Mansfield park, p.5
Larger Font   Reset Font Size   Smaller Font       Night Mode Off   Night Mode

       Mansfield Park, p.5

           Jane Austen
 

  CHAPTER V

  The young people were pleased with each other from the first. On eachside there was much to attract, and their acquaintance soon promised asearly an intimacy as good manners would warrant. Miss Crawford's beautydid her no disservice with the Miss Bertrams. They were too handsomethemselves to dislike any woman for being so too, and were almost asmuch charmed as their brothers with her lively dark eye, clear browncomplexion, and general prettiness. Had she been tall, full formed, andfair, it might have been more of a trial: but as it was, there could beno comparison; and she was most allowably a sweet, pretty girl, whilethey were the finest young women in the country.

  Her brother was not handsome: no, when they first saw him he wasabsolutely plain, black and plain; but still he was the gentleman, witha pleasing address. The second meeting proved him not so very plain:he was plain, to be sure, but then he had so much countenance, and histeeth were so good, and he was so well made, that one soon forgot he wasplain; and after a third interview, after dining in company with him atthe Parsonage, he was no longer allowed to be called so by anybody. Hewas, in fact, the most agreeable young man the sisters had ever known,and they were equally delighted with him. Miss Bertram's engagement madehim in equity the property of Julia, of which Julia was fully aware; andbefore he had been at Mansfield a week, she was quite ready to be fallenin love with.

  Maria's notions on the subject were more confused and indistinct. Shedid not want to see or understand. "There could be no harm in her likingan agreeable man--everybody knew her situation--Mr. Crawford must takecare of himself." Mr. Crawford did not mean to be in any danger! theMiss Bertrams were worth pleasing, and were ready to be pleased; and hebegan with no object but of making them like him. He did not want themto die of love; but with sense and temper which ought to have made himjudge and feel better, he allowed himself great latitude on such points.

  "I like your Miss Bertrams exceedingly, sister," said he, as he returnedfrom attending them to their carriage after the said dinner visit; "theyare very elegant, agreeable girls."

  "So they are indeed, and I am delighted to hear you say it. But you likeJulia best."

  "Oh yes! I like Julia best."

  "But do you really? for Miss Bertram is in general thought thehandsomest."

  "So I should suppose. She has the advantage in every feature, and Iprefer her countenance; but I like Julia best; Miss Bertram is certainlythe handsomest, and I have found her the most agreeable, but I shallalways like Julia best, because you order me."

  "I shall not talk to you, Henry, but I know you _will_ like her best atlast."

  "Do not I tell you that I like her best _at_ _first_?"

  "And besides, Miss Bertram is engaged. Remember that, my dear brother.Her choice is made."

  "Yes, and I like her the better for it. An engaged woman is always moreagreeable than a disengaged. She is satisfied with herself. Her caresare over, and she feels that she may exert all her powers of pleasingwithout suspicion. All is safe with a lady engaged: no harm can bedone."

  "Why, as to that, Mr. Rushworth is a very good sort of young man, and itis a great match for her."

  "But Miss Bertram does not care three straws for him; _that_ is youropinion of your intimate friend. _I_ do not subscribe to it. I am sureMiss Bertram is very much attached to Mr. Rushworth. I could see it inher eyes, when he was mentioned. I think too well of Miss Bertram tosuppose she would ever give her hand without her heart."

  "Mary, how shall we manage him?"

  "We must leave him to himself, I believe. Talking does no good. He willbe taken in at last."

  "But I would not have him _taken_ _in_; I would not have him duped; Iwould have it all fair and honourable."

  "Oh dear! let him stand his chance and be taken in. It will do just aswell. Everybody is taken in at some period or other."

  "Not always in marriage, dear Mary."

  "In marriage especially. With all due respect to such of the presentcompany as chance to be married, my dear Mrs. Grant, there is not one ina hundred of either sex who is not taken in when they marry. Look whereI will, I see that it _is_ so; and I feel that it _must_ be so, when Iconsider that it is, of all transactions, the one in which people expectmost from others, and are least honest themselves."

  "Ah! You have been in a bad school for matrimony, in Hill Street."

  "My poor aunt had certainly little cause to love the state; but,however, speaking from my own observation, it is a manoeuvring business.I know so many who have married in the full expectation and confidenceof some one particular advantage in the connexion, or accomplishment, orgood quality in the person, who have found themselves entirely deceived,and been obliged to put up with exactly the reverse. What is this but atake in?"

  "My dear child, there must be a little imagination here. I beg yourpardon, but I cannot quite believe you. Depend upon it, you see buthalf. You see the evil, but you do not see the consolation. There willbe little rubs and disappointments everywhere, and we are all apt toexpect too much; but then, if one scheme of happiness fails, humannature turns to another; if the first calculation is wrong, we makea second better: we find comfort somewhere--and those evil-mindedobservers, dearest Mary, who make much of a little, are more taken inand deceived than the parties themselves."

  "Well done, sister! I honour your _esprit_ _du_ _corps_. When I am awife, I mean to be just as staunch myself; and I wish my friends ingeneral would be so too. It would save me many a heartache."

  "You are as bad as your brother, Mary; but we will cure you both.Mansfield shall cure you both, and without any taking in. Stay with us,and we will cure you."

  The Crawfords, without wanting to be cured, were very willing to stay.Mary was satisfied with the Parsonage as a present home, and Henryequally ready to lengthen his visit. He had come, intending to spendonly a few days with them; but Mansfield promised well, and there wasnothing to call him elsewhere. It delighted Mrs. Grant to keep them bothwith her, and Dr. Grant was exceedingly well contented to have it so: atalking pretty young woman like Miss Crawford is always pleasant societyto an indolent, stay-at-home man; and Mr. Crawford's being his guest wasan excuse for drinking claret every day.

  The Miss Bertrams' admiration of Mr. Crawford was more rapturous thananything which Miss Crawford's habits made her likely to feel. Sheacknowledged, however, that the Mr. Bertrams were very fine young men,that two such young men were not often seen together even in London, andthat their manners, particularly those of the eldest, were very good._He_ had been much in London, and had more liveliness and gallantry thanEdmund, and must, therefore, be preferred; and, indeed, his being theeldest was another strong claim. She had felt an early presentiment thatshe _should_ like the eldest best. She knew it was her way.

  Tom Bertram must have been thought pleasant, indeed, at any rate; he wasthe sort of young man to be generally liked, his agreeableness was ofthe kind to be oftener found agreeable than some endowments of a higherstamp, for he had easy manners, excellent spirits, a large acquaintance,and a great deal to say; and the reversion of Mansfield Park, and abaronetcy, did no harm to all this. Miss Crawford soon felt that he andhis situation might do. She looked about her with due consideration, andfound almost everything in his favour: a park, a real park, five milesround, a spacious modern-built house, so well placed and well screenedas to deserve to be in any collection of engravings of gentlemen'sseats in the kingdom, and wanting only to be completely newfurnished--pleasant sisters, a quiet mother, and an agreeable manhimself--with the advantage of being tied up from much gaming at presentby a promise to his father, and of being Sir Thomas hereafter. Itmight do very well; she believed she should accept him; and she beganaccordingly to interest herself a little about the horse which he had torun at the B---- races.

  These races were to call him away not long after their acquaintancebegan; and as it appeared that the family did not, from his usual goingson, expect him back again for many weeks, it would bring his passion toan early proof. Much was said on his side
to induce her to attend theraces, and schemes were made for a large party to them, with all theeagerness of inclination, but it would only do to be talked of.

  And Fanny, what was _she_ doing and thinking all this while? and whatwas _her_ opinion of the newcomers? Few young ladies of eighteen couldbe less called on to speak their opinion than Fanny. In a quiet way,very little attended to, she paid her tribute of admiration to MissCrawford's beauty; but as she still continued to think Mr. Crawfordvery plain, in spite of her two cousins having repeatedly proved thecontrary, she never mentioned _him_. The notice, which she excitedherself, was to this effect. "I begin now to understand you all,except Miss Price," said Miss Crawford, as she was walking with the Mr.Bertrams. "Pray, is she out, or is she not? I am puzzled. She dined atthe Parsonage, with the rest of you, which seemed like being _out_; andyet she says so little, that I can hardly suppose she _is_."

  Edmund, to whom this was chiefly addressed, replied, "I believe I knowwhat you mean, but I will not undertake to answer the question. Mycousin is grown up. She has the age and sense of a woman, but the outsand not outs are beyond me."

  "And yet, in general, nothing can be more easily ascertained. Thedistinction is so broad. Manners as well as appearance are, generallyspeaking, so totally different. Till now, I could not have supposed itpossible to be mistaken as to a girl's being out or not. A girl not outhas always the same sort of dress: a close bonnet, for instance; looksvery demure, and never says a word. You may smile, but it is so, Iassure you; and except that it is sometimes carried a little too far,it is all very proper. Girls should be quiet and modest. The mostobjectionable part is, that the alteration of manners on beingintroduced into company is frequently too sudden. They sometimes pass insuch very little time from reserve to quite the opposite--to confidence!_That_ is the faulty part of the present system. One does not like tosee a girl of eighteen or nineteen so immediately up to every thing--andperhaps when one has seen her hardly able to speak the year before. Mr.Bertram, I dare say _you_ have sometimes met with such changes."

  "I believe I have, but this is hardly fair; I see what you are at. Youare quizzing me and Miss Anderson."

  "No, indeed. Miss Anderson! I do not know who or what you mean. I amquite in the dark. But I _will_ quiz you with a great deal of pleasure,if you will tell me what about."

  "Ah! you carry it off very well, but I cannot be quite so far imposedon. You must have had Miss Anderson in your eye, in describing analtered young lady. You paint too accurately for mistake. It was exactlyso. The Andersons of Baker Street. We were speaking of them the otherday, you know. Edmund, you have heard me mention Charles Anderson.The circumstance was precisely as this lady has represented it. WhenAnderson first introduced me to his family, about two years ago, hissister was not _out_, and I could not get her to speak to me. I satthere an hour one morning waiting for Anderson, with only her and alittle girl or two in the room, the governess being sick or run away,and the mother in and out every moment with letters of business, and Icould hardly get a word or a look from the young lady--nothing like acivil answer--she screwed up her mouth, and turned from me with such anair! I did not see her again for a twelvemonth. She was then _out_. Imet her at Mrs. Holford's, and did not recollect her. She came up to me,claimed me as an acquaintance, stared me out of countenance; and talkedand laughed till I did not know which way to look. I felt that I mustbe the jest of the room at the time, and Miss Crawford, it is plain, hasheard the story."

  "And a very pretty story it is, and with more truth in it, I dare say,than does credit to Miss Anderson. It is too common a fault. Motherscertainly have not yet got quite the right way of managing theirdaughters. I do not know where the error lies. I do not pretend to setpeople right, but I do see that they are often wrong."

  "Those who are showing the world what female manners _should_ be," saidMr. Bertram gallantly, "are doing a great deal to set them right."

  "The error is plain enough," said the less courteous Edmund; "such girlsare ill brought up. They are given wrong notions from the beginning.They are always acting upon motives of vanity, and there is no morereal modesty in their behaviour _before_ they appear in public thanafterwards."

  "I do not know," replied Miss Crawford hesitatingly. "Yes, I cannotagree with you there. It is certainly the modestest part of thebusiness. It is much worse to have girls not out give themselves thesame airs and take the same liberties as if they were, which I have seendone. That is worse than anything--quite disgusting!"

  "Yes, _that_ is very inconvenient indeed," said Mr. Bertram. "It leadsone astray; one does not know what to do. The close bonnet and demureair you describe so well (and nothing was ever juster), tell one whatis expected; but I got into a dreadful scrape last year from the want ofthem. I went down to Ramsgate for a week with a friend last September,just after my return from the West Indies. My friend Sneyd--you haveheard me speak of Sneyd, Edmund--his father, and mother, and sisters,were there, all new to me. When we reached Albion Place they were out;we went after them, and found them on the pier: Mrs. and the two MissSneyds, with others of their acquaintance. I made my bow in form; andas Mrs. Sneyd was surrounded by men, attached myself to one of herdaughters, walked by her side all the way home, and made myself asagreeable as I could; the young lady perfectly easy in her manners, andas ready to talk as to listen. I had not a suspicion that I could bedoing anything wrong. They looked just the same: both well-dressed, withveils and parasols like other girls; but I afterwards found that I hadbeen giving all my attention to the youngest, who was not _out_, andhad most excessively offended the eldest. Miss Augusta ought not to havebeen noticed for the next six months; and Miss Sneyd, I believe, hasnever forgiven me."

  "That was bad indeed. Poor Miss Sneyd. Though I have no youngersister, I feel for her. To be neglected before one's time must be veryvexatious; but it was entirely the mother's fault. Miss Augusta shouldhave been with her governess. Such half-and-half doings never prosper.But now I must be satisfied about Miss Price. Does she go to balls? Doesshe dine out every where, as well as at my sister's?"

  "No," replied Edmund; "I do not think she has ever been to a ball. Mymother seldom goes into company herself, and dines nowhere but with Mrs.Grant, and Fanny stays at home with _her_."

  "Oh! then the point is clear. Miss Price is not out."

 
Turn Navi Off
Turn Navi On
Scroll Up
Scroll