In the Year Six
Anne paced nervously in the drawing room of Kellynch Hall. She wrung her hands repeatedly and twisted all of the life out of her small silk handkerchief. She had expected Lady Russell by eleven o'clock and it was almost half past. She tried to keep herself calm but her heart kept fluttering and jumping nervously. She caught a glimpse of herself pacing in on of the many mirrors her father insisted be kept all over the room. She could not help staring back at her happy reflection. All of her life she had never felt pretty at all; certainly her father's criticisms of her beauty had never made her feel like she was in anyway desirable. Yet now she felt like a queen simply knowing that he wanted her. The beauty he saw in her made it easier for her to radiate her own inner charm outward to others. She smiled at her reflection and began thinking of him again. " I have no idea why I am so lucky," she thought to herself, "but I will cherish this happiness forever."
She started to let herself get drawn into another fantasy of a charming wedding when the double doors into the hallway opened and the maid announced Lady Russell had arrived. Anne tried to contain her excitement as her friend entered the drawing room. As soon as she had entered a few steps in Anne ran to her and embraced her tightly. Lady Russell gave her a wan smile, yet Anne noted that she did not hug back as tightly, but she quickly discounted it. "There is no reason she should be as excited as I am." Anne thought to herself. "I have not even told her the wonderful news yet."
"My dear Anne." Lady Russell said as she softly kissed her on the cheek and made her way to a small richly furnished couch. Anne allowed her to lead her to the seat, but her excitement was clearly noticeable.
"I am so glad you have come." Anne said as her entire countenance shown brightly. "I wish you had some sooner, but I understood that you had things to do. I have such good news though, and I could not wait to share it with you."
"What is it my child?" Lady Russell asked while putting a soothing hand on Anne's arm. She knew Anne's gentle constitution and she did not want her getting too excited if it wasn't necessary.
"I have the best possible news." Anne exclaimed breaking into a wide smile. "News of ... a wedding."
"Really?" asked Lady Russell, apparently not surprised by the news at all. She merely looked at Anne with her dark penetrating eyes, her face never changing expression.
"Well, yes." replied Anne, a bit surprised by Lady Russell's lack of interest on the subject. "Actually, it is to be my wedding." Anne said somewhat slowly, secretly praying for some excitement on Lady Russell's part.
"Really?" said Lady Russell again as she gave a small smile. Anne was hoping for something more than that but she was going to take anything she could get. No sooner had she consoled herself with this small sign than her heart sank at Lady Russell's next words.
"Is it to that sailor fellow? Wellington... Wenstead... oh what is his name?" Lady Russell casually asked.
"Wentworth. His name is Wentworth." Anne softly replied.
"Oh yes, Wentworth, that's right. Well what did your father have to say?"
"Well," Anne again meekly said as she got up from the couch and moved over to the large window that overlooked the grounds. "He gave his consent. Although he was not enthusiastic he did not deny us his permission. I would have told you sooner but I have to meet with you because you went out of town."
"I must admit that I am not surprised." Lady Russell kindly replied. "I met with you father two days ago when he stopped by to ask my opinion on some new coats he ordered from London. He told me about all that has happened."
"And..." Anne carefully said, "What do you think?"
"Do you really want my honest opinion?" Lady Russell asked just as deliberately.
"Of course!" Anne quickly said as she walked back to the couch and grabbed Lady Russell's hand in hers. "You know how much I value your opinion. I wished to know what you thought as soon as I had accepted. I know that Father is not pleased, but he has never been pleased with anything I have done. But what I desired above anything was to know how you felt about this."
"Well then," said Lady Russell as she gave her young friend's hand a firm squeeze. "I will be honest with you and tell you that I find this a most unfortunate alliance."
With these words Anne felt her spirits fall from the beautiful sky that they had been soaring in. As she sat back down she said nothing, she simply looked at her friend, her friend she looked up to as a mother, with questioning eyes.
"Anne," Lady Russell softly said. "You are nineteen, you are going to involve yourself at nineteen to a young man who has nothing but himself to recommend him. Even ignoring the fact that you have only know him a few months, I can not feel comfortable about this match. He has no hopes of attaining affluence in his uncertain profession, and he has no connections to secure any further rise in that profession. I can not think that my Anne, with all her claims to birth, beauty, and mind, would throw herself away at nineteen to such a man."
Anne rose from the couch again and turned her face as she felt hot hears rise in her eyes. She had expected her Father's contempt toward the match, but Lady Russell's painful words had surprised and injured her. She tried to speak but a sob lodged itself in her throat. She turned again toward the large windows. Although her tears were not flowing, she could feel them swimming in her eyes. Lady Russell was silent a few moments before continuing.
" I do not wish to hurt you my dear, but we must face things as the are. He has no fortune, and I believe him to be a dangerous fellow. He may be quite intelligent, but he is headstrong and very imprudent. As your good friend, whose opinion I know you honor, I cannot just sit by and watch you be snatched away by this young man and dragged into a state of wearing, anxious, youth killing dependence. It is only as a true friend that I tell you how this alliance grieves me, and how I believe it will grieve you as well. I may even go so far as to say that he may find this marriage inconvenient when, after a few years, you are both destitute."
Anne lowered her head and took large, deep, breaths to calm her down. She still had no idea how to respond. Although she was strong in her love for Fredrick she put a lot of stock into Lady Russell's opinion. She was the only one she had to turn to. If her opinion was that this match would not be beneficial, perhaps she was right. "Yes, perhaps she is somewhat correct in what she says." Anne thought to herself even though it pained her.
Anne took a few more deep breaths before she turned to face Lady Russell who was silently watching her. "You think," Anne said slowly, "that it would be best if I... refused him?"
Lady Russell gave a small smile as she rose from her seat and approached Anne. She Anne's hand a small squeeze as she said, "I do. And I might say that if your mother were alive she would give you the same advice. For it is only with a mother's love that I am looking out for your best interests."
Anne slowly nodded and gave Lady Russell a brave smile, because she knew that was what she wanted to see. She felt that there was nothing else she could say, no argument she could make against such straightforward advice. Though she felt like there was some reply that she should make, she was very relieved when Elizabeth suddenly burst in upon them.
" Lady Russell!" Elizabeth exclaimed as she went forward and broke the two apart, not seeming to realize that they had been speaking to each other. "I am so glad I have found you. I am in desperate need of you opinion. You must help me decide between some silks that Father insists on buying for me. There is to be a ball in a fortnight and I really must have something breathtaking for it." While saying this she planted herself firmly next to Lady Russell, plainly ignoring the fact that Anne was pale and silent.
Lady Russell glanced at Anne with questioning eyes. Anne simply nodded, knowing that if Elizabeth desired Lady Russell's attention nothing would satisfy her until she got it. Anne gave a brave smile and took a few steps backward in order for Lady Russell to give Elizabeth the attention she demanded.
Lady Russell, for her part, was a bit vexed at Elizabeth's interruption, but she felt perhaps it was best. She decided that Anne would need a bit of time to consider all that was said before she saw the truth in the words. Knowing that Elizabeth would not be ignored, she turned to her and, giving a warm smile, said, "Of course I will help you Elizabeth. Perhaps the three of us can decide on something together."
At this Elizabeth gave a small scowl. She had little use for Anne's opinion; she only wanted to know what Lady Russell thought. Anne sensed Elizabeth's feelings, and also desiring to be alone, she made her way toward the hall trying to back out of the situation. She simply said, "Oh no, I am sure I could be of no help with this. I have to respond to a letter from Mary so I will leave you two to decide on the silks." She continued walking as she said this, giving the two women no chance to make any reply.
Once out in the hallway she paused and took a deep breath to calm her jittery nerves. As she collected herself together she heard Elizabeth's voice wander through the still open doors. "If she does not want to stay, we cannot make her," Elizabeth said with little emotion. "And I do suppose that you have heard the good news."
Her careless tone was too much for Anne to take and she burst into tears and ran up the stairs to the sanctuary of her bedroom. She ignored the concerned glance of one of the upstairs maids as she flew into her room and slammed the door behind her.
She sat down on her bed and gave in to the great wave of sobs that consumed her. She cried with her whole heart for half an hour without stopping. She did not think of anything, she just let her tears flow as long as they would.
As she felt herself calming down she looked over to the table beside her bed and noticed the wildflowers that he had picked for her a few days earlier. She felt herself giving in to the sadness again and she quickly shook her head, "It is too much. It is too much."
She had understood all of the points Lady Russell made, but she could not bear the thought of breaking with him. "No. I cannot do it." She thought firmly to herself as she walked over to her dressing table and examined her face in the mirror.
As she watched her red eyes and flushed cheeks, Lady Russell's words echoed in her mind. Anne knew in her heart that Lady Russell would never give such advice if she did not believe what she said. Fredrick was by no means poor, but what little money he had was quickly spent because he believed his fortune was always on the horizon. "One could live nicely on his salary." Anne thought to herself, "but could two?" Though she cared little for silks and jewels she knew that Fredrick would have a burden trying to provide for both of them.
"A burden." Anne quietly said to herself as she searched her own eyes in the mirror. "Yes a burden. It would be difficult for him to rise in his station if he had a wife on shore to constantly worry about and provide for." Anne slowly nodded to her mimicking reflection.
"It would be to his advantage, " she thought to herself as she felt her tears rising again. "It would be better and easier for him if I was not there to hold him back." She knew in her heart that she loved him too deeply to ruin his future. She would gladly secure his wealth and happiness, even if it meant that she would have to sacrifice her own.
Anne reasoned with herself as hot tears streamed down her just dried cheeks. "Everyone believes this match to be a mistake. I cannot merely secure my own happiness while ignoring the wishes of all those around me. While I love him more than words can express, I cannot ignore the fact that my selfishness might ultimately destroy his future."
Even though the thought greatly pained her, she tried to find comfort in knowing that she would be helping him. Although she did not find truth in all of Lady Russell's words, she had to admit that some of her statements were correct, even though it broke her heart to admit it.
"Yes," she firmly thought to herself. "Yes, I should refuse him. It is for everyone's benefit although it would give me little comfort. Perhaps he may even see the advantage of it. Perhaps he has already recognized the advantage and has merely avoided mentioning it because he wanted to spare my feelings."
Anne tried to ignore her own tears silently falling down her cheek as she set her mind firmly. It would pain her, but she had to do what was best. She felt herself becoming calm as she stared at the reflection of a young woman whose position was fixed and whose mind was unwavering.
"It is for the best." She told herself as she struggled to choke down another sob that was determined to set itself free. "It is for the best."
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