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Tom Bertram had of late spent so little of his time at home that he
could be only nominally missed; and Lady Bertram was soon astonished to
find how very well they did even without his father, how well Edmund
could supply his place in carving, talking to the steward, writing to
the attorney, settling with the servants, and equally saving her from
all possible fatigue or exertion in every particular but that of
directing her letters.
The earliest intelligence of the travellers' safe arrival at Antigua,
after a favourable voyage, was received; though not before Mrs. Norris
had been indulging in very dreadful fears, and trying to make Edmund
participate them whenever she could get him alone; and as she depended
on being the first person made acquainted with any fatal catastrophe,
she had already arranged the manner of breaking it to all the others,
when Sir Thomas's assurances of their both being alive and well made it
necessary to lay by her agitation and affectionate preparatory speeches
for a while.
The winter came and passed without their being called for; the accounts
continued perfectly good; and Mrs. Norris, in promoting gaieties for
her nieces, assisting their toilets, displaying their accomplishments,
and looking about for their future husbands, had so much to do as, in
addition to all her own household cares, some interference in those of
her sister, and Mrs. Grant's wasteful doings to overlook, left her very
little occasion to be occupied in fears for the absent.