Edmund's first object the next morning was to see his father alone, and giv_im a fair statement of the whole acting scheme, defending his own share in i_s far only as he could then, in a soberer moment, feel his motives t_eserve, and acknowledging, with perfect ingenuousness, that his concessio_ad been attended with such partial good as to make his judgment in it ver_oubtful. He was anxious, while vindicating himself, to say nothing unkind o_he others: but there was only one amongst them whose conduct he could mentio_ithout some necessity of defence or palliation. "We have all been more o_ess to blame," said he, "every one of us, excepting Fanny. Fanny is the onl_ne who has judged rightly throughout; who has been consistent. Her feeling_ave been steadily against it from first to last. She never ceased to think o_hat was due to you. You will find Fanny everything you could wish."
Sir Thomas saw all the impropriety of such a scheme among such a party, and a_uch a time, as strongly as his son had ever supposed he must; he felt it to_uch, indeed, for many words; and having shaken hands with Edmund, meant t_ry to lose the disagreeable impression, and forget how much he had bee_orgotten himself as soon as he could, after the house had been cleared o_very object enforcing the remembrance, and restored to its proper state. H_id not enter into any remonstrance with his other children: he was mor_illing to believe they felt their error than to run the risk o_nvestigation. The reproof of an immediate conclusion of everything, the swee_f every preparation, would be sufficient.
There was one person, however, in the house, whom he could not leave to lear_is sentiments merely through his conduct. He could not help giving Mrs.
Norris a hint of his having hoped that her advice might have been interpose_o prevent what her judgment must certainly have disapproved. The young peopl_ad been very inconsiderate in forming the plan; they ought to have bee_apable of a better decision themselves; but they were young; and, exceptin_dmund, he believed, of unsteady characters; and with greater surprise,
therefore, he must regard her acquiescence in their wrong measures, he_ountenance of their unsafe amusements, than that such measures and suc_musements should have been suggested. Mrs. Norris was a little confounded an_s nearly being silenced as ever she had been in her life; for she was ashame_o confess having never seen any of the impropriety which was so glaring t_ir Thomas, and would not have admitted that her influence was insufficient—
that she might have talked in vain. Her only resource was to get out of th_ubject as fast as possible, and turn the current of Sir Thomas's ideas into _appier channel. She had a great deal to insinuate in her own praise as t_eneral attention to the interest and comfort of his family, much exertion an_any sacrifices to glance at in the form of hurried walks and sudden removal_rom her own fireside, and many excellent hints of distrust and economy t_ady Bertram and Edmund to detail, whereby a most considerable saving ha_lways arisen, and more than one bad servant been detected. But her chie_trength lay in Sotherton. Her greatest support and glory was in having forme_he connexion with the Rushworths. There she was impregnable. She took t_erself all the credit of bringing Mr. Rushworth's admiration of Maria to an_ffect. "If I had not been active," said she, "and made a point of bein_ntroduced to his mother, and then prevailed on my sister to pay the firs_isit, I am as certain as I sit here that nothing would have come of it; fo_r. Rushworth is the sort of amiable modest young man who wants a great dea_f encouragement, and there were girls enough on the catch for him if we ha_een idle. But I left no stone unturned. I was ready to move heaven and eart_o persuade my sister, and at last I did persuade her. You know the distanc_o Sotherton; it was in the middle of winter, and the roads almost impassable,
but I did persuade her."
"I know how great, how justly great, your influence is with Lady Bertram an_er children, and am the more concerned that it should not have been."
"My dear Sir Thomas, if you had seen the state of the roads that day! _hought we should never have got through them, though we had the four horse_f course; and poor old coachman would attend us, out of his great love an_indness, though he was hardly able to sit the box on account of th_heumatism which I had been doctoring him for ever since Michaelmas. I cure_im at last; but he was very bad all the winter—and this was such a day, _ould not help going to him up in his room before we set off to advise him no_o venture: he was putting on his wig; so I said, 'Coachman, you had muc_etter not go; your Lady and I shall be very safe; you know how steady Stephe_s, and Charles has been upon the leaders so often now, that I am sure ther_s no fear.' But, however, I soon found it would not do; he was bent upo_oing, and as I hate to be worrying and officious, I said no more; but m_eart quite ached for him at every jolt, and when we got into the rough lane_bout Stoke, where, what with frost and snow upon beds of stones, it was wors_han anything you can imagine, I was quite in an agony about him. And then th_oor horses too! To see them straining away! You know how I always feel fo_he horses. And when we got to the bottom of Sandcroft Hill, what do you thin_ did? You will laugh at me; but I got out and walked up. I did indeed. I_ight not be saving them much, but it was something, and I could not bear t_it at my ease and be dragged up at the expense of those noble animals. _aught a dreadful cold, but that I did not regard. My object was accomplishe_n the visit."
"I hope we shall always think the acquaintance worth any trouble that might b_aken to establish it. There is nothing very striking in Mr. Rushworth'_anners, but I was pleased last night with what appeared to be his opinion o_ne subject: his decided preference of a quiet family party to the bustle an_onfusion of acting. He seemed to feel exactly as one could wish."
"Yes, indeed, and the more you know of him the better you will like him. He i_ot a shining character, but he has a thousand good qualities; and is s_isposed to look up to you, that I am quite laughed at about it, for everybod_onsiders it as my doing. 'Upon my word, Mrs. Norris,' said Mrs. Grant th_ther day, 'if Mr. Rushworth were a son of your own, he could not hold Si_homas in greater respect.'"
Sir Thomas gave up the point, foiled by her evasions, disarmed by he_lattery; and was obliged to rest satisfied with the conviction that where th_resent pleasure of those she loved was at stake, her kindness did sometime_verpower her judgment.
It was a busy morning with him. Conversation with any of them occupied but _mall part of it. He had to reinstate himself in all the wonted concerns o_is Mansfield life: to see his steward and his bailiff; to examine an_ompute, and, in the intervals of business, to walk into his stables and hi_ardens, and nearest plantations; but active and methodical, he had not onl_one all this before he resumed his seat as master of the house at dinner, h_ad also set the carpenter to work in pulling down what had been so lately pu_p in the billiard-room, and given the scene-painter his dismissal long enoug_o justify the pleasing belief of his being then at least as far off a_orthampton. The scene-painter was gone, having spoilt only the floor of on_oom, ruined all the coachman's sponges, and made five of the under-servant_dle and dissatisfied; and Sir Thomas was in hopes that another day or tw_ould suffice to wipe away every outward memento of what had been, even to th_estruction of every unbound copy of Lovers' Vows in the house, for he wa_urning all that met his eye.
Mr. Yates was beginning now to understand Sir Thomas's intentions, though a_ar as ever from understanding their source. He and his friend had been ou_ith their guns the chief of the morning, and Tom had taken the opportunity o_xplaining, with proper apologies for his father's particularity, what was t_e expected. Mr. Yates felt it as acutely as might be supposed. To be a secon_ime disappointed in the same way was an instance of very severe ill-luck; an_is indignation was such, that had it not been for delicacy towards hi_riend, and his friend's youngest sister, he believed he should certainl_ttack the baronet on the absurdity of his proceedings, and argue him into _ittle more rationality. He believed this very stoutly while he was i_ansfield Wood, and all the way home; but there was a something in Sir Thomas,
when they sat round the same table, which made Mr. Yates think it wiser to le_im pursue his own way, and feel the folly of it without opposition. He ha_nown many disagreeable fathers before, and often been struck with th_nconveniences they occasioned, but never, in the whole course of his life,
had he seen one of that class so unintelligibly moral, so infamousl_yrannical as Sir Thomas. He was not a man to be endured but for hi_hildren's sake, and he might be thankful to his fair daughter Julia that Mr.
Yates did yet mean to stay a few days longer under his roof.
The evening passed with external smoothness, though almost every mind wa_uffled; and the music which Sir Thomas called for from his daughters helpe_o conceal the want of real harmony. Maria was in a good deal of agitation. I_as of the utmost consequence to her that Crawford should now lose no time i_eclaring himself, and she was disturbed that even a day should be gone b_ithout seeming to advance that point. She had been expecting to see him th_hole morning, and all the evening, too, was still expecting him. Mr.
Rushworth had set off early with the great news for Sotherton; and she ha_ondly hoped for such an immediate eclaircissement as might save him th_rouble of ever coming back again. But they had seen no one from th_arsonage, not a creature, and had heard no tidings beyond a friendly note o_ongratulation and inquiry from Mrs. Grant to Lady Bertram. It was the firs_ay for many, many weeks, in which the families had been wholly divided. Four-
and-twenty hours had never passed before, since August began, without bringin_hem together in some way or other. It was a sad, anxious day; and the morrow,
though differing in the sort of evil, did by no means bring less. A fe_oments of feverish enjoyment were followed by hours of acute suffering. Henr_rawford was again in the house: he walked up with Dr. Grant, who was anxiou_o pay his respects to Sir Thomas, and at rather an early hour they wer_shered into the breakfast-room, where were most of the family. Sir Thoma_oon appeared, and Maria saw with delight and agitation the introduction o_he man she loved to her father. Her sensations were indefinable, and so wer_hey a few minutes afterwards upon hearing Henry Crawford, who had a chai_etween herself and Tom, ask the latter in an undervoice whether there wer_ny plans for resuming the play after the present happy interruption (with _ourteous glance at Sir Thomas), because, in that case, he should make a poin_f returning to Mansfield at any time required by the party: he was going awa_mmediately, being to meet his uncle at Bath without delay; but if there wer_ny prospect of a renewal of Lovers' Vows, he should hold himself positivel_ngaged, he should break through every other claim, he should absolutel_ondition with his uncle for attending them whenever he might be wanted. Th_lay should not be lost by his absence.
"From Bath, Norfolk, London, York, wherever I may be," said he; "I will atten_ou from any place in England, at an hour's notice."
It was well at that moment that Tom had to speak, and not his sister. He coul_mmediately say with easy fluency, "I am sorry you are going; but as to ou_lay, that is all over—entirely at an end" (looking significantly at hi_ather). "The painter was sent off yesterday, and very little will remain o_he theatre to-morrow. I knew how that would be from the first. It is earl_or Bath. You will find nobody there."
"It is about my uncle's usual time."
"When do you think of going?"
"I may, perhaps, get as far as Banbury to-day."
"Whose stables do you use at Bath?" was the next question; and while thi_ranch of the subject was under discussion, Maria, who wanted neither prid_or resolution, was preparing to encounter her share of it with tolerabl_almness.
To her he soon turned, repeating much of what he had already said, with only _oftened air and stronger expressions of regret. But what availed hi_xpressions or his air? He was going, and, if not voluntarily going,
voluntarily intending to stay away; for, excepting what might be due to hi_ncle, his engagements were all self-imposed. He might talk of necessity, bu_he knew his independence. The hand which had so pressed hers to his heart!
the hand and the heart were alike motionless and passive now! Her spiri_upported her, but the agony of her mind was severe. She had not long t_ndure what arose from listening to language which his actions contradicted,
or to bury the tumult of her feelings under the restraint of society; fo_eneral civilities soon called his notice from her, and the farewell visit, a_t then became openly acknowledged, was a very short one. He was gone—he ha_ouched her hand for the last time, he had made his parting bow, and she migh_eek directly all that solitude could do for her. Henry Crawford was gone,
gone from the house, and within two hours afterwards from the parish; and s_nded all the hopes his selfish vanity had raised in Maria and Julia Bertram.
Julia could rejoice that he was gone. His presence was beginning to be odiou_o her; and if Maria gained him not, she was now cool enough to dispense wit_ny other revenge. She did not want exposure to be added to desertion. Henr_rawford gone, she could even pity her sister.
With a purer spirit did Fanny rejoice in the intelligence. She heard it a_inner, and felt it a blessing. By all the others it was mentioned wit_egret; and his merits honoured with due gradation of feeling— from th_incerity of Edmund's too partial regard, to the unconcern of his mothe_peaking entirely by rote. Mrs. Norris began to look about her, and wonde_hat his falling in love with Julia had come to nothing; and could almost fea_hat she had been remiss herself in forwarding it; but with so many to car_or, how was it possible for even her activity to keep pace with her wishes?
Another day or two, and Mr. Yates was gone likewise. In his departure Si_homas felt the chief interest: wanting to be alone with his family, th_resence of a stranger superior to Mr. Yates must have been irksome; but o_im, trifling and confident, idle and expensive, it was every way vexatious.
In himself he was wearisome, but as the friend of Tom and the admirer of Juli_e became offensive. Sir Thomas had been quite indifferent to Mr. Crawford'_oing or staying: but his good wishes for Mr. Yates's having a pleasan_ourney, as he walked with him to the hall-door, were given with genuin_atisfaction. Mr. Yates had staid to see the destruction of every theatrica_reparation at Mansfield, the removal of everything appertaining to the play:
he left the house in all the soberness of its general character; and Si_homas hoped, in seeing him out of it, to be rid of the worst object connecte_ith the scheme, and the last that must be inevitably reminding him of it_xistence.
Mrs. Norris contrived to remove one article from his sight that might hav_istressed him. The curtain, over which she had presided with such talent an_uch success, went off with her to her cottage, where she happened to b_articularly in want of green baize.