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Chapter 18

  • Everything was now in a regular train: theatre, actors, actresses, an_resses, were all getting forward; but though no other great impediment_rose, Fanny found, before many days were past, that it was not al_ninterrupted enjoyment to the party themselves, and that she had not t_itness the continuance of such unanimity and delight as had been almost to_uch for her at first. Everybody began to have their vexation. Edmund ha_any. Entirely against his judgment, a scene-painter arrived from town, an_as at work, much to the increase of the expenses, and, what was worse, of th_clat of their proceedings; and his brother, instead of being really guided b_im as to the privacy of the representation, was giving an invitation to ever_amily who came in his way. Tom himself began to fret over the scene-painter'_low progress, and to feel the miseries of waiting. He had learned hi_art—all his parts, for he took every trifling one that could be united wit_he Butler, and began to be impatient to be acting; and every day thu_nemployed was tending to increase his sense of the insignificance of all hi_arts together, and make him more ready to regret that some other play had no_een chosen.
  • Fanny, being always a very courteous listener, and often the only listener a_and, came in for the complaints and the distresses of most of them. She kne_hat Mr. Yates was in general thought to rant dreadfully; that Mr. Yates wa_isappointed in Henry Crawford; that Tom Bertram spoke so quick he would b_nintelligible; that Mrs. Grant spoiled everything by laughing; that Edmun_as behindhand with his part, and that it was misery to have anything to d_ith Mr. Rushworth, who was wanting a prompter through every speech. She knew,
  • also, that poor Mr. Rushworth could seldom get anybody to rehearse with him:
  • his complaint came before her as well as the rest; and so decided to her ey_as her cousin Maria's avoidance of him, and so needlessly often the rehearsa_f the first scene between her and Mr. Crawford, that she had soon all th_error of other complaints from him. So far from being all satisfied and al_njoying, she found everybody requiring something they had not, and givin_ccasion of discontent to the others. Everybody had a part either too long o_oo short; nobody would attend as they ought; nobody would remember on whic_ide they were to come in; nobody but the complainer would observe an_irections.
  • Fanny believed herself to derive as much innocent enjoyment from the play a_ny of them; Henry Crawford acted well, and it was a pleasure to her to cree_nto the theatre, and attend the rehearsal of the first act, in spite of th_eelings it excited in some speeches for Maria. Maria, she also thought, acte_ell, too well; and after the first rehearsal or two, Fanny began to be thei_nly audience; and sometimes as prompter, sometimes as spectator, was ofte_ery useful. As far as she could judge, Mr. Crawford was considerably the bes_ctor of all: he had more confidence than Edmund, more judgment than Tom, mor_alent and taste than Mr. Yates. She did not like him as a man, but she mus_dmit him to be the best actor, and on this point there were not many wh_iffered from her. Mr. Yates, indeed, exclaimed against his tameness an_nsipidity; and the day came at last, when Mr. Rushworth turned to her with _lack look, and said, "Do you think there is anything so very fine in al_his? For the life and soul of me, I cannot admire him; and, betwee_urselves, to see such an undersized, little, mean-looking man, set up for _ine actor, is very ridiculous in my opinion."
  • From this moment there was a return of his former jealousy, which Maria, fro_ncreasing hopes of Crawford, was at little pains to remove; and the chance_f Mr. Rushworth's ever attaining to the knowledge of his two-and-fort_peeches became much less. As to his ever making anything tolerable of them,
  • nobody had the smallest idea of that except his mother; she, indeed, regrette_hat his part was not more considerable, and deferred coming over to Mansfiel_ill they were forward enough in their rehearsal to comprehend all his scenes;
  • but the others aspired at nothing beyond his remembering the catchword, an_he first line of his speech, and being able to follow the prompter throug_he rest. Fanny, in her pity and kindheartedness, was at great pains to teac_im how to learn, giving him all the helps and directions in her power, tryin_o make an artificial memory for him, and learning every word of his par_erself, but without his being much the forwarder.
  • Many uncomfortable, anxious, apprehensive feelings she certainly had; but wit_ll these, and other claims on her time and attention, she was as far fro_inding herself without employment or utility amongst them, as without _ompanion in uneasiness; quite as far from having no demand on her leisure a_n her compassion. The gloom of her first anticipations was proved to hav_een unfounded. She was occasionally useful to all; she was perhaps as much a_eace as any.
  • There was a great deal of needlework to be done, moreover, in which her hel_as wanted; and that Mrs. Norris thought her quite as well off as the rest,
  • was evident by the manner in which she claimed it—"Come, Fanny," she cried,
  • "these are fine times for you, but you must not be always walking from on_oom to the other, and doing the lookings-on at your ease, in this way; I wan_ou here. I have been slaving myself till I can hardly stand, to contrive Mr.
  • Rushworth's cloak without sending for any more satin; and now I think you ma_ive me your help in putting it together. There are but three seams; you ma_o them in a trice. It would be lucky for me if I had nothing but th_xecutive part to do. You are best off, I can tell you: but if nobody did mor_han you, we should not get on very fast"
  • Fanny took the work very quietly, without attempting any defence; but he_inder aunt Bertram observed on her behalf—
  • "One cannot wonder, sister, that Fanny should be delighted: it is all new t_er, you know; you and I used to be very fond of a play ourselves, and so am _till; and as soon as I am a little more at leisure, I mean to look in a_heir rehearsals too. What is the play about, Fanny? you have never told me."
  • "Oh! sister, pray do not ask her now; for Fanny is not one of those who ca_alk and work at the same time. It is about Lovers' Vows."
  • "I believe," said Fanny to her aunt Bertram, "there will be three act_ehearsed to-morrow evening, and that will give you an opportunity of seein_ll the actors at once."
  • "You had better stay till the curtain is hung," interposed Mrs. Norris; "th_urtain will be hung in a day or two— there is very little sense in a pla_ithout a curtain— and I am much mistaken if you do not find it draw up int_ery handsome festoons."
  • Lady Bertram seemed quite resigned to waiting. Fanny did not share her aunt'_omposure: she thought of the morrow a great deal, for if the three acts wer_ehearsed, Edmund and Miss Crawford would then be acting together for th_irst time; the third act would bring a scene between them which intereste_er most particularly, and which she was longing and dreading to see how the_ould perform. The whole subject of it was love— a marriage of love was to b_escribed by the gentleman, and very little short of a declaration of love b_ade by the lady.
  • She had read and read the scene again with many painful, many wonderin_motions, and looked forward to their representation of it as a circumstanc_lmost too interesting. She did not believe they had yet rehearsed it, even i_rivate.
  • The morrow came, the plan for the evening continued, and Fanny's consideratio_f it did not become less agitated. She worked very diligently under he_unt's directions, but her diligence and her silence concealed a very absent,
  • anxious mind; and about noon she made her escape with her work to the Eas_oom, that she might have no concern in another, and, as she deemed it, mos_nnecessary rehearsal of the first act, which Henry Crawford was jus_roposing, desirous at once of having her time to herself, and of avoiding th_ight of Mr. Rushworth. A glimpse, as she passed through the hall, of the tw_adies walking up from the Parsonage made no change in her wish of retreat,
  • and she worked and meditated in the East room, undisturbed, for a quarter o_n hour, when a gentle tap at the door was followed by the entrance of Mis_rawford.
  • "Am I right? Yes; this is the East room. My dear Miss Price, I beg you_ardon, but I have made my way to you on purpose to entreat your help."
  • Fanny, quite surprised, endeavoured to shew herself mistress of the room b_er civilities, and looked at the bright bars of her empty grate with concern.
  • "Thank you; I am quite warm, very warm. Allow me to stay here a little while,
  • and do have the goodness to hear me my third act. I have brought my book, an_f you would but rehearse it with me, I should be so obliged! I came here to-
  • day intending to rehearse it with Edmund— by ourselves—against the evening,
  • but he is not in the way; and if he were, I do not think I could go through i_ith him, till I have hardened myself a little; for really there is a speec_r two. You will be so good, won't you?"
  • Fanny was most civil in her assurances, though she could not give them in _ery steady voice.
  • "Have you ever happened to look at the part I mean?" continued Miss Crawford,
  • opening her book. "Here it is. I did not think much of it at first—but, upo_y word. There, look at that speech, and that, and that. How am I ever to loo_im in the face and say such things? Could you do it? But then he is you_ousin, which makes all the difference. You must rehearse it with me, that _ay fancy you him, and get on by degrees. You have a look of his sometimes."
  • "Have I? I will do my best with the greatest readiness; but I must read th_art, for I can say very little of it."
  • "None of it, I suppose. You are to have the book, of course. Now for it. W_ust have two chairs at hand for you to bring forward to the front of th_tage. There—very good school-room chairs, not made for a theatre, I dare say;
  • much more fitted for little girls to sit and kick their feet against when the_re learning a lesson. What would your governess and your uncle say to se_hem used for such a purpose? Could Sir Thomas look in upon us just now, h_ould bless himself, for we are rehearsing all over the house. Yates i_torming away in the dining-room. I heard him as I came upstairs, and th_heatre is engaged of course by those indefatigable rehearsers, Agatha an_rederick. If they are not perfect, I shall be surprised. By the bye, I looke_n upon them five minutes ago, and it happened to be exactly at one of th_imes when they were trying not to embrace, and Mr. Rushworth was with me. _hought he began to look a little queer, so I turned it off as well as _ould, by whispering to him, 'We shall have an excellent Agatha; there i_omething so maternal in her manner, so completely maternal in her voice an_ountenance.' Was not that well done of me? He brightened up directly. Now fo_y soliloquy."
  • She began, and Fanny joined in with all the modest feeling which the idea o_epresenting Edmund was so strongly calculated to inspire; but with looks an_oice so truly feminine as to be no very good picture of a man. With such a_nhalt, however, Miss Crawford had courage enough; and they had got throug_alf the scene, when a tap at the door brought a pause, and the entrance o_dmund, the next moment, suspended it all.
  • Surprise, consciousness, and pleasure appeared in each of the three on thi_nexpected meeting; and as Edmund was come on the very same business that ha_rought Miss Crawford, consciousness and pleasure were likely to be more tha_omentary in them. He too had his book, and was seeking Fanny, to ask her t_ehearse with him, and help him to prepare for the evening, without knowin_iss Crawford to be in the house; and great was the joy and animation of bein_hus thrown together, of comparing schemes, and sympathising in praise o_anny's kind offices.
  • She could not equal them in their warmth. Her spirits sank under the glow o_heirs, and she felt herself becoming too nearly nothing to both to have an_omfort in having been sought by either. They must now rehearse together.
  • Edmund proposed, urged, entreated it, till the lady, not very unwilling a_irst, could refuse no longer, and Fanny was wanted only to prompt and observ_hem. She was invested, indeed, with the office of judge and critic, an_arnestly desired to exercise it and tell them all their faults; but fro_oing so every feeling within her shrank—she could not, would not, dared no_ttempt it: had she been otherwise qualified for criticism, her conscienc_ust have restrained her from venturing at disapprobation. She believe_erself to feel too much of it in the aggregate for honesty or safety i_articulars. To prompt them must be enough for her; and it was sometimes mor_han enough; for she could not always pay attention to the book. In watchin_hem she forgot herself; and, agitated by the increasing spirit of Edmund'_anner, had once closed the page and turned away exactly as he wanted help. I_as imputed to very reasonable weariness, and she was thanked and pitied; bu_he deserved their pity more than she hoped they would ever surmise. At las_he scene was over, and Fanny forced herself to add her praise to th_ompliments each was giving the other; and when again alone and able to recal_he whole, she was inclined to believe their performance would, indeed, hav_uch nature and feeling in it as must ensure their credit, and make it a ver_uffering exhibition to herself. Whatever might be its effect, however, sh_ust stand the brunt of it again that very day.
  • The first regular rehearsal of the three first acts was certainly to tak_lace in the evening: Mrs. Grant and the Crawfords were engaged to return fo_hat purpose as soon as they could after dinner; and every one concerned wa_ooking forward with eagerness. There seemed a general diffusion o_heerfulness on the occasion. Tom was enjoying such an advance towards th_nd; Edmund was in spirits from the morning's rehearsal, and little vexation_eemed everywhere smoothed away. All were alert and impatient; the ladie_oved soon, the gentlemen soon followed them, and with the exception of Lad_ertram, Mrs. Norris, and Julia, everybody was in the theatre at an earl_our; and having lighted it up as well as its unfinished state admitted, wer_aiting only the arrival of Mrs. Grant and the Crawfords to begin.
  • They did not wait long for the Crawfords, but there was no Mrs. Grant. Sh_ould not come. Dr. Grant, professing an indisposition, for which he ha_ittle credit with his fair sister-in-law, could not spare his wife.
  • "Dr. Grant is ill," said she, with mock solemnity. "He has been ill ever sinc_e did not eat any of the pheasant today. He fancied it tough, sent away hi_late, and has been suffering ever since".
  • Here was disappointment! Mrs. Grant's non-attendance was sad indeed. He_leasant manners and cheerful conformity made her always valuable amongs_hem; but now she was absolutely necessary. They could not act, they could no_ehearse with any satisfaction without her. The comfort of the whole evenin_as destroyed. What was to be done? Tom, as Cottager, was in despair. After _ause of perplexity, some eyes began to be turned towards Fanny, and a voic_r two to say, "If Miss Price would be so good as to read the part." She wa_mmediately surrounded by supplications; everybody asked it; even Edmund said,
  • "Do, Fanny, if it is not very disagreeable to you."
  • But Fanny still hung back. She could not endure the idea of it. Why was no_iss Crawford to be applied to as well? Or why had not she rather gone to he_wn room, as she had felt to be safest, instead of attending the rehearsal a_ll? She had known it would irritate and distress her; she had known it he_uty to keep away. She was properly punished.
  • "You have only to read the part," said Henry Crawford, with renewed entreaty.
  • "And I do believe she can say every word of it," added Maria, "for she coul_ut Mrs. Grant right the other day in twenty places. Fanny, I am sure you kno_he part."
  • Fanny could not say she did not; and as they all persevered, as Edmun_epeated his wish, and with a look of even fond dependence on her good-nature,
  • she must yield. She would do her best. Everybody was satisfied; and she wa_eft to the tremors of a most palpitating heart, while the others prepared t_egin.
  • They did begin; and being too much engaged in their own noise to be struck b_n unusual noise in the other part of the house, had proceeded some way whe_he door of the room was thrown open, and Julia, appearing at it, with a fac_ll aghast, exclaimed, "My father is come! He is in the hall at this moment."