Fanny's rides recommenced the very next day; and as it was a pleasant fresh- feeling morning, less hot than the weather had lately been, Edmund truste_hat her losses, both of health and pleasure, would be soon made good. Whil_he was gone Mr. Rushworth arrived, escorting his mother, who came to be civi_nd to shew her civility especially, in urging the execution of the plan fo_isiting Sotherton, which had been started a fortnight before, and which, i_onsequence of her subsequent absence from home, had since lain dormant. Mrs.
Norris and her nieces were all well pleased with its revival, and an early da_as named and agreed to, provided Mr. Crawford should be disengaged: the youn_adies did not forget that stipulation, and though Mrs. Norris would willingl_ave answered for his being so, they would neither authorise the liberty no_un the risk; and at last, on a hint from Miss Bertram, Mr. Rushwort_iscovered that the properest thing to be done was for him to walk down to th_arsonage directly, and call on Mr. Crawford, and inquire whether Wednesda_ould suit him or not.
Before his return Mrs. Grant and Miss Crawford came in. Having been out som_ime, and taken a different route to the house, they had not met him.
Comfortable hopes, however, were given that he would find Mr. Crawford a_ome. The Sotherton scheme was mentioned of course. It was hardly possible, indeed, that anything else should be talked of, for Mrs. Norris was in hig_pirits about it; and Mrs. Rushworth, a well-meaning, civil, prosing, pompou_oman, who thought nothing of consequence, but as it related to her own an_er son's concerns, had not yet given over pressing Lady Bertram to be of th_arty. Lady Bertram constantly declined it; but her placid manner of refusa_ade Mrs. Rushworth still think she wished to come, till Mrs. Norris's mor_umerous words and louder tone convinced her of the truth.
"The fatigue would be too much for my sister, a great deal too much, I assur_ou, my dear Mrs. Rushworth. Ten miles there, and ten back, you know. You mus_xcuse my sister on this occasion, and accept of our two dear girls and mysel_ithout her. Sotherton is the only place that could give her a wish to go s_ar, but it cannot be, indeed. She will have a companion in Fanny Price, yo_now, so it will all do very well; and as for Edmund, as he is not here t_peak for himself, I will answer for his being most happy to join the party.
He can go on horseback, you know."
Mrs. Rushworth being obliged to yield to Lady Bertram's staying at home, coul_nly be sorry. "The loss of her ladyship's company would be a great drawback, and she should have been extremely happy to have seen the young lady too, Mis_rice, who had never been at Sotherton yet, and it was a pity she should no_ee the place."
"You are very kind, you are all kindness, my dear madam," cried Mrs. Norris;
"but as to Fanny, she will have opportunities in plenty of seeing Sotherton.
She has time enough before her; and her going now is quite out of th_uestion. Lady Bertram could not possibly spare her."
"Oh no! I cannot do without Fanny."
Mrs. Rushworth proceeded next, under the conviction that everybody must b_anting to see Sotherton, to include Miss Crawford in the invitation; an_hough Mrs. Grant, who had not been at the trouble of visiting Mrs. Rushworth, on her coming into the neighbourhood, civilly declined it on her own account, she was glad to secure any pleasure for her sister; and Mary, properly presse_nd persuaded, was not long in accepting her share of the civility. Mr.
Rushworth came back from the Parsonage successful; and Edmund made hi_ppearance just in time to learn what had been settled for Wednesday, t_ttend Mrs. Rushworth to her carriage, and walk half-way down the park wit_he two other ladies.
On his return to the breakfast-room, he found Mrs. Norris trying to make u_er mind as to whether Miss Crawford's being of the party were desirable o_ot, or whether her brother's barouche would not be full without her. The Mis_ertrams laughed at the idea, assuring her that the barouche would hold fou_erfectly well, independent of the box, on which one might go with him.
"But why is it necessary," said Edmund, "that Crawford's carriage, or hi_nly, should be employed? Why is no use to be made of my mother's chaise? _ould not, when the scheme was first mentioned the other day, understand why _isit from the family were not to be made in the carriage of the family."
"What!" cried Julia: "go boxed up three in a postchaise in this weather, whe_e may have seats in a barouche! No, my dear Edmund, that will not quite do."
"Besides," said Maria, "I know that Mr. Crawford depends upon taking us. Afte_hat passed at first, he would claim it as a promise."
"And, my dear Edmund," added Mrs. Norris, "taking out two carriages when on_ill do, would be trouble for nothing; and, between ourselves, coachman is no_ery fond of the roads between this and Sotherton: he always complain_itterly of the narrow lanes scratching his carriage, and you know one shoul_ot like to have dear Sir Thomas, when he comes home, find all the varnis_cratched off."
"That would not be a very handsome reason for using Mr. Crawford's," sai_aria; "but the truth is, that Wilcox is a stupid old fellow, and does no_now how to drive. I will answer for it that we shall find no inconvenienc_rom narrow roads on Wednesday."
"There is no hardship, I suppose, nothing unpleasant," said Edmund, "in goin_n the barouche box."
"Unpleasant!" cried Maria: "oh dear! I believe it would be generally though_he favourite seat. There can be no comparison as to one's view of th_ountry. Probably Miss Crawford will choose the barouche-box herself."
"There can be no objection, then, to Fanny's going with you; there can be n_oubt of your having room for her."
"Fanny!" repeated Mrs. Norris; "my dear Edmund, there is no idea of her goin_ith us. She stays with her aunt. I told Mrs. Rushworth so. She is no_xpected."
"You can have no reason, I imagine, madam," said he, addressing his mother,
"for wishing Fanny not to be of the party, but as it relates to yourself, t_our own comfort. If you could do without her, you would not wish to keep he_t home?"
"To be sure not, but I cannot do without her."
"You can, if I stay at home with you, as I mean to do."
There was a general cry out at this. "Yes," he continued, "there is n_ecessity for my going, and I mean to stay at home. Fanny has a great desir_o see Sotherton. I know she wishes it very much. She has not often _ratification of the kind, and I am sure, ma'am, you would be glad to give he_he pleasure now?"
"Oh yes! very glad, if your aunt sees no objection."
Mrs. Norris was very ready with the only objection which could remain—thei_aving positively assured Mrs. Rushworth that Fanny could not go, and the ver_trange appearance there would consequently be in taking her, which seemed t_er a difficulty quite impossible to be got over. It must have the stranges_ppearance! It would be something so very unceremonious, so bordering o_isrespect for Mrs. Rushworth, whose own manners were such a pattern of good- breeding and attention, that she really did not feel equal to it. Mrs. Norri_ad no affection for Fanny, and no wish of procuring her pleasure at any time; but her opposition to Edmund now, arose more from partiality for her ow_cheme, because it was her own, than from anything else. She felt that she ha_rranged everything extremely well, and that any alteration must be for th_orse. When Edmund, therefore, told her in reply, as he did when she woul_ive him the hearing, that she need not distress herself on Mrs. Rushworth'_ccount, because he had taken the opportunity, as he walked with her throug_he hall, of mentioning Miss Price as one who would probably be of the party, and had directly received a very sufficient invitation for his cousin, Mrs.
Norris was too much vexed to submit with a very good grace, and would onl_ay, "Very well, very well, just as you chuse, settle it your own way, I a_ure I do not care about it."
"It seems very odd," said Maria, "that you should be staying at home instea_f Fanny."
"I am sure she ought to be very much obliged to you," added Julia, hastil_eaving the room as she spoke, from a consciousness that she ought to offer t_tay at home herself.
"Fanny will feel quite as grateful as the occasion requires," was Edmund'_nly reply, and the subject dropt.
Fanny's gratitude, when she heard the plan, was, in fact, much greater tha_er pleasure. She felt Edmund's kindness with all, and more than all, th_ensibility which he, unsuspicious of her fond attachment, could be aware of; but that he should forego any enjoyment on her account gave her pain, and he_wn satisfaction in seeing Sotherton would be nothing without him.
The next meeting of the two Mansfield families produced another alteration i_he plan, and one that was admitted with general approbation. Mrs. Gran_ffered herself as companion for the day to Lady Bertram in lieu of her son, and Dr. Grant was to join them at dinner. Lady Bertram was very well please_o have it so, and the young ladies were in spirits again. Even Edmund wa_ery thankful for an arrangement which restored him to his share of the party; and Mrs. Norris thought it an excellent plan, and had it at her tongue's end, and was on the point of proposing it, when Mrs. Grant spoke.
Wednesday was fine, and soon after breakfast the barouche arrived, Mr.
Crawford driving his sisters; and as everybody was ready, there was nothing t_e done but for Mrs. Grant to alight and the others to take their places. Th_lace of all places, the envied seat, the post of honour, was unappropriated.
To whose happy lot was it to fall? While each of the Miss Bertrams wer_editating how best, and with the most appearance of obliging the others, t_ecure it, the matter was settled by Mrs. Grant's saying, as she stepped fro_he carriage, "As there are five of you, it will be better that one should si_ith Henry; and as you were saying lately that you wished you could drive, Julia, I think this will be a good opportunity for you to take a lesson."
Happy Julia! Unhappy Maria! The former was on the barouche-box in a moment, the latter took her seat within, in gloom and mortification; and the carriag_rove off amid the good wishes of the two remaining ladies, and the barking o_ug in his mistress's arms.
Their road was through a pleasant country; and Fanny, whose rides had neve_een extensive, was soon beyond her knowledge, and was very happy in observin_ll that was new, and admiring all that was pretty. She was not often invite_o join in the conversation of the others, nor did she desire it. Her ow_houghts and reflections were habitually her best companions; and, i_bserving the appearance of the country, the bearings of the roads, th_ifference of soil, the state of the harvest, the cottages, the cattle, th_hildren, she found entertainment that could only have been heightened b_aving Edmund to speak to of what she felt. That was the only point o_esemblance between her and the lady who sat by her: in everything but a valu_or Edmund, Miss Crawford was very unlike her. She had none of Fanny'_elicacy of taste, of mind, of feeling; she saw Nature, inanimate Nature, wit_ittle observation; her attention was all for men and women, her talents fo_he light and lively. In looking back after Edmund, however, when there wa_ny stretch of road behind them, or when he gained on them in ascending _onsiderable hill, they were united, and a "there he is" broke at the sam_oment from them both, more than once.
For the first seven miles Miss Bertram had very little real comfort: he_rospect always ended in Mr. Crawford and her sister sitting side by side, full of conversation and merriment; and to see only his expressive profile a_e turned with a smile to Julia, or to catch the laugh of the other, was _erpetual source of irritation, which her own sense of propriety could bu_ust smooth over. When Julia looked back, it was with a countenance o_elight, and whenever she spoke to them, it was in the highest spirits: "he_iew of the country was charming, she wished they could all see it," etc.; bu_er only offer of exchange was addressed to Miss Crawford, as they gained th_ummit of a long hill, and was not more inviting than this: "Here is a fin_urst of country. I wish you had my seat, but I dare say you will not take it, let me press you ever so much;" and Miss Crawford could hardly answer befor_hey were moving again at a good pace.
When they came within the influence of Sotherton associations, it was bette_or Miss Bertram, who might be said to have two strings to her bow. She ha_ushworth feelings, and Crawford feelings, and in the vicinity of Sotherto_he former had considerable effect. Mr. Rushworth's consequence was hers. Sh_ould not tell Miss Crawford that "those woods belonged to Sotherton," sh_ould not carelessly observe that "she believed that it was now all Mr.
Rushworth's property on each side of the road," without elation of heart; an_t was a pleasure to increase with their approach to the capital freehol_ansion, and ancient manorial residence of the family, with all its rights o_ourt-leet and court-baron.
"Now we shall have no more rough road, Miss Crawford; our difficulties ar_ver. The rest of the way is such as it ought to be. Mr. Rushworth has made i_ince he succeeded to the estate. Here begins the village. Those cottages ar_eally a disgrace. The church spire is reckoned remarkably handsome. I am gla_he church is not so close to the great house as often happens in old places.
The annoyance of the bells must be terrible. There is the parsonage: a tidy- looking house, and I understand the clergyman and his wife are very decen_eople. Those are almshouses, built by some of the family. To the right is th_teward's house; he is a very respectable man. Now we are coming to the lodge- gates; but we have nearly a mile through the park still. It is not ugly, yo_ee, at this end; there is some fine timber, but the situation of the house i_readful. We go down hill to it for half a mile, and it is a pity, for i_ould not be an ill-looking place if it had a better approach."
Miss Crawford was not slow to admire; she pretty well guessed Miss Bertram'_eelings, and made it a point of honour to promote her enjoyment to th_tmost. Mrs. Norris was all delight and volubility; and even Fanny ha_omething to say in admiration, and might be heard with complacency. Her ey_as eagerly taking in everything within her reach; and after being at som_ains to get a view of the house, and observing that "it was a sort o_uilding which she could not look at but with respect," she added, "Now, wher_s the avenue? The house fronts the east, I perceive. The avenue, therefore, must be at the back of it. Mr. Rushworth talked of the west front."
"Yes, it is exactly behind the house; begins at a little distance, and ascend_or half a mile to the extremity of the grounds. You may see something of i_ere— something of the more distant trees. It is oak entirely."
Miss Bertram could now speak with decided information of what she had know_othing about when Mr. Rushworth had asked her opinion; and her spirits wer_n as happy a flutter as vanity and pride could furnish, when they drove up t_he spacious stone steps before the principal entrance.