Vanity Fair HTML version

Chapter 19
Miss Crawley at Nurse
We have seen how Mrs. Firkin, the lady's maid, as soon as any event of importance to the
Crawley family came to her knowledge, felt bound to communicate it to Mrs. Bute
Crawley, at the Rectory; and have before mentioned how particularly kind and attentive
that good- natured lady was to Miss Crawley's confidential servant. She had been a
gracious friend to Miss Briggs, the companion, also; and had secured the latter's good-
will by a number of those attentions and promises, which cost so little in the making, and
are yet so valuable and agreeable to the recipient. Indeed every good economist and
manager of a household must know how cheap and yet how amiable these professions
are, and what a flavour they give to the most homely dish in life. Who was the blundering
idiot who said that "fine words butter no parsnips"? Half the parsnips of society are
served and rendered palatable with no other sauce. As the immortal Alexis Soyer can
make more delicious soup for a half-penny than an ignorant cook can concoct with
pounds of vegetables and meat, so a skilful artist will make a few simple and pleasing
phrases go farther than ever so much substantial benefit-stock in the hands of a mere
bungler. Nay, we know that substantial benefits often sicken some stomachs; whereas,
most will digest any amount of fine words, and be always eager for more of the same
food. Mrs. Bute had told Briggs and Firkin so often of the depth of her affection for them;
and what she would do, if she had Miss Crawley's fortune, for friends so excellent and
attached, that the ladies in question had the deepest regard for her; and felt as much
gratitude and confidence as if Mrs. Bute had loaded them with the most expensive
Rawdon Crawley, on the other hand, like a selfish heavy dragoon as he was, never took
the least trouble to conciliate his aunt's aides- de-camp, showed his contempt for the pair
with entire frankness-- made Firkin pull off his boots on one occasion--sent her out in the
rain on ignominious messages--and if he gave her a guinea, flung it to her as if it were a
box on the ear. As his aunt, too, made a butt of Briggs, the Captain followed the example,
and levelled his jokes at her--jokes about as delicate as a kick from his charger. Whereas,
Mrs. Bute consulted her in matters of taste or difficulty, admired her poetry, and by a
thousand acts of kindness and politeness, showed her appreciation of Briggs; and if she
made Firkin a twopenny-halfpenny present, accompanied it with so many compliments,
that the twopence-half-penny was transmuted into gold in the heart of the grateful
waiting-maid, who, besides, was looking forwards quite contentedly to some prodigious
benefit which must happen to her on the day when Mrs. Bute came into her fortune.
The different conduct of these two people is pointed out respectfully to the attention of
persons commencing the world. Praise everybody, I say to such: never be squeamish, but
speak out your compliment both point-blank in a man's face, and behind his back, when
you know there is a reasonable chance of his hearing it again. Never lose a chance of
saying a kind word. As Collingwood never saw a vacant place in his estate but he took an