Posted on Monday, 28 April 2003
Admiral & Mrs. Croft have been at Kellynch for a few days. Frederick has not arrived, but Edward Wentworth has ridden over, (up, down, whatever!) from Shropshire.
"Well Sophy," said Edward Wentworth to his sister. "How do you like Kellynch?"
"We are settling in quite comfortably. We've made a few changes but nothing major," replied Sophia Croft, handing her brother a cup of tea.
"How did you find the famous Sir Walter Elliott?"
"Fine manners. A bit showy for the Admiral and myself."
"And his daughters?"
"We have only met the eldest, Elizabeth."
Edward raised a questioning eyebrow.
"Yes, I quite agree," said Sophy with an amused smile. "She has a very superior air about her."
Edward chuckled. "And what of the other two daughters?"
"The youngest, Mary, is now Mrs. Charles Musgrove. She is settled in Uppercross. I believe Miss Anne is staying with them for a time before she travels to Bath to join her father."
Edward sipped the tea, then asked, "Have you told Frederick where you and the Admiral have settled?"
"Yes, I sent a letter to him shortly after the lease was settled."
"I see," replied Edward thoughtfully.
Sophy eyed her brother. "You think that he will be displeased?"
Edward's brow furrowed. "Not displeased."
He tried to shrug off her question. "Perhaps I spoke wrongly."
"But you have spoken, Edward. I know that tone, that look. There is something you are not telling me."
"It is nothing, really."
"Very well," said Sophy determined, "I shall just have to ask Frederick when he comes."
Edward sighed. "That will not be necessary." He set his cup of tea down and leaned forward. "Did you know that Frederick visited me when I had the parish at Monkford?"
Edward nodded. "You and the Admiral were in the East Indies. Frederick spent a summer with me and we visited Kellynch Hall a number of times. At least Frederick did."
"Edward you can be so mysterious sometimes. Get to the point."
"Frederick became quite attached to Miss Elliott."
Sophy seemed surprised. "Frederick! Attached to Elizabeth Elliott!
"No, no, not Elizabeth. To Miss Anne."
"How attached was he?"
"Quite. They were engaged."
Edward nodded slowly.
"Miss Anne broke off the engagement."
"Broke it off?!" She stood up and took a few steps. Turning back to her brother, she said, "I had heard that she was the sensible one of the family. What could she have been thinking? Breaking off her engagement to Frederick!"
"Now, Sophy, do not get yourself excited. Come and sit down. I will tell you all."
Once Sophy was seated again, Edward continued. "Miss Anne's family situation was somewhat unusual. Sir Walter and Miss Elliott are rather, well, self-centered. And Miss Mary, now Mrs. Musgrove, was away at school. I always got the idea that Miss Anne was often left out; that she was thought somehow unimportant by the others. There were times when she seemed little more than a servant."
"I would think that being in that situation, most women of sense would take the first opportunity to escape."
"Most women would. But Miss Anne has deferred to others for so long that it has become a way of life to her. She is not her first concern. In truth, she is usually her own last concern."
"I begin to understand," said Sophy. "Her family opposed the match."
"Yes and no. I do not believe that Sir Walter actually said no."
"You perhaps know Lady Russel?"
Sophy shook her head. "I have not met her, but I have heard of her."
"Lady Russell is Miss Anne's godmother, indeed, since Lady Elliott's death, she has been more of a mother than Sir Walter has been a father."
Sophy nodded impatiently.
"Lady Russell is a woman of very good breeding and manners. She values good connections."
"But I do not see how marriage to Frederick could have been seen as making a bad connection."
"Remember, Sophy, that was eight years ago. Frederick had not yet come into his own. He had ambition to be sure, but nothing to show for himself but a pleasing personality."
"So it was Lady Russell who would not approve the marriage."
Edward nodded. "I believe that she was the person who had the most influence over Miss Anne."
Sophy thought for several moments. "How do you know all of this?"
"Frederick told me most of it."
"And the rest?"
Edward shrugged. "Some is speculation from my own observations."
Sophy sighed. "Perhaps there was not any real attachment on Miss Anne's part. Or Frederick's for that matter."
"I can not agree," said Edward gravely. "I observed them both after the engagement ended. Frederick was as dark as a thundercloud until the day he left."
"And Miss Anne?"
"She tried to put on a good face in front of her family and Lady Russell, but I believe that she was completely heartbroken."
"Did Frederick never try again? If Miss Anne was as heartbroken as you say, perhaps she would have accepted a second proposal even though her family was against it."
"Frederick had too much pride to ask again. You know how he gets. Once his mind is set against something it does no good to try to persuade him otherwise."
"That I well know."
Edward left shortly after and Sophy sat in the drawing room contemplating their conversation. When the Admiral came in, she addressed him with, "My dear Admiral, I believe it is time for us to pay our respects to Sir Walter's family at Uppercross."
"Yes, yes," said the Admiral. "We would not want to slight the baronet's family. I do hope, however, that they will not be as showy as the baronet. Gracious, all those mirrors. I gave myself a fright every time I walked through my dressing room. When would you propose to visit?"
"Would tomorrow morning suit you?"
"Fine. After the visit we can ramble about the lanes around Uppercross."
"Ramble?" exclaimed Sophy. "You mean race? I declare if I had not taken the reigns on our last ride we would have ended up overturned in the hedgerow."
This comment brought on a playful argument about who drove the curricle better.
The next day, the Admiral and Mrs. Croft called on Mrs. Musgrove and her sister. Sophy intentionally took a seat near Miss Anne, while the Admrial paid his attention to Mrs. Musgrove.
Their visit began rather quietly, but the entrance of the two young Musgrove boys livened the scene.
"The Admiral loves children," commented Sophy to Miss Anne.
Anne gave a small smile in response. After observing the Admiral showing the boys how to make paper boats, Sophy turned to Anne.
"I understand that you knew my brother when he was in this part of the country."
Anne gave a small nod.
"You will be interested to hear that he is lately married." Sophy paused to gauge her companion's reaction. She was not disappointed.
Anne paled and seemed to struggle to speak. "That is good news, Mrs. Croft," she stuttered. "I wish him every happiness."
"Thank you. With your permission I will include you wishes in my next letter to him." Now for the punch line, thought Sophy. "He has a new parish, in Shropshire."
Anne's relief was evident in that she began to breathe again.
Sophy realized that Mrs. Musgrove was listening to their conversation. "I was just telling your sister, Mrs. Musgrove, about my brother, Edward's good fortune. He is a curate in Shropshire."
"A curate," said Mary blandly. "How interesting."
Before any of the ladies could speak, the Admiral interrupted them. "We are expecting another brother of my wife, whom you will not have met. A seafaring brother."
"Oh," said Mary, "we have met him. He visited these parts when I was but a girl. He called at Kellynch once or twice."
Sophy turned back to Anne. "So you know Frederick as well?"
"Yes," said Anne hesitantly. "I believe you and the Admiral were in the East Indies at the time."
"Well," said Sophy impressed that Anne could remember in such detail. "I'm sure Frederick will look forward to renewing old acquaintances."
Anne smiled uncertainly in response.
The Croft's visit ended and Sophy was left to contemplate what had been said and more importantly, what had not been said.
Several days later, Frederick Wentworth arrived at Kellynch. He had been very hesitant to come, but Sophy had pressed for a visit and it had been far too long since he had enjoyed his sister's company.
"Well, Sophy, here I am," he said as he stretched out in his chair. He looked around the room, secretly noting one or two changes. When his eyes came to rest on his sister and her husband, he continued. "Whatever recommended you to lease Kellynch Hall?"
The Admiral responded. "We met with a Mr. Shepherd in Taunton. When he understood that we were looking for somewhere to put into port, he proposed Kellynch. He is well aquatinted with Sir Walter and I understand that the baronet was a bit strapped for funds. He and his daughter have removed to Bath."
At the word daughter, Sophy saw a flicker of something in Frederick's face.
"We called on Sir Walter's nearest daughters just the other day," said Sophy. Supposing she had her brother's full attention, she went on. "Mrs. Charles Musgrove, previously Miss Mary Elliott, was a pleasant woman." Here, the Admiral gave a slight roll of his eyes to show that his wife was being generous. "Her sister, Miss Anne, is staying with her for several weeks before she returns to Kellynch."
Frederick choked on his tea. When he recovered his voice, he said, "Miss Anne will be returning here? To Kellynch Hall?"
"Of course not, Frederick," responded Sophy exasperated. "She will stay with Lady Russell at Kellynch Cottage until the ladies travel to Bath.
Frederick visibly looked relieved.
"Miss Anne seemed a sweet, if not quiet, young woman." Sophy watched her brother. "I understand that you are acquainted with Miss Anne and her sisters?"
"Yes," said Frederick uncomfortably. "I was a little acquainted with the family when I stayed with Edward in Monkford."
"Funny that you never mentioned it before now," said Sophy.
"It was of little importance," said Frederick quietly.
"We also visited Mrs. Musgrove's in-laws," the Admiral added, "they appear to be good people. When we mentioned that you would be joining us, they made us promise to introduce them."
"I would be happy to become acquainted with them," Frederick responded evenly.
"Good," said Sophy, "perhaps in a few days, we can pay our respects to them."
Frederick nodded, but said nothing. He then excused himself and went up to his room.
Before the Crofts and Captain Wentworth could pay their visit, the senior Musgroves visited them.
Before the visit ended, the Musgroves invited them for dinner, in order that their eldest son, Charles and his wife could make the captain's acquaintance.
The invitation was accepted and the two families separated amicably.
Two days later, the Kellynch party drove over to Uppercross. When they arrived at the Great House, they were immediately informed that a small accident had befallen one of the youngest Musgroves. Little Charles had fallen from a tree and had a dislocated collarbone to show for it.
The Crofts and their brother were just expressing their sorrow when Mr. & Mrs. Charles Musgrove were announced.
In a few words, Charles Musgrove gave them an update on the boy and explained that Anne had graciously offered to stay with him.
"Yes," chimed in Mrs. Mary Musgrove, "my sister, Anne, has just the right sort of temper for the sick room. Not that I do not love my child, but a mother, you know," looking at Captain Wentworth, "feels things so deeply as to make her quite useless."
Frederick smiled thinly and took the first opportunity to move away.
Sophy silently chided Mary for being so unfeeling towards her child and her sister. She began to understand what Edward was talking about when he described Miss Anne's character. She also noticed that the Musgrove family exchanged looks which showed that they were all quite tired of Mary's superior air.
The Musgrove daughters fawned over Frederick, asking him all sorts of questions about the navy. Sophy was amused with her brother's enjoyment of their attention. The girls were certainly open in their admiration.
The dinner passed pleasantly and the evening ended with Charles Musgrove inviting Frederick to join him the next morning for breakfast and to shoot with him afterwards.
Sophy watched and listened as her brother accepted the shooting invitation while getting out of breakfast at Uppercross Cottage. Frederick said did not want to disturb little Charles in his recovery, although Sophy believed that Frederick was avoiding Anne.
Mary Musgrove even tried to change his mind by assuring him that it would be no inconvenience but Frederick held firm.
It was decided that the gentlemen would breakfast at the Great House and then walk to Uppercross Cottage to get the dogs, before setting out to shoot.
The evening closed happily with everyone declaring that they had had a lovely evening.
"So Frederick," began the Admiral as they drove home, "you seemed quite the fashion with the young Miss Musgroves."
"They are pleasant girls," responded Frederick.
"They are young," said Sophy.
"Not that young," said Frederick thoughtfully. "They are old enough to marry."
"Marry!" exclaimed Sophy. "Good gracious, Frederick, you have only just met them.
Frederick laughed. "I did not necessarily mean me, Sophy." He paused then spoke again. "Although either of them would make a pleasant wife I think."
"Is that why you have come to visit?" said his sister. "To find a wife?"
"And high time too," said the Admiral. "With the war is over, what else should he do?"
"Marriage is not like going to the market. You can not just decide to marry."
"Why not," said Frederick cheefully.
"What about taking time to get to know someone? What about compatibility? Affection? Love?"
His countenance changed. He mumbled something to himself, but Sophy could not hear his words. She wisely decided not to continue their conversation.
Frederick had left at sunup to meet the Musgrove gentlemen, so Sophy had no chance to reopen their discussion from the night before in order to discover if her brother was actually serious about finding a wife. She would have to wait until the evening.
Frederick returned before the evening meal looking somewhat dirty and tired. He would have joined them immediately upon his arrival, but Sophy would not let him sit on the furniture in his current state.
After a change of clothes and a quick washing, he returned to the sitting room in time to attend his sister into dinner.
"And how was the shooting," asked Sophy as he pulled her chair out for her.
Frederick shrugged. "Not bad. I suppose both Musgrove and I would have done better without an audience."
"An audience," exclaimed the Admiral.
He nodded. "The ladies insisted on joining us."
"All the ladies," questioned Sophy.
"No, just Henrietta and Louisa. And Charles wife." He shook his head. "It was rather nerve-racking have them applaud every time one of us hit something. I felt quite on display."
"What about Miss Anne? Did not she join you as well?"
"No," he said softly. Then stronger, "No, she would stay with young Charles."
"Seems to me," said the Admiral, "that Miss Anne is the only one of those young ladies who knows where she's not wanted. Women on a shooting outing!"
Sophy saw a sort of pleasant smile cross Frederick ‘s face, as though he were remembering something pleasant.
"Well," she said matter-of-factly, "though I only met her briefly, I thought Miss Anne to be a sensible young woman."
Frederick made no comment.
"Yes," agreed the Admiral, "Mrs. Charles Musgrove seems a bit wrapped up in her father's position."
"I quite agree," said Sophy. Then changing the subject she said, "Perhaps we should have the Musgroves for dinner. Do you think Miss Anne and her sister would be easy about that?"
"Oh," exclaimed Frederick suddenly, "I forgot. Mrs. Musgrove has invited us for dinner tomorrow evening. I did not think you and the Admiral would mind, so I accepted for all of us."
Sophy rolled her eyes. "I'm glad you thought to tell us. I suppose you meant to wait until tomorrow."
"It slipped my mind," he responded
"Thinking too much of those girls, eh Frederick," said the Admiral.
"And why not," came Frederick's reply. "As you have pointed out, I have nothing else to do!"
The two sailors exchanged more witty remarks, but Sophy watched her brother. She was beginning to fear that her brother was well on his way to do something foolish.
Posted on Friday, 2 May 2003
The next evening, when the Kellynch party arrived at the great house, Sophy made sure to take a seat by Anne while they waited for dinner to be announced. Her first inquiry was about the young Musgrove boy.
"He is doing quite well," was Anne's response. "He wanted to play outside this morning, so that was a good sign."
Sophy smiled. "What do you hear from Sir Walter and your sister? Have they settled comfortably in Bath."
Anne's smile faded a bit. "I have only heard that they have take a lovely house in Camden Place. Elizabeth seemed quite pleased with it."
"The Admiral and I have been there a few times. There is a large society. I suppose you are looking forward to the time when you will join them?"
"I am afraid that is not the case. I care little for Bath," Anne responded softly.
Sophy could not help but notice that her companion's eyes filled with tears. In a quiet voice she said, "I must apologize, Miss Anne. My inquiries have upset you."
"No, Mrs. Croft. It is not your inquiries. It is Bath." Anne fell silent for a moment then continued when her voice was steady. "You see shortly after my mother died, I was sent there to school. I am afraid that Bath shall always remind me of that time in my life."
"Oh, my dear," said Sophy sympathetically. "I am sorry to have raised such an unhappy recollection."
After a few moments, Sophy spoke again. "I will try to speak of more cheerful things." She then began to speak of her most recent sea voyage. By the time dinner was announced, Anne was smiling again.
During dinner, Louisa and Henrietta again claimed most of Frederick's attention. They asked about lift on board ship. When he mentioned the names of the ships he had commanded, one of the girls left the table only to return with a Navy list.
Frederick repeated the name of his first ship. The Asp. The girls could not find it.
"You will not find it in the new list. She was broken up for scrap. Indeed, I was the last man to command her. She was not fit for service then. Nearly sank on a number of occasions. Then I should have only been a gallant captain at the bottom of the newspaper page."
Sophy had been shaking her head at Frederick's exaggeration, when her eye's caught the look on Anne's face. When Frederick spoke of his possible demise, there appeared there a look of horror. Anne quickly recovered, however, and no one else seemed to notice.
"You see," continued Frederick with a smile, "the Admiralty take great delight in sending a few hundred men to sea in a ship not fit to be sailed."
"Here, here," commented Charles Musgrove.
"You were a lucky man to get her. Lucky to get anything at that time," said Admiral Croft.
"I felt my luck, I assure you. I was quite anxious, in the year 6, to be doing something."
"Without a wife, what else is a man to do?" responded the admiral.
"Yes," said Fredrick, "I had no wife in the year 6."
Sophy's quick eye had moved from Frederick to Anne and back several times during this exchange of conversation. Frederick had glanced, rather pointedly Sophy thought, in Anne's direction when he spoke. Anne, catching his eye, withdrew her own and paled slightly.
So thought Sophy Frederick is still nursing a wounded pride. Perhaps deep down, he still cherishes some tenderness for Anne.
"When he has a wife," said the Admiral, leaning towards Anne, "he will think differently."
"Enough," said Frederick in playful defeat, "when once married people begin to say ‘when you are married' I can only respond ‘no I shan't' and they say ‘Oh yes you shall' and there's an end to it." He pushed his chair back, stood, bowed to Mrs. Musgrove and left the table.
Sophy could tell that Frederick was uncomfortable with the subject of wives and marriage. She chuckled to herself at the way he fled the room to avoid any more talk.
The conversation turned its attention to Mrs. Croft and her sea voyages. It was a subject she quite enjoyed sharing. She spoke of where she had been and how many times.
"And did you never suffer any sickness," asked Anne.
"The only time I imagined myself unwell," she responded, "was the time I spent by myself at Deale. The admiral, Captain Croft then, was in -----. Other than that I have not had the problem that plagues others when at sea."
Anne asked a few more questions, which proved to Sophy that she at least remembered much from eight and a half years ago.
The ladies soon after withdrew to the parlor, but the gentlemen were not long in following. Sophy, though seated next to Mrs. Musgrove, had a good view of the entire room.
Mrs. Musgrove began speaking of how delightful they all found Mrs. Croft's brother and what a lively addition he had brought to their party. Louisa and Henrietta were extremely fond of him. Louisa perhaps more so, due to the fact that Henrietta's affections had long been claimed by a cousin of the Musgroves, a Mr. Henry Hayter.
Sophy tried to pay polite attention, but her eyes were drawn to the pianoforte where Louisa and Henrietta had actually charmed Frederick into sitting down to plunk out an old Navy tune. They stood giggling at his attempt. Anne had slowly approached, looking as though she longed to join them but was not sure of being allowed.
Frederick looked up suddenly. His countenance changed and, though Sophy could not hear what he said, he moved quickly away from the piano. The girls followed him. Anne looked after him with a wistful look then seated herself at the instrument.
The Musgrove girls were wild for dancing and so Anne began to play a number of lively tunes. The senior Musgroves watched and laughed, while the rest of the party danced all the country dances.
They were not fine enough for the highest society, but they laughed a great deal. At one point, Sophy, who, with her partner, was next to Frederick and Louisa, overheard the following:
"Does not Miss Elliot dance," asked Frederick.
"No," responded Louisa, "she had quite given it up."
Sophy saw Frederick look with some surprise at Anne, until she looked up and caught him watching her. He quickly turned his attention back to his partner.
During one particularly lively dance, Frederick and Henrietta were spinning around in the middle of the room. Suddenly, Anne ceased playing and the entire room became aware of a visitor.
"Henry," exclaimed Charles Musgrove coming forward. "May I introduce Captain Wentworth."
Mr. Hayter looked as though he would have rather met Napoleon than the tall, handsome naval officer who was dancing with Henrietta. He quickly withdrew and the group was left to look at each other nervously until Sophy, hoping to relieve the tension, began to talk of going home.
The party soon broke up and the Crofts and Frederick headed home to Kellynch.
The next day, Frederick again left early to join Charles for some shooting. Before he left, one of the servants gave him a letter, which Frederick hurriedly stuffed into his pocket.
That afternoon, the Admiral and Sophy decided to take a drive. They traveled the lanes near Uppercross and Winthrop and were on their way home, when they came across a large party walking. To be sure, the Musgroves, Miss Anne and Frederick.
"Admiral," called Frederick as they stopped the carriage. "Sophy. We've been to Winthrop."
"Why the ladies must be exhausted," she exclaimed, "May we offer any of you a ride?"
"We have room for one," said her husband."
The ladies all declined. Before they could set the horse in motion, Frederick leaned in to his sister. "Anne is extremely tired. Do convince her."
Sophy, in much surprise at her brother's words, turned to Anne. "Miss Anne, do let us give you a ride."
"There is not room, Mrs. Croft," Anne responded.
"Sophy and I can squash up," said the Admiral. "If we were all as slim as you, there would be room for four," he continued with a laugh.
Sophy watched in amazement as Frederick actually went to Anne and gently guided her to the carriage and lifted her into it. Neither would meet the other's eye, and the carriage pulled away.
As they drove on, the Admiral said, "I wish Frederick would spread a little canvass and bring home one of those girls to Kellynch. Don't you agree?"
"I think my brother is about to make a very foolish match, George," said Sophy all too aware that the conversation would make Anne uncomfortable. "Anyone between fifteen and thirty may have him for the asking. A few smiles, a few compliments of the Navy and he's a lost man."
Just then the carriage pulled to the side. "My dear Admiral," exclaimed Sophy, putting out her hand to guide the reigns.
They drove on in relative silence. Sophy gently correcting the Admiral's handling of the reigns. Soon they were at the door of Uppercross cottage.
"There you are, my dear," said the Admiral as he helped Anne out of the carriage.
"Thank you," said Anne warmly. "Will you not come in? I am sure the others will appear soon and we shall have tea."
"Thank you, Miss Elliott," said Sophy, "but I am afraid we have a prior commitment."
They exchanged good-byes and Anne went into the house.
"What a lovely young women Miss Anne is," said the Admiral.
"Yes, so intelligent."
"It's a shame we don't know some nice young man to marry her off to. Then she wouldn't have to bear her family."
"True," said Sophy. It was obvious to her that her husband did not even consider Anne as a possible wife for Frederick.
Later that evening, Frederick returned from Uppercross.
"So Frederick, I thought you were to shoot this morning," said Sophy upon his entrance.
"We were, but one of the dogs was too young. He kept spoiling the shot. We met the ladies as they were leaving on their walk and decided to join them."
"I say, it was quite a long walk. Miss Anne looked quite exhausted when we left her."
"Yes," said Frederick softly.
Sophy eyed him for a moment, trying to decide whether she should push him or not. "I would imagine," she continued, "that the two Miss Musgroves were not quite so fatigued."
"No," said Frederick thoughtfully, "I dare say they are quite used to long walks."
"They do seem to have a great deal more animation."
He did not respond.
Sophy changed the subject. "What news did you receive this morning?"
He did not seem to hear her.
"Frederick," she said in a louder voice.
He started. "What?" Realizing that she had been speaking to him, he colored. "I apologize Sophy, my thoughts had strayed. What were you saying?"
"I was asking about the letter you received this morning."
His face brightened. "Yes, it was from Captain Harville. He and Margaret are lodging in Lyme."
Sophy knew of her brother's regard for the captain and his family. "And how does he do?"
"He did not say much about himself. But then he never does. I got the impression that things are not completely well. I have decided to visit him. Actually, Charles, his wife and sisters will join me. They have all had a desire to see Lyme. So we are to make an adventure of it."
"I see," said Sophy. She wanted to ask if Charles' "sisters" included Anne, but thought better of speaking of her too often.
The next day, Frederick left before the sun was up to meet the Musgroves and travel on to Lyme. The party was to stay the night and return the next day.
By eight o'clock the next evening, Sophy was becoming quite concerned that Frederick had not returned. The Admiral supposed that, having returned later than expected to Uppercross, Frederick had been convinced to spend the night there.
Sophy tried to accept this explanation, but she could not rest easy.
Just as they were about to go to bed, about eleven o'clock, there was a knock at the door. The servant returned quickly with a note from Uppercross.
Sophy took it up quickly, broke the seal and opened the letter. Her eyes scanned the page expecting to find news of injury to Frederick.
She was only slightly relieved that it was not due to Frederick that their return had been delayed. Louisa Musgrove had taken a bad fall on the Cobb and had not regained consciousness. Frederick had returned to Uppercross only long enough to inform the girl's parents and get a fresh horse to return to Lyme.
He had sent the note by way of a servant from Uppercross. He would write again as soon as there was any news.
Posted on Wednesday, 14 May 2003
A few days later, Sophy was surprised when Frederick was announced. He came into the room looking tired and depressed.
"Frederick," said Sophy rising to greet him. "How are things in Lyme?"
After kissing her cheek, he fell heavily into a chair. "She is conscious."
"That's a good sign," said the Admiral.
Frederick shrugged his shoulders. "She is still not what she was before the fall."
"How terrible these past few days have been for you?" said Sophy.
He did not respond.
"How long do you plan to stay?" asked the Admiral.
"Just for dinner. I'm going to Shropshire to stay with Edward for a few days."
The Crofts were surprised but said nothing. After several minutes, Frederick excused himself and left the room. Half an hour later, Sophy passed him as he was leaving the house. He mumbled something about needing to take care of something.
"That is odd," said Sophy to the Admiral when Frederick had quitted the house. "If he's so attached to Louisa Musgrove, why would he leave Lyme when her health is still not recovered?"
The admiral shrugged his shoulders. "He probably feels like he's in the way in Lyme. That Margaret Harville is a good nurse. The girl is in good hands."
"I suppose," agreed Sophy unconvinced. "It just doesn't seem like Frederick."
Frederick returned to take dinner. After the meal, he gathered his things and left for Shropshire.
The next day, the Admiral and Sophy were surprised and happy to have a visit from Anne and Lady Russell.
After the pleasantries were exchanged, Sophy asked Anne, "Have you any news of Louisa Musgrove?"
"I had a mysterious note yesterday saying that she was recovering slowly."
"Mysterious?" asked Sophy.
"Yes, I do not know who brought it."
Sophy was thoughtful for a moment. "When did you receive the note?"
"Yesterday, around eleven o'clock."
"That's what Frederick meant," Sophy said to the Admiral. She turned back to the ladies. "Frederick paid us a short visit yesterday. He went out for awhile saying he had something to do. He must have brought the note to you." She paused. "Strange that he did not sign it."
Anne colored and was silent.
Seeing Anne's distress, Sophy hurried on. "Perhaps he was in a hurry. He has traveled to Shropshire to stay with my brother Edward for a while."
Anne seemed surprised but said nothing.
Sophy noticed that when she mentioned Frederick's name, Lady Russell, who had been attending to the Admiral, turned her attention towards Anne. That Anne was conscious of this attention was obvious. Her eyes had met Lady Russell's once but had quickly been withdrawn.
They chatted amiably for several more minutes before Lady Russell began to talk of going. Anne then admitted that they would be travelling to Bath the next day.
Sophy expressed her disappointment in loosing Anne's company to which Anne gave a warm grateful smile.
The ladies then took their leave and departed.
"I do like Miss Anne," said Sophy. "She's such a refreshing change from society women."
The Admiral nodded. "She's a bright one, that's for sure." He paused, then said, "She'd make a fine sailor's wife, don't you think?"
"Yes," said Sophy with a little smile, "a fine sailor's wife."
Two weeks later, the Crofts found themselves in Bath. The Admiral suffering from gout had been recommended to take in the waters. They secured some nice lodgings near a few Navy friends and settled in quite comfortably.
When they entered the Pump Room for the first time, they were extremely happy to see Miss Anne Elliot coming eagerly towards them, her hands outstretched in welcome.
"I'm so happy to see you both," she exclaimed. "What brings you to Bath?"
"We are here for the Admiral's health," said Sophy.
"Oh dear," said Anne with concern. "What is the ailment?"
"Dry land, my dear. It does not agree with me legs."
"Then you must come and take some of this water." She then took them each by the arm and led them over to a servant who supplied them with cups of the fresh water.
"What news do have from Uppercross?" asked Sophy.
"Only that Louisa continues to improve. They think of bringing her home soon."
"That is good news."
"Very true," said the Admiral. "We've heard nothing from Frederick. He's still in Shropshire. Funny business."
"Yes," said Sophy then changed the subject. Their threesome made a merry party in the Pump Room and Anne remained with them till claimed by Lady Russell.
A week later, Sophy was in the sitting room, when the Admiral returned from getting their letters. He handed a letter from Frederick into her eager hands.
"At last," she exclaimed as she broke the seal open. She read for several minutes before the Admiral said, "Well, what news? When do we travel to Uppercross for a wedding?"
Sophy finished the letter then responded to her husband. "It would seem, my dear Admiral, that Frederick is not to marry Louisa Musgrove."
"What," he responded in surprise.
Sophy nodded and began to smile. "It appears that during her long days of recovery, that Captain Benwick was a frequent companion. He read to her on many occasions. Somehow Louisa's affections fixed on him and his on her. They are to be married."
"Benwick!" He thought for a moment. "Wasn't he to marry someone else?"
"Yes, Captain Harville's sister, but she died before they were able to marry. You remember, Frederick dashed away from the Laconia to meet Benwick to break the bad news when he came into port."
"Ah, yes," said he. "Sad business. And now Benwick is to marry Frederick's fiancée."
"George," she remonstrated, "You make it sound as though Captain Benwick stole her away from Frederick. I do not believe that Frederick had declared himself to Louisa. In truth, Frederick seems almost happy for them. There is no condemnation or evidence that he is broken hearted."
"Well, I suppose we should get Frederick to Bath."
Sophy glanced through the letter again. "He makes no mention of whether he is coming to Bath or not."
"Here are many pretty girls to soothe his wounded pride."
Her attention seemed to have wandered, "I wonder," she said quietly.
"Sophy," said the Admiral, "what goes on in that pretty head of yours?"
"Hmmm?" She recollected herself. "Oh, nothing, just a thought."
"Well," he said as he stood up. "I must be off. I shall return in time for tea."
He left his wife to contemplate what her brother's state of mind was and how long before she could expect to see him. With a small smile she said softly, "Not long, I believe."
When the Admiral returned he had the pleasure of telling his wife that he had seen Miss Anne Elliott, that she had been kind enough to walk with him a little way and that he had communicated the contents of Frederick's letter to her.
"You told Miss Anne about Louisa Musgrove and James Benwick?"
"Yes," said the Admiral, "Was it a secret?"
Sophy sighed. Her poor husband, while a wonderful sailor, was not always a quick judge of people. "No, my dear, it was not a secret."
"They why should Miss Anne not hear of the happiness of her friends."
"And what did she say of this ‘happiness'?"
He shrugged his shoulders. "She was surprised. Seemed pleased for them." He paused while he thought over their conversation. "She asked if Frederick was upset by the situation."
"Is that all?"
He thought a moment longer. "She seemed to think that Frederick should come to Bath."
"Did she actually say that," his wife asked incredulously.
"Well, I said that we should get him to Bath. She just nodded."
"I see." She stood up and walked around the room a little.
The Admiral watched his wife. "Now Sophia, what are you thinking?"
"Oh, I was just wondering whether Frederick will come to Bath."
Admiral Croft had been married long enough to know that he should leave his wife to her thoughts.
Sophy did not have wonder long about her brother's intentions, because the very next day, he arrived in Bath.
"Now Frederick," she said as she poured him a cup of tea, "are you really as unaffected by Benwick and Louisa as you wrote."
"I speak truthfully, Sophy, I wish them well."
She eyed her brother until he spoke again.
"I was surprised, of course. Their characters seem so different. Louisa is a very pleasant girl and will, I dare say, make him a good wife."
He set his cup down. "But Benwick is something more. He was so attached to Harville's sister. He mourned her for so long. To suddenly marry another woman---it just doesn't seem like him."
"Perhaps he has finally gotten over Miss Harville. Men do tend to forget." She had spoken with a smile, but Frederick did not return it.
"No," he said shaking his head slowly. "A man does not forget a love that deep."
Sophy stared at her brother until, catching his eye, he shook off the gravity and changed the subject.
"I suppose I should take in the sites of Bath," he said trying to be cheerful. "Where do you suggest I begin?"
Sophy hesitated before speaking. She then decided to try a little experiment. Knowing that Miss Anne frequented a certain area of shops, she said, "You will find a great many of our acquaintance along ----- Street, as well as a lovely pastry shop."
"And which is your favorite? Marzipan?"
Sophy made a face. "Absolutely not!" Then with a little smile, "They do, however, make a nice shortbread."
Frederick rose. "Your hint is well taken, sister. I shall return in time for dinner."
Sophy watched him leave with a smile.
When he returned a few hours later, she thought him preoccupied. "How was your walk?"
"Rainy," he said absently. "I thought you might like these." As he spoke, he handed her his umbrella but laid the small box he had carried into the house on the table in the hall
Sophy exchanged looks with her husband. "Frederick!" she cried.
"What?" he started then looked at the umbrella in her hands. Sheepishly, he took it from her and replaced it with box of shortbread cookies. "Forgive me, Sophy."
"Did you see any of our acquaintance while you were out?" asked the Admiral.
"I saw Captain ----- and his wife and their two daughters."
When he said no more, Sophy asked him what he planned to do while in Bath.
"I believe there is a concert tomorrow evening at the Pump Room. I thought I might attend."
"A concert," said the Admiral, "what sort of concert?"
"In Italian, sir."
"Italian!" exclaimed the Admiral.
"Yes, I forget the singer's name."
"Perhaps you will see Miss Anne while you are there," said Sophy watching him carefully. "I believe she enjoys concerts of that type."
Frederick would not meet her gaze, only mumbled something unintelligible.
Sophy finally abandoned any hope of getting her brother to speak of Anne and turned the conversation to other subjects.
Posted on Wednesday, 21 May 2003
The morning after the concert, Sophy and the Admiral sat eating breakfast when Frederick came into the room.
"How did you enjoy the concert," asked his sister.
"Not very well," he responded brusquely. "It was not to my liking."
"I'm sorry to hear that." Sophy contemplated whether to ask if he had seen Anne, but before she came to a decision, the Admiral spoke up.
"And did you see Miss Anne?"
Frederick did not look up from his plate. "Yes, she was there with her family."
"How did she like the concert?" asked Sophy.
"I do not know. I left before it was over."
"Was her cousin with them?" said the Admiral completely unaware of Frederick's countenance, which had suddenly turned dark. "Talk around Bath is that the cousin plans to marry Miss Anne."
Frederick dropped his fork onto his plate. Sophy and the Admiral both looked at him.
"Are you well, Frederick," asked Sophy.
He pushed back his chair and stood up. "Forgive me, Sophy. I have just remembered something I must take care of." He gave a slight bow to the Admiral and left the room. A few moments later, they heard him leave the house.
"What do you suppose has gotten in to him?" said the Admiral.
Sophy did not answer.
"Seems to me," continued the Admiral, "that Frederick reacts strangely any time Miss Anne's name is mentioned."
His wife regarded him suspiciously.
The Admiral shrugged. "Just thinking out loud." He eyed her for a moment. "Perhaps Frederick has discovered that Miss Anne would make a fine sailors wife."
Sophy's eyes widened into astonishment. "My dear Admiral, what are you saying?"
He grinned widely. "Come, come Sophy, you drag Miss Anne's name into every conversation you have with Frederick. Each time, he becomes quiet and reflective." He shook his head. "You've been more subtle than I. I would have come right out and asked him what he thought about the young woman." He shook his head again. "Too much time wasted with all this playing games."
It took his wife a few moments before she could speak. The she asked hesitantly, "What do you plan to do about it?"
In a few words, Admiral Croft explained to his wife what commission he had for her brother.
"George, you wouldn't!"
"And why not? Someone's got to move things along. What if another war begins? Frederick may never get married."
Sophy felt as though she should chastise her husband but she couldn't come up with any good reason to deter him. Instead, she gave in to the smile that she had been holding back.
Frederick returned a little while later in better spirits and with Captain Harville in tow.
"Harville," exclaimed the Admiral, "How do you do?"
"Fine, thank you sir. I was quite happy to run into Frederick and hear that you and Mrs. Croft were in Bath."
Just then Sophy entered the room.
"Captain Harville," said Sophy warmly. "What brings you to Bath? Is Margaret with you?"
"Margaret is at Uppercross with the children and Captain Benwick. I have come with the Musgroves. The ladies come to shop for wedding clothes and Charles begged me to come to keep him from being buried under lace and silk."
"Ah, yes," said Sophy knowingly, "I can imagine that you and Mr. Musgrove would not be much help to the ladies in that department."
Captain Harville smiled. "I have been excused," he said indicating his leg, "from bouncing from one shop to another. Poor Musgrove has been commandeered to carry bundles and parcels."
After tea, Frederick accompanied Harville back to the White Heart, where the Musgrove party was staying.
The Crofts were discussing where they should walk when a servant announced "Sir Walter and Miss Elizabeth Elliott."
Husband and wife had only enough time to exchange surprised looks before the baronet and his daughter entered the room.
"Sir Walter," said the Admiral. "Welcome. Miss Elliott." He bowed to each.
Sophy asked them both to sit, but Elizabeth declined. "We have come to invite you to an evening party at Camden Place tomorrow evening," she said offering them her cards. "Please extend the invitation to Captain Wentworth also."
"Thank you, Miss Elliot," said Sophy taking the cards. "We shall look forward to it."
The Elliotts remained long enough to hear their thanks and then departed.
"Well," said Sophy after they had left, "What do you think of that?"
The Admiral shrugged, then said with a smile. "We're moving up in society, Sophia."
Frederick returned with greetings from the Musgroves to the Crofts, and a wish from Mrs. Musgrove of seeing the Crofts while they were in Bath.
"I imagine she will get her wish," said Sophy. "We have all been invited to an evening party tomorrow at Sir Walter's." She handed Frederick one of Elizabeth Elliott's cards.
Her brother did not seem at all surprised. Seeing her questioning gaze, he said, "Miss Anne Elliott was calling on the Musgroves when Harville and I reached the White Heart. She mentioned the party."
"You will attend, won't you?" she asked almost expecting him to decline.
"Of course," he said.
The next morning, as they were finishing breakfast, the Admiral gave his commission to Frederick.
"Frederick," he began, "I have a matter of some delicacy that I hope you will not mind carrying out."
"I would be happy to do whatever I can for you, sir," responded Frederick.
With a glance at Sophy, he continued, "As I said yesterday, word around Bath is that Miss Anne is to marry her cousin."
Frederick grew still.
"Sophy and I were thinking that if that is true, she and Mr. Elliott may wish to return to Kellynch after their marriage."
"Go on," said Frederick gravely.
"I'd like you to put it to Miss Anne that if that is their desire, Sophy and I will find new lodgings."
Sophy watched Frederick. He had stopped eating and had paled slightly. She began to reconsider the effectiveness of their plan. Would Frederick refuse?
Her brother simply laid aside his napkin and stood. "I will carry it out immediately, sir." He turned and left the room.
Admiral Croft looked at his wife and gave her a reassuring wink.
When Frederick returned, he could not give the Admiral any information. He admitted to having seen Miss Anne, but he was unable to get an answer to the Admiral's question.
Sophy was quick to try to relieve his distress. "It is of no matter, Frederick. I suppose we shall call on Miss Anne at some time and we will have the opportunity of asking her ourselves."
Frederick relaxed slightly but did not join in the conversation. He seemed lost in his thoughts. After some time, he became aware of Sophy speaking to him. He stared at her blankly for a moment. "Forgive me, Sophy. My mind was elsewhere."
"I was asking if you like to accompany me to call on Mrs. Musgrove and her family."
"Of course," he said.
They gathered their things and walked out together. The morning rain had stopped and the day was becoming quite pleasant, so there was no need to hurry.
"Frederick," said Sophy, "forgive me if I'm overstepping my sisterly authority but I must ask you something."
He looked somewhat amused. "Go on, Sophy. Ask me anything."
She took a deep breath. "I have observed that whenever Miss Anne's name is spoken you either turn into a thundercloud or drift away."
He was surprised. "I'm not sure what you mean."
"Don't be a simpleton, Frederick." She stopped and waited to see if he would say anything. When he didn't, she continued, "Why did you never tell me just how closely acquainted you were with her?"
He stopped walking and turned to face her. "Sophy..."
"Don't try to deny it. I've had the whole story from Edward."
Frederick started to turn away.
Sophy caught his arm. "Don't be mad at your brother. He did accidentally say something, but it was I who forced him to tell me all." She waited until his anger abated. "I just have one question: Do you still care for Anne?"
"That was a long time ago, Sophy," he began.
"Yes, but you yourself said that a deep love can't be forgotten." She paused, waiting for him to deny any feelings for Anne. When he didn't, she continued, "If you still love Anne, you can't just sit by and watch that coxcomb of a cousin steal her away from you."
"But Sophy, if she's determined to marry the man, what can I do?"
Finally, thought Sophy. Out loud she said, "When you saw her this morning; how did she respond when you asked about us quitting Kellynch Hall?"
His countenance grew grave. "She didn't have a chance to answer completely. Lady Russell interrupted our conversation."
"But how did she appear?"
He thought for a moment. "Confused, agitated, surprised to see me. She began to say something, but at the appearance of her friend she stopped and dashed away."
Sophy nearly rolled her eyes at her brother's lack of perception. "Don't you think that if she was definitely going to marry Mr. Elliott, either she or Lady Russell would have said so. At the least, Lady Russell would have told you so that you wouldn't continue to seek out Anne's company."
Frederick began to see the wisdom of her words. "You're right, Sophy. Anne didn't deny any engagement but neither did she confirm it. And her friend would have taken great pleasure in telling me of the arrangements"
"Exactly. I might add that I have been observing both of you over the past few weeks and I have seen definite signs of regard."
He seemed surprised. "From whom?"
She shook her head. "We don't have time for me to go into detail. Suffice it to say that I believe Anne has feelings for you still."
He seemed pleased with the prospect.
"Now," she said calling his attention back to the present, "let us pay our call so that the time until this evening's party may pass quickly."
Posted on Friday, 23 May 2003
When they reached the White Heart, they met Captain Harville coming out.
"Harville," called Frederick. "Where are you off too?"
"To find you, actually. I was hoping to engage your assistance."
"We have come to call on your party," said Sophy.
"Let me return with you, then. I shall be able to explain my dilemma in comfort."
The three of them returned inside. When they reached the rooms the Musgroves had taken, they found only Mrs. Musgrove there.
"The others have all gone out. When the rain stopped, Mary and Henrietta took hold of Charles and charged out."
Sophy sat down at the table where Mrs. Musgrove promptly poured her a cup of tea. Declining any refreshment, the two gentlemen moved over to the window and began speaking quietly. After a few moments, Frederick sat down at the desk and began to write a letter.
"So," began Sophy, "Captain Harville tells us you are here to purchase wedding clothes."
"Lord bless me yes," said the happy mother. "Louisa is still recovering and dear Captain Benwick would not leave her. Henrietta and Mary have been charged with purchasing all the clothes for both weddings."
"Both," exclaimed Sophy, "I did not realize that both of your daughters were to wed soon."
Before Mrs. Musgrove could respond, there was a small knock on the door. When it opened, Anne walked in. She greeted the room in general.
"They've gone shopping dear," said Mrs. Musgrove. "But they made me promise to keep you here until they return." Anne smiled gratefully and after a glance towards Frederick, she sat down.
Mrs. Musgrove began talking about long engagements verses short ones. Sophy made what she hoped were the correct responses, but she could not keep from glancing towards Anne and Frederick. He had almost ignored Anne when she entered, barely looking up in response to her greeting. Anne after giving him several unconscious glances joined Captain Harville by the window.
Sophy was having a hard time. She had to give the impression of giving all of her attention to Mrs. Musgrove while secretly listening to the conversation between Anne and Harville and silently chastising Frederick for not joining them.
She overheard bits and pieces of the conversation at the window. It seemed that Harville was having a picture of Benwick framed for Louisa. It had been originally done for Harville's sister. This naturally spurred a discussion of whether men or women held on to seemingly hopeless love longer. Both participants were passionate about their position though expressing it with complete kindness towards the other.
Sophy was sure that Frederick was listening more eagerly than herself. At one point, he became so engrossed in the listening, that he dropped his pen and knocked something else on to the floor.
"Have you finished, Frederick?" called Captain Harville.
"No," he said, flustered, "a few lines more." His sister could not imagine what was taking him so long. He was certainly giving very specific instructions for having the picture framed.
Harville seemed not to notice his friend's anxious state and returned his attention to Anne.
As it seemed that Frederick made no move to speak with Anne, Sophy began making a move to go. "Here, you and I must part company, Frederick," she said as she stood. "But we shall all meet again at your party," she said to Anne who had moved back towards the table.
"Just a moment more, Sophy," said Frederick as he quickly folded up his letter. He then stood and looked at Captain Harville. "I'm ready to take care of your business now, Harville." Sophy noticed that the letter he held appeared to be a single sheet of paper. She was quite sure he had folded more than that.
With a nod towards Anne and a quick word for Mrs. Musgrove, he followed his sister and friend out of the room.
They were just a few steps from the door, when he exclaimed, "I have forgot my gloves." He looked towards Harville. "I shall meet you outside."
Sophy eyed him suspiciously. With a wink, he turned back towards the door.
It was late when Frederick returned to the Croft's lodgings. The Admiral and Sophy were sitting in the drawing room discussing the news that Napoleon was attempting to raise an army. The likelihood of another war was great.
"Frederick," his sister exclaimed, "Where have you been?" Without waiting for him to answer, she continued, "We shall be leaving for Sir Walter's momentarily. You must hurry and change."
Frederick appeared almost giddy. "I'm sorry, Sophy. My...business took longer than I anticipated."
His grinning demeanor and thoroughly unrepentant tone of voice convinced Sophy that something was going on. He immediately headed for his room, calling over his shoulder for them to go on without him. Captain Harville was to call and the two of them would go to Sir Walter's together.
Sophy was disappointed at not being able to talk to her brother, but as the time was short, she did as he suggested.
As the carriage conveyed them to Camden Place, Sophy contemplated her brother's behavior that day.
"Frederick is certainly in better spirits than this morning," said her husband. "What could have happened to make the change?"
"I'm not sure," she began, "but I have my suspicions."
She shook her head. "No, I'd rather wait until I've had a chance to talk to Frederick."
They arrived at Sir Walter's and were received graciously by the baronet and his eldest daughter.
"I'm so glad you could come," said Elizabeth. "But where is Captain Wentworth?"
"My brother was running late. He will join us soon, I believe."
Elizabeth smiled widely. "I look forward to getting to know him better."
Sophy just smiled and moved into the room. Her eyes swept the room until the landed on Anne. She was looking quite lovely this evening, prettier than Sophy could ever remember. She had a sort of happy glow about her.
Anne's eyes met Sophy's and she came forward to greet them.
Although Anne had always been friendly to the Crofts her greeting was an especially warm one. "I'm so glad you are here," she said with a smile, "Card parties are not usually my favorite way to spend an evening but since you are here I am looking forward to a most enjoyable time."
"Thank you, Miss Anne," said the Admiral. "Too bad Frederick isn't here."
Her smile faltered a little. "Captain Wentworth is not to join us?"
Sophy gave a gentle nudge to her husband. "What the Admiral is saying, quite badly I might add, is that Frederick will join us shortly."
Anne blushed prettily and said, "I look forward to seeing him."
Sophy hesitated then said, "His business with Captain Harville must have taken longer than he originally thought. He was quite late in returning this afternoon."
Anne made no comment.
They stood chatting amicably for several minutes. The Musgroves joined them and their party grew larger. A few moments later, Lady Dalrymple and her daughter entered the room followed by Mr. Elliott.
Sophy watched Anne's face as she greeted her cousin. It was obvious that she took no pleasure in the meeting. It was also obvious that Mr. Elliott intended to monopolize her attentions. He barely acknowledged anyone else and took up station next to his fair cousin with a look that dared anyone to try to separate them.
Elizabeth called them all to attention and began organizing card tables. Sophy found herself sitting at a table with Lady Russell and Mrs. Musgrove. The Admiral was at a table with Charles, Mary and Henrietta Musgrove.
Anne, Sophy noticed, had not taken a place at one of the tables. She seemed restless, preferring to wander about and stopping to speak from time to time. As Anne passed Sophy's table, Lady Russell reached out a hand to stop her. Anne sunk into the empty chair.
Sophy tried not to listen to their conversation, but curiosity and sisterly devotion could not be resisted. Lady Russell was talking of her own marriage and seemed to be trying to persuade Anne to favor her cousin, though not in so many words. Just as she finished, Mr. Elliott appeared at Anne's side requesting a moment of her time. With a wary glance at Lady Russell, Anne acquiesced. The pair moved to the other side of the room and took a seat.
Lady Russell, Sophy noticed, was looking quite pleased with herself. Anne kept glancing towards the door hardly looking at her cousin.
A moment later, the servant announced Frederick and Captain Harville's arrival. The two men, dressed formally in their uniforms, entered the room.
Sir Walter stood to greet them. Elizabeth smiled and batted her eyes, but it was Anne who naturally caught Sophy's attention. She had risen from her seat, forgetting her companion and was smiling brilliantly towards Frederick.
Sir Walter invited them to join one of the card tables, but Frederick declined stating that he had come on business.
The baronet looked slightly confused.
"My proposal of marriage," continued Frederick, "to your daughter, Anne, has been accepted and I respectfully request to set the date."
The collective surprise of the room was immediate. Sir Walter could only say, "Anne, you want to marry Anne? Whatever for?"
Elizabeth seemed on the verge of tears. Lady Russell's gaze shifted between her beloved Anne and the tall naval officer who looked at Anne with such love that no one could doubt his affection. The others began expressing quiet exclamations of delight.
Shortly, Sir Walter recovered himself and led Frederick out of the room. Anne was still standing, looking in the direction they had gone.
No one seemed to know what to do. Sophy had wanted to fly up and hug them both, but the duty of being the first to offer congratulations naturally fell to Elizabeth. She, however, seemed intent on not moving. She had actually returned her attention to her card game with Miss Carteret.
Charles Musgrove was the one who finally made the first move. He stood and quickly made his way over to his sister-in-law.
"Well, Anne, you have certainly surprised us all," he said as he gave her a brotherly peck on the cheek. "I hope you will be very happy."
The ice broken, most of the others joined in the celebration. Even Lady Dalrymple and her daughter condescended to offer their congratulations. Sophy noticed that Elizabeth was not the only one who refrained from congratulating Anne. Mr. Elliott seemed to have disappeared.
Sophy waited until the others had given their best wishes before she approached Anne. The young woman was positively radiant.
"Dear Anne," said Sophy. She had meant to say more, but her emotions got the better of her and she simply drew Anne into a gentle hug.
Anne responded gratefully. When they parted, both had tears in their eyes.
"What's this, what's this," said the Admiral, "No tears. This is a happy occasion."
Both women chuckled at his rough but playful manner.
"I knew Frederick was up to something," said Sophy. "He was grinning like a fool when he returned home."
"Aye," agreed the Admiral, "And who wouldn't be grinning, with such a pretty young girl agreeing to marry him."
"Now, George," scolded Sophy. "Anne, I do hope you will forgive the Admiral's teasing."
"There is nothing to forgive," said Anne smiling. "I enjoy the company of you both very much."
"Glad to have you in the family, my dear," replied the Admiral.
Although Sophy could have spent all evening getting to know Anne better, she knew she would have plenty of time. There were others who were claiming Anne's attention.
Anne's smile dimmed slightly. Sophy noticed that Lady Russell was approaching with an unreadable expression. Giving Anne's hand a reassuring squeeze Sophy returned to her card table.
Posted on Friday, 30 May 2008
Sophy found that her card table had been abandoned. Mrs. Musgrove was speaking to her daughter about weddings, and Lady Russell was standing next to Anne with an unmistakable expression of disappointment.
Trying to appear nonchalant, Sophy edged her way closer to them. She caught her husband's eye and found that he knew exactly what she was up to. With a slight shrug and a guilty smile, she inched her way closer to Anne and Lady Russell.
"My dear Anne," Lady Russell was saying, "What of Mr. Elliott? He loves you. It's only a matter of time before he proposes. You could take your rightful place. What are you thinking? "
"Lady Russell," replied Anne gently but firmly, "I am thinking of my happiness. Something I believed you to be wishing for." Anne seemed to regret speaking severely. She sighed. "Please, I will be happy to discuss this later. Tonight," Anne paused, as Frederick entered the room, his eyes seeking her out. They shared a happy smile. Anne returned her gaze to her friend, "Tonight, all I can contemplate is Frederick's love. Excuse me." Anne walked away.
Sophy watched as Lady Russell watched the young woman. As Anne approached, Frederick held out his hand. Anne placed hers in his and he lifted it to his lips. Both of them were positively glowing.
Sophy moved closer to Lady Russell. "How happy Miss Elliott looks," Sophy said.
"Yes," replied Lady Russell as though she saw it for the first time.
"Lady Russell," said Sophy gently, "please excuse my impertinence, but Frederick is deeply attached to Anne. He will spend the rest of his life making her happy.
Lady Russell looked at Sophy and sighed. "You must think me a controlling, self serving old woman."
Before Sophy could object, Lady Russell continued, "I have watched all three of the Elliott girls grow. I know their temperaments, their characters. Anne is the only one of the three capable of being a proper Lady Elliott. She is so like her dear mother. Elizabeth cares only for her own comfort, to the detriment of Sir Walter's purse. Mary cares only for the prestige of being the daughter of a baronet. But Anne...Anne truly cares about the servants, the people of the village. Their joys and woes. She would give her last shilling to help one of them." She paused, then said in exasperation. "Anne deserves to be an important and influential woman."
Sophy chose her words carefully. "But would that make her happy? Forgive me, but it seems to me in the short time I have known her that what Anne truly wants is to be happy."
Just then, laughter filled the room. Both women looked towards the source. Frederick and Anne stood surrounded by friends and family (excepting Elizabeth, Sir Walter, and the Dalrymples, of course). They were smiling and relaxed. Anne's hand tucked into Frederick's arm, his hand covering hers. Frederick looked down at Anne. The look in his eyes was unmistakable.
Lady Russell smiled slightly. "Perhaps your are right, Mrs. Croft." She straightened her shoulders. "I believe I have an apology to make and congratulations to offer." She walked towards the couple.
Sophy watched as the stately lady moved towards the couple. She saw Frederick's face grow grave when he observed her approaching. Anne sensed the change and looked up at him. She then followed his eyes to Lady Russell. An expression of dread mixed with annoyance covered Anne's face.
Sophy couldn't hear what was being said, but Anne's face slowly relaxed. Frederick's expression went from ice to suspicion to surprise. After a few minutes more, Lady Russell hugged Anne and offered her hand to Frederick, who took it and bowed. The lady then moved away. Just before Sophy turned away, she saw Frederick and Anne share a look of surprised puzzlement.
With few to please but themselves, Anne and Frederick determined to marry as soon as possible. The Admiral and Sophy offered the use of Kellynch Hall for the wedding breakfast which was accepted with much gratitude, especially from Anne.
When the date was fixed, the Croft's removed to Kellynch to prepare for the event. Frederick and Lady Russell surprised Anne by uniting to encourage her to purchase new gowns. It seemed that an hour's discussion was enough for the former foes to understand that they both wanted the same thing...Anne's happiness. Once that was settled, they became allies in assuring that their common goal was reached.
The day chosen for the ceremony arrived and the small group of family and friends gathered in Kellynch church to witness the union of Anne and Frederick.
The Admiral and Sophy along with Edward and his wife were in the front row with the Harvilles and Benwick behind. Across the aisle was Lady Russell with Mary and Charles and behind them the entire Musgrove family.
It was a simple ceremony followed by a tasteful celebration at Kellynch Hall. There was much laughter, endless good wishes and a general feeling of love and happiness.
Sophy and Margaret Harville both offered their services to the new Mrs. Wentworth as she began her life as a sailor's wife. The Admiral, and Capt's Harville and Benwick offered to be of service by regaling her with tales of Captain Wentworth's escapades at sea.
For Anne, it was the realization of her heart's desire. Not only in having Frederick for her husband, but having a family that she could love and be loved by. She could want nothing more.
As Frederick watched his new bride interact with his family and friends, he could only thank his lucky stars that he had been given a second chance.
Noticeable by their absence were Sir Walter and Elizabeth. They had sent their regrets, it was not "convenient for them to travel at the time" but they wished the couple "very happy." Anne had sighed over her sister's letter, but was quickly reconciled by the fact that those who were in attendance truly cared for her.
Admiral Croft claimed everyone's attention. Once he was assured that everyone had a glass, he gave a nod to Captain Harville who stepped forward and raised his glass. "Ladies and gentlemen, to his majesty, the King."
Charles Musgrove then stepped forward. "To the Royal Navy."
Captain Benwick took his turn. "To the ladies."
Each toast was enthusiastically echoed by the others.
Admiral Croft came forward again. "Let us raise our glasses one last time." He turned to Frederick and Anne. "May your seas always be calm, may the wind always fill your sails and may you always sail together." He raised his glass. "To Frederick and Anne."
"To Frederick and Anne!"