Mansfield park, p.39
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       Mansfield Park, p.39

           Jane Austen


  Could Sir Thomas have seen all his niece's feelings, when she wrote herfirst letter to her aunt, he would not have despaired; for though a goodnight's rest, a pleasant morning, the hope of soon seeing William again,and the comparatively quiet state of the house, from Tom and Charlesbeing gone to school, Sam on some project of his own, and her fatheron his usual lounges, enabled her to express herself cheerfully on thesubject of home, there were still, to her own perfect consciousness,many drawbacks suppressed. Could he have seen only half that she feltbefore the end of a week, he would have thought Mr. Crawford sure ofher, and been delighted with his own sagacity.

  Before the week ended, it was all disappointment. In the first place,William was gone. The Thrush had had her orders, the wind had changed,and he was sailed within four days from their reaching Portsmouth; andduring those days she had seen him only twice, in a short andhurried way, when he had come ashore on duty. There had been no freeconversation, no walk on the ramparts, no visit to the dockyard, noacquaintance with the Thrush, nothing of all that they had planned anddepended on. Everything in that quarter failed her, except William'saffection. His last thought on leaving home was for her. He stepped backagain to the door to say, "Take care of Fanny, mother. She is tender,and not used to rough it like the rest of us. I charge you, take care ofFanny."

  William was gone: and the home he had left her in was, Fanny could notconceal it from herself, in almost every respect the very reverse ofwhat she could have wished. It was the abode of noise, disorder, andimpropriety. Nobody was in their right place, nothing was done as itought to be. She could not respect her parents as she had hoped. On herfather, her confidence had not been sanguine, but he was more negligentof his family, his habits were worse, and his manners coarser, thanshe had been prepared for. He did not want abilities but he had nocuriosity, and no information beyond his profession; he read onlythe newspaper and the navy-list; he talked only of the dockyard, theharbour, Spithead, and the Motherbank; he swore and he drank, he wasdirty and gross. She had never been able to recall anything approachingto tenderness in his former treatment of herself. There had remainedonly a general impression of roughness and loudness; and now he scarcelyever noticed her, but to make her the object of a coarse joke.

  Her disappointment in her mother was greater: _there_ she had hopedmuch, and found almost nothing. Every flattering scheme of being ofconsequence to her soon fell to the ground. Mrs. Price was not unkind;but, instead of gaining on her affection and confidence, and becomingmore and more dear, her daughter never met with greater kindness fromher than on the first day of her arrival. The instinct of nature wassoon satisfied, and Mrs. Price's attachment had no other source. Herheart and her time were already quite full; she had neither leisure noraffection to bestow on Fanny. Her daughters never had been much to her.She was fond of her sons, especially of William, but Betsey was thefirst of her girls whom she had ever much regarded. To her she was mostinjudiciously indulgent. William was her pride; Betsey her darling;and John, Richard, Sam, Tom, and Charles occupied all the rest of hermaternal solicitude, alternately her worries and her comforts. Theseshared her heart: her time was given chiefly to her house and herservants. Her days were spent in a kind of slow bustle; all was busywithout getting on, always behindhand and lamenting it, without alteringher ways; wishing to be an economist, without contrivance or regularity;dissatisfied with her servants, without skill to make them better, andwhether helping, or reprimanding, or indulging them, without any powerof engaging their respect.

  Of her two sisters, Mrs. Price very much more resembled Lady Bertramthan Mrs. Norris. She was a manager by necessity, without any of Mrs.Norris's inclination for it, or any of her activity. Her dispositionwas naturally easy and indolent, like Lady Bertram's; and a situation ofsimilar affluence and do-nothingness would have been much more suitedto her capacity than the exertions and self-denials of the one which herimprudent marriage had placed her in. She might have made just as good awoman of consequence as Lady Bertram, but Mrs. Norris would have been amore respectable mother of nine children on a small income.

  Much of all this Fanny could not but be sensible of. She might scrupleto make use of the words, but she must and did feel that her mother wasa partial, ill-judging parent, a dawdle, a slattern, who neither taughtnor restrained her children, whose house was the scene of mismanagementand discomfort from beginning to end, and who had no talent, noconversation, no affection towards herself; no curiosity to know herbetter, no desire of her friendship, and no inclination for her companythat could lessen her sense of such feelings.

  Fanny was very anxious to be useful, and not to appear above her home,or in any way disqualified or disinclined, by her foreign education,from contributing her help to its comforts, and therefore set aboutworking for Sam immediately; and by working early and late, withperseverance and great despatch, did so much that the boy was shippedoff at last, with more than half his linen ready. She had great pleasurein feeling her usefulness, but could not conceive how they would havemanaged without her.

  Sam, loud and overbearing as he was, she rather regretted when he went,for he was clever and intelligent, and glad to be employed in any errandin the town; and though spurning the remonstrances of Susan, given asthey were, though very reasonable in themselves, with ill-timed andpowerless warmth, was beginning to be influenced by Fanny's servicesand gentle persuasions; and she found that the best of the three youngerones was gone in him: Tom and Charles being at least as many years asthey were his juniors distant from that age of feeling and reason, whichmight suggest the expediency of making friends, and of endeavouring tobe less disagreeable. Their sister soon despaired of making the smallestimpression on _them_; they were quite untameable by any means of addresswhich she had spirits or time to attempt. Every afternoon brought areturn of their riotous games all over the house; and she very earlylearned to sigh at the approach of Saturday's constant half-holiday.

  Betsey, too, a spoiled child, trained up to think the alphabet hergreatest enemy, left to be with the servants at her pleasure, andthen encouraged to report any evil of them, she was almost as ready todespair of being able to love or assist; and of Susan's temper shehad many doubts. Her continual disagreements with her mother, her rashsquabbles with Tom and Charles, and petulance with Betsey, were at leastso distressing to Fanny that, though admitting they were by no meanswithout provocation, she feared the disposition that could push them tosuch length must be far from amiable, and from affording any repose toherself.

  Such was the home which was to put Mansfield out of her head, andteach her to think of her cousin Edmund with moderated feelings. On thecontrary, she could think of nothing but Mansfield, its beloved inmates,its happy ways. Everything where she now was in full contrast to it. Theelegance, propriety, regularity, harmony, and perhaps, above all, thepeace and tranquillity of Mansfield, were brought to her remembranceevery hour of the day, by the prevalence of everything opposite to them_here_.

  The living in incessant noise was, to a frame and temper delicate andnervous like Fanny's, an evil which no superadded elegance or harmonycould have entirely atoned for. It was the greatest misery of all. AtMansfield, no sounds of contention, no raised voice, no abrupt bursts,no tread of violence, was ever heard; all proceeded in a regular courseof cheerful orderliness; everybody had their due importance; everybody'sfeelings were consulted. If tenderness could be ever supposed wanting,good sense and good breeding supplied its place; and as to the littleirritations sometimes introduced by aunt Norris, they were short, theywere trifling, they were as a drop of water to the ocean, compared withthe ceaseless tumult of her present abode. Here everybody was noisy,every voice was loud (excepting, perhaps, her mother's, which resembledthe soft monotony of Lady Bertram's, only worn into fretfulness).Whatever was wanted was hallooed for, and the servants hallooed outtheir excuses from the kitchen. The doors were in constant banging, thestairs were never at rest, nothing was done without a clatter, nobodysat still, and nobody coul
d command attention when they spoke.

  In a review of the two houses, as they appeared to her before the endof a week, Fanny was tempted to apply to them Dr. Johnson's celebratedjudgment as to matrimony and celibacy, and say, that though MansfieldPark might have some pains, Portsmouth could have no pleasures.