True love never did run smooth

Mary was determined to leave Mansfield but she dreaded that final moment. Visiting relatives in the rest of the country was all very well, but even that couldn't go on forever. Sooner or later she would have to become a clergyman's wife. At Mansfield she had been able to pretend that it wasn't going to happen. That she and Edmund would somehow inherit the large house instead of Tom. At the same time she hated that Mansfield refused to do her bidding. The servants were rude, her new family did not make an effort to make her feel welcome and of course Fanny hadn't accepted Henry yet. So when Mary awoke the morning after the ball it was with mixed feelings.

She was up uncommonly early, the same time as Edmund. They went down to breakfast together and had quite a pleasant conversation about the weather, which seemed perfect for traveling. Towards the end of their breakfast they were joined by the rest of the family, all of whom looked a little worn and tired. But Edmund appreciated that they had made the effort, and Mary supposed that she was glad too.

They left just before noon. Waving and promising to return soon.

When their carriage rolled away, Fanny breathed a sigh of relief. And was instantly ashamed of her reaction. She looked to her side where Henry stood. He had come to say goodbye to his sister. He noticed her gaze and smiled at her, offering her arm and taking her for a walk in the garden.

And it was here that they saw a carriage containing Susan Andrews going in the direction of Mansfield.

Henry and Fanny had only met her briefly the day before and Fanny was not familiar with her story. She simply knew that Susan was there for a quick visit on her way to someplace in England before coming back for the wedding. So they decided to stay in the garden. Henry wanted to spare her the discomfort, since there was sure to be a confrontation of some sort in the house. So he spoke of London, of the shows they would see and the dresses she would buy.

He tried to avoid talking about Jamaica for as long as possible. But it became inevitable.

"Fanny," he said, leading her to a stone bench, "please tell me what you're thinking."

She looked at him. Her eyes betraying her thoughts.

"To tell you the truth, Henry, I am terrified."

He took her hand and caressed it.

"What are you afraid of?"

"That I won't be able to stand it, that I will miss everyone too much, that there won't be a place for me there..."

Henry looked at her. At his Fanny, for now she was his and his alone. He realized that for once he knew exactly what to say to her.

At the moment Mansfield Park was not as cheerful or as loving as the looks that were passing between the two young lovers in the gardens. Susan had been subjected to a conversation with Sir Thomas where he had emphasized how her previous experiences might ruin her sister. He had asked her, in a very businesslike manner, if she could in some way remove herself somewhere, or perhaps get married.

So, needless to say, Susan Andrews was fuming.

And now Sir Thomas was having a conversation with Elizabeth and Tom about their engagement. Which left Susan in a room with Julia Bertram, who was probably the person she least wished to see at the moment. She couldn't care less for Mr. Seul's love life when her own sister was suffering at that very moment for a stupid mistake.

Julia had been observing Susan Andrews and she wasn't liking what she had seen. She had eavesdropped enough to realize what the woman sitting before her was guilty of. At the same time she knew the worth of gaining an ally in the pursuit of Mr. Seul, so she didn't let her disdain show. Julia had become quite the politician the last few moments, at least that was how she liked to think of herself.

After some tea and a few chimings of the clock the conference in Sir Thomas' study was finally finished. Elizabeth looked upset when she exited and Tom seemed lost. Susan glared at them, her eyes demanding to know what was happening. She went after her sister and found her halfway up the staircase sitting.

"What's happening?" Susan demanded.

Elizabeth was shaking.

"He says, he says we have a few choices."

"Choices. What a joke."

Elizabeth stared at her sister.

"Either we call it or off, or else we settle somewhere where people won't care, like here, or else we live for another country. Sir Thomas says it is quite different to be married to a baronet's son. People will try to discover something about me. And since our family already has a reputation, it won't be particularly hard."

"Well father will give you a decent dowry at least."

"Susan!" Elizabeth looked outraged, "Why are you acting so trivial about this?"

"Because there is nothing I can do about it."

"Yes, there is," Elizabeth spat out, "you could have agreed to his terms."

"And I would have lost what little freedom I have left," said Susan with a glare.

And with those words she stormed off.

A/N: New chapter coming in two weeks with a lot of Fanny and Henry.