Mansfield park, p.7
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       Mansfield Park, p.7

           Jane Austen
 

  CHAPTER VII

  "Well, Fanny, and how do you like Miss Crawford _now_?" said Edmund thenext day, after thinking some time on the subject himself. "How did youlike her yesterday?"

  "Very well--very much. I like to hear her talk. She entertains me; andshe is so extremely pretty, that I have great pleasure in looking ather."

  "It is her countenance that is so attractive. She has a wonderful playof feature! But was there nothing in her conversation that struck you,Fanny, as not quite right?"

  "Oh yes! she ought not to have spoken of her uncle as she did. I wasquite astonished. An uncle with whom she has been living so many years,and who, whatever his faults may be, is so very fond of her brother,treating him, they say, quite like a son. I could not have believed it!"

  "I thought you would be struck. It was very wrong; very indecorous."

  "And very ungrateful, I think."

  "Ungrateful is a strong word. I do not know that her uncle has any claimto her _gratitude_; his wife certainly had; and it is the warmth of herrespect for her aunt's memory which misleads her here. She is awkwardlycircumstanced. With such warm feelings and lively spirits it must bedifficult to do justice to her affection for Mrs. Crawford, withoutthrowing a shade on the Admiral. I do not pretend to know which was mostto blame in their disagreements, though the Admiral's present conductmight incline one to the side of his wife; but it is natural and amiablethat Miss Crawford should acquit her aunt entirely. I do not censure her_opinions_; but there certainly _is_ impropriety in making them public."

  "Do not you think," said Fanny, after a little consideration, "that thisimpropriety is a reflection itself upon Mrs. Crawford, as her niece hasbeen entirely brought up by her? She cannot have given her right notionsof what was due to the Admiral."

  "That is a fair remark. Yes, we must suppose the faults of the nieceto have been those of the aunt; and it makes one more sensible of thedisadvantages she has been under. But I think her present home mustdo her good. Mrs. Grant's manners are just what they ought to be. Shespeaks of her brother with a very pleasing affection."

  "Yes, except as to his writing her such short letters. She made mealmost laugh; but I cannot rate so very highly the love or good-natureof a brother who will not give himself the trouble of writing anythingworth reading to his sisters, when they are separated. I am sure Williamwould never have used _me_ so, under any circumstances. And what righthad she to suppose that _you_ would not write long letters when you wereabsent?"

  "The right of a lively mind, Fanny, seizing whatever may contributeto its own amusement or that of others; perfectly allowable, whenuntinctured by ill-humour or roughness; and there is not a shadow ofeither in the countenance or manner of Miss Crawford: nothing sharp, orloud, or coarse. She is perfectly feminine, except in the instances wehave been speaking of. There she cannot be justified. I am glad you sawit all as I did."

  Having formed her mind and gained her affections, he had a good chanceof her thinking like him; though at this period, and on this subject,there began now to be some danger of dissimilarity, for he was in a lineof admiration of Miss Crawford, which might lead him where Fannycould not follow. Miss Crawford's attractions did not lessen. The harparrived, and rather added to her beauty, wit, and good-humour; for sheplayed with the greatest obligingness, with an expression and tastewhich were peculiarly becoming, and there was something clever to besaid at the close of every air. Edmund was at the Parsonage every day,to be indulged with his favourite instrument: one morning secured aninvitation for the next; for the lady could not be unwilling to have alistener, and every thing was soon in a fair train.

  A young woman, pretty, lively, with a harp as elegant as herself, andboth placed near a window, cut down to the ground, and opening on alittle lawn, surrounded by shrubs in the rich foliage of summer, wasenough to catch any man's heart. The season, the scene, the air, wereall favourable to tenderness and sentiment. Mrs. Grant and her tambourframe were not without their use: it was all in harmony; and aseverything will turn to account when love is once set going, even thesandwich tray, and Dr. Grant doing the honours of it, were worth lookingat. Without studying the business, however, or knowing what he wasabout, Edmund was beginning, at the end of a week of such intercourse,to be a good deal in love; and to the credit of the lady it may be addedthat, without his being a man of the world or an elder brother, withoutany of the arts of flattery or the gaieties of small talk, he began tobe agreeable to her. She felt it to be so, though she had not foreseen,and could hardly understand it; for he was not pleasant by any commonrule: he talked no nonsense; he paid no compliments; his opinionswere unbending, his attentions tranquil and simple. There was a charm,perhaps, in his sincerity, his steadiness, his integrity, which MissCrawford might be equal to feel, though not equal to discuss withherself. She did not think very much about it, however: he pleased herfor the present; she liked to have him near her; it was enough.

  Fanny could not wonder that Edmund was at the Parsonage every morning;she would gladly have been there too, might she have gone in uninvitedand unnoticed, to hear the harp; neither could she wonder that, when theevening stroll was over, and the two families parted again, he shouldthink it right to attend Mrs. Grant and her sister to their home, whileMr. Crawford was devoted to the ladies of the Park; but she thought ita very bad exchange; and if Edmund were not there to mix the wine andwater for her, would rather go without it than not. She was a littlesurprised that he could spend so many hours with Miss Crawford, andnot see more of the sort of fault which he had already observed, and ofwhich _she_ was almost always reminded by a something of the same naturewhenever she was in her company; but so it was. Edmund was fond ofspeaking to her of Miss Crawford, but he seemed to think it enough thatthe Admiral had since been spared; and she scrupled to point out her ownremarks to him, lest it should appear like ill-nature. The first actualpain which Miss Crawford occasioned her was the consequence of aninclination to learn to ride, which the former caught, soon after herbeing settled at Mansfield, from the example of the young ladies at thePark, and which, when Edmund's acquaintance with her increased, led tohis encouraging the wish, and the offer of his own quiet mare for thepurpose of her first attempts, as the best fitted for a beginner thateither stable could furnish. No pain, no injury, however, was designedby him to his cousin in this offer: _she_ was not to lose a day'sexercise by it. The mare was only to be taken down to the Parsonage halfan hour before her ride were to begin; and Fanny, on its being firstproposed, so far from feeling slighted, was almost over-powered withgratitude that he should be asking her leave for it.

  Miss Crawford made her first essay with great credit to herself, and noinconvenience to Fanny. Edmund, who had taken down the mare and presidedat the whole, returned with it in excellent time, before either Fanny orthe steady old coachman, who always attended her when she rode withouther cousins, were ready to set forward. The second day's trial was notso guiltless. Miss Crawford's enjoyment of riding was such that she didnot know how to leave off. Active and fearless, and though rather small,strongly made, she seemed formed for a horsewoman; and to the puregenuine pleasure of the exercise, something was probably added inEdmund's attendance and instructions, and something more in theconviction of very much surpassing her sex in general by her earlyprogress, to make her unwilling to dismount. Fanny was ready andwaiting, and Mrs. Norris was beginning to scold her for not being gone,and still no horse was announced, no Edmund appeared. To avoid her aunt,and look for him, she went out.

  The houses, though scarcely half a mile apart, were not within sight ofeach other; but, by walking fifty yards from the hall door, she couldlook down the park, and command a view of the Parsonage and all itsdemesnes, gently rising beyond the village road; and in Dr. Grant'smeadow she immediately saw the group--Edmund and Miss Crawford both onhorse-back, riding side by side, Dr. and Mrs. Grant, and Mr. Crawford,with two or three grooms, standing about and looking on. A happy partyit appeared to her, all interested in one object: cheerful beyond adoubt, for t
he sound of merriment ascended even to her. It was a soundwhich did not make _her_ cheerful; she wondered that Edmund shouldforget her, and felt a pang. She could not turn her eyes from themeadow; she could not help watching all that passed. At first MissCrawford and her companion made the circuit of the field, which was notsmall, at a foot's pace; then, at _her_ apparent suggestion, they roseinto a canter; and to Fanny's timid nature it was most astonishing tosee how well she sat. After a few minutes they stopped entirely. Edmundwas close to her; he was speaking to her; he was evidently directing hermanagement of the bridle; he had hold of her hand; she saw it, or theimagination supplied what the eye could not reach. She must not wonderat all this; what could be more natural than that Edmund should bemaking himself useful, and proving his good-nature by any one? She couldnot but think, indeed, that Mr. Crawford might as well have saved himthe trouble; that it would have been particularly proper and becomingin a brother to have done it himself; but Mr. Crawford, with all hisboasted good-nature, and all his coachmanship, probably knew nothingof the matter, and had no active kindness in comparison of Edmund. Shebegan to think it rather hard upon the mare to have such double duty; ifshe were forgotten, the poor mare should be remembered.

  Her feelings for one and the other were soon a little tranquillisedby seeing the party in the meadow disperse, and Miss Crawford still onhorseback, but attended by Edmund on foot, pass through a gate into thelane, and so into the park, and make towards the spot where she stood.She began then to be afraid of appearing rude and impatient; and walkedto meet them with a great anxiety to avoid the suspicion.

  "My dear Miss Price," said Miss Crawford, as soon as she was at allwithin hearing, "I am come to make my own apologies for keeping youwaiting; but I have nothing in the world to say for myself--I knew itwas very late, and that I was behaving extremely ill; and therefore, ifyou please, you must forgive me. Selfishness must always be forgiven,you know, because there is no hope of a cure."

  Fanny's answer was extremely civil, and Edmund added his conviction thatshe could be in no hurry. "For there is more than time enough for mycousin to ride twice as far as she ever goes," said he, "and you havebeen promoting her comfort by preventing her from setting off half anhour sooner: clouds are now coming up, and she will not suffer from theheat as she would have done then. I wish _you_ may not be fatigued by somuch exercise. I wish you had saved yourself this walk home."

  "No part of it fatigues me but getting off this horse, I assure you,"said she, as she sprang down with his help; "I am very strong. Nothingever fatigues me but doing what I do not like. Miss Price, I give way toyou with a very bad grace; but I sincerely hope you will have a pleasantride, and that I may have nothing but good to hear of this dear,delightful, beautiful animal."

  The old coachman, who had been waiting about with his own horse, nowjoining them, Fanny was lifted on hers, and they set off across anotherpart of the park; her feelings of discomfort not lightened by seeing, asshe looked back, that the others were walking down the hill together tothe village; nor did her attendant do her much good by his comments onMiss Crawford's great cleverness as a horse-woman, which he had beenwatching with an interest almost equal to her own.

  "It is a pleasure to see a lady with such a good heart for riding!"said he. "I never see one sit a horse better. She did not seem to havea thought of fear. Very different from you, miss, when you first began,six years ago come next Easter. Lord bless you! how you did tremble whenSir Thomas first had you put on!"

  In the drawing-room Miss Crawford was also celebrated. Her merit inbeing gifted by Nature with strength and courage was fully appreciatedby the Miss Bertrams; her delight in riding was like their own; herearly excellence in it was like their own, and they had great pleasurein praising it.

  "I was sure she would ride well," said Julia; "she has the make for it.Her figure is as neat as her brother's."

  "Yes," added Maria, "and her spirits are as good, and she has the sameenergy of character. I cannot but think that good horsemanship has agreat deal to do with the mind."

  When they parted at night Edmund asked Fanny whether she meant to ridethe next day.

  "No, I do not know--not if you want the mare," was her answer.

  "I do not want her at all for myself," said he; "but whenever you arenext inclined to stay at home, I think Miss Crawford would be glad tohave her a longer time--for a whole morning, in short. She has a greatdesire to get as far as Mansfield Common: Mrs. Grant has been tellingher of its fine views, and I have no doubt of her being perfectly equalto it. But any morning will do for this. She would be extremely sorry tointerfere with you. It would be very wrong if she did. _She_ rides onlyfor pleasure; _you_ for health."

  "I shall not ride to-morrow, certainly," said Fanny; "I have been outvery often lately, and would rather stay at home. You know I am strongenough now to walk very well."

  Edmund looked pleased, which must be Fanny's comfort, and the ride toMansfield Common took place the next morning: the party included all theyoung people but herself, and was much enjoyed at the time, and doublyenjoyed again in the evening discussion. A successful scheme of thissort generally brings on another; and the having been to MansfieldCommon disposed them all for going somewhere else the day after. Therewere many other views to be shewn; and though the weather was hot, therewere shady lanes wherever they wanted to go. A young party is alwaysprovided with a shady lane. Four fine mornings successively were spentin this manner, in shewing the Crawfords the country, and doing thehonours of its finest spots. Everything answered; it was all gaiety andgood-humour, the heat only supplying inconvenience enough to be talkedof with pleasure--till the fourth day, when the happiness of one ofthe party was exceedingly clouded. Miss Bertram was the one. Edmund andJulia were invited to dine at the Parsonage, and _she_ was excluded.It was meant and done by Mrs. Grant, with perfect good-humour, on Mr.Rushworth's account, who was partly expected at the Park that day;but it was felt as a very grievous injury, and her good manners wereseverely taxed to conceal her vexation and anger till she reached home.As Mr. Rushworth did _not_ come, the injury was increased, and she hadnot even the relief of shewing her power over him; she could only besullen to her mother, aunt, and cousin, and throw as great a gloom aspossible over their dinner and dessert.

  Between ten and eleven Edmund and Julia walked into the drawing-room,fresh with the evening air, glowing and cheerful, the very reverseof what they found in the three ladies sitting there, for Maria wouldscarcely raise her eyes from her book, and Lady Bertram was half-asleep;and even Mrs. Norris, discomposed by her niece's ill-humour, and havingasked one or two questions about the dinner, which were not immediatelyattended to, seemed almost determined to say no more. For a few minutesthe brother and sister were too eager in their praise of the night andtheir remarks on the stars, to think beyond themselves; but when thefirst pause came, Edmund, looking around, said, "But where is Fanny? Isshe gone to bed?"

  "No, not that I know of," replied Mrs. Norris; "she was here a momentago."

  Her own gentle voice speaking from the other end of the room, which wasa very long one, told them that she was on the sofa. Mrs. Norris beganscolding.

  "That is a very foolish trick, Fanny, to be idling away all the eveningupon a sofa. Why cannot you come and sit here, and employ yourself as_we_ do? If you have no work of your own, I can supply you from thepoor basket. There is all the new calico, that was bought last week,not touched yet. I am sure I almost broke my back by cutting it out. Youshould learn to think of other people; and, take my word for it, it is ashocking trick for a young person to be always lolling upon a sofa."

  Before half this was said, Fanny was returned to her seat at the table,and had taken up her work again; and Julia, who was in high good-humour,from the pleasures of the day, did her the justice of exclaiming, "Imust say, ma'am, that Fanny is as little upon the sofa as anybody in thehouse."

  "Fanny," said Edmund, after looking at her attentively, "I am sure youhave the headache."

  She could not de
ny it, but said it was not very bad.

  "I can hardly believe you," he replied; "I know your looks too well. Howlong have you had it?"

  "Since a little before dinner. It is nothing but the heat."

  "Did you go out in the heat?"

  "Go out! to be sure she did," said Mrs. Norris: "would you have her staywithin such a fine day as this? Were not we _all_ out? Even your motherwas out to-day for above an hour."

  "Yes, indeed, Edmund," added her ladyship, who had been thoroughlyawakened by Mrs. Norris's sharp reprimand to Fanny; "I was out above anhour. I sat three-quarters of an hour in the flower-garden, while Fannycut the roses; and very pleasant it was, I assure you, but very hot. Itwas shady enough in the alcove, but I declare I quite dreaded the cominghome again."

  "Fanny has been cutting roses, has she?"

  "Yes, and I am afraid they will be the last this year. Poor thing! _She_found it hot enough; but they were so full-blown that one could notwait."

  "There was no help for it, certainly," rejoined Mrs. Norris, in a rathersoftened voice; "but I question whether her headache might not be caught_then_, sister. There is nothing so likely to give it as standing andstooping in a hot sun; but I dare say it will be well to-morrow. Supposeyou let her have your aromatic vinegar; I always forget to have minefilled."

  "She has got it," said Lady Bertram; "she has had it ever since she cameback from your house the second time."

  "What!" cried Edmund; "has she been walking as well as cutting roses;walking across the hot park to your house, and doing it twice, ma'am? Nowonder her head aches."

  Mrs. Norris was talking to Julia, and did not hear.

  "I was afraid it would be too much for her," said Lady Bertram; "butwhen the roses were gathered, your aunt wished to have them, and thenyou know they must be taken home."

  "But were there roses enough to oblige her to go twice?"

  "No; but they were to be put into the spare room to dry; and, unluckily,Fanny forgot to lock the door of the room and bring away the key, so shewas obliged to go again."

  Edmund got up and walked about the room, saying, "And could nobody beemployed on such an errand but Fanny? Upon my word, ma'am, it has been avery ill-managed business."

  "I am sure I do not know how it was to have been done better," criedMrs. Norris, unable to be longer deaf; "unless I had gone myself,indeed; but I cannot be in two places at once; and I was talking to Mr.Green at that very time about your mother's dairymaid, by _her_ desire,and had promised John Groom to write to Mrs. Jefferies about his son,and the poor fellow was waiting for me half an hour. I think nobodycan justly accuse me of sparing myself upon any occasion, but really Icannot do everything at once. And as for Fanny's just stepping downto my house for me--it is not much above a quarter of a mile--I cannotthink I was unreasonable to ask it. How often do I pace it three times aday, early and late, ay, and in all weathers too, and say nothing aboutit?"

  "I wish Fanny had half your strength, ma'am."

  "If Fanny would be more regular in her exercise, she would not beknocked up so soon. She has not been out on horseback now this longwhile, and I am persuaded that, when she does not ride, she ought towalk. If she had been riding before, I should not have asked it of her.But I thought it would rather do her good after being stooping among theroses; for there is nothing so refreshing as a walk after a fatigueof that kind; and though the sun was strong, it was not so very hot.Between ourselves, Edmund," nodding significantly at his mother, "it wascutting the roses, and dawdling about in the flower-garden, that did themischief."

  "I am afraid it was, indeed," said the more candid Lady Bertram, who hadoverheard her; "I am very much afraid she caught the headache there,for the heat was enough to kill anybody. It was as much as I could bearmyself. Sitting and calling to Pug, and trying to keep him from theflower-beds, was almost too much for me."

  Edmund said no more to either lady; but going quietly to another table,on which the supper-tray yet remained, brought a glass of Madeira toFanny, and obliged her to drink the greater part. She wished to be ableto decline it; but the tears, which a variety of feelings created, madeit easier to swallow than to speak.

  Vexed as Edmund was with his mother and aunt, he was still more angrywith himself. His own forgetfulness of her was worse than anything whichthey had done. Nothing of this would have happened had she been properlyconsidered; but she had been left four days together without any choiceof companions or exercise, and without any excuse for avoiding whateverher unreasonable aunts might require. He was ashamed to think thatfor four days together she had not had the power of riding, and veryseriously resolved, however unwilling he must be to check a pleasure ofMiss Crawford's, that it should never happen again.

  Fanny went to bed with her heart as full as on the first evening of herarrival at the Park. The state of her spirits had probably had itsshare in her indisposition; for she had been feeling neglected, and beenstruggling against discontent and envy for some days past. As she leanton the sofa, to which she had retreated that she might not be seen, thepain of her mind had been much beyond that in her head; and the suddenchange which Edmund's kindness had then occasioned, made her hardly knowhow to support herself.

 
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