Mansfield park, p.11
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       Mansfield Park, p.11

           Jane Austen
 

  CHAPTER XI

  The day at Sotherton, with all its imperfections, afforded the MissBertrams much more agreeable feelings than were derived from the lettersfrom Antigua, which soon afterwards reached Mansfield. It was muchpleasanter to think of Henry Crawford than of their father; and to thinkof their father in England again within a certain period, which theseletters obliged them to do, was a most unwelcome exercise.

  November was the black month fixed for his return. Sir Thomas wrote ofit with as much decision as experience and anxiety could authorise. Hisbusiness was so nearly concluded as to justify him in proposing to takehis passage in the September packet, and he consequently looked forwardwith the hope of being with his beloved family again early in November.

  Maria was more to be pitied than Julia; for to her the father brought ahusband, and the return of the friend most solicitous for her happinesswould unite her to the lover, on whom she had chosen that happinessshould depend. It was a gloomy prospect, and all she could do was tothrow a mist over it, and hope when the mist cleared away she shouldsee something else. It would hardly be _early_ in November, therewere generally delays, a bad passage or _something_; that favouring_something_ which everybody who shuts their eyes while they look, ortheir understandings while they reason, feels the comfort of. It wouldprobably be the middle of November at least; the middle of Novemberwas three months off. Three months comprised thirteen weeks. Much mighthappen in thirteen weeks.

  Sir Thomas would have been deeply mortified by a suspicion of half thathis daughters felt on the subject of his return, and would hardly havefound consolation in a knowledge of the interest it excited in thebreast of another young lady. Miss Crawford, on walking up with herbrother to spend the evening at Mansfield Park, heard the good news; andthough seeming to have no concern in the affair beyond politeness, andto have vented all her feelings in a quiet congratulation, heard it withan attention not so easily satisfied. Mrs. Norris gave the particularsof the letters, and the subject was dropt; but after tea, as MissCrawford was standing at an open window with Edmund and Fanny lookingout on a twilight scene, while the Miss Bertrams, Mr. Rushworth,and Henry Crawford were all busy with candles at the pianoforte, shesuddenly revived it by turning round towards the group, and saying, "Howhappy Mr. Rushworth looks! He is thinking of November."

  Edmund looked round at Mr. Rushworth too, but had nothing to say.

  "Your father's return will be a very interesting event."

  "It will, indeed, after such an absence; an absence not only long, butincluding so many dangers."

  "It will be the forerunner also of other interesting events: yoursister's marriage, and your taking orders."

  "Yes."

  "Don't be affronted," said she, laughing, "but it does put me in mind ofsome of the old heathen heroes, who, after performing great exploits ina foreign land, offered sacrifices to the gods on their safe return."

  "There is no sacrifice in the case," replied Edmund, with a serioussmile, and glancing at the pianoforte again; "it is entirely her owndoing."

  "Oh yes I know it is. I was merely joking. She has done no more thanwhat every young woman would do; and I have no doubt of her beingextremely happy. My other sacrifice, of course, you do not understand."

  "My taking orders, I assure you, is quite as voluntary as Maria'smarrying."

  "It is fortunate that your inclination and your father's convenienceshould accord so well. There is a very good living kept for you, Iunderstand, hereabouts."

  "Which you suppose has biassed me?"

  "But _that_ I am sure it has not," cried Fanny.

  "Thank you for your good word, Fanny, but it is more than I would affirmmyself. On the contrary, the knowing that there was such a provision forme probably did bias me. Nor can I think it wrong that it should. Therewas no natural disinclination to be overcome, and I see no reason whya man should make a worse clergyman for knowing that he will have acompetence early in life. I was in safe hands. I hope I should not havebeen influenced myself in a wrong way, and I am sure my father was tooconscientious to have allowed it. I have no doubt that I was biased, butI think it was blamelessly."

  "It is the same sort of thing," said Fanny, after a short pause, "as forthe son of an admiral to go into the navy, or the son of a general to bein the army, and nobody sees anything wrong in that. Nobody wonders thatthey should prefer the line where their friends can serve them best, orsuspects them to be less in earnest in it than they appear."

  "No, my dear Miss Price, and for reasons good. The profession, eithernavy or army, is its own justification. It has everything in its favour:heroism, danger, bustle, fashion. Soldiers and sailors are alwaysacceptable in society. Nobody can wonder that men are soldiers andsailors."

  "But the motives of a man who takes orders with the certainty ofpreferment may be fairly suspected, you think?" said Edmund. "To bejustified in your eyes, he must do it in the most complete uncertaintyof any provision."

  "What! take orders without a living! No; that is madness indeed;absolute madness."

  "Shall I ask you how the church is to be filled, if a man is neither totake orders with a living nor without? No; for you certainly would notknow what to say. But I must beg some advantage to the clergyman fromyour own argument. As he cannot be influenced by those feelings whichyou rank highly as temptation and reward to the soldier and sailor intheir choice of a profession, as heroism, and noise, and fashion, areall against him, he ought to be less liable to the suspicion of wantingsincerity or good intentions in the choice of his."

  "Oh! no doubt he is very sincere in preferring an income ready made,to the trouble of working for one; and has the best intentions of doingnothing all the rest of his days but eat, drink, and grow fat. It isindolence, Mr. Bertram, indeed. Indolence and love of ease; a want ofall laudable ambition, of taste for good company, or of inclinationto take the trouble of being agreeable, which make men clergymen.A clergyman has nothing to do but be slovenly and selfish--read thenewspaper, watch the weather, and quarrel with his wife. His curate doesall the work, and the business of his own life is to dine."

  "There are such clergymen, no doubt, but I think they are not so commonas to justify Miss Crawford in esteeming it their general character. Isuspect that in this comprehensive and (may I say) commonplace censure,you are not judging from yourself, but from prejudiced persons, whoseopinions you have been in the habit of hearing. It is impossible thatyour own observation can have given you much knowledge of the clergy.You can have been personally acquainted with very few of a set of menyou condemn so conclusively. You are speaking what you have been told atyour uncle's table."

  "I speak what appears to me the general opinion; and where an opinionis general, it is usually correct. Though _I_ have not seen much ofthe domestic lives of clergymen, it is seen by too many to leave anydeficiency of information."

  "Where any one body of educated men, of whatever denomination, arecondemned indiscriminately, there must be a deficiency of information,or (smiling) of something else. Your uncle, and his brother admirals,perhaps knew little of clergymen beyond the chaplains whom, good or bad,they were always wishing away."

  "Poor William! He has met with great kindness from the chaplain of theAntwerp," was a tender apostrophe of Fanny's, very much to the purposeof her own feelings if not of the conversation.

  "I have been so little addicted to take my opinions from my uncle,"said Miss Crawford, "that I can hardly suppose--and since you push me sohard, I must observe, that I am not entirely without the means of seeingwhat clergymen are, being at this present time the guest of my ownbrother, Dr. Grant. And though Dr. Grant is most kind and obliging tome, and though he is really a gentleman, and, I dare say, a good scholarand clever, and often preaches good sermons, and is very respectable,_I_ see him to be an indolent, selfish _bon_ _vivant_, who must havehis palate consulted in everything; who will not stir a finger for theconvenience of any one; and who, moreover, if the cook makes a blunder,is out of humour with his excellent wife. To own t
he truth, Henry andI were partly driven out this very evening by a disappointment about agreen goose, which he could not get the better of. My poor sister wasforced to stay and bear it."

  "I do not wonder at your disapprobation, upon my word. It is a greatdefect of temper, made worse by a very faulty habit of self-indulgence;and to see your sister suffering from it must be exceedingly painful tosuch feelings as yours. Fanny, it goes against us. We cannot attempt todefend Dr. Grant."

  "No," replied Fanny, "but we need not give up his profession for allthat; because, whatever profession Dr. Grant had chosen, he would havetaken a--not a good temper into it; and as he must, either in the navyor army, have had a great many more people under his command than hehas now, I think more would have been made unhappy by him as a sailor orsoldier than as a clergyman. Besides, I cannot but suppose that whateverthere may be to wish otherwise in Dr. Grant would have been in a greaterdanger of becoming worse in a more active and worldly profession, wherehe would have had less time and obligation--where he might have escapedthat knowledge of himself, the _frequency_, at least, of that knowledgewhich it is impossible he should escape as he is now. A man--a sensibleman like Dr. Grant, cannot be in the habit of teaching others their dutyevery week, cannot go to church twice every Sunday, and preach such verygood sermons in so good a manner as he does, without being the betterfor it himself. It must make him think; and I have no doubt that heoftener endeavours to restrain himself than he would if he had beenanything but a clergyman."

  "We cannot prove to the contrary, to be sure; but I wish you a betterfate, Miss Price, than to be the wife of a man whose amiablenessdepends upon his own sermons; for though he may preach himself into agood-humour every Sunday, it will be bad enough to have him quarrellingabout green geese from Monday morning till Saturday night."

  "I think the man who could often quarrel with Fanny," said Edmundaffectionately, "must be beyond the reach of any sermons."

  Fanny turned farther into the window; and Miss Crawford had only timeto say, in a pleasant manner, "I fancy Miss Price has been more used todeserve praise than to hear it"; when, being earnestly invited by theMiss Bertrams to join in a glee, she tripped off to the instrument,leaving Edmund looking after her in an ecstasy of admiration of all hermany virtues, from her obliging manners down to her light and gracefultread.

  "There goes good-humour, I am sure," said he presently. "There goes atemper which would never give pain! How well she walks! and how readilyshe falls in with the inclination of others! joining them the moment sheis asked. What a pity," he added, after an instant's reflection, "thatshe should have been in such hands!"

  Fanny agreed to it, and had the pleasure of seeing him continue at thewindow with her, in spite of the expected glee; and of having his eyessoon turned, like hers, towards the scene without, where all that wassolemn, and soothing, and lovely, appeared in the brilliancy of anunclouded night, and the contrast of the deep shade of the woods. Fannyspoke her feelings. "Here's harmony!" said she; "here's repose! Here'swhat may leave all painting and all music behind, and what poetry onlycan attempt to describe! Here's what may tranquillise every care, andlift the heart to rapture! When I look out on such a night as this, Ifeel as if there could be neither wickedness nor sorrow in the world;and there certainly would be less of both if the sublimity of Naturewere more attended to, and people were carried more out of themselves bycontemplating such a scene."

  "I like to hear your enthusiasm, Fanny. It is a lovely night, and theyare much to be pitied who have not been taught to feel, in some degree,as you do; who have not, at least, been given a taste for Nature inearly life. They lose a great deal."

  "_You_ taught me to think and feel on the subject, cousin."

  "I had a very apt scholar. There's Arcturus looking very bright."

  "Yes, and the Bear. I wish I could see Cassiopeia."

  "We must go out on the lawn for that. Should you be afraid?"

  "Not in the least. It is a great while since we have had anystar-gazing."

  "Yes; I do not know how it has happened." The glee began. "We will staytill this is finished, Fanny," said he, turning his back on the window;and as it advanced, she had the mortification of seeing him advance too,moving forward by gentle degrees towards the instrument, and when itceased, he was close by the singers, among the most urgent in requestingto hear the glee again.

  Fanny sighed alone at the window till scolded away by Mrs. Norris'sthreats of catching cold.