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Chapter 45
At about the week's end from his return to Mansfield, Tom's immediate danger
was over, and he was so far pronounced safe as to make his mother perfectly
easy; for being now used to the sight of him in his suffering, helpless state, and
hearing only the best, and never thinking beyond what she heard, with no
disposition for alarm and no aptitude at a hint, Lady Bertram was the happiest
subject in the world for a little medical imposition. The fever was subdued; the
fever had been his complaint; of course he would soon be well again. Lady
Bertram could think nothing less, and Fanny shared her aunt's security, till she
received a few lines from Edmund, written purposely to give her a clearer idea of
his brother's situation, and acquaint her with the apprehensions which he and his
father had imbibed from the physician with respect to some strong hectic
symptoms, which seemed to seize the frame on the departure of the fever. They
judged it best that Lady Bertram should not be harassed by alarms which, it was
to be hoped, would prove unfounded; but there was no reason why Fanny should
not know the truth. They were apprehensive for his lungs.
A very few lines from Edmund showed her the patient and the sickroom in a
juster and stronger light than all Lady Bertram's sheets of paper could do. There
was hardly any one in the house who might not have described, from personal
observation, better than herself; not one who was not more useful at times to her
son. She could do nothing but glide in quietly and look at him; but when able to
talk or be talked to, or read to, Edmund was the companion he preferred. His
aunt worried him by her cares, and Sir Thomas knew not how to bring down his
conversation or his voice to the level of irritation and feebleness. Edmund was all
in all. Fanny would certainly believe him so at least, and must find that her
estimation of him was higher than ever when he appeared as the attendant,
supporter, cheerer of a suffering brother. There was not only the debility of recent
illness to assist: there was also, as she now learnt, nerves much affected, spirits
much depressed to calm and raise, and her own imagination added that there
must be a mind to be properly guided.
The family were not consumptive, and she was more inclined to hope than fear
for her cousin, except when she thought of Miss Crawford; but Miss Crawford
gave her the idea of being the child of good luck, and to her selfishness and
vanity it would be good luck to have Edmund the only son.
Even in the sick chamber the fortunate Mary was not forgotten. Edmund's letter
had this postscript. "On the subject of my last, I had actually begun a letter when
called away by Tom's illness, but I have now changed my mind, and fear to trust
the influence of friends. When Tom is better, I shall go."
Such was the state of Mansfield, and so it continued, with scarcely any change,
till Easter. A line occasionally added by Edmund to his mother's letter was
enough for Fanny's information. Tom's amendment was alarmingly slow.
Easter came particularly late this year, as Fanny had most sorrowfully
considered, on first learning that she had no chance of leaving Portsmouth till
after it. It came, and she had yet heard nothing of her return--nothing even of the