His parochial responsibilities having required his unceasing attention, it was nearly a fortnight since Edmund had entered the gates of Mansfield Park; his filial duties having been neglected for the same period. He had reason to believe that Tom was slowly but steadily improving in health and spirits, Fanny and his father being meticulous correspondents; his eagerness to return to the paternal abode arose not so much from a concern for his ailing brother's lack of entertainment, as his own increasing despondence.
Having discovered that his mother and sibling, likewise, were blissfully lost to the world in a state of slumber, and his remaining parent engaged in a discussion with his steward in the study, Edmund went in search of Fanny, knowing that her company would be sure to soothe his restless thoughts, and put him in a more cheerful frame of mind. The East Room, now furnished with a fire to warm Fanny and turn her thoughts in gratitude towards her uncle for his many kindnesses, was the obvious place to find her; but Edmund perceived, as he neared the room, that he was to be deprived of her society, too: the low voices emerging from the room pronounced that the room had been returned to its former function as a schoolroom, with Susan being tutored by her older sister. He would have entered, but an exclamation from within stopped him in his tracks, and following some unknown impulse, Edmund was reduced to the ignominious act of eavesdropping.
'It is unbearable, Fanny!' came Susan's voice from within. 'Embroidery and knitting are useful pursuits, no doubt, but I find them tedious in the extreme, when practised for such lengthy periods. How I long to roam the grounds, and perhaps, learn to ride: Cousin Edmund did say I was to be allowed to train. I don't understand how you can sit still for hours, while my aunt Bertram chooses to entertain herself in the parlour so quietly!'
Fanny's tone was patience itself, as she replied calmly, 'It is understandable that you should chafe at having to be quiet, Susan, when you have been so used to more active occupation at my mother's house. But I am sure you will agree, on reflection, that it is better to temper such continuous activity with a few moments of peaceful interests. I have found that the time I spend giving my aunt company is well used, for it gives me ample opportunities for contemplation – to ponder on those events that I observe around myself or on those ideas that I may have been introduced to in books – so that every moment is spent in learning something new. You will see that these hours will prove beneficial, as you grow older, my dear, for patience and tolerance are virtues that greatly help in the long run.'
Her outburst having been borne of frustration, Susan was silent in her acceptance of her sister's words, the good sense of which, she was quick to identify; but the effect was greater on Edmund, who observed Fanny in the role of a mentor, with mingled surprise and pride. Of her sterling principles and worth he had neither ignorance nor doubt, but it was a novel experience for him to view her in the responsible position of a guide, having always thought of her as a pupil. That she could instruct someone so ably, without losing that sweetness of manner so unique to herself, was an idea most agreeable, and one, moreover, that was certain to increase his respect for her even more.
Every person, in the course of his or her lifetime, commits the mistake of taking another for granted, particularly when the latter may be an intimate acquaintance, of long standing. Such an error is soon rectified by Fate, as Edmund had discovered, time and again, being surprised by Fanny's resolve in refusing to perform in the play, her steadfastness in refusing Crawford's suit, and now, through this new facet of her character.
He entered the East Room, surprising his studious cousins, and was met with exclamations of joy. Fanny was always happy to see him, and Susan was exhorted into finishing her schoolwork faster, in a bid to impress her Cousin Edmund, and remind him of the promised riding lesson. And Edmund found tranquillity in the calm hour that followed; in helping Fanny teach his younger cousin, and teasing her on the many questions that arise in curious, youthful minds when introduced to new concepts and ideas.
Later in the evening, as the family convened for tea, Sir Bertram addressed his second son about a new neighbour he was to acquire. 'Admiral Daniel Russell was a former acquaintance of mine; we were, in fact, schoolmates at Eton. I had received news from him that he and his lady will be moving into Fareworth Manor this month: he has recently retired from the navy with a bad leg, I believe. I must call on him to welcome him into the neighbourhood, so I will accompany you when you return to Thornton Lacey tomorrow.'
Edmund acquiesced, but reminded of Susan's complaint, proposed an alternate arrangement. 'My cousins have not been about since their arrival from Portsmouth, sir. It would be my pleasure if they could accompany you and grace my table for lunch, if my mother could spare their presence.' Sir Thomas would perhaps have been in full concord with such a programme, but his lady was roused out of her usual torpor into vehemently protesting against such a plan. Susan and Fanny both gone, for nearly a whole day? It would never do! How would she go about, with no Sir Bertram, and only poor Tom, who had not yet fully recovered to arise from his sickbed, for company? It could not be imagined how they would carry on. Either Susan or Fanny must stay.
This naturally led to the sort of good-natured, selflessly sacrificing talk from the sisters, each one urging the other to accompany their uncle and cousin; Fanny being convinced that Susan was in need of greater entertainment , and Susan sure of Fanny being in need of a change in scenery. The debate was resolved by Sir Thomas, who had heard out their protestations in complacence. 'No, there is no need for either of you to forego the delight of paying your cousin a visit. I will visit the Admiral tomorrow, as decided, and all of us will visit you for lunch in the next week, Edmund. That will give your cook enough time to be prepared to feed all of us, and your cousins enough time to ponder on the pleasure of seeing you in your domain.' His pronouncement was met with joyful agreement on all sides, and a date in the succeeding week was fixed for the visit.
A/N: I'm so, so sorry this took so long! Edmund travels slowly but surely down the path of love, and I'll try my best to relate this story faster!
Special thanks to EternalEvening,theredrobin,Mikro,cutecanuck,Paulina and Mamabear : your words are what keep the 'FFNet' part of my conscience pricking, leading to further updates! ;)
Thanks to all those who've favourited, and are following this story : I'd be very gratified to know your opinions on the same!
What'd you think of this chapter?