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CHAPTER VII

"Well, Fanny, and how do you like Miss Crawford _now_?"
said Edmund the next day, after thinking some time on the
subject himself. "How did you like her yesterday?"

"Very well--very much. I like to hear her talk.
She entertains me; and she is so extremely pretty, that I
have great pleasure in looking at her."

"It is her countenance that is so attractive. She has
a wonderful play of feature! But was there nothing in her
conversation that struck you, Fanny, as not quite right?"

"Oh yes! she ought not to have spoken of her uncle as she did.
I was quite astonished. An uncle with whom she has been
living so many years, and who, whatever his faults may be,
is so very fond of her brother, treating him, they say,
quite like a son. I could not have believed it!"

"I thought you would be struck. It was very wrong;
very indecorous."

"And very ungrateful, I think."

"Ungrateful is a strong word. I do not know that her uncle
has any claim to her _gratitude_; his wife certainly had;
and it is the warmth of her respect for her aunt's memory
which misleads her here. She is awkwardly circumstanced.
With such warm feelings and lively spirits it must be
difficult to do justice to her affection for Mrs. Crawford,
without throwing a shade on the Admiral. I do not pretend
to know which was most to blame in their disagreements,
though the Admiral's present conduct might incline one
to the side of his wife; but it is natural and amiable
that Miss Crawford should acquit her aunt entirely.
I do not censure her _opinions_; but there certainly _is_
impropriety in making them public."

"Do not you think," said Fanny, after a little consideration,
"that this impropriety is a reflection itself upon
Mrs. Crawford, as her niece has been entirely brought
up by her? She cannot have given her right notions
of what was due to the Admiral."

"That is a fair remark. Yes, we must suppose the faults
of the niece to have been those of the aunt; and it makes
one more sensible of the disadvantages she has been under.
But I think her present home must do her good.
Mrs. Grant's manners are just what they ought to be.
She speaks of her brother with a very pleasing affection."

"Yes, except as to his writing her such short letters.
She made me almost laugh; but I cannot rate so very highly
the love or good-nature of a brother who will not give
himself the trouble of writing anything worth reading
to his sisters, when they are separated. I am sure William
would never have used _me_ so, under any circumstances.
And what right had she to suppose that _you_ would not write
long letters when you were absent?"

"The right of a lively mind, Fanny, seizing whatever
may contribute to its own amusement or that of others;
perfectly allowable, when untinctured by ill-humour
or roughness; and there is not a shadow of either in the
countenance or manner of Miss Crawford: nothing sharp,
or loud, or coarse. She is perfectly feminine, except m
the instances we have been speaking of. There she cannot
be justified. I am glad you saw it all as I did."

Having formed her mind and gained her affections, he had a
good chance of her thinking like him; though at this period,
and on this subject, there began now to be some danger
of dissimilarity, for he was in a line of admiration
of Miss Crawford, which might lead him where Fanny could
not follow. Miss Crawford's attractions did not lessen.
The harp arrived, and rather added to her beauty, wit,
and good-humour; for she played with the greatest obligingness,
with an expression and taste which were peculiarly becoming,
and there was something clever to be said at the close
of every air. Edmund was at the Parsonage every day,
to be indulged with his favourite instrument:
one morning secured an invitation for the next;
for the lady could not be unwilling to have a listener,
and every thing was soon in a fair train.

A young woman, pretty, lively, with a harp as
elegant as herself, and both placed near a window,
cut down to the ground, and opening on a little lawn,
surrounded by shrubs in the rich foliage of summer,
was enough to catch any man's heart. The season, the scene,
the air, were all favourable to tenderness and sentiment.
Mrs. Grant and her tambour frame were not without their use:
it was all in harmony; and as everything will turn to account
when love is once set going, even the sandwich tray,
and Dr. Grant doing the honours of it, were worth looking at.
Without studying the business, however, or knowing
what he was about, Edmund was beginning, at the end
of a week of such intercourse, to be a good deal in love;
and to the credit of the lady it may be added that,
without his being a man of the world or an elder brother,
without any of the arts of flattery or the gaieties of
small talk, he began to be agreeable to her. She felt it
to be so, though she had not foreseen, and could hardly
understand it; for he was not pleasant by any common rule:
he talked no nonsense; he paid no compliments; his opinions
were unbending, his attentions tranquil and simple.
There was a charm, perhaps, in his sincerity, his steadiness,
his integrity, which Miss Crawford might be equal
to feel, though not equal to discuss with herself.
She did not think very much about it, however: he pleased
her for the present; she liked to have him near her;
it was enough.

Fanny could not wonder that Edmund was at the Parsonage
every morning; she would gladly have been there too,
might she have gone in uninvited and unnoticed, to hear
the harp; neither could she wonder that, when the evening
stroll was over, and the two families parted again,
he should think it right to attend Mrs. Grant and her
sister to their home, while Mr. Crawford was devoted
to the ladies of the Park; but she thought it a very
bad exchange; and if Edmund were not there to mix the wine
and water for her, would rather go without it than not.
She was a little surprised that he could spend so many
hours with Miss Crawford, and not see more of the sort
of fault which he had already observed, and of which _she_
was almost always reminded by a something of the same
nature whenever she was in her company; but so it was.
Edmund was fond of speaking to her of Miss Crawford,
but he seemed to think it enough that the Admiral had
since been spared; and she scrupled to point out her own
remarks to him, lest it should appear like ill-nature.
The first actual pain which Miss Crawford occasioned her
was the consequence of an inclination to learn to ride,
which the former caught, soon after her being settled
at Mansfield, from the example of the young ladies at the Park,
and which, when Edmund's acquaintance with her increased,
led to his encouraging the wish, and the offer of his own
quiet mare for the purpose of her first attempts, as the best
fitted for a beginner that either stable could furnish.
No pain, no injury, however, was designed by him to his
cousin in this offer: _she_ was not to lose a day's exercise
by it. The mare was only to be taken down to the Parsonage
half an hour before her ride were to begin; and Fanny,
on its being first proposed, so far from feeling slighted,
was almost over-powered with gratitude that he should be
asking her leave for it.

Miss Crawford made her first essay with great credit
to herself, and no inconvenience to Fanny. Edmund,
who had taken down the mare and presided at the whole,
returned with it in excellent time, before either Fanny
or the steady old coachman, who always attended her when
she rode without her cousins, were ready to set forward.
The second day's trial was not so guiltless. Miss Crawford's
enjoyment of riding was such that she did not know how to
leave off. Active and fearless, and though rather small,
strongly made, she seemed formed for a horsewoman; and to
the pure genuine pleasure of the exercise, something was
probably added in Edmund's attendance and instructions,
and something more in the conviction of very much surpassing
her sex in general by her early progress, to make her
unwilling to dismount. Fanny was ready and waiting,
and Mrs. Norris was beginning to scold her for not being gone,
and still no horse was announced, no Edmund appeared.
To avoid her aunt, and look for him, she went out.

The houses, though scarcely half a mile apart, were not
within sight of each other; but, by walking fifty yards
from the hall door, she could look down the park,
and command a view of the Parsonage and all its demesnes,
gently rising beyond the village road; and in Dr. Grant's
meadow she immediately saw the group--Edmund and Miss
Crawford both on horse-back, riding side by side, Dr. and
Mrs. Grant, and Mr. Crawford, with two or three grooms,
standing about and looking on. A happy party it appeared
to her, all interested in one object: cheerful beyond
a doubt, for the sound of merriment ascended even to her.
It was a sound which did not make _her_ cheerful;
she wondered that Edmund should forget her, and felt
a pang. She could not turn her eyes from the meadow;
she could not help watching all that passed. At first Miss
Crawford and her companion made the circuit of the field,
which was not small, at a foot's pace; then, at _her_
apparent suggestion, they rose into a canter; and to Fanny's
timid nature it was most astonishing to see how well
she sat. After a few minutes they stopped entirely.
Edmund was close to her; he was speaking to her;
he was evidently directing her management of the bridle;
he had hold of her hand; she saw it, or the imagination
supplied what the eye could not reach. She

must not wonder at all this; what could be more natural
than that Edmund should be making himself useful,
and proving his good-nature by any one? She could not
but think, indeed, that Mr. Crawford might as well have
saved him the trouble; that it would have been particularly
proper and becoming in a brother to have done it himself;
but Mr. Crawford, with all his boasted good-nature, and all
his coachmanship, probably knew nothing of the matter,
and had no active kindness in comparison of Edmund.
She began to think it rather hard upon the mare to have
such double duty; if she were forgotten, the poor mare
should be remembered.

Her feelings for one and the other were soon a little
tranquillised by seeing the party in the meadow disperse,
and Miss Crawford still on horseback, but attended by Edmund
on foot, pass through a gate into the lane, and so into
the park, and make towards the spot where she stood.
She began then to be afraid of appearing rude and impatient;
and walked to meet them with a great anxiety to avoid
the suspicion.

"My dear Miss Price," said Miss Crawford, as soon as she
was at all within hearing, "I am come to make my own
apologies for keeping you waiting; but I have nothing
in the world to say for myself--I knew it was very late,
and that I was behaving extremely ill; and therefore,
if you please, you must forgive me. Selfishness must
always be forgiven, you know, because there is no hope
of a cure."

Fanny's answer was extremely civil, and Edmund added
his conviction that she could be in no hurry. "For there
is more than time enough for my cousin to ride twice
as far as she ever goes," said he, "and you have been
promoting her comfort by preventing her from setting off
half an hour sooner: clouds are now coming up, and she
will not suffer from the heat as she would have done then.
I wish _you_ may not be fatigued by so much exercise.
I wish you had saved yourself this walk home."

"No part of it fatigues me but getting off this horse,
I assure you," said she, as she sprang down with his help;
"I am very strong. Nothing ever fatigues me but doing
what I do not like. Miss Price, I give way to you with
a very bad grace; but I sincerely hope you will have
a pleasant ride, and that I may have nothing but good
to hear of this dear, delightful, beautiful animal."

The old coachman, who had been waiting about with his
own horse, now joining them, Fanny was lifted on hers,
and they set off across another part of the park;
her feelings of discomfort not lightened by seeing,
as she looked back, that the others were walking down
the hill together to the village; nor did her attendant
do her much good by his comments on Miss Crawford's great
cleverness as a horse-woman, which he had been watching
with an interest almost equal to her own.

"It is a pleasure to see a lady with such a good heart
for riding!" said he. "I never see one sit a horse better.
She did not seem to have a thought of fear. Very different
from you, miss, when you first began, six years ago come
next Easter. Lord bless you! how you did tremble when Sir
Thomas first had you put on!"

In the drawing-room Miss Crawford was also celebrated.
Her merit in being gifted by Nature with strength
and courage was fully appreciated by the Miss Bertrams;
her delight in riding was like their own; her early
excellence in it was like their own, and they had great
pleasure in praising it.

"I was sure she would ride well," said Julia; "she has
the make for it. Her figure is as neat as her brother's."

"Yes," added Maria, "and her spirits are as good, and she
has the same energy of character. I cannot but think
that good horsemanship has a great deal to do with the mind."

When they parted at night Edmund asked Fanny whether she
meant to ride the next day.

"No, I do not know--not if you want the mare," was her answer.

"I do not want her at all for myself," said he;
"'but whenever you are next inclined to stay at home,
I think Miss Crawford would be glad to have her a longer time--
for a whole morning, in short. She has a great desire to get
as far as Mansfield Common: Mrs. Grant has been telling
her of its fine views, and I have no doubt of her being
perfectly equal to it. But any morning will do for this.
She would be extremely sorry to interfere with you.
It would be very wrong if she did. _She_ rides only
for pleasure; _you_ for health."

"I shall not ride to-morrow, certainly," said Fanny;
"I have been out very often lately, and would rather
stay at home. You know I am strong enough now to walk
very well."

Edmund looked pleased, which must be Fanny's comfort,
and the ride to Mansfield Common took place the next morning:
the party included all the young people but herself,
and was much enjoyed at the time, and doubly enjoyed
again in the evening discussion. A successful scheme
of this sort generally brings on another; and the having
been to Mansfield Common disposed them all for going
somewhere else the day after. There were many other
views to be shewn; and though the weather was hot,
there were shady lanes wherever they wanted to go.
A young party is always provided with a shady lane.
Four fine mornings successively were spent in this manner,
in shewing the Crawfords the country, and doing the
honours of its finest spots. Everything answered;
it was all gaiety and good-humour, the heat only supplying
inconvenience enough to be talked of with pleasure--
till the fourth day, when the happiness of one of the party
was exceedingly clouded. Miss Bertram was the one.
Edmund and Julia were invited to dine at the Parsonage,
and _she_ was excluded. It was meant and done by Mrs. Grant,
with perfect good-humour, on Mr. Rushworth's account,
who was partly expected at the Park that day; but it was felt
as a very grievous injury, and her good manners were severely
taxed to conceal her vexation and anger till she reached home.
As Mr. Rushworth did _not_ come, the injury was increased,
and she had not even the relief of shewing her power over him;
she could only be sullen to her mother, aunt, and cousin,
and throw as great a gloom as possible over their dinner
and dessert.

Between ten and eleven Edmund and Julia walked into the
drawing-room, fresh with the evening air, glowing and cheerful,
the very reverse of what they found in the three ladies
sitting there, for Maria would scarcely raise her eyes
from her book, and Lady Bertram was half-asleep; and even
Mrs. Norris, discomposed by her niece's ill-humour,
and having asked one or two questions about the dinner,
which were not immediately attended to, seemed almost
determined to say no more. For a few minutes the brother
and sister were too eager in their praise of the night
and their remarks on the stars, to think beyond themselves;
but when the first pause came, Edmund, looking around,
said, "But where is Fanny? Is she gone to bed?"

"No, not that I know of," replied Mrs. Norris; "she was
here a moment ago."

Her own gentle voice speaking from the other end
of the room, which was a very long one, told them
that she was on the sofa. Mrs. Norris began scolding.

"That is a very foolish trick, Fanny, to be idling away all
the evening upon a sofa. Why cannot you come and sit here,
and employ yourself as _we_ do? If you have no work
of your own, I can supply you from the poor basket.
There is all the new calico, that was bought last week,
not touched yet. I am sure I almost broke my back
by cutting it out. You should learn to think of
other people; and, take my word for it, it is a shocking
trick for a young person to be always lolling upon a sofa."

Before half this was said, Fanny was returned to her
seat at the table, and had taken up her work again;
and Julia, who was in high good-humour, from the pleasures
of the day, did her the justice of exclaiming, "I must say,
ma'am, that Fanny is as little upon the sofa as anybody
in the house."

"Fanny," said Edmund, after looking at her attentively,
"I am sure you have the headache."

She could not deny it, but said it was not very bad.

"I can hardly believe you," he replied; "I know your looks
too well. How long have you had it?"

"Since a little before dinner. It is nothing but the heat."

"Did you go out in the heat?"

"Go out! to be sure she did," said Mrs. Norris:
"would you have her stay within such a fine day as this?
Were not we _all_ out? Even your mother was out to-day
for above an hour."

"Yes, indeed, Edmund," added her ladyship, who had been
thoroughly awakened by Mrs. Norris's sharp reprimand
to Fanny; "I was out above an hour. I sat three-quarters
of an hour in the flower-garden, while Fanny cut the roses;
and very pleasant it was, I assure you, but very hot.
It was shady enough in the alcove, but I declare I quite
dreaded the coming home again."

"Fanny has been cutting roses, has she?"

"Yes, and I am afraid they will be the last this year.
Poor thing! _She_ found it hot enough; but they were so
full-blown that one could not wait."

"There was no help for it, certainly," rejoined Mrs. Norris,
in a rather softened voice; "but I question whether her
headache might not be caught _then_, sister. There is
nothing so likely to give it as standing and stooping
in a hot sun; but I dare say it will be well to-morrow.
Suppose you let her have your aromatic vinegar; I always
forget to have mine filled."

"She has got it," said Lady Bertram; "she has had it ever
since she came back from your house the second time."

"What!" cried Edmund; "has she been walking as well as
cutting roses; walking across the hot park to your house,
and doing it twice, ma'am? No wonder her head aches."

Mrs. Norris was talking to Julia, and did not hear.

"I was afraid it would be too much for her," said Lady Bertram;
"but when the roses were gathered, your aunt wished
to have them, and then you know they must be taken home."

"But were there roses enough to oblige her to go twice?"

"No; but they were to be put into the spare room to dry;
and, unluckily, Fanny forgot to lock the door of the room
and bring away the key, so she was obliged to go again."

Edmund got up and walked about the room, saying, "And could
nobody be employed on such an errand but Fanny? Upon my word,
ma'am, it has been a very ill-managed business."

"I am sure I do not know how it was to have been done better,"
cried Mrs. Norris, unable to be longer deaf; "unless I had
gone myself, indeed; but I cannot be in two places at once;
and I was talking to Mr. Green at that very time about
your mother's dairymaid, by _her_ desire, and had promised
John Groom to write to Mrs. Jefferies about his son,
and the poor fellow was waiting for me half an hour.
I think nobody can justly accuse me of sparing myself upon
any occasion, but really I cannot do everything at once.
And as for Fanny's just stepping down to my house for me--
it is not much above a quarter of a mile--I cannot think I
was unreasonable to ask it. How often do I pace it three
times a day, early and late, ay, and in all weathers too,
and say nothing about it?"

"I wish Fanny had half your strength, ma'am."

"If Fanny would be more regular in her exercise, she would
not be knocked up so soon. She has not been out on
horseback now this long while, and I am persuaded that,
when she does not ride, she ought to walk. If she had
been riding before, I should not have asked it of her.
But I thought it would rather do her good after being
stooping among the roses; for there is nothing so
refreshing as a walk after a fatigue of that kind;
and though the sun was strong, it was not so very hot.
Between ourselves, Edmund," nodding significantly at
his mother, "it was cutting the roses, and dawdling
about in the flower-garden, that did the mischief."

"I am afraid it was, indeed," said the more candid
Lady Bertram, who had overheard her; "I am very much afraid
she caught the headache there, for the heat was enough
to kill anybody. It was as much as I could bear myself.
Sitting and calling to Pug, and trying to keep him from
the flower-beds, was almost too much for me."

Edmund said no more to either lady; but going quietly
to another table, on which the supper-tray yet remained,
brought a glass of Madeira to Fanny, and obliged her to drink
the greater part. She wished to be able to decline it;
but the tears, which a variety of feelings created,
made it easier to swallow than to speak.

Vexed as Edmund was with his mother and aunt, he was still
more angry with himself. His own forgetfulness of her was
worse than anything which they had done. Nothing of this
would have happened had she been properly considered;
but she had been left four days together without any choice
of companions or exercise, and without any excuse for
avoiding whatever her unreasonable aunts might require.
He was ashamed to think that for four days together she had
not had the power of riding, and very seriously resolved,
however unwilling he must be to check a pleasure of Miss
Crawford's, that it should never happen again.

Fanny went to bed with her heart as full as on the first
evening of her arrival at the Park. The state of her
spirits had probably had its share in her indisposition;
for she had been feeling neglected, and been struggling
against discontent and envy for some days past.
As she leant on the sofa, to which she had retreated
that she might not be seen, the pain of her mind
had been much beyond that in her head; and the sudden
change which Edmund's kindness had then occasioned,
made her hardly know how to support herself.




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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