Anne stood by the freshly turned earth and newly cut stone that was her Aunt's grave. The funeral had been the previous day, and the mourners were all gone except her. Her father, Sir Walter Elliot, and her sister Elizabeth had not seen fit to come. They had never forgiven Margaret Taylor for marrying a tradesman. The marriage had been happy and the tradesman successful in his trade. When Mr. Taylor passed away and Aunt Margaret had sent for a niece, the only one who would go and could be spared was Anne. Sir Walter did not value his second daughter. She was no longer pretty, like Elizabeth, so she could go an associate with an Aunt who had lowered herself so far. When asked, those five years that Anne had lived with her Aunt at her home, Oakridge, Sir Walter said his daughter was caring for a distant and wealthy relative. He never specified which relative and no one had asked.
Anne slowly walked back to the carriage. Her life the last five years had been wonderful. She came to her Aunt still hurting from her broken engagement. She blamed herself for her unhappiness and his disappointment. In her mind, it was easy to jump from guilt over a hasty decision to self-loathing. Where she had once valued her own talents and ideas, she then considered them unworthy and ignorant. Her face had shown her sorrow, making her, at twenty-one, almost old. Now, after five years, she had gained back some of her bloom. Her eyes, though filled with tears, shone with self-confidence. Her bearing was elegant, and her face showed signs of recent joy and laughter.
Anne thought back to her first conversation with her Aunt. It had been many years since she had seen her mother's sister. She came into the sitting room of her new home exhausted and apprehensive. She had been unable to read during the long carriage ride, and her solitary thoughts led directly back to Fredrick Wentworth. When she met her Aunt, her face showed signs of tears and fatigue. Her Aunt had put her fears at ease immediately. "Oh my darling Anne! You are come at last. I have been so lonely since my dear John died. You remind me of your mother, dear. You have her figure and gentle eyes. Though, to seems to me that you have been crying. Well dear, we will not go into that now. There is time later for confessions. Now you must sit down and rest."
With that her Aunt had called for tea and a warm blanket. The fire was stirred, and Anne was put in a chair with her feet up. Aunt Margaret had then entertained her with pleasant stories of her childhood. She shared some of the games she had played with Anne's mother. The evening had come and dinner passed with the Aunt entertaining her niece. Anne asked a few timid questions and was gratified by the reception. Her Aunt had gladly answered them and showed pleasure at her niece's interest.
Slowly over the next year, Aunt Margaret had built for Anne a safe haven. Her opinions were valuable, and her desires worthy. One particular conversation was one Anne would always remember. It was the first time she realized that someone in the world wanted her to be happy, and was willing to listen to her ideas on how to make it so. Her Aunt had been talking about a trip she had taken with her husband to Bath. "Oh dear, I do want to take a vacation soon. We could go to Bath couldn't we dear? What do you think of that?"
Anne tried to brush off the question with assurances that whatever her Aunt wanted, she would be willing to enjoy. Margaret would have none of this. "Dear, I did not ask you that question simply to hear myself talk. I want to hear your opinion. If we take a trip, where do you want to go?"
Anne looked at her Aunt and saw the acceptance in her eyes. She decided to be bold and give her true opinion, even if it was not acted upon. "Well Aunt, I have always wanted to see the Lakes. I have been to Bath before and I did not enjoy it. In the summer it would be unbearably hot and stuffy."
Aunt Margaret had looked pleased instead of offended. "Oh Anne! What a delightful idea! John and I never got to see the Lakes. We were planning a trip one year, but business prevented us from leaving and then John got sick. We will begin planning now. You are also right about Bath during the summer months. It would be dreadfully hot, and the Lakes would be quite pleasant. Besides, we would not have to deal with all the high society and their posturing."
The trip to the Lakes had been wonderful. Anne had never traveled much beyond Kellynch and Bath. She loved seeing new places and cities. They traveled at a leisurely pace, never tiring of the other's company. When they came upon something Anne wanted to see, she learned to make her wish known and they would explore. No one was there to undervalue her opinion. She learned to trust herself again. The only thing to mar the pleasure was a lingering guilt over her broken engagement. When going to bed at night, she would often shed a few tears over her Fredrick.
One morning, during their vacation, her Aunt had decided to ask about her problems. "Anne dear, when you first came to me, I could not help but notice your poor spirits. You were quite down about something, but I did not pry at first. Do you think you are ready to talk about it, love? You are doing much better now, but I see that you still cry sometimes. No, dear, you have not hidden it. Your eyes are still red at breakfast, and some of the inns we have stayed at have very thin walls."
Anne looked at her Aunt's kind face and, in that moment, decided to tell all. She had never shared her feelings about Captain Wentworth with anyone. Her usual confidante, Lady Russell, could not and would not listen to this subject. She now had someone who loved her and respected her ideas and opinions. Lady Russell loved her dearly, but she often saw Anne as a little girl to be guided and molded into something she was not. Aunt Margaret was safe. The whole tale came out. Anne shared the joy she felt when she knew Fredrick loved her back. The excitement over her engagement, and then the sorrow at her family's disapproval all came out. She told her Aunt about her yielding to the persuasion of Lady Russell. She even shared her deep guilt and sorrow. When all the feelings and events had been shared, Anne felt hollow but strangely free.
Aunt Margaret then shared her opinion. "My dear, I think you were right to listen to Lady Russell. If your dear mother were alive you would have listened to her, wouldn't you? I think that Lady Russell gave you poor advice, however. If I had been there to advise you, I would have recommended a longer engagement. Lady Russell was correct when she questioned his financial suitability. The difficulties you would have faced could have damaged your relationship. If your Fredrick loved you, he would have waited until he could support you. I am sure that you could have waited two years or so. I am sorry I was not there and I am sorry that you and Lady Russell made a poor decision."
Anne was surprised at her Aunt's insight; she had been right to listen to Lady Russell's opinion. She had erred when she did not listen to her own heart as well. There could have been a compromise made between prudence and true love. Anne was about to start blaming herself more, when her Aunt spoke, "Dear, you must learn to forgive yourself. I can see that you are about to blame yourself again for your decision. You were young, dear, and not used to trusting yourself. You cannot go through life feeling eternal sorrow and guilt for one poor decision. You may never love again, but you need to learn to love yourself, despite the events of two years ago."
After that talk, Anne slowly began to heal. She continued to trust her own opinions and instincts. She remembered clearly the day she finally forgave herself for breaking her engagement. They had returned to Oakridge from their trip and Anne took a solitary walk. She was enjoying the autumn leaves when she began to think of Fredrick. Her first thought was not one of guilt and loss, but of longing for his company. She wished he were there because she could share her joy with him. She then knew that she could forgive herself for her weak decision. She would continue to love Fredrick her entire life, but she would also love herself. There was little hope of a reunion with him, but she could live without him. She would remember him and cherish her love for him.
Anne shook head and brought her thoughts back to the present. She had to meet with her Aunt's solicitor and return to Kellynch. It would be difficult leaving her dear home, but she was not ready to face the memories. Her carriage pulled up the solicitor's house and she was welcomed by his wife. The lady led her into the sitting room and called her husband. When Mr. Jones came in he was carrying some papers and a letter. "Miss Elliot. I am sorry for the loss of your Aunt. She was a wonderful lady and a friend to Fran and I. I have called you here today for the reading of your Aunt's will. There were several things that I arranged with her servants, pensions and the like, but the remainder is for your ears."
"Mr. Jones, there must be some mistake," Anne interrupted. "Do you not need to talk to my father, or one of the late Mr. Taylor's relatives as well?"
"Miss Elliot, your late uncle did not have many living relatives. He was an only child and, as you know, he and your Aunt were unable to bare children. Your uncle had one daughter form a previous marriage. She is still living, but when Mr. Taylor married again, she cut off all ties with her father. He gave his daughter a substantial dowry. When he died he left everything else to his wife and she in turn has left it all to you. Am I correct madam, are you not six and twenty years of age?"
"Yes sir," Anne answered in a daze.
"Well Miss Elliot, you are old enough to be in control of your Aunt's money without a trustee. I do recommend engaging a solicitor, like your Aunt did, to take care of the small arrangements. I am more then willing to continue in this role if it is your desire."
"Of course Mr. Jones, I do not know who else I would ask. My Aunt trusted you and you have served her well. But sir, what exactly did my Aunt leave me? I had never thought that she had much money. I suppose I should have realized, we did enjoy several trips and had a comfortable life. I did not know that there was much money left after the purchase of my Aunt's home."
"Your late uncle, Mr. Taylor, was a very wealthy man when he died, Miss Elliot. He left your Aunt in a very comfortable situation. Your Aunt in turn purchased her home and lived with you quite comfortably for the past five years. Your Aunt has left you Oakridge and a sum of 75,000 pounds. That is invested in various places and you have a yearly income from the interest that will make you quite comfortable." Mr. Jones wrote down the sum and passed the paper on to Anne. It was indeed a very large amount. "You will, of course, have household expenses related to Oakridge. She has given her housekeeper a pension for when she retires, but the dear lady has expressed a wish to keep working for several years yet. You will have her wages and that of the servants to pay. You understand the workings of a household, so I do not have to tell you all of this. Do you have any questions Miss Elliot?"
Anne did not have any questions that he could answer. She wanted to know why her Aunt had left the money to her. She also wanted to know what she would do with her money. The household expenses attached to her home were small compared to the sum she had at her disposal. She did not want to stay at Oakridge alone. Perhaps she could find a lady to serve as a companion for her? Anne was old enough to be an old maid, but it would not do for her to live alone. She had trusted servants but she needed someone for company. Anne decided to think on the matter later. She was going to visit her father and then her sister Mary so she had time to decide about her future. Mr. Jones had one more thing for her before she left. It was a letter from her Aunt to be read after the reading of the will. Anne thanked Mr. Jones and left with her letter
Before she entered her carriage she took a short walk. She opened her letter and smiled at her aunt's familiar hand. She would truly miss her dear aunt.
My Dear Anne,
I know you will miss me, and I will miss you. We have been dear friends these past five years. It is time for me to join my John and your mother now, my dear. Mr. Jones has already told you of your new fortune. When John died, I did not know what to do with my money. I purchased Oakridge and then enjoyed life with you. Anne, your father will try to get money from you. You should not give him anything. He is a grown man and should not depend on his daughter to pay his bills. Yes dear, he is quite in debt. He will know that you own Oakridge and have enough to keep the household. He will not know that you have more besides that. Do not tell him dear. You are old enough to keep your own money.
Now dear as to your future I know that you will decide what to do. You know what you want and you now have the courage to seek it. Remember dear, you are a lovely intelligent woman. Do not let other's decide your fate. I have given you the funds to make your own decisions. Do not give up your independence to someone who will crush your spirit. I love you dear. Your mother and I will be watching over you always.
Anne wiped the tears from her eyes and headed back to her carriage. It was her carriage now and she had a house and independence. She thought of her Aunt's words. "Do not give up your independence to someone who would crush your spirit." Anne thought about her dreams. She often hoped she would meet Fredrick again and he would forgive her. If she were to marry her love, would he crush her spirit? Would she cease to be herself? She knew that would not be the case. During their brief courtship, Fredrick had encouraged her talents and opinions; he had set her free. This was not the time to dream. She would visit her family for a year and then find someone to serve as a companion. Perhaps she could find an older lady who needed a home?
Anne sighed. It would be difficult living with her father and Elizabeth after so many years of happiness with her Aunt. She would miss her dear friend.
Captain Fredrick Wentworth stood on the quarterdeck of the Laconia and watched the coast of Portugal disappear. He had just received news that Napoleon had abdicated and was sent to Elba in exile. He was being sent back to England for some much needed leave. It had been almost six years since he had stayed in England for more then a few weeks. He was returning home a wealthy man, ready for rest and enjoyment. Fredrick looked forward to seeing his sister and the Admiral. His thoughts led to the letter he had received from his brother, Edward, the year before. He hadn't even known his brother was ill before he received his farewell letter. The news of Edward's death had reached him several months later. He had read the letter so many times he had it memorized.
I have always tried to be a good brother to you. Over the years I have feared for your soul many times. I remember your faithfulness as a child but there are several things you need to reconcile with God. I myself am about to meet my maker and am now at peace. I have repented of my many sins and feel ready for the life to come. In your letters to me, I have always sensed that you are harboring anger in your heart. Remember, we should forgive as we would be forgiven. I will be blunt since I do not have much time. Have you forgiven Anne? She made a poor decision, yes, but you cannot allow your soul to be poisoned by your anger and unforgiving spirit. My last request is that you search your heart and ask God to help you forgive her.
Now I am done preaching I am going to write my farewells. I love you my dear brother and I am pleased with your determination and good character. Do you remember . . .
The rest of the letter had been a heart-felt farewell. It was one of Fredrick's prized possessions. The first paragraph had changed his life. He had always tried to listen to his brother's good advice. As a man who faced death everyday, he tended to have his mind turned to the next life. His brother's fear for his soul hit him and he had honored his brother's last request. He knew that until that point he had simply put Anne out of his mind. When he did not think of her, it was easy to think she no longer mattered. When he searched his soul and tried to forgive her, he realized that he still loved her and that was why he was still so angry. When he recognized his love for what it was, forgiveness came soon after. She was young and he overreacted. If he had been reasonable, he could have convinced her to accept a long engagement until he was financially sound and her family would no longer fear for her future.
Now that he was going back to England, he was not sure how to act. He did not know if he should seek Anne out and try to reconcile with her. He had not heard of her since his brother left his position in Monkford. When Edward left, he said that very little had changed. The former Lady Elliot's sister had contacted the family right before Edward's departure, but besides that everything was as it had been. Anne was not married six years ago but six years was a long time. She was a beautiful and accomplished woman, and any man would be lucky to catch her. Fredrick sighed. He would wait until he had visited with Sophie to make inquiries. He would ask around and see if she was married. If she were, he would wish her well and then try to recover from shattered hopes. If she was still single-Well, he would then decide which path to take.
Fredrick still remembered the day he embraced his brother's advice. He had just received news of his brother's death. He had left his Lieutenant in charge of the ship and locked himself in his cabin. He brought out all of his brother's letters and read each one ending with the last letter. He thought about his brother's request and seriously considered it for the first time. Had he not forgiven Anne? If she were standing before him now, how would he treat her? The anger that welled up in his heart at that thought told him of his resentment. Why had he been nursing this anger for so long? Could it be the anger kept him from sorrow? Fredrick let go of his anger and sadness all at once. He cried for the first time in years. He cried for his parent's deaths, his brother's death, and for Anne. He cried for his fiancÚ and let go of all the pain connected with her. When his tears ran dry, he was emotionally and physically spent. He slept for hours, and when he awoke he felt energized. To test his strength he thought about Edward and then Anne. Both brought thoughts of loss and love. Neither brought anger or sorrow. He had mourned and let them go.
Fredrick smiled into the wind as his ship sailed for England. He would arrive and report to the Admiralty. If his instincts were correct, he would be paid off and he would be free to visit his sister. A new part in his life was approaching. He simply had to safely conclude his stint as the captain of HMS Laconia and return home. God was finally sending him some happiness and he thanked Him for it.
It was early June. Anne always loved June weather. She missed Oakridge dearly, but she also enjoyed the memories that Kellynch Hall brought. Her father and sister Elizabeth were as cold and distant as always, but Anne found companionship in her friend Lady Russell and a few of the neighborhood ladies. She had not yet found someone to serve as her companion. She wanted to choose carefully because she could not imagine voluntarily living with someone like Elizabeth. She had decided early on not to tell her father, Elizabeth, or Lady Russell about her plans. Lady Russell knew that she had inherited Oakridge, but she thought Anne would rent it out and live with her father at Kellynch. Anne knew that if she mentioned her plan to hire a companion and live on her own, Lady Russell would try to convince her not to.
From her seat in the garden Anne saw Lady Russell's carriage stop at the front door. She sighed and reluctantly entered the house. If she was not there to greet her friend, she would be missed. As Anne entered the sitting room she was surprised to see her father sitting next to Elizabeth, as well as Mr. Shepherd, his solicitor. When Sir Walter was done greeting Lady Russell, Mr. Shepherd spoke. "Sir Walter, I have asked Lady Russell here to assist in a difficult task. As you know sir, your creditors have been demanding payments for some time. I know that you and your daughter made an effort to retrench last summer; however, these efforts were not enough. It is essential, sir, that we find a way to save money and pay your debts."
Anne was surprised at the news of her father's financial difficulties. She knew from her solicitor, Mr. Taylor, that her father was in debt, but she did not know it had gotten so bad that Mr. Shepherd would confront him with Lady Russell to help. Lady Russell spoke respectfully, "Sir Walter, you have confided in me and I have a few ideas. Here is a list of actions you can take. I have made three copies, one for you, Elizabeth, and Anne."
Anne looked at the list and was rather disappointed. The methods listed would not get her father out of debt fast enough for her tastes. Her family's good name was at risk. She was tempted to offer her money to pay the debts, but she knew it would be a temporary fix. Her father would just spend more and ask for more help. She decided to speak up. "Lady Russell, I appreciate this list, but I think it is only small example of what will be needed. It is possible to cut back in several other areas besides these. The kitchen, for example. . ."
Anne was not able to continue before her father interrupted. "Anne, I don't know why you are speaking so. This list is impossible to accept. There is no way I can give up these comforts. No trips to London? No separate carriage horses? This is impossible! I would be the laughing stock of society! I would rather quit Kellynch Hall altogether then give up so much."
Anne could not help but be disappointed with her father. He had no knowledge of what true gentility and honor consisted of. Would it not be more honorable and better for his good name if he paid his bills? Was not Kellynch hall distinction enough for her father? She knew it was not and was sorry for him. Mr. Shepherd interrupted her thoughts. "Sir Walter, you have mentioned an ingenious plan to solve our problem. If you were to quit Kellynch, and lease it out, we could resolve these problems."
Sir Walter waved his hand at them all and said, "I will have to think about this. I cannot make a decision now." Here he gave Anne an angry look, "You Anne should know, however, that I will never listen to your ludicrous suggestions listed on this paper." He waved the list Lady Russell had given him and conveniently forgot it was not from his daughter.
With Sir Walter's angry words the visit was over. Lady Russell stayed a short while and spoke to Elizabeth and Anne. The subject of retrenchment did not come up again for another week. Sir Walter had decided to quit Kellynch hall. It was decided that he would settle in Bath. London was at first preferred, but he was soon gently guided to consider a place that was less expensive. Anne did not care for Bath and was quite disappointed until she remembered Oakridge. She did not have to stay with her family; she could open her own house.
With the decision made and their new home decided upon, Mr. Shepherd focused on finding a tenant. He spoke of the Navy and hoped that a wealthy Admiral would come their way. Sir Walter was not impressed with the officers of the Navy. Anne's comments regarding the service they gave to the country were ignored and he soon expressed his opinion on the profession. "There are two things about the profession that offend me. First, it is the means of bringing persons of obscure birth into undue distinction. Many an officer's father was a lowborn man who never dreamed of the distinction given his son. For example, last spring in town, I was to give place to Lord St. Ives, whose father was a country curate without bread to eat. Second, the Navy cuts up a man's youth and vigor most horribly. Also in town last spring, I came upon an Admiral Baldwin, who was the most deplorable looking personage you can imagine, his face the color of mahogany, rough and rugged to the last degree, nine grey hairs of a side, and nothing but a dab of powder at top. When I asked a friend who he was, I discovered he was no more then forty years old!"
This opinion alarmed Mr. Shepherd. This insult was the highest Sir Walter could give. Mrs. Clay, Mr. Shepherd's daughter who was visiting Elizabeth, soon soothed the gentleman's feelings. A few well given compliments made Sir Walter more disposed to accept a Navy man. It was good that Sir Walter was convinced of a Navy man's value, because the first application that came was from an Admiral Croft. When Mr. Shepherd was discussing the tenant he tried to make him sound as agreeable as possible. "Admiral Croft is related to a gentleman who lived at Monkford about eight years ago, he was Mrs. Croft's brother."
When Sir Walter found out that Mr. Wentworth had been a curate of Monkford he was not impressed. Mr. Shepherd hurried on to the other positive traits of the tenant, while Anne thought of her Fredrick. He had been staying with his brother, the curate of Monkford, when they met and were engaged. If his sister were to live at Kellynch, would Anne have a chance to hear about Fredrick? Was he well? Was he married? Would he come to visit his sister?
The Crofts came to see the house. Anne decided to be bold and stay home for their visit. She sat nervously in the sitting room with Elizabeth, waiting for their arrival. When the couple walked into the room, Anne was impressed. They were a pleasant pair, who looked very happy with each other. Anne could not help but study Mrs. Croft to see if she resembled her younger brother. The introductions were made and Mrs. Croft mentioned her brother. "Did you know my brother Miss Elliot, Miss Anne? He lived here almost eight years ago. I am afraid he died a year ago."
When Mrs. Croft said this Anne's face turned white. She did not know that Mrs. Croft noticed this change, since she had turned a blind eye to all her surroundings. Mrs. Croft decided to study the situation. "Yes, Edward caught a fever while visiting a family in his parish. He died not long afterward. I was unfortunately at sea with the Admiral, as was our youngest brother Fredrick. He is a Captain in the Navy and will be paid off in a few months I hope."
Sophie Croft hid her smile when she observed Anne's relief. The young lady had obviously met Fredrick. When Anne politely expressed her sorrow at Edward's death she could not hide her relief from the close observation of the older lady. By the end of the visit, both parties were pleased. The Crofts liked Kellynch and Sir Walter was pleased with the Admiral. Admiral Croft had received information regarding the gentleman's character and made sure to compliment the man often. The whole business was decided at once. Sir Walter and Elizabeth would leave for Bath in early September and the Crofts would take possession at Michaelmas.
Anne did not want to remove to Bath with her father, and Elizabeth did not want her company, so it was quickly decided that Mrs. Clay would help Elizabeth settle into her new house. Lady Russell was very worried about this turn of events. Mrs. Clay was obviously trying to impress Sir Walter as much as possible. Anne was not as worried about the situation. If her father wanted to make a fool of himself, she would not be able to stop him. She did, however, decide to share her thoughts with Elizabeth. Her sister very quickly brushed the concerns aside. "My Father could not possibly admire Mrs. Clay. Just the other day he was saying how ugly she was. No Anne, Mrs. Clay is a dear friend of mine and she is not trying to trap our father."
There was nothing more Anne could do then help her family pack. Most of Anne's belongings were in storage at Oakridge. She did, however, help separate and pack her family's belongings. She also felt the need to pay calls to all the neighbors. When Elizabeth and Sir Walter left in their carriage to go to Bath, Anne left to visit her sister Mary in Uppercross cottage. Mary had married Charles Musgrove almost four years before. Charles had proposed to Anne the fall after her return from the Lakes. Anne had felt obliged to visit her family and was introduced to the young Mr. Musgrove. Lady Russell would have approved of the match, but Anne knew she could never love Charles. It was a year or so later that he met the young Mary Elliot and the pair was married. They now lived in a cottage near his Father's house. Mary was quite proud of being an Elliot. She liked to put on airs and flaunt her lofty upbringing. Despite her family pride, she was not very happy and often fancied herself ill. When Anne visited her younger sister, she often spent her time soothing feelings and tending to Mary's moods.
When Anne arrived, she found her sister complaining loudly about how she was being so ill used by all her family and friends. After listening to Mary's complaints, and brightening her spirits as best as possible, the pair set out to visit the Musgroves. Mary's in-laws were a pleasant family. They did not stand on ceremony and were often a pleasant but noisy bunch. Anne enjoyed her friendship with this group and liked to feel useful. She listened kindly to everyone's complaints. Charles would say "I wish you could persuade Mary not to be always fancying herself ill." Mary would say, "I do believe if Charles were to see me dying, he would not think there was any thing the matter with me. I am sure, Anne, if you would, you might persuade him that I really am very ill - a great deal worse than I ever own."
Mary would also declare "I hate sending the children to the Great House, though their grandmamma is always wanting to see them, for she humors and indulges them to such a degree, and gives them so much trash and sweet things, that they are sure to come back sick and cross for the rest of the day."-Mrs. Musgrove would say privately "Oh! Miss Anne, I cannot help wishing Mrs. Charles had a little of your method with those children. They are quite different creatures with you! But to be sure, in general they are so spoilt! It is a pity you cannot put your sister in the way of managing them. They are as fine healthy children as ever were seen, poor little dears, without partiality; but Mrs. Charles knows no more how they should be treated!-Bless me, how troublesome they are sometimes!-I assure you, Miss Anne, it prevents my wishing to see them at our house so often as I otherwise should. I believe Mrs. Charles is not quite pleased with my not inviting them oftener; but you know it is very bad to have children with one, that one is obliged to be checking every moment-or that one can only keep in tolerable order by more cake than is good for them."
Mary would also complain that Mrs. Musgrove would not give her the precedence that was her due, when they dined at the Great House with other families. She did not like to loose her place, even if she was to be considered so much at home. One day while walking with the Miss Musgroves, one of them, after talking of rank, people of rank, and jealousy of rank said, "I have no scruple of observing to you, how nonsensical some persons are about their place, because, all the world knows how easy and indifferent you are about it: but I wish any body could give Mary a hint that it would be a great deal better if she were not so very tenacious; especially, if she would not be always putting herself forward to take place of mamma. Nobody doubts her right to have precedence of mamma, but it would be more becoming in her not to be always insisting on it. It is not that mamma cares about it the least in the word, but I know it is noticed by many people."
In response to all these troubles, Anne could only listen patiently and soften the grievances. She hinted at the forbearance that was necessary between such near neighbors. Besides these complaints her visit started well. She did not have a close friend to talk to, but she was needed and appreciated. The Musgroves welcomed her like she was their own daughter and she enjoyed the family atmosphere. There was a large family of cousins near by who often visited in the evenings. Anne would be employed on the piano and the young ladies would dance. Anne could not help but remember the times when she danced with Fredrick. When he was near, she would be pulled away from the piano and made to dance as well.
These pleasant family exchanges went on for several weeks. When Michaelmas came, Anne thought of the Crofts moving into her old family home. She felt a momentary pang for her father's lost home, but was soon convinced of his unworthiness as the master of Kellynch. As soon as the Crofts were know to be in residence, Mr. Musgrove and Charles went to visit. The visit was soon returned and Anne enjoyed getting to know Mrs. Croft better. Near the end of the visit, Sophie casually mentioned the piece of news that she hoped Miss Anne would appreciate. "Oh, my brother, Fredrick, has been paid off and will be with us within a few days. I am sure he is looking forward to renewing your acquaintance Miss Elliot."
Fredrick entered his lodgings and looked around the room. His belongings were packed, and he was ready to depart. He had just been paid off and he was ready to visit Sophie. He took out her letter to read once again.
The Admiral and I are about to settle into Kellynch hall. I believe you know the neighborhood? We are quite pleased with it and invite you to come visit the moment you are paid off. We met Sir Walter and the two Miss Elliots. Sir Walter is a vain man who needed to be complimented and praised before he would allow us to lease the property. You would think that he would have enough pride to avoid debt in the first place, but I digress. Miss Elizabeth Elliot is much like her father. She must be almost thirty years old and is still not married. I am not surprised, despite her good family.
Let me tell you about the house. We were pleased with the furniture that was available. You know that we do not have much of our own since we have been at sea. The neighborhood. . .Oh Fredrick, pardon me, I have forgotten to mention the youngest Miss Elliot. Miss Anne is delightful. She is everything a gentlewoman should be. She must be only three years younger then her sister, but she has a pleasant enough face and figure to be mistaken for a much younger woman. When you look into her eyes you see her true beauty. She seems to me a very wise and caring young lady. She knew our brother Edward when he was here. When I mentioned his death I feared she would faint. She recovered when I said it was EDWARD Wentworth who died not Fredrick. Do you know this young lady dear? I approve of what little I have seen.
The letter closed after mentioning other family news. Fredrick smiled at Sophie's obvious hints. She was teasing him when she failed to mention Anne immediately after Elizabeth. He was delighted to hear his Anne was still Miss Elliot and not Mrs. So and So. She sounded just as delightful as she had been eight years ago. He would go to Sophie as soon as possible and then seek out Anne. The post-script in the letter was also quite delightful.
Oh Fredrick, I failed to mention, Miss Anne will be staying with her sister and brother-in-law not three miles from here, near Uppercross. She will be an excellent neighbor I think.
When Fredrick's horse came to a halt in front of his sister's new house he could not help but feel a pang. Seven and a half years ago, when he had wooed Anne, they had met mostly out of the house, in the garden and forests around Kellynch. The house itself represented Sir Walter, Miss Elliot, and Lady Russell. It was in the front sitting room that Anne had sent him away. He hoped that he could form newer, happier memories of this place. If not, he would leave, taking Anne with him if possible.
Sophie welcomed him with open arms. The brother and sister had not met for several years and took time catching up. They mourned, together, the loss of their dear brother, Edward. Then Sophie decided to be blunt. "Fredrick, how do you know Miss Elliot?"
Fredrick knew by the look on Sophie's face that she would not be put off. "Almost eight years ago, before I became captain of the Asp, I stayed here with Edward. Anne and I became friends and then," Fredrick swallowed and plunged ahead, "we became engaged. I loved her and she loved me. Her father, however, while not out right refusing consent, promised to do nothing for us. Anne would still have married me if her friend, Lady Russell, had not persuaded her to break the engagement. I spent many years angry with Anne and Lady Russell. I have learned to forgive Anne. She was young, only nineteen, and Lady Russell was almost a mother to her. I believe that Anne thought more of my future then her own. If I had not lost my temper, I could have convinced her to wait for me and we could have wed in the year eight. I had a few thousand pounds and the Laconia. Well, there is no use mourning lost opportunities."
Sophie was surprised at her brother's confession. She knew there was a history between the two because of Miss Anne's reaction every time Fredrick's name was mentioned. She decided to give her brother some hope. "Fredrick, I think if you were to visit her, she would be pleased. You would have been shocked at how white her face became when she thought you were dead. I said that my brother had died and it was not until I mentioned Edward that I ceased to fear for her health. When she knew you were alive, she looked so relieved."
"Well Sophie," Fredrick answered. "When I received your letter and found out that Anne is still a Miss Elliot, I decided to visit her as soon as possible and see if she can still love me. I also need to see if I love the woman she has become. It has been eight years. I love the Anne I knew then but I don't know the woman she is now. I now only need an excuse to visit."
"You are in luck Fredrick. The housekeeper just told me about a box of Miss Anne's belongings that was left behind. I think that would be a lovely excuse to call on her. Since you just arrived I could not be separated from my dear brother so soon could I?"
Fredrick was out of the room before his sister was done speaking. He had the presence of mind to change his travel stained cloths and make himself presentable. He looked in the mirror and studied himself critically. Could she still care for him? If she was still the wonderful woman she was eight years ago, he knew he could love her. His face had more lines, but his hair was still dark and plentiful. He was never an extremely handsome man; however, he did look imposing and healthy. He hoped she would approve.
When they pulled up outside of a pleasant looking cottage, Fredrick's heart raced a mile a minute. He turned to his sister, "Sophie, I do not plan on proposing again today, but I do want to speak to Anne privately if possible. I need to apologize for my words at our parting. Could you distract her family?"
Sophie was more then willing to assist her brother in his courtship. They knocked at the door and were happy to hear that all the ladies were in. The brother and sister were shown into the sitting room. The couch held two young ladies who could not be more then twenty. They looked pretty enough, but they were not Anne. A married woman was introduced as Mrs. Charles Musgrove, Anne's younger sister, and then he was facing her. Sophie said, "Fredrick, I believe you have already met Miss Anne Elliot, Miss Elliot, my brother Captain Wentworth."
Fredrick then had eyes only for his Anne. He missed the introduction to the two young misses and vaguely heard their names; where they Louisa and Henrietta? He did not care. He was with Anne. She had changed, like he expected she would. Her face held an attractive blush that told him she was as nervous as he. Her hair was the same dark luxurious color, and her figure was still petite and pleasing. Though in mourning, she was dressed more fashionably then he remembered her dressing before and she was still elegant and neat. Her eyes were as hypnotizing as always. They pulled him in and told stories of her past eight years. There was sorrow and joy expressed in those wonderful eyes. Fredrick feared he was being very rude but he did not hear anyone else in the room as he said, "Miss Elliot, I am delighted to see you again so well. I believe you look better then you did eight years ago if that is possible."
Anne blushed and answered, "I am glad to see you are well Captain Wentworth. When your sister mentioned your brother's death, I was worried at first that she was talking about you. I am sorry for his loss, but I am glad you survived the war."
Her voice was as musical as it had always been and Fredrick had to hear her speak again. "How have you been these past eight years Miss Elliot? My brother wrote, before he left Monkford, that you had just heard from your mother's aunt. Did you make her acquaintance?"
Anne was pleased that he remembered news about her he must have heard years before. She smiled and answered, "Yes, my Aunt Margaret had just recently become widowed. I went to live with her almost six years ago. I lived exclusively with her, only coming back for visits, until she died last November. I miss her dearly and I enjoyed getting to know her."
Fredrick was pleased that she had someone to love and care for her. He knew that her family did not value her as they should, and Lady Russell was too apt to control her life. He smiled and thought of another more general conversation he could start with her. "When I knew you last, Miss Elliot, you had not traveled anywhere save Bath. Have you been able to see more of the world?"
Anne smiled and answered, "You know I have not seen as much of the world as you or Mrs. Croft, but my Aunt and I did travel to several places here in England." They went on to discuss several places. Mrs. Croft had been to the Lakes and she contributed to the conversation drawing the two lovers out of the corner. Sophie had had a difficult time keeping the Miss Musgroves from intruding on Fredrick and Anne's conversation. They would answer questions absentmindedly and look longingly at the handsome officer. They were not used to Anne receiving attention instead of them. Louisa in particular did not like this new trend and when Fredrick was finally drawn out into general conversation, she tried to pull him in with her flirtatious ways. Every time she would ask a question about the Navy or his life, he would turn to Anne and ask "Do you remember when you asked about that?" or "Since we met last, Miss Elliot. . ." Louisa was slow in realizing the dashing captain was not interested in her.
When Fredrick and Sophie left they were both quite content. They had been invited to dine at the Cottage the next day. Sophie planned on inviting Miss Elliot to take tea with her some afternoon without the Miss Musgroves. Fredrick was pleased with the Anne he found. They had a lot of talking to do and he hoped to get to know her again as soon as possible. The only thing that concerned Sophie was Miss Louisa's behavior. The young lady had always been pleasant and attentive, but by the end of the visit she seemed put out by the attention Anne was receiving. Sophie hoped Louisa would not interfere with the courtship and forget her disappointment when she saw another handsome man cross her path.
In the cottage when the visitors left the entire room turned to Anne. Her sister was the first to speak, "Captain Wentworth was very attentive to you Anne. When did you know him before?"
Before Anne could answer Louisa interrupted, "That was very selfish of you Anne to monopolize the Captain's attention. He would make a very good suitor for me because he is very handsome and rich. You should not talk to him so."
At first Anne did not know what to answer. She then remembered her Aunt's guidance and decided to stand up for herself. "Mary, Captain Wentworth and I knew each other about eight years ago. We met when he was staying with his brother, then the curate of Monkford. Louisa, I did nothing to steal Captain Wentworth's attention from you and I can promise I will not willingly keep him from courting you. However, if Captain Wentworth wants to talk to me, I will answer him and enjoy his company. You must remember dear, that we are old friends and he may want to talk to me more then you. You are much younger then him and I am closer to his age. We should let his behavior be our guide."
Louisa was not appeased by these gentle words. She stood up angrily and responded, "I don't care Anne. You should have encouraged him to talk to me. If he talks to you again you should tell him about me. He could not want to talk to such an old maid as you!" With that she left in a huff. Miss Musgrove was embarrassed and she left with an apologetic glance.
Mary decided that if Louisa were offended she had a right to be offended also. "Anne I am not pleased with the Captain's manners. He should have paid more attention to his hostess. I don't care if you are such good friends."
"But Mary," Anne answered. "Were you not busy talking to Mrs. Croft? I am sorry that Captain Wentworth did not speak to you more, but he was probably surprised to see me again. It has been many years and we were friends. We had several things to discuss after all this time. I am sure he will be more attentive when he comes to dinner tomorrow. The Musgroves have a dinner invitation at the Hayter's so they will not be able to be here."
"Well I suppose you are right. It was quite beastly of Louisa to call you an old maid. Even if you are, you are an Elliot and will always be above such a girl. I am sure Captain Wentworth knows you are much more worth knowing." With that Mary went to see about dinner the next day and Anne was left to her thoughts.
He had seemed happy to see her. His face flushed when he saw her and then he had smiled. Oh that smile was delightful to see. He looked so well! He was obviously healthy and fit. He was, if possible, better looking then he was eight years before. He was a man in the prime of his life and he had been happy to see her. She would have to be careful in her actions. She loved him just as much now as before. She struggled to keep her hopes down. If he wanted to simply be her friend, she would be happy with that. She could not throw herself at him and scare him away. Like she told Louisa, she would let his actions guide hers.
Thinking of Louisa brought on more worrisome thoughts. The Miss Musgroves were slightly spoiled, but Anne had never seen either of them act like Louisa had. Anne worried that she would drive Fredrick away. Anne decided not to worry about the girl's actions. Fredrick was strong enough to act on his own desires. If he wanted to pay attention to Anne, he would. He would not let Louisa's hopes interfere.
When Charles came home that night Mary told him about their visitors. "Captain Wentworth was very attentive to Anne. He was polite when he greeted me, but he all but ignored your sisters. Poor Louisa was very put out and she yelled at Anne and left in a huff. She said Anne was trying to steal the Captain away from her."
Charles raised an eyebrow and looked at Anne. "Is this true Anne?"
Anne blushed slightly and answered, "The Captain and I knew each other almost eight years ago. We have not seen each other since and he was only trying to renew our acquaintance."
Charles was more observant then his wife. He could tell there was more to the story then he was hearing. He was glad that the Crofts and Captain Wentworth would be dining with them the next day without his family. He wanted to see how this Captain would deal with his sister-in-law.
Somewhere in London
The well-dressed gentleman ducked his head as he entered the room. The man was handsome, but obviously in mourning. If you were to look at his eyes you would have seen not sorrow, but cold calculation. He looked at the dirty man sitting in a chair. "Well Stevens, have you found the information I was looking for?"
"Yes Mr. Elliot," Steven's answered with a sneer. "It would seem that your late father-in-law's second wife died last November. You know that the old man left her all his money besides your late wife's portion. It would seem this Mrs. Taylor left all her money and a house in the country to her sister's family. The only name I could get was Elliot. There's an Elliot that is in trouble with debtors so I think it wasn't that chap, but his daughter. I think it's quite a pile. Way to much for a mere girl."
"Is the daughter married?" Mr. Elliot asked.
"No sir, she is not."
Mr. Elliot thought about his esteemed relative Sir Walter Elliot. He did not know if that was the same Elliot but he knew that Sir Walter's late wife had a sister who had disgraced the family. He would start there. If his dear cousin Elizabeth were now an heiress she would make a good bride. If she did not agree, he would have to go to his back-up plan.
Back at Uppercross
Anne nervously looked in the mirror. She was still in mourning for her Aunt so her dress was a light gray color. She knew that she looked better in brighter colors, but she would respect her aunt's memory. The Crofts and Captain Wentworth were expected any moment, and her stomach could not stop churning. How would he act? Could he still love her? If he did, was she ready to become engaged? She was afraid of rushing into an engagement. If they made a mistake and they did not love each other like they had before, both would be sorely disappointed. Anne heard a knock at the door and walked as calmly as she could down to the sitting room.
Fredrick was anxious yet excited. Anne had seemed welcoming during his visit yesterday. She had blushed when he spoke to her and looked pleased at his attention. If all went well tonight, he would get a chance to apologize. Fredrick would not propose now, but he would set a framework for friendship. He would court her properly this time if she would welcome it. Last time they had fallen in love quickly and made all their decisions quickly. He now had leisure to work slowly. They had not known each other two months before their last engagement. He was determined to know Anne at least three before he proposed again. That gave him until January to convince her to love him. The Admiral knocked at the door and Fredrick took a deep breath to prepare.
The night went better than anyone could have thought. The seating at dinner was ideal for conversation. Fredrick was sitting across from Anne who knew just the questions to ask. She showed the proper amount of horror and admiration for the stories he told of the war. He was properly interested in her opinion and anxious to hear her comments. The Crofts both noticed what was happening between the captain and this delightful young lady, as did Charles. The thing that surprised him the most was Anne's response; she was blushing and laughing like a girl. She was always proper, intelligent, and gentle as always, but she obviously admired the captain and enjoyed his company. Even Mary noticed the attention her sister was receiving. She immediately assumed a wedding was in the future and she admired the Captain's rank and wealth.
It was not until after dinner that the young couple was able to be alone. Sophie had arranged the situation by expressing an interest in Mary's garden. Mary was kind enough to over look the season and she did not mention that the garden was mostly dead. She offered to give a tour and, after a kick from his sister, Fredrick asked Anne to join him and the other two ladies. While Sophie was distracting Mary with questions about future plantings, Fredrick took Anne aside. "Miss Elliot, Anne, I wanted to ask your forgiveness for my words all those years ago. I was cruel and I have been angry with you for many years. Please forgive me."
Anne blushed in the soft light and looked down when she answered, "It is you who should forgive me Fredrick. I should not have made the decision I did. I was young and I did not trust my own heart. I should have found a compromise."
"I am also at fault for that Anne," Fredrick interrupted. "If I had not lost my temper, we could have found a solution. I have learned since then to never act in such a temper again. I promise you, if I ever lose my temper again, I will always come back to work it out. If I had only come back to you later, we would not have been apart all these years." By now he held her hand in his and she was looking up at him with love. He decided to continue. "Anne, I am not going to ask you to marry me again now. Eight years ago everything moved so fast. I want to court you properly this time. I do want to know dear, if I were to court you with the intent to ask for your hand later, would you consent to that?"
Anne's heart almost burst within her. "Yes Fredrick. I would love to have you court me."
She did not need to say anything else as he kissed her hand gently. The two were interrupted by Sophie's loud comments and the party entered the house. It was not long before the Crofts rose to leave. Anne walked the party to the door and Fredrick took a moment of relative privacy to kiss her hand again. He looked into her eyes and said, "I will see you soon I hope? Did Sophie not invite you and your sister to tea the day after tomorrow? I will see you then. I am also going to hunt with Charles tomorrow morning and we will meet here for breakfast. Good night, dear Anne." This all was spoken very quietly to avoid someone overhearing. The last sentence was spoken so quietly Anne almost did not hear it. She almost floated back into the parlor.
Charles looked at Anne speculatively and asked "Do I need to speak to that man Anne? He seemed very attentive. Are his intentions honorable?"
Mary was very surprised. "Of course his intentions are honorable Charles! He is such a wealthy and noble captain in the Navy. He would not be flirting with an Elliot!"
Anne blushed with these comments and decided to be honest. "Charles, Mary, Captain Wentworth and I were engaged for a short time almost eight years ago. My young age and the captain's profession forced us to break the engagement. He does have honorable intentions Charles. He has not proposed yet, but he has asked to court me and I believe he intends to propose in several months. I do not think it necessary to tell my father about this, and I trust you not to tell anyone at the great house. I do not want our affairs bandied about by all before our engagement is public."
Charles looked at his sister-in-law closely and answered, "Very well Anne we won't tell anyone. However, I will keep a close eye on this captain of yours. If he does not get to the point soon, I will speak to him. I trust you and he seems to be an honorable man, so neither Mary nor I will interfere."
Mary looked slightly offended for a moment. "Why can't we tell Louisa and Henrietta? After Louisa called you an old maid and put you down so, I would love to tell her of your upcoming engagement. Captain Wentworth is much more appropriate a husband then Charles Hayter. Henrietta would be so jealous."
Charles looked at his wife sternly. "We will not be telling anyone. Anne told us this in the strictest of confidence. Also, it would not be appropriate for anyone to know before Captain Wentworth asks your father for Anne's hand in marriage. You do not want to disrespect your father do you?" Mary reluctantly agreed to keep her sister's relationship secret. Charles assured Anne that he would do his best to invite the Captain over so they could all get to know the man better. He was determined to know the man who had held Anne's heart for all those years.
Meanwhile at Kellynch, Sophie was sharing her opinion of the evening with her husband. "The boy is in love Admiral. He and Anne came to some sort of an understanding tonight in the garden. I do not think they are engaged yet, but I think he will be there much more then he will be here the next few weeks."
The Admiral looked surprised at the news. "Why doesn't he marry the girl? I proposed to you a week after I met you! He has known the girl for eight years and he is going to wait a few months to propose? Why!"
Sophie kissed her husband's cheek before she answered. "They had such a hard time over the years, dear. He wants to court her like he feels she deserves. They have known each other a long time, but they have not seen each other since the year six. They need to get to know each other again. I think Fredrick wants to prove to the girl that he is willing to wait for her. It is his way of showing his devotion. Besides, Miss Anne is still officially in mourning for her Aunt until November."
The Admiral gruffly agreed with his wife's opinion and the couple went to sleep. In a room down the hall Fredrick was thinking of his Anne. She had forgiven him and she still loved him. They had not said the words, but when they said their last good byes that night, their eyes told the entire tale. She loved him and she was his. In two different rooms, several miles away, two people rejoiced at their second chance. They had learned to forgive and it made a huge difference. Fredrick momentarily thought about how their reunion would be if he had not gotten his brother's last request. What if he still harbored his anger? Would he have treated her kindly or reviled her? He shuttered at the thought. Three miles away, in her room, Anne thought of her own act of forgiveness. If her Aunt had not taught her to forgive herself, what would her life have been like all these years? Anne remembered how empty and wounded her heart was when she first lived with her Aunt. She was being eaten from the inside out by her guilt. Now she was happy and ready to welcome Fredrick back into her life. Two people, three miles apart, brought together because of forgiveness.
The next morning Fredrick came to breakfast early and afterwards joined Charles for hunting. It was obvious to both Mary and Charles that the Captain was coming courting. He spoke to Anne almost exclusively and gazed at her appreciatively when she spoke in return. The pair was quite pleased with the encounter and Fredrick was in a splendid mood when he went out. He grew nervous with the questions Charles began asking him very soon after they left the house. It was soon clear that Anne had told her sister and brother about their past. Fredrick decided to bring things in the open. "Am I wrong Charles, or did Anne tell you about our conversation last night?"
Charles pursed his lips and looked at the Captain. "Yes Captain, she did. I have to admit I am concerned about several things. Anne said that you did not propose, but asked to court her. Why do you not travel to Bath right now and ask her father for her hand? She will obviously say yes, as you can tell by looking at her that she loves you. Are you trifling with my sister?"
Fredrick carefully reigned in his irritation. His anger was partly responsible for their initial separation, and he would not jeopardize their current understanding with his temper. He took a deep breath and carefully answered, "Charles, the reason I did not propose is rather complicated. My main reason is a desire to treat Anne like she deserves to be treated. When I knew her eight years ago, I proposed to her six weeks after I met her. Two weeks later we fought and I never saw her again. It has been eight years since Anne has seen me. She may want to back out of our agreement, but I assure you I will propose to Anne. I simply want to give her a chance to turn me down if that is what she wants."
Charles was reassured of the other man's intentions. It was obvious that he loved Anne, yet despite his confidence in Captain Wentworth, he decided to give a warning. "Alright Fredrick, I will allow you to court my sister while she is under my roof. I will warn you, however, I am going to watch you. I won't allow you to be alone with her and I will make sure that nothing improper happens. Also, if you even think about hurting her, you will deal with me. Do you understand?"
Fredrick decided not to take offence to this comment. After all, Charles was Anne's only brother and in the place of her father, it was his job to keep her safe. If Sophie had ever needed protection, Fredrick would have acted the same way. The two men focused on their sport from then on.
Once the gentlemen left them, Anne and Mary decided to call at the Great house. The two families had not met since Captain Wentworth called at the Cottage. Mr. Musgrove had called on Captain Wentworth and extended an invitation for later that week to dine with the entire family. Charles, Mary, and Anne had also received an invitation for that day and they looked forward to the event. Anne and Mary also looked forward to taking tea with Mrs. Croft on the morrow. Anne suspected that Fredrick would make an appearance and possibly the Admiral as well. It would be wonderful to be in Fredrick's company again. Breakfast had been pleasant with the whole room at an understanding. Everyone knew that Fredrick was courting Anne and they all approved. Anne was nervous about seeing Louisa again, and she hoped that she would be able to make peace with the girl.
When Anne and Mary arrived at the house Mrs. Musgrove was alone in the parlor. She said Louisa and Henrietta would be down soon and the ladies began to gossip. No mention was made of Anne's relationship with the Captain, but Mrs. Musgrove was very curious. She said, "Now Anne dear, the day before yesterday when Captain Wentworth called on you with his sister, Louisa said he was quite rude. The poor girl was also suffering from a horrible headache, so she could have been out of temper. What do you think of the Captain?"
Anne did not at first know what to say. She and Mary looked at each other and then Anne answered. "Well Mrs. Musgrove, I do not think Captain Wentworth was intentionally rude. I am afraid he was more attentive to me then anyone else in the room because the Captain and I were acquainted eight years ago and we had a lot of news to share. The captain's brother, who I was also acquainted with, died this last year. We were, among other things, discussing his passing."
Mrs. Musgrove understood her daughter's complaint better. Since Henrietta had not complained of the Captain's behavior, the worthy lady had not known what to think. It was obvious that Louisa was simply suffering from her headache and in a bad temper. "Wentworth. I have been trying to remember why I know that name since I first heard it last week. Oh, here are the girls. If you will excuse me, I am going to check a few letters to see if I can find where I heard that name before."
Louisa and Henrietta entered the room. The latter girl welcomed the sisters cheerfully, but the former was slightly cold in her manner. After they had exchanged pleasantries, Louisa pounced on Anne. "So Anne, I believe Captain Wentworth dined at the Cottage last night? Did you do what I said and turn his attentions to me? I am sure you were done becoming reacquainted. You would have nothing else to talk about I am sure." Louisa finished with a smirk. She didn't notice the shocked looks from her sister and Mary. This was not normal behavior for Louisa. They had never seen her act so rudely even to family members.
Anne decided to try putting a stop to Louisa's catty comments without giving her secret away. "Louisa, I told you the other day that we would let Captain Wentworth's actions be our guide. He was very pleasant the other day and this morning at breakfast, before he left to hunt with Charles we had a delightful conversation. If, when he meets you again, he turns his attention to you, I will not do anything to steal him away. But, if he continues to speak to me while we are in company and pay me attention, I will receive his attentions. I will NOT encourage him to court you. If he wanted to court you, he would. I enjoy Captain Wentworth's company and I am not going to drive him away. I am sorry that you are disappointed, but you cannot force someone to admire you, no matter how much you want to."
Louisa turned livid at this comment. She loudly shouted her response. "How dare you Anne Elliot! I thought you were nice and kind! You are stealing Captain Wentworth away from me! I will never forgive you for this! I warn you, Anne, I am going to steal him back. When he meets me, he will not even notice you! Why would he want a bitter, wrinkled old maid when he could have me!" With that she ran from the room quickly followed by a shocked and saddened Henrietta. Anne and Mary sat in shocked silence until Mr. Musgrove entered with Charles and the Captain.
"So my dears, my wife and daughters have left you, have they? I am sure they will return soon. I am going to take the gentlemen to my billiard room. A young dog ruined their sport this morning and they are at loose ends. Good day my dears!" Fredrick reluctantly left Anne and followed the gentlemen. With their hosts gone Anne and Mary decided to leave. Louisa would not return soon and Mrs. Musgrove had not returned for a half an hour. The ladies left a message with the maid and left.
The next day Anne and Mary took the former lady's carriage to Kellynch hall. Mary expressed her fear of seeing her old home in someone else's hands. Anne was not concerned about this because the Crofts were kind and intelligent people. They could treat her mother's home as it should be treated. The ladies were met in the front hall by Sophie, who quickly led them into the music room. "Now my dears, I know that your sister took her superior instrument to Bath with her, and I understand why. I have, however, been missing having a piano. I learned to play as a girl and like to take it up again whenever I can. The dear Admiral knows this and, now that we are going to be on land for good, he bought me an instrument of my own!"
The ladies admired the instrument and drank their tea. Anne was soon persuaded to play for the group and she gladly sat to play. When she finished her piece, she was applauded by more then just the ladies. While she had played her piece, Fredrick and the Admiral had entered the room. The Admiral was the first to speak. "Miss Elliot! Thank you for helping my wife assess her new instrument. You are quite as good as she is I am sure."
Sophie protested, "Now Admiral, you know she is much better then I am!"
"Yes I know Sophie, but I cannot say that can I my dear?"
While the room laughed at the Admiral's comments, Fredrick escorted Anne away from the instrument. He took the opportunity to quietly compliment Anne on her playing. "You are delightful as always Anne. I missed hearing you play." He raised his voice so his sister could hear him. "Sophie, yesterday, weren't you practicing a reel? Why don't you play it now so I can dance with Miss Elliot again? It has been many years since I had the pleasure."
Sophie was ready to please and Anne blushingly accepted Fredrick's hand. The couple danced around the room, both remembering how much they had always liked to dance with the other. Fredrick led well, and Anne followed him faithfully. They were a pleasant couple to watch and the Admiral and Mary watched in appreciation as they came to a stop. The room applauded Sophie's playing and the gentlemen escorted Sophie and Anne to their seats.
"That was marvelous!" Anne said breathlessly. "I have not danced in years!"
"Did you never go to a ball with your Aunt?" Fredrick asked.
"No, Aunt did not like balls and she had few acquaintances who would invite us to dance." Anne responded.
"We dance a lot at Uppercross," Mary interjected. "Anne is always needed to play when she is there. No one ever thinks to have her dance."
Fredrick looked upset by this revelation and turned to Anne to say, "When we are at dinner tomorrow night, if there is dancing, I will dance with you."
The residents of Uppercross cottage arrived at the great house with a variety of feelings. Charles was happy to dine with his family again, Mary hoped she would finally be given the precedence she desired, and Anne was both worried and excited. She was happy to see Fredrick again. She both hoped and feared they would be able to dance. Louisa was wild for dancing, and every time it was suggested, it was she who demanded the first partner available. Frederick would not be manipulated and he would firmly yet kindly insist on dancing with Anne. How would Louisa react to this preference? Was she still insistent on receiving the Captain's attentions?
Earlier that morning Henrietta visited the cottage to speak to Anne. She poured out her worries to the sympathetic ear. "Louisa is not acting like herself. The other day, when I tried to talk to her, she threw a book at me. She was close to normal yesterday morning, but at lunch, she got so angry when father mentioned Charles, that she stormed out of the room. She has also been complaining of severe headaches. Louisa never gets ill and she refuses to see the doctor. What am I to do? I don't know how she will act this evening at dinner. Mother is also feeling quite low because she remembered that Captain Wentworth was the captain of poor Richard's last ship. Usually Louisa helps me cheer mother up, but last night she was no help."
Anne had no advice to give. She would not give up Captain Wentworth to Louisa. Even if she did encourage Fredrick to court Louisa, he would not fall in love with the girl. Anne also worried that Louisa's jealousy was not her only problem. Anne hoped that Louisa would stop her childish antics soon. As they walked into the drawing room and were greeted by a cheerful Louisa, Anne was relieved. It was obvious that the girl had come to her senses. Anne slipped next to Henrietta before the Crofts and Captain Wentworth arrived, and quietly whispered, "I see that she has finally listened to you. I am glad, this dinner would have been very unpleasant with her angry."
Henrietta frowned as she answered, "I don't know what happened Anne. One moment she was acting angry and the next she started chatting about fashion. I don't know what to think. I am only thankful that she is better now. I hope she does not get angry again."
Anne decided not to worry about Louisa's erratic behavior. She was being her friendly pleasant self and Anne would accept the behavior of the moment and forget the behavior of yesterday and the day before. When Fredrick came in with the Crofts she was ready with a bright smile for him.
During dinner the Crofts and Captain Wentworth seemed to compete for the most unusual experience in their travels. Anne suspected the stories were limited to those appropriate for polite society, but the entire party was entertained anyway. Mrs. Croft's story was by far the most unusual. When she was visiting shore in the East Indies with the Admiral, the ship's officers visited a heathen temple. When Admiral and Mrs. Croft entered a center room, one of the idols was an incredible likeness of her dear husband. All of the officers present noticed the resemblance including the Admiral himself. Sophie finished her story, "Because it was an unused, old place, we felt free to take the statue home with us. It is now sitting in our upstairs hall, if any of you do not believe me."
Anne truly enjoyed the party. The Navy was filled with such pleasant people. The Crofts would often mention a name and Fredrick would know immediately whom they spoke of. Anne looked forward to joining this large brotherhood. When she married Fredrick, she would be a captain's wife, and be introduced to these strange and wonderful people. The only morose aspect of the evening of the evening was Mrs. Musgrove's sorrow over her son Richard's death. Dick Musgrove had been a good for nothing lad, who the family was glad to be rid of when he went on board the Laconia. Dick had been aboard but briefly, and Fredrick had been at great pains to remove him. Fredrick, however, was unfailingly patient as he sat on the couch between Mrs. Musgrove and Anne talking about the dead boy.
After dinner the girls performed on the piano and harp. Captain Wentworth was about to ask Anne perform when dancing was called for. Louisa spoke quickly, "Anne, I do so long for a dance! You will play for us, will you not?"
Anne did not know what to answer. She knew that Fredrick wanted to dance with her. If she were to dance, there would not be enough young men to partner the ladies. Anne was about to consent when Fredrick, unaware of Louisa's recent temper, spoke up. "Miss Louisa, I have not danced with Miss Elliot these past eight years. I look forward to being her partner again. My sister has recently been practicing her country-dances. Would you play for us Sophie?"
While Mrs. Croft was agreeing to play Anne, Henrietta, Mary, and Charles all watched Louisa. At first the girl looked pleasant and accepting. In an instant her face turned angry, then she was calm again. Louisa took the arm of her partner and calmly took the floor while saying to her sister, "Henrietta, since cousin Charles has not yet arrived, would you mind sitting this dance out? I hope he will come soon so you can join the set."
Henrietta was more then willing to sit out to keep her sister calm. Anne breathed a sigh of relief and hoped that Louisa had truly accepted Fredrick's choice. Dancing again with her love was wonderful. The reel they had danced the day before was nice but Anne reveled in her position. Instead of being banished behind the instrument, she was out among the young people, on the arm of her almost fiancÚ. She felt so young and happy it was difficult to remember she was seven and twenty and considered, by many, to be an old maid. Tonight, however, no one would consider her an old maid. Her eyes were bright and her complexion glowing. Every time she met Fredrick's eye she would grace him with a beaming smile. It was obvious, to anyone who cared to notice, that the couple was in love.
The dinner party had been a success. Charles Hayter had arrived in time to dance with his sweetheart, Henrietta. Louisa had been happy to dance with anyone, and Fredrick had danced only with Anne. When the pair got tired, they sat quietly on a couch near Mrs. Musgrove speaking to each other or anyone who came near. As October passed into November the same party met often. A day would not go by when Captain Wentworth was not seen at Uppercross cottage. The Miss Musgroves would often walk to meet Anne and Mary, and Charles, Fredrick and Charles Hayter would join the ladies. The group would take rambles in the woods or stay in to play cards or charades.
When they would walk, Charles Hayter, after receiving hints from Henrietta would pay equal attention to both Miss Musgroves. Louisa never had an outburst in front of the gentlemen, for which the ladies were thankful. Only her brother was aware of Louisa's erratic behavior. She was always polite when visitors were present but often an observer could see rage in her eye at the most unusual times. Henrietta continued to worry about her sister. Anne was not as worried because she thought the anger was directed at her. Louisa would accept Anne's engagement when it became public.
Anne's period of mourning ended the middle of November. She still thought of her Aunt, but always with joy. She remembered the good times they had and thought of her Aunt surrounded by loved ones in God's presence. So, when it was time to put off somber colors, Anne was happy to wear her new rose-colored dress to a dinner party. She knew she looked well when she saw Fredrick's expression.
During their courtship, they had rarely been alone. Anne enjoyed times when they were able to talk privately in the presence of others. There had been several times that they were alone completely. One of those times had happened earlier that day. Anne had been reading quietly in the parlor at the cottage. She was not expecting Fredrick, because he was invited to dinner that night. He walked into the parlor and was surprised to see her alone. She was wearing a light blue dress that brought out lighter tints in her dark eyes. Up until that point he had only seen her in mourning colors and styles. If she looked pretty before she looked beautiful now. Anne was able to greet him and inform him of her sister's presence upstairs before he kissed her.
During their first engagement, Anne had become accustomed to Fredrick's changeable moods and intense emotions. She could tell by a look in his eye when he wanted to kiss her. They had avoided secluded spots after a certain point, to avoid further impropriety. During this second engagement, they had not yet been completely alone. Someone had always been visible. Anne suspected that Charles had something to do with this situation, but she did not mind as long as they could talk. There would be plenty of time for caresses after they were married. When Anne finally realized she was being kissed by her true love, she responded. It had been eight long years since she had been kissed and she had sorely missed it. Her entire body reveled in the feeling of love and contentment the kiss brought. She enjoyed the feeling of excitement his passion brought to her. Too soon for either they broke off their kiss. Fredrick held her hands and gazed deeply into her eyes. He could see the passion in her and he loved what his kiss did to her face. She was a beautiful and passionate woman. He breathed a ragged sigh and said, "Charles has kept us from being alone for all these weeks. I think that is for the best. You look irresistible sitting there in the sunlight my Anne. That is a delightful diversion but we will have to partake sparingly at most. I find it hard to resist you my dear."
With that, they tried to change the subject. Anne absently shared the subject of her book with him and he just as absently asked about Mary's health. He was glad to see her doing well so near the anniversary of her Aunt's death. He did not mention it, but he was also glad to know it was appropriate to publicly court her. Since Uppercross had such a small society, it was permissible for Anne to attend social events while she was in mourning. If they were to go to Bath or even another town, she would be frowned upon by some. Now that a year had passed, Anne was free to be seen in society.
Anne smiled when she remembered Fredrick's actions of the morning. When Anne saw the look in his eye as he gazed at her in her new dress, she guessed that he would try to get her alone again that night. She also knew, by the look on Charles' face that Fredrick would not succeed. Dinner was another pleasant affair. The Musgroves and Anne talked of the places they had visited and laughed at the meager number and variety compared to the Crofts and Captain Wentworth's travels. Anne laughingly commented. "I have traveled a fair amount these last five years, Captain Wentworth, but would you believe that I have not yet seen the sea?"
"That, Miss Elliot is a sin. Everyone who knows or loves a sailor needs to see and understand the sea. It is the master of every sailor's life and, in fact, I feel the need to see it now. How would you all like to go to Lyme with me? I was going to visit my dear friend, Captain Harville, soon anyway. He was wounded and I would like the company. What say you Charles?"
It was quickly decided that Charles and Mary Musgrove, Charles Hayter, the Miss Musgroves, and Anne would join Captain Wentworth in his trip to Lyme. Henrietta, the only person who still noticed Louisa's odd moods, hoped that her sister would improve with sea air. Anne, as a person who loved a sailor, knew that she needed to get to know the sea. If possible she wanted to learn to love it too. Who knew when her Fredrick would be called back into service? If he were called, she would go with him. The entire party planned eagerly for the pleasant diversion.
William Walter Elliot was annoyed. He paced his room heatedly. His source had not been able to find any evidence of Elizabeth living with Margaret Taylor or any other relative. Would the old lady have left her money to a niece she didn't know? Elliot wracked his brain trying to remember facts about his long estranged family. He knew there was something he had forgotten. Suddenly it came back to him. Who was the man? Smith! Smith's wench of a wife would always talk about an Anne Elliot who was supposedly so different then Elizabeth. Was she the heiress he was looking for? He would have to find out before he sought her. If he got a reputation for trifling with young ladies, he could never convince an heiress to marry him. William Walter Elliot needed an heiress. He sighed and decided to walk along the shore to relax. There was nothing he could do here. He had to wait for his axle to be fixed then he could continue with his plan.
Fredrick and Anne walked along the Cobb in Lyme. The party had arrived late afternoon the day before. They had settled into the inn and met the Harvilles. Captain Harville was a delightful man ready with a smile and an interesting tale about his days sailing with Fredrick. Anne was impressed with the hospitality exhibited. The Harvilles were sorry they could not have the entire party to dinner and agreed to join them at the inn. Anne was thrilled to meet with Fredrick's friends. No one openly referred to Anne and Fredrick's relationship, but Anne knew she was being inspected and welcomed.
It was now early morning and Fredrick had met Anne directly after she rose, so the couple slipped out to have a moment of privacy. They could not risk even the smallest kiss because of the public nature of the place, but they enjoyed a lively conversation. They were about to climb a set of stairs when Fredrick was teasing her, "Miss Anne Elliot is, of course, an expert at the seaworthiness of boats." They were having a conversation filled with nonsense. Their banter ceased for a moment when they climbed some stairs and Anne was stared at by a rather handsome gentleman in mourning. He was staring at her so pointedly that Fredrick was tempted to take offence. He did not, however, want to make a scene in front of Anne, so he settled for a forbidding look. The couple walked back to the inn and joined their party for breakfast not thinking of the incident again.
He could not believe his luck. She had fallen right into his lap. He had heard a couple flirting and was ignoring their comments when he heard a magic phrase. "When My Aunt, Margaret Taylor, and I visited the lakes. . ." He did not listen to the rest of the comment. He held his breath and hoped. Could the owner of the voice be the Miss Elliot he was looking for? There were a lot of Taylors in England and also a lot of Margarets. He waited to descend the stairs when he saw the couple about to climb. The gentleman then said the lady's name. Miss Anne Elliot. She was the one. He looked at her critically. She was not classically beautiful, but she would make a pleasant enough looking wife. If she was indeed an heiress, it would not matter. He knew his target's face. He would find out where she lived and then marry her. Even if she would not stray from her forbidding Naval officer, he would have her.
The day at Lyme was pleasant enough to demand one last walk before they left. The party set out and fell into groups. Captain Harville had found a willing ear in Charles and Mary. He spoke about his dead sister and her fiancÚ, Captain Benwick, who had died not long ago. Mary was vocal in her admiration of the sad romantic tale. Anne could tell it was a difficult subject for Fredrick. They had been speaking pleasantly, but when Benwick was brought up, his arm tightened and his jaw clamped. Anne gingerly brought her hand up to touch his ridged arm. He turned abruptly to look at her and his expression softened slightly. "What is it Fredrick? Do you want to talk about it?" Anne asked gently.
Fredrick sighed and shared his story. "I was the one elected to tell Benwick about his fiancÚ's death. They were so in love, Anne. I thought that he was well and he insisted on being left alone, but the next morning I went into his room to find he had hung himself." When Anne flinched Fredrick looked at her quickly and apologized, "I am sorry love, that is not for ears as tender as yours. I have made my peace with it. I cannot afford to carry guilt for his death. It is just such a stupid waste! I lived many years without hope of ever having you near me again and I was able to make something of my life and even find moments of happiness. Why did Benwick not tell me he was so broken-hearted?" Fredrick grunted gruffly and said, "Come, let us talk no more about this."
Anne and Fredrick were serious as they headed back to the inn. They were lagging behind the party. Louisa was walking a short way in front of them directly behind Henrietta and Charles Hayter. Abruptly Louisa put her hand to her head and collapsed. Anne sprang forward and took Louisa's face in her hands. Louisa's body was shaking so violently that Anne was forced to sit back to avoid injury. When the fit stopped, Anne took out her smelling salts and tried to revive the girl but nothing worked. Fredrick gently put Anne aside and put his hand near Louisa's nose, then put his ear to her chest. His face turned gray and he turned to Harville for his opinion. Captain Harville stepped forward, repeated Fredrick's actions, then shook his head and quietly stood up. Fredrick looked at Charles and Henrietta and made quick decision. "Charles, you and Hayter escort Henrietta and Mary back to the inn. Harville will go for a doctor. Anne and I will stay here with Louisa and continue trying to revive her."
When the group had left on their assignments Anne stood up and took Fredrick's hand. "She is dead isn't she?" She asked in a small voice.
Fredrick sighed. "Yes she is. I don't know what would have caused it. Was she ill at all?"
Anne shook her head then paused. "She has been having the strangest moods. One moment she would be extremely happy and then the next she would be enraged. She has never acted that way in front of company, but she has been quite rude to her sister. Oh Fredrick" With that Anne buried her head in Fredrick's chest and cried. She would be needed later and this was the only time she could mourn for her lost friend.
The doctor came and agreed with Fredrick's conclusion. When asked about what could have caused the death, he did not know any more then the others. A century and a half later, doctors would have known she died because of a tumor in her brain. Her erratic behavior was caused by the growth affecting the center of her emotions. During this time, however, Louisa Musgrove's death was simply seen as an act of God. No one knew or understood why it happened, but they learned to accept it.
It was Anne who told the worried family members about Louisa's death. Henrietta fainted and was put to bed. She did not recover from her shock and guilt for several weeks. Charles tried to hold up like a man, but he could be seen shedding tears whenever he felt no one was looking. Mary was surprisingly calm and she took charge of Henrietta's care and wrote letters with instructions to her housekeeper and nanny. She volunteered to stay with Henrietta in Lyme until she was ready to travel. Mary shed her tears calmly but stepped up during the tragic time. Anne was proud of her sister's maturity. It was almost like Mary knew the worst had happened. There was no need to panic and fear something worse; Louisa was dead and beyond all human help.
Charles left immediately to inform his parents and arrange for the funeral at Uppercross. Anne volunteered to stay with Mary and Henrietta, while the other gentleman escorted Louisa's body to her final resting place. Two weeks after the shocking death, Henrietta was recovered enough to go home. All of the Musgroves were in deep mourning and Anne was about to go into mourning as well, but Mrs. Musgrove intervened. "Anne dear, you have just quit mourning your Aunt. We all know you loved Louisa, but she would have wanted you to look young and pretty. Do not put on dark colors for my dear girl. Live your life in a way that she would have approved of. Dance, sing, travel and do the things she wanted to do. You have our blessing."
By this time the Crofts had left to visit friends. Anne was ready to leave Mary and visit her father and Elizabeth in Bath. Lady Russell had been out of the county visiting friends since Sir Walter left for Bath. The good Lady had returned not long after Louisa's funeral and was ready to travel with Anne. Fredrick stopped by the cottage before she left. "Anne, Louisa's death has prevented me from making the declaration I wanted to. Now my sister wants me near her for the holiday and you are going to Bath with Lady Russell. Stay with your father until I come for you. It will only be three weeks at most before I see you again. I love you so. Keep safe my darling." With that Fredrick kissed her gently and left. Anne, who had thought she had cried all her tears, cried more. Her eyes were still red when she stopped at Lady Russell's. Since their departure date had been delayed by Louisa's death they left for Bath early the next morning.
Lady Russell looked at her dear friend with concern. Anne had been quiet the day before, and her red eyes betrayed her recent tears. Was she still mourning Louisa's death? It was difficult to see one so young die for seemingly no reason. Lady Russell was more concerned with some rumors she had heard upon returning to the neighborhood. Captain Fredrick Wentworth had been visiting his sister Mrs. Croft and the annoying man had made a habit of visiting Uppercross. What the gossip was not clear on was whom he was visiting. Some said he had been courting one of the Miss Musgroves. Others said he was not courting at all, but just enjoying sport with Mr. Charles Musgroves. A few said he visited the cottage and courted Miss Elliot. It was this last rumor that had Lady Russell worried. Certainly the man was now wealthy and it would be a prudent match materially, yet he was undoubtedly still the same man he was eight years ago.
The Fredrick Wentworth of eight years before had not gained Lady Russell's approval. It was not just that he was poor and of dubious breeding, or so the good lady told herself. He was brash and over-confident. He had an intense personality that could not help but show itself in his manners. Also he was self educated in his own profession but rather ignorant as to other matters. Yes, Fredrick Wentworth was definitely not good enough for Anne. Deep in her heart Lady Russell was also afraid of losing her influence upon Anne. Fredrick Wentworth would pull Anne into his life and take her away from her family and friends. She would always listen to him over her old friend and mentor. As it turned out, Lady Russell lost Anne to another quarter. Margaret Taylor was not friendly with Lady Russell. She swooped in and took Anne away, and shaped her character in such a way that Lady Russell had never been able to achieve.
Now "That Man" was back and Lady Russell would stand by her opinion of eight years before. If he was not good enough for her then, he would not be good enough for her now. She would have to be cautious in her campaign. If Fredrick Wentworth had been courting Anne, there was a lot of damage to correct. If Anne were introduced to another more suitable man, who admired her as much as the captain did, she could possibly be persuaded to marry the better man. Yes, "That Man" would not be discussed. If his name came up in conversation he would be ignored as much as possible. He would not have Anne if Lady Russell had anything to do with it.
Anne did not speak during the first part of their trip. She had not decided what she would tell her old friend about Fredrick. She knew that Lady Russell would, most likely, still disapprove of the match. Anne did not care if even her Father disapproved. She was a grown woman, and had eight years to think on their relationship. A girl of nineteen, who had known a man a slight two months could be forgiven for giving up her love based on the persuasion of such a dear friend. A grown woman of seven and twenty who had known and loved a man for eight years could not be forgiven for such a weakness. Anne would marry Fredrick. Only God could part them now and she hoped and prayed He would see fit to let them stay together.
Lady Russell finally broke the silence by brining up her concerns about Mrs. Clay. "I have heard from your sister, Anne, that Mrs. Clay is still in residence. I am quite concerned about what she wants. She is still full young enough to bear a son. If your father were to marry her and then leave her and her son Kellynch, you and Elizabeth would be without a home. I cannot stand the thought of your mother's house in the hands of such a woman."
Anne thought a moment before she responded. "I too have affection for my mother's house, Lady Russell; however, Kellynch will be in the hands of strangers if my father were to die now. Mr. Elliot, my father's heir, is a stranger to us all. I do not know what sort of person he is, or what sort of wife he would take, as his first wife is dead. It seems a slim chance that he would marry Elizabeth now when he did not want her years ago. As for Elizabeth and I being without a home, I have not related to you the particulars of my Aunt's will."
Lady Russell looked curious when she said, "Did your Aunt have any money? I have never approved of Margaret Taylor. She made a very poor choice in husband. You did live with her all those years, so I will not speak ill of her, but I hope you do not flaunt your ties with such a woman." This was all said with a haughty sniff. Lady Russell had always been overly concerned with rank. She could or would not see the positive traits in the lower class, and she forgave all manner of vices in the nobility.
Anne was slightly annoyed with her old friend. She was used to comments like this but she decided to defend her aunt's decisions. "Aunt Margaret was an intelligent, wonderful woman. I never met her husband so I do not know what sort of man he was, but if my aunt loved him she was correct to marry him. Why should she give up her happiness simply for her social standing? She had a happy and full life and she had a wonderful impact on me. She was available for me when I had no one else to turn to. I loved her dearly and I would thank you not to criticize her to me again."
Lady Russell was shocked at this statement. It was all said in a very polite but firm manner. Anne was not rebellious or rude to anyone, but it would seem that she would not always bow to Lady Russell's opinion. The older lady apologized stiffly and said, "Please, tell me about your aunt's will."
"Yes," Anne answered. "My late uncle Taylor was a very wealthy man. At the time of my aunt's death, her solicitor told me he had one daughter by a previous marriage. It would seem the girl lived with her mother's relatives, and refused to forgive her father when he remarried. Because he was a kind and loving father, Mr. Taylor provided for his daughter generously. He gave her half his fortune, which she later used to marry quite well. I do not know her married name but I have heard that she recently died without children. The 75,000 pounds that was her portion, is now in her husband's hands. Mr. Taylor built up his fortune once again after he married my Aunt. She made him very happy and because his daughter had her portion and no longer knew him, he left the remainder of his money to my aunt. She then bought Oakridge and invited me to live with her. We traveled and enjoyed life for those five years. I like to think I made my aunt's last years less lonely. She did more for me then I could ever have paid back. Upon my Aunt's death she left me Oakridge and the remainder of her money totaling 75,000 pounds. It is of course invested wisely, but I have a comfortable income from the interest. I decided, upon her death, I would visit with my family for a little more then a year then find a suitable companion to come live with me at Oakridge."
Lady Russell had listened attentively to the entire tale. She was shocked at the amount of money Anne had in her possession. She had a question, "Anne, if you had this fortune at your disposal, why did you not pay your father's debts?"
Anne answered carefully. "I had several reasons for that, Lady Russell. First, I was acting upon my aunt's wishes. She warned me in a letter she wrote before her death, that my father was in debt and would undoubtedly ask for money. She told me not to give him any because he would soon spend it all and I would be left once again, penniless. The second reason is based upon my father's character. If I were to pay all of Fathers debts, which are substantial, he would simply run them up again. Mr. Shepherd told me about my father's spending habits and it would take a sum over 20,000 pounds to bring my father out of debt. I had hoped that my father would learn to curb his spending if he had to resolve his debts on his own. If leasing Kellynch does not resolve the problem completely, I will make up the difference."
Lady Russell understood Anne's reasoning and approved. She did, however, have more questions. "It would seem, Anne, that you do not have to worry about a home if Mrs. Clay marries your father, or if your father dies prematurely. However, your sister Elizabeth is still dependant on your father and she has no marriage prospects in the future. What can we do for her?"
Anne sighed and answered, "I tried to warn Elizabeth about Mrs. Clay before she left for Bath. She would not listen, so I decided to leave the situation well enough alone. If, heaven forbid, Elizabeth finds herself without a home, I will offer her a place in mine. She will not like that at all, but she would have a roof over her head. If worse comes to worst I will give her a small dowry which would make her more attractive as a marriage prospect. By the time I am done aiding my family, my aunt's money will be half spent, but I do not need half such a sum since I have a home and simple tastes."
Lady Russell was not yet done with the subject of Mrs. Clay. "It would seem, Anne, that you refuse to be concerned about your sister's future. I have one last very important grievance. How could you let your father humiliate himself with such a woman? She is the daughter of his solicitor! A widow with no good name or connections! Is such a woman to replace your mother?"
"No woman can replace my mother, Lady Russell," Anne answered firmly yet kindly. "I have decided to let my father act in the way he sees fit. If he were to marry Mrs. Clay, it would indeed be very sad, however, there is nothing I could do to stop him. She is not a murderer, and she most likely has no more evil intent then making herself into Lady Elliott. If father does not think about the social disgrace, and if Elizabeth refuses to be warned, I will not worry about that. I will quietly and happily live my life in my new home. I think my dear mother would want me to be happy, not scheming around trying to stop my father. I am sorry for your fears, but I hope that I have calmed them a bit. Elizabeth and I will always have homes, thanks to my aunt. My father is a grown man capable of acting for himself. We must leave the matter at that."
Lady Russell was forced to drop the issue and they spoke on more general topics for the remainder of the trip. When Anne finally arrived at her father's house at Camden-place, she received a warmer welcome then she expected. Her father and Elizabeth were anxious to boast about their home, their new friends, and their exalted position in Bath. They were sought after by the best hostesses and attended only the nicest parties. They turned down many invitations and invited only the best people to grace their own table. Anne could not help but pity her sister as Elizabeth lead her through the doors into the second drawing room. That Elizabeth was proud to be mistress of this set of rooms after being mistress of Kellynch Hall, was a sad thing.
Mrs. Clay was present and well entrenched in the household. Anne tried her best to avoid talking to the woman as she knew from experience that Mrs. Clay was not worth talking to. Anne was not in the door a half an hour before Mr. Elliot's name was brought up. It would seem that the gentleman had come to Camden-place to mend the rift in the family. Mrs. Clay hinted to Elizabeth, several times, that the recent widower was seeking a wife. Anne listened to the praises of her father's heir with curiosity. Was this man indeed courting Elizabeth? If she remembered correctly, the young man had married a woman much below his station. Anne supposed that could be forgiven and was not prone to hate him for it. She asked her father what he now thought of Mr. Elliot's marriage. It seemed the match was a love match and Mr. Elliot begged to be forgiven and welcomed back into the family fold. Anne did wonder why Mr. Elliot bothered to visit her father after all these years of neglect. She decided to observe the man and see if she could determine his motives.
It was late when a knock came at the door. Mrs. Clay said she thought it would be Mr. Elliot on the way home from dinner with his friend Captain Wallis. Elizabeth looked pleased with this thought. She was proud to show her sister how intimate the young man was with their family. Mr. Elliot walked in the room and Anne was astonished. It was the man who had stared at her in Lyme! Mr. Elliot was also surprised and pleased to meet Anne. "Oh! It is a pleasure to see you again and finally meet you. I am very glad to know you are my cousin." He turned to the rest of the room and explained, "I saw my cousin Anne in passing while at Lyme and wondered who she was." He turned back to Anne and asked, "I heard that there was a young lady taken ill on the Cobb. Was she part of your party, and is she well?"
Anne was not overly surprised that Mr. Elliot asked after Louisa Musgrove before her family. She had written news of the death to Elizabeth right after it happened but neither the Musgroves nor Anne received word from them. She was the center of attention when she answered, "I am sorry to say sir, the young lady in question, Miss Louisa Musgrove, died. Her funeral was a few weeks ago. Her family is quite sad about her early parting."
Sir Walter was not overly concerned about the death and he said lazily, "I am sure you passed along our sympathies nicely Anne. The Musgroves are worthy people and it would not do to slight them completely."
Anne assured her father that she did what was correct and she was then at leisure to observe Mr. Elliot with her family. He seemed intent on flattering her father and Elizabeth, but Anne could not detect any signs of sincere affection for either. Elizabeth was obviously flattered by the attention, but Mr. Elliot was just as likely to seek out Anne's company as Elizabeth's. Anne did not think Mr. Elliot had renewed family ties simply to court and marry Elizabeth. She could not figure out a convincing motive so she was left to wonder.
At one point Mr. Elliot turned to Anne and asked, "I heard that you lived for several years with an Aunt. Do you mind if I ask her name? Was she your mother's relative or your father's?"
Anne wondered why he cared, but she assumed he was just curious. She did not mind sharing her aunt's name, though her father was not proud of it. "My aunt was Margaret Taylor. She sent for me after the death of her husband and I lived almost exclusively with her for five years. She was a dear woman and a wonderful friend. I was sorry to lose her a year ago this last November."
Mr. Elliot made polite comments to this and the visit was soon over. Anne went to bed that night curious about all the things she had seen. The thoughts of her family, however, were soon replaced with thoughts of a certain gentleman. How was Fredrick? Did he still love her as she loved him? When would he come to her? She shed a few tears of loneliness and went to sleep dreaming of a time when they would not be parted.
He left the old man's house with a smile on his face. Everything was coming together. His man had recently broken into the law offices of a certain Mr. Jones, the late Margaret Taylor's solicitor. Nothing was taken but Elliot obtained the information he needed. Miss Anne Elliot was indeed the heiress of Mrs. Taylor's fortune. The girl had inherited Oakridge and 75,000 pounds. William Walter Elliot knew that he deserved much more then he had ever gotten. No one would keep him from his goal. Anne Elliot was a sweet and obliging woman who seemed easy to control. He had already gotten in good with the father. Now all he had to do was convince Anne's old friend, Lady Russell, and propose to the lady. A woman of seven and twenty would never turn him down. Especially if she thought he had a fortune of his own. She would marry him and he would get his money. He decided to stop at the Marlborough-buildings to tell Wallis of his luck.
December passed slowly for Anne. She was busy attending dinner and card parties with her family and Mr. Elliot. The latter gentleman was quite firmly entrenched into their lives. He came over every day and often escorted Anne and Elizabeth out to the shops or pump room. He insisted on being very attentive to Anne. Elizabeth did not notice this attention but Lady Russell did. Mr. Elliot was just the young man for Anne, in her opinion. He was a well-mannered gentleman who would inherit Kellynch. Anne would have a husband worthy of her and be Lady Elliot in her mother's place. Lady Russell decided to wait for the perfect time to encourage the match.
Meanwhile, between social engagements, Anne discovered an old friend who lived in Bath. Mrs. Smith was a widow in reduced circumstances, who was afflicted with severe rheumatic fever that settled in her legs and made her, for the present, a cripple. Miss Hamilton had befriended Anne after her mother's death. She was a kind and intelligent girl, three years older, who saw Anne in need of care. She had left school and married a wealthy man. It seemed her husband's fortune was lost and Mrs. Smith was now quite poor.
When Anne made her first visit to her friend, she was sad to see the miserable circumstances the lady lived in. She had a small set of two rooms and was dependant on her landlady help her out of her bed. Anne was determined to visit her friend as often as possible. She was also determined to find a way to improve Mrs. Smith's fortunes without hurting her pride.
The two ladies were pleased with their reunion. Mrs. Smith, though poor, infirm, and helpless, possessed a good intellect and agreeable manners. She was determined to be cheerful despite her sad circumstances, so she was a very agreeable friend. It was not until her second visit that Anne learned more of her friend's past life. Mrs. Smith talked openly about her husband. She had loved him and buried him. She was used to affluence and now she was quite poor. She was childless and without relations to assist her in the arrangement of perplexed affairs. Yet, despite her sad circumstances, Anne knew her friend was more often happy then depressed. Mrs. Smith's landlady was a kind woman, who had a sister who was a nurse. This kind nurse was willing to care for her when she was between situations. More importantly, she taught Mrs. Smith to knit. This gave the poor lady some employment. She made small items that Nurse Rooke would sell to her wealthy patients. This allowed Mrs. Smith to do good for others poorer then herself.
Anne was saddened by her friend's experience in marriage. The late Mr. Smith had been extravagant, and he kept friends he should not. Her friend had been exposed to people who made her think less of the world. Anne was glad that Mrs. Smith was now among people who showed what true charity was. She entertained Anne with stories told her by Nurse Rooke. That worthy woman was exposed to all sorts of characters in her profession, and often had entertaining stories to tell.
"My friend, Mrs. Rooke is in a situation at present that will bring little to report except lace and finery. Mrs. Wallis of Marlborough-buildings is pretty, silly, expensive, and fashionable. I do mean to make my profit of Mrs. Wallis, however. She has plenty of money and I intend for her to buy all the high-priced things I have in hand now."
Not long after her second visit with Mrs. Smith, Anne sat with Lady Russell one morning. Her friend seemed distracted by something and Anne soon found out what had Lady Russell so excited. "Anne dear, Mr. Elliot has been paying you a lot of attention lately hasn't he?"
Anne looked at her friend and answered cautiously. "Yes, Lady Russell, he as been quite attentive. He has also been attentive to my sister and father."
Lady Russell shook her head slightly as she continued, "I think he is paying you more attention then he is Elizabeth. I think he is seeking a wife! Just think what a delightful match it would be! He is an intelligent and elegant gentleman. His manners are very pleasing, and you would be Lady Elliot in your mother's place! I am so happy for you my dear!"
Anne was shocked at her friend's outburst. "Lady Russell, if Mr. Elliot is courting me and not my sister Elizabeth, I will have to discourage him. I do not think I could ever love him. He is intelligent and well mannered, but he is not the gentleman for me."
Lady Russell was disappointed with her friend's refusal. She tried a different approach, "Anne, I don't think you should discourage him outright. He may be simply trying to get to know his family. Let him court you if he is, and if he is not, let him be a dear friend. You may learn to like him well enough to marry him."
Anne was slightly annoyed with her friend's persistence. "Let me be clear Lady Russell. I will never consider Mr. Elliot for my husband. I know I could not be happy with him and I will not doom myself to a miserable future. Please, do not bring him up again in this context."
Lady Russell wisely held her tongue. She could only hope that Anne was being modest and hoped she had given Anne an idea to think upon. The poor lady was blind to Anne's firm opinion. She would not consider that Anne would make a decision of the heart without her guidance.
Over the next week, Anne was cautious about her behavior around Mr. Elliot. She discouraged private conversations and gently encouraged him to speak to her sister. Once she had heard Lady Russell's idea, Anne was sensitive to Mr. Elliot's actions. She was more observant and was not pleased with what she saw. It seemed that Mr. Elliot was indeed trying to single her out, but Anne consistently and firmly discouraged him. Since she could not be rude outright, Mr. Elliot ignored her discouragement and kept pursuing her. Anne could only hope Fredrick would return soon.
A week after her conversation with Lady Russell Anne was out with her sister, Mrs. Clay and her cousin. They were in Milsom-street, and it began to rain hard enough to make them seek shelter. The turned into Molland's sweet shop to waited for the rain to stop. They soon saw a friend and her daughter also taking refuge from the rain. Lady Dalrymple was a distant cousin of Sir Walter, who was condescending enough to entertain the entire family on several occasions. Elizabeth quickly decided to enjoy the benefits of being related, even distantly, to the grand Lady and she sent Mr. Elliot to beg a ride with Lady Dalrymple. When he joined them again, Mr. Elliot brought the news that there were two seats in the carriage for the ladies. Elizabeth would of course take one seat. There was soon a slight disagreement about who would take the second. Mr. Elliot insisted Mrs. Clay take the seat and Mrs. Clay was determined that Anne receive the honor. Soon Elizabeth made her wishes known and Anne was to walk.
Anne was disappointed with the result, not because she objected to walking, but because she did not want to be alone with Mr. Elliot. She had been avoiding such situations since she spoke to Lady Russell. Anne sat with her sister waiting for Lady Dalrymple's carriage to be called when a group of people entered the shop. After a few ladies and a gentleman entered, Captain Fredrick Wentworth stepped into the room. Anne had to stop herself from leaping up and calling his name. She wanted to run to him and claim a kiss immediately, but she stood up as slowly as possible. She was glad that Mr. Elliot had been sent on a commission for Mrs. Clay. She could talk to Fredrick and hopefully gain his arm for an escort home.
When Fredrick stepped close after shaking out his umbrella, Anne stepped up to him and quietly said his name. He looked up in surprise and joy. He had been about to visit her house when he ran into an old friend. He had felt obliged to turn into Molland's with them but was impatient to see his Anne. He looked at her for a moment like he was trying to see if she were real. Finally he flashed her a brilliant grin and said, "Miss Anne! What a pleasure to see you. Have you also taken shelter from the rain?"
Anne smiled in return and said, "Yes Captain, my sister and I were out walking when the rain started." She was interrupted by Lady Dalrymple's footman calling out, "Lady Dalrymple's carriage for the Miss Elliots."
Fredrick looked disappointed and was about to escort her to the door when she said, "I am afraid there was not room enough in the carriage for me. It is close enough for me to walk." The expression on her face was not one usual in a woman forced out of an exalted carriage and made to walk in the rain. Anne was delighted with the opportunity in front of her.
Fredrick grinned at Anne in return and held out his umbrella. "As you can see I am well equipped for Bath. Let me just take leave of my friends and I will escort you home."
Anne smiled her consent and waited patiently. Just as Fredrick was returning to her, Mr. Elliot put his hand on her arm and said "Anne, I am ready now. I believe the rain has stopped enough for us to go."
Fredrick stepped up behind Anne just as Mr. Elliot was finishing his sentence. Anne looked at him before turning to Mr. Elliot and saying, "I have just met with an old friend, Mr. Elliot. I will not keep you. Captain Wentworth was just going to see me home. We have a lot of mutual friends and interests to discuss. If you will excuse me, cousin."
Mr. Elliot was left standing shocked as Anne quickly left with the captain. By the time he regained his senses the couple was out of sight. He ground his teeth in frustration. It would seem Anne was not so easy a fish to catch as he thought. That captain obviously knew of her fortune and had sweet-talked her first. Mr. Elliot remembered that he was the man with Anne in Lyme. They had been very friendly then. Mr. Elliot walked quickly towards Captain Wallis' house. He would have to plan more carefully. If Anne could brush him off so easily, he doubted she would be willing to marry him. He was not overly worried, just annoyed. His back up plan was not nearly as orderly as his first.
Meanwhile, the two lovers had quickly found a secluded lane to walk in. Fredrick looked around to see if anyone was in sight then kissed Anne firmly. He held her gently by her arms and looked deeply into her eyes. How he had missed her! "Oh my Anne! I was not a whole man without you near! I am so glad to see you!"
After many such exclamations and greetings the couple began walking slowly back to Camden-place. Fredrick had a few questions and Anne was happy to tell him all. "Who was that man Anne? Did I hear you call him cousin?"
Anne grimaced and answered, "Do you remember the man who stared at me at Lyme? He is the same man. He is my father's heir, Mr. William Walter Elliot. He has made up with my father and has been busy courting his good opinion. I cannot decide why Mr. Elliot cares so much. At first I thought he was looking to marry Elizabeth, but he has never really singled her out. Lady Russell thinks he wants to marry me. I am afraid she may be right. He has been very attentive and will not be discouraged. I hope that after today he will realize where my affections lie."
Fredrick looked annoyed at first when he heard of Mr. Elliot's suit. When Anne mentioned her constant affections for him, he simply looked curious. "I can understand why he would want to marry you Anne, but was he not already here with your father when you arrived? What could his purpose be? Is he a man to value family loyalty so much?"
Anne frowned. "Lady Russell thinks so and she has been encouraging me to think well of my cousin. I, however, cannot see him as a man who is so very loyal. If he was, why did he not try to contact my father before?" Anne sighed in vexation, "Oh, the man is a puzzle. I don't want to talk about him; he is not important to us. Tell me all your news."
With that, the couple spoke of happier things. Fredrick told Anne about the Crofts and their good health. Anne told Fredrick about her friend Mrs. Smith, and her sad situation. She asked for advice on how to help the dear lady. Fredrick asked about her late husband's affairs. Anne promised to ask Mrs. Smith about them when she visited the next day. The pair agreed to meet near Mrs. Smith's lodgings after Anne's visit. The pair would take a leisurely walk and decide their future.
The next day Anne lost no time visiting her friend. She was anxious to see Fredrick afterwards, so her excitement was obvious to Mrs. Smith. "Am I to wish you joy soon Anne?" Seeing Anne's blush she said, "I suppose Mr. Elliot would be a prudent match for you. I just hope you do not forget your old friends."
Anne was surprised. "Mr. Elliot! I am not, nor will I ever be, engaged to Mr. Elliot. I. . ." She stopped and blushed before she continued. "I am soon to be engaged to another man who I hope you will like a lot. He just came into town yesterday and I have arranged to meet him after I visit you. That is why I am so excited."
Mrs. Smith looked relieved. "I am very happy for you Anne. I hope I can meet your young man soon. I admit I am very relieved the rumors I have heard are false. I was sad when I thought you were to marry that man. If you really loved him, however, I did not want to hurt you. Since you do not love him and indeed love another, I will share the story my acquaintance with Mr. Elliot."
Anne sat forward in her seat. "What do you know about him? I have not been able to figure him out. Please tell me all you know."
Mrs. Smith was very happy to enlighten Anne about Mr. Elliot's true nature. Mr. Elliot and Mr. Smith had been close friends many years before. Mrs. Smith remembered Mr. Elliot's first marriage. They were an unhappy couple with not affection towards each other. Mr. Elliot also spoke freely of his family, the Elliots of Kellynch Hall. He was scornful of the title and said he would be willing to sell it if someone offered enough money. Mr. Elliot's first marriage was simply for money. Miss Taylor was an heiress with 60,000 pounds. Mr. Elliot quickly spent most of the money by gambling. He was able to keep some through investments, so he avoided poverty. Mr. Smith was not so lucky. When he died, he named Mr. Elliot the executer of his will and asked his dear friend in a letter to straighten out his affairs so his wife would have some small fortune to live on. Mr. Elliot ignored this request and did not answer numerous letters written by the widow. Mrs. Smith had not seen Mr. Elliot for three years, but she did have a more current source for information. "Do you remember my mentioning my friend, Nurse Rooke? She has been caring for a Mrs. Wallis. Captain Wallis is Mr. Elliot's good friend and he tends to tell his silly wife everything. Mr. Elliot is, apparently, almost bankrupt and very deeply in debt. He is searching for an heiress, and hopes to convince her to marry him. I suppose you are the heiress he was after and I am glad you are not taken in by him."
Anne was shocked by this tale of Mr. Elliot's guilt. She asked after Mrs. Smith's confused affairs and offered Captain Wentworth's services as soon as possible. She thanked her friend fervently and left to meet her Fredrick..
Fredrick was waiting in front of the building. Anne walked quickly over to him and lost no time telling him all that Mrs. Smith had related. Fredrick looked angry as he said, "I am so glad you were not taken in by that man. How did he know you were an heiress? I would not have known if you did not tell me at Uppercross. Your father's financial problems are common knowledge, but not even your father knows how much you are worth."
Anne shook her head and said, "I don't know and I don't really want to think about it. I will not be marrying Mr. Elliot so I have not to worry about his bad habits. It will only be so long before he has to leave because of his debts. We will not have to worry about him for much longer."
They had by this time reached a small park. Fredrick turned them into it and stopped at a bench. He helped her sit down and sat down next to her. He smiled as he took her tiny hand in his. He had been reunited with his love for almost three months now. He could honestly say he knew her twice as well as he ever had during their first engagement. He also knew that there was much more about her to learn. He longed to have her near him every day of his life so he could learn to love her even more. He gazed into her eyes and spoke quietly but expressively. "My darling Anne, three months ago I asked for permission to court you properly. I knew then that I love you and I am even more strongly assured of my feelings now. My dearest Anne, will you marry me and make me the happiest man in England?"
Anne looked up into his passionate eyes. Her heart was filled with love for this wonderful man. He was honorable, kind, intelligent, determined and yet humble. He was the perfect foil for her timid personality. She had seen him angry and calm, joyful and sad. She knew him well and longed to know him even better. She could not imagine her life without him now that she had him back. "Fredrick, I love you dearly and yes I will be your wife."
They walked slowly not noticing the way they were going. They spoke about their future and their past. They made plans for their wedding and agreed they wanted to marry quietly and quickly. They anticipated the Croft's happy response to their match, and hoped the Musgroves would not be offended at their marrying so soon after Louisa's death. Anne told Fredrick about Mrs. Musgroves good wishes, and they agreed that Louisa would want them to be happy. Fredrick then brought up a sensitive subject. "When do you want me to ask for your father's permission? It is really a formality, since I will not take no for an answer."
Anne bit her lip and mused, "I want to make our engagement public as soon as possible. I do not like being the center of gossip and if I am engaged to another, I certainly hope people will stop matching me with Mr. Elliot. I also want him to see that I am beyond his reach."
The couple agreed to go directly to her father and ask his permission. When they reached Camden-place, Sir Walter was surprised but willing to speak to Captain Wentworth. The captain was dressed in his uniform and looked very grand indeed. He was a handsome man and Sir Walter could tell he was well off. When he was asked for his daughter Anne's hand, he was surprised anyone would want Anne at all. He did say yes, however, and agreed to announce the engagement to the family that night at dinner and the next day in the paper. Fredrick was invited to join the family with Lady Russell and Mr. Elliot for dinner.
Anne and Fredrick parted in good spirits. They were both impatient to see the other again and have their engagement public. Anne quickly sent a note to Lady Russell asking her to come over early because Anne wanted to share the news of her engagement in private so the lady would not be cruelly surprised. By the time Lady Russell arrived, Anne had prepared her speech. The two ladies were alone as the rest of the family was dressing, so Anne started. "Lady Russell, as you know, Captain Wentworth came to visit his sister, Mrs. Croft at Kellynch this last fall. We met often and privately agreed we were still in love. Captain Wentworth wanted to give me time to be sure I loved him in return, so we did not share our courtship with anyone beyond Charles and Mary. He has now come to Bath and we have finalized our engagement. Father has given his consent, and we will be married in one month's time." Anne sighed at the end of her speech. Now that the entire tale was out she could respond to any questions asked.
Lady Russell looked slightly purple for a moment before she asked, "How soon did this sailor find out about your fortune. I am sure he needs money as he had none not long ago."
Anne counted ten to reign in her temper before she answered, "Fredrick, was unaware of my fortune until after he asked to court me and almost promised to marry me. He thought I was simply the daughter of a poor Baronet who had spent his daughters' dowries and everything else. Besides, he loved me and wanted to marry me when I was nineteen with no money. He is not a fortune hunter, I assure you. He made his own fortune through honorable service and I will not have you speak so of him. If you cannot be reconciled to this marriage, I am sorry for you. I am going to marry him and we cannot be friends with someone who does not approve of Fredrick." With this Anne left Lady Russell to her thoughts.
Mr. Elliot was the next guest to arrive. Anne was thankful for her sister and father's presence since they demanded his attention. When Fredrick finally arrived, Anne snuck a look at Mr. Elliot's face and smiled upon seeing the bitter expression. If Elizabeth was surprised to see the captain, she did not show it. When dinner was called Mr. Elliot was forced to escort Elizabeth while Anne took Fredrick's arm with a smile.
The conversation was awkward and dominated by Sir Walter. Anne was pleased to see Lady Russell speak politely to Fredrick several times. It seemed the lady was resigned to Anne's fate and trying to make the best of the situation. Mr. Elliot was not his usual self. He answered Elizabeth's questions absently, but almost ignored Anne and Fredrick. His eyes had a brooding, scheming look in them that no one really noticed. Sir Walter, Mrs. Clay and Elizabeth, did not look, and Anne was preoccupied with Fredrick. By the time the last course was served, Sir Walter waited for the servants to leave before standing up and raising his glass. "I am happy to announce to all of you, the engagement of my daughter Anne to Captain Fredrick Wentworth." Elizabeth, Lady Russell, and Mrs. Clay clapped politely. Mr. Elliot did not bother pretending. His face was an ugly purple color when Sir Walter sat down. Anne and Fredrick were not offended by the cold reception because they knew the people who would be happiest were not present.
Mr. Elliot left early and Lady Russell followed soon after. Since conversation was so awkward with Sir Walter and Elizabeth, Fredrick left early as well. Anne walked him to the door and received a kiss on her hand and a tender look. The couple agreed to meet the next day to talk about wedding arrangements. Anne said, "Oh! I need to call on Mrs. Smith before we can meet. She is a dear friend and will be happy to hear about our engagement. Can I also make an appointment for you to visit and meet her?" Fredrick assented gladly and the pair set a time to meet outside of Mrs. Smith's building.
The next morning Anne happily took her carriage to her friend's house. Mrs. Smith would be very happy for her. Anne had hinted at her news the day before, but now it was final. Anne was so happy she did not notice a man following her up the stairs.
Fredrick happily walked over to the neighborhood around Mrs. Smith's building. He was not familiar with this part of Bath, and since he was early for his appointment, he decided to explore. He followed an ally around behind the building and came around front again to wait. It was a nice day for once, and he enjoyed standing on the sunny side of the street.
Mrs. Smith was quite happy for her dear friend. She was excited to meet the wonderful gentleman who had stolen Anne's heart. Anne was just answering questions about the wedding plans when the door burst open. A frenzied Mr. Elliot stood in the doorway holding a very dangerous looking knife. The two ladies were too shocked to scream. Mr. Elliot was the first to talk. "You, cousin, are going to come with me. Do not think I am afraid to hurt you. You have my money and I want it back. The fool old man should have left it to me but he left it to his @$&% of a wife. His own flesh and blood, my own wife, was given a pittance. You will not be marrying that sailor you will marry me!"
In another situation, Anne would have been amused by Mr. Elliot's presumption. However, she was not tempted to even smile, because of the crazed look in Mr. Elliot's eyes. He waved the knife at them both as he stepped closer. Anne tried to distract him with questions. "How is it I have your money Mr. Elliot? My father is near poverty."
"I know you have your @$&% aunt's money! She stole it from my dead wife! The old man married again and my wife wouldn't speak to him. He gave her only 60,000 pounds when the rest of his cash should have been hers on his death! Now you have it! It is rightfully my money and so I will get it from you. We will go directly to Scotland where I have a preacher available who will marry us as soon as we arrive. When your money is mine, you had better behave because no wife of mine will act up and live." When he was done with this statement, he brandished the knife in Mrs. Smith's direction. He threatened her and grabbed a rope from beneath his coat. He quickly tied her up and then gagged her. Anne did not dare fight back because he was much stronger then her and he had a knife.
Anne tried to stay calm and talk some sense into Mr. Elliot. "You cannot get far, Mr. Elliot. It will be obvious that I am being held against my will."
Mr. Elliot laughed wildly. "That is the best part about my plan! This neighborhood is rarely busy this time of day. No one will see me drag you down the ally next to this building. I have a closed carriage waiting and you will be locked in there the entire trip to Scotland! Don't even try to scream my dear." With this Mr. Elliot held the knife to Anne's neck and pushed her out the door.
Fredrick impatiently looked at his watch. Anne was taking a long time with her visit, though he was not surprised. When ladies began talking about weddings, fashion was bound to follow and that could take forever. Fredrick was about to take a chance and step up when the door opened. Since he was on the same side of the street as the door, and Anne was not looking in his direction, she did not see him waiting. She was acting strangely. She did not come out the door directly and she seemed to be listening to someone inside. Then Fredrick noticed it. There was a knife on her neck. Fredrick acted on instinct and ducked out of sight into a doorway. He needed to assess the situation before he acted. The man holding Anne captive stepped out before scanning the street for people. Fredrick recognized Mr. Elliot and saw red. The madman and his captive ducked down the ally he had explored earlier and Fredrick followed them quietly.
Anne was afraid to struggle or even scream. She could feel the sharp blade of the knife on her neck. One false move, and her life-blood would be spilled all over the ally. Anne decided to talk to Mr. Elliot once more and see if she could obtain some mercy. "Mr. Elliot, if you take the knife away from my neck we can talk about this. Do you need money? I will give you my money. I would gladly give it up to you. We do not have to do this."
Mr. Elliot snorted, "Why would I take just your money when I can have a wife as well? You have no one here to help you my dear. Get used to the idea of being my wife."
Fredrick crept up behind the pair quietly. He quietly picked up a loose cobblestone and got as close to them as he could. Anne was asking Elliot a question. He was glad to see the arm holding the knife, relax slightly. It was now or never, so Fredrick leaped brandishing his stone. His years in the Navy had given him experience with fighting. He knew instinctively to grab the arm with the knife in such a way to take it away from Anne's delicate neck. At the same time he hit Mr. Elliot over the head with the stone. The man crumpled and dropped the knife. Anne staggered and turned around in shock.
When Anne saw Fredrick standing over the prostrate body of Mr. Elliot she sprang into his arms. The knife was gone and her attacker was unconscious. Fredrick was all business. "Come Anne, we must get you back to your friend's house. I need to find something to tie this monster up." The couple ran back to Mrs. Smith's house. Anne ran swiftly upstairs to free her friend and Fredrick sent a boy from the landlady's house to fetch the authorities.
After making quick work of Mr. Elliot's knots, Fredrick left, promising to return as soon as the criminal was bound. The two ladies sat comforting each other and tending the small bruises and scrapes they had gotten. When they were cared for physically they let the tears fall. They had both been extremely frightened and it was the natural reaction now that the shock was gone. By the time Fredrick arrived with a constable, they were ready to answer questions. Mr. Elliot was taken away and put in prison. Fredrick called Nurse Rooke and paid her to stay to care for Mrs. Smith, and then he escorted Anne to Lady Russell's house.
When Lady Russell heard about Mr. Elliot's infamy she was astounded. A man with such good manners had been essentially and completely bad. Captain Wentworth, a man whose manners she did not approve, was essentially and completely good. Lady Russell tended to Anne kindly all the while chastising herself for her poor judgment. By the time Anne took her carriage back home and parted with Fredrick, she was completely calm and ready to put the entire experience behind her, and except for some nightmares, she was recovered.
When Sir Walter and Elizabeth found out about Mr. Elliot's actions they were shocked. At first they refused to believe Anne and would not listen to the subject. When a man came to arrange for Anne to testify at the trial, they were forced to believe her. To say that Sir Walter was mortified would be an understatement. He quickly and vocally expressed his shock and disgust with his heir. By the time Mr. Elliot was found guilty and sentenced to life in Australia, Sir Walter had distanced himself as much as possible from his former heir.
Meanwhile, Elizabeth, disappointed in her hopes for Mr. Elliot, accepted a proposal of marriage from an old widower taken in with her beauty. The old gentleman lived longer then any one expected him to and Elizabeth had to care for her ailing husband for many years. She never changed her ways and she was rather miserable.
Mrs. Clay was exposed during Mr. Elliot's trial. Mr. Elliot had discovered the woman's secret and betrayed her. Her husband, Mr. Clay was still alive as were her three children. The man was a worthy shopkeeper who was saddened by his wife's desertion. Mrs. Clay reluctantly returned to her husband, and gave up her dreams of becoming a fine lady.
Finally, we arrive to our happy couple. The day when Captain Fredrick Wentworth married Miss Anne Elliot was a happy one for all. Charles and Mary were pleased that the couple they helped along were finally united in matrimony. The Musgroves were pleased to see a lady, so like a daughter to them, marry the man she loved. The Crofts were delighted to welcome a new sister, and Lady Russell was resigned and happy to see Anne so in love.
The Wentworths lived very happily at Oakridge. When the captain was occasionally called into service, he always insisted on bringing his dear wife. Anne was an ideal sailors wife; she was calm in a crisis and able to weather the storms of Fredrick's intense personality. She also learned to love the sea as much as her husband. Years after their happy marriage, when asked by their four children what had united them, they both were able to answer with one word, Forgiveness.