Romance and Travel, Chapter 11

“I did not mean for the party to break up. Had I foreseen the result of my clumsiness, I would have been more careful.”

“It is not your fault. Everyone was enjoying themselves and ignoring the clock. But we must all be off early in the morning.”

“Yes, Musgrove is talking about an unhurried drive home, while I am still of the mind his father is right about snow.”

“The ride is only three hours. Snow will not affect us, surely.”

“When I stepped outside earlier, I could smell it. Do not be surprised if you wake up to a stark white landscape in the morning.”

“I will not. If I cannot trust the snow sense of a sea captain, who can I trust?” Anne went into her room. “Good night, Captain. In the morning, we shall see if you are right.” The door closed on him before he could speak further.

The rest of the night, all Frederick could do was wonder if she was teasing about his weather sense, or if she was daring him to be wrong.

What would Mary say if she summoned her, and Anne did not immediately appear? The fleeting thought was quickly consumed by the anticipation of being the first to greet the day. Anne stole from her room, listening as she went, to be alone with the just-risen sun and the ever-churning sea. As quickly as the eagerness had come, it disappeared when she tried the outer door and found it already unlocked.

So she was not the first. There was a comfort in knowing it would not be her sister or brother-in-law as they were late sleepers. That left only one person of her acquaintance that it might be.

There was no sense trying to avoid him. She opened the door and the chill air pressed against her cheeks. Cold fingers immediately burrowed around in her scarf, searching for the tiniest bit of bare skin. Her nose stung with each breath.

The horizon was far greater than she could take in entirely. She could only stand still and look straight ahead. Though she could not see them clearly, Anne knew wave-after-wave was tumbling over its fellows to gain the shore. Desire teased her to go down to the beach, but she resisted and stood behind the seawall. There was no traffic so early in the day so the roadway faded from her conscious mind, and the inn behind her disappeared. The houses, shops, and their occupants waking to a new day did nothing to touch her. Standing still in the midst of the sound, the scent, and the lightening sky, Anne was surrounded by the sea.

The kindness of others to survive.”

The words had tortured her all through the night. It was not that the death of her father—and the precarious place it left her and Elizabeth in the midst of the retrenchment—had never crossed her mind. In the beginning, after her father and sister left for Bath, she had distracted herself with cataloguing the books and pictures of Sir Walter, settling everything concerning Elizabeth’s garden, and taking care of her own small matters around the Hall. Once she arrived at Uppercross Cottage, there was nothing but time to fill with evil thoughts of her situation. Her only distraction had been Frederick’s arrival.

And now, with the help of her cousin, she’d spent a sleepless night, turning and tangled in her bed. At least the sea did not change. It gave a perspective.

Anne wondered how many other women over the ages had stood in this place and agonized over people and situations they could not control.

“Watching the sea’s endless struggle is an excellent way to remind a man that he is very small.”

His presence didn’t bother her communion with the sea. She expected it never would. “Or in this case, a woman.”

“All of us, yes. You are out early.”

Frederick too stood still. She then noticed how close he stood. His company was only a pleasant addition to her morning. “I had no chance to take it in, alone, yesterday.” Anne shivered involuntarily.

“To truly appreciate it, you have to be alone—”

“Because any intrusion by others will ruin the affect.”

He paused. “You’re right. I’m sorry I disturbed you, Ma’am.”

He was moving away and she touched his sleeve. She glanced his way, but could not bring herself to look into his eyes. She didn’t mean to be so intimate, but it was done now. “I did not mean you. I didn’t mean this instance. I only meant in general.” Gulls were starting to call above the distant roar. She removed her hand. “Please stay. If nothing else, the presence of a gentleman will keep the populous from thinking me indiscreet, thereby avoiding scandal and ruin upon the Elliot name.”

“I think our being alone here alone does not help your case,” Frederick chuckled. “But God knows we mustn’t be thought indiscreet and so will give it a try.”

She took a peek. He was smiling as he settled himself next to her.

There was quiet. They re-established the peace of the sea upon them.  Three small boats were braving the cold and the churning water. Anne counted the number of times one of them rose and fell. Ten. Ten times up and ten times down. Wentworth shuffled his feet and the stones grated under them drawing her out of the trance. “You were very kind to speak so candidly with my friend last night.”

“You overheard our conversation?” Anne was alarmed and thought hurriedly over what was said. It then occurred to her that he might indeed have heard much more than her and Benwick’s discussion of poetry.

“Enough. And I could tell by his calm expression early on.” He paused. She braced for his mention of her cousin’s arrival at the table. “Fanny’s death has left him lost in grief.” He turned to face her and leant on the wall. “You brought him some peace. I thank you for that.”

Cool relief washed over her. “Very little, I think.”

“Considering how devastated he was when he got the news of her death, he is beaming with joy after talking to you.”

“You exaggerate, surely. Though, it is clear her death has left him depressed.”

“I was there. I was the one to tell him.” He looked more angry than sad. No caring, no loving person desired to inflict such devastating pain. It hurt him deeply to do so.

“Gutted.” He picked up a stone from near his boot and rubbed it between his gloved fingers. “Absolutely gutted.”

“That is the perfect word for disappointment in love.” It was out of her mouth before she thought.

The hard expression on Frederick’s face softened. The cold air cooled even more. The sound of the waves disappeared. They looked at one another in much the same way they had the day of their break-up. But this time, he was not angry at her, threatening to leave her. And she was not stumbling over every word, trying to make him understand her fear. Neither of them was pushing the other away.

The sound of the sea rose. A breeze blew a great wave of snow, the flakes fluttering by her cheeks. Frederick flicked the stone away. It bounced three times and then silence.

“I was sure he would do himself harm.”

There was no wisdom to impart at such a statement. So, she said the practical thing. “Would a man, who has chosen to exchange his life for combat and money, really be so sensitive? While I can believe that a man can sink so low, would a man who is sworn to fight for his King and country really do himself injury because of a lost love?” After her talk with Benwick, Anne had concluded that his all-consuming use of poetry was a shield. Frederick’s words were a confirmation of such tendencies.

“The warrior poet is an ages-old type. Surely you have heard of it.”

“Of course I have. I know you are teasing me, and though the Captain and I spoke of poetry mostly, he never mentioned aspiring to such. He reads it all day long but does not write it I think.”

“I wonder that is good to immerse himself so completely.” Frederick adjusted his hat against the wind.

“I think not. At this point, I believe he is drawn to it not for any curative value, but that love poetry’s darker impulses call to his own melancholia.”

“Yes, deep calls to deep, and thoughts depressing calls to the depressed. Reading some of Bryon, I was struck by his pounding on about despair and how he seemed to relish the pain of disappointment rather more than the joys of love—”

She laughed.

His silence drew her to look at him. “It soon became the basest sentimentality rather than genuine heart. And he is celebrated by everyone.” He studied her and then asked, “Does the idea of my reading poetry seem very comical to you?”

She scolded her smile. He said almost word-for-word one of Lady Russell’s complaints about the new Romantic poets. “No, not that you would read poetry, but I have heard the same objections from others about the new poets. People with which you might not otherwise agree.”

He tilted his head, but did not enquire after their identity. “I salute them. Regardless of who these people—or who this person—might be, I will bow to their superior wisdom in seeing it for what it is: sentimental pap fit for the immature only.”

There were rarely secrets from one so intelligent. How ironic that Frederick was, unknowingly, admitting agreement with the agent of so much pain for them both. While he would never say directly to Lady Russell anything remotely complimentary, he could admit agreeing with her on this unimportant point. (end chapter 11 posting)

“I am surprised that you would choose to subject yourself to such emotionalism. You would not have done so in the past.”

And there it was. The first reference to the their mutual, much avoided, history, finally spoken of aloud.

He laughed softly. “No, in the past I would have avoided it just on the rumours alone.” He turned back to study the sea. “In the past, I was much firmer in many of my opinions. I have been proved to be wrong in enough cases that I—”

“The snow is glorious, is it not? Good morning, Cousin. Captain Wentworth. You are both out and about early.”

They turned to find Mr Elliot smiling, arms extended as if to brace the weather. He nodded to the Captain and tipped his hat to Miss Anne.

Their conversation the previous evening could not help but pour into her mind. Anne’s feelings on him were still somewhat mixed. What seemed to be his glaring lack of grief about his wife was troubling. However, could she judge him guilty of feeling because he did not bare his heart and soul to a stranger—though family—met mere hours earlier? That would be unfair. She realised she was judging him in comparison to Captain Benwick’s sensibilities. Sensibilities that she had pronounced too sentimental. And not a little dangerous.

“Good morning, sir.” The Captain straightened and nodded. “Miss Elliot and I are enjoying the quiet, before it is wrecked by the presence of too many passers-by.

Anne was unsure whether to be shocked by the Captain’s forwardness, or allow for a hurried response with no meaning behind it. No matter, what he said had no effect on her cousin. He came to join them at the wall.

“The evening ended much to abruptly last night and I wish to—good heaven’s Miss Anne, are you ill?”

“No, I feel perfectly well. Why do you ask?”

“Around your eyes, it is quite dark. Did you not sleep well?”

“Quite well.” It was not true. And her cousin was the reason, but she would not say so to his face.

“I will have to take you at your word.” He stepped closer to Anne, glancing at the Captain. “Our conversation ended so abruptly last evening that I was hoping to have a word before I got on the road.” He now looked directly at Wentworth.

“The snow is glorious, as you said, Mr Elliot. But it does make for risky travelling partner. I will check on our transportation. Excuse me.”

Elliot touched his hat to the Captain and watched him go. He turned back to Anne. “I am not sure he is altogether trustworthy. Have you known him long, or is he merely a friend of your sister’s husband.

Again, should she extend trust when she suspected otherwise? In her cousin’s case, she was far less inclined that with Frederick. “Thank you, Mr Elliot, but the Captain and I are well acquainted—”

Mr Elliot frowned ever-so-slightly. Then as quickly as shade had come, his countenance brightened and he said, “If there is anything I know about you, it is that you are loyal. And trusting. Perhaps to a fault.” He offered his arm without asking if she cared to walk. Anne took it. “Why did you lie about sleeping badly. Was it because you did not wish the Captain to know?”

The question caught her off balance, mentally. A great many of his questions had that affect upon her. At another time, out of Frederick’s company, she could have dealt with Mr Elliot more rationally. Calmly. Normally. “Now that you mention it, no. I slept poorly. I suspect being in a new place is the reason.”

He glanced out at the water for a moment. “I think you are right. While I find the sound of the waves comforting—my house is above the sea and I can hear it all over the house—not all are so fortunate.” He looked directly into her eyes. “Are you sure I am not to blame for you bad night?”

“Why would you be?” Just insightful enough.

“After we were so rudely interrupted by the Captain’s performance—”

“He spilled his wine and then we all decided it was time to retire.”

“Well, you know him better than me, obviously. Anyway, when I got to my room, I started thinking that my going on about the money troubles of your father, and the horrific situation it leaves you and your sister, I realized it might have caused you to ruminate on your own helplessness. And such blathering was a ghastly thing to do to a person. Particularly one in whom I am growing so fond.”

His manner was all it should be—apologetic and solicitous—but his tone was practiced. Perhaps, whilst she lay awake, he was rehearsing this speech. She turned towards the sea. “You need not worry about this Mr Elliot. I will trust to Providence that Father’s health will remain as robust as ever.”

He came next to her, facing the water. “I too trusted in Providence once. My prayers went unheard evidently as my wife passed on regardless.”

“We shall hope for better concerning my father.”

“I think I have a proposition that will alleviate the worry for you, Miss Anne.”

“You needn’t worry yourself, Mr Elliot. My sister, Mary, and her husband will see to us. And there is my godmother as well.”

“I don’t want you to fret. I want to offer you a home.”

Anne stopped walking and turned to face him. “A home? How so, Mr Elliot?”

A man pushing a barrow approached and Elliot guided her out of the street. “I live in Sidmouth. As I said, the house is right above the water. It was the property of my wife’s family and her father gave it to us as a wedding present. It is a large house, but it is not stylish by any means. We never went there together. I came there to make an accounting of it, that is all. But upon meeting you, and knowing how things stand for you, I wish to offer it to you as a home, should you want one.”

Relief flooded Anne. Should the unthinkable happen, she would have a place to take herself. The picture in her mind when she thought about sir Walter’s death was dim and pathetic. She puts on her oldest cloak—the grey one with a hole in the pocket that never gets mended—and fixes an old limp straw bonnet to her head. Pulling on her frayed gloves, the mending stitches pop open exposing her fingers. She takes a threadbare reticule from her battered trunk, closes the trunk, and waits. Before this offer of Mr Elliot’s, this is where the vision always stopped. Before this, Anne was always at the mercy of Lady Russell, or her married sister. Who would offer for her? Or rather, who would take Elizabeth, leaving Anne to the other.

The joy of being wanted was almost too much to bear.

However, Anne’s senses returned forthwith and with her usual practicality considered the proposal. “This is a most kind offer, sir. However, it would be foolish of me to take seriously such generosity from someone I met less than twenty-four hours ago.”

“You think I am flippant? That I am teasing you?”

“Not intentionally, Mr Elliot. I think you wish to be generous, and useful to me. But this is too much for a stranger to take on themselves—”

“I do not toy with people, Miss Elliot. As you know I was once very poor, and I have admitted that I detested being dependent upon the whims of those with more. Please be assured I would not make this offer with no intention of it seeing it accomplished.”

The snow was easing and she noticed Frederick at the entryway of the inn. Mr Elliot was so earnest, his voice quavering with passion as he made his pledges. Had the years of disappointment and her family’s neglect made his so suspicious of generosity that she would refuse it to save herself embarrassment when it failed to appear? Very likely, but this was still a man who she did not know. His promises were worth nothing.

“I thank you, Mr Elliot. This kindness is beyond anything one in my position could hope for. But, we essentially strangers. And this would be a highly questionable an arrangement—”

Mr Elliot laughed and tapped his forehead with his knuckle. “I see the problem. Honestly, I sometimes think and act so quickly that others cannot keep up.” He glanced away for an instant and then took Anne’s hand. “Of course you are untrusting. I see now my mistake.” He now covered her hand. “No, Miss Anne, I do not live in Sidmouth, in that house. I live in London. I would not even come to the house unless invited. Rest assured, this offer is to you and your sister, Elizabeth.  I could not live with myself if either of my cousins was in harm’s way. Please think on it. The offer is sincerely made with all my heart.”

Suddenly, Frederick was next to her, excusing himself. “We must be getting ready to leave. The snow is pressing us on.”

Anne couldn’t breathe. Frederick’s nearness and Mr Elliot’s offer of relief were as pressing as the snow.

If only Frederick would make her such an offer— “Remember my promise, Cousin.” Elliot touched his hat to Anne. “As I am not needed just now, I shall leave you. And I am look very much forward to seeing you in Bath after Christmas, Anne.” He paused and bowed deeply. “Captain,” he said, on rising. He turned and went straight to the inn.

 

“Shall we walk, Captain? Our time is fleeting away.”

He offered his am and she placed her hand oh-so-properly upon it.

They had only taken a few steps when he said, “Promises, eh? For having just met you and Mrs Musgrove yesterday, Mr Elliot is extraordinarily attentive.”

A quick burst of wind chilled Anne’s cheek and ears. To speak of Mr Elliot with the Captain would be too strange. “We surprised him. We surprised each other actually. He is family and merely being polite, I suspect.”

“He does not strike me as a man who behaves politely out of social obligation.”

“If not social obligation, what then?”

There was silence for some time. Longer than was comfortable. Finally, he said, “I think your cousin is the sort who watches for a benefit.”

“To himself you mean,” she said.

Another pause. “Yes.”

Now Anne paused. The Captain’s distrust of Mr Elliot came without the knowledge of his generosity, of his overwhelming kindness to her and Elizabeth. Just a few minutes earlier, she too was suspicious of him. Her observations of his interactions with Benwick were not in his favour. But now she had looked into his eyes and heard the sympathetic timbre of his voice as he articulated her concerns and made promises for their relief. “You distrust him.”

Without hesitation, he said, “I merely observe that he is very quick to take upon himself what he perceives to be responsibility.” He guided their walk to a more sheltered position near the buildings. “I find that … refreshing.” He was bent on pursuing the subject.

What had he heard? The snow deadened his footsteps and he got close enough to know something. But what? “Your tone is more doubtful than refreshed.” Anne hesitated to say more. This sort of talk was too unguarded, too much like their former ways.

“Mr Musgrove’s gout was on the money. This snow is going to cause trouble. Mark my words.” His change of topic proved Anne unable to perfectly read anyone’s character today.

Start Captain Wentworth’s Guide to Romance and Travel, Chapters 1-5, HERE
Continue Romance and Travel, Chapters 6-10, HERE:

 

Chapter 10, pt 1, Romance and Travel

CHAPTER 10, pt 1

Dinner at the inn was tempting and delicious. Anne marvelled that a bit of fish and braised beef cheeks could be as grand as any formal dinner party at Kellynch Hall. However, that was the case and she was now glad to have given in to brother-in-law’s pleading to make a fourth on the trip. As the table was being cleared and the wine and coffee laid, Captains Harville and Benwick arrived.

“My wife sends her greetings to the ladies. She regrets not being able to join us, but the weather keeps her inside tonight.” He took his seat next to Captain Wentworth. Captain Benwick surveyed the choices of seat and without hesitation, joined Anne.

“I hope the evening finds you well, Miss Elliot.” He unbuttoned his coat. Anne was surprised that he seemed almost happy to join her.

“I am, sir. The fish was excellent, and the rest of the meal pretty near the same. I hope your dinner was as good.”

Wine was poured for Benwick and he took a sip. “Yes, Mrs Harville is a wonder. I think she is literally able to take a sow’s ear and some suet and make the finest of meals out of it. Though, he paused, there are times I would enjoy a good bit of corned beef. My mother cooked it frequently and I do miss it.”

“I do understand. When one misses something like a particular food, it takes on more importance than it normally might.”

“Yes, when you miss something, or someone, that pain becomes acutely sharp.” He looked away and took another drink.

Anne scolded herself for bringing up even the word “missing”. If this was the tone for the evening, it was going to be long and full of missteps.

“I pray you do not mind my joining you at this end of the table. I know all the stories,” he said, glancing at Wentworth and Harville. “The Captain told me you appreciate poetry. I was in raptures for you can imagine it is not a pursuit of many in the Navy.”

A small blue book appeared before Anne. “This is a German fellow I found at a bookstore in Gibraltar. I hadn’t read it until Fanny passed, and now I find it to be just the tonic I need.”

“You read German?” Anne picked up the volume. It was fine, but old.

“No, not well enough to read in the original language. This translation suits my needs.”

“I do read it, a little, but suspect I miss the many finer points. I have found the Germans can be desperately heavy going when it comes to philosophy.” And unsafe she thought.

“It is poetry, not prose.”

Even worse, she thought. She looked down the table to the rest of the party laughing at stories told by Harville and Wentworth. Benwick was paging through his little volume, presumably looking for a particular passage of German wisdom.

“There was a poem on suffering that struck a chord with me.”

“A bit of comfort, I hope.”

“Here it is. Not comfort as we English understand it. But comfort in the capturing and killing of our grief.” He pointed to a page of verse and handed it to Anne. “The thrust of it is to take our pain hostage to hard work, whereby slowly, thoroughly, strangling it out of existence.”

She read only read the first few lines but kept looking at the page in hopes of buying time for a response. What she read was abysmal. There was not a ray of hope in any single syllable. It would all but guarantee any ordinary person a permanent state of depression. For one prone to melancholia naturally, the consequences could be dire. Thank God she had no access to such work when she broke with Frederick.

Anne closed the book and laid it before her. Her scheme was to so engage him in conversation, he was made to forget his little the book. She even had visions of taking it away with her. She knew just the deserted stretch of road where she could toss it into the woods. “It is a thoughtful piece. As I said, I find the Germans to be difficult. How did you come by this again?

 

He stood in the shadows of the doorway to the dining room. The arrangement of the occupants was perfect. There were two distinct groups. Three men—one of them the fellow from that afternoon—and the sister’s husband. The other two—Miss Anne particularly—and another, severely lumpish fellow at the far end of the table. Inserting himself into the tiny group would be simple. There would only be one introduction necessary instead of several, and taking over the conversation would be straightforward.  He figured about five minutes to complete the first step.

What William Elliot was about to do went against every inclination, natural and otherwise. He had never spoken to anyone, other than publicans or their servants, when travelling in the whole of his life. Now that he was rich, there was no reason to speak even to them. After all, wasn’t making arrangements and taking care of the pressing but mundane, matters of travel the reason he employed his own servants?

Without thinking, he’d broken his own rules earlier in the day when he’d spoken to the ladies he found handling his carriage. Luckily, the Fates determined the breach to be advantageous to himself.

Miss Anne Elliot. The woman he’d built up in his mind to be perfection itself. Sight unseen, she was the woman by which all others would stand ashamed by. Including his late wife. Even now, all over Bath, Colonel Wallis was spreading the story that Diana had fallen madly in love with him and that no man could resist such a thing.

The truth of the matter was, Elliot had worked like a yeoman and charmed her, her father and mother, and a maiden aunt who lived with the family. The aunt had been the worst for she saw right through him. For a short while.

His faith in Wallis’s storytelling ability was crucial to any success in his reuniting with the head of the Elliot family. Though, he understood from his own meetings years ago, and several current sources, that softening up Sir Walter Elliot would not be a matter of strategy so much as spreading compliments thick and fast on the old man’s presumptions of elegance.

Diana’s illness and death relieved him of having to make nice night-after-night, and pretend in society that he was a doting husband. Though, most of that charade was seen through easily enough. Of late, even his in-laws were seeing through the sham. Fortunately for him being a widower was simpler.

In stepping out of character this afternoon, he took a small measure of comfort in the fact he had met with family, and that now he could begin to ascertain whether the rumours about Sir Walter and a woman named Clay woman were true. He might even ascertain whether Elizabeth was otherwise occupied with a suitor. If she was, she might not stalk him like a prize hart as she had in the past.

There was a burst of laughter at the one end of the table. William would use it to make his entrance. Anne looked up, saw him, and nodded in recognition.

It would now be easy with her invitation. He acknowledged her sister, but did not stop to speak to her and the rest, and joined Miss Anne and her unexceptional companion.

“You are very kind to invite me to join you, Miss Anne.” He took care of introducing himself. “And you are, sir?”

“This is Captain Benwick of the Royal Navy. He is the friend of Captain Wentworth. And mine of course. Mr Elliot is my—”

“Cousin,” he said. “At least I think we are such. We shall just say it, making it so.” Mr Elliot was pleased to see Anne flustered. His interruption unnerved her and made her jumble the introduction. The man took no notice, but did grow stony immediately.

“Ah, Miss Elliot, I am surprised you are reading Branschweiger,” Elliot took up the book and flipped it open to a page he did not read. “Grasp your grief thusly, and with pressure and patience, put it to death.” He tossed the book down. “Those Germans get right to the heart of an issue, they do.”

“The book is mine,” Benwick said, as he snatched it up and put it in his pocket. “We were just discussing it. My fiancé died this summer and I found solace in its concepts.”

A mourner. A thoughtful one at that. Mr Elliot paused for effect. He finally glanced at each of them and said, “I am sorry if I seem flippant, Captain. As you can see, I too have had a loss recently. My dear wife. This summer as well.” He looked down at his hands, leaving the silence to settle in.

He knew the silence would unnerve them more still. It always did. People presumed that the mourner’s silence was grief welling up from a deep soul in pain. And they did not want to become involved in anyone’s pain so they would usually change the subject, leaving him free to move away from the tedious subject of his wife.  He did marvel, the coincidence of him and Benwick losing their women this summer was astonishing.

A boy came in with some cold meats, cheese, and nuts for the party. The hour was later than he realized. Hopefully, he had not put off joining the party too long. The boy refilled the glasses and left a bottle on the table.

“The wine and food in this place are abominable, don’t you agree? I live not far, in Sidmouth, and figured the fish, at least, would be adequate. But, to my dismay, even that is nearly inedible. My cook would be let go without hope of a letter were he to serve that.” He took a drink, frowned, and put the glass down sharply.  “At least I am assured when I arrive in Bath that I might have a decent meal.”

Could he drop more hints to his wealth and position? At the mention of Bath, Anne took interest. “You go to Bath? My father and sister are there.” She paused. If she is as sensitive as Jane Smith said, she now realizes an explanation of their presence is going to be embarrassing.

“Are they? I shall a point of visiting with them. Are you on your way to join them?”

There was a noise as Benwick cracked a walnut and the shell skittered across the table and came to rest in front of Mr Elliot. “Have you ever been to Bath, Captain Benwick? I understand it is place that many in the navy go for amusement.” Her curiosity about him seemed to make her forget Benwick, and the question was to make up for the slight.

“Yes, I have been once.” He seemed to brighten. “I was there years ago when I was the protégé of an admiral. He was taking the waters.”

“Then you know of its delights,” Elliot would join in helping her to bring the conversation back around to include them all. Must not exclude anyone. “The concert hall is very busy this time of year.” To Anne, he said, “Sir Walter and your sister are being thoroughly entertained, I am sure.”

Anne was just as clever, and Elliot was sure she recognised his manoeuvre. She frowned. “No doubt,” she said.

Benwick rose. “I must get back home. It has been an honour, Miss Elliot.”

“I wish you would stay, sir. Stay and tell me more of this poet.”

He glanced at Elliot and said, “I am sure your cousin will be able to enlighten you more fully on Branschweiger.” He nodded to Anne and Mr Elliot and left them.

 

1-5

 

 

 

6-10

Chapter 9, Romance and Travel

CHAPTER 9
Romance_Travel_Cover“These are my friends from Uppercross, Mr and Mrs Charles Musgrove. And may I present, Mrs Musgrove’s sister, Miss Anne Elliot.” Mary’s expression said it all. The introduction was wrong, and there was no mention of their father’s title. Add to it that the captain’s tone was not sufficiently awe-inspiring. Anne put it aside. There were three Navy officers present and that constituted a majority, out weighing the daughter of a baronet, in her opinion.

“Please, come and sit. The Captain has told us so much about you all, we feel as if we are all friends here.” In the hours ride to Lyme, Frederick had regaled them with tales of Mrs Harville’s entertaining prowess. Despite the plain circumstances of the tiny house and straited means, he assured them, she was an entertaining legend in several ports along the southern coast. When she had the resources, Marketa Harville was able to create an atmosphere in which she elevated the lowliest sailor’s estimation of themselves, and brought the most conceited admiral to tears and thankfulness that she deigned to include him. “As outrageous as it might be, deemed by some less forward-thinking countries, I believe she could be the most successful ambassador sent forth by the Crown. She could convince Napoleon to lay down his weapons and have a spot of tea and cake.” Charles and Mary poo-poo’d the idea loudly. They did not hear him say, “It would be of no benefit to me, of course, as such a meeting would put me out of a job. Just as I am now.”

In truth, they shared the same fate. At any moment, with the death of the Baronet, her present security could end, forcing her into a tenuous existence much like Frederick’s. She could say nothing to him, pointing this out. They could not take any mutual comfort. Such a waste. No matter, Anne was determined to enjoy the afternoon and the new friendships it would bring her.

Mrs Harville, and her older, faithful nursery maid, saw the gentlemen provisioned in what could be termed the sitting room. It was a wide, narrow room that faced out to the sea with several windows letting in a heroic view of the Cobb and the waves crashing against her. They also let in cold air.  Wentworth had kept his coat, and for some unknown reason Anne had followed his lead. She was now very glad.

The ladies settled themselves in a corner of the room that could loosely be called a kitchen.

Anne had, on occasion, been allowed in the kitchen of Kellynch Hall. It lacked all modern conveniences. This is the way the Baronet, and apparently, Mrs Cook wanted it. All the meals, including those for banquets and balls, were prepared using a giant hearth and not an enclosed stove on which to cook. However, even in this modest home, there was contraption at the opening of the fireplace that served as an enclosed stove. Were a bit larger, the heat it put out might have a fighting chance at countering the windows.

“I see you looking at my stove. Is it not ingenious? My Danny made it from bricks left over from the rebuilding of the customs house. My husband can make anything useful. And if it is useful to begin, he can improve upon it.” Mrs Harville offered each lady another perfect biscuit, baked, Anne assumed, in the contraption Mrs Harville was calling a stove.

“I have another, that was bought from a man from Belgium we met in Portsmouth. He was trying to get to France some years ago and needed to lighten his load so we got it for a bargain. But it is upstairs in Captain Benwick’s room. He keeps some of his books on it. Ironic, no?”

“Yes, very,” Anne said, amused by this cobbled together family.

“I take great pleasure in cooking for us. I hope it the same for you both.”

“Heavens no, neither Anne nor I learnt to cook. Father is not one of those liberal men who takes pride in daughters who can shift for the household with no need of servants.”

The comment was insulting, but, as usual, Mary did not see it. “I think my sister means that we had a gentle upbringing and it was so full that some things were bound to be neglected and I am afraid that anything domestic was never got to.”

“I did not mean that, Anne. You know very well how Father felt about these modern ideas.” Mary rattled on for another moment or two. Anne observed Mrs Harville. If she was insulted she did not show it. She smiled and nodded at Mary’s awkward discourtesies. With the sharper ones, Mrs Harville would put down her cup and purse her lips as if in thought. Mary finally finished and Anne breathed a sigh of relief. She was about to attempt a rescue of the family’s reputation when Mrs Harville spoke.

“I understand completely, Mrs Musgrove, for I too grew up in a fine household. My education was one of the finest in my home country.” She did not say where that was, and what little accent Anne could perceive was no help in guessing where that might be. “I had every advantage in schooling and in deportment. I learned to ride when I six, and my dancing tutor had frequently performed in Paris. We entertained dignitaries, and even the prince. Still, with all that, my mother thought it important that I learn the intricacies of overseeing a large, fine household. And though our home is small, I can assure you I use her lessons daily.” She turned to Anne said, “As the wife of a sailor, you are thrust into circumstances you cannot foresee, but must live out. And what is a good life without love and the knowledge that you are meeting and conquering those challenges?”

It was such an odd thing to say to a relative stranger. Perplexed, Anne sat quiet and dumb as Mary questioned Mrs Harville about dancing and horses.

The gentlemen decided to take a walk on the beach, and Mrs Musgrove claimed her husband to escort her to the inn so that she might find a handkerchief. Teacups were refilled and another plate of warm biscuits appeared on the table. Mrs Harville had said nothing all this time and Anne was feeling the need to break the silence.

Mrs Harville did instead. “I know you think me peculiar. And perhaps a little meddlesome.”

“No, I do not. Domesticity and a good education are not mutually exclusive. Perhaps it is just our nationalities. The English are very entrenched in their ways when it comes to raising children.”

“I agree with you on that score, but meant you must think it strange, what I said about the life of a sailor’s wife.”

Since the eccentricity was acknowledged, Anne allowed how the comment made her wonder.

“Danny was injured during a storm on his last voyage. He was below deck, trying to help the carpenter make a repair to the rudder controls when a beam broke loose and pinned his leg. He should have stayed above deck with the other officers, but his inquisitive nature drove him to try and solve the problem. Captain Wentworth is not talented in that way, and would stay where he ought. Of course captains are maimed and killed, but I know the Crofts would see that you were taken care of. And I hear that Edward Wentworth has recently married so they would also help. I have no family, other than a cousin or two here and there. And Danny has no one but me and the children. Fanny is gone but we have Benwick with us for now, and that is a comfort. And a very great blessing in his generosity.

Good god, the woman thinks Frederick and I are—

“When Danny and I married, we were bright and shiny as well. We looked forward to many laughs. But, not to make you feel sorry for us, I find the most challenge, and the most gratification, in staring down the challenges of poverty and want, and vanquishing them.”

Mrs Harville rose at the sound of one of the children calling. Anne sat very still. She even felt a bit dizzy. Was she so transparent in her feelings? She thought they were under strict regulation. They were. The weeks of dinners at the Musgroves, and other impromptu social events made her a tyrant with herself and her looks and actions. Even her voice was strictly controlled.  Not a single thing came to Anne’s mind which could have given her away with Mrs Harville.

Nothing.

But what if the Captain—

Anne’s trance was broken with the scrapping of Mrs Harville’s chair leg as she took her seat. “That boy of mine. He is just like his father, I swear.” Marketa Harville smiled and warmed her tea.

After freshening Anne’s as well, she continued. “However, you are the daughter of a titled man, and if the Captain were injured,” she paused and took a sip of tea. “Or worse, they would not hesitate to give you the support you would require.”

“My family is not the sort. My father did not approve of Frederick—” The words were out before she could stop them. What was the matter with her? She might as well tell Mrs Harville the entire, sad, useless tale. “—but the captain and I—”

“If that is the case, then you can have no fear considering the Crofts your family. I know Mrs Croft well—she has helped in the past—and she would not, for a moment, hesitate to take you in. And if there were children—”

“Please, Mrs Harville, let us not speak of this. The Captain and I are not—”

“The half-pay is indispensable, but not nearly enough. Especially if one is used to the full, and some prize at the quarter of the year.” She leant close to Anne. “I am sorry, I can see that I have shocked you as I am insinuating myself into your romantic life. I am usually more discrete but it is so clear that you and the Captain are made for one another—”

“Oh, you are quite wrong on that score, Mrs Harville.” Another chair scrapped the floor as Mary, unnoticed, had joined them. As she poured herself more tea, Mary said, “The Captain is engaged to my sister-in-law, Louisa. And while he is a good sort of man, I am sure, the Elliot name is a lofty aim for anyone. No, your Captain Wentworth will be quite happy, and content with a Musgrove.” She took a biscuit, took a bite, and sang the praises of herself as the one responsible for the pairing.

Mrs Harville and Anne stared at one another for what seemed hours, and then the gentlemen returned.

“The wind is brutal, Marky, and we are famished. Is the soup ready?” Danny Harville insisted that they join the family for at least a bowl of hearty soup before they left the little house under the pier.

There were not enough of the rough pottery bowls for everyone so Mrs Harville made sure the guests each had one, and the family took their soup in various vessel, including one of the china teacups. And, as if she had heard none of Anne’s protests, Marketa Harville ensured that Frederick was seated next to Anne, no matter how many times Anne moved away. It was a great annoyance, but it was a marvel of persistence on the part of Mrs Harville, the house being so small and there being so many bodies to disrupt and rearrange.

The time came for the Uppercross party to leave the tiny house. Anne wished, in spite of the game of chase, she could stay. The small space and lively people suited her. Her sister, on the other hand, was ready to leave the minute her husband mentioned dinner at the inn. It was embarrassing but she looked at Mrs Harville and the woman understood and spoke pleasantly to Mary, giving her an open invitation to return to them.

When it came Anne’s turn to leave, Marketa Harville took her gloved hand and stepped close. “You must not be afraid of what the future may hold. You are strong, and he is brave.” She stepped back and smiled. “I thank you for coming into our little world, Miss Anne, and if we cannot meet again before you go home, I wish you the best in your future.” Anne could say nothing in return for Marketa was now dealing with her son’s antics.

There was nothing to be said or done but go to the door. There stood Frederick, his arm extended to her. “The wind is coming up, and the fog is moving in. I don’t want you getting lost.” She had no chance to refuse for he took her hand and pinned it against his side. He was confirming that Harville and Benwick would be coming to the inn later and so she wondered if he was ignoring her, or had he heard anything of Mrs Harville’s talk?

Prophesy or idle talk? The stinging, wet wind slapped her face as they emerged from the shelter of the pier and drove all thoughts out of her mind.

 

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If you would like to start from the beginning, HERE.

 

Wentworth Wednesday

BeFunky_Stenciler_1This is the last entry to Wentworth Wednesday. It’s taken me a while to figure out what to write, because, frankly, the last chapter of Persuasion is meh. Boring even.

The last chapter does the perfunctory job of tying up loose ends. We are told Sir Walter comes to think more highly of Frederick and so does Lady Russell. We find out that William Elliot takes off for London and that Penelope Clay eventually joins him. Mary takes credit for having Anne stay with her over the autumn, and thus making the reunion possible. Mrs Smith is also credited and is rewarded when Frederick helps resolve her husband’s estate. Ho-hum.

The most exciting thing we learn is the somewhere along the way Anne acquires a landaulette. It was a sassy little conveyance for its time, but we don’t even know what color it is. And what Frederick is doing is anyone’s guess.

There is no romantic close.

I suppose it’s no one’s fault. I am the child of the movies and so I expect to go out on a high. There are no intimate, sensual words whispered by a roaring fire. No exciting moment of joy where Frederick takes her in his arms and they kiss under a tree. There is no sigh of satisfaction as the screen fades to black.

I am also a child of the 70s where the myth of Happily Ever After was exploded in favor of the Ambiguous Ending, or Happily For Now. Unfortunately, Jane Austen didn’t even give me that.

Here is the last line of Persuasion: “She gloried in being a sailor’s wife, but she must pay the tax of quick alarm for belonging to that profession which is, if possible, more distinguished in its domestic virtues than in its national importance.”

Okay, I do sigh, but not in a good way.

This is why I have decided that when I read Persuasion next, I am ending with Chapter 23.

The last scene of Chapter 23 is the evening party at Camden Place. Anne and Frederick are admiring some of Elizabeth’s house plants. All the loose ends are waving in the breeze, but we don’t care because they are secretly re-engaged and sneaking in a tete-a-tete right under everyone’s noses. Anne is still glowing from the walk on the gravel path, while Frederick is still contrite about his mistakes over the past several months. It is perfecto!

Here is now—for me anyway—the new last lines of Persuasion: “Like other great men under reverses,” he added with a smile, “I must endeavor to subdue my mind to my fortunes. I must learn to brook being happier than I deserve.”

kiss

Anne smiles and leans into him. The voices of the party come up. The music rises. Camera fades to black.

Finis.

Now that’s a Happily Ever After I can sigh over.

Thank you for sticking with me through Wentworth Wednesdays. Let me know what you think about my having the temerity to change Austen.

Chapters 7 and 8 of Romance and Travel

Romance_Travel_CoverCHAPTER 7

Anne was ready to go down to breakfast when the word came upstairs that Captain Wentworth was dining with Charles. She paused and decided that repacking her case was necessary. There will be more than enough awkwardness for the next few hours. She was not ready to immerse herself in it so soon.

Finally, everything was repacked and there was no more stalling to be done. She had put it off long enough and called for the maid.

Jemima and her sly smile appeared at the door. “Let me get that for you, Miss.” The woman had the bag and was heading to the door before Anne could do anything about it.

“I am able to carry my case, Jemima.” Anne again tried to take her bag from the maid as they flew down the stairs.

“Oh no, Miss. That would get us both in trouble, as you well know.” Jemima hurried out the door to the carriage. Anne suspected the nursery maid had plans and was loathe to waste a precious minute of her mistress’s absence.

A younger girl helped her with her cloak while a kitchen boy struggled to the door with her sister’s trunk. Anne picked up one end, trying to help him. “Here, let me.” Captain Wentworth took the trunk easy-as-you-please from her and the boy. He walked away before she could thank him. The boy ran back to the kitchen leaving her alone in the entryway. There was no getting out of it now.

When she set eyes on the carriage, Anne was appalled and amazed. The inelegant hulk reminded her of a dark toad squatting on four tiny wheels. And they were to ride to Lyme in such a thing.

“I must say, Charles is right. It is very large. That assures our comfort.” Mary walked by her to the carriage. She said nothing about the shabby exterior and made straight for the door.

Obviously, a holiday in Lyme was so vital that the condition of their transport was immaterial. This was most unusual, but Anne was preparing for more surprises.

She was about to step onto the first step when Mary halted in front of her. She fussed with her reticule. “Where is my handkerchief?” She finally found it in her coat sleeve and put it over her nose. “Charles, what is that wicked smell?”

Suddenly Mary objected to everything about the carriage. “I am insulted that you would think an Elliot would bear such degradation.” She backed into Anne, who nearly fell from the step. Charles steadied her as he joined them at the bottom of the stairs.

“You were told it was rough, Mary. But as the Captain said, she is serviceable. And not without comfort.”

Now that everyone was on level ground, the Captain too entered the fray. “Please, Mrs Musgrove, let me assure you, a ship might look shop-worn, years past her prime, and still be completely sea worthy. I believe that to be true with this old coach. Her best days may be behind her, but she’s still got a journey or two in her yet.”

“If this were a ship, Sir, I might have your faith. But this is…” she paused, searching for words. “This is an insult. I refuse to allow such disrespect towards me or my sister.” She nodded sharply towards Charles, and looked Anne’s way for support.

Everyone in the yard was watching. Anne felt the heat of embarrassment creep up her neck. Mary had no concern for the family integrity, and particularly not for Anne’s. Without thinking she looked at Frederick. He watched Charles.

He had stepped closer to her sister. “I did not mean it to be such.” His voice was low and apologetic.

It was a shocking display. The Captain cleared his throat and turned away. There was more to this than a smelly old carriage.

“If that is the case, can we not ask your father again? He might change his mind.”

“No, Mary, that is not possible. It is this or nothing.”

“But surely, Charles—”

“Then we shall stay home.” He slammed the door shut and walked to the house.

In just seconds, Mrs Musgrove was following him and calling out, “No, Charles, I am all packed. I must see Lyme.” Her husband stopped, turned with a smile, and said, “All right, then.”

The luggage was placed, with Charles overseeing. The Captain stood by the door to help the ladies. “The stair is a bit flimsy, it seems,” he said, as he offered a hand to Mrs Musgrove. Mary smiled, clinched her jaw, and stepped up.

The night had been a sleepless one as Anne had considered the seating, conversation, and just the whole of it. Riding such a distance with Frederick would be awkward no matter where she was placed. If all went as she hoped, she and Mary would sit together with the gentlemen on the other seat. If everything were perfect—which was far more than Anne expected—she and Mary would occupy the front facing seat. Mary was already inside and making herself comfortable. Anne stepped up to see she had taken the forward facing seat.

This was Anne’s first opportunity to closely examine the carriage. She paused on the step without entering. The scents of age and neglect were pungent, and without thinking she looked at Frederick. On the step, she was eye-to-eye with him.

Hazel brown eyes shined with mischief. This was well and truly a circus, and he was enjoying himself to the uttermost. Though he tried not to, he smiled. She thought he even bit his lip. He leant forward. She caught a whiff of soap and something like limes. Her stomach wobbled at his closeness. “I think all the vermin are overboard. We will survive this, I am determined.” He straightened. “Watch your step, Miss.”

Charles was just behind. “Go on, Wentworth, I’ll pull up the gangplank.” She knew her brother would be smiling at this laboured, seafaring reference.

So, Frederick was determined they would survive. She would trust in him and his determination then. Taking stock of the interior, she was happy, and relieved, to have got her choice in seats. She was about to take her place next to Mary; who was making strained observations about the rich upholstery and other fine qualities of the squalid carriage. Mary even put her hand on Anne’s arm to keep away. “Hurry, Charles. We must be off.”

“No, no, no, Anne.” Mary placed her reticule on the seat just as Anne was about to sit. “Charles, Charles, come and sit by me. We must be together to see the scenery go by and when we enter Lyme.”

The carriage rocked as Charles entered. “Sorry, Anne.” He tipped his hat as he shuffled by his sister-in-law. He took the seat by Mary. “Have a seat you two,” he motioned to Anne and the Captain, who had come into the box.

Frederick looked at Anne and motioned. “Take whichever side you like. Though, I would feel better by the door.” So she had no real choice in where she sat. The trip was shaping up to be just as she expected. She took her seat and then waited as Frederick and the driver outside wrestled to get the door latched firmly. “Musgrove, tell Poole for me that he needs a new door.” He scratched the wood frame of the window as he took his seat next to her.

“Thank you, sir.” It would seem he had given her the better seat after all.

Despite its rough beginnings, the trip was very pleasant. The clouds covered the sun, but not too thickly. The road was slightly messy from a light rain and other traffic, but the Captain did not seem to mind when a jolt pushed her his way. He was very kind in steadying her, never annoyed. As they moved on, Mary relished the jolting and enjoyed Charles having to aid her. He grew more peeved the longer they travelled.

“We are nearly there,” Frederick finally said. “There is a steep hill into the town so be ready for a little drop.” It was a rather severe incline and Charles worked very hard to keep Mary in her seat. Anne was then glad to be pressed against the seat rather than flying from it. But then again, Frederick would not mind helping her, she reasoned.

The descent into Lyme levelled off and the sun broke out to light the way. She hitched forward to look out her window. The air was luminous, and despite the carriage being musty and the windows filthy, their arrival in Lyme was glorious to Anne.  The green of the deep trees on the surrounding hills was magnificent in the clear November sun. The Captain was smiling, chuckling even at Mary’s antics, but he was mostly looking past her and to the sea. Anne knew he did not look at her, but it was nice to be able to look at him without trying to hide her gaze. The tang of the air was surprising, and the churn of the grey blue ocean hypnotic. Once they were into the town proper, the Captain and Charles discussed where to stay.

“The place I was before was recommended by Harville’s wife. It is owned by a couple she knows from Plymouth. They came here when he was put ashore and are doing well as inn keepers. I think you will find it most comfortable.”

The Captain’s opinion settled the matter and they went to the farthest side of town to find the Regent Inn.

Charles helped the ladies out of the carriage while Wentworth went in to secure them rooms.

As Anne got out, Mary said, loudly, “Bless me, Anne! Look.” And she walked over to a neat, black curricle standing to one side of the inn’s entryway. She moved a lap robe draped over the open door. “This is the Kellynch coat-of-arms, is it not?”

“Mary, don’t touch that. People do not like it when you presume.” Anne joined her. “Yes, it is.” She was puzzled at this. Surely the vehicle was bought with the emblem and the new owner had left it in place. It would be a coincidence of the highest magnitude if this unexpected outing, to such an out-of-the-way place, put them in the company of an actual member of their own family. “I wonder who it could possibly be.”

“This is the carriage of Mr William Walter Elliot, heir to the Kellynch estate in Somerset.” A groom, dressed all in black for mourning, sauntered up to Mary and picked up the robe to fold it. “My master will be made a baronet upon the death of the current one.” He smiled at Anne and winked at Mary.

“I will have you know,” Mary straightened with indignation. “My father is, ‘the current one’.” The man straightened as well and touched his hat to each of them.

“I meant no disrespect, miss, miss. I was just—”

“I am a married woman, sir. And this is an outrage—”

“I hope there is not too much outrage.” A man walked up behind the driver. He was well-looking in his appearance. An intense blue lapel peeked from beneath the coal black of his fine wool greatcoat. This man was obviously a gentleman. And he and knew it. The man was also in mourning. “Clarke is my very best driver and I would hate to be forced to sack him for impudence. I am William Walter Elliot, late of Sidmouth, and am pleased to make your acquaintance.” He bowed perfectly to them each.

Anne dropped a polite, modest curtsy. Mary, on the other hand, dropped a curtsy worthy of the king himself.  She rose and said, “I am Mary Elliot Musgrove of Uppercross in Somerset.” Anne was embarrassed that her sister strained propriety too hard to be recognised by Mr Elliot.

“Elliot. And from Somerset, you say. Do you suppose some sort of collusion of the Fates has brought us here to Lyme on this particular day?”

Anne interrupted. “I am Miss Anne Elliot, and this is my sister Mary. You have met our father, Sir Walter Elliot, and our sister, Elizabeth. In London. Several seasons ago. Before you were married.” She paused to give him a chance to speak. He did not speak but tightened his jaw. “We were sorry to hear of Mrs Elliot’s death earlier this year.” Though, if information from a Stevenson cousin was to be relied upon, Mr Elliot’s marriage was not all that happy. If this were the truth, a deep and abiding mourning period was to be doubted.

With all the proprieties touched upon, Anne hoped the situation rescued.

There was a pause that lasted a bit too long, and then Mr Elliot spoke. “Mrs Musgrove, I know of your husband’s family. They are well-respected and second in the county only to ours.”

Mary paused and smiled a brittle smile.  For her married life, it was many years her habit to disdain the former in favour of the latter. This man’s compliment of both the Musgroves, and the Elliots left her confused. “Yes, fortunate for me—”

“And Miss Anne, I am delighted to make your acquaintance. I feel I know you. And finding ourselves in this quiet little place, I hope we are able to strengthen our family ties.” He again nodded to her. Clarke called from inside the entryway and Mr Elliot left them.

“He is very personable, I think,” said Mary.

“Yes,” said Anne. Personable he certainly was. And a bit too forward for her taste.

 

CHAPTER 8

“So, this is Miss Anne Elliot.” He stood alone in the inn’s entryway and watched the ladies at a distance. They were soon joined by two men. One was clearly the husband. He barely acknowledged the younger, more matronly woman. The other man was singular. He saw to the luggage and gave directions to the driver as the others kept pointing to the sea and laughing. His movements and bearing said he was not a holidaymaker. He either knew Lyme well, or was used to travel. “That ramrod posture is the same as Wallis. Must be in the Army. A baboon in a red coat. Perhaps she is not as clever as she’s been made out to be.” The fellow was more than little differential to Miss Elliot. “Could it be that Miss Anne is engaged or very nearly so?” The fellow’s role in the play was more difficult to pin down

They were approaching the entryway. Elliot turned as if going in, then slipped into a corridor leading to the stables. They passed and he watched.

For years he’d heard talk of her from his friend’s wife. They had been schoolmates. Jane Smith assured him that she was superior to her sister and father in intellect and character. In every possible way. Such perfection was not possible and had reckoned it all an overstatement of her qualities. But here she is, and thank the gods, on first meeting is nothing like her grasping sister or the bumbling father. This trip to check on the Baronet is turning out to be more than worth my time.

“Clarke, we’re staying another night. Go and arrange it with the innkeeper.”

Would you like to start Captain Wentworth’s Guide to Romance and Travel from the beginning? Click HERE to go to Chapter 1.

Wentworth Wednesday

Chapter 23 is packed full of goodies. Shall we begin?

Jane Started It!

CHAPTER 23
“I can listen no longer in silence.  I must speak to you by such means as are within my reach.  You pierce my soul.  I am half agony, half hope.  Tell me not that I am too late, that such precious feelings are gone for ever.  I offer myself to you again with a heart even more your own than when you almost broke it, eight years and a half ago.  Dare not say that man forgets sooner than woman, that his love has an earlier death.  I have loved none but you.  Unjust I may have been, weak and resentful I have been, but never inconstant.  You alone have brought me to Bath.  For you alone, I think and plan.  Have you not seen this?  Can you fail to have understood my wishes?  I had not waited even these ten days, could I have read your feelings, as I think you must have penetrated mine.  I can hardly…

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