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CHAPTER XXXVI

Edmund now believed himself perfectly acquainted with all
that Fanny could tell, or could leave to be conjectured
of her sentiments, and he was satisfied. It had been,
as he before presumed, too hasty a measure on Crawford's side,
and time must be given to make the idea first familiar,
and then agreeable to her. She must be used to the
consideration of his being in love with her, and then
a return of affection might not be very distant.

He gave this opinion as the result of the conversation
to his father; and recommended there being nothing more said
to her: no farther attempts to influence or persuade;
but that everything should be left to Crawford's assiduities,
and the natural workings of her own mind.

Sir Thomas promised that it should be so. Edmund's account
of Fanny's disposition he could believe to be just;
he supposed she had all those feelings, but he must consider
it as very unfortunate that she _had_; for, less willing
than his son to trust to the future, he could not help
fearing that if such very long allowances of time and habit
were necessary for her, she might not have persuaded
herself into receiving his addresses properly before
the young man's inclination for paying them were over.
There was nothing to be done, however, but to submit
quietly and hope the best.

The promised visit from "her friend," as Edmund called
Miss Crawford, was a formidable threat to Fanny,
and she lived in continual terror of it. As a sister,
so partial and so angry, and so little scrupulous of what
she said, and in another light so triumphant and secure,
she was in every way an object of painful alarm.
Her displeasure, her penetration, and her happiness were
all fearful to encounter; and the dependence of having
others present when they met was Fanny's only support
in looking forward to it. She absented herself as little
as possible from Lady Bertram, kept away from the East room,
and took no solitary walk in the shrubbery, in her caution
to avoid any sudden attack.

She succeeded. She was safe in the breakfast-room, with her aunt,
when Miss Crawford did come; and the first misery over,
and Miss Crawford looking and speaking with much less
particularity of expression than she had anticipated,
Fanny began to hope there would be nothing worse
to be endured than a half-hour of moderate agitation.
But here she hoped too much; Miss Crawford was not the slave
of opportunity. She was determined to see Fanny alone,
and therefore said to her tolerably soon, in a low voice,
"I must speak to you for a few minutes somewhere";
words that Fanny felt all over her, in all her pulses
and all her nerves. Denial was impossible. Her habits
of ready submission, on the contrary, made her almost
instantly rise and lead the way out of the room.
She did it with wretched feelings, but it was inevitable.

They were no sooner in the hall than all restraint
of countenance was over on Miss Crawford's side.
She immediately shook her head at Fanny with arch,
yet affectionate reproach, and taking her hand,
seemed hardly able to help beginning directly.
She said nothing, however, but, "Sad, sad girl!
I do not know when I shall have done scolding you,"
and had discretion enough to reserve the rest till they
might be secure of having four walls to themselves.
Fanny naturally turned upstairs, and took her guest to the
apartment which was now always fit for comfortable use;
opening the door, however, with a most aching heart,
and feeling that she had a more distressing scene before
her than ever that spot had yet witnessed. But the evil
ready to burst on her was at least delayed by the sudden
change in Miss Crawford's ideas; by the strong effect
on her mind which the finding herself in the East room
again produced.

"Ha!" she cried, with instant animation, "am I here again?
The East room! Once only was I in this room before";
and after stopping to look about her, and seemingly
to retrace all that had then passed, she added, "Once
only before. Do you remember it? I came to rehearse.
Your cousin came too; and we had a rehearsal. You were
our audience and prompter. A delightful rehearsal.
I shall never forget it. Here we were, just in this
part of the room: here was your cousin, here was I,
here were the chairs. Oh! why will such things ever
pass away?"

Happily for her companion, she wanted no answer.
Her mind was entirely self-engrossed. She was in a reverie
of sweet remembrances.

"The scene we were rehearsing was so very remarkable!
The subject of it so very--very--what shall I say?
He was to be describing and recommending matrimony to me.
I think I see him now, trying to be as demure and composed
as Anhalt ought, through the two long speeches.
'When two sympathetic hearts meet in the marriage state,
matrimony may be called a happy life.' I suppose no time
can ever wear out the impression I have of his looks
and voice as he said those words. It was curious,
very curious, that we should have such a scene to play!
If I had the power of recalling any one week of my existence,
it should be that week--that acting week. Say what
you would, Fanny, it should be _that_; for I never knew
such exquisite happiness in any other. His sturdy spirit
to bend as it did! Oh! it was sweet beyond expression.
But alas, that very evening destroyed it all. That very
evening brought your most unwelcome uncle. Poor Sir Thomas,
who was glad to see you? Yet, Fanny, do not imagine I would
now speak disrespectfully of Sir Thomas, though I certainly
did hate him for many a week. No, I do him justice now.
He is just what the head of such a family should be.
Nay, in sober sadness, I believe I now love you all."
And having said so, with a degree of tenderness and
consciousness which Fanny had never seen in her before,
and now thought only too becoming, she turned away
for a moment to recover herself. "I have had a little
fit since I came into this room, as you may perceive,"
said she presently, with a playful smile, "but it is
over now; so let us sit down and be comfortable; for as to
scolding you, Fanny, which I came fully intending to do,
I have not the heart for it when it comes to the point."
And embracing her very affectionately, "Good, gentle Fanny!
when I think of this being the last time of seeing you for I
do not know how long, I feel it quite impossible to do anything
but love you."

Fanny was affected. She had not foreseen anything of this,
and her feelings could seldom withstand the melancholy
influence of the word "last." She cried as if she
had loved Miss Crawford more than she possibly could;
and Miss Crawford, yet farther softened by the sight
of such emotion, hung about her with fondness, and said,
"I hate to leave you. I shall see no one half so amiable
where I am going. Who says we shall not be sisters?
I know we shall. I feel that we are born to be connected;
and those tears convince me that you feel it too,
dear Fanny."

Fanny roused herself, and replying only in part, said,
"But you are only going from one set of friends to another.
You are going to a very particular friend."

"Yes, very true. Mrs. Fraser has been my intimate friend
for years. But I have not the least inclination to go
near her. I can think only of the friends I am leaving:
my excellent sister, yourself, and the Bertrams in general.
You have all so much more _heart_ among you than one
finds in the world at large. You all give me a feeling
of being able to trust and confide in you, which in common
intercourse one knows nothing of. I wish I had settled
with Mrs. Fraser not to go to her till after Easter, a much
better time for the visit, but now I cannot put her off.
And when I have done with her I must go to her sister,
Lady Stornaway, because _she_ was rather my most particular
friend of the two, but I have not cared much for _her_
these three years."

After this speech the two girls sat many minutes silent,
each thoughtful: Fanny meditating on the different sorts
of friendship in the world, Mary on something of less
philosophic tendency. _She_ first spoke again.

"How perfectly I remember my resolving to look for
you upstairs, and setting off to find my way to the
East room, without having an idea whereabouts it was!
How well I remember what I was thinking of as I came along,
and my looking in and seeing you here sitting at this
table at work; and then your cousin's astonishment,
when he opened the door, at seeing me here! To be sure,
your uncle's returning that very evening! There never
was anything quite like it."

Another short fit of abstraction followed, when,
shaking it off, she thus attacked her companion.

"Why, Fanny, you are absolutely in a reverie.
Thinking, I hope, of one who is always thinking of you.
Oh! that I could transport you for a short time into
our circle in town, that you might understand how your
power over Henry is thought of there! Oh! the envyings
and heartburnings of dozens and dozens; the wonder,
the incredulity that will be felt at hearing what you
have done! For as to secrecy, Henry is quite the hero
of an old romance, and glories in his chains. You should
come to London to know how to estimate your conquest.
If you were to see how he is courted, and how I am courted
for his sake! Now, I am well aware that I shall not be
half so welcome to Mrs. Fraser in consequence of his
situation with you. When she comes to know the truth
she will, very likely, wish me in Northamptonshire again;
for there is a daughter of Mr. Fraser, by a first wife,
whom she is wild to get married, and wants Henry to take.
Oh! she has been trying for him to such a degree.
Innocent and quiet as you sit here, you cannot have an
idea of the _sensation_ that you will be occasioning,
of the curiosity there will be to see you, of the endless
questions I shall have to answer! Poor Margaret Fraser
will be at me for ever about your eyes and your teeth,
and how you do your hair, and who makes your shoes.
I wish Margaret were married, for my poor friend's sake,
for I look upon the Frasers to be about as unhappy as most
other married people. And yet it was a most desirable
match for Janet at the time. We were all delighted.
She could not do otherwise than accept him, for he was rich,
and she had nothing; but he turns out ill-tempered
and _exigeant_, and wants a young woman, a beautiful young
woman of five-and-twenty, to be as steady as himself.
And my friend does not manage him well; she does not seem
to know how to make the best of it. There is a spirit
of irritation which, to say nothing worse, is certainly
very ill-bred. In their house I shall call to mind the
conjugal manners of Mansfield Parsonage with respect.
Even Dr. Grant does shew a thorough confidence in my sister,
and a certain consideration for her judgment, which makes
one feel there _is_ attachment; but of that I shall
see nothing with the Frasers. I shall be at Mansfield
for ever, Fanny. My own sister as a wife, Sir Thomas
Bertram as a husband, are my standards of perfection.
Poor Janet has been sadly taken in, and yet there was
nothing improper on her side: she did not run into the
match inconsiderately; there was no want of foresight.
She took three days to consider of his proposals,
and during those three days asked the advice of everybody
connected with her whose opinion was worth having,
and especially applied to my late dear aunt, whose
knowledge of the world made her judgment very generally
and deservedly looked up to by all the young people
of her acquaintance, and she was decidedly in favour
of Mr. Fraser. This seems as if nothing were a security
for matrimonial comfort. I have not so much to say
for my friend Flora, who jilted a very nice young man
in the Blues for the sake of that horrid Lord Stornaway,
who has about as much sense, Fanny, as Mr. Rushworth,
but much worse-looking, and with a blackguard character.
I _had_ my doubts at the time about her being right,
for he has not even the air of a gentleman, and now I am
sure she was wrong. By the bye, Flora Ross was dying
for Henry the first winter she came out. But were I
to attempt to tell you of all the women whom I have
known to be in love with him, I should never have done.
It is you, only you, insensible Fanny, who can think
of him with anything like indifference. But are you
so insensible as you profess yourself? No, no, I see you
are not."

There was, indeed, so deep a blush over Fanny's face
at that moment as might warrant strong suspicion
in a predisposed mind.

"Excellent creature! I will not tease you. Everything shall
take its course. But, dear Fanny, you must allow that you
were not so absolutely unprepared to have the question asked
as your cousin fancies. It is not possible but that you
must have had some thoughts on the subject, some surmises
as to what might be. You must have seen that he was
trying to please you by every attention in his power.
Was not he devoted to you at the ball? And then before
the ball, the necklace! Oh! you received it just as it
was meant. You were as conscious as heart could desire.
I remember it perfectly."

"Do you mean, then, that your brother knew of the
necklace beforehand? Oh! Miss Crawford, _that_ was not fair."

"Knew of it! It was his own doing entirely, his own thought.
I am ashamed to say that it had never entered my head,
but I was delighted to act on his proposal for both
your sakes."

"I will not say," replied Fanny, "that I was not half
afraid at the time of its being so, for there was something
in your look that frightened me, but not at first;
I was as unsuspicious of it at first--indeed, indeed I was.
It is as true as that I sit here. And had I had an idea of it,
nothing should have induced me to accept the necklace.
As to your brother's behaviour, certainly I was sensible of
a particularity: I had been sensible of it some little time,
perhaps two or three weeks; but then I considered it as
meaning nothing: I put it down as simply being his way,
and was as far from supposing as from wishing him to have
any serious thoughts of me. I had not, Miss Crawford,
been an inattentive observer of what was passing between him
and some part of this family in the summer and autumn.
I was quiet, but I was not blind. I could not but see
that Mr. Crawford allowed himself in gallantries which did
mean nothing."

"Ah! I cannot deny it. He has now and then been a sad flirt,
and cared very little for the havoc he might be making in
young ladies' affections. I have often scolded him for it,
but it is his only fault; and there is this to be said,
that very few young ladies have any affections worth
caring for. And then, Fanny, the glory of fixing one
who has been shot at by so many; of having it in one's
power to pay off the debts of one's sex! Oh! I am sure
it is not in woman's nature to refuse such a triumph."

Fanny shook her head. "I cannot think well of a man
who sports with any woman's feelings; and there may often
be a great deal more suffered than a stander-by can judge of."

"I do not defend him. I leave him entirely to your mercy,
and when he has got you at Everingham, I do not care how much
you lecture him. But this I will say, that his fault,
the liking to make girls a little in love with him, is not
half so dangerous to a wife's happiness as a tendency to fall
in love himself, which he has never been addicted to.
And I do seriously and truly believe that he is attached
to you in a way that he never was to any woman before;
that he loves you with all his heart, and will love you
as nearly for ever as possible. If any man ever loved
a woman for ever, I think Henry will do as much for you."

Fanny could not avoid a faint smile, but had nothing
to say.

"I cannot imagine Henry ever to have been happier,"
continued Mary presently, "than when he had succeeded
in getting your brother's commission."

She had made a sure push at Fanny's feelings here.

"Oh! yes. How very, very kind of him."

"I know he must have exerted himself very much, for I know
the parties he had to move. The Admiral hates trouble,
and scorns asking favours; and there are so many
young men's claims to be attended to in the same way,
that a friendship and energy, not very determined,
is easily put by. What a happy creature William must be!
I wish we could see him."

Poor Fanny's mind was thrown into the most distressing
of all its varieties. The recollection of what had
been done for William was always the most powerful
disturber of every decision against Mr. Crawford;
and she sat thinking deeply of it till Mary, who had been
first watching her complacently, and then musing on
something else, suddenly called her attention by saying:
"I should like to sit talking with you here all day,
but we must not forget the ladies below, and so good-bye,
my dear, my amiable, my excellent Fanny, for though we
shall nominally part in the breakfast-parlour, I must
take leave of you here. And I do take leave, longing for
a happy reunion, and trusting that when we meet again,
it will be under circumstances which may open our hearts
to each other without any remnant or shadow of reserve."

A very, very kind embrace, and some agitation of manner,
accompanied these words.

"I shall see your cousin in town soon: he talks of
being there tolerably soon; and Sir Thomas, I dare say,
in the course of the spring; and your eldest cousin,
and the Rushworths, and Julia, I am sure of meeting again
and again, and all but you. I have two favours to ask,
Fanny: one is your correspondence. You must write to me.
And the other, that you will often call on Mrs. Grant,
and make her amends for my being gone."

The first, at least, of these favours Fanny would rather
not have been asked; but it was impossible for her to refuse
the correspondence; it was impossible for her even not to
accede to it more readily than her own judgment authorised.
There was no resisting so much apparent affection.
Her disposition was peculiarly calculated to value a fond
treatment, and from having hitherto known so little of it,
she was the more overcome by Miss Crawford's. Besides,
there was gratitude towards her, for having made their
_tete-a-tete_ so much less painful than her fears had predicted.

It was over, and she had escaped without reproaches
and without detection. Her secret was still her own;
and while that was the case, she thought she could resign
herself to almost everything.

In the evening there was another parting. Henry Crawford
came and sat some time with them; and her spirits not being
previously in the strongest state, her heart was softened
for a while towards him, because he really seemed to feel.
Quite unlike his usual self, he scarcely said anything.
He was evidently oppressed, and Fanny must grieve for him,
though hoping she might never see him again till he were the
husband of some other woman.

When it came to the moment of parting, he would take her hand,
he would not be denied it; he said nothing, however,
or nothing that she heard, and when he had left the room,
she was better pleased that such a token of friendship
had passed.

On the morrow the Crawfords were gone.




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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