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Chapter 16
It was not in Miss Crawford's power to talk Fanny into any real forgetfulness of
what had passed. When the evening was over, she went to bed full of it, her
nerves still agitated by the shock of such an attack from her cousin Tom, so
public and so persevered in, and her spirits sinking under her aunt's unkind
reflection and reproach. To be called into notice in such a manner, to hear that it
was but the prelude to something so infinitely worse, to be told that she must do
what was so impossible as to act; and then to have the charge of obstinacy and
ingratitude follow it, enforced with such a hint at the dependence of her situation,
had been too distressing at the time to make the remembrance when she was
alone much less so, especially with the superadded dread of what the morrow
might produce in continuation of the subject. Miss Crawford had protected her
only for the time; and if she were applied to again among themselves with all the
authoritative urgency that Tom and Maria were capable of, and Edmund perhaps
away, what should she do? She fell asleep before she could answer the
question, and found it quite as puzzling when she awoke the next morning. The
little white attic, which had continued her sleeping-room ever since her first
entering the family, proving incompetent to suggest any reply, she had recourse,
as soon as she was dressed, to another apartment more spacious and more
meet for walking about in and thinking, and of which she had now for some time
been almost equally mistress. It had been their school-room; so called till the
Miss Bertrams would not allow it to be called so any longer, and inhabited as
such to a later period. There Miss Lee had lived, and there they had read and
written, and talked and laughed, till within the last three years, when she had
quitted them. The room had then become useless, and for some time was quite
deserted, except by Fanny, when she visited her plants, or wanted one of the
books, which she was still glad to keep there, from the deficiency of space and
accommodation in her little chamber above: but gradually, as her value for the
comforts of it increased, she had added to her possessions, and spent more of
her time there; and having nothing to oppose her, had so naturally and so
artlessly worked herself into it, that it was now generally admitted to be hers. The
East room, as it had been called ever since Maria Bertram was sixteen, was now
considered Fanny's, almost as decidedly as the white attic: the smallness of the
one making the use of the other so evidently reasonable that the Miss Bertrams,
with every superiority in their own apartments which their own sense of
superiority could demand, were entirely approving it; and Mrs. Norris, having
stipulated for there never being a fire in it on Fanny's account, was tolerably
resigned to her having the use of what nobody else wanted, though the terms in
which she sometimes spoke of the indulgence seemed to imply that it was the
best room in the house.
The aspect was so favourable that even without a fire it was habitable in many an
early spring and late autumn morning to such a willing mind as Fanny's; and
while there was a gleam of sunshine she hoped not to be driven from it entirely,
even when winter came. The comfort of it in her hours of leisure was extreme.