Part 3 out of 10
"Handsome! Nobody can call such an undersized man handsome.
He is not five foot nine. I should not wonder if he is not more
than five foot eight. I think he is an ill-looking fellow.
In my opinion, these Crawfords are no addition at all.
We did very well without them."
A small sigh escaped Fanny here, and she did not know
how to contradict him.
"If I had made any difficulty about fetching the key,
there might have been some excuse, but I went the very
moment she said she wanted it."
"Nothing could be more obliging than your manner, I am sure,
and I dare say you walked as fast as you could; but still
it is some distance, you know, from this spot to the house,
quite into the house; and when people are waiting,
they are bad judges of time, and every half minute seems
He got up and walked to the gate again, and "wished he
had had the key about him at the time." Fanny thought she
discerned in his standing there an indication of relenting,
which encouraged her to another attempt, and she said,
therefore, "It is a pity you should not join them.
They expected to have a better view of the house from
that part of the park, and will be thinking how it
may be improved; and nothing of that sort, you know,
can be settled without you."
She found herself more successful in sending away than
in retaining a companion. Mr. Rushworth was worked on.
"Well," said he, "if you really think I had better go:
it would be foolish to bring the key for nothing."
And letting himself out, he walked off without farther
Fanny's thoughts were now all engrossed by the two who
had left her so long ago, and getting quite impatient,
she resolved to go in search of them. She followed
their steps along the bottom walk, and had just turned
up into another, when the voice and the laugh of Miss
Crawford once more caught her ear; the sound approached,
and a few more windings brought them before her.
They were just returned into the wilderness from the park,
to which a sidegate, not fastened, had tempted them very
soon after their leaving her, and they had been across
a portion of the park into the very avenue which Fanny
had been hoping the whole morning to reach at last,
and had been sitting down under one of the trees.
This was their history. It was evident that they had been
spending their time pleasantly, and were not aware of the
length of their absence. Fanny's best consolation was
in being assured that Edmund had wished for her very much,
and that he should certainly have come back for her,
had she not been tired already; but this was not quite
sufficient to do away with the pain of having been left
a whole hour, when he had talked of only a few minutes,
nor to banish the sort of curiosity she felt to know
what they had been conversing about all that time;
and the result of the whole was to her disappointment
and depression, as they prepared by general agreement to
return to the house.
On reaching the bottom of the steps to the terrace,
Mrs. Rushworth and Mrs. Norris presented themselves
at the top, just ready for the wilderness, at the end
of an hour and a half from their leaving the house.
Mrs. Norris had been too well employed to move faster.
Whatever cross-accidents had occurred to intercept the pleasures
of her nieces, she had found a morning of complete enjoyment;
for the housekeeper, after a great many courtesies on
the subject of pheasants, had taken her to the dairy,
told her all about their cows, and given her the receipt
for a famous cream cheese; and since Julia's leaving them
they had been met by the gardener, with whom she had made
a most satisfactory acquaintance, for she had set him
right as to his grandson's illness, convinced him that it
was an ague, and promised him a charm for it; and he,
in return, had shewn her all his choicest nursery of plants,
and actually presented her with a very curious specimen
On this _rencontre_ they all returned to the house together,
there to lounge away the time as they could with sofas,
and chit-chat, and Quarterly Reviews, till the return
of the others, and the arrival of dinner. It was late
before the Miss Bertrams and the two gentlemen came in,
and their ramble did not appear to have been more than
partially agreeable, or at all productive of anything
useful with regard to the object of the day. By their
own accounts they had been all walking after each other,
and the junction which had taken place at last seemed,
to Fanny's observation, to have been as much too late
for re-establishing harmony, as it confessedly had
been for determining on any alteration. She felt,
as she looked at Julia and Mr. Rushworth, that hers
was not the only dissatisfied bosom amongst them:
there was gloom on the face of each. Mr. Crawford
and Miss Bertram were much more gay, and she thought
that he was taking particular pains, during dinner,
to do away any little resentment of the other two,
and restore general good-humour.
Dinner was soon followed by tea and coffee, a ten miles'
drive home allowed no waste of hours; and from the time
of their sitting down to table, it was a quick succession
of busy nothings till the carriage came to the door,
and Mrs. Norris, having fidgeted about, and obtained a
few pheasants' eggs and a cream cheese from the housekeeper,
and made abundance of civil speeches to Mrs. Rushworth,
was ready to lead the way. At the same moment Mr. Crawford,
approaching Julia, said, "I hope I am not to lose
my companion, unless she is afraid of the evening air
in so exposed a seat." The request had not been foreseen,
but was very graciously received, and Julia's day was
likely to end almost as well as it began. Miss Bertram
had made up her mind to something different, and was a
little disappointed; but her conviction of being really
the one preferred comforted her under it, and enabled her
to receive Mr. Rushworth's parting attentions as she ought.
He was certainly better pleased to hand her into
the barouche than to assist her in ascending the box,
and his complacency seemed confirmed by the arrangement.
"Well, Fanny, this has been a fine day for you, upon my word,"
said Mrs. Norris, as they drove through the park.
"Nothing but pleasure from beginning to end! I am sure
you ought to be very much obliged to your aunt Bertram
and me for contriving to let you go. A pretty good day's
amusement you have had!"
Maria was just discontented enough to say directly, "I think
_you_ have done pretty well yourself, ma'am. Your lap seems
full of good things, and here is a basket of something
between us which has been knocking my elbow unmercifully."
"My dear, it is only a beautiful little heath,
which that nice old gardener would make me take; but if
it is in your way, I will have it in my lap directly.
There, Fanny, you shall carry that parcel for me;
take great care of it: do not let it fall; it is a
cream cheese, just like the excellent one we had at dinner.
Nothing would satisfy that good old Mrs. Whitaker,
but my taking one of the cheeses. I stood out as long
as I could, till the tears almost came into her eyes,
and I knew it was just the sort that my sister would
be delighted with. That Mrs. Whitaker is a treasure!
She was quite shocked when I asked her whether wine was allowed
at the second table, and she has turned away two housemaids
for wearing white gowns. Take care of the cheese, Fanny.
Now I can manage the other parcel and the basket very well."
"What else have you been spunging?" said Maria,
half-pleased that Sotherton should be so complimented.
"Spunging, my dear! It is nothing but four of those
beautiful pheasants' eggs, which Mrs. Whitaker would
quite force upon me: she would not take a denial.
She said it must be such an amusement to me, as she
understood I lived quite alone, to have a few living
creatures of that sort; and so to be sure it will.
I shall get the dairymaid to set them under the first
spare hen, and if they come to good I can have them moved
to my own house and borrow a coop; and it will be a great
delight to me in my lonely hours to attend to them.
And if I have good luck, your mother shall have some."
It was a beautiful evening, mild and still, and the
drive was as pleasant as the serenity of Nature
could make it; but when Mrs. Norris ceased speaking,
it was altogether a silent drive to those within.
Their spirits were in general exhausted; and to determine
whether the day had afforded most pleasure or pain,
might occupy the meditations of almost all.
The day at Sotherton, with all its imperfections,
afforded the Miss Bertrams much more agreeable feelings
than were derived from the letters from Antigua,
which soon afterwards reached Mansfield. It was much
pleasanter to think of Henry Crawford than of their father;
and to think of their father in England again within
a certain period, which these letters obliged them to do,
was a most unwelcome exercise.
November was the black month fixed for his return.
Sir Thomas wrote of it with as much decision as experience
and anxiety could authorise. His business was so nearly
concluded as to justify him in proposing to take his
passage in the September packet, and he consequently
looked forward with the hope of being with his beloved
family again early in November.
Maria was more to be pitied than Julia; for to her the
father brought a husband, and the return of the friend most
solicitous for her happiness would unite her to the lover,
on whom she had chosen that happiness should depend.
It was a gloomy prospect, and all she could do was to
throw a mist over it, and hope when the mist cleared
away she should see something else. It would hardly
be _early_ in November, there were generally delays,
a bad passage or _something_; that favouring _something_
which everybody who shuts their eyes while they look,
or their understandings while they reason, feels the
comfort of. It would probably be the middle of November
at least; the middle of November was three months off.
Three months comprised thirteen weeks. Much might happen
in thirteen weeks.
Sir Thomas would have been deeply mortified by a suspicion
of half that his daughters felt on the subject of his return,
and would hardly have found consolation in a knowledge of the
interest it excited in the breast of another young lady.
Miss Crawford, on walking up with her brother to spend
the evening at Mansfield Park, heard the good news;
and though seeming to have no concern in the affair
beyond politeness, and to have vented all her feelings
in a quiet congratulation, heard it with an attention
not so easily satisfied. Mrs. Norris gave the particulars
of the letters, and the subject was dropt; but after tea,
as Miss Crawford was standing at an open window with
Edmund and Fanny looking out on a twilight scene,
while the Miss Bertrams, Mr. Rushworth, and Henry Crawford
were all busy with candles at the pianoforte, she suddenly
revived it by turning round towards the group, and saying,
"How happy Mr. Rushworth looks! He is thinking of November."
Edmund looked round at Mr. Rushworth too, but had nothing
"Your father's return will be a very interesting event."
"It will, indeed, after such an absence; an absence
not only long, but including so many dangers."
"It will be the forerunner also of other interesting events:
your sister's marriage, and your taking orders."
"Don't be affronted," said she, laughing, "but it does
put me in mind of some of the old heathen heroes, who,
after performing great exploits in a foreign land,
offered sacrifices to the gods on their safe return."
"There is no sacrifice in the case," replied Edmund,
with a serious smile, and glancing at the pianoforte again;
"it is entirely her own doing."
"Oh yes I know it is. I was merely joking. She has
done no more than what every young woman would do;
and I have no doubt of her being extremely happy.
My other sacrifice, of course, you do not understand."
"My taking orders, I assure you, is quite as voluntary
as Maria's marrying."
"It is fortunate that your inclination and your father's
convenience should accord so well. There is a very good
living kept for you, I understand, hereabouts."
"Which you suppose has biassed me?"
"But _that_ I am sure it has not," cried Fanny.
"Thank you for your good word, Fanny, but it is more than
I would affirm myself. On the contrary, the knowing
that there was such a provision for me probably did
bias me. Nor can I think it wrong that it should.
There was no natural disinclination to be overcome,
and I see no reason why a man should make a worse clergyman
for knowing that he will have a competence early in life.
I was in safe hands. I hope I should not have been
influenced myself in a wrong way, and I am sure my father
was too conscientious to have allowed it. I have no doubt
that I was biased, but I think it was blamelessly."
"It is the same sort of thing," said Fanny, after a
short pause, "as for the son of an admiral to go into
the navy, or the son of a general to be in the army,
and nobody sees anything wrong in that. Nobody wonders
that they should prefer the line where their friends can
serve them best, or suspects them to be less in earnest
in it than they appear."
"No, my dear Miss Price, and for reasons good. The profession,
either navy or army, is its own justification. It has
everything in its favour: heroism, danger, bustle, fashion.
Soldiers and sailors are always acceptable in society.
Nobody can wonder that men are soldiers and sailors."
"But the motives of a man who takes orders with the certainty
of preferment may be fairly suspected, you think?"
said Edmund. "To be justified in your eyes, he must
do it in the most complete uncertainty of any provision."
"What! take orders without a living! No; that is
madness indeed; absolute madness."
"Shall I ask you how the church is to be filled, if a man
is neither to take orders with a living nor without?
No; for you certainly would not know what to say.
But I must beg some advantage to the clergyman from
your own argument. As he cannot be influenced by those
feelings which you rank highly as temptation and reward
to the soldier and sailor in their choice of a profession,
as heroism, and noise, and fashion, are all against him,
he ought to be less liable to the suspicion of wanting
sincerity or good intentions in the choice of his."
"Oh! no doubt he is very sincere in preferring an income
ready made, to the trouble of working for one; and has
the best intentions of doing nothing all the rest of his
days but eat, drink, and grow fat. It is indolence,
Mr. Bertram, indeed. Indolence and love of ease; a want
of all laudable ambition, of taste for good company,
or of inclination to take the trouble of being agreeable,
which make men clergymen. A clergyman has nothing
to do but be slovenly and selfish--read the newspaper,
watch the weather, and quarrel with his wife. His curate
does all the work, and the business of his own life is
"There are such clergymen, no doubt, but I think they
are not so common as to justify Miss Crawford in esteeming
it their general character. I suspect that in this
comprehensive and (may I say) commonplace censure, you are
not judging from yourself, but from prejudiced persons,
whose opinions you have been in the habit of hearing.
It is impossible that your own observation can have given
you much knowledge of the clergy. You can have been
personally acquainted with very few of a set of men you
condemn so conclusively. You are speaking what you have
been told at your uncle's table."
"I speak what appears to me the general opinion;
and where an opinion is general, it is usually correct.
Though _I_ have not seen much of the domestic lives
of clergymen, it is seen by too many to leave any deficiency
"Where any one body of educated men, of whatever denomination,
are condemned indiscriminately, there must be a deficiency
of information, or (smiling) of something else.
Your uncle, and his brother admirals, perhaps knew little
of clergymen beyond the chaplains whom, good or bad,
they were always wishing away."
"Poor William! He has met with great kindness from
the chaplain of the Antwerp," was a tender apostrophe
of Fanny's, very much to the purpose of her own feelings
if not of the conversation.
"I have been so little addicted to take my opinions from
my uncle," said Miss Crawford, "that I can hardly suppose--
and since you push me so hard, I must observe, that I am
not entirely without the means of seeing what clergymen are,
being at this present time the guest of my own brother,
Dr. Grant. And though Dr. Grant is most kind and obliging
to me, and though he is really a gentleman, and, I dare say,
a good scholar and clever, and often preaches good sermons,
and is very respectable, _I_ see him to be an indolent,
selfish _bon_ _vivant_, who must have his palate consulted
in everything; who will not stir a finger for the convenience
of any one; and who, moreover, if the cook makes a blunder,
is out of humour with his excellent wife. To own the truth,
Henry and I were partly driven out this very evening
by a disappointment about a green goose, which he could
not get the better of. My poor sister was forced to stay
and bear it."
"I do not wonder at your disapprobation, upon my word.
It is a great defect of temper, made worse by a very faulty
habit of self-indulgence; and to see your sister suffering
from it must be exceedingly painful to such feelings
as yours. Fanny, it goes against us. We cannot attempt
to defend Dr. Grant."
"No," replied Fanny, "but we need not give up his profession
for all that; because, whatever profession Dr. Grant
had chosen, he would have taken a--not a good temper into it;
and as he must, either in the navy or army, have had a
great many more people under his command than he has now,
I think more would have been made unhappy by him as a
sailor or soldier than as a clergyman. Besides, I cannot
but suppose that whatever there may be to wish otherwise
in Dr. Grant would have been in a greater danger of
becoming worse in a more active and worldly profession,
where he would have had less time and obligation--
where he might have escaped that knowledge of himself,
the _frequency_, at least, of that knowledge which it
is impossible he should escape as he is now. A man--
a sensible man like Dr. Grant, cannot be in the habit
of teaching others their duty every week, cannot go
to church twice every Sunday, and preach such very good
sermons in so good a manner as he does, without being
the better for it himself. It must make him think;
and I have no doubt that he oftener endeavours to restrain
himself than he would if he had been anything but a clergyman."
"We cannot prove to the contrary, to be sure; but I wish
you a better fate, Miss Price, than to be the wife of a man
whose amiableness depends upon his own sermons; for though
he may preach himself into a good-humour every Sunday,
it will be bad enough to have him quarrelling about green
geese from Monday morning till Saturday night."
"I think the man who could often quarrel with Fanny,"
said Edmund affectionately, "must be beyond the reach
of any sermons."
Fanny turned farther into the window; and Miss
Crawford had only time to say, in a pleasant manner,
"I fancy Miss Price has been more used to deserve
praise than to hear it"; when, being earnestly invited
by the Miss Bertrams to join in a glee, she tripped off
to the instrument, leaving Edmund looking after her
in an ecstasy of admiration of all her many virtues,
from her obliging manners down to her light and graceful tread.
"There goes good-humour, I am sure," said he presently.
"There goes a temper which would never give pain!
How well she walks! and how readily she falls in with the
inclination of others! joining them the moment she is asked.
What a pity," he added, after an instant's reflection,
"that she should have been in such hands!"
Fanny agreed to it, and had the pleasure of seeing him continue
at the window with her, in spite of the expected glee;
and of having his eyes soon turned, like hers, towards the
scene without, where all that was solemn, and soothing,
and lovely, appeared in the brilliancy of an unclouded night,
and the contrast of the deep shade of the woods. Fanny spoke
her feelings. "Here's harmony!" said she; "here's repose!
Here's what may leave all painting and all music behind,
and what poetry only can attempt to describe! Here's what
may tranquillise every care, and lift the heart to rapture!
When I look out on such a night as this, I feel as if there
could be neither wickedness nor sorrow in the world;
and there certainly would be less of both if the sublimity
of Nature were more attended to, and people were carried
more out of themselves by contemplating such a scene."
"I like to hear your enthusiasm, Fanny. It is a lovely night,
and they are much to be pitied who have not been taught
to feel, in some degree, as you do; who have not,
at least, been given a taste for Nature in early life.
They lose a great deal."
"_You_ taught me to think and feel on the subject, cousin."
"I had a very apt scholar. There's Arcturus looking
"Yes, and the Bear. I wish I could see Cassiopeia."
"We must go out on the lawn for that. Should you be afraid?"
"Not in the least. It is a great while since we have
had any star-gazing."
"Yes; I do not know how it has happened." The glee began.
"We will stay till this is finished, Fanny," said he,
turning his back on the window; and as it advanced,
she had the mortification of seeing him advance too,
moving forward by gentle degrees towards the instrument,
and when it ceased, he was close by the singers, among the most
urgent in requesting to hear the glee again.
Fanny sighed alone at the window till scolded away
by Mrs. Norris's threats of catching cold.
Sir Thomas was to return in November, and his eldest
son had duties to call him earlier home. The approach
of September brought tidings of Mr. Bertram, first in a
letter to the gamekeeper and then in a letter to Edmund;
and by the end of August he arrived himself, to be gay,
agreeable, and gallant again as occasion served,
or Miss Crawford demanded; to tell of races and Weymouth,
and parties and friends, to which she might have listened
six weeks before with some interest, and altogether
to give her the fullest conviction, by the power
of actual comparison, of her preferring his younger brother.
It was very vexatious, and she was heartily sorry for it;
but so it was; and so far from now meaning to marry
the elder, she did not even want to attract him beyond
what the simplest claims of conscious beauty required:
his lengthened absence from Mansfield, without anything
but pleasure in view, and his own will to consult, made it
perfectly clear that he did not care about her; and his
indifference was so much more than equalled by her own,
that were he now to step forth the owner of Mansfield Park,
the Sir Thomas complete, which he was to be in time, she did
not believe she could accept him.
The season and duties which brought Mr. Bertram back to
Mansfield took Mr. Crawford into Norfolk. Everingham could
not do without him in the beginning of September. He went
for a fortnight--a fortnight of such dullness to the Miss
Bertrams as ought to have put them both on their guard,
and made even Julia admit, in her jealousy of her sister,
the absolute necessity of distrusting his attentions,
and wishing him not to return; and a fortnight of sufficient
leisure, in the intervals of shooting and sleeping, to have
convinced the gentleman that he ought to keep longer away,
had he been more in the habit of examining his own motives,
and of reflecting to what the indulgence of his idle vanity
was tending; but, thoughtless and selfish from prosperity
and bad example, he would not look beyond the present moment.
The sisters, handsome, clever, and encouraging, were an
amusement to his sated mind; and finding nothing in Norfolk
to equal the social pleasures of Mansfield, he gladly
returned to it at the time appointed, and was welcomed
thither quite as gladly by those whom he came to trifle with
Maria, with only Mr. Rushworth to attend to her, and doomed
to the repeated details of his day's sport, good or bad,
his boast of his dogs, his jealousy of his neighbours,
his doubts of their qualifications, and his zeal after poachers,
subjects which will not find their way to female feelings
without some talent on one side or some attachment on
the other, had missed Mr. Crawford grievously; and Julia,
unengaged and unemployed, felt all the right of missing him
much more. Each sister believed herself the favourite.
Julia might be justified in so doing by the hints
of Mrs. Grant, inclined to credit what she wished,
and Maria by the hints of Mr. Crawford himself.
Everything returned into the same channel as before his absence;
his manners being to each so animated and agreeable
as to lose no ground with either, and just stopping short
of the consistence, the steadiness, the solicitude,
and the warmth which might excite general notice.
Fanny was the only one of the party who found anything
to dislike; but since the day at Sotherton, she could never
see Mr. Crawford with either sister without observation,
and seldom without wonder or censure; and had her
confidence in her own judgment been equal to her exercise
of it in every other respect, had she been sure that she
was seeing clearly, and judging candidly, she would
probably have made some important communications to her
usual confidant. As it was, however, she only hazarded
a hint, and the hint was lost. "I am rather surprised,"
said she, "that Mr. Crawford should come back again so soon,
after being here so long before, full seven weeks;
for I had understood he was so very fond of change and
moving about, that I thought something would certainly
occur, when he was once gone, to take him elsewhere.
He is used to much gayer places than Mansfield."
"It is to his credit," was Edmund's answer; "and I dare
say it gives his sister pleasure. She does not like his
"What a favourite he is with my cousins!"
"Yes, his manners to women are such as must please.
Mrs. Grant, I believe, suspects him of a preference for Julia;
I have never seen much symptom of it, but I wish it may
be so. He has no faults but what a serious attachment
"If Miss Bertram were not engaged," said Fanny cautiously,
"I could sometimes almost think that he admired her more
"Which is, perhaps, more in favour of his liking
Julia best, than you, Fanny, may be aware; for I believe
it often happens that a man, before he has quite made up
his own mind, will distinguish the sister or intimate
friend of the woman he is really thinking of more than
the woman herself Crawford has too much sense to stay
here if he found himself in any danger from Maria;
and I am not at all afraid for her, after such a proof
as she has given that her feelings are not strong."
Fanny supposed she must have been mistaken, and meant to
think differently in future; but with all that submission
to Edmund could do, and all the help of the coinciding
looks and hints which she occasionally noticed in some
of the others, and which seemed to say that Julia was
Mr. Crawford's choice, she knew not always what to think.
She was privy, one evening, to the hopes of her aunt
Norris on the subject, as well as to her feelings,
and the feelings of Mrs. Rushworth, on a point of some
similarity, and could not help wondering as she listened;
and glad would she have been not to be obliged to listen,
for it was while all the other young people were dancing,
and she sitting, most unwillingly, among the chaperons at
the fire, longing for the re-entrance of her elder cousin,
on whom all her own hopes of a partner then depended.
It was Fanny's first ball, though without the preparation
or splendour of many a young lady's first ball, being the
thought only of the afternoon, built on the late acquisition
of a violin player in the servants' hall, and the possibility
of raising five couple with the help of Mrs. Grant and a new
intimate friend of Mr. Bertram's just arrived on a visit.
It had, however, been a very happy one to Fanny through
four dances, and she was quite grieved to be losing
even a quarter of an hour. While waiting and wishing,
looking now at the dancers and now at the door, this dialogue
between the two above-mentioned ladies was forced on her--
"I think, ma'am," said Mrs. Norris, her eyes directed
towards Mr. Rushworth and Maria, who were partners for
the second time, "we shall see some happy faces again now."
"Yes, ma'am, indeed," replied the other, with a stately simper,
"there will be some satisfaction in looking on _now_,
and I think it was rather a pity they should have been
obliged to part. Young folks in their situation
should be excused complying with the common forms.
I wonder my son did not propose it."
"I dare say he did, ma'am. Mr. Rushworth is never remiss.
But dear Maria has such a strict sense of propriety, so much
of that true delicacy which one seldom meets with nowadays,
Mrs. Rushworth--that wish of avoiding particularity!
Dear ma'am, only look at her face at this moment;
how different from what it was the two last dances!"
Miss Bertram did indeed look happy, her eyes were
sparkling with pleasure, and she was speaking with
great animation, for Julia and her partner, Mr. Crawford,
were close to her; they were all in a cluster together.
How she had looked before, Fanny could not recollect,
for she had been dancing with Edmund herself, and had
not thought about her.
Mrs. Norris continued, "It is quite delightful, ma'am, to
see young people so properly happy, so well suited,
and so much the thing! I cannot but think of dear Sir
Thomas's delight. And what do you say, ma'am, to the chance
of another match? Mr. Rushworth has set a good example,
and such things are very catching."
Mrs. Rushworth, who saw nothing but her son, was quite
at a loss.
"The couple above, ma'am. Do you see no symptoms there?"
"Oh dear! Miss Julia and Mr. Crawford. Yes, indeed,
a very pretty match. What is his property?"
"Four thousand a year."
"Very well. Those who have not more must be satisfied with
what they have. Four thousand a year is a pretty estate,
and he seems a very genteel, steady young man, so I hope
Miss Julia will be very happy."
"It is not a settled thing, ma'am, yet. We only speak of it
among friends. But I have very little doubt it _will_ be.
He is growing extremely particular in his attentions."
Fanny could listen no farther. Listening and wondering were all
suspended for a time, for Mr. Bertram was in the room again;
and though feeling it would be a great honour to be asked
by him, she thought it must happen. He came towards
their little circle; but instead of asking her to dance,
drew a chair near her, and gave her an account of the present
state of a sick horse, and the opinion of the groom,
from whom he had just parted. Fanny found that it was
not to be, and in the modesty of her nature immediately
felt that she had been unreasonable in expecting it.
When he had told of his horse, he took a newspaper from
the table, and looking over it, said in a languid way,
"If you want to dance, Fanny, I will stand up with you."
With more than equal civility the offer was declined;
she did not wish to dance. "I am glad of it," said he,
in a much brisker tone, and throwing down the newspaper
again, "for I am tired to death. I only wonder how
the good people can keep it up so long. They had need
be _all_ in love, to find any amusement in such folly;
and so they are, I fancy. If you look at them you may
see they are so many couple of lovers--all but Yates
and Mrs. Grant--and, between ourselves, she, poor woman,
must want a lover as much as any one of them. A desperate
dull life hers must be with the doctor," making a sly face
as he spoke towards the chair of the latter, who proving,
however, to be close at his elbow, made so instantaneous
a change of expression and subject necessary, as Fanny,
in spite of everything, could hardly help laughing at.
"A strange business this in America, Dr. Grant! What is
your opinion? I always come to you to know what I am to
think of public matters."
"My dear Tom," cried his aunt soon afterwards, "as you
are not dancing, I dare say you will have no objection
to join us in a rubber; shall you?" Then leaving her seat,
and coming to him to enforce the proposal, added in
a whisper, "We want to make a table for Mrs. Rushworth,
you know. Your mother is quite anxious about it,
but cannot very well spare time to sit down herself,
because of her fringe. Now, you and I and Dr. Grant will
just do; and though _we_ play but half-crowns, you know,
you may bet half-guineas with _him_."
"I should be most happy," replied he aloud, and jumping up
with alacrity, "it would give me the greatest pleasure;
but that I am this moment going to dance." Come, Fanny,
taking her hand, "do not be dawdling any longer,
or the dance will be over."
Fanny was led off very willingly, though it was impossible
for her to feel much gratitude towards her cousin,
or distinguish, as he certainly did, between the selfishness
of another person and his own.
"A pretty modest request upon my word," he indignantly
exclaimed as they walked away. "To want to nail me
to a card-table for the next two hours with herself and
Dr. Grant, who are always quarrelling, and that poking
old woman, who knows no more of whist than of algebra.
I wish my good aunt would be a little less busy! And to ask
me in such a way too! without ceremony, before them all,
so as to leave me no possibility of refusing. _That_ is
what I dislike most particularly. It raises my spleen
more than anything, to have the pretence of being asked,
of being given a choice, and at the same time addressed
in such a way as to oblige one to do the very thing,
whatever it be! If I had not luckily thought of standing
up with you I could not have got out of it. It is a great
deal too bad. But when my aunt has got a fancy in her head,
nothing can stop her."
The Honourable John Yates, this new friend, had not much
to recommend him beyond habits of fashion and expense,
and being the younger son of a lord with a tolerable
independence; and Sir Thomas would probably have thought
his introduction at Mansfield by no means desirable.
Mr. Bertram's acquaintance with him had begun at Weymouth,
where they had spent ten days together in the same society,
and the friendship, if friendship it might be called,
had been proved and perfected by Mr. Yates's being invited
to take Mansfield in his way, whenever he could, and by his
promising to come; and he did come rather earlier than had
been expected, in consequence of the sudden breaking-up
of a large party assembled for gaiety at the house
of another friend, which he had left Weymouth to join.
He came on the wings of disappointment, and with his head
full of acting, for it had been a theatrical party;
and the play in which he had borne a part was within
two days of representation, when the sudden death
of one of the nearest connexions of the family had
destroyed the scheme and dispersed the performers.
To be so near happiness, so near fame, so near the long
paragraph in praise of the private theatricals at Ecclesford,
the seat of the Right Hon. Lord Ravenshaw, in Cornwall,
which would of course have immortalised the whole party
for at least a twelvemonth! and being so near, to lose
it all, was an injury to be keenly felt, and Mr. Yates
could talk of nothing else. Ecclesford and its theatre,
with its arrangements and dresses, rehearsals and jokes,
was his never-failing subject, and to boast of the past his
Happily for him, a love of the theatre is so general,
an itch for acting so strong among young people, that he
could hardly out-talk the interest of his hearers.
From the first casting of the parts to the epilogue
it was all bewitching, and there were few who did
not wish to have been a party concerned, or would have
hesitated to try their skill. The play had been Lovers'
Vows, and Mr. Yates was to have been Count Cassel.
"A trifling part," said he, "and not at all to my taste,
and such a one as I certainly would not accept again;
but I was determined to make no difficulties.
Lord Ravenshaw and the duke had appropriated the only two
characters worth playing before I reached Ecclesford;
and though Lord Ravenshaw offered to resign his to me,
it was impossible to take it, you know. I was sorry
for _him_ that he should have so mistaken his powers,
for he was no more equal to the Baron--a little man
with a weak voice, always hoarse after the first
ten minutes. It must have injured the piece materially;
but _I_ was resolved to make no difficulties.
Sir Henry thought the duke not equal to Frederick,
but that was because Sir Henry wanted the part himself;
whereas it was certainly in the best hands of the two.
I was surprised to see Sir Henry such a stick.
Luckily the strength of the piece did not depend upon him.
Our Agatha was inimitable, and the duke was thought very great
by many. And upon the whole, it would certainly have gone
"It was a hard case, upon my word"; and, "I do think you
were very much to be pitied," were the kind responses
of listening sympathy.
"It is not worth complaining about; but to be sure the
poor old dowager could not have died at a worse time;
and it is impossible to help wishing that the news could
have been suppressed for just the three days we wanted.
It was but three days; and being only a grandmother,
and all happening two hundred miles off, I think there would
have been no great harm, and it was suggested, I know;
but Lord Ravenshaw, who I suppose is one of the most correct
men in England, would not hear of it."
"An afterpiece instead of a comedy," said Mr. Bertram.
"Lovers' Vows were at an end, and Lord and Lady Ravenshaw
left to act My Grandmother by themselves. Well, the jointure
may comfort _him_; and perhaps, between friends, he began
to tremble for his credit and his lungs in the Baron,
and was not sorry to withdraw; and to make _you_ amends,
Yates, I think we must raise a little theatre at Mansfield,
and ask you to be our manager."
This, though the thought of the moment, did not end
with the moment; for the inclination to act was awakened,
and in no one more strongly than in him who was now
master of the house; and who, having so much leisure
as to make almost any novelty a certain good, had likewise
such a degree of lively talents and comic taste,
as were exactly adapted to the novelty of acting.
The thought returned again and again. "Oh for the
Ecclesford theatre and scenery to try something with."
Each sister could echo the wish; and Henry Crawford,
to whom, in all the riot of his gratifications it was
yet an untasted pleasure, was quite alive at the idea.
"I really believe," said he, "I could be fool enough
at this moment to undertake any character that ever
was written, from Shylock or Richard III down to the singing
hero of a farce in his scarlet coat and cocked hat.
I feel as if I could be anything or everything;
as if I could rant and storm, or sigh or cut capers,
in any tragedy or comedy in the English language. Let us
be doing something. Be it only half a play, an act, a scene;
what should prevent us? Not these countenances, I am sure,"
looking towards the Miss Bertrams; "and for a theatre,
what signifies a theatre? We shall be only amusing ourselves.
Any room in this house might suffice."
"We must have a curtain," said Tom Bertram; "a few yards
of green baize for a curtain, and perhaps that may be enough."
"Oh, quite enough," cried Mr. Yates, "with only just a side wing
or two run up, doors in flat, and three or four scenes to be
let down; nothing more would be necessary on such a plan as this.
For mere amusement among ourselves we should want nothing more."
"I believe we must be satisfied with _less_," said Maria.
"There would not be time, and other difficulties
would arise. We must rather adopt Mr. Crawford's views,
and make the _performance_, not the _theatre_, our object.
Many parts of our best plays are independent of scenery."
"Nay," said Edmund, who began to listen with alarm.
"Let us do nothing by halves. If we are to act, let it be in
a theatre completely fitted up with pit, boxes, and gallery,
and let us have a play entire from beginning to end; so as it
be a German play, no matter what, with a good tricking,
shifting afterpiece, and a figure-dance, and a hornpipe,
and a song between the acts. If we do not outdo Ecclesford,
we do nothing."
"Now, Edmund, do not be disagreeable," said Julia.
"Nobody loves a play better than you do, or can have gone
much farther to see one."
"True, to see real acting, good hardened real acting;
but I would hardly walk from this room to the next to
look at the raw efforts of those who have not been
bred to the trade: a set of gentlemen and ladies,
who have all the disadvantages of education and decorum
to struggle through."
After a short pause, however, the subject still continued,
and was discussed with unabated eagerness, every one's
inclination increasing by the discussion, and a knowledge
of the inclination of the rest; and though nothing was settled
but that Tom Bertram would prefer a comedy, and his sisters
and Henry Crawford a tragedy, and that nothing in the world
could be easier than to find a piece which would please
them all, the resolution to act something or other seemed
so decided as to make Edmund quite uncomfortable. He was
determined to prevent it, if possible, though his mother,
who equally heard the conversation which passed at table,
did not evince the least disapprobation.
The same evening afforded him an opportunity of trying
his strength. Maria, Julia, Henry Crawford, and Mr. Yates
were in the billiard-room. Tom, returning from them into
the drawing-room, where Edmund was standing thoughtfully
by the fire, while Lady Bertram was on the sofa at a
little distance, and Fanny close beside her arranging
her work, thus began as he entered--"Such a horribly vile
billiard-table as ours is not to be met with, I believe,
above ground. I can stand it no longer, and I think,
I may say, that nothing shall ever tempt me to it again;
but one good thing I have just ascertained: it is the very
room for a theatre, precisely the shape and length for it;
and the doors at the farther end, communicating with each other,
as they may be made to do in five minutes, by merely moving
the bookcase in my father's room, is the very thing we
could have desired, if we had sat down to wish for it;
and my father's room will be an excellent greenroom.
It seems to join the billiard-room on purpose."
"You are not serious, Tom, in meaning to act?" said Edmund,
in a low voice, as his brother approached the fire.
"Not serious! never more so, I assure you. What is there
to surprise you in it?"
"I think it would be very wrong. In a _general_ light,
private theatricals are open to some objections, but as _we_
are circumstanced, I must think it would be highly injudicious,
and more than injudicious to attempt anything of the kind.
It would shew great want of feeling on my father's account,
absent as he is, and in some degree of constant danger;
and it would be imprudent, I think, with regard to Maria,
whose situation is a very delicate one, considering everything,
"You take up a thing so seriously! as if we were going
to act three times a week till my father's return,
and invite all the country. But it is not to be a
display of that sort. We mean nothing but a little
amusement among ourselves, just to vary the scene,
and exercise our powers in something new. We want
no audience, no publicity. We may be trusted, I think,
in chusing some play most perfectly unexceptionable;
and I can conceive no greater harm or danger to any of us
in conversing in the elegant written language of some
respectable author than in chattering in words of our own.
I have no fears and no scruples. And as to my father's
being absent, it is so far from an objection, that I
consider it rather as a motive; for the expectation
of his return must be a very anxious period to my mother;
and if we can be the means of amusing that anxiety,
and keeping up her spirits for the next few weeks, I shall
think our time very well spent, and so, I am sure, will he.
It is a _very_ anxious period for her."
As he said this, each looked towards their mother.
Lady Bertram, sunk back in one corner of the sofa,
the picture of health, wealth, ease, and tranquillity,
was just falling into a gentle doze, while Fanny was getting
through the few difficulties of her work for her.
Edmund smiled and shook his head.
"By Jove! this won't do," cried Tom, throwing himself into
a chair with a hearty laugh. "To be sure, my dear mother,
your anxiety--I was unlucky there."
"What is the matter?" asked her ladyship, in the heavy
tone of one half-roused; "I was not asleep."
"Oh dear, no, ma'am, nobody suspected you! Well, Edmund,"
he continued, returning to the former subject, posture,
and voice, as soon as Lady Bertram began to nod again,
"but _this_ I _will_ maintain, that we shall be doing
"I cannot agree with you; I am convinced that my father
would totally disapprove it."
"And I am convinced to the contrary. Nobody is fonder of
the exercise of talent in young people, or promotes it more,
than my father, and for anything of the acting, spouting,
reciting kind, I think he has always a decided taste.
I am sure he encouraged it in us as boys. How many a time
have we mourned over the dead body of Julius Caesar,
and to _be'd_ and not _to_ _be'd_, in this very room,
for his amusement? And I am sure, _my_ _name_ _was_ _Norval_,
every evening of my life through one Christmas holidays."
"It was a very different thing. You must see the
difference yourself. My father wished us, as schoolboys,
to speak well, but he would never wish his grown-up
daughters to be acting plays. His sense of decorum is strict."
"I know all that," said Tom, displeased. "I know my father
as well as you do; and I'll take care that his daughters
do nothing to distress him. Manage your own concerns,
Edmund, and I'll take care of the rest of the family."
"If you are resolved on acting," replied the persevering Edmund,
"I must hope it will be in a very small and quiet way;
and I think a theatre ought not to be attempted.
It would be taking liberties with my father's house
in his absence which could not be justified."
"For everything of that nature I will be answerable,"
said Tom, in a decided tone. "His house shall not be hurt.
I have quite as great an interest in being careful
of his house as you can have; and as to such alterations
as I was suggesting just now, such as moving a bookcase,
or unlocking a door, or even as using the billiard-room
for the space of a week without playing at billiards in it,
you might just as well suppose he would object to our sitting
more in this room, and less in the breakfast-room, than
we did before he went away, or to my sister's pianoforte
being moved from one side of the room to the other.
"The innovation, if not wrong as an innovation, will be
wrong as an expense."
"Yes, the expense of such an undertaking would be prodigious!
Perhaps it might cost a whole twenty pounds. Something of
a theatre we must have undoubtedly, but it will be on the
simplest plan: a green curtain and a little carpenter's work,
and that's all; and as the carpenter's work may be all
done at home by Christopher Jackson himself, it will be
too absurd to talk of expense; and as long as Jackson
is employed, everything will be right with Sir Thomas.
Don't imagine that nobody in this house can see or judge
but yourself. Don't act yourself, if you do not like it,
but don't expect to govern everybody else."
"No, as to acting myself," said Edmund, "_that_ I
absolutely protest against."
Tom walked out of the room as he said it, and Edmund was
left to sit down and stir the fire in thoughtful vexation.
Fanny, who had heard it all, and borne Edmund company
in every feeling throughout the whole, now ventured to say,
in her anxiety to suggest some comfort, "Perhaps they may
not be able to find any play to suit them. Your brother's
taste and your sisters' seem very different."
"I have no hope there, Fanny. If they persist in the scheme,
they will find something. I shall speak to my sisters
and try to dissuade _them_, and that is all I can do."
"I should think my aunt Norris would be on your side."
"I dare say she would, but she has no influence with
either Tom or my sisters that could be of any use;
and if I cannot convince them myself, I shall let things
take their course, without attempting it through her.
Family squabbling is the greatest evil of all, and we had
better do anything than be altogether by the ears."
His sisters, to whom he had an opportunity of speaking
the next morning, were quite as impatient of his advice,
quite as unyielding to his representation, quite as determined
in the cause of pleasure, as Tom. Their mother had no
objection to the plan, and they were not in the least afraid
of their father's disapprobation. There could be no harm
in what had been done in so many respectable families,
and by so many women of the first consideration; and it
must be scrupulousness run mad that could see anything to
censure in a plan like theirs, comprehending only brothers
and sisters and intimate friends, and which would never
be heard of beyond themselves. Julia _did_ seem inclined
to admit that Maria's situation might require particular
caution and delicacy--but that could not extend to _her_--
she was at liberty; and Maria evidently considered her
engagement as only raising her so much more above restraint,
and leaving her less occasion than Julia to consult
either father or mother. Edmund had little to hope,
but he was still urging the subject when Henry Crawford
entered the room, fresh from the Parsonage, calling out,
"No want of hands in our theatre, Miss Bertram.
No want of understrappers: my sister desires her love,
and hopes to be admitted into the company, and will be happy
to take the part of any old duenna or tame confidante,
that you may not like to do yourselves."
Maria gave Edmund a glance, which meant, "What say you now?
Can we be wrong if Mary Crawford feels the same?"
And Edmund, silenced, was obliged to acknowledge that the
charm of acting might well carry fascination to the mind
of genius; and with the ingenuity of love, to dwell more
on the obliging, accommodating purport of the message
than on anything else.
The scheme advanced. Opposition was vain; and as to
Mrs. Norris, he was mistaken in supposing she would wish
to make any. She started no difficulties that were
not talked down in five minutes by her eldest nephew
and niece, who were all-powerful with her; and as the
whole arrangement was to bring very little expense
to anybody, and none at all to herself, as she foresaw
in it all the comforts of hurry, bustle, and importance,
and derived the immediate advantage of fancying herself
obliged to leave her own house, where she had been living
a month at her own cost, and take up her abode in theirs,
that every hour might be spent in their service, she was,
in fact, exceedingly delighted with the project.
Fanny seemed nearer being right than Edmund had supposed.
The business of finding a play that would suit everybody
proved to be no trifle; and the carpenter had received
his orders and taken his measurements, had suggested
and removed at least two sets of difficulties, and having
made the necessity of an enlargement of plan and expense
fully evident, was already at work, while a play was
still to seek. Other preparations were also in hand.
An enormous roll of green baize had arrived from Northampton,
and been cut out by Mrs. Norris (with a saving by her
good management of full three-quarters of a yard), and
was actually forming into a curtain by the housemaids,
and still the play was wanting; and as two or three days
passed away in this manner, Edmund began almost to hope
that none might ever be found.
There were, in fact, so many things to be attended to,
so many people to be pleased, so many best characters
required, and, above all, such a need that the play
should be at once both tragedy and comedy, that there
did seem as little chance of a decision as anything
pursued by youth and zeal could hold out.
On the tragic side were the Miss Bertrams, Henry Crawford,
and Mr. Yates; on the comic, Tom Bertram, not _quite_ alone,
because it was evident that Mary Crawford's wishes,
though politely kept back, inclined the same way: but his
determinateness and his power seemed to make allies unnecessary;
and, independent of this great irreconcilable difference,
they wanted a piece containing very few characters
in the whole, but every character first-rate, and three
principal women. All the best plays were run over in vain.
Neither Hamlet, nor Macbeth, nor Othello, nor Douglas,
nor The Gamester, presented anything that could satisfy
even the tragedians; and The Rivals, The School for Scandal,
Wheel of Fortune, Heir at Law, and a long et cetera,
were successively dismissed with yet warmer objections.
No piece could be proposed that did not supply somebody
with a difficulty, and on one side or the other it was
a continual repetition of, "Oh no, _that_ will never do!
Let us have no ranting tragedies. Too many characters.
Not a tolerable woman's part in the play. Anything but _that_,
my dear Tom. It would be impossible to fill it up.
One could not expect anybody to take such a part.
Nothing but buffoonery from beginning to end.
_That_ might do, perhaps, but for the low parts. If I
_must_ give my opinion, I have always thought it the most
insipid play in the English language. _I_ do not wish
to make objections; I shall be happy to be of any use, but I
think we could not chuse worse."
Fanny looked on and listened, not unamused to observe
the selfishness which, more or less disguised, seemed to
govern them all, and wondering how it would end. For her
own gratification she could have wished that something
might be acted, for she had never seen even half a play,
but everything of higher consequence was against it.
"This will never do," said Tom Bertram at last. "We are
wasting time most abominably. Something must be fixed on.
No matter what, so that something is chosen. We must not be
so nice. A few characters too many must not frighten us.
We must _double_ them. We must descend a little.
If a part is insignificant, the greater our credit in making
anything of it. From this moment I make no difficulties.
I take any part you chuse to give me, so as it be comic.
Let it but be comic, I condition for nothing more."
For about the fifth time he then proposed the Heir at Law,
doubting only whether to prefer Lord Duberley or Dr. Pangloss
for himself; and very earnestly, but very unsuccessfully,
trying to persuade the others that there were some fine
tragic parts in the rest of the dramatis personae.
The pause which followed this fruitless effort
was ended by the same speaker, who, taking up one
of the many volumes of plays that lay on the table,
and turning it over, suddenly exclaimed--"Lovers' Vows!
And why should not Lovers' Vows do for _us_ as well
as for the Ravenshaws? How came it never to be thought
of before? It strikes me as if it would do exactly.
What say you all? Here are two capital tragic parts for
Yates and Crawford, and here is the rhyming Butler for me,
if nobody else wants it; a trifling part, but the sort
of thing I should not dislike, and, as I said before,
I am determined to take anything and do my best.
And as for the rest, they may be filled up by anybody.
It is only Count Cassel and Anhalt."
The suggestion was generally welcome. Everybody was growing
weary of indecision, and the first idea with everybody was,
that nothing had been proposed before so likely to suit
them all. Mr. Yates was particularly pleased: he had
been sighing and longing to do the Baron at Ecclesford,
had grudged every rant of Lord Ravenshaw's, and been forced
to re-rant it all in his own room. The storm through Baron
Wildenheim was the height of his theatrical ambition;
and with the advantage of knowing half the scenes by
heart already, he did now, with the greatest alacrity,
offer his services for the part. To do him justice,
however, he did not resolve to appropriate it;
for remembering that there was some very good ranting-ground
in Frederick, he professed an equal willingness for that.
Henry Crawford was ready to take either. Whichever Mr. Yates
did not chuse would perfectly satisfy him, and a short
parley of compliment ensued. Miss Bertram, feeling all
the interest of an Agatha in the question, took on her
to decide it, by observing to Mr. Yates that this was a
point in which height and figure ought to be considered,
and that _his_ being the tallest, seemed to fit him
peculiarly for the Baron. She was acknowledged to be
quite right, and the two parts being accepted accordingly,
she was certain of the proper Frederick. Three of the
characters were now cast, besides Mr. Rushworth, who was
always answered for by Maria as willing to do anything;
when Julia, meaning, like her sister, to be Agatha,
began to be scrupulous on Miss Crawford's account.
"This is not behaving well by the absent," said she.
"Here are not women enough. Amelia and Agatha may do
for Maria and me, but here is nothing for your sister,
Mr. Crawford desired _that_ might not be thought of:
he was very sure his sister had no wish of acting
but as she might be useful, and that she would not
allow herself to be considered in the present case.
But this was immediately opposed by Tom Bertram,
who asserted the part of Amelia to be in every respect
the property of Miss Crawford, if she would accept it.
"It falls as naturally, as necessarily to her," said he,
"as Agatha does to one or other of my sisters. It can be no
sacrifice on their side, for it is highly comic."
A short silence followed. Each sister looked anxious;
for each felt the best claim to Agatha, and was hoping
to have it pressed on her by the rest. Henry Crawford,
who meanwhile had taken up the play, and with seeming
carelessness was turning over the first act, soon settled
"I must entreat Miss _Julia_ Bertram," said he, "not to
engage in the part of Agatha, or it will be the ruin
of all my solemnity. You must not, indeed you must not"
(turning to her). "I could not stand your countenance
dressed up in woe and paleness. The many laughs we have
had together would infallibly come across me, and Frederick
and his knapsack would be obliged to run away."
Pleasantly, courteously, it was spoken; but the
manner was lost in the matter to Julia's feelings.
She saw a glance at Maria which confirmed the injury
to herself: it was a scheme, a trick; she was slighted,
Maria was preferred; the smile of triumph which Maria
was trying to suppress shewed how well it was understood;
and before Julia could command herself enough to speak,
her brother gave his weight against her too, by saying,
"Oh yes! Maria must be Agatha. Maria will be the
best Agatha. Though Julia fancies she prefers tragedy,
I would not trust her in it. There is nothing of tragedy
about her. She has not the look of it. Her features
are not tragic features, and she walks too quick,
and speaks too quick, and would not keep her countenance.
She had better do the old countrywoman: the Cottager's wife;
you had, indeed, Julia. Cottager's wife is a very pretty part,
I assure you. The old lady relieves the high-flown
benevolence of her husband with a good deal of spirit.
You shall be Cottager's wife."
"Cottager's wife!" cried Mr. Yates. "What are you
talking of? The most trivial, paltry, insignificant part;
the merest commonplace; not a tolerable speech in the whole.
Your sister do that! It is an insult to propose it.
At Ecclesford the governess was to have done it.
We all agreed that it could not be offered to anybody else.
A little more justice, Mr. Manager, if you please.
You do not deserve the office, if you cannot appreciate
the talents of your company a little better."
"Why, as to _that_, my good friend, till I and my company
have really acted there must be some guesswork; but I mean
no disparagement to Julia. We cannot have two Agathas,
and we must have one Cottager's wife; and I am sure I set
her the example of moderation myself in being satisfied
with the old Butler. If the part is trifling she will
have more credit in making something of it; and if she
is so desperately bent against everything humorous,
let her take Cottager's speeches instead of Cottager's
wife's, and so change the parts all through; _he_ is
solemn and pathetic enough, I am sure. It could make
no difference in the play, and as for Cottager himself,
when he has got his wife's speeches, _I_ would undertake
him with all my heart."
"With all your partiality for Cottager's wife,"
said Henry Crawford, "it will be impossible to make
anything of it fit for your sister, and we must not suffer
her good-nature to be imposed on. We must not _allow_
her to accept the part. She must not be left to her
own complaisance. Her talents will be wanted in Amelia.
Amelia is a character more difficult to be well represented
than even Agatha. I consider Amelia is the most difficult
character in the whole piece. It requires great powers,
great nicety, to give her playfulness and simplicity
without extravagance. I have seen good actresses fail
in the part. Simplicity, indeed, is beyond the reach
of almost every actress by profession. It requires
a delicacy of feeling which they have not. It requires
a gentlewoman--a Julia Bertram. You _will_ undertake it,
I hope?" turning to her with a look of anxious entreaty,
which softened her a little; but while she hesitated
what to say, her brother again interposed with Miss
Crawford's better claim.
"No, no, Julia must not be Amelia. It is not at
all the part for her. She would not like it.
She would not do well. She is too tall and robust.
Amelia should be a small, light, girlish, skipping figure.
It is fit for Miss Crawford, and Miss Crawford only.
She looks the part, and I am persuaded will do it admirably."
Without attending to this, Henry Crawford continued
his supplication. "You must oblige us," said he,
"indeed you must. When you have studied the character, I am
sure you will feel it suit you. Tragedy may be your choice,
but it will certainly appear that comedy chuses _you_.
You will be to visit me in prison with a basket of provisions;
you will not refuse to visit me in prison? I think I
see you coming in with your basket"
The influence of his voice was felt. Julia wavered;
but was he only trying to soothe and pacify her, and make
her overlook the previous affront? She distrusted him.
The slight had been most determined. He was, perhaps,
but at treacherous play with her. She looked suspiciously
at her sister; Maria's countenance was to decide it:
if she were vexed and alarmed--but Maria looked all
serenity and satisfaction, and Julia well knew that on
this ground Maria could not be happy but at her expense.
With hasty indignation, therefore, and a tremulous voice,
she said to him, "You do not seem afraid of not
keeping your countenance when I come in with a basket
of provisions--though one might have supposed--but it
is only as Agatha that I was to be so overpowering!"
She stopped--Henry Crawford looked rather foolish,
and as if he did not know what to say. Tom Bertram
"Miss Crawford must be Amelia. She will be an excellent Amelia."
"Do not be afraid of _my_ wanting the character,"
cried Julia, with angry quickness: "I am _not_ to be Agatha,
and I am sure I will do nothing else; and as to Amelia,
it is of all parts in the world the most disgusting to me.
I quite detest her. An odious, little, pert, unnatural,
impudent girl. I have always protested against comedy,
and this is comedy in its worst form." And so saying,
she walked hastily out of the room, leaving awkward feelings
to more than one, but exciting small compassion in any
except Fanny, who had been a quiet auditor of the whole,
and who could not think of her as under the agitations of
_jealousy_ without great pity.
A short silence succeeded her leaving them; but her brother
soon returned to business and Lovers' Vows, and was
eagerly looking over the play, with Mr. Yates's help,
to ascertain what scenery would be necessary--while Maria
and Henry Crawford conversed together in an under-voice,
and the declaration with which she began of, "I am
sure I would give up the part to Julia most willingly,
but that though I shall probably do it very ill,
I feel persuaded _she_ would do it worse," was doubtless
receiving all the compliments it called for.
When this had lasted some time, the division of the party
was completed by Tom Bertram and Mr. Yates walking off
together to consult farther in the room now beginning
to be called _the_ _Theatre_, and Miss Bertram's resolving
to go down to the Parsonage herself with the offer
of Amelia to Miss Crawford; and Fanny remained alone.
The first use she made of her solitude was to take up
the volume which had been left on the table, and begin
to acquaint herself with the play of which she had heard
so much. Her curiosity was all awake, and she ran
through it with an eagerness which was suspended only
by intervals of astonishment, that it could be chosen
in the present instance, that it could be proposed
and accepted in a private theatre! Agatha and Amelia
appeared to her in their different ways so totally
improper for home representation--the situation of one,
and the language of the other, so unfit to be expressed
by any woman of modesty, that she could hardly suppose
her cousins could be aware of what they were engaging in;
and longed to have them roused as soon as possible
by the remonstrance which Edmund would certainly make.
Miss Crawford accepted the part very readily; and soon after
Miss Bertram's return from the Parsonage, Mr. Rushworth
arrived, and another character was consequently cast.
He had the offer of Count Cassel and Anhalt, and at first
did not know which to chuse, and wanted Miss Bertram
to direct him; but upon being made to understand the
different style of the characters, and which was which,
and recollecting that he had once seen the play in London,
and had thought Anhalt a very stupid fellow, he soon
decided for the Count. Miss Bertram approved the decision,
for the less he had to learn the better; and though she
could not sympathise in his wish that the Count and
Agatha might be to act together, nor wait very patiently
while he was slowly turning over the leaves with the hope
of still discovering such a scene, she very kindly took
his part in hand, and curtailed every speech that admitted
being shortened; besides pointing out the necessity
of his being very much dressed, and chusing his colours.
Mr. Rushworth liked the idea of his finery very well,
though affecting to despise it; and was too much
engaged with what his own appearance would be to think
of the others, or draw any of those conclusions, or feel
any of that displeasure which Maria had been half prepared for.
Thus much was settled before Edmund, who had been out all
the morning, knew anything of the matter; but when he
entered the drawing-room before dinner, the buzz of
discussion was high between Tom, Maria, and Mr. Yates;
and Mr. Rushworth stepped forward with great alacrity
to tell him the agreeable news.
"We have got a play," said he. "It is to be Lovers'
Vows; and I am to be Count Cassel, and am to come
in first with a blue dress and a pink satin cloak,
and afterwards am to have another fine fancy suit,
by way of a shooting-dress. I do not know how I shall like it."
Fanny's eyes followed Edmund, and her heart beat for him
as she heard this speech, and saw his look, and felt
what his sensations must be.
"Lovers' Vows!" in a tone of the greatest amazement,
was his only reply to Mr. Rushworth, and he turned
towards his brother and sisters as if hardly doubting
"Yes," cried Mr. Yates. "After all our debatings
and difficulties, we find there is nothing that will
suit us altogether so well, nothing so unexceptionable,
as Lovers' Vows. The wonder is that it should not have been
thought of before. My stupidity was abominable, for here
we have all the advantage of what I saw at Ecclesford;
and it is so useful to have anything of a model!
We have cast almost every part."
"But what do you do for women?" said Edmund gravely,
and looking at Maria.
Maria blushed in spite of herself as she answered,
"I take the part which Lady Ravenshaw was to have done,
and" (with a bolder eye) "Miss Crawford is to be Amelia."
"I should not have thought it the sort of play to be so
easily filled up, with _us_," replied Edmund, turning away
to the fire, where sat his mother, aunt, and Fanny,
and seating himself with a look of great vexation.
Mr. Rushworth followed him to say, "I come in three times,
and have two-and-forty speeches. That's something,
is not it? But I do not much like the idea of being so fine.
I shall hardly know myself in a blue dress and a pink
Edmund could not answer him. In a few minutes Mr. Bertram
was called out of the room to satisfy some doubts
of the carpenter; and being accompanied by Mr. Yates,
and followed soon afterwards by Mr. Rushworth, Edmund almost
immediately took the opportunity of saying, "I cannot,
before Mr. Yates, speak what I feel as to this play,
without reflecting on his friends at Ecclesford;
but I must now, my dear Maria, tell _you_, that I
think it exceedingly unfit for private representation,
and that I hope you will give it up. I cannot but suppose
you _will_ when you have read it carefully over.
Read only the first act aloud to either your mother or aunt,
and see how you can approve it. It will not be necessary
to send you to your _father's_ judgment, I am convinced."
"We see things very differently," cried Maria.
"I am perfectly acquainted with the play, I assure you;
and with a very few omissions, and so forth, which will
be made, of course, I can see nothing objectionable in it;
and _I_ am not the _only_ young woman you find who thinks
it very fit for private representation."
"I am sorry for it," was his answer; "but in this matter
it is _you_ who are to lead. _You_ must set the example.
If others have blundered, it is your place to put
them right, and shew them what true delicacy is.
In all points of decorum _your_ conduct must be law
to the rest of the party."
This picture of her consequence had some effect, for no
one loved better to lead than Maria; and with far more
good-humour she answered, "I am much obliged to you, Edmund;
you mean very well, I am sure: but I still think you
see things too strongly; and I really cannot undertake
to harangue all the rest upon a subject of this kind.
_There_ would be the greatest indecorum, I think."
"Do you imagine that I could have such an idea in
my head? No; let your conduct be the only harangue.
Say that, on examining the part, you feel yourself
unequal to it; that you find it requiring more exertion
and confidence than you can be supposed to have.
Say this with firmness, and it will be quite enough.
All who can distinguish will understand your motive.
The play will be given up, and your delicacy honoured as
"Do not act anything improper, my dear," said Lady Bertram.
"Sir Thomas would not like it.--Fanny, ring the bell;
I must have my dinner.--To be sure, Julia is dressed by
"I am convinced, madam," said Edmund, preventing Fanny,
"that Sir Thomas would not like it."
"There, my dear, do you hear what Edmund says?"
"If I were to decline the part," said Maria,
with renewed zeal, "Julia would certainly take it."
"What!" cried Edmund, "if she knew your reasons!"
"Oh! she might think the difference between us--
the difference in our situations--that _she_ need
not be so scrupulous as _I_ might feel necessary.
I am sure she would argue so. No; you must excuse me;
I cannot retract my consent; it is too far settled,
everybody would be so disappointed, Tom would be quite angry;
and if we are so very nice, we shall never act anything."
"I was just going to say the very same thing," said Mrs. Norris.
"If every play is to be objected to, you will act nothing,
and the preparations will be all so much money thrown away,
and I am sure _that_ would be a discredit to us all.
I do not know the play; but, as Maria says, if there
is anything a little too warm (and it is so with most
of them) it can be easily left out. We must not be
over-precise, Edmund. As Mr. Rushworth is to act too,
there can be no harm. I only wish Tom had known his own
mind when the carpenters began, for there was the loss
of half a day's work about those side-doors. The curtain
will be a good job, however. The maids do their work
very well, and I think we shall be able to send back
some dozens of the rings. There is no occasion to put
them so very close together. I _am_ of some use, I hope,
in preventing waste and making the most of things.
There should always be one steady head to superintend
so many young ones. I forgot to tell Tom of something
that happened to me this very day. I had been looking
about me in the poultry-yard, and was just coming out,
when who should I see but Dick Jackson making up
to the servants' hall-door with two bits of deal board
in his hand, bringing them to father, you may be sure;
mother had chanced to send him of a message to father,
and then father had bid him bring up them two bits of board,
for he could not no how do without them. I knew what all
this meant, for the servants' dinner-bell was ringing
at the very moment over our heads; and as I hate such
encroaching people (the Jacksons are very encroaching,
I have always said so: just the sort of people to get
all they can), I said to the boy directly (a great lubberly
fellow of ten years old, you know, who ought to be ashamed
of himself), '_I'll_ take the boards to your father,
Dick, so get you home again as fast as you can.'
The boy looked very silly, and turned away without
offering a word, for I believe I might speak pretty sharp;
and I dare say it will cure him of coming marauding
about the house for one while. I hate such greediness--
so good as your father is to the family, employing the man
all the year round!"
Nobody was at the trouble of an answer; the others
soon returned; and Edmund found that to have endeavoured
to set them right must be his only satisfaction.
Dinner passed heavily. Mrs. Norris related again
her triumph over Dick Jackson, but neither play nor
preparation were otherwise much talked of, for Edmund's
disapprobation was felt even by his brother, though he
would not have owned it. Maria, wanting Henry Crawford's
animating support, thought the subject better avoided.
Mr. Yates, who was trying to make himself agreeable to Julia,
found her gloom less impenetrable on any topic than
that of his regret at her secession from their company;
and Mr. Rushworth, having only his own part and his own
dress in his head, had soon talked away all that could
be said of either.
But the concerns of the theatre were suspended only for an
hour or two: there was still a great deal to be settled;
and the spirits of evening giving fresh courage, Tom, Maria,
and Mr. Yates, soon after their being reassembled
in the drawing-room, seated themselves in committee
at a separate table, with the play open before them,
and were just getting deep in the subject when a most
welcome interruption was given by the entrance of Mr. and
Miss Crawford, who, late and dark and dirty as it was,
could not help coming, and were received with the most grateful
"Well, how do you go on?" and "What have you settled?"
and "Oh! we can do nothing without you," followed the
first salutations; and Henry Crawford was soon seated
with the other three at the table, while his sister made
her way to Lady Bertram, and with pleasant attention
was complimenting _her_. "I must really congratulate
your ladyship," said she, "on the play being chosen;
for though you have borne it with exemplary patience, I am
sure you must be sick of all our noise and difficulties.
The actors may be glad, but the bystanders must be infinitely
more thankful for a decision; and I do sincerely give
you joy, madam, as well as Mrs. Norris, and everybody else
who is in the same predicament," glancing half fearfully,
half slyly, beyond Fanny to Edmund.
She was very civilly answered by Lady Bertram,
but Edmund said nothing. His being only a bystander was
not disclaimed. After continuing in chat with the party
round the fire a few minutes, Miss Crawford returned
to the party round the table; and standing by them,
seemed to interest herself in their arrangements till,
as if struck by a sudden recollection, she exclaimed,
"My good friends, you are most composedly at work upon
these cottages and alehouses, inside and out; but pray let
me know my fate in the meanwhile. Who is to be Anhalt?
What gentleman among you am I to have the pleasure of making
For a moment no one spoke; and then many spoke together
to tell the same melancholy truth, that they had not yet
got any Anhalt. "Mr. Rushworth was to be Count Cassel,
but no one had yet undertaken Anhalt."
"I had my choice of the parts," said Mr. Rushworth;
"but I thought I should like the Count best, though I do
not much relish the finery I am to have."
"You chose very wisely, I am sure," replied Miss Crawford,
with a brightened look; "Anhalt is a heavy part."
"_The_ _Count_ has two-and-forty speeches,"
returned Mr. Rushworth, "which is no trifle."
"I am not at all surprised," said Miss Crawford,
after a short pause, "at this want of an Anhalt.
Amelia deserves no better. Such a forward young lady
may well frighten the men."
"I should be but too happy in taking the part, if it
were possible," cried Tom; "but, unluckily, the Butler
and Anhalt are in together. I will not entirely give
it up, however; I will try what can be done--I will look
it over again."
"Your _brother_ should take the part," said Mr. Yates,
in a low voice. "Do not you think he would?"
"_I_ shall not ask him," replied Tom, in a cold,
Miss Crawford talked of something else, and soon afterwards
rejoined the party at the fire.
"They do not want me at all," said she, seating herself.
"I only puzzle them, and oblige them to make civil speeches.
Mr. Edmund Bertram, as you do not act yourself,
you will be a disinterested adviser; and, therefore,
I apply to _you_. What shall we do for an Anhalt?
Is it practicable for any of the others to double it?
What is your advice?"
"My advice," said he calmly, "is that you change the play."
"_I_ should have no objection," she replied; "for though
I should not particularly dislike the part of Amelia
if well supported, that is, if everything went well,
I shall be sorry to be an inconvenience; but as they
do not chuse to hear your advice at _that_ _table_"
(looking round), "it certainly will not be taken."
Edmund said no more.
"If _any_ part could tempt _you_ to act, I suppose it would
be Anhalt," observed the lady archly, after a short pause;
"for he is a clergyman, you know."
"_That_ circumstance would by no means tempt me,"
he replied, "for I should be sorry to make the character
ridiculous by bad acting. It must be very difficult
to keep Anhalt from appearing a formal, solemn lecturer;
and the man who chuses the profession itself is, perhaps,
one of the last who would wish to represent it on the stage."
Miss Crawford was silenced, and with some feelings of resentment
and mortification, moved her chair considerably nearer the
tea-table, and gave all her attention to Mrs. Norris, who was
"Fanny," cried Tom Bertram, from the other table,
where the conference was eagerly carrying on, and the
conversation incessant, "we want your services"
Fanny was up in a moment, expecting some errand; for the
habit of employing her in that way was not yet overcome,
in spite of all that Edmund could do.
"Oh! we do not want to disturb you from your seat.
We do not want your _present_ services. We shall only want
you in our play. You must be Cottager's wife."
"Me!" cried Fanny, sitting down again with a most frightened look.
"Indeed you must excuse me. I could not act anything
if you were to give me the world. No, indeed, I cannot act."
"Indeed, but you must, for we cannot excuse you.
It need not frighten you: it is a nothing of a part,
a mere nothing, not above half a dozen speeches altogether,
and it will not much signify if nobody hears a word you say;
so you may be as creep-mouse as you like, but we must have
you to look at."
"If you are afraid of half a dozen speeches," cried Mr. Rushworth,
"what would you do with such a part as mine? I have forty-two to
"It is not that I am afraid of learning by heart,"
said Fanny, shocked to find herself at that moment the
only speaker in the room, and to feel that almost every
eye was upon her; "but I really cannot act."
"Yes, yes, you can act well enough for _us_.
Learn your part, and we will teach you all the rest.
You have only two scenes, and as I shall be Cottager,
I'll put you in and push you about, and you will do it
very well, I'll answer for it."
"No, indeed, Mr. Bertram, you must excuse me. You cannot
have an idea. It would be absolutely impossible for me.
If I were to undertake it, I should only disappoint you."
"Phoo! Phoo! Do not be so shamefaced. You'll do it
very well. Every allowance will be made for you.
We do not expect perfection. You must get a brown gown,
and a white apron, and a mob cap, and we must make
you a few wrinkles, and a little of the crowsfoot at
the corner of your eyes, and you will be a very proper,
little old woman."
"You must excuse me, indeed you must excuse me," cried Fanny,
growing more and more red from excessive agitation,
and looking distressfully at Edmund, who was kindly
observing her; but unwilling to exasperate his brother
by interference, gave her only an encouraging smile.
Her entreaty had no effect on Tom: he only said again
what he had said before; and it was not merely Tom,
for the requisition was now backed by Maria, and Mr. Crawford,
and Mr. Yates, with an urgency which differed from
his but in being more gentle or more ceremonious,
and which altogether was quite overpowering to Fanny;
and before she could breathe after it, Mrs. Norris completed
the whole by thus addressing her in a whisper at once angry
and audible--"What a piece of work here is about nothing:
I am quite ashamed of you, Fanny, to make such a difficulty
of obliging your cousins in a trifle of this sort--so kind
as they are to you! Take the part with a good grace,
and let us hear no more of the matter, I entreat."
"Do not urge her, madam," said Edmund. "It is not fair to
urge her in this manner. You see she does not like to act.
Let her chuse for herself, as well as the rest of us.
Her judgment may be quite as safely trusted. Do not urge
her any more."
"I am not going to urge her," replied Mrs. Norris sharply;
"but I shall think her a very obstinate, ungrateful girl,
if she does not do what her aunt and cousins wish her--
very ungrateful, indeed, considering who and what she is."
Edmund was too angry to speak; but Miss Crawford,
looking for a moment with astonished eyes at Mrs. Norris,
and then at Fanny, whose tears were beginning to shew
themselves, immediately said, with some keenness, "I do
not like my situation: this _place_ is too hot for me,"
and moved away her chair to the opposite side of the table,
close to Fanny, saying to her, in a kind, low whisper,
as she placed herself, "Never mind, my dear Miss Price,
this is a cross evening: everybody is cross and teasing,
but do not let us mind them"; and with pointed attention
continued to talk to her and endeavour to raise her spirits,
in spite of being out of spirits herself. By a look at
her brother she prevented any farther entreaty from the
theatrical board, and the really good feelings by which she
was almost purely governed were rapidly restoring her
to all the little she had lost in Edmund's favour.
Fanny did not love Miss Crawford; but she felt very much
obliged to her for her present kindness; and when,
from taking notice of her work, and wishing _she_ could
work as well, and begging for the pattern, and supposing
Fanny was now preparing for her _appearance_, as of
course she would come out when her cousin was married,
Miss Crawford proceeded to inquire if she had heard lately
from her brother at sea, and said that she had quite
a curiosity to see him, and imagined him a very fine
young man, and advised Fanny to get his picture drawn
before he went to sea again--she could not help admitting
it to be very agreeable flattery, or help listening,
and answering with more animation than she had intended.
The consultation upon the play still went on, and Miss
Crawford's attention was first called from Fanny by Tom
Bertram's telling her, with infinite regret, that he
found it absolutely impossible for him to undertake the
part of Anhalt in addition to the Butler: he had been
most anxiously trying to make it out to be feasible,
but it would not do; he must give it up. "But there will
not be the smallest difficulty in filling it," he added.
"We have but to speak the word; we may pick and chuse.
I could name, at this moment, at least six young men within
six miles of us, who are wild to be admitted into our company,
and there are one or two that would not disgrace us:
I should not be afraid to trust either of the Olivers
or Charles Maddox. Tom Oliver is a very clever fellow,
and Charles Maddox is as gentlemanlike a man as you will
see anywhere, so I will take my horse early to-morrow
morning and ride over to Stoke, and settle with one
While he spoke, Maria was looking apprehensively round
at Edmund in full expectation that he must oppose such
an enlargement of the plan as this: so contrary to all
their first protestations; but Edmund said nothing.
After a moment's thought, Miss Crawford calmly replied,
"As far as I am concerned, I can have no objection to
anything that you all think eligible. Have I ever seen
either of the gentlemen? Yes, Mr. Charles Maddox dined
at my sister's one day, did not he, Henry? A quiet-looking
young man. I remember him. Let _him_ be applied to,
if you please, for it will be less unpleasant to me than
to have a perfect stranger."
Charles Maddox was to be the man. Tom repeated his resolution
of going to him early on the morrow; and though Julia,
who had scarcely opened her lips before, observed, in a
sarcastic manner, and with a glance first at Maria and then
at Edmund, that "the Mansfield theatricals would enliven
the whole neighbourhood exceedingly," Edmund still held
his peace, and shewed his feelings only by a determined gravity.
"I am not very sanguine as to our play," said Miss Crawford,
in an undervoice to Fanny, after some consideration;
"and I can tell Mr. Maddox that I shall shorten some
of _his_ speeches, and a great many of _my_ _own_,
before we rehearse together. It will be very disagreeable,
and by no means what I expected."
It was not in Miss Crawford's power to talk Fanny into any
real forgetfulness of what had passed. When the evening
was over, she went to bed full of it, her nerves still
agitated by the shock of such an attack from her cousin Tom,
so public and so persevered in, and her spirits sinking
under her aunt's unkind reflection and reproach.
To be called into notice in such a manner, to hear that it
was but the prelude to something so infinitely worse,
to be told that she must do what was so impossible as to act;
and then to have the charge of obstinacy and ingratitude
follow it, enforced with such a hint at the dependence
of her situation, had been too distressing at the time
to make the remembrance when she was alone much less so,
especially with the superadded dread of what the
morrow might produce in continuation of the subject.
Miss Crawford had protected her only for the time;
and if she were applied to again among themselves with all
the authoritative urgency that Tom and Maria were capable of,
and Edmund perhaps away, what should she do? She fell
asleep before she could answer the question, and found
it quite as puzzling when she awoke the next morning.
The little white attic, which had continued her sleeping-room
ever since her first entering the family, proving incompetent
to suggest any reply, she had recourse, as soon as she
was dressed, to another apartment more spacious and more
meet for walking about in and thinking, and of which she
had now for some time been almost equally mistress.
It had been their school-room; so called till the Miss
Bertrams would not allow it to be called so any longer,
and inhabited as such to a later period. There Miss
Lee had lived, and there they had read and written,
and talked and laughed, till within the last three years,
when she had quitted them. The room had then become useless,
and for some time was quite deserted, except by Fanny,
when she visited her plants, or wanted one of the books,
which she was still glad to keep there, from the deficiency
of space and accommodation in her little chamber above:
but gradually, as her value for the comforts of it increased,
she had added to her possessions, and spent more of her
time there; and having nothing to oppose her, had so
naturally and so artlessly worked herself into it, that it
was now generally admitted to be hers. The East room,
as it had been called ever since Maria Bertram was sixteen,
was now considered Fanny's, almost as decidedly as the
white attic: the smallness of the one making the use of
the other so evidently reasonable that the Miss Bertrams,
with every superiority in their own apartments which their
own sense of superiority could demand, were entirely
approving it; and Mrs. Norris, having stipulated for there
never being a fire in it on Fanny's account, was tolerably
resigned to her having the use of what nobody else wanted,
though the terms in which she sometimes spoke of the
indulgence seemed to imply that it was the best room in
The aspect was so favourable that even without a fire
it was habitable in many an early spring and late
autumn morning to such a willing mind as Fanny's;
and while there was a gleam of sunshine she hoped not
to be driven from it entirely, even when winter came.
The comfort of it in her hours of leisure was extreme.
She could go there after anything unpleasant below,
and find immediate consolation in some pursuit,
or some train of thought at hand. Her plants, her books--
of which she had been a collector from the first hour
of her commanding a shilling--her writing-desk, and her
works of charity and ingenuity, were all within her reach;
or if indisposed for employment, if nothing but musing
would do, she could scarcely see an object in that room
which had not an interesting remembrance connected with it.
Everything was a friend, or bore her thoughts to a friend;
and though there had been sometimes much of suffering
to her; though her motives had often been misunderstood,
her feelings disregarded, and her comprehension undervalued;
though she had known the pains of tyranny, of ridicule,
and neglect, yet almost every recurrence of either had led
to something consolatory: her aunt Bertram had spoken
for her, or Miss Lee had been encouraging, or, what was yet
more frequent or more dear, Edmund had been her champion
and her friend: he had supported her cause or explained
her meaning, he had told her not to cry, or had given her
some proof of affection which made her tears delightful;
and the whole was now so blended together, so harmonised
by distance, that every former affliction had its charm.
The room was most dear to her, and she would not have
changed its furniture for the handsomest in the house,
though what had been originally plain had suffered all
the ill-usage of children; and its greatest elegancies
and ornaments were a faded footstool of Julia's work,
too ill done for the drawing-room, three transparencies,
made in a rage for transparencies, for the three lower
panes of one window, where Tintern Abbey held its station
between a cave in Italy and a moonlight lake in Cumberland,
a collection of family profiles, thought unworthy of being
anywhere else, over the mantelpiece, and by their side,
and pinned against the wall, a small sketch of a ship
sent four years ago from the Mediterranean by William,
with H.M.S. Antwerp at the bottom, in letters as tall as the
To this nest of comforts Fanny now walked down to try
its influence on an agitated, doubting spirit, to see
if by looking at Edmund's profile she could catch any of
his counsel, or by giving air to her geraniums she might
inhale a breeze of mental strength herself. But she had
more than fears of her own perseverance to remove: she had
begun to feel undecided as to what she _ought_ _to_ _do_;
and as she walked round the room her doubts were increasing.
Was she _right_ in refusing what was so warmly asked,
so strongly wished for--what might be so essential
to a scheme on which some of those to whom she owed the
greatest complaisance had set their hearts? Was it not
ill-nature, selfishness, and a fear of exposing herself?
And would Edmund's judgment, would his persuasion of Sir
Thomas's disapprobation of the whole, be enough to justify
her in a determined denial in spite of all the rest?
It would be so horrible to her to act that she was inclined
to suspect the truth and purity of her own scruples;
and as she looked around her, the claims of her cousins
to being obliged were strengthened by the sight of
present upon present that she had received from them.