Fanny was right enough in not expecting to hear from Miss Crawford now at th_apid rate in which their correspondence had begun; Mary's next letter wa_fter a decidedly longer interval than the last, but she was not right i_upposing that such an interval would be felt a great relief to herself. Her_as another strange revolution of mind! She was really glad to receive th_etter when it did come. In her present exile from good society, and distanc_rom everything that had been wont to interest her, a letter from on_elonging to the set where her heart lived, written with affection, and som_egree of elegance, was thoroughly acceptable. The usual plea of increasin_ngagements was made in excuse for not having written to her earlier; "And no_hat I have begun," she continued, "my letter will not be worth your reading,
for there will be no little offering of love at the end, no three or fou_ines passionnees from the most devoted H. C. in the world, for Henry is i_orfolk; business called him to Everingham ten days ago, or perhaps he onl_retended to call, for the sake of being travelling at the same time that yo_ere. But there he is, and, by the bye, his absence may sufficiently accoun_or any remissness of his sister's in writing, for there has been no 'Well,
Mary, when do you write to Fanny? Is not it time for you to write to Fanny?'
to spur me on. At last, after various attempts at meeting, I have seen you_ousins, 'dear Julia and dearest Mrs. Rushworth'; they found me at hom_esterday, and we were glad to see each other again. We seemed very glad t_ee each other, and I do really think we were a little. We had a vast deal t_ay. Shall I tell you how Mrs. Rushworth looked when your name was mentioned?
I did not use to think her wanting in self-possession, but she had not quit_nough for the demands of yesterday. Upon the whole, Julia was in the bes_ooks of the two, at least after you were spoken of. There was no recoverin_he complexion from the moment that I spoke of 'Fanny,' and spoke of her as _ister should. But Mrs. Rushworth's day of good looks will come; we have card_or her first party on the 28th. Then she will be in beauty, for she will ope_ne of the best houses in Wimpole Street. I was in it two years ago, when i_as Lady Lascelle's, and prefer it to almost any I know in London, an_ertainly she will then feel, to use a vulgar phrase, that she has got he_ennyworth for her penny. Henry could not have afforded her such a house. _ope she will recollect it, and be satisfied, as well as she may, with movin_he queen of a palace, though the king may appear best in the background; an_s I have no desire to tease her, I shall never force your name upon he_gain. She will grow sober by degrees. From all that I hear and guess, Baro_ildenheim's attentions to Julia continue, but I do not know that he has an_erious encouragement. She ought to do better. A poor honourable is no catch,
and I cannot imagine any liking in the case, for take away his rants, and th_oor baron has nothing. What a difference a vowel makes! If his rents were bu_qual to his rants! Your cousin Edmund moves slowly; detained, perchance, b_arish duties. There may be some old woman at Thornton Lacey to be converted.
I am unwilling to fancy myself neglected for a young one. Adieu! my dear swee_anny, this is a long letter from London: write me a pretty one in reply t_ladden Henry's eyes, when he comes back, and send me an account of all th_ashing young captains whom you disdain for his sake."
There was great food for meditation in this letter, and chiefly for unpleasan_editation; and yet, with all the uneasiness it supplied, it connected he_ith the absent, it told her of people and things about whom she had neve_elt so much curiosity as now, and she would have been glad to have been sur_f such a letter every week. Her correspondence with her aunt Bertram was he_nly concern of higher interest.
As for any society in Portsmouth, that could at all make amends fo_eficiencies at home, there were none within the circle of her father's an_other's acquaintance to afford her the smallest satisfaction: she saw nobod_n whose favour she could wish to overcome her own shyness and reserve. Th_en appeared to her all coarse, the women all pert, everybody underbred; an_he gave as little contentment as she received from introductions either t_ld or new acquaintance. The young ladies who approached her at first wit_ome respect, in consideration of her coming from a baronet's family, wer_oon offended by what they termed "airs"; for, as she neither played on th_ianoforte nor wore fine pelisses, they could, on farther observation, admi_o right of superiority.
The first solid consolation which Fanny received for the evils of home, th_irst which her judgment could entirely approve, and which gave any promise o_urability, was in a better knowledge of Susan, and a hope of being of servic_o her. Susan had always behaved pleasantly to herself, but the determine_haracter of her general manners had astonished and alarmed her, and it was a_east a fortnight before she began to understand a disposition so totall_ifferent from her own. Susan saw that much was wrong at home, and wanted t_et it right. That a girl of fourteen, acting only on her own unassiste_eason, should err in the method of reform, was not wonderful; and Fanny soo_ecame more disposed to admire the natural light of the mind which could s_arly distinguish justly, than to censure severely the faults of conduct t_hich it led. Susan was only acting on the same truths, and pursuing the sam_ystem, which her own judgment acknowledged, but which her more supine an_ielding temper would have shrunk from asserting. Susan tried to be useful,
where she could only have gone away and cried; and that Susan was useful sh_ould perceive; that things, bad as they were, would have been worse but fo_uch interposition, and that both her mother and Betsey were restrained fro_ome excesses of very offensive indulgence and vulgarity.
In every argument with her mother, Susan had in point of reason the advantage,
and never was there any maternal tenderness to buy her off. The blind fondnes_hich was for ever producing evil around her she had never known. There was n_ratitude for affection past or present to make her better bear with it_xcesses to the others.
All this became gradually evident, and gradually placed Susan before he_ister as an object of mingled compassion and respect. That her manner wa_rong, however, at times very wrong, her measures often ill-chosen and ill-
timed, and her looks and language very often indefensible, Fanny could no_ease to feel; but she began to hope they might be rectified. Susan, sh_ound, looked up to her and wished for her good opinion; and new as anythin_ike an office of authority was to Fanny, new as it was to imagine hersel_apable of guiding or informing any one, she did resolve to give occasiona_ints to Susan, and endeavour to exercise for her advantage the juster notion_f what was due to everybody, and what would be wisest for herself, which he_wn more favoured education had fixed in her.
Her influence, or at least the consciousness and use of it, originated in a_ct of kindness by Susan, which, after many hesitations of delicacy, she a_ast worked herself up to. It had very early occurred to her that a small su_f money might, perhaps, restore peace for ever on the sore subject of th_ilver knife, canvassed as it now was continually, and the riches which sh_as in possession of herself, her uncle having given her 10 at parting, mad_er as able as she was willing to be generous. But she was so wholly unused t_onfer favours, except on the very poor, so unpractised in removing evils, o_estowing kindnesses among her equals, and so fearful of appearing to elevat_erself as a great lady at home, that it took some time to determine that i_ould not be unbecoming in her to make such a present. It was made, however,
at last: a silver knife was bought for Betsey, and accepted with grea_elight, its newness giving it every advantage over the other that could b_esired; Susan was established in the full possession of her own, Betse_andsomely declaring that now she had got one so much prettier herself, sh_hould never want that again; and no reproach seemed conveyed to the equall_atisfied mother, which Fanny had almost feared to be impossible. The dee_horoughly answered: a source of domestic altercation was entirely done away,
and it was the means of opening Susan's heart to her, and giving her somethin_ore to love and be interested in. Susan shewed that she had delicacy: please_s she was to be mistress of property which she had been struggling for a_east two years, she yet feared that her sister's judgment had been agains_er, and that a reproof was designed her for having so struggled as to mak_he purchase necessary for the tranquillity of the house.
Her temper was open. She acknowledged her fears, blamed herself for havin_ontended so warmly; and from that hour Fanny, understanding the worth of he_isposition and perceiving how fully she was inclined to seek her good opinio_nd refer to her judgment, began to feel again the blessing of affection, an_o entertain the hope of being useful to a mind so much in need of help, an_o much deserving it. She gave advice, advice too sound to be resisted by _ood understanding, and given so mildly and considerately as not to irritat_n imperfect temper, and she had the happiness of observing its good effect_ot unfrequently. More was not expected by one who, while seeing all th_bligation and expediency of submission and forbearance, saw also wit_ympathetic acuteness of feeling all that must be hourly grating to a gir_ike Susan. Her greatest wonder on the subject soon became—not that Susa_hould have been provoked into disrespect and impatience against her bette_nowledge— but that so much better knowledge, so many good notions should hav_een hers at all; and that, brought up in the midst of negligence and error,
she should have formed such proper opinions of what ought to be; she, who ha_ad no cousin Edmund to direct her thoughts or fix her principles.
The intimacy thus begun between them was a material advantage to each. B_itting together upstairs, they avoided a great deal of the disturbance of th_ouse; Fanny had peace, and Susan learned to think it no misfortune to b_uietly employed. They sat without a fire; but that was a privation familia_ven to Fanny, and she suffered the less because reminded by it of the Eas_oom. It was the only point of resemblance. In space, light, furniture, an_rospect, there was nothing alike in the two apartments; and she often heave_ sigh at the remembrance of all her books and boxes, and various comfort_here. By degrees the girls came to spend the chief of the morning upstairs,
at first only in working and talking, but after a few days, the remembrance o_he said books grew so potent and stimulative that Fanny found it impossibl_ot to try for books again. There were none in her father's house; but wealt_s luxurious and daring, and some of hers found its way to a circulatin_ibrary. She became a subscriber; amazed at being anything in propria persona,
amazed at her own doings in every way, to be a renter, a chuser of books! An_o be having any one's improvement in view in her choice! But so it was. Susa_ad read nothing, and Fanny longed to give her a share in her own firs_leasures, and inspire a taste for the biography and poetry which sh_elighted in herself.
In this occupation she hoped, moreover, to bury some of the recollections o_ansfield, which were too apt to seize her mind if her fingers only were busy;
and, especially at this time, hoped it might be useful in diverting he_houghts from pursuing Edmund to London, whither, on the authority of he_unt's last letter, she knew he was gone. She had no doubt of what woul_nsue. The promised notification was hanging over her head. The postman'_nock within the neighbourhood was beginning to bring its daily terrors, an_f reading could banish the idea for even half an hour, it was somethin_ained.