Posted on: 2010-05-14
"Miss Elliot? Miss Anne Elliot?" Captain Harville said with a smile and a glance at Captain Wentworth as he completed the last of his introductions. Anne responded in the affirmative with another quick glance at Captain Wentworth.
No one seemed to have noticed this little exchange. No one that is, except Louisa Musgrove. Although she could not see Wentworth's reaction, she had noticed both the glances directed towards him. Before she could give more thought to it, the party moved towards the inn.
Louisa Musgrove was a girl not given to many serious thoughts, especially in such lively company as was gathered around the table that evening. Today, however, was different. Not even the discussion about the various naval adventures that were being shared by Captains Harville and Wentworth engaged her attention.
Her mind was still on that first meeting with Captain Harville on the Cobb. Why Anne? Anne, who did not even get out of Kellynch much. How was she even known to him? As far as she was concerned, Captain Wentworth met Anne after he had met the Musgroves. She recollected however, that he had claimed a slight acquaintance, pondering on the word slight.
Suddenly, there was a burst of laughter from the table. She wondered looking around the room if anyone had noticed her preoccupation. Mary was fussing over something as usual. Charles seemed divided between attending her and listening to Captain Harville. Henrietta was listening in rapt attention. Captain Benwick and Anne were off to a side, involved in a serious discussion, some dull poetry no doubt. And Wentworth? What was he doing? Had he noticed her lack of participation? Evidently not. His gaze was turned towards Anne and Benwick with an unreadable expression on his face. What could be the meaning of that? Louisa could only speculate. She suddenly cursed her generous nature in having invited Anne along as a treat before her return to Bath. While she was lost in these thoughts, she hardly noticed that the visitors were taking their leave. She felt someone's hand on her arm and a kind voice enquiring if she was well. Anne. Dear, kind Anne. She felt ashamed of her earlier ungenerous thought.
As she lay awake that night, Louisa's mind went over all their interactions with Captain Wentworth. She was struck by many things. She remembered how Anne had opted to stay behind the first time Captain Wentworth had been among them. She remembered Anne's awkwardness and Wentworth's dismissal as the introduction finally took place the next day. She remembered his startled expression as she mentioned Charles's earlier interest in Anne. His solicitude towards Anne in offering her a place in the Crofts' carriage. She also noticed that Anne had been quieter than her usual self during this visit to Uppercross. What could be the meaning of all this? Was there some shared history? It was impossible not to know.
Louisa Musgrove, though a generous and warm-hearted girl, had never really had to sacrifice her own happiness or interest for anyone else. She recalled with a blush how she had made Henrietta aware of her understanding with cousin Hayter. She examined her own mind and heart closely. Could she bear the loss of Captain Wentworth? If she were to be honest with herself, she would find that she could answer positively. She had been carried away by his good looks, her admiration of the navy, but there was no real depth of feeling. She tried to remember if there was any tenderness in his behavior towards her. No, it was all friendliness and the ease that came with intimacy with her whole family.
Louisa determined to get to the true feelings of both Anne and Captain Wentworth. If there were a hope that they could get back together, she would do all in her power to accomplish that. She would start with Anne.
The next day, as they made their way to the Cobb for one final turn before their return to Uppercross, Louisa happened to be in a position to overhear a conversation between Anne and Captain Harville. Captain Harville was thanking her for taking the trouble to talk to Benwick.
"I enjoyed our conversation. He seems to be a very sensitive young man and has suffered much for one so young. "
"And we are not very good company for someone who is getting over a broken heart. I wish he would travel. Our company only serves to remind him of his loss".
"He will rally again," said Anne.
"Do you really think so, Miss Anne?" He asked looking at her.
Louisa saw Anne turn her head away. Whatever her response might have been, it was never made as Mary called her attention away.
"Oh what a wonderful time we had at Lyme, Anne. Did you enjoy your visit? All of Captain Wentworth's friends were such amiable people".
" I wonder that Captain Wentworth has not paid us a visit today." Silence.
" You must have been so happy to renew your acquaintance with him, Anne." She saw a slight blush on Anne's face. "But, was Mary not acquainted with him?"
"No, she was away at school during Fr.. , Captain Wentworth's stay in the area". Louisa saw the slip and smiled to herself.
"Were you much in company? Did you get a chance to attend many balls when he was here? He dances divinely, does he not?"
"Yes, we did some once or twice".
" I wonder what Lady Russell thought of him. Was she impressed with his manners?"
Anne colored deeply. "Lady Russell was in Bath at that time so the acquaintance was very short" she said softly. Anne was silent for a few minutes and Louisa could see that she was trying to compose herself.
Louisa, who knew how much Anne depended on Lady Russell, had her answer. "So, it wasn't just Charles whom Anne was persuaded to refuse" she thought.
She turned the subject to Henrietta and Charles Hayter, the likelihood of Charles Hayter getting a curacy and they talked on such matters as they headed back.
Approaching Captain Wentworth required some thought. She decided on the direct approach. After all, she had always been frank and open.
The next morning, when Captain Wentworth called, she had no difficulty in engaging his attentions to herself. Indeed, most of her family had come to expect it.
"I really enjoyed meeting your friends at Lyme, Captain" she said as they walked about in the garden. "I must admit that I did not get a chance to know Captain Benwick. He seemed disinclined for company. Anne was the only one who seemed to have the patience to bring him out of himself. They were having quite a conversation" she said watching his face closely for a reaction. He did not disappoint. Something like regret and jealousy flashed across his face.
"Captain, we have become good friends, have we not?".
"Yes" he responded with a puzzled look on his face wondering what she was leading to.
"What are your feelings for Anne?" She could see that the suddenness of her question had taken him by surprise. He did not even dissemble.
"It is all in the past." He said.
"Are you so sure, Captain?"
"What do you want, Miss Musgrove?"
"I would like to help you."
He muttered something under his breath. Louisa could just make out the words "Lady Russell" and "foolish Baronet".
"I do not claim to know any of your past history with her Captain because no one has mentioned it, but Anne is of age now."
"I can assure you that she has feelings for you."
She saw hope rising in his face. "Why do you not talk to her? You are aware that she is to leave for Bath in a few days with Lady Russell? You may never have another chance like this."
"Thank you" he said with heartfelt gratitude. Louisa just smiled back. It was less painful that she had imagined.
He started walking away and then stopped and turned towards her.
"How did you know?"
"It was something Captain Harville said when you introduced Anne to him at Lyme".
"Harville has always been an invaluable friend" he smiled.
"He certainly did not waste any time" observed Louisa to herself as she saw Captain Wentworth and Anne walking arm-in-arm towards the Great House the next day. "How happy they look. So this is what love is supposed to look like."
Mr. and Mrs. Musgrove and Charles were a little concerned for Louisa once the engagement became known but she assured them that she would not have it any other way.
Mary, of course, took all the credit for the engagement for having invited Anne to stay with her. The Crofts were very happy. What Lady Russell's thoughts were on the subject, Louisa never knew. But she seemed to have accepted the engagement.
Anne opted to continue on at Uppercross to be near Captain Wentworth although one visit to Bath to see her family and order wedding clothes would be inevitable.
With a lot of their friends residing at Uppercross or near it, the Harvilles along with Captain Benwick came to spend a few weeks dividing their time between Kellynch and Uppercross. During the various engagements of the Musgroves, the Crofts and the Harvilles, Louisa and James Benwick were often thrown together. Following her friend Anne's example, Louisa decided to help the young man who was suffering from heart-break, a feeling she had very nearly known. They grew in each other's esteem until Louisa realized that Captain Benwick had completely replaced Captain Wentworth. In fact, she could not recall any of her present strong feelings for Captain Wentworth.
The double wedding of the sisters soon followed the wedding of Captain Frederic Wentworth and Miss Anne Elliot.
Louisa and Captain Benwick were always on intimate terms with the Wentworths. Captain Benwick had a long standing regard for Wentworth and Louisa was ever conscious of the fact that helping unite Anne with the man she loved had helped her find her greatest happiness.