Mansfield park, p.35
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       Mansfield Park, p.35

           Jane Austen


  Edmund had determined that it belonged entirely to Fanny to chusewhether her situation with regard to Crawford should be mentionedbetween them or not; and that if she did not lead the way, it shouldnever be touched on by him; but after a day or two of mutual reserve, hewas induced by his father to change his mind, and try what his influencemight do for his friend.

  A day, and a very early day, was actually fixed for the Crawfords'departure; and Sir Thomas thought it might be as well to make onemore effort for the young man before he left Mansfield, that all hisprofessions and vows of unshaken attachment might have as much hope tosustain them as possible.

  Sir Thomas was most cordially anxious for the perfection of Mr.Crawford's character in that point. He wished him to be a model ofconstancy; and fancied the best means of effecting it would be by nottrying him too long.

  Edmund was not unwilling to be persuaded to engage in the business; hewanted to know Fanny's feelings. She had been used to consult him inevery difficulty, and he loved her too well to bear to be denied herconfidence now; he hoped to be of service to her, he thought he must beof service to her; whom else had she to open her heart to? If she didnot need counsel, she must need the comfort of communication. Fannyestranged from him, silent and reserved, was an unnatural state ofthings; a state which he must break through, and which he could easilylearn to think she was wanting him to break through.

  "I will speak to her, sir: I will take the first opportunity of speakingto her alone," was the result of such thoughts as these; and upon SirThomas's information of her being at that very time walking alone in theshrubbery, he instantly joined her.

  "I am come to walk with you, Fanny," said he. "Shall I?" Drawing herarm within his. "It is a long while since we have had a comfortable walktogether."

  She assented to it all rather by look than word. Her spirits were low.

  "But, Fanny," he presently added, "in order to have a comfortable walk,something more is necessary than merely pacing this gravel together. Youmust talk to me. I know you have something on your mind. I know what youare thinking of. You cannot suppose me uninformed. Am I to hear of itfrom everybody but Fanny herself?"

  Fanny, at once agitated and dejected, replied, "If you hear of it fromeverybody, cousin, there can be nothing for me to tell."

  "Not of facts, perhaps; but of feelings, Fanny. No one but you can tellme them. I do not mean to press you, however. If it is not what you wishyourself, I have done. I had thought it might be a relief."

  "I am afraid we think too differently for me to find any relief intalking of what I feel."

  "Do you suppose that we think differently? I have no idea of it. I daresay that, on a comparison of our opinions, they would be found as muchalike as they have been used to be: to the point--I consider Crawford'sproposals as most advantageous and desirable, if you could return hisaffection. I consider it as most natural that all your family shouldwish you could return it; but that, as you cannot, you have done exactlyas you ought in refusing him. Can there be any disagreement between ushere?"

  "Oh no! But I thought you blamed me. I thought you were against me. Thisis such a comfort!"

  "This comfort you might have had sooner, Fanny, had you sought it. Buthow could you possibly suppose me against you? How could you imagine mean advocate for marriage without love? Were I even careless in generalon such matters, how could you imagine me so where your happiness was atstake?"

  "My uncle thought me wrong, and I knew he had been talking to you."

  "As far as you have gone, Fanny, I think you perfectly right. I may besorry, I may be surprised--though hardly _that_, for you had not hadtime to attach yourself--but I think you perfectly right. Can it admitof a question? It is disgraceful to us if it does. You did not love him;nothing could have justified your accepting him."

  Fanny had not felt so comfortable for days and days.

  "So far your conduct has been faultless, and they were quite mistakenwho wished you to do otherwise. But the matter does not end here.Crawford's is no common attachment; he perseveres, with the hope ofcreating that regard which had not been created before. This, we know,must be a work of time. But" (with an affectionate smile) "let himsucceed at last, Fanny, let him succeed at last. You have provedyourself upright and disinterested, prove yourself grateful andtender-hearted; and then you will be the perfect model of a woman whichI have always believed you born for."

  "Oh! never, never, never! he never will succeed with me." And she spokewith a warmth which quite astonished Edmund, and which she blushed atthe recollection of herself, when she saw his look, and heard himreply, "Never! Fanny!--so very determined and positive! This is not likeyourself, your rational self."

  "I mean," she cried, sorrowfully correcting herself, "that I _think_ Inever shall, as far as the future can be answered for; I think I nevershall return his regard."

  "I must hope better things. I am aware, more aware than Crawford can be,that the man who means to make you love him (you having due notice ofhis intentions) must have very uphill work, for there are all your earlyattachments and habits in battle array; and before he can get your heartfor his own use he has to unfasten it from all the holds upon thingsanimate and inanimate, which so many years' growth have confirmed, andwhich are considerably tightened for the moment by the very ideaof separation. I know that the apprehension of being forced to quitMansfield will for a time be arming you against him. I wish he had notbeen obliged to tell you what he was trying for. I wish he had known youas well as I do, Fanny. Between us, I think we should have won you. Mytheoretical and his practical knowledge together could not have failed.He should have worked upon my plans. I must hope, however, that time,proving him (as I firmly believe it will) to deserve you by his steadyaffection, will give him his reward. I cannot suppose that you have notthe _wish_ to love him--the natural wish of gratitude. You must havesome feeling of that sort. You must be sorry for your own indifference."

  "We are so totally unlike," said Fanny, avoiding a direct answer, "weare so very, very different in all our inclinations and ways, thatI consider it as quite impossible we should ever be tolerably happytogether, even if I _could_ like him. There never were two people moredissimilar. We have not one taste in common. We should be miserable."

  "You are mistaken, Fanny. The dissimilarity is not so strong. You arequite enough alike. You _have_ tastes in common. You have moral andliterary tastes in common. You have both warm hearts and benevolentfeelings; and, Fanny, who that heard him read, and saw you listen toShakespeare the other night, will think you unfitted as companions? Youforget yourself: there is a decided difference in your tempers, I allow.He is lively, you are serious; but so much the better: his spirits willsupport yours. It is your disposition to be easily dejected and to fancydifficulties greater than they are. His cheerfulness will counteractthis. He sees difficulties nowhere: and his pleasantness and gaiety willbe a constant support to you. Your being so far unlike, Fanny, does notin the smallest degree make against the probability of your happinesstogether: do not imagine it. I am myself convinced that it is rather afavourable circumstance. I am perfectly persuaded that the tempershad better be unlike: I mean unlike in the flow of the spirits, inthe manners, in the inclination for much or little company, in thepropensity to talk or to be silent, to be grave or to be gay. Someopposition here is, I am thoroughly convinced, friendly to matrimonialhappiness. I exclude extremes, of course; and a very close resemblancein all those points would be the likeliest way to produce an extreme.A counteraction, gentle and continual, is the best safeguard of mannersand conduct."

  Full well could Fanny guess where his thoughts were now: Miss Crawford'spower was all returning. He had been speaking of her cheerfully from thehour of his coming home. His avoiding her was quite at an end. He haddined at the Parsonage only the preceding day.

  After leaving him to his happier thoughts for some minutes, Fanny,feeling it due to herself, returned to Mr. Crawford, and said, "Itis not merely in _temper_ that I
consider him as totally unsuited tomyself; though, in _that_ respect, I think the difference between us toogreat, infinitely too great: his spirits often oppress me; but there issomething in him which I object to still more. I must say, cousin, thatI cannot approve his character. I have not thought well of him from thetime of the play. I then saw him behaving, as it appeared to me, sovery improperly and unfeelingly--I may speak of it now because it is allover--so improperly by poor Mr. Rushworth, not seeming to care how heexposed or hurt him, and paying attentions to my cousin Maria, which--inshort, at the time of the play, I received an impression which willnever be got over."

  "My dear Fanny," replied Edmund, scarcely hearing her to the end, "letus not, any of us, be judged by what we appeared at that period ofgeneral folly. The time of the play is a time which I hate to recollect.Maria was wrong, Crawford was wrong, we were all wrong together; butnone so wrong as myself. Compared with me, all the rest were blameless.I was playing the fool with my eyes open."

  "As a bystander," said Fanny, "perhaps I saw more than you did; and I dothink that Mr. Rushworth was sometimes very jealous."

  "Very possibly. No wonder. Nothing could be more improper than the wholebusiness. I am shocked whenever I think that Maria could be capable ofit; but, if she could undertake the part, we must not be surprised atthe rest."

  "Before the play, I am much mistaken if _Julia_ did not think he waspaying her attentions."

  "Julia! I have heard before from some one of his being in love withJulia; but I could never see anything of it. And, Fanny, though I hope Ido justice to my sisters' good qualities, I think it very possible thatthey might, one or both, be more desirous of being admired by Crawford,and might shew that desire rather more unguardedly than was perfectlyprudent. I can remember that they were evidently fond of his society;and with such encouragement, a man like Crawford, lively, and it maybe, a little unthinking, might be led on to--there could be nothing verystriking, because it is clear that he had no pretensions: his heart wasreserved for you. And I must say, that its being for you has raised himinconceivably in my opinion. It does him the highest honour; it shewshis proper estimation of the blessing of domestic happiness and pureattachment. It proves him unspoilt by his uncle. It proves him, inshort, everything that I had been used to wish to believe him, andfeared he was not."

  "I am persuaded that he does not think, as he ought, on serioussubjects."

  "Say, rather, that he has not thought at all upon serious subjects,which I believe to be a good deal the case. How could it be otherwise,with such an education and adviser? Under the disadvantages, indeed,which both have had, is it not wonderful that they should be what theyare? Crawford's _feelings_, I am ready to acknowledge, have hithertobeen too much his guides. Happily, those feelings have generally beengood. You will supply the rest; and a most fortunate man he is to attachhimself to such a creature--to a woman who, firm as a rock in her ownprinciples, has a gentleness of character so well adapted to recommendthem. He has chosen his partner, indeed, with rare felicity. He willmake you happy, Fanny; I know he will make you happy; but you will makehim everything."

  "I would not engage in such a charge," cried Fanny, in a shrinkingaccent; "in such an office of high responsibility!"

  "As usual, believing yourself unequal to anything! fancying everythingtoo much for you! Well, though I may not be able to persuade you intodifferent feelings, you will be persuaded into them, I trust. I confessmyself sincerely anxious that you may. I have no common interest inCrawford's well-doing. Next to your happiness, Fanny, his has the firstclaim on me. You are aware of my having no common interest in Crawford."

  Fanny was too well aware of it to have anything to say; and they walkedon together some fifty yards in mutual silence and abstraction. Edmundfirst began again--

  "I was very much pleased by her manner of speaking of it yesterday,particularly pleased, because I had not depended upon her seeingeverything in so just a light. I knew she was very fond of you; but yetI was afraid of her not estimating your worth to her brother quite asit deserved, and of her regretting that he had not rather fixed onsome woman of distinction or fortune. I was afraid of the bias of thoseworldly maxims, which she has been too much used to hear. But it wasvery different. She spoke of you, Fanny, just as she ought. She desiresthe connexion as warmly as your uncle or myself. We had a long talkabout it. I should not have mentioned the subject, though very anxiousto know her sentiments; but I had not been in the room five minutesbefore she began introducing it with all that openness of heart, andsweet peculiarity of manner, that spirit and ingenuousness which are somuch a part of herself. Mrs. Grant laughed at her for her rapidity."

  "Was Mrs. Grant in the room, then?"

  "Yes, when I reached the house I found the two sisters together bythemselves; and when once we had begun, we had not done with you, Fanny,till Crawford and Dr. Grant came in."

  "It is above a week since I saw Miss Crawford."

  "Yes, she laments it; yet owns it may have been best. You will see her,however, before she goes. She is very angry with you, Fanny; you must beprepared for that. She calls herself very angry, but you can imagine heranger. It is the regret and disappointment of a sister, who thinks herbrother has a right to everything he may wish for, at the first moment.She is hurt, as you would be for William; but she loves and esteems youwith all her heart."

  "I knew she would be very angry with me."

  "My dearest Fanny," cried Edmund, pressing her arm closer to him, "donot let the idea of her anger distress you. It is anger to be talkedof rather than felt. Her heart is made for love and kindness, not forresentment. I wish you could have overheard her tribute of praise;I wish you could have seen her countenance, when she said that you_should_ be Henry's wife. And I observed that she always spoke of youas 'Fanny,' which she was never used to do; and it had a sound of mostsisterly cordiality."

  "And Mrs. Grant, did she say--did she speak; was she there all thetime?"

  "Yes, she was agreeing exactly with her sister. The surprise of yourrefusal, Fanny, seems to have been unbounded. That you could refuse sucha man as Henry Crawford seems more than they can understand. I said whatI could for you; but in good truth, as they stated the case--you mustprove yourself to be in your senses as soon as you can by a differentconduct; nothing else will satisfy them. But this is teasing you. I havedone. Do not turn away from me."

  "I _should_ have thought," said Fanny, after a pause of recollection andexertion, "that every woman must have felt the possibility of a man'snot being approved, not being loved by some one of her sex at least, lethim be ever so generally agreeable. Let him have all the perfectionsin the world, I think it ought not to be set down as certain that a manmust be acceptable to every woman he may happen to like himself. But,even supposing it is so, allowing Mr. Crawford to have all the claimswhich his sisters think he has, how was I to be prepared to meet himwith any feeling answerable to his own? He took me wholly by surprise.I had not an idea that his behaviour to me before had any meaning; andsurely I was not to be teaching myself to like him only because he wastaking what seemed very idle notice of me. In my situation, it wouldhave been the extreme of vanity to be forming expectations on Mr.Crawford. I am sure his sisters, rating him as they do, must havethought it so, supposing he had meant nothing. How, then, was I tobe--to be in love with him the moment he said he was with me? How was Ito have an attachment at his service, as soon as it was asked for? Hissisters should consider me as well as him. The higher his deserts, themore improper for me ever to have thought of him. And, and--we thinkvery differently of the nature of women, if they can imagine a woman sovery soon capable of returning an affection as this seems to imply."

  "My dear, dear Fanny, now I have the truth. I know this to be the truth;and most worthy of you are such feelings. I had attributed them to youbefore. I thought I could understand you. You have now given exactlythe explanation which I ventured to make for you to your friend and Mrs.Grant, and they were both better satisfied, though your warm-heartedfri
end was still run away with a little by the enthusiasm of herfondness for Henry. I told them that you were of all human creatures theone over whom habit had most power and novelty least; and that the verycircumstance of the novelty of Crawford's addresses was against him.Their being so new and so recent was all in their disfavour; that youcould tolerate nothing that you were not used to; and a great deal moreto the same purpose, to give them a knowledge of your character. MissCrawford made us laugh by her plans of encouragement for her brother.She meant to urge him to persevere in the hope of being loved in time,and of having his addresses most kindly received at the end of about tenyears' happy marriage."

  Fanny could with difficulty give the smile that was here asked for. Herfeelings were all in revolt. She feared she had been doing wrong: sayingtoo much, overacting the caution which she had been fancying necessary;in guarding against one evil, laying herself open to another; and tohave Miss Crawford's liveliness repeated to her at such a moment, and onsuch a subject, was a bitter aggravation.

  Edmund saw weariness and distress in her face, and immediately resolvedto forbear all farther discussion; and not even to mention the nameof Crawford again, except as it might be connected with what _must_ beagreeable to her. On this principle, he soon afterwards observed--"Theygo on Monday. You are sure, therefore, of seeing your friend eitherto-morrow or Sunday. They really go on Monday; and I was within a trifleof being persuaded to stay at Lessingby till that very day! I had almostpromised it. What a difference it might have made! Those five or sixdays more at Lessingby might have been felt all my life."

  "You were near staying there?"

  "Very. I was most kindly pressed, and had nearly consented. Had Ireceived any letter from Mansfield, to tell me how you were all goingon, I believe I should certainly have staid; but I knew nothing thathad happened here for a fortnight, and felt that I had been away longenough."

  "You spent your time pleasantly there?"

  "Yes; that is, it was the fault of my own mind if I did not. They wereall very pleasant. I doubt their finding me so. I took uneasiness withme, and there was no getting rid of it till I was in Mansfield again."

  "The Miss Owens--you liked them, did not you?"

  "Yes, very well. Pleasant, good-humoured, unaffected girls. But I amspoilt, Fanny, for common female society. Good-humoured, unaffectedgirls will not do for a man who has been used to sensible women. Theyare two distinct orders of being. You and Miss Crawford have made me toonice."

  Still, however, Fanny was oppressed and wearied; he saw it in her looks,it could not be talked away; and attempting it no more, he led herdirectly, with the kind authority of a privileged guardian, into thehouse.