Mr. Crawford smiled his acquiescence, and stepping forward to Maria, said, in a voice which she only could hear, I do not like to see Miss Bertram so near the altar.
Starting, the lady instinctively moved a step or two, but recovering herself in a moment, affected to laugh, and asked him, in a tone not much louder, If he would give her away?
I am afraid I should do it very awkwardly, was his reply, with a look of meaning.
Julia, joining them at the moment, carried on the joke.
Upon my word, it is really a pity that it should not take place directly, if we had but a proper licence, for here we are altogether, and nothing in the world could be more snug and pleasant. And she talked and laughed about it with so little caution as to catch the comprehension of Mr. Rushworth and his mother, and expose her sister to the whispered gallantries of her lover, while Mrs. Rushworth spoke with proper smiles and dignity of its being a most happy event to her whenever it took place.
If Edmund were but in orders! cried Julia, and running to where he stood with Miss Crawford and Fanny: My dear Edmund, if you were but in orders now, you might perform the ceremony directly. How unlucky that you are not ordained; Mr. Rushworth and Maria are quite ready.
Miss Crawfords countenance, as Julia spoke, might have amused a disinterested observer. She looked almost aghast under the new idea she was receiving. Fanny pitied her. How distressed she will be at what she said just now, passed across her mind.
Ordained! said Miss Crawford; what, are you to be a clergyman?
Yes; I shall take orders soon after my fathers return probably at Christmas.
Miss Crawford, rallying her spirits, and recovering her complexion, replied only, If I had known this before, I would have spoken of the cloth with more respect, and turned the subject.
The chapel was soon afterwards left to the silence and stillness which reigned in it, with few interruptions, throughout the year. Miss Bertram, displeased with her sister, led the way, and all seemed to feel that they had been there long enough.
The lower part of the house had been now entirely shown, and Mrs. Rushworth, never weary in the cause, would have proceeded towards the principal staircase, and taken them through all the rooms above, if her son had not interposed with a doubt of there being time enough. For if, said he, with the sort of self-evident proposition which many a clearer head does not always avoid, we are too long going over the house, we shall not have time for what is to be done out of doors. It is past two, and we are to dine at five.
Mrs. Rushworth submitted; and the question of surveying the grounds, with the who and the how, was likely to be more fully agitated, and Mrs. Norris was beginning to arrange by what junction of carriages and horses most could be done, when the young people, meeting with an outward door, temptingly open on a flight of steps which led immediately to turf and shrubs, and all the sweets of pleasure-grounds, as by one impulse, one wish for air and liberty, all walked out.
Suppose we turn down here for the present, said Mrs. Rushworth, civilly taking the hint and following them. Here are the greatest number of our plants, and here are the curious pheasants.
Query, said Mr. Crawford, looking round him, whether we may not find something to employ us here before we go farther? I see walls of great promise. Mr. Rushworth, shall we summon a council on this lawn?
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