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CHAPTER V

The young people were pleased with each other from
the first. On each side there was much to attract,
and their acquaintance soon promised as early an intimacy
as good manners would warrant. Miss Crawford's
beauty did her no disservice with the Miss Bertrams.
They were too handsome themselves to dislike any woman
for being so too, and were almost as much charmed as their
brothers with her lively dark eye, clear brown complexion,
and general prettiness. Had she been tall, full formed,
and fair, it might have been more of a trial: but as it was,
there could be no comparison; and she was most allowably
a sweet, pretty girl, while they were the finest young
women in the country.

Her brother was not handsome: no, when they first saw him
he was absolutely plain, black and plain; but still he
was the gentleman, with a pleasing address. The second
meeting proved him not so very plain: he was plain,
to be sure, but then he had so much countenance, and his
teeth were so good, and he was so well made, that one
soon forgot he was plain; and after a third interview,
after dining in company with him at the Parsonage,
he was no longer allowed to be called so by anybody.
He was, in fact, the most agreeable young man the sisters
had ever known, and they were equally delighted with him.
Miss Bertram's engagement made him in equity the property
of Julia, of which Julia was fully aware; and before he had
been at Mansfield a week, she was quite ready to be fallen
in love with.

Maria's notions on the subject were more confused
and indistinct. She did not want to see or understand.
"There could be no harm in her liking an agreeable man--
everybody knew her situation--Mr. Crawford must take care
of himself." Mr. Crawford did not mean to be in any danger!
the Miss Bertrams were worth pleasing, and were ready
to be pleased; and he began with no object but of making
them like him. He did not want them to die of love;
but with sense and temper which ought to have made him
judge and feel better, he allowed himself great latitude
on such points.

"I like your Miss Bertrams exceedingly, sister," said he,
as he returned from attending them to their carriage
after the said dinner visit; "they are very elegant,
agreeable girls."

"So they are indeed, and I am delighted to hear you say it.
But you like Julia best."

"Oh yes! I like Julia best."

"But do you really? for Miss Bertram is in general thought
the handsomest."

"So I should suppose. She has the advantage in every feature,
and I prefer her countenance; but I like Julia best;
Miss Bertram is certainly the handsomest, and I have found
her the most agreeable, but I shall always like Julia best,
because you order me."

"I shall not talk to you, Henry, but I know you _will_
like her best at last."

"Do not I tell you that I like her best _at_ _first_?"

"And besides, Miss Bertram is engaged. Remember that,
my dear brother. Her choice is made."

"Yes, and I like her the better for it. An engaged
woman is always more agreeable than a disengaged.
She is satisfied with herself. Her cares are over,
and she feels that she may exert all her powers of pleasing
without suspicion. All is safe with a lady engaged:
no harm can be done."

"Why, as to that, Mr. Rushworth is a very good sort
of young man, and it is a great match for her."

"But Miss Bertram does not care three straws for him;
_that_ is your opinion of your intimate friend. _I_ do
not subscribe to it. I am sure Miss Bertram is very much
attached to Mr. Rushworth. I could see it in her eyes,
when he was mentioned. I think too well of Miss Bertram
to suppose she would ever give her hand without her heart."

"Mary, how shall we manage him?"

"We must leave him to himself, I believe. Talking does
no good. He will be taken in at last."

"But I would not have him _taken_ _in_; I would not have
him duped; I would have it all fair and honourable."

"Oh dear! let him stand his chance and be taken in.
It will do just as well. Everybody is taken in at some
period or other."

"Not always in marriage, dear Mary."

"In marriage especially. With all due respect to such
of the present company as chance to be married, my dear
Mrs. Grant, there is not one in a hundred of either sex
who is not taken in when they marry. Look where I will,
I see that it _is_ so; and I feel that it _must_ be so,
when I consider that it is, of all transactions, the one
in which people expect most from others, and are least
honest themselves."

"Ah! You have been in a bad school for matrimony,
in Hill Street."

"My poor aunt had certainly little cause to love
the state; but, however, speaking from my own observation,
it is a manoeuvring business. I know so many who
have married in the full expectation and confidence
of some one particular advantage in the connexion,
or accomplishment, or good quality in the person, who have
found themselves entirely deceived, and been obliged
to put up with exactly the reverse. What is this but a take in?"

"My dear child, there must be a little imagination here.
I beg your pardon, but I cannot quite believe you.
Depend upon it, you see but half. You see the evil,
but you do not see the consolation. There will be
little rubs and disappointments everywhere, and we
are all apt to expect too much; but then, if one scheme
of happiness fails, human nature turns to another;
if the first calculation is wrong, we make a second better:
we find comfort somewhere--and those evil-minded observers,
dearest Mary, who make much of a little, are more taken
in and deceived than the parties themselves."

"Well done, sister! I honour your _esprit_ _du_ _corps_.
When I am a wife, I mean to be just as staunch myself;
and I wish my friends in general would be so too. It would
save me many a heartache."

"You are as bad as your brother, Mary; but we will cure
you both. Mansfield shall cure you both, and without
any taking in. Stay with us, and we will cure you."

The Crawfords, without wanting to be cured, were very
willing to stay. Mary was satisfied with the Parsonage
as a present home, and Henry equally ready to lengthen
his visit. He had come, intending to spend only a few
days with them; but Mansfield promised well, and there
was nothing to call him elsewhere. It delighted Mrs. Grant
to keep them both with her, and Dr. Grant was exceedingly
well contented to have it so: a talking pretty young
woman like Miss Crawford is always pleasant society
to an indolent, stay-at-home man; and Mr. Crawford's
being his guest was an excuse for drinking claret every day.

The Miss Bertrams' admiration of Mr. Crawford was more
rapturous than anything which Miss Crawford's habits made
her likely to feel. She acknowledged, however, that the
Mr. Bertrams were very fine young men, that two such
young men were not often seen together even in London,
and that their manners, particularly those of the eldest,
were very good. _He_ had been much in London,
and had more liveliness and gallantry than Edmund,
and must, therefore, be preferred; and, indeed, his being
the eldest was another strong claim. She had felt an early
presentiment that she _should_ like the eldest best.
She knew it was her way.

Tom Bertram must have been thought pleasant, indeed, at any rate;
he was the sort of young man to be generally liked,
his agreeableness was of the kind to be oftener found
agreeable than some endowments of a higher stamp, for he
had easy manners, excellent spirits, a large acquaintance,
and a great deal to say; and the reversion of Mansfield Park,
and a baronetcy, did no harm to all this. Miss Crawford
soon felt that he and his situation might do. She looked
about her with due consideration, and found almost everything
in his favour: a park, a real park, five miles round,
a spacious modern-built house, so well placed and well
screened as to deserve to be in any collection of engravings
of gentlemen's seats in the kingdom, and wanting only to be
completely new furnished--pleasant sisters, a quiet mother,
and an agreeable man himself--with the advantage of
being tied up from much gaming at present by a promise
to his father, and of being Sir Thomas hereafter.
It might do very well; she believed she should accept him;
and she began accordingly to interest herself a little
about the horse which he had to run at the B------- races.

These races were to call him away not long after their
acquaintance began; and as it appeared that the family
did not, from his usual goings on, expect him back
again for many weeks, it would bring his passion to an
early proof. Much was said on his side to induce her
to attend the races, and schemes were made for a large
party to them, with all the eagerness of inclination,
but it would only do to be talked of.

And Fanny, what was _she_ doing and thinking all this
while? and what was _her_ opinion of the newcomers?
Few young ladies of eighteen could be less called on
to speak their opinion than Fanny. In a quiet way,
very little attended to, she paid her tribute of admiration
to Miss Crawford's beauty; but as she still continued
to think Mr. Crawford very plain, in spite of her two
cousins having repeatedly proved the contrary, she never
mentioned _him_. The notice, which she excited herself,
was to this effect. "I begin now to understand you all,
except Miss Price," said Miss Crawford, as she was
walking with the Mr. Bertrams. "Pray, is she out,
or is she not? I am puzzled. She dined at the Parsonage,
with the rest of you, which seemed like being _out_;
and yet she says so little, that I can hardly suppose
she _is_."

Edmund, to whom this was chiefly addressed, replied, "I believe
I know what you mean, but I will not undertake to answer
the question. My cousin is grown up. She has the age
and sense of a woman, but the outs and not outs are beyond me."

"And yet, in general, nothing can be more easily ascertained.
The distinction is so broad. Manners as well as
appearance are, generally speaking, so totally different.
Till now, I could not have supposed it possible to be
mistaken as to a girl's being out or not. A girl not
out has always the same sort of dress: a close bonnet,
for instance; looks very demure, and never says a word.
You may smile, but it is so, I assure you; and except
that it is sometimes carried a little too far, it is
all very proper. Girls should be quiet and modest.
The most objectionable part is, that the alteration
of manners on being introduced into company is frequently
too sudden. They sometimes pass in such very little
time from reserve to quite the opposite--to confidence!
_That_ is the faulty part of the present system.
One does not like to see a girl of eighteen or nineteen
so immediately up to every thing--and perhaps when one
has seen her hardly able to speak the year before.
Mr. Bertram, I dare say _you_ have sometimes met with
such changes."

"I believe I have, but this is hardly fair; I see what you
are at. You are quizzing me and Miss Anderson."

"No, indeed. Miss Anderson! I do not know who or what
you mean. I am quite in the dark. But I _will_ quiz you
with a great deal of pleasure, if you will tell me what about."

"Ah! you carry it off very well, but I cannot be quite
so far imposed on. You must have had Miss Anderson
in your eye, in describing an altered young lady.
You paint too accurately for mistake. It was exactly so.
The Andersons of Baker Street. We were speaking of them
the other day, you know. Edmund, you have heard me mention
Charles Anderson. The circumstance was precisely as this
lady has represented it. When Anderson first introduced
me to his family, about two years ago, his sister was
not _out_, and I could not get her to speak to me.
I sat there an hour one morning waiting for Anderson,
with only her and a little girl or two in the room,
the governess being sick or run away, and the mother
in and out every moment with letters of business, and I
could hardly get a word or a look from the young lady--
nothing like a civil answer--she screwed up her mouth,
and turned from me with such an air! I did not see
her again for a twelvemonth. She was then _out_.
I met her at Mrs. Holford's, and did not recollect her.
She came up to me, claimed me as an acquaintance, stared me
out of countenance; and talked and laughed till I did not
know which way to look. I felt that I must be the jest
of the room at the time, and Miss Crawford, it is plain,
has heard the story."

"And a very pretty story it is, and with more truth
in it, I dare say, than does credit to Miss Anderson.
It is too common a fault. Mothers certainly have not yet
got quite the right way of managing their daughters.
I do not know where the error lies. I do not pretend to set
people right, but I do see that they are often wrong."

"Those who are showing the world what female manners
_should_ be," said Mr. Bertram gallantly, "are doing
a great deal to set them right."

"The error is plain enough," said the less courteous Edmund;
"such girls are ill brought up. They are given wrong notions
from the beginning. They are always acting upon motives
of vanity, and there is no more real modesty in their
behaviour _before_ they appear in public than afterwards."

"I do not know," replied Miss Crawford hesitatingly.
"Yes, I cannot agree with you there. It is certainly
the modestest part of the business. It is much worse to
have girls not out give themselves the same airs and take
the same liberties as if they were, which I have seen done.
That is worse than anything--quite disgusting!"

"Yes, _that_ is very inconvenient indeed," said Mr. Bertram.
"It leads one astray; one does not know what to do.
The close bonnet and demure air you describe so well (and
nothing was ever juster), tell one what is expected;
but I got into a dreadful scrape last year from the want
of them. I went down to Ramsgate for a week with a friend
last September, just after my return from the West Indies.
My friend Sneyd--you have heard me speak of Sneyd, Edmund--
his father, and mother, and sisters, were there, all new
to me. When we reached Albion Place they were out;
we went after them, and found them on the pier: Mrs. and
the two Miss Sneyds, with others of their acquaintance.
I made my bow in form; and as Mrs. Sneyd was surrounded
by men, attached myself to one of her daughters,
walked by her side all the way home, and made myself
as agreeable as I could; the young lady perfectly easy
in her manners, and as ready to talk as to listen.
I had not a suspicion that I could be doing anything wrong.
They looked just the same: both well-dressed, with veils
and parasols like other girls; but I afterwards found
that I had been giving all my attention to the youngest,
who was not _out_, and had most excessively offended
the eldest. Miss Augusta ought not to have been noticed
for the next six months; and Miss Sneyd, I believe, has never
forgiven me."

"That was bad indeed. Poor Miss Sneyd. "Though I have no
younger sister, I feel for her. To be neglected before
one's time must be very vexatious; but it was entirely
the mother's fault. Miss Augusta should have been with
her governess. Such half-and-half doings never prosper.
But now I must be satisfied about Miss Price.
Does she go to balls? Does she dine out every where,
as well as at my sister's?"

"No," replied Edmund; "I do not think she has ever been
to a ball. My mother seldom goes into company herself,
and dines nowhere but with Mrs. Grant, and Fanny stays at
home with _her_."

"Oh! then the point is clear. Miss Price is not out."




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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