When Susan Price leaves Mansfield Park to accompany her aunt, Lady Bertram, to take the waters in Bath, she little expects to meet an old “friend” of the family. Initially scandalised, Susan finds herself drawn to the former Mary Crawford, now a widow, Mrs Lynd.
Mary has lost none of her playful spirit in the ten years since her family’s acquaintance with the Bertrams ended amid elopement and scandal. Her interest, first piqued by Susan’s resemblance to her older sister Fanny, only grows on discovering Susan’s very different character.
But Lady Bertram will surely never countenance Susan’s intimacy with the woman whose brother caused her daughter’s disgrace -- and Mary’s true identity cannot be kept a secret forever.
Miss Price, Mary reflected, had an extraordinary changeability about her. Unmoved, she was handsome, a well-made statue; but animated, she was beautiful. Mary was unused to considering the beauty of a soul, but she could not help but believe it was Miss Price’s animus she so admired. “Oh, my dear, will not you call me Mary? I confess I should like to call you Susan. Miss Price always puts me in mind of your sister -- and will you be very angry with me if I tell you I prefer to think only of you?”
“Mary, then,” Susan said, with a shy smile that, for a moment, genuinely did make Mary think of Fanny.
She covered her unwonted confusion by taking her companion by both hands. “There. Is not that better, my dear Susan?”
“Indeed it is.” This time, Susan’s tone was most delightfully resolute.
She really was extraordinarily beautiful. Mary could only be thankful that she had not known Susan in her younger, more impulsive days. And yet ...
“May I kiss you? For friendship’s sake?” Mary asked, proving she could be every bit as impulsive now as in her youth.
Susan blinked. “For friendship,” she breathed, and pressed her lips to Mary’s.
Perhaps the kiss was begun in friendship, on Susan’s part at least. Mary knew it had not been on hers. Certainly, it ended in more -- much more. Her bosom pressed against her friend’s, Mary was in heaven -- until the very last thing she had counted upon occurred. The door opened, and Lady Bertram stepped into the room.