Mansfield park, p.30
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       Mansfield Park, p.30

           Jane Austen
 

  CHAPTER XXX

  Miss Crawford's uneasiness was much lightened by this conversation, andshe walked home again in spirits which might have defied almost anotherweek of the same small party in the same bad weather, had they been putto the proof; but as that very evening brought her brother down fromLondon again in quite, or more than quite, his usual cheerfulness, shehad nothing farther to try her own. His still refusing to tell her whathe had gone for was but the promotion of gaiety; a day before it mighthave irritated, but now it was a pleasant joke--suspected only ofconcealing something planned as a pleasant surprise to herself. And thenext day _did_ bring a surprise to her. Henry had said he should justgo and ask the Bertrams how they did, and be back in ten minutes, buthe was gone above an hour; and when his sister, who had been waiting forhim to walk with her in the garden, met him at last most impatiently inthe sweep, and cried out, "My dear Henry, where can you have beenall this time?" he had only to say that he had been sitting with LadyBertram and Fanny.

  "Sitting with them an hour and a half!" exclaimed Mary.

  But this was only the beginning of her surprise.

  "Yes, Mary," said he, drawing her arm within his, and walking alongthe sweep as if not knowing where he was: "I could not get away sooner;Fanny looked so lovely! I am quite determined, Mary. My mind is entirelymade up. Will it astonish you? No: you must be aware that I am quitedetermined to marry Fanny Price."

  The surprise was now complete; for, in spite of whatever hisconsciousness might suggest, a suspicion of his having any such viewshad never entered his sister's imagination; and she looked so truly theastonishment she felt, that he was obliged to repeat what he had said,and more fully and more solemnly. The conviction of his determinationonce admitted, it was not unwelcome. There was even pleasure with thesurprise. Mary was in a state of mind to rejoice in a connexion with theBertram family, and to be not displeased with her brother's marrying alittle beneath him.

  "Yes, Mary," was Henry's concluding assurance. "I am fairly caught.You know with what idle designs I began; but this is the end of them.I have, I flatter myself, made no inconsiderable progress in heraffections; but my own are entirely fixed."

  "Lucky, lucky girl!" cried Mary, as soon as she could speak; "what amatch for her! My dearest Henry, this must be my _first_ feeling; butmy _second_, which you shall have as sincerely, is, that I approve yourchoice from my soul, and foresee your happiness as heartily as I wishand desire it. You will have a sweet little wife; all gratitude anddevotion. Exactly what you deserve. What an amazing match for her! Mrs.Norris often talks of her luck; what will she say now? The delightof all the family, indeed! And she has some _true_ friends in it! How_they_ will rejoice! But tell me all about it! Talk to me for ever. Whendid you begin to think seriously about her?"

  Nothing could be more impossible than to answer such a question, thoughnothing could be more agreeable than to have it asked. "How the pleasingplague had stolen on him" he could not say; and before he had expressedthe same sentiment with a little variation of words three times over,his sister eagerly interrupted him with, "Ah, my dear Henry, and thisis what took you to London! This was your business! You chose to consultthe Admiral before you made up your mind."

  But this he stoutly denied. He knew his uncle too well to consult him onany matrimonial scheme. The Admiral hated marriage, and thought it neverpardonable in a young man of independent fortune.

  "When Fanny is known to him," continued Henry, "he will doat on her.She is exactly the woman to do away every prejudice of such a man asthe Admiral, for she he would describe, if indeed he has now delicacyof language enough to embody his own ideas. But till it is absolutelysettled--settled beyond all interference, he shall know nothing of thematter. No, Mary, you are quite mistaken. You have not discovered mybusiness yet."

  "Well, well, I am satisfied. I know now to whom it must relate, and amin no hurry for the rest. Fanny Price! wonderful, quite wonderful! ThatMansfield should have done so much for--that _you_ should have foundyour fate in Mansfield! But you are quite right; you could not havechosen better. There is not a better girl in the world, and you do notwant for fortune; and as to her connexions, they are more than good. TheBertrams are undoubtedly some of the first people in this country. Sheis niece to Sir Thomas Bertram; that will be enough for the world. Butgo on, go on. Tell me more. What are your plans? Does she know her ownhappiness?"

  "No."

  "What are you waiting for?"

  "For--for very little more than opportunity. Mary, she is not like hercousins; but I think I shall not ask in vain."

  "Oh no! you cannot. Were you even less pleasing--supposing her not tolove you already (of which, however, I can have little doubt)--you wouldbe safe. The gentleness and gratitude of her disposition would secureher all your own immediately. From my soul I do not think she wouldmarry you _without_ love; that is, if there is a girl in the worldcapable of being uninfluenced by ambition, I can suppose it her; but askher to love you, and she will never have the heart to refuse."

  As soon as her eagerness could rest in silence, he was as happy to tellas she could be to listen; and a conversation followed almost as deeplyinteresting to her as to himself, though he had in fact nothing torelate but his own sensations, nothing to dwell on but Fanny's charms.Fanny's beauty of face and figure, Fanny's graces of manner and goodnessof heart, were the exhaustless theme. The gentleness, modesty, andsweetness of her character were warmly expatiated on; that sweetnesswhich makes so essential a part of every woman's worth in the judgmentof man, that though he sometimes loves where it is not, he can neverbelieve it absent. Her temper he had good reason to depend on andto praise. He had often seen it tried. Was there one of the family,excepting Edmund, who had not in some way or other continually exercisedher patience and forbearance? Her affections were evidently strong. Tosee her with her brother! What could more delightfully prove that thewarmth of her heart was equal to its gentleness? What could be moreencouraging to a man who had her love in view? Then, her understandingwas beyond every suspicion, quick and clear; and her manners were themirror of her own modest and elegant mind. Nor was this all. HenryCrawford had too much sense not to feel the worth of good principlesin a wife, though he was too little accustomed to serious reflection toknow them by their proper name; but when he talked of her having such asteadiness and regularity of conduct, such a high notion of honour, andsuch an observance of decorum as might warrant any man in the fullestdependence on her faith and integrity, he expressed what was inspired bythe knowledge of her being well principled and religious.

  "I could so wholly and absolutely confide in her," said he; "and _that_is what I want."

  Well might his sister, believing as she really did that his opinion ofFanny Price was scarcely beyond her merits, rejoice in her prospects.

  "The more I think of it," she cried, "the more am I convinced that youare doing quite right; and though I should never have selected FannyPrice as the girl most likely to attach you, I am now persuaded she isthe very one to make you happy. Your wicked project upon her peace turnsout a clever thought indeed. You will both find your good in it."

  "It was bad, very bad in me against such a creature; but I did not knowher then; and she shall have no reason to lament the hour that first putit into my head. I will make her very happy, Mary; happier than she hasever yet been herself, or ever seen anybody else. I will not take herfrom Northamptonshire. I shall let Everingham, and rent a place in thisneighbourhood; perhaps Stanwix Lodge. I shall let a seven years' leaseof Everingham. I am sure of an excellent tenant at half a word. I couldname three people now, who would give me my own terms and thank me."

  "Ha!" cried Mary; "settle in Northamptonshire! That is pleasant! Then weshall be all together."

  When she had spoken it, she recollected herself, and wished it unsaid;but there was no need of confusion; for her brother saw her only as thesupposed inmate of Mansfield parsonage, and replied but to invite her inthe kindest manner to his own house, and to claim the best right in h
er.

  "You must give us more than half your time," said he. "I cannot admitMrs. Grant to have an equal claim with Fanny and myself, for we shallboth have a right in you. Fanny will be so truly your sister!"

  Mary had only to be grateful and give general assurances; but she wasnow very fully purposed to be the guest of neither brother nor sistermany months longer.

  "You will divide your year between London and Northamptonshire?"

  "Yes."

  "That's right; and in London, of course, a house of your own: no longerwith the Admiral. My dearest Henry, the advantage to you of getting awayfrom the Admiral before your manners are hurt by the contagion of his,before you have contracted any of his foolish opinions, or learned tosit over your dinner as if it were the best blessing of life! _You_ arenot sensible of the gain, for your regard for him has blinded you; but,in my estimation, your marrying early may be the saving of you. To haveseen you grow like the Admiral in word or deed, look or gesture, wouldhave broken my heart."

  "Well, well, we do not think quite alike here. The Admiral has hisfaults, but he is a very good man, and has been more than a father tome. Few fathers would have let me have my own way half so much. You mustnot prejudice Fanny against him. I must have them love one another."

  Mary refrained from saying what she felt, that there could not be twopersons in existence whose characters and manners were less accordant:time would discover it to him; but she could not help _this_ reflectionon the Admiral. "Henry, I think so highly of Fanny Price, that if Icould suppose the next Mrs. Crawford would have half the reason whichmy poor ill-used aunt had to abhor the very name, I would prevent themarriage, if possible; but I know you: I know that a wife you _loved_would be the happiest of women, and that even when you ceased tolove, she would yet find in you the liberality and good-breeding of agentleman."

  The impossibility of not doing everything in the world to make FannyPrice happy, or of ceasing to love Fanny Price, was of course thegroundwork of his eloquent answer.

  "Had you seen her this morning, Mary," he continued, "attending withsuch ineffable sweetness and patience to all the demands of her aunt'sstupidity, working with her, and for her, her colour beautifullyheightened as she leant over the work, then returning to her seat tofinish a note which she was previously engaged in writing for thatstupid woman's service, and all this with such unpretending gentleness,so much as if it were a matter of course that she was not to have amoment at her own command, her hair arranged as neatly as it always is,and one little curl falling forward as she wrote, which she now and thenshook back, and in the midst of all this, still speaking at intervals to_me_, or listening, and as if she liked to listen, to what I said. Hadyou seen her so, Mary, you would not have implied the possibility of herpower over my heart ever ceasing."

  "My dearest Henry," cried Mary, stopping short, and smiling in his face,"how glad I am to see you so much in love! It quite delights me. Butwhat will Mrs. Rushworth and Julia say?"

  "I care neither what they say nor what they feel. They will now see whatsort of woman it is that can attach me, that can attach a man of sense.I wish the discovery may do them any good. And they will now see theircousin treated as she ought to be, and I wish they may be heartilyashamed of their own abominable neglect and unkindness. They will beangry," he added, after a moment's silence, and in a cooler tone; "Mrs.Rushworth will be very angry. It will be a bitter pill to her; that is,like other bitter pills, it will have two moments' ill flavour, and thenbe swallowed and forgotten; for I am not such a coxcomb as to supposeher feelings more lasting than other women's, though _I_ was the objectof them. Yes, Mary, my Fanny will feel a difference indeed: a daily,hourly difference, in the behaviour of every being who approaches her;and it will be the completion of my happiness to know that I am the doerof it, that I am the person to give the consequence so justly her due.Now she is dependent, helpless, friendless, neglected, forgotten."

  "Nay, Henry, not by all; not forgotten by all; not friendless orforgotten. Her cousin Edmund never forgets her."

  "Edmund! True, I believe he is, generally speaking, kind to her, andso is Sir Thomas in his way; but it is the way of a rich, superior,long-worded, arbitrary uncle. What can Sir Thomas and Edmund togetherdo, what do they _do_ for her happiness, comfort, honour, and dignity inthe world, to what I _shall_ do?"

 
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