Author's Note: Written for raychelnina as part of the Doomed Ships Promptathon. Inspired by the prompt 'a falling star fell from your heart and landed in my eyes' and the ensuing discussion about the 'ship.
When Fanny yielded to his proposal of marriage after his return to Portsmouth, Henry thought of naval victories, of surrender and prizes. He said that the wedding should be as she wished, and solicited her opinion on all his suggestions, for he was always determined to ensure that the arrangements would be easy for her. Indeed, he was one of the rare men who wished his bride was more demanding. She did not demur when he insisted that he would please himself, and, he thought, her by removing her from Portsmouth to Mansfield Park, from where he would marry her and establish her as quickly as possible as his wife at Everingham, he who had been so unsettled in the past. He owned it, laughed at himself and found the Prices and Sir Thomas amenable.
More importantly, Fanny agreed to a short engagement. Her face did not light up when he said that there was no obstacle to her being married from Mansfield Park. He did not believe that she wanted to be married from her father's house, however, although he could imagine that she chastised herself for her feelings, natural though they were. She had come out at Mansfield Park; it would be more fitting that she was wed there. He was sure that she was sad that her brother would not be at her wedding, but when Henry avowed that William would always be welcome at Everingham, that did bring a smile to her face. Henry prized such smiles, he was determined to win more and confident of his ability to do so.
Therefore, he conveyed her and Susan to Mansfield Park, where he made free to steal kisses that were less and less unwillingly received and as his affianced began to positively enjoy his embraces, he gave thanks for Lady Bertram's chaperonage.
His sister's engagement to Edmund he was delighted with; he would have all the world share his joy. Perhaps he had not been so magnanimous when he had first heard their news, but now he had news to surpass theirs. He exulted in the independence that allowed him to marry Fanny so quickly and pitied them for not being able to bring forward their wedding date. His temper was all felicity.
He had thought he loved her six months ago, but now that love seemed like a pale, thin thing. Nourished by closer acquaintance with what he readily admitted was her excellence, it had grown. Fanny too was grown plumper. Every delicacy that could be procured was procured for her, despite her protests. In every other respect, Henry had indeed been pleased to establish Mrs. Crawford as the mistress of his house. There was no question of the servants not obeying her. He made it his mission to build her self-assurance and combat the sweet diffidence that held her back unnecessarily. Every time she volunteered her opinion, he delighted in the fact that she had done so, but learned to listen to her too and found and valued her good sense.
If she did not tell him what she wanted, he took it upon himself to guess. The greatest delight was doing so when he was making love to her and her surprised pleasure was one of his rewards. Gradually, her claims upon his energies were becoming dearer than his own. He admitted it handsomely. He who had been ceaseless in seeking the company of a wide circle was glad to stay at his home and hearth of a night, reading to his wife. He had soon coaxed her favourite author from her. He did not think he prided himself too much to think that his readings of Scott pleased her. Her unwavering attention and judicious comments afterward confimed her appreciation. For his part, he expressed his pleasure that she never had the headache after their visits abroad, and even played a modest hostess to all those acquaintances of the area who wished to know the Crawfords.
It was another reward to hear his wife say that she would talk to the housekeeper about refurbishing the nursry. Later that day, they discovered that the date of Mary's wedding was fixed. In high spirits, he wrote a note saying that he wished for their sakes that it was the next day.
Fanny was pale and sickly in the weeks leading up to the wedding. Henry cursed himself and delighted in her state.
"You smile at me," he said, "but I am capable of feeling both things at the same time. Well, smile then. I am glad to see you smile."
He asked her once if she would rather not go to the wedding as it meant travelling to Mansfield Park.
"Not go? To your sister and my cousin's wedding? We must."
He saw that she was determined to go, but took it upon himself to make arrangements that would allow them to travel in easy stages and that all her needs would be met. Nonetheless, she was pale and sickly throughout the journey.
With Mr. and Mrs. Yates, Henry enlivened the wedding party, but his eyes were all for his wife. She was not in her best looks, but she would never sit forgotten to the side again. They were staying at Mansfield Park, although the Grants had also invited them. Henry had felt that Lady Bertram's invitation honoured Fanny and so Sir Thomas Bertram was given another opportunity to show his largesse.
Fanny had had tears in her eyes when she had entered their suite. Henry had asked why.
"It is so unlike my old room here, the white attic" she said in an almost steady voice.
"It is larger, I daresay, but you are a married lady now."
"No, it is not that," she said and checked herself, which he disliked seeing. That the contrast between the chambers had such an effect on her struck him forcibly, and he did what he could to caress her tears away, promising to himself that he would ensure she only had good memories of this room.
He said all that was proper to everyone, except perhaps the future Mrs. Bertram. No-one mentioned Maria or why Mrs. Norris had flown to join her, and so Henry did not think about how he could well have been that foolish unnamed man had it not been for a cold.
Henry listened to the service, to all that was said about the bonds of matrimony, with a new seriousness. In a frame of mind divided between the festivities of the present, hopes for the future and thankfulness for his lot in life, he turned to speak to his wife, but saw how her regard fell on his sister and his new brother-in-law.
Henry Crawford was not a stupid man.
He was also not lacking in vanity, nor in appreciation of his wife's character. Since discovering the tenderness of Fanny's heart in her sincere attachment to her brother - a love that he knew dwarfed his towards Mary – he had known that she would chuse to marry only where she could give her heart. She was slow to attach herself, but he had thought he had won her heart with her acceptance of his suit. At that moment, suspicions that he had never considered before entered his mind.
They returned to Mansfield Park, and bid the newly wed couple farewell. Billiards was suggested as a way of assuaging the flatness that would follow; the ladies would gossip. Henry excused himself to walk the grounds. The place held so many memories, which he had always thought of in a certain way, if he had thought of them at all, for his burgeoning conscience did not much like the thought of how he had behaved during his early acquaintance with the Bertrams and Fanny, and all that she had seen. Moreover, he had become used to thinking of and planning for the future. Now he found himself thinking of the events of the past in a new light.
He had always rated Edmund highly for being one of the few people within these grounds to show Fanny the kindness and esteem that he now comprehended she deserved. He looked at the house and tried to guess the location of her small attic and thought of what Edmund's regard would have meant to the little Fanny Price who had slept and wept there. He knew enough of the tenderness of the woman she had grown into to begin to guess.
His walk was doing nothing to remove the new suspicions in his mind. Indeed, proofs such as the timing of their engagement, so soon on the heels of his sister's, solidified them. At the time, he had thought of it selfishly, jealous of Mary and Bertram's happiness, hoping that seeing such happiness would persuade Fanny to emulate their step. He had never, ever doubted his ability to make her happy. Now, with the key of those speaking eyes, he ventured a guess at her feelings then.
Sobered, he was frightened in a way that he had never experienced before in his life. Now he saw the taint of blind arrogance in his behaviour, in his joy. Now he suspected her of only giving him what she had left to give after Bertram has asked for Mary's hand. He was not Fanny's first love, not her only love, perhaps not her love at all.
He returned to find Lady Bertram and her pug dozing in her favourite room, attended by Fanny. She had risen to greet him before he entered the room—the servants had been given a holiday. Fanny looked like herself, his wife, with her amber cross in the chain he had given her, in her new gown, her face pale, her eyes betraying her concern.
"Did you walk far?" she asked in a low voice. It was not a question she asked often. He mainly walked with her at Everingham, the length of their walk dictated by her strength and speed.
He looked at her again, struggling to reconcile the Fanny Crawford who stood before him, the woman he had been so sure he understood and whom he had assumed loved him, with the woman he had conjured over the past dark hour. Then he saw that his rather wild gaze frightened her, something he would not do for the world.
"I hardly know," he said.
"What is the matter?" Her eyes were pools of worry for him, her hands outstretched towards him and by these tokens of her concern, his worries and fears became less acute. There was no double vision; this was his wife, the woman he had wanted, loving him.
"Returning here was more unsettling that I thought it would be, for both you and I. I am starting to see how very unhappy you were, how good Edmund was to you, how I—I know now that I contributed to your unhappiness—"
"Oh no," she exclaimed in some distress. He grasped her hands—small and soft, familiar—and led her to a corner of the room that he knew of old. He wished he did not.
"I will not make a liar of you," he said. "There was a time when I own I would have, when I would have wanted you to say what I wanted to hear, but, my love, I will not do so now. I am sorry that you were unhappy and for my part in it."
He could tell that she was meditating upon his words and what he had not said, for he could not but look into her eyes. It was natural for his thumb to caress the back of her hand.
"I will tell you the truth, then," she said. "Yes, there was a time when I was unhappy, but I am not so now. You have made me happy. I love you for it."
Henry Crawford did not think that his wife was a liar. When she learned towards him to give him her kiss, he knew he was her love after all.
Feedback is loved, and concrit is welcomed as this hasn't been beta read.