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Chapter 14

  • Fanny seemed nearer being right than Edmund had supposed. The business o_inding a play that would suit everybody proved to be no trifle; and th_arpenter had received his orders and taken his measurements, had suggeste_nd removed at least two sets of difficulties, and having made the necessit_f an enlargement of plan and expense fully evident, was already at work,
  • while a play was still to seek. Other preparations were also in hand. A_normous roll of green baize had arrived from Northampton, and been cut out b_rs. Norris (with a saving by her good management of full three-quarters of _ard), and was actually forming into a curtain by the housemaids, and stil_he play was wanting; and as two or three days passed away in this manner,
  • Edmund began almost to hope that none might ever be found.
  • There were, in fact, so many things to be attended to, so many people to b_leased, so many best characters required, and, above all, such a need tha_he play should be at once both tragedy and comedy, that there did seem a_ittle chance of a decision as anything pursued by youth and zeal could hol_ut.
  • On the tragic side were the Miss Bertrams, Henry Crawford, and Mr. Yates; o_he comic, Tom Bertram, not quite alone, because it was evident that Mar_rawford's wishes, though politely kept back, inclined the same way: but hi_eterminateness and his power seemed to make allies unnecessary; and,
  • independent of this great irreconcilable difference, they wanted a piec_ontaining very few characters in the whole, but every character first-rate,
  • and three principal women. All the best plays were run over in vain. Neithe_amlet, nor Macbeth, nor Othello, nor Douglas, nor The Gamester, presente_nything that could satisfy even the tragedians; and The Rivals, The Schoo_or Scandal, Wheel of Fortune, Heir at Law, and a long et cetera, wer_uccessively dismissed with yet warmer objections. No piece could be propose_hat did not supply somebody with a difficulty, and on one side or the othe_t was a continual repetition of, "Oh no, that will never do! Let us have n_anting tragedies. Too many characters. Not a tolerable woman's part in th_lay. Anything but that, my dear Tom. It would be impossible to fill it up.
  • One could not expect anybody to take such a part. Nothing but buffoonery fro_eginning to end. That might do, perhaps, but for the low parts. If I mus_ive my opinion, I have always thought it the most insipid play in the Englis_anguage. I do not wish to make objections; I shall be happy to be of any use,
  • but I think we could not chuse worse."
  • Fanny looked on and listened, not unamused to observe the selfishness which,
  • more or less disguised, seemed to govern them all, and wondering how it woul_nd. For her own gratification she could have wished that something might b_cted, for she had never seen even half a play, but everything of highe_onsequence was against it.
  • "This will never do," said Tom Bertram at last. "We are wasting time mos_bominably. Something must be fixed on. No matter what, so that something i_hosen. We must not be so nice. A few characters too many must not frighte_s. We must double them. We must descend a little. If a part is insignificant,
  • the greater our credit in making anything of it. From this moment I make n_ifficulties. I take any part you chuse to give me, so as it be comic. Let i_ut be comic, I condition for nothing more."
  • For about the fifth time he then proposed the Heir at Law, doubting onl_hether to prefer Lord Duberley or Dr. Pangloss for himself; and ver_arnestly, but very unsuccessfully, trying to persuade the others that ther_ere some fine tragic parts in the rest of the dramatis personae.
  • The pause which followed this fruitless effort was ended by the same speaker,
  • who, taking up one of the many volumes of plays that lay on the table, an_urning it over, suddenly exclaimed—"Lovers' Vows! And why should not Lovers'
  • Vows do for us as well as for the Ravenshaws? How came it never to be though_f before? It strikes me as if it would do exactly. What say you all? Here ar_wo capital tragic parts for Yates and Crawford, and here is the rhymin_utler for me, if nobody else wants it; a trifling part, but the sort of thin_ should not dislike, and, as I said before, I am determined to take anythin_nd do my best. And as for the rest, they may be filled up by anybody. It i_nly Count Cassel and Anhalt."
  • The suggestion was generally welcome. Everybody was growing weary o_ndecision, and the first idea with everybody was, that nothing had bee_roposed before so likely to suit them all. Mr. Yates was particularl_leased: he had been sighing and longing to do the Baron at Ecclesford, ha_rudged every rant of Lord Ravenshaw's, and been forced to re-rant it all i_is own room. The storm through Baron Wildenheim was the height of hi_heatrical ambition; and with the advantage of knowing half the scenes b_eart already, he did now, with the greatest alacrity, offer his services fo_he part. To do him justice, however, he did not resolve to appropriate it;
  • for remembering that there was some very good ranting-ground in Frederick, h_rofessed an equal willingness for that. Henry Crawford was ready to tak_ither. Whichever Mr. Yates did not chuse would perfectly satisfy him, and _hort parley of compliment ensued. Miss Bertram, feeling all the interest o_n Agatha in the question, took on her to decide it, by observing to Mr. Yate_hat this was a point in which height and figure ought to be considered, an_hat his being the tallest, seemed to fit him peculiarly for the Baron. Sh_as acknowledged to be quite right, and the two parts being accepte_ccordingly, she was certain of the proper Frederick. Three of the character_ere now cast, besides Mr. Rushworth, who was always answered for by Maria a_illing to do anything; when Julia, meaning, like her sister, to be Agatha,
  • began to be scrupulous on Miss Crawford's account.
  • "This is not behaving well by the absent," said she. "Here are not wome_nough. Amelia and Agatha may do for Maria and me, but here is nothing fo_our sister, Mr. Crawford."
  • Mr. Crawford desired that might not be thought of: he was very sure his siste_ad no wish of acting but as she might be useful, and that she would not allo_erself to be considered in the present case. But this was immediately oppose_y Tom Bertram, who asserted the part of Amelia to be in every respect th_roperty of Miss Crawford, if she would accept it. "It falls as naturally, a_ecessarily to her," said he, "as Agatha does to one or other of my sisters.
  • It can be no sacrifice on their side, for it is highly comic."
  • A short silence followed. Each sister looked anxious; for each felt the bes_laim to Agatha, and was hoping to have it pressed on her by the rest. Henr_rawford, who meanwhile had taken up the play, and with seeming carelessnes_as turning over the first act, soon settled the business.
  • "I must entreat Miss Julia Bertram," said he, "not to engage in the part o_gatha, or it will be the ruin of all my solemnity. You must not, indeed yo_ust not" (turning to her). "I could not stand your countenance dressed up i_oe and paleness. The many laughs we have had together would infallibly com_cross me, and Frederick and his knapsack would be obliged to run away."
  • Pleasantly, courteously, it was spoken; but the manner was lost in the matte_o Julia's feelings. She saw a glance at Maria which confirmed the injury t_erself: it was a scheme, a trick; she was slighted, Maria was preferred; th_mile of triumph which Maria was trying to suppress shewed how well it wa_nderstood; and before Julia could command herself enough to speak, he_rother gave his weight against her too, by saying, "Oh yes! Maria must b_gatha. Maria will be the best Agatha. Though Julia fancies she prefer_ragedy, I would not trust her in it. There is nothing of tragedy about her.
  • She has not the look of it. Her features are not tragic features, and sh_alks too quick, and speaks too quick, and would not keep her countenance. Sh_ad better do the old countrywoman: the Cottager's wife; you had, indeed,
  • Julia. Cottager's wife is a very pretty part, I assure you. The old lad_elieves the high-flown benevolence of her husband with a good deal of spirit.
  • You shall be Cottager's wife."
  • "Cottager's wife!" cried Mr. Yates. "What are you talking of? The mos_rivial, paltry, insignificant part; the merest commonplace; not a tolerabl_peech in the whole. Your sister do that! It is an insult to propose it. A_cclesford the governess was to have done it. We all agreed that it could no_e offered to anybody else. A little more justice, Mr. Manager, if you please.
  • You do not deserve the office, if you cannot appreciate the talents of you_ompany a little better."
  • "Why, as to that, my good friend, till I and my company have really acte_here must be some guesswork; but I mean no disparagement to Julia. We canno_ave two Agathas, and we must have one Cottager's wife; and I am sure I se_er the example of moderation myself in being satisfied with the old Butler.
  • If the part is trifling she will have more credit in making something of it;
  • and if she is so desperately bent against everything humorous, let her tak_ottager's speeches instead of Cottager's wife's, and so change the parts al_hrough; he is solemn and pathetic enough, I am sure. It could make n_ifference in the play, and as for Cottager himself, when he has got hi_ife's speeches, I would undertake him with all my heart."
  • "With all your partiality for Cottager's wife," said Henry Crawford, "it wil_e impossible to make anything of it fit for your sister, and we must no_uffer her good-nature to be imposed on. We must not allow her to accept th_art. She must not be left to her own complaisance. Her talents will be wante_n Amelia. Amelia is a character more difficult to be well represented tha_ven Agatha. I consider Amelia is the most difficult character in the whol_iece. It requires great powers, great nicety, to give her playfulness an_implicity without extravagance. I have seen good actresses fail in the part.
  • Simplicity, indeed, is beyond the reach of almost every actress by profession.
  • It requires a delicacy of feeling which they have not. It requires _entlewoman—a Julia Bertram. You will undertake it, I hope?" turning to he_ith a look of anxious entreaty, which softened her a little; but while sh_esitated what to say, her brother again interposed with Miss Crawford'_etter claim.
  • "No, no, Julia must not be Amelia. It is not at all the part for her. Sh_ould not like it. She would not do well. She is too tall and robust. Ameli_hould be a small, light, girlish, skipping figure. It is fit for Mis_rawford, and Miss Crawford only. She looks the part, and I am persuaded wil_o it admirably."
  • Without attending to this, Henry Crawford continued his supplication. "Yo_ust oblige us," said he, "indeed you must. When you have studied th_haracter, I am sure you will feel it suit you. Tragedy may be your choice,
  • but it will certainly appear that comedy chuses you. You will be to visit m_n prison with a basket of provisions; you will not refuse to visit me i_rison? I think I see you coming in with your basket"
  • The influence of his voice was felt. Julia wavered; but was he only trying t_oothe and pacify her, and make her overlook the previous affront? Sh_istrusted him. The slight had been most determined. He was, perhaps, but a_reacherous play with her. She looked suspiciously at her sister; Maria'_ountenance was to decide it: if she were vexed and alarmed—but Maria looke_ll serenity and satisfaction, and Julia well knew that on this ground Mari_ould not be happy but at her expense. With hasty indignation, therefore, an_ tremulous voice, she said to him, "You do not seem afraid of not keepin_our countenance when I come in with a basket of provisions—though one migh_ave supposed—but it is only as Agatha that I was to be so overpowering!" Sh_topped—Henry Crawford looked rather foolish, and as if he did not know wha_o say. Tom Bertram began again—
  • "Miss Crawford must be Amelia. She will be an excellent Amelia."
  • "Do not be afraid of my wanting the character," cried Julia, with angr_uickness: "I am not to be Agatha, and I am sure I will do nothing else; an_s to Amelia, it is of all parts in the world the most disgusting to me. _uite detest her. An odious, little, pert, unnatural, impudent girl. I hav_lways protested against comedy, and this is comedy in its worst form." And s_aying, she walked hastily out of the room, leaving awkward feelings to mor_han one, but exciting small compassion in any except Fanny, who had been _uiet auditor of the whole, and who could not think of her as under th_gitations of jealousy without great pity.
  • A short silence succeeded her leaving them; but her brother soon returned t_usiness and Lovers' Vows, and was eagerly looking over the play, with Mr.
  • Yates's help, to ascertain what scenery would be necessary—while Maria an_enry Crawford conversed together in an under-voice, and the declaration wit_hich she began of, "I am sure I would give up the part to Julia mos_illingly, but that though I shall probably do it very ill, I feel persuade_he would do it worse," was doubtless receiving all the compliments it calle_or.
  • When this had lasted some time, the division of the party was completed by To_ertram and Mr. Yates walking off together to consult farther in the room no_eginning to be called the Theatre, and Miss Bertram's resolving to go down t_he Parsonage herself with the offer of Amelia to Miss Crawford; and Fann_emained alone.
  • The first use she made of her solitude was to take up the volume which ha_een left on the table, and begin to acquaint herself with the play of whic_he had heard so much. Her curiosity was all awake, and she ran through i_ith an eagerness which was suspended only by intervals of astonishment, tha_t could be chosen in the present instance, that it could be proposed an_ccepted in a private theatre! Agatha and Amelia appeared to her in thei_ifferent ways so totally improper for home representation—the situation o_ne, and the language of the other, so unfit to be expressed by any woman o_odesty, that she could hardly suppose her cousins could be aware of what the_ere engaging in; and longed to have them roused as soon as possible by th_emonstrance which Edmund would certainly make.