The Mischief Was Done That Evening
Author's note: This is a short story which takes place on the night of Fanny's ball. The title is a quote from Lady Bertram regarding Henry's affection toward Fanny. I hope you all enjoy!
Henry Crawford stared across the room, to where Fanny was dancing with her cousin Edmund. She smiled and blushed at something he said, and Crawford felt his stomach clench in anger and jealousy. This surprised him, since never before had he felt these emotions toward a woman, and that he felt them toward Miss Price was even more surprising. She was far from being the most beautiful of women he had met, she wasn't rich, or engaged, or flirty. She didn't put on a faĦade to lure him in, or fawn over him to get his attention. In fact, she seemed to find his flattering comments quite unwelcome, and became flustered when he was too straightforward with her.
But for all her shyness and timidity, there was strength in her opinions and convictions which she would not back down from. Henry was quite intrigued and had planned to make her fall in love with him, but the tables had turned on him somewhere in the middle of the game. He was completely infatuated with her. More than infatuated, he was in love...but did she feel the same? Henry couldn't tell, he had the impression that she was warming up to him, but love... These feelings of insecurity and vulnerability were as new to Henry as love itself. It wasn't quite unpleasant...more unsettling than anything.
Henry continued to watch her progress across the room toward her brother William. The complete joy in her face, the happiness in her voice when she talks to her brother or about him made Henry smile. The thought of having her smile at himself in such a way caused his heart to quicken a bit. He made his way toward Fanny and her brother, a tender smile on his face as he took in her animated figure.
"It is so wonderful to have you here, William. You must promise to write me when you leave." Fanny was saying as Henry stopped at her side.
"Of course, I shall." William said with a loving smile, then turned to Henry. "Hello, Mr. Crawford. Come to steal this jewel from me, eh?" Fanny blushed at this compliment, and likewise greeted Henry civilly.
"You are correct, sir. I am here to claim the first two dances, if you are not otherwise engaged?" Henry asked.
Wanting to protest, but always one to give over to another's pleasure, she consented. While waiting for the dance to begin, William, Mr. Crawford and herself chatted amiably. As the musicians began, Henry led Fanny to the floor, her small hand clasped in his. They danced the first two sets with some little talking. Fanny at once, both relieved to have a partner, and flustered that Henry should be her partner.
When the dance finished, Fanny expected to return to her brother, but a hand on her arm stopped her. Turning, she faced Henry with a questioning glance. "Yes, Mr. Crawford...?"
"Miss Price, would you take just a short walk with me outside? It is a lovely night, and after dancing, I feel the need for some fresh air...and your company?" He asked tentatively.
Frowning slightly, she opened her mouth to object, but seeing the honest sincerity in his eyes, she once again relented. Nodding her assent, they walked toward the gardens, neither speaking. Once in the garden, Henry walked over to a bench and motioned Fanny to sit next to him for a bit.
All was silent in the garden except the muffled noise of music and laughter inside. Fanny shivered slightly and rubbed her bare arms. Henry, noticing this, took of his coat and offered it to her, which she grudgingly accepted.
Henry asked, "Are you enjoying your ball, Miss Price?"
"Oh, yes, thank you, Mr. Crawford. And you... are you enjoying the ball?" she asked quietly.
"Yes, I am." He looked over at her. "More than any other I have attended."
"Well, I...I am glad, Mr. Crawford." She smiled uneasily.
"Fa...Miss Price, there is something I have wanted to ask you all night..." he trailed off.
"What is it, Mr. Crawford?" Fanny asked in curiosity.
Looking down at her clasped hands, then up at her honest expression, he inhaled and said, "Miss Price, would you do me the..."
"FANNY? Are you out here?" Edmund's voice called from the doorway, interrupting Henry. He sighed in disgust and hoped that Fanny wouldn't answer, but that would not be the case.
"Yes, Edmund. I am here." Fanny called out. The sound of footsteps approaching dissuaded Henry from continuing. Fanny handed back his coat and thanked him. "I am sorry, Mr. Crawford, but you never finished your question. What was it you were asking?"
"It...can wait until later. You should go inside and enjoy the ball. I shall come inside in just a while." His smile was strained as Edmund came into view. He and Fanny exchanged whispered words, before they headed inside. Watching the two disappear out of sight, he promised himself that soon, Fanny would be his.
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