The ball was over, and the breakfast was soon over too; the last kiss wa_iven, and William was gone. Mr. Crawford had, as he foretold, been ver_unctual, and short and pleasant had been the meal.
After seeing William to the last moment, Fanny walked back to the breakfast-
room with a very saddened heart to grieve over the melancholy change; an_here her uncle kindly left her to cry in peace, conceiving, perhaps, that th_eserted chair of each young man might exercise her tender enthusiasm, an_hat the remaining cold pork bones and mustard in William's plate might bu_ivide her feelings with the broken egg-shells in Mr. Crawford's. She sat an_ried con amore as her uncle intended, but it was con amore fraternal and n_ther. William was gone, and she now felt as if she had wasted half his visi_n idle cares and selfish solicitudes unconnected with him.
Fanny's disposition was such that she could never even think of her aun_orris in the meagreness and cheerlessness of her own small house, withou_eproaching herself for some little want of attention to her when they ha_een last together; much less could her feelings acquit her of having done an_aid and thought everything by William that was due to him for a whol_ortnight.
It was a heavy, melancholy day. Soon after the second breakfast, Edmund bad_hem good-bye for a week, and mounted his horse for Peterborough, and then al_ere gone. Nothing remained of last night but remembrances, which she ha_obody to share in. She talked to her aunt Bertram— she must talk to somebod_f the ball; but her aunt had seen so little of what had passed, and had s_ittle curiosity, that it was heavy work. Lady Bertram was not certain o_nybody's dress or anybody's place at supper but her own. "She could no_ecollect what it was that she had heard about one of the Miss Maddoxes, o_hat it was that Lady Prescott had noticed in Fanny: she was not sure whethe_olonel Harrison had been talking of Mr. Crawford or of William when he sai_e was the finest young man in the room— somebody had whispered something t_er; she had forgot to ask Sir Thomas what it could be." And these were he_ongest speeches and clearest communications: the rest was only a languid
"Yes, yes; very well; did you? did he? I did not see that; I should not kno_ne from the other." This was very bad. It was only better than Mrs. Norris'_harp answers would have been; but she being gone home with all th_upernumerary jellies to nurse a sick maid, there was peace and good-humour i_heir little party, though it could not boast much beside.
The evening was heavy like the day. "I cannot think what is the matter wit_e," said Lady Bertram, when the tea-things were removed. "I feel quit_tupid. It must be sitting up so late last night. Fanny, you must do somethin_o keep me awake. I cannot work. Fetch the cards; I feel so very stupid."
The cards were brought, and Fanny played at cribbage with her aunt til_edtime; and as Sir Thomas was reading to himself, no sounds were heard in th_oom for the next two hours beyond the reckonings of the game—"And that make_hirty-one; four in hand and eight in crib. You are to deal, ma'am; shall _eal for you?" Fanny thought and thought again of the difference which twenty-
four hours had made in that room, and all that part of the house. Last nigh_t had been hope and smiles, bustle and motion, noise and brilliancy, in th_rawing-room, and out of the drawing-room, and everywhere. Now it was languor,
and all but solitude.
A good night's rest improved her spirits. She could think of William the nex_ay more cheerfully; and as the morning afforded her an opportunity of talkin_ver Thursday night with Mrs. Grant and Miss Crawford, in a very handsom_tyle, with all the heightenings of imagination, and all the laughs o_layfulness which are so essential to the shade of a departed ball, she coul_fterwards bring her mind without much effort into its everyday state, an_asily conform to the tranquillity of the present quiet week.
They were indeed a smaller party than she had ever known there for a whole da_ogether, and he was gone on whom the comfort and cheerfulness of every famil_eeting and every meal chiefly depended. But this must be learned to b_ndured. He would soon be always gone; and she was thankful that she could no_it in the same room with her uncle, hear his voice, receive his questions,
and even answer them, without such wretched feelings as she had formerl_nown.
"We miss our two young men," was Sir Thomas's observation on both the firs_nd second day, as they formed their very reduced circle after dinner; and i_onsideration of Fanny's swimming eyes, nothing more was said on the first da_han to drink their good health; but on the second it led to somethin_arther. William was kindly commended and his promotion hoped for. "And ther_s no reason to suppose," added Sir Thomas, "but that his visits to us may no_e tolerably frequent. As to Edmund, we must learn to do without him. Thi_ill be the last winter of his belonging to us, as he has done."
"Yes," said Lady Bertram, "but I wish he was not going away. They are al_oing away, I think. I wish they would stay at home."
This wish was levelled principally at Julia, who had just applied fo_ermission to go to town with Maria; and as Sir Thomas thought it best fo_ach daughter that the permission should be granted, Lady Bertram, though i_er own good-nature she would not have prevented it, was lamenting the chang_t made in the prospect of Julia's return, which would otherwise have take_lace about this time. A great deal of good sense followed on Sir Thomas'_ide, tending to reconcile his wife to the arrangement. Everything that _onsiderate parent ought to feel was advanced for her use; and everything tha_n affectionate mother must feel in promoting her children's enjoyment wa_ttributed to her nature. Lady Bertram agreed to it all with a calm "Yes"; an_t the end of a quarter of an hour's silent consideration spontaneousl_bserved, "Sir Thomas, I have been thinking—and I am very glad we took Fann_s we did, for now the others are away we feel the good of it."
Sir Thomas immediately improved this compliment by adding, "Very true. We she_anny what a good girl we think her by praising her to her face, she is now _ery valuable companion. If we have been kind to her, she is now quite a_ecessary to us."
"Yes," said Lady Bertram presently; "and it is a comfort to think that w_hall always have her."
Sir Thomas paused, half smiled, glanced at his niece, and then gravel_eplied, "She will never leave us, I hope, till invited to some other hom_hat may reasonably promise her greater happiness than she knows here."
"And that is not very likely to be, Sir Thomas. Who should invite her? Mari_ight be very glad to see her at Sotherton now and then, but she would no_hink of asking her to live there; and I am sure she is better off here; an_esides, I cannot do without her."
The week which passed so quietly and peaceably at the great house in Mansfiel_ad a very different character at the Parsonage. To the young lady, at least,
in each family, it brought very different feelings. What was tranquillity an_omfort to Fanny was tediousness and vexation to Mary. Something arose fro_ifference of disposition and habit: one so easily satisfied, the other s_nused to endure; but still more might be imputed to difference o_ircumstances. In some points of interest they were exactly opposed to eac_ther. To Fanny's mind, Edmund's absence was really, in its cause and it_endency, a relief. To Mary it was every way painful. She felt the want of hi_ociety every day, almost every hour, and was too much in want of it to deriv_nything but irritation from considering the object for which he went. H_ould not have devised anything more likely to raise his consequence than thi_eek's absence, occurring as it did at the very time of her brother's goin_way, of William Price's going too, and completing the sort of general break-
up of a party which had been so animated. She felt it keenly. They were now _iserable trio, confined within doors by a series of rain and snow, wit_othing to do and no variety to hope for. Angry as she was with Edmund fo_dhering to his own notions, and acting on them in defiance of her (and sh_ad been so angry that they had hardly parted friends at the ball), she coul_ot help thinking of him continually when absent, dwelling on his merit an_ffection, and longing again for the almost daily meetings they lately had.
His absence was unnecessarily long. He should not have planned such a_bsence—he should not have left home for a week, when her own departure fro_ansfield was so near. Then she began to blame herself. She wished she had no_poken so warmly in their last conversation. She was afraid she had used som_trong, some contemptuous expressions in speaking of the clergy, and tha_hould not have been. It was ill-bred; it was wrong. She wished such word_nsaid with all her heart.
Her vexation did not end with the week. All this was bad, but she had stil_ore to feel when Friday came round again and brought no Edmund; when Saturda_ame and still no Edmund; and when, through the slight communication with th_ther family which Sunday produced, she learned that he had actually writte_ome to defer his return, having promised to remain some days longer with hi_riend.
If she had felt impatience and regret before—if she had been sorry for wha_he said, and feared its too strong effect on him—she now felt and feared i_ll tenfold more. She had, moreover, to contend with one disagreeable emotio_ntirely new to her—jealousy. His friend Mr. Owen had sisters; he might fin_hem attractive. But, at any rate, his staying away at a time when, accordin_o all preceding plans, she was to remove to London, meant something that sh_ould not bear. Had Henry returned, as he talked of doing, at the end of thre_r four days, she should now have been leaving Mansfield. It became absolutel_ecessary for her to get to Fanny and try to learn something more. She coul_ot live any longer in such solitary wretchedness; and she made her way to th_ark, through difficulties of walking which she had deemed unconquerable _eek before, for the chance of hearing a little in addition, for the sake o_t least hearing his name.
The first half-hour was lost, for Fanny and Lady Bertram were together, an_nless she had Fanny to herself she could hope for nothing. But at last Lad_ertram left the room, and then almost immediately Miss Crawford thus began,
with a voice as well regulated as she could—"And how do you like your cousi_dmund's staying away so long? Being the only young person at home, I conside_ou as the greatest sufferer. You must miss him. Does his staying longe_urprise you?"
"I do not know," said Fanny hesitatingly. "Yes; I had not particularl_xpected it."
"Perhaps he will always stay longer than he talks of. It is the general wa_ll young men do."
"He did not, the only time he went to see Mr. Owen before."
"He finds the house more agreeable now. He is a very— a very pleasing youn_an himself, and I cannot help being rather concerned at not seeing him agai_efore I go to London, as will now undoubtedly be the case. I am looking fo_enry every day, and as soon as he comes there will be nothing to detain me a_ansfield. I should like to have seen him once more, I confess. But you mus_ive my compliments to him. Yes; I think it must be compliments. Is not ther_ something wanted, Miss Price, in our language—a something betwee_ompliments and— and love—to suit the sort of friendly acquaintance we hav_ad together? So many months' acquaintance! But compliments may be sufficien_ere. Was his letter a long one? Does he give you much account of what he i_oing? Is it Christmas gaieties that he is staying for?"
"I only heard a part of the letter; it was to my uncle; but I believe it wa_ery short; indeed I am sure it was but a few lines. All that I heard was tha_is friend had pressed him to stay longer, and that he had agreed to do so. _ew days longer, or some days longer; I am not quite sure which."
"Oh! if he wrote to his father; but I thought it might have been to Lad_ertram or you. But if he wrote to his father, no wonder he was concise. Wh_ould write chat to Sir Thomas? If he had written to you, there would hav_een more particulars. You would have heard of balls and parties. He woul_ave sent you a description of everything and everybody. How many Miss Owen_re there?"
"Three grown up."
"Are they musical?"
"I do not at all know. I never heard."
"That is the first question, you know," said Miss Crawford, trying to appea_ay and unconcerned, "which every woman who plays herself is sure to ask abou_nother. But it is very foolish to ask questions about any young ladies—abou_ny three sisters just grown up; for one knows, without being told, exactl_hat they are: all very accomplished and pleasing, and one very pretty. Ther_s a beauty in every family; it is a regular thing. Two play on th_ianoforte, and one on the harp; and all sing, or would sing if they wer_aught, or sing all the better for not being taught; or something like it."
"I know nothing of the Miss Owens," said Fanny calmly.
"You know nothing and you care less, as people say. Never did tone expres_ndifference plainer. Indeed, how can one care for those one has never seen?
Well, when your cousin comes back, he will find Mansfield very quiet; all th_oisy ones gone, your brother and mine and myself I do not like the idea o_eaving Mrs. Grant now the time draws near. She does not like my going."
Fanny felt obliged to speak. "You cannot doubt your being missed by many,"
said she. "You will be very much missed."
Miss Crawford turned her eye on her, as if wanting to hear or see more, an_hen laughingly said, "Oh yes! missed as every noisy evil is missed when it i_aken away; that is, there is a great difference felt. But I am not fishing;
don't compliment me. If I am missed, it will appear. I may be discovered b_hose who want to see me. I shall not be in any doubtful, or distant, o_napproachable region."
Now Fanny could not bring herself to speak, and Miss Crawford wa_isappointed; for she had hoped to hear some pleasant assurance of her powe_rom one who she thought must know, and her spirits were clouded again.
"The Miss Owens," said she, soon afterwards; "suppose you were to have one o_he Miss Owens settled at Thornton Lacey; how should you like it? Strange_hings have happened. I dare say they are trying for it. And they are quite i_he light, for it would be a very pretty establishment for them. I do not a_ll wonder or blame them. It is everybody's duty to do as well for themselve_s they can. Sir Thomas Bertram's son is somebody; and now he is in their ow_ine. Their father is a clergyman, and their brother is a clergyman, and the_re all clergymen together. He is their lawful property; he fairly belongs t_hem. You don't speak, Fanny; Miss Price, you don't speak. But honestly now,
do not you rather expect it than otherwise?"
"No," said Fanny stoutly, "I do not expect it at all."
"Not at all!" cried Miss Crawford with alacrity. "I wonder at that. But I dar_ay you know exactly— I always imagine you are—perhaps you do not think hi_ikely to marry at all—or not at present."
"No, I do not," said Fanny softly, hoping she did not err either in the belie_r the acknowledgment of it.
Her companion looked at her keenly; and gathering greater spirit from th_lush soon produced from such a look, only said, "He is best off as he is,"