As for any society in Portsmouth, that could at all make amends19 for deficiencies at home, there were none within the circle of her father’s and mother’s acquaintance to afford her the smallest satisfaction: she saw nobody in whose favour she could wish to overcome her own shyness and reserve. The men appeared to her all coarse, the women all pert, everybody underbred; and she gave as little contentment as she received from introductions either to old or new acquaintance. The young ladies who approached her at first with some respect, in consideration of her coming from a baronet’s family, were soon offended by what they termed “airs”; for, as she neither played on the pianoforte nor wore fine pelisses, they could, on farther observation, admit no right of superiority.
The first solid consolation20 which Fanny received for the evils of home, the first which her judgment21 could entirely22 approve, and which gave any promise of durability23, was in a better knowledge of Susan, and a hope of being of service to her. Susan had always behaved pleasantly to herself, but the determined24 character of her general manners had astonished and alarmed her, and it was at least a fortnight before she began to understand a disposition25 so totally different from her own. Susan saw that much was wrong at home, and wanted to set it right. That a girl of fourteen, acting26 only on her own unassisted reason, should err27 in the method of reform, was not wonderful; and Fanny soon became more disposed to admire the natural light of the mind which could so early distinguish justly, than to censure28 severely29 the faults of conduct to which it led. Susan was only acting on the same truths, and pursuing the same system, which her own judgment acknowledged, but which her more supine and yielding temper would have shrunk from asserting. Susan tried to be useful, where she could only have gone away and cried; and that Susan was useful she could perceive; that things, bad as they were, would have been worse but for such interposition, and that both her mother and Betsey were restrained from some excesses of very offensive indulgence and vulgarity.