Susan shrieked with laughter as tom sped around the bend, she held on to her cousin with both hands as the wind rush around her.
"Faster! I want to go faster," she shouted.
"No, we better not," Tom said smiling. "Your Uncle will not like it if you are injured. I should be teaching you how to ride like a proper lady instead I am taking you racing."
"I would like to see a race. Have you been to one?" Susan was certain that Tom had to have seen one.
"I have been to races, and that is no place for a young lady," Tom said with sudden firmness. "Come now, it is almost time for dinner."
"But it ain't even four o'clock," Susan complained.
"It is almost four o'clock and you must have a bath before dinner," Tom replied. He clucked the horse into a fast trot back to the stable.
"Hey, there's a carriage! Who do we have for dinner? Aunt said nothing bout company." Tom could not help smiling at Susan, before he looked at the carriage. With a start he recognized Mr. Yates and Julia.
"Susan, I want you to get in the house," Tom said in a tone that brought no argument. Tom waited until he saw Susan safely out of hearing. "Well now Yates you have brought my sister home." His tone of voice had a hardness that no one had ever heard before. "I really should knock your head off, but a lady is present."
"I can explain Tom," Mr. Yates started.
"That is Mr. Bertram to you."
"It was Julia's idea to go to Gretna Green." Tom looked at his youngest sister.
"It is true Tom it was my idea; John was kind enough to go along with my plan." There was a moment of silence while Tom considered her words. He had suffered under the conviction that the elopement was more his fault. He had been the one to bring Mr. Yates to Mansfield Park after only knowing him for ten days. "Who was that girl you were with?"
"Our cousin Susan Price. If you had been here in the spring you would have met her."
"Well," Julia said awkwardly. "We will just go to my apartment and prepare for dinner."
"You will have to find another room; Susan now has your rooms and Fanny has Maria's room."
"By who's order," Julia demanded.
"Father's order, it was done last month."
The men stood as the ladies departed for the drawing room. To the joy of everyone Julia was showing every sine of humility and a wish to be forgiven. Julia's temper was easier than her elder sister; her feelings were quick but controllable. And Julia's education had not given her as high a degree of conceit than Mrs. Rushworth. Aunt Norris had made sure that Julia knew herself to be second to Maria.
She was kind to Fanny, something she rarely did. The feeling sprung from the conviction that Fanny had loved Henry Crawford as much as she did. Julia had offered her best to Henry Crawford only to be slighted. She was polite to Susan imagining that she certainly lived under greater severity than she had experienced at Mansfield. It was this fear of greater restraint that made her hastily resolve on avoiding such horrors at all cost. She had quite frankly married John Yates out of selfishness.
"Mr. Yates I have investigated your holdings and am glad to find that your estate is 4,000 pounds a year. That is rather more than I expected," Sir Thomas started. "Also your debts are less then 5,000 pounds and you are steadily paying them off."
"Yes, Sir, that was the idea of my Steward," Mr. Yates replied. "He thought I should pay off my debts before accumulating more. He thought to rent out Netherfield Park while I was… traveling, to raise the funds to pay back my debts. And it was he that gave me the budget that I live by."
"That is good to know," Sir Thomas remarked calmly. "An intelligent and shrewd Steward can make all the differents on an estate."
"Julia and I plan to spend half the year in the country and the other half in London," Mr. Yates said proudly. "If I may Sir I would like to ask for your guidance in a matter of importance."
"Mr. Bingley had been renting my estate and he is leaving at the end of September. His income was the only means of paying off my debts. Do you have any suggestions as to what I should do next?"
"Have you offered another contract?"
"Yes, but he has purchased his own estate."
In the eight months that Thornton Lacey had belonged to Edmund Bertram he had spent six days of the week at Mansfield Park by necessity. In the beginning his reason was not to leave his dear mother childless. Then because of Tom's illness. And over the summer all that fallowed his sisters conduct. He had needed this time to talk away his love for Mary Crawford. And his dear Fanny was the only person for the job. Edmund was doing the very thing he did not want, going to Thornton Lacey for a few hours most Sundays.
None of the family saw Edmund for the month of September. In October the family went to Thornton Lacey every Sunday including Lady Bertram. A fear that the Grants might return any day carried them along. By November it was clear that the Grants would be staying in Bath at least until the end of the year.
Under Fanny's direction, Tom's liveliness and Sir Thomas's morality Susan by degrees improved. She learned from a wish of not appearing ignorant or unmannered rather than a true love for learning. Fanny taught her history and French. Susan did not like history, but developed the habit of reading. She found that French was richer in texture and expression than English. Also she was glad to understand the popular phrases in use. Tom educated her in plays, novels, riding and archery. Susan came to understand the literary culture of the English language and was proud of her mother tong. The exercise Tom provided was new entertainment for her and much better than walking to the doc yards. When Sir Thomas looked longingly at his daughter's piano forte Susan declared that she wanted to learn to play. Sir Thomas thought it right that a lady be musical and a teacher was hired. With her fearless disposition and happier nerves everything was easy to her. And wordlessly her trip of a few months evolved into a permanent stay.
The explosion of anger Tom felt as he stormed out of the Club's drawing room was almost more than he could bare. The words of Charles Anderson and John Sneyd cut in particular. No regret for their breach of friendship. No recognition of what they were to each other. The honor code all true gentleman were bound to meant nothing. The men who he thought were his friends had left him ill and did not apologize for their actions. What was more now that Mrs. Rushworth's divorce was in the news; most of his former friends wanted nothing to do with the Bertram name. Tom felt like Timon of Athens. He had been a good friend by forgiving large gambling debts. He remembered how his father had rebuked him for his debts, when he had to sale the living to Dr. Grant. Tom did not intend on inviting the fashionable young men of London to a dinner to berate them for their falseness; cutting them as acquaintances would have to do. He did not intend on allying himself with America or France; as did Timon befriended General Alcibiades. And Tom had no plan of dieing anytime soon. Never the less the feeling that he had been betrayed was present.
He remembered the Countess's words in All's well That ends well; Love all, trust a few, do wrong to none. Wise words he could now attest too. Tom was so blinded by anger he almost did not see the two gentlemen coming in the opposite direction. All three men jumped back from one another at the last moment.
"I am sorry, I was not watching where I was going," Tom said stonily.
"Sir, are you well," Mr. Darcy wanted to know. Tom's face was very red and his eyes were puffy.
"I just found out that men I considered to be friends were no such thing to me," Tom replied without thinking. "Forgive me, I do not know either of you gentlemen," he added in a softer tone.
"I am Fitzwilliam Darcy and this is Charles Bingley," he said in a mild tone. Darcy knew what it was to be betrayed and felt compassion for the young man, although he was a stranger.
"I have heard of you Mr. Darcy. You are of Pemberley and Derbyshire." Tom had a gift for entertaining small talk, but those skills were absent for the moment.
"We were about to play a round of billiards," Mr. Bingley said in a cheery tone. "you are welcome to join us Mr.…"
"I am Tom Bertram." Tom almost could have bitten his tong off at the expressions on the men's faces. He expected that Mr. Bingley regretted the invitation and was preparing to excuse himself when Darcy repeated the offer.
"You are welcome to join us Mr. Bertram," Darcy said with firmness. Tom was so surprised at the offer that for a moment he did not know what to say. He remembered himself in due course and joined the game.
The conversation that fallowed was revealing. Without giving names Darcy related his experience with false men. The wise advice he gave Tom went down better than any simple lecture from his father. Bingley was a friendly man who had new business connections to make him useful. While Tom remained in London he spent time with Darcy and Bingley; because of his situation dinner invitations were not forth coming. However, the friendship they forged would last for a lifetime.
"I am not trying to be crass Maria," Tom said in exasperation. "I just want to know if you are a virgin or not. If you did not consummate your marriage then you can get an annulment."
"Well, we did not," Maria said coloring. "He was just too…"
"I don't want to know," Tom said quickly. "What about Henry Crawford?"
"That is none of your business," she replied sharply. Tom believed that was a "yes". In truth Henry Crawford had not even kissed Mrs. Rushworth, but that did not matter to the law or the world at large. Even if Tom could prove that the Rushworth marriage had never been consummated Maria's reputation was still lost beyond a hope. Had she only returned to her Father an annulment could have been carried out. Instead she had runaway with Crawford and lived together for months in an unknown location. James Rushworth had no problem obtaining a divorce. Maria returned with Crawford to Everingham.
Tom had tried to be useful to his father and had failed to bring Maria home. Tom could not think about Maria and Crawford without feeling some of the blame. When he reflected on all the dangerous intimacy of his unjustifiable theatre he felt himself the corrupter of the peace. If not for his gambling debts his Father would have not needed to sale Mansfield Living. If not for the presents of Dr. and Mrs. Grant Henry and Mary Crawford would have never come to Mansfield. And not for his theater, this was the melancholy cycle of Tom's thoughts.
Before Tom left Mansfield Park Fanny had given him a handsome gold necklace that had been a gift from Mary Crawford. The necklace had originally been a gift from Henry Crawford to his sister; she in turn gave it to Fanny in order to help her brother's courtship. Fanny could not bring herself to keep the thing any longer.
"Mr. Bertram if you would be so kind as to sale this necklace or perhaps trade it for another I would be very glad," Fanny said after giving it's history. "I can not look at this necklace and only think of the sister. I must remember the brother as well."
"If I can not sale it what would you like in place," asked Tom.
"I already have the amber cross from William and the gold chain from Edmund; I should like something for Susan. I know that she wants a locket. Do you think that will trade for a silver locket and chain?"
"It should with some pennies to spare," Tom answered immediately.
While in London Tom went to the same jewelry shop he always patronized. He was one of their best customers, therefore the scandal surrounding his family did not matter. In fact his last perches was an ornate toothpick case with pearls, ivory and gold. The shop did not have silver lockets in stock only gold. Fanny's necklace would not be enough to buy both locket and chain. Tom was trying very hard to only spend money on what was absolutely necessary; no one needed to tell him that women's ornaments did not fall under that category. He thought about Fanny and all that Henry Crawford had put her through. She was brave, always happy and ever useful. Susan was not much different, ready to learn something new with a genuine love for what was right. Although both were female and much younger than he, they had proven worthy of all the comfort he had taken for granted. Tom put his elaborate toothpick case on the table to add to Fanny's necklace. This was more than enough for two gold lockets and gold chains.
"I agree with you Mr. Bertram," Sir Thomas said after his son gave his report. "I knew that the roads were getting old, but I did not realize that they were in such disrepair."
"Tomorrow is Quarter Day," Tom observed. "Do you wish that I collect the rents?"
"I would like you to join me when I do," Sir Thomas responded. "I am debating the wisdom of increasing rents."
"I was talking with a group of farmers and they expect the next three harvest to be poor," Tom said helpfully. "The two old farmers are convinced that 1816 and 1817 will be the worst on record."
"I will increase rents only by 3% instead of 5% this year and the next. And if 1816 and 1817 are truly bad I will freeze rents," Sir Thomas proclaimed. The Father then dismissed the servants in the room and had Tom close the door. "I have just received a letter from Maria. She is done with Henry Crawford and wants to come home."
"Does she think that she can return to Mansfield," Tom wanted to know.
"I will not allow it," Sir Thomas said firmly. "As a daughter and I hope a repentant one, she must be protected. I am open to suggestions."
"I can take her to our London house for the time being," Tom offered after a long quiet. "If Crawford is making her unhappy or real harm she must be removed to a safe location."
"Crawford is not doing her harm," Sir Thomas said looking over the letter. "Maria has at last become an adult. Henry Crawford will not marry her, the matter is clear to her now."
"I can leave in the next hour for… where is she?"
"At Everingham in Norfolk," Sir Thomas sighed. "You can leave in the morning. I will need your help telling the family."
"Tell Fanny and Susan. I will tell your mother and aunt."
"I do have some good news for you Sir. Dr. Grant has been offered a seat at West Minster and will not be returning to Mansfield."
Starting in June Tom and Maria were living in London. Both were trying to navigate society's rules governing a divorced woman. Maria was appalled to find that the friends she thought she had had abandoned her. Tom had some pity for his sister, it had not been so long ago he discovered the same.
"We are not sure where she can be placed," Tom said to Darcy. "London is not a long term solution."
"A foreign country would be best, but with war with France and America that would be unwise," he replied. Darcy felt honored that Tom was asking his advice after such a short friendship, but was concern that Tom not share with too many people. "Who else are you talking with?"
"You are the only person outside the family I am talking too. If this is too painful to hear I will stop," Tom offered.
"No, go on as much as you need," Darcy said quickly. At least in Tom's case the good friends worth having were still around. Maria had nobody, not even Julia. After leaving Mansfield Park the Yates removed to Netherfield Park, Mr. Yates's estate. And while the travel time was less than a day, the sisters were not on good terms.
July was a grater test as the season was over and the weather hot. Tom could at least go to his club, attend dinner parties with a limited circle and make calls. Maria could not visit on anybody not blood family. She could go shopping, but with a budget smaller than ever. She could ride or walk in a park, but her only company was her maid.
August brought a further trial of Tom's abilities. Sir Thomas had refused to allow Maria to return to Mansfield. Mrs. Norris blamed Fanny as the cause. She told Sir Thomas to send both Fanny and Susan back to Port smith, so that Mr. and Mrs. Rushworth could reconcile. Or if that could not be, introduce Maria to another young man to marry. Sir Thomas would not hear this and held his ground. Mrs. Norris removed from Mansfield in order to attend her poor Maria. Aunt Norris had no judgment and Maria had no affection; their combined tempers were Tom's punishment. When the news came that Fanny and Edmund were to marry in September both women became even more tormenting.
With the help of family and friends Tom was able to find some relief from his guard duties. For somebody always had to be at the house in order to keep Maria and Mrs. Norris in order. Tom and Maria had been all powerful with their Aunt; but Maria and Mrs. Norris had become a united force against Tom. They demanded to be seen in public, as if nothing had happened. The argument went; with foreign wars, domestic problems and gossip about the royal family nobody cared about Mrs. Rushworth. A fortnight rotation of Tom, Sir Thomas, Edmund and Mr. Harding kept the women in line. In September Tom was free to attend Fanny and Edmund's wedding. In October he was able to return to Mansfield to help his father attend to estate matters. And in November he went to a fox hunting party at Mr. Yates's estate Netherfield Park.
While in the area Tom met an interesting young woman. Mary Bennet two and twenty, the daughter of a local gentleman was unlike any other girl Tom had ever met. When he flattered, Mary smiled as if she were amused, but far from charmed. She neither avoided his company or courted his favor. She was intelligent without being headstrong; supremely modest and pyres.
"You play very well Miss Bennet," Tom said. They were at the Yates's ball talking after Mary's performance on the piano forte.
"I thank you, but there is room for improvement," Mary replied.
"Such modesty is rare these days, you are a treasure," Tom said with his best smile.
"I thank you Mr. Bertram, but the truth is that I do not like to play the piano forte. To be sure I love to listen to music as much as the next person," Mary said quickly. " I have moral taste enough to appreciate capital music, but I am not musical as the saying goes. I only learn to play, in order to show up my sisters in something. My four sisters had beauty, lively conversation and grace; in consequence of being the plain one of the family I worked hard for knowledge and accomplishments. Thanks to Mrs. Yates I have discovered that I lack both genius and taste."
"I am sorry," Tom said, but for what he did not know.
"Alls well that ends well," Mary said with a smile. "I know myself and that is worth something."
"You are the youngest in your family," Tom wanted to know.
"No, I am in the middle," Mary said wanting to turn the topic of conversation. "In any case I have kept up my music skills, because it is my duty to my community."
"How do you see it as your duty to learn to play an instrument you do not like?"
"First of all I do like the piano forte , but the harp is my favorite." Tom suddenly had an image of Mary Crawford. Both ladies had rich black curls, brown skin, with small light bodies; and both were musical. But the different between the two ladies were many. Where Miss Crawford was lively, Miss Bennet was serious; Miss Crawford's dark eyes sparkled while Miss Bennet's blue eyes were soft. Mary Crawford had 20,000 pounds and Mary Bennet had 1,000 pounds. "We all of us have are particular responsibility and should live up to them. If the landlord does not take care of his property, his tenets suffer. If the farmer can not do his work, the grain is not harvest. Without the grain the baker can not work. And without bread where would we be?"
"That is all very true," Tom said thinking of his own tenets. "What is the role of music."
"The country dance offers an image of society in which the bonds of community, family and a spirit of joyful cooperation unites its members," Mary said. "I made a point of becoming a fair country dance player, because we have many spontaneous balls in this area and somebody needs to play."
"And you feel that somebody must be you?"
"to play dance music is of course indispensable at such informal gatherings. The ability to accompany dance well bespeaks thorough competence and musicianship. I must be able to carry a beat steadily and with a lilt, to project adequately for all the dancers to hear. Even with conversation and laughter in the background. I can never falter or lose my place," Mary said grandly. "I have needed to learn how to efface myself and that has not been easy. You see for a time I was always impatient for display." There was a small note of embarrassment in these last words.
"You have over come that need for display?"
"I have replaced my need for display for a devotion to duty. As a child vanity gave me application and a conceited manner. As a woman I can not say that I have over come my vanity and conceit; but I can say that I at least try for humility and modesty. Add to it, I am never asked to dance," Mary said with a bitter smile. "I must do something with my time."
"Then please give me the honor of two dances at every ball we happen to be attending," Tom answered with his normal gallantry. For as kind as the offer was Tom was only in the area for five more days and no more balls occurred. In December Edmund came to give Tom a vacation; that he took at Mansfield. The War of 1812 came to an end with an indecisive conclusion. In January 1815 Tom escorted his divorced sister and widowed Aunt to Ireland. After long and painful debate a small household had been arranged for them in Waterford. And there they would remain for now.
For years thoughtlessness and selfishness had govern Tom's actions. And since recovering from his illness he had gone a long way to learn thoughtfulness and altruism. He had stop gambling and wasting money. He gave to the poor without recognition. He had supported his family through a very hard time and made himself useful to his father. In two years he had gotten rid of many bad habits, but not all. One bad habit would remain for a little while longer, to inflict the greatest damage to Tom's peace of mind. A fault that would seal his life in a course he had not planned to take and to bring about his full transformation.
I felt a little cheated at the end of the novel, so I started this to expand that last chapter. But when I got to the end I got an idea after reading another Fan Fiction on this site, The Odd Duck's Quest. The Death of Mary Bennet and The Death of Tom Bertram stories will be resolved in a crossover fiction that I will post when I am satisfied with my results.