Vanity Fair By William Makepeace Thackeray Chapters 57-60

Old Sedley was seated on a bench, his handkerchief placed over his knees, prattling away, according to his wont, with some old story about old times to which Amelia had listened and awarded a patient smile many a time before. She could of late think of her own affairs, and smile or make other marks of recognition of her father's stories, scarcely hearing a word of the old man's tales. As Mary came bouncing along, and Amelia caught sight of her, she started up from her bench. Her first thought was that something had happened to Georgy, but the sight of the messenger's eager and happy face dissipated that fear in the timorous mother's bosom.

"News! News!" cried the emissary of Major Dobbin. "He's come! He's come!"

"Who is come?" said Emmy, still thinking of her son.

"Look there," answered Miss Clapp, turning round and pointing; in which direction Amelia looking, saw Dobbin's lean figure and long shadow stalking across the grass. Amelia started in her turn, blushed up, and, of course, began to cry. At all this simple little creature's fetes, the grandes eaux were accustomed to play. He looked at her — oh, how fondly — as she came running towards him, her hands before her, ready to give them to him. She wasn't changed. She was a little pale, a little stouter in figure. Her eyes were the same, the kind trustful eyes. There were scarce three lines of silver in her soft brown hair. She gave him both her hands as she looked up flushing and smiling through her tears into his honest homely face. He took the two little hands between his two and held them there. He was speechless for a moment. Why did he not take her in his arms and swear that he would never leave her? She must have yielded: she could not but have obeyed him.

"I — I've another arrival to announce," he said after a pause.

"Mrs. Dobbin?" Amelia said, making a movement back — why didn't he speak?

"No," he said, letting her hands go: "Who has told you those lies? I mean, your brother Jos came in the same ship with me, and is come home to make you all happy."

"Papa, Papa!" Emmy cried out, "here are news! My brother is in England. He is come to take care of you. Here is Major Dobbin."

Mr. Sedley started up, shaking a great deal and gathering up his thoughts. Then he stepped forward and made an old-fashioned bow to the Major, whom he called Mr. Dobbin, and hoped his worthy father, Sir William, was quite well. He proposed to call upon Sir William, who had done him the honour of a visit a short time ago. Sir William had not called upon the old gentleman for eight years — it was that visit he was thinking of returning.

"He is very much shaken," Emmy whispered as Dobbin went up and cordially shook hands with the old man.

Although he had such particular business in London that evening, the Major consented to forego it upon Mr. Sedley's invitation to him to come home and partake of tea. Amelia put her arm under that of her young friend with the yellow shawl and headed the party on their return homewards, so that Mr. Sedley fell to Dobbin's share. The old man walked very slowly and told a number of ancient histories about himself and his poor Bessy, his former prosperity, and his bankruptcy. His thoughts, as is usual with failing old men, were quite in former times. The present, with the exception of the one catastrophe which he felt, he knew little about. The Major was glad to let him talk on. His eyes were fixed upon the figure in front of him — the dear little figure always present to his imagination and in his prayers, and visiting his dreams wakeful or slumbering.

Amelia was very happy, smiling, and active all that evening, performing her duties as hostess of the little entertainment with the utmost grace and propriety, as Dobbin thought. His eyes followed her about as they sat in the twilight. How many a time had he longed for that moment and thought of her far away under hot winds and in weary marches, gentle and happy, kindly ministering to the wants of old age, and decorating poverty with sweet submission — as he saw her now. I do not say that his taste was the highest, or that it is the duty of great intellects to be content with a bread- and-butter paradise, such as sufficed our simple old friend; but his desires were of this sort, whether for good or bad, and, with Amelia to help him, he was as ready to drink as many cups of tea as Doctor Johnson.

Amelia seeing this propensity, laughingly encouraged it and looked exceedingly roguish as she administered to him cup after cup. It is true she did not know that the Major had had no dinner and that the cloth was laid for him at the Slaughters', and a plate laid thereon to mark that the table was retained, in that very box in which the Major and George had sat many a time carousing, when she was a child just come home from Miss Pinkerton's school.

The first thing Mrs. Osborne showed the Major was Georgy's miniature, for which she ran upstairs on her arrival at home. It was not half handsome enough of course for the boy, but wasn't it noble of him to think of bringing it to his mother? Whilst her papa was awake she did not talk much about Georgy. To hear about Mr. Osborne and Russell Square was not agreeable to the old man, who very likely was unconscious that he had been living for some months past mainly on the bounty of his richer rival, and lost his temper if allusion was made to the other.

Dobbin told him all, and a little more perhaps than all, that had happened on board the Ramchunder, and exaggerated Jos's benevolent dispositions towards his father and resolution to make him comfortable in his old days. The truth is that during the voyage the Major had impressed this duty most strongly upon his fellow- passenger and extorted promises from him that he would take charge of his sister and her child. He soothed Jos's irritation with regard to the bills which the old gentleman had drawn upon him, gave a laughing account of his own sufferings on the same score and of the famous consignment of wine with which the old man had favoured him, and brought Mr. Jos, who was by no means an ill-natured person when well-pleased and moderately flattered, to a very good state of feeling regarding his relatives in Europe.

And in fine I am ashamed to say that the Major stretched the truth so far as to tell old Mr. Sedley that it was mainly a desire to see his parent which brought Jos once more to Europe.

Back to Top

Take the Quiz

Amelia considers George’s death the greatest tragedy that could befall her. Had he lived,




Quiz