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Chapter 21
Sir Thomas's return made a striking change in the ways of the family,
independent of Lovers' Vows. Under his government, Mansfield was an altered
place. Some members of their society sent away, and the spirits of many others
saddened-- it was all sameness and gloom compared with the past-- a sombre
family party rarely enlivened. There was little intercourse with the Parsonage. Sir
Thomas, drawing back from intimacies in general, was particularly disinclined, at
this time, for any engagements but in one quarter. The Rushworths were the only
addition to his own domestic circle which he could solicit.
Edmund did not wonder that such should be his father's feelings, nor could he
regret anything but the exclusion of the Grants. "But they," he observed to Fanny,
"have a claim. They seem to belong to us; they seem to be part of ourselves. I
could wish my father were more sensible of their very great attention to my
mother and sisters while he was away. I am afraid they may feel themselves
neglected. But the truth is, that my father hardly knows them. They had not been
here a twelvemonth when he left England. If he knew them better, he would
value their society as it deserves; for they are in fact exactly the sort of people he
would like. We are sometimes a little in want of animation among ourselves: my
sisters seem out of spirits, and Tom is certainly not at his ease. Dr. and Mrs.
Grant would enliven us, and make our evenings pass away with more enjoyment
even to my father."
"Do you think so?" said Fanny: "in my opinion, my uncle would not like any
addition. I think he values the very quietness you speak of, and that the repose of
his own family circle is all he wants. And it does not appear to me that we are
more serious than we used to be--I mean before my uncle went abroad. As well
as I can recollect, it was always much the same. There was never much laughing
in his presence; or, if there is any difference, it is not more, I think, than such an
absence has a tendency to produce at first. There must be a sort of shyness; but
I cannot recollect that our evenings formerly were ever merry, except when my
uncle was in town. No young people's are, I suppose, when those they look up to
are at home".
"I believe you are right, Fanny," was his reply, after a short consideration. "I
believe our evenings are rather returned to what they were, than assuming a new
character. The novelty was in their being lively. Yet, how strong the impression
that only a few weeks will give! I have been feeling as if we had never lived so
"I suppose I am graver than other people," said Fanny. "The evenings do not
appear long to me. I love to hear my uncle talk of the West Indies. I could listen
to him for an hour together. It entertains me more than many other things have
done; but then I am unlike other people, I dare say."
"Why should you dare say that?" (smiling). "Do you want to be told that you are
only unlike other people in being more wise and discreet? But when did you, or
anybody, ever get a compliment from me, Fanny? Go to my father if you want to
be complimented. He will satisfy you. Ask your uncle what he thinks, and you will