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Chapter 38
The novelty of travelling, and the happiness of being with William, soon produced
their natural effect on Fanny's spirits, when Mansfield Park was fairly left behind;
and by the time their first stage was ended, and they were to quit Sir Thomas's
carriage, she was able to take leave of the old coachman, and send back proper
messages, with cheerful looks.
Of pleasant talk between the brother and sister there was no end. Everything
supplied an amusement to the high glee of William's mind, and he was full of
frolic and joke in the intervals of their higher-toned subjects, all of which ended, if
they did not begin, in praise of the Thrush, conjectures how she would be
employed, schemes for an action with some superior force, which (supposing the
first lieutenant out of the way, and William was not very merciful to the first
lieutenant) was to give himself the next step as soon as possible, or speculations
upon prize-money, which was to be generously distributed at home, with only the
reservation of enough to make the little cottage comfortable, in which he and
Fanny were to pass all their middle and later life together.
Fanny's immediate concerns, as far as they involved Mr. Crawford, made no part
of their conversation. William knew what had passed, and from his heart
lamented that his sister's feelings should be so cold towards a man whom he
must consider as the first of human characters; but he was of an age to be all for
love, and therefore unable to blame; and knowing her wish on the subject, he
would not distress her by the slightest allusion.
She had reason to suppose herself not yet forgotten by Mr. Crawford. She had
heard repeatedly from his sister within the three weeks which had passed since
their leaving Mansfield, and in each letter there had been a few lines from
himself, warm and determined like his speeches. It was a correspondence which
Fanny found quite as unpleasant as she had feared. Miss Crawford's style of
writing, lively and affectionate, was itself an evil, independent of what she was
thus forced into reading from the brother's pen, for Edmund would never rest till
she had read the chief of the letter to him; and then she had to listen to his
admiration of her language, and the warmth of her attachments. There had, in
fact, been so much of message, of allusion, of recollection, so much of Mansfield
in every letter, that Fanny could not but suppose it meant for him to hear; and to
find herself forced into a purpose of that kind, compelled into a correspondence
which was bringing her the addresses of the man she did not love, and obliging
her to administer to the adverse passion of the man she did, was cruelly
mortifying. Here, too, her present removal promised advantage. When no longer
under the same roof with Edmund, she trusted that Miss Crawford would have no
motive for writing strong enough to overcome the trouble, and that at Portsmouth
their correspondence would dwindle into nothing.
With such thoughts as these, among ten hundred others, Fanny proceeded in her
journey safely and cheerfully, and as expeditiously as could rationally be hoped
in the dirty month of February. They entered Oxford, but she could take only a
hasty glimpse of Edmund's college as they passed along, and made no stop