"I'll go and play a country-dance," said Mrs. Bute Crawley, very readily (she is a little, black-faced old woman in a turban, rather crooked, and with very twinkling eyes); and after the Captain and your poor little Rebecca had performed a dance together, do you know she actually did me the honour to compliment me upon my steps! Such a thing was never heard of before; the proud Mrs. Bute Crawley, first cousin to the Earl of Tiptoff, who won't condescend to visit Lady Crawley, except when her sister is in the country. Poor Lady Crawley! during most part of these gaieties, she is upstairs taking pills.
Mrs. Bute has all of a sudden taken a great fancy to me. "My dear Miss Sharp," she says, "why not bring over your girls to the Rectory? — their cousins will be so happy to see them." I know what she means. Signor Clementi did not teach us the piano for nothing; at which price Mrs. Bute hopes to get a professor for her children. I can see through her schemes, as though she told them to me; but I shall go, as I am determined to make myself agreeable — is it not a poor governess's duty, who has not a friend or protector in the world? The Rector's wife paid me a score of compliments about the progress my pupils made, and thought, no doubt, to touch my heart — poor, simple, country soul! — as if I cared a fig about my pupils!
Your India muslin and your pink silk, dearest Amelia, are said to become me very well. They are a good deal worn now; but, you know, we poor girls can't afford des fraiches toilettes. Happy, happy you! who have but to drive to St. James's Street, and a dear mother who will give you any thing you ask. Farewell, dearest girl,
Your affectionate Rebecca.
P.S. — I wish you could have seen the faces of the Miss Blackbrooks (Admiral Blackbrook's daughters, my dear), fine young ladies, with dresses from London, when Captain Rawdon selected poor me for a partner!
When Mrs. Bute Crawley (whose artifices our ingenious Rebecca had so soon discovered) had procured from Miss Sharp the promise of a visit, she induced the all-powerful Miss Crawley to make the necessary application to Sir Pitt, and the good-natured old lady, who loved to be gay herself, and to see every one gay and happy round about her, was quite charmed, and ready to establish a reconciliation and intimacy between her two brothers. It was therefore agreed that the young people of both families should visit each other frequently for the future, and the friendship of course lasted as long as the jovial old mediatrix was there to keep the peace.
"Why did you ask that scoundrel, Rawdon Crawley, to dine?" said the Rector to his lady, as they were walking home through the park. "I don't want the fellow. He looks down upon us country people as so many blackamoors. He's never content unless he gets my yellow-sealed wine, which costs me ten shillings a bottle, hang him! Besides, he's such an infernal character — he's a gambler — he's a drunkard — he's a profligate in every way. He shot a man in a duel — he's over head and ears in debt, and he's robbed me and mine of the best part of Miss Crawley's fortune. Waxy says she has him" — here the Rector shook his fist at the moon, with something very like an oath, and added, in a melancholious tone, " — down in her will for fifty thousand; and there won't be above thirty to divide."
"I think she's going," said the Rector's wife. "She was very red in the face when we left dinner. I was obliged to unlace her."
"She drank seven glasses of champagne," said the reverend gentleman, in a low voice; "and filthy champagne it is, too, that my brother poisons us with — but you women never know what's what."
"We know nothing," said Mrs. Bute Crawley.
"She drank cherry-brandy after dinner," continued his Reverence, "and took curacao with her coffee. I wouldn't take a glass for a five-pound note: it kills me with heartburn. She can't stand it, Mrs. Crawley — she must go — flesh and blood won't bear it! and I lay five to two, Matilda drops in a year."
Indulging in these solemn speculations, and thinking about his debts, and his son Jim at College, and Frank at Woolwich, and the four girls, who were no beauties, poor things, and would not have a penny but what they got from the aunt's expected legacy, the Rector and his lady walked on for a while.
"Pitt can't be such an infernal villain as to sell the reversion of the living. And that Methodist milksop of an eldest son looks to Parliament," continued Mr. Crawley, after a pause.
"Sir Pitt Crawley will do anything," said the Rector's wife. "We must get Miss Crawley to make him promise it to James."
"Pitt will promise anything," replied the brother. "He promised he'd pay my college bills, when my father died; he promised he'd build the new wing to the Rectory; he promised he'd let me have Jibb's field and the Six-acre Meadow — and much he executed his promises! And it's to this man's son — this scoundrel, gambler, swindler, murderer of a Rawdon Crawley, that Matilda leaves the bulk of her money. I say it's un-Christian. By Jove, it is. The infamous dog has got every vice except hypocrisy, and that belongs to his brother."
"Hush, my dearest love! we're in Sir Pitt's grounds," interposed his wife.
"I say he has got every vice, Mrs. Crawley. Don't Ma'am, bully me. Didn't he shoot Captain Marker? Didn't he rob young Lord Dovedale at the Cocoa-Tree? Didn't he cross the fight between Bill Soames and the Cheshire Trump, by which I lost forty pound? You know he did; and as for the women, why, you heard that before me, in my own magistrate's room."
"For heaven's sake, Mr. Crawley," said the lady, "spare me the details."
"And you ask this villain into your house!" continued the exasperated Rector. "You, the mother of a young family — the wife of a clergyman of the Church of England. By Jove!"
"Bute Crawley, you are a fool," said the Rector's wife scornfully.
"Well, Ma'am, fool or not — and I don't say, Martha, I'm so clever as you are, I never did. But I won't meet Rawdon Crawley, that's flat. I'll go over to Huddleston, that I will, and see his black greyhound, Mrs. Crawley; and I'll run Lancelot against him for fifty. By Jove, I will; or against any dog in England. But I won't meet that beast Rawdon Crawley."
"Mr. Crawley, you are intoxicated, as usual," replied his wife. And the next morning, when the Rector woke, and called for small beer, she put him in mind of his promise to visit Sir Huddleston Fuddleston on Saturday, and as he knew he should have a wet night, it was agreed that he might gallop back again in time for church on Sunday morning. Thus it will be seen that the parishioners of Crawley were equally happy in their Squire and in their Rector.
Miss Crawley had not long been established at the Hall before Rebecca's fascinations had won the heart of that good-natured London rake, as they had of the country innocents whom we have been describing. Taking her accustomed drive, one day, she thought fit to order that "that little governess" should accompany her to Mudbury. Before they had returned Rebecca had made a conquest of her; having made her laugh four times, and amused her during the whole of the little journey.