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Mansfield Park

Chapter 20
Edmund's first object the next morning was to see his father alone, and give him
a fair statement of the whole acting scheme, defending his own share in it as far
only as he could then, in a soberer moment, feel his motives to deserve, and
acknowledging, with perfect ingenuousness, that his concession had been
attended with such partial good as to make his judgment in it very doubtful. He
was anxious, while vindicating himself, to say nothing unkind of the others: but
there was only one amongst them whose conduct he could mention without
some necessity of defence or palliation. "We have all been more or less to
blame," said he, "every one of us, excepting Fanny. Fanny is the only one who
has judged rightly throughout; who has been consistent. Her feelings have been
steadily against it from first to last. She never ceased to think of what was due to
you. You will find Fanny everything you could wish."
Sir Thomas saw all the impropriety of such a scheme among such a party, and at
such a time, as strongly as his son had ever supposed he must; he felt it too
much, indeed, for many words; and having shaken hands with Edmund, meant to
try to lose the disagreeable impression, and forget how much he had been
forgotten himself as soon as he could, after the house had been cleared of every
object enforcing the remembrance, and restored to its proper state. He did not
enter into any remonstrance with his other children: he was more willing to
believe they felt their error than to run the risk of investigation. The reproof of an
immediate conclusion of everything, the sweep of every preparation, would be
sufficient.
There was one person, however, in the house, whom he could not leave to learn
his sentiments merely through his conduct. He could not help giving Mrs. Norris a
hint of his having hoped that her advice might have been interposed to prevent
what her judgment must certainly have disapproved. The young people had been
very inconsiderate in forming the plan; they ought to have been capable of a
better decision themselves; but they were young; and, excepting Edmund, he
believed, of unsteady characters; and with greater surprise, therefore, he must
regard her acquiescence in their wrong measures, her countenance of their
unsafe amusements, than that such measures and such amusements should
have been suggested. Mrs. Norris was a little confounded and as nearly being
silenced as ever she had been in her life; for she was ashamed to confess
having never seen any of the impropriety which was so glaring to Sir Thomas,
and would not have admitted that her influence was insufficient-- that she might
have talked in vain. Her only resource was to get out of the subject as fast as
possible, and turn the current of Sir Thomas's ideas into a happier channel. She
had a great deal to insinuate in her own praise as to general attention to the
interest and comfort of his family, much exertion and many sacrifices to glance at
in the form of hurried walks and sudden removals from her own fireside, and
many excellent hints of distrust and economy to Lady Bertram and Edmund to
detail, whereby a most considerable saving had always arisen, and more than
one bad servant been detected. But her chief strength lay in Sotherton. Her
 
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