Mansfield park, p.37
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       Mansfield Park, p.37

           Jane Austen
 

  CHAPTER XXXVII

  Mr. Crawford gone, Sir Thomas's next object was that he should bemissed; and he entertained great hope that his niece would find a blankin the loss of those attentions which at the time she had felt, orfancied, an evil. She had tasted of consequence in its most flatteringform; and he did hope that the loss of it, the sinking again intonothing, would awaken very wholesome regrets in her mind. He watched herwith this idea; but he could hardly tell with what success. He hardlyknew whether there were any difference in her spirits or not. Shewas always so gentle and retiring that her emotions were beyond hisdiscrimination. He did not understand her: he felt that he did not; andtherefore applied to Edmund to tell him how she stood affected on thepresent occasion, and whether she were more or less happy than she hadbeen.

  Edmund did not discern any symptoms of regret, and thought his fathera little unreasonable in supposing the first three or four days couldproduce any.

  What chiefly surprised Edmund was, that Crawford's sister, the friendand companion who had been so much to her, should not be more visiblyregretted. He wondered that Fanny spoke so seldom of _her_, and had solittle voluntarily to say of her concern at this separation.

  Alas! it was this sister, this friend and companion, who was now thechief bane of Fanny's comfort. If she could have believed Mary's futurefate as unconnected with Mansfield as she was determined the brother'sshould be, if she could have hoped her return thither to be as distantas she was much inclined to think his, she would have been light ofheart indeed; but the more she recollected and observed, the more deeplywas she convinced that everything was now in a fairer train for MissCrawford's marrying Edmund than it had ever been before. On his side theinclination was stronger, on hers less equivocal. His objections, thescruples of his integrity, seemed all done away, nobody could tellhow; and the doubts and hesitations of her ambition were equally gotover--and equally without apparent reason. It could only be imputed toincreasing attachment. His good and her bad feelings yielded to love,and such love must unite them. He was to go to town as soon as somebusiness relative to Thornton Lacey were completed--perhaps within afortnight; he talked of going, he loved to talk of it; and when oncewith her again, Fanny could not doubt the rest. Her acceptance must beas certain as his offer; and yet there were bad feelings still remainingwhich made the prospect of it most sorrowful to her, independently, shebelieved, independently of self.

  In their very last conversation, Miss Crawford, in spite of some amiablesensations, and much personal kindness, had still been Miss Crawford;still shewn a mind led astray and bewildered, and without any suspicionof being so; darkened, yet fancying itself light. She might love, butshe did not deserve Edmund by any other sentiment. Fanny believed therewas scarcely a second feeling in common between them; and she may beforgiven by older sages for looking on the chance of Miss Crawford'sfuture improvement as nearly desperate, for thinking that if Edmund'sinfluence in this season of love had already done so little in clearingher judgment, and regulating her notions, his worth would be finallywasted on her even in years of matrimony.

  Experience might have hoped more for any young people so circumstanced,and impartiality would not have denied to Miss Crawford's nature thatparticipation of the general nature of women which would lead her toadopt the opinions of the man she loved and respected as her own. Butas such were Fanny's persuasions, she suffered very much from them, andcould never speak of Miss Crawford without pain.

  Sir Thomas, meanwhile, went on with his own hopes and his ownobservations, still feeling a right, by all his knowledge of humannature, to expect to see the effect of the loss of power and consequenceon his niece's spirits, and the past attentions of the lover producing acraving for their return; and he was soon afterwards able to account forhis not yet completely and indubitably seeing all this, by the prospectof another visitor, whose approach he could allow to be quite enough tosupport the spirits he was watching. William had obtained a ten days'leave of absence, to be given to Northamptonshire, and was coming, thehappiest of lieutenants, because the latest made, to shew his happinessand describe his uniform.

  He came; and he would have been delighted to shew his uniform there too,had not cruel custom prohibited its appearance except on duty. So theuniform remained at Portsmouth, and Edmund conjectured that before Fannyhad any chance of seeing it, all its own freshness and all the freshnessof its wearer's feelings must be worn away. It would be sunk into abadge of disgrace; for what can be more unbecoming, or more worthless,than the uniform of a lieutenant, who has been a lieutenant a year ortwo, and sees others made commanders before him? So reasoned Edmund,till his father made him the confidant of a scheme which placed Fanny'schance of seeing the second lieutenant of H.M.S. Thrush in all his gloryin another light.

  This scheme was that she should accompany her brother back toPortsmouth, and spend a little time with her own family. It had occurredto Sir Thomas, in one of his dignified musings, as a right and desirablemeasure; but before he absolutely made up his mind, he consulted hisson. Edmund considered it every way, and saw nothing but what was right.The thing was good in itself, and could not be done at a better time;and he had no doubt of it being highly agreeable to Fanny. This wasenough to determine Sir Thomas; and a decisive "then so it shall be"closed that stage of the business; Sir Thomas retiring from it with somefeelings of satisfaction, and views of good over and above what he hadcommunicated to his son; for his prime motive in sending her away hadvery little to do with the propriety of her seeing her parents again,and nothing at all with any idea of making her happy. He certainlywished her to go willingly, but he as certainly wished her to beheartily sick of home before her visit ended; and that a littleabstinence from the elegancies and luxuries of Mansfield Park wouldbring her mind into a sober state, and incline her to a juster estimateof the value of that home of greater permanence, and equal comfort, ofwhich she had the offer.

  It was a medicinal project upon his niece's understanding, which he mustconsider as at present diseased. A residence of eight or nine years inthe abode of wealth and plenty had a little disordered her powers ofcomparing and judging. Her father's house would, in all probability,teach her the value of a good income; and he trusted that she would bethe wiser and happier woman, all her life, for the experiment he haddevised.

  Had Fanny been at all addicted to raptures, she must have had a strongattack of them when she first understood what was intended, when heruncle first made her the offer of visiting the parents, and brothers,and sisters, from whom she had been divided almost half her life; ofreturning for a couple of months to the scenes of her infancy, withWilliam for the protector and companion of her journey, and thecertainty of continuing to see William to the last hour of his remainingon land. Had she ever given way to bursts of delight, it must have beenthen, for she was delighted, but her happiness was of a quiet, deep,heart-swelling sort; and though never a great talker, she was alwaysmore inclined to silence when feeling most strongly. At the moment shecould only thank and accept. Afterwards, when familiarised with thevisions of enjoyment so suddenly opened, she could speak more largelyto William and Edmund of what she felt; but still there were emotionsof tenderness that could not be clothed in words. The remembrance of allher earliest pleasures, and of what she had suffered in being torn fromthem, came over her with renewed strength, and it seemed as if to beat home again would heal every pain that had since grown out of theseparation. To be in the centre of such a circle, loved by so many,and more loved by all than she had ever been before; to feel affectionwithout fear or restraint; to feel herself the equal of those whosurrounded her; to be at peace from all mention of the Crawfords, safefrom every look which could be fancied a reproach on their account. Thiswas a prospect to be dwelt on with a fondness that could be but halfacknowledged.

  Edmund, too--to be two months from _him_ (and perhaps she might beallowed to make her absence three) must do her good. At a distance,unassailed by his looks or his kindness, and safe from the perpetualirritation of knowing
his heart, and striving to avoid his confidence,she should be able to reason herself into a properer state; she shouldbe able to think of him as in London, and arranging everything there,without wretchedness. What might have been hard to bear at Mansfield wasto become a slight evil at Portsmouth.

  The only drawback was the doubt of her aunt Bertram's being comfortablewithout her. She was of use to no one else; but _there_ she might bemissed to a degree that she did not like to think of; and that part ofthe arrangement was, indeed, the hardest for Sir Thomas to accomplish,and what only _he_ could have accomplished at all.

  But he was master at Mansfield Park. When he had really resolved onany measure, he could always carry it through; and now by dint of longtalking on the subject, explaining and dwelling on the duty of Fanny'ssometimes seeing her family, he did induce his wife to let her go;obtaining it rather from submission, however, than conviction, for LadyBertram was convinced of very little more than that Sir Thomas thoughtFanny ought to go, and therefore that she must. In the calmness ofher own dressing-room, in the impartial flow of her own meditations,unbiassed by his bewildering statements, she could not acknowledge anynecessity for Fanny's ever going near a father and mother who had donewithout her so long, while she was so useful to herself. And as to thenot missing her, which under Mrs. Norris's discussion was the pointattempted to be proved, she set herself very steadily against admittingany such thing.

  Sir Thomas had appealed to her reason, conscience, and dignity. Hecalled it a sacrifice, and demanded it of her goodness and self-commandas such. But Mrs. Norris wanted to persuade her that Fanny could be verywell spared--_she_ being ready to give up all her own time to her asrequested--and, in short, could not really be wanted or missed.

  "That may be, sister," was all Lady Bertram's reply. "I dare say you arevery right; but I am sure I shall miss her very much."

  The next step was to communicate with Portsmouth. Fanny wrote to offerherself; and her mother's answer, though short, was so kind--a fewsimple lines expressed so natural and motherly a joy in the prospectof seeing her child again, as to confirm all the daughter's views ofhappiness in being with her--convincing her that she should now find awarm and affectionate friend in the "mama" who had certainly shewn noremarkable fondness for her formerly; but this she could easily supposeto have been her own fault or her own fancy. She had probably alienatedlove by the helplessness and fretfulness of a fearful temper, or beenunreasonable in wanting a larger share than any one among so many coulddeserve. Now, when she knew better how to be useful, and how to forbear,and when her mother could be no longer occupied by the incessantdemands of a house full of little children, there would be leisure andinclination for every comfort, and they should soon be what mother anddaughter ought to be to each other.

  William was almost as happy in the plan as his sister. It would be thegreatest pleasure to him to have her there to the last moment before hesailed, and perhaps find her there still when he came in from his firstcruise. And besides, he wanted her so very much to see the Thrush beforeshe went out of harbour--the Thrush was certainly the finest sloop inthe service--and there were several improvements in the dockyard, too,which he quite longed to shew her.

  He did not scruple to add that her being at home for a while would be agreat advantage to everybody.

  "I do not know how it is," said he; "but we seem to want some ofyour nice ways and orderliness at my father's. The house is always inconfusion. You will set things going in a better way, I am sure. Youwill tell my mother how it all ought to be, and you will be so useful toSusan, and you will teach Betsey, and make the boys love and mind you.How right and comfortable it will all be!"

  By the time Mrs. Price's answer arrived, there remained but a very fewdays more to be spent at Mansfield; and for part of one of those daysthe young travellers were in a good deal of alarm on the subject oftheir journey, for when the mode of it came to be talked of, and Mrs.Norris found that all her anxiety to save her brother-in-law's moneywas vain, and that in spite of her wishes and hints for a less expensiveconveyance of Fanny, they were to travel post; when she saw Sir Thomasactually give William notes for the purpose, she was struck with theidea of there being room for a third in the carriage, and suddenlyseized with a strong inclination to go with them, to go and see her poordear sister Price. She proclaimed her thoughts. She must say that shehad more than half a mind to go with the young people; it would be suchan indulgence to her; she had not seen her poor dear sister Price formore than twenty years; and it would be a help to the young people intheir journey to have her older head to manage for them; and she couldnot help thinking her poor dear sister Price would feel it very unkindof her not to come by such an opportunity.

  William and Fanny were horror-struck at the idea.

  All the comfort of their comfortable journey would be destroyed atonce. With woeful countenances they looked at each other. Their suspenselasted an hour or two. No one interfered to encourage or dissuade. Mrs.Norris was left to settle the matter by herself; and it ended, to theinfinite joy of her nephew and niece, in the recollection that she couldnot possibly be spared from Mansfield Park at present; that she was agreat deal too necessary to Sir Thomas and Lady Bertram for her tobe able to answer it to herself to leave them even for a week, andtherefore must certainly sacrifice every other pleasure to that of beinguseful to them.

  It had, in fact, occurred to her, that though taken to Portsmouth fornothing, it would be hardly possible for her to avoid paying her ownexpenses back again. So her poor dear sister Price was left to all thedisappointment of her missing such an opportunity, and another twentyyears' absence, perhaps, begun.

  Edmund's plans were affected by this Portsmouth journey, this absence ofFanny's. He too had a sacrifice to make to Mansfield Park as well as hisaunt. He had intended, about this time, to be going to London; but hecould not leave his father and mother just when everybody else of mostimportance to their comfort was leaving them; and with an effort, feltbut not boasted of, he delayed for a week or two longer a journey whichhe was looking forward to with the hope of its fixing his happiness forever.

  He told Fanny of it. She knew so much already, that she must knoweverything. It made the substance of one other confidential discourseabout Miss Crawford; and Fanny was the more affected from feeling it tobe the last time in which Miss Crawford's name would ever be mentionedbetween them with any remains of liberty. Once afterwards she wasalluded to by him. Lady Bertram had been telling her niece in theevening to write to her soon and often, and promising to be a goodcorrespondent herself; and Edmund, at a convenient moment, then addedin a whisper, "And _I_ shall write to you, Fanny, when I have anythingworth writing about, anything to say that I think you will like to hear,and that you will not hear so soon from any other quarter." Had shedoubted his meaning while she listened, the glow in his face, when shelooked up at him, would have been decisive.

  For this letter she must try to arm herself. That a letter from Edmundshould be a subject of terror! She began to feel that she had not yetgone through all the changes of opinion and sentiment which the progressof time and variation of circumstances occasion in this world ofchanges. The vicissitudes of the human mind had not yet been exhaustedby her.

  Poor Fanny! though going as she did willingly and eagerly, the lastevening at Mansfield Park must still be wretchedness. Her heart wascompletely sad at parting. She had tears for every room in the house,much more for every beloved inhabitant. She clung to her aunt, becauseshe would miss her; she kissed the hand of her uncle with strugglingsobs, because she had displeased him; and as for Edmund, she couldneither speak, nor look, nor think, when the last moment came with_him_; and it was not till it was over that she knew he was giving herthe affectionate farewell of a brother.

  All this passed overnight, for the journey was to begin very early inthe morning; and when the small, diminished party met at breakfast,William and Fanny were talked of as already advanced one stage.

 
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