Mansfield Park (Chapter 1, page 2 of 6)


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Chapter 1

Their homes were so distant, and the circles in which they moved so
distinct, as almost to preclude the means of ever hearing of each
other's existence during the eleven following years, or, at least, to
make it very wonderful to Sir Thomas that Mrs. Norris should ever have
it in her power to tell them, as she now and then did, in an angry
voice, that Fanny had got another child. By the end of eleven years,
however, Mrs. Price could no longer afford to cherish pride or
resentment, or to lose one connexion that might possibly assist her. A
large and still increasing family, an husband disabled for active
service, but not the less equal to company and good liquor, and a very
small income to supply their wants, made her eager to regain the
friends she had so carelessly sacrificed; and she addressed Lady
Bertram in a letter which spoke so much contrition and despondence,
such a superfluity of children, and such a want of almost everything
else, as could not but dispose them all to a reconciliation. She was
preparing for her ninth lying-in; and after bewailing the circumstance,
and imploring their countenance as sponsors to the expected child, she
could not conceal how important she felt they might be to the future
maintenance of the eight already in being. Her eldest was a boy of ten
years old, a fine spirited fellow, who longed to be out in the world;
but what could she do? Was there any chance of his being hereafter
useful to Sir Thomas in the concerns of his West Indian property? No
situation would be beneath him; or what did Sir Thomas think of
Woolwich? or how could a boy be sent out to the East?

The letter was not unproductive. It re-established peace and kindness.
Sir Thomas sent friendly advice and professions, Lady Bertram
dispatched money and baby-linen, and Mrs. Norris wrote the letters.

Such were its immediate effects, and within a twelvemonth a more
important advantage to Mrs. Price resulted from it. Mrs. Norris was
often observing to the others that she could not get her poor sister
and her family out of her head, and that, much as they had all done for
her, she seemed to be wanting to do more; and at length she could not
but own it to be her wish that poor Mrs. Price should be relieved from
the charge and expense of one child entirely out of her great number.
"What if they were among them to undertake the care of her eldest
daughter, a girl now nine years old, of an age to require more
attention than her poor mother could possibly give? The trouble and
expense of it to them would be nothing, compared with the benevolence
of the action." Lady Bertram agreed with her instantly. "I think we
cannot do better," said she; "let us send for the child."

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