Edmund had determined that it belonged entirely to Fanny to chuse whether he_ituation with regard to Crawford should be mentioned between them or not; an_hat if she did not lead the way, it should never be touched on by him; bu_fter a day or two of mutual reserve, he was induced by his father to chang_is mind, and try what his influence might do for his friend.
A day, and a very early day, was actually fixed for the Crawfords' departure; and Sir Thomas thought it might be as well to make one more effort for th_oung man before he left Mansfield, that all his professions and vows o_nshaken attachment might have as much hope to sustain them as possible.
Sir Thomas was most cordially anxious for the perfection of Mr. Crawford'_haracter in that point. He wished him to be a model of constancy; and fancie_he best means of effecting it would be by not trying him too long.
Edmund was not unwilling to be persuaded to engage in the business; he wante_o know Fanny's feelings. She had been used to consult him in ever_ifficulty, and he loved her too well to bear to be denied her confidence now; he hoped to be of service to her, he thought he must be of service to her; whom else had she to open her heart to? If she did not need counsel, she mus_eed the comfort of communication. Fanny estranged from him, silent an_eserved, was an unnatural state of things; a state which he must brea_hrough, and which he could easily learn to think she was wanting him to brea_hrough.
"I will speak to her, sir: I will take the first opportunity of speaking t_er alone," was the result of such thoughts as these; and upon Sir Thomas'_nformation of her being at that very time walking alone in the shrubbery, h_nstantly joined her.
"I am come to walk with you, Fanny," said he. "Shall I?" Drawing her ar_ithin his. "It is a long while since we have had a comfortable wal_ogether."
She assented to it all rather by look than word. Her spirits were low.
"But, Fanny," he presently added, "in order to have a comfortable walk, something more is necessary than merely pacing this gravel together. You mus_alk to me. I know you have something on your mind. I know what you ar_hinking of. You cannot suppose me uninformed. Am I to hear of it fro_verybody but Fanny herself?"
Fanny, at once agitated and dejected, replied, "If you hear of it fro_verybody, cousin, there can be nothing for me to tell."
"Not of facts, perhaps; but of feelings, Fanny. No one but you can tell m_hem. I do not mean to press you, however. If it is not what you wis_ourself, I have done. I had thought it might be a relief."
"I am afraid we think too differently for me to find any relief in talking o_hat I feel."
"Do you suppose that we think differently? I have no idea of it. I dare sa_hat, on a comparison of our opinions, they would be found as much alike a_hey have been used to be: to the point—I consider Crawford's proposals a_ost advantageous and desirable, if you could return his affection. I conside_t as most natural that all your family should wish you could return it; bu_hat, as you cannot, you have done exactly as you ought in refusing him. Ca_here be any disagreement between us here?"
"Oh no! But I thought you blamed me. I thought you were against me. This i_uch a comfort!"
"This comfort you might have had sooner, Fanny, had you sought it. But ho_ould you possibly suppose me against you? How could you imagine me a_dvocate for marriage without love? Were I even careless in general on suc_atters, how could you imagine me so where your happiness was at stake?"
"My uncle thought me wrong, and I knew he had been talking to you."
"As far as you have gone, Fanny, I think you perfectly right. I may be sorry, I may be surprised—though hardly that, for you had not had time to attac_ourself—but I think you perfectly right. Can it admit of a question? It i_isgraceful to us if it does. You did not love him; nothing could hav_ustified your accepting him."
Fanny had not felt so comfortable for days and days.
"So far your conduct has been faultless, and they were quite mistaken wh_ished you to do otherwise. But the matter does not end here. Crawford's is n_ommon attachment; he perseveres, with the hope of creating that regard whic_ad not been created before. This, we know, must be a work of time. But" (wit_n affectionate smile) "let him succeed at last, Fanny, let him succeed a_ast. You have proved yourself upright and disinterested, prove yoursel_rateful and tender-hearted; and then you will be the perfect model of a woma_hich I have always believed you born for."
"Oh! never, never, never! he never will succeed with me." And she spoke with _armth which quite astonished Edmund, and which she blushed at th_ecollection of herself, when she saw his look, and heard him reply, "Never!
Fanny!— so very determined and positive! This is not like yourself, you_ational self."
"I mean," she cried, sorrowfully correcting herself, "that I think I neve_hall, as far as the future can be answered for; I think I never shall retur_is regard."
"I must hope better things. I am aware, more aware than Crawford can be, tha_he man who means to make you love him (you having due notice of hi_ntentions) must have very uphill work, for there are all your earl_ttachments and habits in battle array; and before he can get your heart fo_is own use he has to unfasten it from all the holds upon things animate an_nanimate, which so many years' growth have confirmed, and which ar_onsiderably tightened for the moment by the very idea of separation. I kno_hat the apprehension of being forced to quit Mansfield will for a time b_rming you against him. I wish he had not been obliged to tell you what he wa_rying for. I wish he had known you as well as I do, Fanny. Between us, _hink we should have won you. My theoretical and his practical knowledg_ogether could not have failed. He should have worked upon my plans. I mus_ope, however, that time, proving him (as I firmly believe it will) to deserv_ou by his steady affection, will give him his reward. I cannot suppose tha_ou have not the wish to love him—the natural wish of gratitude. You must hav_ome feeling of that sort. You must be sorry for your own indifference."
"We are so totally unlike," said Fanny, avoiding a direct answer, "we are s_ery, very different in all our inclinations and ways, that I consider it a_uite impossible we should ever be tolerably happy together, even if I coul_ike him. There never were two people more dissimilar. We have not one tast_n common. We should be miserable."
"You are mistaken, Fanny. The dissimilarity is not so strong. You are quit_nough alike. You have tastes in common. You have moral and literary tastes i_ommon. You have both warm hearts and benevolent feelings; and, Fanny, wh_hat heard him read, and saw you listen to Shakespeare the other night, wil_hink you unfitted as companions? You forget yourself: there is a decide_ifference in your tempers, I allow. He is lively, you are serious; but s_uch the better: his spirits will support yours. It is your disposition to b_asily dejected and to fancy difficulties greater than they are. Hi_heerfulness will counteract this. He sees difficulties nowhere: and hi_leasantness and gaiety will be a constant support to you. Your being so fa_nlike, Fanny, does not in the smallest degree make against the probability o_our happiness together: do not imagine it. I am myself convinced that it i_ather a favourable circumstance. I am perfectly persuaded that the temper_ad better be unlike: I mean unlike in the flow of the spirits, in th_anners, in the inclination for much or little company, in the propensity t_alk or to be silent, to be grave or to be gay. Some opposition here is, I a_horoughly convinced, friendly to matrimonial happiness. I exclude extremes, of course; and a very close resemblance in all those points would be th_ikeliest way to produce an extreme. A counteraction, gentle and continual, i_he best safeguard of manners and conduct."
Full well could Fanny guess where his thoughts were now: Miss Crawford's powe_as all returning. He had been speaking of her cheerfully from the hour of hi_oming home. His avoiding her was quite at an end. He had dined at th_arsonage only the preceding day.
After leaving him to his happier thoughts for some minutes, Fanny, feeling i_ue to herself, returned to Mr. Crawford, and said, "It is not merely i_emper that I consider him as totally unsuited to myself; though, in tha_espect, I think the difference between us too great, infinitely too great: his spirits often oppress me; but there is something in him which I object t_till more. I must say, cousin, that I cannot approve his character. I hav_ot thought well of him from the time of the play. I then saw him behaving, a_t appeared to me, so very improperly and unfeelingly—I may speak of it no_ecause it is all over—so improperly by poor Mr. Rushworth, not seeming t_are how he exposed or hurt him, and paying attentions to my cousin Maria, which—in short, at the time of the play, I received an impression which wil_ever be got over."
"My dear Fanny," replied Edmund, scarcely hearing her to the end, "let us not, any of us, be judged by what we appeared at that period of general folly. Th_ime of the play is a time which I hate to recollect. Maria was wrong, Crawford was wrong, we were all wrong together; but none so wrong as myself.
Compared with me, all the rest were blameless. I was playing the fool with m_yes open."
"As a bystander," said Fanny, "perhaps I saw more than you did; and I do thin_hat Mr. Rushworth was sometimes very jealous."
"Very possibly. No wonder. Nothing could be more improper than the whol_usiness. I am shocked whenever I think that Maria could be capable of it; but, if she could undertake the part, we must not be surprised at the rest."
"Before the play, I am much mistaken if Julia did not think he was paying he_ttentions."
"Julia! I have heard before from some one of his being in love with Julia; bu_ could never see anything of it. And, Fanny, though I hope I do justice to m_isters' good qualities, I think it very possible that they might, one o_oth, be more desirous of being admired by Crawford, and might shew tha_esire rather more unguardedly than was perfectly prudent. I can remember tha_hey were evidently fond of his society; and with such encouragement, a ma_ike Crawford, lively, and it may be, a little unthinking, might be led o_o—there could be nothing very striking, because it is clear that he had n_retensions: his heart was reserved for you. And I must say, that its bein_or you has raised him inconceivably in my opinion. It does him the highes_onour; it shews his proper estimation of the blessing of domestic happines_nd pure attachment. It proves him unspoilt by his uncle. It proves him, i_hort, everything that I had been used to wish to believe him, and feared h_as not."
"I am persuaded that he does not think, as he ought, on serious subjects."
"Say, rather, that he has not thought at all upon serious subjects, which _elieve to be a good deal the case. How could it be otherwise, with such a_ducation and adviser? Under the disadvantages, indeed, which both have had, is it not wonderful that they should be what they are? Crawford's feelings, _m ready to acknowledge, have hitherto been too much his guides. Happily, those feelings have generally been good. You will supply the rest; and a mos_ortunate man he is to attach himself to such a creature— to a woman who, fir_s a rock in her own principles, has a gentleness of character so well adapte_o recommend them. He has chosen his partner, indeed, with rare felicity. H_ill make you happy, Fanny; I know he will make you happy; but you will mak_im everything."
"I would not engage in such a charge," cried Fanny, in a shrinking accent; "i_uch an office of high responsibility!"
"As usual, believing yourself unequal to anything! fancying everything to_uch for you! Well, though I may not be able to persuade you into differen_eelings, you will be persuaded into them, I trust. I confess myself sincerel_nxious that you may. I have no common interest in Crawford's well-doing. Nex_o your happiness, Fanny, his has the first claim on me. You are aware of m_aving no common interest in Crawford."
Fanny was too well aware of it to have anything to say; and they walked o_ogether some fifty yards in mutual silence and abstraction. Edmund firs_egan again—
"I was very much pleased by her manner of speaking of it yesterday, particularly pleased, because I had not depended upon her seeing everything i_o just a light. I knew she was very fond of you; but yet I was afraid of he_ot estimating your worth to her brother quite as it deserved, and of he_egretting that he had not rather fixed on some woman of distinction o_ortune. I was afraid of the bias of those worldly maxims, which she has bee_oo much used to hear. But it was very different. She spoke of you, Fanny, just as she ought. She desires the connexion as warmly as your uncle o_yself. We had a long talk about it. I should not have mentioned the subject, though very anxious to know her sentiments; but I had not been in the roo_ive minutes before she began introducing it with all that openness of heart, and sweet peculiarity of manner, that spirit and ingenuousness which are s_uch a part of herself. Mrs. Grant laughed at her for her rapidity."
"Was Mrs. Grant in the room, then?"
"Yes, when I reached the house I found the two sisters together by themselves; and when once we had begun, we had not done with you, Fanny, till Crawford an_r. Grant came in."
"It is above a week since I saw Miss Crawford."
"Yes, she laments it; yet owns it may have been best. You will see her, however, before she goes. She is very angry with you, Fanny; you must b_repared for that. She calls herself very angry, but you can imagine he_nger. It is the regret and disappointment of a sister, who thinks her brothe_as a right to everything he may wish for, at the first moment. She is hurt, as you would be for William; but she loves and esteems you with all he_eart."
"I knew she would be very angry with me."
"My dearest Fanny," cried Edmund, pressing her arm closer to him, "do not le_he idea of her anger distress you. It is anger to be talked of rather tha_elt. Her heart is made for love and kindness, not for resentment. I wish yo_ould have overheard her tribute of praise; I wish you could have seen he_ountenance, when she said that you should be Henry's wife. And I observe_hat she always spoke of you as 'Fanny,' which she was never used to do; an_t had a sound of most sisterly cordiality."
"And Mrs. Grant, did she say—did she speak; was she there all the time?"
"Yes, she was agreeing exactly with her sister. The surprise of your refusal, Fanny, seems to have been unbounded. That you could refuse such a man as Henr_rawford seems more than they can understand. I said what I could for you; bu_n good truth, as they stated the case—you must prove yourself to be in you_enses as soon as you can by a different conduct; nothing else will satisf_hem. But this is teasing you. I have done. Do not turn away from me."
"I should have thought," said Fanny, after a pause of recollection an_xertion, "that every woman must have felt the possibility of a man's no_eing approved, not being loved by some one of her sex at least, let him b_ver so generally agreeable. Let him have all the perfections in the world, _hink it ought not to be set down as certain that a man must be acceptable t_very woman he may happen to like himself. But, even supposing it is so, allowing Mr. Crawford to have all the claims which his sisters think he has, how was I to be prepared to meet him with any feeling answerable to his own?
He took me wholly by surprise. I had not an idea that his behaviour to m_efore had any meaning; and surely I was not to be teaching myself to like hi_nly because he was taking what seemed very idle notice of me. In m_ituation, it would have been the extreme of vanity to be forming expectation_n Mr. Crawford. I am sure his sisters, rating him as they do, must hav_hought it so, supposing he had meant nothing. How, then, was I to be— to b_n love with him the moment he said he was with me? How was I to have a_ttachment at his service, as soon as it was asked for? His sisters shoul_onsider me as well as him. The higher his deserts, the more improper for m_ver to have thought of him. And, and—we think very differently of the natur_f women, if they can imagine a woman so very soon capable of returning a_ffection as this seems to imply."
"My dear, dear Fanny, now I have the truth. I know this to be the truth; an_ost worthy of you are such feelings. I had attributed them to you before. _hought I could understand you. You have now given exactly the explanatio_hich I ventured to make for you to your friend and Mrs. Grant, and they wer_oth better satisfied, though your warm-hearted friend was still run away wit_ little by the enthusiasm of her fondness for Henry. I told them that yo_ere of all human creatures the one over whom habit had most power and novelt_east; and that the very circumstance of the novelty of Crawford's addresse_as against him. Their being so new and so recent was all in their disfavour; that you could tolerate nothing that you were not used to; and a great dea_ore to the same purpose, to give them a knowledge of your character. Mis_rawford made us laugh by her plans of encouragement for her brother. Sh_eant to urge him to persevere in the hope of being loved in time, and o_aving his addresses most kindly received at the end of about ten years' happ_arriage."
Fanny could with difficulty give the smile that was here asked for. He_eelings were all in revolt. She feared she had been doing wrong: saying to_uch, overacting the caution which she had been fancying necessary; i_uarding against one evil, laying herself open to another; and to have Mis_rawford's liveliness repeated to her at such a moment, and on such a subject, was a bitter aggravation.
Edmund saw weariness and distress in her face, and immediately resolved t_orbear all farther discussion; and not even to mention the name of Crawfor_gain, except as it might be connected with what must be agreeable to her. O_his principle, he soon afterwards observed— "They go on Monday. You are sure, therefore, of seeing your friend either to-morrow or Sunday. They really go o_onday; and I was within a trifle of being persuaded to stay at Lessingby til_hat very day! I had almost promised it. What a difference it might have made!
Those five or six days more at Lessingby might have been felt all my life."
"You were near staying there?"
"Very. I was most kindly pressed, and had nearly consented. Had I received an_etter from Mansfield, to tell me how you were all going on, I believe _hould certainly have staid; but I knew nothing that had happened here for _ortnight, and felt that I had been away long enough."
"You spent your time pleasantly there?"
"Yes; that is, it was the fault of my own mind if I did not. They were al_ery pleasant. I doubt their finding me so. I took uneasiness with me, an_here was no getting rid of it till I was in Mansfield again."
"The Miss Owens—you liked them, did not you?"
"Yes, very well. Pleasant, good-humoured, unaffected girls. But I am spoilt, Fanny, for common female society. Good-humoured, unaffected girls will not d_or a man who has been used to sensible women. They are two distinct orders o_eing. You and Miss Crawford have made me too nice."
Still, however, Fanny was oppressed and wearied; he saw it in her looks, i_ould not be talked away; and attempting it no more, he led her directly, wit_he kind authority of a privileged guardian, into the house.