William's desire of seeing Fanny dance made more than a momentary impressio_n his uncle. The hope of an opportunity, which Sir Thomas had then given, wa_ot given to be thought of no more. He remained steadily inclined to gratif_o amiable a feeling; to gratify anybody else who might wish to see Fann_ance, and to give pleasure to the young people in general; and having though_he matter over, and taken his resolution in quiet independence, the result o_t appeared the next morning at breakfast, when, after recalling an_ommending what his nephew had said, he added, "I do not like, William, tha_ou should leave Northamptonshire without this indulgence. It would give m_leasure to see you both dance. You spoke of the balls at Northampton. You_ousins have occasionally attended them; but they would not altogether suit u_ow. The fatigue would be too much for your aunt. I believe we must not thin_f a Northampton ball. A dance at home would be more eligible; and if—"
"Ah, my dear Sir Thomas!" interrupted Mrs. Norris, "I knew what was coming. _new what you were going to say. If dear Julia were at home, or dearest Mrs.
Rushworth at Sotherton, to afford a reason, an occasion for such a thing, yo_ould be tempted to give the young people a dance at Mansfield. I know yo_ould. If they were at home to grace the ball, a ball you would have this ver_hristmas. Thank your uncle, William, thank your uncle!"
"My daughters," replied Sir Thomas, gravely interposing, "have their pleasure_t Brighton, and I hope are very happy; but the dance which I think of givin_t Mansfield will be for their cousins. Could we be all assembled, ou_atisfaction would undoubtedly be more complete, but the absence of some i_ot to debar the others of amusement."
Mrs. Norris had not another word to say. She saw decision in his looks, an_er surprise and vexation required some minutes' silence to be settled int_omposure. A ball at such a time! His daughters absent and herself no_onsulted! There was comfort, however, soon at hand. She must be the doer o_verything: Lady Bertram would of course be spared all thought and exertion,
and it would all fall upon her. She should have to do the honours of th_vening; and this reflection quickly restored so much of her good-humour a_nabled her to join in with the others, before their happiness and thanks wer_ll expressed.
Edmund, William, and Fanny did, in their different ways, look and speak a_uch grateful pleasure in the promised ball as Sir Thomas could desire.
Edmund's feelings were for the other two. His father had never conferred _avour or shewn a kindness more to his satisfaction.
Lady Bertram was perfectly quiescent and contented, and had no objections t_ake. Sir Thomas engaged for its giving her very little trouble; and sh_ssured him "that she was not at all afraid of the trouble; indeed, she coul_ot imagine there would be any."
Mrs. Norris was ready with her suggestions as to the rooms he would thin_ittest to be used, but found it all prearranged; and when she would hav_onjectured and hinted about the day, it appeared that the day was settle_oo. Sir Thomas had been amusing himself with shaping a very complete outlin_f the business; and as soon as she would listen quietly, could read his lis_f the families to be invited, from whom he calculated, with all necessar_llowance for the shortness of the notice, to collect young people enough t_orm twelve or fourteen couple: and could detail the considerations which ha_nduced him to fix on the 22nd as the most eligible day. William was require_o be at Portsmouth on the 24th; the 22nd would therefore be the last day o_is visit; but where the days were so few it would be unwise to fix on an_arlier. Mrs. Norris was obliged to be satisfied with thinking just the same,
and with having been on the point of proposing the 22nd herself, as by far th_est day for the purpose.
The ball was now a settled thing, and before the evening a proclaimed thing t_ll whom it concerned. Invitations were sent with despatch, and many a youn_ady went to bed that night with her head full of happy cares as well a_anny. To her the cares were sometimes almost beyond the happiness; for youn_nd inexperienced, with small means of choice and no confidence in her ow_aste, the "how she should be dressed" was a point of painful solicitude; an_he almost solitary ornament in her possession, a very pretty amber cros_hich William had brought her from Sicily, was the greatest distress of all,
for she had nothing but a bit of ribbon to fasten it to; and though she ha_orn it in that manner once, would it be allowable at such a time in the mids_f all the rich ornaments which she supposed all the other young ladies woul_ppear in? And yet not to wear it! William had wanted to buy her a gold chai_oo, but the purchase had been beyond his means, and therefore not to wear th_ross might be mortifying him. These were anxious considerations; enough t_ober her spirits even under the prospect of a ball given principally for he_ratification.
The preparations meanwhile went on, and Lady Bertram continued to sit on he_ofa without any inconvenience from them. She had some extra visits from th_ousekeeper, and her maid was rather hurried in making up a new dress for her:
Sir Thomas gave orders, and Mrs. Norris ran about; but all this gave her n_rouble, and as she had foreseen, "there was, in fact, no trouble in th_usiness."
Edmund was at this time particularly full of cares: his mind being deepl_ccupied in the consideration of two important events now at hand, which wer_o fix his fate in life—ordination and matrimony—events of such a seriou_haracter as to make the ball, which would be very quickly followed by one o_hem, appear of less moment in his eyes than in those of any other person i_he house. On the 23rd he was going to a friend near Peterborough, in the sam_ituation as himself, and they were to receive ordination in the course of th_hristmas week. Half his destiny would then be determined, but the other hal_ight not be so very smoothly wooed. His duties would be established, but th_ife who was to share, and animate, and reward those duties, might yet b_nattainable. He knew his own mind, but he was not always perfectly assured o_nowing Miss Crawford's. There were points on which they did not quite agree;
there were moments in which she did not seem propitious; and though trustin_ltogether to her affection, so far as to be resolved—almost resolved— o_ringing it to a decision within a very short time, as soon as the variety o_usiness before him were arranged, and he knew what he had to offer her, h_ad many anxious feelings, many doubting hours as to the result. Hi_onviction of her regard for him was sometimes very strong; he could look bac_n a long course of encouragement, and she was as perfect in disintereste_ttachment as in everything else. But at other times doubt and alar_ntermingled with his hopes; and when he thought of her acknowledge_isinclination for privacy and retirement, her decided preference of a Londo_ife, what could he expect but a determined rejection? unless it were a_cceptance even more to be deprecated, demanding such sacrifices of situatio_nd employment on his side as conscience must forbid.
The issue of all depended on one question. Did she love him well enough t_orego what had used to be essential points? Did she love him well enough t_ake them no longer essential? And this question, which he was continuall_epeating to himself, though oftenest answered with a "Yes," had sometimes its
Miss Crawford was soon to leave Mansfield, and on this circumstance the "no"
and the "yes" had been very recently in alternation. He had seen her eye_parkle as she spoke of the dear friend's letter, which claimed a long visi_rom her in London, and of the kindness of Henry, in engaging to remain wher_e was till January, that he might convey her thither; he had heard her spea_f the pleasure of such a journey with an animation which had "no" in ever_one. But this had occurred on the first day of its being settled, within th_irst hour of the burst of such enjoyment, when nothing but the friends sh_as to visit was before her. He had since heard her express hersel_ifferently, with other feelings, more chequered feelings: he had heard he_ell Mrs. Grant that she should leave her with regret; that she began t_elieve neither the friends nor the pleasures she was going to were wort_hose she left behind; and that though she felt she must go, and knew sh_hould enjoy herself when once away, she was already looking forward to bein_t Mansfield again. Was there not a "yes" in all this?
With such matters to ponder over, and arrange, and re-arrange, Edmund coul_ot, on his own account, think very much of the evening which the rest of th_amily were looking forward to with a more equal degree of strong interest.
Independent of his two cousins' enjoyment in it, the evening was to him of n_igher value than any other appointed meeting of the two families might be. I_very meeting there was a hope of receiving farther confirmation of Mis_rawford's attachment; but the whirl of a ballroom, perhaps, was no_articularly favourable to the excitement or expression of serious feelings.
To engage her early for the two first dances was all the command of individua_appiness which he felt in his power, and the only preparation for the bal_hich he could enter into, in spite of all that was passing around him on th_ubject, from morning till night.
Thursday was the day of the ball; and on Wednesday morning Fanny, still unabl_o satisfy herself as to what she ought to wear, determined to seek th_ounsel of the more enlightened, and apply to Mrs. Grant and her sister, whos_cknowledged taste would certainly bear her blameless; and as Edmund an_illiam were gone to Northampton, and she had reason to think Mr. Crawfor_ikewise out, she walked down to the Parsonage without much fear of wanting a_pportunity for private discussion; and the privacy of such a discussion was _ost important part of it to Fanny, being more than half-ashamed of her ow_olicitude.
She met Miss Crawford within a few yards of the Parsonage, just setting out t_all on her, and as it seemed to her that her friend, though obliged to insis_n turning back, was unwilling to lose her walk, she explained her business a_nce, and observed, that if she would be so kind as to give her opinion, i_ight be all talked over as well without doors as within. Miss Crawfor_ppeared gratified by the application, and after a moment's thought, urge_anny's returning with her in a much more cordial manner than before, an_roposed their going up into her room, where they might have a comfortabl_oze, without disturbing Dr. and Mrs. Grant, who were together in the drawing-
room. It was just the plan to suit Fanny; and with a great deal of gratitud_n her side for such ready and kind attention, they proceeded indoors, an_pstairs, and were soon deep in the interesting subject. Miss Crawford,
pleased with the appeal, gave her all her best judgment and taste, mad_verything easy by her suggestions, and tried to make everything agreeable b_er encouragement. The dress being settled in all its grander parts— "But wha_hall you have by way of necklace?" said Miss Crawford. "Shall not you wea_our brother's cross?" And as she spoke she was undoing a small parcel, whic_anny had observed in her hand when they met. Fanny acknowledged her wishe_nd doubts on this point: she did not know how either to wear the cross, or t_efrain from wearing it. She was answered by having a small trinket-box place_efore her, and being requested to chuse from among several gold chains an_ecklaces. Such had been the parcel with which Miss Crawford was provided, an_uch the object of her intended visit: and in the kindest manner she now urge_anny's taking one for the cross and to keep for her sake, saying everythin_he could think of to obviate the scruples which were making Fanny start bac_t first with a look of horror at the proposal.
"You see what a collection I have," said she; "more by half than I ever use o_hink of. I do not offer them as new. I offer nothing but an old necklace. Yo_ust forgive the liberty, and oblige me."
Fanny still resisted, and from her heart. The gift was too valuable. But Mis_rawford persevered, and argued the case with so much affectionate earnestnes_hrough all the heads of William and the cross, and the ball, and herself, a_o be finally successful. Fanny found herself obliged to yield, that she migh_ot be accused of pride or indifference, or some other littleness; and havin_ith modest reluctance given her consent, proceeded to make the selection. Sh_ooked and looked, longing to know which might be least valuable; and wa_etermined in her choice at last, by fancying there was one necklace mor_requently placed before her eyes than the rest. It was of gold, prettil_orked; and though Fanny would have preferred a longer and a plainer chain a_ore adapted for her purpose, she hoped, in fixing on this, to be chusing wha_iss Crawford least wished to keep. Miss Crawford smiled her perfec_pprobation; and hastened to complete the gift by putting the necklace roun_er, and making her see how well it looked. Fanny had not a word to sa_gainst its becomingness, and, excepting what remained of her scruples, wa_xceedingly pleased with an acquisition so very apropos. She would rather,
perhaps, have been obliged to some other person. But this was an unworth_eeling. Miss Crawford had anticipated her wants with a kindness which prove_er a real friend. "When I wear this necklace I shall always think of you,"
said she, "and feel how very kind you were."
"You must think of somebody else too, when you wear that necklace," replie_iss Crawford. "You must think of Henry, for it was his choice in the firs_lace. He gave it to me, and with the necklace I make over to you all the dut_f remembering the original giver. It is to be a family remembrancer. Th_ister is not to be in your mind without bringing the brother too."
Fanny, in great astonishment and confusion, would have returned the presen_nstantly. To take what had been the gift of another person, of a brother too,
impossible! it must not be! and with an eagerness and embarrassment quit_iverting to her companion, she laid down the necklace again on its cotton,
and seemed resolved either to take another or none at all. Miss Crawfor_hought she had never seen a prettier consciousness. "My dear child," sai_he, laughing, "what are you afraid of? Do you think Henry will claim th_ecklace as mine, and fancy you did not come honestly by it? or are yo_magining he would be too much flattered by seeing round your lovely throat a_rnament which his money purchased three years ago, before he knew there wa_uch a throat in the world? or perhaps"—looking archly— "you suspect _onfederacy between us, and that what I am now doing is with his knowledge an_t his desire?"
With the deepest blushes Fanny protested against such a thought.
"Well, then," replied Miss Crawford more seriously, but without at al_elieving her, "to convince me that you suspect no trick, and are a_nsuspicious of compliment as I have always found you, take the necklace an_ay no more about it. Its being a gift of my brother's need not make th_mallest difference in your accepting it, as I assure you it makes none in m_illingness to part with it. He is always giving me something or other. I hav_uch innumerable presents from him that it is quite impossible for me to valu_r for him to remember half. And as for this necklace, I do not suppose I hav_orn it six times: it is very pretty, but I never think of it; and though yo_ould be most heartily welcome to any other in my trinket-box, you hav_appened to fix on the very one which, if I have a choice, I would rather par_ith and see in your possession than any other. Say no more against it, _ntreat you. Such a trifle is not worth half so many words."
Fanny dared not make any farther opposition; and with renewed but less happ_hanks accepted the necklace again, for there was an expression in Mis_rawford's eyes which she could not be satisfied with.
It was impossible for her to be insensible of Mr. Crawford's change o_anners. She had long seen it. He evidently tried to please her: he wa_allant, he was attentive, he was something like what he had been to he_ousins: he wanted, she supposed, to cheat her of her tranquillity as he ha_heated them; and whether he might not have some concern in this necklace—sh_ould not be convinced that he had not, for Miss Crawford, complaisant as _ister, was careless as a woman and a friend.
Reflecting and doubting, and feeling that the possession of what she had s_uch wished for did not bring much satisfaction, she now walked home again,
with a change rather than a diminution of cares since her treading that pat_efore.