Between Hampshire and London
Sir Pitt Crawley had done more than repair fences and restore dilapidated lodges on the Queen’s Crawley estate. Like a wise man he had set to work to rebuild the injured popularity of his house and stop up the gaps and ruins in which his name had been left by his disreputable and thriftless old predecessor. He was elected for the borough speedily after his father’s demise; a magistrate, a member of parliament, a county magnate and representative of an ancient family, he made it his duty to show himself before the Hampshire public, subscribed handsomely to the county charities, called assiduously upon all the county folk, and laid himself out in a word to take that position in Hampshire, and in the Empire afterwards, to which he thought his prodigious talents justly entitled him. Lady Jane was instructed to be friendly with the Fuddlestones, and the Wapshots, and the other famous baronets, their neighbours. Their carriages might frequently be seen in the Queen’s Crawley avenue now; they dined pretty frequently at the Hall (where the cookery was so good that it was clear Lady Jane very seldom had a hand in it), and in return Pitt and his wife most energetically dined out in all sorts of weather and at all sorts of distances. For though Pitt did not care for joviality, being a frigid man of poor hearth and appetite, yet he considered that to be hospitable and condescending was quite incumbent on his station, and every time that he got a headache from too long an after-dinner sitting, he felt that he was a martyr to duty. He talked about crops, corn-laws, politics, with the best country gentlemen. He (who had been formerly inclined to be a sad free-thinker on these points) entered into poaching and game preserving with ardour. He didn’t hunt; he wasn’t a hunting man; he was a man of books and peaceful habits; but he thought that the breed of horses must be kept up in the country, and that the breed of foxes must therefore be looked to, and for his part, if his friend, Sir Huddlestone Fuddlestone, liked to draw his country and meet as of old the F. hounds used to do at Queen’s Crawley, he should be happy to see him there, and the gentlemen of the Fuddlestone hunt. And to Lady Southdown’s dismay too he became more orthodox in his tendencies every day; gave up preaching in public and attending meeting-houses; went stoutly to church; called on the Bishop and all the Clergy at Winchester; and made no objection when the Venerable Archdeacon Trumper asked for a game of whist. What pangs must have been those of Lady Southdown, and what an utter castaway she must have thought her son-in-law for permitting such a godless diversion! And when, on the return of the family from an oratorio at Winchester, the Baronet announced to the young ladies that he should next year very probably take them to the “county balls,” they worshipped him for his kindness. Lady Jane was only too obedient, and perhaps glad herself to go. The Dowager wrote off the direst descriptions of her daughter’s worldly behaviour to the authoress of the Washerwoman of Finchley Common at the Cape; and her house in Brighton being about this time unoccupied, returned to that watering-place, her absence being not very much deplored by her children. We may suppose, too, that Rebecca, on paying a second visit to Queen’s Crawley, did not feel particularly grieved at the absence of the lady of the medicine chest; though she wrote a Christmas letter to her Ladyship, in which she respectfully recalled herself to Lady Southdown’s recollection, spoke with gratitude of the delight which her Ladyship’s conversation had given her on the former visit, dilated on the kindness with which her Ladyship had treated her in sickness, and declared that everything at Queen’s Crawley reminded her of her absent friend.