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Chapter 23

  • "But why should Mrs. Grant ask Fanny?" said Lady Bertram. "How came she t_hink of asking Fanny? Fanny never dines there, you know, in this sort of way.
  • I cannot spare her, and I am sure she does not want to go. Fanny, you do no_ant to go, do you?"
  • "If you put such a question to her," cried Edmund, preventing his cousin'_peaking, "Fanny will immediately say No; but I am sure, my dear mother, sh_ould like to go; and I can see no reason why she should not."
  • "I cannot imagine why Mrs. Grant should think of asking her? She never di_efore. She used to ask your sisters now and then, but she never asked Fanny."
  • "If you cannot do without me, ma'am—" said Fanny, in a self-denying tone.
  • "But my mother will have my father with her all the evening."
  • "To be sure, so I shall."
  • "Suppose you take my father's opinion, ma'am."
  • "That's well thought of. So I will, Edmund. I will ask Sir Thomas, as soon a_e comes in, whether I can do without her."
  • "As you please, ma'am, on that head; but I meant my father's opinion as to th_ropriety of the invitation's being accepted or not; and I think he wil_onsider it a right thing by Mrs. Grant, as well as by Fanny, that being th_irst invitation it should be accepted."
  • "I do not know. We will ask him. But he will be very much surprised that Mrs.
  • Grant should ask Fanny at all."
  • There was nothing more to be said, or that could be said to any purpose, til_ir Thomas were present; but the subject involving, as it did, her ow_vening's comfort for the morrow, was so much uppermost in Lady Bertram'_ind, that half an hour afterwards, on his looking in for a minute in his wa_rom his plantation to his dressing-room, she called him back again, when h_ad almost closed the door, with "Sir Thomas, stop a moment—I have somethin_o say to you."
  • Her tone of calm languor, for she never took the trouble of raising her voice, was always heard and attended to; and Sir Thomas came back. Her story began; and Fanny immediately slipped out of the room; for to hear herself the subjec_f any discussion with her uncle was more than her nerves could bear. She wa_nxious, she knew— more anxious perhaps than she ought to be—for what was i_fter all whether she went or staid? but if her uncle were to be a great whil_onsidering and deciding, and with very grave looks, and those grave look_irected to her, and at last decide against her, she might not be able t_ppear properly submissive and indifferent. Her cause, meanwhile, went o_ell. It began, on Lady Bertram's part, with—"I have something to tell yo_hat will surprise you. Mrs. Grant has asked Fanny to dinner."
  • "Well," said Sir Thomas, as if waiting more to accomplish the surprise.
  • "Edmund wants her to go. But how can I spare her?"
  • "She will be late," said Sir Thomas, taking out his watch; "but what is you_ifficulty?"
  • Edmund found himself obliged to speak and fill up the blanks in his mother'_tory. He told the whole; and she had only to add, "So strange! for Mrs. Gran_ever used to ask her."
  • "But is it not very natural," observed Edmund, "that Mrs. Grant should wish t_rocure so agreeable a visitor for her sister?"
  • "Nothing can be more natural," said Sir Thomas, after a short deliberation;
  • "nor, were there no sister in the case, could anything, in my opinion, be mor_atural. Mrs. Grant's shewing civility to Miss Price, to Lady Bertram's niece, could never want explanation. The only surprise I can feel is, that thi_hould be the first time of its being paid. Fanny was perfectly right i_iving only a conditional answer. She appears to feel as she ought. But as _onclude that she must wish to go, since all young people like to be together, I can see no reason why she should be denied the indulgence."
  • "But can I do without her, Sir Thomas?"
  • "Indeed I think you may."
  • "She always makes tea, you know, when my sister is not here."
  • "Your sister, perhaps, may be prevailed on to spend the day with us, and _hall certainly be at home."
  • "Very well, then, Fanny may go, Edmund."
  • The good news soon followed her. Edmund knocked at her door in his way to hi_wn.
  • "Well, Fanny, it is all happily settled, and without the smallest hesitatio_n your uncle's side. He had but one opinion. You are to go."
  • "Thank you, I am so glad," was Fanny's instinctive reply; though when she ha_urned from him and shut the door, she could not help feeling, "And yet wh_hould I be glad? for am I not certain of seeing or hearing something there t_ain me?"
  • In spite of this conviction, however, she was glad. Simple as such a_ngagement might appear in other eyes, it had novelty and importance in hers, for excepting the day at Sotherton, she had scarcely ever dined out before; and though now going only half a mile, and only to three people, still it wa_ining out, and all the little interests of preparation were enjoyments i_hemselves. She had neither sympathy nor assistance from those who ought t_ave entered into her feelings and directed her taste; for Lady Bertram neve_hought of being useful to anybody, and Mrs. Norris, when she came on th_orrow, in consequence of an early call and invitation from Sir Thomas, was i_ very ill humour, and seemed intent only on lessening her niece's pleasure, both present and future, as much as possible.
  • "Upon my word, Fanny, you are in high luck to meet with such attention an_ndulgence! You ought to be very much obliged to Mrs. Grant for thinking o_ou, and to your aunt for letting you go, and you ought to look upon it a_omething extraordinary; for I hope you are aware that there is no rea_ccasion for your going into company in this sort of way, or ever dining ou_t all; and it is what you must not depend upon ever being repeated. Nor mus_ou be fancying that the invitation is meant as any particular compliment t_ou; the compliment is intended to your uncle and aunt and me. Mrs. Gran_hinks it a civility due to us to take a little notice of you, or else i_ould never have come into her head, and you may be very certain that, if you_ousin Julia had been at home, you would not have been asked at all."
  • Mrs. Norris had now so ingeniously done away all Mrs. Grant's part of th_avour, that Fanny, who found herself expected to speak, could only say tha_he was very much obliged to her aunt Bertram for sparing her, and that sh_as endeavouring to put her aunt's evening work in such a state as to preven_er being missed.
  • "Oh! depend upon it, your aunt can do very well without you, or you would no_e allowed to go. I shall be here, so you may be quite easy about your aunt.
  • And I hope you will have a very agreeable day, and find it all might_elightful. But I must observe that five is the very awkwardest of al_ossible numbers to sit down to table; and I cannot but be surprised that suc_n elegant lady as Mrs. Grant should not contrive better! And round thei_normous great wide table, too, which fills up the room so dreadfully! Had th_octor been contented to take my dining-table when I came away, as anybody i_heir senses would have done, instead of having that absurd new one of hi_wn, which is wider, literally wider than the dinner-table here, ho_nfinitely better it would have been! and how much more he would have bee_espected! for people are never respected when they step out of their prope_phere. Remember that, Fanny. Five—only five to be sitting round that table.
  • However, you will have dinner enough on it for ten, I dare say."
  • Mrs. Norris fetched breath, and went on again.
  • "The nonsense and folly of people's stepping out of their rank and trying t_ppear above themselves, makes me think it right to give you a hint, Fanny, now that you are going into company without any of us; and I do beseech an_ntreat you not to be putting yourself forward, and talking and giving you_pinion as if you were one of your cousins—as if you were dear Mrs. Rushwort_r Julia. That will never do, believe me. Remember, wherever you are, you mus_e the lowest and last; and though Miss Crawford is in a manner at home at th_arsonage, you are not to be taking place of her. And as to coming away a_ight, you are to stay just as long as Edmund chuses. Leave him to settl_hat."
  • "Yes, ma'am, I should not think of anything else."
  • "And if it should rain, which I think exceedingly likely, for I never saw i_ore threatening for a wet evening in my life, you must manage as well as yo_an, and not be expecting the carriage to be sent for you. I certainly do no_o home to-night, and, therefore, the carriage will not be out on my account; so you must make up your mind to what may happen, and take your thing_ccordingly."
  • Her niece thought it perfectly reasonable. She rated her own claims to comfor_s low even as Mrs. Norris could; and when Sir Thomas soon afterwards, jus_pening the door, said, "Fanny, at what time would you have the carriage com_ound?" she felt a degree of astonishment which made it impossible for her t_peak.
  • "My dear Sir Thomas!" cried Mrs. Norris, red with anger, "Fanny can walk."
  • "Walk!" repeated Sir Thomas, in a tone of most unanswerable dignity, an_oming farther into the room. "My niece walk to a dinner engagement at thi_ime of the year! Will twenty minutes after four suit you?"
  • "Yes, sir," was Fanny's humble answer, given with the feelings almost of _riminal towards Mrs. Norris; and not bearing to remain with her in what migh_eem a state of triumph, she followed her uncle out of the room, having stai_ehind him only long enough to hear these words spoken in angry agitation—
  • "Quite unnecessary! a great deal too kind! But Edmund goes; true, it is upo_dmund's account. I observed he was hoarse on Thursday night."
  • But this could not impose on Fanny. She felt that the carriage was fo_erself, and herself alone: and her uncle's consideration of her, comin_mmediately after such representations from her aunt, cost her some tears o_ratitude when she was alone.
  • The coachman drove round to a minute; another minute brought down th_entleman; and as the lady had, with a most scrupulous fear of being late, been many minutes seated in the drawing-room, Sir Thomas saw them off in a_ood time as his own correctly punctual habits required.
  • "Now I must look at you, Fanny," said Edmund, with the kind smile of a_ffectionate brother, "and tell you how I like you; and as well as I can judg_y this light, you look very nicely indeed. What have you got on?"
  • "The new dress that my uncle was so good as to give me on my cousin'_arriage. I hope it is not too fine; but I thought I ought to wear it as soo_s I could, and that I might not have such another opportunity all the winter.
  • I hope you do not think me too fine."
  • "A woman can never be too fine while she is all in white. No, I see no finer_bout you; nothing but what is perfectly proper. Your gown seems very pretty.
  • I like these glossy spots. Has not Miss Crawford a gown something the same?"
  • In approaching the Parsonage they passed close by the stable-yard and coach- house.
  • "Heyday!" said Edmund, "here's company, here's a carriage! who have they go_o meet us?" And letting down the side-glass to distinguish, "'Tis Crawford's, Crawford's barouche, I protest! There are his own two men pushing it back int_ts old quarters. He is here, of course. This is quite a surprise, Fanny. _hall be very glad to see him."
  • There was no occasion, there was no time for Fanny to say how very differentl_he felt; but the idea of having such another to observe her was a grea_ncrease of the trepidation with which she performed the very awful ceremon_f walking into the drawing-room.
  • In the drawing-room Mr. Crawford certainly was, having been just long enoug_rrived to be ready for dinner; and the smiles and pleased looks of the thre_thers standing round him, shewed how welcome was his sudden resolution o_oming to them for a few days on leaving Bath. A very cordial meeting passe_etween him and Edmund; and with the exception of Fanny, the pleasure wa_eneral; and even to her there might be some advantage in his presence, sinc_very addition to the party must rather forward her favourite indulgence o_eing suffered to sit silent and unattended to. She was soon aware of thi_erself; for though she must submit, as her own propriety of mind directed, i_pite of her aunt Norris's opinion, to being the principal lady in company, and to all the little distinctions consequent thereon, she found, while the_ere at table, such a happy flow of conversation prevailing, in which she wa_ot required to take any part—there was so much to be said between the brothe_nd sister about Bath, so much between the two young men about hunting, s_uch of politics between Mr. Crawford and Dr. Grant, and of everything and al_ogether between Mr. Crawford and Mrs. Grant, as to leave her the faires_rospect of having only to listen in quiet, and of passing a very agreeabl_ay. She could not compliment the newly arrived gentleman, however, with an_ppearance of interest, in a scheme for extending his stay at Mansfield, an_ending for his hunters from Norfolk, which, suggested by Dr. Grant, advise_y Edmund, and warmly urged by the two sisters, was soon in possession of hi_ind, and which he seemed to want to be encouraged even by her to resolve on.
  • Her opinion was sought as to the probable continuance of the open weather, bu_er answers were as short and indifferent as civility allowed. She could no_ish him to stay, and would much rather not have him speak to her.
  • Her two absent cousins, especially Maria, were much in her thoughts on seein_im; but no embarrassing remembrance affected his spirits. Here he was agai_n the same ground where all had passed before, and apparently as willing t_tay and be happy without the Miss Bertrams, as if he had never know_ansfield in any other state. She heard them spoken of by him only in _eneral way, till they were all re-assembled in the drawing-room, when Edmund, being engaged apart in some matter of business with Dr. Grant, which seeme_ntirely to engross them, and Mrs. Grant occupied at the tea-table, he bega_alking of them with more particularity to his other sister. With _ignificant smile, which made Fanny quite hate him, he said, "So! Rushwort_nd his fair bride are at Brighton, I understand; happy man!"
  • "Yes, they have been there about a fortnight, Miss Price, have they not? An_ulia is with them."
  • "And Mr. Yates, I presume, is not far off."
  • "Mr. Yates! Oh! we hear nothing of Mr. Yates. I do not imagine he figures muc_n the letters to Mansfield Park; do you, Miss Price? I think my friend Juli_nows better than to entertain her father with Mr. Yates."
  • "Poor Rushworth and his two-and-forty speeches!" continued Crawford. "Nobod_an ever forget them. Poor fellow! I see him now—his toil and his despair.
  • Well, I am much mistaken if his lovely Maria will ever want him to make two- and-forty speeches to her"; adding, with a momentary seriousness, "She is to_ood for him— much too good." And then changing his tone again to one o_entle gallantry, and addressing Fanny, he said, "You were Mr. Rushworth'_est friend. Your kindness and patience can never be forgotten, you_ndefatigable patience in trying to make it possible for him to learn hi_art— in trying to give him a brain which nature had denied— to mix up a_nderstanding for him out of the superfluity of your own! He might not hav_ense enough himself to estimate your kindness, but I may venture to say tha_t had honour from all the rest of the party."
  • Fanny coloured, and said nothing.
  • "It is as a dream, a pleasant dream!" he exclaimed, breaking forth again, after a few minutes' musing. "I shall always look back on our theatricals wit_xquisite pleasure. There was such an interest, such an animation, such _pirit diffused. Everybody felt it. We were all alive. There was employment, hope, solicitude, bustle, for every hour of the day. Always some littl_bjection, some little doubt, some little anxiety to be got over. I never wa_appier."
  • With silent indignation Fanny repeated to herself, "Never happier!—neve_appier than when doing what you must know was not justifiable!—never happie_han when behaving so dishonourably and unfeelingly! Oh! what a corrupte_ind!"
  • "We were unlucky, Miss Price," he continued, in a lower tone, to avoid th_ossibility of being heard by Edmund, and not at all aware of her feelings,
  • "we certainly were very unlucky. Another week, only one other week, would hav_een enough for us. I think if we had had the disposal of events—if Mansfiel_ark had had the government of the winds just for a week or two, about th_quinox, there would have been a difference. Not that we would have endangere_is safety by any tremendous weather— but only by a steady contrary wind, or _alm. I think, Miss Price, we would have indulged ourselves with a week's cal_n the Atlantic at that season."
  • He seemed determined to be answered; and Fanny, averting her face, said, wit_ firmer tone than usual, "As far as I am concerned, sir, I would not hav_elayed his return for a day. My uncle disapproved it all so entirely when h_id arrive, that in my opinion everything had gone quite far enough."
  • She had never spoken so much at once to him in her life before, and never s_ngrily to any one; and when her speech was over, she trembled and blushed a_er own daring. He was surprised; but after a few moments' silen_onsideration of her, replied in a calmer, graver tone, and as if the candi_esult of conviction, "I believe you are right. It was more pleasant tha_rudent. We were getting too noisy." And then turning the conversation, h_ould have engaged her on some other subject, but her answers were so shy an_eluctant that he could not advance in any.
  • Miss Crawford, who had been repeatedly eyeing Dr. Grant and Edmund, no_bserved, "Those gentlemen must have some very interesting point to discuss."
  • "The most interesting in the world," replied her brother— "how to make money; how to turn a good income into a better. Dr. Grant is giving Bertra_nstructions about the living he is to step into so soon. I find he take_rders in a few weeks. They were at it in the dining-parlour. I am glad t_ear Bertram will be so well off. He will have a very pretty income to mak_ucks and drakes with, and earned without much trouble. I apprehend he wil_ot have less than seven hundred a year. Seven hundred a year is a fine thin_or a younger brother; and as of course he will still live at home, it will b_ll for his menus plaisirs; and a sermon at Christmas and Easter, I suppose, will be the sum total of sacrifice."
  • His sister tried to laugh off her feelings by saying, "Nothing amuses me mor_han the easy manner with which everybody settles the abundance of those wh_ave a great deal less than themselves. You would look rather blank, Henry, i_our menus plaisirs were to be limited to seven hundred a year."
  • "Perhaps I might; but all that you know is entirely comparative. Birthrigh_nd habit must settle the business. Bertram is certainly well off for a cade_f even a baronet's family. By the time he is four or five and twenty he wil_ave seven hundred a year, and nothing to do for it."
  • Miss Crawford could have said that there would be a something to do and t_uffer for it, which she could not think lightly of; but she checked hersel_nd let it pass; and tried to look calm and unconcerned when the two gentleme_hortly afterwards joined them.
  • "Bertram," said Henry Crawford, "I shall make a point of coming to Mansfiel_o hear you preach your first sermon. I shall come on purpose to encourage _oung beginner. When is it to be? Miss Price, will not you join me i_ncouraging your cousin? Will not you engage to attend with your eyes steadil_ixed on him the whole time— as I shall do—not to lose a word; or only lookin_ff just to note down any sentence preeminently beautiful? We will provid_urselves with tablets and a pencil. When will it be? You must preach a_ansfield, you know, that Sir Thomas and Lady Bertram may hear you."
  • "I shall keep clear of you, Crawford, as long as I can," said Edmund; "for yo_ould be more likely to disconcert me, and I should be more sorry to see yo_rying at it than almost any other man."
  • "Will he not feel this?" thought Fanny. "No, he can feel nothing as he ought."
  • The party being now all united, and the chief talkers attracting each other, she remained in tranquillity; and as a whist-table was formed after tea—forme_eally for the amusement of Dr. Grant, by his attentive wife, though it wa_ot to be supposed so—and Miss Crawford took her harp, she had nothing to d_ut to listen; and her tranquillity remained undisturbed the rest of th_vening, except when Mr. Crawford now and then addressed to her a question o_bservation, which she could not avoid answering. Miss Crawford was too muc_exed by what had passed to be in a humour for anything but music. With tha_he soothed herself and amused her friend.
  • The assurance of Edmund's being so soon to take orders, coming upon her like _low that had been suspended, and still hoped uncertain and at a distance, wa_elt with resentment and mortification. She was very angry with him. She ha_hought her influence more. She had begun to think of him; she felt that sh_ad, with great regard, with almost decided intentions; but she would now mee_im with his own cool feelings. It was plain that he could have no seriou_iews, no true attachment, by fixing himself in a situation which he must kno_he would never stoop to. She would learn to match him in his indifference.
  • She would henceforth admit his attentions without any idea beyond immediat_musement. If he could so command his affections, hers should do her no harm.