eBooks Cube
 
CHAPTER XXX

Miss Crawford's uneasiness was much lightened by
this conversation, and she walked home again in spirits
which might have defied almost another week of the same
small party in the same bad weather, had they been put
to the proof; but as that very evening brought her brother
down from London again in quite, or more than quite,
his usual cheerfulness, she had nothing farther to try
her own. His still refusing to tell her what he had gone
for was but the promotion of gaiety; a day before it
might have irritated, but now it was a pleasant joke--
suspected only of concealing something planned as a pleasant
surprise to herself. And the next day _did_ bring a
surprise to her. Henry had said he should just go and ask
the Bertrams how they did, and be back in ten minutes,
but he was gone above an hour; and when his sister,
who had been waiting for him to walk with her in the garden,
met him at last most impatiently in the sweep, and cried out,
"My dear Henry, where can you have been all this time?"
he had only to say that he had been sitting with Lady
Bertram and Fanny.

"Sitting with them an hour and a half!" exclaimed Mary.

But this was only the beginning of her surprise.

"Yes, Mary," said he, drawing her arm within his,
and walking along the sweep as if not knowing where he was:
"I could not get away sooner; Fanny looked so lovely!
I am quite determined, Mary. My mind is entirely made up.
Will it astonish you? No: you must be aware that I am quite
determined to marry Fanny Price."

The surprise was now complete; for, in spite of whatever
his consciousness might suggest, a suspicion of his having
any such views had never entered his sister's imagination;
and she looked so truly the astonishment she felt, that he
was obliged to repeat what he had said, and more fully
and more solemnly. The conviction of his determination
once admitted, it was not unwelcome. There was even
pleasure with the surprise. Mary was in a state of mind
to rejoice in a connexion with the Bertram family,
and to be not displeased with her brother's marrying
a little beneath him.

"Yes, Mary," was Henry's concluding assurance. "I am
fairly caught. You know with what idle designs I began;
but this is the end of them. I have, I flatter myself,
made no inconsiderable progress in her affections;
but my own are entirely fixed."

"Lucky, lucky girl!" cried Mary, as soon as she could speak;
"what a match for her! My dearest Henry, this must
be my _first_ feeling; but my _second_, which you shall
have as sincerely, is, that I approve your choice from
my soul, and foresee your happiness as heartily as I
wish and desire it. You will have a sweet little wife;
all gratitude and devotion. Exactly what you deserve.
What an amazing match for her! Mrs. Norris often talks
of her luck; what will she say now? The delight of all
the family, indeed! And she has some _true_ friends in it!
How _they_ will rejoice! But tell me all about it!
Talk to me for ever. When did you begin to think seriously
about her?"

Nothing could be more impossible than to answer such
a question, though nothing could be more agreeable than
to have it asked. "How the pleasing plague had stolen
on him" he could not say; and before he had expressed
the same sentiment with a little variation of words
three times over, his sister eagerly interrupted him with,
"Ah, my dear Henry, and this is what took you to London!
This was your business! You chose to consult the Admiral
before you made up your mind."

But this he stoutly denied. He knew his uncle too well
to consult him on any matrimonial scheme. The Admiral
hated marriage, and thought it never pardonable in a young
man of independent fortune.

"When Fanny is known to him," continued Henry, "he will doat
on her. She is exactly the woman to do away every prejudice
of such a man as the Admiral, for she he would describe,
if indeed he has now delicacy of language enough to embody
his own ideas. But till it is absolutely settled--
settled beyond all interference, he shall know nothing
of the matter. No, Mary, you are quite mistaken.
You have not discovered my business yet."

"Well, well, I am satisfied. I know now to whom
it must relate, and am in no hurry for the rest.
Fanny Price! wonderful, quite wonderful! That Mansfield
should have done so much for--that _you_ should have
found your fate in Mansfield! But you are quite right;
you could not have chosen better. There is not a better
girl in the world, and you do not want for fortune;
and as to her connexions, they are more than good.
The Bertrams are undoubtedly some of the first people
in this country. She is niece to Sir Thomas Bertram;
that will be enough for the world. But go on, go on.
Tell me more. What are your plans? Does she know her
own happiness?"

"No."

"What are you waiting for?"

"For--for very little more than opportunity. Mary, she is
not like her cousins; but I think I shall not ask in vain."

"Oh no! you cannot. Were you even less pleasing--
supposing her not to love you already (of which,
however, I can have little doubt)--you would be safe.
The gentleness and gratitude of her disposition would
secure her all your own immediately. From my soul I do
not think she would marry you _without_ love; that is,
if there is a girl in the world capable of being uninfluenced
by ambition, I can suppose it her; but ask her to love you,
and she will never have the heart to refuse."

As soon as her eagerness could rest in silence,
he was as happy to tell as she could be to listen;
and a conversation followed almost as deeply interesting
to her as to himself, though he had in fact nothing
to relate but his own sensations, nothing to dwell on
but Fanny's charms. Fanny's beauty of face and figure,
Fanny's graces of manner and goodness of heart, were the
exhaustless theme. The gentleness, modesty, and sweetness
of her character were warmly expatiated on; that sweetness
which makes so essential a part of every woman's worth
in the judgment of man, that though he sometimes loves
where it is not, he can never believe it absent.
Her temper he had good reason to depend on and to praise.
He had often seen it tried. Was there one of the family,
excepting Edmund, who had not in some way or other
continually exercised her patience and forbearance?
Her affections were evidently strong. To see her with
her brother! What could more delightfully prove that
the warmth of her heart was equal to its gentleness?
What could be more encouraging to a man who had her love
in view? Then, her understanding was beyond every suspicion,
quick and clear; and her manners were the mirror of
her own modest and elegant mind. Nor was this all.
Henry Crawford had too much sense not to feel the worth of good
principles in a wife, though he was too little accustomed
to serious reflection to know them by their proper name;
but when he talked of her having such a steadiness
and regularity of conduct, such a high notion of honour,
and such an observance of decorum as might warrant any man
in the fullest dependence on her faith and integrity,
he expressed what was inspired by the knowledge of her
being well principled and religious.

"I could so wholly and absolutely confide in her," said he;
"and _that_ is what I want."

Well might his sister, believing as she really did that his
opinion of Fanny Price was scarcely beyond her merits,
rejoice in her prospects.

"The more I think of it," she cried, "the more am I convinced
that you are doing quite right; and though I should never have
selected Fanny Price as the girl most likely to attach you,
I am now persuaded she is the very one to make you happy.
Your wicked project upon her peace turns out a clever
thought indeed. You will both find your good in it."

"It was bad, very bad in me against such a creature;
but I did not know her then; and she shall have no reason
to lament the hour that first put it into my head.
I will make her very happy, Mary; happier than she has ever
yet been herself, or ever seen anybody else. I will not
take her from Northamptonshire. I shall let Everingham,
and rent a place in this neighbourhood; perhaps Stanwix Lodge.
I shall let a seven years' lease of Everingham.
I am sure of an excellent tenant at half a word.
I could name three people now, who would give me my own
terms and thank me."

"Ha!" cried Mary; "settle in Northamptonshire!
That is pleasant! Then we shall be all together."

When she had spoken it, she recollected herself,
and wished it unsaid; but there was no need of confusion;
for her brother saw her only as the supposed inmate
of Mansfield parsonage, and replied but to invite her
in the kindest manner to his own house, and to claim
the best right in her.

"You must give us more than half your time," said he.
"I cannot admit Mrs. Grant to have an equal claim with
Fanny and myself, for we shall both have a right in you.
Fanny will be so truly your sister!"

Mary had only to be grateful and give general assurances;
but she was now very fully purposed to be the guest of
neither brother nor sister many months longer.

"You will divide your year between London and Northamptonshire?"

"Yes."

"That's right; and in London, of course, a house of
your own: no longer with the Admiral. My dearest Henry,
the advantage to you of getting away from the Admiral
before your manners are hurt by the contagion of his,
before you have contracted any of his foolish opinions,
or learned to sit over your dinner as if it were the best
blessing of life! _You_ are not sensible of the gain,
for your regard for him has blinded you; but, in my estimation,
your marrying early may be the saving of you. To have seen
you grow like the Admiral in word or deed, look or gesture,
would have broken my heart."

"Well, well, we do not think quite alike here.
The Admiral has his faults, but he is a very good man,
and has been more than a father to me. Few fathers would
have let me have my own way half so much. You must
not prejudice Fanny against him. I must have them love
one another."

Mary refrained from saying what she felt, that there could
not be two persons in existence whose characters and manners
were less accordant: time would discover it to him;
but she could not help _this_ reflection on the Admiral.
"Henry, I think so highly of Fanny Price, that if I could
suppose the next Mrs. Crawford would have half the reason
which my poor ill-used aunt had to abhor the very name,
I would prevent the marriage, if possible; but I know you:
I know that a wife you _loved_ would be the happiest
of women, and that even when you ceased to love, she would
yet find in you the liberality and good-breeding of
a gentleman."

The impossibility of not doing everything in the world to
make Fanny Price happy, or of ceasing to love Fanny Price,
was of course the groundwork of his eloquent answer.

"Had you seen her this morning, Mary," he continued,
"attending with such ineffable sweetness and patience to
all the demands of her aunt's stupidity, working with her,
and for her, her colour beautifully heightened as she
leant over the work, then returning to her seat to finish
a note which she was previously engaged in writing
for that stupid woman's service, and all this with such
unpretending gentleness, so much as if it were a matter
of course that she was not to have a moment at her
own command, her hair arranged as neatly as it always is,
and one little curl falling forward as she wrote, which she
now and then shook back, and in the midst of all this,
still speaking at intervals to _me_, or listening,
and as if she liked to listen, to what I said.
Had you seen her so, Mary, you would not have implied
the possibility of her power over my heart ever ceasing."

"My dearest Henry," cried Mary, stopping short, and smiling
in his face, "how glad I am to see you so much in love!
It quite delights me. But what will Mrs. Rushworth and
Julia say?"

"I care neither what they say nor what they feel.
They will now see what sort of woman it is that can attach me,
that can attach a man of sense. I wish the discovery
may do them any good. And they will now see their cousin
treated as she ought to be, and I wish they may be heartily
ashamed of their own abominable neglect and unkindness.
They will be angry," he added, after a moment's silence,
and in a cooler tone; "Mrs. Rushworth will be very angry.
It will be a bitter pill to her; that is, like other
bitter pills, it will have two moments' ill flavour, and then
be swallowed and forgotten; for I am not such a coxcomb
as to suppose her feelings more lasting than other women's,
though _I_ was the object of them. Yes, Mary, my Fanny
will feel a difference indeed: a daily, hourly difference,
in the behaviour of every being who approaches her;
and it will be the completion of my happiness to know
that I am the doer of it, that I am the person to give
the consequence so justly her due. Now she is dependent,
helpless, friendless, neglected, forgotten."

"Nay, Henry, not by all; not forgotten by all; not friendless
or forgotten. Her cousin Edmund never forgets her."

"Edmund! True, I believe he is, generally speaking,
kind to her, and so is Sir Thomas in his way; but it is
the way of a rich, superior, long-worded, arbitrary uncle.
What can Sir Thomas and Edmund together do, what do they
_do_ for her happiness, comfort, honour, and dignity in
the world, to what I _shall_ do?"




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
[...more]
Nabou.com: the big site