Edmund now believed himself perfectly acquainted with all that Fanny coul_ell, or could leave to be conjectured of her sentiments, and he wa_atisfied. It had been, as he before presumed, too hasty a measure o_rawford's side, and time must be given to make the idea first familiar, an_hen agreeable to her. She must be used to the consideration of his being i_ove with her, and then a return of affection might not be very distant.
He gave this opinion as the result of the conversation to his father; an_ecommended there being nothing more said to her: no farther attempts t_nfluence or persuade; but that everything should be left to Crawford'_ssiduities, and the natural workings of her own mind.
Sir Thomas promised that it should be so. Edmund's account of Fanny'_isposition he could believe to be just; he supposed she had all thos_eelings, but he must consider it as very unfortunate that she had; for, les_illing than his son to trust to the future, he could not help fearing that i_uch very long allowances of time and habit were necessary for her, she migh_ot have persuaded herself into receiving his addresses properly before th_oung man's inclination for paying them were over. There was nothing to b_one, however, but to submit quietly and hope the best.
The promised visit from "her friend," as Edmund called Miss Crawford, was _ormidable threat to Fanny, and she lived in continual terror of it. As _ister, so partial and so angry, and so little scrupulous of what she said, and in another light so triumphant and secure, she was in every way an objec_f painful alarm. Her displeasure, her penetration, and her happiness were al_earful to encounter; and the dependence of having others present when the_et was Fanny's only support in looking forward to it. She absented herself a_ittle as possible from Lady Bertram, kept away from the East room, and too_o solitary walk in the shrubbery, in her caution to avoid any sudden attack.
She succeeded. She was safe in the breakfast-room, with her aunt, when Mis_rawford did come; and the first misery over, and Miss Crawford looking an_peaking with much less particularity of expression than she had anticipated, Fanny began to hope there would be nothing worse to be endured than a half- hour of moderate agitation. But here she hoped too much; Miss Crawford was no_he slave of opportunity. She was determined to see Fanny alone, and therefor_aid to her tolerably soon, in a low voice, "I must speak to you for a fe_inutes somewhere"; words that Fanny felt all over her, in all her pulses an_ll her nerves. Denial was impossible. Her habits of ready submission, on th_ontrary, made her almost instantly rise and lead the way out of the room. Sh_id it with wretched feelings, but it was inevitable.
They were no sooner in the hall than all restraint of countenance was over o_iss Crawford's side. She immediately shook her head at Fanny with arch, ye_ffectionate reproach, and taking her hand, seemed hardly able to hel_eginning directly. She said nothing, however, but, "Sad, sad girl! I do no_now when I shall have done scolding you," and had discretion enough t_eserve the rest till they might be secure of having four walls to themselves.
Fanny naturally turned upstairs, and took her guest to the apartment which wa_ow always fit for comfortable use; opening the door, however, with a mos_ching heart, and feeling that she had a more distressing scene before he_han ever that spot had yet witnessed. But the evil ready to burst on her wa_t least delayed by the sudden change in Miss Crawford's ideas; by the stron_ffect on her mind which the finding herself in the East room again produced.
"Ha!" she cried, with instant animation, "am I here again? The East room! Onc_nly was I in this room before"; and after stopping to look about her, an_eemingly to retrace all that had then passed, she added, "Once only before.
Do you remember it? I came to rehearse. Your cousin came too; and we had _ehearsal. You were our audience and prompter. A delightful rehearsal. I shal_ever forget it. Here we were, just in this part of the room: here was you_ousin, here was I, here were the chairs. Oh! why will such things ever pas_way?"
Happily for her companion, she wanted no answer. Her mind was entirely self- engrossed. She was in a reverie of sweet remembrances.
"The scene we were rehearsing was so very remarkable! The subject of it s_ery—very—what shall I say? He was to be describing and recommending matrimon_o me. I think I see him now, trying to be as demure and composed as Anhal_ught, through the two long speeches. 'When two sympathetic hearts meet in th_arriage state, matrimony may be called a happy life.' I suppose no time ca_ver wear out the impression I have of his looks and voice as he said thos_ords. It was curious, very curious, that we should have such a scene to play!
If I had the power of recalling any one week of my existence, it should b_hat week—that acting week. Say what you would, Fanny, it should be that; fo_ never knew such exquisite happiness in any other. His sturdy spirit to ben_s it did! Oh! it was sweet beyond expression. But alas, that very evenin_estroyed it all. That very evening brought your most unwelcome uncle. Poo_ir Thomas, who was glad to see you? Yet, Fanny, do not imagine I would no_peak disrespectfully of Sir Thomas, though I certainly did hate him for man_ week. No, I do him justice now. He is just what the head of such a famil_hould be. Nay, in sober sadness, I believe I now love you all." And havin_aid so, with a degree of tenderness and consciousness which Fanny had neve_een in her before, and now thought only too becoming, she turned away for _oment to recover herself. "I have had a little fit since I came into thi_oom, as you may perceive," said she presently, with a playful smile, "but i_s over now; so let us sit down and be comfortable; for as to scolding you, Fanny, which I came fully intending to do, I have not the heart for it when i_omes to the point." And embracing her very affectionately, "Good, gentl_anny! when I think of this being the last time of seeing you for I do no_now how long, I feel it quite impossible to do anything but love you."
Fanny was affected. She had not foreseen anything of this, and her feeling_ould seldom withstand the melancholy influence of the word "last." She crie_s if she had loved Miss Crawford more than she possibly could; and Mis_rawford, yet farther softened by the sight of such emotion, hung about he_ith fondness, and said, "I hate to leave you. I shall see no one half s_miable where I am going. Who says we shall not be sisters? I know we shall. _eel that we are born to be connected; and those tears convince me that yo_eel it too, dear Fanny."
Fanny roused herself, and replying only in part, said, "But you are only goin_rom one set of friends to another. You are going to a very particula_riend."
"Yes, very true. Mrs. Fraser has been my intimate friend for years. But I hav_ot the least inclination to go near her. I can think only of the friends I a_eaving: my excellent sister, yourself, and the Bertrams in general. You hav_ll so much more heart among you than one finds in the world at large. You al_ive me a feeling of being able to trust and confide in you, which in commo_ntercourse one knows nothing of. I wish I had settled with Mrs. Fraser not t_o to her till after Easter, a much better time for the visit, but now _annot put her off. And when I have done with her I must go to her sister, Lady Stornaway, because she was rather my most particular friend of the two, but I have not cared much for her these three years."
After this speech the two girls sat many minutes silent, each thoughtful: Fanny meditating on the different sorts of friendship in the world, Mary o_omething of less philosophic tendency. She first spoke again.
"How perfectly I remember my resolving to look for you upstairs, and settin_ff to find my way to the East room, without having an idea whereabouts i_as! How well I remember what I was thinking of as I came along, and m_ooking in and seeing you here sitting at this table at work; and then you_ousin's astonishment, when he opened the door, at seeing me here! To be sure, your uncle's returning that very evening! There never was anything quite lik_t."
Another short fit of abstraction followed, when, shaking it off, she thu_ttacked her companion.
"Why, Fanny, you are absolutely in a reverie. Thinking, I hope, of one who i_lways thinking of you. Oh! that I could transport you for a short time int_ur circle in town, that you might understand how your power over Henry i_hought of there! Oh! the envyings and heartburnings of dozens and dozens; th_onder, the incredulity that will be felt at hearing what you have done! Fo_s to secrecy, Henry is quite the hero of an old romance, and glories in hi_hains. You should come to London to know how to estimate your conquest. I_ou were to see how he is courted, and how I am courted for his sake! Now, _m well aware that I shall not be half so welcome to Mrs. Fraser i_onsequence of his situation with you. When she comes to know the truth sh_ill, very likely, wish me in Northamptonshire again; for there is a daughte_f Mr. Fraser, by a first wife, whom she is wild to get married, and want_enry to take. Oh! she has been trying for him to such a degree. Innocent an_uiet as you sit here, you cannot have an idea of the sensation that you wil_e occasioning, of the curiosity there will be to see you, of the endles_uestions I shall have to answer! Poor Margaret Fraser will be at me for eve_bout your eyes and your teeth, and how you do your hair, and who makes you_hoes. I wish Margaret were married, for my poor friend's sake, for I loo_pon the Frasers to be about as unhappy as most other married people. And ye_t was a most desirable match for Janet at the time. We were all delighted.
She could not do otherwise than accept him, for he was rich, and she ha_othing; but he turns out ill-tempered and exigeant, and wants a young woman, a beautiful young woman of five-and-twenty, to be as steady as himself. And m_riend does not manage him well; she does not seem to know how to make th_est of it. There is a spirit of irritation which, to say nothing worse, i_ertainly very ill-bred. In their house I shall call to mind the conjuga_anners of Mansfield Parsonage with respect. Even Dr. Grant does shew _horough confidence in my sister, and a certain consideration for he_udgment, which makes one feel there is attachment; but of that I shall se_othing with the Frasers. I shall be at Mansfield for ever, Fanny. My ow_ister as a wife, Sir Thomas Bertram as a husband, are my standards o_erfection. Poor Janet has been sadly taken in, and yet there was nothin_mproper on her side: she did not run into the match inconsiderately; ther_as no want of foresight. She took three days to consider of his proposals, and during those three days asked the advice of everybody connected with he_hose opinion was worth having, and especially applied to my late dear aunt, whose knowledge of the world made her judgment very generally and deservedl_ooked up to by all the young people of her acquaintance, and she wa_ecidedly in favour of Mr. Fraser. This seems as if nothing were a securit_or matrimonial comfort. I have not so much to say for my friend Flora, wh_ilted a very nice young man in the Blues for the sake of that horrid Lor_tornaway, who has about as much sense, Fanny, as Mr. Rushworth, but muc_orse-looking, and with a blackguard character. I had my doubts at the tim_bout her being right, for he has not even the air of a gentleman, and now _m sure she was wrong. By the bye, Flora Ross was dying for Henry the firs_inter she came out. But were I to attempt to tell you of all the women whom _ave known to be in love with him, I should never have done. It is you, onl_ou, insensible Fanny, who can think of him with anything like indifference.
But are you so insensible as you profess yourself? No, no, I see you are not."
There was, indeed, so deep a blush over Fanny's face at that moment as migh_arrant strong suspicion in a predisposed mind.
"Excellent creature! I will not tease you. Everything shall take its course.
But, dear Fanny, you must allow that you were not so absolutely unprepared t_ave the question asked as your cousin fancies. It is not possible but tha_ou must have had some thoughts on the subject, some surmises as to what migh_e. You must have seen that he was trying to please you by every attention i_is power. Was not he devoted to you at the ball? And then before the ball, the necklace! Oh! you received it just as it was meant. You were as consciou_s heart could desire. I remember it perfectly."
"Do you mean, then, that your brother knew of the necklace beforehand? Oh!
Miss Crawford, that was not fair."
"Knew of it! It was his own doing entirely, his own thought. I am ashamed t_ay that it had never entered my head, but I was delighted to act on hi_roposal for both your sakes."
"I will not say," replied Fanny, "that I was not half afraid at the time o_ts being so, for there was something in your look that frightened me, but no_t first; I was as unsuspicious of it at first—indeed, indeed I was. It is a_rue as that I sit here. And had I had an idea of it, nothing should hav_nduced me to accept the necklace. As to your brother's behaviour, certainly _as sensible of a particularity: I had been sensible of it some little time, perhaps two or three weeks; but then I considered it as meaning nothing: I pu_t down as simply being his way, and was as far from supposing as from wishin_im to have any serious thoughts of me. I had not, Miss Crawford, been a_nattentive observer of what was passing between him and some part of thi_amily in the summer and autumn. I was quiet, but I was not blind. I could no_ut see that Mr. Crawford allowed himself in gallantries which did mea_othing."
"Ah! I cannot deny it. He has now and then been a sad flirt, and cared ver_ittle for the havoc he might be making in young ladies' affections. I hav_ften scolded him for it, but it is his only fault; and there is this to b_aid, that very few young ladies have any affections worth caring for. An_hen, Fanny, the glory of fixing one who has been shot at by so many; o_aving it in one's power to pay off the debts of one's sex! Oh! I am sure i_s not in woman's nature to refuse such a triumph."
Fanny shook her head. "I cannot think well of a man who sports with an_oman's feelings; and there may often be a great deal more suffered than _tander-by can judge of."
"I do not defend him. I leave him entirely to your mercy, and when he has go_ou at Everingham, I do not care how much you lecture him. But this I wil_ay, that his fault, the liking to make girls a little in love with him, i_ot half so dangerous to a wife's happiness as a tendency to fall in lov_imself, which he has never been addicted to. And I do seriously and trul_elieve that he is attached to you in a way that he never was to any woma_efore; that he loves you with all his heart, and will love you as nearly fo_ver as possible. If any man ever loved a woman for ever, I think Henry wil_o as much for you."
Fanny could not avoid a faint smile, but had nothing to say.
"I cannot imagine Henry ever to have been happier," continued Mary presently,
"than when he had succeeded in getting your brother's commission."
She had made a sure push at Fanny's feelings here.
"Oh! yes. How very, very kind of him."
"I know he must have exerted himself very much, for I know the parties he ha_o move. The Admiral hates trouble, and scorns asking favours; and there ar_o many young men's claims to be attended to in the same way, that _riendship and energy, not very determined, is easily put by. What a happ_reature William must be! I wish we could see him."
Poor Fanny's mind was thrown into the most distressing of all its varieties.
The recollection of what had been done for William was always the mos_owerful disturber of every decision against Mr. Crawford; and she sa_hinking deeply of it till Mary, who had been first watching her complacently, and then musing on something else, suddenly called her attention by saying: "_hould like to sit talking with you here all day, but we must not forget th_adies below, and so good-bye, my dear, my amiable, my excellent Fanny, fo_hough we shall nominally part in the breakfast-parlour, I must take leave o_ou here. And I do take leave, longing for a happy reunion, and trusting tha_hen we meet again, it will be under circumstances which may open our heart_o each other without any remnant or shadow of reserve."
A very, very kind embrace, and some agitation of manner, accompanied thes_ords.
"I shall see your cousin in town soon: he talks of being there tolerably soon; and Sir Thomas, I dare say, in the course of the spring; and your eldes_ousin, and the Rushworths, and Julia, I am sure of meeting again and again, and all but you. I have two favours to ask, Fanny: one is your correspondence.
You must write to me. And the other, that you will often call on Mrs. Grant, and make her amends for my being gone."
The first, at least, of these favours Fanny would rather not have been asked; but it was impossible for her to refuse the correspondence; it was impossibl_or her even not to accede to it more readily than her own judgmen_uthorised. There was no resisting so much apparent affection. Her dispositio_as peculiarly calculated to value a fond treatment, and from having hithert_nown so little of it, she was the more overcome by Miss Crawford's. Besides, there was gratitude towards her, for having made their tete-a-tete so muc_ess painful than her fears had predicted.
It was over, and she had escaped without reproaches and without detection. He_ecret was still her own; and while that was the case, she thought she coul_esign herself to almost everything.
In the evening there was another parting. Henry Crawford came and sat som_ime with them; and her spirits not being previously in the strongest state, her heart was softened for a while towards him, because he really seemed t_eel. Quite unlike his usual self, he scarcely said anything. He was evidentl_ppressed, and Fanny must grieve for him, though hoping she might never se_im again till he were the husband of some other woman.
When it came to the moment of parting, he would take her hand, he would not b_enied it; he said nothing, however, or nothing that she heard, and when h_ad left the room, she was better pleased that such a token of friendship ha_assed.