Vanity Fair By William Makepeace Thackeray Chapters 8-11

CHAPTER 8

Private and Confidential

Miss Rebecca Sharp to Miss Amelia Sedley, Russell Square, London. (Free. — Pitt Crawley.)

MY DEAREST, SWEETEST AMELIA,

With what mingled joy and sorrow do I take up the pen to write to my dearest friend! Oh, what a change between to-day and yesterday! Now I am friendless and alone; yesterday I was at home, in the sweet company of a sister, whom I shall ever, ever cherish!

I will not tell you in what tears and sadness I passed the fatal night in which I separated from you. YOU went on Tuesday to joy and happiness, with your mother and YOUR DEVOTED YOUNG SOLDIER by your side; and I thought of you all night, dancing at the Perkins's, the prettiest, I am sure, of all the young ladies at the Ball. I was brought by the groom in the old carriage to Sir Pitt Crawley's town house, where, after John the groom had behaved most rudely and insolently to me (alas! 'twas safe to insult poverty and misfortune!), I was given over to Sir P.'s care, and made to pass the night in an old gloomy bed, and by the side of a horrid gloomy old charwoman, who keeps the house. I did not sleep one single wink the whole night.

Sir Pitt is not what we silly girls, when we used to read Cecilia at Chiswick, imagined a baronet must have been. Anything, indeed, less like Lord Orville cannot be imagined. Fancy an old, stumpy, short, vulgar, and very dirty man, in old clothes and shabby old gaiters, who smokes a horrid pipe, and cooks his own horrid supper in a saucepan. He speaks with a country accent, and swore a great deal at the old charwoman, at the hackney coachman who drove us to the inn where the coach went from, and on which I made the journey OUTSIDE FOR THE GREATER PART OF THE WAY.

I was awakened at daybreak by the charwoman, and having arrived at the inn, was at first placed inside the coach. But, when we got to a place called Leakington, where the rain began to fall very heavily — will you believe it? — I was forced to come outside; for Sir Pitt is a proprietor of the coach, and as a passenger came at Mudbury, who wanted an inside place, I was obliged to go outside in the rain, where, however, a young gentleman from Cambridge College sheltered me very kindly in one of his several great coats.

This gentleman and the guard seemed to know Sir Pitt very well, and laughed at him a great deal. They both agreed in calling him an old screw; which means a very stingy, avaricious person. He never gives any money to anybody, they said (and this meanness I hate); and the young gentleman made me remark that we drove very slow for the last two stages on the road, because Sir Pitt was on the box, and because he is proprietor of the horses for this part of the journey. "But won't I flog 'em on to Squashmore, when I take the ribbons?" said the young Cantab. "And sarve 'em right, Master Jack," said the guard. When I comprehended the meaning of this phrase, and that Master Jack intended to drive the rest of the way, and revenge himself on Sir Pitt's horses, of course I laughed too.

A carriage and four splendid horses, covered with armorial bearings, however, awaited us at Mudbury, four miles from Queen's Crawley, and we made our entrance to the baronet's park in state. There is a fine avenue of a mile long leading to the house, and the woman at the lodge-gate (over the pillars of which are a serpent and a dove, the supporters of the Crawley arms), made us a number of curtsies as she flung open the old iron carved doors, which are something like those at odious Chiswick.

"There's an avenue," said Sir Pitt, "a mile long. There's six thousand pound of timber in them there trees. Do you call that nothing?" He pronounced avenue — EVENUE, and nothing — NOTHINK, so droll; and he had a Mr. Hodson, his hind from Mudbury, into the carriage with him, and they talked about distraining, and selling up, and draining and subsoiling, and a great deal about tenants and farming — much more than I could understand. Sam Miles had been caught poaching, and Peter Bailey had gone to the workhouse at last. "Serve him right," said Sir Pitt; "him and his family has been cheating me on that farm these hundred and fifty years." Some old tenant, I suppose, who could not pay his rent. Sir Pitt might have said "he and his family," to be sure; but rich baronets do not need to be careful about grammar, as poor governesses must be.

As we passed, I remarked a beautiful church-spire rising above some old elms in the park; and before them, in the midst of a lawn, and some outhouses, an old red house with tall chimneys covered with ivy, and the windows shining in the sun. "Is that your church, sir?" I said.

"Yes, hang it," (said Sir Pitt, only he used, dear, A MUCH WICKEDER WORD); "how's Buty, Hodson? Buty's my brother Bute, my dear — my brother the parson. Buty and the Beast I call him, ha, ha!"

Hodson laughed too, and then looking more grave and nodding his head, said, "I'm afraid he's better, Sir Pitt. He was out on his pony yesterday, looking at our corn."

"Looking after his tithes, hang'un (only he used the same wicked word). Will brandy and water never kill him? He's as tough as old whatdyecallum — old Methusalem."

Mr. Hodson laughed again. "The young men is home from college. They've whopped John Scroggins till he's well nigh dead."

"Whop my second keeper!" roared out Sir Pitt.

"He was on the parson's ground, sir," replied Mr. Hodson; and Sir Pitt in a fury swore that if he ever caught 'em poaching on his ground, he'd transport 'em, by the lord he would. However, he said, "I've sold the presentation of the living, Hodson; none of that breed shall get it, I war'nt"; and Mr. Hodson said he was quite right: and I have no doubt from this that the two brothers are at variance — as brothers often are, and sisters too. Don't you remember the two Miss Scratchleys at Chiswick, how they used always to fight and quarrel — and Mary Box, how she was always thumping Louisa?

Presently, seeing two little boys gathering sticks in the wood, Mr. Hodson jumped out of the carriage, at Sir Pitt's order, and rushed upon them with his whip. "Pitch into 'em, Hodson," roared the baronet; "flog their little souls out, and bring 'em up to the house, the vagabonds; I'll commit 'em as sure as my name's Pitt." And presently we heard Mr. Hodson's whip cracking on the shoulders of the poor little blubbering wretches, and Sir Pitt, seeing that the malefactors were in custody, drove on to the hall.

All the servants were ready to meet us, and . . .

Here, my dear, I was interrupted last night by a dreadful thumping at my door: and who do you think it was? Sir Pitt Crawley in his night-cap and dressing-gown, such a figure! As I shrank away from such a visitor, he came forward and seized my candle. "No candles after eleven o'clock, Miss Becky," said he. "Go to bed in the dark, you pretty little hussy" (that is what he called me), "and unless you wish me to come for the candle every night, mind and be in bed at eleven." And with this, he and Mr. Horrocks the butler went off laughing. You may be sure I shall not encourage any more of their visits. They let loose two immense bloodhounds at night, which all last night were yelling and howling at the moon. "I call the dog Gorer," said Sir Pitt; "he's killed a man that dog has, and is master of a bull, and the mother I used to call Flora; but now I calls her Aroarer, for she's too old to bite. Haw, haw!"

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