Mansfield park, p.20
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       Mansfield Park, p.20

           Jane Austen
 

  CHAPTER XX

  Edmund's first object the next morning was to see his father alone, andgive him a fair statement of the whole acting scheme, defending his ownshare in it as far only as he could then, in a soberer moment, feel hismotives to deserve, and acknowledging, with perfect ingenuousness, thathis concession had been attended with such partial good as to make hisjudgment in it very doubtful. He was anxious, while vindicating himself,to say nothing unkind of the others: but there was only one amongstthem whose conduct he could mention without some necessity of defenceor palliation. "We have all been more or less to blame," said he, "everyone of us, excepting Fanny. Fanny is the only one who has judged rightlythroughout; who has been consistent. _Her_ feelings have been steadilyagainst it from first to last. She never ceased to think of what was dueto you. You will find Fanny everything you could wish."

  Sir Thomas saw all the impropriety of such a scheme among such a party,and at such a time, as strongly as his son had ever supposed he must; hefelt it too much, indeed, for many words; and having shaken hands withEdmund, meant to try to lose the disagreeable impression, and forget howmuch he had been forgotten himself as soon as he could, after the househad been cleared of every object enforcing the remembrance, and restoredto its proper state. He did not enter into any remonstrance with hisother children: he was more willing to believe they felt their errorthan to run the risk of investigation. The reproof of an immediateconclusion of everything, the sweep of every preparation, would besufficient.

  There was one person, however, in the house, whom he could not leaveto learn his sentiments merely through his conduct. He could not helpgiving Mrs. Norris a hint of his having hoped that her advice mighthave been interposed to prevent what her judgment must certainly havedisapproved. The young people had been very inconsiderate in forming theplan; they ought to have been capable of a better decision themselves;but they were young; and, excepting Edmund, he believed, of unsteadycharacters; and with greater surprise, therefore, he must regard heracquiescence in their wrong measures, her countenance of their unsafeamusements, than that such measures and such amusements should havebeen suggested. Mrs. Norris was a little confounded and as nearlybeing silenced as ever she had been in her life; for she was ashamed toconfess having never seen any of the impropriety which was so glaringto Sir Thomas, and would not have admitted that her influence wasinsufficient--that she might have talked in vain. Her only resource wasto get out of the subject as fast as possible, and turn the currentof Sir Thomas's ideas into a happier channel. She had a great deal toinsinuate in her own praise as to _general_ attention to the interestand comfort of his family, much exertion and many sacrifices to glanceat in the form of hurried walks and sudden removals from her ownfireside, and many excellent hints of distrust and economy to LadyBertram and Edmund to detail, whereby a most considerable saving hadalways arisen, and more than one bad servant been detected. But herchief strength lay in Sotherton. Her greatest support and glory wasin having formed the connexion with the Rushworths. _There_ shewas impregnable. She took to herself all the credit of bringing Mr.Rushworth's admiration of Maria to any effect. "If I had not beenactive," said she, "and made a point of being introduced to his mother,and then prevailed on my sister to pay the first visit, I am as certainas I sit here that nothing would have come of it; for Mr. Rushworthis the sort of amiable modest young man who wants a great deal ofencouragement, and there were girls enough on the catch for him if wehad been idle. But I left no stone unturned. I was ready to move heavenand earth to persuade my sister, and at last I did persuade her. Youknow the distance to Sotherton; it was in the middle of winter, and theroads almost impassable, but I did persuade her."

  "I know how great, how justly great, your influence is with Lady Bertramand her children, and am the more concerned that it should not havebeen."

  "My dear Sir Thomas, if you had seen the state of the roads _that_ day!I thought we should never have got through them, though we had the fourhorses of course; and poor old coachman would attend us, out of hisgreat love and kindness, though he was hardly able to sit the box onaccount of the rheumatism which I had been doctoring him for ever sinceMichaelmas. I cured him at last; but he was very bad all the winter--andthis was such a day, I could not help going to him up in his room beforewe set off to advise him not to venture: he was putting on his wig; soI said, 'Coachman, you had much better not go; your Lady and I shall bevery safe; you know how steady Stephen is, and Charles has been upon theleaders so often now, that I am sure there is no fear.' But, however, Isoon found it would not do; he was bent upon going, and as I hate to beworrying and officious, I said no more; but my heart quite ached for himat every jolt, and when we got into the rough lanes about Stoke, where,what with frost and snow upon beds of stones, it was worse than anythingyou can imagine, I was quite in an agony about him. And then the poorhorses too! To see them straining away! You know how I always feel forthe horses. And when we got to the bottom of Sandcroft Hill, what do youthink I did? You will laugh at me; but I got out and walked up. I didindeed. It might not be saving them much, but it was something, and Icould not bear to sit at my ease and be dragged up at the expense ofthose noble animals. I caught a dreadful cold, but _that_ I did notregard. My object was accomplished in the visit."

  "I hope we shall always think the acquaintance worth any trouble thatmight be taken to establish it. There is nothing very striking in Mr.Rushworth's manners, but I was pleased last night with what appeared tobe his opinion on one subject: his decided preference of a quiet familyparty to the bustle and confusion of acting. He seemed to feel exactlyas one could wish."

  "Yes, indeed, and the more you know of him the better you will like him.He is not a shining character, but he has a thousand good qualities; andis so disposed to look up to you, that I am quite laughed at about it,for everybody considers it as my doing. 'Upon my word, Mrs. Norris,'said Mrs. Grant the other day, 'if Mr. Rushworth were a son of your own,he could not hold Sir Thomas in greater respect.'"

  Sir Thomas gave up the point, foiled by her evasions, disarmed by herflattery; and was obliged to rest satisfied with the conviction thatwhere the present pleasure of those she loved was at stake, her kindnessdid sometimes overpower her judgment.

  It was a busy morning with him. Conversation with any of them occupiedbut a small part of it. He had to reinstate himself in all the wontedconcerns of his Mansfield life: to see his steward and his bailiff; toexamine and compute, and, in the intervals of business, to walk intohis stables and his gardens, and nearest plantations; but active andmethodical, he had not only done all this before he resumed his seat asmaster of the house at dinner, he had also set the carpenter to work inpulling down what had been so lately put up in the billiard-room,and given the scene-painter his dismissal long enough to justify thepleasing belief of his being then at least as far off as Northampton.The scene-painter was gone, having spoilt only the floor of one room,ruined all the coachman's sponges, and made five of the under-servantsidle and dissatisfied; and Sir Thomas was in hopes that another day ortwo would suffice to wipe away every outward memento of what had been,even to the destruction of every unbound copy of Lovers' Vows in thehouse, for he was burning all that met his eye.

  Mr. Yates was beginning now to understand Sir Thomas's intentions,though as far as ever from understanding their source. He and his friendhad been out with their guns the chief of the morning, and Tom had takenthe opportunity of explaining, with proper apologies for his father'sparticularity, what was to be expected. Mr. Yates felt it as acutely asmight be supposed. To be a second time disappointed in the same way wasan instance of very severe ill-luck; and his indignation was such,that had it not been for delicacy towards his friend, and his friend'syoungest sister, he believed he should certainly attack the baroneton the absurdity of his proceedings, and argue him into a little morerationality. He believed this very stoutly while he was in MansfieldWood, and all the way home; but there was a something in Sir Thomas,when they sat round the same table, which made Mr. Yates
think itwiser to let him pursue his own way, and feel the folly of it withoutopposition. He had known many disagreeable fathers before, and oftenbeen struck with the inconveniences they occasioned, but never, inthe whole course of his life, had he seen one of that class sounintelligibly moral, so infamously tyrannical as Sir Thomas. He wasnot a man to be endured but for his children's sake, and he might bethankful to his fair daughter Julia that Mr. Yates did yet mean to staya few days longer under his roof.

  The evening passed with external smoothness, though almost everymind was ruffled; and the music which Sir Thomas called for from hisdaughters helped to conceal the want of real harmony. Maria was in agood deal of agitation. It was of the utmost consequence to her thatCrawford should now lose no time in declaring himself, and she wasdisturbed that even a day should be gone by without seeming to advancethat point. She had been expecting to see him the whole morning, andall the evening, too, was still expecting him. Mr. Rushworth had set offearly with the great news for Sotherton; and she had fondly hoped forsuch an immediate _eclaircissement_ as might save him the trouble ofever coming back again. But they had seen no one from the Parsonage,not a creature, and had heard no tidings beyond a friendly note ofcongratulation and inquiry from Mrs. Grant to Lady Bertram. It was thefirst day for many, many weeks, in which the families had been whollydivided. Four-and-twenty hours had never passed before, since Augustbegan, without bringing them together in some way or other. It was asad, anxious day; and the morrow, though differing in the sort of evil,did by no means bring less. A few moments of feverish enjoyment werefollowed by hours of acute suffering. Henry Crawford was again in thehouse: he walked up with Dr. Grant, who was anxious to pay his respectsto Sir Thomas, and at rather an early hour they were ushered into thebreakfast-room, where were most of the family. Sir Thomas soon appeared,and Maria saw with delight and agitation the introduction of the man sheloved to her father. Her sensations were indefinable, and so were theya few minutes afterwards upon hearing Henry Crawford, who had a chairbetween herself and Tom, ask the latter in an undervoice whetherthere were any plans for resuming the play after the present happyinterruption (with a courteous glance at Sir Thomas), because, in thatcase, he should make a point of returning to Mansfield at any timerequired by the party: he was going away immediately, being to meet hisuncle at Bath without delay; but if there were any prospect of a renewalof Lovers' Vows, he should hold himself positively engaged, he shouldbreak through every other claim, he should absolutely condition with hisuncle for attending them whenever he might be wanted. The play shouldnot be lost by _his_ absence.

  "From Bath, Norfolk, London, York, wherever I may be," said he; "I willattend you from any place in England, at an hour's notice."

  It was well at that moment that Tom had to speak, and not his sister. Hecould immediately say with easy fluency, "I am sorry you are going;but as to our play, _that_ is all over--entirely at an end" (lookingsignificantly at his father). "The painter was sent off yesterday, andvery little will remain of the theatre to-morrow. I knew how _that_would be from the first. It is early for Bath. You will find nobodythere."

  "It is about my uncle's usual time."

  "When do you think of going?"

  "I may, perhaps, get as far as Banbury to-day."

  "Whose stables do you use at Bath?" was the next question; and whilethis branch of the subject was under discussion, Maria, who wantedneither pride nor resolution, was preparing to encounter her share of itwith tolerable calmness.

  To her he soon turned, repeating much of what he had already said, withonly a softened air and stronger expressions of regret. But what availedhis expressions or his air? He was going, and, if not voluntarily going,voluntarily intending to stay away; for, excepting what might be dueto his uncle, his engagements were all self-imposed. He might talk ofnecessity, but she knew his independence. The hand which had so pressedhers to his heart! the hand and the heart were alike motionless andpassive now! Her spirit supported her, but the agony of her mind wassevere. She had not long to endure what arose from listening to languagewhich his actions contradicted, or to bury the tumult of her feelingsunder the restraint of society; for general civilities soon calledhis notice from her, and the farewell visit, as it then became openlyacknowledged, was a very short one. He was gone--he had touched herhand for the last time, he had made his parting bow, and she might seekdirectly all that solitude could do for her. Henry Crawford was gone,gone from the house, and within two hours afterwards from the parish;and so ended all the hopes his selfish vanity had raised in Maria andJulia Bertram.

  Julia could rejoice that he was gone. His presence was beginning to beodious to her; and if Maria gained him not, she was now cool enough todispense with any other revenge. She did not want exposure to be addedto desertion. Henry Crawford gone, she could even pity her sister.

  With a purer spirit did Fanny rejoice in the intelligence. She heard itat dinner, and felt it a blessing. By all the others it was mentionedwith regret; and his merits honoured with due gradation of feeling--fromthe sincerity of Edmund's too partial regard, to the unconcern of hismother speaking entirely by rote. Mrs. Norris began to look about her,and wonder that his falling in love with Julia had come to nothing; andcould almost fear that she had been remiss herself in forwarding it; butwith so many to care for, how was it possible for even _her_ activity tokeep pace with her wishes?

  Another day or two, and Mr. Yates was gone likewise. In _his_ departureSir Thomas felt the chief interest: wanting to be alone with his family,the presence of a stranger superior to Mr. Yates must have been irksome;but of him, trifling and confident, idle and expensive, it was every wayvexatious. In himself he was wearisome, but as the friend of Tom andthe admirer of Julia he became offensive. Sir Thomas had been quiteindifferent to Mr. Crawford's going or staying: but his good wishesfor Mr. Yates's having a pleasant journey, as he walked with him to thehall-door, were given with genuine satisfaction. Mr. Yates had staid tosee the destruction of every theatrical preparation at Mansfield, theremoval of everything appertaining to the play: he left the house in allthe soberness of its general character; and Sir Thomas hoped, in seeinghim out of it, to be rid of the worst object connected with the scheme,and the last that must be inevitably reminding him of its existence.

  Mrs. Norris contrived to remove one article from his sight that mighthave distressed him. The curtain, over which she had presided with suchtalent and such success, went off with her to her cottage, where shehappened to be particularly in want of green baize.

 
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