Posted on 2012-02-04
Having whizzed through the streets of Bath faster than the speed of light (miraculously not running into Miss Anne as she sprinted after me) I slowed down and inexplicably decided to stop and chat to Charles Musgrove, who seemed completely oblivious to the fact that I'd charged out of his father-in-law's house with his sister-in-law in tow not five minutes ago. I turned around briefly to look in the direction of Camden Place when something small and dowdy rammed into me from the other side. Finally, she'd caught up with me! Clearly I hadn't seen her coming down the whole length of the Royal Crescent, despite the fact that she'd been running flat out and therefore showing a lot of leg and probably attracting some very strange looks.
I'd never seen anyone so clearly out of breath. She briefly acknowledged Charles and then took to staring at me - not that I minded - while answering his enquiries between gasps. That silly fool Musgrove kept babbling on about some gun even though nobody was really paying him any attention, but eventually he went away and I was left with the woman I'd come all the way to Bath to chase after. Hah, it looked like she'd been the one doing the chasing.
"Captain... (gasp)... Captain..."
Wheeze, gasp, imploring look. I took off my hat, she was short enough without my top hat towering over her even more.
"I am... (gulp)... I am in receipt of your proposal... and am minded to accept it." She took a shuddering breath. "Thank you". This last was delivered almost in a whisper, as she'd used up nearly all her remaining breath in just one sentence.
It struck me just how terribly unromantic this was. I'd written her the most beautiful, heartfelt letter you could ever hope to meet with, and she wants to become engaged while she's gasping for breath? Still, I couldn't help the grin that was coming over my face. If I was going to be a lovesick fool, I'd better do it properly.
That was it! This reconciliation scene just wasn't good enough. It needed fixing. Just to make sure, I asked her (making sure to give a gulp of my own to give her time to catch her breath), "Are you... quite certain?"
"I am," she replied immediately. "I am determined! I will." She made an attempt to smile and nod encouragingly but they merely came out as momentary twitches of the mouth and head. "And nothing, you may be sure, will eeever persuade me otherwise (big gasp)".
Phew. That was the difficult bit over with. She inched towards me with her mouth opening and closing like a fish, clearly expecting to be kissed. I leaned forward just in time to see the director's favourite tear rolling down her cheek. Aha! There was my chance. I straightened up and took her by the arm.
"Anne, you're crying! Come on, let's get you sorted out."
"It's okay, I know you've been running, but that little scene there just wasn't doing anything for me." I steered her into a shop where, thank goodness, the Musgrove ladies were standing around picking fabrics. (And that's probably one of the few times I would be grateful for the Musgrove ladies, especially that freak of a sister Mary). They may be strange creatures, but at least they had decent taste in clothes, unlike my poor Anne.
"Please, ladies," I cut into their barrage of exclamations and greetings, "Could I trouble you to help Miss Elliot with a more becoming selection of dresses? She cannot possibly keep traipsing around in these shades of grey and maroon. And while you're at it, could one of your maids do something about her hair? It's pulled back so tightly it looks like someone's tried to pull it out of her head. She's supposed to have gained in health and beauty since the start of the story, but she looks just as miserable as ever". I shot an apologetic look at Anne, who was staring at me (yes, again) in wonderment. In her ear, I muttered, "If I'm going to change your life for the better, I might as well start with a more romantic proposal and that, my dear, involves you looking like a proper heroine".
"In that case," she hissed back, "perhaps you could scowl a bit less and laugh a bit more? Contrary to expectations, you are supposed to be somewhat charming as well as breathtakingly handsome".
"There's my girl!" I exclaimed, delighted that Anne was finally showing a bit of her old spark. "But I would much prefer it if your breath wasn't quite so taken away". At that moment Henrietta Musgrove called her over to see the effect of a piece of fabric against her skin. In her haste to oblige, she dropped the piece of paper she'd been holding, and I subtly picked it up and put it in my pocket. It was a good letter, no doubt about that, but it could be improved upon. Leaving Mary and Henrietta to work on Anne, I escorted Mrs Musgrove back to the inn and engaged to meet the others there when they had finished their handiwork.
Harville was already there, waiting for me to return and tell him my news. I quickly explained the events of the morning to him, and gave him instructions on how to proceed. "Once Miss Henrietta and Mrs Charles Musgrove arrive, they will doubtless start talking to their mother about their purchases. I will be writing the instructions to the framemakers, and you can talk to Miss Elliot while I am actually rewriting that letter. I will find some way of giving it to her directly, and then meet her outside and take her to that spot in the park. Then this evening, I stride in romantically and ask Sir Walter for her hand in marriage. Does that sound like a plan to you?"
"Capital!" Harville unknowingly echoed the favourite saying of another secondary Austen character, which amused me greatly. These scriptwriters could at least try and come up with something new and not completely tasteless.
I moved over to the writing desk, and before I had been seated many minutes, my own sister burst in accompanied by Anne. How the Musgrove sisters managed to metamorphose into my own sister, I had no idea, though the irony struck me - soon they would be my sisters. Sophy explained that she had come across them all just as they had finished with Anne, and as Mary and Henrietta still had some errands to run, she had taken Anne back with her. At this, I looked towards Anne. The subtle shade of green suited her far better than those awful clothes she'd been wearing up to this point. Why hadn't I bothered with this before? Her hair was far more elegantly styled, making her look much less like a luckless spinster.
Now it was time to fulfil my own part of the bargain to become a more Jane Austen-like couple. I strode over to my sister and gregariously informed her (making sure to raise my voice so that everyone could hear) that Mrs Musgrove was simply dying to talk to her about the wedding plans, and perhaps she could oblige her now? I have never seen such a look of horror pass over Sophy's face, and coming from her brother, that is something. Smirking, I returned to my post at the writing desk.
Harville, true to his word, managed to get Anne to go over to him by the window and even better, had an emotional conversation with her where she wasn't hyperventilating! He had to pick the topic of lasting attachments, the sly dog. I even dropped my pen at one point in my endeavours to eavesdrop, but they just gave me pointed looks and carried on. I got the message - every die hard Persuasion fan could recite the letter I was writing off pat, so I'd better get on with writing it, hadn't I?
Having finished the letter and delivered it to its recipient in a way that ensured her not reading it while frantically dashing along the streets of Bath, I awaited said recipient at the exit to the inn. For some unfathomable reason Charles Musgrove was with her again - why did he insist on being so chivalrous? Once he'd consigned Anne to my care, I led her to a nearby park and carried on with the scene that Jane Austen never thought it necessary to describe.The End