A week was gone since Edmund might be supposed in town, and Fanny had hear_othing of him. There were three different conclusions to be drawn from hi_ilence, between which her mind was in fluctuation; each of them at time_eing held the most probable. Either his going had been again delayed, or h_ad yet procured no opportunity of seeing Miss Crawford alone, or he was to_appy for letter-writing!
One morning, about this time, Fanny having now been nearly four weeks fro_ansfield, a point which she never failed to think over and calculate ever_ay, as she and Susan were preparing to remove, as usual, upstairs, they wer_topped by the knock of a visitor, whom they felt they could not avoid, fro_ebecca's alertness in going to the door, a duty which always interested he_eyond any other.
It was a gentleman's voice; it was a voice that Fanny was just turning pal_bout, when Mr. Crawford walked into the room.
Good sense, like hers, will always act when really called upon; and she foun_hat she had been able to name him to her mother, and recall her remembranc_f the name, as that of "William's friend," though she could not previousl_ave believed herself capable of uttering a syllable at such a moment. Th_onsciousness of his being known there only as William's friend was som_upport. Having introduced him, however, and being all reseated, the terror_hat occurred of what this visit might lead to were overpowering, and sh_ancied herself on the point of fainting away.
While trying to keep herself alive, their visitor, who had at first approache_er with as animated a countenance as ever, was wisely and kindly keeping hi_yes away, and giving her time to recover, while he devoted himself entirel_o her mother, addressing her, and attending to her with the utmost politenes_nd propriety, at the same time with a degree of friendliness, of interest a_east, which was making his manner perfect.
Mrs. Price's manners were also at their best. Warmed by the sight of such _riend to her son, and regulated by the wish of appearing to advantage befor_im, she was overflowing with gratitude—artless, maternal gratitude— whic_ould not be unpleasing. Mr. Price was out, which she regretted very much.
Fanny was just recovered enough to feel that she could not regret it; for t_er many other sources of uneasiness was added the severe one of shame for th_ome in which he found her. She might scold herself for the weakness, bu_here was no scolding it away. She was ashamed, and she would have been ye_ore ashamed of her father than of all the rest.
They talked of William, a subject on which Mrs. Price could never tire; an_r. Crawford was as warm in his commendation as even her heart could wish. Sh_elt that she had never seen so agreeable a man in her life; and was onl_stonished to find that, so great and so agreeable as he was, he should b_ome down to Portsmouth neither on a visit to the port-admiral, nor th_ommissioner, nor yet with the intention of going over to the island, nor o_eeing the dockyard. Nothing of all that she had been used to think of as th_roof of importance, or the employment of wealth, had brought him t_ortsmouth. He had reached it late the night before, was come for a day o_wo, was staying at the Crown, had accidentally met with a navy officer or tw_f his acquaintance since his arrival, but had no object of that kind i_oming.
By the time he had given all this information, it was not unreasonable t_uppose that Fanny might be looked at and spoken to; and she was tolerabl_ble to bear his eye, and hear that he had spent half an hour with his siste_he evening before his leaving London; that she had sent her best and kindes_ove, but had had no time for writing; that he thought himself lucky in seein_ary for even half an hour, having spent scarcely twenty-four hours in London,
after his return from Norfolk, before he set off again; that her cousin Edmun_as in town, had been in town, he understood, a few days; that he had not see_im himself, but that he was well, had left them all well at Mansfield, an_as to dine, as yesterday, with the Frasers.
Fanny listened collectedly, even to the last-mentioned circumstance; nay, i_eemed a relief to her worn mind to be at any certainty; and the words, "the_y this time it is all settled," passed internally, without more evidence o_motion than a faint blush.
After talking a little more about Mansfield, a subject in which her interes_as most apparent, Crawford began to hint at the expediency of an early walk.
"It was a lovely morning, and at that season of the year a fine morning s_ften turned off, that it was wisest for everybody not to delay thei_xercise"; and such hints producing nothing, he soon proceeded to a positiv_ecommendation to Mrs. Price and her daughters to take their walk without los_f time. Now they came to an understanding. Mrs. Price, it appeared, scarcel_ver stirred out of doors, except of a Sunday; she owned she could seldom,
with her large family, find time for a walk. "Would she not, then, persuad_er daughters to take advantage of such weather, and allow him the pleasure o_ttending them?" Mrs. Price was greatly obliged and very complying. "He_aughters were very much confined; Portsmouth was a sad place; they did no_ften get out; and she knew they had some errands in the town, which the_ould be very glad to do." And the consequence was, that Fanny, strange as i_as— strange, awkward, and distressing—found herself and Susan, within te_inutes, walking towards the High Street with Mr. Crawford.
It was soon pain upon pain, confusion upon confusion; for they were hardly i_he High Street before they met her father, whose appearance was not th_etter from its being Saturday. He stopt; and, ungentlemanlike as he looked,
Fanny was obliged to introduce him to Mr. Crawford. She could not have a doub_f the manner in which Mr. Crawford must be struck. He must be ashamed an_isgusted altogether. He must soon give her up, and cease to have the smalles_nclination for the match; and yet, though she had been so much wanting hi_ffection to be cured, this was a sort of cure that would be almost as bad a_he complaint; and I believe there is scarcely a young lady in the Unite_ingdoms who would not rather put up with the misfortune of being sought by _lever, agreeable man, than have him driven away by the vulgarity of he_earest relations.
Mr. Crawford probably could not regard his future father-in-law with any ide_f taking him for a model in dress; but (as Fanny instantly, and to her grea_elief, discerned) her father was a very different man, a very different Mr.
Price in his behaviour to this most highly respected stranger, from what h_as in his own family at home. His manners now, though not polished, were mor_han passable: they were grateful, animated, manly; his expressions were thos_f an attached father, and a sensible man; his loud tones did very well in th_pen air, and there was not a single oath to be heard. Such was hi_nstinctive compliment to the good manners of Mr. Crawford; and, be th_onsequence what it might, Fanny's immediate feelings were infinitely soothed.
The conclusion of the two gentlemen's civilities was an offer of Mr. Price'_o take Mr. Crawford into the dockyard, which Mr. Crawford, desirous o_ccepting as a favour what was intended as such, though he had seen th_ockyard again and again, and hoping to be so much the longer with Fanny, wa_ery gratefully disposed to avail himself of, if the Miss Prices were no_fraid of the fatigue; and as it was somehow or other ascertained, o_nferred, or at least acted upon, that they were not at all afraid, to th_ockyard they were all to go; and but for Mr. Crawford, Mr. Price would hav_urned thither directly, without the smallest consideration for his daughters'
errands in the High Street. He took care, however, that they should be allowe_o go to the shops they came out expressly to visit; and it did not delay the_ong, for Fanny could so little bear to excite impatience, or be waited for,
that before the gentlemen, as they stood at the door, could do more than begi_pon the last naval regulations, or settle the number of three-deckers now i_ommission, their companions were ready to proceed.
They were then to set forward for the dockyard at once, and the walk woul_ave been conducted—according to Mr. Crawford's opinion—in a singular manner,
had Mr. Price been allowed the entire regulation of it, as the two girls, h_ound, would have been left to follow, and keep up with them or not, as the_ould, while they walked on together at their own hasty pace. He was able t_ntroduce some improvement occasionally, though by no means to the extent h_ished; he absolutely would not walk away from them; and at any crossing o_ny crowd, when Mr. Price was only calling out, "Come, girls; come, Fan; come,
Sue, take care of yourselves; keep a sharp lookout!" he would give them hi_articular attendance.
Once fairly in the dockyard, he began to reckon upon some happy intercours_ith Fanny, as they were very soon joined by a brother lounger of Mr. Price's,
who was come to take his daily survey of how things went on, and who mus_rove a far more worthy companion than himself; and after a time the tw_fficers seemed very well satisfied going about together, and discussin_atters of equal and never-failing interest, while the young people sat dow_pon some timbers in the yard, or found a seat on board a vessel in the stock_hich they all went to look at. Fanny was most conveniently in want of rest.
Crawford could not have wished her more fatigued or more ready to sit down;
but he could have wished her sister away. A quick-looking girl of Susan's ag_as the very worst third in the world: totally different from Lady Bertram,
all eyes and ears; and there was no introducing the main point before her. H_ust content himself with being only generally agreeable, and letting Susa_ave her share of entertainment, with the indulgence, now and then, of a loo_r hint for the better-informed and conscious Fanny. Norfolk was what he ha_ostly to talk of: there he had been some time, and everything there wa_ising in importance from his present schemes. Such a man could come from n_lace, no society, without importing something to amuse; his journeys and hi_cquaintance were all of use, and Susan was entertained in a way quite new t_er. For Fanny, somewhat more was related than the accidental agreeableness o_he parties he had been in. For her approbation, the particular reason of hi_oing into Norfolk at all, at this unusual time of year, was given. It ha_een real business, relative to the renewal of a lease in which the welfare o_ large and—he believed— industrious family was at stake. He had suspected hi_gent of some underhand dealing; of meaning to bias him against the deserving;
and he had determined to go himself, and thoroughly investigate the merits o_he case. He had gone, had done even more good than he had foreseen, had bee_seful to more than his first plan had comprehended, and was now able t_ongratulate himself upon it, and to feel that in performing a duty, he ha_ecured agreeable recollections for his own mind. He had introduced himself t_ome tenants whom he had never seen before; he had begun making acquaintanc_ith cottages whose very existence, though on his own estate, had bee_itherto unknown to him. This was aimed, and well aimed, at Fanny. It wa_leasing to hear him speak so properly; here he had been acting as he ought t_o. To be the friend of the poor and the oppressed! Nothing could be mor_rateful to her; and she was on the point of giving him an approving look,
when it was all frightened off by his adding a something too pointed of hi_oping soon to have an assistant, a friend, a guide in every plan of utilit_r charity for Everingham: a somebody that would make Everingham and all abou_t a dearer object than it had ever been yet.
She turned away, and wished he would not say such things. She was willing t_llow he might have more good qualities than she had been wont to suppose. Sh_egan to feel the possibility of his turning out well at last; but he was an_ust ever be completely unsuited to her, and ought not to think of her.
He perceived that enough had been said of Everingham, and that it would be a_ell to talk of something else, and turned to Mansfield. He could not hav_hosen better; that was a topic to bring back her attention and her look_lmost instantly. It was a real indulgence to her to hear or to speak o_ansfield. Now so long divided from everybody who knew the place, she felt i_uite the voice of a friend when he mentioned it, and led the way to her fon_xclamations in praise of its beauties and comforts, and by his honourabl_ribute to its inhabitants allowed her to gratify her own heart in the warmes_ulogium, in speaking of her uncle as all that was clever and good, and he_unt as having the sweetest of all sweet tempers.
He had a great attachment to Mansfield himself; he said so; he looked forwar_ith the hope of spending much, very much, of his time there; always there, o_n the neighbourhood. He particularly built upon a very happy summer an_utumn there this year; he felt that it would be so: he depended upon it; _ummer and autumn infinitely superior to the last. As animated, a_iversified, as social, but with circumstances of superiority undescribable.
"Mansfield, Sotherton, Thornton Lacey," he continued; "what a society will b_omprised in those houses! And at Michaelmas, perhaps, a fourth may be added:
some small hunting-box in the vicinity of everything so dear; for as to an_artnership in Thornton Lacey, as Edmund Bertram once good-humouredl_roposed, I hope I foresee two objections: two fair, excellent, irresistibl_bjections to that plan."
Fanny was doubly silenced here; though when the moment was passed, coul_egret that she had not forced herself into the acknowledged comprehension o_ne half of his meaning, and encouraged him to say something more of hi_ister and Edmund. It was a subject which she must learn to speak of, and th_eakness that shrunk from it would soon be quite unpardonable.
When Mr. Price and his friend had seen all that they wished, or had time for,
the others were ready to return; and in the course of their walk back, Mr.
Crawford contrived a minute's privacy for telling Fanny that his only busines_n Portsmouth was to see her; that he was come down for a couple of days o_er account, and hers only, and because he could not endure a longer tota_eparation. She was sorry, really sorry; and yet in spite of this and the tw_r three other things which she wished he had not said, she thought hi_ltogether improved since she had seen him; he was much more gentle, obliging,
and attentive to other people's feelings than he had ever been at Mansfield;
she had never seen him so agreeable—so near being agreeable; his behaviour t_er father could not offend, and there was something particularly kind an_roper in the notice he took of Susan. He was decidedly improved. She wishe_he next day over, she wished he had come only for one day; but it was not s_ery bad as she would have expected: the pleasure of talking of Mansfield wa_o very great!
Before they parted, she had to thank him for another pleasure, and one of n_rivial kind. Her father asked him to do them the honour of taking his mutto_ith them, and Fanny had time for only one thrill of horror, before h_eclared himself prevented by a prior engagement. He was engaged to dinne_lready both for that day and the next; he had met with some acquaintance a_he Crown who would not be denied; he should have the honour, however, o_aiting on them again on the morrow, etc., and so they parted—Fanny in a stat_f actual felicity from escaping so horrible an evil!
To have had him join their family dinner-party, and see all thei_eficiencies, would have been dreadful! Rebecca's cookery and Rebecca'_aiting, and Betsey's eating at table without restraint, and pullin_verything about as she chose, were what Fanny herself was not yet enoug_nured to for her often to make a tolerable meal. She was nice only fro_atural delicacy, but he had been brought up in a school of luxury an_picurism.