Posted on 2011-05-15
Anne had been dozing when a sound woke her. Someone was standing next to her bed. Her eyes shot open in surprise. "Freddy? Where did you come from?"
He gestured. "There was a ladder against the wall, so I climbed up."
"You have a fine life ahead of you if you are already climbing up to ladies' windows at your age."
"Well, it was not your window that I climbed up to. I came in through the door." He pointed.
"Oh," Anne said unintelligently. "But why?"
Freddy shrugged as if the answer was obvious. "Because I had never been up a ladder before." He then started to examine her bedroom.
"Oh. Neither have I, but it would not occur to me to climb it."
"But you are a lady. Ladies do not climb ladders. I have never seen such a thing. Why are you in bed?"
"I was feeling ill."
"So you are glad I came by."
"How does that follow?" Anne wondered. Perhaps that applied if one had been ill for days, but if she was in bed she was usually feeling too unwell to entertain visitors. Otherwise she would not be in bed.
Freddy held a different opinion. "If you must stay in bed you must be glad someone came by."
"Of course I am glad you came by, Freddy," she reassured him when he looked worried. "But would you use the door next time? Downstairs? And leave ladders be?"
He looked as if he might take that into consideration. "But why?"
"Because you might fall."
"Ladders are easy. I can also climb trees. Shall we ring for biscuits?"
"Yes, why not," Anne sighed.
"I had tea and biscuits with Anne. She was ill," Freddy informed his parents when he arrived home.
"Why did she have tea and biscuits with you if she was ill?" Mrs Croft wondered. She would first hear the story before she gave him a reprimand. Someone who could have tea and biscuits could not be very ill.
"She was not too ill for that, although she was in bed."
"In bed? She let you come up to her bedroom?"
Freddy thought of the ladder. Anne had not prevented him using it. "In a way."
"In a way? That means you were not invited." She did not suppose either Freddy or Anne cared very much. It was probably useless to reprimand him.
"You could perhaps put it like that," he pondered. "But it only makes me advanced for my age, does it not?"
The admiral made a choking sound that he covered up with a cough. "Advanced? How so?"
"Anne said something about already climbing up to ladies' windows at my age, which she would never say if it was not a gentlemanly thing to do." Freddy looked rather proud of himself for being advanced.
"Oh, the logic. It confounds me," the admiral exclaimed and left the room.
This confused Freddy. "Mama?"
"It is not a gentlemanly thing to do."
"Gentlemen are not supposed to be in ladies' bedrooms, unless they are married to the lady in question. But if they are, they have no need to come in through the window. The only men who do so, do so for scandalous purposes."
Freddy bit his lip. "Or perhaps because they saw a ladder."
Mrs Croft sighed. "Why do you not ask your uncle about it? I am fairly sure he has never climbed into a lady's room and he is a gentleman."
"He is also a gentleman. Since there was not much time between our meeting and our getting married, there was no need for illicit encounters."
"What is an illicit encounter, Mama?"
"Those are secret meetings between men and women."
He was interested. "And you have never had any, Mama? How very boring."
"I am sorry. Yes, indeed. You come from a very boring family." She saw a chance to escape. "But perhaps Uncle Frederick is secretly not as boring as he lets on. You could ask him."
As she walked away, she pondered Frederick climbing up that ladder instead of Freddy. Now that would be interesting. She supposed she still had a hope of sorts that he would forget his pride and his other silly notions and look at Anne. They really tried too hard to prevent anyone from entertaining this notion. It would be suspicious if Sophia did not know they were both absolutely convinced that not marrying was what they wanted.
She could not imagine her own life without the admiral, even though she had managed quite well before him. And there was Freddy. There were such benefits to marriage if one was fortunate. She was familiar with not having children as well, of course, and she would have been content had Freddy never arrived.
But that was exactly what Anne was -- content. She might even have used the word. Would she know there was a difference between contentment and happiness? Of course she had many worries at the moment and she would not have been truly happy had she been married to a wonderful man either.
As for Frederick, his sister could not call him truly happy either. He was a little colourless and cynical.
Anne thought she was a bad patient and that it was good she was not under anyone's supervision. She did not like staying in bed. When she felt well enough to read, she perused her Italian books. Soon she had refreshed her knowledge enough to write a note in Italian.
As you can see I remember some of the language. Hopefully the lady will not speak too quickly for me.
At first she had addressed it to Captain Wentworth, but after brief reflection she thought people might find it odd. She rewrote the note, addressing it to Sophia this time. Her friend might not be able to read it, but she had probably heard enough from Frederick to understand what it implied. Frederick himself would also be clever enough to know she had not written a shopping list.
She contemplated adding that she was feeling a little better, but she thought it was self-evident that very sick people did not write notes. Her handwriting looked steady, too.
After having given the note to Mrs Wilkins and having requested the removal of the ladder when it was not being used, she went back to bed.
Mrs Croft did not understand a word of the note. She did not even try, but she passed it straight to her brother. "It appears to be in Italian -- nothing else would be logical, except English, but that is rather too logical in the case of two English people writing notes -- so I had best not try and decipher any of the message. I might stumble upon a secret message if I did."
"Secret message? What are you talking about?" asked Captain Wentworth. "The note is addressed to you. Why do you give it to me? Why do you speak of a secret message?"
"Clearly, Anne is sending you a secret message and she uses Italian to do so. I want no knowledge of it," she gestured.
"That makes no sense."
"She cannot send you a message herself," Mrs Croft explained. "You know that. She is using me as an intermediary, but to prevent me from reading it, she writes in Italian."
The captain's mouth was half open. He closed it when he could not think of any words to express his amazement. He settled for glancing at the note. "It is rather short for a secret message."
"I have no knowledge of the general nature of secret messages," said his sister dismissively. "I always operate strictly above board."
"As if I do not." He frowned as he tried to read the note. "And as if she does not."
"Oh, Frederick. I really do not wish to know."
"We can conclude from this note that she speaks Italian. I am not sure what she is writing."
"I hope you are not expected at some desolate meeting place where you will never appear because you cannot read." Sophia folded her hands in concern.
He pushed the note into her hands. "If you are very worried, go and meet her yourself at the designated spot. Note how there are no numbers in the note. It cannot be an appointment. Now, I shall end your pleasure."
He left the room, intending to go to the library. Freddy was there, looking into a dictionary. He sighed, because quiet reading was now out of the question. "What are you doing?"
"I was looking up a word. Illicit."
"Very good." He settled in one of the easy chairs and picked up a newspaper. "If you like that sort of thing, perhaps you ought to go to school."
"School is boring. Did you ever go?"
"I had lessons at home."
"I can have those."
"The point is, Freddy," Captain Wentworth said as he lowered his newspaper. "I had a brother and a sister. I was not alone. You are alone. I do not think it is good for you."
"If you had lessons with your sister and I have lessons with my mother, who is the same person as your sister, why is it not good?"
The captain gave only a grumble.
"I had an illicit meeting with Miss Elliot," said Freddy.
"Did you now?" Wentworth said absent-mindedly. "Why not a girl your own age?"
"She lives nearest."
"That is of the utmost importance." He wondered what Anne had thought of the meeting -- if there had been a meeting at all. But she was being odd today as it was, writing notes in Italian.
Perhaps he ought to write back. He laid his newspaper aside. "How is your French, Freddy?"
"My French what?" Freddy asked unmanneredly.
"Your French skills."
"Do I speak French, you mean?"
"I am amazed." But he doubted the boy spoke very much. He was too young. "Please write to your friend Anne that I do not read Italian."
Freddy eagerly seated himself at the desk and began to write. After five minutes he proudly presented a note with so many crossed-out words it was hardly legible.
Captain Wentworth attempted it nonetheless. He read that he could not read English, upon which he frowned. Being factually correct was not terribly important; presumably she knew he was not as illiterate as Freddy made him out to be. "Right. Now copy that in a nice hand and send it off."
Freddy did so and signed it Uncle Frederick. This gave Uncle Frederick pause when he inspected it, but then he smiled. The note was not to be taken seriously anyhow. Anne might have a laugh.
Since Freddy went to deliver the note himself, with a mumbled reference to ladders that the captain did not understand, Wentworth could read on in peace. He enjoyed reading about current affairs that were truly current and not made irrelevant by a long sea voyage. Of course things had happened in India and he had read about them quickly enough, but it felt different.
One of these days he should go to Bath or London to catch a few plays too, he thought upon reading reviews. If life there appealed to him he might even take a house there. But then, he also realised he thought this about every location he visited or read about. One of these days he should simply take the plunge and settle somewhere. Without a wife and children he could easily move again.
Posted on 2011-06-07
Freddy did not manage to deliver the letter. There was no longer a ladder against the outside wall and he was not strong enough to put one there. Mrs Wilkins furthermore told him to go home. He did not want to tell her about the note, for she would surely take it. He circled the house, but there were servants at every door -- working, but to him it seemed they were guarding the house.
"Uncle Frederick," he said, suddenly materialising beside Captain Wentworth -- because Kellynch Hall was not being guarded at all and it was easy to get to any room he wanted. "Do you think you could help me seize the Lodge?"
"Seize the Lodge?" It took the captain a few seconds to realise what these words meant and even then he could only guess if he had it right. The Lodge must be Kellynch Lodge, but as far as he knew it was not in the hands of the enemy. He had no idea why it had to be seized.
"Capture it. Plant our flag on the roof and throw all the servants overboard."
Well, that was rather drastic. "Why?"
"They will not let me in."
"Mrs Wilkins sent me home."
While the captain conceded that Mrs Wilkins very likely had perfectly sound reasons, he asked it all the same. "Why?"
"Because Miss Elliot is ill and because I am surely expected at home. Am I?"
"If you stayed out too long, you would be. Have you nothing to do today? No lessons?" He had to speak to Sophia about a stricter routine for Freddy. Not doing some lessons when they felt like it.
"I was to read a book," Freddy said rather quickly, "and I am sure I have read five pages, which is quite enough. Can you teach me how to approach a house without being seen?"
"No, I cannot."
"Because I cannot do it myself."
Captain Wentworth had let himself be talked into capturing the Lodge. He did not know why. It was a silly plan, but Freddy had enlisted the help of his father, who did not think the plan silly at all. Mrs Croft was wisely not informed. The captain thought she would be able to gain access to the Lodge legitimately anyhow, even for Freddy, which would ruin any plan.
While the admiral was undoubtedly skilled at commanding a fleet, it remained to be seen how he would cope with this situation. "I assume we are all familiar with the...terrain. Depths and rocks and how do you call them?"
"Hills and rocks?" ventured the captain. "Trees?"
"There should not be anything unexpected in that park. Meticulously groomed, it is. There is nothing natural about it. Only the statues might give you pause. Imagine coming round a perfectly trimmed hedge and running into a naked Zeus."
"In Lady Russell's gardens?"
"Oh, no naked goddesses; I am sure she would have thought that indecent. But Zeus, yes, he is there, well hidden. Now Freddy, what is your purpose?"
Captain Wentworth was amazed. The admiral was getting into this without knowing why.
"I have a letter to deliver -- from Uncle Frederick to Anne."
Wentworth blushed slightly and this annoyed him immensely. People would think all kinds of things and they should not.
The admiral, however, did not seem capable of misconstruing his intentions. "Well, that is as good a reason as any," he said cheerfully.
"But they would not let me in," Freddy complained. "And I could not give the note, because it is secret."
The captain had just been breathing more easily. He now felt the admiral's quizzical stare upon him. "Not really," he said as evenly as he could.
"Well, it cannot be, if I am allowed to know. Are we to get this note inside only, or Freddy as well?"
Anne had slept for a bit again and she woke with a sore throat. Her head was much better, but she did not like sore throats. Consequently she still felt out of sorts. She glanced out of the window to see if the sun could cheer her at least.
Movement at the edge of the park caught her eye, but she saw nothing when she looked in that direction. Staring at a bush for a while, there was another flash of something. It seemed to be a man's coat. A man's coat? She would have said the gardener's, but the colour was all wrong. In that case it was probably a bird.
A wine-red bird. Just as likely.
"Anne, you are sicker than you think," she said to herself in concern. "Feverish delusions." Was this what they felt like? She closed her eyes and touched her forehead. It did not feel exceptionally hot, yet for delusions to be feverish it would have to be.
When she looked out again, the entire bush seemed to have moved. She blinked in amazement. That could not be. Anne was a logical person and she appealed to her rational mind. Bushes could not move by themselves and she had seen a coat. Was it not logical that someone in a wine-red coat had moved a potted plant?
She kept her eyes focused intently on the bush until there was some movement in the corner of her eye. She glanced away. There were two moving bushes. There was only one gardener. It followed a little surprisingly that he could not be at work here and that either two other persons were active, or none at all.
From the left a statue approached. A statue. This time she knew for certain that there was someone behind it -- there were human hands around the statue's waist, be it with white gloves and hardly visible unless one looked very closely. Since there was some sort of cloth draped from the statue's arms, it was easy for someone to hide behind it.
This was very odd. Three people were moving objects in the garden. Why? Anne could not think of any reason, especially not for the statue.
Lady Russell had kept it hidden in the bower. Anne suspected this was because of the degree of anatomical detail. This did not faze her, for Sir Walter did not care about that very much and had plenty of anatomical detail scattered about his art work and statues. She had practically grown up with it, but Lady Russell was rather embarrassed by it. She had seen no better place for Sir Walter's gift than a very overgrown spot in her bower -- behind a bench rather than opposite one.
Anne pondered the notion of the statue's being miffed that he had been hidden for so long. Perhaps he was. And perhaps he now wanted to settle provocatively in the middle of the lawn, which was rather silly, for the Lodge's current occupant was not in the least provoked.
She was simply in need of some tea with honey and turned to ring the bell. When she got back to the window, the statue and the plants were still and the gloved hands were gone. She opened the window and looked out. Perhaps she should have done that before. The moving objects might have spoken to each other. If they had become animate, they really should have.
"Anne was at the window," whispered Freddy. They were seated in the border below the window. Zeus stood by them. "We should have called her."
Captain Wentworth did not agree. "No, we should not. The maid was doing the library windows."
"But Anne left the window open," the admiral observed. "That is good."
"I hope you will not send me up," the captain said, raising his eyebrows. "I do not climb." Besides, he also thought, he did not have to take orders from an admiral in a park. It was his note, true, but he could always cancel the delivery if things got out of hand.
"No, we can throw something up."
"From this angle? I think not. Now, if the maid left the library windows open, you could climb in there."
"Me?" Admiral Croft was astonished. "I have never climbed into a window in my life. I am not going start at my age."
"How boring, Papa." Freddy sounded a little disappointed. "Are you not heroic?"
"I am the epitome of heroic; I am an admiral."
"There is something cowardly about avoiding the enemy by using windows. Grown men should simply confront the woman's guards and impress them. If you are not allowed to see a woman, there is probably something wrong with you."
"I disagree," said Captain Wentworth, thinking of Sir Walter Elliot. "There could also be something wrong with her guardians."
Admiral Croft thought the case was extremely simple. "In that case you should try harder. Nobody would turn away the perfect son-in-law."
"Some people are intolerably stupid, you know."
"But would one really want their daughters in that case?"
Anne had waited for her tea in bed. It was tempting to sit by the window to see if there were more odd things going on, but she knew what would be said if she was caught with the window open. She would fall ill, never mind that she already was ill. Luckily it was Susannah who brought the tea and not Wilkins, for the latter would surely have fussed.
"Susannah, do you happen to know if the gardener is busy today?"
"He went to town, Madam."
"Oh." So it was not the gardener. That was not surprising, given that she had not given him any orders to make drastic changes. Moving a scandalous statue into plain view surely qualified as drastic.
"Is there anything I could do?"
"Oh, no. Just notify me if you see anything amiss, that is all."
Susannah looked a little uncomprehending, but she nodded. "Very well, Madam. In the garden?"
"Or in the house." She had, after all, once been inside a cottage that had been visited by two men who did not belong there. In broad daylight they might well approach a house behind plants and in broad daylight they could not be scared off.
When Susannah had gone and she had finished her tea, she looked out of the window again. The statue was gone now. That was strange. The last time she had looked it had been on the left. She assumed it had moved to the house, but why? It could not enter -- it was a statue. Perhaps it had gone back to the bower.
If she had not been ill, she might have gone downstairs to investigate. Now she was rather too weak to face intruders. Or perhaps she was simply a coward. Something was going on and she was the lady of the house. In the absence of a man -- now was one of the very few occasions that he would have come in useful -- she had to hold the fort.
Anne bravely donned her slippers and crept out of the room. She was not a fearless heroine who instantly ran down the stairs brandishing a heavy candle. No, she was rather hesitant and careful.
Unfortunately the first person she came across downstairs was the butler. "Madam," he said, startled.
"Have there been any intruders that you know of?" she asked him, but then she felt it was a stupid question. She would have been informed.
"No, Madam. Are you well?"
He must be thinking she was feverishly delusional indeed, coming down in her dressing gown looking for intruders. She had best not mention the moving plants and statue, or he would have her committed -- although she did not think butlers had the authority to do such a thing. "I have a sore throat," she said therefore. "But I did hear some noise outside."
"No intruders have been seen in the kitchen or the offices."
But they could have taken the entire contents of any of her rooms and nobody would have noticed. Anne sighed. "If you do not mind, I shall walk through all the rooms to see if anything is amiss."
"I doubt there are any intruders."
"I shall accompany you, Madam."
She smiled, although she could not see him bodily remove an intruder from the house. Perhaps he would stare them out.
Posted on 2011-06-21
Anne and the butler made a tour of the ground floor. There was nothing out of order. This relieved her. There was, however, something odd in her room. A stick was lying in the middle of the floor. Attached to it was a piece of cloth. When Anne examined it, she saw it was a handkerchief embroidered with the initials F.C. A moment later she noticed there was a note tied to the stick and it all made sense.
Well, everything but the contents of the note itself.
On second thought the moving plants still did not make sense either. But she knew now to whom it was connected and she would ask questions when she was better.
Two days later a note was delivered via the proper route. It invited her to dine at the Hall the next evening if she was feeling well enough. She sent a positive reply. Although she was not yet completely recovered, tomorrow she might be.
There were two things she was curious about. First, if the Ainsleys were also coming and she was expected to speak Italian. And second, who exactly had been busy moving plants and Zeus. Somehow she could not imagine Sophia taking part and this very conveniently made three other residents of the Hall candidates. They were quite silly.
A day later she was indeed feeling much better. After a few days locked up in the house she was looking forward to meeting people. She walked to Kellynch Hall, as even Lady Russell had been wont to do if it was not raining. On the way back they were always escorted by a footman with a lantern.
Anne was always made to feel very welcome in her old home and she fancied the servants were more agreeable to her than to other guests. This time was no exception and she was shown into the drawing room where she found only Admiral Croft.
He greeted her very warmly and said he was happy to see her recovered.
"I am very happy myself. At one point I had such delusions."
"Did you?" He looked a little worried. "I had not understood it was so bad."
"I saw objects move. Plants," she said, watching him carefully for a reaction. "Statues."
"No, just the one."
"And it moved."
"It walked across the lawn."
He did not look at all surprised, of course. "Did you not send the footman out for it?"
"It never crossed my mind."
"That is a good sport, Anne. I hope you were not afraid."
She smiled. "What could a statue do? I am sure I could run faster."
Before they could get into anything serious, another guest was announced. It was Mrs Warringham, a widow of roughly the same age as the admiral. Anne wondered who else were coming. The more people there were, the more chances she would have to question someone privately.
The next person to enter the room was Captain Wentworth. He seemed formidable, with his grave expression and his cane, but he was very polite when he first greeted Mrs Warringham and then Anne.
Because he could not make a choice between the two ladies, he addressed the admiral. "You were dressed very quickly."
"In case our guests were early. I was going to say ladies have more work, but our lady guests are the first ones here."
"I do not need much time to look pretty, Admiral," Anne teased.
"Oh! I never meant to imply ladies needed hours to appear tolerable. I should not notice half of them anyway."
She wanted to ask which half, but because of Mrs Warringham she did not. Instead she addressed Captain Wentworth. "Do you own a reddish coat?"
To her surprise he reacted blankly. "I own a lot of coats."
She took that as a yes, although it was strange that he did not admit anything outright. Perhaps he was afraid she was going to tell Mrs Warringham everything, making him look silly. "Perhaps green would have been more sensible. Less visible and all that."
"Visible where?" he queried.
Yes, he must be afraid. She smiled. "Oh, I do not know. I did not see much. I was ill."
"And you saw men in red coats when you were ill? That sounds serious."
"I made a complete recovery," she assured him.
She did not get another chance to ask him. He would not talk openly and the other guests arrived. Two of them were the Ainsleys. She tried not to stare at Colonel Ainsley's hand, but she wondered what people would do who did not notice it immediately.
She addressed Mrs Ainsley haltingly in Italian and was rewarded with a great smile. The lady seemed friendly and very eager to speak to someone in her own tongue. Anne was monopolised by her all evening, but in part she translated for both sides. She did not mind it in the least.
Except for a potentially embarrassing moment when Mrs Ainsley, not understood by anyone else, asked her if she was engaged to Captain Wentworth, because she seemed to know him well.
But because no one else understood what they were saying and it was so long ago, Anne could respond perfectly evenly. "No, I have no intention of ever marrying anybody."
Mrs Ainsley graciously accepted that other people had very strange notions about this subject. She merely smiled and said "ah".
This was more disconcerting to Anne than if she had tried to change her mind. "And I do not really know him well. He spent most of his time at sea or --" She hesitated, for India would sound like India even in Italian and anyone listening in would know of what they spoke. "-- in other countries."
"But if you know, you know," Mrs Ainsley said mysteriously.
"You should talk to our hostess," Anne said, forgetting that Mrs Ainsley needed her if she wanted to talk to anyone.
"When she knew, she knew."
"And you are determined not to know," Mrs Ainsley nodded. "I shall not trouble you on the subject. Well, perhaps not much. Perhaps not in the next hour."
Mrs Ainsley stayed true to her word and did not trouble Anne again about it, but she expressed a desire to ask a few questions of Captain Wentworth. Only then did it occur to Anne that Colonel Ainsley spoke Italian as well. She looked a little worried, for he might have overheard some of their earlier conversation. It would be impolite to refer Mrs Ainsley to her husband if she wanted to question Captain Wentworth, so Anne did not. She merely tried to sound as disinterested as possible when she informed him.
He seemed to think it amusing.
Perhaps it was Mrs Ainsley's foreign and flirtatious air. The village would say so, at least. And Mrs Ainsley directed her question in rapid Italian at the captain himself, accompanied by many gestures. After a long story she must be exhausted, Anne thought.
"Was it not," Anne translated without gestures, "lonely in India without a wife?" He gave her a funny look. Of course he would. "I am sorry; that is really what she is asking."
"No, it was not lonely."
Anne related the answer.
"But how could that be?" exclaimed Mrs Ainsley. "So far away with no one to care for him. I should have died."
Anne translated, without clasping her hands to her chest, but she could not be half as sincere as Mrs Ainsley. She could not make it sound as if the lady would have died at all.
"Fortunately," said Captain Wentworth, who was amused at something or other. "That is why there are only men in the Navy."
Mrs Ainsley did not understand.
"Ladies are a bit fickle as to who are their friends." When Anne raised her eyebrows, he amended. "They would need friends on board, but they would fall out with half of them before the Cape, then make up with them and fall out with the other half. All this while complaining that they did not have a single good friend on board and could they please go back?"
"Could you repeat that?" Anne inquired.
"No, I do not think I could."
She sighed and looked at Mrs Ainsley. "He thinks all women are...I do not know the word."
"Ah, something unkind and untrue. I see it in your eyes. Do not worry. I shall not believe him. Tell him so."
"She does not believe you."
That did not stop him from exaggerating. "If they saw an enemy ship, they would probably befriend it."
"Is that a bad thing?" Anne wondered.
He looked taken aback by her doubt. "Well..."
"Well, it would render you useless if the enemy were befriended. I see why you would be against it." She translated it for Mrs Ainsley, who laughed heartily.
"Soldiers who are unnecessary, they are the worst," she agreed. "My husband, oh, he must have something to do. Even more so for men who are on a ship and who have nothing to do. They cannot even walk or ride from one place to another."
Anne thought Wentworth might have something to say about that, but she translated it literally all the same.
He indeed looked a little puzzled. "May I inquire if Mrs Ainsley sailed here?"
Mrs Ainsley said she did. She had sailed the Channel.
"Ah. And you slept all the way, Madam?" he asked a little mockingly.
Anne put the question to her.
"No, no, no! I was sick, very sick."
"And you did not see any people working at the sails?" he wondered.
"I do not know what sails are in Italian," Anne said testily and she left the sails out of the question altogether.
"I saw nobody," Mrs Ainsley declared. "Nobody dared to come near me. I was sick."
"Women on board," the captain hissed. "Nothing but trouble. But I beg you not to antagonise the lady by telling her that, Anne. Perhaps you could say the crew was fully occupied."
"I just did." She turned to Mrs Ainsley. "He is of the opinion, unfortunately, that women on board mean nothing but trouble."
"If they befriend the enemy I should think them very useful," said Mrs Ainsley.
Posted on 2011-08-16
Captain Wentworth found himself enjoying the evening. He usually enjoyed company, be it all men or with one or two women present. He had never been with only women -- except perhaps Sophia and a friend of hers -- and he had always been inclined to think it intolerable, until he tried to imagine the present gentlemen were not there. They certainly were not interfering with the conversations he had with the ladies. He viewed the conversations in the room as different components. Take some away and the rest remained unchanged. He might well survive in a room with only women. This was shocking.
Apparently Anne had watched him closely -- see how they could not mind their own business, those women? -- for she spoke. "That was a shocking epiphany."
He did not know how she could read his mind. "Was it?"
It rather contradicted his conclusion, for if women could read minds they had no reason to interfere when others were talking. "It is a transparent tactic," he said. "By pretending you know exactly what I was thinking you are hoping I am going to tell you."
"I should never use transparent tactics on you, Captain," she said solemnly.
"I am too clever indeed."
"So am I."
Anne was walked home by the admiral. He offered and she accepted. He already explained himself when they were a few paces away from the front steps. "I was afraid Frederick would say he would walk with you."
"Would that have been a bad thing?" Anne was genuinely surprised.
"Not extremely bad, but not good either."
"Yes?" He seemed surprised too.
Apparently it was something she was not seeing. "I do not understand why it would be bad."
"No? Walking with an unmarried man."
"I have done that before. Please explain the moving statue."
So he did.
"That is a lot of trouble only to deliver a silly note," she decided, but realising full well she had gone through an equal lot of trouble to write that silly note in Italian.
"Was it a silly note? I was under the impression that it was extremely important." The admiral nearly looked peeved for having devoted his precious time to the excursion.
"Oh dear, did I misinterpret it?" Anne wondered. "It is good that I burnt it then. Now it cannot fall into the wrong hands."
"Indeed. That is very clever of you. One really cannot trust others to interpret situations correctly."
Since he looked supremely innocent and honest, Anne wondered if there was more to his words than she was inclined to think. A few years' acquaintance with Admiral Croft had taught her that sometimes she was right to have her doubts. He seemed very simple in his likes and dislikes, but when it came to teasing she was not always sure if his hits were unwitting or not. Anne tended to think Sophia would not be satisfied with a husband who only accidentally hit upon something clever to say.
In this instance, however, she did not know precisely why she deserved to be gently mocked. "Are you saying we can?"
"A bystander's insight is sometimes very clear."
"I shall keep that in mind."
"I heard the Italian lady share some interesting insights."
"In Italian?" Anne asked suspiciously.
"Admiral, you never said you spoke Italian." She did not know what to think. It was very uncivil of him to have kept it a secret.
"I do not. I do not speak it, but I can pretty much figure out what is being said if one speaks slowly enough, which she did for your benefit. The Mediterranean, you know. It was such a long time ago that I had no idea I would still recognise so much of the language."
"Yet you remember enough to know Mrs Ainsley had interesting insights."
"But are they clear or are they muddy, considering that she is a bystander? Time will tell. There, now. I see your footman hurrying out, so I can take my leave. Good night."
Anne wished him a good night as well and went inside. She was wondering which insight of Mrs Ainsley's he had overheard. She could not remember any very clearly. Perhaps he had simply been teasing.
"Will the Ainsleys be tolerable company once we are used to them?" Mrs Croft asked her brother.
"Probably. Why do you ask?"
"You seemed to have an animated conversation with the ladies."
"I am sure all animation was Mrs Ainsley's," he said dully.
"You are certainly not animated now. You have used up all your energy talking, perhaps. Time for bed."
"Perhaps you mistake me for your son."
"Oh, no. You are my little brother."
"And that is no different. Well, good night." He was tired, so his decision to retire had nothing to do with her, he told himself.
As he went upstairs, he pondered Sophia's question. Of course a new acquaintance was always interesting, but some people remained interesting once the novelty wore off and some did not. The Ainsleys had potential, but usually Sophia did not speak about these things at all. Either she was never in doubt or she considered everyone good company. She must have some ulterior motive with her question, but he did not see what it was.
Perhaps she thought Mrs Ainsley was too animated or impertinent. The lady was certainly neither demure nor shy. But these things never bothered Sophia, as far as he knew. It could also be that Mrs Ainsley had simply been lively because she had at last found someone who spoke Italian.
Mrs Croft, for her part, had not communicated enough with Mrs Ainsley to have formed a good opinion, but her opinion of Colonel Ainsley was favourable. And for someone who claimed not to like women -- or whatever similar nonsense he always claimed -- Frederick had spent rather a lot of time talking to the two prettiest women in the room. She would have pointed it out to him if she had not thought he had some self-deceiving answer ready. They were easily the prettiest because they were the youngest. Or he had only talked to them because they had talked to him. Something like that.
He would not agree with her, but things seemed to be going to the non-existent plan. Before he knew it he might actually admit to having, or having developed, an interest in women.
Mrs Croft had no particular wish to get rid of her brother -- he was even welcome to keep living with them if he married -- but life would become infinitely more attractive for him if he did have a wife. And perhaps children. It had worked for Edward as well.
The admiral smirked when he got home, or perhaps it was the light. She quite liked it when he smirked. Perhaps he would smirk some more if she asked him to elaborate. "What is on your mind?"
"Oh, that silly note."
"Which silly note?" Everything concerning the note had gone on behind her back.
"Apparently Frederick had sent Anne some note in reply to some other note and Freddy wanted to deliver it, but he was not allowed into the Lodge. He asked for our assistance."
"And it was given readily?"
"Notes? What sort of notes are we talking about, by the way?"
"Notes that must be kept a secret," Admiral Croft said gravely. "For others would misinterpret the idea."
"What was in them?"
"It cannot have been all that sugary, because he let Freddy write it, but Freddy no longer knew what he wrote, except that it was in French."
"Right. One can dictate Freddy anything in French, as scandalous as one would like, and he would not understand it."
"Freddy's opinion of his own French is rather higher than that. In fact, Anne says she burnt the note so it would not fall into the wrong hands, so it must have been a tolerable sort of French that other people would apparently misinterpret."
"There you go. It was a scandalous dictation." She shook her head at her brother, even if she could hardly believe it.
"Anne implied that is exactly what other people would think. Which is quite interesting. She is getting up to all sorts of scandalous stuff with Frederick, but on no account must anyone think it is scandalous stuff, because it is not."
"I am willing to believe it is not."
"You are?" The admiral raised his eyebrows. "I myself am willing to believe there was never any intention of being scandalous, but I cannot say anything about the actual events, since I do not know precisely what they all were."
"There was more?"
"They went walking on the beach once. We did not keep an eye on that. They might have gone swimming together for all we know."
She remembered that now, but she had no idea why he speculated. "They were not wet, were they?"
Admiral Croft looked quite patient. "My dear Sophia, you cannot swim properly with all your clothes on, so they would indeed remain dry. Or all you all prim and proper now that we are back in England?" He gave her an appraising look.
"The water is too cold here to be anything but prim and proper," she retorted, hiding her face. "You are being silly. You thought nothing of their going for a walk at all. Except perhaps that they might speak of the past."
He shuddered. "Who knows what they did back then. If one does not marry quickly enough one might be up to all kinds of mischief."
Posted on 2011-08-21
Captain Wentworth was quite fed up with people. At breakfast the conversation was mysterious. He tried to pay no attention, but they kept trying to include him and he had no idea. Only Freddy spoke comprehensibly and that was saying something. He felt inclined to do something out of the ordinary. He pushed his half-eaten breakfast aside and mumbled an excuse. If they could be mysterious, so could he.
Outside, he regretted his impulse, for he liked eating a lot in the morning. There was only one option and that was to find some more food elsewhere. He walked to the Lodge, the nearest house.
Approaching it unseen by some circuitous route was now almost a habit and he would swear he saw Zeus smirk. Wentworth circled the house and found the French windows of the breakfast parlour open. The sun was about to light the room and the table was set for one. Nobody was eating, however.
He quickly poured himself a coffee and stepped out into the sun to drink it. It was a pretty little room, with its light colours and elegant furniture, but it was chillier than outside. Also, he was perhaps a little afraid of being found out by a servant. He had stolen a cup, after all, and they would have given it to him readily had he asked.
Soon he heard someone come into the room. A chair was being pulled back and there were soft voices that he could not quite make out. A servant apologised. The captain waited until the cup had been brought, but before he could decide on what to say as he entered, Anne called.
He stepped into the doorway, surprised. "How did you know?"
"I smelled you."
He was appalled. "I smell?"
"You have a perfume?" she queried. "Or something."
He looked a little indignant. "It is called Scent for Gentlemen."
"Ah. There is my cup." She nodded at his hand. "I thought perhaps Zeus had it. He would not join me for breakfast in the nude. He would not dare, but he might slip in for the cup."
"Er. Indeed. I thought you would be able to spare some coffee."
"What happened at the Hall?" she asked as she invitingly pushed the second chair out with her foot. Frederick was fully dressed; there was no reason not to have breakfast with him.
"I thought I did not want any more, so I left, but then I found I did still want some."
"Oh." She nodded. Sometimes things were indeed very simple.
"They were being very annoying to me," he confided.
"Tsk. You sound like Mary."
"I am justified. I am fed up with the insinuations," he declared and eyed the eggs so greedily that she pushed her plate towards him. "I am of a mind to do something they would never expect."
"Steal my coffee."
"Marry the parlour maid,"said Anne idly, stealing back some egg with her fingers. It was not exactly good manners, but they would not be the first manners that were being ignored here. He would not care.
"Me?" Anne did not choke or spit. There were limits to her unmanneredness. Instead, she looked mildly confused.
"They would never expect it."
That was true, but to do something only because others would not expect it was not convincing. She waited for more. Something to do with her in particular.
"It would stop their nagging."
It would. She nodded. But still.
"There are certain drawbacks, however," he continued. "I can overlook the past. It is less important than the present. And of course you must know there will not be any children."
"Oh." As far as she knew his wounds were on his leg.
"I am not sure ladies know very much about these matters." He frowned and clearly hoped ladies did not want to know much about these matters either.
"Apparently not," she agreed.
"I hope this does not disappoint you, but nothing can be done about it."
"Well, I could say no."
"What do you mean?"
"I could say no, marry some other fellow and have children," she explained patiently.
He seemed to consider that. "No. You could have done that long before. You would not do it now to spite me."
"I tend not to do things to spite people," she agreed again, but she wondered at her own calm bemusement.
"You understand I have to tell you this in advance. It would not be fair otherwise."
"Yes. It is always nice to know what to expect -- and to know not to expect." They were to do business together then, but she knew enough of business that nobody entered it disinterestedly. "However, what is in it for me?"
Captain Wentworth looked a little shocked at her forwardness.
She smiled a little. "How will it be to my advantage?"
"They will no longer nag you about companions or husbands."
"In that case I take it you are planning to live here as well."
"I suppose so."
"I am sure that will be tolerable," Anne said mildly. "How often would we meet, do you think? Breakfast, dinner, and perhaps some time in between?"
"That depends on the weather, I should think."
She pressed her hands to her mouth. "Really? Shall I become one of those ladies who complain about their husbands being in the way when it rains?"
"It seems to me the house is large enough."
"Indeed. You must go over it after breakfast and pick a room to sleep in."
"Oh, is there another suite? I assumed husbands and wives shared."
"That is for people who either have a very small house or who want lots of children," Anne said solemnly.
"Why, so as to leave more bedrooms for the children?"
Anne could still not be unmannered and choke on her coffee. She set down her cup with the utmost control. "Was that a serious question, Captain?"
"Did you not take it seriously?"
"The general advice -- around here, at least -- is for couples not to share if they want to limit the number of children. Apparently, and this is my own deduction, since nobody would ever dare to speak of it openly to me, women have the ability to lock them out if they do not share."
Captain Wentworth looked rather contemptuous. "And those men do not have the ability to change the lock and have an extra key made. Perhaps they do indeed not deserve to procreate."
"To be deserving or not has very little to do with it, is one of my other deductions. Well, I am sorry I shall not have to think of anything very clever."
"I do like to be clever on occasion. But do you not wish to go over the house to pick a room?" Anne grabbed back her plate when he was too preoccupied to eat. It was a shame to let the eggs go cold.
"Yes, I could do that."
"Will you tell your sister and the admiral?"
"Yes. I should enjoy seeing them shut up."
"What if they ask particulars?"
"Oh, but there are none. That is easy. We simply came to an agreement that would be to our best advantage."
Anne made a tour of the garden after Captain Wentworth had left. She had taken him upstairs and he had expressed a preference for one of the rooms, although he had not quite liked how it was decorated. She had not liked it either, so she would be happy to give him free rein in redoing it.
This was, she supposed, the second time she was engaged to the same man, but how differently it felt! She was older now and calmer and there was none of that delight she had felt years ago. It was best described as not having any kinds of concerns about anything. Really, she could not think of any at all.
She was curious what Sophia would say, although not afraid. Sophia would likely welcome her as a sister, since she had already nearly been treated as one before Frederick had returned.
He had been so annoyed he had overcome his pride, which was a good thing. She did not think it would return. He had perhaps only wanted a little push to get over it.
His injury was a little puzzling, but she would in time discover more about it. It was not of extreme importance.
Admiral and Mrs Croft had said they were glad, after they had first said nothing for a long time. "Glad?" the captain had questioned, but they had explained they were glad to get such a sister. He agreed that it was always nice to get a sister one already knew.
But it had surprised them and that was good. There had not been any insinuations or mysterious comments and he too was glad. They were all glad. Nothing could be better.
Posted on 2011-09-10
Since the captain, like a true Navy man, saw no reason to put the matter off once he was decided, he and Anne had spoken with the parson. She had known the man since he had come to the parish. He had always been deferential to the Elliots, although perhaps not as much as Sir Walter would have liked. Anne suspected that the reasons given for her father's departure had not fooled people of some understanding and the parson had always been clever enough to have said the right things to Sir Walter, but that even he had had his limits.
It had not affected his attitude towards Anne, however, and he had remained respectful. Mr Peters declared himself very honoured to be allowed to marry her to Captain Wentworth. The captain wore a benevolent expression. They had hardly a choice in this village.
It turned out that Mr Peters took his job of marrying parishioners very seriously and he requested a series of meetings beforehand. They had to be told exactly why they were getting wed, which had nothing to do with the mundane reasons for which most people married.
Anne stole a few looks at the captain when the matter of procreation came up. He remained impassive, although he requested a word in private at some point.
She was deadly curious and dared to ask him about it when they were outside again. "Did you tell him?" About the injury, she meant.
"Tell him?" he asked, but he did not appear to need an explanation. Or perhaps he had simply not told the parson anything at all. "Oh, no. It is none of his business. I do not know about the rest of this village, but it always makes me a little rebellious when people lecture me."
"But what did you say?"
"It was not a subject fit for the ears of delicate creatures, Mr Peters agreed." Wentworth was not very much inclined to repeat anything. It was not suitable for a lady's ears -- or so people said. He had not even thought Anne would wonder. Or ask. He was consequently not yet sure what he should say.
"Do not take me for a delicate creature," she said sharply. "This is exactly why I did not want to marry. Do not treat me like a stupid creature who would faint at the slightest mention of improper subjects." She wondered if she could still get out of he arrangement if he continued in this vein.
"How would you know?" Captain Wentworth inquired. "Has anyone ever discussed any with you?"
He had a point and he knew it. Anne disliked his smugness immensely. She became even sharper. "You are going to."
"Am I?" He observed an interest in tenacious women -- people, he corrected -- in himself.
"Do you trust Mr Peters or me on my strength of mind?"
He seemed amused. "I do not think I shall be allowed to give the wrong answer."
She nodded. "You are quite right there. So tell me."
"Five points to me if you blush. Ten points if you ask me to stop. Fifteen points --"
"I do not play games."
"You are going to."
She was very impatient. "Well, tell me."
"I asked him how."
"How?" Anne did not understand.
"Yes, how. He is not married. How can he know how?"
"How what?" But she began to have an idea and she coloured, which she tried to hide by turning away her face. That would not fool him, she suspected, and she quickly turned back.
He did not mention any points, captivated as he was by something else. "The Lord will tell me, is that not nice? What is the birth rate in this village?"
Anne did not know if delicate creatures ought to reply. Apparently she was not delicate, because she heard herself speak. "Did you not ask him?"
"I rather think such an irreverent question would have got me on his list of black sheep whom to bother weekly with moral lessons. I am perfectly moral, thank you."
"You simply have a low tolerance for stupidity," Anne nodded and then fearfully wondered if she had implied that Mr Peters was stupid. Then she gave him a shrewd glance. "And little faith."
"I cannot imagine Edward saying such a thing, not that I think he would explain it instead. But I would never ask him. I have no need for the knowledge -- which I already possess."
"You have no need to expose...Edward." She supposed she could now easily call him that. She was going to be his sister.
"No -- and I suppose he has no need to lecture immoral sailors." But then he doubted. "Well, I cannot be sure of that when it comes to others, but he knows me."
She was glad he implied he was not an immoral sailor, although she did not see why they should be more prone to immorality simply because they were sailors and in that respect she understood his annoyance. "You do not take kindly to being lectured."
"And I come from a family of exceedingly good morals."
Anne smiled. "And exceedingly quick understandings?"
"I pride myself on mine."
"I have not often found it wanting," she agreed.
This elicited the predictable response. "Not often?"
Captain Wentworth had chosen a room and new colours for it. A painter was to work on it, so that he might take possession after the wedding. It was still a little difficult to be living in Lady Russell's house soon, unless one saw it as a type of revenge. He was not yet decided.
The village had come to hear of his plans and he was a little peeved that nobody seemed surprised. It ought to be unexpected, for he had always said he would not marry. Yes, this was more than a little vexing.
Then it occurred to him that perhaps they were glad he would no longer be saying things they could not understand, for who would not want to be married, in their opinion? For Anne too they would think it much better to be married -- to anyone. It did not have to be him especially.
Now that he was engaged, he was surprised to find himself a little annoyed by the notion that in the eyes of the village anyone else might have sufficed. Really? He had a fortune and a brilliant career in the Navy. Furthermore, he had good breeding and good manners and good looks -- did he not? He rubbed his hand over his stomach. The face was what mattered. The rest was naturally prone to some degradation over the course of years. If one did not get too shot up or too fat, one could still be handsome.
He had hardly seen any better catches in the neighbourhood and neither had Anne, he would say, or she would have married one long ago.
Freddy had of course heard that his uncle would be moving out and he had been excited and disappointed at the same time. His disappointment was short-lived, however, for a few children arrived who would be staying more than a fortnight. He forgot to think of Uncle Frederick at all.
Captain Wentworth could therefore focus completely on his move. Sophia was busy with the children, which left her no time to give him any advice. He did not know what sort of advice she would have, but undoubtedly there was some.
Unfortunately he had to go into the village now and then and so did Mrs Musgrove, Anne's sister. Anne had been extremely negligent and not yet found any time to make a formal visit to the Musgroves to inform them of her intentions, but she had sent a letter.
"We were told that Anne is going to marry you," Mrs Musgrove said to him.
He nodded. "Indeed."
"I suppose I must congratulate you."
If you must, he thought. "Thank you."
"So we are to be brother and sister. I suppose we shall get along famously."
He did not think he would mind Charles Musgrove very much and fortunately Charles enjoyed activities out of doors, far away from his wife and children. The captain therefore smiled politely.
"You know, it has been so difficult for us," said Mary Musgrove.
"What has?" Wentworth asked, still polite.
"Why, Charles having to wait until his father dies, of course, and then Lady Russell dying and leaving her entire fortune to Anne."
"I think you ought to be thankful still to have his father with you." There was an edge to his politeness now.
"Of course we are," she said hastily. "But still we expected a little help in sending them to school. It is all so expensive these days. Lady Russell well knew. She was always full of children needing a good education."
"Then I had best start saving for my own," he quipped. It was none of her business that he would never have any of his own. He was sure he could find plenty of other uses for his money. Someone begging him for his wife's money before he was in fact married certainly would not get a penny. Freddy was well taken care of, but Edward's offspring might need a hand in the future.
He mentioned the matter to Anne when he saw her next. "Your sister thought I would be more inclined to give her your money than you."
"Not in the least. People hinting about needing something rarely really need anything. There is a great number of masters looking for jobs. I saw plenty of advertisements in the newspaper. Your sister had best get those younger sons a decent master. No university will accept them if they are illiterate -- and she seems to be against the Navy, as well as against any craftsman in the area, I expect."
She gave him a half smile. It was quite annoying of Mary to keep trying and it was even more annoying that she was made to feel heartless and selfish. "Perhaps I should give her a little."
"Oh, no. It would never be enough. I am all for helping family, however, and that is why we should set some money aside for Edward's children if we have any to spare. Mind you, I am very good at spending money, so we really shall not have much to spare after we have been to the Continent."
Her eyes widened. "The Continent? Really?"
He nodded. "Travelling is not cheap."
"And can I come?"
"Why, yes. That is what would make it so expensive."
Anne looked taken aback. "It would?"
"More expensive than if I were to go alone."
"Or not. I might be very good at talking you out of unnecessary expenditures. Well, I would see what was unnecessary. Whether you would listen is another matter. When are we going?"
"Oh." He was surprised. "I just thought of the idea. I had not planned anything yet."
Posted on 2011-09-27
It all went very smoothly. The wedding took place, Captain Wentworth moved his belongings into his new apartment and Anne had dinner with him alone in the evening. She had at first imagined it might be awkward, but it was not.
It was not until the drawing room when things began to be a little uneasy, mainly because she had the feeling she had to entertain him in some way. There was always music, of course, but what if she did not feel like playing?
It was therefore quite odd to her when at one point he stood up and excused himself. He had to go to the library. She had stopped playing, but she continued after a while, supposing that he could indeed entertain himself and that he was not expecting her to do it. This was some relief, because she would surely run out of ideas with such a fastidious person.
He returned with a few books and she observed him closely, still playing on, until he called her over. Planning the trip had begun.
Anne reflected that it was very good that they had gone abroad almost immediately. Apparently trips could be undertaken with little planning, which was not what she was used to. Frederick was confident he would find decent places to stay and he seemed to think there were far more of those than Sir Walter or Lady Russell had done.
While it did nothing to help them establish a routine for at home, they did get to know each other rather well. Sometimes they had to share sleeping accommodations and sometimes there were obstacles on the roads. There was enough room for either of them to show some annoyance, but neither did.
When they were on the way back and nearly home, she was sorry their trip was at an end, but not sorry they had passed the first time of their marriage away from curious neighbours. Everyone must have been curious how they had managed, what with their earlier being convinced they would never marry.
"But it is not so bad, is it?" she asked out loud.
"Well..." he said doubtfully. "It depends."
She was not worried. She did not expect him to admit to a radical change of heart. "On whom you are married to?"
"Among other things. Considering that I once asked you, I probably did not agree with my later self back then."
"No, probably not," Anne agreed. "There would have been very little point in asking me otherwise."
"Let us not dwell on the past," he requested. "The distant past, that is. We can, of course, talk about our travels at length."
"I understand." She chuckled to herself. "What do you think, will your brother have replied to your letter?"
Considering it would be rather rude of Edward not to have replied, Captain Wentworth assumed that he had done so indeed. "Beyond a doubt. I expect he will be very grateful. There is nothing so worrisome to a clergyman as an unmarried brother."
But then he thought of Edward's wife and he frowned. "I do not know what sort of medicine she will send me now."
"Why should she do so?"
"Because she is like that."
Anne had no idea what he was talking about. "She is very helpful. Her cream worked on the scars, did it not?"
"Ah, you saw that."
"Of course I saw that. I saw you use it." He had gone about it surreptitiously, so that she had not mentioned it before.
"I thought you were asleep."
"Ha." It followed that one feigned sleep a lot when one's husband did certain things only when one was asleep.
"Why did you use it only when you thought I could not see it?" she asked curiously. It was nothing very odd.
"Women," he grumbled.
"Oh," she said, failing to understand. "But did it work?"
"Perhaps. But it is not all she will send. She will undoubtedly have something especially for newly-married men."
"Not for women?"
"Would you take it if she did?"
"I might, but I cannot imagine newly-married women needing anything." Well, she could, but she was not about to mention it.
"Well, then," he said significantly. "Of course they do not. Nobody does. Edward's wife makes people believe otherwise and then she sells them those things. They all do it that way."
Anne lowered her voice. "She is in trade?" She tried to look horrified, but failed.
"Of sorts. She gave them to me for free, but I am family. I am sure she charges money to her other customers."
"The cream. And the fortification," she added.
"What fortification?" Wentworth asked suspiciously, but he had an idea.
She gave him a sideways glance. "I thought it might be something to help you sleep. To distract you from my unnerving presence."
"Was it a strong drink?"
"No, it was something herbal. The purpose of which I was never really told." He suspected something, but he could not tell her. That would not do. At all.
"It must be for your internal injuries," Anne concluded.
"I never observed any injuries other than scars, yet you claim to be injured further."
"Therefore those injuries must be internal. Inside your body," Anne explained, "as opposed to external ones I could see."
"Oh, do you mean did I look? Yes, I did." She patted his arm comfortingly. "But you of course hid under the blankets when I changed. I never bothered to check. I just knew you would not peek."
He could not even manage a pronoun this time.
"Or did you?" She did not care very much if he had -- they were married -- but she could not imagine that he had not. One was interested in what one had married. It was only natural.
He sounded indignant. "Is this an exam? Am I to behave gentlemanly enough?"
"Well, it is too late for such an exam, do you not think? We are married. I cannot do very much about your behaviour anymore."
"Do you think a potion could do anything at all about an internal injury?"
"I am neither an apothecary nor a witch. If Mrs Wentworth thinks it helpful, I believe her. She has no reason at all to trick you."
"Do you believe in witchcraft?"
"There is no such thing as witchcraft," Anne said firmly. People were always afraid of what they did not understand and women possessing a certain degree of knowledge were among one of the most scary things. "Your brother's wife makes her potions from very earthly things like nettles and lavender."
He shuddered. "Nettles. I wish I had known that before I took a sip."
Anne observed this return to his former grumpiness with interest. She had not noticed much of it herself before they married, but Sophia had told her about it. Certain topics seemed to do the trick. It was best to leave those alone for the moment. She squeezed his hand and spoke more gently. "I am only teasing you, you know."
"I did not know you were such a tease."
"Really?" she mused. "I thought I had been as bad as I could be on this trip." This was not the first time she had engaged in some mild teasing.
"You wondered what my brother thought of our marriage; did you not wonder what your father thought?"
"Yes, but I cannot imagine what his opinion might be. I only know it is not very important to me." She shrugged. "He is probably relieved. But I suppose we should be good children and visit him in Bath as soon as we are back. He might have been a little insulted by our immediate departure for the Continent, but he also might not have cared at all. There is no way of knowing."
"Yes," said Captain Wentworth, who discovered he was focusing more on keeping hold of her hand than on what she was saying. This was quite odd. "Exactly."
"Exactly what?" Anne was a little confused, but she was glad he did not sound grumpy anymore.
"You were quite right."
"I was not actually stating anything."
"Oh? No matter," he said, giving her hand a tiny squeeze too.
They had not left directly upon getting married -- at least a week had passed -- but still there were letters and packages that had arrived after they had left. Anne was quite excited to go through all of them, especially the ones she had not been expecting.
Her father's letter did not surprise her, although her announcement had clearly surprised him. She wondered if she should let Frederick read it. It was not entirely complimentary or congratulatory. But she supposed he deserved to know what Sir Walter thought about the situation, in case they ever met.
Frederick was frowning at a package. "I knew it," he muttered under his breath. "It is probably full of weed soup."
"Will you not open it?" She guessed it was from Edward and his family. Nothing else would inspire any fear in him.
"I am afraid I shall be seized by the desire to throw glass bottles through the room. That would be so messy. I might even hit the mirror."
"Then I shall open it, if you like, and keep the contents away from you?" Anne suggested.
"Oh, yes. Do that." He crossed his arms and looked away. For a second. He was too curious to manage more.
Anne opened the package and looked very hard, but there were no glass bottles inside. This relieved her. "It seems to be safe."
"Powder? Cream? Packets of dried herbs?" He was not yet reassured.
"Stop it. You are being very childish." And if there had not been a hint of humour in his tone she would have been rather fed up with it. "There is nothing of the sort. There is a book --"
"I cannot say; it is wrapped. And there are drawings. And a letter."
"Unwrap the book."
Posted on 2011-10-27
Anne studied the book closely. There was a note inside that said it was for her. It brought her up to date with all the developments, victories and losses of the Navy, so that she would never be wondering what Frederick was talking about. It made her smile.
"Useful," he commented. "Although I rather resent the implication that I believe everyone ought to possess that knowledge."
"Perhaps you talk about it too much."
"Not with me. Not that I noticed or minded."
"Perhaps we could read it together. I do not know everything myself."
"You do not?" Anne asked in mock dismay. But she would actually like that, she decided. "We could sit on the sofa with a blanket and a drink and read and discuss."
"Why do we need a blanket?" Frederick did not say if he liked the image.
"It might be cold."
"Oh, I thought it was because you might fall asleep, bored."
She laughed. "I doubt it."
In the evening they tried it. Anne had provided the book, Frederick a blanket and a servant had provided a tray with drinks. They installed themselves on the sofa.
He cleared his throat. "Well, where shall we begin? Chapter one, or all the boringness that comes before?"
After one chapter, which took fairly long due to Frederick's verbal additions, Anne yawned. It was not the subject matter, but rather the warmth and comfort of his proximity. "Well..." she said tiredly, resting against him, but she could not even inquire whether they would take on chapter two. She ended up in his arms with her lips on his. Or his lips on hers. Anne was not really sure how that had come about and she was certainly not wondering how to undo it.
"Well," Frederick repeated, although it might not be a repetition anymore, considering the time that had passed between the two utterances. "Uh..."
"Uh?" she asked archly, seeing that he was by no means regretful.
"Do you think she sprayed the pages with invisible potion?"
That was the last thing she had expected him to be thinking about. Anne could only guffaw. She closed the book, dropped it on the floor and kissed him again. She would not otherwise have been so bold, but the particulars of the situation required it. "No, I do not think so. See?"
"Forgive me for taking such liberties with you. Rest assured that I would only take them with you. The situation required it."
"The situation requires more, really."
"Does it? I do not understand what else."
"I do not know yet either, but I feel there must be more. Perhaps we had best retreat to more private surroundings."
"Well, that is what my sister always tells the admiral when she is danger of kissing him. They then stay away for anything between two minutes and twelve hours, so I am not sure what they leave the room for. Nor do I want to know," he added.
"But you would like to leave the room with me," Anne remarked. She felt strangely excited. "Even though here there is no other company."
"Well, Frederick," said his wife one morning, again feeling strangely excited. "I think you ought to send our thanks to your sister-in-law."
"Am I to thank your sisters for only having visited once in...a year and a half? They might take that the wrong way and come again." He could not like them.
"Do not be purposely obtuse, please. You know exactly whom I mean by sister-in-law."
"Am I to thank her for only having visited once?"
"Come now, she was here more times and she was very agreeable and never once mentioned medicines."
That was true, but she had occasionally looked very meaningful and he had supplied words in his mind. "Hmph."
"Before we married you told me you were wounded. I have seen very little evidence of it."
"I limp!" he retorted sharply.
"Oh, I had forgotten," Anne said dismissively. "One hardly notices. I am speaking of those so-called internal injuries, of course. I have seen little evidence of them."
Frederick wondered why Anne was choosing to be brainless today. "You have not cut me open, I suppose. They are internal."
"Internal they might be, but also insignificant. Since you are adamant that potions were useless, I assume you were misled by your ship's surgeon."
He stared at her.
"Well, it is one or the other. Either there was something and it is no longer there, or there was nothing and there still is not."
He shook his head. "There was definitely something amiss, but --"
"Potion!" Anne cried triumphantly.
His determination was equally strong -- the appearance of it, at least. "The passing of time, I am sure, and irresistible temptations. But I did not question it."
"Well, you will now. I have evidence that proves the ship's surgeon wrong."
"And where exactly do you have this evidence?" he wondered, feeling unsettled.
"In the area where such evidence is usually discovered, though I admit I was late in discovering it because I was misled."
"But it was not the potion!" he stressed again as he walked around the table towards her.The End