Mansfield park, p.17
Larger Font   Reset Font Size   Smaller Font       Night Mode Off   Night Mode

       Mansfield Park, p.17

           Jane Austen
 

  CHAPTER XVII

  It was, indeed, a triumphant day to Mr. Bertram and Maria. Such avictory over Edmund's discretion had been beyond their hopes, and wasmost delightful. There was no longer anything to disturb them in theirdarling project, and they congratulated each other in private on thejealous weakness to which they attributed the change, with all the gleeof feelings gratified in every way. Edmund might still look grave, andsay he did not like the scheme in general, and must disapprove the playin particular; their point was gained: he was to act, and he was drivento it by the force of selfish inclinations only. Edmund had descendedfrom that moral elevation which he had maintained before, and they wereboth as much the better as the happier for the descent.

  They behaved very well, however, to _him_ on the occasion, betraying noexultation beyond the lines about the corners of the mouth, and seemedto think it as great an escape to be quit of the intrusion of CharlesMaddox, as if they had been forced into admitting him against theirinclination. "To have it quite in their own family circle was whatthey had particularly wished. A stranger among them would have been thedestruction of all their comfort"; and when Edmund, pursuing that idea,gave a hint of his hope as to the limitation of the audience, they wereready, in the complaisance of the moment, to promise anything. It wasall good-humour and encouragement. Mrs. Norris offered to contrive hisdress, Mr. Yates assured him that Anhalt's last scene with the Baronadmitted a good deal of action and emphasis, and Mr. Rushworth undertookto count his speeches.

  "Perhaps," said Tom, "Fanny may be more disposed to oblige us now.Perhaps you may persuade _her_."

  "No, she is quite determined. She certainly will not act."

  "Oh! very well." And not another word was said; but Fanny felt herselfagain in danger, and her indifference to the danger was beginning tofail her already.

  There were not fewer smiles at the Parsonage than at the Park on thischange in Edmund; Miss Crawford looked very lovely in hers, and enteredwith such an instantaneous renewal of cheerfulness into the wholeaffair as could have but one effect on him. "He was certainly right inrespecting such feelings; he was glad he had determined on it." And themorning wore away in satisfactions very sweet, if not very sound. Oneadvantage resulted from it to Fanny: at the earnest request of MissCrawford, Mrs. Grant had, with her usual good-humour, agreed toundertake the part for which Fanny had been wanted; and this was allthat occurred to gladden _her_ heart during the day; and even this, whenimparted by Edmund, brought a pang with it, for it was Miss Crawford towhom she was obliged--it was Miss Crawford whose kind exertions were toexcite her gratitude, and whose merit in making them was spoken ofwith a glow of admiration. She was safe; but peace and safety wereunconnected here. Her mind had been never farther from peace. She couldnot feel that she had done wrong herself, but she was disquietedin every other way. Her heart and her judgment were equally againstEdmund's decision: she could not acquit his unsteadiness, and hishappiness under it made her wretched. She was full of jealousy andagitation. Miss Crawford came with looks of gaiety which seemed aninsult, with friendly expressions towards herself which she could hardlyanswer calmly. Everybody around her was gay and busy, prosperous andimportant; each had their object of interest, their part, their dress,their favourite scene, their friends and confederates: all were findingemployment in consultations and comparisons, or diversion in the playfulconceits they suggested. She alone was sad and insignificant: she hadno share in anything; she might go or stay; she might be in the midstof their noise, or retreat from it to the solitude of the East room,without being seen or missed. She could almost think anything wouldhave been preferable to this. Mrs. Grant was of consequence: _her_good-nature had honourable mention; her taste and her time wereconsidered; her presence was wanted; she was sought for, and attended,and praised; and Fanny was at first in some danger of envying her thecharacter she had accepted. But reflection brought better feelings, andshewed her that Mrs. Grant was entitled to respect, which could neverhave belonged to _her_; and that, had she received even the greatest,she could never have been easy in joining a scheme which, consideringonly her uncle, she must condemn altogether.

  Fanny's heart was not absolutely the only saddened one amongst them,as she soon began to acknowledge to herself. Julia was a sufferer too,though not quite so blamelessly.

  Henry Crawford had trifled with her feelings; but she had very longallowed and even sought his attentions, with a jealousy of her sister soreasonable as ought to have been their cure; and now that the convictionof his preference for Maria had been forced on her, she submitted to itwithout any alarm for Maria's situation, or any endeavour at rationaltranquillity for herself. She either sat in gloomy silence, wrapt insuch gravity as nothing could subdue, no curiosity touch, no wit amuse;or allowing the attentions of Mr. Yates, was talking with forced gaietyto him alone, and ridiculing the acting of the others.

  For a day or two after the affront was given, Henry Crawford hadendeavoured to do it away by the usual attack of gallantry andcompliment, but he had not cared enough about it to persevere against afew repulses; and becoming soon too busy with his play to have time formore than one flirtation, he grew indifferent to the quarrel, or ratherthought it a lucky occurrence, as quietly putting an end to what mightere long have raised expectations in more than Mrs. Grant. She was notpleased to see Julia excluded from the play, and sitting by disregarded;but as it was not a matter which really involved her happiness, as Henrymust be the best judge of his own, and as he did assure her, with amost persuasive smile, that neither he nor Julia had ever had a seriousthought of each other, she could only renew her former caution as tothe elder sister, entreat him not to risk his tranquillity by toomuch admiration there, and then gladly take her share in anything thatbrought cheerfulness to the young people in general, and that did soparticularly promote the pleasure of the two so dear to her.

  "I rather wonder Julia is not in love with Henry," was her observationto Mary.

  "I dare say she is," replied Mary coldly. "I imagine both sisters are."

  "Both! no, no, that must not be. Do not give him a hint of it. Think ofMr. Rushworth!"

  "You had better tell Miss Bertram to think of Mr. Rushworth. It maydo _her_ some good. I often think of Mr. Rushworth's property andindependence, and wish them in other hands; but I never think of him. Aman might represent the county with such an estate; a man might escape aprofession and represent the county."

  "I dare say he _will_ be in parliament soon. When Sir Thomas comes, Idare say he will be in for some borough, but there has been nobody toput him in the way of doing anything yet."

  "Sir Thomas is to achieve many mighty things when he comes home," saidMary, after a pause. "Do you remember Hawkins Browne's 'Address toTobacco,' in imitation of Pope?--

  Blest leaf! whose aromatic gales dispense To Templars modesty, to Parsons sense.

  I will parody them--

  Blest Knight! whose dictatorial looks dispense To Children affluence, to Rushworth sense.

  Will not that do, Mrs. Grant? Everything seems to depend upon SirThomas's return."

  "You will find his consequence very just and reasonable when you see himin his family, I assure you. I do not think we do so well without him.He has a fine dignified manner, which suits the head of such a house,and keeps everybody in their place. Lady Bertram seems more of a ciphernow than when he is at home; and nobody else can keep Mrs. Norris inorder. But, Mary, do not fancy that Maria Bertram cares for Henry. Iam sure _Julia_ does not, or she would not have flirted as she did lastnight with Mr. Yates; and though he and Maria are very good friends, Ithink she likes Sotherton too well to be inconstant."

  "I would not give much for Mr. Rushworth's chance if Henry stept inbefore the articles were signed."

  "If you have such a suspicion, something must be done; and as soon asthe play is all over, we will talk to him seriously and make him knowhis own mind; and if he means nothing, we will send him off, though heis Henry, for a time."

  Julia _did_
suffer, however, though Mrs. Grant discerned it not, andthough it escaped the notice of many of her own family likewise. She hadloved, she did love still, and she had all the suffering which a warmtemper and a high spirit were likely to endure under the disappointmentof a dear, though irrational hope, with a strong sense of ill-usage.Her heart was sore and angry, and she was capable only of angryconsolations. The sister with whom she was used to be on easy terms wasnow become her greatest enemy: they were alienated from each other;and Julia was not superior to the hope of some distressing end to theattentions which were still carrying on there, some punishment toMaria for conduct so shameful towards herself as well as towards Mr.Rushworth. With no material fault of temper, or difference of opinion,to prevent their being very good friends while their interests werethe same, the sisters, under such a trial as this, had not affection orprinciple enough to make them merciful or just, to give them honour orcompassion. Maria felt her triumph, and pursued her purpose, careless ofJulia; and Julia could never see Maria distinguished by Henry Crawfordwithout trusting that it would create jealousy, and bring a publicdisturbance at last.

  Fanny saw and pitied much of this in Julia; but there was no outwardfellowship between them. Julia made no communication, and Fanny tookno liberties. They were two solitary sufferers, or connected only byFanny's consciousness.

  The inattention of the two brothers and the aunt to Julia'sdiscomposure, and their blindness to its true cause, must be imputed tothe fullness of their own minds. They were totally preoccupied. Tom wasengrossed by the concerns of his theatre, and saw nothing that did notimmediately relate to it. Edmund, between his theatrical and his realpart, between Miss Crawford's claims and his own conduct, between loveand consistency, was equally unobservant; and Mrs. Norris was too busyin contriving and directing the general little matters of the company,superintending their various dresses with economical expedient, forwhich nobody thanked her, and saving, with delighted integrity, halfa crown here and there to the absent Sir Thomas, to have leisure forwatching the behaviour, or guarding the happiness of his daughters.

 
Turn Navi Off
Turn Navi On
Scroll Up
Scroll