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Chapter 28
Her uncle and both her aunts were in the drawing-room when Fanny went down.
To the former she was an interesting object, and he saw with pleasure the
general elegance of her appearance, and her being in remarkably good looks.
The neatness and propriety of her dress was all that he would allow himself to
commend in her presence, but upon her leaving the room again soon afterwards,
he spoke of her beauty with very decided praise.
"Yes," said Lady Bertram, "she looks very well. I sent Chapman to her."
"Look well! Oh, yes!" cried Mrs. Norris, "she has good reason to look well with all
her advantages: brought up in this family as she has been, with all the benefit of
her cousins' manners before her. Only think, my dear Sir Thomas, what
extraordinary advantages you and I have been the means of giving her. The very
gown you have been taking notice of is your own generous present to her when
dear Mrs. Rushworth married. What would she have been if we had not taken her
by the hand?"
Sir Thomas said no more; but when they sat down to table the eyes of the two
young men assured him that the subject might be gently touched again, when the
ladies withdrew, with more success. Fanny saw that she was approved; and the
consciousness of looking well made her look still better. From a variety of causes
she was happy, and she was soon made still happier; for in following her aunts
out of the room, Edmund, who was holding open the door, said, as she passed
him, "You must dance with me, Fanny; you must keep two dances for me; any
two that you like, except the first." She had nothing more to wish for. She had
hardly ever been in a state so nearly approaching high spirits in her life. Her
cousins' former gaiety on the day of a ball was no longer surprising to her; she
felt it to be indeed very charming, and was actually practising her steps about the
drawing-room as long as she could be safe from the notice of her aunt Norris,
who was entirely taken up at first in fresh arranging and injuring the noble fire
which the butler had prepared.
Half an hour followed that would have been at least languid under any other
circumstances, but Fanny's happiness still prevailed. It was but to think of her
conversation with Edmund, and what was the restlessness of Mrs. Norris? What
were the yawns of Lady Bertram?
The gentlemen joined them; and soon after began the sweet expectation of a
carriage, when a general spirit of ease and enjoyment seemed diffused, and they
all stood about and talked and laughed, and every moment had its pleasure and
its hope. Fanny felt that there must be a struggle in Edmund's cheerfulness, but it
was delightful to see the effort so successfully made.
When the carriages were really heard, when the guests began really to
assemble, her own gaiety of heart was much subdued: the sight of so many
strangers threw her back into herself; and besides the gravity and formality of the
first great circle, which the manners of neither Sir Thomas nor Lady Bertram
were of a kind to do away, she found herself occasionally called on to endure
something worse. She was introduced here and there by her uncle, and forced to