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Chapter 18
Who Played on the Piano Captain Dobbin Bought
Our surprised story now finds itself for a moment among very famous events and
personages, and hanging on to the skirts of history. When the eagles of Napoleon
Bonaparte, the Corsican upstart, were flying from Provence, where they had perched after
a brief sojourn in Elba, and from steeple to steeple until they reached the towers of Notre
Dame, I wonder whether the Imperial birds had any eye for a little corner of the parish of
Bloomsbury, London, which you might have thought so quiet, that even the whirring and
flapping of those mighty wings would pass unobserved there?
"Napoleon has landed at Cannes." Such news might create a panic at Vienna, and cause
Russia to drop his cards, and take Prussia into a corner, and Talleyrand and Metternich to
wag their heads together, while Prince Hardenberg, and even the present Marquis of
Londonderry, were puzzled; but how was this intelligence to affect a young lady in
Russell Square, before whose door the watchman sang the hours when she was asleep:
who, if she strolled in the square, was guarded there by the railings and the beadle: who,
if she walked ever so short a distance to buy a ribbon in Southampton Row, was followed
by Black Sambo with an enormous cane: who was always cared for, dressed, put to bed,
and watched over by ever so many guardian angels, with and without wages? Bon Dieu, I
say, is it not hard that the fateful rush of the great Imperial struggle can't take place
without affecting a poor little harmless girl of eighteen, who is occupied in billing and
cooing, or working muslin collars in Russell Square? You too, kindly, homely flower!--is
the great roaring war tempest coming to sweep you down, here, although cowering under
the shelter of Holborn? Yes; Napoleon is flinging his last stake, and poor little Emmy
Sedley's happiness forms, somehow, part of it.
In the first place, her father's fortune was swept down with that fatal news. All his
speculations had of late gone wrong with the luckless old gentleman. Ventures had failed;
merchants had broken; funds had risen when he calculated they would fall. What need to
particularize? If success is rare and slow, everybody knows how quick and easy ruin is.
Old Sedley had kept his own sad counsel. Everything seemed to go on as usual in the
quiet, opulent house; the good-natured mistress pursuing, quite unsuspiciously, her
bustling idleness, and daily easy avocations; the daughter absorbed still in one selfish,
tender thought, and quite regardless of all the world besides, when that final crash came,
under which the worthy family fell.
One night Mrs. Sedley was writing cards for a party; the Osbornes had given one, and she
must not be behindhand; John Sedley, who had come home very late from the City, sate
silent at the chimney side, while his wife was prattling to him; Emmy had gone up to her
room ailing and low-spirited. "She's not happy," the mother went on. "George Osborne
neglects her. I've no patience with the airs of those people. The girls have not been in the
house these three weeks; and George has been twice in town without coming. Edward
Dale saw him at the Opera. Edward would marry her I'm sure: and there's Captain