Text - "Mansfield Park" Jane Austen

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She was small of her age, with no glow
of complexion, nor any other striking beauty; exceedingly timid and shy,
and shrinking from notice; but her air, though awkward, was not vulgar,
her voice was sweet, and when she spoke her countenance was pretty. Sir
Thomas and Lady Bertram received her very kindly; and Sir Thomas,
seeing how much she needed encouragement, tried to be all that was
conciliating: but he had to work against a most untoward gravity of
deportment; and Lady Bertram, without taking half so much trouble, or
speaking one word where he spoke ten, by the mere aid of a good-humoured
smile, became immediately the less awful character of the two.

The young people were all at home, and sustained their share in the
introduction very well, with much good humour, and no embarrassment, at
least on the part of the sons, who, at seventeen and sixteen, and tall
of their age, had all the grandeur of men in the eyes of their little
cousin. The two girls were more at a loss from being younger and in
greater awe of their father, who addressed them on the occasion with
rather an injudicious particularity. But they were too much used to
company and praise to have anything like natural shyness; and their
confidence increasing from their cousin's total want of it, they were
soon able to take a full survey of her face and her frock in easy

They were a remarkably fine family, the sons very well-looking, the
daughters decidedly handsome, and all of them well-grown and forward of
their age, which produced as striking a difference between the cousins
in person, as education had given to their address; and no one would
have supposed the girls so nearly of an age as they really were. There
were in fact but two years between the youngest and Fanny. Julia
Bertram was only twelve, and Maria but a year older. The little visitor
meanwhile was as unhappy as possible. Afraid of everybody, ashamed of
herself, and longing for the home she had left, she knew not how to look
up, and could scarcely speak to be heard, or without crying. Mrs. Norris
had been talking to her the whole way from Northampton of her wonderful
good fortune, and the extraordinary degree of gratitude and good
behaviour which it ought to produce, and her consciousness of misery was
therefore increased by the idea of its being a wicked thing for her
not to be happy. The fatigue, too, of so long a journey, became soon no
trifling evil. In vain were the well-meant condescensions of Sir Thomas,
and all the officious prognostications of Mrs. Norris that she would be
a good girl; in vain did Lady Bertram smile and make her sit on the sofa
with herself and pug, and vain was even the sight of a gooseberry tart
towards giving her comfort; she could scarcely swallow two mouthfuls
before tears interrupted her, and sleep seeming to be her likeliest
friend, she was taken to finish her sorrows in bed.

"This is not a very promising beginning," said Mrs. Norris, when Fanny
had left the room. "After all that I said to her as we came along, I
thought she would have behaved better; I told her how much might depend
upon her acquitting herself well at first. I wish there may not be a
little sulkiness of temper-her poor mother had a good deal; but we must
make allowances for such a child-and I do not know that her being sorry
to leave her home is really against her, for, with all its faults,
it was her home, and she cannot as yet understand how much she has
changed for the better; but then there is moderation in all things."

It required a longer time, however, than Mrs. Norris was inclined to
allow, to reconcile Fanny to the novelty of Mansfield Park, and the
separation from everybody she had been used to. Her feelings were very
acute, and too little understood to be properly attended to. Nobody
meant to be unkind, but nobody put themselves out of their way to secure
her comfort.

The holiday allowed to the Miss Bertrams the next day, on purpose to
afford leisure for getting acquainted with, and entertaining their young
cousin, produced little union. They could not but hold her cheap on
finding that she had but two sashes, and had never learned French; and
when they perceived her to be little struck with the duet they were so
good as to play, they could do no more than make her a generous present
of some of their least valued toys, and leave her to herself, while
they adjourned to whatever might be the favourite holiday sport of the
moment, making artificial flowers or wasting gold paper.

Fanny, whether near or from her cousins, whether in the schoolroom, the
drawing-room, or the shrubbery, was equally forlorn, finding something
to fear in every person and place. She was disheartened by Lady
Bertram's silence, awed by Sir Thomas's grave looks, and quite overcome
by Mrs. Norris's admonitions. Her elder cousins mortified her by
reflections on her size, and abashed her by noticing her shyness: Miss
Lee wondered at her ignorance, and the maid-servants sneered at her
clothes; and when to these sorrows was added the idea of the brothers
and sisters among whom she had always been important as playfellow,
instructress, and nurse, the despondence that sunk her little heart was

The grandeur of the house astonished, but could not console her. The
rooms were too large for her to move in with ease: whatever she touched
she expected to injure, and she crept about in constant terror of
something or other; often retreating towards her own chamber to cry; and
the little girl who was spoken of in the drawing-room when she left it
at night as seeming so desirably sensible of her peculiar good fortune,
ended every day's sorrows by sobbing herself to sleep. A week had
passed in this way, and no suspicion of it conveyed by her quiet
passive manner, when she was found one morning by her cousin Edmund, the
youngest of the sons, sitting crying on the attic stairs.

"My dear little cousin," said he, with all the gentleness of an
excellent nature, "what can be the matter?" And sitting down by her,
he was at great pains to overcome her shame in being so surprised, and
persuade her to speak openly. Was she ill? or was anybody angry with
her? or had she quarrelled with Maria and Julia? or was she puzzled
about anything in her lesson that he could explain? Did she, in short,
want anything he could possibly get her, or do for her? For a long while
no answer could be obtained beyond a "no, no-not at all-no, thank
you"; but he still persevered; and no sooner had he begun to revert
to her own home, than her increased sobs explained to him where the
grievance lay. He tried to console her.

"You are sorry to leave Mama, my dear little Fanny," said he, "which
shows you to be a very good girl; but you must remember that you are
with relations and friends, who all love you, and wish to make you
happy. Let us walk out in the park, and you shall tell me all about your
brothers and sisters."

On pursuing the subject, he found that, dear as all these brothers and
sisters generally were, there was one among them who ran more in her
thoughts than the rest. It was William whom she talked of most, and
wanted most to see. William, the eldest, a year older than herself, her
constant companion and friend; her advocate with her mother (of whom
he was the darling) in every distress. "William did not like she should
come away; he had told her he should miss her very much indeed." "But
William will write to you, I dare say." "Yes, he had promised he would,
but he had told her to write first." "And when shall you do it?" She
hung her head and answered hesitatingly, "she did not know; she had not
any paper."