With friends like Me, who needs enemies?
J'espère que vous me pardonnerez pour le mien.
"Thank you for helping me with this, Miss Crawford," I said politely to her.
She nodded, "Not a problem, Mr. Bertram." She then threw me a wicked smile, "Or is it Edmund since your brother is now here?"
I sighed and I looked down trying to think of a quick reply to deliver, but only could come up with, "Call me as you wish." I know, it was very weak, and personally I felt I could have done better.
"You are in love with her, aren't you?" She looked over to Fanny and my mother, the former feeding the latter opium.
"Who? My mother?" I raised my eyebrows at her. "Naturally, she is my mother, after all."
"No," she shook her head, the wings of her hair shifted back and forth. "I meant, Miss Fanny Price."
I shifted my balance for a moment, but then recovered swiftly, "Excuse me?"
"You are in love with her," she breathed.
I shrugged and then smiled politely, "Of course. She is my cousin after all, and we have been raised as brother and sister." I smiled in relief at my cleverness, and added for the kill of quick wit. "After all, there are as many forms of love as there are of weather."
She laughed at my allusion to weather and grinned, "That there are." She gestured towards my father, "I believe he is calling for you."
"Excuse me, Miss Crawford," I bowed to her, and then finally took my leave of her to travel in my father's direction, but before I could do so she stopped me.
"Edmund," she said softly, in a manner completely unlike her. "Can I ask you a question?"
I tried to hide my surprise in the tone of my voice, but I am not sure I did succeed. "Certainly, Miss Crawford."
"Do you think you could ever consider me as your friend?" When I widened my eyes by her question, she fumbled her words and tried to laugh it off unsuccessfully. "I mean...Edmund--Mr. Bertram," she corrected herself. "I do not have many friends, and my brother." She stopped and gave me a knowing look. "My brother is a good brother, but sometimes I think he has forgotten the good counsel of being a friend."
I looked at her, and then smiled while whispering, "Miss Crawford, may I assure you I will try my best to maintain your friendship, and I will hope you will maintain mine as well."
She smiled and said just as softly, "Thank you, Edmund." Then in a louder voice, she laughed to me, "Thank you for talking with me, but I think your father is ready for you know. Prepare for the wolves for I dare to think he does look like one."
This caused me to laugh for indeed my father did look like a wolf. I turned to her again and smiled, "Thank you for your counsel, Miss Crawford. It has enlightened me in so many ways about your character."
She nodded and curtsied, and I finally made my way over to my father.
"Hello father," I said as I reached his place in a corner where no one could possibly hear our conversation for sometimes my father could be downright cruel. "I am at your disposal as ever."
"Edmund Bertram," my father told me. "Bite your tongue, lad. I will not take this kind of imprudence from you."
"B-but, father!" I exclaimed timidly, shifting my weight nervously, from one foot to another. "What exactly did I do?'
His voice fell to a whisper as he leaned towards me, "I think you do know." He leaned back to his proper gentlemanly position while clearing his throat and looked away from my eyes, "You have made a good choice, my son. I have seen you looking at her." He flashed me a wink which caused me to raise my eyebrows. " She is bright, witty, and will do you good until the end. I give you my permission." He added to me, almost as an afterthought, "Plus, her family it a gentile, if not titled one."
"The Prices?" I asked, in surprise.
"No, Edmund," he said sternly. "The Crawfords."
I raised my eyebrows, then sighed woe-be-gone, and then hung my head with its weight still carrying me down even through these years. You see, despite opinion what people might think I am not nor will I ever be a cramped man. Even my dear brother, Thomas thinks I only have my tidy little box to go by and will not go further than that. Yet, when I turn my head away and walk to think of my father's words I catch a glimpse from her dark eyes. How timid she is, certainly not like anyone I have ever known. And, then I added to myself, how utterly beautiful. I go outside to the stables and open the door catch while rubbing my hands alongside my horse. You see, she's like a horse. Lovely, quick, beautiful, timid, and special. Everything marvels her, and yet everything can scare her. As I saddle up my horse, I sigh. This will make it seem all the harder.
For I have a confession to make if you have not already guessed it by now; I am in love with Fanny Price. I'm not exactly sure when it happened. I am not sure if it even did exactly happen; it just always was there just waiting for those first blossoms. I take my horse out to a small trot, with conflicting feelings damaging my mind. I will say it again as I have said before; I am not nor will I ever be a cramped man.
"Edmund!" she yells after me, never quite catching up to me. I have to slow my horse down for her. That is the problem. She will never be able to catch up, and I will always have to slow down for her. Not intellectually, but in people's opinions.
"Thank you for waiting for me," she tosses me a soft grin and then adds. "I never thought I would catch up to you."
"Did you?" I ask politely, trying not to focus on how desperately she enraptures me. "How did you ever manage, Miss Price?"
She laughs and then says seriously, "I just follow your lead, Edmund."
I close my eyes softly at this last sentence and breathe in. She looks at me silently, knowing I have to say something to her. That is my Fanny. She is so perspective. The air is so cold outside, I can see air clouds coming from her mouth. "Fanny," I say hesitantly. "Do you not think you should be going outside?"
"Thank you for watching out for me, Edmund," she says to me softly. "But, I think I am fine out here in the freedom of the air with you than confined with those such as Henry Crawford." She makes a face as she mentions his name, which causes me to laugh. But, I cannot laugh any more, and as my laughter dies down so does hers.
"You may--you will," I corrected myself to her aloud. "Have to marry the man someday, you know that, do you not?"
She closed her eyes and then breathed in while looking down. For a moment, I was scared for there was no response, and for some reason she avoided my eyes. When she met my face again, there were tears that peeked through her brown ones to meet my eyes shrewdly, "Oh, will I?"
I nodded to her, "It will be a step up in society. You know that."
"But I-," she cut herself abruptly, biting her lip with pain. "I am sorry, Edmund."
"What, Fanny?" I asked too eagerly. "What has disturbed your thoughts?"
"Nothing, Edmund," She shot me a sad, but strong smile. She opened her handkerchief and dabbed her face with it lightly, "I seem to have acquired a cold. Perhaps, you are right. Maybe, I should go inside." She was leading her horse inside when I grasped her reins suddenly, out of no inclination of my own. I was surprised as she was when it happened.
"Fanny, you must listen to me," I said hoarsely. Part of my mind was wondering what exactly I had gotten myself into, but I could not stop myself once I had started. I wet my lips with my tongue and said quite nervously.
"Edmund?" She looked at me with question in her eyes.
"I am in love with you," I mumbled. Her eyes opened widely, and her smile was so brilliantly bright that I shall never forget it even if I did die on that spot. I said it again softer now while meeting her eyes this time while I did so, "I am in love with you, Fanny Price. I do not know the moment, the day, the time it happened..." My voice trailed off and my heart was thumping so hard from nervousness that I was fumbling with my words, "I just know that each day that I look into your face everything seems right and well to me and I would never change it for the world."
"Edmund," she breathed. "I-I know not what to say." She looked down then looked upon my face, which had never left her eyes. The very aspect of her was scaring me for what she might do or say to break my soul altogether. She then spoke up, "I love you too, but-" Her voice broke off.
"But?" The one word hurt me. That one word could destroy me. That one word was my failing.
"I cannot ever marry you," she said shortly.
"What?" My eyes grew wide and my heart broke at that very instant. "Fanny, no! Please say you will take back the words that you just uttered at this very moment."
"I cannot," she said softly. "I want you to me mine, but you know as I well do that it would be the falling of you. You have said it yourself. I must marry Henry Crawford, and you must marry..." Her eyes closed as she swallowed before trying again. "You must spend your life and happiness with Mary Crawford. She must and will be Mrs. Edmund Bertram a privilege I do not dare deserve nor cannot receive."
"I care not what society says," I say determinedly. "I do not want to marry them. I want you for who you are, and what you can make me be." I looked at her and she was shaking her head at me sadly. "Fanny, I do not want to love the ton, nor any other woman on this face of earth. I want the whole world to know that I am in love with you and only you."
Her breath quickened and a shiver went down my spine from the look she gave me when hearing those words, "Edmund, I will know." She pushed her horse until it was so close to mine that we could touch each other. She touched my face wary, "I will know, and that is all what matters."
I galloped a few yards ahead of her trying to ignore how wonderful her touch felt upon my face, and snapped, "I will not marry her."
"Yes you will!"
"No I won't!"
"Edmund," she said sharply. "If you love me you will marry her."
My intake of breath grew weak as I slowed down, and for once she overtook me, "Fanny, do you not know what this will mean for me?"
She nodded, "It will be the most horrible thing I have ever undergone."
I nodded and said shortly, "I do not doubt that. But, Fanny as a honorable man I cannot love a woman I will not love as much as I will love you.
"I am sorry for that, Edmund," she whispered, and then cried with tears finally gushing out of her eyes. I was concerned for this was her first real true sign of passion and emotion, "Oh, Edmund! I have agreed to marry him today."
As if it were a sign, a lightning bolt struck in the sky causing my horse to jump up in fright. I tried to take hold of the reins, but the beast was too strong for me. Her dark eyes met mine with fright and then finally understanding. And with much shock and loss of delusion, I fell off my horse. The last sound my consciousness heard was screams and Fanny finally having to let go of my hand while Crawford comforted her.
It would be months until I recovered to meet a pair of green eyes that spoke to me as Fanny never had.