To Suffer Regret...
Anne had designed that Frederick meet her in the orchard, as it was a discreet distance from the house, and free from prying eyes. She could not be made to sit still; her apprehension would not let her rest. Anne watched her dearly beloved pass the distance between them, through the heavy scent of apple blossoms.
The many painful tears she had cried in the past days would not pardon her now. She felt not only the harsh sting, but also the dark hollow of disconsolate suffering in her breast. She found no measure of comfort; nor did she believe herself to deserve one, in that now she must tell the only man who could ever possess her that she might not be his.
His beautiful face, so filled with joy, promise, and tenderness, its spirit and energy so devoted to her, was a visage that she could not bear, as Frederick ran to her, she buried her face in her hands. "Dearest," murmured he, "What can vex you so? Has your sister said something dreadful?"
Anne shook her head carefully. "Elizabeth has not be cruel. I-" She found herself without the composure to continue. Perhaps it was not necessary that he hear the unhappy words, perhaps he understood this fragile girl with enough intimacy to read the lines of her tormented heart. As was her current state, the confession would not come.
Perhaps if she had concluded that Lady Russell's opinions were at the very height of interest, if she were able to assume those thoughts as her own, her task would have been easier. She was, as of yet, unconvinced that her engagement with Frederick was truly incorrect, she simply understood that she was to end it. She turned her face to her much beloved Frederick, and in her tragic eyes he discerned the sad truth of her tears. He gently brushed a strand of hair back to her smooth head and considered her face. It was, without question, the face of his angel, but something in the very young man that he was allowed him a very cold anger towards her. His inherent distrust gave him a plain understanding of Anne's present state. Something like cynicism flickered across his spirited features. "There is perhaps one reason that a girl would be in such a disposition as you, dear Anne, at this moment. She would be on the cusp of telling a most devoted fool that she had decided against being his wife after all." Anne's heart protested violently against his dark words, but her eyes could offer him no such denial.
Frederick Wentworth had been her strength, these last months. He had boasted fiery independence; he needed nothing save his blatant self-sufficiency. And yet, he had not loved before Anne. without the one perfection that he feels slipping away. He responded in way that only men mad with love can respond; he denied his heart any of it, and turned with contempt onto his tormenter. How dare she cause him this pain?
He noted her tears absently. He knew that he was no favorite of Anne's most respected counsel, the Lady Russell. "It must be a truly weak soul, indeed," scorned he, "to make such a tragic mistake for the sole purpose of pleasing the many. I had thought better of you, Miss Eliot."
Anne started at the formal address, and crumbled completely before the force of his bitter heart. "I-I cannot expect you to-...I had only the very best intentions at heart-" This final supplication did nothing to plead Anne's case. His world was of actions, not intentions, and he could not be made to understand that Anne had considered him at all in her choice. How quickly love is forgotten when one can rest with a clear conscience, he thought coldly.
He resolved to remember her this way, always, an image of a weak spirit forsaking love-his love, and ruining the purity of its gift for him forever. "I'm afraid, Anne," he said quietly, "that your very best intentions cannot save either of us now."
She stood frozen, watching his strong swift strides carry him away from her. Forever. Anne Eliot was left with no private wish for happiness, nor any reasonable expectation of it. She would welcome no savior save her Captain, and while her sentimental heart saw him returning to her, her very real pain would not allow her the comfort of the vision.
A very broken girl kept vigil that night and the morning saw a woman emerge before her time, resolved to a loveless future, consecrated by her own hand. Though a quiet, fierce pride would allow Anne no more tears in her own mourning, she knew without question that her decision was unforgivable, and should she ever encounter her Captain again, she could not trust herself not to fly directly into his arms, regardless of who observed.
No, there was no stronger devotion...
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