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Chapter 40

  • 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.