فصل 08

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فصل 08

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Chapter EIGHT

Miss Crawley

Miss Crawley was now living in Brighton, and she read the news of the Battle of Waterloo with great interest. Rawdon had been promoted; he was now a Colonel.

‘What a pity that fine young man behaved as he did!’ said the kind-hearted Briggs. She wanted Miss Crawley to forgive Rawdon and Becky.

‘Rawdon’s a fool,’ the old lady replied angrily. ‘He could have married well if he’d had my money behind him. But he won’t get any of it now!’

Rawdon and Becky took good care to write regularly to Miss Crawley, and the old lady was amused by their letters, although she knew perfectly well that it was Becky who wrote them and not her nephew.

Miss Crawley’s attitude to the family at the rectory was not so warm. She had been frightened by Mrs Bute Crawley during her illness in London. Worse than that, she had been bored by the rector’s wife. Still, presents of farm produce arrived regularly at Miss Crawley’s house in Brighton, with tender notes of affection from the family at the rectory.

Rawdon’s brother, Pitt, was also attentive to his aunt. He came frequently to Brighton to visit his fiancee, Lady Jane Sheepshanks, who lived in the town with her sisters and mother, the formidable and religious-minded Countess Southdown.

Pitt hinted to Lady Southdown that it might be beneficial for her family to make a friendship with his aunt. He told her that Miss Crawley was now all alone in the world.

‘I’ll certainly visit the poor lady,’ the Countess responded enthusiastically. ‘I’ll leave her some religious literature as well.’

‘No, my dear lady,’ said the artful Pitt. ‘She has been seriously ill, and she has not been accustomed to think of spiritual matters. We must proceed slowly. Besides,’ he added quietly, ‘we don’t want to frighten the poor lady. She has seventy thousand pounds. Think of that.’

Countess Southdown nodded her head in agreement.

The next day the Southdown carriage pulled up outside Miss Crawley’s house.

The visit was a great success, and Miss Crawley took particularly to Pitt’s fiancee Lady Jane. Pitt was in high spirits, and spent his time daydreaming about the old lady’s seventy thousand pounds.

News of the friendship between Pitt Crawley and his aunt soon reached the rectory, and Mrs Bute Crawley decided to make one further effort to win the old lady’s fortune for her family. She sent her son James to visit Miss Crawley.

James was a student. He was a simple young fellow, more interested in sport and beer than in his studies. He was no match for Pitt Crawley. The older man encouraged him to drink too much wine, and led him on to entertain the ladies with some exciting sporting stories. James swayed drunkenly up the stairs to his bedroom. When he arrived there he opened the window and lit his pipe. He stared happily out at the sea, smoking contentedly. He had forgotten, however, to close the bedroom door behind him - and the smell of pipe tobacco spread through the house.

The following morning he received a note from Briggs.

Dear Sir,

Miss Crawley has spent a sleepless night because of the smell of pipe tobacco throughout the house. She is to unwell to see you before you leave the house.

And so ended the rectory family’s hopes of receiving Miss Crawley’s fortune.

Rawdon and Becky, meanwhile, were enjoying themselves in Paris, where they had enough money to live in luxury thanks to the huge price Jos had paid for the horses.

Becky gave birth to a son during their stay in Paris. Miss Crawley was furious at the news, and immediately ordered Pitt and Lady Jane to marry. She promised to leave them the bulk of her fortune after her death.

The newlyweds settled into Miss Crawley’s Brighton home, and they were all ruled over by Lady Southdown from her neighbouring house. Lady Southdown was so terrifying that Miss Crawley lost all her cheerfulness. She even began to treat Briggs kindly as she moved slowly towards death. The old lady died clinging in fear to Lady Jane.

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