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George Osborne–Rawdon Crawley
by [?]

So with little care and less love his childhood passed until presently he went with his father and mother, Colonel and Mrs. Crawley, to London, to their new home in Curzon Street, Mayfair. There little Rawdon’s time was mostly spent hidden upstairs in a garret somewhere, or crawling below into the kitchen for companionship. His mother scarcely ever took notice of him. He passed the days with his French nurse as long as she remained in the family, and when she went away, a housemaid took compassion on the little fellow, who was howling in the loneliness of the night, and got him out of his solitary nursery into her bed in the garret and comforted him.

Rebecca, her friend, my Lord Steyne, and one or two more were in the drawing-room taking tea after the opera, when this shouting was heard overhead. “It’s my cherub crying for his nurse,” said his mother, who did not offer to move and go and see the child. “Don’t agitate your feelings by going to look after him,” said Lord Steyne sardonically. “Bah!” exclaimed Becky, with a sort of blush. “He’ll cry himself to sleep”; and they fell to talking about the opera.

Mr. Rawdon Crawley had stolen off, however, to look after his son and heir; and came back to the company when he found that honest Dolly was consoling the child. The Colonel’s dressing-room was in those upper regions. He used to see the boy there in private. They had interviews together every morning when he shaved; Rawdon minor sitting on a box by his father’s side, and watching the operation with never-ceasing pleasure. He and the sire were great friends. The father would bring him sweet-meats from the dessert, and hide them in a certain old epaulet box where the child went to seek them, and laughed with joy on discovering the treasure; laughed, but not too loud; for mamma was asleep and must not be disturbed. She did not go to rest until very late, and seldom rose until afternoon.

His father bought the boy plenty of picture books, and crammed his nursery with toys. Its walls were covered with pictures pasted up by the father’s own hand. He passed hours with the boy, who rode on his chest, pulled his great moustaches as if they were driving reins, and spent days with him in indefatigable gambols. The room was a low one, and once, when the child was not five years old, his father, who was tossing him wildly up in his arms, hit the poor little chap’s scull so violently against the ceiling that he almost dropped him, so terrified was he at the disaster.

Rawdon minor had made up his face for a tremendous howl, but just as he was going to begin, the father interposed.

“For God’s sake, Rawdy, don’t wake mamma,” he cried. And the child, looking in a very hard and piteous way at his father, bit his lips, clenched his hands, and didn’t cry a bit. Rawdon told that story at the clubs, at the mess, to everybody in town. “By Gad, sir,” he explained to the public in general, “what a good plucky one that boy of mine is. What a trump he is! I half sent his head through the ceiling, and he wouldn’t cry for fear of disturbing mother!”

Sometimes, once or twice in a week, that lady visited the upper regions in which the child lived. She came like a vivified picture, blandly smiling in the most beautiful new clothes and little gloves and boots. Wonderful scarfs, laces, and jewels glittered about her. She had always a new bonnet on; and flowers bloomed perpetually in it, or else magnificent curling ostrich feathers, soft and snowy as camellias. She nodded twice or thrice patronisingly to the little boy, who looked up from his dinner or from the pictures of soldiers he was painting. When she left the room, an odour of rose, or some other magical fragrance, lingered about the nursery. She was an unearthly being in his eyes, superior to his father, to all the world, to be worshipped and admired at a distance. To drive with that lady in a carriage was an awful rite. He sat in the back seat, and did not dare to speak; he gazed with all his eyes at the beautifully dressed princess opposite to him. Gentlemen on splendid prancing horses came up, and smiled and talked with her. How her eyes beamed upon all of them! Her hand used to quiver and wave gracefully as they passed. When he went out with her he had his new red dress on. His old brown holland was good enough when he stayed at home. Sometimes, when she was away, and Dolly the maid was making his bed, he came into his mother’s room. It was as the abode of a fairy to him–a mystic chamber of splendour and delight. There in the wardrobe hung those wonderful robes–pink and blue and many-tinted. There was the jewel case, silver clasped; and a hundred rings on the dressing table. There was a cheval glass, that miracle of art, in which he could just see his own wondering head, and the reflection of Dolly, plumping and patting the pillows of the bed. Poor lonely little benighted boy! Mother is the name for God in the lips and hearts of little children; and here was one who was worshipping a stone!