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Chapter 28

  • Her uncle and both her aunts were in the drawing-room when Fanny went down. T_he former she was an interesting object, and he saw with pleasure the genera_legance of her appearance, and her being in remarkably good looks. Th_eatness and propriety of her dress was all that he would allow himself t_ommend in her presence, but upon her leaving the room again soon afterwards,
  • he spoke of her beauty with very decided praise.
  • "Yes," said Lady Bertram, "she looks very well. I sent Chapman to her."
  • "Look well! Oh, yes!" cried Mrs. Norris, "she has good reason to look wel_ith all her advantages: brought up in this family as she has been, with al_he benefit of her cousins' manners before her. Only think, my dear Si_homas, what extraordinary advantages you and I have been the means of givin_er. The very gown you have been taking notice of is your own generous presen_o her when dear Mrs. Rushworth married. What would she have been if we ha_ot taken her by the hand?"
  • Sir Thomas said no more; but when they sat down to table the eyes of the tw_oung men assured him that the subject might be gently touched again, when th_adies withdrew, with more success. Fanny saw that she was approved; and th_onsciousness of looking well made her look still better. From a variety o_auses she was happy, and she was soon made still happier; for in followin_er aunts out of the room, Edmund, who was holding open the door, said, as sh_assed him, "You must dance with me, Fanny; you must keep two dances for me;
  • any two that you like, except the first." She had nothing more to wish for.
  • She had hardly ever been in a state so nearly approaching high spirits in he_ife. Her cousins' former gaiety on the day of a ball was no longer surprisin_o her; she felt it to be indeed very charming, and was actually practisin_er steps about the drawing-room as long as she could be safe from the notic_f her aunt Norris, who was entirely taken up at first in fresh arranging an_njuring the noble fire which the butler had prepared.
  • Half an hour followed that would have been at least languid under any othe_ircumstances, but Fanny's happiness still prevailed. It was but to think o_er conversation with Edmund, and what was the restlessness of Mrs. Norris?
  • What were the yawns of Lady Bertram?
  • The gentlemen joined them; and soon after began the sweet expectation of _arriage, when a general spirit of ease and enjoyment seemed diffused, an_hey all stood about and talked and laughed, and every moment had its pleasur_nd its hope. Fanny felt that there must be a struggle in Edmund'_heerfulness, but it was delightful to see the effort so successfully made.
  • When the carriages were really heard, when the guests began really t_ssemble, her own gaiety of heart was much subdued: the sight of so man_trangers threw her back into herself; and besides the gravity and formalit_f the first great circle, which the manners of neither Sir Thomas nor Lad_ertram were of a kind to do away, she found herself occasionally called on t_ndure something worse. She was introduced here and there by her uncle, an_orced to be spoken to, and to curtsey, and speak again. This was a hard duty,
  • and she was never summoned to it without looking at William, as he walke_bout at his ease in the background of the scene, and longing to be with him.
  • The entrance of the Grants and Crawfords was a favourable epoch. The stiffnes_f the meeting soon gave way before their popular manners and more diffuse_ntimacies: little groups were formed, and everybody grew comfortable. Fann_elt the advantage; and, drawing back from the toils of civility, would hav_een again most happy, could she have kept her eyes from wandering betwee_dmund and Mary Crawford. She looked all loveliness—and what might not be th_nd of it? Her own musings were brought to an end on perceiving Mr. Crawfor_efore her, and her thoughts were put into another channel by his engaging he_lmost instantly for the first two dances. Her happiness on this occasion wa_ery much a la mortal, finely chequered. To be secure of a partner at firs_as a most essential good— for the moment of beginning was now growin_eriously near; and she so little understood her own claims as to think tha_f Mr. Crawford had not asked her, she must have been the last to be sough_fter, and should have received a partner only through a series of inquiry,
  • and bustle, and interference, which would have been terrible; but at the sam_ime there was a pointedness in his manner of asking her which she did no_ike, and she saw his eye glancing for a moment at her necklace, with _mile—she thought there was a smile—which made her blush and feel wretched.
  • And though there was no second glance to disturb her, though his object seeme_hen to be only quietly agreeable, she could not get the better of he_mbarrassment, heightened as it was by the idea of his perceiving it, and ha_o composure till he turned away to some one else. Then she could graduall_ise up to the genuine satisfaction of having a partner, a voluntary partner,
  • secured against the dancing began.
  • When the company were moving into the ballroom, she found herself for th_irst time near Miss Crawford, whose eyes and smiles were immediately and mor_nequivocally directed as her brother's had been, and who was beginning t_peak on the subject, when Fanny, anxious to get the story over, hastened t_ive the explanation of the second necklace: the real chain. Miss Crawfor_istened; and all her intended compliments and insinuations to Fanny wer_orgotten: she felt only one thing; and her eyes, bright as they had bee_efore, shewing they could yet be brighter, she exclaimed with eager pleasure,
  • "Did he? Did Edmund? That was like himself. No other man would have thought o_t. I honour him beyond expression." And she looked around as if longing t_ell him so. He was not near, he was attending a party of ladies out of th_oom; and Mrs. Grant coming up to the two girls, and taking an arm of each,
  • they followed with the rest.
  • Fanny's heart sunk, but there was no leisure for thinking long even of Mis_rawford's feelings. They were in the ballroom, the violins were playing, an_er mind was in a flutter that forbade its fixing on anything serious. Sh_ust watch the general arrangements, and see how everything was done.
  • In a few minutes Sir Thomas came to her, and asked if she were engaged; an_he "Yes, sir; to Mr. Crawford," was exactly what he had intended to hear. Mr.
  • Crawford was not far off; Sir Thomas brought him to her, saying somethin_hich discovered to Fanny, that she was to lead the way and open the ball; a_dea that had never occurred to her before. Whenever she had thought of th_inutiae of the evening, it had been as a matter of course that Edmund woul_egin with Miss Crawford; and the impression was so strong, that though he_ncle spoke the contrary, she could not help an exclamation of surprise, _int of her unfitness, an entreaty even to be excused. To be urging he_pinion against Sir Thomas's was a proof of the extremity of the case; bu_uch was her horror at the first suggestion, that she could actually look hi_n the face and say that she hoped it might be settled otherwise; in vain,
  • however: Sir Thomas smiled, tried to encourage her, and then looked to_erious, and said too decidedly, "It must be so, my dear," for her to hazar_nother word; and she found herself the next moment conducted by Mr. Crawfor_o the top of the room, and standing there to be joined by the rest of th_ancers, couple after couple, as they were formed.
  • She could hardly believe it. To be placed above so many elegant young women!
  • The distinction was too great. It was treating her like her cousins! And he_houghts flew to those absent cousins with most unfeigned and truly tende_egret, that they were not at home to take their own place in the room, an_ave their share of a pleasure which would have been so very delightful t_hem. So often as she had heard them wish for a ball at home as the greates_f all felicities! And to have them away when it was given—and for her to b_pening the ball— and with Mr. Crawford too! She hoped they would not envy he_hat distinction now; but when she looked back to the state of things in th_utumn, to what they had all been to each other when once dancing in tha_ouse before, the present arrangement was almost more than she coul_nderstand herself.
  • The ball began. It was rather honour than happiness to Fanny, for the firs_ance at least: her partner was in excellent spirits, and tried to impart the_o her; but she was a great deal too much frightened to have any enjoymen_ill she could suppose herself no longer looked at. Young, pretty, and gentle,
  • however, she had no awkwardnesses that were not as good as graces, and ther_ere few persons present that were not disposed to praise her. She wa_ttractive, she was modest, she was Sir Thomas's niece, and she was soon sai_o be admired by Mr. Crawford. It was enough to give her general favour. Si_homas himself was watching her progress down the dance with much complacency;
  • he was proud of his niece; and without attributing all her personal beauty, a_rs. Norris seemed to do, to her transplantation to Mansfield, he was please_ith himself for having supplied everything else: education and manners sh_wed to him.
  • Miss Crawford saw much of Sir Thomas's thoughts as he stood, and having, i_pite of all his wrongs towards her, a general prevailing desire o_ecommending herself to him, took an opportunity of stepping aside to sa_omething agreeable of Fanny. Her praise was warm, and he received it as sh_ould wish, joining in it as far as discretion, and politeness, and slownes_f speech would allow, and certainly appearing to greater advantage on th_ubject than his lady did soon afterwards, when Mary, perceiving her on a sof_ery near, turned round before she began to dance, to compliment her on Mis_rice's looks.
  • "Yes, she does look very well," was Lady Bertram's placid reply. "Chapma_elped her to dress. I sent Chapman to her." Not but that she was reall_leased to have Fanny admired; but she was so much more struck with her ow_indness in sending Chapman to her, that she could not get it out of her head.
  • Miss Crawford knew Mrs. Norris too well to think of gratifying her b_ommendation of Fanny; to her, it was as the occasion offered—"Ah! ma'am, ho_uch we want dear Mrs. Rushworth and Julia to-night!" and Mrs. Norris paid he_ith as many smiles and courteous words as she had time for, amid so muc_ccupation as she found for herself in making up card-tables, giving hints t_ir Thomas, and trying to move all the chaperons to a better part of the room.
  • Miss Crawford blundered most towards Fanny herself in her intentions t_lease. She meant to be giving her little heart a happy flutter, and fillin_er with sensations of delightful self-consequence; and, misinterpretin_anny's blushes, still thought she must be doing so when she went to her afte_he two first dances, and said, with a significant look, "Perhaps you can tel_e why my brother goes to town to-morrow? He says he has business there, bu_ill not tell me what. The first time he ever denied me his confidence! Bu_his is what we all come to. All are supplanted sooner or later. Now, I mus_pply to you for information. Pray, what is Henry going for?"
  • Fanny protested her ignorance as steadily as her embarrassment allowed.
  • "Well, then," replied Miss Crawford, laughing, "I must suppose it to be purel_or the pleasure of conveying your brother, and of talking of you by the way."
  • Fanny was confused, but it was the confusion of discontent; while Mis_rawford wondered she did not smile, and thought her over-anxious, or though_er odd, or thought her anything rather than insensible of pleasure in Henry'_ttentions. Fanny had a good deal of enjoyment in the course of the evening;
  • but Henry's attentions had very little to do with it. She would much rathe_ot have been asked by him again so very soon, and she wished she had not bee_bliged to suspect that his previous inquiries of Mrs. Norris, about th_upper hour, were all for the sake of securing her at that part of th_vening. But it was not to be avoided: he made her feel that she was th_bject of all; though she could not say that it was unpleasantly done, tha_here was indelicacy or ostentation in his manner; and sometimes, when h_alked of William, he was really not unagreeable, and shewed even a warmth o_eart which did him credit. But still his attentions made no part of he_atisfaction. She was happy whenever she looked at William, and saw ho_erfectly he was enjoying himself, in every five minutes that she could wal_bout with him and hear his account of his partners; she was happy in knowin_erself admired; and she was happy in having the two dances with Edmund stil_o look forward to, during the greatest part of the evening, her hand being s_agerly sought after that her indefinite engagement with him was in continua_erspective. She was happy even when they did take place; but not from an_low of spirits on his side, or any such expressions of tender gallantry a_ad blessed the morning. His mind was fagged, and her happiness sprung fro_eing the friend with whom it could find repose. "I am worn out wit_ivility," said he. "I have been talking incessantly all night, and wit_othing to say. But with you, Fanny, there may be peace. You will not want t_e talked to. Let us have the luxury of silence." Fanny would hardly eve_peak her agreement. A weariness, arising probably, in great measure, from th_ame feelings which he had acknowledged in the morning, was peculiarly to b_espected, and they went down their two dances together with such sobe_ranquillity as might satisfy any looker-on that Sir Thomas had been bringin_p no wife for his younger son.
  • The evening had afforded Edmund little pleasure. Miss Crawford had been in ga_pirits when they first danced together, but it was not her gaiety that coul_o him good: it rather sank than raised his comfort; and afterwards, for h_ound himself still impelled to seek her again, she had absolutely pained hi_y her manner of speaking of the profession to which he was now on the poin_f belonging. They had talked, and they had been silent; he had reasoned, sh_ad ridiculed; and they had parted at last with mutual vexation. Fanny, no_ble to refrain entirely from observing them, had seen enough to be tolerabl_atisfied. It was barbarous to be happy when Edmund was suffering. Yet som_appiness must and would arise from the very conviction that he did suffer.
  • When her two dances with him were over, her inclination and strength for mor_ere pretty well at an end; and Sir Thomas, having seen her walk rather tha_ance down the shortening set, breathless, and with her hand at her side, gav_is orders for her sitting down entirely. From that time Mr. Crawford sat dow_ikewise.
  • "Poor Fanny!" cried William, coming for a moment to visit her, and workin_way his partner's fan as if for life, "how soon she is knocked up! Why, th_port is but just begun. I hope we shall keep it up these two hours. How ca_ou be tired so soon?"
  • "So soon! my good friend," said Sir Thomas, producing his watch with al_ecessary caution; "it is three o'clock, and your sister is not used to thes_ort of hours."
  • "Well, then, Fanny, you shall not get up to-morrow before I go. Sleep as lon_s you can, and never mind me."
  • "Oh! William."
  • "What! Did she think of being up before you set off?"
  • "Oh! yes, sir," cried Fanny, rising eagerly from her seat to be nearer he_ncle; "I must get up and breakfast with him. It will be the last time, yo_now; the last morning."
  • "You had better not. He is to have breakfasted and be gone by half-past nine.
  • Mr. Crawford, I think you call for him at half-past nine?"
  • Fanny was too urgent, however, and had too many tears in her eyes for denial;
  • and it ended in a gracious "Well, well!" which was permission.
  • "Yes, half-past nine," said Crawford to William as the latter was leavin_hem, "and I shall be punctual, for there will be no kind sister to get up fo_e." And in a lower tone to Fanny, "I shall have only a desolate house t_urry from. Your brother will find my ideas of time and his own very differen_o-morrow."
  • After a short consideration, Sir Thomas asked Crawford to join the earl_reakfast party in that house instead of eating alone: he should himself be o_t; and the readiness with which his invitation was accepted convinced hi_hat the suspicions whence, he must confess to himself, this very ball had i_reat measure sprung, were well founded. Mr. Crawford was in love with Fanny.
  • He had a pleasing anticipation of what would be. His niece, meanwhile, did no_hank him for what he had just done. She had hoped to have William all t_erself the last morning. It would have been an unspeakable indulgence. Bu_hough her wishes were overthrown, there was no spirit of murmuring withi_er. On the contrary, she was so totally unused to have her pleasur_onsulted, or to have anything take place at all in the way she could desire,
  • that she was more disposed to wonder and rejoice in having carried her poin_o far, than to repine at the counteraction which followed.
  • Shortly afterward, Sir Thomas was again interfering a little with he_nclination, by advising her to go immediately to bed. "Advise" was his word,
  • but it was the advice of absolute power, and she had only to rise, and, wit_r. Crawford's very cordial adieus, pass quietly away; stopping at th_ntrance-door, like the Lady of Branxholm Hall, "one moment and no more," t_iew the happy scene, and take a last look at the five or six determine_ouple who were still hard at work; and then, creeping slowly up the principa_taircase, pursued by the ceaseless country-dance, feverish with hopes an_ears, soup and negus, sore-footed and fatigued, restless and agitated, ye_eeling, in spite of everything, that a ball was indeed delightful.
  • In thus sending her away, Sir Thomas perhaps might not be thinking merely o_er health. It might occur to him that Mr. Crawford had been sitting by he_ong enough, or he might mean to recommend her as a wife by shewing he_ersuadableness.