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Chapter 19
How is the consternation of the party to be described? To the greater number it
was a moment of absolute horror. Sir Thomas in the house! All felt the
instantaneous conviction. Not a hope of imposition or mistake was harboured
anywhere. Julia's looks were an evidence of the fact that made it indisputable;
and after the first starts and exclamations, not a word was spoken for half a
minute: each with an altered countenance was looking at some other, and almost
each was feeling it a stroke the most unwelcome, most ill-timed, most appalling!
Mr. Yates might consider it only as a vexatious interruption for the evening, and
Mr. Rushworth might imagine it a blessing; but every other heart was sinking
under some degree of self-condemnation or undefined alarm, every other heart
was suggesting, "What will become of us? what is to be done now?" It was a
terrible pause; and terrible to every ear were the corroborating sounds of opening
doors and passing footsteps.
Julia was the first to move and speak again. Jealousy and bitterness had been
suspended: selfishness was lost in the common cause; but at the moment of her
appearance, Frederick was listening with looks of devotion to Agatha's narrative,
and pressing her hand to his heart; and as soon as she could notice this, and see
that, in spite of the shock of her words, he still kept his station and retained her
sister's hand, her wounded heart swelled again with injury, and looking as red as
she had been white before, she turned out of the room, saying, "I need not be
afraid of appearing before him."
Her going roused the rest; and at the same moment the two brothers stepped
forward, feeling the necessity of doing something. A very few words between
them were sufficient. The case admitted no difference of opinion: they must go to
the drawing-room directly. Maria joined them with the same intent, just then the
stoutest of the three; for the very circumstance which had driven Julia away was
to her the sweetest support. Henry Crawford's retaining her hand at such a
moment, a moment of such peculiar proof and importance, was worth ages of
doubt and anxiety. She hailed it as an earnest of the most serious determination,
and was equal even to encounter her father. They walked off, utterly heedless of
Mr. Rushworth's repeated question of, "Shall I go too? Had not I better go too?
Will not it be right for me to go too?" but they were no sooner through the door
than Henry Crawford undertook to answer the anxious inquiry, and, encouraging
him by all means to pay his respects to Sir Thomas without delay, sent him after
the others with delighted haste.
Fanny was left with only the Crawfords and Mr. Yates. She had been quite
overlooked by her cousins; and as her own opinion of her claims on Sir Thomas's
affection was much too humble to give her any idea of classing herself with his
children, she was glad to remain behind and gain a little breathing-time. Her
agitation and alarm exceeded all that was endured by the rest, by the right of a
disposition which not even innocence could keep from suffering. She was nearly
fainting: all her former habitual dread of her uncle was returning, and with it
compassion for him and for almost every one of the party on the development