Part 9 out of 10
at the two months' end."
After a moment's reflection, Mr. Crawford replied,
"I know Mansfield, I know its way, I know its faults
towards _you_. I know the danger of your being so
far forgotten, as to have your comforts give way to the
imaginary convenience of any single being in the family.
I am aware that you may be left here week after week,
if Sir Thomas cannot settle everything for coming himself,
or sending your aunt's maid for you, without involving
the slightest alteration of the arrangements which he
may have laid down for the next quarter of a year.
This will not do. Two months is an ample allowance;
I should think six weeks quite enough. I am considering
your sister's health," said he, addressing himself to Susan,
"which I think the confinement of Portsmouth unfavourable to.
She requires constant air and exercise. When you know her
as well as I do, I am sure you will agree that she does,
and that she ought never to be long banished from the free air
and liberty of the country. If, therefore" (turning again
to Fanny), "you find yourself growing unwell, and any
difficulties arise about your returning to Mansfield,
without waiting for the two months to be ended,
_that_ must not be regarded as of any consequence,
if you feel yourself at all less strong or comfortable
than usual, and will only let my sister know it, give her
only the slightest hint, she and I will immediately
come down, and take you back to Mansfield. You know
the ease and the pleasure with which this would be done.
You know all that would be felt on the occasion."
Fanny thanked him, but tried to laugh it off.
"I am perfectly serious," he replied, "as you perfectly know.
And I hope you will not be cruelly concealing any
tendency to indisposition. Indeed, you shall _not_;
it shall not be in your power; for so long only as you
positively say, in every letter to Mary, 'I am well,'
and I know you cannot speak or write a falsehood, so long
only shall you be considered as well."
Fanny thanked him again, but was affected and distressed
to a degree that made it impossible for her to say much,
or even to be certain of what she ought to say.
This was towards the close of their walk. He attended
them to the last, and left them only at the door of their
own house, when he knew them to be going to dinner,
and therefore pretended to be waited for elsewhere.
"I wish you were not so tired," said he, still detaining
Fanny after all the others were in the house--"I wish I
left you in stronger health. Is there anything I can
do for you in town? I have half an idea of going into
Norfolk again soon. I am not satisfied about Maddison.
I am sure he still means to impose on me if possible,
and get a cousin of his own into a certain mill, which I
design for somebody else. I must come to an understanding
with him. I must make him know that I will not be
tricked on the south side of Everingham, any more than on
the north: that I will be master of my own property.
I was not explicit enough with him before. The mischief
such a man does on an estate, both as to the credit of his
employer and the welfare of the poor, is inconceivable.
I have a great mind to go back into Norfolk directly,
and put everything at once on such a footing as cannot
be afterwards swerved from. Maddison is a clever fellow;
I do not wish to displace him, provided he does not try
to displace _me_; but it would be simple to be duped
by a man who has no right of creditor to dupe me,
and worse than simple to let him give me a hard-hearted,
griping fellow for a tenant, instead of an honest man,
to whom I have given half a promise already. Would it not
be worse than simple? Shall I go? Do you advise it?"
"I advise! You know very well what is right."
"Yes. When you give me your opinion, I always know
what is right. Your judgment is my rule of right."
"Oh, no! do not say so. We have all a better guide
in ourselves, if we would attend to it, than any other person
can be. Good-bye; I wish you a pleasant journey to-morrow."
"Is there nothing I can do for you in town?"
"Nothing; I am much obliged to you."
"Have you no message for anybody?"
"My love to your sister, if you please; and when you see
my cousin, my cousin Edmund, I wish you would be so good
as to say that I suppose I shall soon hear from him."
"Certainly; and if he is lazy or negligent, I will write
his excuses myself."
He could say no more, for Fanny would be no longer detained.
He pressed her hand, looked at her, and was gone.
_He_ went to while away the next three hours as he could,
with his other acquaintance, till the best dinner that
a capital inn afforded was ready for their enjoyment,
and _she_ turned in to her more simple one immediately.
Their general fare bore a very different character;
and could he have suspected how many privations, besides that
of exercise, she endured in her father's house, he would
have wondered that her looks were not much more affected
than he found them. She was so little equal to Rebecca's
puddings and Rebecca's hashes, brought to table, as they
all were, with such accompaniments of half-cleaned plates,
and not half-cleaned knives and forks, that she was very
often constrained to defer her heartiest meal till she could
send her brothers in the evening for biscuits and buns.
After being nursed up at Mansfield, it was too late in the
day to be hardened at Portsmouth; and though Sir Thomas,
had he known all, might have thought his niece in the
most promising way of being starved, both mind and body,
into a much juster value for Mr. Crawford's good company
and good fortune, he would probably have feared to push
his experiment farther, lest she might die under the cure.
Fanny was out of spirits all the rest of the day.
Though tolerably secure of not seeing Mr. Crawford again,
she could not help being low. It was parting with somebody
of the nature of a friend; and though, in one light,
glad to have him gone, it seemed as if she was now
deserted by everybody; it was a sort of renewed separation
from Mansfield; and she could not think of his returning
to town, and being frequently with Mary and Edmund,
without feelings so near akin to envy as made her hate
herself for having them.
Her dejection had no abatement from anything passing
around her; a friend or two of her father's, as always
happened if he was not with them, spent the long,
long evening there; and from six o'clock till half-past nine,
there was little intermission of noise or grog. She was
very low. The wonderful improvement which she still
fancied in Mr. Crawford was the nearest to administering
comfort of anything within the current of her thoughts.
Not considering in how different a circle she had been
just seeing him, nor how much might be owing to contrast,
she was quite persuaded of his being astonishingly
more gentle and regardful of others than formerly.
And, if in little things, must it not be so in great?
So anxious for her health and comfort, so very feeling
as he now expressed himself, and really seemed, might not
it be fairly supposed that he would not much longer
persevere in a suit so distressing to her?
It was presumed that Mr. Crawford was travelling back,
to London, on the morrow, for nothing more was seen
of him at Mr. Price's; and two days afterwards, it was
a fact ascertained to Fanny by the following letter from
his sister, opened and read by her, on another account,
with the most anxious curiosity:--
"I have to inform you, my dearest Fanny, that Henry
has been down to Portsmouth to see you; that he had a
delightful walk with you to the dockyard last Saturday,
and one still more to be dwelt on the next day,
on the ramparts; when the balmy air, the sparkling sea,
and your sweet looks and conversation were altogether
in the most delicious harmony, and afforded sensations
which are to raise ecstasy even in retrospect. This, as well
as I understand, is to be the substance of my information.
He makes me write, but I do not know what else is to
be communicated, except this said visit to Portsmouth,
and these two said walks, and his introduction to
your family, especially to a fair sister of yours, a fine
girl of fifteen, who was of the party on the ramparts,
taking her first lesson, I presume, in love. I have
not time for writing much, but it would be out of place
if I had, for this is to be a mere letter of business,
penned for the purpose of conveying necessary information,
which could not be delayed without risk of evil. My dear,
dear Fanny, if I had you here, how I would talk to you!
You should listen to me till you were tired, and advise
me till you were still tired more; but it is impossible
to put a hundredth part of my great mind on paper,
so I will abstain altogether, and leave you to guess what
you like. I have no news for you. You have politics,
of course; and it would be too bad to plague you with
the names of people and parties that fill up my time.
I ought to have sent you an account of your cousin's
first party, but I was lazy, and now it is too long ago;
suffice it, that everything was just as it ought to be,
in a style that any of her connexions must have been
gratified to witness, and that her own dress and manners did
her the greatest credit. My friend, Mrs. Fraser, is mad
for such a house, and it would not make _me_ miserable.
I go to Lady Stornaway after Easter; she seems in high spirits,
and very happy. I fancy Lord S. is very good-humoured
and pleasant in his own family, and I do not think him so
very ill-looking as I did--at least, one sees many worse.
He will not do by the side of your cousin Edmund.
Of the last-mentioned hero, what shall I say? If I
avoided his name entirely, it would look suspicious.
I will say, then, that we have seen him two or three times,
and that my friends here are very much struck with his
gentlemanlike appearance. Mrs. Fraser (no bad judge)
declares she knows but three men in town who have so good
a person, height, and air; and I must confess, when he dined
here the other day, there were none to compare with him,
and we were a party of sixteen. Luckily there is no
distinction of dress nowadays to tell tales, but--but--
but Yours affectionately."
"I had almost forgot (it was Edmund's fault: he gets into
my head more than does me good) one very material thing I
had to say from Henry and myself--I mean about our taking
you back into Northamptonshire. My dear little creature,
do not stay at Portsmouth to lose your pretty looks.
Those vile sea-breezes are the ruin of beauty and health.
My poor aunt always felt affected if within ten miles
of the sea, which the Admiral of course never believed,
but I know it was so. I am at your service and Henry's,
at an hour's notice. I should like the scheme, and we would
make a little circuit, and shew you Everingham in our way,
and perhaps you would not mind passing through London,
and seeing the inside of St. George's, Hanover Square.
Only keep your cousin Edmund from me at such a time:
I should not like to be tempted. What a long letter!
one word more. Henry, I find, has some idea of going
into Norfolk again upon some business that _you_ approve;
but this cannot possibly be permitted before the middle
of next week; that is, he cannot anyhow be spared till
after the 14th, for _we_ have a party that evening.
The value of a man like Henry, on such an occasion,
is what you can have no conception of; so you must take it
upon my word to be inestimable. He will see the Rushworths,
which own I am not sorry for--having a little curiosity,
and so I think has he--though he will not acknowledge
This was a letter to be run through eagerly, to be
read deliberately, to supply matter for much reflection,
and to leave everything in greater suspense than ever.
The only certainty to be drawn from it was, that nothing
decisive had yet taken place. Edmund had not yet spoken.
How Miss Crawford really felt, how she meant to act,
or might act without or against her meaning; whether his
importance to her were quite what it had been before
the last separation; whether, if lessened, it were likely
to lessen more, or to recover itself, were subjects
for endless conjecture, and to be thought of on that day
and many days to come, without producing any conclusion.
The idea that returned the oftenest was that Miss Crawford,
after proving herself cooled and staggered by a return
to London habits, would yet prove herself in the end
too much attached to him to give him up. She would
try to be more ambitious than her heart would allow.
She would hesitate, she would tease, she would condition,
she would require a great deal, but she would finally
This was Fanny's most frequent expectation. A house
in town--that, she thought, must be impossible.
Yet there was no saying what Miss Crawford might not ask.
The prospect for her cousin grew worse and worse.
The woman who could speak of him, and speak only of
his appearance! What an unworthy attachment! To be
deriving support from the commendations of Mrs. Fraser!
_She_ who had known him intimately half a year!
Fanny was ashamed of her. Those parts of the letter which
related only to Mr. Crawford and herself, touched her,
in comparison, slightly. Whether Mr. Crawford went
into Norfolk before or after the 14th was certainly
no concern of hers, though, everything considered,
she thought he _would_ go without delay. That Miss
Crawford should endeavour to secure a meeting between him
and Mrs. Rushworth, was all in her worst line of conduct,
and grossly unkind and ill-judged; but she hoped _he_
would not be actuated by any such degrading curiosity.
He acknowledged no such inducement, and his sister
ought to have given him credit for better feelings than
She was yet more impatient for another letter from
town after receiving this than she had been before;
and for a few days was so unsettled by it altogether,
by what had come, and what might come, that her usual
readings and conversation with Susan were much suspended.
She could not command her attention as she wished.
If Mr. Crawford remembered her message to her cousin,
she thought it very likely, most likely, that he would write
to her at all events; it would be most consistent with his
usual kindness; and till she got rid of this idea, till it
gradually wore off, by no letters appearing in the course
of three or four days more, she was in a most restless,
At length, a something like composure succeeded.
Suspense must be submitted to, and must not be allowed
to wear her out, and make her useless. Time did something,
her own exertions something more, and she resumed her
attentions to Susan, and again awakened the same interest
Susan was growing very fond of her, and though without
any of the early delight in books which had been
so strong in Fanny, with a disposition much less
inclined to sedentary pursuits, or to information for
information's sake, she had so strong a desire of not
_appearing_ ignorant, as, with a good clear understanding,
made her a most attentive, profitable, thankful pupil.
Fanny was her oracle. Fanny's explanations and remarks
were a most important addition to every essay, or every
chapter of history. What Fanny told her of former times
dwelt more on her mind than the pages of Goldsmith; and she
paid her sister the compliment of preferring her style
to that of any printed author. The early habit of reading was
Their conversations, however, were not always on subjects
so high as history or morals. Others had their hour;
and of lesser matters, none returned so often,
or remained so long between them, as Mansfield Park,
a description of the people, the manners, the amusements,
the ways of Mansfield Park. Susan, who had an innate taste
for the genteel and well-appointed, was eager to hear,
and Fanny could not but indulge herself in dwelling on
so beloved a theme. She hoped it was not wrong; though,
after a time, Susan's very great admiration of everything
said or done in her uncle's house, and earnest longing
to go into Northamptonshire, seemed almost to blame
her for exciting feelings which could not be gratified.
Poor Susan was very little better fitted for home
than her elder sister; and as Fanny grew thoroughly
to understand this, she began to feel that when her
own release from Portsmouth came, her happiness would
have a material drawback in leaving Susan behind.
That a girl so capable of being made everything good should
be left in such hands, distressed her more and more.
Were _she_ likely to have a home to invite her to,
what a blessing it would be! And had it been possible
for her to return Mr. Crawford's regard, the probability
of his being very far from objecting to such a measure would
have been the greatest increase of all her own comforts.
She thought he was really good-tempered, and could fancy
his entering into a plan of that sort most pleasantly.
Seven weeks of the two months were very nearly gone,
when the one letter, the letter from Edmund, so long expected,
was put into Fanny's hands. As she opened, and saw
its length, she prepared herself for a minute detail
of happiness and a profusion of love and praise towards
the fortunate creature who was now mistress of his fate.
These were the contents--
"My Dear Fanny,--Excuse me that I have not written before.
Crawford told me that you were wishing to hear from me,
but I found it impossible to write from London,
and persuaded myself that you would understand my silence.
Could I have sent a few happy lines, they should not
have been wanting, but nothing of that nature was ever
in my power. I am returned to Mansfield in a less assured
state that when I left it. My hopes are much weaker.
You are probably aware of this already. So very fond of you
as Miss Crawford is, it is most natural that she should tell
you enough of her own feelings to furnish a tolerable guess
at mine. I will not be prevented, however, from making my
own communication. Our confidences in you need not clash.
I ask no questions. There is something soothing in the
idea that we have the same friend, and that whatever
unhappy differences of opinion may exist between us,
we are united in our love of you. It will be a comfort
to me to tell you how things now are, and what are my
present plans, if plans I can be said to have. I have been
returned since Saturday. I was three weeks in London,
and saw her (for London) very often. I had every attention
from the Frasers that could be reasonably expected.
I dare say I was not reasonable in carrying with me
hopes of an intercourse at all like that of Mansfield.
It was her manner, however, rather than any unfrequency
of meeting. Had she been different when I did see her,
I should have made no complaint, but from the very first
she was altered: my first reception was so unlike
what I had hoped, that I had almost resolved on leaving
London again directly. I need not particularise.
You know the weak side of her character, and may imagine
the sentiments and expressions which were torturing me.
She was in high spirits, and surrounded by those who
were giving all the support of their own bad sense
to her too lively mind. I do not like Mrs. Fraser.
She is a cold-hearted, vain woman, who has married entirely
from convenience, and though evidently unhappy in her marriage,
places her disappointment not to faults of judgment,
or temper, or disproportion of age, but to her being,
after all, less affluent than many of her acquaintance,
especially than her sister, Lady Stornaway, and is the
determined supporter of everything mercenary and ambitious,
provided it be only mercenary and ambitious enough. I look
upon her intimacy with those two sisters as the greatest
misfortune of her life and mine. They have been leading
her astray for years. Could she be detached from them!--
and sometimes I do not despair of it, for the affection
appears to me principally on their side. They are very
fond of her; but I am sure she does not love them as she
loves you. When I think of her great attachment to you,
indeed, and the whole of her judicious, upright conduct
as a sister, she appears a very different creature,
capable of everything noble, and I am ready to blame
myself for a too harsh construction of a playful manner.
I cannot give her up, Fanny. She is the only woman
in the world whom I could ever think of as a wife.
If I did not believe that she had some regard for me,
of course I should not say this, but I do believe it.
I am convinced that she is not without a decided preference.
I have no jealousy of any individual. It is the influence
of the fashionable world altogether that I am jealous of.
It is the habits of wealth that I fear. Her ideas are
not higher than her own fortune may warrant, but they
are beyond what our incomes united could authorise.
There is comfort, however, even here. I could better
bear to lose her because not rich enough, than because
of my profession. That would only prove her affection
not equal to sacrifices, which, in fact, I am scarcely
justified in asking; and, if I am refused, that, I think,
will be the honest motive. Her prejudices, I trust,
are not so strong as they were. You have my thoughts
exactly as they arise, my dear Fanny; perhaps they are
sometimes contradictory, but it will not be a less faithful
picture of my mind. Having once begun, it is a pleasure
to me to tell you all I feel. I cannot give her up.
Connected as we already are, and, I hope, are to be,
to give up Mary Crawford would be to give up the society
of some of those most dear to me; to banish myself from
the very houses and friends whom, under any other distress,
I should turn to for consolation. The loss of Mary I must
consider as comprehending the loss of Crawford and of Fanny.
Were it a decided thing, an actual refusal, I hope I
should know how to bear it, and how to endeavour to weaken
her hold on my heart, and in the course of a few years--
but I am writing nonsense. Were I refused, I must bear it;
and till I am, I can never cease to try for her.
This is the truth. The only question is _how_? What may
be the likeliest means? I have sometimes thought of going
to London again after Easter, and sometimes resolved on
doing nothing till she returns to Mansfield. Even now,
she speaks with pleasure of being in Mansfield in June;
but June is at a great distance, and I believe I shall
write to her. I have nearly determined on explaining
myself by letter. To be at an early certainty is a
material object. My present state is miserably irksome.
Considering everything, I think a letter will be decidedly
the best method of explanation. I shall be able to write
much that I could not say, and shall be giving her time
for reflection before she resolves on her answer,
and I am less afraid of the result of reflection
than of an immediate hasty impulse; I think I am.
My greatest danger would lie in her consulting Mrs. Fraser,
and I at a distance unable to help my own cause.
A letter exposes to all the evil of consultation,
and where the mind is anything short of perfect decision,
an adviser may, in an unlucky moment, lead it to do what it
may afterwards regret. I must think this matter over
a little. This long letter, full of my own concerns alone,
will be enough to tire even the friendship of a Fanny.
The last time I saw Crawford was at Mrs. Fraser's party.
I am more and more satisfied with all that I see and hear
of him. There is not a shadow of wavering. He thoroughly
knows his own mind, and acts up to his resolutions:
an inestimable quality. I could not see him and my eldest
sister in the same room without recollecting what you
once told me, and I acknowledge that they did not meet
as friends. There was marked coolness on her side.
They scarcely spoke. I saw him draw back surprised,
and I was sorry that Mrs. Rushworth should resent any
former supposed slight to Miss Bertram. You will wish
to hear my opinion of Maria's degree of comfort as a wife.
There is no appearance of unhappiness. I hope they get
on pretty well together. I dined twice in Wimpole Street,
and might have been there oftener, but it is mortifying
to be with Rushworth as a brother. Julia seems to enjoy
London exceedingly. I had little enjoyment there,
but have less here. We are not a lively party. You are
very much wanted. I miss you more than I can express.
My mother desires her best love, and hopes to hear
from you soon. She talks of you almost every hour,
and I am sorry to find how many weeks more she is likely
to be without you. My father means to fetch you himself,
but it will not be till after Easter, when he has
business in town. You are happy at Portsmouth, I hope,
but this must not be a yearly visit. I want you at home,
that I may have your opinion about Thornton Lacey.
I have little heart for extensive improvements till
I know that it will ever have a mistress. I think I
shall certainly write. It is quite settled that the
Grants go to Bath; they leave Mansfield on Monday.
I am glad of it. I am not comfortable enough to be fit
for anybody; but your aunt seems to feel out of luck
that such an article of Mansfield news should fall
to my pen instead of hers.--Yours ever, my dearest
"I never will, no, I certainly never will wish for a
letter again," was Fanny's secret declaration as she
finished this. "What do they bring but disappointment
and sorrow? Not till after Easter! How shall I bear it?
And my poor aunt talking of me every hour!"
Fanny checked the tendency of these thoughts as well as
she could, but she was within half a minute of starting
the idea that Sir Thomas was quite unkind, both to her aunt
and to herself. As for the main subject of the letter,
there was nothing in that to soothe irritation. She was
almost vexed into displeasure and anger against Edmund.
"There is no good in this delay," said she. "Why is not
it settled? He is blinded, and nothing will open his eyes;
nothing can, after having had truths before him so long
in vain. He will marry her, and be poor and miserable.
God grant that her influence do not make him cease
to be respectable!" She looked over the letter again.
"'So very fond of me!' 'tis nonsense all. She loves
nobody but herself and her brother. Her friends leading
her astray for years! She is quite as likely to have led
_them_ astray. They have all, perhaps, been corrupting
one another; but if they are so much fonder of her than
she is of them, she is the less likely to have been hurt,
except by their flattery. 'The only woman in the world
whom he could ever think of as a wife.' I firmly
believe it. It is an attachment to govern his whole life.
Accepted or refused, his heart is wedded to her for ever.
'The loss of Mary I must consider as comprehending the loss
of Crawford and Fanny.' Edmund, you do not know me.
The families would never be connected if you did not
connect them! Oh! write, write. Finish it at once.
Let there be an end of this suspense. Fix, commit,
Such sensations, however, were too near akin to
resentment to be long guiding Fanny's soliloquies.
She was soon more softened and sorrowful. His warm regard,
his kind expressions, his confidential treatment,
touched her strongly. He was only too good to everybody.
It was a letter, in short, which she would not but have had
for the world, and which could never be valued enough.
This was the end of it.
Everybody at all addicted to letter-writing, without
having much to say, which will include a large proportion
of the female world at least, must feel with Lady Bertram
that she was out of luck in having such a capital piece of
Mansfield news as the certainty of the Grants going to Bath,
occur at a time when she could make no advantage of it,
and will admit that it must have been very mortifying
to her to see it fall to the share of her thankless son,
and treated as concisely as possible at the end of a
long letter, instead of having it to spread over the largest
part of a page of her own. For though Lady Bertram rather
shone in the epistolary line, having early in her marriage,
from the want of other employment, and the circumstance
of Sir Thomas's being in Parliament, got into the way
of making and keeping correspondents, and formed for
herself a very creditable, common-place, amplifying style,
so that a very little matter was enough for her: she could
not do entirely without any; she must have something
to write about, even to her niece; and being so soon
to lose all the benefit of Dr. Grant's gouty symptoms
and Mrs. Grant's morning calls, it was very hard upon her
to be deprived of one of the last epistolary uses she could put
There was a rich amends, however, preparing for her.
Lady Bertram's hour of good luck came. Within a few days
from the receipt of Edmund's letter, Fanny had one from
her aunt, beginning thus--
"My Dear Fanny,--I take up my pen to communicate some
very alarming intelligence, which I make no doubt will
give you much concern".
This was a great deal better than to have to take up the pen
to acquaint her with all the particulars of the Grants'
intended journey, for the present intelligence was of a
nature to promise occupation for the pen for many days
to come, being no less than the dangerous illness of her
eldest son, of which they had received notice by express
a few hours before.
Tom had gone from London with a party of young men
to Newmarket, where a neglected fall and a good deal
of drinking had brought on a fever; and when the party
broke up, being unable to move, had been left by himself
at the house of one of these young men to the comforts of
sickness and solitude, and the attendance only of servants.
Instead of being soon well enough to follow his friends,
as he had then hoped, his disorder increased considerably,
and it was not long before he thought so ill of himself
as to be as ready as his physician to have a letter
despatched to Mansfield.
"This distressing intelligence, as you may suppose,"
observed her ladyship, after giving the substance of it,
"has agitated us exceedingly, and we cannot prevent
ourselves from being greatly alarmed and apprehensive
for the poor invalid, whose state Sir Thomas fears may
be very critical; and Edmund kindly proposes attending
his brother immediately, but I am happy to add that Sir
Thomas will not leave me on this distressing occasion,
as it would be too trying for me. We shall greatly miss
Edmund in our small circle, but I trust and hope he
will find the poor invalid in a less alarming state than
might be apprehended, and that he will be able to bring
him to Mansfield shortly, which Sir Thomas proposes
should be done, and thinks best on every account, and I
flatter myself the poor sufferer will soon be able to bear
the removal without material inconvenience or injury.
As I have little doubt of your feeling for us, my dear Fanny,
under these distressing circumstances, I will write again
Fanny's feelings on the occasion were indeed considerably
more warm and genuine than her aunt's style of writing.
She felt truly for them all. Tom dangerously ill,
Edmund gone to attend him, and the sadly small party
remaining at Mansfield, were cares to shut out every
other care, or almost every other. She could just find
selfishness enough to wonder whether Edmund _had_ written
to Miss Crawford before this summons came, but no sentiment
dwelt long with her that was not purely affectionate and
disinterestedly anxious. Her aunt did not neglect her:
she wrote again and again; they were receiving frequent
accounts from Edmund, and these accounts were as regularly
transmitted to Fanny, in the same diffuse style,
and the same medley of trusts, hopes, and fears,
all following and producing each other at haphazard.
It was a sort of playing at being frightened.
The sufferings which Lady Bertram did not see had little
power over her fancy; and she wrote very comfortably
about agitation, and anxiety, and poor invalids, till Tom
was actually conveyed to Mansfield, and her own eyes had
beheld his altered appearance. Then a letter which she
had been previously preparing for Fanny was finished
in a different style, in the language of real feeling
and alarm; then she wrote as she might have spoken.
"He is just come, my dear Fanny, and is taken upstairs;
and I am so shocked to see him, that I do not know
what to do. I am sure he has been very ill. Poor Tom!
I am quite grieved for him, and very much frightened,
and so is Sir Thomas; and how glad I should be if you
were here to comfort me. But Sir Thomas hopes he
will be better to-morrow, and says we must consider
The real solicitude now awakened in the maternal bosom
was not soon over. Tom's extreme impatience to be
removed to Mansfield, and experience those comforts
of home and family which had been little thought of in
uninterrupted health, had probably induced his being
conveyed thither too early, as a return of fever came on,
and for a week he was in a more alarming state than ever.
They were all very seriously frightened. Lady Bertram
wrote her daily terrors to her niece, who might now be said
to live upon letters, and pass all her time between suffering
from that of to-day and looking forward to to-morrow's.
Without any particular affection for her eldest cousin,
her tenderness of heart made her feel that she could
not spare him, and the purity of her principles added yet
a keener solicitude, when she considered how little useful,
how little self-denying his life had (apparently) been.
Susan was her only companion and listener on this, as on
more common occasions. Susan was always ready to hear and
to sympathise. Nobody else could be interested in so remote
an evil as illness in a family above an hundred miles off;
not even Mrs. Price, beyond a brief question or two,
if she saw her daughter with a letter in her hand,
and now and then the quiet observation of, "My poor
sister Bertram must be in a great deal of trouble."
So long divided and so differently situated, the ties
of blood were little more than nothing. An attachment,
originally as tranquil as their tempers, was now become
a mere name. Mrs. Price did quite as much for Lady
Bertram as Lady Bertram would have done for Mrs. Price.
Three or four Prices might have been swept away,
any or all except Fanny and William, and Lady Bertram
would have thought little about it; or perhaps might have
caught from Mrs. Norris's lips the cant of its being
a very happy thing and a great blessing to their poor
dear sister Price to have them so well provided for.
At about the week's end from his return to Mansfield,
Tom's immediate danger was over, and he was so far
pronounced safe as to make his mother perfectly easy;
for being now used to the sight of him in his suffering,
helpless state, and hearing only the best, and never thinking
beyond what she heard, with no disposition for alarm
and no aptitude at a hint, Lady Bertram was the happiest
subject in the world for a little medical imposition.
The fever was subdued; the fever had been his complaint;
of course he would soon be well again. Lady Bertram could
think nothing less, and Fanny shared her aunt's security,
till she received a few lines from Edmund, written purposely
to give her a clearer idea of his brother's situation,
and acquaint her with the apprehensions which he and his
father had imbibed from the physician with respect to some
strong hectic symptoms, which seemed to seize the frame
on the departure of the fever. They judged it best
that Lady Bertram should not be harassed by alarms which,
it was to be hoped, would prove unfounded; but there was
no reason why Fanny should not know the truth. They were
apprehensive for his lungs.
A very few lines from Edmund shewed her the patient
and the sickroom in a juster and stronger light than
all Lady Bertram's sheets of paper could do. There was
hardly any one in the house who might not have described,
from personal observation, better than herself;
not one who was not more useful at times to her son.
She could do nothing but glide in quietly and look at him;
but when able to talk or be talked to, or read to,
Edmund was the companion he preferred. His aunt worried
him by her cares, and Sir Thomas knew not how to bring down
his conversation or his voice to the level of irritation
and feebleness. Edmund was all in all. Fanny would
certainly believe him so at least, and must find that her
estimation of him was higher than ever when he appeared
as the attendant, supporter, cheerer of a suffering brother.
There was not only the debility of recent illness to assist:
there was also, as she now learnt, nerves much affected,
spirits much depressed to calm and raise, and her own
imagination added that there must be a mind to be
The family were not consumptive, and she was more inclined
to hope than fear for her cousin, except when she thought
of Miss Crawford; but Miss Crawford gave her the idea
of being the child of good luck, and to her selfishness
and vanity it would be good luck to have Edmund the only son.
Even in the sick chamber the fortunate Mary was
not forgotten. Edmund's letter had this postscript.
"On the subject of my last, I had actually begun a letter
when called away by Tom's illness, but I have now changed
my mind, and fear to trust the influence of friends.
When Tom is better, I shall go."
Such was the state of Mansfield, and so it continued,
with scarcely any change, till Easter. A line occasionally
added by Edmund to his mother's letter was enough for
Fanny's information. Tom's amendment was alarmingly slow.
Easter came particularly late this year, as Fanny had most
sorrowfully considered, on first learning that she had
no chance of leaving Portsmouth till after it. It came,
and she had yet heard nothing of her return--nothing even
of the going to London, which was to precede her return.
Her aunt often expressed a wish for her, but there was
no notice, no message from the uncle on whom all depended.
She supposed he could not yet leave his son, but it was a cruel,
a terrible delay to her. The end of April was coming on;
it would soon be almost three months, instead of two,
that she had been absent from them all, and that her days
had been passing in a state of penance, which she loved
them too well to hope they would thoroughly understand;
and who could yet say when there might be leisure to think
of or fetch her?
Her eagerness, her impatience, her longings to be with them,
were such as to bring a line or two of Cowper's Tirocinium
for ever before her. "With what intense desire she wants
her home," was continually on her tongue, as the truest
description of a yearning which she could not suppose
any schoolboy's bosom to feel more keenly.
When she had been coming to Portsmouth, she had loved to call
it her home, had been fond of saying that she was going home;
the word had been very dear to her, and so it still was,
but it must be applied to Mansfield. _That_ was now
the home. Portsmouth was Portsmouth; Mansfield was home.
They had been long so arranged in the indulgence of her
secret meditations, and nothing was more consolatory
to her than to find her aunt using the same language:
"I cannot but say I much regret your being from home
at this distressing time, so very trying to my spirits.
I trust and hope, and sincerely wish you may never be absent
from home so long again," were most delightful sentences
to her. Still, however, it was her private regale.
Delicacy to her parents made her careful not to betray
such a preference of her uncle's house. It was always:
"When I go back into Northamptonshire, or when I return
to Mansfield, I shall do so and so." For a great
while it was so, but at last the longing grew stronger,
it overthrew caution, and she found herself talking of what
she should do when she went home before she was aware.
She reproached herself, coloured, and looked fearfully towards
her father and mother. She need not have been uneasy.
There was no sign of displeasure, or even of hearing her.
They were perfectly free from any jealousy of Mansfield.
She was as welcome to wish herself there as to be there.
It was sad to Fanny to lose all the pleasures of spring.
She had not known before what pleasures she _had_ to lose
in passing March and April in a town. She had not known
before how much the beginnings and progress of vegetation
had delighted her. What animation, both of body and mind,
she had derived from watching the advance of that season
which cannot, in spite of its capriciousness, be unlovely,
and seeing its increasing beauties from the earliest
flowers in the warmest divisions of her aunt's garden,
to the opening of leaves of her uncle's plantations,
and the glory of his woods. To be losing such pleasures
was no trifle; to be losing them, because she was in
the midst of closeness and noise, to have confinement,
bad air, bad smells, substituted for liberty,
freshness, fragrance, and verdure, was infinitely worse:
but even these incitements to regret were feeble,
compared with what arose from the conviction of being
missed by her best friends, and the longing to be useful
to those who were wanting her!
Could she have been at home, she might have been of service
to every creature in the house. She felt that she must
have been of use to all. To all she must have saved some
trouble of head or hand; and were it only in supporting
the spirits of her aunt Bertram, keeping her from the evil
of solitude, or the still greater evil of a restless,
officious companion, too apt to be heightening danger
in order to enhance her own importance, her being there
would have been a general good. She loved to fancy how she
could have read to her aunt, how she could have talked
to her, and tried at once to make her feel the blessing
of what was, and prepare her mind for what might be;
and how many walks up and down stairs she might have
saved her, and how many messages she might have carried.
It astonished her that Tom's sisters could be satisfied
with remaining in London at such a time, through an
illness which had now, under different degrees of danger,
lasted several weeks. _They_ might return to Mansfield
when they chose; travelling could be no difficulty to _them_,
and she could not comprehend how both could still keep away.
If Mrs. Rushworth could imagine any interfering obligations,
Julia was certainly able to quit London whenever she chose.
It appeared from one of her aunt's letters that Julia
had offered to return if wanted, but this was all.
It was evident that she would rather remain where she was.
Fanny was disposed to think the influence of London
very much at war with all respectable attachments.
She saw the proof of it in Miss Crawford, as well as in
her cousins; _her_ attachment to Edmund had been respectable,
the most respectable part of her character; her friendship
for herself had at least been blameless. Where was
either sentiment now? It was so long since Fanny had had
any letter from her, that she had some reason to think
lightly of the friendship which had been so dwelt on.
It was weeks since she had heard anything of Miss Crawford
or of her other connexions in town, except through Mansfield,
and she was beginning to suppose that she might never
know whether Mr. Crawford had gone into Norfolk again
or not till they met, and might never hear from his
sister any more this spring, when the following letter
was received to revive old and create some new sensations--
"Forgive me, my dear Fanny, as soon as you can, for my
long silence, and behave as if you could forgive me directly.
This is my modest request and expectation, for you are so good,
that I depend upon being treated better than I deserve,
and I write now to beg an immediate answer. I want to know
the state of things at Mansfield Park, and you, no doubt,
are perfectly able to give it. One should be a brute not
to feel for the distress they are in; and from what I hear,
poor Mr. Bertram has a bad chance of ultimate recovery.
I thought little of his illness at first. I looked
upon him as the sort of person to be made a fuss with,
and to make a fuss himself in any trifling disorder,
and was chiefly concerned for those who had to nurse him;
but now it is confidently asserted that he is really
in a decline, that the symptoms are most alarming,
and that part of the family, at least, are aware of it.
If it be so, I am sure you must be included in that part,
that discerning part, and therefore entreat you to let
me know how far I have been rightly informed. I need
not say how rejoiced I shall be to hear there has been
any mistake, but the report is so prevalent that I confess
I cannot help trembling. To have such a fine young man
cut off in the flower of his days is most melancholy.
Poor Sir Thomas will feel it dreadfully. I really am quite
agitated on the subject. Fanny, Fanny, I see you smile
and look cunning, but, upon my honour, I never bribed
a physician in my life. Poor young man! If he is to die,
there will be _two_ poor young men less in the world;
and with a fearless face and bold voice would I say to any one,
that wealth and consequence could fall into no hands
more deserving of them. It was a foolish precipitation
last Christmas, but the evil of a few days may be blotted
out in part. Varnish and gilding hide many stains.
It will be but the loss of the Esquire after his name.
With real affection, Fanny, like mine, more might be overlooked.
Write to me by return of post, judge of my anxiety,
and do not trifle with it. Tell me the real truth,
as you have it from the fountainhead. And now, do not
trouble yourself to be ashamed of either my feelings or
your own. Believe me, they are not only natural, they are
philanthropic and virtuous. I put it to your conscience,
whether 'Sir Edmund' would not do more good with all
the Bertram property than any other possible 'Sir.'
Had the Grants been at home I would not have troubled you,
but you are now the only one I can apply to for the truth,
his sisters not being within my reach. Mrs. R. has
been spending the Easter with the Aylmers at Twickenham
(as to be sure you know), and is not yet returned;
and Julia is with the cousins who live near Bedford Square,
but I forget their name and street. Could I immediately
apply to either, however, I should still prefer you,
because it strikes me that they have all along been so
unwilling to have their own amusements cut up, as to shut
their eyes to the truth. I suppose Mrs. R.'s Easter
holidays will not last much longer; no doubt they are
thorough holidays to her. The Aylmers are pleasant people;
and her husband away, she can have nothing but enjoyment.
I give her credit for promoting his going dutifully down
to Bath, to fetch his mother; but how will she and the
dowager agree in one house? Henry is not at hand, so I
have nothing to say from him. Do not you think Edmund would
have been in town again long ago, but for this illness?--
Yours ever, Mary."
"I had actually begun folding my letter when Henry walked in,
but he brings no intelligence to prevent my sending it.
Mrs. R. knows a decline is apprehended; he saw her this morning:
she returns to Wimpole Street to-day; the old lady is come.
Now do not make yourself uneasy with any queer fancies
because he has been spending a few days at Richmond.
He does it every spring. Be assured he cares for nobody
but you. At this very moment he is wild to see you,
and occupied only in contriving the means for doing so,
and for making his pleasure conduce to yours. In proof,
he repeats, and more eagerly, what he said at Portsmouth
about our conveying you home, and I join him in it with all
my soul. Dear Fanny, write directly, and tell us to come.
It will do us all good. He and I can go to the Parsonage,
you know, and be no trouble to our friends at Mansfield Park.
It would really be gratifying to see them all again, and a
little addition of society might be of infinite use to them;
and as to yourself, you must feel yourself to be so wanted there,
that you cannot in conscience--conscientious as you are--
keep away, when you have the means of returning.
I have not time or patience to give half Henry's messages;
be satisfied that the spirit of each and every one is
Fanny's disgust at the greater part of this letter,
with her extreme reluctance to bring the writer of it
and her cousin Edmund together, would have made her (as
she felt) incapable of judging impartially whether
the concluding offer might be accepted or not.
To herself, individually, it was most tempting. To be
finding herself, perhaps within three days, transported
to Mansfield, was an image of the greatest felicity,
but it would have been a material drawback to be owing
such felicity to persons in whose feelings and conduct,
at the present moment, she saw so much to condemn:
the sister's feelings, the brother's conduct,
_her_ cold-hearted ambition, _his_ thoughtless vanity.
To have him still the acquaintance, the flirt perhaps,
of Mrs. Rushworth! She was mortified. She had thought
better of him. Happily, however, she was not left to weigh
and decide between opposite inclinations and doubtful
notions of right; there was no occasion to determine
whether she ought to keep Edmund and Mary asunder or not.
She had a rule to apply to, which settled everything.
Her awe of her uncle, and her dread of taking a liberty
with him, made it instantly plain to her what she
had to do. She must absolutely decline the proposal.
If he wanted, he would send for her; and even to offer
an early return was a presumption which hardly anything
would have seemed to justify. She thanked Miss Crawford,
but gave a decided negative. "Her uncle, she understood,
meant to fetch her; and as her cousin's illness had continued
so many weeks without her being thought at all necessary,
she must suppose her return would be unwelcome at present,
and that she should be felt an encumbrance."
Her representation of her cousin's state at this time
was exactly according to her own belief of it, and such
as she supposed would convey to the sanguine mind of her
correspondent the hope of everything she was wishing for.
Edmund would be forgiven for being a clergyman, it seemed,
under certain conditions of wealth; and this, she suspected,
was all the conquest of prejudice which he was so ready
to congratulate himself upon. She had only learnt to think
nothing of consequence but money.
As Fanny could not doubt that her answer was conveying
a real disappointment, she was rather in expectation,
from her knowledge of Miss Crawford's temper, of being
urged again; and though no second letter arrived for the
space of a week, she had still the same feeling when it
On receiving it, she could instantly decide on its
containing little writing, and was persuaded of its
having the air of a letter of haste and business.
Its object was unquestionable; and two moments were
enough to start the probability of its being merely
to give her notice that they should be in Portsmouth
that very day, and to throw her into all the agitation
of doubting what she ought to do in such a case.
If two moments, however, can surround with difficulties,
a third can disperse them; and before she had opened
the letter, the possibility of Mr. and Miss Crawford's
having applied to her uncle and obtained his permission
was giving her ease. This was the letter--
"A most scandalous, ill-natured rumour has just reached me,
and I write, dear Fanny, to warn you against giving the
least credit to it, should it spread into the country.
Depend upon it, there is some mistake, and that a day or two
will clear it up; at any rate, that Henry is blameless,
and in spite of a moment's _etourderie_, thinks of
nobody but you. Say not a word of it; hear nothing,
surmise nothing, whisper nothing till I write again.
I am sure it will be all hushed up, and nothing proved
but Rushworth's folly. If they are gone, I would lay
my life they are only gone to Mansfield Park, and Julia
with them. But why would not you let us come for you?
I wish you may not repent it.--Yours, etc."
Fanny stood aghast. As no scandalous, ill-natured rumour
had reached her, it was impossible for her to understand
much of this strange letter. She could only perceive
that it must relate to Wimpole Street and Mr. Crawford,
and only conjecture that something very imprudent had just
occurred in that quarter to draw the notice of the world,
and to excite her jealousy, in Miss Crawford's apprehension,
if she heard it. Miss Crawford need not be alarmed
for her. She was only sorry for the parties concerned
and for Mansfield, if the report should spread so far;
but she hoped it might not. If the Rushworths were gone
themselves to Mansfield, as was to be inferred from
what Miss Crawford said, it was not likely that anything
unpleasant should have preceded them, or at least should
make any impression.
As to Mr. Crawford, she hoped it might give him a knowledge
of his own disposition, convince him that he was not capable
of being steadily attached to any one woman in the world,
and shame him from persisting any longer in addressing herself.
It was very strange! She had begun to think he really
loved her, and to fancy his affection for her something
more than common; and his sister still said that he cared
for nobody else. Yet there must have been some marked
display of attentions to her cousin, there must have
been some strong indiscretion, since her correspondent
was not of a sort to regard a slight one.
Very uncomfortable she was, and must continue, till she
heard from Miss Crawford again. It was impossible to
banish the letter from her thoughts, and she could not
relieve herself by speaking of it to any human being.
Miss Crawford need not have urged secrecy with so much warmth;
she might have trusted to her sense of what was due
to her cousin.
The next day came and brought no second letter.
Fanny was disappointed. She could still think of little
else all the morning; but, when her father came back
in the afternoon with the daily newspaper as usual,
she was so far from expecting any elucidation through such
a channel that the subject was for a moment out of her head.
She was deep in other musing. The remembrance of her first
evening in that room, of her father and his newspaper,
came across her. No candle was now wanted.
The sun was yet an hour and half above the horizon.
She felt that she had, indeed, been three months there;
and the sun's rays falling strongly into the parlour,
instead of cheering, made her still more melancholy,
for sunshine appeared to her a totally different thing
in a town and in the country. Here, its power was only
a glare: a stifling, sickly glare, serving but to bring
forward stains and dirt that might otherwise have slept.
There was neither health nor gaiety in sunshine in a town.
She sat in a blaze of oppressive heat, in a cloud of
moving dust, and her eyes could only wander from the walls,
marked by her father's head, to the table cut and notched
by her brothers, where stood the tea-board never
thoroughly cleaned, the cups and saucers wiped in streaks,
the milk a mixture of motes floating in thin blue,
and the bread and butter growing every minute more
greasy than even Rebecca's hands had first produced it.
Her father read his newspaper, and her mother lamented
over the ragged carpet as usual, while the tea was
in preparation, and wished Rebecca would mend it;
and Fanny was first roused by his calling out to her,
after humphing and considering over a particular paragraph:
"What's the name of your great cousins in town, Fan?"
A moment's recollection enabled her to say, "Rushworth, sir."
"And don't they live in Wimpole Street?"
"Then, there's the devil to pay among them, that's all!
There" (holding out the paper to her); "much good may such
fine relations do you. I don't know what Sir Thomas may
think of such matters; he may be too much of the courtier
and fine gentleman to like his daughter the less. But,
by G--! if she belonged to _me_, I'd give her the rope's end
as long as I could stand over her. A little flogging for
man and woman too would be the best way of preventing such things."
Fanny read to herself that "it was with infinite concern
the newspaper had to announce to the world a matrimonial
_fracas_ in the family of Mr. R. of Wimpole Street;
the beautiful Mrs. R., whose name had not long been
enrolled in the lists of Hymen, and who had promised
to become so brilliant a leader in the fashionable world,
having quitted her husband's roof in company with the
well-known and captivating Mr. C., the intimate friend
and associate of Mr. R., and it was not known even
to the editor of the newspaper whither they were gone."
"It is a mistake, sir," said Fanny instantly; "it must be
a mistake, it cannot be true; it must mean some other people."
She spoke from the instinctive wish of delaying shame;
she spoke with a resolution which sprung from despair,
for she spoke what she did not, could not believe herself.
It had been the shock of conviction as she read. The truth
rushed on her; and how she could have spoken at all, how she
could even have breathed, was afterwards matter of wonder
Mr. Price cared too little about the report to make her
much answer. "It might be all a lie," he acknowledged;
"but so many fine ladies were going to the devil nowadays
that way, that there was no answering for anybody."
"Indeed, I hope it is not true," said Mrs. Price plaintively;
"it would be so very shocking! If I have spoken once
to Rebecca about that carpet, I am sure I have spoke at
least a dozen times; have not I, Betsey? And it would
not be ten minutes' work."
The horror of a mind like Fanny's, as it received the
conviction of such guilt, and began to take in some part
of the misery that must ensue, can hardly be described.
At first, it was a sort of stupefaction; but every moment
was quickening her perception of the horrible evil.
She could not doubt, she dared not indulge a hope,
of the paragraph being false. Miss Crawford's letter,
which she had read so often as to make every line her own,
was in frightful conformity with it. Her eager defence
of her brother, her hope of its being _hushed_ _up_,
her evident agitation, were all of a piece with something
very bad; and if there was a woman of character in existence,
who could treat as a trifle this sin of the first magnitude,
who would try to gloss it over, and desire to have it
unpunished, she could believe Miss Crawford to be the woman!
Now she could see her own mistake as to _who_ were gone,
or _said_ to be gone. It was not Mr. and Mrs. Rushworth;
it was Mrs. Rushworth and Mr. Crawford.
Fanny seemed to herself never to have been shocked before.
There was no possibility of rest. The evening passed
without a pause of misery, the night was totally sleepless.
She passed only from feelings of sickness to shudderings
of horror; and from hot fits of fever to cold. The event
was so shocking, that there were moments even when her
heart revolted from it as impossible: when she thought
it could not be. A woman married only six months ago;
a man professing himself devoted, even _engaged_ to another;
that other her near relation; the whole family,
both families connected as they were by tie upon tie;
all friends, all intimate together! It was too horrible
a confusion of guilt, too gross a complication of evil,
for human nature, not in a state of utter barbarism,
to be capable of! yet her judgment told her it was so.
_His_ unsettled affections, wavering with his vanity,
_Maria's_ decided attachment, and no sufficient principle
on either side, gave it possibility: Miss Crawford's
letter stampt it a fact.
What would be the consequence? Whom would it not injure?
Whose views might it not affect? Whose peace would it
not cut up for ever? Miss Crawford, herself, Edmund;
but it was dangerous, perhaps, to tread such ground.
She confined herself, or tried to confine herself, to the simple,
indubitable family misery which must envelop all, if it were
indeed a matter of certified guilt and public exposure.
The mother's sufferings, the father's; there she paused.
Julia's, Tom's, Edmund's; there a yet longer pause.
They were the two on whom it would fall most horribly.
Sir Thomas's parental solicitude and high sense of honour
and decorum, Edmund's upright principles, unsuspicious temper,
and genuine strength of feeling, made her think it
scarcely possible for them to support life and reason
under such disgrace; and it appeared to her that, as far
as this world alone was concerned, the greatest blessing
to every one of kindred with Mrs. Rushworth would be
Nothing happened the next day, or the next, to weaken
her terrors. Two posts came in, and brought no refutation,
public or private. There was no second letter to explain
away the first from Miss Crawford; there was no intelligence
from Mansfield, though it was now full time for her
to hear again from her aunt. This was an evil omen.
She had, indeed, scarcely the shadow of a hope to soothe
her mind, and was reduced to so low and wan and trembling
a condition, as no mother, not unkind, except Mrs. Price
could have overlooked, when the third day did bring the
sickening knock, and a letter was again put into her hands.
It bore the London postmark, and came from Edmund.
"Dear Fanny,--You know our present wretchedness.
May God support you under your share! We have been here
two days, but there is nothing to be done. They cannot
be traced. You may not have heard of the last blow--
Julia's elopement; she is gone to Scotland with Yates.
She left London a few hours before we entered it.
At any other time this would have been felt dreadfully.
Now it seems nothing; yet it is an heavy aggravation.
My father is not overpowered. More cannot be hoped.
He is still able to think and act; and I write,
by his desire, to propose your returning home.
He is anxious to get you there for my mother's sake.
I shall be at Portsmouth the morning after you receive this,
and hope to find you ready to set off for Mansfield.
My father wishes you to invite Susan to go with you for a
few months. Settle it as you like; say what is proper;
I am sure you will feel such an instance of his
kindness at such a moment! Do justice to his meaning,
however I may confuse it. You may imagine something
of my present state. There is no end of the evil let
loose upon us. You will see me early by the mail.--
Never had Fanny more wanted a cordial. Never had she felt
such a one as this letter contained. To-morrow! to leave
Portsmouth to-morrow! She was, she felt she was, in the
greatest danger of being exquisitely happy, while so many
were miserable. The evil which brought such good to her!
She dreaded lest she should learn to be insensible of it.
To be going so soon, sent for so kindly, sent for as
a comfort, and with leave to take Susan, was altogether
such a combination of blessings as set her heart in
a glow, and for a time seemed to distance every pain,
and make her incapable of suitably sharing the distress
even of those whose distress she thought of most.
Julia's elopement could affect her comparatively but little;
she was amazed and shocked; but it could not occupy her,
could not dwell on her mind. She was obliged to call
herself to think of it, and acknowledge it to be terrible
and grievous, or it was escaping her, in the midst of all
the agitating pressing joyful cares attending this summons
There is nothing like employment, active indispensable employment,
for relieving sorrow. Employment, even melancholy,
may dispel melancholy, and her occupations were hopeful.
She had so much to do, that not even the horrible
story of Mrs. Rushworth--now fixed to the last point
of certainty could affect her as it had done before.
She had not time to be miserable. Within twenty-four
hours she was hoping to be gone; her father and mother
must be spoken to, Susan prepared, everything got ready.
Business followed business; the day was hardly long enough.
The happiness she was imparting, too, happiness very little
alloyed by the black communication which must briefly
precede it--the joyful consent of her father and mother
to Susan's going with her--the general satisfaction with
which the going of both seemed regarded, and the ecstasy
of Susan herself, was all serving to support her spirits.
The affliction of the Bertrams was little felt in the family.
Mrs. Price talked of her poor sister for a few minutes,
but how to find anything to hold Susan's clothes,
because Rebecca took away all the boxes and spoilt them,
was much more in her thoughts: and as for Susan,
now unexpectedly gratified in the first wish of her heart,
and knowing nothing personally of those who had sinned,
or of those who were sorrowing--if she could help rejoicing
from beginning to end, it was as much as ought to be expected
from human virtue at fourteen.
As nothing was really left for the decision of Mrs. Price,
or the good offices of Rebecca, everything was rationally
and duly accomplished, and the girls were ready for
the morrow. The advantage of much sleep to prepare
them for their journey was impossible. The cousin
who was travelling towards them could hardly have less
than visited their agitated spirits--one all happiness,
the other all varying and indescribable perturbation.
By eight in the morning Edmund was in the house. The girls
heard his entrance from above, and Fanny went down.
The idea of immediately seeing him, with the knowledge
of what he must be suffering, brought back all her own
first feelings. He so near her, and in misery. She was
ready to sink as she entered the parlour. He was alone,
and met her instantly; and she found herself pressed
to his heart with only these words, just articulate,
"My Fanny, my only sister; my only comfort now!"
She could say nothing; nor for some minutes could he
He turned away to recover himself, and when he spoke again,
though his voice still faltered, his manner shewed
the wish of self-command, and the resolution of avoiding
any farther allusion. "Have you breakfasted? When shall
you be ready? Does Susan go?" were questions following
each other rapidly. His great object was to be off
as soon as possible. When Mansfield was considered,
time was precious; and the state of his own mind made
him find relief only in motion. It was settled that he
should order the carriage to the door in half an hour.
Fanny answered for their having breakfasted and being quite
ready in half an hour. He had already ate, and declined
staying for their meal. He would walk round the ramparts,
and join them with the carriage. He was gone again;
glad to get away even from Fanny.
He looked very ill; evidently suffering under
violent emotions, which he was determined to suppress.
She knew it must be so, but it was terrible to her.
The carriage came; and he entered the house again at
the same moment, just in time to spend a few minutes with
the family, and be a witness--but that he saw nothing--
of the tranquil manner in which the daughters were
parted with, and just in time to prevent their sitting
down to the breakfast-table, which, by dint of much
unusual activity, was quite and completely ready as
the carriage drove from the door. Fanny's last meal
in her father's house was in character with her first:
she was dismissed from it as hospitably as she had been welcomed.
How her heart swelled with joy and gratitude as she
passed the barriers of Portsmouth, and how Susan's face
wore its broadest smiles, may be easily conceived.
Sitting forwards, however, and screened by her bonnet,
those smiles were unseen.
The journey was likely to be a silent one. Edmund's deep
sighs often reached Fanny. Had he been alone with her,
his heart must have opened in spite of every resolution;
but Susan's presence drove him quite into himself, and his
attempts to talk on indifferent subjects could never be
Fanny watched him with never-failing solicitude,
and sometimes catching his eye, revived an affectionate smile,
which comforted her; but the first day's journey passed
without her hearing a word from him on the subjects
that were weighing him down. The next morning produced
a little more. Just before their setting out from Oxford,
while Susan was stationed at a window, in eager observation
of the departure of a large family from the inn,
the other two were standing by the fire; and Edmund,
particularly struck by the alteration in Fanny's looks,
and from his ignorance of the daily evils of her
father's house, attributing an undue share of the change,
attributing _all_ to the recent event, took her hand,
and said in a low, but very expressive tone, "No wonder--
you must feel it--you must suffer. How a man who had
once loved, could desert you! But _yours_--your regard
was new compared with----Fanny, think of _me_!"
The first division of their journey occupied a long day,
and brought them, almost knocked up, to Oxford;
but the second was over at a much earlier hour.
They were in the environs of Mansfield long before
the usual dinner-time, and as they approached the
beloved place, the hearts of both sisters sank a little.
Fanny began to dread the meeting with her aunts and Tom,
under so dreadful a humiliation; and Susan to feel with
some anxiety, that all her best manners, all her lately
acquired knowledge of what was practised here, was on
the point of being called into action. Visions of good
and ill breeding, of old vulgarisms and new gentilities,
were before her; and she was meditating much upon
silver forks, napkins, and finger-glasses. Fanny had
been everywhere awake to the difference of the country
since February; but when they entered the Park her
perceptions and her pleasures were of the keenest sort.
It was three months, full three months, since her
quitting it, and the change was from winter to summer.
Her eye fell everywhere on lawns and plantations of the
freshest green; and the trees, though not fully clothed,
were in that delightful state when farther beauty is known
to be at hand, and when, while much is actually given
to the sight, more yet remains for the imagination.
Her enjoyment, however, was for herself alone. Edmund could
not share it. She looked at him, but he was leaning back,
sunk in a deeper gloom than ever, and with eyes closed,
as if the view of cheerfulness oppressed him, and the
lovely scenes of home must be shut out.
It made her melancholy again; and the knowledge of what must
be enduring there, invested even the house, modern, airy,
and well situated as it was, with a melancholy aspect.
By one of the suffering party within they were expected
with such impatience as she had never known before.
Fanny had scarcely passed the solemn-looking servants,
when Lady Bertram came from the drawing-room to meet her;
came with no indolent step; and falling on her neck, said,
"Dear Fanny! now I shall be comfortable."
It had been a miserable party, each of the three believing
themselves most miserable. Mrs. Norris, however, as most
attached to Maria, was really the greatest sufferer.
Maria was her first favourite, the dearest of all;
the match had been her own contriving, as she had been
wont with such pride of heart to feel and say, and this
conclusion of it almost overpowered her.
She was an altered creature, quieted, stupefied, indifferent to
everything that passed. The being left with her sister
and nephew, and all the house under her care, had been
an advantage entirely thrown away; she had been unable
to direct or dictate, or even fancy herself useful.
When really touched by affliction, her active powers
had been all benumbed; and neither Lady Bertram nor Tom
had received from her the smallest support or attempt
at support. She had done no more for them than they
had done for each other. They had been all solitary,
helpless, and forlorn alike; and now the arrival of the
others only established her superiority in wretchedness.
Her companions were relieved, but there was no good
for _her_. Edmund was almost as welcome to his brother
as Fanny to her aunt; but Mrs. Norris, instead of having
comfort from either, was but the more irritated by the
sight of the person whom, in the blindness of her anger,
she could have charged as the daemon of the piece.
Had Fanny accepted Mr. Crawford this could not have happened.
Susan too was a grievance. She had not spirits to notice
her in more than a few repulsive looks, but she felt
her as a spy, and an intruder, and an indigent niece,
and everything most odious. By her other aunt, Susan was
received with quiet kindness. Lady Bertram could not
give her much time, or many words, but she felt her,
as Fanny's sister, to have a claim at Mansfield,
and was ready to kiss and like her; and Susan was more
than satisfied, for she came perfectly aware that nothing
but ill-humour was to be expected from aunt Norris;
and was so provided with happiness, so strong in that
best of blessings, an escape from many certain evils,
that she could have stood against a great deal more
indifference than she met with from the others.
She was now left a good deal to herself, to get acquainted
with the house and grounds as she could, and spent her
days very happily in so doing, while those who might
otherwise have attended to her were shut up, or wholly
occupied each with the person quite dependent on them,
at this time, for everything like comfort; Edmund trying
to bury his own feelings in exertions for the relief
of his brother's, and Fanny devoted to her aunt Bertram,
returning to every former office with more than former zeal,
and thinking she could never do enough for one who seemed
so much to want her.
To talk over the dreadful business with Fanny, talk and lament,
was all Lady Bertram's consolation. To be listened to and
borne with, and hear the voice of kindness and sympathy
in return, was everything that could be done for her.
To be otherwise comforted was out of the question.
The case admitted of no comfort. Lady Bertram did not
think deeply, but, guided by Sir Thomas, she thought
justly on all important points; and she saw, therefore,
in all its enormity, what had happened, and neither
endeavoured herself, nor required Fanny to advise her,
to think little of guilt and infamy.
Her affections were not acute, nor was her mind tenacious.
After a time, Fanny found it not impossible to direct
her thoughts to other subjects, and revive some interest
in the usual occupations; but whenever Lady Bertram _was_
fixed on the event, she could see it only in one light,
as comprehending the loss of a daughter, and a disgrace
never to be wiped off.
Fanny learnt from her all the particulars which had
yet transpired. Her aunt was no very methodical narrator,
but with the help of some letters to and from Sir Thomas,
and what she already knew herself, and could reasonably
combine, she was soon able to understand quite as much
as she wished of the circumstances attending the story.
Mrs. Rushworth had gone, for the Easter holidays,
to Twickenham, with a family whom she had just grown
intimate with: a family of lively, agreeable manners,
and probably of morals and discretion to suit, for to _their_
house Mr. Crawford had constant access at all times.
His having been in the same neighbourhood Fanny already knew.
Mr. Rushworth had been gone at this time to Bath, to pass
a few days with his mother, and bring her back to town,
and Maria was with these friends without any restraint,
without even Julia; for Julia had removed from Wimpole Street
two or three weeks before, on a visit to some relations
of Sir Thomas; a removal which her father and mother were
now disposed to attribute to some view of convenience
on Mr. Yates's account. Very soon after the Rushworths'
return to Wimpole Street, Sir Thomas had received a
letter from an old and most particular friend in London,
who hearing and witnessing a good deal to alarm him
in that quarter, wrote to recommend Sir Thomas's coming
to London himself, and using his influence with his
daughter to put an end to the intimacy which was already
exposing her to unpleasant remarks, and evidently making
Mr. Rushworth uneasy.
Sir Thomas was preparing to act upon this letter, without
communicating its contents to any creature at Mansfield,
when it was followed by another, sent express from the
same friend, to break to him the almost desperate situation
in which affairs then stood with the young people.
Mrs. Rushworth had left her husband's house: Mr. Rushworth
had been in great anger and distress to _him_ (Mr. Harding)
for his advice; Mr. Harding feared there had been _at_
_least_ very flagrant indiscretion. The maidservant
of Mrs. Rushworth, senior, threatened alarmingly. He was
doing all in his power to quiet everything, with the hope
of Mrs. Rushworth's return, but was so much counteracted
in Wimpole Street by the influence of Mr. Rushworth's mother,
that the worst consequences might be apprehended.
This dreadful communication could not be kept from the rest
of the family. Sir Thomas set off, Edmund would go with him,
and the others had been left in a state of wretchedness,
inferior only to what followed the receipt of the next
letters from London. Everything was by that time public
beyond a hope. The servant of Mrs. Rushworth, the mother,
had exposure in her power, and supported by her mistress,
was not to be silenced. The two ladies, even in the short
time they had been together, had disagreed; and the bitterness
of the elder against her daughter-in-law might perhaps arise
almost as much from the personal disrespect with which
she had herself been treated as from sensibility for her son.
However that might be, she was unmanageable. But had she
been less obstinate, or of less weight with her son,
who was always guided by the last speaker, by the person
who could get hold of and shut him up, the case would
still have been hopeless, for Mrs. Rushworth did not
appear again, and there was every reason to conclude
her to be concealed somewhere with Mr. Crawford,
who had quitted his uncle's house, as for a journey,
on the very day of her absenting herself.
Sir Thomas, however, remained yet a little longer in town,
in the hope of discovering and snatching her from farther vice,
though all was lost on the side of character.
_His_ present state Fanny could hardly bear to think of.
There was but one of his children who was not at this time
a source of misery to him. Tom's complaints had been
greatly heightened by the shock of his sister's conduct,
and his recovery so much thrown back by it, that even
Lady Bertram had been struck by the difference, and all
her alarms were regularly sent off to her husband;
and Julia's elopement, the additional blow which had met
him on his arrival in London, though its force had been
deadened at the moment, must, she knew, be sorely felt.
She saw that it was. His letters expressed how much he
deplored it. Under any circumstances it would have been
an unwelcome alliance; but to have it so clandestinely
formed, and such a period chosen for its completion,
placed Julia's feelings in a most unfavourable light,
and severely aggravated the folly of her choice.
He called it a bad thing, done in the worst manner,
and at the worst time; and though Julia was yet as more
pardonable than Maria as folly than vice, he could not
but regard the step she had taken as opening the worst
probabilities of a conclusion hereafter like her sister's.
Such was his opinion of the set into which she had
Fanny felt for him most acutely. He could have no comfort
but in Edmund. Every other child must be racking his heart.
His displeasure against herself she trusted, reasoning
differently from Mrs. Norris, would now be done away.
_She_ should be justified. Mr. Crawford would have
fully acquitted her conduct in refusing him; but this,
though most material to herself, would be poor consolation
to Sir Thomas. Her uncle's displeasure was terrible to her;
but what could her justification or her gratitude and
attachment do for him? His stay must be on Edmund alone.
She was mistaken, however, in supposing that Edmund gave
his father no present pain. It was of a much less poignant
nature than what the others excited; but Sir Thomas
was considering his happiness as very deeply involved
in the offence of his sister and friend; cut off by it,
as he must be, from the woman whom he had been pursuing
with undoubted attachment and strong probability of success;
and who, in everything but this despicable brother,
would have been so eligible a connexion. He was aware
of what Edmund must be suffering on his own behalf,
in addition to all the rest, when they were in town:
he had seen or conjectured his feelings; and, having reason
to think that one interview with Miss Crawford had taken place,
from which Edmund derived only increased distress, had been
as anxious on that account as on others to get him out of town,
and had engaged him in taking Fanny home to her aunt,
with a view to his relief and benefit, no less than theirs.
Fanny was not in the secret of her uncle's feelings,
Sir Thomas not in the secret of Miss Crawford's character.
Had he been privy to her conversation with his son, he would
not have wished her to belong to him, though her twenty
thousand pounds had been forty.
That Edmund must be for ever divided from Miss Crawford did
not admit of a doubt with Fanny; and yet, till she knew
that he felt the same, her own conviction was insufficient.
She thought he did, but she wanted to be assured of it.
If he would now speak to her with the unreserve which
had sometimes been too much for her before, it would
be most consoling; but _that_ she found was not to be.
She seldom saw him: never alone. He probably avoided
being alone with her. What was to be inferred? That his
judgment submitted to all his own peculiar and bitter share
of this family affliction, but that it was too keenly
felt to be a subject of the slightest communication.
This must be his state. He yielded, but it was with
agonies which did not admit of speech. Long, long would
it be ere Miss Crawford's name passed his lips again,
or she could hope for a renewal of such confidential
intercourse as had been.
It _was_ long. They reached Mansfield on Thursday,
and it was not till Sunday evening that Edmund began
to talk to her on the subject. Sitting with her on
Sunday evening--a wet Sunday evening--the very time of
all others when, if a friend is at hand, the heart must
be opened, and everything told; no one else in the room,
except his mother, who, after hearing an affecting sermon,
had cried herself to sleep, it was impossible not to speak;
and so, with the usual beginnings, hardly to be traced
as to what came first, and the usual declaration that
if she would listen to him for a few minutes, he should
be very brief, and certainly never tax her kindness
in the same way again; she need not fear a repetition;
it would be a subject prohibited entirely: he entered
upon the luxury of relating circumstances and sensations
of the first interest to himself, to one of whose
affectionate sympathy he was quite convinced.
How Fanny listened, with what curiosity and concern,
what pain and what delight, how the agitation of his
voice was watched, and how carefully her own eyes were
fixed on any object but himself, may be imagined.
The opening was alarming. He had seen Miss Crawford.
He had been invited to see her. He had received a note
from Lady Stornaway to beg him to call; and regarding
it as what was meant to be the last, last interview
of friendship, and investing her with all the feelings
of shame and wretchedness which Crawford's sister ought
to have known, he had gone to her in such a state of mind,
so softened, so devoted, as made it for a few moments
impossible to Fanny's fears that it should be the last.
But as he proceeded in his story, these fears were over.
She had met him, he said, with a serious--certainly a serious--
even an agitated air; but before he had been able
to speak one intelligible sentence, she had introduced
the subject in a manner which he owned had shocked him.
"'I heard you were in town,' said she; 'I wanted to see you.
Let us talk over this sad business. What can equal the folly
of our two relations?' I could not answer, but I believe
my looks spoke. She felt reproved. Sometimes how quick
to feel! With a graver look and voice she then added,
'I do not mean to defend Henry at your sister's expense.'
So she began, but how she went on, Fanny, is not fit,
is hardly fit to be repeated to you. I cannot recall
all her words. I would not dwell upon them if I could.
Their substance was great anger at the _folly_ of each.
She reprobated her brother's folly in being drawn on
by a woman whom he had never cared for, to do what must
lose him the woman he adored; but still more the folly of
poor Maria, in sacrificing such a situation, plunging into
such difficulties, under the idea of being really loved
by a man who had long ago made his indifference clear.
Guess what I must have felt. To hear the woman whom--
no harsher name than folly given! So voluntarily,
so freely, so coolly to canvass it! No reluctance,
no horror, no feminine, shall I say, no modest loathings?
This is what the world does. For where, Fanny, shall we
find a woman whom nature had so richly endowed? Spoilt,
After a little reflection, he went on with a sort
of desperate calmness. "I will tell you everything,
and then have done for ever. She saw it only as folly,
and that folly stamped only by exposure. The want of
common discretion, of caution: his going down to Richmond
for the whole time of her being at Twickenham; her putting
herself in the power of a servant; it was the detection,
in short--oh, Fanny! it was the detection, not the offence,
which she reprobated. It was the imprudence which had
brought things to extremity, and obliged her brother
to give up every dearer plan in order to fly with her."
He stopt. "And what," said Fanny (believing herself
required to speak), "what could you say?"
"Nothing, nothing to be understood. I was like a man stunned.
She went on, began to talk of you; yes, then she began
to talk of you, regretting, as well she might, the loss
of such a--. There she spoke very rationally. But she
has always done justice to you. 'He has thrown away,'
said she, 'such a woman as he will never see again.
She would have fixed him; she would have made him happy
for ever.' My dearest Fanny, I am giving you, I hope,
more pleasure than pain by this retrospect of what might
have been--but what never can be now. You do not wish me
to be silent? If you do, give me but a look, a word, and I
No look or word was given.
"Thank God," said he. "We were all disposed to wonder,
but it seems to have been the merciful appointment
of Providence that the heart which knew no guile
should not suffer. She spoke of you with high praise
and warm affection; yet, even here, there was alloy,
a dash of evil; for in the midst of it she could exclaim,
'Why would not she have him? It is all her fault.
Simple girl! I shall never forgive her. Had she accepted
him as she ought, they might now have been on the point
of marriage, and Henry would have been too happy and too
busy to want any other object. He would have taken
no pains to be on terms with Mrs. Rushworth again.
It would have all ended in a regular standing flirtation,
in yearly meetings at Sotherton and Everingham.' Could you
have believed it possible? But the charm is broken.
My eyes are opened."
"Cruel!" said Fanny, "quite cruel. At such a moment to
give way to gaiety, to speak with lightness, and to you!
"Cruelty, do you call it? We differ there. No, hers is
not a cruel nature. I do not consider her as meaning
to wound my feelings. The evil lies yet deeper:
in her total ignorance, unsuspiciousness of there being
such feelings; in a perversion of mind which made it
natural to her to treat the subject as she did. She was
speaking only as she had been used to hear others speak,
as she imagined everybody else would speak. Hers are
not faults of temper. She would not voluntarily give
unnecessary pain to any one, and though I may deceive myself,
I cannot but think that for me, for my feelings, she would--
Hers are faults of principle, Fanny; of blunted delicacy
and a corrupted, vitiated mind. Perhaps it is best for me,
since it leaves me so little to regret. Not so, however.
Gladly would I submit to all the increased pain of
losing her, rather than have to think of her as I do.
I told her so."
"Yes; when I left her I told her so."
"How long were you together?"
"Five-and-twenty minutes. Well, she went on to say that
what remained now to be done was to bring about a marriage
between them. She spoke of it, Fanny, with a steadier
voice than I can." He was obliged to pause more than once
as he continued. "'We must persuade Henry to marry her,'
said she; 'and what with honour, and the certainty of having
shut himself out for ever from Fanny, I do not despair
of it. Fanny he must give up. I do not think that even
_he_ could now hope to succeed with one of her stamp,
and therefore I hope we may find no insuperable difficulty.
My influence, which is not small shall all go that way;
and when once married, and properly supported by her
own family, people of respectability as they are, she may
recover her footing in society to a certain degree.
In some circles, we know, she would never be admitted,
but with good dinners, and large parties, there will
always be those who will be glad of her acquaintance;
and there is, undoubtedly, more liberality and candour
on those points than formerly. What I advise is,
that your father be quiet. Do not let him injure his own
cause by interference. Persuade him to let things take
their course. If by any officious exertions of his,
she is induced to leave Henry's protection, there will be
much less chance of his marrying her than if she remain
with him. I know how he is likely to be influenced.
Let Sir Thomas trust to his honour and compassion, and it
may all end well; but if he get his daughter away, it will
be destroying the chief hold.'"
After repeating this, Edmund was so much affected that Fanny,
watching him with silent, but most tender concern,
was almost sorry that the subject had been entered
on at all. It was long before he could speak again.
At last, "Now, Fanny," said he, "I shall soon have done.
I have told you the substance of all that she said.
As soon as I could speak, I replied that I had not
supposed it possible, coming in such a state of mind
into that house as I had done, that anything could
occur to make me suffer more, but that she had been
inflicting deeper wounds in almost every sentence.
That though I had, in the course of our acquaintance,
been often sensible of some difference in our opinions,
on points, too, of some moment, it had not entered my
imagination to conceive the difference could be such as she
had now proved it. That the manner in which she treated
the dreadful crime committed by her brother and my sister
(with whom lay the greater seduction I pretended not to say),
but the manner in which she spoke of the crime itself,
giving it every reproach but the right; considering its ill
consequences only as they were to be braved or overborne
by a defiance of decency and impudence in wrong; and last
of all, and above all, recommending to us a compliance,
a compromise, an acquiescence in the continuance of the sin,
on the chance of a marriage which, thinking as I now thought
of her brother, should rather be prevented than sought;
all this together most grievously convinced me that I had
never understood her before, and that, as far as related
to mind, it had been the creature of my own imagination,
not Miss Crawford, that I had been too apt to dwell on
for many months past. That, perhaps, it was best for me;
I had less to regret in sacrificing a friendship, feelings,
hopes which must, at any rate, have been torn from me now.
And yet, that I must and would confess that, could I
have restored her to what she had appeared to me before,
I would infinitely prefer any increase of the pain
of parting, for the sake of carrying with me the right of
tenderness and esteem. This is what I said, the purport
of it; but, as you may imagine, not spoken so collectedly
or methodically as I have repeated it to you. She was
astonished, exceedingly astonished--more than astonished.
I saw her change countenance. She turned extremely red.
I imagined I saw a mixture of many feelings: a great,
though short struggle; half a wish of yielding to truths,
half a sense of shame, but habit, habit carried it.
She would have laughed if she could. It was a sort of laugh,
as she answered, 'A pretty good lecture, upon my word.
Was it part of your last sermon? At this rate you will
soon reform everybody at Mansfield and Thornton Lacey;
and when I hear of you next, it may be as a celebrated preacher
in some great society of Methodists, or as a missionary
into foreign parts.' She tried to speak carelessly,
but she was not so careless as she wanted to appear.
I only said in reply, that from my heart I wished her well,
and earnestly hoped that she might soon learn to think
more justly, and not owe the most valuable knowledge we
could any of us acquire, the knowledge of ourselves and of
our duty, to the lessons of affliction, and immediately
left the room. I had gone a few steps, Fanny, when I
heard the door open behind me. 'Mr. Bertram,' said she.
I looked back. 'Mr. Bertram,' said she, with a smile;
but it was a smile ill-suited to the conversation that
had passed, a saucy playful smile, seeming to invite
in order to subdue me; at least it appeared so to me.
I resisted; it was the impulse of the moment to resist,
and still walked on. I have since, sometimes, for a moment,
regretted that I did not go back, but I know I was right,
and such has been the end of our acquaintance. And what
an acquaintance has it been! How have I been deceived!
Equally in brother and sister deceived! I thank you for
your patience, Fanny. This has been the greatest relief,
and now we will have done."
And such was Fanny's dependence on his words, that for five
minutes she thought they _had_ done. Then, however, it all
came on again, or something very like it, and nothing
less than Lady Bertram's rousing thoroughly up could
really close such a conversation. Till that happened,
they continued to talk of Miss Crawford alone, and how she
had attached him, and how delightful nature had made her,
and how excellent she would have been, had she fallen into
good hands earlier. Fanny, now at liberty to speak openly,
felt more than justified in adding to his knowledge
of her real character, by some hint of what share his
brother's state of health might be supposed to have in
her wish for a complete reconciliation. This was not an
agreeable intimation. Nature resisted it for a while.
It would have been a vast deal pleasanter to have had
her more disinterested in her attachment; but his vanity
was not of a strength to fight long against reason.
He submitted to believe that Tom's illness had influenced her,
only reserving for himself this consoling thought,
that considering the many counteractions of opposing habits,
she had certainly been _more_ attached to him than could
have been expected, and for his sake been more near
doing right. Fanny thought exactly the same; and they were
also quite agreed in their opinion of the lasting effect,
the indelible impression, which such a disappointment
must make on his mind. Time would undoubtedly abate
somewhat of his sufferings, but still it was a sort
of thing which he never could get entirely the better of;
and as to his ever meeting with any other woman who could--
it was too impossible to be named but with indignation.
Fanny's friendship was all that he had to cling to.
Let other pens dwell on guilt and misery. I quit such odious
subjects as soon as I can, impatient to restore everybody,
not greatly in fault themselves, to tolerable comfort,
and to have done with all the rest.
My Fanny, indeed, at this very time, I have the satisfaction
of knowing, must have been happy in spite of everything.
She must have been a happy creature in spite of all that she felt,
or thought she felt, for the distress of those around her.
She had sources of delight that must force their way.
She was returned to Mansfield Park, she was useful,
she was beloved; she was safe from Mr. Crawford;
and when Sir Thomas came back she had every proof that
could be given in his then melancholy state of spirits,
of his perfect approbation and increased regard;
and happy as all this must make her, she would still have
been happy without any of it, for Edmund was no longer
the dupe of Miss Crawford.
It is true that Edmund was very far from happy himself.
He was suffering from disappointment and regret,
grieving over what was, and wishing for what could never be.
She knew it was so, and was sorry; but it was with a
sorrow so founded on satisfaction, so tending to ease,
and so much in harmony with every dearest sensation,
that there are few who might not have been glad to exchange
their greatest gaiety for it.
Sir Thomas, poor Sir Thomas, a parent, and conscious of errors
in his own conduct as a parent, was the longest to suffer.
He felt that he ought not to have allowed the marriage;
that his daughter's sentiments had been sufficiently known
to him to render him culpable in authorising it; that in so
doing he had sacrificed the right to the expedient, and been
governed by motives of selfishness and worldly wisdom.
These were reflections that required some time to soften;
but time will do almost everything; and though little
comfort arose on Mrs. Rushworth's side for the misery she
had occasioned, comfort was to be found greater than he had
supposed in his other children. Julia's match became a less
desperate business than he had considered it at first.
She was humble, and wishing to be forgiven; and Mr. Yates,
desirous of being really received into the family, was disposed
to look up to him and be guided. He was not very solid;
but there was a hope of his becoming less trifling,
of his being at least tolerably domestic and quiet;
and at any rate, there was comfort in finding his estate
rather more, and his debts much less, than he had feared,
and in being consulted and treated as the friend best
worth attending to. There was comfort also in Tom,
who gradually regained his health, without regaining the
thoughtlessness and selfishness of his previous habits.
He was the better for ever for his illness. He had suffered,
and he had learned to think: two advantages that he had
never known before; and the self-reproach arising from
the deplorable event in Wimpole Street, to which he felt
himself accessory by all the dangerous intimacy of his
unjustifiable theatre, made an impression on his mind which,
at the age of six-and-twenty, with no want of sense
or good companions, was durable in its happy effects.
He became what he ought to be: useful to his father,
steady and quiet, and not living merely for himself.
Here was comfort indeed! and quite as soon as Sir
Thomas could place dependence on such sources of good,
Edmund was contributing to his father's ease by improvement
in the only point in which he had given him pain before--
improvement in his spirits. After wandering about and
sitting under trees with Fanny all the summer evenings,
he had so well talked his mind into submission as to be
very tolerably cheerful again.
These were the circumstances and the hopes which gradually
brought their alleviation to Sir Thomas, deadening his sense
of what was lost, and in part reconciling him to himself;