Susan's first week in Mansfield Park had been quite hectic but I was doing quite well considering how different life in Portsmouth was and in comparison to life in Mansfield. Although her relatives and the new rich life scared her, she had found herself and joining the peaceful and quiet life in Mansfield and the countryside. She had also met Mr. Crawford –her sister's fiancé- and she found herself really liking her soon-to-be brother in law. Most importantly, even a blind man could tell that he was in love with her sister and Fanny seemed to be quite smitten too.
During that first week Fanny had been quite busy. She was trying to help her sister get accustomed to the life in Mansfield. Thankfully Susan and Henry seemed to be quite fond of each other and not once had Henry's attention towards Susan been more than that of friend and (soon-to-be) brother. She was quite glad about that. It seemed that he really had changed and her decision to accept his proposal was correct. The only black cloud on horizon had been that he informed her he needed to go to town for three weeks. Apparently Mary wanted to go to town and Henry was going with her in order to accompany her and because he had some business to take care of.
Today was the last day before Henry and Mary left to go to town. Mary had come to visit but not Henry. She claimed that he was going to arrive later. Fanny found herself surprised that she felt sad that he hadn't come as well. Right now Mrs. Norris was in the middle of a rant about women and how they should stick to their place in life and not try to climb the social ladders. She didn't say it out right but everyone present knew that she was talking about Fanny marrying Mr. Crawford and Susan coming to live in Mansfield Park. That went on until Mary decided to interrupt her.
"I see your point madame and I hate to interrupt your interesting argument but I believe that I am in need some fresh air. Miss Price, Miss Susan would you care for a walk in the grounds? The weather is so nice and I would like one last walk around the grounds of Mansfield before I leave."
"I would be delighted" Fanny replied. "How about you Susan?"
"Oh, yes! I really haven't had a chance to explore the ground yet." And so the three girls excused themselves and quickly escaped towards the grounds leaving behind only poor lady Bertram to hear the rant of her sister Mrs. Norris.
"I'm really sorry that I'll be leaving you tomorrow but I promised my friend in town some time ago that I would go visit her."
"I understand. You've been here so long it's understandable that you would want to see your friend."
"I promise you though that I'll be back for the wedding. I wouldn't miss my brother's marriage for the world" Mary said. "You look quite tired Miss Price. Perhaps you should sit down at that bench for a little while."
"No, I assure you I'm not tired at all."
"I quite insist. Even just for a little while. Your sister and I will walk for a little while that way and we'll be back before you know it."
"Well… If you insist I guess I'll rest for a little while" and so the two walked away leaving behind Fanny. She watched them walk away till she couldn't see them anymore. She couldn't understand why Mary was acting so weirdly. She was so absorbed in her thoughts that she didn't hear someone approaching from behind until she felt a pair of hands over her eyes.
"Guess who?" a rich velvety male voice, that Fanny recognized instantly, said.
"Mr. Crawford!" the pair of hands was removed from her eyes and she turned around and came face to face with her fiancé. She instantly got up and hugged him. "You're here! When Mary came alone I was afraid that you weren't going to come." She then realized what she was doing – hugging a man she wasn't married to a yet in public – and she tried to get away but a pair of strong arms around her waist stopped her. He then leaned forward and placed his lips against her ear.
"We're alone Fanny. What have I told you to call me when we're alone?" Fanny could feel her face burn and she was sure that she probably resembled a tomato quite a bit at the moment.
"Henry!" she squeaked. "What if someone sees us? Our sisters will be back at any moment."
"This place is quite isolated and hardly anyone passes by here and Mary promised to give us at least 10 minutes alone and she also promised that when she comes back she will talk rather loudly in order to warn us."
"M-Mary knew? Is that why she wanted me to sit and wait here even though I wasn't tired?"
"Yes, she agreed with me that if I was to be able to survive three weeks without you I deserved a few minutes alone with you and since she is the reason I'll be away from you for three weeks she agreed to help secure a few minutes alone with you as long as I promised to behave. Unfortunately I couldn't come earlier with Mary, because if Mrs. Norris knew I was here she would have insisted coming along on the walk and we would never have been able to find even a moment alone." He pulled back a little and placed one of his hands on her cheek and looked straight into her eyes. "I'm going to miss you my Fanny."
"I'm going to miss you too. Promise me something."
"Anything for you Fanny."
"Promise me that you'll return to me, that you won't forget me while you're gone."
"That's something you didn't even have to ask for. There is nothing that would keep me from coming back to you but if it makes you feel any better I'll promise you. I, Henry Crawford, promise you, Fanny Price, that I'll return back to you as soon as possible and I also promise you that the whole time of my absence you won't leave my thoughts" and then he leaned forward and captured her lips with his own. The kiss was very sweet and slow as he tried to savor every moment of it. He stopped the kiss as he knew they couldn't get carried away. Last thing he wanted to do was to damage Fanny's reputation. In six weeks she would be his wife and then he could kiss her to his heart's content and nobody would be able to say anything about it. He noticed that she had her eyes closed, her cheeks were bright red and she was breathing deeply –probably trying to calm herself and push back the blush. She was so cute and adorable and soon she would be his. He placed his forehead on hers and closed his eyes too in order to savor the moment. He was really in love with her and thankfully he had agreed to give him a chance and marry him, despite his previous behavior. If she had rejected him he probably would have done something stupid. But now he couldn't imagine going back to his old ways as long as he had Fanny. He really didn't want to go to town but he couldn't leave his sister to go alone and it gave him a chance to take care of some business in order to have more time to spend with Fanny after they got married. He heard Mary's voice in the distance so he let go of Fanny and lead them to sit at the bench. All too soon Marry and Susan appeared and approached them.
"Henry, I see you found Miss Price" Mary said.
"Yes I saw her sitting here alone and decided to keep her company"
"We're doing rounds around the grounds of Mansfield. Would you like to join us?"
"Yes, I would love to." Three weeks apart was way too long.
End of chapter 4 –to be continued
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Disclaimer: I don't own Mansfield Park or any of its characters.