Mansfield Park (Chapter 2, page 1 of 8)


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Chapter 2

The little girl performed her long journey in safety; and at
Northampton was met by Mrs. Norris, who thus regaled in the credit of
being foremost to welcome her, and in the importance of leading her in
to the others, and recommending her to their kindness.

Fanny Price was at this time just ten years old, and though there might
not be much in her first appearance to captivate, there was, at least,
nothing to disgust her relations. 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
indifference.

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.

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