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Chapter 46
As Fanny could not doubt that her answer was conveying a real disappointment,
she was rather in expectation, from her knowledge of Miss Crawford's temper, of
being urged again; and though no second letter arrived for the space of a week,
she had still the same feeling when it did come.
On receiving it, she could instantly decide on its containing little writing, and was
persuaded of its having the air of a letter of haste and business. Its object was
unquestionable; and two moments were enough to start the probability of its
being merely to give her notice that they should be in Portsmouth that very day,
and to throw her into all the agitation of doubting what she ought to do in such a
case. If two moments, however, can surround with difficulties, a third can
disperse them; and before she had opened the letter, the possibility of Mr. and
Miss Crawford's having applied to her uncle and obtained his permission was
giving her ease. This was the letter--
"A most scandalous, ill-natured rumour has just reached me, and I write, dear
Fanny, to warn you against giving the least credit to it, should it spread into the
country. Depend upon it, there is some mistake, and that a day or two will clear it
up; at any rate, that Henry is blameless, and in spite of a moment's etourderie,
thinks of nobody but you. Say not a word of it; hear nothing, surmise nothing,
whisper nothing till I write again. I am sure it will be all hushed up, and nothing
proved but Rushworth's folly. If they are gone, I would lay my life they are only
gone to Mansfield Park, and Julia with them. But why would not you let us come
for you? I wish you may not repent it.--Yours, etc."
Fanny stood aghast. As no scandalous, ill-natured rumour had reached her, it
was impossible for her to understand much of this strange letter. She could only
perceive that it must relate to Wimpole Street and Mr. Crawford, and only
conjecture that something very imprudent had just occurred in that quarter to
draw the notice of the world, and to excite her jealousy, in Miss Crawford's
apprehension, if she heard it. Miss Crawford need not be alarmed for her. She
was only sorry for the parties concerned and for Mansfield, if the report should
spread so far; but she hoped it might not. If the Rushworths were gone
themselves to Mansfield, as was to be inferred from what Miss Crawford said, it
was not likely that anything unpleasant should have preceded them, or at least
should make any impression.
As to Mr. Crawford, she hoped it might give him a knowledge of his own
disposition, convince him that he was not capable of being steadily attached to
any one woman in the world, and shame him from persisting any longer in
addressing herself.
It was very strange! She had begun to think he really loved her, and to fancy his
affection for her something more than common; and his sister still said that he
cared for nobody else. Yet there must have been some marked display of
attentions to her cousin, there must have been some strong indiscretion, since
her correspondent was not of a sort to regard a slight one.
Very uncomfortable she was, and must continue, till she heard from Miss
Crawford again. It was impossible to banish the letter from her thoughts, and she