Vanity Fair



I Chiswick Mall While the present century was in its teens, and on one sunshiny morning in June, there drov e up to the great iron gate of Miss Pinkerton?s academy for young ladies, on Chiswick Mall, a large fa mily coach, with two fat horses in blazing harness, driven by a fat coachman in a three- cornered hat and wig, at the ra te of four miles an hour. A black servant, who reposed on the box beside the fat coachman, uncurled his bandy legs as soon as the equipage drew up opposite Miss Pinkerton?s shining brass plate, and as he pulled the bell at least a score of young heads were seen peering out of the narro w windows of the stately old brick house. Nay, the acute observer might have recognized the little red nose of good-natured Miss Jemima Pinkerton herself, rising over some geranium pots in the window of that lady?s own drawing-room. ?It is Mrs. Sedley?s coach, si ster,? said Miss Je mima. ?Sambo, the black servant, has just rung the bell; and the coach man h as a new red waistcoa t.? ?Have you completed all th e necessary prepa rations incident to Miss Sedley?s depa rture, Miss Jemi ma?? asked Miss Pinkerton herself, that majestic lady; the Semiramis of 5 of 1396 Vanity Fair Hammersmi th, the fri end of Doctor Jo hn son, the correspondent of Mrs. Chapone herself. ?The girls were up at four this morning, packing her trunks, sister,? replied Miss Je mima; ?we have m ade her a bow-pot.? ?Say a bouquet, sister Jemima, ?tis more genteel.? ?Well, a booky as big almost as a haystack; I have put up two bottles of the gillyflower water for Mrs. Sedley, and the receipt for making it, in Amelia?s box.? ?And I trust, Miss Jemi ma, you h ave made a copy of Miss Sedley?s accou nt. This is it, is it? Very good?ninety- three pounds, four shillings. Be kind enough to address it to John Sedley, Esquire, and to seal this billet which I have written to his lady.? In Miss Jemima?s eyes a n aut ograph letter of her sister, Miss Pinkerton, was an object of as deep veneration as would have been a letter from a sovereign. Only when her pupils quitte d the establishment, or when they were about to be married, and once, when poor Miss Bir ch died of the scarlet f ever, was Miss Pinkerton kn own to write personally to the parents of her pupils ; and it was Jemima?s opinion that if anything could consol e Mrs. Birch for her daughter?s loss, it would be that pious and eloquent 6 of 1396 Vanity Fair composition in which Miss Pinkerton announced the event. In the present instance Miss Pinkerton?s ?billet? was to the following effect:? The Mall, Chiswick, June 15, 18 MADAM,?After her six years? residence at the Mall, I have the honour and happiness of p resenting Miss Ameli a Sedley to her parents, as a young lady not unworthy to occupy a fitting position in their polished and refined circle. Those virtues which characterize the young English gentlewoman, those accomplishments which become her birth and station, will not be found wanting in the amiable Miss Sedley, whose INDUSTRY an d OBEDIENCE have endeared h er to her instruc tors, and whose delightful sweetness o f temper has charmed her AGED and her YOUTHFUL compani ons. In music, in dancing, in or thography, in every variety of embroidery and needlework, she will be found to have realized her friends? fondest wishes. In geography there is still much to be desired; and a careful and undeviating use of the back board, for four hours d aily during the next three y ears, is reco mmended as necessary to the acquirement of that dignified DEPORTMENT AND 7 of 1396 Vanity Fair CARRIAG E, so requ isite for e very young lady of FASHION. In the princ iples of religion and morality, Miss Sedley will be found worthy of an establishment which has been honoured by the presence of THE GREAT LEXICOGRAPHER, and the patronage of the admirable Mrs. Chapone. In leaving the Mall, Miss Amelia carries with her the hearts of her compani ons, and the affectionate regards of her mistress, who has the honour to subscribe herself, Madam, Your most obliged humble servant, BARBARA PINKERTON P.S.?Miss Sharp accompanies Miss Sedley. It is particularly requested that Mi ss S harp?s stay in Russell Square may not exceed ten days . The family of d istinction with whom she is enga ged, desire t o avail themselves of her services as soon as possible. This letter completed, Miss Pinkerton proceeded to write her own name, and Miss Sedley?s, in the fly-leaf of a Johnson?s Dictionary? the interesting work which she invariably presented to her scholars, on their departure from the Mall. On the cover wa s inserted a copy of ?Lines addressed to a young lady on quitting Miss Pinkerton?s school, at the Mall; by the late revered Doctor Samuel 8 of 1396 Vanity Fair Johnson.? In fact, the Le xicographer?s name was always on the lips of this majestic woman, and a visit he had paid to her was the cause of her rep utation and her fortune. Being commanded by her elder sister to get ?the Dictionary? from the cup board, Miss Jemima had extracted two copies of the book from the receptacle in question. When Miss Pinkerton had finished the inscription in the first, Jemima, with rather a dubious and timid air, handed her the second. ?For whom is this, Miss Jemima?? sai d Miss Pink erton, with awful coldness. ?For Becky Sharp,? answered Jemi ma, trembling very much, and blushing over her withered face and neck, as she turned her back on her sister. ?For Becky Sharp: she?s going too.? ?MISS JEMIMA!? exclaimed Miss Pinkerton, in the largest capitals. ?Are yo u in your senses? Replace the Dixonary in the closet, and never venture to take such a liberty in future.? ?Well, sister, it?s only two-and-ninepence, and poor Becky will be miserable if she don?t get one.? ?Send Miss Sedley instantly to me,? sai d Miss Pink erton. And so venturing not to say another word, poor Jemima trotted off, exceedingly flurried and nervous. 9 of 1396 Vanity Fair Miss Sedley?s papa was a merchant in London, and a man of some wealth; whereas Miss Sharp was an articled pupil, for w hom Miss Pi nkerton had done, as she thought, quite enough, without conferring up on her at parting the high honour of the Dixonary. Although schoolmistresses? letters are to be trusted no more nor less than churchyard epitaphs; yet, as it sometimes h appens tha t a person departs thi s lif e who i s really deserving of all the prai ses the stone cutter carves over his bones; who IS a good Christian, a good parent, child, wife, or husband; who actually DOES leave a disconsolate family to mourn hi s l oss; so in academies of the male an d female sex it occurs ev ery now and then that the pupil is fully worthy of the praises bestowe d by the disinterested instructor. Now, Miss Amelia Sedley was a young lady of this singular species; and deserved not only all that Miss Pinkerton said in her praise, but had many charming q ualities whi ch that pomp ous old Minerva of a woman coul d not see, from the diffe rences of rank and age between her pupil and herself. For she could not only sing like a lark, or a Mrs. Billington, and dance like Hillisberg or Pa risot; and embroider beautifully; and spell as well as a Dixonary itself; but she had such a kin dly, smiling, tender, gentle, 10 of 1396 Vanity Fair generous heart of her own, as won the love of everybody who came near her, from Minerva herself down to the poor girl in the scullery, and the one-eyed tart-woman?s daughter, who was permitted to v end her wares once a week to the young ladies in the Mall. She had twelve intimate and bosom frie nds out of the twenty-four young ladies. Even envious Miss Briggs never spoke ill of her; high and mighty Miss S altire (Lor d Dexter?s granddaughter) allowed that her figure was genteel; and as for Miss Sw artz, the rich woolly-ha ired mulatto from St. Kitt?s, on th e day Amelia went awa y, she was i n such a passion of tears that they were obliged to send for Dr. Floss, and half tipsify her with salvolatile. Miss Pinkerton?s atta chment was, as ma y be supposed from the high position and eminent virtue s of that lady, calm and dignified; but Miss Jemima had already whimpered several times at the idea of Amelia?s de partur e; and, but for fear of her sister, would have gone off in d ownright hy sterics, like the heiress (who paid double) of St. Kitt?s. Such luxury of grief, however, is only allowed to parlour-boarders. Honest Jemima had all the bills , and the washing, and the mending, and the puddings, and the plate and crockery, and the servants to superintend. But why speak about her? It is probable that we shall not hear of her again from thi s 11 of 1396 Vanity Fair moment to the end o f time, a nd that when the great filigree i ron gates are once closed on her, she and her awful sister will never is sue therefrom into this little world of history. But as we are to see a g reat deal of Amelia, there is no harm in saying, at the outset of our acquaintance , that she was a dear little creature; and a great mercy it is, both in life and in novels, which (and the latter especially ) abound in villains of the most sombre sort, that we are t o have for a constant compani on so guileless and good-natured a person. As she is not a heroine, there is no need to describe her person; indeed I am afraid that her nose was rather short than otherwise, and her cheeks a great deal too round and red for a heroine; but her face blushed with rosy health, and her lips with the freshest of smile s, and she had a pair of eyes which sparkled with the brightest and honestest good-humour, except ind eed when they filled with tears, and that was a great deal too often; for the silly thing would cry over a dead canary-bird; or over a mouse, that the cat haply had se ized upon; or over the end of a novel, were it ever so stupid; and as for saying an unkind word to her, were any persons hard-hearted enough to do so?why, so much th e worse for them. Even Miss Pinkerton, that austere and godli ke woman, ceased 12 of 1396 Vanity Fair scolding her after the first time, and though she no more comprehended sensibility than sh e did Algebra, gave all masters and teachers particular orders to treat Mi ss Sedley with the utmo st gen tleness, as harsh treatment was injurious to her. So that when the day of departure came, between her two customs of laughi ng and crying, Miss Sedley was greatly puzzled how to act. Sh e was glad to go home, and yet most woefully sad at leaving school. For three days before, little Laura Marti n, th e orphan, followed her about like a little dog. She had to make and receive at least fourteen presents?to make fourteen solemn promises of writing every week: ?Send my letters under cover to my grandpapa, the Earl of Dexter,? said Miss Saltire (who, by the way, wa s rather shab by). ?Never mind the po stage, but write every day, you dear da rling,? said the impetuous and woolly-headed, but generous and affectionate Miss Swartz; and the orphan little Laura Martin (w ho was just i n round- hand), took her friend?s hand and sai d, looking up in her face wistfully, ?Amelia, when I write to you I shall call you Mamma.? All which details, I have no doubt, JONES, who reads this book at his Club, will pronounce to be excessively foolish, trivial, twaddling, and ultra- sentimental. Yes; I can see Jones at thi s min ute (rather 13 of 1396 Vanity Fair flushed with his joint of mutton and half pint of wine), taking out his pencil and scoring und er the words ?foolish, twaddling,? &c., and adding to the m his own remark of ?QUITE TRUE.? Well, he is a lofty man of genius, and admires the great and heroic in life and novels; and so had better take warning and go elsewhere. Well, then. The flowe rs, and the presents, and the trunks, and bonnet-boxes of Miss Sedley having been arranged by Mr. Sambo in the carriage, together with a very small and weather-beaten old cow?s- skin tr unk with Miss Sharp?s card neatly nailed u pon it, which was delivered by Sambo with a grin, and packed by the coachman with a cor responding sneer?the hour for parting ca me; and the grief of that mo ment was considerably lessened by the admirable discourse which Miss Pinkerton addressed to her pupil. Not that the parting speech caused Amelia to philosophise, or that it armed her in any way with a cal mness, the result of argument; but it was intolerably dull, pompous, and tedious; and having the fear of her school mistress greatly before her eyes, Miss Sedley did not venture, in her presence, to give way to any ebullitions of private grief. A seed-cake and a bottle of wine were p roduced in the drawing-room, as on the solemn occasions o f the visits of 14 of 1396 Vanity Fair parents, and these refreshments being partaken of, Miss Sedley was a t liberty to depart. ?You?ll go in and say good-by to Miss Pinkerton, Becky!? said Miss Jemima to a y oung lady of whom nobody took any notice , and who was comi ng downstair s with her own bandbox. ?I suppose I must,? said Miss Sharp calmly, and much to the wonder of Miss Jemi ma; and the latter having knocked at the d oor, and receiving permissi on to co me in, Mi ss Sharp advanced in a very unconcerned manner, and said i n French, and with a perfect accent, ? M ademoisell e, je viens vous faire mes adieux.? Miss Pinkerton did not understand French; she only directed those who did: but biting her lips and throwing up her venerable and Roman-nosed head (on the top of which figured a large a nd solemn turban), she said, ?Miss Sharp, I wis h you a goo d morning.? As the Hammersmith Semiramis spoke, she waved one hand, both by way of adieu, and to give Miss Sharp an opportunity of shaking one of the fingers of the hand which was left out for that purpose. Miss Sharp only folded her own hands with a very frigid smile and bow, and quite declined to accept the proffered honour; on which Semiramis tossed up her 15 of 1396 Vanity Fair turban more indignantly than ever. In fact, it was a little battle between the young lady and t he old one, and the latter was worsted. ?Heaven bless yo u, my child,? said she, embracing Amelia, and scowling th e while over the girl?s shoulder at Miss Sharp. ?Come away, Becky,? said Miss Jemima, pul ling the young woman away in great alarm, and the drawing-room door closed upon them for ev er. Then came the struggle and parting below. Words refuse to tell it. All the servants were there in the hall?all the dear friend?all the young ladies?the danci ng-master who had just arrived; an d there was such a scuffling, and hugging, and kissing, and crying, with the hysterical YOOPS of Miss Swartz, the parlour-boarder, from her room, as no pen can depict, and as the tender heart would fain pass over. The embracing was over; they parted?that is, Miss Sedley parted f rom her friends. Miss Sharp had demurely entered the carriage some minutes before. Nobody cried for leaving HER. Sambo of the bandy legs slammed the carriage door on his young weeping mistress. He sprang up behind the carriage. ?St op!? cried Miss Jemima, rushing to the gate with a parcel. ?It?s some sandwiches, my dear,? s aid she to Amelia. ?You may b e hungry, you know; and Becky, Becky Sharp, 16 of 1396 Vanity Fair here?s a book for you that my sister?that is, I ? Johnson?s Dixonary, you know; y ou mustn?t l eave us without that. Good-by. Drive on, coachman. God bless you!? And the kind creature retre ated into the garden, overcome with emotion. But, lo! and just as the coach drove off, Miss Sharp put her pale face out of the window and actually flung the book back into the garden. This almost caused Jemima to faint with terror. ?Well, I never?? s aid she??what an audacious?? Emotion prevented her from comple ting either sentence. The carriage roll ed away; the great gates were closed; the bell rang for the dancing lesson. The w orld is before the two young ladies; and so, farewell to Chiswick Mall. 17 of 1396 Vanity Fair

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