Posted on Tuesday, 14 September 1999, at 6 : 45 p.m.
After too much coffee and with tongue planted firmly in cheek, we have decided to give you a thumbnail version of what you have all been clamouring for. Observe: A happy ending, right away.
It was a dark and stormy night. The assembled group at Uppercross Hall awaited the arrival of the young squire and his wife. While waiting, they conversed with one another most agreeably. The guest of honor, Captain Frederick Wentworth, resplendent in his blue and gold dress uniform, held court -- with the Miss Musgroves acting the part of his most devoted subjects, hanging upon his every word, story and humorous remark. The elder Musgroves and the Crofts had left the younger people to enjoy one another's company in a corner of the old fashioned Parlour when the arrival of Mr and Mrs Charles brought the party to full strength.
Mary Musgrove came in with such enthusiasm of spirits that the third member of their party entered the room quite unnoticed. Mrs Musgrove greeted her son and daughter-in-law with delight, quite overlooking Miss Anne in the process. This did not surprise Miss Anne. She was quite used to this treatment; in fact, since the gown she was wearing was several seasons out of fashion, she was rather relieved at not being given undue attention.
Anne was overawed by the appearance of her beloved Frederick in his glorious uniform. Beneath her faded dress, her constant, faithful, loyal heart pounded wildly. I have loved none but him! And now, here we stand together ... in the same room ... at last ... after all these painful, lonely, anguished years of separation!
Charles kindly brought her forward for introduction. He did not notice the look of stunned amazement and surprise on the Captain's face upon seeing Anne. Shortly it gave way to a look of delight ...and desire. Anne Elliot! What are you doing here! Can it truly be you? He took her offered hand and pressed it tenderly to his lips. "Miss Elliot and I are already acquainted Charles," he said to his friend. "Miss Elliot, it has been too long," he murmured lovingly. He took a step closer and looked deeply into her warm brown eyes.
"Anne has been staying with us ... for ... ahem ..." But the rest of Charles words trailed off as he and the others beheld what happened next. The Captain swept Miss Anne into his strong, muscular arms in a passionate embrace and planted his lips on hers in a gesture of warm welcome. The kiss lasted an inordinately long time. The embarrassed silence was broken by Mary's whining inquiry as to when dinner would be served.
"My dearest Anne, I have loved none but you." Frederick Wentworth intoned, dropping to one knee. "And it is at a felicitous season that I meet you here tonight. For my admiral as given me an order which I am now pleased to obey with the utmost rapidity. I am to " spread a little canvas and bring home a wife." Would you do me the honor of marrying me as we should have so many years ago?"
"Would I!" was all her answer, but the accent was decisive enough. So was the kiss which accompanied her words.
They were married the next day by special license and Anne once more took up residence in Kellynch Hall, thus avoiding a much-dreaded move to Bath.
We offer this to all who have longed to see Frederick and Anne's separation brought to its customary close.
As we have been accused of making love suffer much too long, we offer this tale of Christmas Cheer to our faithful, long-suffering readers!
On this cold and snowy Christmas Eve, the lights burned brightly in the windows of Uppercross Mansion, the residence of the squire. Gathered here tonight were all the members of the Musgrove clan, joyously celebrating the customs of Christmas with their typical mirthful clamour. Included in their number were their neighbors, the new inmates of Kellynch Hall, Admiral and Mrs. Croft ... and Mrs. Croft's brother, a charming, handsome, sun-bronzed and brawny man of the sea, Captain Frederick Wentworth. The good Captain, who was as wealthy as he was well-looking, was welcomed enthusiastically by everyone ... and most especially by the young ladies of the party. When the fine traditional supper was completed, all were in glad spirits as the company settled themselves in the parlor for a lovely evening of conversation ... and marrymaking.
When the Captain had first arrived in the district, it was found that he had at one time been the commander of the Musgrove's son, Richard. While those in the neighbourhood had often referred to the second Musgrove son as troublesome, unmanageable, and stupid, his mother and father knew him to be ... a-hem! ... free-spirited as well! And so a life in the King's Service had been chosen for the lad, who had lived up to his sodden, licentious reputation with vigour. Now, some years later, with the Captain kindly attending her, his mother sat mourning the fate of her dear, wretched son ... whom alive nobody had cared for.
The sofa creaked alarmingly as Mrs. Musgrove continued with her fat sighings. "Poor Richard! If only you have continued as his keeper, Captain Wentworth! Poor dear fellow, to be missing another Christmas! It would have been a happy thing if he had never left you! Every day, in every way, he was getting better and better!"
Little Arabella Musgrove wandered into the room, calling for her mama and asking about the Christmas Pudding. Fortunately, she distracted the rest of the guests from observing Captain Wentworth's reaction. Only Anne noticed the quiet retching sounds made by that gallant, long-suffering man.
After his 'coughing fit' had passed, he settled himself onto the sofa next to the 'dear boy's' mother, barely able to squeeze his muscular person into the small space left vacant at her side. Only then did he realize that seated on the other side of this good lady was Miss Anne Elliot. He had studiously avoided meeting her eye during dinner; she had been similarly shy of conversing with him. But now ... conversation was unavoidable!
Anne was wearing a pink gown which looked a little familiar to the Captain's sharp eye. At first glance, it looked to be a very pale rose, but a second look revealed it be to the same sun-faded fabric which had been used as curtains in the front parlor at Kellynch Hall eight years and a half ago! The draperies were so altered he would not have known them!
And now ... they were actually seated on the same sofa! Captain Wentworth's thoughts traveled back to the year six, when he was so eager to be back at sea, because this woman had refused him. She was the only woman who had ever done so! And to see her now, so inelegantly dressed in tired pink brocade, his warm and amiable heart was wrung with pity. After all, the years which had destroyed her youth and bloom had only given him a more glowing, manly, open look, in no respect lessening his personal advantages. He decided to use these personal advantages and began to engage Miss Elliot in quiet conversation ... as quiet as possible in household ruled by 'quiet cheerfulness,' that is! But he found his efforts were hampered by the ponderous bulk of Mrs. Musgrove, whose comfortable size blocked all his view of Anne.
"So, Miss Anne, what do you find to occupy yourself within Uppercross during this Christmas season?" he asked politely, leaning far forward in his seat in an attempt to catch her eye.
She looked up in surprise at his question. "I bake Rum Cakes, Captain ... as a restorative for my sister's low spirits, and while doing so I recite poetry ..." she began, with a shy, sweet smile.
"Oh but you must have such memories of my poor, dear Dick, whom you befriended in such a kindly manner!" Mrs. Musgrove interrupted, leaning forward herself.
"Yes, madam, I do," he said in a clipped fashion. "Poetry, eh?" Frederick then leaned back and spoke to Anne behind Mrs. Musgrove's ample form. "I know a poem. 'There was an old sailor from Brighton ...' " he arched his brow over his bright and sparkling eye, " stop me if you've heard this one ..."
"I don't recall Dick ever being in Brighton! Papa," she called out, "have any of those awful girls who keep showing up here been from Brighton?"
Mr. Musgrove scowled as he considered her question. "No Mama, not a one. The closest was Portsmouth."
"This is how we keep track of my poor boy's travels, you know, Captain," Mrs. Musgrove explained.
Captain Wentworth's handsome mouth fell open in surprise. "Ahem! As I was saying, Miss Anne, 'There was an old sailor from Portsmouth,' I mean, 'Brighton ... and he never could find him the right one ...' er ... " The good Captain was again struck dumb as he gazed at Miss Anne. Her delicate features and were bathed in the rosy candlelight reflected off Mrs. Musgrove's spangled shawl, and he saw once again the young and lovely face which had captivated his heart so completely all those years before!
Mrs. Musgrove leaned back even further in order to speak to him again. "Do you know, we have dear Dick's watch? It came with Arabella. Oh! It was meant to be a secret, and I promised so faithfully!"
Frederick gulped, and rolled his eyes toward the ceiling ... and as he did so, he froze. Mrs. Musgrove's conversation faded into the noisy din in the parlor, and he ceased listening altogether as the horror of his situation came upon him. For directly above the sofa, tied with a festive red bow, was the most enormous bunch of mistletoe the Captain had ever seen! To be under the mistletoe! And the compulsory ...! With ... Mrs Musgrove!?! How completely insupportable! He ought not! He could not! No Way!!
Captain's Wentworth's eyes began to search the room for a place to hide himself; his strategist's mind groped for a way to escape the inevitable obligatory osculation which would surely be bestowed upon his person by this woman! Or worse, perhaps it would occur to her strategist's mind to suggest that one of the younger Miss Musgroves act as her proxy in this 'duty'! Anne's eyes widened as she once again heard distressing sounds coming from this poor man.
"Has your supper disagreed with you, Captain?" Mrs Musgrove asked, her expression one of grave concern.
"Perhaps he has eaten some of the 'Goat Cass-u-lay' your Aunt Hayter brought, Mama Musgrove!" Mary called out across the room. She had obviously been listening to the conversation and could not waste this opportunity to reiterate her disdain at the Hayters' inclusion in the celebration at the Mansion. "Captain, you may need to step outside for a cigar or two once the stomach pain has passed!" she suggested. "Charles will be pleased to have company about then. He is particularly fond of ... goat," she snipped, glaring at her husband.
Captain Wentworth, however, had not heard this kind invitation. His mind was occupied with the mistletoe, and with whom he might find himself obliged to kiss ... and yet ... he was also seated beside ... Anne! The rightness of such a thing struck him forcibly. She is the only possible one! For truly I have loved none but her, all these long and lonely years! How could I have been so blind?! Beneath his superbly rich dress uniform, Frederick's forlorn heart began to pound a wild tattoo.
"Dick was also particularly fond of goat, Captain!" Mrs Musgrove broke into loud, snorting sobs.
The Captain suddenly became aware of his surroundings. Goat?! he thought, incredulously. Demon Dick was fond of ... goats? I always thought he was fond of ... women!! Wentworth shook off this thought and decided to apply himself more thoroughly to the conversation around him ... and to maneuvering himself closer to the object of his newly-reawakened desire ... his own, darling Anne! Thankfully, Mrs Musgrove continued sobbing gustily into her spangled shawl. Taking advantage of the opportunity presented, Captain Wentworth gently suggested to Mr Musgrove that his wife might wish to retire to the privacy of her own rooms, as it was obvious that she was too distraught to be in company.
As her husband led her away, he turned to face Anne, and resumed his seat upon the sofa, taking care to drape his magnificent self artfully across its surface, in order to occupy as much space as possible. Now that the situation had been amended in his favor, the masterly Captain began on a new tack.
"Do you know, Miss Anne," he smiled, "speaking of Christmas Customs, you may not be aware that we men of the Navy are, more than most, wedded to tradition. So, regardless where in the world we may find ourselves on Christmas, we spare no effort in keeping to the traditions of our Homeland ... except for one."
Fixing his bright and sparkling eye upon her, he continued. "And do you know what tradition that may be? Which we could not celebrate aboard ship? And which I have been deprived of celebrating these eight years and a half?"
Anne was captivated by such a question, especially coming from him. "Really, sir, I have no idea! Pray enlighten me!"
"Perhaps you would prefer a ... demonstration, Miss Elliot?" With an impish smile, he pointed toward the ceiling. As she glanced up, she gasped, realizing the full meaning of his words.
"Certainly, sir," she returned his smile, "I would be honored to do my ... duty ... to Crown and Country ... for one who served with such ... nobility and self-sacrifice as ... your handsome self!"
Upon hearing these felicitous words, the Captain took her roughly into his sinewy, muscular arms. "I have loved none but you," he murmured passionately, brushing his lips to hers. "Thank you for helping this poor sailor to reacquaint himself with such a wonderful tradition." He applied himself vigorously to the 'celebration' of it ... and she enthusiastically submitted to her 'duty'!
"There is yet another ... tradition among we poor men of the sea, my dear," he breathed at last. "And that is to take a wife, when at last we are put ashore ... as I now find myself ... for the very first time in all these years!" He kissed her yet once more. "So what say you, girl? Shall we marry at once ... and bring in the New Year properly ... together?"
"Far be it from me to be a woman who would defy ... the traditions of the sea!" She smiled slyly, returning his kiss.
At last, they raised their heads, wondering at the retching sounds which seemed to come from all corners of the room. Had everyone eaten goat? No, it was simply that not all in the room appreciated the lusty traditions of the men of the Navy!
Who can be in doubt of what followed? When two young people take it into their heads to marry, they are pretty sure, by perseverance, to carry their point, be they ever so poor or ever so imprudent ... yada, yada, yada ... you know the rest!
They were married the next day by special license and Anne once more took up residence in Kellynch Hall, thus avoiding a much-dreaded move to Bath. And as Anne and Frederick left to their honeymoon, they were heard to call out, "Marry Christmas to all ... and to all a good night!"
**No goats were harmed in the production of this work, although many coffee beans selflessly sacrificed themselves for the sake of our creative endeavour!
Scenario Three ~ For Valentine's Day
Ah, Valentine's Day ... the one day of the year that the small, the poor and the plain, (oops! ... that's Jane Eyre, not Jane Austen!), can expect that someone will, in an instant, recognise their merit as a lover! And so we take this opportunity, on a day dedicated to Love, to offer up this sweet tale of the passion felt by two of Jane's more overlooked lovers.
The light wind which ruffled the sea off of the coast of Lyme cheered the spirits of all of the party who had come from Uppercross. The air had a delightful salty tang; the sun was bright, the sky was clear ... and the knowledge that winter weather would soon be upon them made such a glorious November day especially enjoyable. Charles Musgrove, his wife and sisters, together with Captains Wentworth and Benwick, and Miss Anne Elliot had been making their way along the top of the Cobb, enjoying the view of the sparkling water and blue sky. This was to be their last walk together by the sea before heading for home. All wanted to make the most of it ... especially Captain Benwick, who was greatly regretting the impending departure of one of the guests.
On the previous evening Benwick had found the company of Anne Elliot to be singularly delightful. He was eager to further his acquaintance with her, but this morning his lovely friend was clearly quite distracted. She kept casting rather longing looks in the direction of his handsome friend, Captain Frederick Wentworth. Wentworth was occupied with escorting Miss Louisa Musgrove across the uneven surface of the sea wall, but it did not seem to Benwick that her animated conversation was holding his attention, for the captain kept glancing back over his shoulder at Miss Elliot. Benwick sighed. Things did not look well for him!
At last the entire company halted to take in the scene before them. Anne Elliot politely disengaged herself from her conversation with Captain Benwick and moved some distance from the group. She stood alone, with her gaze fixed on the lonely horizon. Frederick Wentworth soon joined her. At first, few words were said by each to the other, but it was not long before the two of them became involved in an earnest discussion.
Benwick looked on and sighed some more. It appeared his pain-filled, bruised, and lonely heart was about to be broken once again. "What a bummer!" he muttered, and he kicked at a rock on the Cobb. He watched as Captain Wentworth took one of Anne's hands in his and continued to speak seriously. She seemed to be very interested in whatever it was he had to say. Benwick thrust his own hands into his pockets and turned away sadly. As he did, he noticed that another member of the group was also standing by herself. The poor girl had a forlorn, woebegone expression on her young face and she looked as if she were bravely trying not to cry. She took out her handkerchief and began to dab at her eyes. Captain Benwick's sympathetic heart went out to her and he made his way to her side.
"Miss Musgrove, is something wrong?" he asked her gently.
"Oh ... no," she replied, as she looked longingly at the pair, who were standing quite close together by now. "It's only ... that I ... I ..." Louisa Musgrove hung her head and wiped her eyes again.
"Yes," he said softly, following her gaze. He had assumed this pretty young woman to be Wentworth's fiancee; he now saw that he had been mistaken. "I ... quite understand what you are feeling, Miss Musgrove. I, myself, was hoping that Miss Elliot ... but ... she obviously prefers ..." He could not continue, as he began to be overcome by his own overwrought emotions. Benwick and Louisa stood side by side for some time without speaking, each sniffing pathetically into their hanky.
Louisa broke the silence first. "Do you know, Captain," she said, in a halting voice, " my youngest sister Arabella would say that we ... that we would need a ... a 'Barney Hug' ... right now. What do you think?" Benwick looked at her in surprise. "You know," she explained, "Barney? The ... big purple ... dinosaur?"
"The dino-saur?" he repeated, perplexed. He turned the word over in his mind for a few moments. "Ah! Deinos - Sauros! Greek, I believe, meaning, ah, 'Monstrous' or 'Terrible ... Lizard!' But ..." he whispered, with a tiny smile, "I don't believe they've been discovered quite yet, Miss Louisa. This is only 1814, you know."
"Of course, how silly of me!" Louisa blinked in confusion. "I wonder how Arabella found out about Barney? We do not have a television."
"Perhaps at ... www.pbs.org/kids?" Benwick murmured. "No, no Miss Louisa," he hastened to add, as he saw an incredulous expression begin to form on her face. "We must never deny the existence of the web, you know, or we may find ourselves without Love Suffers Long and is Kind! And then we would be relegated to the role of minor characters once again! But I digress. Please, tell me about the Lizar- uh, I mean, the 'Barney Hug.' "
Louisa began to smile in spite of herself. "Well, all right. It is a hug ... that you give someone when they're feeling ... sad and lonely and ... abandoned."
"Yes, I believe we would be the perfect candidates for that!" he nodded solemnly and moved nearer in order to put his arms around her. "Like this?" He held her closely in an affectionate embrace for a few minutes, and then added, "Do you know, I believe this 'Barney Hug' is most efficacious, for I am already beginning to feel much better, Miss Louisa!" He pulled away to look into her eyes. "What about you?"
"We're not finished yet, Captain," she answered seriously and stepped back a pace, thereby disengaging herself from the hug. "Now we must sing the 'Barney Song.' It goes like this," and Louisa began to sing in a voice that was sweet and clear.
"I love you, you love me, we're a happy family,
With a great big hug and a kiss from me to you,
Won't you say you love me, too."
Captain Benwick listened as one spellbound. "I ... I rather like the 'Barney Song!'" he managed, once she had finished. "It is ... very nice!" This was not at all the sort of thing he expected a giant lizard to sing! And Louisa Musgrove had sung it so beautifully! He took a deep breath to compose his emotions and politely offered his arm to her. "Would you like to walk a little? I think they will not be missing our company," he indicated Anne and Captain Wentworth with a nod of his head. Frederick Wentworth had continued to hold Anne's hand; he was now in the process of bringing the tips of her fingers to his lips!
"I suppose I have been rather foolish, in thinking that he might prefer someone like me," Louisa confessed, as she took Captain Benwick's arm. She looked at him with a sad little smile. "He seemed so perfect! A handsome captain ... of the ... Nav ..." Louisa's words dwindled away as she continued to gaze at her companion. This man was also an officer of the Navy, with the title Captain, and he looked, why, he looked very well in the uniform! And he was such a kind-hearted and compassionate man ... and so attentive! He was rather like ... her own dear papa! Louisa's heart began to pound in a most alarming way!
"I wouldn't give up on looking for love, not altogether, Miss Louisa," Benwick said, and he patted her hand reassuringly. "Although it seems rather odd for me to be saying so, doesn't it? But Miss Elliot told me that I would rally again, and do you know, I am beginning to think that she is right!" He smiled at Louisa and found himself to be gazing into the most beautiful blue eyes he had ever seen. Why had he never noticed them before?
"Actually, Miss Louisa," he continued, speaking softly, "I find that the 'Barney Song' is quite ... romantic!" With his free hand he reached up and tucked a windblown lock of her hair back into her bonnet.
"It ... it is?" she stammered, looking into his eyes. They were a warm brown colour and sparkled in a most attractive way. Louisa gulped, unable to tear her gaze away from him.
"And ... now that I think on it, we have not carried out everything that the song instructed us to do."
"We ... haven't?" she breathed, forgetting all about Frederick Wentworth in newfound fascination for his friend.
" 'With a great big hug ... and a ... kiss ... from me to you' " he quoted, raising an eyebrow significantly.
" 'Won't you say ... you love me, too,' " she finished for him. They were standing quite close together now; his free arm moved to encircle her waist. She reached up and began to finger one of the buttons on the lapel of his uniform.
"I ... love you, too," Captain Benwick whispered, as he brought his face close to hers, going one better than Frederick Wentworth by bringing his lips to hers in a gentle kiss.
"And a kiss from me to you, too!" Louisa cried, and threw her arms around his neck! The second kiss was of much longer duration, for Captain Benwick was a man of great thoroughness and attention to detail in all matters! He was, in spite of his soft manner, a very zealous officer!
"Good Night! Would you look at that?!" Frederick Wentworth broke off his conversation with Anne Elliot to point to his friend, who was locked in a passionate embrace with Louisa Musgrove. "Benwick! You ..." He shook his head in amazement. "Do you know, Anne, that poor fellow is such a romantical idiot! All he needs is the least bit of encouragement, which he never gets (with the exception of Fanny), and look at him! Dead gone!"
"Is that such a bad thing?" Anne's eyes twinkled as she looked at her handsome companion. "To follow the leading of one's heart, in love?"
"No, I suppose not! But Benwick's in the soup!" he replied, barely able to contain his glee at such a fortuitous turn of events. "He's certainly obligated himself to Louisa Musgrove! He can't escape the noose now!"
"But what is she to do with two 'obligated' gentlemen?" Anne asked, with a smile.
"One of them must withdraw, certainly!" Frederick grinned. "And it does not look as if Benwick will be the one who does! Ah well! It appears that he is hers in honour if she wishes it! Poor sap."
"I do not think Captain Benwick shares your poor opinion of the situation, Frederick! Nor Louisa Musgrove! It seems she does indeed wish it!"
"Aye, it most certainly does!" he agreed. "And after all," he said, turning to look deeply into Anne's soft brown eyes, "can it be such a bad thing for a man to obligate himself in honour to the woman he lov..." But Frederick never finished his sentence, having decided instead to follow Captain Benwick's most excellent example!
"Would you look at that!" Benwick exclaimed, as he and Louisa came up for air. "Wentworth! And Miss Elliot!" He smiled adoringly at Louisa, and then glanced over his shoulder at his friend once again. "Do you know, Louisa, that poor fellow is absolutely panicked if a woman shows an iota of interest in him. Which they all do! And off he runs! But with Miss Elliot, who has betrayed not the smallest sign of preference or even friendship toward him, he is ... !"
Captain Benwick shook his head in wonder. "Well! He has certainly obligated himself to her by this! Get ready for the leg-shackle, old boy! But I think you'll find it to be ... rather wonderful!" He reached up to tenderly caress Louisa's cheek with his fingertips. "To quote a phrase," he murmured, " 'If this is torture, chain me to the wall!' "
Louisa began to giggle. "But it was a dog who said that, James! That funny little chihuahua! And while he was ... smoking a cigar!"
"Now how would you know about that?" he laughed. "I thought you said you didn't have a television!"
"Now, James, I do occasionally go to the theatre!"
"To see a Disney animated feature, to be sure! A take-off on Oliver Twist ... which hasn't been written yet, dearest? Oh, of course! Silly me!" he replied, and kissed her again, as a gust of wind swept around them. "It is rather breezy up here, Louisa," he said at last. "Suppose we move down to the lower level of the Cobb where we will be more comfortable?"
"I seem to remember seeing some stairs just over there," she offered helpfully.
"Oh no. Not those. They are quite treacherous, although they do not look it! We who live here never use them if we can help it! But we are seldom asked for our opinion ..." he said, as he cast a final look at his friend and Miss Elliot. "There was a book written about that, you know. A young woman had a tragic fall from those very steps! But it turned out rather well in the end. She married a very fine fellow and they lived happily ever after!" Benwick smiled affectionately at Louisa. "That is one of my favourite books," he continued. "Odd thing, though. That fellow I mentioned, the one who married the girl ... he never says a single thing, not even once!"
"Perhaps he is rather shy," Louisa suggested. "My papa is like that."
"He is until he is with his particular friends ... and most especially with the woman he loves," Benwick grinned. "Then it becomes difficult to shut him up!"
And high-spirited, joyous-talking Louisa could only laugh in agreement as she took his arm. She was liking James better and better, in addition to being in love with him! "But we will be heading for home in a very short time ... and I do not want to leave you!"
"Nor I, you. Mmmm. I'll have to think about that one." Benwick lapsed into deep thought as they walked along. Soon they had wound their way down to the lower level of the Cobb. They came to a stop when they reached the foot of the narrow stone steps.
"Do you know, in that book, the girl who fell from those stairs ..." said he, looking up at them, "... she was quite badly hurt and had to stay in Lyme for several months."
"Several months!" Louisa exclaimed. "What a pity we did not use them! I could have fallen, and then ...!" Her eyes began to dance. "But James, I could pretend to fall!" She smiled mischievously. "And, of course, I could manage to be only a little injured ..."
"No, no, dearheart!" Captain Benwick chuckled. He put his arms around her and kissed her fondly. "We cannot prevaricate like that! Think of the worry we would cause your family! However ..."
"Well, I won't believe it until I see it my-self!" came a shrill voice from the upper level of the Cobb. "Of all the foolish, harebrained things I have ever heard ..."
"Oh no," Louisa groaned, and leant her head against Captain Benwick's shoulder. "It's Mary."
"Just a minute! There they are!" the voice said to someone else. "No indeed! I will not be quiet! Woo-hoo! Loo-eee-sa!" Mary Musgrove's form appeared at the edge of the upper level of the Cobb. She waved to her sister-in-law and began to descend the narrow stairway.
"Oh, Mrs Musgrove!" Benwick called out in alarm. "Have a care!"
"Mary!" Charles came up from behind her. "Let me go first!"
But Mary was not about to be deterred from her objective. She pushed her husband aside and began to spout out what she had been storing up to say to Louisa. "Now my dear sister! You have it all wrong!" Mary felt her way down to the top step, grumbling as she came. "You are supposed to marry Captain Wentworth!"
She took another step down, very carefully, for there was no handrail. "If this man wants a wife, which I don't see why he would (for he has had his chance, hasn't he?), then he should try for Henrietta. Anyone would be better than Charles Hayter, although ..." Mary paused for a moment, in order to look Benwick over. "No, I do believe he is better looking than your ill-bred cousin, although not by much!" She continued her descent, continuing to mutter disparaging comments. "And besides that, he is rather shor ..."
A scream pierced the air as Mary's foot slipped from the stone stair! She fell onto the Cobb below! There she lay, in a crumpled heap!
For a moment, everyone was too stunned to move ... or even to think of what should be done, for there was no Anne Elliot present to direct them! Then, from his position at the top of the stair, Charles called out. "Louisa! Have a look at Mary, there! And tell me how she gets on! You know how she will always be fancying herself ill!"
"I Am Not Well, Charles!" came the answer from the Sufferer Herself. She made no move to rise, but continued to speak in a loud whine. "I do believe if you were to see me dying, you would not think there was anything the matter with me! Louisa," she wailed, "I wish you might persuade him that I really am very ill -- a great deal worse than I ever own!"
But Louisa would do nothing of the sort; indeed, she had not heard anything that Mary had said. For when Mary had fallen from the stair, she had landed directly upon poor Captain Benwick! He had broken her fall!
"James! James!" Louisa shrieked. "Are you killed?" She began pushing roughly at Mary. "Get up, you lump! You're crushing him!" After shoving Mary aside, she tenderly stroked his hair with a trembling hand and spoke to him through tears. "James! My darling! Speak to me!"
"I ... am not ... killed, my dear," came the answer. "Not ... quite." A bruised and battered James Benwick grimly picked himself up from the pavement. He was very much alive, although a little worse for wear. He eyed Mary Musgrove, who was sitting on the Cobb fussing over a small tear in her gown. He remembered seeing this woman stuff herself with chocolate mousse at dinner the night before; now he resented every mouthful she had eaten! Benwick put his arms around Louisa, to comfort her. "I have taken many spills in naval career," he reflected, with a shake of his head, "but none to equal this!"
And there was nothing to equal the sincere thanks and good-hearted concern of the members of the Musgrove family. Charles insisted on bringing Captain Benwick with them to Uppercross so that he could be properly nursed back to health. And although Benwick questioned the logic behind carting a wounded man three hours in a lurching carriage to be 'nursed,' he wisely refrained from saying so. As it was, he was placed in a most excellent situation, smack between Mary Musgrove and his darling Louisa. And if Benwick was forced to make more room for Louisa by kindly putting his arm around her shoulders, no one said anything about it.
Mary Musgrove had plenty to say, of course, but nothing more about the shortcomings of James Benwick. He had risen in her eyes to eclipse all other suitors for Louisa's hand, as he had shown by his heroic actions that he knew the place and importance of an Elliot! And Mary did not repine about Louisa's loss of Captain Wentworth either, for she had very cleverly put Henrietta into the gig for the trip home ... insisting that Henrietta seat herself between the Captain and Anne. But What Happened In The Gig is another tale, you know ...
Louisa Musgrove and James Benwick were married as soon as they could be, but not sooner than Frederick Wentworth and Anne Elliot! And Anne once more took up residence in Kellynch Hall, thus avoiding a much-dreaded move to Bath. And they all lived happily ever after ... well, except Mary. But for that story you will have to continue reading Love Suffers Long And Is Kind ...
'Barney' is a character from an American television show (of the same name) for very young children. You can see Barney at http://www.pbs.org/barney/ 'Barney' is a trademark of The Lyons Group.
In case there are those of you who are unfamiliar with the 'Barney Song' and who want to sing it to your sweetie this Valentine's Day, it is sung to the nursery tune 'This Old Man.' (Awww, c'mon, you've heard this one, haven't you? "This old man, he had One, he played 'nick-nack' on my thumb, etc ...")
Quotation is from Disney's Oliver and Company