Anne Elliot posed her pen above a sheet of paper and attempted to collect her thoughts. At length, she began:
Dear Diary, This evening I accompanied Lady Russell to a dinner given by the curate of Monkford. The invitation had been extended to the entire Elliot family, but Father disdainfully said that a mere curate was beneath him and not worth visiting: Lady Russell might go if she wished. I decided to go as well, hoping that by being there to represent my family, I might prevent any slight from being felt. It was a small party: ten, altogether. The curate is a genteel man, single, sensible, and kind. The remainder of the party was largely that of country gentry, several of whom I have before had chance to be acquainted with. One person in particular I have had little previous acquaintance with: the curate's younger brother, who is on leave from his post as commander in the navy. . .
June 12, 1806
This evening I accompanied Lady Russell to a dinner given by the curate of Monkford. The invitation had been extended to the entire Elliot family, but Father disdainfully said that a mere curate was beneath him and not worth visiting: Lady Russell might go if she wished. I decided to go as well, hoping that by being there to represent my family, I might prevent any slight from being felt.
It was a small party: ten, altogether. The curate is a genteel man, single, sensible, and kind. The remainder of the party was largely that of country gentry, several of whom I have before had chance to be acquainted with. One person in particular I have had little previous acquaintance with: the curate's younger brother, who is on leave from his post as commander in the navy. . .
Anne stopped writing: her hands were trembling slightly. What more could she say about Frederick Wentworth? She had been introduced to him only that evening (having known of him for the five week duration he had been in Somersetshire) and yet the meeting had been so far ordinary. It had followed customary introductory protocol, and there had followed much of polite conversation, each inquiring into the other's interests, occupation, and friends. There had been something more, though, than Anne was used to finding in a first acquaintance.
I have often reflected that good company is that of clever, intelligent people, who have a great deal of conversation. Mr. Wentworth has all that, plus a warm, open countenance. He spoke eagerly of his profession: I have learned more tonight of the navy than in the sum of my nineteen years together. In addition, he showed interest in my pursuits: once I had informed him of my love of music, he urged me to play his brother's pianoforte, promising to turn my pages. Afterward, he not only complimented my playing but discussed some of the particulars of the dynamics of the piece, showing himself not unknowledgeable about the subject.
I cannot but admit that I am pleased with this new acquaintance. Father and Elizabeth's coldness and Mary's perpetual self interest make my existence lonely at times. Mr. Wentworth is all that is opposite of my family, and I find that refreshing. His cheerful persona at first reminded me of my dear friend Mrs. Smith (nee Hamilton) at school.
It is late; I must go to sleep, but I will write again soon.
The most surprising thing happened late this afternoon. I was walking through a favourite path in our shrubberies, and I was so caught in the beauty of the day that I strayed mistakenly onto a common path. Who should I meet there but Mr. Frederick Wentworth! We continued on together to Kellynch. His manners were even more easy and open than they had been at his brother's house, and I found myself conversing with equally little trouble. The day was pleasant, as was his company. He told me about the recent death of his father, who had likewise been a member of the navy. As his mother died many years ago, Mr. Wentworth is without home, which is why he now stays with his brother at Monkford. He is a man with much sorrow in his life, and yet his manners are so positive and encouraging. My dear mother's death was such a blow as took me years to overcome . . . even still I am recovering from it. His own reaction has made me wish to be stronger, kinder, and better for my own suffering.
I have discovered, in the past three days, many passages of prose that agree with my previous determination. I have decided to make an effort at being more patient and happy: I have much to be grateful for in my present life. My sorrows are small in comparison to my blessings. I wish to bear my family's attitudes with kindness and forbearance.
I have another reason to be glad: Lady Russell has invited Mr. Wentworth and his brother, along with several others including my family, to dine with her in three days.
I have much to write of tonight. I have just returned from Kellynch Lodge, where Lady Russell makes her home. Everything was of the best. Even Father agreed that the courses could not have been better at Kellynch Hall. Mr. Wentworth was introduced to Father and Elizabeth. My family was cold, but polite. Afterwards, in our coach, they made many unkind remarks about members of the navy. Still, the introduction is made, and I am thankful for it.
After dinner, there was much conversation about politics, and Mr. Wentworth strongly joined the conversation, saying that if Her Majesty is in need of his help, he will stand and take his place. The other gentlemen looked ashamed, and there was silence: they would not say the same.
As Father, Elizabeth, and I were to leave, I was in the corridor, some few steps behind them. Mr. Wentworth approached me and thanked me for the evening. Then he kissed my hand.
Anne stopped, midstroke. She could remember the look on Frederick's face: his glowing, soft blue eyes. Anne's breath had caught, and she had looked after him as he returned to the drawing room. Only when Elizabeth had approached her, reprimanding her for tardiness, had she been able to move.
June 23Chapter 02
This day was a day of happiness and, then, of sorrow. Mr. Wentworth arrived at Kellynch Hall for a visit. I could feel my heart sing within. Then, he admitted that he had come as a take-leave: he is departing for a month's time to visit friends in Bath. I felt a sudden surge of grief: I will so miss his company. And yet, it has only been eleven days since our first meeting. How can it have been so little time? I must bear his leaving, however lonesome I am in the interim.
The days pass with slowness, but I find myself able to bear them. Reading, music, and visits with Lady Russell are the high points of my days. Today I received a letter from Mary. She complains of a sore throat and of some little disagreement with two of her schoolfellows. I replied with advice and concern.
Mary has long confided in me. When she was a child, she was Mama's darling. When Mama died, Mary no longer had that constant show of affection. I wish I could take Mama's place and give Mary that needed love; perhaps then she would not feel the need to always be fancying herself ill. I shall do all I can for her in the form of gentle persuasion and counsel.
I had an unexpected but pleasant surprise today: Mr. Wentworth's brother, the curate, came visiting. The curate inquired after my father and conversed amicably with Lady Russell. Elizabeth soon excused herself, in the guise of pressing business. I made apologies for her as best as I could. The curate seemed ignorant of the slight, else he was too polite to mention it. The remainder of the visit went well, as we discussed topics of local, as well as personal, interest. The curate confirmed that he expects Mr. Wentworth's return in five days.
Yesterday evening Mr. Wentworth returned to Monkford. To my delight, he came visiting this very afternoon. He had enjoyed his visit at Bath, reporting that his friends were most welcoming, being acquaintances from his last position in the navy.
We are to have a party tomorrow evening, and I felt it my duty to invite him. I was reluctant to do so, though, for it is only to be a card party. I have long disliked such parties, because of a distaste for the playing of cards. The hazarding of money round a table seems such a place as friendships are tried, rather than formed.
I did, however, make the invitation. He declined, as he already has an engagement tomorrow. I was relieved and freely told him of my opinion of card playing. He thought my reasoning sound and added that many a sailor has lost more than a little prize money through gambling. He said that as a rule he does not play a game of chance except in circumstances such of these: in the home of a reputable family, when small sums will be exchanged only.
Today I made several visits of charity in the neighbourhood. I found that at two of the families' homes, Mr. Wentworth had come by to visit yesterday. They spoke of him warmly, telling of his kindness both in gifts of money, and in kindness. To one woman, quite old and sickly, he had read for half an hour entire. With a large family, of limited means, he had shared money and amusement. I cannot but admit myself pleased with these reports of Mr. Wentworth's kindness. I admit myself a biassed party; his words and attitudes are pleasing to me. These accounts soothe the more rational part of myself.
I have, these past six days, been impatient to again meet with Mr. Wentworth. Since his return on Tuesday, I have not seen him, except for yesterday at church, when we exchanged two words.
My heart, be still. Hope, what is it? I wake each morning, wishing to see him, guarding myself: saying, why would he seek me out? Can he think of me as I do of him? Is it possible? My lips form the word "yes." Yet he has been in the country for six days and has not attempted to see me since he arrived. Hush, you inner voice. I shall be patient. I shall not expect anything.
I am all impatience. Tomorrow evening Lady Russell and myself are, again, invited to dine at the curate's home.
Expectation is often enough vexed in life and literature; my nerves were taut and ready to break by the time we arrived at the curate's this evening.
I was seated across from Mr. Wentworth at dinner. He spoke to me some, and I to him, but I could not tell whether he spoke from politeness or from a sincere wish to converse with me. My appetite was small: I could but eat little, for the worry I felt in the pit of my stomach.
After dinner, when the gentlemen entered the room, I could feel a general somberness from them all. The curate approached me and informed me of their conversation: through an acquaintance, Mr. Wentworth has heard that he may be soon called to return to sea. At this news, I gave a gasp. Can it be after such a short time, my acquaintance with Mr. Wentworth is to be ended?
Anne gazed at the blank sheet of paper in front of her. It had been three weeks since she had last written, and though the events of those weeks had been painful, she felt a need to set her pen to paper. Slowly, she picked up her pen and began to write once again:
August 22, 1806
The last weeks have been trying, as I have listened for any news concerning Mr. Wentworth's return to the navy. None of any substance have come to Kellynch. Mr. Wentworth has twice visited us, neither time with any intelligence. His spirits are muted: though he loves the sea, he deeply wishes that his stay at Somersetshire could be longer. He acts toward me in the same manner he does to my family, or any of his acquaintance in town. I wish that I could find some preference, any preference; however, his current preoccupation makes any other interest of his take the position of understudy.
I do not know how I convinced myself to do such a thing, but it does not matter. I set out today, on horseback, to make a visit to the curate: at least, that was the intention of which I informed Lady Russell and my father.
The temperature brought sweat to my brow as the sun reached its peak. I rode past grain that was ripening and plots of vegetables ready to harvest. The scenery brought lines of poetry into my thoughts, but I could not long focus on them, as I was anxious to reach my destination.
The curate greeted me with words of welcome. He had a few weeks past asked me to make some visits of charity on his behalf. I reported on them, and he remarked on their success. He called for refreshment, but I was now uneasy. I dreaded the idea of Mr. Wentworth's arrival, lest he should recognize the true intention of my visit--no less than being in his presence. Now, I feared lest I should achieve my goal. My resolve, so easily kept until then, melted in an instant.
I was about to bid my adieus when he arrived. We visited over tea: I was certain my shaky hands and elevated voice were apparent to all.
Then it was over and I made my farewells. As I rose, Mr. Wentworth did as well, saying, "He would see me to the door."
We made the long walk, him talking, myself silent. My chest constricted from lack of breath. I could not hear what he was saying: I believe I nodded and murmured "yes" at the correct moments. Through this haze of mind, I suddenly heard these words:
"Do you understand, Anne?"
At the pronouncement of my Christian name, I was thrust into the present, like alms into the hands of a beggar.
"I should like to have your company very much," he said. "My friends are arriving tomorrow, and they requested the drive round the country for the following day. My brother would come if he could, but his duties call him away."
"I do not know . . ." I hesitated.
He drew closer, touching my hand with his momentarily. "I so want to be more acquainted," he said. The look in his eyes reminded me of how he had looked at me after the dinner at Lady Russell's.
"Yes," I breathed out.
He squeezed my hand. "I greatly look forward to it."
Today's carriage ride was--simply stated--perfect. The temperature was not too warm, but not chill, and Mr. Wentworth's friends were agreeable. Above all, though, I enjoyed being in Mr. Wentworth's company. He told me that he shall soon learn the certainty of his orders. For the day, he appeared to put thoughts of it out of his mind.
There was a pleasant breeze in the air as I pointed out my favourite spots to my companions. At tea time, we stopped at the home of an acquaintance of Mr. Wentworth's--whom I knew by sight--and partook of their food. The tea was that of humbler means than that served at Kellynch, and yet I have never enjoyed tea as much in Kellynch . . . at least, since my mother's passing.
Later . . .
We arrived back at Kellynch and bade farewell to Mr. Wentworth's friends. Mr. Wentworth asked for the pleasure of escorting me through the gardens. I quickly assented to the request.
He offered me his arm and we meandered toward the gardens, not saying anything. Merely walking by his side was enough to make me content. I followed his pace, stepping easily along with him.
We approached a gazebo just beyond my rose gardens. "What a beautiful building," Mr. Wentworth declared, as he gazed at the small, simply built structure.
My hand went to a plank of the wooden frame. "This was one of my mother's favourite retreats," I murmured. Frederick soft blue eyes turned to me. Without a word, he seemed to ask me to continue.
"She died when I was fourteen . . . Young enough, I know. You would assume that her influence would be little indeed compared to the number of people I have met in the five years following." My lip quivered.
Mr. Wentworth lightly touched my shoulder with his hand. "This is painful. Let us not speak more of it."
"No," I said. "I want to say it. My family never talks of it, and Lady Russell finds the subject too difficult to speak of."
He squeezed my shoulder. I took in a deep breath. "She was long ill, but she never thought of herself during that time. She would lay in bed and bid me to draw her a picture, or sing her a song, or practice the pianoforte--quite loudly, so she could hear through the floor." I felt a smile pull against the corners of my lips. Mr. Wentworth was smiling, too. Then tears filled my eyes. "Lady Russell says I remind her more of my Mama than of any other member of my family, but I forget so many things. I wish I could remember everything, but the memories are like clouds: scuttling away, impossible to grasp in my hand."
"It is painful indeed that memory serves to separate us from those we want to ever remember," agreed Mr. Wentworth. I could hear a slight waver in his voice, bearing the truth that he knew of what he spoke.
"When I went to school afterward I would cry myself to sleep every evening," I continued softly. "It felt like the heavens were mourning with me: it rained the first fortnight I was there." I looked down at my hands and clasped them together. "It was miserable, though. No one seemed to know or care about my grief, unless it were to scold me for inattention during lessons. If it had not been for my dear friend Miss Hamilton, I do not know how I would have endured."
"And who was Miss Hamilton?" Mr. Wentworth gently prompted.
I looked up and caught his reassuring smile. Gratefully, I smiled back. "I met her several weeks after I arrived in Bath. She was three years my elder but had no close relations to take her in, so she stayed on at school. She had an understanding heart and cheerful disposition and gave me the belief that I could go on."
"I had like friends at sea after my own father's passing," said Mr. Wentworth. "Such friends are worth more than anything in life."
He grasped my hand and we both smiled. We sat contentedly, quietly talking, for several minutes. "Come," I finally said, "Would you like to taste of our cherries? They are perfectly ripe."
"I would love to," he agreed, standing and offering me his arm.
I have been remiss in not writing for so many days: eleven, truth be told. How can I express the happiness of these last days? Frederick and I have met every day: making visits for his brother, having tea at his home, or wandering in Kellynch's gardens. He has told me of his dreams: his love for the navy and his expectations of soon rising in its ranks. He has talked of his family and the humble but happy upbringing he was privy to. He appears to wish to know everything about me, for he comes each day with a seeming script of questions in his head to ask me.
I have never felt so happy. Mr. Wentworth's attentions cannot be less than I think. No, I am sure that he cares for me. I feel it every day in his looks and words. He has not yet spoken the words I long for, but I do hope; I know it; I feel it.
"I wonder where Mr. Wentworth is," I mused aloud to Lady Russell.
A flicker of something crossed Lady Russell's face, but she smiled. "I am sure he is here, Anne. His brother being the curate, it would be unseemly for him to miss service."
I was not convinced but willingly followed her to our family pew. A minute later, we were joined by Elizabeth and father, who had stopped to talk to some of the country gentry.
The sermon was long and meandering. I swallowed and tried to concentrate, but my gaze wandered to the curate's reflective face, as I wished that I had taken a moment before the service to ask him about Frederick. Frederick was not in attendance, which I could see by a few--inconspicious, I hoped--turns of the head to look at the rear of the chapel. Finally a disapproving glance from Lady Russell told me that my actions were indeed being watched.
The service finally concluded, and I hurried forward to meet with the curate, lest he leave before I could speak with him.
"Mr. Wentworth," I inquired somewhat breathlessly, "Where is your brother today?"
"Miss Anne." The curate's eyes softened, looking mild and somewhat sad.
"Is something wrong?" I asked. Suddenly my breath caught in my throat. Had Mr. Wentworth heard about his orders?
"I must tell you something that will likely hurt you," he said, gently placing his hand on my arm. I stiffened with apprehension. "My brother is taking a walk: a take leave of this country. He has heard about his orders . He will soon be returning to the sea."
"No," I gasped. I shook my head in disbelief. "He cannot be truly leaving."
"He is," answered the curate, with a look of earnest empathy. "I am sorry to be the one to bear you the news, Miss Anne. You have been like a daughter to me these last few weeks, and it pains me to see your distress. Promise me that you will visit me while Frederick is away. I know we will be of comfort to one another."
Tears fell to my cheeks but I nodded in agreement to his plan, though I knew it was uncertain that Frederick should soon return, or necessarily to his brother's house.
Later that day . . .
I returned to Kellynch, having held back tears during the carriage ride; ignoring the glances of my family and Lady Russell. As soon as we reached the house, I hurried through the gardens and to my mother's gazebo. Inside, seated on its planked seating, I sobbed wretchedly, trying but not succeeding, to suppress my misery.
Minutes passed, and my tears slowed into heavy, sorrowful breathing. I leaned against the wooden walls of the gazebo, remembering my conversation with Frederick less than a fortnight ago: the conversation which had brought a beginning of hope into my heart. Surely, my heart was now breaking as painfully as it had done after my precious mother's death.
"Anne," a soft voice spoke. I was frightened to turn, certain that the voice was a phantom. But I could feel the reality and presence of someone standing directly behind me.
"May I come in?"
I murmured an assent, and the door to the gazebo opened with a creak. I turned my head slightly and let out a deep sigh as I saw his tall figure standing there.
"My brother told you about my departure," he stated.
I nodded and turned my head slightly away. I could not bear his presence, knowing that he would soon be separated from me.
He seated himself next to me and put a large, calloused hand up to my cheek.
"Your face is beautiful even with the redness of tears," he whispered.
My breath caught, not believing the tenderness of the words he had just spoken. "You're leaving," I moaned. Tears that I thought I had cried spilled out once again.
"Indeed I am," Frederick said. He tilted my chin up, so that I was looking into his eyes. "And yet I do not want to go without the promise of the hand of the woman I love."
My breath had caught before, but now it stopped completely. I could not believe what I had heard.
"Anne, I love you. Will you promise to be mine?" he asked. "I leave only for a short while: I hope to earn the right to the captaincy of a ship. I want to provide a proper life for you. Anne, say you will." He looked suddenly concerned. "Please speak, my heart."
A smile as broad as any I have every felt crossed my lips. "Yes, Frederick," I replied with fervor. "Oh, yes!"
Anne looked at the page. She knew that no words could describe the complete happiness she felt in that moment or this. There were more pages in her book, but she somehow felt that this was the place to stop, that her love story of the year six was in perfect completion. With a flourish, she set her pen to the page and wrote:
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