"Order Mr. Jos's elephant, Sambo!" cried the father. "Send to Exeter 'Change, Sambo"; but seeing Jos ready almost to cry with vexation, the old joker stopped his laughter, and said, holding out his hand to his son, "It's all fair on the Stock Exchange, Jos — and, Sambo, never mind the elephant, but give me and Mr. Jos a glass of Champagne. Boney himself hasn't got such in his cellar, my boy!"
A goblet of Champagne restored Joseph's equanimity, and before the bottle was emptied, of which as an invalid he took two-thirds, he had agreed to take the young ladies to Vauxhall.
"The girls must have a gentleman apiece," said the old gentleman. "Jos will be sure to leave Emmy in the crowd, he will be so taken up with Miss Sharp here. Send to 96, and ask George Osborne if he'll come."
At this, I don't know in the least for what reason, Mrs. Sedley looked at her husband and laughed. Mr. Sedley's eyes twinkled in a manner indescribably roguish, and he looked at Amelia; and Amelia, hanging down her head, blushed as only young ladies of seventeen know how to blush, and as Miss Rebecca Sharp never blushed in her life — at least not since she was eight years old, and when she was caught stealing jam out of a cupboard by her godmother. "Amelia had better write a note," said her father; "and let George Osborne see what a beautiful handwriting we have brought back from Miss Pinkerton's. Do you remember when you wrote to him to come on Twelfth-night, Emmy, and spelt twelfth without the f?"
"That was years ago," said Amelia.
"It seems like yesterday, don't it, John?" said Mrs. Sedley to her husband; and that night in a conversation which took place in a front room in the second floor, in a sort of tent, hung round with chintz of a rich and fantastic India pattern, and double with calico of a tender rose-colour; in the interior of which species of marquee was a featherbed, on which were two pillows, on which were two round red faces, one in a laced nightcap, and one in a simple cotton one, ending in a tassel — in a CURTAIN LECTURE, I say, Mrs. Sedley took her husband to task for his cruel conduct to poor Joe.
"It was quite wicked of you, Mr. Sedley," said she, "to torment the poor boy so."
"My dear," said the cotton-tassel in defence of his conduct, "Jos is a great deal vainer than you ever were in your life, and that's saying a good deal. Though, some thirty years ago, in the year seventeen hundred and eighty — what was it? — perhaps you had a right to be vain — I don't say no. But I've no patience with Jos and his dandified modesty. It is out-Josephing Joseph, my dear, and all the while the boy is only thinking of himself, and what a fine fellow he is. I doubt, Ma'am, we shall have some trouble with him yet. Here is Emmy's little friend making love to him as hard as she can; that's quite clear; and if she does not catch him some other will. That man is destined to be a prey to woman, as I am to go on 'Change every day. It's a mercy he did not bring us over a black daughter- in-law, my dear. But, mark my words, the first woman who fishes for him, hooks him."
"She shall go off to-morrow, the little artful creature," said Mrs. Sedley, with great energy.
"Why not she as well as another, Mrs. Sedley? The girl's a white face at any rate. I don't care who marries him. Let Joe please himself."
And presently the voices of the two speakers were hushed, or were replaced by the gentle but unromantic music of the nose; and save when the church bells tolled the hour and the watchman called it, all was silent at the house of John Sedley, Esquire, of Russell Square, and the Stock Exchange.
When morning came, the good-natured Mrs. Sedley no longer thought of executing her threats with regard to Miss Sharp; for though nothing is more keen, nor more common, nor more justifiable, than maternal jealousy, yet she could not bring herself to suppose that the little, humble, grateful, gentle governess would dare to look up to such a magnificent personage as the Collector of Boggley Wollah. The petition, too, for an extension of the young lady's leave of absence had already been despatched, and it would be difficult to find a pretext for abruptly dismissing her.
And as if all things conspired in favour of the gentle Rebecca, the very elements (although she was not inclined at first to acknowledge their action in her behalf) interposed to aid her. For on the evening appointed for the Vauxhall party, George Osborne having come to dinner, and the elders of the house having departed, according to invitation, to dine with Alderman Balls at Highbury Barn, there came on such a thunder-storm as only happens on Vauxhall nights, and as obliged the young people, perforce, to remain at home. Mr. Osborne did not seem in the least disappointed at this occurrence. He and Joseph Sedley drank a fitting quantity of port-wine, tete-a-tete, in the dining-room, during the drinking of which Sedley told a number of his best Indian stories; for he was extremely talkative in man's society; and afterwards Miss Amelia Sedley did the honours of the drawing-room; and these four young persons passed such a comfortable evening together, that they declared they were rather glad of the thunder-storm than otherwise, which had caused them to put off their visit to Vauxhall.
Osborne was Sedley's godson, and had been one of the family any time these three-and-twenty years. At six weeks old, he had received from John Sedley a present of a silver cup; at six months old, a coral with gold whistle and bells; from his youth upwards he was "tipped" regularly by the old gentleman at Christmas: and on going back to school, he remembered perfectly well being thrashed by Joseph Sedley, when the latter was a big, swaggering hobbadyhoy, and George an impudent urchin of ten years old. In a word, George was as familiar with the family as such daily acts of kindness and intercourse could make him.
"Do you remember, Sedley, what a fury you were in, when I cut off the tassels of your Hessian boots, and how Miss — hem! — how Amelia rescued me from a beating, by falling down on her knees and crying out to her brother Jos, not to beat little George?"
Jos remembered this remarkable circumstance perfectly well, but vowed that he had totally forgotten it.
"Well, do you remember coming down in a gig to Dr. Swishtail's to see me, before you went to India, and giving me half a guinea and a pat on the head? I always had an idea that you were at least seven feet high, and was quite astonished at your return from India to find you no taller than myself."
"How good of Mr. Sedley to go to your school and give you the money!" exclaimed Rebecca, in accents of extreme delight.
"Yes, and after I had cut the tassels of his boots too. Boys never forget those tips at school, nor the givers."
"I delight in Hessian boots," said Rebecca. Jos Sedley, who admired his own legs prodigiously, and always wore this ornamental chaussure, was extremely pleased at this remark, though he drew his legs under his chair as it was made.