Beginning, Section II
"Your invitation is really too kind, Miss Elliot, but I'm afraid I must decline. I am expecting my brother Frederick to arrive at Monkford that very day, and should like to spend the evening alone with him, as he's been at sea and we've not seen each other in months. Do forgive me."
"Not at all, Mr. Wentworth. I'm sure we shall manage quite well without you."
Anne Elliot could not restrain a blush at her sister's ungracious comment. Why Elizabeth persisted in inviting the local curate to dinners and card parties, in the name of bowing to propriety, when she never bothered to treat him with courtesy--much less respect--was something the younger woman would never understand. How she wished their mother were still alive! She would never dream of being anything but welcoming to any person of respectability, no matter what their station in life. But Elizabeth had been serving as mistress of Kellynch Hall for the past six years, and Anne was forced to admit that nothing was the same.
As the family proceeded out of the church, Anne couldn't resist casting an apologetic look back at the new curate. His eyes caught hers long enough to signal his awareness and acceptance of her unspoken apology before returning to the parishioners waiting to speak to him.
"What a stroke of luck, that we won't be bothered with Mr. Wentworth's presence this Tuesday. It's so tiresome having to invite him simply because he's a clergyman, despite his common birth," Elizabeth commented as the carriage pulled away.
"Quite right, my dear, quite right. I dare say he doesn't even appreciate receiving an invitation from you as he ought. Indeed, declining to attend simply because of a brother shows he does not, for what can a Frederick Wentworth be compared to Sir Walter and Miss Elizabeth Elliot, of Kellynch?"
Anne could not resist attempting a reply, despite knowing full well that neither of her relations would give credence to her opinion. "Father, you must allow for the fact that he has not seen his brother for many months; of course he would wish to catch up on old news. I'm sure Mr. Wentworth is perfectly sensible of the consideration Elizabeth has shown him, and means to make up for his inability to attend this particular evening when he can." Of course, she thought, he seems a man of too much sense to be unaware that my sister's invitations spring solely from awareness of her duty and therefore show no consideration, and to feel any regret in being unable to attend.
It pained Anne to admit it, but ever since her mother's death, her remaining relations seemed to have forgotten all Lady Elliot's good sense and breeding, instead becoming increasingly shallow and filled with their own importance.
"Really, Anne! How could you take his part against your own family? A lowly curate, refusing an invitation from a baronet's daughter, for a mere sailor! What insolence. He ought to feel all the honour of my notice."
"But, Elizabeth, if you do not wish him to attend in any case, why are you complaining about his refusal?"
"It's not that I want his presence, Anne, but his declining the invitation is an insult to the entire family! Surely even you should be able to see that!"
Anne merely sighed and resolved to make no further comments on the subject until she could discuss it with her mother's good friend, whose opinion she was sure would coincide with her own.
Lady Russell had known Lady Elliot for many years, and upon the latter's death had appointed herself to the role of foster-mother for her friend's middle child. Elizabeth seemed determined to adopt her father's foolishness, and the youngest, Mary, found the development of her character entrusted to a school; but Anne, who had managed to leave her school in possession of nearly as much sense as she'd had upon entering, had turned out to be her mother's daughter in every respect.
"You are very right to feel that Mr. Wentworth, as a man of respectability in his own right as well as that of his position as clergyman, has a right to be included in general social gatherings of this nature," she said the next morning upon being applied to for her opinion on the subject. "It is of course wrong of Elizabeth to be so dismissing of him. But my dear Anne, you also have to realise that she does have a point--the Wentworths are of sufficiently inferior birth to make the Elliots' notice a sign of condescension on your part."
"I must say, Lady Russell, that in such a case as this, I can see no disrespect in Mr. Wentworth's refusal. After all, what claims do the Elliots have on his time when compared with that of a long-absent brother?"
"Oh! I don't mean to imply that in this instance Mr. Wentworth was in the wrong; but in the general way of things, one must concede that his disinclination to attend your family's dinners and parties would be ungrateful. Under the circumstances, however, he can and ought to be forgiven, as his brother is only to arrive that same day. I suppose we ought to call on them before the week is out, and welcome Mr. Wentworth's brother to the neighborhood."
"I'm glad you feel so, Lady Russell. I do wish Elizabeth would agree as well, but I suppose one can't have everything."
Lady Russell smiled at her young friend. "No, indeed. And perhaps it is best if Elizabeth does not accompany us on the visit, wouldn't you say, Anne?"
Tuesday's card party passed uneventfully. Elizabeth had the comfort of knowing that her drawing rooms would not be cheapened by the presence of mere clergymen, while Anne felt all the joy that an evening spent in a manner unpleasant to her with people she did not care for could provide.
On Thursday, Lady Russell took Anne to call on Mr. Wentworth and his brother. As they were drawing near the parsonage, they caught sight of the young curate together with another gentleman, walking in the same direction. Lady Russell had the carriage stopped as it pulled up to the pair.
"Mr. Wentworth, we were just coming to call on you," she proclaimed as the ladies alighted.
"Lady Russell, I'm honoured. May I present my brother, Commander Wentworth? Frederick, this is Lady Russell and Miss Anne Elliot. Please, ladies, come inside and join us for a cup of tea."
The company made their way indoors; the curate showed the ladies into the parlor and ordered refreshment before turning his attention back to his visitors.
"My brother has just returned to England after several months at sea; I understand he made quite a name for himself in action off St. Domingo."
"Nonsense, Edward, nothing so extraordinary as all that. Ladies, please ignore anything my brother may say on the subject; his impartiality is questionable," the younger man responded good-naturedly.
Frederick Wentworth was a charming young man of about two-and-twenty, with a pleasing countenance and friendly manners. He was persuaded to relay a couple of anecdotes from his times onboard ship, which he did cheerfully, choosing stories which focused on his fellow-sailors rather than ones in which he was the hero. Anne found herself quite enjoying his tales of navy life, and admired the natural modesty he displayed in passing up the opportunity to show himself off before the ladies.
As Lady Russell began to discuss what most needed to be done for the local poor with Mr. Wentworth, Anne soon found herself alone in conversation with his brother.
"Miss Elliot, I understand that my return prevented my brother's being able to attend your family's party the other night. Ought I to apologise for my untimely arrival?"
"Not at all, Commander. It is only natural that Mr. Wentworth would prefer to spend the first evening of your visit at home; his absence was perfectly understandable."
"So I didn't cause a card table to be short of players? I am fortunate indeed to be spared the wrath of a young lady such as yourself, for ruining all her plans for a perfect party!"
Anne laughed. "I assure you, you have nothing to be concerned about. Indeed, although I cannot speak for my sister, I for one am more grateful to you than otherwise. The altered number of guests necessitated a rearrangement of the card tables, which allowed me to avoid playing myself for much of the evening."
"You are not fond of cards, then?"
"No, I am not; I would much rather spend an evening in intelligent conversation, or music. Cards hold little interest for me, I fear."
He smiled. "In that case, Miss Elliot, I shall remember to tell my brother not to include you in the guest list, in the unlikely event of his throwing a card party himself during my stay."
"I should be most obliged to you, Commander Wentworth!"
The young people's laughter drew Lady Russell's attention, and she decided their call had lasted long enough. The ladies said their good-byes, and returned to Lady Russell's carriage.
Elizabeth was waiting for them when they arrived back at Kellynch, immediately taking Anne to task for not having been available to accompany her sister on her calls that morning.
"Elizabeth, I had asked Anne to come with me today; I felt it only proper for Mr. Wentworth's brother to be welcomed to the neighborhood. Had I not already known you to be engaged to call elsewhere, I would have included you in the visit. As it is, though, I thought there was no reason to ask since I knew you to be unavailable."
"Well! Lady Russell, there can of course have been no question of my coming along today. But really, I do feel you ought to have asked."
"Of course, my dear, you are quite correct. Next time your sister and I go to call on Mr. Wentworth, I assure you I shall be expecting the honour of your accompaniment as well."
Lady Russell and Anne exchanged amused glances as Elizabeth spluttered, "Really, I...you must...I of course didn't mean I could come, merely that I should have been asked!" and flounced out of the room before the older woman could trick her into anything else.
"Oh, Lady Russell, that was too cruel! You know Elizabeth would never call on the curate unless absolutely unavoidable; it's unfair to tease her like that."
"Yes, but there are times one can not resist having a little fun with her." Anne tried unsuccessfully to stifle her giggles at the memory of her sister's reaction, then gave up entirely. She was still laughing as she bid farewell to her mother's friend minutes later.
Anne missed the presence of Lady Russell considerably when the Wentworths returned the call a few days later. As Anne performed the introductions, Elizabeth and Sir Walter greeted the young men civilly, then proceeded to continue their conversation with Miss Morgan, a neighbour whose birth they considered nearly high enough to make her worthy of the condescension they showed in noticing her, completely ignoring their other visitors in the process. Anne felt herself unequal to the task which fell to her, of entertaining the remaining callers by herself while seeming not to notice the slight being paid them by her relations. She bravely made the attempt, helped along by Mr. Wentworth, who knew how much consideration to expect from the elder Miss Elliot, and his brother, who was not disinclined to spend more time in conversation with the younger, yet she could still wish for Lady Russell's presence to reduce the necessity of carrying the principle part of the burden herself.
Mercifully, the gentlemen showed no desire to turn the call into a long one, and soon they rose to depart. As they took leave, Commander Wentworth asked Anne if they would be attending the upcoming assembly.
"Why, of course, sir. I hope we shall have the pleasure of seeing you and your brother there as well."
"Indeed, we wouldn't miss it. May I take this occasion to request the first dances, Miss Elliot, if you are not otherwise engaged?"
Anne blushed faintly. "I am not yet engaged, and it would be an honour."
He bowed again, wished her and her family well, and the brothers departed, leaving Anne to the scornful gaze of her sister, who had overheard this exchange and was less than pleased.
Anne, for her part, simply excused herself to take a walk in the park. She wanted some time alone to consider her new acquaintance and to attempt to understand her reactions during the past few days; she felt she was not sufficiently composed to face her sister's certain disapproval, and wanted to examine her own feelings before returning to company.
Though but nineteen, Anne bore little resemblance to the fashionable young ladies of her station in life. Although she was accomplished enough in other respects, and a particularly fine musician, she had somehow failed to learn to take pleasure in flirtation. Her naturally gentle character was given a more serious turn by the death of her mother and dearest friend when she was but fourteen; Lady Russell's companionship and guidance were invaluable to Anne, but could never make up for the loss of Lady Elliot. Like most young ladies, Anne enjoyed attending balls, but her pleasure arose more from the music and dancing, and a genuine fondness for society, than the number of admirers she may have or her dancing partners' incomes.
Yet of late, she frequently found her thoughts drifting towards a certain sailor. He was not uncommonly handsome, perhaps, but his lively manner made it easy for one to forget that. He had an openness about him which caused Anne to feel as if their acquaintance were of a much longer and more intimate standing than a mere two calls could provide. She was forced to admit to herself that her thoughts of the upcoming assembly had consisted primarily of wondering if he might ask her to dance. Fortunately, the fact that she had never considered his doing so in advance, much less for the first dances, soon convinced her that she was not yet in any danger; upon this comforting reflection, she returned to the house and was able to join in the conversation with her sister's latest caller with little embarrassment.
The day of the assembly finally arrived, and Anne had difficulty deciding whether she felt more excited at the prospect of seeing Commander Wentworth again, or nervous. She had not spoken with him since the day he had called at Kellynch along with his brother, and had only seen him at church. While she was as pleased as any woman at being secure in the knowledge of not lacking a partner for the beginning of the evening's dancing, she could yet wish that she had had both time and opportunity to become better acquainted with him before the occasion arose. For some reason, she felt as if that evening would prove to be of great importance in her life. But of course, that was silly. It was just an assembly, one of many, with little to distinguish it from the others she had attended.
She refused to consider why she dressed with extra care that evening.
As the Elliots arrived at the assembly rooms, Anne found herself wishing to determine whether or not her newest acquaintance had already arrived; to prevent herself from looking for him, she immediately sought out Lady Russell and began speaking of anything but what was most on her mind. Lady Russell was amused that her young friend would be wishing to discuss The Maid of Neidpath with the prospect of an evening of dancing before her, but then, she reflected, Anne had always been different from other young ladies. They were deep in a discussion of the moral implications of the work, and Anne had succeeded in forgetting her earlier confusion, when suddenly they looked up to find the Wentworths approaching.
"Why, good evening, Mr. Wentworth, Commander Wentworth! And how are you enjoying your stay in the neighborhood?"
"I like it very much, Lady Russell, thank you. Very much indeed."
Anne realised that his gaze was directed towards her, and hinted at a seriousness that his tone denied; struggling to prevent the blush she felt was imminent, she began studying a blemish in the floor with great determination.
"And well he should! I tell you, Lady Russell, my brother has hardly spent an evening at home since he arrived. It's been one invitation after another; one would almost think Frederick was the permanent resident, not I!" The curate laughed.
"Indeed, everyone has been most welcoming. But I must own that I have been looking forward to this assembly with great anticipation--after all, tonight I can spend time with all my new acquaintance, not just one or two families."
"Yes, Commander, there is something more satisfying in a large gathering such as this than in a typical private party. Would you not agree, Anne?"
Realising that she had been addressed, Anne attempted to remember what it was Lady Russell had been saying; for while unusually attentive to all Commander Wentworth's words, she had found his silences to be excellent opportunities for her to try to understand and gain control of her emotions, and therefore had not been following the conversation as a whole. Assuming that her friend was merely seeking confirmation for an opinion on which they were in agreement, she managed a vague "Oh, yes, certainly, Lady Russell" with no idea what she was agreeing to.
By that time, the musicians had gathered, and Commander Wentworth turned to Anne. "It looks as if the dancing is about to begin, Miss Elliot. I do hope you have not forgotten our engagement for the first?"
Anne felt more than saw Lady Russell's surprise. Wishing to avoid any awkward questions in public, she quickly answered him in the negative, and allowed him to lead her to the set that was forming.
Although mere minutes before, she had been near dreading the prospect of standing opposite him for so long, his cheerfulness soon put her at ease, and before long they were carrying on a quite lively conversation on all manner of topics. She knew not which she enjoyed more, hearing more of his tales of navy life, or exchanging their opinions on books. The former was all the more fascinating due to her lack of prior knowledge of the subject; every revelation was new to Anne. The latter was, of course, a conversation in which she could take an active part as well, and the way he had of professing opinions which were not his own if necessary in order to promote deeper discussion amused her. Between the two, and the dance itself, Anne was surprised and regretful when the music ended and he had to lead her back to her friends.
Lady Russell and Sir Walter were engaged in a discussion concerning the benefits of changing the Elliot livery to a colour more complementary to Sir Walter's complexion in order to show him to better advantage when accompanied by the footmen, in which debate they had just been joined by Elizabeth, when Commander Wentworth brought Anne over. Lady Russell greeted them calmly enough, but Sir Walter was disappointed that one of his daughters, even though it was only Anne, had opened a dance with a mere sailor. Never being given to disguising his feelings, his reception of the gentleman was rather cool. Elizabeth simply ignored them both. A quarter of an hour's attempted conversation with the group, assisted only by Lady Russell and occasionally his partner, was enough to convince Commander Wentworth that it would be best for him to seek entertainment elsewhere among his acquaintance for the present.
Happily for Anne, she was soon spared her relations' comments by the application for her hand which was made by another, more acceptable, gentleman, and she gratefully rejoined the dancers.
Being a lovely young woman in addition to well-liked, Anne never lacked for partners, and she enjoyed the evening tremendously. Its appeal may have been increased by her dancing a second time with her newest acquaintance, but she was also afraid his attentions may lead to a more vocal censure from her father and sister once the evening was over. And there was also the possibility that what seemed to be particular attentions were in fact merely the result of his being fond of society yet knowing relatively few people in the neighbourhood. However, Anne had resolved not to worry about either until the assembly had ended, determined not to let her current pleasure be spoiled by such thoughts.
The morning following the assembly, Anne awoke slowly. She could not remember what she had been dreaming, but it must have been pleasant, as the effects lingered. Unwilling to wake completely for fear of destroying her mood, she drowsily decided there was no reason to get out of bed just yet, and instead burrowed deeper into the warm covers.
The next thing she knew, sunlight was streaming into her face through the now-bared windows, and a maid was setting a breakfast tray on a nearby writing table.
"Oh, good morning, Miss Anne. Miss Elliot had requested breakfast in her room this morning, and Mrs. Wardle thought you might like the same."
"That sounds lovely, Alice, thank you."
As she ate, Anne reflected on the previous evening. She had to admit that, despite her initial confusion, the time spent with Commander Wentworth was by far the most enjoyable part of the ball for her. His dancing was as lively as his conversation, and he excelled at both. She could no longer pretend to herself that she wasn't looking forward to their next meeting, and wondering when that might occur. Contrary to her own expectations, on the way home Anne found that, rather than censuring, her sister and father seemed content merely to ignore him as a topic of conversation--and that, as she was tolerably accustomed to their ignoring herself, it bothered her but little. Lady Russell had always treated him politely, and her approval meant more to Anne in any case.
Anne wanted to discuss the assembly, but knew that her closest friend preferred not to receive callers the morning after a ball; since she did not wish to reveal her growing interest in Commander Wentworth to anyone else, Anne chose to wander through the park at Kellynch instead, and simply enjoy the beautiful day. Her confusion was such that she soon felt a need to talk with someone, however, and for lack of a suitable confidant, she made her way to her mother's favourite grove.
Since Lady Elliot's death, Anne had taken to retreating to the grove which held so many memories whenever she needed peace in which to think; one day she realised that her mother's presence felt so strong that she had been speaking her troubles aloud, pouring her heart out to the one person who had always made her feel special, and loved. It felt silly at the time, but once she discovered that talking to her memory of her mother actually made her feel better, she began doing so more frequently. Upon reflection, she knew that it was better for her not to talk to Lady Russell on the current subject until she had had a chance to talk through matters alone, working out just what it was she felt for herself before trying to explain it to anyone else. And for that, the grove was the perfect setting.
"Mother, I wish more than ever that you were here still, and could give me your advice; I'm so confused, and the more I consider it, the more reluctant I am to turn to Lady Russell about this.
"You see...Mr. Wentworth--the new curate--has lately been enjoying a visit from his brother, a sailor. You would like Commander Wentworth, I think, Mother; he is cheerful, intelligent, kind, charming...well-read...a wonderful dancer....In many ways, he's like you; he makes me feel special--as Anne, not just as a Miss Elliot." Anne sighed. "And that is the problem, or part of it. I feel as if I have known him for a long time, when in reality we've only met on three occasions. He makes me laugh, he challenges my opinions and really listens to my explanations; he seems to take me seriously. I can not think of anybody I more enjoy being around, and while I can't be certain, especially so soon in our acquaintance, I think he may enjoy spending time with me as well. And I'm so afraid, Mother--I know not what to do, what to say, how to act! I want to get to know him better, but would not wish to seem too eager, or to lead him to believe I feel more than I do.
"Yet what do I feel? I cannot tell. All I know is that I want so badly for him to think well of me. Unfortunately, there are all too many reasons why he should not. You would not care, I know, but Elizabeth and Father think that, as a sailor of respectable, but not high, birth, his acquaintance is beneath us. Without you, they have grown so proud! Their opinion has not led them to say anything truly discourteous to him, but they are more inclined to ignore his presence than not. Why, even when he had just arrived in the neighborhood and his brother brought him to call on us, Elizabeth barely acknowledged the introduction! I know not how or why such a young man could consent to suffering their coldness for long. Still...it's so soon, and it scares me to think about, but I already feel that I will want him around for a long time to come--and I don't know how I would bear it if that were to become impossible due to the behaviour of my own relations!"
At this point Anne realised what she was saying, and blushed, despite knowing that no one could have heard her. "Listen to me, Mother--I sound like those silly husband-hunters whom I've always detested." She laughed shakily. "But that's how I feel. I don't know him very well, but it feels so right when we are together; I can't explain it any better than that.
"What would you suggest I do? I suspect you would say that I ought to get to know him better, and I agree. But how? I know Elizabeth would never invite the Wentworths outside of a large party, when failing to include the curate would be unthinkable even for her. Which means I can have no real opportunity for conversation of any depth with his brother, in such a context....I have no reason to expect them to call on us, and even in Lady Russell's company I cannot of course call on them with any regularity. If I am to see him, it will have to be by chance, which seems like such a risky thing on which to rely...." Another sigh.
Still, she knew what her mother's response would be--that it was better to wait and truly get to know the gentleman before developing any more lasting wishes, no matter how difficult that might be--and felt that it was indeed the best course of action. It held the additional benefit of giving Anne more time to be certain of both the nature of her feelings and their duration. While not at all given to "falling in love", Anne was afraid that perhaps what she felt for Wentworth would turn out to be a temporary attraction, and that she might discover too late that she did not wish to spend the rest of her life near him after all.
Satisfied that she had made the right decision, however difficult it might prove to be, Anne slowly returned to the house, determined not to let her preference become known until she felt more certain of it herself.
During the next couple of weeks, Anne rarely saw the Wentworths. They would occasionally cross paths in town, and of course at church, but most often there was time for little more than pleasantries before one party or the other was drawn away. She tried to console herself with the thought that such casual interaction was for the best, as it would give her emotions more time to settle into a more appropriate state, but she could not hide from herself the wish for more.
She forced herself to continue on with her normal activities, however, and sometimes was able to distract herself from the topic that was otherwise on her mind far too often for comfort. Anne was especially able to find pleasure in visiting a lifelong friend of hers, who was now married and had three adorable young children. Mrs. Parri was nine years older than Anne, yet they had always felt that the similarities in their characters and interests made the age difference negligible. Both were delighted when Catherine's husband decided to settle nearby rather than taking his bride to his native Wales, enabling them to continue the friendship.
One fine morning Anne's visit to her friend was interrupted by the two eldest children, who insisted on playing with their "Aunt Anne". It being a beautiful day, the group moved out into the park, where Catherine worked while watching her boys and her friend chasing each other around in some game or other.
While they were thus occupied, Mr. Parri received a visit from Frederick Wentworth. They completed their business together, then decided to head into the park themselves, so Wentworth could pay his respects to Mrs. Parri. Instead, all thoughts of his hostess flew out of his head as the sight that greeted him stopped him in his tracks.
Anne, completely unaware that she was being observed, was running about and laughing with the boys, seeming a child again herself. Wisps of escaped hair were framing her face charmingly, and her cheeks were flushed with the exercise, her eyes sparkling in merriment. The sight of her took his breath away.
It wasn't until she had allowed the boys to tackle her and was lying on the ground struggling to regain her breath that Anne noticed the gentlemen's presence. Her colour deepened further, and she hastily scrambled to her feet, mumbling an apology for her lack of propriety.
"Not at all, my dear Miss Elliot, not at all," Mr. Parri interrupted. "It does these rascals good to get some of their energy run out, and I dare say both their nurse and Mrs. Parri were delighted to have someone else take on that task for once!"
Wentworth remained speechless, utterly transfixed by the scene he had just witnessed.
"Yes, indeed, it's nice to leave the running about to someone still young enough to do it; and Anne is always so wonderful with the children. They simply adore her."
Meanwhile, the young woman under discussion had quietly refused the boys' requests for another game, and sent them in to their nurse before seating herself next to her friend and demurely taking up a piece of work. She snuck a glance at Wentworth, then immediately wished she hadn't. He was still standing there with a shocked look on his face; she was certain he disapproved of her behaviour.
Disapproval was the furthest thing from his mind, however. On the contrary, he thought her playfulness was the most charming thing he could imagine, although he had not expected it of her. It was obvious that despite her habitually serious demeanor, Anne Elliot loved children, and they loved her. He found himself thinking what a wonderful mother she would make some day....
His mind was abruptly called away from that train of thought by his host's issuing him an invitation for dinner that evening.
"Hmm? Oh, no, unfortunately my brother and I are engaged elsewhere this evening. In fact, I really ought to be leaving, as I have business I must take care of first..." he answered, regretfully tearing his eyes and mind away from the young woman on whom they had remained fixed from the moment he entered the park.
Catherine had noticed his preoccupation, and a suspicion was beginning to form in her mind. "What a shame, Commander; we do hope you can join us on some other occasion. Indeed, perhaps I should ask you now--I have been thinking of holding a small dinner party next week, and have only to choose the day before sending out the invitations. Would next Thursday be convenient for you? I know it is the best night for Anne, and I should like it very much if you both were able to attend."
Wentworth's face brightened, and his voice was cheerful as he informed Mrs. Parri that he was indeed unengaged for that particular evening, and would be delighted at the invitation.
Anne gave her friend a questioning look; she knew of no plans for a party, and had been hoping for a quiet evening alone with her friend on the night in question. She was reluctant to say anything until she could do so privately, however, and Catherine was determined not to let her get that chance.
As soon as Wentworth had left, Catherine began energetically planning the menu and guest list, leaving her friend little chance to get in a word of her own. Finally Anne resigned herself to simply accepting Catherine's sudden change of plans, and took her leave.
The next day, she and Elizabeth both happened to be in the parlour when the Parris' invitation arrived. Her sister's response was subdued.
"Well! That little old Catherine Parri actually invited us, the Elliots of Kellynch, to a dinner! Really, Anne, I have never understood why you insist on spending time with her. Lucky thing I am already engaged, so the invitation can be easily declined; you shall simply say you are coming with me. How dreadful it would be, to spend an entire evening with such people! I can't bear to think what kind of people the guests must be; not an ounce of breeding among the lot, I'm quite certain!"
Thinking over the list of names her friend had mentioned, Anne would have privately been of the opinion that most of them had in fact considerably more breeding than certain others, were it not a betrayal of sisterly feeling. Under the circumstances, however, she simply remained silent and let her sister change the subject.
At last the day of the Parris' party arrived. Anne had decided to attend despite Elizabeth, citing as her reason the fact that Catherine had scheduled it for that evening specifically because Anne had no prior engagements, but she could not hide the truth from herself. She was ignoring her sister's request not because of Catherine, whom she could see almost any day she wished, but because it would be the first opportunity she might have for a real discussion with Commander Wentworth since the assembly. If, that is, she could overcome her embarrassment about their last meeting.
She was one of the first to arrive, and was quietly conversing with some other guests when the gentleman she'd been waiting for appeared. The Wentworths greeted their hosts, then the younger lost no time in approaching Anne's group. The conversation remained general, however, and Anne could not decide whether she felt more disappointed in not having an opportunity for a more private discussion, or relieved, since he could hardly say anything about her earlier behaviour in front of so many people. Either way, she was pleased to find him seated next to her when they went in to dinner.
Anne, who had never been much farther than London or Bath, was fascinated by Wentworth's descriptions of the exotic places he had been in the course of his time in the navy. She had to keep reminding herself to spend at least some part of the meal talking with Mr. Stephenson, seated on her other side. Directing all of her attention to Commander Wentworth, pleasant as it would be for the moment, could only raise those suspicions which she had determined to avoid; but it was a hard resolution to keep. By the time the ladies withdrew, Anne found herself grateful for the chance to relax, after having spent the first part of the evening concentrating on both her conversations with Wentworth and the necessity of not appearing to pay him particular attention.
When the gentlemen had rejoined the ladies, she almost immediately found herself being applied to for some music; Catherine had no intentions of accepting a refusal, so a few minutes later Anne was seated at the instrument. Upon finishing the song, she was pressed for another, and decided to play a rather lively piece by way of contrast. A few couples began dancing, so Anne followed that with another, not wishing to end their pleasure.
Catherine, however, was not content with the situation. She had noted with satisfaction that Commander Wentworth was not among the dancers, and decided to test her theory more directly. As the number was drawing to a close, she approached one of the other guests and requested her to take Miss Elliot's place at the pianoforte, so that she could have her turn dancing as well. The young lady readily agreed, and moved to relieve Anne as soon as the piece was over. Her hostess was pleased to see that her friend was soon approached by Commander Wentworth, and that the couple promptly joined the other dancers.
"I must say, Miss Elliot, you play exquisitely. It was quite a pleasure to hear you."
"You are too kind, sir. I am afraid my skills are not nearly as well-developed as I should like."
"On the contrary; I cannot recall the last time I heard such wonderful music. Admittedly," he added with a smile, "being onboard ship so much means I don't often have the opportunity to hear any music..."
"Oh, dear, how dreadful that must be! I confess I had not thought of that. I think I am glad I could not join the Navy, for I would not like having to live without frequent music."
"Yes, that is one of the disadvantages of the profession. However, I feel it makes me appreciate fine musicianship all the more, when I do hear it," he replied, with a warmth of expression that left no doubt of his meaning Anne's in particular.
She blushed, and he allowed her to change the subject to something more neutral. For the rest of the dance, they talked of music in general, concerts they had attended, and the regrettable lack of true appreciation for the art amongst those who were frequently most vocal in its praise.
Anne's hand was claimed for the next dance by another gentleman, and shortly thereafter the party began to break up. Elizabeth, angry that Anne had disobeyed a perfectly reasonable request to avoid the party, had denied her sister the use of the carriage for the evening. As the distance was not a great one, Anne had walked to her friend's, as was her custom; afterwards, however, she was waiting for the Parris' carriage to be readied for her use on the return trip when she heard a familiar voice telling Catherine it would be unnecessary.
"It is a lovely evening, still quite warm out, and it seems a shame to go to all that trouble for what would be such a short walk; if Miss Elliot has no objections, I would be happy to escort her back to Kellynch."
As Miss Elliot did not have any objections, beyond the fact that it would further displease her already dissatisfied sister, and Mrs. Parri had even fewer, the arrangement was agreed to, Commander Wentworth informed his brother that he would be walking back to the parsonage, and the pair set out.
Anne lay awake, far too happy to sleep. She could not help but think back over the evening with a great deal of pleasure, despite knowing what her relations would think. They had finally met again, and talked...and danced...and talked some more. And every phrase he uttered seemed only to confirm his sense and good taste. More wonderful still, he had not been as disapproving of her as she had feared! The scene played itself out over and over in her mind....
They had left Catherine's at a leisurely pace, a little uncertain about being alone together at such a late hour, but at the same time in no hurry to reach Kellynch. They walked in a companionable silence for a few minutes, before Wentworth recalled their last meeting.
"So, Miss Elliot, I take it you are fond of children?" he asked lightly.
Anne was grateful that the moon wasn't quite bright enough for her blush to be visible. "Yes, I must confess I am," she sighed.
"As a matter of fact, I am, too. I have a married sister, but unfortunately so far there are no nieces or nephews to play with and spoil, which is a shame." The slightly sad smile in his voice caused her to sneak a look at his face; his expression convinced her of his sincerity. Dared she hope that she was correctly understanding his intentions in beginning this conversation?
"Well, neither of my sisters is even married, so I don't have any, either. Although to be perfectly honest, Mary is too young to get married yet, and I am not sure Elizabeth would make a good mother, so perhaps it is for the best."
"Ah, but you surely have other friends whose children you can spoil, in addition to Mrs. Parri's! Energetic little things, aren't they?" he commented mildly.
Anne felt her blush deepen, but contrary to her expectations, he actually seemed to approve of her antics with the Parri boys! She could hardly believe it. How many other men would be so generous as to overlook such a lack of decorum in a young lady old enough to know better?
Having communicated what he wished to, Wentworth gracefully let the subject drop, to spare his companion further embarrassment. He returned to their earlier discussion of music, and they continued in this manner until they found themselves in front of the Elliot home.
"Well, I suppose this is goodnight. I have had a lovely evening."
"As have I. Thank you so much for the escort; I hadn't wanted to trouble Catherine for her carriage, but there seemed nothing else to do...."
Wentworth smiled. "I understand perfectly, and was happy to be of service. I hope we shall see each other again soon, Miss Elliot."
He took her hand and raised it to his lips; Anne's breath caught. She managed to whisper, "Good night, Commander," and slipped inside....
Anne sighed, wishing she could believe that there would be another such evening. Unfortunately, she knew all too well how unlikely they were to meet again away from the disapproving notice of Elizabeth or Sir Walter. She would just have to make the memory last, she decided.
Contrary to her expectations, eventually Anne did fall asleep. When she awoke the next morning, the remembrance of the previous evening was still fresh on her mind. She knew that her good mood would not be able to withstand Elizabeth's interrogation, so rather than going in to breakfast she begged some bread and cheese from the kitchen and took it into the park to eat in solitude.
Deciding that a long walk would be considerably preferable to receiving her sister's callers, Anne soon left the bounds of the park and set off down the lane, not realising that she'd chosen the direction towards Monkford until she looked up and saw the parsonage. Fearing the assumption that might be made were she to be seen in that vicinity so soon after Catherine's party, she was about to retrace her steps when she heard her name called. Turning back, she saw the person who'd been occupying her thoughts approaching her.
"Ah, good morning, Miss Elliot! How nice to see you again. Have you business to take care of, so early?"
"Good morning, Commander Wentworth. No, it is such a lovely day that I just wanted to be outdoors."
"In that case, may I walk with you?"
"Certainly," Anne smiled.
As before, they were content to be in each other's company, feeling no need to talk. In unspoken agreement, they avoided the town and set off down a more secluded lane. Eventually they came to a stile, where Wentworth requested Anne to have a seat "for there is a matter I wish to discuss with you."
Curious, Anne did as he asked; Wentworth looked at her for a moment, paced back and forth in front of the stile, then finally took a deep breath and gazed off into the distance slightly to Anne's left.
"Miss Elliot, I want to apologise in advance for any mistakes I may make in the way I say what I'm about to. I am not the most eloquent of men, and this is not exactly something in which I have prior experience....
"I am aware that at present I have little to offer. I am not a rich man, but I know I shall be; I am confident that I will receive another post soon, and my past experience gives me every reason to expect that it will prove to be a profitable one. I have no home of my own, but that can be easily fixed, and I swear that no matter what else may happen, my devotion will never waver."
At last his gaze met hers, and he came to sit next to her, gently taking her hands in his.
"Miss Elliot, we may not have known each other long, but I have never been more certain of anything than I am that we are meant to be together. Please say I may have the honour and joy of calling you my wife."
Anne was stunned. She sat there in a daze for a few moments, before the anxiety in his eyes and his tightened grip on her hands registered the need to make a reply. She forced herself to speak, not knowing exactly what she said, but assuming it was acceptable from the delighted smile spreading across his face.
"Oh, Anne..." he breathed, one hand slowly coming up to give her cheek the briefest of caresses.
How long they sat there, lost in each other's eyes, neither could tell. The spell was finally broken when the sounds of someone approaching forced themselves into the couple's private little world.
As they became aware of their surroundings once more, the pair exchanged embarrassed glances, and Anne gave a nervous laugh. Neither could quite believe what had just happened between them, and they were afraid to do something that might shatter the still-delicate happiness they were feeling.
Reluctantly, they agreed that Anne should return to Kellynch before her absence drew unwanted attention. Wentworth, while privately resolving to postpone asking Sir Walter's consent for a few days in order to protect Anne for as long as possible from what he suspected would be the unenthusiastic reactions of her father and sister, was nevertheless determined that such considerations would not induce him to spend any more time away from his fiancée than absolutely necessary. Unwilling therefore to give any thought to letting her return alone, not caring who saw them (so long as their name was not Elliot), he offered her his arm, which was gladly accepted. They retraced their steps in a less anxious, more joyful silence than that which had existed the first time they walked down that path together, wishing merely to enjoy the moment, and certain that the future would hold plenty of time to say all there was to be said.
As they drew near Kellynch, their steps slowed, until Anne led him into the park. She stopped when they could not be seen from either house or road, and turned to Wentworth with a sigh.
"I wish I did not have to go on. I wish we could just stay like this, forever...."
"I know, my dear, and I feel the same way. We must keep telling ourselves that in a short time, nothing will come between us again. And it will be only a short time--I won't have a long engagement. We must and shall be married before I get sent another post--I will not leave here without you by my side, Anne."
Anne fairly glowed. "No, no long engagement, Frederick," she said shyly.
At length Wentworth tore himself away, after several minutes in which each assured the other of their affection and constancy.
Even after he left, Anne was too happy to enjoy the presence of others, so rather than enter the house, she headed for her mother's grove. While in no hurry to reveal recent events to her sister, she was eager to talk to her mother, who, she was sure, would have been happy for her.
"Oh, Mother, the most wonderful thing has happened! He has proposed!! While it is true we have not been acquainted long, I know we shall be extremely happy together; we are suited in so many ways. And he loves me; what more do I need? I can not remember when I was last this happy! It all feels like a dream, and I am afraid that it will end just as suddenly....How I wish you were here, to share this with...." Anne sighed. She did not like to put it into words, even in her thoughts, but she felt instinctively that telling her remaining relations would not be conducive to prolonging her current joy.
She remained in the grove for another half-an-hour, gathering her strength before returning to the house and facing her family. At least she could take comfort in the fact that it was not her responsibility to inform them of Wentworth's offer, although it did not significantly reduce her anxiety about their reactions.
She entered the drawing-room unnoticed, much to her relief. Elizabeth and Sir Walter were arguing over the menu for that evening, and Anne was able to take a seat in one corner and take up some needlework before either realised she was in the room. The disagreement was presently interrupted by a servant's announcing a visit from Mr. Wentworth; upon hearing his name, Elizabeth looked outraged, Sir Walter exasperated, and Anne embarrassed.
"I cannot believe that he would have the audacity to come calling on us!" proclaimed Miss Elliot. "How vexing, that it should be on my receiving day. Very well, show him in, if you must."
A few moments later, Mr. Wentworth entered the room, unaccompanied by his brother. Having greeted them all, he apologised for the late notice but said that he was giving a card party in two days' time and would be honoured if they could attend. As Elizabeth and Sir Walter were frantically checking their calendar in hopes of contriving a prior engagement, the curate took the opportunity to say, in a voice pitched for Anne's ears alone, "I am specifically requested to assure you, Miss Anne, that you will not be called upon to play. I believe we can contrive to have someone free to keep you entertained."
Startled, she could not restrain a blush; the warm expression in his eyes convinced her that he had been taken into his brother's confidence, and was telling her that he approved the match. Grateful for his support, she ventured to promise that she would attend, just as Elizabeth came over to "regretfully inform him that she and Sir Walter were already engaged to dine with friends that evening". Having received the only acceptance he had wished for, Mr. Wentworth expressed his disappointment in the news, and took his leave directly, having, as he did, a party to organise at the last minute.
The rest of the day passed in a blur for Anne. It was too much to think of, that in a few short weeks she and Wentworth might be married; instead, she focused on the prospect of conversing with him again in relative privacy Sunday night, as his brother's other guests would be paying more attention to their playing. She floated through Friday evening, and tried to distract herself on Saturday by visiting Catherine. Unfortunately for her intentions, being in the Parri home only reminded her of the party, which was not at all conducive to forgetting about a certain sailor. She considered visiting Lady Russell, whom she had not seen much of late, but she feared Lady Russell's perception, and did not feel it would be right to tell anyone of her engagement before her father's permission was secured.
At last Sunday arrived. They merely exchanged polite greetings in church, both being reluctant to attract attention, especially when they knew they would be able to see each other without drawing much notice that very evening.
Sir Walter and Elizabeth left for their dinner engagement before Anne had to set out for the parsonage, and she enjoyed being able to finish dressing without having to consider what remarks her appearance might engender. Therefore she took more care with her appearance than Elizabeth would approve, considering where she was engaged for the evening.
When she finally arrived, she was greeted warmly and ushered into the drawing room. The card tables were already set up, but one end of the room remained free of them, and it was there that she took a seat, talking quietly with some other guests until everyone had arrived and it was decided to start the playing, at which point she was abandoned by her companions only to be joined by the person she had come to see.
"I'm very glad you could make it," he said as he sat next to her.
She could not have resisted returning his smile even had she wanted to. "And I was very glad for the invitation."
Glancing around to verify that they were effectively alone, he lowered his voice. "You did not mind, I hope? I could not think of any other way to spend some time with you without risking gossip--which I would rather avoid, for now."
"Oh, yes, I agree. Until something is officially announced, it is best not to appear too particular. But I confess, it is difficult."
"Yes, it is. However, knowing that soon we can be together forever makes it possible for me to bear anything." The expression in his eyes as he said this was almost too much for her; Anne had to look away to regain her composure.
"Perhaps, sir, it would be best if we discussed something else tonight..."
He sighed, only half-seriously. "You are, of course, right, as always, Miss Elliot. Very well, what shall talk about?"
"I believe, sir, it is the gentleman's responsibility to select a topic of conversation that will entertain the lady, not the reverse," she replied primly, eyes twinkling.
"Indeed? But I thought I had found a subject of interest to both the participants; surely I am not to be blamed simply because it proved unsuitable to this occasion?"
"I was under the impression that a true gentleman must be able to adjust his conversation so that it is always suited to the given occasion."
"Ah, well, far be it from me to question a lady's knowledge of propriety. Very well, I freely admit to being no gentleman, and hereby relinquish all pretensions to being an acceptable conversationalist."
At this point, Anne could no longer carry on the "argument" with a straight face, and she struggled not to collapse in a fit of giggles. It was clear from the sparkle in his eyes that he was aware of her efforts, and enjoying her discomfiture. She succeeded in composing herself at last, and eventually they settled into a more sedate conversation. They continued thus until the party broke up, content to be in each other's company despite the need for restraint.
The following morning, Anne felt a need to pour her feelings out on paper, since she could not do so to another person, and took a small writing table out to a secluded spot. Something Wentworth had said the previous evening was just finding its way into a poem when she was startled by a voice behind her saying, "I thought I might find you here."
Anne jumped. She had not even finished turning around before she knew who it was, however; his voice was already more familiar to her than her own. Wentworth smiled, and her face lit up as he came around to stand next to her.
"Good morning, my love. I hope you do not mind; I found I could not wait any longer before seeing you again."
"No, of course I do not mind! I have missed you," she added tentatively.
"I am glad; I would not like to be the only one who cannot spend so much as a single night apart without wishing otherwise." He smiled again, then the poem she'd been writing caught his eye. "What's this?"
Anne blushed and tried to hide the paper beneath some others. "Oh, it is nothing, believe me."
"No, I want to see..." He succeeded in finding the right page, and read:
Nichts ist schwer,
solang Du bei mir bist.
Wenn ich Dich hab', gibt es nichts,
was unerträglich ist!
Wenn ich meinen Mut mal verlier,
finde ich ihn wieder bei Dir;
es fehlt mir nichts,
wenn Du nur bei mir bist.*
"Why, Anne, that's lovely! Absolutely beautiful." His sincerity could not be doubted, so she thanked him shyly. "What does it mean?"
Anne laughed. "You don't understand it, but you think it is beautiful?"
"Of course I do! After all, you wrote it; how could it be otherwise?"
She did not know what to make of this, particularly as he still seemed to mean what he was saying, so she merely offered a translation. "This is merely a rough idea of what it means, of course, but it is something like 'Nothing is difficult, as long as you are with me. If I have you, there is nothing that is unbearable. When I lose my courage, I find it again with you; I am missing nothing, as long as you are with me.'"
"You see, I told you it was beautiful." Anne felt that nothing would be easier at that moment than drowning in the warmth of Wentworth's gaze.
A few moments passed, then Wentworth remembered his other reason for calling. "Anne, last night I knew that we have to make our engagement official as soon as possible; I can't continue pretending we are just common acquaintances. I would not care for myself what suspicions other people may form, but I will not let anything risk your reputation. Therefore, I have decided to speak to your father this morning. Is he at home?"
Anne knew not whether to be happy at the prospect of having their understanding become publicly known, or apprehensive at what her parent's response might be. "Yes, he is, although I know not for how long. I believe he and Elizabeth were to go shopping today."
"In that case, I should go to him now, and hope to find him still here. I shall return to you as soon as I can, my darling." He tried to look cheerful, for her sake, but he was nowhere near as confident as was his wont. He did not care much for himself whether Sir Walter consented to the match, but knew that Anne would be reluctant to defy her father in so important a matter.
When he reached the house, he paused to gather his thoughts and concentration. Taking one last deep breath, he knocked on the front door.
* "Nichts ist schwer", from the show Elisabeth; lyrics by Michael Kunze.
To his surprise, Wentworth was shown into the library, where he found Sir Walter actually in perusal of a book. His astonishment quickly faded, however, when he realised that it was merely a book of fashions, consisting primarily of pictures.
The baronet looked up, surprised at being interrupted. The servant's announcement of Commander Wentworth was met with a blank stare. Feeling that was at least better than being sent out again immediately, he decided that he ought to speak without delay.
"Sir Walter, I must apologise for intruding on your time in this manner, but I have come on a matter of utmost importance. I have--"
"Do I know you?" Sir Walter interrupted.
Wentworth paused a moment in confusion. "Indeed, sir, we have met on a few occasions. I am Mr. Edward Wentworth's brother."
"What? Oh, yes. The sailor." Sir Walter's tone was not welcoming, but Wentworth refused to let himself be discouraged.
"As I was saying, sir, I have asked your daughter to marry me, and she has accepted. Now we would like your consent to the match."
"What?! There can be no such thing. I am sure Elizabeth would have mentioned it to me if she were thinking of marriage. If indeed she were so foolish as to think of it with you in the first place. I can't imagine what you must be thinking of."
Struggling with himself, for it would not do to strangle his bride's father before even obtaining permission to marry her, Wentworth managed to reply in a reasonably calm tone, "Indeed, you are correct; I have no intention of marrying Miss Elizabeth Elliot. I was speaking of your other daughter."
"What?" Sir Elliot repeated. "Mary's far too young. And besides, she has been at school these several months; I am sure you could not possibly be acquainted."
"No. I refer to Anne."
"Who? Oh, Anne. Nonsense. No one would want to marry Anne."
Wentworth forced his fists to unclench before he could do something he would possibly regret. "You are incorrect, Sir Walter. Someone could indeed want to marry Anne, very much--and I do. Will you please grant us your consent?"
Sir Walter froze in astonishment. The amazement that anyone could possibly be interested in his middle daughter soon gave way to outrage that a mere unconnected sailor would dare to consider himself a suitable match for a daughter of Sir Walter Elliot, even if it was only Anne. A wave of hauteur spread over his countenance.
"You can't possibly stand there and tell me you honestly expect me, Sir Walter Elliot, to welcome you to the family," he finally announced coldly.
Wentworth responded in kind. "Indeed, no. I ask merely that you allow your daughter a chance to be happy. Were it not for her sake, I would not be troubling you at all, I assure you. If you would be so kind as to grant your permission, I swear I will do my best never to inconvenience you with my presence any more than absolutely necessary in future, as, indeed, were I to consult none but my own wishes, I would certainly be able to assure you with perfect honesty that I would insure that we never more be in a position to trouble each other in any way."
It took Sir Walter a few moments to digest this. Once he felt he understood what Wentworth had just said, he stated that he had no intentions of letting himself be thus inconvenienced. "Furthermore, if you insist on marrying my daughter, be aware that I shall do nothing for her. If you have thoughts of making your fortune by marrying above your station, you will have to look elsewhere. I will not be fooled by such trickery."
This was more than Wentworth could bear. "If that is all you have to say on the matter, sir, I believe this conversation is over. As I have no interest in your money, these threats will not induce me to break off the engagement. Unless you wish to deny your permission outright, we can have nothing more to say to one another."
Sir Walter, feeling it was beneath him to spend much time arguing with a common sailor, and in any case not overly concerned about cutting off his middle daughter if she insisted on throwing herself away like this, declined to answer. Wentworth, for his part, waited only a moment before showing himself out of the house.
He knew Anne would want to hear how it went, and as he was unwilling to tell her the complete truth in this matter, he fought to get his emotions under control. His anger at the insults to his own motives in seeking the marriage was nothing compared to the outrage he felt on Anne's behalf. That her own father could so little regard her worth, so far as to forget her very existence! It was not to be borne. No, he would marry Anne as soon as possible and take her away from Kellynch to a home where she would be appreciated. He must endeavour to be grateful to Sir Walter, much as it pained him, for not actually forbidding the match.
Attempting to adopt a more pleasant expression, he rounded the final bend in the lane that would take him back to where Anne was waiting. The instant she saw Wentworth, she was on her feet, flying towards him.
"Well? How did it go?" she asked breathlessly. Before he had time to think of a comforting yet truthful answer, her exuberance faded, as she noticed his lingering tension. "What's wrong? He did not forbid it, did he?"
A deep breath. "No, Anne, he did not. Therefore, the rest of it does not matter. I just...I just wish I had reason to expect a warmer reception for you upon your return to the house..."
His expression darkened again, and he could not meet her eyes; it concerned her. "What happened? Really?"
No, he decided, he could not let her go back unprepared. His desire to protect her could make things worse for her in the end; much as he would wish otherwise, he would have to tell her everything. With a sigh, he led her back to her seat.
"Anne, I hope you know that I love you with all my heart. I do not want to hurt you, but I also do not wish us to start our life together with a lie. No, your father did not forbid our marriage, but he did not welcome it. He...insulted us both--" He broke off before he could say something he would regret regarding the intelligence of his future wife's closest living relative. "Forgive me; I am too angry to think clearly right now."
"What exactly did he say that has you so upset?"
"Are you certain you want to know?" She nodded. "The principal thing was that he implied my real interest was in your family's money, and declared that he would give you nothing if you married me." He felt instinctively that, asked for or not, Sir Walter's dismissal of Anne herself was one truth that ought never to be spoken. "I, of course, care nothing for that, but to be called a fortune-hunter is not something I can accept lightly."
Anne looked saddened, but not surprised. "I ought to have warned you what he can be like. He was not always this way, or at least, not to this extent; but without my mother's influence, I am afraid that...well. These past few years without her have been a little difficult sometimes."
"I can imagine." He found some of his anger melting into a fruitless desire to give her back her mother, so she could have someone on her side for what was sure to be a difficult time leading up to their wedding. "I wish I had known her; she must have been a remarkable woman."
"Oh, yes! She was wonderful; so warm, and understanding, and clever, and she always knew just how to keep my father and Elizabeth from being quite so foolish as they have now become....You would have liked her, I think. And I know she would have liked you."
"I am sure I would have done. How could I not love someone who clearly means a lot to you, and who must have had a big influence on you? In a way, I have her to thank for my present happiness, have I not?" Anne was relieved to see him smile again as he said this.
They succeeded in turning the conversation to lighter topics, comparing their childhood memories and reminiscing about sorely missed parents (both of Wentworth's having died three years previously) until the emotions roused by Sir Walter's words began to fade in strength. Neither could forget what had been said, of course, but the longer they talked, the more certain they were that it could not matter. Now that their engagement had been officially not forbidden (whether it could be considered as "acknowledged" was not an issue either chose to examine closely), they felt no qualms about remaining together for the rest of the day, and allowed themselves the luxury of losing track of time.
At last Anne looked up and realised it had begun to grow dark, and that she could not delay returning to the house much longer. She reluctantly mentioned it, and Wentworth saw no choice but to agree. After all, they had been stretching the bounds of propriety for most of the day; there was no need to risk exacerbating Anne's situation at home by keeping her alone with him, unchaperoned, at night.
"I wish, however, that I could in some way make it easier for you; I hate to think what they might say once you return."
"I know you do; but it cannot be helped. I will see you again tomorrow, will I not? I should like to give Lady Russell the news in the morning, but after that..."
"Then, Anne, you shall have me all to yourself tomorrow afternoon. Perhaps you might come with me to call on my brother? I know he would like a chance to talk with you more freely than was possible the other evening."
"I would like that. I am afraid we have never had much opportunity to really converse with each other."
"Then I shall call for you early in the afternoon, and we will spend the rest of the day together."
They wished each other a good night, then eventually parted. Anne, already feeling slightly guilty for having hidden her engagement for the past few days, was apprehensive as she entered the house. She was surprised to find the drawing rooms empty; a servant informed her that Elizabeth and Sir Walter had suddenly decided to spend the evening away from home. Relieved to have the confrontation delayed a few more hours, Anne dined alone and retired early.
Tomorrow she would inform Lady Russell.
Anne was looking forward to her visit as she left for Lady Russell's. Elizabeth had simply ignored her at breakfast, so Lady Russell would be the first person she had spoken to regarding her engagement. And, truth be told, she was glad; her friend, at least, would be happy for her; the same could not be said for her sister.
She found Lady Russell at home, and alone. Anne could barely contain her excitement; as soon as the servant had left the room, she ran and embraced her dearest friend.
"I have such wonderful news to tell you! You will never guess--I am to be married! Is it not amazing? Commander Wentworth spoke to my father yesterday. He was...well, he was Father, but he did not forbid it, and we are hoping to have the wedding as soon as possible! Oh, Lady Russell, can you believe this would happen? I can hardly wait!" she sighed happily.
"Indeed?" Lady Russell asked calmly, unsurprised.
Anne's uncharacteristic raptures were brought to a halt as she noticed a touch of coldness in her friend's air. "Are not you happy for me?" she asked hesitantly.
"No, my dear, I cannot honestly say that I am. I was shocked when your father told me of it yesterday evening. Not that someone would wish to marry my darling Anne, of course, but that you would have accepted this particular gentleman. I must own I am a little disappointed in you."
"But...but why? He loves me, and I love him, and I know we shall get along splendidly."
"My dear, you are still so young. You know not what you are talking about, and you must simply believe me when I say, you will regret this one day." She paused for a few moments, trying to decide what approach would best convince her young friend.
"Lady Russell?" Anne asked in a small voice, unable to bear the silence any longer.
Lady Russell made a decision. "Anne, darling, you say you love him, and he you--but how can you know? I have known you all your life, and these past several years we have of course been particularly close; who knows better than I that you have never even fancied yourself in love before? Because that is what you are feeling now--a mild fancy for someone whom you find interesting, because his life is so different from yours and his manners are pleasing. You think it is love only because you have no basis for comparison; all young girls think their first attachment must be love, but they find that after a few weeks, it dwindles away. And yet you wish to bind yourself forever to this man? A man with whom you are barely acquainted? Can you wonder that I am not pleased at the idea?"
She paused to gauge the effect this had on the young woman, then continued. "You probably already know that your father was not happy to receive Commander Wentworth's request for your hand, either. He is right to feel that you ought not to have accepted, knowing as you surely must that his feelings in this case would be against the match. He could easily have refused, and I must say, I would not blame him for doing so. You ought to be more grateful to him for giving you this opportunity to make the right decision on your own, rather than doing what he could to protect his family himself--as he would have been well within his rights to do."
Anne knew not what to think. That Lady Russell might not approve had never entered her mind; all her hope of withstanding her family's disapprobation had been founded on the certainty of her friend's support. The idea that she would not have that support came as a shock; always before, when she and her family were at odds, Lady Russell could be relied upon to present her side to Sir Walter. It was almost inconceivable that in a matter of such importance, the opinion of her friend could differ so greatly from her own. She was barely aware of Lady Russell's gently changing the subject to something more neutral, and said hardly anything more before finally taking leave.
She managed to make it back to Kellynch and safely into her own room before bursting into tears. Lady Russell's advice was the closest she could come to getting her mother's, and she knew not where to turn for guidance and comfort after that morning's interview. It was all she could do to make herself presentable again before Wentworth arrived.
As she went down to greet him, she tried to school her features into a more joyful expression. Indeed, just seeing him did make her feel more cheerful than she had all morning, as if knowing that he was there for her would somehow make everything all right in the end. And since Anne was not generally a very demonstrative person by nature, it took Wentworth a few moments to notice that she was out of spirits.
Asking her what was wrong only seemed to make her feel worse, however, so for the moment he accepted her reply that it was nothing; he would do what he could to cheer her up, and hope that she would be able to talk about what was bothering her later on. Rather than giving her a chance to dwell on her problems, he suggested they immediately head for Monkford and that proposed visit with his brother.
By the time they arrived, Anne had succeeded in putting the morning mostly out of her mind for the moment, and she was truly looking forward to getting to know Mr. Wentworth better. Once again, he greeted her warmly, and soon Anne was feeling comfortable for almost the first time in two days.
"I understand, Miss Elliot, that you are to lose that name shortly," the curate said with a smile. Anne blushed. "I'd just like to say "welcome to the family", and if Frederick here ever gives you any problems, you come to me, and I will straighten him out for you."
"Hey! That is hardly fair, Edward; you ought not to be trying to prejudice my future wife against me. Not so soon, at any rate!"
Anne just laughed. "Thank you, Mr. Wentworth, I'll be sure to keep that in mind!"
"Seriously, however, welcome. What a shame that Sophy--our sister--is not in the area; I know she would love to meet the woman who is taking our younger brother from us. But as Frederick will no doubt agree, she is bound to become fond of you once you have met."
While not doubting the sincerity of his statement, Anne could not help but feel slightly inadequate in terms of the relations she would be bringing to her marriage. "Thank you. I...I wish I could say the same for my sisters...."
Frederick glared briefly at his brother before turning back to her. "Do not trouble yourself about that, Anne; I am sure Sophy will understand, just as Edward and I do. We cannot choose our relations, after all, and if Miss Elliot chooses not to honour us with her acquaintance, well, I think we shall do very well without her."
Anne could have nothing to say to this, and after a few moments of awkwardness the subject was changed, and the conversation shifted away from Anne's family to topics less likely to cause pain or embarrassment. By the time she left the parsonage, Anne's spirits had returned to a state of tolerable normalcy, and as Frederick had predicted, she and his brother were well on their way to liking each other very well.
The walk back to Kellynch was conducted in silence. Wentworth was contemplating the best way to induce Anne to confide in him; Anne was resolving that she would not. It was bad enough that he clearly knew her family's feelings about their engagement; she did not wish to add the burden of Lady Russell's disapprobation. After all, she reasoned, he could do little to alter it, so where was the sense in giving him something else to worry about? His concern for her was obvious, and she was reluctant to increase his anxiety. No, she would simply have to convince Lady Russell that their marriage would not be a mistake on her own, hopefully without his ever discovering that it was necessary.
To that end, she made an effort to look and sound more cheerful than she felt when they reached her home and he turned to her. He clearly wanted to be invited to stay, but she was not up to facing both him and her sister at the same time, and she knew Elizabeth had planned to spend the evening at home. She hated it, but had to admit to herself that she was relieved when he bid her good night and returned to his brother's.
Anne found her sister, as expected, in the parlour. In a way, she wanted to run and hide, but she knew she had postponed this conversation long enough already, so she entered and tentatively wished Elizabeth a good evening.
She was greeted by a cold glance. "Elizabeth, please. I know you and my father are unhappy with me right now, but please try to see this from my perspective. I love Commander Wentworth, and I think--"
"No, clearly you don't think, or you would realise how degrading such a match would be to your entire family. To be intimately connected with a sailor! And a low-ranking one at that! If you must have a sailor, I should think you could at least choose an admiral. It's too much to expect you to marry within our class, but really, you ought at least to try for someone close to it!"
"Oh, Elizabeth, really! Surely even you cannot expect a man so young to have already reached the rank of admiral! I am quite certain that he will be one, some day, so can you not accept that, rather than demanding impossibilities?"
"Have you given even a thought to the rest of us? To what people will say about Mary and myself, if you go through with this...this folly?"
Anne was suddenly struck by a possible reason for the strength of Elizabeth's reaction. Was she... "Elizabeth, are you jealous? That I am the first of us to marry, even though you are older?"
"Not at all!" her sister scoffed. "Jealous, of you? How droll! Really, Anne, I cannot think where you get such ideas!"
"Then why can you not be happy for me? I am not even asking for you to welcome him with open arms, but simply to accept the fact that he is to become part of this family, because he loves me and I love him. I do not want for us to be fighting over this, Elizabeth, but I feel very strongly that Commander Wentworth is the one man who could make me truly happy, and I do not think that the current difference in our social statuses would be a good reason not to marry him." Why could I not have said that to Lady Russell? Anne wondered. God knows she would be more likely to understand than Elizabeth. Or maybe not.... She sighed. "Never mind, Elizabeth. I ought to have realised you would feel this way. I shall no longer attempt to alter your opinion, but I will ask that you please do not try to further influence my father or Lady Russell. As a favour for a sister, even though you do not agree. Surely you can at least do that, since they already share your opinion."
Elizabeth made no answer, but merely turned away from Anne and pointedly directed her attention towards a vase of flowers she had been rearranging before her sister's interruption. Anne decided that trying to get a more positive response out of Elizabeth would be pointless, and resigned herself to her sister's scorn. Were it just for herself, she could bear it with tolerably little pain, as it would hardly be a novelty for her. However, this time it reflected on someone else as well, and she knew it was going to be difficult to ignore.
She found her task no easier the following morning. Quite the contrary, in fact; Anne's pain was increased by an unexpected visit from Lady Russell.
Anne was surprised to find Lady Russell waiting for her in the drawing room soon after breakfast the following morning. After their previous encounter, she had been certain that her friend's disappointment in her would prevent their meeting again so soon. Indeed, were she honest with herself, Anne would have to admit that she was hoping for a slightly longer reprieve in which to bolster her shaken confidence. As it was, however, she must struggle to greet her visitor with the appearance of more equanimity than she actually possessed.
Lady Russell, sensing the younger woman's discomfort, decided not to mention the engagement for the time being, unless Anne did so first. After all, she reasoned, Anne was a good, obedient, respectful girl at heart, with strong attachment to herself; it was probable that her natural guilt at defying her father and oldest friend would work greater changes on her heart than anything Lady Russell could say now.
Indeed, Lady Russell knew her friend but too well. The entire morning was spent, for Anne, in an agony of wondering when the argument would resume, and why the older woman was being so considerate in avoiding the topic. By the time the visit came to an end, Anne was tormenting herself nearly as much as Lady Russell would wish under the circumstances.
The next several days passed in a blur for Anne. Most of the time, she was miserable; Lady Russell soon resumed making occasional comments regarding Anne's duty to her family, and between the coldness of her relations and the fear that she had lost Lady Russell's good opinion, Anne wished more than ever that her mother were still alive to comfort her. The only bright spots were the hours she was able to spend with Wentworth, and those came all too infrequently. Because her father's permission was so grudgingly given, and his approval was undeniably lacking, they had not felt it right to publicize the engagement until Sir Walter's opposition had relaxed, as Anne had hoped it would. Therefore, they were unable to devote as much time to each other as they would like without stretching the limits of propriety further than either was comfortable with.
It was during one of their "accidental" meetings that Wentworth brought up the subject of where the couple would live, once Sir Walter had relented and they were married at last. "For although I am certain a new post will be found for me soon, we will need to decide where we would like to be in the meantime. It does not need to be perfect, since we will not be there long, but I thought you might like to spend a few weeks someplace new. And it would make things easier once a post does come, if that place happens to be near the sea...."
Anne had to admit she was a trifle confused. "Why would we only be there for a few weeks? Surely we ought to be planning for the future."
Wentworth smiled; her naïveté; about his world was endearing as ever. "Anne, you will learn soon enough that it makes far more sense to give up the house while at sea; returning after a year or two only to find your idea of 'home' has come to mean the ship you just left is far more difficult if you expect it to mean the building you once lived in for only a short time. And then there are the problems inherent in attempting to run a household from a ship....Either you shut it up entirely, and have little opportunity between arriving in port and returning to inhabit the house again for hiring servants and getting the place in shape, or you rent it out, and try to deal with the business pertaining to your tenants when you have no certain knowledge of where you will be landing when....No, it is much more logical to rent a place for the time you are onshore, and be done with the whole issue."
Anne blinked. "Do you mean, you expect me to come with you?"
"But of course!" Wentworth paused. "Are you saying you do not want to be with me?"
"Oh, no, it is not that!"
"I will be at sea most of the time, for several months together, if not years. I could not bear to be separated from you so often, and for so long."
"I have never been on a ship before; I do not know if I will be able to live at sea. What if it makes me ill?"
"Nonsense, my darling; my sister accompanies her husband on voyages all the time, and she has never been unwell in all that time. I am sure you will be fine. And think of all the interesting places you will see! Besides, we will be together, and what can be more important than that?"
"You are right, of course; it would be dreadful to be separated so soon. But I must own, I would like a proper home--a house, with a small park...children...."
Wentworth turned to face her, and gently took both her hands in his. "Anne, love, I want children, too; you know that. When the time comes, I will of course buy a house somewhere, and you will stay there with the children while I am at sea. But until then, I would like to have you with me as much as possible; surely you can understand that?"
Reluctantly, Anne nodded her agreement. She did understand not wishing to be separated, but she also wished she did not have to give up her dreams of a normal home in order to stay together. For the first time, she was discovering that it was possible for her and Wentworth to think differently on an important subject, and she did not like the feeling. It was enough to keep her spirits subdued until long after they parted for the day.