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More Justified In Acting Chapters 4-6 (Post 2)

October 03, 2017 07:37PM

Chapter 4



Uppercross Cottage, October 22 1814

The morning hours of the Cottage were always later than those of the other house, and on the morrow Anne was surprised to find Mary awake and preparing for breakfast when she came down. She was informed that Captain Wentworth would be arriving presently to join them for breakfast before the shooting. A thousand feelings rushed on Anne, of which this was the most consoling, that it would soon be over. She had barely a moment to prepare herself before she heard his quick rap at the door, just as Charles was rushing down the stairs muttering about being late. Anne gripped a chair for support as Charles led Captain Wentworth into the room and she caught her first glimpse of him. 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 was the same Frederick Wentworth she had fallen in love with.

He made his bow to Mary then turned to Anne and did the unthinkable, he smiled. It was not the carefree smile of the year six, it was cautious, unsure, and perhaps even hopeful. Anne could not prevent a corresponding smile in response, equal parts surprise, timidity, and hope. He bowed to her and said, “Miss Anne, it is a pleasure to see you again, it has been far too long.”

Anne was flustered. Not only was he acknowledging her acquaintance, but implying that he had missed her presence. If that was the case, why hadn't he returned sooner? “Indeed Captain Wentworth, when your brother left the curacy of Monkford we had little hope of ever seeing you again,” she replied with a curtsy. His intense gaze bore into her, but she could not fathom their meaning

“And how fares the little invalid?” He roused himself to ask.

“He is far better. Mr. Robinson, the apothecary, has seen him again this morning and the swelling around the spine seems to have gone down, the tingling in his legs is receding and he can move them with ease. The problem now is to keep him from moving too much until the muscles heal.”

“I am familiar with the type of injury, it is common amongst unskilled young midshipmen falling from the rigging. It can be rather touch and go and restraining the activity of an active young boy can be difficult. He is lucky to have such a capable nurse at hand.”

Anne looked down and blushed at such praise. She did not know how to interpret his behavior. She had expected indifference, perhaps disdain, part of her had hoped for the return of the ardent lover. She wasn't sure what to do with this cautious civility. Was he intending them to meet as common and indifferent acquaintances? “My duties now, I fear, are more of entertainment rather than nursing. He is growing rather restless.”

Here Mary interjected herself into the conversation, requiring her own fair share. Breakfast proceeded with pleasant conversation on common matters. Captain Wentworth never alluded to a closer relationship between themselves, but he was sure to include her in all conversation and continued to pay her subtle complements. He was charming, Anne was charmed. For the first time in eight years she felt herself truly happy.

That is, of course, until the Miss Musgroves intruded into the room. Though their expressed purpose was to visit Mary and inquire after Little Charles, their attention was quickly diverted to Captain Wentworth. They dominated the conversation for the rest of the meal with their flirtations. Before long, breakfast was cleared and Charles announced that it was time for the men to depart. Their visitor had bowed and was gone, the Miss Musgroves were gone too, suddenly resolving to walk to the end of the village with the sportsmen.

At that moment, Anne wished nothing more than a quiet room to think. Her emotions were too high to fully attend to Mary's fluttering pronouncements. The worst was over. They had met. They had been once more in the same room. Though they had not reached the level of ease or intimacy which they had lost, he had been so kind and rather attentive.

“...It will be such a match for Henrietta!” Mary's prattling finally penetrated Anne's musings with this proclamation.

“What?” Anne responded in alarm. “She has but just met him last evening,”

“I know, but they are off to a promising beginning. Long courtships are not the done thing in the Navy you know.”

“I detected no particular attachment on his side, he treated her with the same geniality as he did Louisa or …” Anne had to bite her tongue to prevent giving herself away, “or you.”

“Oh yes! He was excessively attentive to me!” Preened Mary, “I dare say he may choose Louisa, but it would be so convenient at this moment for Henrietta to be swayed from Charles Hayter!”

“But Mr. Hayter is such a nice young man, and so very fond of Henrietta.”

“I dare say, but he is such an unfortunate relation to have.”

“We do not know that Captain Wentworth is even looking to marriage at present,” Anne murmured weakly, endeavoring to convince herself as much as Mary.

“Well, he is a single man in possession of a good fortune, he must be in want of a wife, and as Henrietta and Louisa are quite the most eligible girls in the county, he will certainly marry one of them.” Anne felt the sting of Mary's thoughtless words. At seven and twenty, she was no longer considered an eligible match for a dashing young man even by her own sister.

At this point their alarming discussion was cut short by the arrival of the Miss Musgroves themselves who returned to express how perfectly delighted they were with Captain Wentworth, how much handsomer, how infinitely more agreeable they thought him than any individual among their male acquaintance, who had been at all a favorite before. In short, he had looked and said everything with such exquisite grace, that they could assure them all, their heads were both turned by him.

Anne quietly slipped out of the room in despair on the pretense of checking on Little Charles. It was true that Frederick had shown no particular attachment to any of the young ladies, herself included. She had allowed her hopes to be raised by his easy manner and recognition of her as an acquaintance when he had shown her nothing but civility. She knew that she had lost her youth and beauty over the years and could not stand in comparison to the Miss Musgroves. Her hopes were again dashed and she was plunged into misery.

~~~


Kellynch, October 22 1814

Again ensconced in the window seat of the Library, Frederick took stock of his day. He had seen Anne! She was as gentle and clever and proper as ever. Basking in her shy smiles across the table throughout breakfast he felt as if a part of him he hadn't realized was missing was restored to him. He couldn't remember when he had last enjoyed a meal as much but would wager that it had been in the summer of six. There was, of course, some awkwardness in this first meeting. That could not be helped, but he felt it fading away as the meal wore on. Until those silly girls intruded, that is. Sure, the Miss Musgroves were pleasant enough company, but they did tend to hang about him. He could also sense Anne's retreat as soon as they entered the room.

His first priority was to discover her current feelings for him. He was certain that she wasn't indifferent to him, her blushes and agitation confirmed that, but they could have been the result of embarrassment as well. Having been once rejected, he was unwilling to risk exposure until he had some confirmation. He needed to get Anne alone and ascertain her feelings, but that may be difficult. The Musgrove girls gave every indication of following him like puppies and Charles Musgrove seemed to take an eager interest in his sister-in-law's affairs. Frederick had bristled every time Charles complemented or smiled at Anne. Even after he married her own sister, it was clear that the man still had feelings for her! Not that he could judge, he knew better than anyone that Anne Elliot was not easily dislodged from ones heart.

Frustrated that he hadn't gained any further insight into Anne's heart and desperate to feel near her, he turned again to her surrogate and perused her diary. She wrote on a wide range of topics. Interspersed with discussions of literature, snippets of poetry, translations from French and Italian, and details of her daily life were glimpses at her feelings. He found his own name far more often than he would have expected. While his mind had been turned to glory, honor, and riches on the sea, she was left to contemplate the workings of her heart. He found clippings from newspapers detailing his triumphs, excerpts from the Navy List for each new ship he commanded, fond memories, small occurrences that she would have liked to share with him, and frequent lamentations about the mistakes of the past. Entries about him were frequently spattered with tear stains and it broke his heart every time. Some of the passages chilled him to the core.

January 26, 1808
I spoke to Mr. Wentworth today, it was the first time we've had any real conversation since Frederick left. I believe he has been avoiding me and given the circumstances I do not blame him. Thus far I've been too timid to approach him, but as he will be leaving the parish soon, I thought it might be my only chance. He is the only person I can turn to for information regarding my dearest Frederick. Of course, he was not initially forthcoming. I believe he still blames me for breaking his brother's heart. He needn't have bothered with his recriminations, I already blame myself. If there were any way to take that pain solely on myself I would in an instant. I would not hurt Frederick for the world had I any other option, but I was truly convinced that I acted for the best.

For all of his recriminations and all of my penitence, he did finally give me some information on my beloved though not all to my satisfaction. He has been made Captain of the Sloop the Asp – this much I knew from the Navy List – But Frederick wrote to him that the sloop was barely seaworthy! It had been scheduled to be decommissioned but was relaunched as a result of the demand for ships due to the war. I had been consoling myself with the fact that Frederick had so quickly been given a command. Surely he was hale and hearty and safe, living his dreams on the sea. These were obviously naive wishes, but having released him of his obligation it was comforting to think of him succeeding in his profession at least. Now I learn that he is in constant danger not only from the French and the common dangers of the sea, but in a dangerous ship as well. If he took this reckless step because of me … If he were to sink! With Mr. Wentworth going away, would I even learn if he were to perish? Would the papers report on the sinking of a derelict sloop? Would I continue in vain to search for news of him, unaware that my dear heart lay cold and dead on the ocean floor? I could not bear it. I don't believe I shall be able to sleep soundly until I am sure he is safely ashore.


She was too good, too caring. He had thought her unfeeling of his pain when she broke the engagement, but her sorrow over his pain was visceral. He would have to have words with Edward about telling Anne of his danger, what was the man thinking! Although, he was not blameless there either. In truth he had boarded that ship fairly indifferent as to whether he safely returned or not. He had been heartbroken, angry, and reckless. He should not have been so open with his brother about his recklessness and it was reasonable for Edward to blame Anne for that recklessness. He had no idea it would affect her this deeply.

July 30, 1808

Thank Heavens! Frederick is safely ashore! The newspaper reports that the Asp limped into the port at Plymouth scarce hours before a horrid storm. To think that he may have survived all of that time asea and in battle only to be dashed on British rocks as he returned home. It is too horrible to think it. I have now some hollow comfort in the knowledge that I probably did promote his career in breaking our engagement when I did. I doubt Frederick would have taken command of the Asp had we married. Neither of us had the ready funds to rent rooms for me, and I can't imagine Frederick allowing me to go with him on such a dangerous ship. It would have been too risky. He would have been more careful and missed an opportunity at his first real command.

As it is, he is home safe and in possession of some fortune. Not that his fortune was ever my goal, but now that he has the means to support a wife, will he come back to me? Does he remember me? Dare I hope he still loves me? I know I should scarcely hope, but a small glimmer has begun to shine. I must wait to see my fate. For now I shall rejoice that he has returned unharmed and hope that his next ship is of a sturdier build.


By God! She would have accepted me! Had I only attempted to contact her when I returned, before I sailed on the Laconia! Of course he had thought of it. He remembered bitterly laughing as he sat in the harbor that first evening at the fact that he had been correct. Scarcely two years on and he had made his fortune, all of Lady Russell's officious interference had been for naught. Pride! He had long blamed the officious pride of the Elliots and Lady Russell for ruining his happiness, but his own wounded pride had stretched the period of sorrow even further! Six years! They could have been married for six years by now. His shame deepened at her logic regarding the Asp. He never would have allowed her to sail with him aboard the Asp! That pile of tinder was far to decrepit for such precious cargo. And yet, he hadn't really thought of such considerations before he proposed. He had assumed she would live aboard ship with him as his wife. He truly hadn't had the means at that point to set her up in her own establishment. He perhaps could have lodged her with another sailor's wife but Sophy was in the West Indies and Harville hadn't married yet. He wasn't certain who would have taken her in.

August 9, 1808

Today is my birthday. I have reached my one and twentieth year, I am of age. I could leave my father's home. I could go to Plymouth and search for Frederick, plead my case. Let him know how deeply I miss him and how much I have come to regret my decision. Upon seeing me, he would of course be swept away by his own feelings, procure a special license, and marry me before the day is out.

Of course, I would never do such a thing. Even at the ripe age of one and twenty, an unaccompanied gentle born woman would be a target. I have no money to entice a maid to join me to make it respectable. Assuming I arrived in Plymouth unharmed, how would I find Frederick? Is he even still there? Would he want to see me? If he cast me off I would be ruined. Ruined in the eyes of society. Prey to adventurers and thieves. Broken hearted. I could not survive it. As it is, I can survive on the merest scrap of hope that he may some day come back for me, but I could not bear it if I were to look into his eyes and see contempt. Can one indeed die of a broken heart?

Father informed me that money was tight this year after their trip to London and gave me only some ribbons for my birthday. Elizabeth hosted an evening in to celebrate my birthday. She ordered her favorite cranberry cake and we played cards. I am allergic to cranberries and detest cards. Father was unable to fetch Mary from school, but she sent me a watercolor of the wilderness around Bath as she knew it was my only solace when I was there for school.


At least she had had the good sense not to attempt running away to him! He had visited Sophy in Deal during that shore leave. He would not have been in Plymouth for her to find. He would never have forgiven himself had she come to any harm in her search for him! No wonder she was so desperate to leave, considering the shabby treatment she received at the hands of her family! Had he gone to her when he reached shore, they might have celebrated that birthday together as man and wife!

September 2, 1808

The Laconia set sail today. I suppose I may see this as an end to my hopes. Society forbids me from contacting him myself to make my sentiments known, but he has known my location these two years past. Had he been so inclined, he could have written or even returned: triumphant in his success, able to support a wife and children. We could have been married with my father's consent if not his blessing. As the captain's wife, I could have sailed with him on the Laconia. I've heard the captain's cabins on that class of frigate are rather accommodating. I could have made myself useful in tending to the sick and injured. Frederick did always admire my skills. We could have been together. We could have been happy.

I cannot help but feel that a man's feelings die sooner than a woman's. After all of this time, I still feel his absence as a constant aching hole that I cannot imagine ever filling. Had I the freedom of a man, I would have contacted him to make my sentiments known. I feel that I cannot live without him and yet I do just that. I wake up each morning and go through my day despite the gaping wound in my chest. Had he felt even a fraction of my pain he surely would have returned. Of course, us women are forced into sedentary domestic lives. We have little to do but dwell on past regrets and lost futures. Frederick at least has the benefit of an active profession. He has men that depend on his leadership, King and country depend on the bravery of men like Frederick to protect the rest of us! Surely these responsibilities at least distract him from the hollow pain of lost love.


He thought of her in his cabin on the Laconia, breathing life into the dull space. Walking the deck of the ship with him on his off duty hours, lightening his life. She would be an amazing nurse. Regardless of the unacceptable amount of tears she had shed over him, she never flinched or resorted to hysterics in an emergency. He was unsure he would want to expose his wife to the dangers of battle, but in times of peace he could certainly envision her aboard ship with him.

His fingers again traced the teardrops on the page overlaying her words of agony and he realized that some were fresh – his own tears mingling with hers. Oh my love! At that moment he felt every bit of the pain she described. He dashed the tears from his eyes then his hand fell to rub his battered heart. He gazed unseeing out into the darkness as he contemplated the pain he had caused her. His love had never died, he had merely masked it in implacable resentment and anger. For all of these years he had selfishly thought only of the harm she had done to him in breaking their engagement. As it was her decision, he had placed the blame for his own suffering on her and never contemplated her own broken heart except to triumph that she had been wrong in doubting him.

“My word Frederick!” Sophy interrupted his revere as she swept into the library, “don't you cut the dashing figure brooding in the window seat after dark, you require only a bolt of lightning and a fair damsel to rescue. Quite out of a Gothic novel!”

He had missed Sophy's gentle teasing. After the death of their parents, Sophy had all but raised him until he joined the Navy. Perhaps what he really needed in all of this was an ally. “Who's to say I wasn't plotting my strategy to rescue my fair damsel, hmm?”

“Oh Frederick, I wish you would be serious!” She chastised him with a fond smile. “I do believe it is time for you to settle down.”

“I couldn't agree with you more.”

The sudden seriousness of his tone drew Sophy's attention. “Really?”

“When the peace swept me to shore with a comfortable fortune and no present occupation I had already decided to take a wife. I resolved that anybody between fifteen and thirty may have me for asking. A little beauty, and a few smiles, and a few compliments to the navy, and I would be a lost man.”

Sophy laughed and responded “Well, we shall have to see what we can do!”

“Of course, that plan has been irrevocably altered”

“What could have made such a drastic change in so little time? You've scarcely been ashore for a fortnight.”

“Coming to this place has stirred some old feelings.” He paused in brooding contemplation. “You know, it was the most outrageous of coincidences that you should lease this house in particular.”

“How so?”

He sighed, debating how much he should tell his sister. Unless national security was at risk, the Admiral was likely to spew out whatever thought entered his mind regardless of the company, but Sophy could be trusted and he was in desperate need of a friendly ear. “I am not sure how much Edward saw fit to divulge to you at the time, but I had formed an attachment when I was last in this county. Our acquaintance was but the span of months, but I fell deeply in love. I proposed and was accepted by my beloved. It was the happiest day of my life.”

“Goodness, why did I never hear of this?”

“You were in the West Indies at the time and within days all of my hopes were dashed. Her father...” he glared at the desk in the corner where Sir Walter had sat during that fateful interview … “and friends opposed the match, they convinced her that it was imprudent, that I did not have the fortune to keep a wife, and she cast me aside. In the course of days I went from the highest elation to the deepest despair. My heart was broken and I wished never to be reminded of it. I couldn't bear to commit the story to writing to inform you.”

Sophy sat beside him and pulled his head to her shoulder, comforting him as she had when he was eight and his parents died in a carriage accident. After several minutes of silence, Sophy seemed to make the connection. “This house...” she began, then thought better of it.

Frederick sighed and explained, “somehow, against my will, unconsciously, I've been in love with Anne Elliot for over eight years.” He said sullenly into her shoulder, then suddenly roused himself and straightened and said with rising animation: “over the last few days I've gained insights into her thoughts and reasons and realized that I was merely angry. I have never in my life met her equal. I saw her again today and realized that I could never love another.”

“So what shall you do?”

“Rescue my fair damsel of course,” he replied with a cheeky grin. “First I must ascertain whether she still loves me, but then it should follow the standard order: I will propose, marry, and live happily ever after!” Frederick returned her a rueful grin, “I may require your assistance.”

“I await my orders Captain!” She said with a salute.

“The Miss Musgroves have also decided that I cut a romantic figure and have latched on to me whenever we are in company. They barged in uninvited to breakfast this morning and made Anne rather uncomfortable. Then they accompanied their brother and I on the hunt – how is one supposed to shoot with a silly girl on each arm I ask you? They leave me little choice but to comply or cut them directly and I do not wish to be rude. From some offhand comments Charles made while shooting today, it appears that the rest of the family considers me the property of one or the other of them as well. I shall need your help running interference.”

“Is it not typically a brother's task to fend off over eager suitors? I suppose as your older sister I must defend your virtue!” Her eyes barely held their mirth at his predicament. “Very well, I shall do my best to keep them at bay, we can't have you ruining your happiness and breaking your heart for the sake of social niceties.”

“Oh, I wouldn't let it come to that. I assure you, I look only for confirmation of Anne's feelings before I commit to her, but I would hate to raise anyone else's expectations farther than I already have by my mere presence alone.”

“Good boy! Now, tell me about your Miss Elliot.”

Chapter 5



The Great House at Uppercross, October 28 1814

From this time Captain Wentworth and Anne Elliot were repeatedly in the same circle. This circle was occasionally enlarged by the addition of the Hayters, a family of cousins to the Musgroves with multiple daughters and a son. Charles Hayter – who had a longstanding understanding with Miss Henrietta Musgrove – developed an instant dislike for Frederick. He was brought nearly to the point of despair by Henrietta's obvious infatuation for the dashing Captain. For his part, Frederick tried to set the man's mind at ease, but was never quite successful.

They were soon dining in company together at Mr Musgrove's, for the little boy's state could no longer supply his aunt with a pretense for absenting herself; and this was but the beginning of other dinings and other meetings. Most mornings Sophie and the Admiral spent together outdoors, walking alone together or driving in their gig. Frederick took this time to call at Uppercross and Uppercross cottage – for Anne was just as frequently found at one house as the other. They saw each other nearly daily, but Frederick never found the chance to speak to her alone. He felt her watching him as he conversed with others though he was rarely able to catch her eye.

When talk turned to the Navy, as it often did, he would try to draw her into the conversation. Over the course of their courtship he had taught her well about the workings of a ship, and he was pleased to see that she had obviously continued her studies. Once drawn into the conversation she was animated and well informed. However, a determined sadness crept over her whenever one of the Musgrove girls flirted with him and she lapsed into silence. It seemed almost as if she had decided to give him up to them. As if my affections could be transferred so easily!

Frederick was somewhat lost in one of these instances when Mrs. Musgrove sadly brought up Dick Musgrove with an obvious expectation of a response from him. His confusion rapidly gave way to remembrance of a slapdash young midshipman on the Laconia as Louisa whispered “My brother ... mamma is thinking of poor Richard.” He had little of credit to say of the boy, but as Anne was sitting quietly beside Mrs. Musgrove and smiling at him with an amused glint to her eye, he could not help but draw closer. He sat next to Mrs. Musgrove and indulged her remembrances to the best of his ability, all the while conscious of his proximity to Anne.

“Poor dear fellow!” continued Mrs Musgrove; “he was grown so steady, and such an excellent correspondent, while he was under your care! Ah! it would have been a happy thing, if he had never left you. I assure you, Captain Wentworth, we are very sorry he ever left you.”

Frederick silently disagreed with this assessment, but lit on an idea. He caught Sophy's attention and nodded toward the Miss Musgroves. She took them in hand and busied them in searching out the Admiral's ships in the Navy List. “Mrs. Musgrove, do you have Richard's letters at hand? If I could but see them I may be able to expand on what he said.”

Mrs. Musgrove's teary eyes grew wide with excitement. “Oh Captain Wentworth! You are too kind! I shall fetch them directly!” Her eager response made him slightly repentant for the subterfuge, but as she lifted her considerable bulk from the sofa and he found himself looking directly into Anne's eyes he felt only contentment.

He slid closer to her side and said in a low voice, “Miss Anne, I believe you have been avoiding me.”

She looked away and demurred, “of course not Captain, your attention has merely been engaged elsewhere. I am not one to interject myself into another's conversations.”

“Unlike some young ladies I could mention?” He raised his eyebrows and gave a slight gesture in the direction of the Miss Musgroves.

“They are rather spirited.”

“And determined,” he sighed.

Her eyes widened and she stuttered, “but I thought...” Now we are getting somewhere thought Frederick. But before he could elaborate on his feelings, they were interrupted by the Admiral.

"If you had been a week later at Lisbon, last spring, Frederick, you would have been asked to give a passage to Lady Mary Grierson and her daughters."

"Should I? I am glad I was not a week later then."

The Admiral abused him for his want of gallantry and Frederick defended himself: “until recently, I was of the mindset that it is impossible, with all one's efforts, and all one's sacrifices, to make the accommodations on board such as women ought to have. I had therefore maintained that no ship under my command should ever carry ladies for any stretch of time.”

This brought his sister upon him.

"Oh! Frederick! But I cannot believe it of you – All idle refinement! – Women may be as comfortable on board, as in the best house in England. I believe I have lived as much on board as most women, and I know nothing superior to the accommodations of a man-of-war. I declare I have not a comfort or an indulgence about me, even at Kellynch Hall," (with a kind bow to Anne), "beyond what I always had in most of the ships I have lived in; and they have been five altogether."


Frederick conceded: “You are of course correct Sophy. I have recently come to realize that a worthy steadfast woman with a sweet temper and obliging nature would do very well living aboard ship. When there is a true attachment,” – although this had been spoken to Sophy, his eyes had naturally returned to Anne as he spoke, but he then felt the danger of immediate discovery too near and snapped his eyes back to his sister – “such as your own case, the pain of separation is far worse than the inconveniences of living at sea.” He heard Anne gasp slightly beside him and inwardly rejoiced that she understood his meaning.

Sophy nodded her approval then continued. “Indeed, any reasonable woman may be perfectly happy at sea; and I can safely say, that the happiest part of my life has been spent on board a ship. While we were together, you know, there was nothing to be feared. Thank God! I have always been blessed with excellent health, and no climate disagrees with me. A little disordered always the first twenty-four hours of going to sea, but never knew what sickness was afterwards. The only time I ever really suffered in body or mind, the only time that I ever fancied myself unwell, or had any ideas of danger, was the winter that I passed by myself at Deal, when the Admiral (Captain Croft then) was in the North Seas. I lived in perpetual fright at that time, and had all manner of imaginary complaints from not knowing what to do with myself, or when I should hear from him next; but as long as we could be together, nothing ever ailed me, and I never met with the smallest inconvenience."

"Aye, to be sure. Yes, indeed, oh yes! I am quite of your opinion, Mrs Croft," was Mrs Musgrove's hearty answer as she returned and settled herself on the end of the sofa beside the Captain. "There is nothing so bad as a separation. I am quite of your opinion. I know what it is, for Mr Musgrove always attends the assizes, and I am so glad when they are over, and he is safe back again."

Frederick suppressed a groan at Mrs. Musgrove's interjection. He longed to reach down and grasp Anne's hand but knew he had not the right to do so. He was now aware that nobody understood the cruelty of separation as well as his Anne, and yet she bore that grief in silence as Mrs. Musgrove complained about the tragic separation of a few weeks while her husband was away in the safety of a courtroom. However, as the woman was his hostess and a mother who had lost a child, he spent the next quarter hour going over Dick Musgrove's letters in penance for his subterfuge of sending her away. For his troubles, he received the comfort of Anne's soothing presence by his side.

~~~


Anne Elliot was a sensible girl. She was accustomed to sitting to the side, forgotten until she could be of use. That is, after all, the role of a spinster aunt. She had long ago resigned herself to that fate. It was growing increasingly hard to remember that fact when she was seated so close to Frederick Wentworth that she could feel the heat of his body. She was still unsure of his motives but she was certain he had done it intentionally. He could have no great interest in reading over Dick Musgrove's letters and sending Mrs. Musgrove off to fetch them was merely a pretense. The intensity of his gaze on her when he slid closer had nearly scorched her. She remembered that look. It was enough to banish that spinster from her mind entirely and return her to the giddy girl of nineteen.

He had implied that the Miss Musgroves's pursuit of him was unwelcome, but she could scarce believe it. Could he really still care for her over the lively beauty of the younger girls? And that conversation about women aboard ships! Her heart skipped at the prospect that he was describing her, repenting that she had not been beside him all of these years. Yet a nagging voice in her mind told her that she had been the one to bring about his initial aversion to the scheme. And surely he could not see her as steadfast, not after she broke off their engagement. Furthermore, he had only recently acclimated himself to the idea of women on board – after meeting the Miss Musgroves? They were, at the moment, all atwitter about the prospect of life at sea.

Her heart broke when the discussion turned to separation. She had suffered eight years of the same worry and torment as a Navy wife but without the legitimate claims of a wife. She had neither the comfort of letters from her husband nor the ability to discuss her lament with her friends. She had suffered her agony in silence. And even now – when her beloved was but a scant few inches away – were they not as far apart as ever? There had been a time, when there could have been no two hearts so open, no tastes so similar, no feelings so in unison, no countenances so beloved. Now they were as strangers; nay, worse than strangers, for they could never become acquainted. It was a perpetual estrangement.

Sitting silently beside him while he continued his subdued conversation with Mrs. Musgrove was such sweet torture. She had not thought to ever be this close to him again, to bask in his presence. But she knew it was of little use to hope for their future together. As if to confirm her loss, the Miss Musgroves approached the couch and proposed that they close the evening with dancing. Without waiting for an invitation to dance from the gentleman, Louisa grabbed his hand in a proprietary way and pulled him from the sofa. Anne, of course, offered her services at the piano. The girls no longer even asked if she'd be willing to play, it was expected. Even though her eyes would sometimes fill with tears as she sat at the instrument, she was extremely glad to be employed, and desired nothing in return but to be unobserved.

Her fingers were mechanically at work, proceeding for half an hour together, equally without error, and without consciousness. Once she felt that he was looking at herself, observing her altered features, perhaps, trying to trace in them the ruins of the face which had once charmed him; and once she knew that he must have spoken of her; she was hardly aware of it, till she heard the answer; but then she was sure of his having asked his partner whether Miss Elliot never danced? The answer was, "Oh, no; never; she has quite given up dancing. She had rather play. She is never tired of playing."


~~~


Frederick began the dancing in good spirits. He had talked to Anne as privately as could be expected in a crowded drawing room. He had made it as clear as was possible that he wished nothing more than for her to be by his side for the rest of his days. He had gloried in her presence at his side and he was certain that it was only a matter of time before they reached a proper understanding. This was also the first time he had heard her play since their reunion. The Musgroves, being attentive, doting parents, had frequently requested that the Miss Musgroves play in the evenings when he was present. They were, of course, blinded by their partiality to the deficiencies in their daughters' playing. Anne's playing, by contrast was far superior, her technique and skill were flawless. Although he noticed that her playing seemed less vibrant than he recalled. He looked at her and realized with alarm that she was near tears.

He could not bear the sight of her lovely face clouded with sadness. It pierced him to know that he had caused her tears. He strove for an indifferent tone when he asked “does not Miss Elliot dance?” His partner, one of the Miss Hayters, laughingly insinuated that she was past the age for dancing and could play for hours. His anger only increased: anger at the selfish young ladies who were content to dance while Anne sat there mindlessly playing trite dance music; anger at her family for their neglect; anger at Lady Russell for thinking that this hollow life was preferable to life as his wife; but most of all anger at himself for causing her grief, for not fighting harder for her in the year six, for not returning for her in the year eight, for burying his feelings so deeply when hers remained an exposed raw nerve.

At the next break between songs, he sought out Sophy and elicited her help. Anne had gone off on some minor errand for her sister – they treated his Anne as if she were an unpaid companion! – so Sophy and he lingered by the pianoforte. As they waited he noticed them, fresh tears atop the keys. He trailed over them with his fingers as he had done with the tear stains in her diary, but now they were absorbed by his gloves. He wished he could absorb her pain as easily.

She started as she approached the painoforte and saw him there. Sophy, noting his distraction, began, “My dear Miss Anne, it has been such an age since I've had the pleasure of playing in company, would you indulge me and allow me to exhibit?”

“Of course Mrs. Croft, I suppose one cannot expect to keep an instrument at sea.”

“On the man-of-war you do occasionally have such luxuries, but it is not common. Although we Navy wives are happy to make such sacrifices for the men we love.” Anne blushed beautifully and averted her gaze. Sophy continued, “I have enjoyed re-immersing myself in my music at Kellynch, it is such a lovely instrument!”

“Yes, it was my mother's, I am pleased that it has found continued use.” Frederick reveled in her sweet nature. Another woman, another Elliot, would have regretted, if not loathed Sophy for using her mother's instrument. But Anne's voice held no contempt or grudge at turning her home over to the Crofts and her statement rang sincere. She was a remarkable woman.

No longer able to restrain himself, he stepped forward and held out his hand. “Anne,” he spoke in a low voice, noting the surprise and hope in her eyes at his use of her proper name, “now that you are free from the instrument, would you dance with me?”

~~~


Anne blinked, slowly processing Frederick's request as a slow smile crossed her face. “Of course,” she paused, blushed, and continued, “Frederick.”

The room bustled about as the other dancers took their places. Frederick stood across from her smiling with a contented gaze. Mrs. Croft began playing a country dance slightly off key. In a moment of relative privacy, Anne asked, “did your sister really have a burning desire to exhibit in front of company?”

Frederick laughed, “perhaps not, but nobody else was willing to play and I wished to dance with you. It is abominable that they are willing to exclude you so readily.”

Anne inwardly rejoiced at Frederick's evident desire to spend time with her. “I do not mind.” She then was roused by a particularly off note. “Oh dear, I hope she is not uncomfortable on my account.”

“Sophy? Of course not, what she lacks in technique she makes up in gusto. Only a true proficient would note her errors. Besides, observe the Admiral's response.” Anne saw the Admiral standing behind his wife, gazing on her fondly as he turned the pages. “The man is no great aficionado but Sophy's music always gives him pleasure.”

“I am glad. I should hate to put her out on my account.”

“Oh Anne, that is just like you, always willing to place everyone else's comfort above your own.”

“How can I be happy at the expense of others?” As soon as she'd spoken, Frederick's gaze intensified.

“I have several thoughts regarding your future happiness, but sadly this is neither the time nor place to discuss that.” She beamed at him, could he possibly mean what that implied? He smiled back with a devastating smile, the same smile that had captured her heart all those years past. He was right of course, a crowded parlor was no place for such a conversation so they reluctantly returned to safer topics.

Chapter 6



Uppercross Cottage, October 29 1814

The very next morning, Frederick rode up the lane to Uppercross Cottage with conviction. Last night had convinced him. While she had not directly spoken of her feelings to him, her tears while watching him dance with other young ladies followed by her incandescent smiles during their own dance were enough encouragement to spur his overflowing heart into action. He had nearly stated his intentions right there in the middle of their makeshift dance floor. But this matter required privacy. He had lain awake devising a strategy. Ideally, he would find a way to get her alone in the course of the morning, but failing that, he had a backup plan in place.

He was pleased when he entered the drawing-room of the cottage and found only herself and the little invalid Charles, who was lying on the sofa. The surprise of finding himself almost alone with Anne Elliot, nearly deprived him of his well laid strategy. He almost scooped her up into his arms on the spot before he recalled that it wouldn't do to go kissing a woman in front of her nephew. Instead he contented himself with a heart felt greeting. “Good morning Anne!”

“Good morning Frederick!” Her beaming smile was enticing him closer, but with a contrite quirk of her lips she forestalled him with: “The Miss Musgroves are up stairs with my sister: they will be down in a few moments, I dare say."

He sighed in frustration that soon the silly girls would again latch on to him and resigned himself to indifferent conversation. "I hope the little boy is better."

“Yesterday little Walter took one of Charles' toys from him – an affront that no little boy can let stand – and he chased after him against the instructions of his nurse and the apothecary.” She had said all of this with a stern face to her charge. “As a result, he is a bit sore today.”

“Ah, a matter of honor then!” Her tinkling laughter filled the room and covered him like a blanket of contentment. “Anne, do you suppose you'd be able to join me on a walk today?”

~~~


Anne knew from the tone of his voice what he planned. He intended to renew his addresses. Her heart soared and she had to restrain herself from rushing into his arms. “I should love to Frederick … ” she was interrupted by the Child calling her name, recalling her to her duties, “but I fear I cannot leave little Charles unattended today.” Anne was not the type of girl who would shirk her duties because of her own wishes. She took comfort in the belief that Frederick admired that quality in her. She was obliged to kneel down by the sofa, and remain there to satisfy her patient; and thus they continued a few minutes, when she heard Mary and the girls descending the stairs. As they were making their effusive greetings to Captain Wentworth, the younger boy, a remarkable stout, forward child, of two years old, having got the door opened for him by some one without, made his determined appearance among them, and went straight to the sofa to see what was going on, and put in his claim to anything good that might be giving away.

There being nothing to eat, he could only have some play; and as his aunt would not let him tease his sick brother, he began to fasten himself upon her, as she knelt, in such a way that, busy as she was about Charles, she could not shake him off. She spoke to him, ordered, entreated, and insisted in vain. Once she did contrive to push him away, but the boy had the greater pleasure in getting upon her back again directly.

"Walter," said she, "get down this moment. You are extremely troublesome. I am very angry with you."

"Walter," cried
Mary, "why do you not do as you are bid? Do not you hear your aunt speak? Come to me, Walter, come to Mama."

But not a bit did Walter stir.

In another moment, however, she found herself in the state of being released from him; some one was taking him from her, though he had bent down her head so much, that his little sturdy hands were unfastened from around her neck, and he was resolutely borne away, before she knew that Captain Wentworth had done it.


He handed the struggling child to his mother who huffed, "you ought to have minded me, Walter; I told you not to tease your aunt. Do you see, he never minds his own mother! I am so ill used!"

Frederick turned to Anne and held out his hand, “Are you alright?” He asked tenderly as he assisted her to her feet.

“I am well,” she responded breathlessly.

“You are injured.” He reached for her neck and she preceded him by placing her hand over the cut.

“It is merely a scratch, Captain, I am fit for duty,” she quipped with a quirk of her lips.

“Not so fast, if you please, to the sick bay with you.” He ordered with mock solemnity and gestured to a chair at the far side of the room before he turned and reached for Walter. “Now, young sailor, if you see fit to do battle, you must help clean up your messes.”

Mary, always relieved to be relieved of her children, handed Walter over but voiced her objections “Captain Wentworth, is this really necessary? He is but a child.”

“A child who has thrown a tantrum, disobeyed his mother, and drawn blood from his aunt. Is it not better for him to see that his actions have consequences?”

“How clever you are Captain,” giggled Louisa.

“Yes, Mary and Mama always have such trouble minding him, perhaps he needs some military discipline,” added Henrietta.

Anne sat and allowed Frederick, with the dubious aid of Walter, to clean the scrape from the child's fingernails and apply a completely unnecessary plaster to her 'wound'. All the while, Frederick lectured Little Walter on the honor and duty expected of a gentleman, even one in short pants.

While Louisa and Henrietta were occupied calming Mary's nerves over 'her great ordeal' and tending to little Charles, Frederick leaned forward and pressed Anne, “are you sure you cannot walk with me?”

“I am certain you will not make it out the door for a walk with me without Louisa and Henrietta following.” She replied archly.

“No, no that will not suit my purpose at all.” His disappointment was evident on his face, but he rallied as he pulled a small package from his pocket. “This belongs to you Miss Elliot, I thought it prudent to return it. Please note the indicated page.” With eyes of glowing entreaty fixed on her for a time he bid her good day and within a minute had taken his leave of the other ladies and departed alone.

Anne left the children in the other ladies' care and excused herself, ostensibly to repair the damage to her hair from Walter's siege. Upon gaining her room she examined the package in her hand. It was clearly a book, wrapped in white paper fixed with a ribbon tied in an elaborate sailor's knot. She slipped the ribbon off and unwrapped the paper revealing an oddly familiar green bound book. Opening the cover she realized in horror that it was an old diary of hers that had gone missing! Had Frederick read her diary? With her heart beating rapidly in her ears, she opened it to the indicated page and saw to her horror:

August 15, 1809
Charles Musgrove has proposed...


Oh Dear! What an entry for him to have read! Then she directed her eye to the bold, masculine handwriting on the facing page.

October 29 1814

Dearest Anne, please forgive my great impertinence in reading your inner thoughts. A gentleman ought not invade a lady's privacy in such a way, but I yearned for your feelings and this book has brought me to a better understanding of you, too good, too excellent creature!

I can wait no longer in silence. I must speak to you by such means as are within my reach. You pierce my soul. I am half agony, half hope. Tell me not that I am too late, that such precious feelings are gone for ever. I offer myself to you again with a heart even more your own than when you almost broke it, eight years and a half ago. Dare not say that man forgets sooner than woman, that his love has an earlier death. I have loved none but you. Unjust I may have been, weak and resentful I have been, but never inconstant. You alone have brought me to Uppercross day after day. For you alone, I think and plan. Have you not seen this? Can you fail to have understood my wishes? I had not waited even these ten days, could I have read your feelings, as I think you must have penetrated mine. If you do believe that there is true attachment and constancy among men. Believe it to be most fervent, most undeviating, in F.W.

I have been utterly unable to find a single moment alone with you and so I must go, uncertain of my fate; but I shall wait for you in the same location I posed this same question to you all those years ago. A word, a look, will be enough to decide my future happiness.


She sat for half an hour in solitude and reflection in order to regain her tranquility from the overpowering happiness elicited by his note. She roused herself to check in the looking glass and found her hair indeed was quite ruined from her earlier ordeal. She quickly righted it, having the last minute thought to incorporate Frederick's ribbon into her hair. Returning to the drawing room she informed the ladies that she had developed a headache and would go on a walk to clear her head in the fresh air. When the Miss Musgroves – already bored with the tedious tasks of childcare and attending to Mary's nerves – offered to accompany her, she begged that solitude and quiet were all she required to be set to rights.

~~~


Author's Notes:

-I wanted to include the scene with little Walter, but the timeline is a bit accelerated, so Charles Hayter didn't seem to fit as well for my purposes, and having Mary & the girls in the scene just seemed like a fun foil to Anne.

-I can't wrap my head around writing only a few chapters at a time, so I've written the whole story (9 chapters, ~24,000 words) and am uploading them in chunks because it's too long to do in one post. If you would like a pdf of the whole story now, e-mail me at cynicallycharged@gmail.com
SubjectAuthorPosted

More Justified In Acting Chapters 4-6 (Post 2)

MorganAOctober 03, 2017 07:37PM

Re: More Justified In Acting Chapters 4-6 (Post 2)

KarenteaOctober 04, 2017 05:35PM

Re: More Justified In Acting Chapters 4-6 (Post 2)

KateBOctober 04, 2017 01:53PM

Re: More Justified In Acting Chapters 4-6 (Post 2)

Lucy J.October 04, 2017 05:06AM

Re: More Justified In Acting Chapters 4-6 (Post 2)

AlidaOctober 04, 2017 12:50AM

Sigh....

elleOctober 03, 2017 11:03PM



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