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The intercourse of the two families was at this period more nearly restored to
what it had been in the autumn, than any member of the old intimacy had thought
ever likely to be again. The return of Henry Crawford, and the arrival of William
Price, had much to do with it, but much was still owing to Sir Thomas's more than
toleration of the neighbourly attempts at the Parsonage. His mind, now
disengaged from the cares which had pressed on him at first, was at leisure to
find the Grants and their young inmates really worth visiting; and though infinitely
above scheming or contriving for any the most advantageous matrimonial
establishment that could be among the apparent possibilities of any one most
dear to him, and disdaining even as a littleness the being quick-sighted on such
points, he could not avoid perceiving, in a grand and careless way, that Mr.
Crawford was somewhat distinguishing his niece-- nor perhaps refrain (though
unconsciously) from giving a more willing assent to invitations on that account.
His readiness, however, in agreeing to dine at the Parsonage, when the general
invitation was at last hazarded, after many debates and many doubts as to
whether it were worth while, "because Sir Thomas seemed so ill inclined, and
Lady Bertram was so indolent!" proceeded from good-breeding and goodwill
alone, and had nothing to do with Mr. Crawford, but as being one in an agreeable
group: for it was in the course of that very visit that he first began to think that any
one in the habit of such idle observations would have thought that Mr. Crawford
was the admirer of Fanny Price.
The meeting was generally felt to be a pleasant one, being composed in a good
proportion of those who would talk and those who would listen; and the dinner
itself was elegant and plentiful, according to the usual style of the Grants, and too
much according to the usual habits of all to raise any emotion except in Mrs.
Norris, who could never behold either the wide table or the number of dishes on it
with patience, and who did always contrive to experience some evil from the
passing of the servants behind her chair, and to bring away some fresh
conviction of its being impossible among so many dishes but that some must be
In the evening it was found, according to the predetermination of Mrs. Grant and
her sister, that after making up the whist-table there would remain sufficient for a
round game, and everybody being as perfectly complying and without a choice
as on such occasions they always are, speculation was decided on almost as
soon as whist; and Lady Bertram soon found herself in the critical situation of
being applied to for her own choice between the games, and being required
either to draw a card for whist or not. She hesitated. Luckily Sir Thomas was at
"What shall I do, Sir Thomas? Whist and speculation; which will amuse me
Sir Thomas, after a moment's thought, recommended speculation. He was a
whist player himself, and perhaps might feel that it would not much amuse him to
have her for a partner.