The Prices were just setting off for church the next day when Mr. Crawford
appeared again. He came, not to stop, but to join them; he was asked to go with
them to the Garrison chapel, which was exactly what he had intended, and they
all walked thither together.
The family were now seen to advantage. Nature had given them no
inconsiderable share of beauty, and every Sunday dressed them in their cleanest
skins and best attire. Sunday always brought this comfort to Fanny, and on this
Sunday she felt it more than ever. Her poor mother now did not look so very
unworthy of being Lady Bertram's sister as she was but too apt to look. It often
grieved her to the heart to think of the contrast between them; to think that where
nature had made so little difference, circumstances should have made so much,
and that her mother, as handsome as Lady Bertram, and some years her junior,
should have an appearance so much more worn and faded, so comfortless, so
slatternly, so shabby. But Sunday made her a very creditable and tolerably
cheerful-looking Mrs. Price, coming abroad with a fine family of children, feeling a
little respite of her weekly cares, and only discomposed if she saw her boys run
into danger, or Rebecca pass by with a flower in her hat.
In chapel they were obliged to divide, but Mr. Crawford took care not to be
divided from the female branch; and after chapel he still continued with them, and
made one in the family party on the ramparts.
Mrs. Price took her weekly walk on the ramparts every fine Sunday throughout
the year, always going directly after morning service and staying till dinner-time.
It was her public place: there she met her acquaintance, heard a little news,
talked over the badness of the Portsmouth servants, and wound up her spirits for
the six days ensuing.
Thither they now went; Mr. Crawford most happy to consider the Miss Prices as
his peculiar charge; and before they had been there long, somehow or other,
there was no saying how, Fanny could not have believed it, but he was walking
between them with an arm of each under his, and she did not know how to
prevent or put an end to it. It made her uncomfortable for a time, but yet there
were enjoyments in the day and in the view which would be felt.
The day was uncommonly lovely. It was really March; but it was April in its mild
air, brisk soft wind, and bright sun, occasionally clouded for a minute; and
everything looked so beautiful under the influence of such a sky, the effects of
the shadows pursuing each other on the ships at Spithead and the island
beyond, with the ever-varying hues of the sea, now at high water, dancing in its
glee and dashing against the ramparts with so fine a sound, produced altogether
such a combination of charms for Fanny, as made her gradually almost careless
of the circumstances under which she felt them. Nay, had she been without his
arm, she would soon have known that she needed it, for she wanted strength for
a two hours' saunter of this kind, coming, as it generally did, upon a week's
previous inactivity. Fanny was beginning to feel the effect of being debarred from
her usual regular exercise; she had lost ground as to health since her being in