The conference was neither so short nor so conclusive as the lady had designed.
The gentleman was not so easily satisfied. He had all the disposition to
persevere that Sir Thomas could wish him. He had vanity, which strongly inclined
him in the first place to think she did love him, though she might not know it
herself; and which, secondly, when constrained at last to admit that she did know
her own present feelings, convinced him that he should be able in time to make
those feelings what he wished.
He was in love, very much in love; and it was a love which, operating on an
active, sanguine spirit, of more warmth than delicacy, made her affection appear
of greater consequence because it was withheld, and determined him to have the
glory, as well as the felicity, of forcing her to love him.
He would not despair: he would not desist. He had every well-grounded reason
for solid attachment; he knew her to have all the worth that could justify the
warmest hopes of lasting happiness with her; her conduct at this very time, by
speaking the disinterestedness and delicacy of her character (qualities which he
believed most rare indeed), was of a sort to heighten all his wishes, and confirm
all his resolutions. He knew not that he had a pre-engaged heart to attack. Of
that he had no suspicion. He considered her rather as one who had never
thought on the subject enough to be in danger; who had been guarded by youth,
a youth of mind as lovely as of person; whose modesty had prevented her from
understanding his attentions, and who was still overpowered by the suddenness
of addresses so wholly unexpected, and the novelty of a situation which her
fancy had never taken into account.
Must it not follow of course, that, when he was understood, he should succeed?
He believed it fully. Love such as his, in a man like himself, must with
perseverance secure a return, and at no great distance; and he had so much
delight in the idea of obliging her to love him in a very short time, that her not
loving him now was scarcely regretted. A little difficulty to be overcome was no
evil to Henry Crawford. He rather derived spirits from it. He had been apt to gain
hearts too easily. His situation was new and animating.
To Fanny, however, who had known too much opposition all her life to find any
charm in it, all this was unintelligible. She found that he did mean to persevere;
but how he could, after such language from her as she felt herself obliged to use,
was not to be understood. She told him that she did not love him, could not love
him, was sure she never should love him; that such a change was quite
impossible; that the subject was most painful to her; that she must entreat him
never to mention it again, to allow her to leave him at once, and let it be
considered as concluded for ever. And when farther pressed, had added, that in
her opinion their dispositions were so totally dissimilar as to make mutual
affection incompatible; and that they were unfitted for each other by nature,
education, and habit. All this she had said, and with the earnestness of sincerity;
yet this was not enough, for he immediately denied there being anything