Norris, and everybody else who is in the same predicament," glancing half fearfully, half slyly, beyond Fanny to Edmund.
She was very civilly answered by Lady Bertram, but Edmund said nothing. His being only a bystander was not disclaimed. After continuing in chat with the party round the fire a few minutes, Miss Crawford returned to the party round the table; and standing by them, seemed to interest herself in their arrangements till, as if struck by a sudden recollection, she exclaimed, "My good friends, you are most composedly at work upon these cottages and alehouses, inside and out; but pray let me know my fate in the meanwhile. Who is to be Anhalt? What gentleman among you am I to have the pleasure of making love to?"
For a moment no one spoke; and then many spoke together to tell the same melancholy truth, that they had not yet got any Anhalt. "Mr. Rushworth was to be Count Cassel, but no one had yet undertaken Anhalt."
"I had my choice of the parts," said Mr. Rushworth; "but I thought I should like the Count best, though I do not much relish the finery I am to have."
"You chose very wisely, I am sure," replied Miss Crawford, with a brightened look; "Anhalt is a heavy part."
"_The_ _Count_ has two-and-forty speeches," returned Mr. Rushworth, "which is no trifle."
"I am not at all surprised," said Miss Crawford, after a short pause, "at this want of an Anhalt. Amelia deserves no better. Such a forward young lady may well frighten the men."
"I should be but too happy in taking the part, if it were possible," cried Tom; "but, unluckily, the Butler and Anhalt are in together. I will not entirely give it up, however; I will try what can be done--I will look it over again."
"Your _brother_ should take the part," said Mr. Yates, in a low voice. "Do not you think he would?"
"_I_ shall not ask him," replied Tom, in a cold, determined manner.
Miss Crawford talked of something else, and soon afterwards rejoined the party at the fire.
"They do not want me at all," said she, seating herself. "I only puzzle them, and oblige them to make civil speeches. Mr. Edmund Bertram, as you do not act yourself, you will be a disinterested adviser; and, therefore, I apply to _you_. What shall we do for an Anhalt? Is it practicable for any of the others to double it? What is your advice?"
"My advice," said he calmly, "is that you change the play."
"_I_ should have no objection," she replied; "for though I should not particularly dislike the part of Amelia if well supported, that is, if everything went well, I shall be sorry to be an inconvenience; but as they do not chuse to hear your advice at _that_ _table_" (looking round), "it certainly will not be taken."
Edmund said no more.
"If _any_ part could tempt _you_ to act, I suppose it would be Anhalt," observed the lady archly, after a short pause; "for he is a clergyman, you know."
"_That_ circumstance would by no means tempt me," he replied, "for I should be sorry to make the character ridiculous by bad acting. It must be very difficult to keep Anhalt from appearing a formal, solemn lecturer; and the man who chuses the profession itself is, perhaps, one of the last who would wish to represent it on the stage."
Miss Crawford was silenced, and with some feelings of resentment and mortification, moved her chair considerably nearer the tea-table, and gave all her attention to Mrs. Norris, who was presiding there.
"Fanny," cried Tom Bertram, from the other table, where the conference was eagerly carrying on, and the conversation incessant, "we want your services"
Fanny was up in a moment, expecting some errand; for the habit of employing her in that way was not yet overcome, in spite of all that Edmund could do.
"Oh! we do not want to disturb you from your seat. We do not want your _present_ services. We shall only want you in our play. You must be Cottager's wife."
"Me!" cried Fanny, sitting down again with a most frightened look. "Indeed you must excuse me. I could not act anything if you were to give me the world.