Besides these honest folks at the Hall (whose simplicity and sweet rural purity surely show the advantage of a country life over a town one), we must introduce the reader to their relatives and neighbours at the Rectory, Bute Crawley and his wife.
The Reverend Bute Crawley was a tall, stately, jolly, shovel-hatted man, far more popular in his county than the Baronet his brother. At college he pulled stroke-oar in the Christchurch boat, and had thrashed all the best bruisers of the "town." He carried his taste for boxing and athletic exercises into private life; there was not a fight within twenty miles at which he was not present, nor a race, nor a coursing match, nor a regatta, nor a ball, nor an election, nor a visitation dinner, nor indeed a good dinner in the whole county, but he found means to attend it. You might see his bay mare and gig-lamps a score of miles away from his Rectory House, whenever there was any dinner-party at Fuddleston, or at Roxby, or at Wapshot Hall, or at the great lords of the county, with all of whom he was intimate. He had a fine voice; sang "A southerly wind and a cloudy sky"; and gave the "whoop" in chorus with general applause. He rode to hounds in a pepper-and-salt frock, and was one of the best fishermen in the county.
Mrs. Crawley, the rector's wife, was a smart little body, who wrote this worthy divine's sermons. Being of a domestic turn, and keeping the house a great deal with her daughters, she ruled absolutely within the Rectory, wisely giving her husband full liberty without. He was welcome to come and go, and dine abroad as many days as his fancy dictated, for Mrs. Crawley was a saving woman and knew the price of port wine. Ever since Mrs. Bute carried off the young Rector of Queen's Crawley (she was of a good family, daughter of the late Lieut.-Colonel Hector McTavish, and she and her mother played for Bute and won him at Harrowgate), she had been a prudent and thrifty wife to him. In spite of her care, however, he was always in debt. It took him at least ten years to pay off his college bills contracted during his father's lifetime. In the year 179-, when he was just clear of these incumbrances, he gave the odds of 100 to 1 (in twenties) against Kangaroo, who won the Derby. The Rector was obliged to take up the money at a ruinous interest, and had been struggling ever since. His sister helped him with a hundred now and then, but of course his great hope was in her death — when "hang it" (as he would say), "Matilda must leave me half her money."
So that the Baronet and his brother had every reason which two brothers possibly can have for being by the ears. Sir Pitt had had the better of Bute in innumerable family transactions. Young Pitt not only did not hunt, but set up a meeting house under his uncle's very nose. Rawdon, it was known, was to come in for the bulk of Miss Crawley's property. These money transactions — these speculations in life and death — these silent battles for reversionary spoil — make brothers very loving towards each other in Vanity Fair. I, for my part, have known a five-pound note to interpose and knock up a half century's attachment between two brethren; and can't but admire, as I think what a fine and durable thing Love is among worldly people.
It cannot be supposed that the arrival of such a personage as Rebecca at Queen's Crawley, and her gradual establishment in the good graces of all people there, could be unremarked by Mrs. Bute Crawley. Mrs. Bute, who knew how many days the sirloin of beef lasted at the Hall; how much linen was got ready at the great wash; how many peaches were on the south wall; how many doses her ladyship took when she was ill — for such points are matters of intense interest to certain persons in the country — Mrs. Bute, I say, could not pass over the Hall governess without making every inquiry respecting her history and character. There was always the best understanding between the servants at the Rectory and the Hall. There was always a good glass of ale in the kitchen of the former place for the Hall people, whose ordinary drink was very small — and, indeed, the Rector's lady knew exactly how much malt went to every barrel of Hall beer — ties of relationship existed between the Hall and Rectory domestics, as between their masters; and through these channels each family was perfectly well acquainted with the doings of the other. That, by the way, may be set down as a general remark. When you and your brother are friends, his doings are indifferent to you. When you have quarrelled, all his outgoings and incomings you know, as if you were his spy.
Very soon then after her arrival, Rebecca began to take a regular place in Mrs. Crawley's bulletin from the Hall. It was to this effect: "The black porker's killed — weighed x stone — salted the sides — pig's pudding and leg of pork for dinner. Mr. Cramp from Mudbury, over with Sir Pitt about putting John Blackmore in gaol — Mr. Pitt at meeting (with all the names of the people who attended) — my lady as usual — the young ladies with the governess."
Then the report would come — the new governess be a rare manager — Sir Pitt be very sweet on her — Mr. Crawley too — He be reading tracts to her — "What an abandoned wretch!" said little, eager, active, black- faced Mrs. Bute Crawley.
Finally, the reports were that the governess had "come round" everybody, wrote Sir Pitt's letters, did his business, managed his accounts — had the upper hand of the whole house, my lady, Mr. Crawley, the girls and all — at which Mrs. Crawley declared she was an artful hussy, and had some dreadful designs in view. Thus the doings at the Hall were the great food for conversation at the Rectory, and Mrs. Bute's bright eyes spied out everything that took place in the enemy's camp — everything and a great deal besides.
Mrs. Bute Crawley to Miss Pinkerton, The Mall, Chiswick.
Rectory, Queen's Crawley, December — .
My Dear Madam, — Although it is so many years since I profited by your delightful and invaluable instructions, yet I have ever retained the FONDEST and most reverential regard for Miss Pinkerton, and DEAR Chiswick. I hope your health is GOOD. The world and the cause of education cannot afford to lose Miss Pinkerton for MANY MANY YEARS. When my friend, Lady Fuddleston, mentioned that her dear girls required an instructress (I am too poor to engage a governess for mine, but was I not educated at Chiswick?) — "Who," I exclaimed, "can we consult but the excellent, the incomparable Miss Pinkerton?" In a word, have you, dear madam, any ladies on your list, whose services might be made available to my kind friend and neighbour? I assure you she will take no governess BUT OF YOUR CHOOSING.
My dear husband is pleased to say that he likes EVERYTHING WHICH COMES FROM MISS PINKERTON'S SCHOOL. How I wish I could present him and my beloved girls to the friend of my youth, and the ADMIRED of the great lexicographer of our country! If you ever travel into Hampshire, Mr. Crawley begs me to say, he hopes you will adorn our RURAL RECTORY with your presence. 'Tis the humble but happy home of
Your affectionate Martha Crawley
P.S. Mr. Crawley's brother, the baronet, with whom we are not, alas! upon those terms of UNITY in which it BECOMES BRETHREN TO DWELL, has a governess for his little girls, who, I am told, had the good fortune to be educated at Chiswick. I hear various reports of her; and as I have the tenderest interest in my dearest little nieces, whom I wish, in spite of family differences, to see among my own children — and as I long to be attentive to ANY PUPIL OF YOURS — do, my dear Miss Pinkerton, tell me the history of this young lady, whom, for YOUR SAKE, I am most anxious to befriend. — M. C.
Miss Pinkerton to Mrs. Bute Crawley.
Johnson House, Chiswick, Dec. 18 — .
Dear Madam, — I have the honour to acknowledge your polite communication, to which I promptly reply. 'Tis most gratifying to one in my most arduous position to find that my maternal cares have elicited a responsive affection; and to recognize in the amiable Mrs. Bute Crawley my excellent pupil of former years, the sprightly and accomplished Miss Martha MacTavish. I am happy to have under my charge now the daughters of many of those who were your contemporaries at my establishment — what pleasure it would give me if your own beloved young ladies had need of my instructive superintendence!
Presenting my respectful compliments to Lady Fuddleston, I have the honour (epistolarily) to introduce to her ladyship my two friends, Miss Tuffin and Miss Hawky.