Vanity Fair HTML version

Chapter 1
Chiswick Mall
While the present century was in its teens, and on one sunshiny morning in June, there
drove up to the great iron gate of Miss Pinkerton's academy for young ladies, on
Chiswick Mall, a large family coach, with two fat horses in blazing harness, driven by a
fat coachman in a three-cornered hat and wig, at the rate of four miles an hour. A black
servant, who reposed on the box beside the fat coachman, uncurled his bandy legs as
soon as the equipage drew up opposite Miss Pinkerton's shining brass plate, and as he
pulled the bell at least a score of young heads were seen peering out of the narrow
windows of the stately old brick house. Nay, the acute observer might have recognized
the little red nose of good-natured Miss Jemima Pinkerton herself, rising over some
geranium pots in the window of that lady's own drawing-room.
"It is Mrs. Sedley's coach, sister," said Miss Jemima. "Sambo, the black servant, has just
rung the bell; and the coachman has a new red waistcoat."
"Have you completed all the necessary preparations incident to Miss Sedley's departure,
Miss Jemima?" asked Miss Pinkerton herself, that majestic lady; the Semiramis of
Hammersmith, the friend of Doctor Johnson, the correspondent of Mrs. Chapone herself.
"The girls were up at four this morning, packing her trunks, sister," replied Miss Jemima;
"we have made her a bow-pot."
"Say a bouquet, sister Jemima, 'tis more genteel."
"Well, a booky as big almost as a haystack; I have put up two bottles of the gillyflower
water for Mrs. Sedley, and the receipt for making it, in Amelia's box."
"And I trust, Miss Jemima, you have made a copy of Miss Sedley's account. This is it, is
it? Very good--ninety-three pounds, four shillings. Be kind enough to address it to John
Sedley, Esquire, and to seal this billet which I have written to his lady."
In Miss Jemima's eyes an autograph letter of her sister, Miss Pinkerton, was an object of
as deep veneration as would have been a letter from a sovereign. Only when her pupils
quitted the establishment, or when they were about to be married, and once, when poor
Miss Birch died of the scarlet fever, was Miss Pinkerton known to write personally to the
parents of her pupils; and it was Jemima's opinion that if anything could console Mrs.
Birch for her daughter's loss, it would be that pious and eloquent composition in which
Miss Pinkerton announced the event.
In the present instance Miss Pinkerton's "billet" was to the following effect:--
The Mall, Chiswick, June 15, 18