Mansfield Park and Ghosts

Feb 19 2013

A few steps farther brought Edmund, Fanny, and Miss Crawford out at the bottom of the walk; and standing back, well shaded and sheltered, and looking over a ha-ha into the park, was a comfortable-sized bench, on which they all sat down.

“I am afraid you are very tired, Fanny,” said Edmund, observing her.

“I shall soon be rested,” said Fanny; “to sit in the shade on a fine day, and look upon verdure, is the most perfect refreshment.”

After sitting a little while, Miss Crawford was up again. “I must move,” said she, “resting fatigues me. – I have looked across the Ha-Ha till I am weary. I must go and look through that iron gate at the same view, without being able to see it so well.”

Edmund left the seat likewise. “Now, Miss Crawford, if you will look up the walk, you will convince yourself that it cannot be half a mile long, or half half a mile.”

“It is an immense distance,” said she; “I see that with a glance.”

He still reasoned with her, but in vain. At last it was agreed that they should endeavour to determine the dimensions of the wood by walking a little more about it. They would pursue a straight green walk that ran along the bottom by the side of the Ha-Ha, and be back in a few minutes. Fanny said she was rested, and would have moved too, but Edmund urged her remaining where she was, and she was left on the bench contemplating the Ha-Ha. It was a very fine Ha-Ha indeed, and allowed for the clearest prospect.

A quarter of an hour, twenty minutes, passed away, and at length Fanny heard voices and feet approaching; and in a few moments Miss Bertram, Mr. Rushworth, and Mr. Crawford were before her.

“Miss Price all alone!” were the first salutations. She told her story. “Poor dear Fanny,” cried her cousin, “you had better staid with us.” Then seating herself with a gentleman on each side, she resumed the conversation which had engaged them before.

After some minutes spent in this way, Miss Bertram observing the iron gate, expressed a wish of passing through it into the park. It was the very thing of all others to be wished; but the gate was locked. Mr. Rushworth wished he had brought the key; but this did not remove the present evil. They could not get through, and as Miss Bertram’s inclination for so doing did by no means lessen, it ended in Mr. Rushworth’s declaring outright that he would go and fetch the key. He set off accordingly.

Mr. Crawford and Miss Bertram drew out some further moments in their previous conversation before the lady became restless. “Certainly, the sun shines and the park looks very cheerful. But unluckily that iron gate, that Ha-Ha, give me a feeling of restraint and hardship. I cannot get out, as the starling said.” As she spoke, and it was with expression, she walked to the gate; he followed her. “Mr. Rushworth is so long fetching this key!”

“I think you might with little difficulty pass round the edge of the gate, here, with my assistance, if you really wished to be more at large.”

Fanny, feeling all this to be wrong, could not help making an effort to prevent it. “You will hurt yourself, Miss Bertram,” she cried, “you will certainly hurt yourself against those spikes – you will tear your gown – you will be in danger of slipping into the Ha-Ha. You had better not go.”

Her cousin was safe on the other side with Mr. Crawford, while these words were spoken, and smiling with all the good-humour of success she said, “Thank you, my dear Fanny, but I and my gown are alive and well, and so good bye.”

Fanny was again left to her solitude, and with no increase of pleasant feelings, for she was sorry for almost all that she had seen and heard. She seemed to have the little wood all to herself. And once more, she found her attention turned to the Ha-Ha.

And it could not only be because of the pleasant prospect, and the positioning of the bench, that it was so, as there was certainly something strange about the Ha-Ha. Upon searching herself, and considering the matter with closer attention, she could not determine what this strangeness could signify; and yet, the Ha-Ha compelled her gaze unrelentingly. Surely she could be causing no trouble by inspecting the Ha-Ha more closely? She would merely look into the Ha-Ha – there was no reason why she should slip or fall, if she were cautious.

Fanny sensed that something was wrong. She was not entirely herself. It was not like her to feel this urgency, independently of any rational consistency. Before she knew what was happening to her, she found herself to have abandoned the bench, and to be moving towards the brink of the Ha-Ha, the view quite forgotten.

Upon peering over the edge, Fanny could not be sure what she saw, for at first it seemed that she beheld just what she had expected to; but then, there was a darkness behind the Ha-Ha, where the pasture merged toward or within it, that twisted her vision dizzily so that she could not tell what was before her. As she was overwhelmed with an unpleasant, sinking, falling sensation, she believed herself to have fainted; and then immediately she understood that something much worse had happened – she had fallen into the Ha-Ha.

Fanny found herself enveloped in the deepest darkness, and yet it was a darkness that seemed alive with humming light, so that Fanny found she could penetrate it in what appeared to be the absence of her senses. She distinguished a horizon, and from the horizon appeared and progressed a quiet, orderly form, as though Fanny herself were afloat in the sky and the sun rose towards her.

“Hello Fanny,” said the form, in soft and gentle tones, “My name is Jane.”

“I am afraid that I find myself in a state of some discomposure,” said Fanny, “And I cannot understand you.”

“I am your creator, Fanny.”

“Then I have – ” said Fanny, “Then you are – ”

“No Fanny, by no means! I am only a writer, and you are a person in my story.”

“Oh dear,” said Fanny. There followed some moments of silence. Jane had been hoping for something more.

“You are a very special person Fanny. I believe you to possess the most careful character and context I can create. More of my mind has gone to you than anyone may know. You may be unique in literature. Few readers will ever truly claim you as their own.”

“I am sorry for Miss Crawford,” said Fanny, “but I am more sorry to see you drawn into do what you had resolved against, and what you are known to think will be disagreeable to my uncle. It will be such a triumph to the others?”

“You must recollect yourself, Fanny,” said Jane. “Gather all of your awareness, and we shall see what you may achieve.”

“Indeed, Sir,” said Fanny, “I am very sorry that Mr Crawford should continue to – I know that it is paying me a very great compliment, and I feel most undeservedly honoured, but I am so perfectly convinced, and I have told him so, that it never will be in my power – ”

“I think that perhaps it will be best to forget about this,” said Jane.

“Oh! yes, she ought not to have spoken of her uncle as she did. I was quite astonished. An uncle with whom she has been living so many years, and who, whatever his faults may be, is so very fond of her brother, treating him, they say, quite like a son. I could not have believed it!”

“Farewell, Fanny.”

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