Mansfield park, p.36
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       Mansfield Park, p.36

           Jane Austen
 

  CHAPTER XXXVI

  Edmund now believed himself perfectly acquainted with all that Fannycould tell, or could leave to be conjectured of her sentiments, and hewas satisfied. It had been, as he before presumed, too hasty a measureon Crawford's side, and time must be given to make the idea firstfamiliar, and then agreeable to her. She must be used to theconsideration of his being in love with her, and then a return ofaffection might not be very distant.

  He gave this opinion as the result of the conversation to his father;and recommended there being nothing more said to her: no fartherattempts to influence or persuade; but that everything should be left toCrawford's assiduities, and the natural workings of her own mind.

  Sir Thomas promised that it should be so. Edmund's account of Fanny'sdisposition he could believe to be just; he supposed she had all thosefeelings, but he must consider it as very unfortunate that she _had_;for, less willing than his son to trust to the future, he could nothelp fearing that if such very long allowances of time and habit werenecessary for her, she might not have persuaded herself into receivinghis addresses properly before the young man's inclination for payingthem were over. There was nothing to be done, however, but to submitquietly and hope the best.

  The promised visit from "her friend," as Edmund called Miss Crawford,was a formidable threat to Fanny, and she lived in continual terror ofit. As a sister, so partial and so angry, and so little scrupulous ofwhat she said, and in another light so triumphant and secure, she was inevery way an object of painful alarm. Her displeasure, her penetration,and her happiness were all fearful to encounter; and the dependence ofhaving others present when they met was Fanny's only support in lookingforward to it. She absented herself as little as possible from LadyBertram, kept away from the East room, and took no solitary walk in theshrubbery, in her caution to avoid any sudden attack.

  She succeeded. She was safe in the breakfast-room, with her aunt, whenMiss Crawford did come; and the first misery over, and Miss Crawfordlooking and speaking with much less particularity of expression than shehad anticipated, Fanny began to hope there would be nothing worse to beendured than a half-hour of moderate agitation. But here she hoped toomuch; Miss Crawford was not the slave of opportunity. She was determinedto see Fanny alone, and therefore said to her tolerably soon, in a lowvoice, "I must speak to you for a few minutes somewhere"; words thatFanny felt all over her, in all her pulses and all her nerves. Denialwas impossible. Her habits of ready submission, on the contrary, madeher almost instantly rise and lead the way out of the room. She did itwith wretched feelings, but it was inevitable.

  They were no sooner in the hall than all restraint of countenance wasover on Miss Crawford's side. She immediately shook her head at Fannywith arch, yet affectionate reproach, and taking her hand, seemed hardlyable to help beginning directly. She said nothing, however, but, "Sad,sad girl! I do not know when I shall have done scolding you," and haddiscretion enough to reserve the rest till they might be secure ofhaving four walls to themselves. Fanny naturally turned upstairs, andtook her guest to the apartment which was now always fit for comfortableuse; opening the door, however, with a most aching heart, and feelingthat she had a more distressing scene before her than ever that spot hadyet witnessed. But the evil ready to burst on her was at least delayedby the sudden change in Miss Crawford's ideas; by the strong effect onher mind which the finding herself in the East room again produced.

  "Ha!" she cried, with instant animation, "am I here again? The Eastroom! Once only was I in this room before"; and after stopping to lookabout her, and seemingly to retrace all that had then passed, she added,"Once only before. Do you remember it? I came to rehearse. Your cousincame too; and we had a rehearsal. You were our audience and prompter.A delightful rehearsal. I shall never forget it. Here we were, just inthis part of the room: here was your cousin, here was I, here were thechairs. Oh! why will such things ever pass away?"

  Happily for her companion, she wanted no answer. Her mind was entirelyself-engrossed. She was in a reverie of sweet remembrances.

  "The scene we were rehearsing was so very remarkable! The subject ofit so very--very--what shall I say? He was to be describing andrecommending matrimony to me. I think I see him now, trying to be asdemure and composed as Anhalt ought, through the two long speeches.'When two sympathetic hearts meet in the marriage state, matrimonymay be called a happy life.' I suppose no time can ever wear out theimpression I have of his looks and voice as he said those words. It wascurious, very curious, that we should have such a scene to play! If Ihad the power of recalling any one week of my existence, it should bethat week--that acting week. Say what you would, Fanny, it should be_that_; for I never knew such exquisite happiness in any other. Hissturdy spirit to bend as it did! Oh! it was sweet beyond expression. Butalas, that very evening destroyed it all. That very evening brought yourmost unwelcome uncle. Poor Sir Thomas, who was glad to see you? Yet,Fanny, do not imagine I would now speak disrespectfully of Sir Thomas,though I certainly did hate him for many a week. No, I do him justicenow. He is just what the head of such a family should be. Nay, in sobersadness, I believe I now love you all." And having said so, with adegree of tenderness and consciousness which Fanny had never seen in herbefore, and now thought only too becoming, she turned away for a momentto recover herself. "I have had a little fit since I came into thisroom, as you may perceive," said she presently, with a playful smile,"but it is over now; so let us sit down and be comfortable; for as toscolding you, Fanny, which I came fully intending to do, I have notthe heart for it when it comes to the point." And embracing her veryaffectionately, "Good, gentle Fanny! when I think of this being thelast time of seeing you for I do not know how long, I feel it quiteimpossible to do anything but love you."

  Fanny was affected. She had not foreseen anything of this, and herfeelings could seldom withstand the melancholy influence of the word"last." She cried as if she had loved Miss Crawford more than shepossibly could; and Miss Crawford, yet farther softened by the sight ofsuch emotion, hung about her with fondness, and said, "I hate to leaveyou. I shall see no one half so amiable where I am going. Who says weshall not be sisters? I know we shall. I feel that we are born tobe connected; and those tears convince me that you feel it too, dearFanny."

  Fanny roused herself, and replying only in part, said, "But you areonly going from one set of friends to another. You are going to a veryparticular friend."

  "Yes, very true. Mrs. Fraser has been my intimate friend for years. ButI have not the least inclination to go near her. I can think only of thefriends I am leaving: my excellent sister, yourself, and the Bertrams ingeneral. You have all so much more _heart_ among you than one finds inthe world at large. You all give me a feeling of being able to trust andconfide in you, which in common intercourse one knows nothing of. I wishI had settled with Mrs. Fraser not to go to her till after Easter, amuch better time for the visit, but now I cannot put her off. And whenI have done with her I must go to her sister, Lady Stornaway, because_she_ was rather my most particular friend of the two, but I have notcared much for _her_ these three years."

  After this speech the two girls sat many minutes silent, eachthoughtful: Fanny meditating on the different sorts of friendship in theworld, Mary on something of less philosophic tendency. _She_ first spokeagain.

  "How perfectly I remember my resolving to look for you upstairs, andsetting off to find my way to the East room, without having an ideawhereabouts it was! How well I remember what I was thinking of as I camealong, and my looking in and seeing you here sitting at this table atwork; and then your cousin's astonishment, when he opened the door, atseeing me here! To be sure, your uncle's returning that very evening!There never was anything quite like it."

  Another short fit of abstraction followed, when, shaking it off, shethus attacked her companion.

  "Why, Fanny, you are absolutely in a reverie. Thinking, I hope, of onewho is always thinking of you. Oh! that I could transport you for ashort time into our circle in town, that you might understand
how yourpower over Henry is thought of there! Oh! the envyings and heartburningsof dozens and dozens; the wonder, the incredulity that will be felt athearing what you have done! For as to secrecy, Henry is quite the heroof an old romance, and glories in his chains. You should come to Londonto know how to estimate your conquest. If you were to see how he iscourted, and how I am courted for his sake! Now, I am well aware thatI shall not be half so welcome to Mrs. Fraser in consequence of hissituation with you. When she comes to know the truth she will, verylikely, wish me in Northamptonshire again; for there is a daughter ofMr. Fraser, by a first wife, whom she is wild to get married, andwants Henry to take. Oh! she has been trying for him to such a degree.Innocent and quiet as you sit here, you cannot have an idea of the_sensation_ that you will be occasioning, of the curiosity there willbe to see you, of the endless questions I shall have to answer! PoorMargaret Fraser will be at me for ever about your eyes and your teeth,and how you do your hair, and who makes your shoes. I wish Margaret weremarried, for my poor friend's sake, for I look upon the Frasers to beabout as unhappy as most other married people. And yet it was a mostdesirable match for Janet at the time. We were all delighted. She couldnot do otherwise than accept him, for he was rich, and she had nothing;but he turns out ill-tempered and _exigeant_, and wants a young woman,a beautiful young woman of five-and-twenty, to be as steady as himself.And my friend does not manage him well; she does not seem to know howto make the best of it. There is a spirit of irritation which, to saynothing worse, is certainly very ill-bred. In their house I shall callto mind the conjugal manners of Mansfield Parsonage with respect. EvenDr. Grant does shew a thorough confidence in my sister, and a certainconsideration for her judgment, which makes one feel there _is_attachment; but of that I shall see nothing with the Frasers. I shallbe at Mansfield for ever, Fanny. My own sister as a wife, Sir ThomasBertram as a husband, are my standards of perfection. Poor Janet hasbeen sadly taken in, and yet there was nothing improper on her side:she did not run into the match inconsiderately; there was no want offoresight. She took three days to consider of his proposals, and duringthose three days asked the advice of everybody connected with her whoseopinion was worth having, and especially applied to my late dear aunt,whose knowledge of the world made her judgment very generally anddeservedly looked up to by all the young people of her acquaintance, andshe was decidedly in favour of Mr. Fraser. This seems as if nothing werea security for matrimonial comfort. I have not so much to say for myfriend Flora, who jilted a very nice young man in the Blues for the sakeof that horrid Lord Stornaway, who has about as much sense, Fanny, asMr. Rushworth, but much worse-looking, and with a blackguard character.I _had_ my doubts at the time about her being right, for he has not eventhe air of a gentleman, and now I am sure she was wrong. By the bye,Flora Ross was dying for Henry the first winter she came out. But were Ito attempt to tell you of all the women whom I have known to be in lovewith him, I should never have done. It is you, only you, insensibleFanny, who can think of him with anything like indifference. But are youso insensible as you profess yourself? No, no, I see you are not."

  There was, indeed, so deep a blush over Fanny's face at that moment asmight warrant strong suspicion in a predisposed mind.

  "Excellent creature! I will not tease you. Everything shall take itscourse. But, dear Fanny, you must allow that you were not so absolutelyunprepared to have the question asked as your cousin fancies. It is notpossible but that you must have had some thoughts on the subject, somesurmises as to what might be. You must have seen that he was trying toplease you by every attention in his power. Was not he devoted to youat the ball? And then before the ball, the necklace! Oh! you receivedit just as it was meant. You were as conscious as heart could desire. Iremember it perfectly."

  "Do you mean, then, that your brother knew of the necklace beforehand?Oh! Miss Crawford, _that_ was not fair."

  "Knew of it! It was his own doing entirely, his own thought. I amashamed to say that it had never entered my head, but I was delighted toact on his proposal for both your sakes."

  "I will not say," replied Fanny, "that I was not half afraid at the timeof its being so, for there was something in your look that frightenedme, but not at first; I was as unsuspicious of it at first--indeed,indeed I was. It is as true as that I sit here. And had I had an ideaof it, nothing should have induced me to accept the necklace. As to yourbrother's behaviour, certainly I was sensible of a particularity: I hadbeen sensible of it some little time, perhaps two or three weeks; butthen I considered it as meaning nothing: I put it down as simply beinghis way, and was as far from supposing as from wishing him to have anyserious thoughts of me. I had not, Miss Crawford, been an inattentiveobserver of what was passing between him and some part of this family inthe summer and autumn. I was quiet, but I was not blind. I could notbut see that Mr. Crawford allowed himself in gallantries which did meannothing."

  "Ah! I cannot deny it. He has now and then been a sad flirt, andcared very little for the havoc he might be making in young ladies'affections. I have often scolded him for it, but it is his only fault;and there is this to be said, that very few young ladies have anyaffections worth caring for. And then, Fanny, the glory of fixing onewho has been shot at by so many; of having it in one's power to pay offthe debts of one's sex! Oh! I am sure it is not in woman's nature torefuse such a triumph."

  Fanny shook her head. "I cannot think well of a man who sports with anywoman's feelings; and there may often be a great deal more suffered thana stander-by can judge of."

  "I do not defend him. I leave him entirely to your mercy, and when hehas got you at Everingham, I do not care how much you lecture him. Butthis I will say, that his fault, the liking to make girls a littlein love with him, is not half so dangerous to a wife's happiness as atendency to fall in love himself, which he has never been addicted to.And I do seriously and truly believe that he is attached to you in a waythat he never was to any woman before; that he loves you with all hisheart, and will love you as nearly for ever as possible. If any man everloved a woman for ever, I think Henry will do as much for you."

  Fanny could not avoid a faint smile, but had nothing to say.

  "I cannot imagine Henry ever to have been happier," continued Marypresently, "than when he had succeeded in getting your brother'scommission."

  She had made a sure push at Fanny's feelings here.

  "Oh! yes. How very, very kind of him."

  "I know he must have exerted himself very much, for I know the partieshe had to move. The Admiral hates trouble, and scorns asking favours;and there are so many young men's claims to be attended to in the sameway, that a friendship and energy, not very determined, is easily putby. What a happy creature William must be! I wish we could see him."

  Poor Fanny's mind was thrown into the most distressing of all itsvarieties. The recollection of what had been done for William was alwaysthe most powerful disturber of every decision against Mr. Crawford; andshe sat thinking deeply of it till Mary, who had been first watchingher complacently, and then musing on something else, suddenly calledher attention by saying: "I should like to sit talking with you here allday, but we must not forget the ladies below, and so good-bye, my dear,my amiable, my excellent Fanny, for though we shall nominally part inthe breakfast-parlour, I must take leave of you here. And I do takeleave, longing for a happy reunion, and trusting that when we meetagain, it will be under circumstances which may open our hearts to eachother without any remnant or shadow of reserve."

  A very, very kind embrace, and some agitation of manner, accompaniedthese words.

  "I shall see your cousin in town soon: he talks of being there tolerablysoon; and Sir Thomas, I dare say, in the course of the spring; and youreldest cousin, and the Rushworths, and Julia, I am sure of meeting againand again, and all but you. I have two favours to ask, Fanny: one isyour correspondence. You must write to me. And the other, that you willoften call on Mrs. Grant, and make her amends for my being gone."

  The first, at least, of these favours Fanny woul
d rather not have beenasked; but it was impossible for her to refuse the correspondence; itwas impossible for her even not to accede to it more readily thanher own judgment authorised. There was no resisting so much apparentaffection. Her disposition was peculiarly calculated to value a fondtreatment, and from having hitherto known so little of it, she was themore overcome by Miss Crawford's. Besides, there was gratitude towardsher, for having made their _tete-a-tete_ so much less painful than herfears had predicted.

  It was over, and she had escaped without reproaches and withoutdetection. Her secret was still her own; and while that was the case,she thought she could resign herself to almost everything.

  In the evening there was another parting. Henry Crawford came andsat some time with them; and her spirits not being previously in thestrongest state, her heart was softened for a while towards him, becausehe really seemed to feel. Quite unlike his usual self, he scarcely saidanything. He was evidently oppressed, and Fanny must grieve for him,though hoping she might never see him again till he were the husband ofsome other woman.

  When it came to the moment of parting, he would take her hand, he wouldnot be denied it; he said nothing, however, or nothing that she heard,and when he had left the room, she was better pleased that such a tokenof friendship had passed.

  On the morrow the Crawfords were gone.

 
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