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Mansfield Park, by Jane Austen (1775-1817)

Part 6 out of 10

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She met Miss Crawford within a few yards of the Parsonage,
just setting out to call on her, and as it seemed to her
that her friend, though obliged to insist on turning back,
was unwilling to lose her walk, she explained her business
at once, and observed, that if she would be so kind
as to give her opinion, it might be all talked over as
well without doors as within. Miss Crawford appeared
gratified by the application, and after a moment's thought,
urged Fanny's returning with her in a much more cordial
manner than before, and proposed their going up into
her room, where they might have a comfortable coze,
without disturbing Dr. and Mrs. Grant, who were together
in the drawing-room. It was just the plan to suit Fanny;
and with a great deal of gratitude on her side for such ready
and kind attention, they proceeded indoors, and upstairs,
and were soon deep in the interesting subject. Miss Crawford,
pleased with the appeal, gave her all her best judgment
and taste, made everything easy by her suggestions,
and tried to make everything agreeable by her encouragement.
The dress being settled in all its grander parts--
"But what shall you have by way of necklace?" said Miss
Crawford. "Shall not you wear your brother's cross?"
And as she spoke she was undoing a small parcel,
which Fanny had observed in her hand when they met.
Fanny acknowledged her wishes and doubts on this point:
she did not know how either to wear the cross, or to
refrain from wearing it. She was answered by having
a small trinket-box placed before her, and being requested
to chuse from among several gold chains and necklaces.
Such had been the parcel with which Miss Crawford
was provided, and such the object of her intended visit:
and in the kindest manner she now urged Fanny's taking one
for the cross and to keep for her sake, saying everything
she could think of to obviate the scruples which were
making Fanny start back at first with a look of horror at
the proposal.

"You see what a collection I have," said she; "more by half
than I ever use or think of. I do not offer them as new.
I offer nothing but an old necklace. You must forgive
the liberty, and oblige me."

Fanny still resisted, and from her heart. The gift was
too valuable. But Miss Crawford persevered, and argued
the case with so much affectionate earnestness through
all the heads of William and the cross, and the ball,
and herself, as to be finally successful. Fanny found
herself obliged to yield, that she might not be accused
of pride or indifference, or some other littleness;
and having with modest reluctance given her consent,
proceeded to make the selection. She looked and looked,
longing to know which might be least valuable; and was
determined in her choice at last, by fancying there was
one necklace more frequently placed before her eyes than
the rest. It was of gold, prettily worked; and though Fanny
would have preferred a longer and a plainer chain as more
adapted for her purpose, she hoped, in fixing on this,
to be chusing what Miss Crawford least wished to keep.
Miss Crawford smiled her perfect approbation; and hastened
to complete the gift by putting the necklace round her,
and making her see how well it looked. Fanny had not a
word to say against its becomingness, and, excepting what
remained of her scruples, was exceedingly pleased with an
acquisition so very apropos. She would rather, perhaps,
have been obliged to some other person. But this was
an unworthy feeling. Miss Crawford had anticipated her
wants with a kindness which proved her a real friend.
"When I wear this necklace I shall always think of you,"
said she, "and feel how very kind you were."

"You must think of somebody else too, when you wear
that necklace," replied Miss Crawford. "You must think
of Henry, for it was his choice in the first place.
He gave it to me, and with the necklace I make over
to you all the duty of remembering the original giver.
It is to be a family remembrancer. The sister is not to be
in your mind without bringing the brother too."

Fanny, in great astonishment and confusion, would have
returned the present instantly. To take what had
been the gift of another person, of a brother too,
impossible! it must not be! and with an eagerness and
embarrassment quite diverting to her companion, she laid
down the necklace again on its cotton, and seemed resolved
either to take another or none at all. Miss Crawford
thought she had never seen a prettier consciousness.
"My dear child," said she, laughing, "what are you afraid of?
Do you think Henry will claim the necklace as mine,
and fancy you did not come honestly by it? or are you
imagining he would be too much flattered by seeing
round your lovely throat an ornament which his money
purchased three years ago, before he knew there was such
a throat in the world? or perhaps"--looking archly--
"you suspect a confederacy between us, and that what
I am now doing is with his knowledge and at his desire?"

With the deepest blushes Fanny protested against such
a thought.

"Well, then," replied Miss Crawford more seriously,
but without at all believing her, "to convince me that you
suspect no trick, and are as unsuspicious of compliment
as I have always found you, take the necklace and say
no more about it. Its being a gift of my brother's need
not make the smallest difference in your accepting it,
as I assure you it makes none in my willingness to part
with it. He is always giving me something or other.
I have such innumerable presents from him that it is quite
impossible for me to value or for him to remember half.
And as for this necklace, I do not suppose I have worn it
six times: it is very pretty, but I never think of it;
and though you would be most heartily welcome to any
other in my trinket-box, you have happened to fix on
the very one which, if I have a choice, I would rather
part with and see in your possession than any other.
Say no more against it, I entreat you. Such a trifle is
not worth half so many words."

Fanny dared not make any farther opposition; and with
renewed but less happy thanks accepted the necklace again,
for there was an expression in Miss Crawford's eyes
which she could not be satisfied with.

It was impossible for her to be insensible of Mr. Crawford's
change of manners. She had long seen it. He evidently
tried to please her: he was gallant, he was attentive,
he was something like what he had been to her cousins:
he wanted, she supposed, to cheat her of her tranquillity
as he had cheated them; and whether he might not have some
concern in this necklace--she could not be convinced that
he had not, for Miss Crawford, complaisant as a sister,
was careless as a woman and a friend.

Reflecting and doubting, and feeling that the possession
of what she had so much wished for did not bring much
satisfaction, she now walked home again, with a change rather
than a diminution of cares since her treading that path before.


On reaching home Fanny went immediately upstairs to
deposit this unexpected acquisition, this doubtful good
of a necklace, in some favourite box in the East room,
which held all her smaller treasures; but on opening
the door, what was her surprise to find her cousin Edmund
there writing at the table! Such a sight having never
occurred before, was almost as wonderful as it was welcome.

"Fanny," said he directly, leaving his seat and his pen,
and meeting her with something in his hand, "I beg
your pardon for being here. I came to look for you,
and after waiting a little while in hope of your coming in,
was making use of your inkstand to explain my errand.
You will find the beginning of a note to yourself;
but I can now speak my business, which is merely to beg
your acceptance of this little trifle--a chain for
William's cross. You ought to have had it a week ago,
but there has been a delay from my brother's not
being in town by several days so soon as I expected;
and I have only just now received it at Northampton.
I hope you will like the chain itself, Fanny. I endeavoured
to consult the simplicity of your taste; but, at any rate,
I know you will be kind to my intentions, and consider it,
as it really is, a token of the love of one of your
oldest friends."

And so saying, he was hurrying away, before Fanny,
overpowered by a thousand feelings of pain and pleasure,
could attempt to speak; but quickened by one sovereign wish,
she then called out, "Oh! cousin, stop a moment,
pray stop!"

He turned back.

"I cannot attempt to thank you," she continued, in a
very agitated manner; "thanks are out of the question.
I feel much more than I can possibly express.
Your goodness in thinking of me in such a way is beyond--

"If that is all you have to say, Fanny" smiling and turning
away again.

"No, no, it is not. I want to consult you."

Almost unconsciously she had now undone the parcel he
had just put into her hand, and seeing before her,
in all the niceness of jewellers' packing, a plain
gold chain, perfectly simple and neat, she could not help
bursting forth again, "Oh, this is beautiful indeed!
This is the very thing, precisely what I wished for!
This is the only ornament I have ever had a desire to possess.
It will exactly suit my cross. They must and shall be
worn together. It comes, too, in such an acceptable moment.
Oh, cousin, you do not know how acceptable it is."

"My dear Fanny, you feel these things a great deal too much.
I am most happy that you like the chain, and that it
should be here in time for to-morrow; but your thanks are
far beyond the occasion. Believe me, I have no pleasure
in the world superior to that of contributing to yours.
No, I can safely say, I have no pleasure so complete,
so unalloyed. It is without a drawback."

Upon such expressions of affection Fanny could have
lived an hour without saying another word; but Edmund,
after waiting a moment, obliged her to bring down her
mind from its heavenly flight by saying, "But what is it
that you want to consult me about?"

It was about the necklace, which she was now most earnestly
longing to return, and hoped to obtain his approbation
of her doing. She gave the history of her recent visit,
and now her raptures might well be over; for Edmund was so
struck with the circumstance, so delighted with what Miss
Crawford had done, so gratified by such a coincidence
of conduct between them, that Fanny could not but admit
the superior power of one pleasure over his own mind,
though it might have its drawback. It was some time
before she could get his attention to her plan, or any
answer to her demand of his opinion: he was in a reverie
of fond reflection, uttering only now and then a few
half-sentences of praise; but when he did awake and understand,
he was very decided in opposing what she wished.

"Return the necklace! No, my dear Fanny, upon no account.
It would be mortifying her severely. There can hardly
be a more unpleasant sensation than the having anything
returned on our hands which we have given with a reasonable
hope of its contributing to the comfort of a friend.
Why should she lose a pleasure which she has shewn herself
so deserving of?"

"If it had been given to me in the first instance,"
said Fanny, "I should not have thought of returning it;
but being her brother's present, is not it fair to suppose
that she would rather not part with it, when it is
not wanted?"

"She must not suppose it not wanted, not acceptable,
at least: and its having been originally her brother's
gift makes no difference; for as she was not prevented
from offering, nor you from taking it on that account,
it ought not to prevent you from keeping it. No doubt it
is handsomer than mine, and fitter for a ballroom."

"No, it is not handsomer, not at all handsomer
in its way, and, for my purpose, not half so fit.
The chain will agree with William's cross beyond
all comparison better than the necklace."

"For one night, Fanny, for only one night, if it _be_
a sacrifice; I am sure you will, upon consideration,
make that sacrifice rather than give pain to one who has been
so studious of your comfort. Miss Crawford's attentions
to you have been--not more than you were justly entitled to--
I am the last person to think that _could_ _be_,
but they have been invariable; and to be returning them
with what must have something the _air_ of ingratitude,
though I know it could never have the _meaning_, is not
in your nature, I am sure. Wear the necklace, as you
are engaged to do, to-morrow evening, and let the chain,
which was not ordered with any reference to the ball,
be kept for commoner occasions. This is my advice.
I would not have the shadow of a coolness between the two whose
intimacy I have been observing with the greatest pleasure,
and in whose characters there is so much general resemblance
in true generosity and natural delicacy as to make the few
slight differences, resulting principally from situation,
no reasonable hindrance to a perfect friendship. I would
not have the shadow of a coolness arise," he repeated,
his voice sinking a little, "between the two dearest objects
I have on earth."

He was gone as he spoke; and Fanny remained to tranquillise
herself as she could. She was one of his two dearest--
that must support her. But the other: the first!
She had never heard him speak so openly before, and though
it told her no more than what she had long perceived,
it was a stab, for it told of his own convictions and views.
They were decided. He would marry Miss Crawford.
It was a stab, in spite of every long-standing expectation;
and she was obliged to repeat again and again, that she
was one of his two dearest, before the words gave
her any sensation. Could she believe Miss Crawford to
deserve him, it would be--oh, how different would it be--
how far more tolerable! But he was deceived in her:
he gave her merits which she had not; her faults were
what they had ever been, but he saw them no longer.
Till she had shed many tears over this deception,
Fanny could not subdue her agitation; and the dejection
which followed could only be relieved by the influence of
fervent prayers for his happiness.

It was her intention, as she felt it to be her duty,
to try to overcome all that was excessive, all that
bordered on selfishness, in her affection for Edmund.
To call or to fancy it a loss, a disappointment, would be
a presumption for which she had not words strong enough to
satisfy her own humility. To think of him as Miss Crawford
might be justified in thinking, would in her be insanity.
To her he could be nothing under any circumstances;
nothing dearer than a friend. Why did such an idea occur
to her even enough to be reprobated and forbidden? It ought
not to have touched on the confines of her imagination.
She would endeavour to be rational, and to deserve
the right of judging of Miss Crawford's character,
and the privilege of true solicitude for him by a sound
intellect and an honest heart.

She had all the heroism of principle, and was determined
to do her duty; but having also many of the feelings of youth
and nature, let her not be much wondered at, if, after making
all these good resolutions on the side of self-government,
she seized the scrap of paper on which Edmund had begun
writing to her, as a treasure beyond all her hopes,
and reading with the tenderest emotion these words,
"My very dear Fanny, you must do me the favour to accept"
locked it up with the chain, as the dearest part of the gift.
It was the only thing approaching to a letter which she
had ever received from him; she might never receive another;
it was impossible that she ever should receive another
so perfectly gratifying in the occasion and the style.
Two lines more prized had never fallen from the pen
of the most distinguished author--never more completely
blessed the researches of the fondest biographer.
The enthusiasm of a woman's love is even beyond
the biographer's. To her, the handwriting itself,
independent of anything it may convey, is a blessedness.
Never were such characters cut by any other human being
as Edmund's commonest handwriting gave! This specimen,
written in haste as it was, had not a fault; and there
was a felicity in the flow of the first four words,
in the arrangement of "My very dear Fanny," which she
could have looked at for ever.

Having regulated her thoughts and comforted her feelings
by this happy mixture of reason and weakness, she was able
in due time to go down and resume her usual employments
near her aunt Bertram, and pay her the usual observances
without any apparent want of spirits.

Thursday, predestined to hope and enjoyment, came; and opened
with more kindness to Fanny than such self-willed,
unmanageable days often volunteer, for soon after breakfast
a very friendly note was brought from Mr. Crawford
to William, stating that as he found himself obliged
to go to London on the morrow for a few days, he could
not help trying to procure a companion; and therefore
hoped that if William could make up his mind to leave
Mansfield half a day earlier than had been proposed,
he would accept a place in his carriage. Mr. Crawford meant
to be in town by his uncle's accustomary late dinner-hour,
and William was invited to dine with him at the Admiral's.
The proposal was a very pleasant one to William himself,
who enjoyed the idea of travelling post with four horses,
and such a good-humoured, agreeable friend; and, in likening
it to going up with despatches, was saying at once everything
in favour of its happiness and dignity which his imagination
could suggest; and Fanny, from a different motive,
was exceedingly pleased; for the original plan was that
William should go up by the mail from Northampton the
following night, which would not have allowed him an hour's
rest before he must have got into a Portsmouth coach;
and though this offer of Mr. Crawford's would rob her
of many hours of his company, she was too happy in having
William spared from the fatigue of such a journey,
to think of anything else. Sir Thomas approved of it
for another reason. His nephew's introduction to Admiral
Crawford might be of service. The Admiral, he believed,
had interest. Upon the whole, it was a very joyous note.
Fanny's spirits lived on it half the morning, deriving
some accession of pleasure from its writer being himself to go

As for the ball, so near at hand, she had too many
agitations and fears to have half the enjoyment in
anticipation which she ought to have had, or must have
been supposed to have by the many young ladies looking
forward to the same event in situations more at ease,
but under circumstances of less novelty, less interest,
less peculiar gratification, than would be attributed
to her. Miss Price, known only by name to half the
people invited, was now to make her first appearance,
and must be regarded as the queen of the evening.
Who could be happier than Miss Price? But Miss Price
had not been brought up to the trade of _coming_ _out_;
and had she known in what light this ball was, in general,
considered respecting her, it would very much have lessened
her comfort by increasing the fears she already had of doing
wrong and being looked at. To dance without much observation
or any extraordinary fatigue, to have strength and partners
for about half the evening, to dance a little with Edmund,
and not a great deal with Mr. Crawford, to see William
enjoy himself, and be able to keep away from her aunt Norris,
was the height of her ambition, and seemed to comprehend
her greatest possibility of happiness. As these were
the best of her hopes, they could not always prevail;
and in the course of a long morning, spent principally
with her two aunts, she was often under the influence
of much less sanguine views. William, determined to
make this last day a day of thorough enjoyment,
was out snipe-shooting; Edmund, she had too much reason
to suppose, was at the Parsonage; and left alone to bear
the worrying of Mrs. Norris, who was cross because the
housekeeper would have her own way with the supper,
and whom _she_ could not avoid though the housekeeper might,
Fanny was worn down at last to think everything an evil
belonging to the ball, and when sent off with a parting worry
to dress, moved as languidly towards her own room, and felt
as incapable of happiness as if she had been allowed no share in

As she walked slowly upstairs she thought of yesterday;
it had been about the same hour that she had returned
from the Parsonage, and found Edmund in the East room.
"Suppose I were to find him there again to-day!" said she
to herself, in a fond indulgence of fancy.

"Fanny," said a voice at that moment near her.
Starting and looking up, she saw, across the lobby she
had just reached, Edmund himself, standing at the head
of a different staircase. He came towards her. "You look
tired and fagged, Fanny. You have been walking too far."

"No, I have not been out at all."

"Then you have had fatigues within doors, which are worse.
You had better have gone out."

Fanny, not liking to complain, found it easiest to make
no answer; and though he looked at her with his usual kindness,
she believed he had soon ceased to think of her countenance.
He did not appear in spirits: something unconnected with
her was probably amiss. They proceeded upstairs together,
their rooms being on the same floor above.

"I come from Dr. Grant's," said Edmund presently.
"You may guess my errand there, Fanny." And he looked
so conscious, that Fanny could think but of one errand,
which turned her too sick for speech. "I wished to
engage Miss Crawford for the two first dances," was the
explanation that followed, and brought Fanny to life again,
enabling her, as she found she was expected to speak,
to utter something like an inquiry as to the result.

"Yes," he answered, "she is engaged to me; but" (with a smile
that did not sit easy) "she says it is to be the last time
that she ever will dance with me. She is not serious.
I think, I hope, I am sure she is not serious; but I would
rather not hear it. She never has danced with a clergyman,
she says, and she never _will_. For my own sake, I could
wish there had been no ball just at--I mean not this
very week, this very day; to-morrow I leave home."

Fanny struggled for speech, and said, "I am very sorry
that anything has occurred to distress you. This ought
to be a day of pleasure. My uncle meant it so."

"Oh yes, yes! and it will be a day of pleasure.
It will all end right. I am only vexed for a moment.
In fact, it is not that I consider the ball as ill-timed;
what does it signify? But, Fanny," stopping her,
by taking her hand, and speaking low and seriously,
"you know what all this means. You see how it is;
and could tell me, perhaps better than I could tell you,
how and why I am vexed. Let me talk to you a little.
You are a kind, kind listener. I have been pained
by her manner this morning, and cannot get the better
of it. I know her disposition to be as sweet and
faultless as your own, but the influence of her former
companions makes her seem--gives to her conversation,
to her professed opinions, sometimes a tinge of wrong.
She does not _think_ evil, but she speaks it, speaks it
in playfulness; and though I know it to be playfulness,
it grieves me to the soul."

"The effect of education," said Fanny gently.

Edmund could not but agree to it. "Yes, that uncle and aunt!
They have injured the finest mind; for sometimes,
Fanny, I own to you, it does appear more than manner:
it appears as if the mind itself was tainted."

Fanny imagined this to be an appeal to her judgment,
and therefore, after a moment's consideration, said, "If you
only want me as a listener, cousin, I will be as useful
as I can; but I am not qualified for an adviser.
Do not ask advice of _me_. I am not competent."

"You are right, Fanny, to protest against such an office,
but you need not be afraid. It is a subject on which I
should never ask advice; it is the sort of subject on
which it had better never be asked; and few, I imagine,
do ask it, but when they want to be influenced against
their conscience. I only want to talk to you."

"One thing more. Excuse the liberty; but take care
_how_ you talk to me. Do not tell me anything now,
which hereafter you may be sorry for. The time may come--"

The colour rushed into her cheeks as she spoke.

"Dearest Fanny!" cried Edmund, pressing her hand to
his lips with almost as much warmth as if it had been
Miss Crawford's, "you are all considerate thought!
But it is unnecessary here. The time will never come.
No such time as you allude to will ever come. I begin to
think it most improbable: the chances grow less and less;
and even if it should, there will be nothing to be
remembered by either you or me that we need be afraid of,
for I can never be ashamed of my own scruples; and if they
are removed, it must be by changes that will only raise
her character the more by the recollection of the faults
she once had. You are the only being upon earth to whom
I should say what I have said; but you have always known
my opinion of her; you can bear me witness, Fanny, that I
have never been blinded. How many a time have we
talked over her little errors! You need not fear me;
I have almost given up every serious idea of her;
but I must be a blockhead indeed, if, whatever befell me,
I could think of your kindness and sympathy without the
sincerest gratitude."

He had said enough to shake the experience of eighteen.
He had said enough to give Fanny some happier feelings
than she had lately known, and with a brighter look,
she answered, "Yes, cousin, I am convinced that _you_
would be incapable of anything else, though perhaps some
might not. I cannot be afraid of hearing anything you
wish to say. Do not check yourself. Tell me whatever
you like."

They were now on the second floor, and the appearance
of a housemaid prevented any farther conversation.
For Fanny's present comfort it was concluded, perhaps,
at the happiest moment: had he been able to talk another
five minutes, there is no saying that he might not have talked
away all Miss Crawford's faults and his own despondence.
But as it was, they parted with looks on his side of
grateful affection, and with some very precious sensations
on hers. She had felt nothing like it for hours.
Since the first joy from Mr. Crawford's note to William had
worn away, she had been in a state absolutely the reverse;
there had been no comfort around, no hope within her.
Now everything was smiling. William's good fortune
returned again upon her mind, and seemed of greater
value than at first. The ball, too--such an evening
of pleasure before her! It was now a real animation;
and she began to dress for it with much of the happy
flutter which belongs to a ball. All went well:
she did not dislike her own looks; and when she came
to the necklaces again, her good fortune seemed complete,
for upon trial the one given her by Miss Crawford would
by no means go through the ring of the cross. She had,
to oblige Edmund, resolved to wear it; but it was too
large for the purpose. His, therefore, must be worn;
and having, with delightful feelings, joined the chain
and the cross--those memorials of the two most beloved
of her heart, those dearest tokens so formed for each
other by everything real and imaginary--and put them
round her neck, and seen and felt how full of William
and Edmund they were, she was able, without an effort,
to resolve on wearing Miss Crawford's necklace too.
She acknowledged it to be right. Miss Crawford had a claim;
and when it was no longer to encroach on, to interfere
with the stronger claims, the truer kindness of another,
she could do her justice even with pleasure to herself.
The necklace really looked very well; and Fanny left her
room at last, comfortably satisfied with herself and all
about her.

Her aunt Bertram had recollected her on this occasion with
an unusual degree of wakefulness. It had really occurred
to her, unprompted, that Fanny, preparing for a ball,
might be glad of better help than the upper housemaid's,
and when dressed herself, she actually sent her own maid
to assist her; too late, of course, to be of any use.
Mrs. Chapman had just reached the attic floor, when Miss
Price came out of her room completely dressed, and only
civilities were necessary; but Fanny felt her aunt's
attention almost as much as Lady Bertram or Mrs. Chapman
could do themselves.


Her uncle and both her aunts were in the drawing-room
when Fanny went down. To the former she was an interesting
object, and he saw with pleasure the general elegance
of her appearance, and her being in remarkably good looks.
The neatness and propriety of her dress was all that
he would allow himself to commend in her presence,
but upon her leaving the room again soon afterwards,
he spoke of her beauty with very decided praise.

"Yes," said Lady Bertram, "she looks very well.
I sent Chapman to her."

"Look well! Oh, yes!" cried Mrs. Norris, "she has
good reason to look well with all her advantages:
brought up in this family as she has been, with all
the benefit of her cousins' manners before her.
Only think, my dear Sir Thomas, what extraordinary
advantages you and I have been the means of giving her.
The very gown you have been taking notice of is your own
generous present to her when dear Mrs. Rushworth married.
What would she have been if we had not taken her by
the hand?"

Sir Thomas said no more; but when they sat down to table
the eyes of the two young men assured him that the subject
might be gently touched again, when the ladies withdrew,
with more success. Fanny saw that she was approved;
and the consciousness of looking well made her look
still better. From a variety of causes she was happy,
and she was soon made still happier; for in following her
aunts out of the room, Edmund, who was holding open the door,
said, as she passed him, "You must dance with me, Fanny;
you must keep two dances for me; any two that you like,
except the first." She had nothing more to wish for.
She had hardly ever been in a state so nearly approaching
high spirits in her life. Her cousins' former gaiety
on the day of a ball was no longer surprising to her;
she felt it to be indeed very charming, and was actually
practising her steps about the drawing-room as long as she
could be safe from the notice of her aunt Norris, who was
entirely taken up at first in fresh arranging and injuring
the noble fire which the butler had prepared.

Half an hour followed that would have been at least languid
under any other circumstances, but Fanny's happiness
still prevailed. It was but to think of her conversation
with Edmund, and what was the restlessness of Mrs. Norris?
What were the yawns of Lady Bertram?

The gentlemen joined them; and soon after began the sweet
expectation of a carriage, when a general spirit of ease
and enjoyment seemed diffused, and they all stood about
and talked and laughed, and every moment had its pleasure
and its hope. Fanny felt that there must be a struggle
in Edmund's cheerfulness, but it was delightful to see
the effort so successfully made.

When the carriages were really heard, when the guests began
really to assemble, her own gaiety of heart was much subdued:
the sight of so many strangers threw her back into herself;
and besides the gravity and formality of the first great circle,
which the manners of neither Sir Thomas nor Lady Bertram
were of a kind to do away, she found herself occasionally
called on to endure something worse. She was introduced
here and there by her uncle, and forced to be spoken to,
and to curtsey, and speak again. This was a hard duty,
and she was never summoned to it without looking at William,
as he walked about at his ease in the background of the scene,
and longing to be with him.

The entrance of the Grants and Crawfords was a favourable epoch.
The stiffness of the meeting soon gave way before their
popular manners and more diffused intimacies: little groups
were formed, and everybody grew comfortable. Fanny felt
the advantage; and, drawing back from the toils of civility,
would have been again most happy, could she have kept
her eyes from wandering between Edmund and Mary Crawford.
_She_ looked all loveliness--and what might not be
the end of it? Her own musings were brought to an end
on perceiving Mr. Crawford before her, and her thoughts
were put into another channel by his engaging her almost
instantly for the first two dances. Her happiness on this
occasion was very much _a_ _la_ _mortal_, finely chequered.
To be secure of a partner at first was a most essential good--
for the moment of beginning was now growing seriously near;
and she so little understood her own claims as to think
that if Mr. Crawford had not asked her, she must have been
the last to be sought after, and should have received
a partner only through a series of inquiry, and bustle,
and interference, which would have been terrible; but at
the same time there was a pointedness in his manner of asking
her which she did not like, and she saw his eye glancing
for a moment at her necklace, with a smile--she thought
there was a smile--which made her blush and feel wretched.
And though there was no second glance to disturb her,
though his object seemed then to be only quietly agreeable,
she could not get the better of her embarrassment,
heightened as it was by the idea of his perceiving it,
and had no composure till he turned away to some one else.
Then she could gradually rise up to the genuine satisfaction
of having a partner, a voluntary partner, secured against
the dancing began.

When the company were moving into the ballroom, she found
herself for the first time near Miss Crawford, whose eyes
and smiles were immediately and more unequivocally directed
as her brother's had been, and who was beginning to speak
on the subject, when Fanny, anxious to get the story over,
hastened to give the explanation of the second necklace:
the real chain. Miss Crawford listened; and all her intended
compliments and insinuations to Fanny were forgotten:
she felt only one thing; and her eyes, bright as they
had been before, shewing they could yet be brighter,
she exclaimed with eager pleasure, "Did he? Did Edmund?
That was like himself. No other man would have thought of it.
I honour him beyond expression." And she looked around
as if longing to tell him so. He was not near, he was
attending a party of ladies out of the room; and Mrs. Grant
coming up to the two girls, and taking an arm of each,
they followed with the rest.

Fanny's heart sunk, but there was no leisure for
thinking long even of Miss Crawford's feelings.
They were in the ballroom, the violins were playing,
and her mind was in a flutter that forbade its fixing on
anything serious. She must watch the general arrangements,
and see how everything was done.

In a few minutes Sir Thomas came to her, and asked if
she were engaged; and the "Yes, sir; to Mr. Crawford,"
was exactly what he had intended to hear. Mr. Crawford
was not far off; Sir Thomas brought him to her,
saying something which discovered to Fanny, that _she_
was to lead the way and open the ball; an idea that had
never occurred to her before. Whenever she had thought
of the minutiae of the evening, it had been as a matter
of course that Edmund would begin with Miss Crawford;
and the impression was so strong, that though _her_ _uncle_
spoke the contrary, she could not help an exclamation
of surprise, a hint of her unfitness, an entreaty even to
be excused. To be urging her opinion against Sir Thomas's
was a proof of the extremity of the case; but such was her
horror at the first suggestion, that she could actually
look him in the face and say that she hoped it might be
settled otherwise; in vain, however: Sir Thomas smiled,
tried to encourage her, and then looked too serious,
and said too decidedly, "It must be so, my dear," for her
to hazard another word; and she found herself the next
moment conducted by Mr. Crawford to the top of the room,
and standing there to be joined by the rest of the dancers,
couple after couple, as they were formed.

She could hardly believe it. To be placed above so many
elegant young women! The distinction was too great.
It was treating her like her cousins! And her thoughts
flew to those absent cousins with most unfeigned and truly
tender regret, that they were not at home to take their
own place in the room, and have their share of a pleasure
which would have been so very delightful to them.
So often as she had heard them wish for a ball at home
as the greatest of all felicities! And to have them away
when it was given--and for _her_ to be opening the ball--
and with Mr. Crawford too! She hoped they would not envy
her that distinction _now_; but when she looked back
to the state of things in the autumn, to what they had all
been to each other when once dancing in that house before,
the present arrangement was almost more than she could
understand herself.

The ball began. It was rather honour than happiness
to Fanny, for the first dance at least: her partner was
in excellent spirits, and tried to impart them to her;
but she was a great deal too much frightened to have
any enjoyment till she could suppose herself no longer
looked at. Young, pretty, and gentle, however, she had
no awkwardnesses that were not as good as graces,
and there were few persons present that were not disposed
to praise her. She was attractive, she was modest,
she was Sir Thomas's niece, and she was soon said
to be admired by Mr. Crawford. It was enough to give
her general favour. Sir Thomas himself was watching
her progress down the dance with much complacency;
he was proud of his niece; and without attributing
all her personal beauty, as Mrs. Norris seemed to do,
to her transplantation to Mansfield, he was pleased
with himself for having supplied everything else:
education and manners she owed to him.

Miss Crawford saw much of Sir Thomas's thoughts as he stood,
and having, in spite of all his wrongs towards her,
a general prevailing desire of recommending herself to him,
took an opportunity of stepping aside to say something
agreeable of Fanny. Her praise was warm, and he received
it as she could wish, joining in it as far as discretion,
and politeness, and slowness of speech would allow,
and certainly appearing to greater advantage on the subject
than his lady did soon afterwards, when Mary, perceiving her
on a sofa very near, turned round before she began to dance,
to compliment her on Miss Price's looks.

"Yes, she does look very well," was Lady Bertram's placid reply.
"Chapman helped her to dress. I sent Chapman to her."
Not but that she was really pleased to have Fanny admired;
but she was so much more struck with her own kindness
in sending Chapman to her, that she could not get it out
of her head.

Miss Crawford knew Mrs. Norris too well to think of
gratifying _her_ by commendation of Fanny; to her, it was
as the occasion offered--"Ah! ma'am, how much we want dear
Mrs. Rushworth and Julia to-night!" and Mrs. Norris paid
her with as many smiles and courteous words as she had
time for, amid so much occupation as she found for herself
in making up card-tables, giving hints to Sir Thomas,
and trying to move all the chaperons to a better part of the room.

Miss Crawford blundered most towards Fanny herself in her
intentions to please. She meant to be giving her little
heart a happy flutter, and filling her with sensations
of delightful self-consequence; and, misinterpreting Fanny's
blushes, still thought she must be doing so when she
went to her after the two first dances, and said, with a
significant look, "Perhaps _you_ can tell me why my brother
goes to town to-morrow? He says he has business there,
but will not tell me what. The first time he ever denied
me his confidence! But this is what we all come to.
All are supplanted sooner or later. Now, I must apply
to you for information. Pray, what is Henry going for?"

Fanny protested her ignorance as steadily as her
embarrassment allowed.

"Well, then," replied Miss Crawford, laughing, "I must
suppose it to be purely for the pleasure of conveying
your brother, and of talking of you by the way."

Fanny was confused, but it was the confusion of discontent;
while Miss Crawford wondered she did not smile, and thought
her over-anxious, or thought her odd, or thought her anything
rather than insensible of pleasure in Henry's attentions.
Fanny had a good deal of enjoyment in the course of the evening;
but Henry's attentions had very little to do with it.
She would much rather _not_ have been asked by him again
so very soon, and she wished she had not been obliged
to suspect that his previous inquiries of Mrs. Norris,
about the supper hour, were all for the sake of securing her
at that part of the evening. But it was not to be avoided:
he made her feel that she was the object of all; though she
could not say that it was unpleasantly done, that there
was indelicacy or ostentation in his manner; and sometimes,
when he talked of William, he was really not unagreeable,
and shewed even a warmth of heart which did him credit.
But still his attentions made no part of her satisfaction.
She was happy whenever she looked at William, and saw how
perfectly he was enjoying himself, in every five minutes
that she could walk about with him and hear his account
of his partners; she was happy in knowing herself admired;
and she was happy in having the two dances with Edmund still
to look forward to, during the greatest part of the evening,
her hand being so eagerly sought after that her indefinite
engagement with _him_ was in continual perspective.
She was happy even when they did take place; but not from
any flow of spirits on his side, or any such expressions
of tender gallantry as had blessed the morning.
His mind was fagged, and her happiness sprung from
being the friend with whom it could find repose.
"I am worn out with civility," said he. "I have been
talking incessantly all night, and with nothing to say.
But with _you_, Fanny, there may be peace. You will not
want to be talked to. Let us have the luxury of silence."
Fanny would hardly even speak her agreement. A weariness,
arising probably, in great measure, from the same feelings
which he had acknowledged in the morning, was peculiarly
to be respected, and they went down their two dances together
with such sober tranquillity as might satisfy any looker-on
that Sir Thomas had been bringing up no wife for his
younger son.

The evening had afforded Edmund little pleasure. Miss Crawford
had been in gay spirits when they first danced together,
but it was not her gaiety that could do him good:
it rather sank than raised his comfort; and afterwards,
for he found himself still impelled to seek her again,
she had absolutely pained him by her manner of speaking of the
profession to which he was now on the point of belonging.
They had talked, and they had been silent; he had reasoned,
she had ridiculed; and they had parted at last with
mutual vexation. Fanny, not able to refrain entirely from
observing them, had seen enough to be tolerably satisfied.
It was barbarous to be happy when Edmund was suffering.
Yet some happiness must and would arise from the very
conviction that he did suffer.

When her two dances with him were over, her inclination
and strength for more were pretty well at an end;
and Sir Thomas, having seen her walk rather than dance
down the shortening set, breathless, and with her hand at
her side, gave his orders for her sitting down entirely.
From that time Mr. Crawford sat down likewise.

"Poor Fanny!" cried William, coming for a moment to visit her,
and working away his partner's fan as if for life, "how soon
she is knocked up! Why, the sport is but just begun.
I hope we shall keep it up these two hours. How can you
be tired so soon?"

"So soon! my good friend," said Sir Thomas, producing his
watch with all necessary caution; "it is three o'clock,
and your sister is not used to these sort of hours."

"Well, then, Fanny, you shall not get up to-morrow before
I go. Sleep as long as you can, and never mind me."

"Oh! William."

"What! Did she think of being up before you set off?"

"Oh! yes, sir," cried Fanny, rising eagerly from her seat
to be nearer her uncle; "I must get up and breakfast with him.
It will be the last time, you know; the last morning."

"You had better not. He is to have breakfasted and be
gone by half-past nine. Mr. Crawford, I think you call
for him at half-past nine?"

Fanny was too urgent, however, and had too many tears in her
eyes for denial; and it ended in a gracious "Well, well!"
which was permission.

"Yes, half-past nine," said Crawford to William as the
latter was leaving them, "and I shall be punctual,
for there will be no kind sister to get up for _me_."
And in a lower tone to Fanny, "I shall have only a desolate
house to hurry from. Your brother will find my ideas
of time and his own very different to-morrow."

After a short consideration, Sir Thomas asked Crawford
to join the early breakfast party in that house
instead of eating alone: he should himself be of it;
and the readiness with which his invitation was accepted
convinced him that the suspicions whence, he must confess
to himself, this very ball had in great measure sprung,
were well founded. Mr. Crawford was in love with Fanny.
He had a pleasing anticipation of what would be. His niece,
meanwhile, did not thank him for what he had just done.
She had hoped to have William all to herself the last morning.
It would have been an unspeakable indulgence. But though
her wishes were overthrown, there was no spirit of murmuring
within her. On the contrary, she was so totally unused
to have her pleasure consulted, or to have anything take
place at all in the way she could desire, that she was more
disposed to wonder and rejoice in having carried her point
so far, than to repine at the counteraction which followed.

Shortly afterward, Sir Thomas was again interfering
a little with her inclination, by advising her to go
immediately to bed. "Advise" was his word, but it
was the advice of absolute power, and she had only
to rise, and, with Mr. Crawford's very cordial adieus,
pass quietly away; stopping at the entrance-door, like
the Lady of Branxholm Hall, "one moment and no more,"
to view the happy scene, and take a last look at the five
or six determined couple who were still hard at work;
and then, creeping slowly up the principal staircase,
pursued by the ceaseless country-dance, feverish with hopes
and fears, soup and negus, sore-footed and fatigued,
restless and agitated, yet feeling, in spite of everything,
that a ball was indeed delightful.

In thus sending her away, Sir Thomas perhaps might not
be thinking merely of her health. It might occur to him
that Mr. Crawford had been sitting by her long enough,
or he might mean to recommend her as a wife by shewing
her persuadableness.


The ball was over, and the breakfast was soon over too;
the last kiss was given, and William was gone.
Mr. Crawford had, as he foretold, been very punctual,
and short and pleasant had been the meal.

After seeing William to the last moment, Fanny walked
back to the breakfast-room with a very saddened heart
to grieve over the melancholy change; and there her uncle
kindly left her to cry in peace, conceiving, perhaps,
that the deserted chair of each young man might exercise
her tender enthusiasm, and that the remaining cold pork
bones and mustard in William's plate might but divide
her feelings with the broken egg-shells in Mr. Crawford's.
She sat and cried _con_ _amore_ as her uncle intended,
but it was _con_ _amore_ fraternal and no other.
William was gone, and she now felt as if she had wasted
half his visit in idle cares and selfish solicitudes
unconnected with him.

Fanny's disposition was such that she could never even think
of her aunt Norris in the meagreness and cheerlessness
of her own small house, without reproaching herself
for some little want of attention to her when they had
been last together; much less could her feelings acquit
her of having done and said and thought everything
by William that was due to him for a whole fortnight.

It was a heavy, melancholy day. Soon after the second
breakfast, Edmund bade them good-bye for a week, and mounted
his horse for Peterborough, and then all were gone.
Nothing remained of last night but remembrances, which she
had nobody to share in. She talked to her aunt Bertram--
she must talk to somebody of the ball; but her aunt had seen
so little of what had passed, and had so little curiosity,
that it was heavy work. Lady Bertram was not certain of
anybody's dress or anybody's place at supper but her own.
"She could not recollect what it was that she had heard
about one of the Miss Maddoxes, or what it was that Lady
Prescott had noticed in Fanny: she was not sure whether
Colonel Harrison had been talking of Mr. Crawford or of
William when he said he was the finest young man in the room--
somebody had whispered something to her; she had forgot
to ask Sir Thomas what it could be." And these were her
longest speeches and clearest communications: the rest
was only a languid "Yes, yes; very well; did you? did he?
I did not see _that_; I should not know one from the other."
This was very bad. It was only better than Mrs. Norris's
sharp answers would have been; but she being gone home
with all the supernumerary jellies to nurse a sick maid,
there was peace and good-humour in their little party,
though it could not boast much beside.

The evening was heavy like the day. "I cannot think
what is the matter with me," said Lady Bertram,
when the tea-things were removed. "I feel quite stupid.
It must be sitting up so late last night. Fanny, you must
do something to keep me awake. I cannot work.
Fetch the cards; I feel so very stupid."

The cards were brought, and Fanny played at cribbage
with her aunt till bedtime; and as Sir Thomas was reading
to himself, no sounds were heard in the room for the next
two hours beyond the reckonings of the game--"And _that_
makes thirty-one; four in hand and eight in crib.
You are to deal, ma'am; shall I deal for you?" Fanny thought
and thought again of the difference which twenty-four hours
had made in that room, and all that part of the house.
Last night it had been hope and smiles, bustle and motion,
noise and brilliancy, in the drawing-room, and out of
the drawing-room, and everywhere. Now it was languor,
and all but solitude.

A good night's rest improved her spirits. She could think
of William the next day more cheerfully; and as the morning
afforded her an opportunity of talking over Thursday night
with Mrs. Grant and Miss Crawford, in a very handsome style,
with all the heightenings of imagination, and all the
laughs of playfulness which are so essential to the shade
of a departed ball, she could afterwards bring her mind
without much effort into its everyday state, and easily
conform to the tranquillity of the present quiet week.

They were indeed a smaller party than she had ever
known there for a whole day together, and _he_ was gone
on whom the comfort and cheerfulness of every family
meeting and every meal chiefly depended. But this must
be learned to be endured. He would soon be always gone;
and she was thankful that she could now sit in the same room
with her uncle, hear his voice, receive his questions,
and even answer them, without such wretched feelings
as she had formerly known.

"We miss our two young men," was Sir Thomas's observation
on both the first and second day, as they formed their
very reduced circle after dinner; and in consideration
of Fanny's swimming eyes, nothing more was said
on the first day than to drink their good health;
but on the second it led to something farther.
William was kindly commended and his promotion hoped for.
"And there is no reason to suppose," added Sir Thomas,
"but that his visits to us may now be tolerably frequent.
As to Edmund, we must learn to do without him.
This will be the last winter of his belonging to us,
as he has done."

"Yes," said Lady Bertram, "but I wish he was not going away.
They are all going away, I think. I wish they would stay
at home."

This wish was levelled principally at Julia, who had
just applied for permission to go to town with Maria;
and as Sir Thomas thought it best for each daughter that the
permission should be granted, Lady Bertram, though in her own
good-nature she would not have prevented it, was lamenting
the change it made in the prospect of Julia's return,
which would otherwise have taken place about this time.
A great deal of good sense followed on Sir Thomas's side,
tending to reconcile his wife to the arrangement.
Everything that a considerate parent _ought_ to feel was
advanced for her use; and everything that an affectionate
mother _must_ feel in promoting her children's enjoyment
was attributed to her nature. Lady Bertram agreed to it
all with a calm "Yes"; and at the end of a quarter of
an hour's silent consideration spontaneously observed,
"Sir Thomas, I have been thinking--and I am very glad we
took Fanny as we did, for now the others are away we feel
the good of it."

Sir Thomas immediately improved this compliment by adding,
"Very true. We shew Fanny what a good girl we think
her by praising her to her face, she is now a very
valuable companion. If we have been kind to _her_,
she is now quite as necessary to _us_."

"Yes," said Lady Bertram presently; "and it is a comfort
to think that we shall always have _her_."

Sir Thomas paused, half smiled, glanced at his niece,
and then gravely replied, "She will never leave us, I hope,
till invited to some other home that may reasonably promise
her greater happiness than she knows here."

"And _that_ is not very likely to be, Sir Thomas.
Who should invite her? Maria might be very glad to see her
at Sotherton now and then, but she would not think of asking
her to live there; and I am sure she is better off here;
and besides, I cannot do without her."

The week which passed so quietly and peaceably at the
great house in Mansfield had a very different character at
the Parsonage. To the young lady, at least, in each family,
it brought very different feelings. What was tranquillity
and comfort to Fanny was tediousness and vexation to Mary.
Something arose from difference of disposition and habit:
one so easily satisfied, the other so unused to endure;
but still more might be imputed to difference
of circumstances. In some points of interest they
were exactly opposed to each other. To Fanny's mind,
Edmund's absence was really, in its cause and its tendency,
a relief. To Mary it was every way painful. She felt
the want of his society every day, almost every hour,
and was too much in want of it to derive anything but
irritation from considering the object for which he went.
He could not have devised anything more likely to raise
his consequence than this week's absence, occurring as
it did at the very time of her brother's going away,
of William Price's going too, and completing the sort
of general break-up of a party which had been so animated.
She felt it keenly. They were now a miserable trio,
confined within doors by a series of rain and snow,
with nothing to do and no variety to hope for. Angry as
she was with Edmund for adhering to his own notions,
and acting on them in defiance of her (and she had been
so angry that they had hardly parted friends at the ball),
she could not help thinking of him continually when absent,
dwelling on his merit and affection, and longing again
for the almost daily meetings they lately had. His absence
was unnecessarily long. He should not have planned such
an absence--he should not have left home for a week,
when her own departure from Mansfield was so near.
Then she began to blame herself. She wished she had not
spoken so warmly in their last conversation. She was afraid
she had used some strong, some contemptuous expressions
in speaking of the clergy, and that should not have been.
It was ill-bred; it was wrong. She wished such words unsaid
with all her heart.

Her vexation did not end with the week. All this was bad,
but she had still more to feel when Friday came round
again and brought no Edmund; when Saturday came and still
no Edmund; and when, through the slight communication
with the other family which Sunday produced, she learned
that he had actually written home to defer his return,
having promised to remain some days longer with his friend.

If she had felt impatience and regret before--if she had
been sorry for what she said, and feared its too strong
effect on him--she now felt and feared it all tenfold more.
She had, moreover, to contend with one disagreeable emotion
entirely new to her--jealousy. His friend Mr. Owen had sisters;
he might find them attractive. But, at any rate, his staying
away at a time when, according to all preceding plans,
she was to remove to London, meant something that she could
not bear. Had Henry returned, as he talked of doing,
at the end of three or four days, she should now have
been leaving Mansfield. It became absolutely necessary
for her to get to Fanny and try to learn something more.
She could not live any longer in such solitary wretchedness;
and she made her way to the Park, through difficulties
of walking which she had deemed unconquerable a week before,
for the chance of hearing a little in addition, for the
sake of at least hearing his name.

The first half-hour was lost, for Fanny and Lady Bertram
were together, and unless she had Fanny to herself she could
hope for nothing. But at last Lady Bertram left the room,
and then almost immediately Miss Crawford thus began,
with a voice as well regulated as she could--"And how do
_you_ like your cousin Edmund's staying away so long?
Being the only young person at home, I consider _you_
as the greatest sufferer. You must miss him. Does his
staying longer surprise you?"

"I do not know," said Fanny hesitatingly. "Yes; I had
not particularly expected it."

"Perhaps he will always stay longer than he talks of.
It is the general way all young men do."

"He did not, the only time he went to see Mr. Owen before."

"He finds the house more agreeable _now_. He is a very--
a very pleasing young man himself, and I cannot help
being rather concerned at not seeing him again before I
go to London, as will now undoubtedly be the case.
I am looking for Henry every day, and as soon as he
comes there will be nothing to detain me at Mansfield.
I should like to have seen him once more, I confess.
But you must give my compliments to him. Yes; I think it must
be compliments. Is not there a something wanted, Miss Price,
in our language--a something between compliments and--
and love--to suit the sort of friendly acquaintance we have
had together? So many months' acquaintance! But compliments
may be sufficient here. Was his letter a long one?
Does he give you much account of what he is doing?
Is it Christmas gaieties that he is staying for?"

"I only heard a part of the letter; it was to my uncle;
but I believe it was very short; indeed I am sure it was
but a few lines. All that I heard was that his friend
had pressed him to stay longer, and that he had agreed
to do so. A _few_ days longer, or _some_ days longer;
I am not quite sure which."

"Oh! if he wrote to his father; but I thought it might
have been to Lady Bertram or you. But if he wrote to
his father, no wonder he was concise. Who could write
chat to Sir Thomas? If he had written to you, there would
have been more particulars. You would have heard of
balls and parties. He would have sent you a description
of everything and everybody. How many Miss Owens are there?"

"Three grown up."

"Are they musical?"

"I do not at all know. I never heard."

"That is the first question, you know," said Miss Crawford,
trying to appear gay and unconcerned, "which every
woman who plays herself is sure to ask about another.
But it is very foolish to ask questions about any
young ladies--about any three sisters just grown up;
for one knows, without being told, exactly what they are:
all very accomplished and pleasing, and one very pretty.
There is a beauty in every family; it is a regular thing.
Two play on the pianoforte, and one on the harp;
and all sing, or would sing if they were taught,
or sing all the better for not being taught; or something
like it."

"I know nothing of the Miss Owens," said Fanny calmly.

"You know nothing and you care less, as people say.
Never did tone express indifference plainer. Indeed, how can
one care for those one has never seen? Well, when your
cousin comes back, he will find Mansfield very quiet;
all the noisy ones gone, your brother and mine and myself
I do not like the idea of leaving Mrs. Grant now the time
draws near. She does not like my going."

Fanny felt obliged to speak. "You cannot doubt your being
missed by many," said she. "You will be very much missed."

Miss Crawford turned her eye on her, as if wanting to hear
or see more, and then laughingly said, "Oh yes! missed
as every noisy evil is missed when it is taken away;
that is, there is a great difference felt. But I am
not fishing; don't compliment me. If I _am_ missed,
it will appear. I may be discovered by those who want
to see me. I shall not be in any doubtful, or distant,
or unapproachable region."

Now Fanny could not bring herself to speak, and Miss
Crawford was disappointed; for she had hoped to hear
some pleasant assurance of her power from one who she
thought must know, and her spirits were clouded again.

"The Miss Owens," said she, soon afterwards; "suppose you
were to have one of the Miss Owens settled at Thornton Lacey;
how should you like it? Stranger things have happened.
I dare say they are trying for it. And they are quite
in the light, for it would be a very pretty establishment
for them. I do not at all wonder or blame them. It is
everybody's duty to do as well for themselves as they can.
Sir Thomas Bertram's son is somebody; and now he is in their
own line. Their father is a clergyman, and their brother
is a clergyman, and they are all clergymen together.
He is their lawful property; he fairly belongs to them.
You don't speak, Fanny; Miss Price, you don't speak.
But honestly now, do not you rather expect it than otherwise?"

"No," said Fanny stoutly, "I do not expect it at all."

"Not at all!" cried Miss Crawford with alacrity.
"I wonder at that. But I dare say you know exactly--
I always imagine you are--perhaps you do not think him
likely to marry at all--or not at present."

"No, I do not," said Fanny softly, hoping she did not err
either in the belief or the acknowledgment of it.

Her companion looked at her keenly; and gathering greater
spirit from the blush soon produced from such a look,
only said, "He is best off as he is," and turned the subject.


Miss Crawford's uneasiness was much lightened by
this conversation, and she walked home again in spirits
which might have defied almost another week of the same
small party in the same bad weather, had they been put
to the proof; but as that very evening brought her brother
down from London again in quite, or more than quite,
his usual cheerfulness, she had nothing farther to try
her own. His still refusing to tell her what he had gone
for was but the promotion of gaiety; a day before it
might have irritated, but now it was a pleasant joke--
suspected only of concealing something planned as a pleasant
surprise to herself. And the next day _did_ bring a
surprise to her. Henry had said he should just go and ask
the Bertrams how they did, and be back in ten minutes,
but he was gone above an hour; and when his sister,
who had been waiting for him to walk with her in the garden,
met him at last most impatiently in the sweep, and cried out,
"My dear Henry, where can you have been all this time?"
he had only to say that he had been sitting with Lady
Bertram and Fanny.

"Sitting with them an hour and a half!" exclaimed Mary.

But this was only the beginning of her surprise.

"Yes, Mary," said he, drawing her arm within his,
and walking along the sweep as if not knowing where he was:
"I could not get away sooner; Fanny looked so lovely!
I am quite determined, Mary. My mind is entirely made up.
Will it astonish you? No: you must be aware that I am quite
determined to marry Fanny Price."

The surprise was now complete; for, in spite of whatever
his consciousness might suggest, a suspicion of his having
any such views had never entered his sister's imagination;
and she looked so truly the astonishment she felt, that he
was obliged to repeat what he had said, and more fully
and more solemnly. The conviction of his determination
once admitted, it was not unwelcome. There was even
pleasure with the surprise. Mary was in a state of mind
to rejoice in a connexion with the Bertram family,
and to be not displeased with her brother's marrying
a little beneath him.

"Yes, Mary," was Henry's concluding assurance. "I am
fairly caught. You know with what idle designs I began;
but this is the end of them. I have, I flatter myself,
made no inconsiderable progress in her affections;
but my own are entirely fixed."

"Lucky, lucky girl!" cried Mary, as soon as she could speak;
"what a match for her! My dearest Henry, this must
be my _first_ feeling; but my _second_, which you shall
have as sincerely, is, that I approve your choice from
my soul, and foresee your happiness as heartily as I
wish and desire it. You will have a sweet little wife;
all gratitude and devotion. Exactly what you deserve.
What an amazing match for her! Mrs. Norris often talks
of her luck; what will she say now? The delight of all
the family, indeed! And she has some _true_ friends in it!
How _they_ will rejoice! But tell me all about it!
Talk to me for ever. When did you begin to think seriously
about her?"

Nothing could be more impossible than to answer such
a question, though nothing could be more agreeable than
to have it asked. "How the pleasing plague had stolen
on him" he could not say; and before he had expressed
the same sentiment with a little variation of words
three times over, his sister eagerly interrupted him with,
"Ah, my dear Henry, and this is what took you to London!
This was your business! You chose to consult the Admiral
before you made up your mind."

But this he stoutly denied. He knew his uncle too well
to consult him on any matrimonial scheme. The Admiral
hated marriage, and thought it never pardonable in a young
man of independent fortune.

"When Fanny is known to him," continued Henry, "he will doat
on her. She is exactly the woman to do away every prejudice
of such a man as the Admiral, for she he would describe,
if indeed he has now delicacy of language enough to embody
his own ideas. But till it is absolutely settled--
settled beyond all interference, he shall know nothing
of the matter. No, Mary, you are quite mistaken.
You have not discovered my business yet."

"Well, well, I am satisfied. I know now to whom
it must relate, and am in no hurry for the rest.
Fanny Price! wonderful, quite wonderful! That Mansfield
should have done so much for--that _you_ should have
found your fate in Mansfield! But you are quite right;
you could not have chosen better. There is not a better
girl in the world, and you do not want for fortune;
and as to her connexions, they are more than good.
The Bertrams are undoubtedly some of the first people
in this country. She is niece to Sir Thomas Bertram;
that will be enough for the world. But go on, go on.
Tell me more. What are your plans? Does she know her
own happiness?"


"What are you waiting for?"

"For--for very little more than opportunity. Mary, she is
not like her cousins; but I think I shall not ask in vain."

"Oh no! you cannot. Were you even less pleasing--
supposing her not to love you already (of which,
however, I can have little doubt)--you would be safe.
The gentleness and gratitude of her disposition would
secure her all your own immediately. From my soul I do
not think she would marry you _without_ love; that is,
if there is a girl in the world capable of being uninfluenced
by ambition, I can suppose it her; but ask her to love you,
and she will never have the heart to refuse."

As soon as her eagerness could rest in silence,
he was as happy to tell as she could be to listen;
and a conversation followed almost as deeply interesting
to her as to himself, though he had in fact nothing
to relate but his own sensations, nothing to dwell on
but Fanny's charms. Fanny's beauty of face and figure,
Fanny's graces of manner and goodness of heart, were the
exhaustless theme. The gentleness, modesty, and sweetness
of her character were warmly expatiated on; that sweetness
which makes so essential a part of every woman's worth
in the judgment of man, that though he sometimes loves
where it is not, he can never believe it absent.
Her temper he had good reason to depend on and to praise.
He had often seen it tried. Was there one of the family,
excepting Edmund, who had not in some way or other
continually exercised her patience and forbearance?
Her affections were evidently strong. To see her with
her brother! What could more delightfully prove that
the warmth of her heart was equal to its gentleness?
What could be more encouraging to a man who had her love
in view? Then, her understanding was beyond every suspicion,
quick and clear; and her manners were the mirror of
her own modest and elegant mind. Nor was this all.
Henry Crawford had too much sense not to feel the worth of good
principles in a wife, though he was too little accustomed
to serious reflection to know them by their proper name;
but when he talked of her having such a steadiness
and regularity of conduct, such a high notion of honour,
and such an observance of decorum as might warrant any man
in the fullest dependence on her faith and integrity,
he expressed what was inspired by the knowledge of her
being well principled and religious.

"I could so wholly and absolutely confide in her," said he;
"and _that_ is what I want."

Well might his sister, believing as she really did that his
opinion of Fanny Price was scarcely beyond her merits,
rejoice in her prospects.

"The more I think of it," she cried, "the more am I convinced
that you are doing quite right; and though I should never have
selected Fanny Price as the girl most likely to attach you,
I am now persuaded she is the very one to make you happy.
Your wicked project upon her peace turns out a clever
thought indeed. You will both find your good in it."

"It was bad, very bad in me against such a creature;
but I did not know her then; and she shall have no reason
to lament the hour that first put it into my head.
I will make her very happy, Mary; happier than she has ever
yet been herself, or ever seen anybody else. I will not
take her from Northamptonshire. I shall let Everingham,
and rent a place in this neighbourhood; perhaps Stanwix Lodge.
I shall let a seven years' lease of Everingham.
I am sure of an excellent tenant at half a word.
I could name three people now, who would give me my own
terms and thank me."

"Ha!" cried Mary; "settle in Northamptonshire!
That is pleasant! Then we shall be all together."

When she had spoken it, she recollected herself,
and wished it unsaid; but there was no need of confusion;
for her brother saw her only as the supposed inmate
of Mansfield parsonage, and replied but to invite her
in the kindest manner to his own house, and to claim
the best right in her.

"You must give us more than half your time," said he.
"I cannot admit Mrs. Grant to have an equal claim with
Fanny and myself, for we shall both have a right in you.
Fanny will be so truly your sister!"

Mary had only to be grateful and give general assurances;
but she was now very fully purposed to be the guest of
neither brother nor sister many months longer.

"You will divide your year between London and Northamptonshire?"


"That's right; and in London, of course, a house of
your own: no longer with the Admiral. My dearest Henry,
the advantage to you of getting away from the Admiral
before your manners are hurt by the contagion of his,
before you have contracted any of his foolish opinions,
or learned to sit over your dinner as if it were the best
blessing of life! _You_ are not sensible of the gain,
for your regard for him has blinded you; but, in my estimation,
your marrying early may be the saving of you. To have seen
you grow like the Admiral in word or deed, look or gesture,
would have broken my heart."

"Well, well, we do not think quite alike here.
The Admiral has his faults, but he is a very good man,
and has been more than a father to me. Few fathers would
have let me have my own way half so much. You must
not prejudice Fanny against him. I must have them love
one another."

Mary refrained from saying what she felt, that there could
not be two persons in existence whose characters and manners
were less accordant: time would discover it to him;
but she could not help _this_ reflection on the Admiral.
"Henry, I think so highly of Fanny Price, that if I could
suppose the next Mrs. Crawford would have half the reason
which my poor ill-used aunt had to abhor the very name,
I would prevent the marriage, if possible; but I know you:
I know that a wife you _loved_ would be the happiest
of women, and that even when you ceased to love, she would
yet find in you the liberality and good-breeding of
a gentleman."

The impossibility of not doing everything in the world to
make Fanny Price happy, or of ceasing to love Fanny Price,
was of course the groundwork of his eloquent answer.

"Had you seen her this morning, Mary," he continued,
"attending with such ineffable sweetness and patience to
all the demands of her aunt's stupidity, working with her,
and for her, her colour beautifully heightened as she
leant over the work, then returning to her seat to finish
a note which she was previously engaged in writing
for that stupid woman's service, and all this with such
unpretending gentleness, so much as if it were a matter
of course that she was not to have a moment at her
own command, her hair arranged as neatly as it always is,
and one little curl falling forward as she wrote, which she
now and then shook back, and in the midst of all this,
still speaking at intervals to _me_, or listening,
and as if she liked to listen, to what I said.
Had you seen her so, Mary, you would not have implied
the possibility of her power over my heart ever ceasing."

"My dearest Henry," cried Mary, stopping short, and smiling
in his face, "how glad I am to see you so much in love!
It quite delights me. But what will Mrs. Rushworth and
Julia say?"

"I care neither what they say nor what they feel.
They will now see what sort of woman it is that can attach me,
that can attach a man of sense. I wish the discovery
may do them any good. And they will now see their cousin
treated as she ought to be, and I wish they may be heartily
ashamed of their own abominable neglect and unkindness.
They will be angry," he added, after a moment's silence,
and in a cooler tone; "Mrs. Rushworth will be very angry.
It will be a bitter pill to her; that is, like other
bitter pills, it will have two moments' ill flavour, and then
be swallowed and forgotten; for I am not such a coxcomb
as to suppose her feelings more lasting than other women's,
though _I_ was the object of them. Yes, Mary, my Fanny
will feel a difference indeed: a daily, hourly difference,
in the behaviour of every being who approaches her;
and it will be the completion of my happiness to know
that I am the doer of it, that I am the person to give
the consequence so justly her due. Now she is dependent,
helpless, friendless, neglected, forgotten."

"Nay, Henry, not by all; not forgotten by all; not friendless
or forgotten. Her cousin Edmund never forgets her."

"Edmund! True, I believe he is, generally speaking,
kind to her, and so is Sir Thomas in his way; but it is
the way of a rich, superior, long-worded, arbitrary uncle.
What can Sir Thomas and Edmund together do, what do they
_do_ for her happiness, comfort, honour, and dignity in
the world, to what I _shall_ do?"


Henry Crawford was at Mansfield Park again the next morning,
and at an earlier hour than common visiting warrants.
The two ladies were together in the breakfast-room, and,
fortunately for him, Lady Bertram was on the very point
of quitting it as he entered. She was almost at the door,
and not chusing by any means to take so much trouble in vain,
she still went on, after a civil reception, a short sentence
about being waited for, and a "Let Sir Thomas know"
to the servant.

Henry, overjoyed to have her go, bowed and watched her off,
and without losing another moment, turned instantly to Fanny,
and, taking out some letters, said, with a most animated look,
"I must acknowledge myself infinitely obliged to any creature
who gives me such an opportunity of seeing you alone:
I have been wishing it more than you can have any idea.
Knowing as I do what your feelings as a sister are, I could
hardly have borne that any one in the house should share
with you in the first knowledge of the news I now bring.
He is made. Your brother is a lieutenant. I have
the infinite satisfaction of congratulating you on your
brother's promotion. Here are the letters which announce it,
this moment come to hand. You will, perhaps, like to see them."

Fanny could not speak, but he did not want her to speak.
To see the expression of her eyes, the change
of her complexion, the progress of her feelings,
their doubt, confusion, and felicity, was enough.
She took the letters as he gave them. The first was
from the Admiral to inform his nephew, in a few words,
of his having succeeded in the object he had undertaken,
the promotion of young Price, and enclosing two more,
one from the Secretary of the First Lord to a friend,
whom the Admiral had set to work in the business,
the other from that friend to himself, by which it
appeared that his lordship had the very great happiness
of attending to the recommendation of Sir Charles;
that Sir Charles was much delighted in having such an
opportunity of proving his regard for Admiral Crawford,
and that the circumstance of Mr. William Price's commission
as Second Lieutenant of H.M. Sloop Thrush being made
out was spreading general joy through a wide circle
of great people.

While her hand was trembling under these letters,
her eye running from one to the other, and her heart
swelling with emotion, Crawford thus continued,
with unfeigned eagerness, to express his interest in the event--

"I will not talk of my own happiness," said he, "great as
it is, for I think only of yours. Compared with you,
who has a right to be happy? I have almost grudged myself
my own prior knowledge of what you ought to have known
before all the world. I have not lost a moment, however.
The post was late this morning, but there has not been
since a moment's delay. How impatient, how anxious,
how wild I have been on the subject, I will not attempt
to describe; how severely mortified, how cruelly disappointed,
in not having it finished while I was in London!
I was kept there from day to day in the hope of it,
for nothing less dear to me than such an object would
have detained me half the time from Mansfield.
But though my uncle entered into my wishes with all the
warmth I could desire, and exerted himself immediately,
there were difficulties from the absence of one friend,
and the engagements of another, which at last I could no longer
bear to stay the end of, and knowing in what good hands I
left the cause, I came away on Monday, trusting that many
posts would not pass before I should be followed by such
very letters as these. My uncle, who is the very best man
in the world, has exerted himself, as I knew he would,
after seeing your brother. He was delighted with him.
I would not allow myself yesterday to say how delighted,
or to repeat half that the Admiral said in his praise.
I deferred it all till his praise should be proved
the praise of a friend, as this day _does_ prove it.
_Now_ I may say that even I could not require William
Price to excite a greater interest, or be followed
by warmer wishes and higher commendation, than were most
voluntarily bestowed by my uncle after the evening they had
passed together."

"Has this been all _your_ doing, then?" cried Fanny.
"Good heaven! how very, very kind! Have you really--
was it by _your_ desire? I beg your pardon, but I
am bewildered. Did Admiral Crawford apply? How was it?
I am stupefied."

Henry was most happy to make it more intelligible,
by beginning at an earlier stage, and explaining very
particularly what he had done. His last journey to London
had been undertaken with no other view than that of
introducing her brother in Hill Street, and prevailing
on the Admiral to exert whatever interest he might
have for getting him on. This had been his business.
He had communicated it to no creature: he had not
breathed a syllable of it even to Mary; while uncertain
of the issue, he could not have borne any participation
of his feelings, but this had been his business; and he
spoke with such a glow of what his solicitude had been,
and used such strong expressions, was so abounding
in the _deepest_ _interest_, in _twofold_ _motives_,
in _views_ _and_ _wishes_ _more_ _than_ _could_ _be_ _told_,
that Fanny could not have remained insensible of his drift,
had she been able to attend; but her heart was so full
and her senses still so astonished, that she could listen
but imperfectly even to what he told her of William,
and saying only when he paused, "How kind! how very kind!
Oh, Mr. Crawford, we are infinitely obliged to you!
Dearest, dearest William!" She jumped up and moved in haste
towards the door, crying out, "I will go to my uncle.
My uncle ought to know it as soon as possible." But this
could not be suffered. The opportunity was too fair,
and his feelings too impatient. He was after her immediately.
"She must not go, she must allow him five minutes longer,"
and he took her hand and led her back to her seat,
and was in the middle of his farther explanation,
before she had suspected for what she was detained.
When she did understand it, however, and found herself
expected to believe that she had created sensations which
his heart had never known before, and that everything
he had done for William was to be placed to the account
of his excessive and unequalled attachment to her,
she was exceedingly distressed, and for some moments
unable to speak. She considered it all as nonsense,
as mere trifling and gallantry, which meant only to deceive
for the hour; she could not but feel that it was treating
her improperly and unworthily, and in such a way as she
had not deserved; but it was like himself, and entirely
of a piece with what she had seen before; and she would
not allow herself to shew half the displeasure she felt,
because he had been conferring an obligation, which no
want of delicacy on his part could make a trifle to her.
While her heart was still bounding with joy and gratitude
on William's behalf, she could not be severely resentful
of anything that injured only herself; and after having
twice drawn back her hand, and twice attempted in vain
to turn away from him, she got up, and said only,
with much agitation, "Don't, Mr. Crawford, pray don't! I
beg you would not. This is a sort of talking which is very
unpleasant to me. I must go away. I cannot bear it."
But he was still talking on, describing his affection,
soliciting a return, and, finally, in words so plain
as to bear but one meaning even to her, offering himself,
hand, fortune, everything, to her acceptance. It was so;
he had said it. Her astonishment and confusion increased;
and though still not knowing how to suppose him serious,
she could hardly stand. He pressed for an answer.

"No, no, no!" she cried, hiding her face. "This is all nonsense.
Do not distress me. I can hear no more of this.
Your kindness to William makes me more obliged to you
than words can express; but I do not want, I cannot bear,
I must not listen to such--No, no, don't think of me.
But you are _not_ thinking of me. I know it is all nothing."

She had burst away from him, and at that moment Sir Thomas
was heard speaking to a servant in his way towards the room
they were in. It was no time for farther assurances
or entreaty, though to part with her at a moment when her
modesty alone seemed, to his sanguine and preassured mind,
to stand in the way of the happiness he sought, was a
cruel necessity. She rushed out at an opposite door
from the one her uncle was approaching, and was walking
up and down the East room ill the utmost confusion
of contrary feeling, before Sir Thomas's politeness
or apologies were over, or he had reached the beginning
of the joyful intelligence which his visitor came to communicate.

She was feeling, thinking, trembling about everything;
agitated, happy, miserable, infinitely obliged,
absolutely angry. It was all beyond belief!
He was inexcusable, incomprehensible! But such were
his habits that he could do nothing without a mixture
of evil. He had previously made her the happiest
of human beings, and now he had insulted--she knew
not what to say, how to class, or how to regard it.
She would not have him be serious, and yet what could
excuse the use of such words and offers, if they meant but to

But William was a lieutenant. _That_ was a fact beyond
a doubt, and without an alloy. She would think of it
for ever and forget all the rest. Mr. Crawford would
certainly never address her so again: he must have
seen how unwelcome it was to her; and in that case,
how gratefully she could esteem him for his friendship
to William!

She would not stir farther from the East room than
the head of the great staircase, till she had satisfied
herself of Mr. Crawford's having left the house;
but when convinced of his being gone, she was eager to go
down and be with her uncle, and have all the happiness
of his joy as well as her own, and all the benefit
of his information or his conjectures as to what would
now be William's destination. Sir Thomas was as joyful
as she could desire, and very kind and communicative;
and she had so comfortable a talk with him about William
as to make her feel as if nothing had occurred to vex her,
till she found, towards the close, that Mr. Crawford
was engaged to return and dine there that very day.
This was a most unwelcome hearing, for though he might
think nothing of what had passed, it would be quite
distressing to her to see him again so soon.

She tried to get the better of it; tried very hard,
as the dinner hour approached, to feel and appear as usual;
but it was quite impossible for her not to look most shy
and uncomfortable when their visitor entered the room.
She could not have supposed it in the power of any concurrence
of circumstances to give her so many painful sensations on
the first day of hearing of William's promotion.

Mr. Crawford was not only in the room--he was soon close
to her. He had a note to deliver from his sister.
Fanny could not look at him, but there was no consciousness
of past folly in his voice. She opened her note immediately,
glad to have anything to do, and happy, as she read it,
to feel that the fidgetings of her aunt Norris, who was
also to dine there, screened her a little from view.

"My dear Fanny,--for so I may now always call you,
to the infinite relief of a tongue that has been stumbling
at _Miss_ _Price_ for at least the last six weeks--
I cannot let my brother go without sending you a few lines
of general congratulation, and giving my most joyful consent
and approval. Go on, my dear Fanny, and without fear;
there can be no difficulties worth naming. I chuse to
suppose that the assurance of my consent will be something;
so you may smile upon him with your sweetest smiles
this afternoon, and send him back to me even happier
than he goes.--Yours affectionately, M. C."

These were not expressions to do Fanny any good;
for though she read in too much haste and confusion
to form the clearest judgment of Miss Crawford's meaning,
it was evident that she meant to compliment her on her
brother's attachment, and even to _appear_ to believe
it serious. She did not know what to do, or what to think.
There was wretchedness in the idea of its being serious;
there was perplexity and agitation every way.
She was distressed whenever Mr. Crawford spoke to her,
and he spoke to her much too often; and she was afraid
there was a something in his voice and manner in addressing
her very different from what they were when he talked
to the others. Her comfort in that day's dinner
was quite destroyed: she could hardly eat anything;
and when Sir Thomas good-humouredly observed that joy had
taken away her appetite, she was ready to sink with shame,
from the dread of Mr. Crawford's interpretation;
for though nothing could have tempted her to turn her eyes
to the right hand, where he sat, she felt that _his_
were immediately directed towards her.

She was more silent than ever. She would hardly join
even when William was the subject, for his commission
came all from the right hand too, and there was pain
in the connexion.

She thought Lady Bertram sat longer than ever, and began
to be in despair of ever getting away; but at last they
were in the drawing-room, and she was able to think
as she would, while her aunts finished the subject
of William's appointment in their own style.

Mrs. Norris seemed as much delighted with the saving
it would be to Sir Thomas as with any part of it.
"_Now_ William would be able to keep himself, which would
make a vast difference to his uncle, for it was unknown
how much he had cost his uncle; and, indeed, it would make
some difference in _her_ presents too. She was very glad
that she had given William what she did at parting,
very glad, indeed, that it had been in her power,
without material inconvenience, just at that time to give
him something rather considerable; that is, for _her_,
with _her_ limited means, for now it would all be useful
in helping to fit up his cabin. She knew he must be at
some expense, that he would have many things to buy,
though to be sure his father and mother would be able
to put him in the way of getting everything very cheap;
but she was very glad she had contributed her mite
towards it."

"I am glad you gave him something considerable,"
said Lady Bertram, with most unsuspicious calmness,
"for _I_ gave him only 10."

"Indeed!" cried Mrs. Norris, reddening. "Upon my word,
he must have gone off with his pockets well lined,
and at no expense for his journey to London either!"

"Sir Thomas told me 10 would be enough."

Mrs. Norris, being not at all inclined to question
its sufficiency, began to take the matter in another point.

"It is amazing," said she, "how much young people cost
their friends, what with bringing them up and putting them
out in the world! They little think how much it comes to,
or what their parents, or their uncles and aunts, pay for
them in the course of the year. Now, here are my sister
Price's children; take them all together, I dare say nobody
would believe what a sum they cost Sir Thomas every year,
to say nothing of what _I_ do for them."

"Very true, sister, as you say. But, poor things!
they cannot help it; and you know it makes very little
difference to Sir Thomas. Fanny, William must not forget
my shawl if he goes to the East Indies; and I shall give
him a commission for anything else that is worth having.
I wish he may go to the East Indies, that I may have my shawl.
I think I will have two shawls, Fanny."

Fanny, meanwhile, speaking only when she could not help it,
was very earnestly trying to understand what Mr. and Miss
Crawford were at. There was everything in the world
_against_ their being serious but his words and manner.
Everything natural, probable, reasonable, was against it;
all their habits and ways of thinking, and all
her own demerits. How could _she_ have excited
serious attachment in a man who had seen so many,
and been admired by so many, and flirted with so many,
infinitely her superiors; who seemed so little open
to serious impressions, even where pains had been taken
to please him; who thought so slightly, so carelessly,
so unfeelingly on all such points; who was everything
to everybody, and seemed to find no one essential to him?
And farther, how could it be supposed that his sister,
with all her high and worldly notions of matrimony,
would be forwarding anything of a serious nature in such
a quarter? Nothing could be more unnatural in either.
Fanny was ashamed of her own doubts. Everything might
be possible rather than serious attachment, or serious
approbation of it toward her. She had quite convinced herself
of this before Sir Thomas and Mr. Crawford joined them.
The difficulty was in maintaining the conviction quite
so absolutely after Mr. Crawford was in the room;
for once or twice a look seemed forced on her which she
did not know how to class among the common meaning;
in any other man, at least, she would have said
that it meant something very earnest, very pointed.
But she still tried to believe it no more than what he
might often have expressed towards her cousins and fifty
other women.

She thought he was wishing to speak to her unheard
by the rest. She fancied he was trying for it the
whole evening at intervals, whenever Sir Thomas was
out of the room, or at all engaged with Mrs. Norris,
and she carefully refused him every opportunity.

At last--it seemed an at last to Fanny's nervousness,
though not remarkably late--he began to talk of going away;
but the comfort of the sound was impaired by his turning
to her the next moment, and saying, "Have you nothing to send
to Mary? No answer to her note? She will be disappointed
if she receives nothing from you. Pray write to her,
if it be only a line."

"Oh yes! certainly," cried Fanny, rising in haste,
the haste of embarrassment and of wanting to get away--
"I will write directly."

She went accordingly to the table, where she was in the
habit of writing for her aunt, and prepared her materials
without knowing what in the world to say. She had read
Miss Crawford's note only once, and how to reply to
anything so imperfectly understood was most distressing.
Quite unpractised in such sort of note-writing, had
there been time for scruples and fears as to style she
would have felt them in abundance: but something must
be instantly written; and with only one decided feeling,
that of wishing not to appear to think anything really intended,
she wrote thus, in great trembling both of spirits and hand--

"I am very much obliged to you, my dear Miss Crawford,
for your kind congratulations, as far as they relate to my
dearest William. The rest of your note I know means nothing;
but I am so unequal to anything of the sort, that I hope
you will excuse my begging you to take no farther notice.
I have seen too much of Mr. Crawford not to understand
his manners; if he understood me as well, he would,
I dare say, behave differently. I do not know what I write,
but it would be a great favour of you never to mention
the subject again. With thanks for the honour of your note,
I remain, dear Miss Crawford, etc., etc."

The conclusion was scarcely intelligible from increasing
fright, for she found that Mr. Crawford, under pretence
of receiving the note, was coming towards her.

"You cannot think I mean to hurry you," said he,
in an undervoice, perceiving the amazing trepidation
with which she made up the note, "you cannot think
I have any such object. Do not hurry yourself, I entreat."

"Oh! I thank you; I have quite done, just done; it will

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