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CHAPTER XI

The day at Sotherton, with all its imperfections,
afforded the Miss Bertrams much more agreeable feelings
than were derived from the letters from Antigua,
which soon afterwards reached Mansfield. It was much
pleasanter to think of Henry Crawford than of their father;
and to think of their father in England again within
a certain period, which these letters obliged them to do,
was a most unwelcome exercise.

November was the black month fixed for his return.
Sir Thomas wrote of it with as much decision as experience
and anxiety could authorise. His business was so nearly
concluded as to justify him in proposing to take his
passage in the September packet, and he consequently
looked forward with the hope of being with his beloved
family again early in November.

Maria was more to be pitied than Julia; for to her the
father brought a husband, and the return of the friend most
solicitous for her happiness would unite her to the lover,
on whom she had chosen that happiness should depend.
It was a gloomy prospect, and all she could do was to
throw a mist over it, and hope when the mist cleared
away she should see something else. It would hardly
be _early_ in November, there were generally delays,
a bad passage or _something_; that favouring _something_
which everybody who shuts their eyes while they look,
or their understandings while they reason, feels the
comfort of. It would probably be the middle of November
at least; the middle of November was three months off.
Three months comprised thirteen weeks. Much might happen
in thirteen weeks.

Sir Thomas would have been deeply mortified by a suspicion
of half that his daughters felt on the subject of his return,
and would hardly have found consolation in a knowledge of the
interest it excited in the breast of another young lady.
Miss Crawford, on walking up with her brother to spend
the evening at Mansfield Park, heard the good news;
and though seeming to have no concern in the affair
beyond politeness, and to have vented all her feelings
in a quiet congratulation, heard it with an attention
not so easily satisfied. Mrs. Norris gave the particulars
of the letters, and the subject was dropt; but after tea,
as Miss Crawford was standing at an open window with
Edmund and Fanny looking out on a twilight scene,
while the Miss Bertrams, Mr. Rushworth, and Henry Crawford
were all busy with candles at the pianoforte, she suddenly
revived it by turning round towards the group, and saying,
"How happy Mr. Rushworth looks! He is thinking of November."

Edmund looked round at Mr. Rushworth too, but had nothing
to say.

"Your father's return will be a very interesting event."

"It will, indeed, after such an absence; an absence
not only long, but including so many dangers."

"It will be the forerunner also of other interesting events:
your sister's marriage, and your taking orders."

"Yes."

"Don't be affronted," said she, laughing, "but it does
put me in mind of some of the old heathen heroes, who,
after performing great exploits in a foreign land,
offered sacrifices to the gods on their safe return."

"There is no sacrifice in the case," replied Edmund,
with a serious smile, and glancing at the pianoforte again;
"it is entirely her own doing."

"Oh yes I know it is. I was merely joking. She has
done no more than what every young woman would do;
and I have no doubt of her being extremely happy.
My other sacrifice, of course, you do not understand."

"My taking orders, I assure you, is quite as voluntary
as Maria's marrying."

"It is fortunate that your inclination and your father's
convenience should accord so well. There is a very good
living kept for you, I understand, hereabouts."

"Which you suppose has biassed me?"

"But _that_ I am sure it has not," cried Fanny.

"Thank you for your good word, Fanny, but it is more than
I would affirm myself. On the contrary, the knowing
that there was such a provision for me probably did
bias me. Nor can I think it wrong that it should.
There was no natural disinclination to be overcome,
and I see no reason why a man should make a worse clergyman
for knowing that he will have a competence early in life.
I was in safe hands. I hope I should not have been
influenced myself in a wrong way, and I am sure my father
was too conscientious to have allowed it. I have no doubt
that I was biased, but I think it was blamelessly."

"It is the same sort of thing," said Fanny, after a
short pause, "as for the son of an admiral to go into
the navy, or the son of a general to be in the army,
and nobody sees anything wrong in that. Nobody wonders
that they should prefer the line where their friends can
serve them best, or suspects them to be less in earnest
in it than they appear."

"No, my dear Miss Price, and for reasons good. The profession,
either navy or army, is its own justification. It has
everything in its favour: heroism, danger, bustle, fashion.
Soldiers and sailors are always acceptable in society.
Nobody can wonder that men are soldiers and sailors."

"But the motives of a man who takes orders with the certainty
of preferment may be fairly suspected, you think?"
said Edmund. "To be justified in your eyes, he must
do it in the most complete uncertainty of any provision."

"What! take orders without a living! No; that is
madness indeed; absolute madness."

"Shall I ask you how the church is to be filled, if a man
is neither to take orders with a living nor without?
No; for you certainly would not know what to say.
But I must beg some advantage to the clergyman from
your own argument. As he cannot be influenced by those
feelings which you rank highly as temptation and reward
to the soldier and sailor in their choice of a profession,
as heroism, and noise, and fashion, are all against him,
he ought to be less liable to the suspicion of wanting
sincerity or good intentions in the choice of his."

"Oh! no doubt he is very sincere in preferring an income
ready made, to the trouble of working for one; and has
the best intentions of doing nothing all the rest of his
days but eat, drink, and grow fat. It is indolence,
Mr. Bertram, indeed. Indolence and love of ease; a want
of all laudable ambition, of taste for good company,
or of inclination to take the trouble of being agreeable,
which make men clergymen. A clergyman has nothing
to do but be slovenly and selfish--read the newspaper,
watch the weather, and quarrel with his wife. His curate
does all the work, and the business of his own life is
to dine."

"There are such clergymen, no doubt, but I think they
are not so common as to justify Miss Crawford in esteeming
it their general character. I suspect that in this
comprehensive and (may I say) commonplace censure, you are
not judging from yourself, but from prejudiced persons,
whose opinions you have been in the habit of hearing.
It is impossible that your own observation can have given
you much knowledge of the clergy. You can have been
personally acquainted with very few of a set of men you
condemn so conclusively. You are speaking what you have
been told at your uncle's table."

"I speak what appears to me the general opinion;
and where an opinion is general, it is usually correct.
Though _I_ have not seen much of the domestic lives
of clergymen, it is seen by too many to leave any deficiency
of information."

"Where any one body of educated men, of whatever denomination,
are condemned indiscriminately, there must be a deficiency
of information, or (smiling) of something else.
Your uncle, and his brother admirals, perhaps knew little
of clergymen beyond the chaplains whom, good or bad,
they were always wishing away."

"Poor William! He has met with great kindness from
the chaplain of the Antwerp," was a tender apostrophe
of Fanny's, very much to the purpose of her own feelings
if not of the conversation.

"I have been so little addicted to take my opinions from
my uncle," said Miss Crawford, "that I can hardly suppose--
and since you push me so hard, I must observe, that I am
not entirely without the means of seeing what clergymen are,
being at this present time the guest of my own brother,
Dr. Grant. And though Dr. Grant is most kind and obliging
to me, and though he is really a gentleman, and, I dare say,
a good scholar and clever, and often preaches good sermons,
and is very respectable, _I_ see him to be an indolent,
selfish _bon_ _vivant_, who must have his palate consulted
in everything; who will not stir a finger for the convenience
of any one; and who, moreover, if the cook makes a blunder,
is out of humour with his excellent wife. To own the truth,
Henry and I were partly driven out this very evening
by a disappointment about a green goose, which he could
not get the better of. My poor sister was forced to stay
and bear it."

"I do not wonder at your disapprobation, upon my word.
It is a great defect of temper, made worse by a very faulty
habit of self-indulgence; and to see your sister suffering
from it must be exceedingly painful to such feelings
as yours. Fanny, it goes against us. We cannot attempt
to defend Dr. Grant."

"No," replied Fanny, "but we need not give up his profession
for all that; because, whatever profession Dr. Grant
had chosen, he would have taken a--not a good temper into it;
and as he must, either in the navy or army, have had a
great many more people under his command than he has now,
I think more would have been made unhappy by him as a
sailor or soldier than as a clergyman. Besides, I cannot
but suppose that whatever there may be to wish otherwise
in Dr. Grant would have been in a greater danger of
becoming worse in a more active and worldly profession,
where he would have had less time and obligation--
where he might have escaped that knowledge of himself,
the _frequency_, at least, of that knowledge which it
is impossible he should escape as he is now. A man--
a sensible man like Dr. Grant, cannot be in the habit
of teaching others their duty every week, cannot go
to church twice every Sunday, and preach such very good
sermons in so good a manner as he does, without being
the better for it himself. It must make him think;
and I have no doubt that he oftener endeavours to restrain
himself than he would if he had been anything but a clergyman."

"We cannot prove to the contrary, to be sure; but I wish
you a better fate, Miss Price, than to be the wife of a man
whose amiableness depends upon his own sermons; for though
he may preach himself into a good-humour every Sunday,
it will be bad enough to have him quarrelling about green
geese from Monday morning till Saturday night."

"I think the man who could often quarrel with Fanny,"
said Edmund affectionately, "must be beyond the reach
of any sermons."

Fanny turned farther into the window; and Miss
Crawford had only time to say, in a pleasant manner,
"I fancy Miss Price has been more used to deserve
praise than to hear it"; when, being earnestly invited
by the Miss Bertrams to join in a glee, she tripped off
to the instrument, leaving Edmund looking after her
in an ecstasy of admiration of all her many virtues,
from her obliging manners down to her light and graceful tread.

"There goes good-humour, I am sure," said he presently.
"There goes a temper which would never give pain!
How well she walks! and how readily she falls in with the
inclination of others! joining them the moment she is asked.
What a pity," he added, after an instant's reflection,
"that she should have been in such hands!"

Fanny agreed to it, and had the pleasure of seeing him continue
at the window with her, in spite of the expected glee;
and of having his eyes soon turned, like hers, towards the
scene without, where all that was solemn, and soothing,
and lovely, appeared in the brilliancy of an unclouded night,
and the contrast of the deep shade of the woods. Fanny spoke
her feelings. "Here's harmony!" said she; "here's repose!
Here's what may leave all painting and all music behind,
and what poetry only can attempt to describe! Here's what
may tranquillise every care, and lift the heart to rapture!
When I look out on such a night as this, I feel as if there
could be neither wickedness nor sorrow in the world;
and there certainly would be less of both if the sublimity
of Nature were more attended to, and people were carried
more out of themselves by contemplating such a scene."

"I like to hear your enthusiasm, Fanny. It is a lovely night,
and they are much to be pitied who have not been taught
to feel, in some degree, as you do; who have not,
at least, been given a taste for Nature in early life.
They lose a great deal."

"_You_ taught me to think and feel on the subject, cousin."

"I had a very apt scholar. There's Arcturus looking
very bright."

"Yes, and the Bear. I wish I could see Cassiopeia."

"We must go out on the lawn for that. Should you be afraid?"

"Not in the least. It is a great while since we have
had any star-gazing.

"Yes; I do not know how it has happened." The glee began.
"We will stay till this is finished, Fanny," said he,
turning his back on the window; and as it advanced,
she had the mortification of seeing him advance too,
moving forward by gentle degrees towards the instrument,
and when it ceased, he was close by the singers, among the most
urgent in requesting to hear the glee again.

Fanny sighed alone at the window till scolded away
by Mrs. Norris's threats of catching cold.




Mansfield Park by Jane Austen
Category:
General Fiction

Social life and customs - 19th century
Book Review:
“Mansfield Park” is the most condensed and complex novel ever written by Jane Austen, and is her first novel that was conceived, written, and published at her mature years. Even though it lacks in the playful ironic humor which is so characteristic of Austen’s other novels, it is the novel that most clearly shows another aspect of the writer
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