of such a villain,
and he ordered Emmy to banish George from her mind, and to return
all the presents and letters which she had ever had from him.
She promised acquiescence, and tried to obey. She put up the two or
three trinkets: and, as for the letters, she drew them out of the
place where she kept them; and read them over--as if she did not
know them by heart already: but she could not part with them. That
effort was too much for her; she placed them back in her bosom
again--as you have seen a woman nurse a child that is dead. Young
Amelia felt that she would die or lose her senses outright, if torn
away from this last consolation. How she used to blush and lighten
up when those letters came! How she used to trip away with a
beating heart, so that she might read unseen! If they were cold,
yet how perversely this fond little soul interpreted them into
warmth. If they were short or selfish, what excuses she found for
It was over these few worthless papers that she brooded and brooded.
She lived in her past life--every letter seemed to recall some
circumstance of it. How well she remembered them all! His looks
and tones, his dress, what he said and how--these relics and
remembrances of dead affection were all that were left her in the
world. And the business of her life, was--to watch the corpse of
To death she looked with inexpressible longing. Then, she thought,
I shall always be able to follow him. I am not praising her conduct
or setting her up as a model for Miss Bullock to imitate. Miss B.
knows how to regulate her feelings better than this poor little
creature. Miss B. would never have committed herself as that
imprudent Amelia had done; pledged her love irretrievably; confessed
her heart away, and got back nothing--only a brittle promise which
was snapt and worthless in a moment. A long engagement is a
partnership which one party is free to keep or to break, but which
involves all the capital of the other.
Be cautious then, young ladies; be wary how you engage. Be shy of
loving frankly; never tell all you feel, or (a better way still),
feel very little. See the consequences of being prematurely honest
and confiding, and mistrust yourselves and everybody. Get
yourselves married as they do in France, where the lawyers are the
bridesmaids and confidantes. At any rate, never have any feelings
which may make you uncomfortable, or make any promises which you
cannot at any required moment command and withdraw. That is the way
to get on, and be respected, and have a virtuous character in Vanity
If Amelia could have heard the comments regarding her which were
made in the circle from which her father's ruin had just driven her,
she would have seen what her own crimes were, and how entirely her
character was jeopardised. Such criminal imprudence Mrs. Smith
never knew of; such horrid familiarities Mrs. Brown had always
condemned, and the end might be a warning to HER daughters.
"Captain Osborne, of course, could not marry a bankrupt's daughter,"
the Misses Dobbin said. "It was quite enough to have been swindled
by the father. As for that little Amelia, her folly had really
"All what?" Captain Dobbin roared out. "Haven't they been engaged
ever since they were children? Wasn't it as good as a marriage?
Dare any soul on earth breathe a word against the sweetest, the
purest, the tenderest, the most angelical of young women?"
"La, William, don't be so highty-tighty with US. We're not men. We
can't fight you," Miss Jane said. "We've said nothing against Miss
Sedley: but that her conduct throughout was MOST IMPRUDENT, not to
call it by any worse name; and that her parents are people who
certainly merit their misfortunes."
"Hadn't you better, now that Miss Sedley is free, propose for her
yourself, William?" Miss Ann asked sarcastically. "It would be a
most eligible family connection. He! he!"
"I marry her!" Dobbin said, blushing very much, and talking quick.
"If you are so ready, young ladies, to chop and change, do you
suppose that she is? Laugh and sneer at that angel. She can't hear
it; and she's miserable and unfortunate, and deserves to be laughed
at. Go on joking, Ann. You're the wit of the family, and the
others like to hear it."
"I must tell you again we're not in a barrack, William," Miss Ann
"In a barrack, by Jove--I wish anybody in a barrack would say what
you do," cried out this uproused British lion. "I should like to
hear a man breathe a word against her, by Jupiter. But men don't
talk in this way, Ann: it's only women, who get together and hiss,
and shriek, and cackle. There, get away--don't begin to cry. I
only said you were a couple of geese," Will Dobbin said, perceiving
Miss Ann's pink eyes were beginning to moisten as usual. "Well,
you're not geese, you're swans--anything you like, only do, do leave
Miss Sedley alone."
Anything like William's infatuation about that silly little
flirting, ogling thing was never known, the mamma and sisters agreed
together in thinking: and they trembled lest, her engagement being
off with Osborne, she should take up immediately her other admirer
and Captain. In which forebodings these worthy young women no doubt
judged according to the best of their experience; or rather (for as
yet they had had no opportunities of marrying or of jilting)
according to their own notions of right and wrong.
"It is a mercy, Mamma, that the regiment is ordered abroad," the
girls said. "THIS danger, at any rate, is spared our brother."
Such, indeed, was the fact; and so it is that the French Emperor
comes in to perform a part in this domestic comedy of Vanity Fair
which we are now playing, and which would never have been enacted
without the intervention of this august mute personage. It was he
that ruined the Bourbons and Mr. John Sedley. It was he whose
arrival in his capital called up all France in arms to defend him
there; and all Europe to oust him. While the French nation and army
were swearing fidelity round the eagles in the Champ de Mars, four
mighty European hosts were getting in motion for the great chasse a
l'aigle; and one of these was a British army, of which two heroes of
ours, Captain Dobbin and Captain Osborne, formed a portion.
The news of Napoleon's escape and landing was received by the
gallant --th with a fiery delight and enthusiasm, which everybody can
understand who knows that famous corps. From the colonel to the
smallest drummer in the regiment, all were filled with hope and
ambition and patriotic fury; and thanked the French Emperor as for a
personal kindness in coming to disturb the peace of Europe. Now was
the time the --th had so long panted for, to show their comrades in
arms that they could fight as well as the Peninsular veterans, and
that all the pluck and valour of the --th had not been killed by the
West Indies and the yellow fever. Stubble and Spooney looked to get
their companies without purchase. Before the end of the campaign
(which she resolved to share), Mrs. Major O'Dowd hoped to write
herself Mrs. Colonel O'Dowd, C.B. Our two friends (Dobbin and
Osborne) were quite as much excited as the rest: and each in his
way--Mr. Dobbin very quietly, Mr. Osborne very loudly and
energetically--was bent upon doing his duty, and gaining his share
of honour and distinction.
The agitation thrilling through the country and army in consequence
of this news was so great, that private matters were little heeded:
and hence probably George Osborne, just gazetted to his company,
busy with preparations for the march, which must come inevitably,
and panting for further promotion--was not so much affected by other
incidents which would have interested him at a more quiet period.
He was not, it must be confessed, very much cast down by good old
Mr. Sedley's catastrophe. He tried his new uniform, which became him
very handsomely, on the day when the first meeting of the creditors
of the unfortunate gentleman took place. His father told him of the
wicked, rascally, shameful conduct of the bankrupt, reminded him of
what he had said about Amelia, and that their connection was broken
off for ever; and gave him that evening a good sum of money to pay
for the new clothes and epaulets in which he looked so well. Money
was always useful to this free-handed young fellow, and he took it
without many words. The bills were up in the Sedley house, where he
had passed so many, many happy hours. He could see them as he
walked from home that night (to the Old Slaughters', where he put up
when in town) shining white in the moon. That comfortable home was
shut, then, upon Amelia and her parents: where had they taken
refuge? The thought of their ruin affected him not a little. He was
very melancholy that night in the coffee-room at the Slaughters';
and drank a good deal, as his comrades remarked there.
Dobbin came in presently, cautioned him about the drink, which he
only took, he said, because he was deuced low; but when his friend
began to put to him clumsy inquiries, and asked him for news in a
significant manner, Osborne declined entering into conversation with
him, avowing, however, that he was devilish disturbed and unhappy.
Three days afterwards, Dobbin found Osborne in his room at the
barracks--his head on the table, a number of papers about, the young
Captain evidently in a state of great despondency. "She--she's sent
me back some things I gave her--some damned trinkets. Look here!"
There was a little packet directed in the well-known hand to Captain
George Osborne, and some things lying about--a ring, a silver knife
he had bought, as a boy, for her at a fair; a gold chain, and a
locket with hair in it. "It's all over," said he, with a groan of
sickening remorse. "Look, Will, you may read it if you like."
There was a little letter of a few lines, to which he pointed, which
My papa has ordered me to return to you these presents, which you
made in happier days to me; and I am to write to you for the last
time. I think, I know you feel as much as I do the blow which has
come upon us. It is I that absolve you from an engagement which is
impossible in our present misery. I am sure you had no share in it,
or in the cruel suspicions of Mr. Osborne, which are the hardest of
all our griefs to bear. Farewell. Farewell. I pray God to
strengthen me to bear this and other calamities, and to bless you
I shall often play upon the piano--your piano. It was like you to
Dobbin was very soft-hearted. The sight of women and children in
pain always used to melt him. The idea of Amelia broken-hearted and
lonely tore that good-natured soul with anguish. And he broke out
into an emotion, which anybody who likes may consider unmanly. He
swore that Amelia was an angel, to which Osborne said aye with all
his heart. He, too, had been reviewing the history of their lives--
and had seen her from her childhood to her present age, so sweet, so
innocent, so charmingly simple, and artlessly fond and tender.
What a pang it was to lose all that: to have had it and not prized
it! A thousand homely scenes and recollections crowded on him--in
which he always saw her good and beautiful. And for himself, he
blushed with remorse and shame, as the remembrance of his own
selfishness and indifference contrasted with that perfect purity.
For a while, glory, war, everything was forgotten, and the pair of
friends talked about her only.
"Where are they?" Osborne asked, after a long talk, and a long
pause--and, in truth, with no little shame at thinking that he had
taken no steps to follow her. "Where are they? There's no address
to the note."
Dobbin knew. He had not merely sent the piano; but had written a
note to Mrs. Sedley, and asked permission to come and see her--and
he had seen her, and Amelia too, yesterday, before he came down to
Chatham; and, what is more, he had brought that farewell letter and
packet which had so moved them.
The good-natured fellow had found Mrs. Sedley only too willing to
receive him, and greatly agitated by the arrival of the piano,
which, as she conjectured, MUST have come from George, and was a
signal of amity on his part. Captain Dobbin did not correct this
error of the worthy lady, but listened to all her story of
complaints and misfortunes with great sympathy--condoled with her
losses and privations, and agreed in reprehending the cruel conduct
of Mr. Osborne towards his first benefactor. When she had eased her
overflowing bosom somewhat, and poured forth many of her sorrows, he
had the courage to ask actually to see Amelia, who was above in her
room as usual, and whom her mother led trembling downstairs.
Her appearance was so ghastly, and her look of despair so pathetic,
that honest William Dobbin was frightened as he beheld it; and read
the most fatal forebodings in that pale fixed face. After sitting
in his company a minute or two, she put the packet into his hand,
and said, "Take this to Captain Osborne, if you please, and--and I
hope he's quite well--and it was very kind of you to come and see
us--and we like our new house very much. And I--I think I'll go
upstairs, Mamma, for I'm not very strong." And with this, and a
curtsey and a smile, the poor child went her way. The mother, as
she led her up, cast back looks of anguish towards Dobbin. The good
fellow wanted no such appeal. He loved her himself too fondly for
that. Inexpressible grief, and pity, and terror pursued him, and he
came away as if he was a criminal after seeing her.
When Osborne heard that his friend had found her, he made hot and
anxious inquiries regarding the poor child. How was she? How did
she look? What did she say? His comrade took his hand, and looked
him in the face.
"George, she's dying," William Dobbin said--and could speak no more.
There was a buxom Irish servant-girl, who performed all the duties
of the little house where the Sedley family had found refuge: and
this girl had in vain, on many previous days, striven to give Amelia
aid or consolation. Emmy was much too sad to answer, or even to be
aware of the attempts the other was making in her favour.
Four hours after the talk between Dobbin and Osborne, this servant-
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