"Well, Fanny, and how do you like Miss Crawford now?" said Edmund the nex_ay, after thinking some time on the subject himself. "How did you like he_esterday?"
"Very well—very much. I like to hear her talk. She entertains me; and she i_o extremely pretty, that I have great pleasure in looking at her."
"It is her countenance that is so attractive. She has a wonderful play o_eature! But was there nothing in her conversation that struck you, Fanny, a_ot quite right?"
"Oh yes! she ought not to have spoken of her uncle as she did. I was quit_stonished. An uncle with whom she has been living so many years, and who, whatever his faults may be, is so very fond of her brother, treating him, the_ay, quite like a son. I could not have believed it!"
"I thought you would be struck. It was very wrong; very indecorous."
"And very ungrateful, I think."
"Ungrateful is a strong word. I do not know that her uncle has any claim t_er gratitude; his wife certainly had; and it is the warmth of her respect fo_er aunt's memory which misleads her here. She is awkwardly circumstanced.
With such warm feelings and lively spirits it must be difficult to do justic_o her affection for Mrs. Crawford, without throwing a shade on the Admiral. _o not pretend to know which was most to blame in their disagreements, thoug_he Admiral's present conduct might incline one to the side of his wife; bu_t is natural and amiable that Miss Crawford should acquit her aunt entirely.
I do not censure her opinions; but there certainly is impropriety in makin_hem public."
"Do not you think," said Fanny, after a little consideration, "that thi_mpropriety is a reflection itself upon Mrs. Crawford, as her niece has bee_ntirely brought up by her? She cannot have given her right notions of wha_as due to the Admiral."
"That is a fair remark. Yes, we must suppose the faults of the niece to hav_een those of the aunt; and it makes one more sensible of the disadvantage_he has been under. But I think her present home must do her good. Mrs.
Grant's manners are just what they ought to be. She speaks of her brother wit_ very pleasing affection."
"Yes, except as to his writing her such short letters. She made me almos_augh; but I cannot rate so very highly the love or good-nature of a brothe_ho will not give himself the trouble of writing anything worth reading to hi_isters, when they are separated. I am sure William would never have used m_o, under any circumstances. And what right had she to suppose that you woul_ot write long letters when you were absent?"
"The right of a lively mind, Fanny, seizing whatever may contribute to its ow_musement or that of others; perfectly allowable, when untinctured by ill- humour or roughness; and there is not a shadow of either in the countenance o_anner of Miss Crawford: nothing sharp, or loud, or coarse. She is perfectl_eminine, except in the instances we have been speaking of. There she canno_e justified. I am glad you saw it all as I did."
Having formed her mind and gained her affections, he had a good chance of he_hinking like him; though at this period, and on this subject, there began no_o be some danger of dissimilarity, for he was in a line of admiration of Mis_rawford, which might lead him where Fanny could not follow. Miss Crawford'_ttractions did not lessen. The harp arrived, and rather added to her beauty, wit, and good-humour; for she played with the greatest obligingness, with a_xpression and taste which were peculiarly becoming, and there was somethin_lever to be said at the close of every air. Edmund was at the Parsonage ever_ay, to be indulged with his favourite instrument: one morning secured a_nvitation for the next; for the lady could not be unwilling to have _istener, and every thing was soon in a fair train.
A young woman, pretty, lively, with a harp as elegant as herself, and bot_laced near a window, cut down to the ground, and opening on a little lawn, surrounded by shrubs in the rich foliage of summer, was enough to catch an_an's heart. The season, the scene, the air, were all favourable to tendernes_nd sentiment. Mrs. Grant and her tambour frame were not without their use: i_as all in harmony; and as everything will turn to account when love is onc_et going, even the sandwich tray, and Dr. Grant doing the honours of it, wer_orth looking at. Without studying the business, however, or knowing what h_as about, Edmund was beginning, at the end of a week of such intercourse, t_e a good deal in love; and to the credit of the lady it may be added that, without his being a man of the world or an elder brother, without any of th_rts of flattery or the gaieties of small talk, he began to be agreeable t_er. She felt it to be so, though she had not foreseen, and could hardl_nderstand it; for he was not pleasant by any common rule: he talked n_onsense; he paid no compliments; his opinions were unbending, his attention_ranquil and simple. There was a charm, perhaps, in his sincerity, hi_teadiness, his integrity, which Miss Crawford might be equal to feel, thoug_ot equal to discuss with herself. She did not think very much about it, however: he pleased her for the present; she liked to have him near her; i_as enough.
Fanny could not wonder that Edmund was at the Parsonage every morning; sh_ould gladly have been there too, might she have gone in uninvited an_nnoticed, to hear the harp; neither could she wonder that, when the evenin_troll was over, and the two families parted again, he should think it righ_o attend Mrs. Grant and her sister to their home, while Mr. Crawford wa_evoted to the ladies of the Park; but she thought it a very bad exchange; an_f Edmund were not there to mix the wine and water for her, would rather g_ithout it than not. She was a little surprised that he could spend so man_ours with Miss Crawford, and not see more of the sort of fault which he ha_lready observed, and of which she was almost always reminded by a somethin_f the same nature whenever she was in her company; but so it was. Edmund wa_ond of speaking to her of Miss Crawford, but he seemed to think it enoug_hat the Admiral had since been spared; and she scrupled to point out her ow_emarks to him, lest it should appear like ill-nature. The first actual pai_hich Miss Crawford occasioned her was the consequence of an inclination t_earn to ride, which the former caught, soon after her being settled a_ansfield, from the example of the young ladies at the Park, and which, whe_dmund's acquaintance with her increased, led to his encouraging the wish, an_he offer of his own quiet mare for the purpose of her first attempts, as th_est fitted for a beginner that either stable could furnish. No pain, n_njury, however, was designed by him to his cousin in this offer: she was no_o lose a day's exercise by it. The mare was only to be taken down to th_arsonage half an hour before her ride were to begin; and Fanny, on its bein_irst proposed, so far from feeling slighted, was almost over-powered wit_ratitude that he should be asking her leave for it.
Miss Crawford made her first essay with great credit to herself, and n_nconvenience to Fanny. Edmund, who had taken down the mare and presided a_he whole, returned with it in excellent time, before either Fanny or th_teady old coachman, who always attended her when she rode without he_ousins, were ready to set forward. The second day's trial was not s_uiltless. Miss Crawford's enjoyment of riding was such that she did not kno_ow to leave off. Active and fearless, and though rather small, strongly made, she seemed formed for a horsewoman; and to the pure genuine pleasure of th_xercise, something was probably added in Edmund's attendance an_nstructions, and something more in the conviction of very much surpassing he_ex in general by her early progress, to make her unwilling to dismount. Fann_as ready and waiting, and Mrs. Norris was beginning to scold her for no_eing gone, and still no horse was announced, no Edmund appeared. To avoid he_unt, and look for him, she went out.
The houses, though scarcely half a mile apart, were not within sight of eac_ther; but, by walking fifty yards from the hall door, she could look down th_ark, and command a view of the Parsonage and all its demesnes, gently risin_eyond the village road; and in Dr. Grant's meadow she immediately saw th_roup—Edmund and Miss Crawford both on horse-back, riding side by side, Dr.
and Mrs. Grant, and Mr. Crawford, with two or three grooms, standing about an_ooking on. A happy party it appeared to her, all interested in one object: cheerful beyond a doubt, for the sound of merriment ascended even to her. I_as a sound which did not make her cheerful; she wondered that Edmund shoul_orget her, and felt a pang. She could not turn her eyes from the meadow; sh_ould not help watching all that passed. At first Miss Crawford and he_ompanion made the circuit of the field, which was not small, at a foot'_ace; then, at her apparent suggestion, they rose into a canter; and t_anny's timid nature it was most astonishing to see how well she sat. After _ew minutes they stopped entirely. Edmund was close to her; he was speaking t_er; he was evidently directing her management of the bridle; he had hold o_er hand; she saw it, or the imagination supplied what the eye could no_each. She must not wonder at all this; what could be more natural than tha_dmund should be making himself useful, and proving his good-nature by an_ne? She could not but think, indeed, that Mr. Crawford might as well hav_aved him the trouble; that it would have been particularly proper an_ecoming in a brother to have done it himself; but Mr. Crawford, with all hi_oasted good-nature, and all his coachmanship, probably knew nothing of th_atter, and had no active kindness in comparison of Edmund. She began to thin_t rather hard upon the mare to have such double duty; if she were forgotten, the poor mare should be remembered.
Her feelings for one and the other were soon a little tranquillised by seein_he party in the meadow disperse, and Miss Crawford still on horseback, bu_ttended by Edmund on foot, pass through a gate into the lane, and so into th_ark, and make towards the spot where she stood. She began then to be afrai_f appearing rude and impatient; and walked to meet them with a great anxiet_o avoid the suspicion.
"My dear Miss Price," said Miss Crawford, as soon as she was at all withi_earing, "I am come to make my own apologies for keeping you waiting; but _ave nothing in the world to say for myself—I knew it was very late, and tha_ was behaving extremely ill; and therefore, if you please, you must forgiv_e. Selfishness must always be forgiven, you know, because there is no hope o_ cure."
Fanny's answer was extremely civil, and Edmund added his conviction that sh_ould be in no hurry. "For there is more than time enough for my cousin t_ide twice as far as she ever goes," said he, "and you have been promoting he_omfort by preventing her from setting off half an hour sooner: clouds are no_oming up, and she will not suffer from the heat as she would have done then.
I wish you may not be fatigued by so much exercise. I wish you had save_ourself this walk home."
"No part of it fatigues me but getting off this horse, I assure you," sai_he, as she sprang down with his help; "I am very strong. Nothing eve_atigues me but doing what I do not like. Miss Price, I give way to you with _ery bad grace; but I sincerely hope you will have a pleasant ride, and that _ay have nothing but good to hear of this dear, delightful, beautiful animal."
The old coachman, who had been waiting about with his own horse, now joinin_hem, Fanny was lifted on hers, and they set off across another part of th_ark; her feelings of discomfort not lightened by seeing, as she looked back, that the others were walking down the hill together to the village; nor di_er attendant do her much good by his comments on Miss Crawford's grea_leverness as a horse-woman, which he had been watching with an interes_lmost equal to her own.
"It is a pleasure to see a lady with such a good heart for riding!" said he.
"I never see one sit a horse better. She did not seem to have a thought o_ear. Very different from you, miss, when you first began, six years ago com_ext Easter. Lord bless you! how you did tremble when Sir Thomas first had yo_ut on!"
In the drawing-room Miss Crawford was also celebrated. Her merit in bein_ifted by Nature with strength and courage was fully appreciated by the Mis_ertrams; her delight in riding was like their own; her early excellence in i_as like their own, and they had great pleasure in praising it.
"I was sure she would ride well," said Julia; "she has the make for it. He_igure is as neat as her brother's."
"Yes," added Maria, "and her spirits are as good, and she has the same energ_f character. I cannot but think that good horsemanship has a great deal to d_ith the mind."
When they parted at night Edmund asked Fanny whether she meant to ride th_ext day.
"No, I do not know—not if you want the mare," was her answer.
"I do not want her at all for myself," said he; "but whenever you are nex_nclined to stay at home, I think Miss Crawford would be glad to have her _onger time— for a whole morning, in short. She has a great desire to get a_ar as Mansfield Common: Mrs. Grant has been telling her of its fine views, and I have no doubt of her being perfectly equal to it. But any morning wil_o for this. She would be extremely sorry to interfere with you. It would b_ery wrong if she did. She rides only for pleasure; you for health."
"I shall not ride to-morrow, certainly," said Fanny; "I have been out ver_ften lately, and would rather stay at home. You know I am strong enough no_o walk very well."
Edmund looked pleased, which must be Fanny's comfort, and the ride t_ansfield Common took place the next morning: the party included all the youn_eople but herself, and was much enjoyed at the time, and doubly enjoyed agai_n the evening discussion. A successful scheme of this sort generally bring_n another; and the having been to Mansfield Common disposed them all fo_oing somewhere else the day after. There were many other views to be shewn; and though the weather was hot, there were shady lanes wherever they wanted t_o. A young party is always provided with a shady lane. Four fine morning_uccessively were spent in this manner, in shewing the Crawfords the country, and doing the honours of its finest spots. Everything answered; it was al_aiety and good-humour, the heat only supplying inconvenience enough to b_alked of with pleasure— till the fourth day, when the happiness of one of th_arty was exceedingly clouded. Miss Bertram was the one. Edmund and Julia wer_nvited to dine at the Parsonage, and she was excluded. It was meant and don_y Mrs. Grant, with perfect good-humour, on Mr. Rushworth's account, who wa_artly expected at the Park that day; but it was felt as a very grievou_njury, and her good manners were severely taxed to conceal her vexation an_nger till she reached home. As Mr. Rushworth did not come, the injury wa_ncreased, and she had not even the relief of shewing her power over him; sh_ould only be sullen to her mother, aunt, and cousin, and throw as great _loom as possible over their dinner and dessert.
Between ten and eleven Edmund and Julia walked into the drawing-room, fres_ith the evening air, glowing and cheerful, the very reverse of what the_ound in the three ladies sitting there, for Maria would scarcely raise he_yes from her book, and Lady Bertram was half-asleep; and even Mrs. Norris, discomposed by her niece's ill-humour, and having asked one or two question_bout the dinner, which were not immediately attended to, seemed almos_etermined to say no more. For a few minutes the brother and sister were to_ager in their praise of the night and their remarks on the stars, to thin_eyond themselves; but when the first pause came, Edmund, looking around, said, "But where is Fanny? Is she gone to bed?"
"No, not that I know of," replied Mrs. Norris; "she was here a moment ago."
Her own gentle voice speaking from the other end of the room, which was a ver_ong one, told them that she was on the sofa. Mrs. Norris began scolding.
"That is a very foolish trick, Fanny, to be idling away all the evening upon _ofa. Why cannot you come and sit here, and employ yourself as we do? If yo_ave no work of your own, I can supply you from the poor basket. There is al_he new calico, that was bought last week, not touched yet. I am sure I almos_roke my back by cutting it out. You should learn to think of other people; and, take my word for it, it is a shocking trick for a young person to b_lways lolling upon a sofa."
Before half this was said, Fanny was returned to her seat at the table, an_ad taken up her work again; and Julia, who was in high good-humour, from th_leasures of the day, did her the justice of exclaiming, "I must say, ma'am, that Fanny is as little upon the sofa as anybody in the house."
"Fanny," said Edmund, after looking at her attentively, "I am sure you hav_he headache."
She could not deny it, but said it was not very bad.
"I can hardly believe you," he replied; "I know your looks too well. How lon_ave you had it?"
"Since a little before dinner. It is nothing but the heat."
"Did you go out in the heat?"
"Go out! to be sure she did," said Mrs. Norris: "would you have her sta_ithin such a fine day as this? Were not we all out? Even your mother was ou_o-day for above an hour."
"Yes, indeed, Edmund," added her ladyship, who had been thoroughly awakened b_rs. Norris's sharp reprimand to Fanny; "I was out above an hour. I sat three- quarters of an hour in the flower-garden, while Fanny cut the roses; and ver_leasant it was, I assure you, but very hot. It was shady enough in th_lcove, but I declare I quite dreaded the coming home again."
"Fanny has been cutting roses, has she?"
"Yes, and I am afraid they will be the last this year. Poor thing! She foun_t hot enough; but they were so full-blown that one could not wait."
"There was no help for it, certainly," rejoined Mrs. Norris, in a rathe_oftened voice; "but I question whether her headache might not be caught then, sister. There is nothing so likely to give it as standing and stooping in _ot sun; but I dare say it will be well to-morrow. Suppose you let her hav_our aromatic vinegar; I always forget to have mine filled."
"She has got it," said Lady Bertram; "she has had it ever since she came bac_rom your house the second time."
"What!" cried Edmund; "has she been walking as well as cutting roses; walkin_cross the hot park to your house, and doing it twice, ma'am? No wonder he_ead aches."
Mrs. Norris was talking to Julia, and did not hear.
"I was afraid it would be too much for her," said Lady Bertram; "but when th_oses were gathered, your aunt wished to have them, and then you know the_ust be taken home."
"But were there roses enough to oblige her to go twice?"
"No; but they were to be put into the spare room to dry; and, unluckily, Fann_orgot to lock the door of the room and bring away the key, so she was oblige_o go again."
Edmund got up and walked about the room, saying, "And could nobody be employe_n such an errand but Fanny? Upon my word, ma'am, it has been a very ill- managed business."
"I am sure I do not know how it was to have been done better," cried Mrs.
Norris, unable to be longer deaf; "unless I had gone myself, indeed; but _annot be in two places at once; and I was talking to Mr. Green at that ver_ime about your mother's dairymaid, by her desire, and had promised John Groo_o write to Mrs. Jefferies about his son, and the poor fellow was waiting fo_e half an hour. I think nobody can justly accuse me of sparing myself upo_ny occasion, but really I cannot do everything at once. And as for Fanny'_ust stepping down to my house for me— it is not much above a quarter of _ile—I cannot think I was unreasonable to ask it. How often do I pace it thre_imes a day, early and late, ay, and in all weathers too, and say nothin_bout it?"
"I wish Fanny had half your strength, ma'am."
"If Fanny would be more regular in her exercise, she would not be knocked u_o soon. She has not been out on horseback now this long while, and I a_ersuaded that, when she does not ride, she ought to walk. If she had bee_iding before, I should not have asked it of her. But I thought it woul_ather do her good after being stooping among the roses; for there is nothin_o refreshing as a walk after a fatigue of that kind; and though the sun wa_trong, it was not so very hot. Between ourselves, Edmund," noddin_ignificantly at his mother, "it was cutting the roses, and dawdling about i_he flower-garden, that did the mischief."
"I am afraid it was, indeed," said the more candid Lady Bertram, who ha_verheard her; "I am very much afraid she caught the headache there, for th_eat was enough to kill anybody. It was as much as I could bear myself.
Sitting and calling to Pug, and trying to keep him from the flower-beds, wa_lmost too much for me."
Edmund said no more to either lady; but going quietly to another table, o_hich the supper-tray yet remained, brought a glass of Madeira to Fanny, an_bliged her to drink the greater part. She wished to be able to decline it; but the tears, which a variety of feelings created, made it easier to swallo_han to speak.
Vexed as Edmund was with his mother and aunt, he was still more angry wit_imself. His own forgetfulness of her was worse than anything which they ha_one. Nothing of this would have happened had she been properly considered; but she had been left four days together without any choice of companions o_xercise, and without any excuse for avoiding whatever her unreasonable aunt_ight require. He was ashamed to think that for four days together she had no_ad the power of riding, and very seriously resolved, however unwilling h_ust be to check a pleasure of Miss Crawford's, that it should never happe_gain.
Fanny went to bed with her heart as full as on the first evening of he_rrival at the Park. The state of her spirits had probably had its share i_er indisposition; for she had been feeling neglected, and been strugglin_gainst discontent and envy for some days past. As she leant on the sofa, t_hich she had retreated that she might not be seen, the pain of her mind ha_een much beyond that in her head; and the sudden change which Edmund'_indness had then occasioned, made her hardly know how to support herself.