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The Doctor: A Persuasion Novella Ch. 3-Epilogue (Post 2)

January 19, 2018 04:53PM

Ch 3 Confrontation

Anne had never been as bereft of composure as she was when she looked up to find Frederick Wentworth standing in that doorway. She had spent the past two days caring for his sister while trying to ignore the fact that she was his sister. It was obvious from the moment Sophy woke up and was introduced to her that Frederick had not told her of their relationship. Even if it had escaped her mind in the trauma of the moment, she would likely have recalled after spending the past week at Kellynch and the past day in Anne’s company if her brother had ever told her of his relationship with an Anne Elliot. So she had tried to avoid the topic of Frederick as best she could, though he was constantly present in her mind.

Sophy was delightful. She could speak with her far more freely than with either of her sisters. She was witty and sophisticated, and had lived exactly the life Anne had dreamed of for herself. But on Anne’s side at least, this instant friendship was tainted by guilt. She was holding back vital information about one of Sophy’s closest relatives because she assumed that’s how Frederick wanted it. But then Sophy had directly asked about the sailor in her past and Anne panicked. She found she could not directly lie to her new friend, nor could she will herself to speak but her reactions gave her away all the same. And after so many years of grasping at any second hand information about him she could find, of desperately wishing to see his face, of loving him from afar, he walks in to her life just as she’s been reduced to that quivering mess of anxiety and tears.

After casually announcing that her father had disdained him, he merely bowed to her with that inscrutable face while she was certain she wore her emotions for all to see. She could not help but feel that he had too much self-possession, and she too little. And so she did the only thing she could in such a situation. She ran. Like a silly heroin in one of those Minerva Press novels Mary insisted she read to her.

Now that she was safely ensconced in the garden, hedged in by some rather tall — though sparse — plants, she finally felt at liberty to sort out her feelings. Frederick was here. Her Frederick. The man she’d loved for her whole adult life. She had seen him. They had met. They had been once more in the same room. She could not credit herself with any grace or moderation in their first meeting, but surely the worst was over.

She had just begun to reason with herself, and to try to be feeling less when she spied him exit the house in a great hurry. He strode to the garden with great purpose and appeared to be searching for something. Fearing discovery, and having this time some forewarning of his arrival, she decided it was best to approach and greet him as a rational adult.

With that end in sight, she stepped out and called: "Captain Wentworth," in as neutral a tone as she was capable.

He turned toward her and a frown creased his brow. "Not five minutes ago I was Frederick, have we diverted back to formalities so soon?"

Anne blushed. "I apologize for the breech in etiquette, sir. You caught me off my guard."

The crease in his brow deepened, "and now I am sir. Anne, at one time there could have been no two hearts so open, no tastes so similar, no feelings so in unison, no countenances so beloved. Must we now act as strangers?"

His words tugged at the very core of her, but he could not mean to pick up the threads of their former intimacy so easily. Not after walking away from her pleas to stay and hear her concerns. Not after eight years with no communication. "I thought that was your wish, sir," she said. She was looking at a tree over his left shoulder because she knew she would loose all rational thought if she looked into his eyes. "I find that your sister was entirely unaware of any previous connection between us and so I assumed that you did not wish it generally known."

"If I were to judge by Mrs. Mary Musgrove’s indifferent reception of myself, I could say much the same of you. But I have evidence here that suggests otherwise," he said, holding up ... Dear God! Is that my copy of the Navy List?!

Anne had the grace to blush at this. It was true that she hadn’t told Mary of her heartbreak, and yet she had essentially stalked him through the papers over the years. "She was away at school ..."

"And Sophy was in the West Indies. I found ..." He paused and cleared his throat as if choked by emotion "... I found it was too painful to relate the details to her. In fact, I’ve not spoken of our engagement to a soul until Sophy demanded an explanation after your swift departure."

Anne tried to stifle the kick her heart gave at the term our engagment spoken so casually. "Nor I," she said softly, "I knew I would find no solace or sympathy in those who already knew and it seemed futile to inform anyone after it all crumbled."

"Just so." Frederick said with a pained look on his face.

He appeared to be in earnest, but she knew his feelings could not be as steadfast as hers. "Eight years, Frederick. Had you wished for any reconciliation you could have written."

"Had I wished ..." Frederick repeated with a derisive laugh. "I believe I made my wishes clear, you were the one to cry off." His tone softened as he added, "how could I come back here and offer my heart up again when you’d already broken it?"

Anne felt the tears prickle at her eyes again. She said quietly "I never intended to break your heart. I intended to ask for prudence. I wished to wait until you could afford to maintain a wife. I wished to prove my father and Lady Russell wrong by being practical and proving our steadfastness. I had a whole speech prepared, but you walked out of my life after the first sentence and never gave me a chance. That was all it took to extinguish your love for me. I loved you so much and then you were simply gone and I was powerless to follow. Yours was not the only heart broken." She closed her eyes against the pain and loneliness of their eight year separation. A feather-light caress across her cheek forced them open again and she realized that they were full of tears.

"Anne, dearest, you pierce my soul!" His voice broke with emotion and she noticed the glint of tears in his eyes as well. "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 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. Please tell me you will be my wife."

Anne felt her heart full to bursting as she searched his eyes. A practical voice in her head — that sounded suspiciously like Lady Russell — asked if she could trust his constancy after such an interval. But she had listened to that voice in the past and it had only caused grief and heartache. She loved this man more than anything in the world and she would not be parted from him again. "Torment though they’ve been, those precious feelings have never left me. I love you Frederick, and I’ve longed for nothing more these eight years than to be your wife."

His response was immediate and ecstatic, he swept her into his arms and kissed her with abandon. She had treasured the memory of his kisses, sweet and soft and tender as they had been, they were the kisses of young love. This kiss was more desperate, bred of separation and war, anxiety and grief, filled with eight years of regret and longing and love. Anne was ready to spend the next eight years here in this garden in his embrace for all of the relief and comfort and elation it gave her. Unfortunately, after mere minutes had elapsed, they were startled apart by Charles’s shocked cry of "Anne!"

As they drew apart, Frederick seemed to take instant note of Charles’s rifle clutched in his right hand and drew Anne behind him. Anne, fully aware that the rifle was nearly an extension of Charles’s arm in hunting season knew, he meant no malice but gloried in Frederick’s instinct to protect her nonetheless. Unable to repress her smile, she stepped beside Frederick and slipped her arm through his. "Charles, will you be the first to congratulate us?"

"Congratulate you," Charles said with a furrowed brow, "but the man’s only arrived in the county last night ..." he broke off as a realization seemed to strike "... wait, is this...?"

Ch 4 (Re)solution

Frederick was still wary of the gun in the man’s hand — he was her brother-in-law, and he had just found them in a most scandalous embrace — but he could not account for the sudden recognition in Musgrove’s eyes.

Anne nodded and said, "Captain Wentworth and I were well acquainted when he visited the county in the year six. Upon re-acquaintance, we’ve discovered that the thought of another eight years apart is unsupportable so we’re to be married as soon as possible."

"Well then," Musgrove responded in a cheery voice tinged, perhaps, with a hint of regret, "I wish you joy. I think I’d rather be away from the house for Mary’s raptures on the subject so I’m off shooting." He gave Anne an affectionate squeeze of the hand and turned to Frederick. "Wentworth, would you walk with me for a moment?"

Frederick nodded numbly and walked a ways with Anne’s nearest male relative in the vicinity. When they’d passed just out of Anne’s range of hearing, Charles’s cheery voice dropped into a low, foreboding tone. "I cannot even begin to fathom what would cause a man fortunate enough to have won her heart to abandon a woman such as Anne Elliot, but see that you do not do so again. I can assure you that her attachment to you was far more solid than you deserve."

As Anne had recently assured him that she had not spoken of their attachment to anyone, Frederick was taken aback by this warning — for warning it certainly was. But Frederick reckoned he owed the man some assurance as her brother-in-law. "I promise you, Musgrove, a man does not recover from such a devotion of the heart to such a woman. He ought not; he does not. Had I believed it in my power to return and claim her hand sooner I would have."

"Good. I’ve yet to see for myself what sort of man you are, but we may yet hope you shall prove yourself worthy of her." With that, Musgrove shook his hand and gave him a merry smile before continuing on his way.

He walked back to Anne mulling over the odd conversation. "Was it so very bad as your scowl implies?" She asked, reaching out her hand to him.

"He seemed to know ... about our past."

"Well, I’ve not spoken directly of our past to anyone, but there are certain times when a lady finds it necessary to inform a gentleman that her heart has been irrevocably given to another."

Frederick stopped in his tracks and tightened his grip on her hand. "He proposed to you?"

"Yes. But as I’ve said. My heart was too full of you to seriously consider his proposal. Fortunately for him, Mary returned from school shortly thereafter and was far more amenable to his suit."

"How any man of sense could turn his sights from you to your sister is beyond me." Frederick said, shaking his head.

"Well, I’ve not much to say on the topic of Charles’s sense, though he is an amiable fellow."

~~~
<p>Admiral Croft was a man of action, far more inclined to be out of doors than in and restless when forced to stillness. He therefore found his present situation insupportable. The day had started out far more interesting than he’d anticipated, what with the drama of a romance acted out by the doctor and Frederick. After the boy had finally run after her, the admiral was at leisure for a time to sit and talk to his wife. He loved her more than many would consider an old salt capable of, and he was truly solicitous of her health and comfort. Particularly as he had been driving the gig and had somehow walked away with minimal injuries — the doctor speculated that it was actually the dung itself that had cushioned his fall and prevented further injury — and his dear wife was now in such a state. She’d damn near died from his negligence and he would sit by her bedside the rest of his days if that’s what it took to repent.

His guilt over Sophy’s injuries made it bristle all the more when that flighty sister of the doctor had graciously entered Sophy’s room, forcing the admiral out of the only chair beside her bed. The delicate lady then proceeded to condole with Sophy by giving her a full account of her own current indispositions — which seemed to boil down to nerves and a feeling of neglect and jealousy that another with more pressing injuries had taken over her home.

After what felt like an eternity of her drivel, three more of these Musgrove ladies called to visit and condole with the invalid, a mother and two daughters. The mother exhibited much more real concern and sympathy for his wife’s condition, but her care seemed to manifest itself in constant fussing with her pillows and coverlet and presenting far more cake than is good for anybody, particularly an invalid.

The daughters were young and lively and pretty and by these graces alone they would have endeared themselves to the admiral and his wife. They secured the affection of the Crofts, however, by peppering them with questions about the Navy as to the manner of living on board, daily regulations, food, hours, etc. While their questions revealed a general ignorance to the realities of sea, they were charmingly asked and answered with some pleasant ridicule.

From this lively inquisition, one of the girls turned the subject to what must have been their object all along, "do you not have a brother, Mrs. Croft?"

"A dashing young Captain who will be joining us soon?" The other added, actually bouncing on the balls of her feet. The admiral stifled a laugh at their determination. They’d yet to clap eyes on Frederick, but they’d already painted him as a romantic figure.

"Why yes, I do," Sophy answered with a twinkle in her eye, her thoughts no doubt returning to the extraordinary revelations of the morning. "He arrived last night and is at present reacquainting himself with Miss. Anne."

"Reacquainting!" Muttered the flighty sister, "a great brute if you ask me. First Anne rushed past the morning room without so much as popping her head in to say good morning or inquire after my health, then several minutes later he comes barreling down the hall demanding to know her presence! I was struck quite dumb by his boorish behavior, but then my son would go and point out Anne’s location."

"I do apologize for the abruptness of my question Mrs. Musgrove," Frederick said from the doorway and the admiral watched the two frivolous daughters preen toward him like flowers to the sun.

"Oh dear," the ever sensible doctor said as she entered on Frederick’s arm, "I’m afraid this number of people may be overwhelming for Mrs. Croft. We should move to the drawing room and visit her in smaller groups."

"Not so fast!" Sophy said with a smile. "You cannot leave me in such suspense!"

The doctor had won a space in his heart from the first for her competence, her care, her decisive actions, but it wasn’t until she stood glowing and lovely in sensibility and happiness in response to Sophy’s demand that the admiral saw how truly pretty she was. "Yes doctor, what’s the prognosis?" He added.

She blushed becomingly and replied in a breathy voice with her eyes turned to Frederick, "A long and happy life."

"Of course!" The flighty sister interjected, "there has been little fear for her survival since she awoke yesterday morning. She is not of a weak constitution, such as I have."

"Oh, Anne, Frederick, I am so delighted! But I think you must be more explicit for the rest of the company," Sophy replied.

Frederick ducked his head, unsure of the reception of their news, but then he looked at the doctor and the words began flowing. He again explained their exultant and tumultuous past, their separation, the feelings that overtook them both when they were reunited, and finally of their renewed engagement. The Miss Musgroves at first appeared a bit downhearted that the handsome Captain was no longer an object to them, but were soon swept up in the romance of the tale. Their mother loudly decried the evil of separations and her joy at their finding each other again. The flighty sister, however, still put out by her ill-usage of the morning, dared to venture that Sir Walter and Lady Russell may yet disapprove.

~~~
<p>Anne bristled at Mary’s comment all the more because it may be true. Sir Walter had not approved of Frederick in the past, and it’s possible that his fortune of five-and-twenty thousand pounds and his sterling career prospects would still fail to please her father. She looked again at Frederick to find that he was anxiously looking down at her. He was afraid. He doubted her. And after she had once bent to such arguments, it was no wonder.

Turning resolutely to Mary, she responded. "I once was convinced to yield my happiness to the opinions of others, and for that I have suffered eight years of disappointment and distress. But now I am of age, and with the advantage of maturity of mind, consciousness of right, and one independent fortune between us, nothing can prevent us from following our love to its natural conclusion." Anne felt Frederick’s hand tighten around hers in possessive gratitude and knew that all would be well. This time they would bear down every opposition together.

Anne stood graciously accepting congratulations and bearing the inquisitive questions from her family and friends for several minutes before she noticed Sophy cringe and lay her head back on her pillows. Recalled to her duty as a nurse, she renewed her command that the sick-room be vacated. After some tutting over Sophy’s coloring, fretting over her comfort, and fluttering skirts, the Musgroves had quitted the room, leaving Anne and Sophy with the Admiral and Frederick.

"I’m afraid you gentlemen ought to go down for the moment as well."

"Surely I may remain with my wife," replied the admiral, "I am sure you’re absence in the drawing room will be of more note than my own. Besides, here is excellent reading material should she need her rest, An Abstract of Sea Chirurgery: Designed for the Use of Such Chirurgeons who Desire to Serve at Sea, Yet are Unacquainted with Sea Practice. One may be excused for thinking you longed to be at sea," The admiral said with a wink, Frederick beamed, and Anne felt herself blush to the roots of her hair.

"Yes ... Well ..." she floundered for a moment "... Be that as it may, I should like a few moments to check on my patient, you may wait in the hall should you wish."

"Far be it from me to disobey the Doctor’s orders," The admiral said with a wink as he and Frederick exited the room.

As she closed the door behind them, Anne took a moments pause to breathe. "Poor dear, I believe that was more notice than you’ve been accustomed to."

Anne turned and smiled contritely at her friend, "Perhaps. But I did shoo them away on your account, you need your rest."

"Yes, and I thank you. Your family is charming, but perhaps a bit much at the moment."

Anne nodded her agreement and moved to the bedside. She began slowly unwrapping the dressings of her leg wound to check for any redness, swelling, or heat that would be signs of infection. She was delighted to see none, and the stitching seemed to have stopped the bleeding. She next checked the wounds on Sophy’s hands and face, and finding them improved and no longer bleeding, asked if Sophy would prefer to leave the bandages off for the moment, a proposition which her patient eagerly agreed to. She helped Sophy to the necessary again before retrieving the admiral.

She was pleasantly surprised to find Frederick lingering in the hallway with the admiral, waiting to escort her to the drawing room. "Sea surgery, my dear?" He asked with a twinkle in his eye once the admiral had rejoined his wife.

Anne again blushed. "I ordered it the day after you proposed. I thought if I was to join you on board I might as well make myself useful."

He looked down contemplatively, "I could never have brought you aboard the Asp, she was not fit to be employed, and I would not have risked your life."

Anne had fairly well worked this out from the account she’d read of the ship, but it pained her to hear confirmation anyway. "And yet you sailed on her."

"At that time ... I never thought ... Let’s just say that at that point I felt I may just as well go to the bottom as not. She would either make my career or ..." he paused in painful recollection.

Her heart broke at the extent she’d hurt him. She cupped his face in her hands and sighed his name in contrition. He chaffed his hands up and down her back and added in a cheerier note, "luckily she was the making of my career, and we returned to dock just before she fell to pieces."

They stood there for some moments, soaking in each other’s presence. At length he added, "Now that I’m thinking over the past, a question has suggested itself. You bought that book to prepare you for your role as a captain’s wife and you kept it, read it even after I had left?"

"Given recent events, I’d say it was still useful even on land," Anne said playfully, then sobered and added, "I always held out a hope that you’d return. Although as the years passed that hope had dwindled down to naught but a fragile flicker."

"Tell me if, when I returned to England in the year eight, with a few thousand pounds, and was posted into the Laconia, if I had then written to you, would you have answered my letter? Would you, in short, have renewed the engagement then?"

"Would I!" was all her answer; but the accent was decisive enough.

"Good God!" he cried, "you would! It is not that I did not think of it, or desire it, as what could alone crown all my other success; but I was proud, too proud to ask again. I did not understand you. I shut my eyes, and would not understand you, or do you justice. This is a recollection which ought to make me forgive every one sooner than myself. Six years of separation and suffering might have been spared. It is a sort of pain, too, which is new to me. I have been used to the gratification of believing myself to earn every blessing that I enjoyed. I have valued myself on honourable toils and just rewards. Like other great men under reverses," he added, with a smile. "I must endeavour to subdue my mind to my fortune. I must learn to brook being happier than I deserve."

~~~
<p>Sophy gradually made her recovery and Anne, dedicated to her patient, could not be convinced to leave off her care to another — even for the purpose of a trip to Bath to receive her father’s consent. Frederick, anticipating little gratification in a visit in person, applied to Sir Walter via post. They might in fact, have borne down a great deal more than they met with, for there was little to distress them beyond the want of graciousness and warmth. Sir Walter made no objection, and Elizabeth did nothing worse than write a cold and unconcerned note of congratulations at the end of a letter requesting Anne’s assistance in retrieving some trifles she required from Kellynch.

By November, Sophy’s leg was finally considered stable enough to consider removing back to Kellynch. The morning after the grand ordeal of moving the invalid, Frederick received news that his friend, Captain Harville, had settled his family and their friend Captain Benwick not twenty miles away at Lyme. As Anne was newly freed of her nursing responsibilities and Frederick was eager to see his friends again — one having suffered a lingering wound to the leg in the war and the other a lingering wound to the soul when his fiancee died of a fever — a trip to Lyme was swiftly planned. For propriety, they began by inviting Mary and Charles, then Louisa and Henrietta latched on to the idea and propelled it forward.

The trip was brief and pleasant. In spite of the chill of November, they were able to walk along the cob and breathe the sea air. Frederick found infinite satisfaction in introducing Anne to his brother officers as his future wife, and though surprised, they were happy to claim her as a dear old acquaintance.

Louisa, who had spent the last weeks embellishing Anne and Frederick’s love story into one of the greatest romances of all time, found a reluctant recipient of all of her newfound admiration of the Navy in Captain Benwick. Since the death of his dear Fanny, he had isolated himself in his own mind — nourished in its agony by liberal doses of melancholy poetry. He was startled out of this state by the persistent and lively attentions of a young and beautiful girl. He continued to mourn his loss, but as he watched Frederick’s happy interactions with his fiancee, and Harville’s domestic serenity with his wife, his thoughts slowly shifted from what could have been to what could be. He was not yet ready to cast off his black, but for the first time he could imagine doing so in the future.

~~~
<p>Lady Russell returned to the neighborhood in full expectation of the horrors predicted in the summer. She prepared herself for the vulgar manners and shocking injustice of an admiral and his wife having usurped her dearly departed friend’s family in their ancestral home. She was prepared to loathe them in sympathy for Anne’s offended feelings.

What she found was a radiant Anne who had somehow recovered the bloom of her youth. She sat in stunned disapproval as Anne informed her of the accident and her timely — though rather unladylike — intervention. She was mortified to find that not only had Captain Wentworth returned, but his feelings were unchanged over the span of eight years and they were positively engaged. Openly, publicly engaged, with the full acknowledgment of her father.

She sat through this history in horrified silence and desperately attempted to sort the matter in her own head before speaking. She had her reservations, she always had, but what was to be done with everything so public? If Anne were to call off now it would ruin whatever prospects she had left for a suitable match. Her prospects had already been dim for years as she’d languished on the shelf. Her father and sister were too self-interested to do anything to promote Anne’s interests, and Anne had stubbornly shunned any attempts at matchmaking.

Seeing Anne’s expression grow increasingly anxious as the minutes ticked past in silence, Lady Russell determined to make her case. "He left you. Eight years with no contact, and now he’s back and you believe in his constancy?"

Anne’s chin took on a stubborn tilt more at home on Elizabeth’s countenance than her docile Anne’s. "Yes. He left me eight years ago because you convinced me to release him from our engagement. He did not contact me because I broke his heart."

"Men will say anything to get their way," she parried back.

"Apparently so will ladies," Anne countered with a disappointed look — again in an uncharacteristically bold fashion.

"What is that supposed to mean?"

"Only that if you truly had my best interests at heart you would listen to what I say and trust my judgment. You cautioned me to be prudent all those years ago and I was. Now Frederick has his fortune, he’s proven successful in his career. The war is over. Our love has survived on both sides through pain and heartache and separation. This is not a childish whim. In the entire span of our acquaintance you’ve observed Frederick and I in company for a total of fifteen minutes. If that was all the time it took you to condemn our relationship, your judgment must be based on prejudice rather than observation."

Lady Russell was taken aback by Anne’s vehemence. "I ..." she found she was unable to defend herself against this critical judgment. True, Captain Wentworth’s status and fortune had informed her decisions against him, but she was being prudent, not prejudiced.

I have been thinking over the past, and trying impartially to judge of the right and wrong, I mean with regard to myself; and I must believe that I was right, much as I suffered from it, that I was perfectly right in being guided by you. You stood in the place of a parent." Lady Russell reached out to grab Anne’s hand, but was stopped by her icy tone as she continued. "Do not mistake me, however. I am not saying that you did not err in your advice. It was, perhaps, one of those cases in which advice is good or bad only as the event decides; and for myself, I certainly never should, in any circumstance of tolerable similarity, give such advice. But I mean, that I was right in submitting to you, and that if I had done otherwise, I should have suffered more in continuing the engagement than I did even in giving it up, because I should have suffered in my conscience. I have now, as far as such a sentiment is allowable in human nature, nothing to reproach myself with; and if I mistake not, a strong sense of duty is no bad part of a woman’s portion."

"I am glad that you do my advice that justice at least," Lady Russell said quietly.

"I do your former advice that justice. However, I am no longer a child. I am an adult with a keen intellect and experience in the world. I have met other men. I have endured your season in Bath. I have rejected one suitable offer. But no other man has touched my soul the way that Frederick has. I am seven and twenty. I am not likely to receive any other offers, but if I should, I would be no more persuaded to marry against my heart than I was in the past. So I ask you now to reconsider what is in my best interests."

Lady Russsell knew she was in a corner. She could either hold her peace and hope for Anne’s happiness or persist and loose her friendship with Anne foreved. She sighed and conceded. "You best tell me more about your Frederick then."

~~~
<p>Anne and Frederick had early decided not to rush their wedding, despite their eagerness. What might not eight years do? Events of every description, changes, alienations, removals–all, all must be comprised in it! It included nearly a third part of her own life. And so they decide on mutual agreement to postpone the wedding until they’d had time to reacquaint themselves. Shortly after this meeting with Lady Russell, they decided that two months was a sufficient wait as neither had ambitions for a grand wedding. So they’d sent out a missive to Sir Walter and Elizabeth concerning possible dates.

They found upon the reply, however, that the degradation of returning to Kellynch while the hall was yet leased and Sir. Walter in disgrace was too much for the baronet to bear. Uppercross, likewise was unacceptable as it was too near their estranged ancestral home. Sir Walter proposed a removal of all to Bath as the wedding could be done in society style without the condemnation of a small town.

Frederick, recalling Anne’s vehement dislike of Bath and of society, found this idea abhorrent. They had both had their fill of Sir Walter’s dictates and refused to bend once again to his will. Rather than sending the immediate acceptance to his plan that Sir Walter had undoubtedly expected, Frederick immediately sent off a letter to his brother Edward in Shropshire requesting the banns to be read there and they set an early date for their wedding in his brother’s parish. They therefore averted the social disaster of flouting Sir Walter’s insolvency while maintaining their own independence.

If the local society of the parish found it odd that Sir Walter and his eldest daughter were absent from his middle daughter’s wedding, they were too polite to mention it in company. The ceremony was small. Sophy and the admiral came — the latter’s leg had mostly healed and she was able to travel quite well with the occasional use of a cane for support — as had Mary and Charles, accompanied by the Miss Musgroves. Captain Harville found a trip of that length too difficult a strain on his leg and pocketbook, but Captain Benwick made the journey. Lady Russell claimed the honor of transporting the bride thither in her own carriage while the bridegroom rode beside.

In the absence of her father and elder sister, Anne found the simple wedding perfectly suited to her tastes. Charles escorted her down the aisle, Mary, Louisa, and Henrietta all insisted on standing as bridesmaids, leaving the bride’s side of the church woefully imbalanced with only poor Charles alone in the aisle. Captain Benwick stood up for Frederick, noting how lovely Miss Louisa Musgrove looked in her wedding finery. The Rev. Edward Wentworth and his wife hosted a modest wedding breakfast at the parsonage following the ceremony.

Oddly enough, given Anne and Frederick’s pointed refusal to be married in Bath, the majority of their guests chose to stop in Bath on their journey home. Lady Russell traveled there for her annual visit to Bath, the Crofts took a sojourn there to aid the admiral’s gout, and Anne insisted that at this juncture of her recovery frequent walks would do Mrs. Croft good as well. The Musgroves decided to stop there for a week on their return journey, and Captain Benwick changed his itinerary at the last minute when he heard of Miss Louisa’s plans.

Captain and Mrs. Wentworth wished for nothing more than solitude to enjoy each other and make up for eight years of distance. They therefore let a cottage just outside of Cheltenham in the Cotswolds for a week for their honeymoon. With the exception of the coachman and tiger — who had accommodations in the stable — and a local woman who came daily to prepare meals and serve as a maid, they were free to revel in exquisite seclusion.

Ch 5 Contentment

The carriage ride was blissful. Filled with lively remembrances, hopeful wishes for the future, and whispered endearments. They were constantly touching each other, holding hands, grazing knees, his arm around her shoulder while her head rested in the crux. Oh, there were kisses too, tender kisses to the top of a head, a hand pressed fervently to a mouth, chaste pecks to punctuate a compliment, scorching kisses full of promise and heat — nothing too scandalous mind, there was a coachman before them and a tiger behind and the walls of the carriage were not terribly thick.

Even in the carefree summer of ’06, when they were young and impulsive and in love, they had almost never been alone, truly alone. They had enjoyed walks through the gardens in full view of the house, afternoons in the library with the door open and a maid quietly darning in the corner, dinners in company, even an assembly ball where they’d danced a scandalous three dances. True, there had been stolen moments. Points in the garden path that were obscured by trees, ’accidental’ meetings in dark corridors while she was headed to the retiring room and he to the card room, hands clasped under the dinner table, that sort of thing. But those were always brief, stolen, illicit, tinged with both the fear and excitement of discovery.

But that carriage ride form Shropshire to the Cotswolds was their first glorious glimpse at the freedoms of married life and they reveled in it. They could speak as openly and brazenly as they wished, on any topic — never forced to turn the conversation to a larger audience. They need not heed the whims or desires of their families. There were no invalids to care for, no rules of etiquette to be followed, no one to please but themselves. And they did please each other greatly.

They arrived to the cottage to a light supper and fires already laid by the maid, who had promptly taken herself off to her own home after insuring that their needs were met for the evening. The day had seen them joined in matrimony and had slowly progressed in the breaking down of barriers. It took but minutes after the door closed on the maid’s departure for the remainder to crumble. Clothes and inhibitions were rapidly shed. Hands lingered where previously they’d skimmed. Kisses grew bolder, longer, strayed farther afield. Hearts and souls and bodies were joined as one. After years of conforming to social niceties and strictures and deprivations, there in that cottage they were finally free to be simply Anne and Frederick.

Epilogue

After their honeymoon, Frederick and Anne returned to Kellynch — presently empty as the admiral and Sophy had elected to stay on in Bath for a spell. They were shortly joined by Benwick, whose fog of grief was being rapidly penetrated by the persistent attachment and lively manners of Miss Louisa Musgrove. They made a merry party. As in the fall, the Kellynch and Uppercross parties were much in each other’s company — although further constrained by the winter weather.

An aggressive amount of flirting by Miss Louisa on the occasion of St. Valentine’s day led Benwick — almost without realizing what he was about — to offer for her in response. The determined young lady unreservedly consented. Though Benwick had somewhat anticipated his own timetable in proposing at such an early date, he found himself rather contented with the result and even allowed himself to be happy for the first time since reaching shore.

The tranquility of their winter idyll, however, could not last for long. When Napoleon escaped from his confinement on Elba, both of the dashing young captains were called back into active duty. Benwick, seized by the unshakable fear of becoming essentially twice a widower before even officially taking a wife if he left yet another pretty young fiancee ashore, pressed for a hasty marriage. The Musgroves, indulgent to a fault, could not long withstand Louisa’s tears and agreed to a special license.

It was, therefore, with solemn gravity on Anne’s part and an adventurous excitement on Louisa’s that the two brides boarded their husbands’ ships. Tensions were high among the sailors, weary to be recalled to a war they’d considered over as they sailed toward Rochefort. Anne studied her Abstract of Sea Surgery lest her services be required.

For all of their preparations and anxieties, however, Anne and Louisa’s first cruise with the Royal Navy was overall uneventful. They formed part of a blockade which was instrumental in preventing Napoleon’s escape to America by their mere presence, but saw little action.

Anne flourished at sea. Louisa, however, found herself overcome with a potent combination of seasickness and homesickness that drained the lively glint from her eyes. Life at sea was neither as romantic nor as exciting as she’d expected and she longed for female companionship. Therefore, following her first voyage, Benwick purchased a home happily situated between Uppercross and Winthrop so she may remain near her sister and parents. He found the arrangement to be both a blessing and a curse. While she’d been aboard, he’d found himself distracted with worry at putting her in such danger and worried about her comforts and happiness. In spite of Fanny’s unfortunate demise, he knew that she was safer on shore than at sea. His departures were always torture, but that made their reunions all the sweeter. Their children were raised alongside their cousins and his family was happy and well surrounded by loving family.

The Wentworths were never blessed with children, though even this turned into a blessing in itself. They were never forced to bear the long and fretful separations common to naval marriages as Anne was free to join her husband on his tours of duty. Over the course of their marriage the two happily shared many an adventure. Anne always struck up a cordial relationship with many of the men on their crews — though there were always those stubborn old salts who considered any woman aboard as bad luck.

The admiral’s nickname for her took among the men and over her illustrious career as a captain’s wife, many spirited debates occurred between the ’doctor’ and the ship’s surgeons over methods of treatment and care. Those beleaguered men of medicine, however, came to have a grudging respect for the lady’s opinions. In the end they always valued her assistance when their sick bay was in need of capable hands and the wounded often preferred the tender ministrations of the solicitous lady to the heavy hands of the surgeons.

Frederick found the contentment he had only dreamed of during those long lonely years of separation. Her skills and affability often proved to be a boon to his command and a solace to his cares. The life of a captain was often isolated, surrounded by men but unable to socialize on their level while maintaining his air command. In Anne he found his equal, his partner and his soulmate. They replaced their garden walks with strolls along the deck, hand in hand, soaking in each other’s warmth with the moonlight. And in the haven of their cabin, they were always able to shake the constraints of the captain and the doctor and revert blissfully to Frederick and Anne.

Captain and Mrs. Wentworth.

Together.

Complete.

The End

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SubjectAuthorPosted

The Doctor: A Persuasion Novella Ch. 3-Epilogue (Post 2)

MorganAJanuary 19, 2018 04:53PM

Re: The Doctor: A Persuasion Novella Ch. 3-Epilogue (Post 2)

KateBJanuary 20, 2018 03:16AM

Re: The Doctor: A Persuasion Novella Ch. 3-Epilogue (Post 2)

DorisJanuary 19, 2018 11:13PM



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