Fragment of a Novel Written by Jane Austen/Chapter 5

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

CHAPTER 5.

When they met before dinner, Mr P. was looking over Letters.—"Not a Line from Sidney!—said he.—He is an idle fellow.—I sent him an account of my accident from Willingden, & thought he would have vouchsafed me an Answer.—But perhaps it implies that he is coming himself.—I trust it may.—But here is a Letter from one of my Sisters. They never fail me.—Women are the only Correspondents to be depended on.—Now Mary, (smiling at his Wife)—before I open it, what shall we guess as to the state of health of those it comes from—or rather what wd Sidney say if he were here?—Sidney is a saucy fellow, Miss H.—And you must know, he will have it there is a good deal of Imagination in my two Sisters' complaints—but it really is not so—or very little—They have wretched health, as you have heard us say frequently, & are subject to a variety of very serious Disorders.—Indeed, I do not beleive they know what a day's health is;—& at the same time, they are such excellent useful Women & have so much energy of Character that, where any Good is to be done, they force themselves on exertions which to those who do not thoroughly know them, have an extraordinary appearance.—But there is really no affectation about them. They have only weaker constitutions & stronger minds than are often met with, either separate or together.—And our Youngest Br—who lives with them, & who is not much above 20, I am sorry to say, is almost as great an Invalid as themselves.—He is so delicate that he can engage in no Profession.—Sidney laughs at him—but it really is no Joke—tho' Sidney often makes me laugh at them all in spite of myself.—Now, if he were here, I know he wd be offering odds that either Susan Diana or Arthur wd appear by this letter to have been at the point of death within the last month."—Having run his eye over the Letter, he shook his head & began—"No chance of seeing them at Sanditon I am sorry to say.—A very indifferent account of them indeed. Seriously, a very indifferent account.—Mary, you will be quite sorry to hear how ill they have been & are.—Miss H., if you will give me leave, I will read Diana's Letter aloud.—I like to have my friends acquainted with each other—& I am afraid this is the only sort of acquaintance I shall have the means of accomplishing between you.—And I can have no scruple on Diana's account—for her Letters shew her exactly as she is, the most active, friendly, warm hearted Being in existence, & therefore must give a good impression." He read.—"My dear Tom, We were all much greived at your accident, & if you had not described yourself as fallen into such very good hands, I shd have been with you at all hazards the day after the recpt of your Letter, though it found me suffering under a more severe attack than usual of my old greivance, Spasmodic Bile & hardly able to crawl from my Bed to the Sofa.—But how were you treated?—Send me more Particulars in your next.—If indeed a simple Sprain, as you denominate it, nothing wd have been so judicious as Friction, Friction by the hand alone, supposing it could be applied instantly.—Two years ago I happened to be calling on Mrs Sheldon when her Coachman sprained his foot as he was cleaning the Carriage & cd hardly limp into the House—but by the immediate use of Friction alone, steadily persevered in, (& I rubbed his Ancle with my own hand for six Hours without Intermission)—he was well in three days.—Many Thanks my dear Tom for the kindness with respect to us, which had so large a share in bringing on your accident—But pray never run into Peril again, in looking for an Apothecary on our account, for had you the most experienced Man in his Line settled at Sanditon, it wd be no recommendation to us. We have entirely done with the whole Medical Tribe. We have consulted Physician after Phyn in vain, till we are quite convinced that they can do nothing for us & that we must trust to our own knowledge of our own wretched Constitutions for any releif.—But if you think it advisable for the interest of the Place, to get a Medical Man there, I will undertake the commission with pleasure, & have no doubt of succeeding.—I could soon put the necessary Irons in the fire.—As for getting to Sanditon myself, it is quite an Impossibility. I greive to say that I dare not attempt it, but my feelings tell me too plainly that in my present state, the Sea air wd probably be the death of me.—And neither of my dear Companions will leave me, or I wd promote their going down to you for a fortnight. But in truth, I doubt whether Susan's nerves wd be equal to the effort. She has been suffering much from the Headache and Six Leaches a day for 10 days together releived her so little that we thought it right to change our measures—and being convinced on examination that much of the Evil lay in her Gum, I persuaded her to attack the disorder there. She has accordingly had 3 Teeth drawn, & is decidedly better, but her Nerves are a good deal deranged. She can only speak in a whisper—and fainted away twice this morning on poor Arthur's trying to suppress a cough. He, I am happy to say is tolerably well—tho' more languid than I like—& I fear for his Liver.—I have heard nothing of Sidney since your being together in Town, but conclude his scheme to the I. of Wight has not taken place, or we should have seen him in his way.—Most sincerely do we wish you a good Season at Sanditon, & though we cannot contribute to your Beau Monde in person, we are doing our utmost to send you Company worth having; & think we may safely reckon on securing you two large Families, one a rich West Indian from Surry, the other, a most respectable Girls Boarding School, or Academy, from Camberwell.—I will not tell you how many People I have employed in the business—Wheel within wheel.—But Success more than repays.—Yours most affecly—&c" "Well—said Mr P.—as he finished. Though I dare say Sidney might find something extremely entertaining in this Letter & make us laugh for half an hour together I declare I by myself, can see nothing in it but what is either very pitiable or very creditable.—With all their sufferings, you perceive how much they are occupied in promoting the Good of others!—So anxious for Sanditon! Two large Families—One, for Prospect House probably, the other, for No 2. Denham Place—or the end house of the Terrace,—& extra Beds at the Hotel.—I told you my Sisters were excellent Women, Miss H——." "And I am sure they must be very extraordinary ones.—said Charlotte. I am astonished at the chearful style of the Letter, considering the state in which both Sisters appear to be.—Three Teeth drawn at once!—frightful!—Your Sister Diana seems almost as ill as possible, but those 3 Teeth of your Sister Susan's, are more distressing than all the rest.—" "Oh!—they are so used to the operation—to every operation—& have such Fortitude!—" "Your Sisters know what they are about, I dare say, but their Measures seem to touch on Extremes.* —I feel that in any illness, I should be so anxious for Professional advice, so very little venturesome for myself, or any body I loved!—But then, we have been so healthy a family, that I can be no Judge of what the habit of self-*doctoring may do.—" "Why to own the truth, said Mrs P.—I do think the Miss Parkers carry it too far sometimes—& so do you my Love, you know.—You often think they wd be better, if they wd leave themselves more alone—& especially Arthur. I know you think it a great pity they shd give him such a turn for being ill.—" "Well, well—my dear Mary—I grant you, it is unfortunate for poor Arthur, that, at his time of Life he shd be encouraged to give way to Indisposition. It is bad;—it is bad that he should be fancying himself too sickly for any Profession—& sit down at 1 & 20, on the interest of his own little Fortune, without any idea of attempting to improve it, or of engaging in any occupation that may be of use to himself or others.—But let us talk of pleasanter things.—These two large Families are just what we wanted—But—here is something at hand, pleasanter still—Morgan, with his "Dinner on Table."—