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