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Chapter 44

  • Seven weeks of the two months were very nearly gone, when the one letter, th_etter from Edmund, so long expected, was put into Fanny's hands. As sh_pened, and saw its length, she prepared herself for a minute detail o_appiness and a profusion of love and praise towards the fortunate creatur_ho was now mistress of his fate. These were the contents—
  • "My Dear Fanny,—Excuse me that I have not written before. Crawford told m_hat you were wishing to hear from me, but I found it impossible to write fro_ondon, and persuaded myself that you would understand my silence. Could _ave sent a few happy lines, they should not have been wanting, but nothing o_hat nature was ever in my power. I am returned to Mansfield in a less assure_tate that when I left it. My hopes are much weaker. You are probably aware o_his already. So very fond of you as Miss Crawford is, it is most natural tha_he should tell you enough of her own feelings to furnish a tolerable guess a_ine. I will not be prevented, however, from making my own communication. Ou_onfidences in you need not clash. I ask no questions. There is somethin_oothing in the idea that we have the same friend, and that whatever unhapp_ifferences of opinion may exist between us, we are united in our love of you.
  • It will be a comfort to me to tell you how things now are, and what are m_resent plans, if plans I can be said to have. I have been returned sinc_aturday. I was three weeks in London, and saw her (for London) very often. _ad every attention from the Frasers that could be reasonably expected. I dar_ay I was not reasonable in carrying with me hopes of an intercourse at al_ike that of Mansfield. It was her manner, however, rather than an_nfrequency of meeting. Had she been different when I did see her, I shoul_ave made no complaint, but from the very first she was altered: my firs_eception was so unlike what I had hoped, that I had almost resolved o_eaving London again directly. I need not particularise. You know the wea_ide of her character, and may imagine the sentiments and expressions whic_ere torturing me. She was in high spirits, and surrounded by those who wer_iving all the support of their own bad sense to her too lively mind. I do no_ike Mrs. Fraser. She is a cold-hearted, vain woman, who has married entirel_rom convenience, and though evidently unhappy in her marriage, places he_isappointment not to faults of judgment, or temper, or disproportion of age,
  • but to her being, after all, less affluent than many of her acquaintance,
  • especially than her sister, Lady Stornaway, and is the determined supporter o_verything mercenary and ambitious, provided it be only mercenary an_mbitious enough. I look upon her intimacy with those two sisters as th_reatest misfortune of her life and mine. They have been leading her astra_or years. Could she be detached from them!— and sometimes I do not despair o_t, for the affection appears to me principally on their side. They are ver_ond of her; but I am sure she does not love them as she loves you. When _hink of her great attachment to you, indeed, and the whole of her judicious,
  • upright conduct as a sister, she appears a very different creature, capable o_verything noble, and I am ready to blame myself for a too harsh constructio_f a playful manner. I cannot give her up, Fanny. She is the only woman in th_orld whom I could ever think of as a wife. If I did not believe that she ha_ome regard for me, of course I should not say this, but I do believe it. I a_onvinced that she is not without a decided preference. I have no jealousy o_ny individual. It is the influence of the fashionable world altogether that _m jealous of. It is the habits of wealth that I fear. Her ideas are no_igher than her own fortune may warrant, but they are beyond what our income_nited could authorise. There is comfort, however, even here. I could bette_ear to lose her because not rich enough, than because of my profession. Tha_ould only prove her affection not equal to sacrifices, which, in fact, I a_carcely justified in asking; and, if I am refused, that, I think, will be th_onest motive. Her prejudices, I trust, are not so strong as they were. Yo_ave my thoughts exactly as they arise, my dear Fanny; perhaps they ar_ometimes contradictory, but it will not be a less faithful picture of m_ind. Having once begun, it is a pleasure to me to tell you all I feel. _annot give her up. Connected as we already are, and, I hope, are to be, t_ive up Mary Crawford would be to give up the society of some of those mos_ear to me; to banish myself from the very houses and friends whom, under an_ther distress, I should turn to for consolation. The loss of Mary I mus_onsider as comprehending the loss of Crawford and of Fanny. Were it a decide_hing, an actual refusal, I hope I should know how to bear it, and how t_ndeavour to weaken her hold on my heart, and in the course of a few years—
  • but I am writing nonsense. Were I refused, I must bear it; and till I am, _an never cease to try for her. This is the truth. The only question is how?
  • What may be the likeliest means? I have sometimes thought of going to Londo_gain after Easter, and sometimes resolved on doing nothing till she return_o Mansfield. Even now, she speaks with pleasure of being in Mansfield i_une; but June is at a great distance, and I believe I shall write to her. _ave nearly determined on explaining myself by letter. To be at an earl_ertainty is a material object. My present state is miserably irksome.
  • Considering everything, I think a letter will be decidedly the best method o_xplanation. I shall be able to write much that I could not say, and shall b_iving her time for reflection before she resolves on her answer, and I a_ess afraid of the result of reflection than of an immediate hasty impulse; _hink I am. My greatest danger would lie in her consulting Mrs. Fraser, and _t a distance unable to help my own cause. A letter exposes to all the evil o_onsultation, and where the mind is anything short of perfect decision, a_dviser may, in an unlucky moment, lead it to do what it may afterward_egret. I must think this matter over a little. This long letter, full of m_wn concerns alone, will be enough to tire even the friendship of a Fanny. Th_ast time I saw Crawford was at Mrs. Fraser's party. I am more and mor_atisfied with all that I see and hear of him. There is not a shadow o_avering. He thoroughly knows his own mind, and acts up to his resolutions: a_nestimable quality. I could not see him and my eldest sister in the same roo_ithout recollecting what you once told me, and I acknowledge that they di_ot meet as friends. There was marked coolness on her side. They scarcel_poke. I saw him draw back surprised, and I was sorry that Mrs. Rushwort_hould resent any former supposed slight to Miss Bertram. You will wish t_ear my opinion of Maria's degree of comfort as a wife. There is no appearanc_f unhappiness. I hope they get on pretty well together. I dined twice i_impole Street, and might have been there oftener, but it is mortifying to b_ith Rushworth as a brother. Julia seems to enjoy London exceedingly. I ha_ittle enjoyment there, but have less here. We are not a lively party. You ar_ery much wanted. I miss you more than I can express. My mother desires he_est love, and hopes to hear from you soon. She talks of you almost ever_our, and I am sorry to find how many weeks more she is likely to be withou_ou. My father means to fetch you himself, but it will not be till afte_aster, when he has business in town. You are happy at Portsmouth, I hope, bu_his must not be a yearly visit. I want you at home, that I may have you_pinion about Thornton Lacey. I have little heart for extensive improvement_ill I know that it will ever have a mistress. I think I shall certainl_rite. It is quite settled that the Grants go to Bath; they leave Mansfield o_onday. I am glad of it. I am not comfortable enough to be fit for anybody;
  • but your aunt seems to feel out of luck that such an article of Mansfield new_hould fall to my pen instead of hers.—Yours ever, my dearest Fanny."
  • "I never will, no, I certainly never will wish for a letter again," wa_anny's secret declaration as she finished this. "What do they bring bu_isappointment and sorrow? Not till after Easter! How shall I bear it? And m_oor aunt talking of me every hour!"
  • Fanny checked the tendency of these thoughts as well as she could, but she wa_ithin half a minute of starting the idea that Sir Thomas was quite unkind,
  • both to her aunt and to herself. As for the main subject of the letter, ther_as nothing in that to soothe irritation. She was almost vexed int_ispleasure and anger against Edmund. "There is no good in this delay," sai_he. "Why is not it settled? He is blinded, and nothing will open his eyes;
  • nothing can, after having had truths before him so long in vain. He will marr_er, and be poor and miserable. God grant that her influence do not make hi_ease to be respectable!" She looked over the letter again. "'So very fond o_e!' 'tis nonsense all. She loves nobody but herself and her brother. He_riends leading her astray for years! She is quite as likely to have led the_stray. They have all, perhaps, been corrupting one another; but if they ar_o much fonder of her than she is of them, she is the less likely to have bee_urt, except by their flattery. 'The only woman in the world whom he coul_ver think of as a wife.' I firmly believe it. It is an attachment to gover_is whole life. Accepted or refused, his heart is wedded to her for ever. 'Th_oss of Mary I must consider as comprehending the loss of Crawford and Fanny.'
  • Edmund, you do not know me. The families would never be connected if you di_ot connect them! Oh! write, write. Finish it at once. Let there be an end o_his suspense. Fix, commit, condemn yourself."
  • Such sensations, however, were too near akin to resentment to be long guidin_anny's soliloquies. She was soon more softened and sorrowful. His war_egard, his kind expressions, his confidential treatment, touched he_trongly. He was only too good to everybody. It was a letter, in short, whic_he would not but have had for the world, and which could never be value_nough. This was the end of it.
  • Everybody at all addicted to letter-writing, without having much to say, whic_ill include a large proportion of the female world at least, must feel wit_ady Bertram that she was out of luck in having such a capital piece o_ansfield news as the certainty of the Grants going to Bath, occur at a tim_hen she could make no advantage of it, and will admit that it must have bee_ery mortifying to her to see it fall to the share of her thankless son, an_reated as concisely as possible at the end of a long letter, instead o_aving it to spread over the largest part of a page of her own. For thoug_ady Bertram rather shone in the epistolary line, having early in he_arriage, from the want of other employment, and the circumstance of Si_homas's being in Parliament, got into the way of making and keepin_orrespondents, and formed for herself a very creditable, common-place,
  • amplifying style, so that a very little matter was enough for her: she coul_ot do entirely without any; she must have something to write about, even t_er niece; and being so soon to lose all the benefit of Dr. Grant's gout_ymptoms and Mrs. Grant's morning calls, it was very hard upon her to b_eprived of one of the last epistolary uses she could put them to.
  • There was a rich amends, however, preparing for her. Lady Bertram's hour o_ood luck came. Within a few days from the receipt of Edmund's letter, Fann_ad one from her aunt, beginning thus—
  • "My Dear Fanny,—I take up my pen to communicate some very alarmin_ntelligence, which I make no doubt will give you much concern".
  • This was a great deal better than to have to take up the pen to acquaint he_ith all the particulars of the Grants' intended journey, for the presen_ntelligence was of a nature to promise occupation for the pen for many day_o come, being no less than the dangerous illness of her eldest son, of whic_hey had received notice by express a few hours before.
  • Tom had gone from London with a party of young men to Newmarket, where _eglected fall and a good deal of drinking had brought on a fever; and whe_he party broke up, being unable to move, had been left by himself at th_ouse of one of these young men to the comforts of sickness and solitude, an_he attendance only of servants. Instead of being soon well enough to follo_is friends, as he had then hoped, his disorder increased considerably, and i_as not long before he thought so ill of himself as to be as ready as hi_hysician to have a letter despatched to Mansfield.
  • "This distressing intelligence, as you may suppose," observed her ladyship,
  • after giving the substance of it, "has agitated us exceedingly, and we canno_revent ourselves from being greatly alarmed and apprehensive for the poo_nvalid, whose state Sir Thomas fears may be very critical; and Edmund kindl_roposes attending his brother immediately, but I am happy to add that Si_homas will not leave me on this distressing occasion, as it would be to_rying for me. We shall greatly miss Edmund in our small circle, but I trus_nd hope he will find the poor invalid in a less alarming state than might b_pprehended, and that he will be able to bring him to Mansfield shortly, whic_ir Thomas proposes should be done, and thinks best on every account, and _latter myself the poor sufferer will soon be able to bear the removal withou_aterial inconvenience or injury. As I have little doubt of your feeling fo_s, my dear Fanny, under these distressing circumstances, I will write agai_ery soon."
  • Fanny's feelings on the occasion were indeed considerably more warm an_enuine than her aunt's style of writing. She felt truly for them all. To_angerously ill, Edmund gone to attend him, and the sadly small part_emaining at Mansfield, were cares to shut out every other care, or almos_very other. She could just find selfishness enough to wonder whether Edmun_ad written to Miss Crawford before this summons came, but no sentiment dwel_ong with her that was not purely affectionate and disinterestedly anxious.
  • Her aunt did not neglect her: she wrote again and again; they were receivin_requent accounts from Edmund, and these accounts were as regularl_ransmitted to Fanny, in the same diffuse style, and the same medley o_rusts, hopes, and fears, all following and producing each other at haphazard.
  • It was a sort of playing at being frightened. The sufferings which Lad_ertram did not see had little power over her fancy; and she wrote ver_omfortably about agitation, and anxiety, and poor invalids, till Tom wa_ctually conveyed to Mansfield, and her own eyes had beheld his altere_ppearance. Then a letter which she had been previously preparing for Fann_as finished in a different style, in the language of real feeling and alarm;
  • then she wrote as she might have spoken. "He is just come, my dear Fanny, an_s taken upstairs; and I am so shocked to see him, that I do not know what t_o. I am sure he has been very ill. Poor Tom! I am quite grieved for him, an_ery much frightened, and so is Sir Thomas; and how glad I should be if yo_ere here to comfort me. But Sir Thomas hopes he will be better to-morrow, an_ays we must consider his journey."
  • The real solicitude now awakened in the maternal bosom was not soon over.
  • Tom's extreme impatience to be removed to Mansfield, and experience thos_omforts of home and family which had been little thought of in uninterrupte_ealth, had probably induced his being conveyed thither too early, as a retur_f fever came on, and for a week he was in a more alarming state than ever.
  • They were all very seriously frightened. Lady Bertram wrote her daily terror_o her niece, who might now be said to live upon letters, and pass all he_ime between suffering from that of to-day and looking forward to to-morrow's.
  • Without any particular affection for her eldest cousin, her tenderness o_eart made her feel that she could not spare him, and the purity of he_rinciples added yet a keener solicitude, when she considered how littl_seful, how little self-denying his life had (apparently) been.
  • Susan was her only companion and listener on this, as on more commo_ccasions. Susan was always ready to hear and to sympathise. Nobody else coul_e interested in so remote an evil as illness in a family above an hundre_iles off; not even Mrs. Price, beyond a brief question or two, if she saw he_aughter with a letter in her hand, and now and then the quiet observation of,
  • "My poor sister Bertram must be in a great deal of trouble."
  • So long divided and so differently situated, the ties of blood were littl_ore than nothing. An attachment, originally as tranquil as their tempers, wa_ow become a mere name. Mrs. Price did quite as much for Lady Bertram as Lad_ertram would have done for Mrs. Price. Three or four Prices might have bee_wept away, any or all except Fanny and William, and Lady Bertram would hav_hought little about it; or perhaps might have caught from Mrs. Norris's lip_he cant of its being a very happy thing and a great blessing to their poo_ear sister Price to have them so well provided for.