Mansfield park, p.9
Mansfield Park, p.9Jane Austen
Mr. Rushworth was at the door to receive his fair lady; and the wholeparty were welcomed by him with due attention. In the drawing-room theywere met with equal cordiality by the mother, and Miss Bertram had allthe distinction with each that she could wish. After the business ofarriving was over, it was first necessary to eat, and the doors werethrown open to admit them through one or two intermediate rooms into theappointed dining-parlour, where a collation was prepared with abundanceand elegance. Much was said, and much was ate, and all went well. Theparticular object of the day was then considered. How would Mr. Crawfordlike, in what manner would he chuse, to take a survey of the grounds?Mr. Rushworth mentioned his curricle. Mr. Crawford suggested the greaterdesirableness of some carriage which might convey more than two. "To bedepriving themselves of the advantage of other eyes and other judgments,might be an evil even beyond the loss of present pleasure."
Mrs. Rushworth proposed that the chaise should be taken also; but thiswas scarcely received as an amendment: the young ladies neither smilednor spoke. Her next proposition, of shewing the house to such of themas had not been there before, was more acceptable, for Miss Bertramwas pleased to have its size displayed, and all were glad to be doingsomething.
The whole party rose accordingly, and under Mrs. Rushworth's guidancewere shewn through a number of rooms, all lofty, and many large, andamply furnished in the taste of fifty years back, with shining floors,solid mahogany, rich damask, marble, gilding, and carving, each handsomein its way. Of pictures there were abundance, and some few good, butthe larger part were family portraits, no longer anything to anybodybut Mrs. Rushworth, who had been at great pains to learn all that thehousekeeper could teach, and was now almost equally well qualified toshew the house. On the present occasion she addressed herself chiefly toMiss Crawford and Fanny, but there was no comparison in the willingnessof their attention; for Miss Crawford, who had seen scores of greathouses, and cared for none of them, had only the appearance of civillylistening, while Fanny, to whom everything was almost as interestingas it was new, attended with unaffected earnestness to all that Mrs.Rushworth could relate of the family in former times, its rise andgrandeur, regal visits and loyal efforts, delighted to connect anythingwith history already known, or warm her imagination with scenes of thepast.
The situation of the house excluded the possibility of much prospectfrom any of the rooms; and while Fanny and some of the others wereattending Mrs. Rushworth, Henry Crawford was looking grave and shakinghis head at the windows. Every room on the west front looked acrossa lawn to the beginning of the avenue immediately beyond tall ironpalisades and gates.
Having visited many more rooms than could be supposed to be of anyother use than to contribute to the window-tax, and find employment forhousemaids, "Now," said Mrs. Rushworth, "we are coming to the chapel,which properly we ought to enter from above, and look down upon; butas we are quite among friends, I will take you in this way, if you willexcuse me."
They entered. Fanny's imagination had prepared her for somethinggrander than a mere spacious, oblong room, fitted up for the purpose ofdevotion: with nothing more striking or more solemn than the profusionof mahogany, and the crimson velvet cushions appearing over the ledge ofthe family gallery above. "I am disappointed," said she, in a low voice,to Edmund. "This is not my idea of a chapel. There is nothing awfulhere, nothing melancholy, nothing grand. Here are no aisles, no arches,no inscriptions, no banners. No banners, cousin, to be 'blown by thenight wind of heaven.' No signs that a 'Scottish monarch sleeps below.'"
"You forget, Fanny, how lately all this has been built, and for howconfined a purpose, compared with the old chapels of castles andmonasteries. It was only for the private use of the family. They havebeen buried, I suppose, in the parish church. _There_ you must look forthe banners and the achievements."
"It was foolish of me not to think of all that; but I am disappointed."
Mrs. Rushworth began her relation. "This chapel was fitted up as you seeit, in James the Second's time. Before that period, as I understand,the pews were only wainscot; and there is some reason to think thatthe linings and cushions of the pulpit and family seat were only purplecloth; but this is not quite certain. It is a handsome chapel, and wasformerly in constant use both morning and evening. Prayers were alwaysread in it by the domestic chaplain, within the memory of many; but thelate Mr. Rushworth left it off."
"Every generation has its improvements," said Miss Crawford, with asmile, to Edmund.
Mrs. Rushworth was gone to repeat her lesson to Mr. Crawford; andEdmund, Fanny, and Miss Crawford remained in a cluster together.
"It is a pity," cried Fanny, "that the custom should have beendiscontinued. It was a valuable part of former times. There is somethingin a chapel and chaplain so much in character with a great house,with one's ideas of what such a household should be! A whole familyassembling regularly for the purpose of prayer is fine!"
"Very fine indeed," said Miss Crawford, laughing. "It must do the headsof the family a great deal of good to force all the poor housemaids andfootmen to leave business and pleasure, and say their prayers here twicea day, while they are inventing excuses themselves for staying away."
"_That_ is hardly Fanny's idea of a family assembling," said Edmund. "Ifthe master and mistress do _not_ attend themselves, there must be moreharm than good in the custom."
"At any rate, it is safer to leave people to their own devices on suchsubjects. Everybody likes to go their own way--to chuse their own timeand manner of devotion. The obligation of attendance, the formality, therestraint, the length of time--altogether it is a formidable thing, andwhat nobody likes; and if the good people who used to kneel and gape inthat gallery could have foreseen that the time would ever come when menand women might lie another ten minutes in bed, when they woke with aheadache, without danger of reprobation, because chapel was missed,they would have jumped with joy and envy. Cannot you imagine with whatunwilling feelings the former belles of the house of Rushworth didmany a time repair to this chapel? The young Mrs. Eleanors and Mrs.Bridgets--starched up into seeming piety, but with heads full ofsomething very different--especially if the poor chaplain were not worthlooking at--and, in those days, I fancy parsons were very inferior evento what they are now."
For a few moments she was unanswered. Fanny coloured and lookedat Edmund, but felt too angry for speech; and he needed a littlerecollection before he could say, "Your lively mind can hardly beserious even on serious subjects. You have given us an amusing sketch,and human nature cannot say it was not so. We must all feel _at_ _times_the difficulty of fixing our thoughts as we could wish; but if you aresupposing it a frequent thing, that is to say, a weakness grown into ahabit from neglect, what could be expected from the _private_ devotionsof such persons? Do you think the minds which are suffered, whichare indulged in wanderings in a chapel, would be more collected in acloset?"
"Yes, very likely. They would have two chances at least in their favour.There would be less to distract the attention from without, and it wouldnot be tried so long."
"The mind which does not struggle against itself under _one_circumstance, would find objects to distract it in the _other_, Ibelieve; and the influence of the place and of example may often rousebetter feelings than are begun with. The greater length of the service,however, I admit to be sometimes too hard a stretch upon the mind. Onewishes it were not so; but I have not yet left Oxford long enough toforget what chapel prayers are."
While this was passing, the rest of the party being scattered about thechapel, Julia called Mr. Crawford's attention to her sister, by saying,"Do look at Mr. Rushworth and Maria, standing side by side, exactly asif the ceremony were going to be performed. Have not they completely theair of it?"
Mr. Crawford smiled his acquiescence, and stepping forward to Maria,said, in a voice which she only could hear, "I do not like to see MissBertram so near the altar."
Starting, the lady instinctively moved a step or two, but recoveringherse
"I am afraid I should do it very awkwardly," was his reply, with a lookof meaning.
Julia, joining them at the moment, carried on the joke.
"Upon my word, it is really a pity that it should not take placedirectly, if we had but a proper licence, for here we are altogether,and nothing in the world could be more snug and pleasant." And shetalked and laughed about it with so little caution as to catch thecomprehension of Mr. Rushworth and his mother, and expose her sister tothe whispered gallantries of her lover, while Mrs. Rushworth spokewith proper smiles and dignity of its being a most happy event to herwhenever it took place.
"If Edmund were but in orders!" cried Julia, and running to where hestood with Miss Crawford and Fanny: "My dear Edmund, if you were but inorders now, you might perform the ceremony directly. How unlucky thatyou are not ordained; Mr. Rushworth and Maria are quite ready."
Miss Crawford's countenance, as Julia spoke, might have amused adisinterested observer. She looked almost aghast under the new idea shewas receiving. Fanny pitied her. "How distressed she will be at what shesaid just now," passed across her mind.
"Ordained!" said Miss Crawford; "what, are you to be a clergyman?"
"Yes; I shall take orders soon after my father's return--probably atChristmas."
Miss Crawford, rallying her spirits, and recovering her complexion,replied only, "If I had known this before, I would have spoken of thecloth with more respect," and turned the subject.
The chapel was soon afterwards left to the silence and stillnesswhich reigned in it, with few interruptions, throughout the year. MissBertram, displeased with her sister, led the way, and all seemed to feelthat they had been there long enough.
The lower part of the house had been now entirely shewn, and Mrs.Rushworth, never weary in the cause, would have proceeded towards theprincipal staircase, and taken them through all the rooms above, if herson had not interposed with a doubt of there being time enough. "Forif," said he, with the sort of self-evident proposition which many aclearer head does not always avoid, "we are _too_ long going over thehouse, we shall not have time for what is to be done out of doors. It ispast two, and we are to dine at five."
Mrs. Rushworth submitted; and the question of surveying the grounds,with the who and the how, was likely to be more fully agitated, and Mrs.Norris was beginning to arrange by what junction of carriages and horsesmost could be done, when the young people, meeting with an outward door,temptingly open on a flight of steps which led immediately to turf andshrubs, and all the sweets of pleasure-grounds, as by one impulse, onewish for air and liberty, all walked out.
"Suppose we turn down here for the present," said Mrs. Rushworth,civilly taking the hint and following them. "Here are the greatestnumber of our plants, and here are the curious pheasants."
"Query," said Mr. Crawford, looking round him, "whether we may not findsomething to employ us here before we go farther? I see walls of greatpromise. Mr. Rushworth, shall we summon a council on this lawn?"
"James," said Mrs. Rushworth to her son, "I believe the wildernesswill be new to all the party. The Miss Bertrams have never seen thewilderness yet."
No objection was made, but for some time there seemed no inclination tomove in any plan, or to any distance. All were attracted at first by theplants or the pheasants, and all dispersed about in happy independence.Mr. Crawford was the first to move forward to examine the capabilitiesof that end of the house. The lawn, bounded on each side by a high wall,contained beyond the first planted area a bowling-green, and beyondthe bowling-green a long terrace walk, backed by iron palisades, andcommanding a view over them into the tops of the trees of the wildernessimmediately adjoining. It was a good spot for fault-finding. Mr.Crawford was soon followed by Miss Bertram and Mr. Rushworth; and when,after a little time, the others began to form into parties, these threewere found in busy consultation on the terrace by Edmund, Miss Crawford,and Fanny, who seemed as naturally to unite, and who, after a shortparticipation of their regrets and difficulties, left them and walkedon. The remaining three, Mrs. Rushworth, Mrs. Norris, and Julia, werestill far behind; for Julia, whose happy star no longer prevailed,was obliged to keep by the side of Mrs. Rushworth, and restrain herimpatient feet to that lady's slow pace, while her aunt, having fallenin with the housekeeper, who was come out to feed the pheasants, waslingering behind in gossip with her. Poor Julia, the only one out ofthe nine not tolerably satisfied with their lot, was now in a state ofcomplete penance, and as different from the Julia of the barouche-box ascould well be imagined. The politeness which she had been brought up topractise as a duty made it impossible for her to escape; while thewant of that higher species of self-command, that just consideration ofothers, that knowledge of her own heart, that principle of right, whichhad not formed any essential part of her education, made her miserableunder it.
"This is insufferably hot," said Miss Crawford, when they had taken oneturn on the terrace, and were drawing a second time to the door in themiddle which opened to the wilderness. "Shall any of us object to beingcomfortable? Here is a nice little wood, if one can but get into it.What happiness if the door should not be locked! but of course it is;for in these great places the gardeners are the only people who can gowhere they like."
The door, however, proved not to be locked, and they were all agreed inturning joyfully through it, and leaving the unmitigated glare of daybehind. A considerable flight of steps landed them in the wilderness,which was a planted wood of about two acres, and though chiefly oflarch and laurel, and beech cut down, and though laid out with too muchregularity, was darkness and shade, and natural beauty, compared withthe bowling-green and the terrace. They all felt the refreshment of it,and for some time could only walk and admire. At length, after a shortpause, Miss Crawford began with, "So you are to be a clergyman, Mr.Bertram. This is rather a surprise to me."
"Why should it surprise you? You must suppose me designed for someprofession, and might perceive that I am neither a lawyer, nor asoldier, nor a sailor."
"Very true; but, in short, it had not occurred to me. And you know thereis generally an uncle or a grandfather to leave a fortune to the secondson."
"A very praiseworthy practice," said Edmund, "but not quite universal.I am one of the exceptions, and _being_ one, must do something formyself."
"But why are you to be a clergyman? I thought _that_ was always the lotof the youngest, where there were many to chuse before him."
"Do you think the church itself never chosen, then?"
"_Never_ is a black word. But yes, in the _never_ of conversation, whichmeans _not_ _very_ _often_, I do think it. For what is to be done in thechurch? Men love to distinguish themselves, and in either of the otherlines distinction may be gained, but not in the church. A clergyman isnothing."
"The _nothing_ of conversation has its gradations, I hope, as well asthe _never_. A clergyman cannot be high in state or fashion. He mustnot head mobs, or set the ton in dress. But I cannot call that situationnothing which has the charge of all that is of the first importanceto mankind, individually or collectively considered, temporally andeternally, which has the guardianship of religion and morals, andconsequently of the manners which result from their influence. No onehere can call the _office_ nothing. If the man who holds it is so, itis by the neglect of his duty, by foregoing its just importance, andstepping out of his place to appear what he ought not to appear."
"_You_ assign greater consequence to the clergyman than one has beenused to hear given, or than I can quite comprehend. One does not seemuch of this influence and importance in society, and how can it beacquired where they are so seldom seen themselves? How can two sermons aweek, even supposing them worth hearing, supposing the preacher to havethe sense to prefer Blair's to his own, do all that you speak of? governthe conduct and fashion the manners of a large congregation for the restof the week? One scarcely sees a clergyman out of his pulpit."
"The metropolis, I imagine, is a pretty fair sample of the rest."
"Not, I should hope, of the proportion of virtue to vice throughout thekingdom. We do not look in great cities for our best morality. It is notthere that respectable people of any denomination can do most good; andit certainly is not there that the influence of the clergy can be mostfelt. A fine preacher is followed and admired; but it is not in finepreaching only that a good clergyman will be useful in his parish andhis neighbourhood, where the parish and neighbourhood are of a sizecapable of knowing his private character, and observing his generalconduct, which in London can rarely be the case. The clergy are lostthere in the crowds of their parishioners. They are known to the largestpart only as preachers. And with regard to their influencing publicmanners, Miss Crawford must not misunderstand me, or suppose I mean tocall them the arbiters of good-breeding, the regulators of refinementand courtesy, the masters of the ceremonies of life. The _manners_ Ispeak of might rather be called _conduct_, perhaps, the result of goodprinciples; the effect, in short, of those doctrines which it is theirduty to teach and recommend; and it will, I believe, be everywherefound, that as the clergy are, or are not what they ought to be, so arethe rest of the nation."
"Certainly," said Fanny, with gentle earnestness.
"There," cried Miss Crawford, "you have quite convinced Miss Pricealready."
"I wish I could convince Miss Crawford too."
"I do not think you ever will," said she, with an arch smile; "I am justas much surprised now as I was at first that you should intend to takeorders. You really are fit for something better. Come, do change yourmind. It is not too late. Go into the law."
"Go into the law! With as much ease as I was told to go into thiswilderness."
"Now you are going to say something about law being the worst wildernessof the two, but I forestall you; remember, I have forestalled you."
"You need not hurry when the object is only to prevent my saying a_bon_ _mot_, for there is not the least wit in my nature. I am a verymatter-of-fact, plain-spoken being, and may blunder on the borders of arepartee for half an hour together without striking it out."
A general silence succeeded. Each was thoughtful. Fanny made the firstinterruption by saying, "I wonder that I should be tired with onlywalking in this sweet wood; but the next time we come to a seat, if itis not disagreeable to you, I should be glad to sit down for a littlewhile."
"My dear Fanny," cried Edmund, immediately drawing her arm within his,"how thoughtless I have been! I hope you are not very tired. Perhaps,"turning to Miss Crawford, "my other companion may do me the honour oftaking an arm."
"Thank you, but I am not at all tired." She took it, however, as shespoke, and the gratification of having her do so, of feeling such aconnexion for the first time, made him a little forgetful of Fanny."You scarcely touch me," said he. "You do not make me of any use. What adifference in the weight of a woman's arm from that of a man! At OxfordI have been a good deal used to have a man lean on me for the length ofa street, and you are only a fly in the comparison."
"I am really not tired, which I almost wonder at; for we must havewalked at least a mile in this wood. Do not you think we have?"
"Not half a mile," was his sturdy answer; for he was not yet so much inlove as to measure distance, or reckon time, with feminine lawlessness.
"Oh! you do not consider how much we have wound about. We have takensuch a very serpentine course, and the wood itself must be half a milelong in a straight line, for we have never seen the end of it yet sincewe left the first great path."
"But if you remember, before we left that first great path, we sawdirectly to the end of it. We looked down the whole vista, and saw itclosed by iron gates, and it could not have been more than a furlong inlength."
"Oh! I know nothing of your furlongs, but I am sure it is a very longwood, and that we have been winding in and out ever since we came intoit; and therefore, when I say that we have walked a mile in it, I mustspeak within compass."
"We have been exactly a quarter of an hour here," said Edmund, takingout his watch. "Do you think we are walking four miles an hour?"
"Oh! do not attack me with your watch. A watch is always too fast or tooslow. I cannot be dictated to by a watch."
A few steps farther brought them out at the bottom of the very walk theyhad been talking of; and standing back, well shaded and sheltered, andlooking over a ha-ha into the park, was a comfortable-sized bench, onwhich they all sat down.
"I am afraid you are very tired, Fanny," said Edmund, observing her;"why would not you speak sooner? This will be a bad day's amusement foryou if you are to be knocked up. Every sort of exercise fatigues her sosoon, Miss Crawford, except riding."
"How abominable in you, then, to let me engross her horse as I did alllast week! I am ashamed of you and of myself, but it shall never happenagain."
"_Your_ attentiveness and consideration makes me more sensible of my ownneglect. Fanny's interest seems in safer hands with you than with me."
"That she should be tired now, however, gives me no surprise; for thereis nothing in the course of one's duties so fatiguing as what we havebeen doing this morning: seeing a great house, dawdling from one room toanother, straining one's eyes and one's attention, hearing what one doesnot understand, admiring what one does not care for. It is generallyallowed to be the greatest bore in the world, and Miss Price has foundit so, though she did not know it."
"I shall soon be rested," said Fanny; "to sit in the shade on a fineday, and look upon verdure, is the most perfect refreshment."
After sitting a little while Miss Crawford was up again. "I must move,"said she; "resting fatigues me. I have looked across the ha-ha till Iam weary. I must go and look through that iron gate at the same view,without being able to see it so well."
Edmund left the seat likewise. "Now, Miss Crawford, if you will look upthe walk, you will convince yourself that it cannot be half a mile long,or half half a mile."
"It is an immense distance," said she; "I see _that_ with a glance."
He still reasoned with her, but in vain. She would not calculate, shewould not compare. She would only smile and assert. The greatest degreeof rational consistency could not have been more engaging, and theytalked with mutual satisfaction. At last it was agreed that they shouldendeavour to determine the dimensions of the wood by walking a littlemore about it. They would go to one end of it, in the line they werethen in--for there was a straight green walk along the bottom bythe side of the ha-ha--and perhaps turn a little way in some otherdirection, if it seemed likely to assist them, and be back in a fewminutes. Fanny said she was rested, and would have moved too, but thiswas not suffered. Edmund urged her remaining where she was with anearnestness which she could not resist, and she was left on the bench tothink with pleasure of her cousin's care, but with great regret that shewas not stronger. She watched them till they had turned the corner, andlistened till all sound of them had ceased.
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