Fragment of a Novel Written by Jane Austen/Chapter 6

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

CHAPTER 6.

The Party were very soon moving after Dinner. Mr P. could not be satisfied without an early visit to the Library, & the Library Subscription book, & Charlotte was glad to see as much, & as quickly as possible, where all was new. They were out in the very quietest part of a Watering-place Day, when the important Business of Dinner or of sitting after Dinner was going on in almost every inhabited Lodging;—here & there a solitary Elderly Man might be seen, who was forced to move early & walk for health—but in general, it was a thorough pause of Company, it was Emptiness & Tranquillity on the Terrace, the Cliffs, & the Sands.—The Shops were deserted—the Straw Hats & pendant Lace seemed left to their fate both within the House & without, and Mrs Whitby at the Library was sitting in her inner room, reading one of her own Novels, for want of Employment.—The List of Subscribers was but commonplace. The Lady Denham, Miss Brereton, Mr & Mrs P——Sir Edw: Denham & Miss Denham, whose names might be said to lead off the Season, were followed by nothing better than—Mrs Mathews—Miss Mathews, Miss E. Mathews, Miss H. Mathews.—Dr & Mrs Brown—Mr Richard Pratt.—Lieut: Smith R.N. Capt: Little,—Limehouse.—Mrs Jane Fisher. Miss Fisher. Miss Scroggs.—Rev: Mr Hanking. Mr Beard—Solicitor, Grays Inn.—Mrs Davis. & Miss Merryweather.—Mr P. could not but feel that the List was not only without Distinction, but less numerous than he had hoped. It was but July however, & August & September were the Months;—And besides, the promised large Families from Surry & Camberwell, were an ever-ready consolation.—Mrs Whitby came forward without delay from her Literary recess, delighted to see Mr Parker again, whose manners recommended him to every body, & they were fully occupied in their various Civilities & Communications, while Charlotte having added her name to the List as the first offering to the success of the Season, was busy in some immediate purchases for the further good of Every body, as soon as Miss Whitby could be hurried down from her Toilette, with all her glossy curls & smart Trinkets to wait on her.—The Library of course, afforded every thing; all the useless things in the World that cd not be done without, & among so many pretty Temptations, & with so much good will for Mr P. to encourage Expenditure, Charlotte began to feel that she must check herself—or rather she reflected that at two & Twenty there cd be no excuse for her doing otherwise—& that it wd not do for her to be spending all her Money the very first Evening. She took up a Book; it happened to be a vol: of Camilla. She had not Camilla's Youth, & had no intention of having her Distress,—so, she turned from the Drawers of rings & Broches repressed farther solicitation & paid for what she bought.—For her particular gratification, they were then to take a Turn on the Cliff—but as they quitted the Library they were met by two Ladies whose arrival made an alteration necessary, Lady Denham & Miss Brereton.—They had been to Trafalgar House, & been directed thence to the Library, & though Lady D. was a great deal too active to regard the walk of a mile as any thing requiring rest, & talked of going home again directly, the Parkers knew that to be pressed into their House, & obliged to take her Tea with them, would suit her best,—& therefore the stroll on the Cliff gave way to an immediate return home.—"No, no, said her Ladyship—I will not have you hurry your Tea on my account.—I know you like your Tea late.—My early hours are not to put my Neighbours to inconvenience. No, no, Miss Clara & I will get back to our own Tea.—We came out with no other Thought.—We wanted just to see you & make sure of your being really come—, but we get back to our own Tea."—She went on however towards Trafalgar House & took possession of the Drawing room very quietly—without seeming to hear a word of Mrs P.'s orders to the Servant as they entered, to bring Tea directly. Charlotte was fully consoled for the loss of her walk, by finding herself in company with those, whom the conversation of the morng had given her a great curiosity to see. She observed them well.—Lady D. was of middle height, stout, upright & alert in her motions, with a shrewd eye, & self-satisfied air—but not an unagreable Countenance—& tho' her manner was rather downright & abrupt, as of a person who valued herself on being free-spoken, there was a good humour & cordiality about her—a civility & readiness to be acquainted with Charlotte herself, & a heartiness of welcome towards her old friends, which was inspiring the Good will, she seemed to feel;—And as for Miss Brereton, her appearance so completely justified Mr P.'s praise that Charlotte thought she had never beheld a more lovely, or more Interesting young Woman.—Elegantly tall, regularly handsome, with great delicacy of complexion & soft Blue eyes, a sweetly modest & yet naturally graceful Address, Charlotte could see in her only the most perfect representation of whatever Heroine might be most beautiful & bewitching, in all the numerous vol:s they had left behind them on Mrs Whitby's shelves.—Perhaps it might be partly oweing to her having just issued from a Circulating Library—but she cd not separate the idea of a complete Heroine from Clara Brereton. Her situation with Lady Denham so very much in favour of it! —She seemed placed with her on purpose to be ill-used. Such Poverty & Dependance joined to such Beauty & Merit, seemed to leave no choice in the business.—These feelings were not the result of any spirit of Romance in Charlotte herself. No, she was a very sober-minded young Lady, sufficiently well-read in Novels to supply her Imagination with amusement, but not at all unreasonably influenced by them; & while she pleased herself the first 5 minutes with fancying the Persecutions which ought to be the Lot of the interesting Clara, especially in the form of the most barbarous conduct on Lady Denham's side, she found no reluctance to admit from subsequent observation, that they appeared to be on very comfortable Terms.—She cd see nothing Worse in Lady Denham, than the sort of oldfashioned, formality of always calling her Miss Clara—nor anything objectionable in the degree of observance & attention which Clara paid.—On one side it seemed protecting kindness, on the other grateful & affectionate respect.—The Conversation turned entirely upon Sanditon, its present number of Visitants & the Chances of a good Season. It was evident that Lady D. had more anxiety, more fears of loss, than her Coadjutor. She wanted to have the Place fill faster, & seemed to have many harassing apprehensions of the Lodgings being in some instances underlet.—Miss Diana Parker's two large Families were not forgotten. "Very good, very good, said her Ladyship.—A West Indy Family & a school. That sounds well. That will bring Money."—"No people spend more freely, I beleive, than W. Indians." observed Mr Parker.—"Aye —so I have heard—and because they have full Purses, fancy themselves equal, may be, to your old Country Families. But then, they who scatter their Money so freely, never think of whether they may not be doing mischeif by raising the price of Things—And I have heard that's very much the case with your West-injines—and if they come among us to raise the price of our necessaries of Life, we shall not much thank them Mr Parker."—"My dear Madam, They can only raise the price of consumeable Articles, by such an extraordinary Demand for them & such a diffusion of Money among us, as must do us more Good than harm.—Our Butchers & Bakers & Traders in general cannot get rich without bringing Prosperity to us.—If they do not gain, our rents must be insecure—& in proportion to their profit must be ours eventually in the increased value of our Houses." "Oh!—well.—But I should not like to have Butcher's meat raised, though—& I shall keep it down as long as I can.—Aye—that young Lady smiles I see;—I dare say she thinks me an odd sort of a Creature,—but she will come to care about such matters herself in time. Yes, Yes, my Dear, depend upon it, you will be thinking of the price of Butcher's meat in time—tho' you may not happen to have quite such a Servants Hall full to feed, as I have.—And I do beleive those are best off, that have fewest Servants.—I am not a Woman of Parade, as all the World knows, & if it was not for what I owe to poor Mr Hollis's memory, I should never keep up Sanditon House as I do;—it is not for my own pleasure.—Well Mr Parker—and the other is a Boarding school, a French Boarding School, is it?—No harm in that.—They'll stay their six weeks.—And out of such a number, who knows but some may be consumptive & want Asses milk—& I have two Milch asses at this present time.—But perhaps the little Misses may hurt the Furniture.—I hope they will have a good sharp Governess to look after them.—" Poor Mr Parker got no more credit from Lady D. than he had from his Sisters, for the Object which had taken him to Willingden. "Lord! my dear Sir, she cried, how could you think of such a thing? I am very sorry you met with your accident, but upon my word you deserved it.—Going after a Doctor!—Why, what shd we do with a Doctor here? It wd be only encouraging our Servants & the Poor to fancy themselves ill, if there was a Dr at hand.— Oh! pray, let us have none of the Tribe at Sanditon. We go on very well as we are. There is the Sea & the Downs & my Milch-asses—& I have told Mrs Whitby that if any body enquires for a Chamber-House, they may be supplied at a fair rate—(poor Mr Hollis's Chamber-House, as good as new)—and what can People want for more?—Here have I lived 70 good years in the world & never took Physic above twice—and never saw the face of a Doctor in all my Life, on my own account.—And I verily beleive if my poor dear Sir Harry had never seen one neither, he wd have been alive now.—Ten fees, one after another, did the Man take who sent him out of the World.—I beseech you Mr Parker, no Doctors here."—The Tea things were brought in.—"Oh! my dear Mrs Parker—you should not indeed—why would you do so? I was just upon the point of wishing you good Evening. But since you are so very neighbourly, I beleive Miss Clara & I must stay."——