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Chapter 47

  • It had been a miserable party, each of the three believing themselves mos_iserable. Mrs. Norris, however, as most attached to Maria, was really th_reatest sufferer. Maria was her first favourite, the dearest of all; th_atch had been her own contriving, as she had been wont with such pride o_eart to feel and say, and this conclusion of it almost overpowered her.
  • She was an altered creature, quieted, stupefied, indifferent to everythin_hat passed. The being left with her sister and nephew, and all the hous_nder her care, had been an advantage entirely thrown away; she had bee_nable to direct or dictate, or even fancy herself useful. When really touche_y affliction, her active powers had been all benumbed; and neither Lad_ertram nor Tom had received from her the smallest support or attempt a_upport. She had done no more for them than they had done for each other. The_ad been all solitary, helpless, and forlorn alike; and now the arrival of th_thers only established her superiority in wretchedness. Her companions wer_elieved, but there was no good for her. Edmund was almost as welcome to hi_rother as Fanny to her aunt; but Mrs. Norris, instead of having comfort fro_ither, was but the more irritated by the sight of the person whom, in th_lindness of her anger, she could have charged as the daemon of the piece. Ha_anny accepted Mr. Crawford this could not have happened.
  • Susan too was a grievance. She had not spirits to notice her in more than _ew repulsive looks, but she felt her as a spy, and an intruder, and a_ndigent niece, and everything most odious. By her other aunt, Susan wa_eceived with quiet kindness. Lady Bertram could not give her much time, o_any words, but she felt her, as Fanny's sister, to have a claim at Mansfield,
  • and was ready to kiss and like her; and Susan was more than satisfied, for sh_ame perfectly aware that nothing but ill-humour was to be expected from aun_orris; and was so provided with happiness, so strong in that best o_lessings, an escape from many certain evils, that she could have stoo_gainst a great deal more indifference than she met with from the others.
  • She was now left a good deal to herself, to get acquainted with the house an_rounds as she could, and spent her days very happily in so doing, while thos_ho might otherwise have attended to her were shut up, or wholly occupied eac_ith the person quite dependent on them, at this time, for everything lik_omfort; Edmund trying to bury his own feelings in exertions for the relief o_is brother's, and Fanny devoted to her aunt Bertram, returning to ever_ormer office with more than former zeal, and thinking she could never d_nough for one who seemed so much to want her.
  • To talk over the dreadful business with Fanny, talk and lament, was all Lad_ertram's consolation. To be listened to and borne with, and hear the voice o_indness and sympathy in return, was everything that could be done for her. T_e otherwise comforted was out of the question. The case admitted of n_omfort. Lady Bertram did not think deeply, but, guided by Sir Thomas, sh_hought justly on all important points; and she saw, therefore, in all it_normity, what had happened, and neither endeavoured herself, nor require_anny to advise her, to think little of guilt and infamy.
  • Her affections were not acute, nor was her mind tenacious. After a time, Fann_ound it not impossible to direct her thoughts to other subjects, and reviv_ome interest in the usual occupations; but whenever Lady Bertram was fixed o_he event, she could see it only in one light, as comprehending the loss of _aughter, and a disgrace never to be wiped off.
  • Fanny learnt from her all the particulars which had yet transpired. Her aun_as no very methodical narrator, but with the help of some letters to and fro_ir Thomas, and what she already knew herself, and could reasonably combine,
  • she was soon able to understand quite as much as she wished of th_ircumstances attending the story.
  • Mrs. Rushworth had gone, for the Easter holidays, to Twickenham, with a famil_hom she had just grown intimate with: a family of lively, agreeable manners,
  • and probably of morals and discretion to suit, for to their house Mr. Crawfor_ad constant access at all times. His having been in the same neighbourhoo_anny already knew. Mr. Rushworth had been gone at this time to Bath, to pas_ few days with his mother, and bring her back to town, and Maria was wit_hese friends without any restraint, without even Julia; for Julia had remove_rom Wimpole Street two or three weeks before, on a visit to some relations o_ir Thomas; a removal which her father and mother were now disposed t_ttribute to some view of convenience on Mr. Yates's account. Very soon afte_he Rushworths' return to Wimpole Street, Sir Thomas had received a lette_rom an old and most particular friend in London, who hearing and witnessing _ood deal to alarm him in that quarter, wrote to recommend Sir Thomas's comin_o London himself, and using his influence with his daughter to put an end t_he intimacy which was already exposing her to unpleasant remarks, an_vidently making Mr. Rushworth uneasy.
  • Sir Thomas was preparing to act upon this letter, without communicating it_ontents to any creature at Mansfield, when it was followed by another, sen_xpress from the same friend, to break to him the almost desperate situatio_n which affairs then stood with the young people. Mrs. Rushworth had left he_usband's house: Mr. Rushworth had been in great anger and distress to him
  • (Mr. Harding) for his advice; Mr. Harding feared there had been at least ver_lagrant indiscretion. The maidservant of Mrs. Rushworth, senior, threatene_larmingly. He was doing all in his power to quiet everything, with the hop_f Mrs. Rushworth's return, but was so much counteracted in Wimpole Street b_he influence of Mr. Rushworth's mother, that the worst consequences might b_pprehended.
  • This dreadful communication could not be kept from the rest of the family. Si_homas set off, Edmund would go with him, and the others had been left in _tate of wretchedness, inferior only to what followed the receipt of the nex_etters from London. Everything was by that time public beyond a hope. Th_ervant of Mrs. Rushworth, the mother, had exposure in her power, an_upported by her mistress, was not to be silenced. The two ladies, even in th_hort time they had been together, had disagreed; and the bitterness of th_lder against her daughter-in-law might perhaps arise almost as much from th_ersonal disrespect with which she had herself been treated as fro_ensibility for her son.
  • However that might be, she was unmanageable. But had she been less obstinate,
  • or of less weight with her son, who was always guided by the last speaker, b_he person who could get hold of and shut him up, the case would still hav_een hopeless, for Mrs. Rushworth did not appear again, and there was ever_eason to conclude her to be concealed somewhere with Mr. Crawford, who ha_uitted his uncle's house, as for a journey, on the very day of her absentin_erself.
  • Sir Thomas, however, remained yet a little longer in town, in the hope o_iscovering and snatching her from farther vice, though all was lost on th_ide of character.
  • His present state Fanny could hardly bear to think of. There was but one o_is children who was not at this time a source of misery to him. Tom'_omplaints had been greatly heightened by the shock of his sister's conduct,
  • and his recovery so much thrown back by it, that even Lady Bertram had bee_truck by the difference, and all her alarms were regularly sent off to he_usband; and Julia's elopement, the additional blow which had met him on hi_rrival in London, though its force had been deadened at the moment, must, sh_new, be sorely felt. She saw that it was. His letters expressed how much h_eplored it. Under any circumstances it would have been an unwelcome alliance;
  • but to have it so clandestinely formed, and such a period chosen for it_ompletion, placed Julia's feelings in a most unfavourable light, and severel_ggravated the folly of her choice. He called it a bad thing, done in th_orst manner, and at the worst time; and though Julia was yet as mor_ardonable than Maria as folly than vice, he could not but regard the step sh_ad taken as opening the worst probabilities of a conclusion hereafter lik_er sister's. Such was his opinion of the set into which she had throw_erself.
  • Fanny felt for him most acutely. He could have no comfort but in Edmund. Ever_ther child must be racking his heart. His displeasure against herself sh_rusted, reasoning differently from Mrs. Norris, would now be done away. Sh_hould be justified. Mr. Crawford would have fully acquitted her conduct i_efusing him; but this, though most material to herself, would be poo_onsolation to Sir Thomas. Her uncle's displeasure was terrible to her; bu_hat could her justification or her gratitude and attachment do for him? Hi_tay must be on Edmund alone.
  • She was mistaken, however, in supposing that Edmund gave his father no presen_ain. It was of a much less poignant nature than what the others excited; bu_ir Thomas was considering his happiness as very deeply involved in th_ffence of his sister and friend; cut off by it, as he must be, from the woma_hom he had been pursuing with undoubted attachment and strong probability o_uccess; and who, in everything but this despicable brother, would have bee_o eligible a connexion. He was aware of what Edmund must be suffering on hi_wn behalf, in addition to all the rest, when they were in town: he had see_r conjectured his feelings; and, having reason to think that one intervie_ith Miss Crawford had taken place, from which Edmund derived only increase_istress, had been as anxious on that account as on others to get him out o_own, and had engaged him in taking Fanny home to her aunt, with a view to hi_elief and benefit, no less than theirs. Fanny was not in the secret of he_ncle's feelings, Sir Thomas not in the secret of Miss Crawford's character.
  • Had he been privy to her conversation with his son, he would not have wishe_er to belong to him, though her twenty thousand pounds had been forty.
  • That Edmund must be for ever divided from Miss Crawford did not admit of _oubt with Fanny; and yet, till she knew that he felt the same, her ow_onviction was insufficient. She thought he did, but she wanted to be assure_f it. If he would now speak to her with the unreserve which had sometime_een too much for her before, it would be most consoling; but that she foun_as not to be. She seldom saw him: never alone. He probably avoided bein_lone with her. What was to be inferred? That his judgment submitted to al_is own peculiar and bitter share of this family affliction, but that it wa_oo keenly felt to be a subject of the slightest communication. This must b_is state. He yielded, but it was with agonies which did not admit of speech.
  • Long, long would it be ere Miss Crawford's name passed his lips again, or sh_ould hope for a renewal of such confidential intercourse as had been.
  • It was long. They reached Mansfield on Thursday, and it was not till Sunda_vening that Edmund began to talk to her on the subject. Sitting with her o_unday evening—a wet Sunday evening—the very time of all others when, if _riend is at hand, the heart must be opened, and everything told; no one els_n the room, except his mother, who, after hearing an affecting sermon, ha_ried herself to sleep, it was impossible not to speak; and so, with the usua_eginnings, hardly to be traced as to what came first, and the usua_eclaration that if she would listen to him for a few minutes, he should b_ery brief, and certainly never tax her kindness in the same way again; sh_eed not fear a repetition; it would be a subject prohibited entirely: h_ntered upon the luxury of relating circumstances and sensations of the firs_nterest to himself, to one of whose affectionate sympathy he was quit_onvinced.
  • How Fanny listened, with what curiosity and concern, what pain and wha_elight, how the agitation of his voice was watched, and how carefully her ow_yes were fixed on any object but himself, may be imagined. The opening wa_larming. He had seen Miss Crawford. He had been invited to see her. He ha_eceived a note from Lady Stornaway to beg him to call; and regarding it a_hat was meant to be the last, last interview of friendship, and investing he_ith all the feelings of shame and wretchedness which Crawford's sister ough_o have known, he had gone to her in such a state of mind, so softened, s_evoted, as made it for a few moments impossible to Fanny's fears that i_hould be the last. But as he proceeded in his story, these fears were over.
  • She had met him, he said, with a serious—certainly a serious— even an agitate_ir; but before he had been able to speak one intelligible sentence, she ha_ntroduced the subject in a manner which he owned had shocked him. "'I hear_ou were in town,' said she; 'I wanted to see you. Let us talk over this sa_usiness. What can equal the folly of our two relations?' I could not answer,
  • but I believe my looks spoke. She felt reproved. Sometimes how quick to feel!
  • With a graver look and voice she then added, 'I do not mean to defend Henry a_our sister's expense.' So she began, but how she went on, Fanny, is not fit,
  • is hardly fit to be repeated to you. I cannot recall all her words. I woul_ot dwell upon them if I could. Their substance was great anger at the foll_f each. She reprobated her brother's folly in being drawn on by a woman who_e had never cared for, to do what must lose him the woman he adored; bu_till more the folly of poor Maria, in sacrificing such a situation, plungin_nto such difficulties, under the idea of being really loved by a man who ha_ong ago made his indifference clear. Guess what I must have felt. To hear th_oman whom— no harsher name than folly given! So voluntarily, so freely, s_oolly to canvass it! No reluctance, no horror, no feminine, shall I say, n_odest loathings? This is what the world does. For where, Fanny, shall we fin_ woman whom nature had so richly endowed? Spoilt, spoilt!"
  • After a little reflection, he went on with a sort of desperate calmness. "_ill tell you everything, and then have done for ever. She saw it only a_olly, and that folly stamped only by exposure. The want of common discretion,
  • of caution: his going down to Richmond for the whole time of her being a_wickenham; her putting herself in the power of a servant; it was th_etection, in short—oh, Fanny! it was the detection, not the offence, whic_he reprobated. It was the imprudence which had brought things to extremity,
  • and obliged her brother to give up every dearer plan in order to fly wit_er."
  • He stopt. "And what," said Fanny (believing herself required to speak), "wha_ould you say?"
  • "Nothing, nothing to be understood. I was like a man stunned. She went on,
  • began to talk of you; yes, then she began to talk of you, regretting, as wel_he might, the loss of such a—. There she spoke very rationally. But she ha_lways done justice to you. 'He has thrown away,' said she, 'such a woman a_e will never see again. She would have fixed him; she would have made hi_appy for ever.' My dearest Fanny, I am giving you, I hope, more pleasure tha_ain by this retrospect of what might have been—but what never can be now. Yo_o not wish me to be silent? If you do, give me but a look, a word, and I hav_one."
  • No look or word was given.
  • "Thank God," said he. "We were all disposed to wonder, but it seems to hav_een the merciful appointment of Providence that the heart which knew no guil_hould not suffer. She spoke of you with high praise and warm affection; yet,
  • even here, there was alloy, a dash of evil; for in the midst of it she coul_xclaim, 'Why would not she have him? It is all her fault. Simple girl! _hall never forgive her. Had she accepted him as she ought, they might no_ave been on the point of marriage, and Henry would have been too happy an_oo busy to want any other object. He would have taken no pains to be on term_ith Mrs. Rushworth again. It would have all ended in a regular standin_lirtation, in yearly meetings at Sotherton and Everingham.' Could you hav_elieved it possible? But the charm is broken. My eyes are opened."
  • "Cruel!" said Fanny, "quite cruel. At such a moment to give way to gaiety, t_peak with lightness, and to you! Absolute cruelty."
  • "Cruelty, do you call it? We differ there. No, hers is not a cruel nature. _o not consider her as meaning to wound my feelings. The evil lies yet deeper:
  • in her total ignorance, unsuspiciousness of there being such feelings; in _erversion of mind which made it natural to her to treat the subject as sh_id. She was speaking only as she had been used to hear others speak, as sh_magined everybody else would speak. Hers are not faults of temper. She woul_ot voluntarily give unnecessary pain to any one, and though I may deceiv_yself, I cannot but think that for me, for my feelings, she would— Hers ar_aults of principle, Fanny; of blunted delicacy and a corrupted, vitiate_ind. Perhaps it is best for me, since it leaves me so little to regret. No_o, however. Gladly would I submit to all the increased pain of losing her,
  • rather than have to think of her as I do. I told her so."
  • "Did you?"
  • "Yes; when I left her I told her so."
  • "How long were you together?"
  • "Five-and-twenty minutes. Well, she went on to say that what remained now t_e done was to bring about a marriage between them. She spoke of it, Fanny,
  • with a steadier voice than I can." He was obliged to pause more than once a_e continued. "'We must persuade Henry to marry her,' said she; 'and what wit_onour, and the certainty of having shut himself out for ever from Fanny, I d_ot despair of it. Fanny he must give up. I do not think that even he coul_ow hope to succeed with one of her stamp, and therefore I hope we may find n_nsuperable difficulty. My influence, which is not small shall all go tha_ay; and when once married, and properly supported by her own family, peopl_f respectability as they are, she may recover her footing in society to _ertain degree. In some circles, we know, she would never be admitted, bu_ith good dinners, and large parties, there will always be those who will b_lad of her acquaintance; and there is, undoubtedly, more liberality an_andour on those points than formerly. What I advise is, that your father b_uiet. Do not let him injure his own cause by interference. Persuade him t_et things take their course. If by any officious exertions of his, she i_nduced to leave Henry's protection, there will be much less chance of hi_arrying her than if she remain with him. I know how he is likely to b_nfluenced. Let Sir Thomas trust to his honour and compassion, and it may al_nd well; but if he get his daughter away, it will be destroying the chie_old.'"
  • After repeating this, Edmund was so much affected that Fanny, watching hi_ith silent, but most tender concern, was almost sorry that the subject ha_een entered on at all. It was long before he could speak again. At last,
  • "Now, Fanny," said he, "I shall soon have done. I have told you the substanc_f all that she said. As soon as I could speak, I replied that I had no_upposed it possible, coming in such a state of mind into that house as I ha_one, that anything could occur to make me suffer more, but that she had bee_nflicting deeper wounds in almost every sentence. That though I had, in th_ourse of our acquaintance, been often sensible of some difference in ou_pinions, on points, too, of some moment, it had not entered my imagination t_onceive the difference could be such as she had now proved it. That th_anner in which she treated the dreadful crime committed by her brother and m_ister (with whom lay the greater seduction I pretended not to say), but th_anner in which she spoke of the crime itself, giving it every reproach bu_he right; considering its ill consequences only as they were to be braved o_verborne by a defiance of decency and impudence in wrong; and last of all,
  • and above all, recommending to us a compliance, a compromise, an acquiescenc_n the continuance of the sin, on the chance of a marriage which, thinking a_ now thought of her brother, should rather be prevented than sought; all thi_ogether most grievously convinced me that I had never understood her before,
  • and that, as far as related to mind, it had been the creature of my ow_magination, not Miss Crawford, that I had been too apt to dwell on for man_onths past. That, perhaps, it was best for me; I had less to regret i_acrificing a friendship, feelings, hopes which must, at any rate, have bee_orn from me now. And yet, that I must and would confess that, could I hav_estored her to what she had appeared to me before, I would infinitely prefe_ny increase of the pain of parting, for the sake of carrying with me th_ight of tenderness and esteem. This is what I said, the purport of it; but,
  • as you may imagine, not spoken so collectedly or methodically as I hav_epeated it to you. She was astonished, exceedingly astonished—more tha_stonished. I saw her change countenance. She turned extremely red. I imagine_ saw a mixture of many feelings: a great, though short struggle; half a wis_f yielding to truths, half a sense of shame, but habit, habit carried it. Sh_ould have laughed if she could. It was a sort of laugh, as she answered, '_retty good lecture, upon my word. Was it part of your last sermon? At thi_ate you will soon reform everybody at Mansfield and Thornton Lacey; and whe_ hear of you next, it may be as a celebrated preacher in some great societ_f Methodists, or as a missionary into foreign parts.' She tried to spea_arelessly, but she was not so careless as she wanted to appear. I only sai_n reply, that from my heart I wished her well, and earnestly hoped that sh_ight soon learn to think more justly, and not owe the most valuable knowledg_e could any of us acquire, the knowledge of ourselves and of our duty, to th_essons of affliction, and immediately left the room. I had gone a few steps,
  • Fanny, when I heard the door open behind me. 'Mr. Bertram,' said she. I looke_ack. 'Mr. Bertram,' said she, with a smile; but it was a smile ill-suited t_he conversation that had passed, a saucy playful smile, seeming to invite i_rder to subdue me; at least it appeared so to me. I resisted; it was th_mpulse of the moment to resist, and still walked on. I have since, sometimes,
  • for a moment, regretted that I did not go back, but I know I was right, an_uch has been the end of our acquaintance. And what an acquaintance has i_een! How have I been deceived! Equally in brother and sister deceived! _hank you for your patience, Fanny. This has been the greatest relief, and no_e will have done."
  • And such was Fanny's dependence on his words, that for five minutes sh_hought they had done. Then, however, it all came on again, or something ver_ike it, and nothing less than Lady Bertram's rousing thoroughly up coul_eally close such a conversation. Till that happened, they continued to tal_f Miss Crawford alone, and how she had attached him, and how delightfu_ature had made her, and how excellent she would have been, had she falle_nto good hands earlier. Fanny, now at liberty to speak openly, felt more tha_ustified in adding to his knowledge of her real character, by some hint o_hat share his brother's state of health might be supposed to have in her wis_or a complete reconciliation. This was not an agreeable intimation. Natur_esisted it for a while. It would have been a vast deal pleasanter to have ha_er more disinterested in her attachment; but his vanity was not of a strengt_o fight long against reason. He submitted to believe that Tom's illness ha_nfluenced her, only reserving for himself this consoling thought, tha_onsidering the many counteractions of opposing habits, she had certainly bee_ore attached to him than could have been expected, and for his sake been mor_ear doing right. Fanny thought exactly the same; and they were also quit_greed in their opinion of the lasting effect, the indelible impression, whic_uch a disappointment must make on his mind. Time would undoubtedly abat_omewhat of his sufferings, but still it was a sort of thing which he neve_ould get entirely the better of; and as to his ever meeting with any othe_oman who could— it was too impossible to be named but with indignation.
  • Fanny's friendship was all that he had to cling to.