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Chapter 22
Fanny's consequence increased on the departure of her cousins. Becoming, as
she then did, the only young woman in the drawing-room, the only occupier of
that interesting division of a family in which she had hitherto held so humble a
third, it was impossible for her not to be more looked at, more thought of and
attended to, than she had ever been before; and "Where is Fanny?" became no
uncommon question, even without her being wanted for any one's convenience.
Not only at home did her value increase, but at the Parsonage too. In that house,
which she had hardly entered twice a year since Mr. Norris's death, she became
a welcome, an invited guest, and in the gloom and dirt of a November day, most
acceptable to Mary Crawford. Her visits there, beginning by chance, were
continued by solicitation. Mrs. Grant, really eager to get any change for her
sister, could, by the easiest self-deceit, persuade herself that she was doing the
kindest thing by Fanny, and giving her the most important opportunities of
improvement in pressing her frequent calls.
Fanny, having been sent into the village on some errand by her aunt Norris, was
overtaken by a heavy shower close to the Parsonage; and being descried from
one of the windows endeavouring to find shelter under the branches and
lingering leaves of an oak just beyond their premises, was forced, though not
without some modest reluctance on her part, to come in. A civil servant she had
withstood; but when Dr. Grant himself went out with an umbrella, there was
nothing to be done but to be very much ashamed, and to get into the house as
fast as possible; and to poor Miss Crawford, who had just been contemplating
the dismal rain in a very desponding state of mind, sighing over the ruin of all her
plan of exercise for that morning, and of every chance of seeing a single creature
beyond themselves for the next twenty-four hours, the sound of a little bustle at
the front door, and the sight of Miss Price dripping with wet in the vestibule, was
delightful. The value of an event on a wet day in the country was most forcibly
brought before her. She was all alive again directly, and among the most active
in being useful to Fanny, in detecting her to be wetter than she would at first
allow, and providing her with dry clothes; and Fanny, after being obliged to
submit to all this attention, and to being assisted and waited on by mistresses
and maids, being also obliged, on returning downstairs, to be fixed in their
drawing-room for an hour while the rain continued, the blessing of something
fresh to see and think of was thus extended to Miss Crawford, and might carry on
her spirits to the period of dressing and dinner.
The two sisters were so kind to her, and so pleasant, that Fanny might have
enjoyed her visit could she have believed herself not in the way, and could she
have foreseen that the weather would certainly clear at the end of the hour, and
save her from the shame of having Dr. Grant's carriage and horses out to take
her home, with which she was threatened. As to anxiety for any alarm that her
absence in such weather might occasion at home, she had nothing to suffer on
that score; for as her being out was known only to her two aunts, she was
perfectly aware that none would be felt, and that in whatever cottage aunt Norris