Posted on: 2015-05-01
In the aftermath of Mary Crawford's final visit to Mansfield Park, Tom Bertram watched as his cousin Fanny grew away from his brother Edmund.
True, she was there to offer comfort in the fullness of his grief, as she always was. Comfort was something that Fanny did well and she had always been closest to Edmund. If he was honest with himself, in hindsight Tom suspected that she loved Edmund and had done so since before her womanhood caused her to comprehend it.
As time passed, however, Tom start to see discomfort written across Fanny's face in Edmund's company. Discomfort that grew into frustration as Edmund wallowed in his contemplation of what he considered were the evils that society had worked on the woman he loved. Tom thought that, had she given her honest opinion, Fanny would call it a failure of Miss Crawford's morals and character, rather than evils imposed by society. In his newly sobered mind, Tom considered that he probably agreed with Fanny.
Edmund's duties at Thornton Lacey did keep him away, but he came to Mansfield often, driven by the depressive spectre of his own company. As Tom grew stronger he used his improved health to shield Fanny from this visits when he could, asking her to accompany him on constitutional walks through the gardens in fine weather, and asking her to read to him when they were trapped in doors.
Before long, Edmund noticed that his patient listener had been diverted and confronted Tom.
"What are you playing at, Tom? You have never paid Fanny the slightest thought in the past."
Tom kept his face calm. "Indeed, that was my mistake. I see the worth of our young cousin more clearly now. Her gentle nature soothes my troubled mind when memories of my misbehavior intrude and her advice on my current and future pursuits is sound and very welcome."
Edmund frowned. "That is true. But I see so little of her lately. You have monopolized her time."
"Your home is in Thornton Lacey and Fanny's is here, at Mansfield. It is only natural that her focus is here and that her concerns are starting to diverge from yours. You're responsibilities and priorities have changed."
Edmund was clearly not satisfied, but he could not deny Tom's logic and so left with a still somewhat disconcerted expression.
What Tom had carefully hidden during that conversation were his own developing feelings. He could see why Mr Crawford had been drawn to Fanny once the more dominant personalities of Maria and Julia were no longer in residence. Her goodness, her sweetness and the steadiness of her character were captivating. It made him more disgusted with Crawford than ever, knowing that he had thrown away such possibilities. He did suspect that Crawford would never have succeeded. Fanny's opinion of his character was too low, that was clear.
Tom was not sure that he was worthy of Fanny. He hoped that, in essentials, he was a stronger character than Crawford and he was determined to improve himself. He would at least try and be worthy of her. Perhaps one day he could engage her affections. He had hope, small though that it was.
He smiled to himself and went in search of Fanny. The sun was breaking through the clouds. Perhaps she wished to walk today.