still more, if I had been quite certain of his meaning anything seriously; but I did not like to be, I could not bear to be, imputing more than might be intended. I thought it might all pass for nothing with him.”

She could say no more; her breath was almost gone.

“Am I to understand,” said Sir Thomas, after a few moments” silence, “that you mean to refuse Mr. Crawford?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Refuse him?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Refuse Mr. Crawford! Upon what plea? For what reason?”

“I—I cannot like him, sir, well enough to marry him.”

“This is very strange!” said Sir Thomas, in a voice of calm displeasure. “There is something in this which my comprehension does not reach. Here is a young man wishing to pay his addresses to you, with everything to recommend him: not merely situation in life, fortune,

and character, but with more than common agreeableness, with address and conversation pleasing to everybody. And he is not an acquaintance of to-day; you have now known him some time. His sister, moreover, is your intimate friend, and he has been doing that for your brother, which I should suppose would have been almost sufficient recommendation to you, had there been no other. It is very uncertain when my interest might have got William on. He has done it already.”

“Yes,” said Fanny, in a faint voice, and looking down with fresh shame; and she did feel almost ashamed of herself, after such a picture as her uncle had drawn, for not liking Mr. Crawford.

“You must have been aware,” continued Sir Thomas presently, “you must have been some time aware of a particularity in Mr. Crawford’s manners to you. This cannot have taken you by surprise. You must have observed his attentions; and though you always received them very properly (I have no accusation to make on that head), I never perceived them to be unpleasant to you. I am half inclined to think, Fanny, that you do not quite know your own feelings.”

“Oh yes, sir! indeed I do. His attentions were always— what I did not like.”

Sir Thomas looked at her with deeper surprise. “This is beyond me,” said he. “This requires explanation. Young as you are, and having seen scarcely any one, it is hardly possible that your affections—”

He paused and eyed her fixedly. He saw her lips formed into a no, though the sound was inarticulate, but her face was like scarlet. That, however, in so modest a girl, might be very compatible with innocence; and choosing at least to appear satisfied, he quickly added, “No, no, I know that is quite out of the question; quite impossible. Well, there is nothing more to be said.”

And for a few minutes he did say nothing. He was deep in thought. His niece was deep in thought likewise, trying to harden and prepare herself against farther questioning. She would rather die than own the truth; and she hoped, by a little reflection, to fortify herself beyond betraying it.

“Independently of the interest which Mr. Crawford’s choice seemed to justify” said Sir Thomas, beginning again, and very composedly, “his wishing to marry at all so early is recommendatory to me. I am an advocate for early marriages, where there are means in proportion, and would have every young man, with a sufficient income, settle as soon after four-and-twenty as he can. This is so much my opinion, that I am sorry to think how little likely my own eldest son, your cousin, Mr. Bertram, is to marry early; but at present, as far as I can judge, matrimony makes no part of his plans or thoughts. I wish he were

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