Fragment of a Novel Written by Jane Austen/Chapter 12

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Fragment of a Novel Written by Jane Austen  (1925) 
by Jane Austen, edited by R. W. Chapman

CHAPTER 12.

Charlotte had been 10 days at Sanditon without seeing Sanditon House, every attempt at calling on Lady D. having been defeated by meeting with her beforehand. But now it was to be more resolutely undertaken, at a more early hour, that nothing might be neglected of attention to Lady D. or amusement to Charlotte.—"And if you should find a favourable opening my Love, said Mr P. (who did not mean to go with them)—I think you had better mention the poor Mullins's situation, & sound her Ladyship as to a Subscription for them. I am not fond of charitable subscriptions in a place of this kind—It is a sort of tax upon all that come—Yet as their distress is very great & I almost promised the poor Woman yesterday to get something done for her, I beleive we must set a subscription on foot—& therefore the sooner the better,—& Lady Denham's name at the head of the List will be a very necessary beginning.—You will not dislike speaking to her about it, Mary?"—"I will do whatever you wish me, replied his Wife—but you would do it so much better yourself. I shall not know what to say."—"My dear Mary, cried he, it is impossible you can be really at a loss. Nothing can be more simple. You have only to state the present afflicted situation of the family, their earnest application to me, & my being willing to promote a little subscription for their releif, provided it meet with her approbation.—" "The easiest thing in the World—cried Miss Diana Parker who happened to be calling on them at the moment—. All said & done, in less time than you have been talking of it now.—And while you are on the subject of subscriptions Mary, I will thank you to mention a very melancholy case to Lady D, which has been represented to me in the most affecting terms.—There is a poor Woman in Worcestershire, whom some friends of mine are exceedingly interested about, & I have undertaken to collect whatever I can for her. If you wd mention the circumstance to Lady Denham!—Lady Denham can give, if she is properly attacked—& I look upon her to be the sort of Person who, when once she is prevailed on to undraw her Purse, would as readily give 10Gs as 5.—And therefore, if you find her in a Giving mood, you might as well speak in favour of another Charity which I & a few more, have very much at heart—the establishment of a Charitable Repository at Burton on Trent.—And then,—there is the family of the poor Man who was hung last assizes at York, tho' we really have raised the sum we wanted for putting them all out, yet if you can get a Guinea from her on their behalf, it may as well be done.—" "My dear Diana! exclaimed Mrs P.—I could no more mention these things to Lady D.—than I cd fly."—"Where's the difficulty?—I wish I could go with you myself—but in 5 minutes I must be at Mrs G.—to encourage Miss Lambe in taking her first Dip. She is so frightened, poor Thing, that I promised to come & keep up her Spirits, & go in the Machine with her if she wished it—and as soon as that is over, I must hurry home, for Susan is to have Leaches at one oclock—which will be a three hours business,—therefore I really have not a moment to spare—besides that (between ourselves) I ought to be in bed myself at this present time, for I am hardly able to stand—and when the Leaches have done, I dare say we shall both go to our rooms for the rest of the day."—"I am sorry to hear it, indeed; but if this is the case I hope Arthur will come to us."—"If Arthur takes my advice, he will go to bed too, for if he stays up by himself, he will certainly eat & drink more than he ought;—but you see Mary, how impossible it is for me to go with you to Lady Denham's."—"Upon second thoughts Mary, said her husband, I will not trouble you to speak about the Mullins's.—I will take an opportunity of seeing Lady D. myself.—I know how little it suits you to be pressing matters upon a Mind at all unwilling."—His application thus withdrawn, his sister could say no more in support of hers, which was his object, as he felt all their impropriety & all the certainty, of their ill effect upon his own better claim.—Mrs P. was delighted at this release, & set off very happy with her friend & her little girl, on this walk to Sanditon House.—It was a close, misty morng, & when they reached the brow of the Hill, they could not for some time make out what sort of Carriage it was, which they saw coming up. It appeared at different moments to be everything from the Gig to the Pheaton,—from one horse to 4; & just as they were concluding in favour of a Tandem, little Mary's young eyes distinguished the Coachman & she eagerly called out, "T'is Uncle Sidney Mama, it is indeed." And so it proved.—Mr Sidney Parker driving his Servant in a very neat Carriage was soon opposite to them, & they all stopped for a few minutes. The manners of the Parkers were always pleasant among themselves—& it was a very friendly meeting between Sidney & his sister in law, who was most kindly taking it for granted that he was on his way to Trafalgar House. This he declined however. "He was just come from Eastbourne, proposing to spend two or three days, as it might happen, at Sanditon—but the Hotel must be his Quarters—He was expecting to be joined there by a friend or two."—The rest was common enquiries & remarks, with kind notice of little Mary, & a very well-bred Bow & proper address to Miss Heywood on her being named to him—and they parted, to meet again within a few hours.—Sidney Parker was about 7 or 8 & 20, very good-looking, with a decided air of Ease & Fashion, and a lively countenance.—This adventure afforded agreable discussion for some time. Mrs P. entered into all her Husband's joy on the occasion, & exulted in the credit which Sidney's arrival wd give to the place. The road to Sanditon H. was a broad, handsome, planted approach, between fields, & conducting at the end of a qr of a mile through second Gates into the Grounds, which though not extensive had all the Beauty & Respectability which an abundance of very fine Timber could give.—These Entrance Gates were so much in a corner of the Grounds or Paddock, so near one of its Boundaries, that an outside fence was at first almost pressing on the road—till an angle here, & a curve there threw them to a better distance. The Fence was a proper Park paling in excellent condition; with clusters of fine Elms, or rows of old Thorns following its line almost every where.—Almost must be stipulated—for there were vacant spaces & through one of these, Charlotte as soon as they entered the Enclosure, caught a glimpse over the pales of something White & Womanish in the field on the other side;—it was a something which immediately brought Miss B. into her head—& stepping to the pales, she saw indeed—& very decidedly, in spite of the Mist; Miss B— seated, not far before her, at the foot of the bank which sloped down from the outside of the Paling & which a narrow Path seemed to skirt along;—Miss Brereton seated, apparently very composedly—& Sir E. D. by her side.—They were sitting so near each other & appeared so closely engaged in gentle conversation, that Ch. instantly felt she had nothing to do but to step back again, & say not a word.—Privacy was certainly their object.—It could not but strike her rather unfavourably with regard to Clara;—but hers was a situation which must not be judged with severity.—She was glad to perceive that nothing had been discerned by Mrs Parker; If Charlotte had not been considerably the tallest of the two, Miss B.'s white ribbons might not have fallen within the ken of her more observant eyes.—Among other points of moralising reflection which the sight of this Tete a Tete produced, Charlotte cd not but think of the extreme difficulty which secret Lovers must have in finding a proper spot for their stolen Interveiws.—Here perhaps they had thought themselves so perfectly secure from observation!—the whole field open before them—a steep bank & Pales never crossed by the foot by Man at their back—and a great thickness of air, in aid.—Yet here, she had seen them. They were really ill-used.—The House was large & handsome; two Servants appeared, to admit them, & every thing had a suitable air of Property & Order.—Lady D. valued herself upon her liberal Establishment, & had great enjoyment in the order and the Importance of her style of living.—They were shewn into the usual sitting room, well-proportioned & well-furnished;—tho' it saw Furniture rather originally good & extremely well kept, than new or shewey—and as Lady D. was not there, Charlotte had leisure to look about, & to be told by Mrs P. that the whole-length Portrait of a stately Gentleman, which placed over the Mantlepeice, caught the eye immediately, was the picture of Sir H. Denham—and that one among many Miniatures in another part of the room, little conspicuous, represented Mr Hollis.—Poor Mr Hollis!—It was impossible not to feel him hardly used; to be obliged to stand back in his own House & see the best place by the fire constantly occupied by Sir H. D.