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Chapter 34
Edmund had great things to hear on his return. Many surprises were awaiting
him. The first that occurred was not least in interest: the appearance of Henry
Crawford and his sister walking together through the village as he rode into it. He
had concluded--he had meant them to be far distant. His absence had been
extended beyond a fortnight purposely to avoid Miss Crawford. He was returning
to Mansfield with spirits ready to feed on melancholy remembrances, and tender
associations, when her own fair self was before him, leaning on her brother's
arm, and he found himself receiving a welcome, unquestionably friendly, from the
woman whom, two moments before, he had been thinking of as seventy miles
off, and as farther, much farther, from him in inclination than any distance could
Her reception of him was of a sort which he could not have hoped for, had he
expected to see her. Coming as he did from such a purport fulfilled as had taken
him away, he would have expected anything rather than a look of satisfaction,
and words of simple, pleasant meaning. It was enough to set his heart in a glow,
and to bring him home in the properest state for feeling the full value of the other
joyful surprises at hand.
William's promotion, with all its particulars, he was soon master of; and with such
a secret provision of comfort within his own breast to help the joy, he found in it a
source of most gratifying sensation and unvarying cheerfulness all dinner-time.
After dinner, when he and his father were alone, he had Fanny's history; and
then all the great events of the last fortnight, and the present situation of matters
at Mansfield were known to him.
Fanny suspected what was going on. They sat so much longer than usual in the
dining-parlour, that she was sure they must be talking of her; and when tea at
last brought them away, and she was to be seen by Edmund again, she felt
dreadfully guilty. He came to her, sat down by her, took her hand, and pressed it
kindly; and at that moment she thought that, but for the occupation and the scene
which the tea-things afforded, she must have betrayed her emotion in some
unpardonable excess.
He was not intending, however, by such action, to be conveying to her that
unqualified approbation and encouragement which her hopes drew from it. It was
designed only to express his participation in all that interested her, and to tell her
that he had been hearing what quickened every feeling of affection. He was, in
fact, entirely on his father's side of the question. His surprise was not so great as
his father's at her refusing Crawford, because, so far from supposing her to
consider him with anything like a preference, he had always believed it to be
rather the reverse, and could imagine her to be taken perfectly unprepared, but
Sir Thomas could not regard the connection as more desirable than he did. It had
every recommendation to him; and while honouring her for what she had done
under the influence of her present indifference, honouring her in rather stronger
terms than Sir Thomas could quite echo, he was most earnest in hoping, and
sanguine in believing, that it would be a match at last, and that, united by mutual