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Chapter 16

  • It was not in Miss Crawford's power to talk Fanny into any real forgetfulnes_f what had passed. When the evening was over, she went to bed full of it, he_erves still agitated by the shock of such an attack from her cousin Tom, s_ublic and so persevered in, and her spirits sinking under her aunt's unkin_eflection and reproach. To be called into notice in such a manner, to hea_hat it was but the prelude to something so infinitely worse, to be told tha_he must do what was so impossible as to act; and then to have the charge o_bstinacy and ingratitude follow it, enforced with such a hint at th_ependence of her situation, had been too distressing at the time to make th_emembrance when she was alone much less so, especially with the superadde_read of what the morrow might produce in continuation of the subject. Mis_rawford had protected her only for the time; and if she were applied to agai_mong themselves with all the authoritative urgency that Tom and Maria wer_apable of, and Edmund perhaps away, what should she do? She fell aslee_efore she could answer the question, and found it quite as puzzling when sh_woke the next morning. The little white attic, which had continued he_leeping-room ever since her first entering the family, proving incompetent t_uggest any reply, she had recourse, as soon as she was dressed, to anothe_partment more spacious and more meet for walking about in and thinking, an_f which she had now for some time been almost equally mistress. It had bee_heir school-room; so called till the Miss Bertrams would not allow it to b_alled so any longer, and inhabited as such to a later period. There Miss Le_ad lived, and there they had read and written, and talked and laughed, til_ithin the last three years, when she had quitted them. The room had the_ecome useless, and for some time was quite deserted, except by Fanny, whe_he visited her plants, or wanted one of the books, which she was still gla_o keep there, from the deficiency of space and accommodation in her littl_hamber above: but gradually, as her value for the comforts of it increased,
  • she had added to her possessions, and spent more of her time there; and havin_othing to oppose her, had so naturally and so artlessly worked herself int_t, that it was now generally admitted to be hers. The East room, as it ha_een called ever since Maria Bertram was sixteen, was now considered Fanny's,
  • almost as decidedly as the white attic: the smallness of the one making th_se of the other so evidently reasonable that the Miss Bertrams, with ever_uperiority in their own apartments which their own sense of superiority coul_emand, were entirely approving it; and Mrs. Norris, having stipulated fo_here never being a fire in it on Fanny's account, was tolerably resigned t_er having the use of what nobody else wanted, though the terms in which sh_ometimes spoke of the indulgence seemed to imply that it was the best room i_he house.
  • The aspect was so favourable that even without a fire it was habitable in man_n early spring and late autumn morning to such a willing mind as Fanny's; an_hile there was a gleam of sunshine she hoped not to be driven from i_ntirely, even when winter came. The comfort of it in her hours of leisure wa_xtreme. She could go there after anything unpleasant below, and fin_mmediate consolation in some pursuit, or some train of thought at hand. He_lants, her books— of which she had been a collector from the first hour o_er commanding a shilling—her writing-desk, and her works of charity an_ngenuity, were all within her reach; or if indisposed for employment, i_othing but musing would do, she could scarcely see an object in that roo_hich had not an interesting remembrance connected with it. Everything was _riend, or bore her thoughts to a friend; and though there had been sometime_uch of suffering to her; though her motives had often been misunderstood, he_eelings disregarded, and her comprehension undervalued; though she had know_he pains of tyranny, of ridicule, and neglect, yet almost every recurrence o_ither had led to something consolatory: her aunt Bertram had spoken for her,
  • or Miss Lee had been encouraging, or, what was yet more frequent or more dear,
  • Edmund had been her champion and her friend: he had supported her cause o_xplained her meaning, he had told her not to cry, or had given her some proo_f affection which made her tears delightful; and the whole was now so blende_ogether, so harmonised by distance, that every former affliction had it_harm. The room was most dear to her, and she would not have changed it_urniture for the handsomest in the house, though what had been originall_lain had suffered all the ill-usage of children; and its greatest elegancie_nd ornaments were a faded footstool of Julia's work, too ill done for th_rawing-room, three transparencies, made in a rage for transparencies, for th_hree lower panes of one window, where Tintern Abbey held its station betwee_ cave in Italy and a moonlight lake in Cumberland, a collection of famil_rofiles, thought unworthy of being anywhere else, over the mantelpiece, an_y their side, and pinned against the wall, a small sketch of a ship sent fou_ears ago from the Mediterranean by William, with H.M.S. Antwerp at th_ottom, in letters as tall as the mainmast.
  • To this nest of comforts Fanny now walked down to try its influence on a_gitated, doubting spirit, to see if by looking at Edmund's profile she coul_atch any of his counsel, or by giving air to her geraniums she might inhale _reeze of mental strength herself. But she had more than fears of her ow_erseverance to remove: she had begun to feel undecided as to what she ough_o do; and as she walked round the room her doubts were increasing. Was sh_ight in refusing what was so warmly asked, so strongly wished for—what migh_e so essential to a scheme on which some of those to whom she owed th_reatest complaisance had set their hearts? Was it not ill-nature,
  • selfishness, and a fear of exposing herself? And would Edmund's judgment,
  • would his persuasion of Sir Thomas's disapprobation of the whole, be enough t_ustify her in a determined denial in spite of all the rest? It would be s_orrible to her to act that she was inclined to suspect the truth and purit_f her own scruples; and as she looked around her, the claims of her cousin_o being obliged were strengthened by the sight of present upon present tha_he had received from them. The table between the windows was covered wit_ork-boxes and netting-boxes which had been given her at different times,
  • principally by Tom; and she grew bewildered as to the amount of the debt whic_ll these kind remembrances produced. A tap at the door roused her in th_idst of this attempt to find her way to her duty, and her gentle "Come in"
  • was answered by the appearance of one, before whom all her doubts were wont t_e laid. Her eyes brightened at the sight of Edmund.
  • "Can I speak with you, Fanny, for a few minutes?" said he.
  • "Yes, certainly."
  • "I want to consult. I want your opinion."
  • "My opinion!" she cried, shrinking from such a compliment, highly as i_ratified her.
  • "Yes, your advice and opinion. I do not know what to do. This acting schem_ets worse and worse, you see. They have chosen almost as bad a play as the_ould, and now, to complete the business, are going to ask the help of a youn_an very slightly known to any of us. This is the end of all the privacy an_ropriety which was talked about at first. I know no harm of Charles Maddox;
  • but the excessive intimacy which must spring from his being admitted among u_n this manner is highly objectionable, the more than intimacy—th_amiliarity. I cannot think of it with any patience; and it does appear to m_n evil of such magnitude as must, if possible, be prevented. Do not you se_t in the same light?"
  • "Yes; but what can be done? Your brother is so determined."
  • "There is but one thing to be done, Fanny. I must take Anhalt myself. I a_ell aware that nothing else will quiet Tom."
  • Fanny could not answer him.
  • "It is not at all what I like," he continued. "No man can like being drive_nto the appearance of such inconsistency. After being known to oppose th_cheme from the beginning, there is absurdity in the face of my joining the_ow, when they are exceeding their first plan in every respect; but I ca_hink of no other alternative. Can you, Fanny?"
  • "No," said Fanny slowly, "not immediately, but—"
  • "But what? I see your judgment is not with me. Think it a little over. Perhap_ou are not so much aware as I am of the mischief that may, of th_npleasantness that must arise from a young man's being received in thi_anner: domesticated among us; authorised to come at all hours, and place_uddenly on a footing which must do away all restraints. To think only of th_icence which every rehearsal must tend to create. It is all very bad! Pu_ourself in Miss Crawford's place, Fanny. Consider what it would be to ac_melia with a stranger. She has a right to be felt for, because she evidentl_eels for herself. I heard enough of what she said to you last night t_nderstand her unwillingness to be acting with a stranger; and as she probabl_ngaged in the part with different expectations—perhaps without considerin_he subject enough to know what was likely to be— it would be ungenerous, i_ould be really wrong to expose her to it. Her feelings ought to be respected.
  • Does it not strike you so, Fanny? You hesitate."
  • "I am sorry for Miss Crawford; but I am more sorry to see you drawn in to d_hat you had resolved against, and what you are known to think will b_isagreeable to my uncle. It will be such a triumph to the others!"
  • "They will not have much cause of triumph when they see how infamously I act.
  • But, however, triumph there certainly will be, and I must brave it. But if _an be the means of restraining the publicity of the business, of limiting th_xhibition, of concentrating our folly, I shall be well repaid. As I am now, _ave no influence, I can do nothing: I have offended them, and they will no_ear me; but when I have put them in good-humour by this concession, I am no_ithout hopes of persuading them to confine the representation within a muc_maller circle than they are now in the high road for. This will be a materia_ain. My object is to confine it to Mrs. Rushworth and the Grants. Will no_his be worth gaining?"
  • "Yes, it will be a great point."
  • "But still it has not your approbation. Can you mention any other measure b_hich I have a chance of doing equal good?"
  • "No, I cannot think of anything else."
  • "Give me your approbation, then, Fanny. I am not comfortable without it."
  • "Oh, cousin!"
  • "If you are against me, I ought to distrust myself, and yet—But it i_bsolutely impossible to let Tom go on in this way, riding about the countr_n quest of anybody who can be persuaded to act—no matter whom: the look of _entleman is to be enough. I thought you would have entered more into Mis_rawford's feelings."
  • "No doubt she will be very glad. It must be a great relief to her," sai_anny, trying for greater warmth of manner.
  • "She never appeared more amiable than in her behaviour to you last night. I_ave her a very strong claim on my goodwill."
  • "She was very kind, indeed, and I am glad to have her spared"…
  • She could not finish the generous effusion. Her conscience stopt her in th_iddle, but Edmund was satisfied.
  • "I shall walk down immediately after breakfast," said he, "and am sure o_iving pleasure there. And now, dear Fanny, I will not interrupt you an_onger. You want to be reading. But I could not be easy till I had spoken t_ou, and come to a decision. Sleeping or waking, my head has been full of thi_atter all night. It is an evil, but I am certainly making it less than i_ight be. If Tom is up, I shall go to him directly and get it over, and whe_e meet at breakfast we shall be all in high good-humour at the prospect o_cting the fool together with such unanimity. You, in the meanwhile, will b_aking a trip into China, I suppose. How does Lord Macartney go on?"—opening _olume on the table and then taking up some others. "And here are Crabbe'_ales, and the Idler, at hand to relieve you, if you tire of your great book.
  • I admire your little establishment exceedingly; and as soon as I am gone, yo_ill empty your head of all this nonsense of acting, and sit comfortably dow_o your table. But do not stay here to be cold."
  • He went; but there was no reading, no China, no composure for Fanny. He ha_old her the most extraordinary, the most inconceivable, the most unwelcom_ews; and she could think of nothing else. To be acting! After all hi_bjections—objections so just and so public! After all that she had heard hi_ay, and seen him look, and known him to be feeling. Could it be possible?
  • Edmund so inconsistent! Was he not deceiving himself? Was he not wrong? Alas!
  • it was all Miss Crawford's doing. She had seen her influence in every speech,
  • and was miserable. The doubts and alarms as to her own conduct, which ha_reviously distressed her, and which had all slept while she listened to him,
  • were become of little consequence now. This deeper anxiety swallowed them up.
  • Things should take their course; she cared not how it ended. Her cousins migh_ttack, but could hardly tease her. She was beyond their reach; and if at las_bliged to yield—no matter—it was all misery now.