Miss Crawford's uneasiness was much lightened by this conversation, and sh_alked home again in spirits which might have defied almost another week o_he same small party in the same bad weather, had they been put to the proof;
but as that very evening brought her brother down from London again in quite,
or more than quite, his usual cheerfulness, she had nothing farther to try he_wn. His still refusing to tell her what he had gone for was but the promotio_f gaiety; a day before it might have irritated, but now it was a pleasan_oke— suspected only of concealing something planned as a pleasant surprise t_erself. And the next day did bring a surprise to her. Henry had said h_hould just go and ask the Bertrams how they did, and be back in ten minutes,
but he was gone above an hour; and when his sister, who had been waiting fo_im to walk with her in the garden, met him at last most impatiently in th_weep, and cried out, "My dear Henry, where can you have been all this time?"
he had only to say that he had been sitting with Lady Bertram and Fanny.
"Sitting with them an hour and a half!" exclaimed Mary.
But this was only the beginning of her surprise.
"Yes, Mary," said he, drawing her arm within his, and walking along the swee_s if not knowing where he was: "I could not get away sooner; Fanny looked s_ovely! I am quite determined, Mary. My mind is entirely made up. Will i_stonish you? No: you must be aware that I am quite determined to marry Fann_rice."
The surprise was now complete; for, in spite of whatever his consciousnes_ight suggest, a suspicion of his having any such views had never entered hi_ister's imagination; and she looked so truly the astonishment she felt, tha_e was obliged to repeat what he had said, and more fully and more solemnly.
The conviction of his determination once admitted, it was not unwelcome. Ther_as even pleasure with the surprise. Mary was in a state of mind to rejoice i_ connexion with the Bertram family, and to be not displeased with he_rother's marrying a little beneath him.
"Yes, Mary," was Henry's concluding assurance. "I am fairly caught. You kno_ith what idle designs I began; but this is the end of them. I have, I flatte_yself, made no inconsiderable progress in her affections; but my own ar_ntirely fixed."
"Lucky, lucky girl!" cried Mary, as soon as she could speak; "what a match fo_er! My dearest Henry, this must be my first feeling; but my second, which yo_hall have as sincerely, is, that I approve your choice from my soul, an_oresee your happiness as heartily as I wish and desire it. You will have _weet little wife; all gratitude and devotion. Exactly what you deserve. Wha_n amazing match for her! Mrs. Norris often talks of her luck; what will sh_ay now? The delight of all the family, indeed! And she has some true friend_n it! How they will rejoice! But tell me all about it! Talk to me for ever.
When did you begin to think seriously about her?"
Nothing could be more impossible than to answer such a question, thoug_othing could be more agreeable than to have it asked. "How the pleasin_lague had stolen on him" he could not say; and before he had expressed th_ame sentiment with a little variation of words three times over, his siste_agerly interrupted him with, "Ah, my dear Henry, and this is what took you t_ondon! This was your business! You chose to consult the Admiral before yo_ade up your mind."
But this he stoutly denied. He knew his uncle too well to consult him on an_atrimonial scheme. The Admiral hated marriage, and thought it neve_ardonable in a young man of independent fortune.
"When Fanny is known to him," continued Henry, "he will doat on her. She i_xactly the woman to do away every prejudice of such a man as the Admiral, fo_he he would describe, if indeed he has now delicacy of language enough t_mbody his own ideas. But till it is absolutely settled— settled beyond al_nterference, he shall know nothing of the matter. No, Mary, you are quit_istaken. You have not discovered my business yet."
"Well, well, I am satisfied. I know now to whom it must relate, and am in n_urry for the rest. Fanny Price! wonderful, quite wonderful! That Mansfiel_hould have done so much for—that you should have found your fate i_ansfield! But you are quite right; you could not have chosen better. There i_ot a better girl in the world, and you do not want for fortune; and as to he_onnexions, they are more than good. The Bertrams are undoubtedly some of th_irst people in this country. She is niece to Sir Thomas Bertram; that will b_nough for the world. But go on, go on. Tell me more. What are your plans?
Does she know her own happiness?"
"What are you waiting for?"
"For—for very little more than opportunity. Mary, she is not like her cousins;
but I think I shall not ask in vain."
"Oh no! you cannot. Were you even less pleasing— supposing her not to love yo_lready (of which, however, I can have little doubt)—you would be safe. Th_entleness and gratitude of her disposition would secure her all your ow_mmediately. From my soul I do not think she would marry you without love;
that is, if there is a girl in the world capable of being uninfluenced b_mbition, I can suppose it her; but ask her to love you, and she will neve_ave the heart to refuse."
As soon as her eagerness could rest in silence, he was as happy to tell as sh_ould be to listen; and a conversation followed almost as deeply interestin_o her as to himself, though he had in fact nothing to relate but his ow_ensations, nothing to dwell on but Fanny's charms. Fanny's beauty of face an_igure, Fanny's graces of manner and goodness of heart, were the exhaustles_heme. The gentleness, modesty, and sweetness of her character were warml_xpatiated on; that sweetness which makes so essential a part of every woman'_orth in the judgment of man, that though he sometimes loves where it is not,
he can never believe it absent. Her temper he had good reason to depend on an_o praise. He had often seen it tried. Was there one of the family, exceptin_dmund, who had not in some way or other continually exercised her patienc_nd forbearance? Her affections were evidently strong. To see her with he_rother! What could more delightfully prove that the warmth of her heart wa_qual to its gentleness? What could be more encouraging to a man who had he_ove in view? Then, her understanding was beyond every suspicion, quick an_lear; and her manners were the mirror of her own modest and elegant mind. No_as this all. Henry Crawford had too much sense not to feel the worth of goo_rinciples in a wife, though he was too little accustomed to seriou_eflection to know them by their proper name; but when he talked of her havin_uch a steadiness and regularity of conduct, such a high notion of honour, an_uch an observance of decorum as might warrant any man in the fulles_ependence on her faith and integrity, he expressed what was inspired by th_nowledge of her being well principled and religious.
"I could so wholly and absolutely confide in her," said he; "and that is wha_ want."
Well might his sister, believing as she really did that his opinion of Fann_rice was scarcely beyond her merits, rejoice in her prospects.
"The more I think of it," she cried, "the more am I convinced that you ar_oing quite right; and though I should never have selected Fanny Price as th_irl most likely to attach you, I am now persuaded she is the very one to mak_ou happy. Your wicked project upon her peace turns out a clever though_ndeed. You will both find your good in it."
"It was bad, very bad in me against such a creature; but I did not know he_hen; and she shall have no reason to lament the hour that first put it int_y head. I will make her very happy, Mary; happier than she has ever yet bee_erself, or ever seen anybody else. I will not take her from Northamptonshire.
I shall let Everingham, and rent a place in this neighbourhood; perhap_tanwix Lodge. I shall let a seven years' lease of Everingham. I am sure of a_xcellent tenant at half a word. I could name three people now, who would giv_e my own terms and thank me."
"Ha!" cried Mary; "settle in Northamptonshire! That is pleasant! Then we shal_e all together."
When she had spoken it, she recollected herself, and wished it unsaid; bu_here was no need of confusion; for her brother saw her only as the suppose_nmate of Mansfield parsonage, and replied but to invite her in the kindes_anner to his own house, and to claim the best right in her.
"You must give us more than half your time," said he. "I cannot admit Mrs.
Grant to have an equal claim with Fanny and myself, for we shall both have _ight in you. Fanny will be so truly your sister!"
Mary had only to be grateful and give general assurances; but she was now ver_ully purposed to be the guest of neither brother nor sister many month_onger.
"You will divide your year between London and Northamptonshire?"
"That's right; and in London, of course, a house of your own: no longer wit_he Admiral. My dearest Henry, the advantage to you of getting away from th_dmiral before your manners are hurt by the contagion of his, before you hav_ontracted any of his foolish opinions, or learned to sit over your dinner a_f it were the best blessing of life! You are not sensible of the gain, fo_our regard for him has blinded you; but, in my estimation, your marryin_arly may be the saving of you. To have seen you grow like the Admiral in wor_r deed, look or gesture, would have broken my heart."
"Well, well, we do not think quite alike here. The Admiral has his faults, bu_e is a very good man, and has been more than a father to me. Few father_ould have let me have my own way half so much. You must not prejudice Fann_gainst him. I must have them love one another."
Mary refrained from saying what she felt, that there could not be two person_n existence whose characters and manners were less accordant: time woul_iscover it to him; but she could not help this reflection on the Admiral.
"Henry, I think so highly of Fanny Price, that if I could suppose the nex_rs. Crawford would have half the reason which my poor ill-used aunt had t_bhor the very name, I would prevent the marriage, if possible; but I kno_ou: I know that a wife you loved would be the happiest of women, and tha_ven when you ceased to love, she would yet find in you the liberality an_ood-breeding of a gentleman."
The impossibility of not doing everything in the world to make Fanny Pric_appy, or of ceasing to love Fanny Price, was of course the groundwork of hi_loquent answer.
"Had you seen her this morning, Mary," he continued, "attending with suc_neffable sweetness and patience to all the demands of her aunt's stupidity,
working with her, and for her, her colour beautifully heightened as she lean_ver the work, then returning to her seat to finish a note which she wa_reviously engaged in writing for that stupid woman's service, and all thi_ith such unpretending gentleness, so much as if it were a matter of cours_hat she was not to have a moment at her own command, her hair arranged a_eatly as it always is, and one little curl falling forward as she wrote,
which she now and then shook back, and in the midst of all this, stil_peaking at intervals to me, or listening, and as if she liked to listen, t_hat I said. Had you seen her so, Mary, you would not have implied th_ossibility of her power over my heart ever ceasing."
"My dearest Henry," cried Mary, stopping short, and smiling in his face, "ho_lad I am to see you so much in love! It quite delights me. But what will Mrs.
Rushworth and Julia say?"
"I care neither what they say nor what they feel. They will now see what sor_f woman it is that can attach me, that can attach a man of sense. I wish th_iscovery may do them any good. And they will now see their cousin treated a_he ought to be, and I wish they may be heartily ashamed of their ow_bominable neglect and unkindness. They will be angry," he added, after _oment's silence, and in a cooler tone; "Mrs. Rushworth will be very angry. I_ill be a bitter pill to her; that is, like other bitter pills, it will hav_wo moments' ill flavour, and then be swallowed and forgotten; for I am no_uch a coxcomb as to suppose her feelings more lasting than other women's,
though I was the object of them. Yes, Mary, my Fanny will feel a differenc_ndeed: a daily, hourly difference, in the behaviour of every being wh_pproaches her; and it will be the completion of my happiness to know that _m the doer of it, that I am the person to give the consequence so justly he_ue. Now she is dependent, helpless, friendless, neglected, forgotten."
"Nay, Henry, not by all; not forgotten by all; not friendless or forgotten.
Her cousin Edmund never forgets her."
"Edmund! True, I believe he is, generally speaking, kind to her, and so is Si_homas in his way; but it is the way of a rich, superior, long-worded,
arbitrary uncle. What can Sir Thomas and Edmund together do, what do they d_or her happiness, comfort, honour, and dignity in the world, to what I shal_o?"