For she is as good a little creature as ever lived, and has a great deal of feeling.
Oh, yes, Mary Crawford was far from blind. She and Fanny Price were little alike, other than in size and somewhat in colouring, and their conversations, so much more frequent of late, were very often made in such different voices and sentiments as to be assumed entirely incompatible. Fanny Price was of firm opinions that little could sway, even while a stiff breeze - or rather, a harsher tone, from somebody Fanny considered of consequence - could get her to do nearly anything; her appreciation for company were lacking and her affection for wilderness was entirely too fond. Her voice was quiet and her disposition shy, unassuming.
But Mary was far from unaware of Fanny Price's qualities, which she possessed in abundance. Good and kind and considerate she was. Helpful, and with a good taste in both books and music, even while not playing at all herself, nor drawing. Useful in all manner of ways that her delicate constitution allowed. Skilled with the needle, too, if she had not been wrong in her assessment of what portion of Lady Bertram's work Fanny did.
How such a creature could have grown under the same roof as her proud, assertive cousins, she could not fathom; but taking the time to know her in the absence of other entertainment was far less tedious and confusing than she could have ever imagined. She was still discovering layers and layers to the overlooked cousin which had been unimagined when the company had been more sparkling and vivid - and were priceless, now.
Mary could not, for example, understand quite why Fanny was perfectly civil to her, responded to every invitation, even confided her feelings as to what they were doing sometimes, but would so seldom initiate any contact, or show any specific cordiality to her. Fanny was quiet and kind, and quite unchanged to her since the first day that Mary's brother-in-law had shown her inside from the rain. She only grew animated by the music, and by her best performances, too, or - as had been constant since the very beginning of their acquaintance - when Fanny was conversing with Edmund, or on a few other topics, including her brother at sea. Surely she could hold no enmity towards Mary; that would be unthinkable, not with all the attention she had paid to her, had been paying to her even before Maria and Julia were gone.
To be sure, Fanny could use the friendship. She had been so solitary and withdrawn, even when the young ladies of the Park were still there and the company gaiety was at its height. Now, Mary thought she would be positively forlorn, although she couldn't quite discern that sentiment on the sweet little face. She wasn't even overjoyed at the absence of her more imposing cousins allowing her to shine, as any other young woman would have been.
Perhaps leaving her to the mercies of her brother was a mean thing to do, after the trail Henry had blazed through the hearts of both Maria and Julia Bertram, women of far more confidence and - presumably - ability to protect themselves. True, Fanny Price had not been impressed by him much when he had been at his most brilliant, but then, he had never truly turned his attention to her, and that, she knew, made a great deal of difference.
Or maybe she would have the satisfaction of seeing her brother fail where she had not succeeded, either. If Mary hadn't seen Fanny's face warmed with feeling, her eyes bright and her colour heightened by anticipation and excitement and willingness to please, albeit rarely, she could have imagined the feat impossible and let it rest. If she'd had much to occupy her mind and time, she might not have bothered with the concept in the first place. But if she had not received the stamp of approval of what Edmund had called - and she had learned the truth of the statement - Fanny's steadfast little heart, well. Watching Henry attempt it with as little success was going to be a very good diversion.
Or perhaps, and she did not readily admit that possibility to herself, perhaps a part of her envied Fanny Price. Not the timidity or the shyness, of course, or the way she sometimes cringed or her eyes welled when her aunt raised her voice at her. Clearly not those. But there was that quiet respect with which Edmund talked about her opinions. There was the steady certainty with which she faced the questions of taste, and the infallible judgment. There was the ability to be occupied and content in the quietness of this place, which, if it weren't for Edmund and the enjoyment they'd had before Maria and Julia left, Mary would have found unbearably dull and boring. There was the suspicion that, if Fanny were to be removed, something important would be missing, whether her cousins were there or not.
Those were qualities that Mary lacked, and could not hope to ever possess. She wasn't even striving for them, which, should she have admitted to admiring them - or envying them - in Fanny, would have consoled her immeasurably; but she wasn't looking for consolation. She was looking for ways to gain Fanny's approval, her warmth of sentiment, and if not that, she would have been content to have her as a plaything.
Mary and Henry Crawford had always been good about sharing playthings. Not nearly so good at taking care with them, but they could share.
So Mary prepared to continue the friendship with the remaining young lady resident of Mansfield Park - and to watch what would happen to her new friend under Henry's charms. Oh, she was looking forward to the confidences of affection, and possibly, later, of disappointment and hurt. Maybe there would be tears rolling down those clear cheeks, and who would be there to console the poor girl? Not her aunts, that was for sure.
No, it would be her.
Oh, so maybe this was going to be a very rich game to play, after all. Not as thrilling as some she had played in London, but diverting, for certain.