haunts and dissipation in London. The old spinster was too glad to
find any companionship at Brighton, and not only were the cards
acknowledged the very next day, but Pitt Crawley was graciously
invited to come and see his aunt. He came, bringing with him Lady
Southdown and her daughter. The dowager did not say a word about
the state of Miss Crawley's soul; but talked with much discretion
about the weather: about the war and the downfall of the monster
Bonaparte: and above all, about doctors, quacks, and the particular
merits of Dr. Podgers, whom she then patronised.
During their interview Pitt Crawley made a great stroke, and one
which showed that, had his diplomatic career not been blighted by
early neglect, he might have risen to a high rank in his profession.
When the Countess Dowager of Southdown fell foul of the Corsican
upstart, as the fashion was in those days, and showed that he was a
monster stained with every conceivable crime, a coward and a tyrant
not fit to live, one whose fall was predicted, &c., Pitt Crawley
suddenly took up the cudgels in favour of the man of Destiny. He
described the First Consul as he saw him at Paris at the peace of
Amiens; when he, Pitt Crawley, had the gratification of making the
acquaintance of the great and good Mr. Fox, a statesman whom,
however much he might differ with him, it was impossible not to
admire fervently - a statesman who had always had the highest opinion
of the Emperor Napoleon. And he spoke in terms of the strongest
indignation of the faithless conduct of the allies towards this
dethroned monarch, who, after giving himself generously up to their
mercy, was consigned to an ignoble and cruel banishment, while a
bigoted Popish rabble was tyrannising over France in his stead.
This orthodox horror of Romish superstition saved Pitt Crawley in
Lady Southdown's opinion, whilst his admiration for Fox and Napoleon
raised him immeasurably in Miss Crawley's eyes. Her friendship with
that defunct British statesman was mentioned when we first
introduced her in this history. A true Whig, Miss Crawley had been
in opposition all through the war, and though, to be sure, the
downfall of the Emperor did not very much agitate the old lady, or
his ill-treatment tend to shorten her life or natural rest, yet Pitt
spoke to her heart when he lauded both her idols; and by that single
speech made immense progress in her favour.
"And what do you think, my dear?" Miss Crawley said to the young
lady, for whom she had taken a liking at first sight, as she always
did for pretty and modest young people; though it must be owned her
affections cooled as rapidly as they rose.
Lady Jane blushed very much, and said "that she did not understand
politics, which she left to wiser heads than hers; but though Mamma
was, no doubt, correct, Mr. Crawley had spoken beautifully." And
when the ladies were retiring at the conclusion of their visit, Miss
Crawley hoped "Lady Southdown would be so kind as to send her Lady
Jane sometimes, if she could be spared to come down and console a
poor sick lonely old woman." This promise was graciously accorded,
and they separated upon great terms of amity.
"Don't let Lady Southdown come again, Pitt," said the old lady.
"She is stupid and pompous, like all your mother's family, whom I
never could endure. But bring that nice good-natured little Jane as
often as ever you please." Pitt promised that he would do so. He
did not tell the Countess of Southdown what opinion his aunt had
formed of her Ladyship, who, on the contrary, thought that she had
made a most delightful and majestic impression on Miss Crawley.
And so, nothing loth to comfort a sick lady, and perhaps not sorry
in her heart to be freed now and again from the dreary spouting of
the Reverend Bartholomew Irons, and the serious toadies who gathered
round the footstool of the pompous Countess, her mamma, Lady Jane
became a pretty constant visitor to Miss Crawley, accompanied her in
her drives, and solaced many of her evenings. She was so naturally
good and soft, that even Firkin was not jealous of her; and the
gentle Briggs thought her friend was less cruel to her when kind
Lady Jane was by. Towards her Ladyship Miss Crawley's manners were
charming. The old spinster told her a thousand anecdotes about her
youth, talking to her in a very different strain from that in which
she had been accustomed to converse with the godless little Rebecca;
for there was that in Lady Jane's innocence which rendered light
talking impertinence before her, and Miss Crawley was too much of a
gentlewoman to offend such purity. The young lady herself had never
received kindness except from this old spinster, and her brother and
father: and she repaid Miss Crawley's engoument by artless
sweetness and friendship.
In the autumn evenings (when Rebecca was flaunting at Paris, the
gayest among the gay conquerors there, and our Amelia, our dear
wounded Amelia, ah! where was she?) Lady Jane would be sitting in
Miss Crawley's drawing-room singing sweetly to her, in the twilight,
her little simple songs and hymns, while the sun was setting and the
sea was roaring on the beach. The old spinster used to wake up when
these ditties ceased, and ask for more. As for Briggs, and the
quantity of tears of happiness which she now shed as she pretended
to knit, and looked out at the splendid ocean darkling before the
windows, and the lamps of heaven beginning more brightly to shine -
who, I say can measure the happiness and sensibility of Briggs?
Pitt meanwhile in the dining-room, with a pamphlet on the Corn Laws
or a Missionary Register by his side, took that kind of recreation
which suits romantic and unromantic men after dinner. He sipped
Madeira: built castles in the air: thought himself a fine fellow:
felt himself much more in love with Jane than he had been any time
these seven years, during which their liaison had lasted without the
slightest impatience on Pitt's part - and slept a good deal. When
the time for coffee came, Mr. Bowls used to enter in a noisy manner,
and summon Squire Pitt, who would be found in the dark very busy
with his pamphlet.
"I wish, my love, I could get somebody to play piquet with me," Miss
Crawley said one night when this functionary made his appearance
with the candles and the coffee. "Poor Briggs can no more play than
an owl, she is so stupid" (the spinster always took an opportunity
of abusing Briggs before the servants); "and I think I should sleep
better if I had my game."
At this Lady Jane blushed to the tips of her little ears, and down
to the ends of her pretty fingers; and when Mr. Bowls had quitted
the room, and the door was quite shut, she said:
"Miss Crawley, I can play a little. I used to - to play a little
with poor dear papa."
"Come and kiss me. Come and kiss me this instant, you dear good
little soul," cried Miss Crawley in an ecstasy: and in this
picturesque and friendly occupation Mr. Pitt found the old lady and
the young one, when he came upstairs with him pamphlet in his hand.
How she did blush all the evening, that poor Lady Jane!
It must not be imagined that Mr. Pitt Crawley's artifices escaped
the attention of his dear relations at the Rectory at Queen's
Crawley. Hampshire and Sussex lie very close together, and Mrs.
Bute had friends in the latter county who took care to inform her of
all, and a great deal more than all, that passed at Miss Crawley's
house at Brighton. Pitt was there more and more. He did not come
for months together to the Hall, where his abominable old father
abandoned himself completely to rum-and-water, and the odious
society of the Horrocks family. Pitt's success rendered the Rector's
family furious, and Mrs. Bute regretted more (though she confessed
less) than ever her monstrous fault in so insulting Miss Briggs, and
in being so haughty and parsimonious to Bowls and Firkin, that she
had not a single person left in Miss Crawley's household to give her
information of what took place there. "It was all Bute's collar-
bone," she persisted in saying; "if that had not broke, I never
would have left her. I am a martyr to duty and to your odious
unclerical habit of hunting, Bute."
"Hunting; nonsense! It was you that frightened her, Barbara," the
divine interposed. "You're a clever woman, but you've got a devil
of a temper; and you're a screw with your money, Barbara."
"You'd have been screwed in gaol, Bute, if I had not kept your
"I know I would, my dear," said the Rector, good-naturedly. "You ARE
a clever woman, but you manage too well, you know": and the pious
man consoled himself with a big glass of port.
"What the deuce can she find in that spooney of a Pitt Crawley?" he
continued. "The fellow has not pluck enough to say Bo to a goose.
I remember when Rawdon, who is a man, and be hanged to him, used to
flog him round the stables as if he was a whipping-top: and Pitt
would go howling home to his ma - ha, ha! Why, either of my boys
would whop him with one hand. Jim says he's remembered at Oxford as
Miss Crawley still - the spooney.
"I say, Barbara," his reverence continued, after a pause.
"What?" said Barbara, who was biting her nails, and drumming the
"I say, why not send Jim over to Brighton to see if he can do
anything with the old lady. He's very near getting his degree, you
know. He's only been plucked twice - so was I - but he's had the
advantages of Oxford and a university education. He knows some of
the best chaps there. He pulls stroke in the Boniface boat. He's a
handsome feller. D - - it, ma'am, let's put him on the old woman, hey,
and tell him to thrash Pitt if he says anything. Ha, ha, ha!
"Jim might go down and see her, certainly," the housewife said;
adding with a sigh, "If we could but get one of the girls into the
house; but she could never endure them, because they are not
pretty!" Those unfortunate and well-educated women made themselves
heard from the neighbouring drawing-room, where they were thrumming
away, with hard fingers, an elaborate music-piece on the piano-
forte, as their mother spoke; and indeed, they were at music, or at
backboard, or at geography, or at history, the whole day long. But
what avail all these accomplishments, in Vanity Fair, to girls who
are short, poor, plain, and have a bad complexion? Mrs. Bute could
think of nobody but the Curate to take one of them off her hands;
and Jim coming in from the stable at this minute, through the
parlour window, with a short pipe stuck in his oilskin cap, he and
his father fell to talking about odds on the St. Leger, and the
colloquy between the Rector and his wife ended.
Mrs. Bute did not augur much good to the cause from the sending of
her son James as an ambassador, and saw him depart in rather a
despairing mood. Nor did the young fellow himself, when told what
his mission was to be, expect much pleasure or benefit from it; but
he was consoled by the thought that possibly the old lady would give
him some handsome remembrance of her, which would pay a few of his
most pressing bills at the commencement of the ensuing Oxford term,
and so took his place by the coach from Southampton, and was safely
landed at Brighton on the same evening? with his portmanteau, his
favourite bull-dog Towzer, and an immense basket of farm and garden
produce, from the dear Rectory folks to the dear Miss Crawley.
Considering it was too late to disturb the invalid lady on the first
night of his arrival, he put up at an inn, and did not wait upon
Miss Crawley until a late hour in the noon of next day.
James Crawley, when his aunt had last beheld him, was a gawky lad,
at that uncomfortable age when the voice varies between an unearthly
treble and a preternatural bass; when the face not uncommonly blooms
out with appearances for which Rowland's Kalydor is said to act as a
cure; when boys are seen to shave furtively with their sister's
scissors, and the sight of other young women produces intolerable
sensations of terror in them; when the great hands and ankles
protrude a long way from garments which have grown too tight for
them; when their presence after dinner is at once frightful to the
ladies, who are whispering in the twilight in the drawing-room, and
inexpressibly odious to the gentlemen over the mahogany, who are
restrained from freedom of intercourse and delightful interchange of
wit by the presence of that gawky innocence; when, at the conclusion
of the second glass, papa says, "Jack, my boy, go out and see if the
evening holds up," and the youth, willing to be free, yet hurt at
not being yet a man, quits the incomplete banquet. James, then a
hobbadehoy, was now become a young man, having had the benefits of a
university education, and acquired the inestimable polish which is
gained by living in a fast set at a small college, and contracting
debts, and being rusticated, and being plucked.
He was a handsome lad, however, when he came to present himself to
his aunt at Brighton, and good looks were always a title to the
fickle old lady's favour. Nor did his blushes and awkwardness take
away from it: she was pleased with these healthy tokens of the
young gentleman's ingenuousness.
He said "he had come down for a couple of days to see a man of his
college, and - and to pay my respects to you, Ma'am, and my father's
and mother's, who hope you are well."
Pitt was in the room with Miss Crawley when the lad was announced,
and looked very blank when his name was mentioned. The old lady had
plenty of humour, and enjoyed her correct nephew's perplexity. She
asked after all the people at the Rectory with great interest; and
said she was thinking of paying them a visit. She praised the lad
to his face, and said he was well-grown and very much improved, and
that it was a pity his sisters had not some of his good looks; and
finding, on inquiry, that he had taken up his quarters at an hotel,
would not hear of his stopping there, but bade Mr. Bowls send for
Mr. James Crawley's things instantly; "and hark ye, Bowls," she
added, with great graciousness, "you will have the goodness to pay
Mr. James's bill."
She flung Pitt a look of arch triumph, which caused that diplomatist
almost to choke with envy. Much as he had ingratiated himself with
his aunt, she had never yet invited him to stay under her roof, and
here was a young whipper-snapper, who at first sight was made
"I beg your pardon, sir," says Bowls, advancing with a profound bow;
"what 'otel, sir, shall Thomas fetch the luggage from?"
"O, dam," said young James, starting up, as if in some alarm, "I'll
"What!" said Miss Crawley.
"The Tom Cribb's Arms," said James, blushing deeply.
Miss Crawley burst out laughing at this title. Mr. Bowls gave one
abrupt guffaw, as a confidential servant of the family, but choked
the rest of the volley; the diplomatist only smiled.
"I - I didn't know any better," said James, looking down. "I've never
been here before; it was the coachman told me." The young story-
teller! The fact is, that on the Southampton coach, the day
previous, James Crawley had met the Tutbury Pet, who was coming to
Brighton to make a match with the Rottingdean Fibber; and enchanted
by the Pet's conversation, had passed the evening in company with
that scientific man and his friends, at the inn in question.
"I - I'd best go and settle the score," James continued. "Couldn't
think of asking you, Ma'am," he added, generously.
This delicacy made his aunt laugh the more.
"Go and settle the bill, Bowls," she said, with a wave of her hand,
"and bring it to me."
Poor lady, she did not know what she had done! "There - there's a
little dawg," said James, looking frightfully guilty. "I'd best go
for him. He bites footmen's calves."
All the party cried out with laughing at this description; even
Briggs and Lady Jane, who was sitting mute during the interview
between Miss Crawley and her nephew: and Bowls, without a word,
quitted the room.
Still, by way of punishing her elder nephew, Miss Crawley persisted
in being gracious to the young Oxonian. There were no limits to her
kindness or her compliments when they once began. She told Pitt he
might come to dinner, and insisted that James should accompany her
in her drive, and paraded him solemnly up and down the cliff, on the
back seat of the barouche. During all this excursion, she
condescended to say civil things to him: she quoted Italian and
French poetry to the poor bewildered lad, and persisted that he was
a fine scholar, and was perfectly sure he would gain a gold medal,
and be a Senior Wrangler.
"Haw, haw," laughed James, encouraged by these compliments; "Senior
Wrangler, indeed; that's at the other shop."
"What is the other shop, my dear child?" said the lady.
"Senior Wranglers at Cambridge, not Oxford," said the scholar, with
a knowing air; and would probably have been more confidential, but
that suddenly there appeared on the cliff in a tax-cart, drawn by a
bang-up pony, dressed in white flannel coats, with mother-of-pearl
buttons, his friends the Tutbury Pet and the Rottingdean Fibber,
with three other gentlemen of their acquaintance, who all saluted
poor James there in the carriage as he sate. This incident damped
the ingenuous youth's spirits, and no word of yea or nay could he be
induced to utter during the rest of the drive.
On his return he found his room prepared, and his portmanteau ready,
and might have remarked that Mr. Bowls's countenance, when the
latter conducted him to his apartments, wore a look of gravity,
wonder, and compassion. But the thought of Mr. Bowls did not enter
his head. He was deploring the dreadful predicament in which he
found himself, in a house full of old women, jabbering French and
Italian, and talking poetry to him. "Reglarly up a tree, by jingo!"
exclaimed the modest boy, who could not face the gentlest of her
sex - not even Briggs - when she began to talk to him; whereas, put
him at Iffley Lock, and he could out-slang the boldest bargeman.
At dinner, James appeared choking in a white neckcloth, and had the
honour of handing my Lady Jane downstairs, while Briggs and Mr.
Crawley followed afterwards, conducting the old lady, with her
apparatus of bundles, and shawls, and cushions. Half of Briggs's
time at dinner was spent in superintending the invalid's comfort,
and in cutting up chicken for her fat spaniel. James did not talk
much, but he made a point of asking all the ladies to drink wine,
and accepted Mr. Crawley's challenge, and consumed the greater part
of a bottle of champagne which Mr. Bowls was ordered to produce in
his honour. The ladies having withdrawn, and the two cousins being
left together, Pitt, the ex-diplomatist, be came very communicative
and friendly. He asked after James's career at college - what his
prospects in life were - hoped heartily he would get on; and, in a
word, was frank and amiable. James's tongue unloosed with the port,
and he told his cousin his life, his prospects, his debts, his
troubles at the little-go, and his rows with the proctors, filling
rapidly from the bottles before him, and flying from Port to Madeira
with joyous activity.
"The chief pleasure which my aunt has," said Mr. Crawley, filling
his glass, "is that people should do as they like in her house.
This is Liberty Hall, James, and you can't do Miss Crawley a greater
kindness than to do as you please, and ask for what you will. I
know you have all sneered at me in the country for being a Tory.
Miss Crawley is liberal enough to suit any fancy. She is a
Republican in principle, and despises everything like rank or
"Why are you going to marry an Earl's daughter?" said James.
"My dear friend, remember it is not poor Lady Jane's fault that she
is well born," Pitt replied, with a courtly air. "She cannot help
being a lady. Besides, I am a Tory, you know."
"Oh, as for that," said Jim, "there's nothing like old blood; no,
dammy, nothing like it. I'm none of your radicals. I know what it
is to be a gentleman, dammy. See the chaps in a boat-race; look at
the fellers in a fight; aye, look at a dawg killing rats - which is
it wins? the good-blooded ones. Get some more port, Bowls, old boy,
whilst I buzz this bottle-here. What was I asaying?"
"I think you were speaking of dogs killing rats," Pitt remarked
mildly, handing his cousin the decanter to "buzz."
"Killing rats was I? Well, Pitt, are you a sporting man? Do you want
to see a dawg as CAN kill a rat? If you do, come down with me to Tom
Corduroy's, in Castle Street Mews, and I'll show you such a bull-
terrier as - Pooh! gammon," cried James, bursting out laughing at his
own absurdity - "YOU don't care about a dawg or rat; it's all
nonsense. I'm blest if I think you know the difference between a
dog and a duck."
"No; by the way," Pitt continued with increased blandness, "it was
about blood you were talking, and the personal advantages which
people derive from patrician birth. Here's the fresh bottle."
"Blood's the word," said James, gulping the ruby fluid down.
"Nothing like blood, sir, in hosses, dawgs, AND men. Why, only last
term, just before I was rusticated, that is, I mean just before I
had the measles, ha, ha - there was me and Ringwood of Christchurch,
Bob Ringwood, Lord Cinqbars' son, having our beer at the Bell at
Blenheim, when the Banbury bargeman offered to fight either of us
for a bowl of punch. I couldn't. My arm was in a sling; couldn't
even take the drag down - a brute of a mare of mine had fell with me
only two days before, out with the Abingdon, and I thought my arm
was broke. Well, sir, I couldn't finish him, but Bob had his coat
off at once - he stood up to the Banbury man for three minutes, and
polished him off in four rounds easy. Gad, how he did drop, sir,
and what was it? Blood, sir, all blood."
"You don't drink, James," the ex-attache continued. "In my time at
Oxford, the men passed round the bottle a little quicker than you
young fellows seem to do."
"Come, come," said James, putting his hand to his nose and winking
at his cousin with a pair of vinous eyes, "no jokes, old boy; no
trying it on on me. You want to trot me out, but it's no go. In
vino veritas, old boy. Mars, Bacchus, Apollo virorum, hey? I wish
my aunt would send down some of this to the governor; it's a
precious good tap."
"You had better ask her," Machiavel continued, "or make the best of
your time now. What says the bard? 'Nunc vino pellite curas, Cras
ingens iterabimus aequor,'" and the Bacchanalian, quoting the above
with a House of Commons air, tossed off nearly a thimbleful of wine
with an immense flourish of his glass.
At the Rectory, when the bottle of port wine was opened after
dinner, the young ladies had each a glass from a bottle of currant
wine. Mrs. Bute took one glass of port, honest James had a couple
commonly, but as his father grew very sulky if he made further
inroads on the bottle, the good lad generally refrained from trying
for more, and subsided either into the currant wine, or to some
private gin-and-water in the stables, which he enjoyed in the
company of the coachman and his pipe. At Oxford, the quantity of
wine was unlimited, but the quality was inferior: but when quantity
and quality united as at his aunt's house, James showed that he
could appreciate them indeed; and hardly needed any of his cousin's
encouragement in draining off the second bottle supplied by Mr.
When the time for coffee came, however, and for a return to the
ladies, of whom he stood in awe, the young gentleman's agreeable
frankness left him, and he relapsed into his usual surly timidity;
contenting himself by saying yes and no, by scowling at Lady Jane,
and by upsetting one cup of coffee during the evening.
If he did not speak he yawned in a pitiable manner, and his presence
threw a damp upon the modest proceedings of the evening, for Miss
Crawley and Lady Jane at their piquet, and Miss Briggs at her work,
felt that his eyes were wildly fixed on them, and were uneasy under
that maudlin look.
"He seems a very silent, awkward, bashful lad," said Miss Crawley to
"He is more communicative in men's society than with ladies,"
Machiavel dryly replied: perhaps rather disappointed that the port
wine had not made Jim speak more.
He had spent the early part of the next morning in writing home to
his mother a most flourishing account of his reception by Miss
Crawley. But ah! he little knew what evils the day was bringing for
him, and how short his reign of favour was destined to be. A