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on the binding," said he.

"I am sure," cried Catherine hastily, "I did not mean to say anything
wrong; but it is a nice book, and why should I not call it so?"

"Very true," said Henry, "and this is a very nice day; and we are taking
a very nice walk; and you are two very nice young ladies. Oh, it is a
very nice word indeed - it does for everything! Originally perhaps, it
was applied only to express neatness, propriety, delicacy, or
refinement; people were nice in their dress, in their sentiments, or in
their choice. But now every commendation on every subject is comprised
in that one word."

Meanwhile, Catherine was required to interest herself in her friend's
love affairs. Isabella surprised her one day with the news that she was
engaged to her brother James; and, obviously under the impression that
her lover was the heir of a wealthy man, seemed to wonder whether his
parents would acquiesce in the engagement. But despite her affection for
James, she danced with Mr. Tilney's elder brother, Captain Tilney, at a
ball which was given while her betrothed was absent on the necessary
visit to his parents; and when letters were received from him,
announcing their consent to the match and the agreement of Mr. Morland
to resign a living of four hundred pounds to his son and to bequeath to
him by will an estate of the same value, Isabella looked grave first at
the smallness of the income, and then at the fact that it would be
nearly three years before James would be old enough to take it.

Meantime, she continued to flirt rather openly with Captain Tilney, much
to James' uneasiness and to his sister's distress. But Catherine was to
some extent reassured as to the captain's conduct by his brother Henry,
and she was so overjoyed by receiving an invitation from General Tilney
to pay a visit to Northanger Abbey, his beautiful country seat, that a
parting interview with Isabella and James, at which he was in excellent
spirits and she most engagingly placid, left her blissfully convinced
that the behaviour of the lovers was a model of judicious affection.


_IV. - Romance at Northanger Abbey_


The Tilney party set out for the Abbey in great state, the ladies in the
general's chaise and four, with postilions and numerous outriders, and
the general and Henry in the latter's curricle. But at the first stage
the general proposed that Catherine should take his place in the
curricle that she might "see as much of the country as possible;" and,
for the rest of the journey she was tête-à-tête with Henry, who amused
himself by rallying her upon the sliding panels, ghastly tapestry,
funereal beds, vaulted chambers, and kindred uncanny apparatus which,
judging from her favourite kind of fiction, she must be expecting to
find at the Abbey.

As a matter of fact, Northanger, though it comprised some parts of the
old Abbey, turned out to be a building thoroughly modernized and
improved. Notwithstanding, Catherine could not restrain her imagination
from running riot just a little. A large cedar chest, curiously inlaid
and provided with silver handles, first attracted her attention. But
this was soon found to contain merely a white cotton counterpane. A high
old-fashioned ebony cabinet, which she noticed in her bedroom just
before stepping into bed, struck her as offering more promise of
romantic interest. Even this, after a most thrilling search, in the
midst of which her candle went out, yielded nothing better than an
inventory of linen.

Still, Catherine's passion for romance was not easily to be
disappointed. Hearing from Eleanor Tilney that her mother's fatal
illness had been sudden and short, and had taken place in her absence
from home, Catherine's blood ran cold with the horrid suggestions that
naturally sprang from these words. Could it be possible? Could Henry's
father - - ? And yet how many were the examples to justify even the
blackest suspicions? And when she saw him in the evening, while she
worked with her friend, slowly pacing the drawing-room for an hour
together in silent thoughtfulness, with downcast eye and contracted
brow, she felt secure from all possibility of wronging him. It was
indeed the air and attitude of a Montoni! What could more plainly speak
the gloomy workings of a mind not wholly dead to every sense of
humanity, in its fearful review of past scenes of guilt?

Full, then, of the idea that the general had ill-treated his wife, ready
even to believe that she might still be living and a prisoner, our
heroine set out one day to explore a certain set of rooms into which the
general, in showing her over the house, had not taken her. But she was
caught in the act by Henry Tilney, who revealed, with customary
openness, what had been in her mind, and received only a very gentle
rebuke.

Most grievously was she humbled. Her folly, which now seemed even
criminal, was all exposed to him; and he must surely despise her for
ever. But he did nothing of the kind. His astonishing generosity and
nobleness of conduct were such that the only difference he made in his
behaviour to her was to pay her somewhat more attention than usual.

But the anxieties of common life began soon to succeed to the alarms of
romance. Catherine's desire of hearing from Isabella grew every day
greater. For nine successive mornings she wondered over the repetition
of disappointment; and then, on the tenth, she got a letter - not from
Isabella, but from James, announcing the breaking off of the engagement
by mutual consent. At first she was much upset by the news, and burst
into tears. But in the end she saw it in a more philosophic light, so
that before long Henry was able to rally her on her former bosom
friendship with Miss Thorpe without offending her. And when a day or two
later a letter arrived from Isabella containing the amazing sentences,
"I am quite uneasy about your dear brother, not having heard from him
since he went to Oxford, and am fearful of some misunderstanding. Your
kind offices will set all right: he is the only man I ever did or could
love, and I trust you will convince him of it - - " Catherine resolved:
"No; whatever would happen, James should never hear Isabella's name
mentioned by her again."

Soon afterwards, a bolt fell from the blue. General Tilney, who had paid
Catherine the most embarrassing attentions, suddenly and unexpectedly
returned from town, where he had gone for a day or two on business, and
packed Catherine off home immediately, with hardly an apology, and at
scarcely a moment's notice. He had met young Thorpe in town, it seemed;
and John had this time under-estimated the wealth and consequence of the
Morlands as much as he had over-stated them before when he talked to the
general in the theatre at Bath.

The rudeness of the general, however, proved not so very great a
disaster to Catherine. The interest and liking which Henry had first
felt for her had gradually grown into a warmer feeling, and, roused to a
sense of this by his father's tyrannical behaviour, he presented himself
to Catherine at Fullerton, proposed to her, and was accepted. It was not
long before the general gave his consent. Getting at last to a right
understanding of Mr. Morland's circumstances - which, he found, would
allow Catherine to have three thousand pounds - and delighted by the
recent marriage of his daughter Eleanor to a viscount, he agreed to the
union; and so Henry and Catherine were married within a twelvemonth from
the first day of their meeting.

* * * * *




Mansfield Park

And then, between 1812 and 1814. "Mansfield Park" was written
at Chawton Cottage, and published in July of the latter year
by the Mr. Egerton who had given to the world its two
predecessors. When the novel reached a second edition, its
publication was taken over by John Murray, who was also
responsible for bringing out its successor, "Emma." As bearing
on the introduction of naval officers into the story, in this
novel and in "Persuasion," it must be remembered that Jane
Austen's two youngest brothers, Francis and Charles, both
served in the Navy during the French wars, and both rose to
the rank of admiral; Jane herself lived at Southampton from
1805 to 1809, and was, therefore, in a position to visit
Portsmouth, and to see the sailor's life ashore.


_I. - Sir Thomas Bertram's Family Connections_


Miss Maria Ward, of Huntingdon, with only seven thousand pounds, had the
good luck to captivate Sir Thomas Bertram, of Mansfield Park, in the
county of Northampton, and to be thereby raised to the rank of a
baronet's lady, with all the comforts and consequences of a handsome
house and large income. She had two sisters to be benefited by her
elevation; and such of their acquaintances as thought Miss Ward and Miss
Frances quite as handsome as Miss Maria did not scruple to predict their
marrying with almost equal advantage. But there certainly are not so
many men of large fortune in the world as there are pretty women to
deserve them. Miss Ward, at the end of half a dozen years, found herself
obliged to be attached to the Rev. Mr. Norris, a friend of her
brother-in-law's, with scarcely any private fortune; and Miss Frances
fared yet worse.

Miss Ward's match, indeed, when it came to the point, was not
contemptible, Sir Thomas being happily able to give his friend, in the
living of Mansfield, an income of very little less than a thousand a
year. But Miss Frances married, in the common phrase, to disoblige her
family, and by fixing on a lieutenant of marines, named Price, without
education, fortune, or connections, did it very thoroughly. To escape
remonstrance, she never wrote to her family on the subject till actually
married.

Lady Bertram, who was a woman of very tranquil feelings, and a temper
remarkably easy and indolent, would have contented herself with merely
giving up her sister, and thinking no more of the matter; but Mrs.
Norris had a spirit of activity which could not be satisfied till she
had written a long and angry letter to Fanny. Mrs. Price, in her turn,
was injured and angry; and an answer, which comprehended both sisters in
its bitterness, and bestowed such very disrespectful reflections on the
pride of Sir Thomas, as Mrs. Norris could not possibly keep to herself,
put an end to all intercourse between them for a considerable period.

By the end of eleven years, however, Mrs. Price could no longer afford
to cherish pride or resentment, or to lose one connection that might
possibly assist her. A very small income, a large and still increasing
family, a husband disabled for active service, but not the less equal to
company and good liquor, made her eager to regain the friends she had so
carelessly sacrificed; and she addressed Lady Bertram a letter which
spoke so much contrition and despondence as could not but dispose them
all to a reconciliation. The letter re-established peace and kindness.
Sir Thomas sent friendly advice and professions, Lady Bertram dispatched
money and baby-linen for the expected child, and Mrs. Norris wrote the
letters.

Within a twelvemonth a more important advantage to Mrs. Price resulted
from her letter. Mrs. Norris, who was often observing to the others that
she seemed to be wanting to do more for her poor sister, proposed that
the latter should be entirely relieved from the charge and expense of
her eldest daughter, Fanny, a girl of ten; and Sir Thomas, after
debating the question, assented. The division of gratifying sensations
in the consideration of so benevolent a scheme ought not, in strict
justice, to have been equal; for, while Sir Thomas was fully resolved to
be the real and consistent patron of the selected child, Mrs. Norris had
not the least intention of being at any expense whatever in her
maintenance. As far as walking, talking and contriving reached, she was
thoroughly benevolent, and nobody knows better how to dictate liberality
to others; but her love of money was equal to her love of directing, and
she knew quite as well how to save her own as to spend that of her
friends.

Fanny Price proved to be small for her age, with no glow of complexion
or any other striking beauty; exceedingly timid and shy, and shrinking
from notice; but her air, though awkward, was not vulgar, her voice was
sweet, and when she spoke her countenance was pretty. Sir Thomas and
Lady Bertram received her very kindly; and Sir Thomas, seeing how much
she needed encouragement, tried to be all that was conciliating. But he
had to work against a most untoward gravity of deportment; and Lady
Bertram, without taking half so much trouble, by the mere aid of a
good-humoured smile, became immediately the less awful character of the
two.

The young people were all at home, and sustained their share in the
introduction very well, with much good humour and little embarrassment.
They were a remarkably fine family; the sons, Tom and Edmund, boys of
seventeen and sixteen, very well looking; the daughters, Maria, aged
thirteen, and Julia, twelve, decidedly handsome.

But it took a long time to reconcile Fanny to the novelty of Mansfield
Park, and to the separation from everybody she had been used to. Nobody
meant to be unkind, but nobody put himself out of the way to secure her
comfort. She was disheartened by Lady Bertram's silence, awed by Sir
Thomas's grave looks, and quite overcome by Mrs. Norris's admonitions.
Her elder cousins mortified her by reflections on her size, and abashed
her by noticing her shyness; Miss Lee, the governess, wondered at her
ignorance; and the maidservants sneered at her clothes. It was not till
Edmund found her crying one morning on the attic stairs, and comforted
her, that things began to mend for her. He was ever afterwards her true
friend, and next to her dear brother William, first in her affections;
and from that day she grew more comfortable.


_II. - Cupid at Mansfield Park_


The first event of any importance in the family's affairs was the death
of Mr. Norris, which happened when Fanny was about fifteen, and
necessarily introduced alterations and novelties. Mrs. Norris, on
quitting the parsonage, removed first to the Park, and then arranged to
take a small dwelling in the village belonging to Sir Thomas and called
the White House. The living had been destined for Edmund, and in
ordinary circumstances would have been duly given to some friend to hold
till he were old enough to take orders. But Tom's extravagances had been
so great as to render a different disposal of the next presentation
necessary, and so the reversion was sold to a Dr. Grant, a hearty man of
forty-five, fond of good eating, married to a wife about fifteen years
his junior, and unprovided with children.

The Grants had scarcely been settled in Mansfield a year, when, for the
better settlement of his property in the West Indies, Sir Thomas had
found it expedient to go to Antigua, and he took his elder son with him,
in the hope of detaching him from some bad connections at home. Neither
person was missed.

Lady Bertram did not at all like to have her husband leave her; but she
was not disturbed by any alarm for his safety or solicitude for his
comfort, being one of those persons who think nothing can be dangerous
or difficult or fatiguing to anybody but themselves. Before very long
she found that Edmund could quite sufficiently supply his father's
place. On this occasion the Miss Bertrams, who were now fully
established among the belles of the neighbourhood, were much to be
pitied, not for their sorrow, but for their want of it. Their father was
no object of love to them; he had never seemed the friend of their
pleasures, and his absence was unhappily most welcome.

Fanny's relief, and her consciousness of it, were quite equal to her
cousins'; but a more tender nature suggested that her feelings were
ungrateful, and she really grieved because she could not grieve.

Meantime, taking advantage of her sister's indolence, Mrs. Norris acted
as chaperon to Maria and Julia in their public engagements, and very
thoroughly relished the means this afforded her of mixing in society
without having horses to hire.

Fanny had no share in the festivities of the season; but she enjoyed
being avowedly useful as her aunt's companion, and talked to Lady
Bertram, listened to her and read to her with never a thought of envying
her cousins their gaieties. About this time Maria, who was now in her
twenty-first year, got engaged to a rich but heavy country gentleman
called Rushworth, merely because he had an income larger than her
father's and could give her a house in town; while Tom returned safely
from the West Indies, bringing an excellent account of his father's
health, but telling the family that Sir Thomas would be detained in
Antigua for several months longer.

Such was the state of affairs in the month of July; and Fanny had just
reached her eighteenth year when the society of the village received an
addition in the brother and sister of Mrs. Grant, a Mr. and Miss
Crawford, the children of her mother by a second marriage. They were
young people of fortune, the son having a good estate in Norfolk, the
daughter twenty thousand pounds. They had been brought up by their
father's brother and his wife, Admiral and Mrs. Crawford; and it was
Mrs. Crawford's death, and the consequent installation of the admiral's
mistress in the house, that had forced them to find another home. Mary
Crawford was remarkably pretty; Henry, though not handsome, had air and
countenance; the manners of both were lively and pleasant; and Mrs.
Grant gave them credit for everything else.

The young people were pleased with each other from the first. Miss
Crawford was most allowably a sweet, pretty girl, while the Miss
Bertrams were the finest young women in the country. Mr. Crawford was
the most agreeable young man Julia and Maria had ever known. Before he
had been at Mansfield a week the former lady was quite ready to be
fallen in love with; while as for the latter she did not want to see or
to understand. "There could be no harm in her liking an agreeable
man - everybody knew her situation - Mr. Crawford must take care of
himself."

A young woman, pretty, lively, witty, playing on a harp as elegant as
herself, was enough to catch any man's heart. 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 with
Mary Crawford; 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. He taught her to ride on a horse which he had given to
Fanny; he was always going round to see her at the parsonage; and,
although he disapproved of the flippancy with which she talked of her
relations, of religion, and of his future profession of clergyman, he
was never weary of discussing her and of confessing his admiration of
her to Fanny.

Harry Crawford was not so constant as his sister. On an expedition to
Sotherton Court (Mr. Rushworth's place) he flirted with Julia on the way
down, and with Maria when Sotherton was reached, leaving poor Mr.
Rushworth no resource but to declare to Fanny his surprise at anyone
calling so undersized a man as his rival handsome.

Some rehearsals of a play called "Lovers' Vows," in which Harry left
Maria happy and expectant and Julia furious by assigning the parts of
the lovers to the elder sister and to himself, made Mr. Rushworth even
jealous. But this theatrical scheme, to which even Edmund had been
forced to lend a reluctant co-operation - merely with a view of
preventing outside actors being introduced - happily came to nothing,
thanks to the unexpected arrival of Sir Thomas.


_III. - Fanny in Society_


Maria was now expecting the man she loved to declare himself; but
instead of making such a declaration of attachment, Harry Crawford left
the neighbourhood almost immediately on the plea of having to meet his
uncle at Bath. Maria, wounded and indignant, resolved that, though he
had destroyed her happiness, he should not know that he had done so. So
when her father, having, in an evening spent at Sotherton, discovered
what a very inferior young man Mr. Rushworth was, and having noticed
Maria's complete indifference to him, offered to give up the connection
if she felt herself unhappy in the prospect of it, she merely thanked
him, and said she had not the smallest desire of breaking through her
engagement, and was not sensible of any change of opinion or inclination
since her forming it. In a few weeks' time she was married to Mr.
Rushworth; and after a day or two spent at Sotherton, the wedded pair
went off to Brighton, where they were joined by Julia Bertram.

Meantime, Fanny, as the only young lady left at the Park, became of
importance. Sir Thomas decided that she was pretty; Miss Crawford
cultivated her society; and Mrs. Grant asked her to dinner. This
last-mentioned attention disturbed Lady Bertram.

"So strange!" she said. "For Mrs. Grant never used to ask her."

"But it is very natural," observed Edmund, "that Mrs. Grant should wish
to procure so agreeable a visitor for her sister."

"Nothing can be more natural," said Sir Thomas, after a short
deliberation; "nor, were there no sister in the case, could anything, in
my opinion, be more natural. Mrs. Grant's showing civility to Miss
Price, to Lady Bertram's niece, could never want explanation. The only
surprise I can feel is that this should be the first time of its being
paid. Fanny was right in giving only a conditional answer. She appears
to feel as she ought. But, as I conclude that she wishes to go, since
all young people like to be together, I can see no reason why she should
be denied this indulgence."

"Upon my word, Fanny," said Mrs. Norris, "you are in high luck to meet
with such attention and indulgence. You ought to be very much obliged to
Mrs. Grant for thinking of you, and to your aunt for letting you go, and
you ought to look upon it as something extraordinary; for I hope you are
aware that there is no real occasion for your going into company in this
sort of way, or ever dining out at all; and it is what you must not
depend upon ever being repeated. Nor must you be fancying that the
invitation is meant as a compliment to you; the compliment is intended
to your uncle and aunt and me. Mrs. Grant thinks it a civility due to
_us_ to take a little notice of you, or else it would never have come
into her head, and you may be certain that if your cousin Julia had been
at home you would not have been asked."

Mrs. Norris fetched breath, and went on.

"I think it right to give you a hint, Fanny, now that you are going into
company without any of us; and I do beseech and entreat you not to be
putting yourself forward, and talking and giving your opinion as if you
were one of your cousins - as if you were dear Mrs. Rushworth or Julia.
That will never do, believe me. Remember, wherever you are, you must be
the lowest and last; and though Miss Crawford is in a manner at home at
the Parsonage, you are not to be taking place of her. And as to coming
away at night, you are to stay just as long as Edmund chooses."

"Yes, ma'am. I should not think of anything else."

"And if it should rain - which I think likely, for I never saw it more
threatening for a wet evening in my life - you must manage as well as you
can, and not be expecting the carriage to be sent for you."

"Walk!" said Sir Thomas, in a tone of unanswerable dignity, and, coming
further into the room: "My niece walk to an engagement at this time of
the year! Fanny, will twenty minutes after four suit you?"

A few weeks later Fanny was made happy by a visit from her brother
William, now, through Sir Thomas's influence, a midshipman; and soon the
former intercourse between the families at the Park and at the Parsonage
was revived, Sir Thomas perceiving, in a careless way, that Mr.
Crawford, who was back again at Mansfield, was somewhat distinguishing
his niece.

Harry, indeed, was beginning to be rather piqued by Fanny's
indifference.

"I do not quite know what to make of Miss Fanny," he said to his sister.
"Is she solemn? Is she queer? Is she prudish? I can hardly get her to
speak. I never was so long in company with a girl in my life, trying to
entertain her, and succeeded so ill! Never met with a girl who looked so
grave on me."

"Foolish fellow!" said Mary. "And so this is her attraction after all!


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Online LibraryVariousThe World's Greatest Books — Volume 01 — Fiction → online text (page 12 of 26)