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CHAPTER IX

Mr. Rushworth was at the door to receive his fair lady;
and the whole party were welcomed by him with due attention.
In the drawing-room they were met with equal cordiality
by the mother, and Miss Bertram had all the distinction
with each that she could wish. After the business
of arriving was over, it was first necessary to eat,
and the doors were thrown open to admit them through one
or two intermediate rooms into the appointed dining-parlour,
where a collation was prepared with abundance and elegance.
Much was said, and much was ate, and all went well.
The particular object of the day was then considered.
How would Mr. Crawford like, in what manner would he chuse,
to take a survey of the grounds? Mr. Rushworth mentioned
his curricle. Mr. Crawford suggested the greater desirableness
of some carriage which might convey more than two.
"To be depriving themselves of the advantage of other eyes
and other judgments, might be an evil even beyond the loss
of present pleasure."

Mrs. Rushworth proposed that the chaise should be taken also;
but this was scarcely received as an amendment: the young
ladies neither smiled nor spoke. Her next proposition,
of shewing the house to such of them as had not been
there before, was more acceptable, for Miss Bertram was
pleased to have its size displayed, and all were glad
to be doing something.

The whole party rose accordingly, and under Mrs. Rushworth's
guidance were shewn through a number of rooms, all lofty,
and many large, and amply furnished in the taste of fifty
years back, with shining floors, solid mahogany, rich damask,
marble, gilding, and carving, each handsome in its way.
Of pictures there were abundance, and some few good,
but the larger part were family portraits, no longer
anything to anybody but Mrs. Rushworth, who had been at
great pains to learn all that the housekeeper could teach,
and was now almost equally well qualified to shew the house.
On the present occasion she addressed herself chiefly
to Miss Crawford and Fanny, but there was no comparison
in the willingness of their attention; for Miss Crawford,
who had seen scores of great houses, and cared for none
of them, had only the appearance of civilly listening,
while Fanny, to whom everything was almost as interesting
as it was new, attended with unaffected earnestness to all
that Mrs. Rushworth could relate of the family in former times,
its rise and grandeur, regal visits and loyal efforts,
delighted to connect anything with history already known,
or warm her imagination with scenes of the past.

The situation of the house excluded the possibility
of much prospect from any of the rooms; and while Fanny
and some of the others were attending Mrs. Rushworth,
Henry Crawford was looking grave and shaking his head
at the windows. Every room on the west front looked
across a lawn to the beginning of the avenue immediately
beyond tall iron palisades and gates.

Having visited many more rooms than could be supposed to be
of any other use than to contribute to the window-tax, and
find employment for housemaids, "Now," said Mrs. Rushworth,
"we are coming to the chapel, which properly we ought
to enter from above, and look down upon; but as we
are quite among friends, I will take you in this way,
if you will excuse me."

They entered. Fanny's imagination had prepared her
for something grander than a mere spacious, oblong room,
fitted up for the purpose of devotion: with nothing more
striking or more solemn than the profusion of mahogany,
and the crimson velvet cushions appearing over the ledge
of the family gallery above. "I am disappointed,"
said she, in a low voice, to Edmund. "This is not
my idea of a chapel. There is nothing awful here,
nothing melancholy, nothing grand. Here are no aisles,
no arches, no inscriptions, no banners. No banners,
cousin, to be 'blown by the night wind of heaven.'
No signs that a 'Scottish monarch sleeps below.'"

"You forget, Fanny, how lately all this has been built,
and for how confined a purpose, compared with the old
chapels of castles and monasteries. It was only for
the private use of the family. They have been buried,
I suppose, in the parish church. _There_ you must look
for the banners and the achievements."

"It was foolish of me not to think of all that; but I
am disappointed."

Mrs. Rushworth began her relation. "This chapel was fitted up
as you see it, in James the Second's time. Before that period,
as I understand, the pews were only wainscot; and there
is some reason to think that the linings and cushions
of the pulpit and family seat were only purple cloth;
but this is not quite certain. It is a handsome chapel,
and was formerly in constant use both morning and evening.
Prayers were always read in it by the domestic chaplain,
within the memory of many; but the late Mr. Rushworth left
it off."

"Every generation has its improvements," said Miss Crawford,
with a smile, to Edmund.

Mrs. Rushworth was gone to repeat her lesson to Mr. Crawford;
and Edmund, Fanny, and Miss Crawford remained in a cluster
together.

"It is a pity," cried Fanny, "that the custom should have
been discontinued. It was a valuable part of former times.
There is something in a chapel and chaplain so much
in character with a great house, with one's ideas of what
such a household should be! A whole family assembling
regularly for the purpose of prayer is fine!"

"Very fine indeed," said Miss Crawford, laughing. "It must
do the heads of the family a great deal of good to force
all the poor housemaids and footmen to leave business
and pleasure, and say their prayers here twice a day,
while they are inventing excuses themselves for staying
away."

"_That_ is hardly Fanny's idea of a family assembling,"
said Edmund. "If the master and mistress do _not_
attend themselves, there must be more harm than good
in the custom."

"At any rate, it is safer to leave people to their own
devices on such subjects. Everybody likes to go their
own way--to chuse their own time and manner of devotion.
The obligation of attendance, the formality, the restraint,
the length of time--altogether it is a formidable thing,
and what nobody likes; and if the good people who used
to kneel and gape in that gallery could have foreseen
that the time would ever come when men and women might lie
another ten minutes in bed, when they woke with a headache,
without danger of reprobation, because chapel was missed,
they would have jumped with joy and envy. Cannot you
imagine with what unwilling feelings the former belles
of the house of Rushworth did many a time repair to
this chapel? The young Mrs. Eleanors and Mrs. Bridgets--
starched up into seeming piety, but with heads full
of something very different--especially if the poor
chaplain were not worth looking at--and, in those days,
I fancy parsons were very inferior even to what they
are now."

For a few moments she was unanswered. Fanny coloured
and looked at Edmund, but felt too angry for speech;
and he needed a little recollection before he could say,
"Your lively mind can hardly be serious even on serious subjects.
You have given us an amusing sketch, and human nature
cannot say it was not so. We must all feel _at_ _times_
the difficulty of fixing our thoughts as we could wish;
but if you are supposing it a frequent thing, that is to say,
a weakness grown into a habit from neglect, what could
be expected from the _private_ devotions of such persons?
Do you think the minds which are suffered, which are
indulged in wanderings in a chapel, would be more collected
in a closet?"

"Yes, very likely. They would have two chances at least
in their favour. There would be less to distract the
attention from without, and it would not be tried so long."

"The mind which does not struggle against itself under
_one_ circumstance, would find objects to distract it
in the _other_, I believe; and the influence of the place
and of example may often rouse better feelings than are
begun with. The greater length of the service, however,
I admit to be sometimes too hard a stretch upon the mind.
One wishes it were not so; but I have not yet left
Oxford long enough to forget what chapel prayers are."

While this was passing, the rest of the party being scattered
about the chapel, Julia called Mr. Crawford's attention to
her sister, by saying, "Do look at Mr. Rushworth and Maria,
standing side by side, exactly as if the ceremony were
going to be performed. Have not they completely the air of it?"

Mr. Crawford smiled his acquiescence, and stepping forward
to Maria, said, in a voice which she only could hear,
"I do not like to see Miss Bertram so near the altar."

Starting, the lady instinctively moved a step or two,
but recovering herself in a moment, affected to laugh,
and asked him, in a tone not much louder, "If he would give
her away?"

"I am afraid I should do it very awkwardly," was his reply,
with a look of meaning.

Julia, joining them at the moment, carried on the joke.

"Upon my word, it is really a pity that it should not
take place directly, if we had but a proper licence,
for here we are altogether, and nothing in the world
could be more snug and pleasant." And she talked and
laughed about it with so little caution as to catch the
comprehension of Mr. Rushworth and his mother, and expose
her sister to the whispered gallantries of her lover,
while Mrs. Rushworth spoke with proper smiles and dignity
of its being a most happy event to her whenever it took place.

"If Edmund were but in orders!" cried Julia, and running
to where he stood with Miss Crawford and Fanny:
"My dear Edmund, if you were but in orders now, you might
perform the ceremony directly. How unlucky that you
are not ordained; Mr. Rushworth and Maria are quite ready."

Miss Crawford's countenance, as Julia spoke, might have
amused a disinterested observer. She looked almost aghast
under the new idea she was receiving. Fanny pitied her.
"How distressed she will be at what she said just now,"
passed across her mind.

"Ordained!" said Miss Crawford; "what, are you to be
a clergyman?"

"Yes; I shall take orders soon after my father's return--
probably at Christmas."

Miss Crawford, rallying her spirits, and recovering
her complexion, replied only, "If I had known this before,
I would have spoken of the cloth with more respect,"
and turned the subject.

The chapel was soon afterwards left to the silence and stillness
which reigned in it, with few interruptions, throughout the year.
Miss Bertram, displeased with her sister, led the way,
and all seemed to feel that they had been there long enough.

The lower part of the house had been now entirely shewn,
and Mrs. Rushworth, never weary in the cause, would have
proceeded towards the principal staircase, and taken
them through all the rooms above, if her son had not
interposed with a doubt of there being time enough.
"For if," said he, with the sort of self-evident proposition
which many a clearer head does not always avoid, "we are
_too_ long going over the house, we shall not have time
for what is to be done out of doors. It is past two,
and we are to dine at five."

Mrs. Rushworth submitted; and the question of surveying
the grounds, with the who and the how, was likely to be more
fully agitated, and Mrs. Norris was beginning to arrange
by what junction of carriages and horses most could be done,
when the young people, meeting with an outward door,
temptingly open on a flight of steps which led immediately
to turf and shrubs, and all the sweets of pleasure-grounds,
as by one impulse, one wish for air and liberty, all walked out.

"Suppose we turn down here for the present," said Mrs. Rushworth,
civilly taking the hint and following them. "Here are the
greatest number of our plants, and here are the curious pheasants."

"Query," said Mr. Crawford, looking round him,
"whether we may not find something to employ us here
before we go farther? I see walls of great promise.
Mr. Rushworth, shall we summon a council on this lawn?"

"James," said Mrs. Rushworth to her son, "I believe
the wilderness will be new to all the party. The Miss
Bertrams have never seen the wilderness yet."

No objection was made, but for some time there seemed
no inclination to move in any plan, or to any distance.
All were attracted at first by the plants or the pheasants,
and all dispersed about in happy independence.
Mr. Crawford was the first to move forward to examine
the capabilities of that end of the house. The lawn,
bounded on each side by a high wall, contained beyond
the first planted area a bowling-green, and beyond
the bowling-green a long terrace walk, backed by iron
palisades, and commanding a view over them into the tops
of the trees of the wilderness immediately adjoining.
It was a good spot for fault-finding. Mr. Crawford was soon
followed by Miss Bertram and Mr. Rushworth; and when,
after a little time, the others began to form into parties,
these three were found in busy consultation on the terrace
by Edmund, Miss Crawford, and Fanny, who seemed as naturally
to unite, and who, after a short participation of their
regrets and difficulties, left them and walked on.
The remaining three, Mrs. Rushworth, Mrs. Norris,
and Julia, were still far behind; for Julia, whose happy
star no longer prevailed, was obliged to keep by the side
of Mrs. Rushworth, and restrain her impatient feet to that
lady's slow pace, while her aunt, having fallen in with
the housekeeper, who was come out to feed the pheasants,
was lingering behind in gossip with her. Poor Julia,
the only one out of the nine not tolerably satisfied
with their lot, was now in a state of complete penance,
and as different from the Julia of the barouche-box
as could well be imagined. The politeness which she had
been brought up to practise as a duty made it impossible
for her to escape; while the want of that higher species
of self-command, that just consideration of others,
that knowledge of her own heart, that principle of right,
which had not formed any essential part of her education,
made her miserable under it.

"This is insufferably hot," said Miss Crawford, when they
had taken one turn on the terrace, and were drawing
a second time to the door in the middle which opened to
the wilderness. "Shall any of us object to being comfortable?
Here is a nice little wood, if one can but get into it.
What happiness if the door should not be locked! but of
course it is; for in these great places the gardeners
are the only people who can go where they like."

The door, however, proved not to be locked, and they were
all agreed in turning joyfully through it, and leaving
the unmitigated glare of day behind. A considerable
flight of steps landed them in the wilderness, which was
a planted wood of about two acres, and though chiefly
of larch and laurel, and beech cut down, and though laid
out with too much regularity, was darkness and shade,
and natural beauty, compared with the bowling-green
and the terrace. They all felt the refreshment of it,
and for some time could only walk and admire. At length,
after a short pause, Miss Crawford began with, "So you
are to be a clergyman, Mr. Bertram. This is rather
a surprise to me."

"Why should it surprise you? You must suppose me designed
for some profession, and might perceive that I am neither
a lawyer, nor a soldier, nor a sailor."

"Very true; but, in short, it had not occurred to me.
And you know there is generally an uncle or a grandfather
to leave a fortune to the second son."

"A very praiseworthy practice," said Edmund,
"but not quite universal. I am one of the exceptions,
and _being_ one, must do something for myself."

"'But why are you to be a clergyman? I thought _that_
was always the lot of the youngest, where there were
many to chuse before him."

"Do you think the church itself never chosen, then?"

"_Never_ is a black word. But yes, in the _never_
of conversation, which means _not_ _very_ _often_,
I do think it. For what is to be done in the church?
Men love to distinguish themselves, and in either of the other
lines distinction may be gained, but not in the church.
A clergyman is nothing."

"The _nothing_ of conversation has its gradations, I hope,
as well as the _never_. A clergyman cannot be high in
state or fashion. He must not head mobs, or set the ton
in dress. But I cannot call that situation nothing which
has the charge of all that is of the first importance
to mankind, individually or collectively considered,
temporally and eternally, which has the guardianship
of religion and morals, and consequently of the manners
which result from their influence. No one here can call
the _office_ nothing. If the man who holds it is so,
it is by the neglect of his duty, by foregoing its
just importance, and stepping out of his place to appear
what he ought not to appear."

"_You_ assign greater consequence to the clergyman than one
has been used to hear given, or than I can quite comprehend.
One does not see much of this influence and importance
in society, and how can it be acquired where they are
so seldom seen themselves? How can two sermons a week,
even supposing them worth hearing, supposing the preacher
to have the sense to prefer Blair's to his own, do all
that you speak of? govern the conduct and fashion the
manners of a large congregation for the rest of the week?
One scarcely sees a clergyman out of his pulpit."

"_You_ are speaking of London, _I_ am speaking of the
nation at large."

"The metropolis, I imagine, is a pretty fair sample
of the rest."

"Not, I should hope, of the proportion of virtue to vice
throughout the kingdom. We do not look in great cities
for our best morality. It is not there that respectable
people of any denomination can do most good; and it
certainly is not there that the influence of the clergy can
be most felt. A fine preacher is followed and admired;
but it is not in fine preaching only that a good clergyman
will be useful in his parish and his neighbourhood,
where the parish and neighbourhood are of a size capable
of knowing his private character, and observing his
general conduct, which in London can rarely be the case.
The clergy are lost there in the crowds of their parishioners.
They are known to the largest part only as preachers.
And with regard to their influencing public manners,
Miss Crawford must not misunderstand me, or suppose I mean
to call them the arbiters of good-breeding, the regulators
of refinement and courtesy, the masters of the ceremonies
of life. The _manners_ I speak of might rather be
called _conduct_, perhaps, the result of good principles;
the effect, in short, of those doctrines which it
is their duty to teach and recommend; and it will,
I believe, be everywhere found, that as the clergy are,
or are not what they ought to be, so are the rest of
the nation."

"Certainly," said Fanny, with gentle earnestness.

"There," cried Miss Crawford, "you have quite convinced
Miss Price already."

"I wish I could convince Miss Crawford too."

"I do not think you ever will," said she, with an arch smile;
"I am just as much surprised now as I was at first
that you should intend to take orders. You really are
fit for something better. Come, do change your mind.
It is not too late. Go into the law."

"Go into the law! With as much ease as I was told to go
into this wilderness."

"Now you are going to say something about law being
the worst wilderness of the two, but I forestall you;
remember, I have forestalled you."

"You need not hurry when the object is only to prevent
my saying a _bon_ _mot_, for there is not the least wit in
my nature. I am a very matter-of-fact, plain-spoken being,
and may blunder on the borders of a repartee for half
an hour together without striking it out."

A general silence succeeded. Each was thoughtful.
Fanny made the first interruption by saying, "I wonder
that I should be tired with only walking in this sweet wood;
but the next time we come to a seat, if it is not disagreeable
to you, I should be glad to sit down for a little while."

"My dear Fanny," cried Edmund, immediately drawing her arm
within his, "how thoughtless I have been! I hope you
are not very tired. Perhaps," turning to Miss Crawford,
"my other companion may do me the honour of taking an arm."

"Thank you, but I am not at all tired." She took it,
however, as she spoke, and the gratification of having
her do so, of feeling such a connexion for the first time,
made him a little forgetful of Fanny. "You scarcely
touch me," said he. "You do not make me of any use.
What a difference in the weight of a woman's arm from
that of a man! At Oxford I have been a good deal used
to have a man lean on me for the length of a street,
and you are only a fly in the comparison."

"I am really not tired, which I almost wonder at;
for we must have walked at least a mile in this wood.
Do not you think we have?"

"Not half a mile," was his sturdy answer; for he was not yet
so much in love as to measure distance, or reckon time,
with feminine lawlessness.

"Oh! you do not consider how much we have wound about.
We have taken such a very serpentine course, and the wood
itself must be half a mile long in a straight line,
for we have never seen the end of it yet since we left
the first great path."

"But if you remember, before we left that first great path,
we saw directly to the end of it. We looked down the
whole vista, and saw it closed by iron gates, and it
could not have been more than a furlong in length."

"Oh! I know nothing of your furlongs, but I am sure
it is a very long wood, and that we have been winding
in and out ever since we came into it; and therefore,
when I say that we have walked a mile in it, I must speak
within compass."

"We have been exactly a quarter of an hour here,"
said Edmund, taking out his watch. "Do you think we
are walking four miles an hour?"

"Oh! do not attack me with your watch. A watch is always
too fast or too slow. I cannot be dictated to by a watch."

A few steps farther brought them out at the bottom of the
very walk they had been talking of; and standing back,
well shaded and sheltered, and looking over a ha-ha into
the park, was a comfortable-sized bench, on which they
all sat down.

"I am afraid you are very tired, Fanny," said Edmund,
observing her; "why would not you speak sooner? This will be
a bad day's amusement for you if you are to be knocked up.
Every sort of exercise fatigues her so soon, Miss Crawford,
except riding."

"How abominable in you, then, to let me engross her horse
as I did all last week! I am ashamed of you and of myself,
but it shall never happen again."

"_Your_ attentiveness and consideration makes me more
sensible of my own neglect. Fanny's interest seems
in safer hands with you than with me."

"That she should be tired now, however, gives me no surprise;
for there is nothing in the course of one's duties
so fatiguing as what we have been doing this morning:
seeing a great house, dawdling from one room to another,
straining one's eyes and one's attention, hearing what one
does not understand, admiring what one does not care for.
It is generally allowed to be the greatest bore in the world,
and Miss Price has found it so, though she did not
know it."

"I shall soon be rested," said Fanny; "to sit
in the shade on a fine day, and look upon verdure,
is the most perfect refreshment."

After sitting a little while Miss Crawford was up again.
"I must move," said she; "resting fatigues me.
I have looked across the ha-ha till I am weary. I must
go and look through that iron gate at the same view,
without being able to see it so well."

Edmund left the seat likewise. "Now, Miss Crawford,
if you will look up the walk, you will convince yourself
that it cannot be half a mile long, or half half a mile."

"It is an immense distance," said she; "I see _that_
with a glance."

He still reasoned with her, but in vain. She would
not calculate, she would not compare. She would only
smile and assert. The greatest degree of rational
consistency could not have been more engaging, and they
talked with mutual satisfaction. At last it was agreed
that they should endeavour to determine the dimensions
of the wood by walking a little more about it. They would
go to one end of it, in the line they were then in--
for there was a straight green walk along the bottom
by the side of the ha-ha--and perhaps turn a little way
in some other direction, if it seemed likely to assist them,
and be back in a few minutes. Fanny said she was rested,
and would have moved too, but this was not suffered.
Edmund urged her remaining where she was with an
earnestness which she could not resist, and she was left
on the bench to think with pleasure of her cousin's care,
but with great regret that she was not stronger.
She watched them till they had turned the corner,
and listened till all sound of them had ceased.




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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