A week was gone since Edmund might be supposed in town, and Fanny had
heard nothing of him. There were three different conclusions to be drawn from
his silence, between which her mind was in fluctuation; each of them at times
being held the most probable. Either his going had been again delayed, or he
had yet procured no opportunity of seeing Miss Crawford alone, or he was too
happy for letter-writing!
One morning, about this time, Fanny having now been nearly four weeks from
Mansfield, a point which she never failed to think over and calculate every day,
as she and Susan were preparing to remove, as usual, upstairs, they were
stopped by the knock of a visitor, whom they felt they could not avoid, from
Rebecca's alertness in going to the door, a duty which always interested her
beyond any other.
It was a gentleman's voice; it was a voice that Fanny was just turning pale about,
when Mr. Crawford walked into the room.
Good sense, like hers, will always act when really called upon; and she found
that she had been able to name him to her mother, and recall her remembrance
of the name, as that of "William's friend," though she could not previously have
believed herself capable of uttering a syllable at such a moment. The
consciousness of his being known there only as William's friend was some
support. Having introduced him, however, and being all reseated, the terrors that
occurred of what this visit might lead to were overpowering, and she fancied
herself on the point of fainting away.
While trying to keep herself alive, their visitor, who had at first approached her
with as animated a countenance as ever, was wisely and kindly keeping his eyes
away, and giving her time to recover, while he devoted himself entirely to her
mother, addressing her, and attending to her with the utmost politeness and
propriety, at the same time with a degree of friendliness, of interest at least,
which was making his manner perfect.
Mrs. Price's manners were also at their best. Warmed by the sight of such a
friend to her son, and regulated by the wish of appearing to advantage before
him, she was overflowing with gratitude--artless, maternal gratitude-- which could
not be unpleasing. Mr. Price was out, which she regretted very much. Fanny was
just recovered enough to feel that she could not regret it; for to her many other
sources of uneasiness was added the severe one of shame for the home in
which he found her. She might scold herself for the weakness, but there was no
scolding it away. She was ashamed, and she would have been yet more
ashamed of her father than of all the rest.
They talked of William, a subject on which Mrs. Price could never tire; and Mr.
Crawford was as warm in his commendation as even her heart could wish. She
felt that she had never seen so agreeable a man in her life; and was only
astonished to find that, so great and so agreeable as he was, he should be come
down to Portsmouth neither on a visit to the port-admiral, nor the commissioner,
nor yet with the intention of going over to the island, nor of seeing the dockyard.
Nothing of all that she had been used to think of as the proof of importance, or