Posted on 2014-07-11
Although hardly a day had passed since the conclusion of her adventures, Anne was already deeply worried about the boredom of the next days. The chance of anything interesting happening again was next to non-existent. As for Frederick, the chance of him seeking her out again was not much bigger. Lady Russell was already trying hard to keep Elizabeth occupied, but she would soon have to do the same for Anne. All creativity had left her.
But it turned out she was not entirely correct.
"My sister sends me," Captain Wentworth said stiffly when he was sitting equally stiffly in Lady Russell's drawing room. One would never think he could jump over a fence and climb up to a balcony. "She wishes to ask Miss Anne to come to Shropshire with her." He looked uncomfortable to have been given this errand, if indeed he had been given it.
Anne was not so sure. Mrs Croft was rarely prevented from taking care of her own business and in this case especially she would not send her brother -- unless it had been his own idea. She suspected that Mrs Croft had done no more than agree to his plan and allowed him to use her as a pretext.
Lady Russell looked surprised.
"And I am here to ask if you would let her go." This was clearly difficult for him.
Anne understood why Mrs Croft had not come herself. That would have been too easy. But since she was not being asked anything, she said nothing. She watched Captain Wentworth struggle with politeness. She could come to his aid, she supposed, but such eagerness did not look well.
"Well," said Lady Russell, who needed some time to take it all in. "To Shropshire, you say?"
He nodded. "My brother lives there."
"And who will be travelling?"
"My sister and the children."
"The Clay children? It was my understanding that their stay was temporary." Lady Russell did not understand why anyone would want to take them to Shropshire.
The captain nodded again. "She said they must come. The nursery maid will be sent ahead." He did not say whether the children's stay was temporary. Perhaps he did not know; perhaps he believed it was not her business.
"Is the admiral not going with her?" Lady Russell frowned. She too knew them to be quite inseparable.
"No, he and I shall wait until Sir William has left. He has put off his departure for a day or two because he had some business to finish. And I suppose he is not yet well enough to travel far."
Anne was sure Lady Russell missed that quick glance at her, but she did not. So Captain Wentworth thought Sir William's business involved her and he was very keen to get her out of the way before the baronet could get to her. Well, that was one way of reading it and it was probably wrong, but it was nonetheless gratifying.
Again, however, nobody asked her what she wanted. She might actually be capable of putting Sir William off, and if Lady Russell said yes to this trip, there was always a chance she herself might say no.
"I see," said Lady Russell, "but I am not Anne's keeper. She is free to stay with friends."
This surprised Captain Wentworth and he did not immediately know what to respond. Apparently he had believed it would take a lot of persuasion to get Anne to come to Shropshire.
"But when is Mrs Croft leaving? And what do you say, Anne?"
Anne was glad she was finally being consulted. "I should not mind going." She supposed, at least, that Captain Wentworth was going as well at some point. In that case she would not mind. If she was to be away from him for weeks, she might, even if nothing might occur. It was best to be there to give something the chance to occur. But being too enthusiastic about it might not look good. Although perhaps they could not read her mind and see she was thinking about the captain and not about going away with Mrs Croft. She should say something about that. "I am sure Mrs Croft and I shall amuse ourselves very well."
"Good," said the captain, getting to his feet abruptly. "You will be collected at seven tomorrow morning."
"At seven?" Lady Russell never rose that early. She looked shocked. "Tomorrow?"
"I can manage," Anne assured her, although the quickness took her by surprise as well. "I shall say good-bye before you go to bed."
"But that is frightfully early."
"They will not actually set off until close to eight, I expect. Those children are not punctual and not urged to be so," said Wentworth, who then took his leave.
Elizabeth, who had been present throughout but who had been ignored, spoke up, turning up her nose. "So, you are going as Mrs Croft's nursery maid? I am glad she did not have the nerve to ask me!"
There would be no point in saying much, Anne felt. "Yes, be glad. I had best pack."
"I doubt you would be needing your best gowns," Elizabeth sneered.
"Something must be packed nevertheless, even if it is only my worst gowns."
"Lady Russell and I shall probably go to Bath."
Anne knew Lady Russell had no such plan and at any rate she would not feel jealous if Lady Russell did have such a plan. "I care nothing for Bath." True, there were sometimes concerts and plays that she enjoyed, but it was not enough to fill up a whole day. There was probably something to do in Shropshire as well. The surroundings would all be new to her and she could explore them. Captain Wentworth coming there later had very little to do with her anticipation, she told herself.
Her sister smiled deprecatingly. "Or so you say. Well, you would, considering that you are not going."
"I have no wish to be drawn into a childish argument," Anne decided. She went up to her room, where Lady Russell followed her a short while later.
"It may not seem that way, but Elizabeth is quite jealous that you were asked by someone," said she. "Of course she is trying to persuade herself that you will be used as a nursery maid or governess, so she will feel less envious."
"Perhaps you could do something pleasant with her while I am gone," Anne suggested. "Although I am not sure Bath would be a good idea."
"I shall have to find something," Lady Russell sighed. "He did not actually say how long you would be gone, did he?"
"No, I think not. I expect they will not stay there beyond a few weeks."
"But how much would you need to pack?"
Anne conceded she was not as experienced at travelling and packing as some people were, but she had always thought she was a sensible traveller. "As much as I always pack? We are going long enough that my clothes can be washed. Mr Wentworth is a sensible man. He will not expect me to wear a different gown every day."
"Mr Wentworth? How do you know he is a sensible man?"
"Er..." Anne turned to fold a shift. She thought quickly, but there could be no harm in telling Lady Russell she had met him before. She had never been certain that Lady Russell had forgotten that, after all. "We knew him, when he lived at Monkford. Surely he did not become very silly after leaving this area. As they grow older, people tend to become less silly, after all."
"I have no recollection of him."
"Well, he was only a clergyman," Anne muttered.
Lady Russell settled herself on the bed, which was rather odd when there was a chair she could sit on. Anne looked through her drawer, but she was incapable of thinking what she needed from there. Her mind was on the questions Lady Russell could ask and the things she could say.
"Well, I suppose things have changed," Lady Russell said vaguely. "Certainly Captain Wentworth bears little resemblance to what he once was."
Anne pushed the drawer shut with a loud bang. She would need something from it, but at the moment she could not fathom what. She would try later. "You remember, then?"
It was probably more than a little, but Anne would not press. She was glad they had got this out of the way finally. But if Lady Russell would not say all, then neither would she.
At ten to seven Anne was nervously waiting downstairs. She had eaten a small breakfast because she did not know when they would stop or what they would take. Close to seven, Captain Wentworth was announced -- although she had already seen him coming because she had been peering past the curtains.
He seemed surprised at her trunk. "Is that all you are taking?"
"I notice you did not bring a servant to help you with my many hatboxes, so it must have been more or less what you had been expecting."
At this Captain Wentworth raised his eyebrows. "I will have you know that I am very strong."
"Yes, it is a big object with gentlemen of all ages to convince ladies of that. I am not at all surprised. Does this mean I do not have to leave my trunk with books behind?" She gestured up the stairs.
"You would pack a trunk with only books?"
"I tried that before we moved out of Kellynch," she admitted with some embarrassment, "but now I know exactly how many can still be lifted."
"You will not lack for books at Edward's house. But...there is no other trunk?"
The captain looked relieved and lifted the one trunk. "Let us go then. Unless anybody is coming out to wave you off?"
"No, I do not think so. It is too early for them."
Considering that she could have carried her own trunk down the stairs -- but she had not -- Captain Wentworth had no difficulty carrying it to the Hall. She wondered nevertheless why he had not dispatched a servant to collect it. And her.
"You travel light," he remarked. "This means we shall not have to take an extra case when we go. The admiral and I," he clarified.
"Yes, when will that be?" Anne asked far too eagerly.
"That depends on Sir William. Sophia and you will be able to tell Edward we are coming, however. It will give him time to find some beds for us."
It had not occurred to Anne that he might not have enough. She was suddenly worried about descending on him with a party of six. "Are we not too many?"
"He might be expecting half our number," Captain Wentworth conceded. "But clergymen cannot have small houses, for they always...er...how does one put it in polite terms?"
"They sometimes have large families." She wondered about impolite terms.
"Right. That is what I meant. They have large families. There should be enough room to put us up, especially since he has not been married long and he should therefore not yet have filled his house."
"Not with children, at any rate, but he might have other guests," Anne realised. "What if his wife's sisters and brothers are all there?"
"Then some people may have to share a bed. I cannot say I am seriously concerned about that."
"No, I suppose he would match us all up with people we liked," Anne said hopefully.
"I am not so sure about that," Captain Wentworth spoke in a dry tone. "But do not worry about being unwelcome. He always liked you."
They had reached the carriage that already stood waiting. He handed Anne's trunk to one of the servants and led her inside. The admiral was eating breakfast on his own. There was no sign of either Mrs Croft or the children, yet she had seen cases being loaded onto the carriage. Something must be ready, at least.
"Ah, there you are," Admiral Croft greeted her. "I am glad to see you are a morning girl. It is always useful, except if you like evening engagements, naturally. Would you like something to eat?"
"No, thank you, Admiral. I had some at home."
"Cook made a basket. It is supposed to be for the first day only, but it might last until well in your fourth day."
"With two children on board?" mocked Captain Wentworth.
"It is amazing what they put away," the admiral agreed. "Double rations."
"That is why having women on board is a bad idea," nodded his brother-in-law.
Anne failed to see the logic, but apparently to him there was some. Her face must have expressed it, however.
He explained himself. "I do not like to have starving, weak men on board because their women eat all their food. What use are they to me in a battle?"
"He will seize any argument to prove his point," said the admiral. "And then those men would starve even more because there would be children."
"Best keep them all away. Women attract children like dogs attract fleas."
"Did Mrs Croft eat all your food?" Anne wondered timidly. She supposed Admiral Croft, not being an ordinary sailor, would have had more than enough for himself.
Admiral Croft paused to consider this. "Well, she certainly did not starve herself, as you can tell by looking at her. I do not look particularly starved myself either, so there must be ways to feed the ladies that Frederick is not seeing."
Frederick looked a little insulted that someone could think he was not seeing something.
Posted on 2014-07-20
There was absolutely no amusement in travelling with two small children, Anne found. Even two people as patient and practical as she and Mrs Croft occasionally found themselves sorely tempted to jump out of the carriage screaming. They stopped frequently, but they travelled only slowly as a consequence. When they stopped they could only retire to bed instantly and there was no time for a private chat.
Anne nevertheless felt rather useful. She could provide some companionship to Mrs Croft and some distraction for the children. There really was very little to do in a carriage. She could not remember how she had been entertained when she was young; perhaps they had not travelled at all. The books they had brought had been read to the children in an hour, but then they wanted no more of them until the second day, when one book had to be read ten times in a row.
The presence of the children prevented Mrs Croft from asking any questions, and Anne from sharing any information. She also would have liked to ask whose idea it had been to invite her, but when the children were asleep they were so tired themselves that she forgot.
Just when she wondered how they would survive the last day, the children discovered looking out of the windows.
They arrived at Mr Wentworth's house after noon. Anne noticed that Mrs Croft had been sitting up straighter in anticipation. She must be very curious about the new Mrs Wentworth. She herself was a little nervous about arriving unannounced. What would Mr Wentworth say or think? He would think much more than he said, for certain.
Before they got there, however, their patience was tried some more by their driver having to ask for directions numerous times, having them think each time that they had arrived. But finally, they stopped outside a house with an overgrown garden. A woman was walking in it with a small child clinging to her skirts.
Mrs Croft looked and frowned. "That must be a guest. It cannot be Edward's wife."
Anne could not offer any clarification. Although Sophia had told her what Mr Wentworth had written, that had solely been about his new wife's character. There had been nothing about her appearance.
The woman looked curious, however, when they emerged from the carriage and did not run inside to inform the master or mistress of the house. Instead she approached them and bade them a good day.
Mrs Croft greeted her likewise and then said she had come for her brother.
Instantly the woman smiled. "Edward is out, but he will be very happy to see you have come."
Anne was introduced as a neighbour from Kellynch and the two children as guests of the admiral and his wife. Mrs Wentworth -- she assumed -- did not think anything strange at all. She introduced the child that was with her as hers and said there was another inside the house who would be delighted that there would be more children to play with.
"I thought Edward had only recently married," Mrs Croft inquired cautiously. As an older sister she was a little puzzled by those children, but then, she too had recently acquired some children. There were many possible explanations.
"Why yes, he married the three of us," said Mrs Wentworth. "But it is not that recently any more."
Mrs Croft sighed. "Yes, all that business with Sir Walter's death and the murder and everything else kept us from coming."
"Murder? And where is the admiral? Should he not be with you?" Clearly Edward had told his wife more about his sister than he had told his sister about his wife.
"Someone got murdered in the park and -- well, the admiral and Frederick will follow us as soon as they can, when the new baronet has left. But it does not have much to do with that murder. None of them got murdered."
Anne had guessed soon enough that Mrs Wentworth had previously been a widow with children, much like Mrs Clay but then slightly better off, and Mrs Croft owned herself relieved that her new sister was not a girl of nineteen, but a grown woman of around thirty.
"Did he not write that?" Mrs Wentworth was a little surprised.
"I suppose he forgot to mention it."
"I am glad he did not think it important enough. But where is he? I had expected him back already." She rose and looked out of the window. "Just when his sister is here, he is late! I am sure he will regret talking too long to whomever he is talking now. Would you like to go up to your rooms? I am sure they are ready now. I shall watch the children."
"All of them?"
"Oh, what can they do? I shall take them into the garden so they can run. They sorely need a run, I can tell."
Anne and Mrs Croft accepted the offer and they were taken upstairs by a maid, who showed them everything they needed. Anne washed and changed into other clothes, and then enjoyed the solitude. She had not had any for more than three days. It was lovely to have a room to herself.
When she returned downstairs, unable to stay in her room for very long, the children had all gone. And so, however, had Mrs Wentworth. She had initially seen and heard them pass under her window a few times, but then they seemed to have moved to the other side of the house. Anne decided that her initial impression of her hostess was favourable. She would not mind speaking to her alone, but save for a few busy servants downstairs looked and sounded deserted. There was no sound of the children either, yet she had not heard them come upstairs. Either Mrs Wentworth had brilliant discipline, or they were all asleep on a sofa somewhere.
She hesitated for a while at the foot of the stairs, but no one had told her to remain in her room, so she could probably safely go back to the room where Mrs Wentworth had first received them. Just as she was about to open the door, a person came out. Suddenly she found herself eye to eye with Frederick's brother.
He stared at first, but he quickly recognised her and then looked pleased to see her. "Miss Elliot? But no, that cannot be!"
Anne coloured. "Why not?"
"You are very welcome. You are still Miss Elliot?"
"I am indeed." She was still blushing. She was happy to see he still bore her no grudges. He never had, even after Captain Wentworth had left after their broken engagement -- about which he might not have known much. "I am Mrs Croft's neighbour," she added, before he could think she would soon no longer be Miss Elliot.
"Yes, she wrote that to me. Come in, come in," he said, inviting her into the room. "I cannot go upstairs now and leave you alone. You are Sophia's friend, then?"
Anne was not sure he was asking her if she was not also Frederick's friend. She had a suspicion that he was, but he was not ready to voice it and she was not ready to answer it. "I suppose she thought I needed some distraction. My father recently passed away."
Mr Wentworth offered his sympathies. "Sophia wrote about it to me, of course, because it prevented her from coming here sooner. A distraction will be pleasant for you. But I understood that you were not living with him."
"You are well-informed."
"My sister informs me well." The emphasis was slight, but unmistakably there.
She smiled a little. It was in part relief, for she would not have to wonder what Frederick had written to him. Apparently it was not much, and very likely it had not been about her. He would not have written that he had been investigating with her.
"Who else are here?"
"Only your sister. And two children she took in."
"Not the admiral?"
"No, he will arrive soon. With Captain Wentworth." She would mention the man, if he did not. At some point someone would have to. She had best be the first and retain control. "They have some business to finish."
"Oh?" Mr Wentworth looked intrigued.
"Much happened at home. If I told you now, you would not be able to get ready for dinner. It is a bit of a long story."
"Did any of it involve my brother?"
It did, but she could not yet say how. "Someone fell into our pond -- I mean, the admiral's pond -- but it was not your brother."
"Well, he can swim. I should not be concerned if he did fall in," Mr Wentworth said dryly. "Or did he catch a cold that he is still recovering from?"
"No, he did not catch a cold. But Sir William did. And I suppose they cannot leave until Sir William has left."
"Did this Sir William fall into the pond?"
"No, he was chased by a bull."
Mr Wentworth opened his eyes wide. "And he caught a cold as a consquence?"
"From staying out during the night."
"We have bulls and ponds here as well, but they are not as dangerous, it seems. So, the gentlemen will be here soon as well?"
"I think so." She kept her answers brief, not wanting to keep him here if he still had to change for dinner, but he seemed not to care about that. "That is what they said."
"I am very glad to see you after such a long time. I never thought I might. My sister of course informed me about the neighbourhood, but she could not know whom I had known and I could not remember everyone's names until she mentioned them."
He could not ask, of course, why she was still living there, unmarried, and she could not explain herself in case he was not wondering about that at all. Anne cast down her eyes and wished someone would help her through this difficult part. Perhaps Mrs Croft could appear.
But Mr Wentworth helped her himself. He suddenly remembered the time and excused himself after ascertaining she would be comfortable on her own.
She was. And it would not be for long. Soon one of the ladies would come downstairs and join her.
Posted on 2014-07-31
Anne looked around the room, but there was not much to see. Save for some small things high on a shelf there were no ornaments, so she settled for looking at a painting. Either everything had been removed for the children's sake, or there never had been any frills.
It did not take long for Mrs Croft to join her. "Has he come home yet?" that lady inquired.
"Who? The admiral?"
"Do not be silly. He could not be so fast. Could he?" There was a glimmer of hope. "We did take rather long. I suppose they would go faster."
"I do not know. But Mr Wentworth is here. I spoke to him briefly."
"Oh, so he knows you are here. What did he think of it?"
"I thought he might be thinking many things, but I doubt he would voice them all."
"It seems men do not voice everything even to their sisters," Mrs Croft said with mock disappointment. "But fortunately sisters can see a lot. He was friendly, I hope?"
Mr and Mrs Wentworth arrived together. Anne thought he had had barely enough time to change, and certainly not enough time to have been told everything. It meant he must still be curious about many things. She wondered why she was nervous -- did she have something to hide?
But of course she did. She thought it was very considerate of Mr Wentworth to focus on the two children his sister had brought, which was as curious as her having brought Anne.
"But what will you do with them, Sophia?" he asked.
"Do with them? I thought I might keep them. It keeps my mind off things."
"Which things?" asked Mr Wentworth, but a look from his wife changed his mind. "Never mind. They are orphans, are they?"
"Indeed they are. Their mother recently died at Kellynch."
"Kellynch appears to be a dangerous place. I have heard about ponds and bulls."
"I must defend my -- my old pond. She did not die in the pond; she was simply disposed of in the pond," Anne interjected. "The pond as such is not dangerous at all. If one can swim."
"Who disposed of her?"
He shook his head. "Terrible. But I am sure those children will find a good home with you, Sophia. What did the admiral think of the plan?"
"He never objects to my plans," she informed him. "Did you not know? But of course he will have to grow used to sharing me with someone else, as I have always been used to sharing him with the Navy, so it will not be a problem. And he likes children. And you?"
"What about me?" he said, colouring.
"Did you grow used to having children in the house?"
"The smaller, the better," was Mrs Wentworth's opinion. "They are not yet set in their ways if they are small."
"You could have written to me about it," Mrs Croft said with a pout.
"Really, would you come if you knew everything already?" her brother countered.
"Yes, I would!"
"Do not tell me Frederick did as we did."
"Acquire two children."
"Not that I noticed, but he has not been at Kellynch for long. First he was on the coast because a friend of his was caught up in a situation."
"A situation, yes, yes," said Mr Wentworth, clearly considering situations of any type rather dubious. "He alluded to it in a letter. Did it involve children?"
"Oh, I think not. Not his, anyhow. I wrote to him that we had a situation ourselves and he had to help me. We had so many guests who could not yet leave and --" Mrs Croft stopped, casting a look at Anne.
Anne smiled. "You cannot offend me. Some were not easy guests."
"When he arrived he could entertain them a bit for us. I had hoped. It did not quite turn out that way. Mrs Clay turned up in the pond and Frederick had to go and investigate."
"Investigate?" asked his brother in surprise.
"Oh, you should ask him about it when he arrives," said Mrs Croft when Anne did not volunteer to say anything. "He told me very little. Was always out and about, traipsing through the bushes, diving into the pond, and I do not know what."
"Diving into the pond? At this time of the year?"
"He did not complain to me, but then, he would have had to explain himself if he did and that is something that must be avoided at all costs."
"Indeed. It certainly sounds as if it was quite an adventure." Mr Wentworth was looking bemused. "I hope he does not expect similar adventures here. Although we have a pond, if he feels so inclined."
"I do not know if he feels generally inclined if there are no dead bodies," said Mrs Croft with a shrug. "It sounds rather cold to me. Have you any dead bodies here?"
"Oh, I attended to one today, in fact," he said. "I have to, you know, quite regularly. But I draw the line at having to dive into a pond for it."
"Who was it?" asked Mrs Wentworth, making it obvious that she had been too busy telling him about their guests to ask him why he had been late. "Is that what kept you? It is not as common as you make it out to be."
"Mrs Simpson. An old lady," he said for the benefit of his guests. "Quite wealthy. Nobody was left destitute. There was not much to arrange of any nature."
Mrs Wentworth muttered something to herself.
"I quite liked her," Mr Wentworth went on. "But I was not at the receiving end of her sharp tongue as often as her relatives, I suppose."
"I did not know her well," said his wife. "But she had quite a formidable stare. Perhaps she could not find fault with me, because she never used it on me."
"Of course not. I suppose she thought you did a good deed, marrying an old bachelor and saving him from all sorts of temptations."
At this Mrs Wentworth snorted. "Oh, she was old enough to know that marrying does not make one immune to temptation if one is so inclined. I think she had seen more than enough in all those years she lived."
"Now that is true. She was rather perceptive."
During dinner Mr and Mrs Wentworth had explained how they had met and how they had come to be married. Mrs Croft especially was interested, for her brother had not written the entire story to her.
"I had despaired of you two boys a little, I confess," said Mrs Croft when they left the dining room. "You were leaving it rather late to get married and Frederick still has no plans. Or so he says."
"Well, you never would have married young if a certain captain had not practically abducted you. Perhaps --" But then he stopped, shooting a quick glance at Anne.
She did not miss it. It was best to say something, so as to end those glances. There would undoubtedly be more if they did not get this clear now. "Perhaps your brother should have done the same? Yes, I sometimes wish he had. I sometimes wonder if it might have made things easier. But I shall never know."
He looked relieved that she had brought up the subject herself. "And now?" he asked carefully.
"And now?" She sighed. "I have no idea. We investigated together, but that was all." They had not really become friends, had they? She did not know how another person would call it. Acquaintances? Partners?
"And he got me to take you here," said Mrs Croft.
Anne was glad she had suspected that correctly. But still. "That was so Sir William would not propose to me."
"I think not and at any rate I am perfectly capable of saying no. It might be uncomfortable, but not impossible."
"Sir William, I take it, is the new baronet? I suppose you did write his name, Sophia, but I forgot," said Mr Wentworth. "And he likes you?"
"Yes, he is the baronet," Anne answered. "He did apparently tell Captain Wentworth that he had designs on me, but I never really noticed them myself."
"Oh, like that, was it."
"Like what?" asked his sister.
"Man to man talk can be different. Or so I have observed," he added. "And Frederick does not have designs on you himself, but he wishes to prevent other men from having designs on you?"
Anne said nothing. He could have many reasons for that -- if it was true.
He was suddenly concerned. "Are we allowed to take you along when we call on people before he has arrived?"
She did not know what to say. She remembered Mr Wentworth as a rather serious young man. He was now no longer young, but apparently he was also much less serious. Or was he? She had no idea.
"Perhaps not to the Youngs," said Mrs Wentworth.
"Oh, most definitely not. What would Frederick say?"
Anne raised her eyebrows helplessly.
Mrs Wentworth took pity on her. She sat down next to Anne and lowered her voice. "Do not worry. Can you tell me what happened between you and Captain Wentworth? Everyone else seems to know."
The children were allowed downstairs for fifteen minutes before bed. The adults did not retire much later, because Anne and Sophia were still tired from their journey. Still, Mrs Croft was not planning to sleep immediately. After checking up on the children, who were being watched over by a maid until they stopped making noises, she came to Anne's room.
"Well, well!" she began.
Anne waited. It was not her family and she could not yet offer her opinions.
"I like her. I think Edward did very well. I do not know what I had expected, really."
"Not a widow," she guessed.
"They do not seem to mind my being here." It made her wish she was really their sister. They had been very welcoming and friendly. They had even dared to tease her a little.
"Of course not! And you know what will happen next."
Anne coloured. "Please do not all conspire to force Captain Wentworth to marry me."
"No," Mrs Croft said, appraising her. "You would be silly enough to refuse him if you believed it was not his own idea. No, we shall all sit back and wait."
"I am thinking that could only be very obvious."
"Give us some credit for subtlety. I shall be very busy with the admiral and the children, Edward has his parish, his wife has the children and the parishioners and of course she is expecting. Nobody will have any time to wonder what exactly you are doing."
Posted on 2014-08-22
Anne thought about it when she went to bed -- how could she not? In spite of what Sophia had said, she had no doubt they would all be watching her like hawks once Frederick arrived. They might refrain from saying anything, that was all, but they would be watching and thinking. Sophia had said they would all be busy. That could not be so. Some or most of them would be capable of doing several things at once. She hoped she would not lock herself into her room as a response. It was quite uncomfortable if they all knew and they all speculated.
It was very gratifying that they seemed so interested in welcoming her into the family, however. They must like her. She had never been in such a position before. It contrasted starkly with how her family had treated Frederick eight years ago. And even now Lady Russell was hardly going to conspire with Elizabeth to get Captain Wentworth into the family.
The next morning, however, it turned out that the nervousness she had felt had not disturbed her sleep at all, for Captain Wentworth was the first in the breakfast room and she had not even known he was in the house. Anne gasped.
"Is something the matter?" he inquired, carefully inspecting his clothes to see if anything was amiss.
"Yes, you are here!"
"Should I go?"
"I mean, already! When did you arrive?" She tried to keep her face under control. She did not know if she was pleased or nervous anyhow.
"Last night? How is that possible?"
"We had better horses, I daresay."
They might, but then they had still travelled at a very high speed. "When did you leave?"
"When Sir William did. Or rather, when he moved to Uppercross."
That was surprising. "Why would he move there?" She could not imagine any reason for it.
He held up his hands. "I have no idea. It seems he was not yet completely recovered, yet he did not want to trouble us any further. Perhaps you believe it as much as I do."
Anne shrugged. She had not been there. "I forgot to ask at what time everyone gets up here. It is not that early for me, but it looks that way if nobody else is here." She wished they would come along soon.
"I am sure they will be here soon." He gestured at the table. "The table is set."
She had noticed. "How many guests arrived last night? I was not given a companion in my room and yet..." She counted the plates. She felt she could not yet sit down. Who was to sit where? Her hosts did not strike her as the kind of people who would mind terribly if she sat in their place, but you never knew. Besides, she wanted to sit at an unsuspicious distance from Captain Wentworth, but she could not decide how far that was. It was best to let someone else decide that for her.
As for Captain Wentworth, he did not look in any hurry to sit down either, although he did steal an orange part from the table.
Anne was shocked.
"In my brother's house, I may," he smiled. "I have not seen him for a while, but I know I may. Would you like one too?"
She took a step back, as if that helped. "No, no, I could not."
"I shall take it for you. Nobody would ever blame you. It is terribly impolite to turn down an offering, you know."
She hesitated. "But they will notice, will they not?"
"Of course they will not. But if you are so concerned, we should eat them all. In that case they will never know they were there in the first place."
Such audacity was incredible to Anne and she did not know what to respond. "Did you have a good journey?" she asked eventually, wondering if perhaps she had asked this already.
"Very good. We nearly caught up with you."
"The children need many stops."
"And Sophia does too, I expect."
"She must have told you." He looked at her searchingly.
"No." Anne was confused.
"Oh, never mind then."
Anne could tell there was something he was not explaining, but she did not want to ask. It was up to Sophia to tell her that herself.
Captain Wentworth stole a sausage. Anne counted them quickly. There were now nine.
"How many?" he asked in amusement. "How many can I still have?"
"If everybody was allotted one sausage, you have had yours. You must be very hungry."
"We did not eat much on the road yesterday," he admitted. "I was pretty famished waking up this morning." Clearly he expected her to hand him the entire plate of sausages out of pity.
Anne did no such thing.
"Stripped the flesh from my bones, that journey."
She eyed him critically. "I shall have to take your word for it."
"They have no pond here," he agreed.
"They do, your brother said."
The captain raised his eyebrows. Presumably because the topic of ponds had already come under discussion. "They do? I hope you did not tell him about..."
"Only about the body."
"That is precisely what I mean. Whose body?"
Anne coloured. "The dead body. Obviously!"
Unfortunately the next arrival overheard her last words quite clearly. "Dead body? Such ghoulish conversation early in the morning," said Mr Wentworth.
"What is a dead body?" asked the child he had by the hand. "Where? When is a body dead? Am I dead?"
"Look, this is Uncle Wentworth and you have already met Miss Elliot," said Mr Wentworth, eager to distract the child.
"Is he a dead body?"
"He is a live body," Captain Wentworth said with a bow. "And who is this?"
"I call him John."
"Long story," said his brother dismissively. "I hope you slept well."
"The bed is rather short."
"Is it?" Mr Wentworth appeared rather surprised. "Did you sleep in the nursery?"
"Did I take the wrong door? I must pay attention tonight then. Perhaps throw out my pillow to see if it makes any difference."
"Yes, do try that, because we have no places left. If your bed is too small, you must sleep on the floor."
Anne was astonished. She did not understand how Mr Wentworth could make such inhospitable comments to his brother with such calmness, nor how Frederick could be completely unaffected. He even laughed.
"I must confess to something," he said. "I have already eaten something. How does Mrs Wentworth look upon that?"
"With a slap on the hand."
"I had better watch out. But I was so very hungry. Miss Elliot, to her credit, would not take anything."
Keep me out of it, Anne wished to say. "I can wait," she said instead. "We had food with us in the carriage."
"That is why we had none. It was all gone," the captain retorted affably.
She tried to ignore him.
Mr Wentworth turned to her. "Did you sleep well, Miss Elliot?"
"Very well. My bed was long enough."
"I am glad to hear it. I could not imagine any more beds of ours suddenly shrinking."
"I slept so soundly that I did not even hear the gentlemen arrive last night."
"We were very quiet, trying not to wake anybody."
Then Mrs Wentworth arrived with the other child, followed by Admiral and Mrs Croft with two more youngsters. Suddenly the room was very crowded.
"Good morning," Mrs Wentworth announced. "If you look closely, you can see where you are supposed to sit."
"Oh?" Anne muttered. She had apparently not looked closely, because when she looked now, she could indeed see small strips of paper on the plates.
"It may not be what you are used to, Miss Elliot," Mrs Wentworth apologised, "but it is imperative that the children sit next to someone who keeps them under some degree of control."
"And you seat them by Sophia?" Captain Wentworth wondered when he peered at the pieces of paper. "I could do it too. Look, there is already sitting one next to me."
"You can have them tomorrow," Sophia said with a shrug. "And we can all compare. But do you not think you had best start with one?"
He looked confident that he would be able to handle two and sat down in the place that had been assigned to him. He had one child to his left and his brother to his right. Anne was sitting nearly across from him.
She was glad for that. She did not need so much close attention under the eyes of his relatives. If she was sitting on the other side of the table they could at least not catch them in a single glance.
Captain Wentworth seemed to have been introduced to his new sister the night before, because there were no introductions now, except for the children. Their names were Ariadne and Dionysus, to which Anne and Captain Wentworth reacted very graciously unsurprised. Admiral Croft, on the other hand, exclaimed it was all Greek to him.
Mrs Wentworth was not offended. "You can always stick to John," she advised. "Many people do."
The admiral looked relieved at that.
Breakfast, it turned out, was the only meal of the day that the children attended and they made the most of it. Their other meals were eaten in the nursery. With four of them present, it was rather difficult to speak of anything all without being interrupted. Anne was glad for it in a sense. She would rather sit there quietly and take her bearings.
"Is there anything you would like to do today?" inquired Mr Wentworth of his guests. "Or shall I just leave you to recover?"
"I am going to recover, thank you," said his sister. "And perhaps take a walk if the weather permits."
"I am willing to go somewhere if it is not too boring," Captain Wentworth offered.
Anne hoped she was not urged to come along. Not yet.
"I am afraid there is not much to do unless you enjoy painting," said Mr Wentworth. "The nearest castle is practically half a day away. I do not recommend going there today. But Frederick, you are welcome to come along when I go to discuss the particulars of Mrs Simpson's funeral."
"Now that was exactly the sort of thing that I should call boring. Unless someone murdered her?"To Be Continued . . .