Fanny's consequence increased on the departure of
her cousins. Becoming, as she then did, the only young
woman in the drawing-room, the only occupier of that
interesting division of a family in which she had hitherto
held so humble a third, it was impossible for her not
to be more looked at, more thought of and attended to,
than she had ever been before; and "Where is Fanny?"
became no uncommon question, even without her being
wanted for any one's convenience.
Not only at home did her value increase, but at the
Parsonage too. In that house, which she had hardly
entered twice a year since Mr. Norris's death, she became
a welcome, an invited guest, and in the gloom and dirt
of a November day, most acceptable to Mary Crawford.
Her visits there, beginning by chance, were continued
by solicitation. Mrs. Grant, really eager to get any
change for her sister, could, by the easiest self-deceit,
persuade herself that she was doing the kindest thing
by Fanny, and giving her the most important opportunities
of improvement in pressing her frequent calls.
Fanny, having been sent into the village on some errand
by her aunt Norris, was overtaken by a heavy shower close
to the Parsonage; and being descried from one of the
windows endeavouring to find shelter under the branches
and lingering leaves of an oak just beyond their premises,
was forced, though not without some modest reluctance on
her part, to come in. A civil servant she had withstood;
but when Dr. Grant himself went out with an umbrella,
there was nothing to be done but to be very much ashamed,
and to get into the house as fast as possible; and to poor
Miss Crawford, who had just been contemplating the dismal
rain in a very desponding state of mind, sighing over
the ruin of all her plan of exercise for that morning,
and of every chance of seeing a single creature beyond
themselves for the next twenty-four hours, the sound of
a little bustle at the front door, and the sight of Miss
Price dripping with wet in the vestibule, was delightful.
The value of an event on a wet day in the country was
most forcibly brought before her. She was all alive
again directly, and among the most active in being useful
to Fanny, in detecting her to be wetter than she would at
first allow, and providing her with dry clothes; and Fanny,
after being obliged to submit to all this attention,
and to being assisted and waited on by mistresses
and maids, being also obliged, on returning downstairs,
to be fixed in their drawing-room for an hour while
the rain continued, the blessing of something fresh
to see and think of was thus extended to Miss Crawford,
and might carry on her spirits to the period of dressing
The two sisters were so kind to her, and so pleasant,
that Fanny might have enjoyed her visit could she have
believed herself not in the way, and could she have
foreseen that the weather would certainly clear at the
end of the hour, and save her from the shame of having
Dr. Grant's carriage and horses out to take her home,
with which she was threatened. As to anxiety for any alarm
that her absence in such weather might occasion at home,
she had nothing to suffer on that score; for as her being
out was known only to her two aunts, she was perfectly
aware that none would be felt, and that in whatever cottage
aunt Norris might chuse to establish her during the rain,
her being in such cottage would be indubitable to aunt Bertram.
It was beginning to look brighter, when Fanny,
observing a harp in the room, asked some questions about it,
which soon led to an acknowledgment of her wishing very
much to hear it, and a confession, which could hardly
be believed, of her having never yet heard it since its
being in Mansfield. To Fanny herself it appeared a very
simple and natural circumstance. She had scarcely ever
been at the Parsonage since the instrument's arrival,
there had been no reason that she should; but Miss Crawford,
calling to mind an early expressed wish on the subject,
was concerned at her own neglect; and "Shall I play
to you now?" and "What will you have?" were questions
immediately following with the readiest good-humour.
She played accordingly; happy to have a new listener,
and a listener who seemed so much obliged, so full
of wonder at the performance, and who shewed herself
not wanting in taste. She played till Fanny's eyes,
straying to the window on the weather's being evidently fair,
spoke what she felt must be done.
"Another quarter of an hour," said Miss Crawford, "and we
shall see how it will be. Do not run away the first
moment of its holding up. Those clouds look alarming."
"But they are passed over," said Fanny. "I have been
watching them. This weather is all from the south."
"South or north, I know a black cloud when I see it;
and you must not set forward while it is so threatening.
And besides, I want to play something more to you--a very
pretty piece--and your cousin Edmund's prime favourite.
You must stay and hear your cousin's favourite."
Fanny felt that she must; and though she had not
waited for that sentence to be thinking of Edmund,
such a memento made her particularly awake to his idea,
and she fancied him sitting in that room again and again,
perhaps in the very spot where she sat now, listening with
constant delight to the favourite air, played, as it
appeared to her, with superior tone and expression;
and though pleased with it herself, and glad to like whatever
was liked by him, she was more sincerely impatient to go
away at the conclusion of it than she had been before;
and on this being evident, she was so kindly asked to
call again, to take them in her walk whenever she could,
to come and hear more of the harp, that she felt it
necessary to be done, if no objection arose at home.
Such was the origin of the sort of intimacy which took
place between them within the first fortnight after
the Miss Bertrams' going away--an intimacy resulting
principally from Miss Crawford's desire of something new,
and which had little reality in Fanny's feelings.
Fanny went to her every two or three days: it seemed a kind
of fascination: she could not be easy without going,
and yet it was without loving her, without ever thinking
like her, without any sense of obligation for being
sought after now when nobody else was to be had;
and deriving no higher pleasure from her conversation
than occasional amusement, and _that_ often at the expense
of her judgment, when it was raised by pleasantry on
people or subjects which she wished to be respected.
She went, however, and they sauntered about together
many an half-hour in Mrs. Grant's shrubbery, the weather
being unusually mild for the time of year, and venturing
sometimes even to sit down on one of the benches now
comparatively unsheltered, remaining there perhaps till,
in the midst of some tender ejaculation of Fanny's on
the sweets of so protracted an autumn, they were forced,
by the sudden swell of a cold gust shaking down the last few
yellow leaves about them, to jump up and walk for warmth.
"This is pretty, very pretty," said Fanny, looking around
her as they were thus sitting together one day; "every time
I come into this shrubbery I am more struck with its
growth and beauty. Three years ago, this was nothing
but a rough hedgerow along the upper side of the field,
never thought of as anything, or capable of becoming anything;
and now it is converted into a walk, and it would be
difficult to say whether most valuable as a convenience
or an ornament; and perhaps, in another three years,
we may be forgetting--almost forgetting what it was before.
How wonderful, how very wonderful the operations of time,
and the changes of the human mind!" And following
the latter train of thought, she soon afterwards added:
"If any one faculty of our nature may be called _more_
wonderful than the rest, I do think it is memory.
There seems something more speakingly incomprehensible
in the powers, the failures, the inequalities
of memory, than in any other of our intelligences.
The memory is sometimes so retentive, so serviceable,
so obedient; at others, so bewildered and so weak;
and at others again, so tyrannic, so beyond control!
We are, to be sure, a miracle every way; but our powers
of recollecting and of forgetting do seem peculiarly past
Miss Crawford, untouched and inattentive, had nothing
to say; and Fanny, perceiving it, brought back her own
mind to what she thought must interest.
"It may seem impertinent in _me_ to praise, but I must
admire the taste Mrs. Grant has shewn in all this.
There is such a quiet simplicity in the plan of the walk!
Not too much attempted!"
"Yes," replied Miss Crawford carelessly, "it does
very well for a place of this sort. One does not think
of extent _here_; and between ourselves, till I came
to Mansfield, I had not imagined a country parson
ever aspired to a shrubbery, or anything of the kind."
"I am so glad to see the evergreens thrive!" said Fanny,
in reply. "My uncle's gardener always says the soil here
is better than his own, and so it appears from the growth
of the laurels and evergreens in general. The evergreen!
How beautiful, how welcome, how wonderful the evergreen!
When one thinks of it, how astonishing a variety of nature!
In some countries we know the tree that sheds its leaf
is the variety, but that does not make it less amazing
that the same soil and the same sun should nurture plants
differing in the first rule and law of their existence.
You will think me rhapsodising; but when I am out of doors,
especially when I am sitting out of doors, I am very apt
to get into this sort of wondering strain. One cannot fix
one's eyes on the commonest natural production without
finding food for a rambling fancy."
"To say the truth," replied Miss Crawford, "I am something
like the famous Doge at the court of Lewis XIV.;
and may declare that I see no wonder in this shrubbery
equal to seeing myself in it. If anybody had told
me a year ago that this place would be my home,
that I should be spending month after month here, as I
have done, I certainly should not have believed them.
I have now been here nearly five months; and, moreover,
the quietest five months I ever passed."
"_Too_ quiet for you, I believe."
"I should have thought so _theoretically_ myself, but,"
and her eyes brightened as she spoke, "take it all
and all, I never spent so happy a summer. But then,"
with a more thoughtful air and lowered voice, "there is
no saying what it may lead to."
Fanny's heart beat quick, and she felt quite unequal
to surmising or soliciting anything more. Miss Crawford,
however, with renewed animation, soon went on--
"I am conscious of being far better reconciled to a country
residence than I had ever expected to be. I can even
suppose it pleasant to spend _half_ the year in the country,
under certain circumstances, very pleasant. An elegant,
moderate-sized house in the centre of family connexions;
continual engagements among them; commanding the first society
in the neighbourhood; looked up to, perhaps, as leading
it even more than those of larger fortune, and turning
from the cheerful round of such amusements to nothing
worse than a _tete-a-tete_ with the person one feels
most agreeable in the world. There is nothing frightful
in such a picture, is there, Miss Price? One need not
envy the new Mrs. Rushworth with such a home as _that_."
"Envy Mrs. Rushworth!" was all that Fanny attempted to say.
"Come, come, it would be very un-handsome in us to be
severe on Mrs. Rushworth, for I look forward to our owing
her a great many gay, brilliant, happy hours. I expect
we shall be all very much at Sotherton another year.
Such a match as Miss Bertram has made is a public blessing;
for the first pleasures of Mr. Rushworth's wife must be to
fill her house, and give the best balls in the country."
Fanny was silent, and Miss Crawford relapsed into
thoughtfulness, till suddenly looking up at the end
of a few minutes, she exclaimed, "Ah! here he is."
It was not Mr. Rushworth, however, but Edmund,
who then appeared walking towards them with Mrs. Grant.
"My sister and Mr. Bertram. I am so glad your eldest
cousin is gone, that he may be Mr. Bertram again. There is
something in the sound of Mr. _Edmund_ Bertram so formal,
so pitiful, so younger-brother-like, that I detest it."
"How differently we feel!" cried Fanny. "To me,
the sound of _Mr._ Bertram is so cold and nothing-meaning,
so entirely without warmth or character! It just stands
for a gentleman, and that's all. But there is nobleness
in the name of Edmund. It is a name of heroism and renown;
of kings, princes, and knights; and seems to breathe
the spirit of chivalry and warm affections."
"I grant you the name is good in itself, and _Lord_ Edmund
or _Sir_ Edmund sound delightfully; but sink it under the chill,
the annihilation of a Mr., and Mr. Edmund is no more than
Mr. John or Mr. Thomas. Well, shall we join and disappoint
them of half their lecture upon sitting down out of doors
at this time of year, by being up before they can begin?"
Edmund met them with particular pleasure. It was the
first time of his seeing them together since the beginning
of that better acquaintance which he had been hearing
of with great satisfaction. A friendship between two so
very dear to him was exactly what he could have wished:
and to the credit of the lover's understanding, be it stated,
that he did not by any means consider Fanny as the only,
or even as the greater gainer by such a friendship.
"Well," said Miss Crawford, "and do you not scold us for
our imprudence? What do you think we have been sitting
down for but to be talked to about it, and entreated
and supplicated never to do so again?"
"Perhaps I might have scolded," said Edmund, "if either
of you had been sitting down alone; but while you
do wrong together, I can overlook a great deal."
"They cannot have been sitting long," cried Mrs. Grant,
"for when I went up for my shawl I saw them from the
staircase window, and then they were walking."
"And really," added Edmund, "the day is so mild,
that your sitting down for a few minutes can be hardly
thought imprudent. Our weather must not always be judged
by the calendar. We may sometimes take greater liberties
in November than in May."
"Upon my word," cried Miss Crawford, "you are two of the most
disappointing and unfeeling kind friends I ever met with!
There is no giving you a moment's uneasiness. You do not
know how much we have been suffering, nor what chills
we have felt! But I have long thought Mr. Bertram one
of the worst subjects to work on, in any little manoeuvre
against common sense, that a woman could be plagued with.
I had very little hope of _him_ from the first; but you,
Mrs. Grant, my sister, my own sister, I think I had a right
to alarm you a little."
"Do not flatter yourself, my dearest Mary. You have not
the smallest chance of moving me. I have my alarms,
but they are quite in a different quarter; and if I could
have altered the weather, you would have had a good sharp
east wind blowing on you the whole time--for here are
some of my plants which Robert _will_ leave out because
the nights are so mild, and I know the end of it will be,
that we shall have a sudden change of weather, a hard frost
setting in all at once, taking everybody (at least Robert)
by surprise, and I shall lose every one; and what is worse,
cook has just been telling me that the turkey, which I
particularly wished not to be dressed till Sunday,
because I know how much more Dr. Grant would enjoy it
on Sunday after the fatigues of the day, will not keep
beyond to-morrow. These are something like grievances,
and make me think the weather most unseasonably close."
"The sweets of housekeeping in a country village!"
said Miss Crawford archly. "Commend me to the nurseryman
and the poulterer."
"My dear child, commend Dr. Grant to the deanery
of Westminster or St. Paul's, and I should be as glad
of your nurseryman and poulterer as you could be. But we
have no such people in Mansfield. What would you have me do?"
"Oh! you can do nothing but what you do already:
be plagued very often, and never lose your temper."
"Thank you; but there is no escaping these little vexations,
Mary, live where we may; and when you are settled in town
and I come to see you, I dare say I shall find you
with yours, in spite of the nurseryman and the poulterer,
perhaps on their very account. Their remoteness
and unpunctuality, or their exorbitant charges and frauds,
will be drawing forth bitter lamentations."
"I mean to be too rich to lament or to feel anything
of the sort. A large income is the best recipe for
happiness I ever heard of. It certainly may secure
all the myrtle and turkey part of it."
"You intend to be very rich?" said Edmund, with a look which,
to Fanny's eye, had a great deal of serious meaning.
"To be sure. Do not you? Do not we all?"
"I cannot intend anything which it must be so completely
beyond my power to command. Miss Crawford may chuse her
degree of wealth. She has only to fix on her number of
thousands a year, and there can be no doubt of their coming.
My intentions are only not to be poor."
"By moderation and economy, and bringing down your wants
to your income, and all that. I understand you--and a
very proper plan it is for a person at your time of life,
with such limited means and indifferent connexions.
What can _you_ want but a decent maintenance? You have
not much time before you; and your relations are in no
situation to do anything for you, or to mortify you
by the contrast of their own wealth and consequence.
Be honest and poor, by all means--but I shall not
envy you; I do not much think I shall even respect you.
I have a much greater respect for those that are honest
"Your degree of respect for honesty, rich or poor,
is precisely what I have no manner of concern with.
I do not mean to be poor. Poverty is exactly what I have
determined against. Honesty, in the something between,
in the middle state of worldly circumstances, is all that I
am anxious for your not looking down on."
"But I do look down upon it, if it might have been higher.
I must look down upon anything contented with obscurity
when it might rise to distinction."
"But how may it rise? How may my honesty at least rise
to any distinction?"
This was not so very easy a question to answer,
and occasioned an "Oh!" of some length from the fair lady
before she could add, "You ought to be in parliament,
or you should have gone into the army ten years ago."
"_That_ is not much to the purpose now; and as to my being
in parliament, I believe I must wait till there is an
especial assembly for the representation of younger sons
who have little to live on. No, Miss Crawford," he added,
in a more serious tone, "there _are_ distinctions which I
should be miserable if I thought myself without any chance--
absolutely without chance or possibility of obtaining--
but they are of a different character."
A look of consciousness as he spoke, and what seemed
a consciousness of manner on Miss Crawford's side
as she made some laughing answer, was sorrowfull food
for Fanny's observation; and finding herself quite
unable to attend as she ought to Mrs. Grant, by whose
side she was now following the others, she had nearly
resolved on going home immediately, and only waited
for courage to say so, when the sound of the great clock
at Mansfield Park, striking three, made her feel that she
had really been much longer absent than usual, and brought
the previous self-inquiry of whether she should take
leave or not just then, and how, to a very speedy issue.
With undoubting decision she directly began her adieus;
and Edmund began at the same time to recollect that
his mother had been inquiring for her, and that he
had walked down to the Parsonage on purpose to bring her back.
Fanny's hurry increased; and without in the least expecting
Edmund's attendance, she would have hastened away alone;
but the general pace was quickened, and they all accompanied
her into the house, through which it was necessary to pass.
Dr. Grant was in the vestibule, and as they stopt to
speak to him she found, from Edmund's manner, that he
_did_ mean to go with her. He too was taking leave.
She could not but be thankful. In the moment of parting,
Edmund was invited by Dr. Grant to eat his mutton
with him the next day; and Fanny had barely time for an
unpleasant feeling on the occasion, when Mrs. Grant,
with sudden recollection, turned to her and asked for the
pleasure of her company too. This was so new an attention,
so perfectly new a circumstance in the events of
Fanny's life, that she was all surprise and embarrassment;
and while stammering out her great obligation, and her
"but she did not suppose it would be in her power,"
was looking at Edmund for his opinion and help. But Edmund,
delighted with her having such an happiness offered,
and ascertaining with half a look, and half a sentence,
that she had no objection but on her aunt's account,
could not imagine that his mother would make any difficulty
of sparing her, and therefore gave his decided open advice
that the invitation should be accepted; and though Fanny
would not venture, even on his encouragement, to such
a flight of audacious independence, it was soon settled,
that if nothing were heard to the contrary, Mrs. Grant
might expect her.
"And you know what your dinner will be,"
said Mrs. Grant, smiling--"the turkey, and I assure you
a very fine one; for, my dear," turning to her husband,
"cook insists upon the turkey's being dressed to-morrow."
"Very well, very well," cried Dr. Grant, "all the better;
I am glad to hear you have anything so good in the house.
But Miss Price and Mr. Edmund Bertram, I dare say, would take
their chance. We none of us want to hear the bill of fare.
A friendly meeting, and not a fine dinner, is all we
have in view. A turkey, or a goose, or a leg of mutton,
or whatever you and your cook chuse to give us."
The two cousins walked home together; and, except in the
immediate discussion of this engagement, which Edmund
spoke of with the warmest satisfaction, as so particularly
desirable for her in the intimacy which he saw with
so much pleasure established, it was a silent walk;
for having finished that subject, he grew thoughtful
and indisposed for any other.