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CHAPTER XXXII

Fanny had by no means forgotten Mr. Crawford when she
awoke the next morning; but she remembered the purport
of her note, and was not less sanguine as to its effect
than she had been the night before. If Mr. Crawford would
but go away! That was what she most earnestly desired:
go and take his sister with him, as he was to do,
and as he returned to Mansfield on purpose to do.
And why it was not done already she could not devise,
for Miss Crawford certainly wanted no delay. Fanny had hoped,
in the course of his yesterday's visit, to hear the day named;
but he had only spoken of their journey as what would take
place ere long.

Having so satisfactorily settled the conviction her note
would convey, she could not but be astonished to see
Mr. Crawford, as she accidentally did, coming up to the
house again, and at an hour as early as the day before.
His coming might have nothing to do with her, but she
must avoid seeing him if possible; and being then
on her way upstairs, she resolved there to remain,
during the whole of his visit, unless actually sent for;
and as Mrs. Norris was still in the house, there seemed
little danger of her being wanted.

She sat some time in a good deal of agitation, listening,
trembling, and fearing to be sent for every moment;
but as no footsteps approached the East room, she grew
gradually composed, could sit down, and be able to
employ herself, and able to hope that Mr. Crawford had come
and would go without her being obliged to know anything of the
matter.

Nearly half an hour had passed, and she was growing
very comfortable, when suddenly the sound of a step
in regular approach was heard; a heavy step, an unusual
step in that part of the house: it was her uncle's;
she knew it as well as his voice; she had trembled at it
as often, and began to tremble again, at the idea of his
coming up to speak to her, whatever might be the subject.
It was indeed Sir Thomas who opened the door and asked
if she were there, and if he might come in. The terror
of his former occasional visits to that room seemed
all renewed, and she felt as if he were going to examine
her again in French and English.

She was all attention, however, in placing a chair for him,
and trying to appear honoured; and, in her agitation,
had quite overlooked the deficiencies of her apartment, till he,
stopping short as he entered, said, with much surprise,
"Why have you no fire to-day?"

There was snow on the ground, and she was sitting in a shawl.
She hesitated.

"I am not cold, sir: I never sit here long at this time
of year."

"But you have a fire in general?"

"No, sir."

"How comes this about? Here must be some mistake.
I understood that you had the use of this room by way
of making you perfectly comfortable. In your bedchamber
I know you _cannot_ have a fire. Here is some great
misapprehension which must be rectified. It is highly
unfit for you to sit, be it only half an hour a day,
without a fire. You are not strong. You are chilly.
Your aunt cannot be aware of this."

Fanny would rather have been silent; but being obliged
to speak, she could not forbear, in justice to the aunt
she loved best, from saying something in which the words
"my aunt Norris" were distinguishable.

"I understand," cried her uncle, recollecting himself,
and not wanting to hear more: "I understand. Your aunt
Norris has always been an advocate, and very judiciously,
for young people's being brought up without unnecessary
indulgences; but there should be moderation in everything.
She is also very hardy herself, which of course will
influence her in her opinion of the wants of others.
And on another account, too, I can perfectly comprehend.
I know what her sentiments have always been.
The principle was good in itself, but it may have been,
and I believe _has_ _been_, carried too far in your case.
I am aware that there has been sometimes, in some points,
a misplaced distinction; but I think too well of you, Fanny,
to suppose you will ever harbour resentment on that account.
You have an understanding which will prevent you from
receiving things only in part, and judging partially
by the event. You will take in the whole of the past,
you will consider times, persons, and probabilities,
and you will feel that _they_ were not least your
friends who were educating and preparing you for that
mediocrity of condition which _seemed_ to be your lot.
Though their caution may prove eventually unnecessary,
it was kindly meant; and of this you may be assured,
that every advantage of affluence will be doubled by the little
privations and restrictions that may have been imposed.
I am sure you will not disappoint my opinion of you,
by failing at any time to treat your aunt Norris
with the respect and attention that are due to her.
But enough of this. Sit down, my dear. I must speak
to you for a few minutes, but I will not detain
you long."

Fanny obeyed, with eyes cast down and colour rising.
After a moment's pause, Sir Thomas, trying to suppress
a smile, went on.

"You are not aware, perhaps, that I have had a visitor
this morning. I had not been long in my own room,
after breakfast, when Mr. Crawford was shewn in.
His errand you may probably conjecture."

Fanny's colour grew deeper and deeper; and her uncle,
perceiving that she was embarrassed to a degree that
made either speaking or looking up quite impossible,
turned away his own eyes, and without any farther pause
proceeded in his account of Mr. Crawford's visit.

Mr. Crawford's business had been to declare himself
the lover of Fanny, make decided proposals for her,
and entreat the sanction of the uncle, who seemed to stand
in the place of her parents; and he had done it all so well,
so openly, so liberally, so properly, that Sir Thomas,
feeling, moreover, his own replies, and his own remarks
to have been very much to the purpose, was exceedingly
happy to give the particulars of their conversation;
and little aware of what was passing in his niece's mind,
conceived that by such details he must be gratifying her
far more than himself. He talked, therefore, for several
minutes without Fanny's daring to interrupt him.
She had hardly even attained the wish to do it. Her mind
was in too much confusion. She had changed her position;
and, with her eyes fixed intently on one of the windows,
was listening to her uncle in the utmost perturbation
and dismay. For a moment he ceased, but she had barely
become conscious of it, when, rising from his chair, he said,
"And now, Fanny, having performed one part of my commission,
and shewn you everything placed on a basis the most assured
and satisfactory, I may execute the remainder by prevailing
on you to accompany me downstairs, where, though I cannot
but presume on having been no unacceptable companion myself,
I must submit to your finding one still better worth
listening to. Mr. Crawford, as you have perhaps foreseen,
is yet in the house. He is in my room, and hoping to see
you there."

There was a look, a start, an exclamation on hearing this,
which astonished Sir Thomas; but what was his increase of
astonishment on hearing her exclaim--"Oh! no, sir, I cannot,
indeed I cannot go down to him. Mr. Crawford ought to know--
he must know that: I told him enough yesterday to convince him;
he spoke to me on this subject yesterday, and I told him
without disguise that it was very disagreeable to me,
and quite out of my power to return his good opinion."

"I do not catch your meaning," said Sir Thomas, sitting
down again. "Out of your power to return his good opinion?
What is all this? I know he spoke to you yesterday,
and (as far as I understand) received as much encouragement
to proceed as a well-judging young woman could permit
herself to give. I was very much pleased with what I
collected to have been your behaviour on the occasion;
it shewed a discretion highly to be commended. But now,
when he has made his overtures so properly, and honourably--
what are your scruples _now_?"

"You are mistaken, sir," cried Fanny, forced by the anxiety
of the moment even to tell her uncle that he was wrong;
"you are quite mistaken. How could Mr. Crawford say
such a thing? I gave him no encouragement yesterday.
On the contrary, I told him, I cannot recollect my exact words,
but I am sure I told him that I would not listen to him,
that it was very unpleasant to me in every respect, and that
I begged him never to talk to me in that manner again.
I am sure I said as much as that and more; and I should
have said still more, if I had been quite certain of his
meaning anything seriously; but I did not like to be,
I could not bear to be, imputing more than might be intended.
I thought it might all pass for nothing with _him_."

She could say no more; her breath was almost gone.

"Am I to understand," said Sir Thomas, after a few moments'
silence, "that you mean to _refuse_ Mr. Crawford?"

"Yes, sir."

"Refuse him?"

"Yes, sir."

"Refuse Mr. Crawford! Upon what plea? For what reason?"

"I--I cannot like him, sir, well enough to marry him."

"This is very strange!" said Sir Thomas, in a voice of
calm displeasure. "There is something in this which my
comprehension does not reach. Here is a young man wishing
to pay his addresses to you, with everything to recommend him:
not merely situation in life, fortune, and character,
but with more than common agreeableness, with address
and conversation pleasing to everybody. And he is not an
acquaintance of to-day; you have now known him some time.
His sister, moreover, is your intimate friend, and he has
been doing _that_ for your brother, which I should suppose
would have been almost sufficient recommendation to you,
had there been no other. It is very uncertain when my
interest might have got William on. He has done it already."

"Yes," said Fanny, in a faint voice, and looking down
with fresh shame; and she did feel almost ashamed
of herself, after such a picture as her uncle had drawn,
for not liking Mr. Crawford.

"You must have been aware," continued Sir Thomas presently,
"you must have been some time aware of a particularity
in Mr. Crawford's manners to you. This cannot have taken
you by surprise. You must have observed his attentions;
and though you always received them very properly (I have
no accusation to make on that head), I never perceived them
to be unpleasant to you. I am half inclined to think,
Fanny, that you do not quite know your own feelings."

"Oh yes, sir! indeed I do. His attentions were always--
what I did not like."

Sir Thomas looked at her with deeper surprise.
"This is beyond me," said he. "This requires explanation.
Young as you are, and having seen scarcely any one,
it is hardly possible that your affections--"

He paused and eyed her fixedly. He saw her lips
formed into a _no_, though the sound was inarticulate,
but her face was like scarlet. That, however, in so
modest a girl, might be very compatible with innocence;
and chusing at least to appear satisfied, he quickly added,
"No, no, I know _that_ is quite out of the question;
quite impossible. Well, there is nothing more to be said."

And for a few minutes he did say nothing. He was deep
in thought. His niece was deep in thought likewise, trying to
harden and prepare herself against farther questioning.
She would rather die than own the truth; and she hoped,
by a little reflection, to fortify herself beyond
betraying it.

"Independently of the interest which Mr. Crawford's _choice_
seemed to justify" said Sir Thomas, beginning again,
and very composedly, "his wishing to marry at all so
early is recommendatory to me. I am an advocate for
early marriages, where there are means in proportion,
and would have every young man, with a sufficient income,
settle as soon after four-and-twenty as he can. This is
so much my opinion, that I am sorry to think how little
likely my own eldest son, your cousin, Mr. Bertram,
is to marry early; but at present, as far as I can judge,
matrimony makes no part of his plans or thoughts.
I wish he were more likely to fix." Here was a glance
at Fanny. "Edmund, I consider, from his dispositions
and habits, as much more likely to marry early than
his brother. _He_, indeed, I have lately thought,
has seen the woman he could love, which, I am convinced,
my eldest son has not. Am I right? Do you agree with me,
my dear?"

"Yes, sir."

It was gently, but it was calmly said, and Sir Thomas was
easy on the score of the cousins. But the removal of his
alarm did his niece no service: as her unaccountableness
was confirmed his displeasure increased; and getting up
and walking about the room with a frown, which Fanny could
picture to herself, though she dared not lift up her eyes,
he shortly afterwards, and in a voice of authority, said,
"Have you any reason, child, to think ill of Mr. Crawford's
temper?"

"No, sir."

She longed to add, "But of his principles I have"; but her
heart sunk under the appalling prospect of discussion,
explanation, and probably non-conviction. Her ill opinion
of him was founded chiefly on observations, which,
for her cousins' sake, she could scarcely dare mention
to their father. Maria and Julia, and especially Maria,
were so closely implicated in Mr. Crawford's misconduct,
that she could not give his character, such as she
believed it, without betraying them. She had hoped that,
to a man like her uncle, so discerning, so honourable,
so good, the simple acknowledgment of settled _dislike_
on her side would have been sufficient. To her infinite
grief she found it was not.

Sir Thomas came towards the table where she sat
in trembling wretchedness, and with a good deal of
cold sternness, said, "It is of no use, I perceive,
to talk to you. We had better put an end to this
most mortifying conference. Mr. Crawford must not be
kept longer waiting. I will, therefore, only add,
as thinking it my duty to mark my opinion of your conduct,
that you have disappointed every expectation I had formed,
and proved yourself of a character the very reverse
of what I had supposed. For I _had_, Fanny, as I think
my behaviour must have shewn, formed a very favourable
opinion of you from the period of my return to England.
I had thought you peculiarly free from wilfulness of temper,
self-conceit, and every tendency to that independence
of spirit which prevails so much in modern days,
even in young women, and which in young women is offensive
and disgusting beyond all common offence. But you
have now shewn me that you can be wilful and perverse;
that you can and will decide for yourself, without any
consideration or deference for those who have surely some
right to guide you, without even asking their advice.
You have shewn yourself very, very different from anything
that I had imagined. The advantage or disadvantage of
your family, of your parents, your brothers and sisters,
never seems to have had a moment's share in your thoughts
on this occasion. How _they_ might be benefited,
how _they_ must rejoice in such an establishment for you,
is nothing to _you_. You think only of yourself,
and because you do not feel for Mr. Crawford exactly what a
young heated fancy imagines to be necessary for happiness,
you resolve to refuse him at once, without wishing
even for a little time to consider of it, a little more
time for cool consideration, and for really examining
your own inclinations; and are, in a wild fit of folly,
throwing away from you such an opportunity of being
settled in life, eligibly, honourably, nobly settled,
as will, probably, never occur to you again. Here is a
young man of sense, of character, of temper, of manners,
and of fortune, exceedingly attached to you, and seeking
your hand in the most handsome and disinterested way;
and let me tell you, Fanny, that you may live eighteen years
longer in the world without being addressed by a man of half
Mr. Crawford's estate, or a tenth part of his merits.
Gladly would I have bestowed either of my own daughters
on him. Maria is nobly married; but had Mr. Crawford
sought Julia's hand, I should have given it to him with
superior and more heartfelt satisfaction than I gave
Maria's to Mr. Rushworth." After half a moment's pause:
"And I should have been very much surprised had either
of my daughters, on receiving a proposal of marriage at any
time which might carry with it only _half_ the eligibility
of _this_, immediately and peremptorily, and without paying
my opinion or my regard the compliment of any consultation,
put a decided negative on it. I should have been much
surprised and much hurt by such a proceeding. I should
have thought it a gross violation of duty and respect.
_You_ are not to be judged by the same rule. You do not
owe me the duty of a child. But, Fanny, if your heart
can acquit you of _ingratitude_--"

He ceased. Fanny was by this time crying so bitterly that,
angry as he was, he would not press that article farther.
Her heart was almost broke by such a picture of what
she appeared to him; by such accusations, so heavy,
so multiplied, so rising in dreadful gradation!
Self-willed, obstinate, selfish, and ungrateful.
He thought her all this. She had deceived his expectations;
she had lost his good opinion. What was to become
of her?

"I am very sorry," said she inarticulately, through her tears,
"I am very sorry indeed."

"Sorry! yes, I hope you are sorry; and you will probably
have reason to be long sorry for this day's transactions."

"If it were possible for me to do otherwise" said she,
with another strong effort; "but I am so perfectly
convinced that I could never make him happy, and that I
should be miserable myself."

Another burst of tears; but in spite of that burst,
and in spite of that great black word _miserable_,
which served to introduce it, Sir Thomas began to think
a little relenting, a little change of inclination,
might have something to do with it; and to augur favourably
from the personal entreaty of the young man himself.
He knew her to be very timid, and exceedingly nervous;
and thought it not improbable that her mind might be
in such a state as a little time, a little pressing,
a little patience, and a little impatience, a judicious
mixture of all on the lover's side, might work their
usual effect on. If the gentleman would but persevere,
if he had but love enough to persevere, Sir Thomas began
to have hopes; and these reflections having passed across
his mind and cheered it, "Well," said he, in a tone
of becoming gravity, but of less anger, "well, child,
dry up your tears. There is no use in these tears;
they can do no good. You must now come downstairs with me.
Mr. Crawford has been kept waiting too long already.
You must give him your own answer: we cannot expect him
to be satisfied with less; and you only can explain to him
the grounds of that misconception of your sentiments, which,
unfortunately for himself, he certainly has imbibed. I am
totally unequal to it."

But Fanny shewed such reluctance, such misery, at the
idea of going down to him, that Sir Thomas, after a
little consideration, judged it better to indulge her.
His hopes from both gentleman and lady suffered a small
depression in consequence; but when he looked at his niece,
and saw the state of feature and complexion which her
crying had brought her into, he thought there might
be as much lost as gained by an immediate interview.
With a few words, therefore, of no particular meaning,
he walked off by himself, leaving his poor niece to sit
and cry over what had passed, with very wretched feelings

Her mind was all disorder. The past, present, future,
everything was terrible. But her uncle's anger gave
her the severest pain of all. Selfish and ungrateful!
to have appeared so to him! She was miserable for ever.
She had no one to take her part, to counsel, or speak
for her. Her only friend was absent. He might have
softened his father; but all, perhaps all, would think
her selfish and ungrateful. She might have to endure
the reproach again and again; she might hear it, or see it,
or know it to exist for ever in every connexion about her.
She could not but feel some resentment against Mr. Crawford;
yet, if he really loved her, and were unhappy too!
It was all wretchedness together.

In about a quarter of an hour her uncle returned;
she was almost ready to faint at the sight of him.
He spoke calmly, however, without austerity, without reproach,
and she revived a little. There was comfort, too,
in his words, as well as his manner, for he began with,
"Mr. Crawford is gone: he has just left me. I need not
repeat what has passed. I do not want to add to anything
you may now be feeling, by an account of what he has felt.
Suffice it, that he has behaved in the most gentlemanlike
and generous manner, and has confirmed me in a most
favourable opinion of his understanding, heart, and temper.
Upon my representation of what you were suffering,
he immediately, and with the greatest delicacy,
ceased to urge to see you for the present."

Here Fanny, who had looked up, looked down again. "Of course,"
continued her uncle, "it cannot be supposed but that he should
request to speak with you alone, be it only for five minutes;
a request too natural, a claim too just to be denied.
But there is no time fixed; perhaps to-morrow, or whenever
your spirits are composed enough. For the present you
have only to tranquillise yourself. Check these tears;
they do but exhaust you. If, as I am willing to suppose,
you wish to shew me any observance, you will not give
way to these emotions, but endeavour to reason yourself
into a stronger frame of mind. I advise you to go out:
the air will do you good; go out for an hour on the gravel;
you will have the shrubbery to yourself, and will be the
better for air and exercise. And, Fanny" (turning back
again for a moment), "I shall make no mention below of
what has passed; I shall not even tell your aunt Bertram.
There is no occasion for spreading the disappointment;
say nothing about it yourself."

This was an order to be most joyfully obeyed; this was
an act of kindness which Fanny felt at her heart.
To be spared from her aunt Norris's interminable
reproaches! he left her in a glow of gratitude.
Anything might be bearable rather than such reproaches.
Even to see Mr. Crawford would be less overpowering.

She walked out directly, as her uncle recommended,
and followed his advice throughout, as far as she could;
did check her tears; did earnestly try to compose her spirits
and strengthen her mind. She wished to prove to him that she
did desire his comfort, and sought to regain his favour;
and he had given her another strong motive for exertion,
in keeping the whole affair from the knowledge of her aunts.
Not to excite suspicion by her look or manner was now
an object worth attaining; and she felt equal to almost
anything that might save her from her aunt Norris.

She was struck, quite struck, when, on returning from her
walk and going into the East room again, the first thing
which caught her eye was a fire lighted and burning.
A fire! it seemed too much; just at that time to be giving
her such an indulgence was exciting even painful gratitude.
She wondered that Sir Thomas could have leisure to think
of such a trifle again; but she soon found, from the voluntary
information of the housemaid, who came in to attend it,
that so it was to be every day. Sir Thomas had given
orders for it.

"I must be a brute, indeed, if I can be really ungrateful!"
said she, in soliloquy. "Heaven defend me from
being ungrateful!"

She saw nothing more of her uncle, nor of her aunt Norris,
till they met at dinner. Her uncle's behaviour to her
was then as nearly as possible what it had been before;
she was sure he did not mean there should be any change,
and that it was only her own conscience that could fancy any;
but her aunt was soon quarrelling with her; and when she
found how much and how unpleasantly her having only walked
out without her aunt's knowledge could be dwelt on,
she felt all the reason she had to bless the kindness
which saved her from the same spirit of reproach,
exerted on a more momentous subject.

"If I had known you were going out, I should have got you
just to go as far as my house with some orders for Nanny,"
said she, "which I have since, to my very great inconvenience,
been obliged to go and carry myself. I could very ill
spare the time, and you might have saved me the trouble,
if you would only have been so good as to let us know you
were going out. It would have made no difference to you,
I suppose, whether you had walked in the shrubbery or gone
to my house."

"I recommended the shrubbery to Fanny as the driest place,"
said Sir Thomas.

"Oh!" said Mrs. Norris, with a moment's check,
"that was very kind of you, Sir Thomas; but you do not
know how dry the path is to my house. Fanny would have
had quite as good a walk there, I assure you, with the
advantage of being of some use, and obliging her aunt:
it is all her fault. If she would but have let us know
she was going out but there is a something about Fanny,
I have often observed it before--she likes to go her
own way to work; she does not like to be dictated to;
she takes her own independent walk whenever she can;
she certainly has a little spirit of secrecy, and independence,
and nonsense, about her, which I would advise her to get
the better of."

As a general reflection on Fanny, Sir Thomas thought
nothing could be more unjust, though he had been so lately
expressing the same sentiments himself, and he tried to turn
the conversation: tried repeatedly before he could succeed;
for Mrs. Norris had not discernment enough to perceive,
either now, or at any other time, to what degree he
thought well of his niece, or how very far he was from
wishing to have his own children's merits set off by
the depreciation of hers. She was talking _at_ Fanny,
and resenting this private walk half through the dinner.

It was over, however, at last; and the evening set in with
more composure to Fanny, and more cheerfulness of spirits
than she could have hoped for after so stormy a morning;
but she trusted, in the first place, that she had done right:
that her judgment had not misled her. For the purity
of her intentions she could answer; and she was willing
to hope, secondly, that her uncle's displeasure was abating,
and would abate farther as he considered the matter with
more impartiality, and felt, as a good man must feel,
how wretched, and how unpardonable, how hopeless,
and how wicked it was to marry without affection.

When the meeting with which she was threatened for the
morrow was past, she could not but flatter herself that
the subject would be finally concluded, and Mr. Crawford
once gone from Mansfield, that everything would soon
be as if no such subject had existed. She would not,
could not believe, that Mr. Crawford's affection for her
could distress him long; his mind was not of that sort.
London would soon bring its cure. In London he would
soon learn to wonder at his infatuation, and be thankful
for the right reason in her which had saved him from its
evil consequences.

While Fanny's mind was engaged in these sort of hopes,
her uncle was, soon after tea, called out of the room;
an occurrence too common to strike her, and she thought nothing
of it till the butler reappeared ten minutes afterwards,
and advancing decidedly towards herself, said, "Sir Thomas
wishes to speak with you, ma'am, in his own room."
Then it occurred to her what might be going on; a suspicion
rushed over her mind which drove the colour from her cheeks;
but instantly rising, she was preparing to obey, when Mrs. Norris
called out, "Stay, stay, Fanny! what are you about? where
are you going? don't be in such a hurry. Depend upon it,
it is not you who are wanted; depend upon it, it is me"
(looking at the butler); "but you are so very eager to put
yourself forward. What should Sir Thomas want you for?
It is me, Baddeley, you mean; I am coming this moment.
You mean me, Baddeley, I am sure; Sir Thomas wants me,
not Miss Price."

But Baddeley was stout. "No, ma'am, it is Miss Price;
I am certain of its being Miss Price." And there was
a half-smile with the words, which meant, "I do not think
you would answer the purpose at all."

Mrs. Norris, much discontented, was obliged to compose
herself to work again; and Fanny, walking off in
agitating consciousness, found herself, as she anticipated,
in another minute alone with Mr. Crawford.




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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