Fanny once lived in Maryland with her father. Aaron bought her from her father, and brought her, with other goods acquired in Baltimore, down to his house, where he essentially kept her prisoner, forbidding her to leave the homestead, or to show herself to anyone who might come to the house. Left to do the work of the homestead while Beardsley traveled into the Cherokee lands with his trade goods, she had had no society but a bond lad—who was little company, being deaf and speechless.
Events of the Novels
In December 1770, while gathering men for the militia, Jamie and Claire Fraser arrive at the Beardsley's Trading Post. Fanny had bolted herself inside, not wanting to allow them or anyone in due to the current condition of her husband, Aaron Beardsley. She reluctantly allows them to enter the house after it becomes apparent they will not leave.
Fanny directs them to the loft where her husband lies helpless. Upon seeing Beardsley – unable to move, sitting in his own filth, having likely suffered a stroke – the Frasers ask Fanny about how he came to that state. She tells them that he had been chasing her, and collapsed in the loft; given his size, she had been unable to move him down, and she says he has been up there for about a month. Given her physical appearance, it is easy to see that her husband beat her.
When Claire examines Beardsley more closely, she determines that while it's true Fanny could not have moved her husband, she has not been caring for him very well either. She had given him only bread and water, despite having an abundance of other foods. It also becomes obvious that she had been torturing him, cutting into his leg and letting it fester. When Claire tells her she could perhaps save Aaron's life, Fanny waits until she is alone with him again to try and finish him off. She is interrupted by Jamie, who briefly struggles with the woman, and she breaks his nose with her elbow.
After Jamie explains clearly to Beardsley what his outlook is, he asks the man whether he wishes to live, or be put out of his misery. Beardsley chooses the latter, accepting that he has no hope of recovery. Fanny leaves the house with Claire while Jamie attends to the man's final wish. She mostly stays in the barn with the goats, staying away from the house and making no effort to help bury her husband. When the time comes to leave, she gathers her goats and leaves the trading post with the Frasers.
Fanny tells them the tale of Mary Ann Beardsley, the Mrs. Beardsley before her, whose ghost would stand beneath the rowan tree at moon rise. While they camp, she explains in more detail that Mary Ann was Beardsley's fourth wife, whom he buried under the rowan tree. In her telling of the story of her first sighting of Mary Ann, she explains that Mary Ann showed her where the other three wives had been buried, implying that Aaron had killed his wives and, given the remoteness of the trading post, had done so without notice.
Fanny tells Claire how he had liked to drink rum, and she was certain that in one of his drunken rages he would strangle her, just as he had done to Mary Ann. The night he had suffered the stroke, it was Mary Ann's ghost who had caused his collapse, saving Fanny from him. She admits that it doesn't matter to her whether the Frasers believe her story.
During the night while the Frasers sleep, Fanny walks away from the campfire and delivers her baby daughter, swaddling her and abandoning her by the warmth of the fire to be found by the Frasers, before disappearing into the night.
In 1771, Fanny meets Roger MacKenzie in the mountains, where she had been living with her lover, an escaped slave, among many others. The group finds Roger, who had become caught in the middle of a wildfire while surveying the two land grants from Governor Tryon. In exchange for his freedom, Roger tells them news of their daughter.
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Fanny is a stout woman with a plump face and brown wavy hair. As a result of her abusive marriage she has a lame leg, a small scar through her upper lip, and a scar in the hairs of one eyebrow. Her front teeth were snapped off at an angle, just beyond the gums, which causes her to speak with a lisp.
- Frances is the feminine form of Francis, English form of the Late Latin name Franciscus which meant "Frenchman".
- Beardsley is of Anglo-Saxon origin, and is a locational name from some minor, unrecorded or now "lost" place, believed to have been situated in Nottinghamshire or Leicestershire where the name is most popular.
- 'Fanny' is what her mother called her.