Fragment of a Novel Written by Jane Austen/Chapter 1

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


A Gentleman & Lady travelling from Tunbridge towards that part of the Sussex Coast which lies between Hastings & E. Bourne, being induced by Business to quit the high road, & attempt a very rough Lane, were overturned in toiling up it's long ascent half rock, half sand.—The accident happened just beyond the only Gentleman's House near the Lane—a House, which their Driver on being first required to take that direction, had conceived to be necessarily their object, & had with most unwilling Looks been constrained to pass by—. He had grumbled & shaken his shoulders so much indeed, and pitied & cut his Horses so sharply, that he might have been open to the suspicion of overturning them on purpose (especially as the Carriage was not his Masters own) if the road had not indisputably become considerably worse than before, as soon as the premises of the said House were left behind—expressing with a most intelligent portentous countenance that beyond it no wheels but cart wheels could safely proceed. The severity of the fall was broken by their slow pace & the narrowness of the Lane, & the Gentleman having scrambled out & helped out his companion, they neither of them at first felt more than shaken & bruised. But the Gentleman had in the course of the extrication sprained his foot—& soon becoming sensible of it, was obliged in a few moments to cut short, both his remonstrance to the Driver & his congratulations to his wife & himself—& sit down on the bank, unable to stand.—"There is something wrong here, said he—putting his hand to his ancle—But never mind, my Dear—(looking up at her with a smile)—It cd not have happened, you know, in a better place.—Good out of Evil—. The very thing perhaps to be wished for. We shall soon get releif.—There, I fancy lies my cure"—pointing to the neat-looking end of a Cottage, which was seen romantically situated among wood on a high Eminence at some little Distance—"Does not that promise to be the very place?"—His wife fervently hoped it was—but stood, terrified & anxious, neither able to do or suggest anything—& receiving her first real comfort from the sight of several persons now coming to their assistance. The accident had been discerned from a Hayfield adjoining the House they had passed—& the persons who approached, were a well-looking Hale, Gentlemanlike Man, of middle age, the Proprietor of the Place, who happened to be among his Haymakers at the time, & three or four of the ablest of them summoned to attend their Master—to say nothing of all the rest of the field, Men, Women & Children—not very far off.—Mr Heywood, such was the name of the said Proprietor, advanced with a very civil salutation—much concern for the accident—some surprise at any body's attempting that road in a Carriage—& ready offers of assistance. His courtesies were received with Goodbreeding & gratitude & while one or two of the Men lent their help to the Driver in getting the Carriage upright again, the Travellor said—"You are extremely obliging Sir, & I take you at your word.—The injury to my Leg is I dare say very trifling, but it is always best in these cases to have a surgeon's opinion without loss of time; and as the road does not seem at present in a favourable state for my getting up to his house myself, I will thank you to send off one of these good People for the Surgeon." "The Surgeon Sir!"—replied Mr Heywood—"I am afraid you will find no surgeon at hand here, but I dare say we shall do very well without him."—"Nay Sir, if he is not in the way, his Partner will do just as well—or rather better—. I w^d rather see his Partner indeed—I would prefer the attendance of his Partner.—One of these good people can be with him in three minutes I am sure. I need not ask whether I see the House; (looking towards the Cottage) for excepting your own, we have passed none in this place, which can be the abode of a Gentleman."—Mr H. looked very much astonished—& replied—"What Sir! are you expecting to find a Surgeon in that Cottage?—We have neither Surgeon nor Partner in the Parish I assure you."—"Excuse me Sir—replied the other. I am sorry to have the appearance of contradicting you—but though from the extent of the Parish or some other cause you may not be aware of the fact;—stay—Can I be mistaken in the place?—Am I not in Willingden?—Is not this Willingden?" "Yes Sir, this is certainly Willingden." "Then Sir, I can bring proof of your having a Surgeon in the Parish—whether you may know it or not. Here Sir—(taking out his Pocket book—) if you will do me the favour of casting your eye over these advertisements, which I cut out myself from the Morning Post & the Kentish Gazette, only yesterday morng in London—I think you will be convinced that I am not speaking at random. You will find it an advertisement Sir, of the dissolution of a Partnership in the Medical Line—in your own Parish—extensive Business—undeniable Character—respectable references—wishing to form a separate Establishment—You will find it at full length Sir"—offering him the two little oblong extracts.—"Sir—said Mr Heywood with a good humoured smile—if you were to shew me all the Newspapers that are printed in one week throughout the Kingdom, you wd not persuade me of there being a Surgeon in Willingden,—for having lived here ever since I was born, Man & Boy 57 years, I think I must have known of such a person, at least I may venture to say that he has not much Business—To be sure, if Gentlemen were to be often attempting this Lane in Post-chaises, it might not be a bad speculation for a Surgeon to get a House at the top of the Hill.—But as to that Cottage, I can assure you Sir that it is in fact—(in spite of its spruce air at this distance—) as indifferent a double Tenement as any in the Parish, and that my Shepherd lives at one end, & three old women at the other." He took the peices of paper as he spoke—& having looked them over, added—"I beleive I can explain it Sir.—Your mistake is in the place.—There are two Willingdens in this Country—& your advertisements refer to the other—which is Great Willingden, or Willingden Abbots, & lies 7 miles off, on the other side of Battel —quite down in the Weald. And we Sir—(speaking rather proudly) are not in the Weald."—"Not down in the Weald I am sure Sir, replied the Traveller, pleasantly. It took us half an hour to climb your Hill.—Well Sir—I dare say it is as you say, & I have made an abominably stupid Blunder.—All done in a moment;—the advertisements did not catch my eye till the last half hour of our being in Town;—when everything was in the hurry & confusion which always attend a short stay there—One is never able to complete anything in the way of Business you know till the Carriage is at the door—and accordingly satisfying myself with a breif enquiry, & finding we were actually to pass within a mile or two of a Willingden, I sought no farther . . . My Dear—(to his wife) I am very sorry to have brought you into this Scrape. But do not be alarmed about my Leg. It gives me no pain while I am quiet,—and as soon as these good people have succeeded in setting the Carge to rights & turning the Horses round, the best thing we can do will be to measure back our steps into the Turnpike road & proceed to Hailsham, & so Home, without attempting anything farther.—Two hours take us home, from Hailsham—and when once at home, we have our remedy at hand you know.—A little of our own Bracing Sea air will soon set me on my feet again.—Depend upon it my Dear, it is exactly a case for the Sea. Saline air & immersion will be the very thing.—My sensations tell me so already."—In a most friendly manner M^r Heywood here interposed, entreating them not to think of proceeding till the ancle had been examined, & some refreshment taken, & very cordially pressing them to make use of his House for both purposes.—"We are always well stocked, said he, with all the common remedies for Sprains & Bruises—& I will answer for the pleasure it will give my Wife & daughters to be of service to you & this Lady in every way in their power."—A twinge or two, in trying to move his foot disposed the Travellor to think rather more as he had done at first of the benefit of immediate assistance—& consulting his wife in the few words of "Well my Dear, I beleive it will be better for us."—turned again to Mr H— & said—"Before we accept your Hospitality Sir,—& in order to do away any unfavourable impression which the sort of wild goose-chace you find me in, may have given rise to—allow me to tell you who we are. My name is Parker.—Mr Parker of Sanditon;—this Lady, my wife Mrs Parker.—We are on our road home from London;—My name perhaps—tho' I am by no means the first of my Family, holding Landed Property in the Parish of Sanditon, may be unknown at this distance from the Coast—but Sanditon itself—everybody has heard of Sanditon,—the favourite—for a young & rising Bathing-place, certainly the favourite spot of all that are to be found along the coast of Sussex;—the most favoured by Nature, & promising to be the most chosen by Man."—"Yes—I have heard of Sanditon. replied Mr H.—Every five years, one hears of some new place or other starting up by the Sea, & growing the fashion.—How they can half of them be filled, is the wonder! Where People can be found with Money or Time to go to them!—Bad things for a Country;—sure to raise the price of Provisions & make the Poor good for nothing—as I dare say you find, Sir." "Not at all Sir, not at all—cried Mr Parker eagerly. Quite the contrary I assure you.—A common idea—but a mistaken one. It may apply to your large, overgrown Places, like Brighton, or Worthing, or East Bourne—but not to a small village like Sanditon, precluded by its size from experiencing any of the evils of Civilization, while the growth of the place, the Buildings, the Nursery Grounds, the demand for every thing, & the sure resort of the very best Company, those regular, steady, private Families of thorough Gentility & Character, who are a blessing everywhere, excite the industry of the Poor and diffuse comfort & improvement among them of every sort.— No Sir, I assure you, Sanditon is not a place——" "I do not mean to take exceptions to any place in particular Sir, answered Mr H.—I only think our Coast is too full of them altogether—But had we not better try to get you"——"Our Coast too full"—repeated Mr P.—On that point perhaps we may not totally disagree;—at least there are enough. Our Coast is abundant enough; it demands no more.—Every body's Taste & every body's finances may be suited—And those good people who are trying to add to the number, are in my opinion excessively absurd, & must soon find themselves the Dupes of their own fallacious Calculations.—Such a place as Sanditon Sir, I may say was wanted, was called for.—Nature had marked it out—had spoken in most intelligible Characters—The finest, purest Sea Breeze on the Coast—acknowledged to be so—Excellent Bathing—fine hard sand—Deep Water 10 yards from the Shore—no Mud—no Weeds—no shiney rocks—Never was there a place more palpably designed by Nature for the resort of the Invalid—the very Spot which Thousands seemed in need of.—The most desirable distance from London! One complete, measured mile nearer than East Bourne. Only conceive Sir, the advantage of saving a whole Mile, in a long Journey. But Brinshore Sir, which I dare say you have in your eye—the attempts of two or three speculating People about Brinshore, this last Year, to raise that paltry Hamlet, lying, as it does between a stagnant marsh, a bleak Moor & the constant effluvia of a ridge of putrifying sea weed, can end in nothing but their own Disappointment. What in the name of Common Sense is to recommend Brinshore?—A most insalubrious Air—Roads proverbially detestable—Water Brackish beyond example, impossible to get a good dish of Tea within 3 miles of the place—& as for the Soil—it is so cold & ungrateful that it can hardly be made to yeild a Cabbage.—Depend upon it Sir, that this is a faithful Description of Brinshore—not in the smallest degree exaggerated—& if you have heard it differently spoken of——" "Sir, I never heard it spoken of in my Life before, said Mr Heywood. I did not know there was such a place in the World."—"You did not!—There my Dear—(turning with exultation to his Wife)—you see how it is. So much for the Celebrity of Brinshore!—This Gentleman did not know there was such a place in the World.—Why, in truth Sir, I fancy we may apply to Brinshore, that line of the Poet Cowper in his description of the religious Cottager, as opposed to Voltaire—"She, never heard of half a mile from home."—"With all my Heart Sir—Apply any Verses you like to it—But I want to see something applied to your Leg—& I am sure by your Lady's countenance that she is quite of my opinion & thinks it a pity to lose any more time—And here come my Girls to speak for themselves & their Mother. (two or three genteel looking young Women followed by as many Maid servants, were now seen issueing from the House)—I began to wonder the Bustle should not have reached them.—A thing of this kind soon makes a Stir in a lonely place like ours.—Now Sir, let us see how you can be best con veyed into the House."—The young Ladies approached & said every thing that was proper to recommend their Father's offers; & in an unaffected manner calculated to make the Strangers easy—and as Mrs P— was exceedingly anxious for relief—and her Husband by this time, not much less disposed for it—a very few civil scruples were enough—especially as the Carriage being now set up, was discovered to have received such Injury on the fallen side as to be unfit for present use.—Mr Parker was therefore carried into the House, and his Carriage wheeled off to a vacant Barn.—