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Almost Persuaded Chapters 27 and 28

January 21, 2015 03:39PM
AN: We cover lots of time with these two chapters. I hope they are not too rushed. Thanks again for all your encouragement.
Chapter 27

In late September, Sophie had a private conference with Lady Rachel. The result of this was a visit from the local midwife who confirmed that Sophie was about four months along with child. Sophie had thought this was the case but wanted confirmation. After the midwife left, Sophie said to Lady Rachel, “I have lost a couple of other babies just about at this point in their growth. The Admiral has no idea. Until this one is safely delivered, I will not tell him about it. It was actually why I was willing to stay behind this tour. The ship’s doctor has never been able to help when I have difficulty and I hope the midwife can.”

Lady Rachel responded, “We will all do all we can to ensure a healthy young one come spring. She works closely with our herbalist, so between the two of them, we can hope to keep your child healthy this time.”

When the two joined Anne in the parlor, Sophie smiled at her and said, “Well, it appears I am increasing. I thought I might be. We should be having an addition to the family around the end of February or beginning of March.”

Anne replied, “Oh, that is wonderful news. Congratulations. How exciting!”

Now, in addition to lace crochet projects, they determined to make baby clothes. The women of both households engaged in the design and sewing. Some items worn long ago were removed from trunks in the attic and served as patterns for the new items. New patterns for knitted and crochet baby items were also discovered. While excited about the news, Sophie refused to write to the Admiral or her brothers about the news, explaining that this had happened before and she had lost the child. She did not want to get anyone’s hopes up. Time enough to tell them after the child’s arrival.

More and more, Anne and Sophie spent their time indoors with Lady Rachel at the dower house. Autumn days alternated brisk and clear with windy and rainy. On rainy, windy days no one left the house. The clear days, they might visit the main house or with a neighbor. On rare occasions, Anne and Sophie would go on a short walk through the autumn leaves. Due to her previous difficulties in delivering a healthy baby, the midwife had recommended that Sophie curtail her activities to sedate, easy walks. The herbalist visited weekly and shared information about the healing properties of various herbs. This resulted in a couple of different herbal tonics that Sophie now drank regularly. When sweetened with honey, they were not bad tasting. On particularly nice days, they might walk with her as she harvested wild herbs. She also talked about which ones to raise in the garden. They found it very interesting.

Beginning in October, the Stevensons hosted the first of their shooting parties for this autumn. The ladies from the dower house joined the dinners and visited with the other women while the men were in the field. Occasionally, all the ladies would mount up and ride the estate, but always far from the hunting fields. Sophie and Anne would remain at the house when riding was planned. They would quietly sew or read until the others returned. All enjoyed the bounty of the hunt with the variety of fowl that appeared at the table. The hunting was particularly plentiful that autumn and the Stevensons hosted two long parties. Each lasted approximately ten days.

Lady Russell wrote about the shooting parties at Kellynch that fall as did Mrs. Musgrove. This year, Charles had been home to attend. Charles had started thinking about finding himself a wife within the next year or two and thought a place to begin the search might be at the Kellynch party. The hunting had been better than the previous year, but Elizabeth still had no apparent suitor nor had Charles found anyone congenial. Lady Russell lamented Elizabeth’s lack of success, while Mrs. Musgrove was sure Charles would be able to find someone suitable fairly easily once he truly started looking. So far, no one had suited his taste.

Finally, everyone headed back to their own estates by mid-November, and life at South Park returned to a quiet rhythm. As the ferocity and frequency of autumn storms increased, all thoughts turned to the upcoming holidays. This year, the family was to again attend Susan’s family in Derby. Although she was invited to join them, Sophie determined to join her brother in Monkford while everyone else journeyed to Derby. The midwife agreed that this journey could be attempted as, so far, all was well. Sophie would continue her herbal teas to forestall any difficulties.

Once again, Anne made gifts for those closest to her and found something appropriate for her father and Elizabeth. Now that they were able to make laces, the variety of gifts Anne was able to make increased significantly. She was quite pleased with her efforts. As they journeyed to Derby, Sir Michael collected Mary from school. As before, she chose South Park over Kellynch and was happy that she had done so.

Derby was full of the extended family. Ethel and William were expecting their first child in the spring, and Susan, Lady Derby was quite excited to become a grandmother. She said, “This is the reward for putting up with all your shenanigans when you were a child.”

Lady Rachel added, “Indeed, it is a wonderful reward for the trials children can be. Ethel, we are all so excited for you. Have you been well?”

Ethel replied, “So far. There was a little nausea at first, but that has cleared up. I do not think I have ever felt more energetic.”

Susan said, “Remember this, as you will be quite exhausted for some few weeks after the birth.”

Mary was thrilled that she had not been chased from the room when they discussed Ethel’s condition. It was quite usual for the unmarried ladies to be excluded from such conversations as being too indelicate for them to hear. This helped her to feel quite grown up.

Cora said to Susan, “We too are expecting an addition, although not until summer.”

Arabella added, “Well, since we are all doing some announcing, I, too, am increasing and expect an addition in the summer as well.”

Lady Rachel said, “With all the marriages we’ve had in the last year, this is quite nice. Your little ones will have many cousins to grow up with.”

Agatha said, “We found out too, just before we journeyed here. We should be late summer as well.”

So both Susan and Lady Matilda would become grandmothers in the coming year. Everyone was excited about this. Lady Matilda lamented, “This will mean that most of you cannot come to Anne’s wedding if it is around the time of her birthday. Perhaps we should hope that the Captain does not return to England until autumn.”

Agatha responded, “Oh no, we do not want to do that. We want Anne to have every happiness as soon as possible. While it is sad that we will be in confinement for her birthday, if they manage to have the wedding then, we will all be sending our best wishes. There will be future opportunities to get together.”

Charles added, “I told William to be sure to have a boy so I never have to worry about taking over when they told us of the little one. I’m sure Percy will be happy if Arabella has a boy too.”

They all laughed at this and agreed. Harold added, “I guess since Father hasn’t an estate to pass on, neither Anthony nor I need worry. However, he seems not to be doing his duty. With him on the continent fighting old Bony, he may never get around to marrying. I may have to when I finish up at university in the spring.”

Margaret replied, “There is no rush. But you are right that he doesn’t have the same pressure to create an heir that your cousins have. Before you hurry into marriage, make sure you are settled first.”

Hugh added, “Do not think that we’ll continue to provide financial support once you finish in spring. At that point, you are on your own and will succeed for fail for yourself. Of course, we expect you’ll succeed, but it will all be up to you.”

Mary listened to this family banter a little amazed at its content. They discussed babies, finances, and the kinds of planning that she had never heard mentioned at Kellynch. She thought back to the discussions the previous Christmas and realized that these family members and her father could not have more different perspectives on life if they tried to. She determined to discuss this with Anne and her grandmother when they could talk privately. The opportunity presented itself at the breakfast table the following morning.

“Grandmother, as I was listening to the teasing with Harold last night, it occurred to me that these financial considerations are not something I’ve ever heard my father and Elizabeth discuss. They only ever talk about rank and status, never about finances. Yet the Stevensons all seem to consider the financial implications of their choices. Why is that?”

Lady Rachel considered for a moment. “There are many different ways to look at the world; many different lenses which can skew our view of what we see. Here in our family, we tend to look at things from a very practical perspective. Your grandfather believed that it is a mistake to base judgment solely on rank, rather than on integrity and actions, and we raised our children to try to judge that way. Your father was raised to see the importance of status and rank as of more value than anything else. My guess is that if your mother had known him longer during their courting, she would not have agreed to marry him because their values were so different. However, he swept her off her feet and there you are. If you listen to the sermons preached in church, you can hear that there are many different ways to approach life. We feel a life filled with work, with acts of charity, with duty, responsibility and prudence, is the right thing. That does not mean that your father’s approach is any less valid. He thinks himself happy in his life and that is what is ultimately important. I could not be happy with a life like his. Neither could Anne, I believe.”

She looked over at Anne, who looked down at her lap, then up at Mary and said, “Grandmother is right. I hated having nothing constructive to do with my time. That is why I spent so much time on charity work. It was all there was that felt fulfilling. However, Elizabeth hates it. She is happy with how she spends her time. Ultimately, it is a choice all of us make. We must do what we feel is most likely to bring us a happy life. That is actually why I accepted Captain Wentworth even though Father was opposed to the match. I think it most likely that he will help me achieve the kind of life I want. I do not want one like Father’s. Really, it is as simple as that.”

Mary nodded and said, “So, most of the your friends share the same kinds of ideals?”

Lady Rachel said, “Most, but not all. Our closest friends share similar perspectives. But we also socialize with others whose ideas are closer to your father’s. That was how your father and mother managed to meet. And of course, when we are in town, we have an even wider range of associates with varied lifestyles. It is tyranny to suppose that we could impose our ideals on everyone else. It is also why we allow our children the luxury to choose as well. We may not approve of the choice, but it is their life to live, not ours. However, I think your new cousins share a similar view which is why they are now part of the family. Married life is much easier if there is a shared foundation upon which to build.”

Mary said, “I think I like your perspective more than Father’s. Since he imagines Kellynch to be far more important than the outside world seems to view it, how has he managed to maintain that belief?”

Anne said, “That’s something I’ve always wondered too.”

“It is very easy to fool ourselves if we want to. We can almost always find something that validates a belief we hold so dearly. I do not think your father realizes that to outsiders, Kellynch is merely a minor title and property. Even South Park, while a newer title, is a much larger estate which brings in far more income and is truly more important. I doubt anything could ever convince Sir Walter that Kellynch is not of more worth than it is. Elizabeth shares that perspective which probably makes it hard for any real admirer to get close enough to her to truly woo her. I actually pity them both.”

Anne said, “Well, it is as they have chosen. When you pick up a stick, you pick up both ends, not just one. Her attitude determines the kind of people she meets. She would never even meet someone like Frederick, so she will likely never find someone as nice. I hope she can find someone satisfactory, but so far, it does not seem likely.”

Lady Rachel said, “Sadly, I agree with you.”

Mary continued to ponder on this discussion throughout her holiday. She frequently found herself watching her relatives and listening closely to their opinions, weighing how these would determine what they might do in the future. As with the previous Christmas, the insights she gained from the relationships were of far more importance than the tangible gifts she received.

Christmas Eve and Christmas Day resembled those of the previous year with Yule log, dancing, and religious services. Since she was nearly out, Mary was allowed to attend all this year, although she only danced with her cousins. Still, being allowed to participate made her feel very adult. She truly enjoyed it. She had so much fun. Anne too had danced primarily with cousins. She was wistful about the time when she might spend the holiday with Frederick and dance only with him, no matter how shocking that might be. 

Chapter 28

After everyone was back at home or school, winter 1808 brought numerous severe snowstorms, forcing everyone to remain indoors most of the time. Sophie had enjoyed a wonderful holiday with Edward and returned just before a round of storms began.

“Monkford is doing well. Edward said to let you know that the charity cases miss you but are getting along as well as can be expected. His literacy program has had some success. These men can now read, after a fashion, and one has found a job as a clerk. Edward is also thinking of accepting a new assignment and moving on. He will know more in a month or two about that. And the Musgroves said to send you their greetings.”

Anne replied, “Did you realize that their son Dick was serving under Frederick? Isn’t that amazing?”

“Yes, Mrs. Musgrove mentioned that. She called it providential.”

“I know of him. He was very much a problem child. I hope he wasn’t too much of a trial to Frederick. It was hard to tell from his letters.”

“I am sure Frederick is used to much worse,” replied Sophie with a smile.

Anne asked, “How did Mr. Wentworth respond to the news of your increasing?”

“I didn’t tell him and he didn’t notice, even though I’ve gained so much weight.”

“How could he not notice?”

Lady Rachel answered that one, “A well-bred man never notices such a thing.” With a smile, she added, “They do not want to know. If it is announced, well, then it can be acknowledged. Suppose he said something and one was merely gaining weight? That would be highly embarrassing. Much better not to notice if nothing is said.”

Anne and Sophie both laughed and Sophie said, “That is right. He may have a suspicion, but since I said nothing, neither did he. At least, if all goes well, he will not be too surprised. Should a problem arise, he will never acknowledge it occurred. I much prefer it this way.”

The women spent much more time reading and playing piano than they did in the warmer weather. However, sewing baby clothes continued, usually while one read aloud to the others. They were well satisfied that they had a nice store of clothing for the new Croft.

In the middle of January, Sophie experienced sharp pains and took to her bed. The midwife was again called in. Sophie had started labor early, far too early for the child to survive. Since unmarried women generally did not attend births, Anne was sent up to the main house until all was complete. However, Nell and Sally assisted Sara, Sophie’s maid, to tend to her.

Lady Rachel said, “This is not something that women of our class participate in until after marriage. And with this so early, it is likely to be difficult for Sophie. I do not want you to experience this.”

Anne said, “Very well. Please let me know if there is anything I can do, though.” She wrapped up warmly and entered the carriage very concerned about Sophie and the little one.

“All you can do is pray for them.”

The midwife spent the day with Sophie, dosing her with a variety of herbs to try to stave off the labor. The babe was quite early and would likely not survive if they could not stop things. By the end of the day, the pangs had ceased. However, Sophie was confined to bed until delivery finally occurred. The longer they could keep the child growing inside her, the better its chances of survival. All three ladies’ maids would continue to tend to Sophie until the delivery. Sophie would increase the variety of teas to prevent the miscarriage. Anne was allowed to return to the dower house that evening and sat with Sophie for a visit.

“Oh Sophie. That was so frightening.”

Sophie replied, “Yes, it was. I have had this happen before while at sea. The other never made it even this far. There seems to be something wrong that makes it difficult for me to bear a child. Since I could never be confined to bed rest at sea, and did not have access to these herbal treatments, there was no chance to stop the labor once it began. The ship’s doctor does not have the expertise the midwife does and never even tried to stop early labor. Perhaps this time the child will live.”

From then on, Lady Rachel, Lady Matilda, and Anne spent much of their time with Sophie in her room. She was confined to bed and enjoyed their company. The maids alternated spending the night with her. The midwife came by to check on her every couple of days. She continued the course of herbs to stop the labor. After the pangs had not returned for a week, she pronounced herself well pleased with her patient and the prospects for a healthy baby. However, Sophie would continue taking the increased dosages of herbs for at least the next five weeks. After that, the child should be developed enough that it could be safely delivered.

While they were visiting one day, Sophie said to Anne, “I cannot express how grateful I am that we spent the fall learning to make lace. One can read only so much. Embroidery is so boring. I can sit here making lace without having to think about it and find it quite relaxing. It is better than worrying about the child. If I had been at sea, I am sure I would have lost this one as I have the others. It is thanks to you and your family that I have a chance of having this baby. I owe you everything.”

Anne replied, “I am so sorry you are having this difficulty. Perhaps it was Divine Providence that had you stay with us instead of heading to sea with the Admiral this time or staying with your brother. I am not sure he would have the resources to tend you in bed for two months. I am glad the midwife here has been able to help you. It would be so sad to lose this child when it is so close to being ready for birth. And I can see how much better it is to have something productive to keep one busy, such as the lace making, than just lying around fretting. Knitting, crochet, tatting, they’re all better than embroidery as they don’t require the same degree of concentration.”

Lady Rachel added, “I agree that Someone was looking after you and your babe to keep you here with us since you have always journeyed with the Admiral in the past. We must be sure to give thanks once the child is safely delivered.”

As Sophie was confined to bed with fears for the child, another type of worry became a part of their lives as well. By February, both Anne and Sophie were somewhat anxious as they had not received any mail from either James or Frederick since late October. This was longer than usual without news as usually one or the other had mail at least every four or five weeks. Their only consolation was that the ships were not mentioned in the papers in connection with any battles. There was a lot of fighting going on and it was hard to keep up on all the developments. However, Sir Michael took a variety of papers so that all could follow the progress, or lack thereof, of the war on the continent. So far, both Anthony and Percy were still safe. Their letters were more regular than the sailors’.

Finally, at the end of February, Sophie’s labor started in earnest. Anne again returned to the main house to wait as Lady Rachel and the midwife and maids attended Sophie. Anne entertained Sir Michael by playing piano as they awaited the child’s arrival. That evening, they were relieved to celebrate the arrival of Cordelia Croft and gave thanks that, so far, mother and daughter were doing well. Anne returned to congratulate Sophie shortly after supper.

“I was so happy when the footman brought word that Cordelia was here,” began Anne as she entered Sophie’s bedroom. Sophie was lying in bed holding the small bundle that was Cordelia in her arms. Anne leaned over to peek and added, “She is quite beautiful.”

Sophie laughed and said, “She is all wrinkled and red as is any newborn. However, she seems to be quite healthy. After the scare we had, I am so grateful she is safely here. I have named her after my mother. I think Mother would appreciate that. According to the midwife, my delivery was quite quick. It was not as hard as I had feared.”

They visited for a few moments, but then Sophie said, “I hope you will excuse me, but I find that I am very tired and would like to rest.”

Lady Rachel said, “Of course.” Both she and Anne retired to the parlor. Lady Rachel continued, “Well, Anne, we have done good work today. It is always so satisfying to see a new life join ours. Your sister-to-be did well. She might have difficulties, but she is strong and determined. That little one is also a fighter. Now, we must keep them well.”

Anne asked, “Is there anything I can do to help?”

“She will tire easily. We must all help her where we can. And she has decided she wishes to nurse Cordelia herself. Most of those of our rank use a wet nurse, so you may see things you are not accustomed to. However, I think it will be better for the child in the long run.”

They spent their next few days helping Sophie as much as they could as Sophie adjusted to the demands of a newborn. It was surprising how demanding a new baby could be. And since Anne had never seen someone nurse her own child before, she did see things she was unaccustomed to. However, it was not shocking at all. At least they did not have to wake with her as Sophie did when Cordelia was hungry at night. Sir Michael and Lady Matilda came down to coo over the new arrival and congratulate the mother. After he had done his duty, Sir Michael did not return, but Lady Matilda joined them most afternoons for a visit.

Within two weeks, Cordelia was christened at the chapel on the estate. Edward Wentworth made the trip from Monkford to attend. They had sent him an express once Cordelia had safely arrived. It was still worrisome that no news had come from either Frederick or the Admiral. One uncle could stand as godfather, while Anne was the godmother. Cordelia wore the dress that Agatha had worn for her christening.

Sophie said, “Lady Matilda, I am so grateful for the loan of this beautiful little dress.”

“We are family now, and that is what family does. If you had had one from your family to use, of course you would have used that. I am just glad that we could assist.”

Mr. Wentworth was only able to visit for a few days, needing to return to his work in Monkford. Edward, Sophie, and Anne had a nice time visiting before he had to leave. He offered his thanks for the care his sister and niece had received at South Park. He realized that he would never have been able to help them as they had needed. “I did have some suspicion at Christmas, but when Sophie said nothing, I put away the idea and assumed that you had just been feeding her extremely well. I know you did that, but I am glad to have this new niece to love. I have just accepted a new posting in Yorkshire. I will be reporting for Michaelmas although I expect to leave Monkford by the end of July.”

Lady Rachel replied, “You must come to see us when you are between postings. If the Lord approves, you may be here for the wedding. We hope it will be after the first week in August.”

Edward said, “It would be my pleasure. I look forward to seeing you then.” Although brief, he had appreciated seeing Sophie and spending time catching up with Anne. All were in high spirits when he returned to Monkford.

As March arrived, the discussion turned to the season in town. With no one to launch or find spouses for, both Lady Matilda and Sir Michael decided it was too much trouble to go spend two months on social rounds they did not particularly enjoy. While they could see both James and Agatha in town, neither would be participating much in the social activities while both women were in the midst of their pregnancies. Instead, the Stevensons invited those friends they most enjoyed to South Park. These were mostly other couples who no longer had children at home along with a few widows and widowers to vary the company. They decided a spring together would be a nice break from balls and routs and too much drinking. A little dancing, riding, fishing, and socializing sounded like more fun.

Both Sir Walter and Elizabeth did head to town as usual at the beginning of March. The Stevensons did not invite them to South Park to join the house party. However, they did invite Lady Russell. Lady Russell had gradually come to appreciate the Stevensons and all that they were doing for Anne. She was pleased to be invited to their March house party. She was one of a number of widows included in the guest list. They were there to partner the single men in the party at dinner. While the men spent the day together out in the fields riding or fishing, the women would sew or embroider in the parlor. It was a quiet, congenial group and far less pressured than visiting in town would have been.

The day after everyone arrived, they were greeted by a beautiful, sunny day. Since it was spring, no hunting would take place. However, the Stevensons hosted a long ride followed by a picnic for both their guests and neighbors. The servants had taken the food by wagon and set up a nice pavilion in a field at the end of the ride. This pavilion was designed as a dining hall. They had transported tables, chairs, and all the amenities required for an outdoor dinner. Most of the courses were cold, instead of hot, but that did not decrease everyone’s satisfaction with the meal. Once the repast was complete, they continued the ride, arriving home for a late tea.

Sophie was not yet up for such a strenuous day, so she remained at the dower house. A few of the older women were not interested in so much riding, including Lady Rachel, so they joined her in the dower house parlor for the day. They enjoyed a far more civilized dinner with Lady Rachel. All spent some time admiring Cordelia before she was handed over to a nurse so that the adults could visit in peace. While one lady read to them, the rest sat at embroidery or other needlework. Sophie still detested embroidery, so she crocheted for the baby instead. Anne had remained in the parlor as well. As teatime approached, they all entered carriages for the ride up to the main house for a hearty tea.

After the meal, the men went off to talk over brandy and cigars while Anne and a number of the other ladies entertained on the piano. When the men joined them, the music ceased and conversation became the order of the day.

The men spent much of their time fishing. Much of the catch was thrown back, but enough fish were large enough that quite a lot of fish was consumed. The ladies spent the fishing time in quieter pursuits indoors, with some choosing to spend the time at the piano. Lady Russell spent as much time with Anne as she could. Anne casually shared information about how much their prize money investments had grown just in a little under two years and her expectation that she would be very comfortable. Lady Russell was relieved that Anne would be even better off than she was at Kellynch when she was with the Captain. Anne did share her worry that neither she nor Sophie had received any correspondence since October. Both were more than a little concerned. Lady Russell reassured her that she would hear soon and all would be well.

The second week of the party, the Stevenons again hosted the neighborhood, this time by holding a ball. Just because they had not wanted to go to town did not mean they did not enjoy the dancing. There were plenty of couples to make up a number of sets for dancing. Sir Michael brought the musicians out from Gloucester as they would provide better dance music than the local band used at common assemblies. All danced well into the night.

The rest of the month’s planned festivities were primarily card parties and horseback riding. During the card parties, Anne provided background music. She still had not learned to enjoy cards. Some of the ladies would take sedate walks through the gardens and enjoy the beautiful flowers. Anne enjoyed that this year, she was not so involved in the garden activities and could simply enjoy watching them rather than helping plan them. There were no more classes for Anne. She was now just enjoying her time with Sophie and her relatives, waiting until her birthday and the return of the Captain. However, she continued to practice the new skills, although Nell was more involved in some, such as laundry, than she was.  

Almost Persuaded Chapters 27 and 28

ShannaGJanuary 21, 2015 03:39PM

Re: Almost Persuaded Chapters 27 and 28

terrycgJanuary 22, 2015 07:19AM

Re: Almost Persuaded Chapters 27 and 28

Teresa DouglasJanuary 21, 2015 10:09PM

Re: Almost Persuaded Chapters 27 and 28

LisetteJanuary 21, 2015 08:17PM


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