Mansfield park, p.33
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       Mansfield Park, p.33

           Jane Austen


  The conference was neither so short nor so conclusive as the lady haddesigned. The gentleman was not so easily satisfied. He had all thedisposition to persevere that Sir Thomas could wish him. He had vanity,which strongly inclined him in the first place to think she did lovehim, though she might not know it herself; and which, secondly, whenconstrained at last to admit that she did know her own present feelings,convinced him that he should be able in time to make those feelings whathe wished.

  He was in love, very much in love; and it was a love which, operatingon an active, sanguine spirit, of more warmth than delicacy, made heraffection appear of greater consequence because it was withheld, anddetermined him to have the glory, as well as the felicity, of forcingher to love him.

  He would not despair: he would not desist. He had every well-groundedreason for solid attachment; he knew her to have all the worth thatcould justify the warmest hopes of lasting happiness with her; herconduct at this very time, by speaking the disinterestedness anddelicacy of her character (qualities which he believed most rareindeed), was of a sort to heighten all his wishes, and confirm all hisresolutions. He knew not that he had a pre-engaged heart to attack.Of _that_ he had no suspicion. He considered her rather as one whohad never thought on the subject enough to be in danger; who had beenguarded by youth, a youth of mind as lovely as of person; whose modestyhad prevented her from understanding his attentions, and who was stilloverpowered by the suddenness of addresses so wholly unexpected, and thenovelty of a situation which her fancy had never taken into account.

  Must it not follow of course, that, when he was understood, he shouldsucceed? He believed it fully. Love such as his, in a man like himself,must with perseverance secure a return, and at no great distance; andhe had so much delight in the idea of obliging her to love him in a veryshort time, that her not loving him now was scarcely regretted. A littledifficulty to be overcome was no evil to Henry Crawford. He ratherderived spirits from it. He had been apt to gain hearts too easily. Hissituation was new and animating.

  To Fanny, however, who had known too much opposition all her life tofind any charm in it, all this was unintelligible. She found that he didmean to persevere; but how he could, after such language from her as shefelt herself obliged to use, was not to be understood. She told him thatshe did not love him, could not love him, was sure she never should lovehim; that such a change was quite impossible; that the subject was mostpainful to her; that she must entreat him never to mention it again, toallow her to leave him at once, and let it be considered as concludedfor ever. And when farther pressed, had added, that in her opinion theirdispositions were so totally dissimilar as to make mutual affectionincompatible; and that they were unfitted for each other by nature,education, and habit. All this she had said, and with the earnestnessof sincerity; yet this was not enough, for he immediately denied therebeing anything uncongenial in their characters, or anything unfriendlyin their situations; and positively declared, that he would still love,and still hope!

  Fanny knew her own meaning, but was no judge of her own manner. Hermanner was incurably gentle; and she was not aware how much it concealedthe sternness of her purpose. Her diffidence, gratitude, and softnessmade every expression of indifference seem almost an effort ofself-denial; seem, at least, to be giving nearly as much pain to herselfas to him. Mr. Crawford was no longer the Mr. Crawford who, as theclandestine, insidious, treacherous admirer of Maria Bertram, had beenher abhorrence, whom she had hated to see or to speak to, in whom shecould believe no good quality to exist, and whose power, even of beingagreeable, she had barely acknowledged. He was now the Mr. Crawford whowas addressing herself with ardent, disinterested love; whose feelingswere apparently become all that was honourable and upright, whose viewsof happiness were all fixed on a marriage of attachment; who waspouring out his sense of her merits, describing and describing again hisaffection, proving as far as words could prove it, and in the language,tone, and spirit of a man of talent too, that he sought her for hergentleness and her goodness; and to complete the whole, he was now theMr. Crawford who had procured William's promotion!

  Here was a change, and here were claims which could not but operate!She might have disdained him in all the dignity of angry virtue, inthe grounds of Sotherton, or the theatre at Mansfield Park; but heapproached her now with rights that demanded different treatment.She must be courteous, and she must be compassionate. She must havea sensation of being honoured, and whether thinking of herself or herbrother, she must have a strong feeling of gratitude. The effect of thewhole was a manner so pitying and agitated, and words intermingled withher refusal so expressive of obligation and concern, that to a temper ofvanity and hope like Crawford's, the truth, or at least the strengthof her indifference, might well be questionable; and he was not soirrational as Fanny considered him, in the professions of persevering,assiduous, and not desponding attachment which closed the interview.

  It was with reluctance that he suffered her to go; but there was no lookof despair in parting to belie his words, or give her hopes of his beingless unreasonable than he professed himself.

  Now she was angry. Some resentment did arise at a perseverance soselfish and ungenerous. Here was again a want of delicacy and regard forothers which had formerly so struck and disgusted her. Here was againa something of the same Mr. Crawford whom she had so reprobated before.How evidently was there a gross want of feeling and humanity where hisown pleasure was concerned; and alas! how always known no principle tosupply as a duty what the heart was deficient in! Had her own affectionsbeen as free as perhaps they ought to have been, he never could haveengaged them.

  So thought Fanny, in good truth and sober sadness, as she sat musingover that too great indulgence and luxury of a fire upstairs: wonderingat the past and present; wondering at what was yet to come, and in anervous agitation which made nothing clear to her but the persuasion ofher being never under any circumstances able to love Mr. Crawford, andthe felicity of having a fire to sit over and think of it.

  Sir Thomas was obliged, or obliged himself, to wait till the morrow fora knowledge of what had passed between the young people. He then sawMr. Crawford, and received his account. The first feeling wasdisappointment: he had hoped better things; he had thought that anhour's entreaty from a young man like Crawford could not have worked solittle change on a gentle-tempered girl like Fanny; but there was speedycomfort in the determined views and sanguine perseverance of the lover;and when seeing such confidence of success in the principal, Sir Thomaswas soon able to depend on it himself.

  Nothing was omitted, on his side, of civility, compliment, or kindness,that might assist the plan. Mr. Crawford's steadiness was honoured, andFanny was praised, and the connexion was still the most desirable in theworld. At Mansfield Park Mr. Crawford would always be welcome; he hadonly to consult his own judgment and feelings as to the frequency of hisvisits, at present or in future. In all his niece's family and friends,there could be but one opinion, one wish on the subject; the influenceof all who loved her must incline one way.

  Everything was said that could encourage, every encouragement receivedwith grateful joy, and the gentlemen parted the best of friends.

  Satisfied that the cause was now on a footing the most proper andhopeful, Sir Thomas resolved to abstain from all farther importunitywith his niece, and to shew no open interference. Upon her dispositionhe believed kindness might be the best way of working. Entreaty shouldbe from one quarter only. The forbearance of her family on a point,respecting which she could be in no doubt of their wishes, might betheir surest means of forwarding it. Accordingly, on this principle, SirThomas took the first opportunity of saying to her, with a mild gravity,intended to be overcoming, "Well, Fanny, I have seen Mr. Crawford again,and learn from him exactly how matters stand between you. He is a mostextraordinary young man, and whatever be the event, you must feel thatyou have created an attachment of no common character; though, youngas you are, and little acquainted with the transient, vary
ing, unsteadynature of love, as it generally exists, you cannot be struck as Iam with all that is wonderful in a perseverance of this sort againstdiscouragement. With him it is entirely a matter of feeling: he claimsno merit in it; perhaps is entitled to none. Yet, having chosen sowell, his constancy has a respectable stamp. Had his choice been lessunexceptionable, I should have condemned his persevering."

  "Indeed, sir," said Fanny, "I am very sorry that Mr. Crawford shouldcontinue to know that it is paying me a very great compliment, and Ifeel most undeservedly honoured; but I am so perfectly convinced, and Ihave told him so, that it never will be in my power--"

  "My dear," interrupted Sir Thomas, "there is no occasion for this. Yourfeelings are as well known to me as my wishes and regrets must beto you. There is nothing more to be said or done. From this hour thesubject is never to be revived between us. You will have nothing tofear, or to be agitated about. You cannot suppose me capable of tryingto persuade you to marry against your inclinations. Your happiness andadvantage are all that I have in view, and nothing is required of youbut to bear with Mr. Crawford's endeavours to convince you that they maynot be incompatible with his. He proceeds at his own risk. You are onsafe ground. I have engaged for your seeing him whenever he calls, asyou might have done had nothing of this sort occurred. You will seehim with the rest of us, in the same manner, and, as much as youcan, dismissing the recollection of everything unpleasant. He leavesNorthamptonshire so soon, that even this slight sacrifice cannot beoften demanded. The future must be very uncertain. And now, my dearFanny, this subject is closed between us."

  The promised departure was all that Fanny could think of with muchsatisfaction. Her uncle's kind expressions, however, and forbearingmanner, were sensibly felt; and when she considered how much of thetruth was unknown to him, she believed she had no right to wonder atthe line of conduct he pursued. He, who had married a daughter to Mr.Rushworth: romantic delicacy was certainly not to be expected from him.She must do her duty, and trust that time might make her duty easierthan it now was.

  She could not, though only eighteen, suppose Mr. Crawford's attachmentwould hold out for ever; she could not but imagine that steady,unceasing discouragement from herself would put an end to it in time.How much time she might, in her own fancy, allot for its dominion, isanother concern. It would not be fair to inquire into a young lady'sexact estimate of her own perfections.

  In spite of his intended silence, Sir Thomas found himself once moreobliged to mention the subject to his niece, to prepare her briefly forits being imparted to her aunts; a measure which he would still haveavoided, if possible, but which became necessary from the totallyopposite feelings of Mr. Crawford as to any secrecy of proceeding. Hehad no idea of concealment. It was all known at the Parsonage, wherehe loved to talk over the future with both his sisters, and it would berather gratifying to him to have enlightened witnesses of the progressof his success. When Sir Thomas understood this, he felt the necessityof making his own wife and sister-in-law acquainted with the businesswithout delay; though, on Fanny's account, he almost dreaded theeffect of the communication to Mrs. Norris as much as Fanny herself. Hedeprecated her mistaken but well-meaning zeal. Sir Thomas, indeed, was,by this time, not very far from classing Mrs. Norris as one of thosewell-meaning people who are always doing mistaken and very disagreeablethings.

  Mrs. Norris, however, relieved him. He pressed for the strictestforbearance and silence towards their niece; she not only promised, butdid observe it. She only looked her increased ill-will. Angry she was:bitterly angry; but she was more angry with Fanny for having receivedsuch an offer than for refusing it. It was an injury and affront toJulia, who ought to have been Mr. Crawford's choice; and, independentlyof that, she disliked Fanny, because she had neglected her; and shewould have grudged such an elevation to one whom she had been alwaystrying to depress.

  Sir Thomas gave her more credit for discretion on the occasion than shedeserved; and Fanny could have blessed her for allowing her only to seeher displeasure, and not to hear it.

  Lady Bertram took it differently. She had been a beauty, and aprosperous beauty, all her life; and beauty and wealth were all thatexcited her respect. To know Fanny to be sought in marriage by a man offortune, raised her, therefore, very much in her opinion. By convincingher that Fanny _was_ very pretty, which she had been doubting aboutbefore, and that she would be advantageously married, it made her feel asort of credit in calling her niece.

  "Well, Fanny," said she, as soon as they were alone together afterwards,and she really had known something like impatience to be alone with her,and her countenance, as she spoke, had extraordinary animation; "Well,Fanny, I have had a very agreeable surprise this morning. I must justspeak of it _once_, I told Sir Thomas I must _once_, and then Ishall have done. I give you joy, my dear niece." And looking at hercomplacently, she added, "Humph, we certainly are a handsome family!"

  Fanny coloured, and doubted at first what to say; when, hoping to assailher on her vulnerable side, she presently answered--

  "My dear aunt, _you_ cannot wish me to do differently from what I havedone, I am sure. _You_ cannot wish me to marry; for you would miss me,should not you? Yes, I am sure you would miss me too much for that."

  "No, my dear, I should not think of missing you, when such an offer asthis comes in your way. I could do very well without you, if you weremarried to a man of such good estate as Mr. Crawford. And you must beaware, Fanny, that it is every young woman's duty to accept such a veryunexceptionable offer as this."

  This was almost the only rule of conduct, the only piece of advice,which Fanny had ever received from her aunt in the course of eight yearsand a half. It silenced her. She felt how unprofitable contention wouldbe. If her aunt's feelings were against her, nothing could be hoped fromattacking her understanding. Lady Bertram was quite talkative.

  "I will tell you what, Fanny," said she, "I am sure he fell in love withyou at the ball; I am sure the mischief was done that evening. You didlook remarkably well. Everybody said so. Sir Thomas said so. And youknow you had Chapman to help you to dress. I am very glad I sentChapman to you. I shall tell Sir Thomas that I am sure it was donethat evening." And still pursuing the same cheerful thoughts, she soonafterwards added, "And will tell you what, Fanny, which is more than Idid for Maria: the next time Pug has a litter you shall have a puppy."