Mansfield park, p.43
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       Mansfield Park, p.43

           Jane Austen
 

  CHAPTER XLIII

  It was presumed that Mr. Crawford was travelling back, to London, on themorrow, for nothing more was seen of him at Mr. Price's; and two daysafterwards, it was a fact ascertained to Fanny by the following letterfrom his sister, opened and read by her, on another account, with themost anxious curiosity:--

  "I have to inform you, my dearest Fanny, that Henry has been down toPortsmouth to see you; that he had a delightful walk with you to thedockyard last Saturday, and one still more to be dwelt on the next day,on the ramparts; when the balmy air, the sparkling sea, and your sweetlooks and conversation were altogether in the most delicious harmony,and afforded sensations which are to raise ecstasy even in retrospect.This, as well as I understand, is to be the substance of my information.He makes me write, but I do not know what else is to be communicated,except this said visit to Portsmouth, and these two said walks, and hisintroduction to your family, especially to a fair sister of yours, afine girl of fifteen, who was of the party on the ramparts, taking herfirst lesson, I presume, in love. I have not time for writing much, butit would be out of place if I had, for this is to be a mere letter ofbusiness, penned for the purpose of conveying necessary information,which could not be delayed without risk of evil. My dear, dear Fanny,if I had you here, how I would talk to you! You should listen to me tillyou were tired, and advise me till you were still tired more; but it isimpossible to put a hundredth part of my great mind on paper, so I willabstain altogether, and leave you to guess what you like. I have no newsfor you. You have politics, of course; and it would be too bad to plagueyou with the names of people and parties that fill up my time. I oughtto have sent you an account of your cousin's first party, but I waslazy, and now it is too long ago; suffice it, that everything was justas it ought to be, in a style that any of her connexions must have beengratified to witness, and that her own dress and manners did her thegreatest credit. My friend, Mrs. Fraser, is mad for such a house, and itwould not make _me_ miserable. I go to Lady Stornaway after Easter;she seems in high spirits, and very happy. I fancy Lord S. is verygood-humoured and pleasant in his own family, and I do not think him sovery ill-looking as I did--at least, one sees many worse. He will notdo by the side of your cousin Edmund. Of the last-mentioned hero, whatshall I say? If I avoided his name entirely, it would look suspicious.I will say, then, that we have seen him two or three times, and thatmy friends here are very much struck with his gentlemanlike appearance.Mrs. Fraser (no bad judge) declares she knows but three men in townwho have so good a person, height, and air; and I must confess, when hedined here the other day, there were none to compare with him, andwe were a party of sixteen. Luckily there is no distinction of dressnowadays to tell tales, but--but--but Yours affectionately."

  "I had almost forgot (it was Edmund's fault: he gets into my head morethan does me good) one very material thing I had to say from Henry andmyself--I mean about our taking you back into Northamptonshire. My dearlittle creature, do not stay at Portsmouth to lose your pretty looks.Those vile sea-breezes are the ruin of beauty and health. My poor auntalways felt affected if within ten miles of the sea, which the Admiralof course never believed, but I know it was so. I am at your serviceand Henry's, at an hour's notice. I should like the scheme, and we wouldmake a little circuit, and shew you Everingham in our way, and perhapsyou would not mind passing through London, and seeing the inside of St.George's, Hanover Square. Only keep your cousin Edmund from me at sucha time: I should not like to be tempted. What a long letter! one wordmore. Henry, I find, has some idea of going into Norfolk again uponsome business that _you_ approve; but this cannot possibly be permittedbefore the middle of next week; that is, he cannot anyhow be spared tillafter the 14th, for _we_ have a party that evening. The value of a manlike Henry, on such an occasion, is what you can have no conceptionof; so you must take it upon my word to be inestimable. He will see theRushworths, which own I am not sorry for--having a little curiosity, andso I think has he--though he will not acknowledge it."

  This was a letter to be run through eagerly, to be read deliberately,to supply matter for much reflection, and to leave everything in greatersuspense than ever. The only certainty to be drawn from it was, thatnothing decisive had yet taken place. Edmund had not yet spoken. HowMiss Crawford really felt, how she meant to act, or might act withoutor against her meaning; whether his importance to her were quite whatit had been before the last separation; whether, if lessened, it werelikely to lessen more, or to recover itself, were subjects for endlessconjecture, and to be thought of on that day and many days to come,without producing any conclusion. The idea that returned the oftenestwas that Miss Crawford, after proving herself cooled and staggered bya return to London habits, would yet prove herself in the end too muchattached to him to give him up. She would try to be more ambitious thanher heart would allow. She would hesitate, she would tease, she wouldcondition, she would require a great deal, but she would finally accept.

  This was Fanny's most frequent expectation. A house in town--that, shethought, must be impossible. Yet there was no saying what Miss Crawfordmight not ask. The prospect for her cousin grew worse and worse. Thewoman who could speak of him, and speak only of his appearance! What anunworthy attachment! To be deriving support from the commendations ofMrs. Fraser! _She_ who had known him intimately half a year! Fanny wasashamed of her. Those parts of the letter which related only to Mr.Crawford and herself, touched her, in comparison, slightly. Whether Mr.Crawford went into Norfolk before or after the 14th was certainly noconcern of hers, though, everything considered, she thought he _would_go without delay. That Miss Crawford should endeavour to secure ameeting between him and Mrs. Rushworth, was all in her worst line ofconduct, and grossly unkind and ill-judged; but she hoped _he_ wouldnot be actuated by any such degrading curiosity. He acknowledged no suchinducement, and his sister ought to have given him credit for betterfeelings than her own.

  She was yet more impatient for another letter from town after receivingthis than she had been before; and for a few days was so unsettled byit altogether, by what had come, and what might come, that her usualreadings and conversation with Susan were much suspended. She couldnot command her attention as she wished. If Mr. Crawford remembered hermessage to her cousin, she thought it very likely, most likely, that hewould write to her at all events; it would be most consistent with hisusual kindness; and till she got rid of this idea, till it graduallywore off, by no letters appearing in the course of three or four daysmore, she was in a most restless, anxious state.

  At length, a something like composure succeeded. Suspense must besubmitted to, and must not be allowed to wear her out, and make heruseless. Time did something, her own exertions something more, and sheresumed her attentions to Susan, and again awakened the same interest inthem.

  Susan was growing very fond of her, and though without any of the earlydelight in books which had been so strong in Fanny, with a dispositionmuch less inclined to sedentary pursuits, or to information forinformation's sake, she had so strong a desire of not _appearing_ignorant, as, with a good clear understanding, made her a mostattentive, profitable, thankful pupil. Fanny was her oracle. Fanny'sexplanations and remarks were a most important addition to every essay,or every chapter of history. What Fanny told her of former times dweltmore on her mind than the pages of Goldsmith; and she paid her sisterthe compliment of preferring her style to that of any printed author.The early habit of reading was wanting.

  Their conversations, however, were not always on subjects so high ashistory or morals. Others had their hour; and of lesser matters, nonereturned so often, or remained so long between them, as Mansfield Park,a description of the people, the manners, the amusements, the waysof Mansfield Park. Susan, who had an innate taste for the genteel andwell-appointed, was eager to hear, and Fanny could not but indulgeherself in dwelling on so beloved a theme. She hoped it was not wrong;though, after a time, Susan's very great admiration of everythingsaid or done in her uncle's house, and earnest longing to go intoNorthamptonshire, s
eemed almost to blame her for exciting feelings whichcould not be gratified.

  Poor Susan was very little better fitted for home than her elder sister;and as Fanny grew thoroughly to understand this, she began to feel thatwhen her own release from Portsmouth came, her happiness would have amaterial drawback in leaving Susan behind. That a girl so capable ofbeing made everything good should be left in such hands, distressed hermore and more. Were _she_ likely to have a home to invite her to, whata blessing it would be! And had it been possible for her to return Mr.Crawford's regard, the probability of his being very far from objectingto such a measure would have been the greatest increase of all her owncomforts. She thought he was really good-tempered, and could fancy hisentering into a plan of that sort most pleasantly.

 
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