A Woman Who Knows How to Love...
Captain Frederick Wentworth held a great dispassion regarding balls. He knew precisely one person here, and that was his own brother. Uppercross and Kellynch were fine villages, but he had no use for the country gentility that snubbed noses at young naval officers. Like most passionate young men, he held a prejudice of the superiority of the great men, Admirals and such, that he reported to. He bore no respect to men that were great simply because their fathers and grandfathers were great. Sir Walter Eliot was the most respected man in this country, and he easily fell into Captain Wentworth's category of disdain. His brother Edward had called the two eldest Eliot girls pretty, and he had not been mistaken to Frederick's reckoning. Miss Eliot was indisputably handsome, her features quite striking, her manner unmistakably gentile. Her form was all that it should be, round in all the appropriate places, her posture beyond reproach. Her sister, Miss Anne, was also very pretty, with soft, dark eyes, and sweet delicacy. She bore the feminine nature that inspired men to fight and protect. He was undecided as to which young lady was lovelier when the most remarkable thing occurred. Miss Anne Eliot smiled. A gentle radiance filled her face, and an earnest sensibility shined softly in her eyes. Aye, she shined. Miss Anne glowed with brilliant light when smiled. Frederick beheld the glorious creature with wonder. "Now here's a woman," he murmured, "who knows how to love."
Mr. Wentworth cleared his throat. "Miss Eliot, Miss Anne, may I present my brother, Captain Frederick Wentworth?" Anne inclined her head graciously. Elizabeth threw them a perfunctory nod and unceremoniously removed herself. Anne winced inwardly at Elizabeth's incivility and presumed that she must have been disenchanted by Captain Wentworth's uniform. Anne had no such reservations. An odd thought struck her as Mr. Wentworth made introductions: Captain Wentworth was truly magnificent. He stood taller and stronger than his brother, and great character and presence marked his countenance. She knew him immediately to be a man of passion and conviction. She offered him the utterly charming, completely artless smile that had brought many a lesser young manling, be he groom or squire's son, to his knees. Anne was quite innocent of its effect. "A pleasure, Captain," said she.
"No, indeed," he replied, in a voice that caused a curious, quick tremor in Anne's breast, "The pleasure must be mine." Something in his earnest yet assured tone made his meaning somewhat suspect, and Anne supposed that she should be affronted by his frank admiration of her person, but she was most decidedly not, and the impropriety of such a thought brought a most becoming blush to her cheeks.
"Aye, you read my very thoughts," the Captain teased with wry smile. He gestured to the dancing pairs. "Will you do me the honor, Miss Anne Eliot?"
Would I, she thought eagerly. She took his arm, "The honor we shall share, Captain."
They only danced two that evening, as decorum dictated, but they were very much in each other's society beyond the dance. Their easy company and Anne's sweet unaffected laughter attracted knowing smiles from throughout the gathering. They found a great deal more to admire in each other from conversation. Captain Wentworth saw a lovely girl, filled with joy, compassion, and tender sensibility, capable, he did not question, of filling his life with love. Anne found a man of great intensity, passion, and strength, whose very admiration of her released her from her shy reserve, empowering her with she knew not what. Her was a man to accept her tender affections, a man who would not scorn her sentimental tears. She could love this man.
The gathering concluded, and the guests began to disperse. The Lady Russell gathered her flock together, and waited impatiently as Anne bid farewell to the tall, impudent-looking Naval fellow.
Captain Wentworth gently kissed her gloved hand. "Shall I see you again?" asked he.
Anne smiled with far more warmth than a young lady should use when smiling at a new acquaintance, but she understood, as women have understood for ages, that he was not simply an new acquaintance, nor was he really asking a question. A far more decisive book of rules than decorum governed them now.
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