Mansfield park, p.8
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       Mansfield Park, p.8

           Jane Austen
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  CHAPTER VIII

  Fanny's rides recommenced the very next day; and as it was a pleasantfresh-feeling morning, less hot than the weather had lately been, Edmundtrusted that her losses, both of health and pleasure, would be soon madegood. While she was gone Mr. Rushworth arrived, escorting his mother,who came to be civil and to shew her civility especially, in urging theexecution of the plan for visiting Sotherton, which had been started afortnight before, and which, in consequence of her subsequent absencefrom home, had since lain dormant. Mrs. Norris and her nieces were allwell pleased with its revival, and an early day was named and agreedto, provided Mr. Crawford should be disengaged: the young ladies didnot forget that stipulation, and though Mrs. Norris would willingly haveanswered for his being so, they would neither authorise the liberty norrun the risk; and at last, on a hint from Miss Bertram, Mr. Rushworthdiscovered that the properest thing to be done was for him to walk downto the Parsonage directly, and call on Mr. Crawford, and inquire whetherWednesday would suit him or not.

  Before his return Mrs. Grant and Miss Crawford came in. Having been outsome time, and taken a different route to the house, they had not methim. Comfortable hopes, however, were given that he would find Mr.Crawford at home. The Sotherton scheme was mentioned of course. It washardly possible, indeed, that anything else should be talked of,for Mrs. Norris was in high spirits about it; and Mrs. Rushworth, awell-meaning, civil, prosing, pompous woman, who thought nothing ofconsequence, but as it related to her own and her son's concerns,had not yet given over pressing Lady Bertram to be of the party. LadyBertram constantly declined it; but her placid manner of refusal madeMrs. Rushworth still think she wished to come, till Mrs. Norris's morenumerous words and louder tone convinced her of the truth.

  "The fatigue would be too much for my sister, a great deal too much, Iassure you, my dear Mrs. Rushworth. Ten miles there, and ten back, youknow. You must excuse my sister on this occasion, and accept of ourtwo dear girls and myself without her. Sotherton is the only place thatcould give her a _wish_ to go so far, but it cannot be, indeed. She willhave a companion in Fanny Price, you know, so it will all do very well;and as for Edmund, as he is not here to speak for himself, I will answerfor his being most happy to join the party. He can go on horseback, youknow."

  Mrs. Rushworth being obliged to yield to Lady Bertram's staying at home,could only be sorry. "The loss of her ladyship's company would be agreat drawback, and she should have been extremely happy to have seenthe young lady too, Miss Price, who had never been at Sotherton yet, andit was a pity she should not see the place."

  "You are very kind, you are all kindness, my dear madam," cried Mrs.Norris; "but as to Fanny, she will have opportunities in plenty ofseeing Sotherton. She has time enough before her; and her going now isquite out of the question. Lady Bertram could not possibly spare her."

  "Oh no! I cannot do without Fanny."

  Mrs. Rushworth proceeded next, under the conviction that everybody mustbe wanting to see Sotherton, to include Miss Crawford in the invitation;and though Mrs. Grant, who had not been at the trouble of visiting Mrs.Rushworth, on her coming into the neighbourhood, civilly declined it onher own account, she was glad to secure any pleasure for her sister;and Mary, properly pressed and persuaded, was not long in acceptingher share of the civility. Mr. Rushworth came back from the Parsonagesuccessful; and Edmund made his appearance just in time to learnwhat had been settled for Wednesday, to attend Mrs. Rushworth to hercarriage, and walk half-way down the park with the two other ladies.

  On his return to the breakfast-room, he found Mrs. Norris trying tomake up her mind as to whether Miss Crawford's being of the party weredesirable or not, or whether her brother's barouche would not be fullwithout her. The Miss Bertrams laughed at the idea, assuring her thatthe barouche would hold four perfectly well, independent of the box, onwhich _one_ might go with him.

  "But why is it necessary," said Edmund, "that Crawford's carriage, orhis _only_, should be employed? Why is no use to be made of my mother'schaise? I could not, when the scheme was first mentioned the otherday, understand why a visit from the family were not to be made in thecarriage of the family."

  "What!" cried Julia: "go boxed up three in a postchaise in this weather,when we may have seats in a barouche! No, my dear Edmund, that will notquite do."

  "Besides," said Maria, "I know that Mr. Crawford depends upon taking us.After what passed at first, he would claim it as a promise."

  "And, my dear Edmund," added Mrs. Norris, "taking out _two_ carriageswhen _one_ will do, would be trouble for nothing; and, betweenourselves, coachman is not very fond of the roads between this andSotherton: he always complains bitterly of the narrow lanes scratchinghis carriage, and you know one should not like to have dear Sir Thomas,when he comes home, find all the varnish scratched off."

  "That would not be a very handsome reason for using Mr. Crawford's,"said Maria; "but the truth is, that Wilcox is a stupid old fellow, anddoes not know how to drive. I will answer for it that we shall find noinconvenience from narrow roads on Wednesday."

  "There is no hardship, I suppose, nothing unpleasant," said Edmund, "ingoing on the barouche box."

  "Unpleasant!" cried Maria: "oh dear! I believe it would be generallythought the favourite seat. There can be no comparison as to one's viewof the country. Probably Miss Crawford will choose the barouche-boxherself."

  "There can be no objection, then, to Fanny's going with you; there canbe no doubt of your having room for her."

  "Fanny!" repeated Mrs. Norris; "my dear Edmund, there is no idea of hergoing with us. She stays with her aunt. I told Mrs. Rushworth so. She isnot expected."

  "You can have no reason, I imagine, madam," said he, addressing hismother, "for wishing Fanny _not_ to be of the party, but as it relatesto yourself, to your own comfort. If you could do without her, you wouldnot wish to keep her at home?"

  "To be sure not, but I _cannot_ do without her."

  "You can, if I stay at home with you, as I mean to do."

  There was a general cry out at this. "Yes," he continued, "there is nonecessity for my going, and I mean to stay at home. Fanny has a greatdesire to see Sotherton. I know she wishes it very much. She has notoften a gratification of the kind, and I am sure, ma'am, you would beglad to give her the pleasure now?"

  "Oh yes! very glad, if your aunt sees no objection."

  Mrs. Norris was very ready with the only objection which couldremain--their having positively assured Mrs. Rushworth that Fanny couldnot go, and the very strange appearance there would consequently be intaking her, which seemed to her a difficulty quite impossible to be gotover. It must have the strangest appearance! It would be something sovery unceremonious, so bordering on disrespect for Mrs. Rushworth, whoseown manners were such a pattern of good-breeding and attention, that shereally did not feel equal to it. Mrs. Norris had no affection for Fanny,and no wish of procuring her pleasure at any time; but her opposition toEdmund _now_, arose more from partiality for her own scheme, because it_was_ her own, than from anything else. She felt that she had arrangedeverything extremely well, and that any alteration must be for theworse. When Edmund, therefore, told her in reply, as he did when shewould give him the hearing, that she need not distress herself on Mrs.Rushworth's account, because he had taken the opportunity, as he walkedwith her through the hall, of mentioning Miss Price as one who wouldprobably be of the party, and had directly received a very sufficientinvitation for his cousin, Mrs. Norris was too much vexed to submit witha very good grace, and would only say, "Very well, very well, just asyou chuse, settle it your own way, I am sure I do not care about it."

  "It seems very odd," said Maria, "that you should be staying at homeinstead of Fanny."

  "I am sure she ought to be very much obliged to you," added Julia,hastily leaving the room as she spoke, from a consciousness that sheought to offer to stay at home herself.

  "Fanny will feel quite as grateful as the occasion requires," wasEdmund's only reply, and the subject dropt.

/>   Fanny's gratitude, when she heard the plan, was, in fact, much greaterthan her pleasure. She felt Edmund's kindness with all, and more thanall, the sensibility which he, unsuspicious of her fond attachment,could be aware of; but that he should forego any enjoyment on heraccount gave her pain, and her own satisfaction in seeing Sothertonwould be nothing without him.

  The next meeting of the two Mansfield families produced anotheralteration in the plan, and one that was admitted with generalapprobation. Mrs. Grant offered herself as companion for the day to LadyBertram in lieu of her son, and Dr. Grant was to join them at dinner.Lady Bertram was very well pleased to have it so, and the young ladieswere in spirits again. Even Edmund was very thankful for an arrangementwhich restored him to his share of the party; and Mrs. Norris thought itan excellent plan, and had it at her tongue's end, and was on the pointof proposing it, when Mrs. Grant spoke.

  Wednesday was fine, and soon after breakfast the barouche arrived, Mr.Crawford driving his sisters; and as everybody was ready, there wasnothing to be done but for Mrs. Grant to alight and the others to taketheir places. The place of all places, the envied seat, the post ofhonour, was unappropriated. To whose happy lot was it to fall? Whileeach of the Miss Bertrams were meditating how best, and with the mostappearance of obliging the others, to secure it, the matter was settledby Mrs. Grant's saying, as she stepped from the carriage, "As there arefive of you, it will be better that one should sit with Henry; and asyou were saying lately that you wished you could drive, Julia, I thinkthis will be a good opportunity for you to take a lesson."

  Happy Julia! Unhappy Maria! The former was on the barouche-box in amoment, the latter took her seat within, in gloom and mortification; andthe carriage drove off amid the good wishes of the two remaining ladies,and the barking of Pug in his mistress's arms.

  Their road was through a pleasant country; and Fanny, whose rides hadnever been extensive, was soon beyond her knowledge, and was very happyin observing all that was new, and admiring all that was pretty. She wasnot often invited to join in the conversation of the others, nor didshe desire it. Her own thoughts and reflections were habitually herbest companions; and, in observing the appearance of the country, thebearings of the roads, the difference of soil, the state of the harvest,the cottages, the cattle, the children, she found entertainment thatcould only have been heightened by having Edmund to speak to of what shefelt. That was the only point of resemblance between her and the ladywho sat by her: in everything but a value for Edmund, Miss Crawford wasvery unlike her. She had none of Fanny's delicacy of taste, of mind, offeeling; she saw Nature, inanimate Nature, with little observation;her attention was all for men and women, her talents for the lightand lively. In looking back after Edmund, however, when there was anystretch of road behind them, or when he gained on them in ascending aconsiderable hill, they were united, and a "there he is" broke at thesame moment from them both, more than once.

  For the first seven miles Miss Bertram had very little real comfort:her prospect always ended in Mr. Crawford and her sister sitting side byside, full of conversation and merriment; and to see only his expressiveprofile as he turned with a smile to Julia, or to catch the laugh ofthe other, was a perpetual source of irritation, which her own senseof propriety could but just smooth over. When Julia looked back, it waswith a countenance of delight, and whenever she spoke to them, it was inthe highest spirits: "her view of the country was charming, she wishedthey could all see it," etc.; but her only offer of exchange wasaddressed to Miss Crawford, as they gained the summit of a long hill,and was not more inviting than this: "Here is a fine burst of country. Iwish you had my seat, but I dare say you will not take it, let me pressyou ever so much;" and Miss Crawford could hardly answer before theywere moving again at a good pace.

  When they came within the influence of Sotherton associations, it wasbetter for Miss Bertram, who might be said to have two strings to herbow. She had Rushworth feelings, and Crawford feelings, and inthe vicinity of Sotherton the former had considerable effect. Mr.Rushworth's consequence was hers. She could not tell Miss Crawford that"those woods belonged to Sotherton," she could not carelessly observethat "she believed that it was now all Mr. Rushworth's property on eachside of the road," without elation of heart; and it was a pleasureto increase with their approach to the capital freehold mansion,and ancient manorial residence of the family, with all its rights ofcourt-leet and court-baron.

  "Now we shall have no more rough road, Miss Crawford; our difficultiesare over. The rest of the way is such as it ought to be. Mr. Rushworthhas made it since he succeeded to the estate. Here begins the village.Those cottages are really a disgrace. The church spire is reckonedremarkably handsome. I am glad the church is not so close to the greathouse as often happens in old places. The annoyance of the bells must beterrible. There is the parsonage: a tidy-looking house, and I understandthe clergyman and his wife are very decent people. Those are almshouses,built by some of the family. To the right is the steward's house; heis a very respectable man. Now we are coming to the lodge-gates; but wehave nearly a mile through the park still. It is not ugly, you see, atthis end; there is some fine timber, but the situation of the house isdreadful. We go down hill to it for half a mile, and it is a pity, forit would not be an ill-looking place if it had a better approach."

  Miss Crawford was not slow to admire; she pretty well guessed MissBertram's feelings, and made it a point of honour to promote herenjoyment to the utmost. Mrs. Norris was all delight and volubility; andeven Fanny had something to say in admiration, and might be heard withcomplacency. Her eye was eagerly taking in everything within her reach;and after being at some pains to get a view of the house, and observingthat "it was a sort of building which she could not look at but withrespect," she added, "Now, where is the avenue? The house fronts theeast, I perceive. The avenue, therefore, must be at the back of it. Mr.Rushworth talked of the west front."

  "Yes, it is exactly behind the house; begins at a little distance, andascends for half a mile to the extremity of the grounds. You may seesomething of it here--something of the more distant trees. It is oakentirely."

  Miss Bertram could now speak with decided information of what she hadknown nothing about when Mr. Rushworth had asked her opinion; and herspirits were in as happy a flutter as vanity and pride could furnish,when they drove up to the spacious stone steps before the principalentrance.