A Necessary Nudge
DISCLAIMER: I have no claims to Miss Austen's lovely "Mansfield Park". If I had my way, Fanny and Henry would have ended up together.
NOTE: Happy Valentine's Day!
Here is a short one-shot on my favorite Mansfield Park pairing, Henry Crawford and Fanny Price, from Henry's point of view. This is the only novel on which I disagree with Miss Austen. I still believe that she did Henry an injustice by making him so weak as to succumb to the scandal towards the end of the book. She did say that he truly loved Fanny and I think that if he had been adequately guided, he may have succeeded in becoming a better person and eventually winning Fanny's heart.
This is fan fiction, after all, and I'm entitled to ship these two with utter vehemence. I will always find a way to bring them together.
This short piece is set at the end of Henry's short visit to Portsmouth. It is my first time writing for this novel so forgive any errors in characterization or such. And I do not pretend to be able to write with the elegance of Miss Austen so this is simply my humble tribute to her, written in my own silly style.
I do hope that you enjoy reading this little piece of mine. And I hope that it conforms somehow with the spirit of the occasion!
Henry Crawford sighed as he took a final glance at the small town where he had spent the last few days in an attempt to ascertain the health and wellbeing of someone who had grown dearer to him than he had ever expected. He regretted that he could not stay much longer and spend more time with Fanny but such were the circumstances and he could no longer delay.
He decided that he would have to be content with the two short occasions on which he was able to see and speak to her. He could not deny that another crucial motive for his visit was to make her think better of him. He had behaved as properly and as agreeably as he had never had the chance to show to her in Mansfield Park and he hoped that his efforts would prove fruitful.
But he was also genuinely concerned about her health. He knew that the humility and timidity of her nature prevented her from openly expressing her discomfort but he was certain that her stay in Portsmouth had lasted long enough. He only wished he convince her to let him convey her back to the safety and comfort of Mansfield Park.
Henry shook his head and tried to turn to other, more pleasant trains of thought. He was not accustomed to dwelling on serious matters, and this was probably one defect of his character which Fanny disapproved of the most. But old habits were extremely difficult to break and he avoided thinking of serious things because some way or another, they caused him some degree of pain. And there was something painfully ironic about the whole situation, after all. He, who had always been successful in wooing women, now found himself at an impasse with the one woman he truly wanted.
Now, that the gargantuan task of winning Fanny over seemed to have made marginal progress, he began to turn his attention to other potential sources of amusement in the coming days. He was just about alight his carriage when he heard someone call his name.
He turned abruptly; half hoping it would be Fanny herself but he knew that would be very unlikely. He was not so disappointed, however, to see the figure of her younger sister, Susan Price, coming down the street. They made the usual polite greetings.
"I was on my way home after doing an errand from Mama," she explained, "are you leaving for London already, sir?"
"I'm afraid I am, Miss Susan," he said pleasantly, "I could not delay this journey any longer although I would have wanted to spend more time with you and your family, of course."
"That's very kind of you," she replied earnestly, "we have greatly appreciated your attentions to us, my sister most of all, I believe."
"Indeed?" Henry repeated with some curiosity.
"Forgive me for speaking plainly," she continued, "but was it not for Fanny's sake that you came here at all?"
Henry's eyes widened slightly at this comment.
He had endeavored to be as discreet as he could about his feelings for Fanny in front of her family. But he saw now in the precocious eyes of her sister that some of his intentions had not gone unnoticed.
"I see I can conceal nothing from you, Miss Susan," he admitted with a smile, "so, if I may be so bold as to ask, what do you think is my success?"
Susan grinned at his question, feeling pleased to be included in some mature conversation.
"I would say that your efforts have not been in vain," she replied, choosing her words carefully, "but if you are serious about my sister, you still have a long way to go."
"It's good to hear some confirmation of my struggles, no matter how little their success," Henry replied, growing more curious, "and what would you recommend as my next course of action?"
"From what I have learned about my sister in the short time we've spent together," Susan continued earnestly, "I believe that her heart is not likely to be easily touched."
"I think I know that much by now," Henry replied with a smile that had a hint of sadness though he had tried to conceal it.
"For some reason, I think she is not fully convinced by your character," Susan proceeded, "though why that is I have no idea for you have been nothing but kindness and generosity to us."
"On that score, your sister is completely blameless," Henry explained, "for she has known me longer and has seen all the faults of character which I have been endeavoring to remedy as of late. Perhaps she is not yet convinced of my improvement and after acting as I have in the past, I cannot accuse her of injustice."
"Oh, forgive me for opening such a delicate subject," the girl said quickly, "I did not mean to pry."
"Rest assured, there was no offense taken," Henry replied congenially, "in fact, I am grateful that she even deigns to speak to me."
He meant to say the last part in jest but he was surprised to note that he was sincere.
"Do not despair, Mr. Crawford," Susan said sympathetically, "I know that it may be difficult now, but there is still hope."
"Do you really think so?" Henry replied with relief, "That is very good news indeed."
"But it will take some time," Susan warned, "and you will need to be patient."
"I confess that patience never was one of my strong suits," Henry admitted honestly, "but for your sister, I would gladly face this challenge."
"That is good to hear, sir," Susan replied with a smile, "for I believe that both of you are very deserving of happiness in life, and I sincerely hope you will find it in each other."
"I thank you for such encouraging words," Henry replied, "but rest assured that half of your wish has already been fulfilled. I can easily say that there is no other woman in the world who could ever make me happy."
And immediately after uttering these words, Henry Crawford realized how much he meant them, and how every other frivolous concern must now dissipate after such a declaration.
"If I may suggest, sir," Susan spoke meekly but with authority, "the only way for you to be able to show my sister the sincerity of your intentions is through perseverance. You must not falter or give her cause for doubt. Persevere, Mr. Crawford, and I believe you will eventually succeed."
"Wise words, indeed," Henry said gratefully, "And I shall take them to heart. But it is all easier said than done, I'm afraid."
Susan gave a small shrug at this.
"Anything worth having must be worked for," she concluded sagely before taking her leave, "good day, Mr. Crawford, and may you have a safe journey!"
"Good day, Miss Susan," Henry replied with a smile, "and I thank you for your invaluable advice!"
Susan waved and watched hopefully as Mr. Crawford got into his carriage. She had grown quite fond of him in the short time that they had been acquainted and she dearly wished for her sister to return the affections he so evidently had for her.
And yet Susan knew that Fanny would never doubt where there was no cause to. But the younger sister was in a better position to give Mr. Crawford the benefit of a doubt. From what she had seen of him, he was sincere about his intentions to her sister and she already gave him much credit for travelling so far to see Fanny and for enduring the impropriety of her family with dignity and courtesy.
I daresay he will turn out well, Susan Price thought, he simply needed a nudge in the right direction.
Persevere, she had said, and Henry Crawford repeated this word to himself over and over during his journey.
In a moment of clarity, he saw what he needed to do and how much he needed to change. Minor adjustments to his habits simply would not do. If he was ever to deserve Fanny Price's affections, he had to become all that he had tried to avoid in life due to overindulgence and excessive comfort.
He now saw for the first time how he must appear to Fanny. After all his mischief with her cousins and his general frivolous behavior, how could she possibly believe him to be serious about her?
As all of this dawned on Henry Crawford, he concluded that the task ahead was not as simple as he had first thought. And yet, the difficulty only served to heighten the appeal. He was even more determined to succeed.
And yet for all this, he also understood now that Fanny was no prize to be won. He had unjustly treated her as the reward to the greatest effort he had ever exerted in his life. He knew now that even if he completely reformed himself and became as noble and responsible a man as there ever was, there was still a chance that she could refuse him.
He could not force her to love him and he no longer wanted to. That would be selfish and cruel of him and she deserved so much more than that.
He would follow Susan's advice and persevere in becoming a man who could deserve an angel such as Fanny Price. And after this, he could only hope that she would return his deepest and most heartfelt affections.
In his own way, Henry was already steeling himself for heartbreak. He could not deny that this was one possible conclusion to all of this even if he refused to dwell on it for too long. It was far too early to despair.
For now, he would follow a straight path of responsibility and seriousness. He could not afford to stray from this course even for the slightest amusement. Any unnecessary diversion would be fatal to his ultimate goal – to become a man worthy of Fanny Price.