The Innocence of Henry
A mere four weeks had passed since Fanny Price had excepted the hurried engagement to Edmund Bertram. At first, she considered herself to be content with the situation; went along with her duties as before, and had no concerns about either his affections or commitment.
Aunt Norris had practically disowned her since the announcement, but Fanny considered that change to be an improvement. Sir Thomas was glad to see his niece engaged to any honorable man that would accept her, and his wife took the loss of her son in quiet contentment.
Edmund soon left for a week to seek out a new living establishment for Fanny and himself that would be suitable after they were married. He knew the shock of his sister Maria and his once good friend, Henry; running off together in some frantic and disillusioned fantasy, to be very hurtful to Fanny. He knew a long engagement could not be endured by either Fanny or himself. Henry had once the audacity to give his affections to Fanny when he could not back them up with honesty.
Edmund had been increasingly troubled in his sleep by visions on Mary Crawford, his first love. He knew that he could never mention them to anyone; especially Fanny, so he endured them as long as he could until he needed a break. That is why he left to search for a parsonage by himself; for he believe a brief break from Fanny would cure his love sickness for another.
Fanny in turn rejoiced at his removal from Mansfield with astounding joy. She could not stand to be constantly in her cousin's eye; when other girls could live their engagement out in solitude from their fiancees. Edmund had always critiqued her and taught her everything, and she could not bear to have him say to her, "You are no longer to be a scullery maid and a servant, Fanny. You are to be a parson's wife and that requires certain skills."
One night after Edmund had left, Fanny awoke to what she ascertained to be a nightmare. Henry was once again before her in the dream; making love to her, and praising her for her beauty and perfection. That night Fanny could not escape that dream, and so she paced the great halls of Mansfield like a restless spirit. She admitted to herself that if Henry had returned one more time before he went to visit Maria; she would have accepted his hand. She had loved him, and perhaps she still did, but anger towards his actions brought only rage to her heart. She praised Edmund for being there when the news was heard, and saving her from a certain misery of remaining available to any other man who could break her heart like Henry Crawford again.
Subsequent nights passed and more disturbing dreams about Henry ensued. Fanny grew weak from thoughts and memories. She had not slept in almost a week when Edmund returned home to his fiancee who had taken ill. Fanny could not eat nor sleep. She was feverish by day and anxious by night. Just the sight of Edmund threw Fanny into a tantrum. He was ordered by the doctor to refrain from Fanny's presence until she was well again.
Weeks passed and Fanny slowly got better. Edmund was not even concerned that his future wife could not bare the sight of him. He could keep to his study and dream about Mary Crawford. He received news that Maria had ordered Henry to leave her, and that Mr. Rushworth had offered to take her back. Henry was returning home; and that, he suspected Fanny knew of and dreaded.
Fanny slowly began to eat and sleep again, but she knew that she could not marry Edmund. She felt unclean that her mind was filled with the love of another. Marrying Edmund would mean only torture. She had received a letter from Henry a few days before she regained consciousness, but Edmund ordered it to be kept from her. She in fact, had no knowledge of his arrival.
Edmund was finally admitted to her room, and the sight of him brought tears to the eyes of innocent Fanny. She could not bare to tell him that she could not marry a man who had saved her life and improved her status both with her family and society. He took the news well, and secretly rejoiced in his freedom, for he too was having doubts.
The entire Bertram family was astonished when they heard the news of Fanny ending the engagement. They were only more shocked when soon afterwards Mr. Crawford paid a visit requesting to meet with Fanny alone. Sir Thomas of course fearing that another one of his relatives would be dragged into his society again, refused his request. Henry would not except Sir Thomas' denial and intended to hear it from the lips of Miss Price herself.
Unfortunately for Sir Thomas, Fanny was up and about on the second level arranging flowers in the parlor and Maria's old bedroom. As soon as Henry caught a glimpse of her; he tried to go towards her. "Fanny!...May I speak to you for a moment?" He begged to her as she passed the threshold of the stairwell. Fanny who was overcome with shock by his presence; was immediately secured by her Aunt Bertram and lead away towards her bed chamber. The clamor caused by the situation was heard throughout the house, because Mr. Crawford insisted on calling to her with a raised voice and eventually a scream of distress.
"Fanny!...I must see you...I cannot live like this!!" he repeatedly cried while fighting with Sir Thomas to climb the stairs. Fanny fought slightly with her Aunt to free herself and go to him, but she was too weak. Edmund ran to the scene and assisted his father who was quite overtaken by the emotional young man who was desperately attempting to ascend the staircase.
"You may not speak to my niece or even look in her direction ever again, young man...You are no longer welcome in my house...I demand that you leave these grounds immediately before I call every servant in my charge to remove you!!!" Sir Thomas screamed while both he and his son removed Henry's grasp and lead him toward the door.
"Fanny!!.. Read my letter...Please!! It will explain everything!!...I beg you..." he yelled once more before he felt the cold pavement against his face, and heard the large oak door slam behind him.
As Fanny heard the large oak door of Mansfield Park close on Henry, she almost collapsed. Her Aunt Bertram had held her back from the stairs up until this point, but the maids of the upper hall soon led Fanny the rest of the way to her bed chamber, while her Aunt nervously glanced at both her niece and her husband wondering what to do next.
Sir Thomas, had been so stressed by Henry's effrontery, that his rheumatism set in and he was treated on the stair by his attentive son. Everything had been disrupted by Mr. Crawford's brief and insulting visit.
Edmund was pondering over the last desperate screams that Mr. Crawford had made, as he massaged his father's swollen wrists. All Mr. Crawford's distress came down to that letter he wrote weeks ago. The contents that Fanny would eventually wish to read would most likely be so distressing to her that she would fall ill again; with his father's rheumatism and his mother's headaches, more chronic illnesses could not be endured. Edmund knew that it was his duty to Fanny to keep her from all that was unfortunate; for she was more like his daughter, than a former lover.
As soon as his father was able to walk again, Edmund begged leave and ventured to his study; where on a dusty shelf, between pages 65 and 66 of Candide, rested the controversial letter. He dared not read it himself, but after investigating it's qualities, he determined that it should be destroyed. His fireplace was not aflame at that moment, nor would it be lit until that evening so he put the duty off until then; and Henry's dispatch was replaced to it's home in Voltaire.
After some consideration and more vagrant ponderings over the mysterious letter, Edmund decided that he might as well read the letter; for it would be destroyed soon afterwards. Fanny was too agitated in his opinion to leave her room for the remainder of the day, and there would be no harm in reading doomed rambles of some man whom could never be raised in his opinion ever again.
Edmund opened the letter carefully and began to read the first few sentences of the very long message; that had been hurriedly placed on paper with no style. Edmund began, expecting to get a good chuckle about the whole thing, when none other than Fanny burst frantically into his study. He stood up quickly and hid his crime behind his back; but luckily Fanny had not seen his offense. Her hair was flared out and her face was pale. She had obviously cried for the entire hour since the incident, and had came with a purpose.
"Where is that letter Edmund?....I must see it if you please..." she said pacing about the room as if expecting to find it.
"...What letter my dearest?" Edmund answered quickly and sweetly.
"The one Henry wrote. Nurse Jacobs said you received it a few weeks past" she said sternly looking about, starting to suspect.
"..Oh this one..." He said as he shoved the folded papers back into the envelope behind his back and handed her the opened package hoping for the best.
"..Why is it open Edmund?.." she looked up at him with a cloud of disbelief in her eyes. Why would he be reading a personal letter address to herself? Had her knight in shining armor betrayed her trust as well?
Fanny could not abide to listen while Edmund tried to excuse himself. She felt almost as embarrassed as when she first arrived at Mansfield Park eight and a half years ago; she appreciated the concern that everyone had in her well-being and security, but she was no longer a little helpless girl.
After Fanny stormed out of Edmund's study he fell back in his chair and covered his sore eyes with his hands. He was going to be a clergyman and he had already been caught invading the personal life of a cousin with whom he had so dearly cared for longer than any other human. He never made it out of that room for the remainder of the day.
In such a short while from when the morning incident occurred; where Fanny almost considered herself back in full health, she had instead plummeted to such a deep depression as could not be described. She was thankful that her other cousin was off in London with some acting friends. She simply could not bear his smiles and laid-back "Hello, cousin" and "All is well I presume, dear Fanny."
She heard her Aunt Bertram calling to her as she past the anteroom to the drawing room, but she did not respond. Her aunt probably need more sewing materials from the cellar or dusting for her piano-forte, but Fanny hardly had the nerve to climb the flight of stairs to her bed chamber; the slight but significant weight of Henry's letter being rubbed in between her fingers.
She could not trust anyone but her dear brother, and even he had fallen for Mr. Crawford's false chivalry. Everyone had been so destroyed by his disgrace, that Fanny wondered why Edmund had cared enough to read it.
She reach her bed chamber and closed the door; fastening the lock and glancing around her elegant but barren room for anything that seemed familiar. Her bed was the same it had always been, but yet it seemed different now. It was not nearly as lovely as Maria's room; with her silken sheets and thick comforters.
Maria had not slept in that room for almost a year, yet Aunt Bertram insisted that it be kept in perfect condition by Fanny. Maybe it was a way of keeping Fanny in her place; however Fanny did not care enough about the Bertrams now to care how they thought of her. She was just glad she had a place to sleep and good company; which is more than she would have ever received from her natural family.
She sat at her writing table and began to read the letter, though it seemed more like words than what Henry had intended for it to be. The writing was small and quick, but Fanny had not trouble understanding it for that was how her brother wrote to her.
My Darling Fanny,
Please for a moment in time, forget all that you have heard or seen since the incident that happened back in March. Let me take you back to the time when I was beginning to raise in your opinion, I hope. In this letter I intend to clear my name to the only person whom I wish for it to be cleared; the only one I love.
Fanny, I was wrong to visit Maria, for I never realized what evil lurks not only in your family, but also in my own. When I left you that last time; assured that one day I might have some chance at winning your angelic heart, I had only been responding to a letter written by Mrs. Rushworth's hand requesting a visit. Alas, if I could have only realized what was to become of me because of it. If I knew that I might damage my status in your mind, I would not have thought twice.
I admit that I had loved Mrs. Rushworth for a brief time when she was still Miss Bertram. My love towards her like all my loves before you had not lasted long. When I entered her house I considered myself as good as a married man. Do believe me Fanny, for however impossible this may seem,...it is the one and only truth.
Mrs. Rushworth was very kind indeed but I was quite surprised that her husband was not at home, for it is not customary for a man to be in company with a married woman while her husband is not home or expected to return shortly. She offered me a drink, and as other witnesses at the scene can vouch, several drinks followed. After that I have no memory of my own. I can only believe what people tell me.
Where I found myself, I can only claim to be my worst nightmare. I hate to disgust you with details, but I awoke in Mrs. Rushworth's bed. The shock I experienced was above any I had ever imagined. All I had planned was now falling all around me. I was what people had always expected of me. A lover; and what's worse...the lover of a married woman.
I could not leave and claim it never happened, for she stated that she could never live with her husband now after she had been unclean, and she begged me to take her with me, and I hardly knew where I was going myself. I had only the clothes on my back and a single horse. Mrs. Rushworth took all she needed, including the housekeeper who came reluctantly.
We had not even reached Manchester before the news was all across England. I cried everyday that I was not in Maria's presence for she would surely feel worse herself, if she saw me. As far as I knew, I was doing my duty.
The truth did not start coming to the surface until Maria claimed that she was with-child, and the housekeeper took me aside. I remember exactly what she said too. "A sir, she's been with-child longer than a month sir...look at the size a' her belly!" she said pointing to the already enlarged abdomen of my supposed lover. Not being a practical man in those subjects I began to consider the maid's opinion. It did seem odd.
Next, Maria said that she was going to divorce, because her sister strongly recommended it, but I had not talked of marrying her. The housekeeper then said "Sir, if I may...I have not seen you drink at all since we left...From what I gathered that time you came....you were heavily in the spirits...Mrs. Rushworth had to practically drag you upstairs!"
That was when I finally confronted Mrs. Rushworth, and she confessed that she indeed got me drunk. I was about to let it go, for she still was carrying my child, when she continued. She said that the chef had been her lover and that he made her with-child, and that instead of being a poor man's wife that she should frame me for it, and marry rich again.
The anger I felt was unimaginable. She pleaded forgiveness, but you can imagine what she had taken from me. She had taken you from me. Believe what you will. I only beg your forgiveness.
Mr. Henry Crawford
The first reflections that Fanny experienced were nothing significant, after reading Henry's letter. It was as if the letter had been no more than a chapter from a history book. She simply placed the letter down and went about her room looking for clothing that needed mending; her usual chores.
Only after a few minutes; she was drawn back to her desk and forced to read it again, searching for clues to this, now complex, mystery. She read it thoroughly at least three times before she finally began to believe him. The plot had been sensible enough that could be committed by Maria, and accurate enough to prove that Maria had never loved her husband. Fanny only wondered why Julia had aided in Maria's sinister conspiracy, for she had never a quarrel or hatred for Julia.
Fanny now wondered whether it was the Bertram way to assure the wealth an well-being or only it's closest relations; that Fanny would be bound by the disgrace following the attention of a wanton man who would only prove to be the lover and sole provider for her cousin. Alas for Fanny there was not a care, for it was up to the Bertram's to safely guide Fanny's way through potential disasters. If Maria would have dropped her present surname and taken up Crawford, there would be gossip; however for Fanny, it would be taboo.
Fanny felt warm tears welling up in her eyes, and she could only weep; though she wanted to do much more. She suddenly felt extreme guilt for the way poor Mr. Crawford had been removed from Mansfield Park; simply thrown out into the street. The poor man had experienced nothing but sheer nightmares since this whole dreadful act had been committed.
Fanny raced down the stairwell, and through the large hall, where she found Sir Thomas and Aunt Bertram resting and attending to their usual hobbies, including knitting and model building. Aunt Bertram looked up from her work very quickly at the sight of Fanny pausing at the sight of them.
"Poor child, we had been so utterly worried about you...Are you feeling better, my dear" Aunt Bertram spoke in her usual, yet insincere way.
Fanny didn't even bother to answer her, for she simply went out the door. It had been nearly six hours since Henry had been viciously tossed from the estate. Fanny believed not a chance in the world that he would have laid on that pavement long, and there was nothing that remained of him on the pavement.
She desperately need air so she took the long walk across the park heading towards Aunt Norris' house which was moderately wooded and aligned with small fragrant shrubs. She made sure that she stayed on the cobblestone walk way and did not go too close to Aunt Norris' house to cause alarm or attention from the elderly widow.
As if the entire morning's affairs had not disrupted the poor girl's nerves enough, about fifty feet from the house she heard rustling coming from the bushes. She was at first very afraid, for young girls out alone in the evening, can be prey to any hideous catastrophe. She walked slowly to the other side of the walkway and tried not to make as little noise as possible, for her shoes were very audible.
"Ahhh...There's nothing like the sound of angels feet on the surface of a cloud, to calm a man's nerves..." Came a voice from the shrubs.
Fanny was simply petrified at this point and she could hardly answer back, "...who are you....who is in there?" she asked weakly, expected the worst.
"It is only the loneliest man on earth, Miss Price..." And out stepped Mr. Crawford in a tattered overcoat and mussed up hair.
Fanny was completely overcome with emotions, though she did not know which they were. She stepped away as he approached, trying to hide behind a tree, as if it was a bad dream. Henry tried to fix his hair and brush off his coat, both of which had obviously been damaged during his visit earlier. He followed her around the tree; took up her small gloved hand, and was about to put it to his lips, when she pulled away.
"You are not real...None of this is real...You could not have waited six hours for me to chance a walk outdoors alone..." she uttered as if in pain, choking back a few tears.
"It was the least I could do...Please tell me that you have read my letter...That you believe me..." he pleaded softly.
"I have read you letter...and agree that there could have been a probability of such a thing occurring, but no one can be certain. If Maria is to be with-child that is not Mr. Rushworth's, why would he take her back?" Fanny asked suspiciously.
"I can only claim that the poor fellow is madly in love. Mrs. Rushworth has never been faithful to her husband, and probably never will." He said bluntly.
"I fell simply awful about the way my family treated you this morning. It does not matter if you had murdered Aunt Norris...no one deserves such embarrassment. You are still a gentleman." She said as they walked slowly back toward Mansfield Park. "I never knew that so much evil could be present in a single family. But you can never be evil in my eyes...Do you think that you could ever forgive me? Is there a chance that I could win your heart as the man I was before?..." he said pausing in front of the house.
"I can make no promises, Henry .I do not know if I could ever love anyone anymore. I do not think it's possible to love with these broken pieces of my heart. I will not hate you any longer however, and possibly with time, and I can call you my friend..." She said as they were about to part.
" That is more than I could ever hope for dearest Fanny. Rest well my darling." He said softly as he kissed her hand and they parted.
Fanny nervously entered Mansfield Park expecting turmoil to have erupted from both her aunt and her uncle. She went straight into the drawing room and sat by her Aunt, to begin knitting. At first, all three members of the family were silent, until Aunt Bertram felt impelled to say something.
"How my dear?...you are so altered, from my darling, cheerful Fanny. Where have you been wandering at such an hour?" she looked up from her work with astonishment
"I just needed bit of air, so I walked the garden towards Aunt Norris' house." Fanny answered nervously.
"I do hope you stopped by and wished your Aunt good tidings..." She said in her insincere way.
"I am afraid that she has been most disturbed recently and rather ill as well; and I thought it best not to bother her."
"My dear child...if she has been remiss, it is only because of your careless romantics..." Aunt Bertram said increasing in her natural character. Her tone was sharp and aimed at hurting Fanny.
"Lady Bertram...do not pester the poor child! She has been emotionally wounded lately by a certain former-gentleman." Sir Thomas said; almost whispering the gentlemen portion so as not to cause alarm to Fanny. "...and it is no wonder that she still has an attachment for him that even Edmund can not cure as yet. She will come around and love again. There is still hope for our young Fanny to become a Bertram..." Sir Thomas said joyfully imagining the details in his mind.
"I am dreadfully sorry to inform both of you that I intend not to fall in love again." Fanny said pardoning herself and speaking very plainly for the first time in her life.
"Well, what are you planning on doing with yourself? Goodness knows you can not stay here forever my child. There has been outside interest in you by young men, and we can not be burdened with a spinster maid. Perhaps you may become a governess." Aunt Bertram said in a sharp tone.
"If I must." Fanny said sadly, as she rose to exit the room.
"Foolish girl...does not know what is good for her." Aunt Bertram muttered.
"My dear...she will come around. I am already convinced that she could make a man, a very honest wife; and I intend to see it through. She will marry..." Sir Thomas reassured his wife.
The next morning, while the family was at breakfast; Sir Thomas read aloud a bit of news from a friend's letter that he had found fascinating.
"...You will be interested to know that a certain Mr. Henry Crawford has returned to your area seeking retribution. He claims that your daughter Maria had lead him astray in a selfish effort to pin the birth of an extra-marital infant, Penelope Faith Rushworth (born this Thursday last) on him, and that it was indeed her residing chef's baby...and this is the most interesting of all...He seeks a renewal in his attentions to a Miss Fanny Price; whom he had courted before the incident...Yours, etc.etc."
"Now is not that interesting Lady Bertram? ...Henry's visit yesterday was purposing a renewal in his courtship to Fanny!! Of all the devilish things to do as to insinuate that our first grand daughter Penelope; who is not quite a week old, is indeed not a Rushworth. The filthy guttersnipe!" Sir Thomas stated after reading the letter aloud.
"Maria's baby was Mr. Rushworth's I am sure. My darling is innocent of these audacious accusations. As far as I am concerned, Mr. Crawford might as well waste his breath on Fanny, for she seems convinced that she will never love again; which I believe is incredible for if she loved had loved him once, she would have married him. She has never loved anyone." Lady Bertram burst out, not caring that Fanny was sitting right next to her.
Fanny wanted to ask Lady Bertram whether or not she believed that Maria had run away with Mr. Crawford at all; but she held her breath for being in great debt to the entire family. Sir Thomas however brought the subject to her attention.
"...My darling Lady Bertram,...I believe that what Mr. Crawford was saying is that he has been convicted more than once of having responsibility for fathering Penelope?!" Sir Thomas said with astonishment, for he had always thought that Penelope had been conceived after Maria's rendezvous. Now not only did he have to suspect his daughter of adultery with one man, but also with another.
"...Are you trying to convince me that Maria has not been loyal to Mr. Rushworth. Poppycock! I know she had been having trouble and took leave with Mr. Crawford for a couple weeks, but I never supposed...How dreadful! My darling little girl abused by all those men!" Lady Bertram exclaimed with shock and disbelief; for she had only thought Maria to have used Henry as companionship.
Just then as things were beginning to get complicated in the Bertram estate and Fanny had already begged leave to her room; Mrs. Norris was announced. The stout woman who had aged much too quickly, entered the room slowly carrying a walking cane and sporting her strongly-prescription, wire-rimmed glasses. What she saw upon entering, was that Lady Bertram had almost fainted at the thought of Maria being an adulteress, and Sir Thomas was trying to comfort her. Mrs. Norris immediately began asking what all the commotion was over.
" What is the meaning of this ruckus? Is there news?" she began questioning in her now excited tone.
"Oh my dear sister...you have come to comfort me!!" Lady Bertram dramatically spoke outstretching her hand to her visitor. "There has been such terrible events occurring, that I know not what to do!"
"Settle down my dear...let us precede into the drawing room where we can discuss it there. We do not want "the help" to hear everything!" Aunt Norris said whispering in Lady Bertram's ear.
Lady Bertram told Mrs. Norris everything about how Maria's newborn baby Penelope (whom no one had seen as of yet), could possibly be the child of three men, and how Mr. Crawford was publicly announcing his innocence in the matter while humiliating the Bertram and Rushworth families. Mrs. Norris stayed calm for once in her life; and immediately began questioning about what Fanny had to do with it (for in her mind, Fanny was the cause of every difficulty Mrs. Norris faced).
Once Mrs. Norris found out that Mr. Crawford had arrived prepared to court Fanny again, she forthwith advised Lady Bertram to keep Fanny under lock and key. Mrs. Norris insisted that she and her sister's family; not be connected to another catastrophe that Fanny could have caused.
Fanny spent the remainder of that evening in her room; not knowing of the plans that were being made just a floor below her. Aunt Norris stayed that whole evening took her bed in that great house, assuring that her distraught sister was somewhat relieved.
Edmund who had spent his days either in his study or in his room, was severely in distress over his offensive to his cousin. He had broken his oath of honesty, and he could not see himself as ever being a parson now. He studied his books from morning until night pondering over morals and other options to serve his God and his family without being a dishonest clergyman.
He had always been interested in the law, whether it was displayed through Voltaire, Moliere, Locke, or Machiavelli; he was very knowledgeable in that field and now was considering whether a lawyer would be a better occupation for him. It had a higher salary and was more respectful in these times of challenging authority and protesting old rules. If only he could convince his father that it would be a worthy venture and investment in a younger son.
Edmund had only suffered with his guilt for a time following his crime to Fanny. Fanny is strong and she will forget the entire affair, he thought. Then an idea came to him. If he could convince Sir Thomas to sponsor his legal science schooling; he might win the expensive heart of his first and only love, Mary Crawford. He had not heard a single word of her since she moved in with an aunt on Bath, but he knew she had loved him; and would accept a lawyer as a husband.
By the morning, everyone had an agenda on their minds; that they wanted to complete all at once. Aunt Norris wanted Fanny locked away for her and everyone's own protection, Lady Bertram wanted to console her poor and wanton daughter, Sir Thomas wanted Fanny to explain her feelings about Henry to him, Edmund wanted to become a lawyer; so that he could marry Miss Crawford. Our pale little heroine only wanted independence and a life of her own. Unfortunately, that was the last thing that Aunt Norris was willing to give her, and she made it very obvious in the conversations at breakfast.
"Fanny, your Aunt and I feel that it may be best for you to remain inside the walls of Mansfield for a while. There are conflicts surfacing all around our devoted little family, and we think that it would serve best if you were not a part of these troubles." Aunt Norris began as she set aside her tea.
"Aunt, I do not believe that I have the potential to cause any troubles. I have not heard my name mentioned in any news." Fanny attempted to defend herself and her meager freedoms.
"I most readily agree with your Aunt Norris, my dear. That Crawford fellow seems to still want you for a wife, and it would most definitely mean the downfall of our noble family if it ever happened." Lady Bertram snipped.
"-But I have shown no proof that I ever love him before or now!" Fanny stated getting a bit angry.
"True, but as of now you are the only one here who could fall prey to him and cause more trouble." Lady Bertram protested to Fanny's retort.
"But I never gave him any encouragement!!" Fanny cried as she rose from her seat.
"...Not when you should have! If you had simply settled down in with him when he first proposed; and raised your status like any rational thinking, indigent girl would have done, my dear Maria would not have scandal surrounding her new child!!" Lady Bertram returned with an evil tone as she rose to meet Fanny's eyes.
Fanny's eyes welled up with tears as she realized how unhappy her life had become and always had been. She ran from the table to her room; and searched through her closet for the little bag she had brought with her eight and a half years ago.
Henry was not on her mind; for she wanted nothing to do with her former life. She would not mind if she never saw nor heard of the Bertram's again. They had provided only greed, envy and jealously along with their house. The idea of being a governess became more and more attractive to Fanny; who wanted only a task to do, a room to stay in, and a source of food. In her mind she had never been loved, and it was not a necessity. The only thing she wanted was an end to her torments.
She met the family at the bottom of the stairs in turmoil over Lady Bertram leaving to visit Maria and her new baby, Edmund pleading with his father over becoming a lawyer, and Aunt Norris adding to all the confusion with her demands. As she walked past the crowd on her way to the, all eyes fixed on her. She looked so strong as she proudly wore her plain pinafore and shawl (an outfit she rarely had worn after "coming-out")
"Fanny, where are you going with that bag?" Lady Bertram spoke while she buttoned up her lavish overcoat.
"I am leaving, Aunt Bertram. Thank you all for keeping me all these years. It is time that I moved on." She said with a smile that she did not mean to have.
"Where are you going to stay?" Edmund asked as he helped her to the door.
"I do not know, cousin. I have saved a fair amount of money while I have stayed here, and I think I might visit my brother."
There was a silence that had hardly ever occurred in house of turmoil. Sir Thomas' dreams of finding Fanny a suitable match were being erased. Aunt Norris was speechless; for it was something she had always wanted to have happen. Sweet little Fanny was going back to her rightful place in society.
Fanny walked out the door into the bright morning light and the door was gently shut behind her, she had never felt more free. As she walked down the path leading to the road, she smiled the whole way.
Back inside the house, the silence had continued until Aunt Norris began to speak her mind. "Good riddance" she muttered, and the turmoil and arguments began all over again, like it had always been before.
© 1997 Copyright held by the author.