Edward Wentworth, young, handsome, charming, with a sister married to a navy admiral and a brother well on his way to becoming a navy captain, took the path of life opposite to that of all the rest of his family. He took Holy Orders. Although he had a great admiration for those who made the sea their life, most especially those from his own family, and although he had a great love of the sea himself, Edward longed for a more ordinary life. He required little adventure and no distinction; a home, a family, a province all his own, was all that he asked. Not long after receiving Holy Orders, he was lucky enough to get a curacy at Monkford, a large parish in a small town in Somerset.
Monkford had a sizable church, though it was in a small village. The parish included a large acreage, and its congregation was made up of both poor farm hands and wealthy land owners. Edward was pleased to see that the vicar and his wife were kindly people, who welcomed him graciously. Mr. Grimes had needed a curate for some time, the parish getting so large that he had difficulty getting about to see to all its affairs. They had rented a small thatched roof cottage for him, thinking he would like his privacy, but he was to take all his meals at the rectory with them, and if he needed any laundry or cleaning done, he was to tell Mrs. Grimes who would send her housemaid.
Mr. Grimes was a man of small stature but large intelligence. Occasionally he would stop mid-sentence to finish some profound thought that was flitting though his head, but a pat on his hand from his wife would bring him back to the task at hand. Edward marveled at his ability to pick up the conversation right where he had left off. Mrs. Grimes was an intelligent woman, well-read, well-spoken, and the discussions the three had over dinner often took precedence over the food on their plates.
A very few weeks saw Edward settled comfortably in his cottage and the very best of friends with the Grimes. He knew how blessed he was to have such an incumbent to work for. He used his own horse to visit the sick and the dying, and his daily rides toward home were the best restorative for the sorrows he carried after doing his parochial duty. The people were good, their hearts large, and the gratitude they showed to him was great, but it pressed on his compassion to see so much sorrow and to know he was so greatly blessed in his own life. He kept such feelings to himself, and by the time he returned to Mr. Grimes, his usual good nature had returned as well.
Three months after his arrival in Somerset, Edward had the pleasure of welcoming his brother Frederick to his new abode. Mr. and Mrs. Grimes welcomed him as a member of the family, plying him with questions about his life at sea, listening with open mouths to his exaggerated tales. Every meal ended with a roar of laughter.
"There is to be an assembly ball on Tuesday, you know," Mrs. Grimes told 'her boys' as she had taken to calling the Misters Wentworth, with a wink. "It is just the kind of entertainment you both need, I'm sure. There are many very pretty girls in these parts; I dare say two handsome young men like yourselves will be the talk of the ball. Mr. Grimes and I are to go, not to dance of course! Our dancing days are over, but I do love to watch the young people, and to meet up with some of the neighbors I don't usually have the opportunity of seeing. You will go, won't you boys!" Edward and Frederick laughed at her speech, bowed at her endearing way of addressing them, and told her they would be happy to attend.
The Grimes and the Wentworths were among the first to arrive at the assembly rooms, and the Grimes introduced the two young men to anyone they had not yet met. Mr. Wentworth the curate was an object of interest wherever he went, being handsome, charming, and single, but for this evening his brother was even more so, for being handsome, charming, single, and a stranger. The Wentworths each led a young lady to the floor and the dancing began.
The second dance had ended and there was some delay before the next commenced when a hush fell over the groups of people standing nearest the doors. A very elegantly dressed gentleman and lady stood in the doorway, followed closely by two younger ladies. The eldest of these two was dressed very fine, the younger more simply, but more becomingly. Mrs. Grimes stepped over to her young charges when room began to buzz again and whispered, "They are Sir Walter Elliot of Kellynch Hall and Lady Russell."
"And the two young ladies?" Edward asked.
"The eldest is Miss Elizabeth Elliot, the younger Miss Anne." Edward thought Miss Elliot very beautiful, but a few moments observation told him she thought herself above her company. She had little conversation with anyone but those of her own party, and her air and manner of speaking were haughty. He turned with more interest toward Miss Anne. Here he found a well-liked personage, for everyone knew her, smiled at her, and spoke well of her. She was universally well-liked, and he saw that she had a ready smile to bestow on everyone. She soon found her way to Mr. and Mrs. Grimes, whom she greeted warmly, and the Grimes were only too happy to introduce her to their young friends.
Edward, having the good fortune of being introduced first, had also the good fortune of first securing her hand for the next two dances. He saw a flicker of disappointment cross his brother's face, although none but him would recognize it, and Frederick asked if he might be honored with the two after Edward. Miss Anne assented, the music began again, and Edward took her hand to lead her to the set. Edward had never had two dances pass with such pleasure, nor so speedily. Miss Anne Elliot was amiable, inquisitive, good humored. She asked him how he found Somerset, his new duties as curate, how he spent his free time. He in turn asked her what she did to amuse herself, what kinds of books she read, whether she rode. It was a blissful half hour for Edward, and he saw the moment of passing Miss Anne's hand to his brother as a kind of trial. He danced the next with the daughter of a local land owner, but his attention was so drawn to the conversation between his brother and Miss Anne that he had to scold himself into attending to his own partner instead of Frederick's.
The rest of the evening passed swiftly. As Miss Anne never lacked for partners, there was no chance for either of the Wentworth brothers to dance with her again, and although this was not enough for them not to enjoy themselves, they certainly found that their attention was not always where it should have been. The vicarage parlor saw a lively discussion after the ball, Mr. and Mrs. Grimes wanting to know with whom the young men had stood up, and how they had found their partners. Both Wentworths were warm in their praise of Miss Anne Elliot, and the Grimes were in complete agreement. Too polite to say ill of Sir Walter and Miss Elliot, the Grimes confined themselves to a discussion of all Miss Anne Elliot's accomplishments as well as canvassing all the good works she was known to do in the parish. Both young men were impressed, but not surprised. They walked home to Edward's cottage in silence, but Edward feared their minds were turning in the same direction.
The day after a ball is always a languid one, and such was the case with Edward and Frederick. Frederick followed Edward on his daily ride, meeting parishioners who had not attended the ball and reacquainting himself with those he had met the night before. The day was bright, the sun was warm but not hot. Taking a shortcut through a freshly cut field, they spied the blue bonnet of a woman. As the distance between them closed, the figure resolved itself into a young woman, and soon they saw it was Miss Anne Elliot. The gentlemen dismounted and greeted her warmly. Anne seemed surprised to see them, but not displeased. She returned their greeting, and for a few moments the three struggled for something to say. Soon, the ball was recollected, all the discomfort melted away, and they were all able to converse with more normalcy. It was obvious the meeting was not unwelcome to any of them.
"And where are you going, Miss Elliot?" Edward asked. "May we escort you somewhere?"
"I am only going home, Mr. Wentworth, but I would be glad of your company to the gate of the grounds, if you have the time."
The three walked on, and as Anne was carrying a book, they began to talk of literature and poetry. Their steps were slow, all three feeling the walk to the gate too short, and they parted. Edward was reaffirmed in his earliest opinion of Miss Anne Elliot. She seemed very at ease with herself, ready to meet like minded people, willing to help those around her. He felt he knew her quite well already.
The brothers were both quiet on their ride home to Monkford. Edward was thinking of Miss Elliot, how she had smiled, how she had not been afraid to disagree with Frederick about Pope. He glanced sideways at his younger brother. Did Frederick like Miss Anne as well? His silence would seem to indicate it. He seemed relaxed, perhaps more at home than he had been since he arrived. But then, Frederick had always had a hard time adjusting to the first few weeks on dry land, and he hated to be idle.
Two days after their chance meeting with Anne in the field, the Wentworth men were surprised again, finding Miss Elliot in the Grimes' sitting room when they came to take their tea. Edward's face showed his surprise, he was sure, but he hoped it showed his pleasure as well. He stepped forward and took Anne's hand, greeting her warmly, then turned to watch his brother greet her. He thought he saw something in Frederick's face, a something in his eyes, which seemed to show his admiration for Anne Elliot was more than just the appreciation of a handsome and amiable young woman. Edward was taken aback. His own admiration of Anne was great. Indeed, he was more favorably impressed with Miss Anne Elliot than he had ever been with a woman he had only met twice. Realizing Mrs. Grimes was speaking to him, he turned away from Frederick and Anne, took his cup of tea from her and seated himself across from Anne. His brother, he saw, had already taken the seat closest to her.
Edward watched his sibling with interest over the rim of his cup. Was Frederick in love with Anne? He certainly seemed more animated than he had in the last two days, and he was certainly making an effort to converse with Miss Anne. He saw Anne look at him, away from Frederick, and address a comment to the whole group. Was she embarrassed by Frederick's attention? Frederick noticed as well, and his manner immediately cooled; he got up to walk around the room. Eventually he seemed to calm himself, but when he sat down again, he did not sit by Anne. Edward saw her confusion and tried to renew the flagging conversation; he saw too that Frederick could not be counted on to contribute. He began to tell Mrs. Grimes how they had met with Miss Anne in the field.
"Oh, Miss Anne, you are one for sitting outside with a book, aren't you? Where did they find you?"
Anne told her she had been on her way home when they all met, then said, "You are right, though, Mrs. Grimes. I am fond of the outdoors, and I am very fond of reading. It is indeed a delight to be able to enjoy them both at the same time."
"We were not interrupting you, I hope, Miss Elliot" Edward inquired. "We would not want to invade your privacy."
Anne glanced quickly at Frederick, but there was only the slightest pause before she said, "Oh, no, I assure you Mr. Wentworth. I was just at that point where I was most in need of company; I was at the end of my book. There is nothing quite so lonely as the end of a good book." She paused. "And, indeed, it was a pleasure to have the opportunity to make your better acquaintance, and your brother's." The last sentence was said more softly than the rest, and the last words spoken with something more of tenderness, and she began to sip her tea as if she felt she had said too much.
Edward, seeing her discomfort, thanked her for her sentiments. "Truly, Miss Elliot, the pleasure of the acquaintance has been all ours. Now tell me, if I am not being impertinent, what brings you to Monkford today?" He saw her steal a glance at Frederick before she replied, but he was glad to see that her color resumed its normal shade. Edward glanced at Frederick too, and saw him staring unabashed at Miss Elliot. He saw that Anne's words had not been lost on his brother. He pushed these thoughts away as he tried to attend to Mrs. Grimes while she told him of Anne's charitable causes in the parish.
Edward and Frederick again walked home in silence. He thought he could guess where Frederick's reflections lay, but he could not bring himself to say her name aloud yet. The evening passed quickly, Edward finishing some letters of business, Frederick alternately reading and pacing about the small room, and finally they bid each other good night.
Edward was long in getting to sleep that night, remembering Anne's face, how she had blushed, and Frederick's obvious delight in her presence. Am I in love with her, he thought? Is it too soon to be in love? How much do I admire her? There was no doubt in his mind that Frederick was the preferred Wentworth in Anne's eyes. He knew Frederick to be charming and handsome, more handsome than himself, and more at ease in the company of women, in spite of all his months at sea. Edward lamented his own discomfort in the company of young ladies and wished he had Frederick's easy manner. He turned on his side, saw his brother sleeping across the room, and made his decision. He could not stand in the way of his brother. He would do all that he could to further Frederick's friendship with Miss Anne, and he would put aside his own feelings for her, whatever they might be. He was sure they could be happy together, if Miss Anne Elliot were not too proud to marry a navy man. He closed his eyes and began, quite purposefully, to plan his duties for the following day.
The next day was rainy, which made Frederick cross, because even though he hated being stuck indoors, he hated riding in the rain even more. Edward was left to go about his parochial duties alone and to come home wet and cold. Whatever else Frederick had been doing all day, he had not been dutiful about keeping the fire going, and when Edward finally came home, it could barely be called a flame.
"For heaven's sake, Freddy, I'm frozen to the bone! The wind out there is fierce!"
"Don't call me Freddy, you wet rag! You know how I detest it! I said I was sorry for letting the fire go! Now calm down, change your clothes, and take that 'disapproving vicar' look off your face. I'm not one of your wayward sheep, you know." Frederick bent to stoke the fire and Edward went to strip off his wet things. By the time he was dry, he repented of his scolding. "I'm sorry, Frederick, I've had a rotten day, and I've gotten so used to your company on my rides, that it was quite lonely tending to the sick and dying alone. What say you to some warm food and conversation at the Grimes?" Frederick's forgiveness was a ready as his humor, and the two dashed the few yards to the Grimes without getting too wet. Mrs. Grimes was already clucking over her husband, who had also come home wet, so she was in her element having Edward to cluck over as well. The evening passed in good humor and good food, the Grimes lent them an umbrella to share on the walk home, and they both sat by the fire for a spell before they went to bed.
Edward himself finally broached the subject. "It was quite a pleasant surprise to see Miss Elliot with Mrs. Grimes yesterday." He hoped he sounded nonchalant.
Frederick sat staring into the flames, trying to seem disinterested before he replied, "Oh, yes, a pleasure. She seems to be a very amiable young woman."
"Yes, very amiable indeed." Edward paused, but decided to probe further, "She seemed quite taken with you, brother. Is she going to succumb to the famous Naval charm?"
"Taken with me!" He sounded surprised, and Edward told him so. "Yes, I suppose I am a bit surprised. You are the elder, you have a better education, I thought the two of you got on quite well. I didn't think a navy man was quite the speed for a daughter of Kellynch!" Frederick seemed to be looking for reassurance as he kicked a log back into the fire.
"No, I think she was quite taken with this particular navy man. You are no ordinary officer, Frederick. You are just as well educated as I am, if not better, for it was all of your own doing. You need have no fear of Miss Anne's admiration. Oh, believe me," he said, chuckling, "I wished it were otherwise, but I am not blind. Nor am I jealous, or at least not anymore." He had to admit it felt good to confess these things to Frederick. He was not accustomed to keeping secrets from his brother.
Frederick made no answer, but shifted in his chair. "Well, brother, I thank you for your observations. I must say, I hope they are correct, for I am in a fine way of falling in love with this little woman." He paused for a few moments, as if embarrassed at having admitted it to his brother and closest friend. "Edward, if you thought she favored you, you would tell me, would you not? I could not face having you be passed over if you thought she returned some of your affection." He was worried that Edward had given up his own hopes for the sake of his younger brother.
"No, no, I assure you. I do admire her, but it is obvious to me that she is much more interested in you than in myself. But then, there is no accounting for taste is there!" Frederick looked up at Edward sharply, but seeing the twist at the corner of his mouth, he laughed. "Yes, big brother, there is no accounting for taste!" Frederick slapped Edward's thigh as he got up, and then said good night.
Several days passed before either of the Wentworth men saw Miss Anne again, but when they did see her again it was not in a field or at Mrs. Grimes'. It was at church, with her father, her sister and Lady Russell. Edward had to admit that her father seemed a formidable character. His countenance was stern, he was obviously very proud, and his manner aloof. After the services, when the congregation was milling around, Edward happened to be standing in close proximity to the baron and accidentally overheard some of his conversation.
"Most unfortunate looking man. I daresay even my own man could do nothing for him. It is so difficult to meditate on higher things when one is being read to by that man." The baron moved away with his party before Edward heard anymore, but he had heard enough to know that Mr. Grimes was the man of whom they were speaking. He was shocked and surprised. He had known Sir Walter was proud, but he had not thought that vanity was one of his faults. He thought perhaps Frederick would have a difficult time with the father if he was successful with the daughter. He saw that Frederick was talking to Anne, trying to make conversation with her and her friend Lady Russell. It was clear from the look on Lady Russell's face that she did not particularly care for Miss Anne's newest acquaintance.
Edward kept his observations to himself, as Frederick had not been close enough to hear Sir Walter. As they walked back to the Grimes' for dinner, Frederick was silent, and Edward knew better than to try to probe into his reverie. Frederick kept his counsel all through the meal, but towards the end of the day he seemed to recall himself and his company, and visibly made more of an effort at conversation. Later, in front of the fire in the cottage, he made more of an effort to be companionable with his brother.
"I was introduced to Miss Elliot's friend Lady Russell after services today, Edward."
"Indeed! And how did you find Sir Walter's closest friend?" Edward was very interested in what his brother would have to say about a woman who must be considered Anne's surrogate mother.
"She was very polite, but not especially warm. I dare say she is kind enough in her own company, but she was not particularly pleased to make my acquaintance, I don't think."
"Whatever gave you that idea, Frederick? Was she rude? I confess I have found her proud when I have met her on occasion, but not overbearing."
"Oh, no she was not rude, exactly, but there was something in her manner which seemed to show she did not care much for Anne's choice in gentlemen." Frederick seemed downcast, which explained his demeanor for the whole of the afternoon. "I hope she does not unduly influence Miss Anne, though. I confess that is the only thing about Miss Elliot that worries me."
"You feel secure, then of her affection? Is it not quite soon for such security?" Edward knew how Frederick felt about Miss Anne, but he was very surprised that he felt so sure of a return of his feelings after so short an acquaintance. "Have you met Miss Elliot more often than I have thought?"
"No, I don't mean that I am sure she returns my affection, indeed I am not certain how deep my own feelings go. I only mean that to me it is clear there is some interest in me on her part, nothing more. But yes, I have met Miss Elliot once since the last time we saw her."
"Frederick! Are you keeping secrets from me? You didn't tell me!" Edward cried. His tone demanded a satisfaction of his curiosity.
Frederick shifted uncomfortably in his chair. "No, I don't mean to keep secrets from you, big brother. I simply haven't had a chance. It was yesterday morning, while you were with Mr. Grimes, closeted away in the office. I took a long walk, unintentionally near Kellynch, and I happened upon her. She was alone, reading under a tree. Ah, Edward, she was quite a fetching sight, with her head bent over her book, her legs folded up underneath her." Frederick paused, alone in his remembrance of how he had found her. "I had to clear my throat to make my presence known, and I startled her half out of her wits." He chuckled, seeing in his mind's eye how her face had flushed when she had realized she had been observed. "I tried to do everything very properly, but it was hard not to take the opportunity to get to know her as well as I could, and I ended up staying far later than I should have, I'm sure. She is so....gentle, so kind. I could almost say she is Sophy's equal. Her manner of speaking, the way she weighs her words before she speaks, it all reminds me very much of Sophy, that softness of habit." Edward smiled to himself as he listened to his baby brother, and thought that Frederick was indeed well on his way to being in love. When a man compares an object of his admiration to his mother or his sister, it is a sure sign that this same object is making a home in his heart. Frederick seemed to think he had perhaps gone too far, and lapsed into silence. Edward, however, was grateful for the things his brother had already shared, and knew that to ask more would be to push him too far.
The day after Frederick opened his heart, Edward had the good fortune to see Miss Elliot himself. He happened to be leaving a small family's cottage as Anne herself was entering. He saw that she was bringing some badly needed clothes for the children. Remembering how he had once wondered if she were as proud as her father and sister so obviously were, Edward thought of how he had never seen the elder Miss Elliot out doing charitable work in the parish. He waited outside the cottage until Anne was finished, and asked if he might impose himself on her to walk a little way together."Or perhaps I might be able to convince you to come and take your tea with the Grimes, and myself and my brother?" He saw her face flush for a moment, but she recovered herself quickly. "Oh, I would not wish to impose on Mrs. Grimes," she said.
"Nonsense. She would love to have your company, I am sure. She is always complaining that she is out numbered by men in her own house. I am sure she would be pleased to have a feminine ally! Indeed, she would be angry if she knew I had seen you and had NOT prevailed on you to come home with me." Anne finally agreed, and they walked back to the parsonage together, relaxed and friendly. Edward longed to discover how she felt towards his brother, but he knew it would be improper to ask. He settled instead for asking about her family and what she was currently reading.
As they came around the bend in the path, Edward's cottage could be seen, a figure in the doorway. It was soon seen to be Frederick, whose face expressed both his surprise and pleasure on beholding his brother's companion. Edward hoped Miss Elliot saw the pleasure in Frederick's face as easily as he did himself.
"Well, this is a most pleasant surprise!" Frederick cried. "Are you come to drink tea with us, Miss Elliot? Mrs. Grimes is always glad of some feminine reinforcements!"
"That is just what your brother said, Commander Wentworth, so I must suppose it to be true. I would be glad to take tea with you and the Grimes." Her shy smile at Frederick was disarming, but Edward had to admit to himself that he did not regret that the smile was not for him. Frederick bowed as Miss Anne looked down at her feet, and Edward decided he should hurry them along to the Grimes'.
"Well, Miss Elliot! What a pleasant surprise!" Mrs. Grimes jumped to her feet when the group from the cottage entered.
"That is just what I said, Mrs. Grimes," Frederick said, smiling down at Anne.
"I hope you don't mind me inviting her back to drink tea with us, Mrs. Grimes. We met up at the Carlton's house, and I though I had rather bring her back with me without your consent than risk your wrath by not bringing her back!" Edward said.
"Indeed, you are right, Mr. Edward, you are right. And now you are come, Miss Elliot, I hope we can convince you to stay and dine with us as well?" Frederick was easily the happiest person in the room when Miss Elliot agreed, and a message was sent to Kellynch Hall.
Mr. Grimes was pleased to see Miss Elliot as well, for he was always glad to share his table with anyone with good conversation. The afternoon was a lively one, filled with laughter. While he was telling Mr. Grimes how he had been spending his day, Edward caught sight of Frederick and Anne out of the corner of his eye. Mrs. Grimes happened to be out of the room, and Edward easily saw that Frederick was taking advantage of the few moments to have a more private conversation with Anne. Pleased that Frederick had such an opportunity at hand, Edward turned back to Mr. Grimes with a renewed enthusiasm. He was determined to monopolize his attention for the whole time Mrs. Grimes was out of the room, and did not find it difficult to do so.
After they had eaten and the ladies removed, Mr. Grimes surprised both the Wentworths by saying, "Ah, Mr. Wentworth, you are a sly thing indeed." Edward stopped the progress of his glass from the table to his mouth and glanced at Mr. Grimes.
"I may be an old man, Master Edward, but I'm not blind. Don't think I don't see the services you provide your brother."
Now it was Frederick's turn to be confused. He gulped down the sip of port he had just taken and put his glass carefully down on the table. "Sir?" he said, not realizing he was mimicking his brother.
"Your brother, Master Frederick, does you great service by taking the attention of an old man upon himself while his wife is out of the room, so that you are free to bestow your attention in, shall we say, more fertile pastures." This last bit said with a conspiratorial nod, Mr. Grimes drank down the last of his port and stood up. Frederick, who had looked about him, turned red and not known how to respond, now began to laugh, his brother laughing with him. They repaired to the sitting room to join the ladies by the fire.
"I won't ask for cards, as I know you dislike them, Miss Elliot, but in return can I persuade you to play for us? Our instrument is not a large one, but it has a pretty sound, and I know from experience that you give as much pleasure as you get when you play. These gentlemen," Mrs. Grimes indicated the Wentworths, "have perhaps not heard you play?" She took Anne's hand in her own and patted it fondly.
"It would be my pleasure, Mrs. Grimes, as you well know. And you also know," as she turned to the instrument, "that it is not the instrument that matters but the listeners." She gave a small smile to the group, sat down, and began to play a piece from memory. Frederick, if one could judge from his face, was enchanted. Mrs. Grimes, who happened to be next to Edward, leaned to him and whispered, "Master Frederick seems much taken with our Miss Elliot." Edward caught both the smile and the approval in Mrs. Grimes' voice, but he did not know how to reply without betraying his brother's confidence. He was saved by the lady whispering to him again, "And I believe that perhaps his affections are returned. I've never seen Miss Elliot glow quite the way she has since your brother came here." She smiled conspiratorially at Edward, much as her husband had not long before, and patted his arm affectionately before she turned back to listen to Anne.
Edward was glad to see that his own observations were seconded not only by another, but by a woman, and one that knew Miss Elliot well. Anne was kept at the instrument for as long as they could persuade her, Frederick eagerly turning the pages of Mrs. Grimes' music, and only a plea of fatigue let her return to her chair by the fire. The remainder of the evening was spent talking of music, and finally the carriage from Kellynch was announced. Edward and Frederick saw her handed into the carriage, then turned their steps to their own route home. Frederick was quite jolly, humming to himself the last piece Anne had played.
"You seem quite happy this evening, brother," Edward observed.
"Ah, yes, Edward! A delightful evening indeed! Miss Anne Elliot is a delightful creature! Indeed, the society you have here has quite exceeded my expectations, Edward. I will probably grossly overstay my welcome in your home!" He chuckled loudly, kicked a small stone out of his path and began humming again.
Edward's smile was genuine, but he began to feel a longing in his heart that he had never felt before. His was a happy disposition by nature, but he wondered whether he would ever feel for a woman the way Frederick obviously felt for Anne Elliot. He could see now, that as much as he admired Anne, he wanted someone with a little more vivacity. Would he ever meet a woman who could fulfill all his needs, one who would willingly take on the job of a curate's wife, with all the trials and difficulties and responsibilities? Would he find a woman who would love him for who he was, to whom he could give himself completely? Stopping to stare upwards at the night sky and the stars, he said a small prayer, then determinedly shook off his maudlin thoughts. As they neared the door of the cottage, he saw that the normal puddle near the door had swollen in the recent rain. Not stopping to think, he gave Frederick a gentle push sideways. Frederick was caught off guard, easily lost his balance, and tumbled into the mud. Edward stood over him, was silent for a moment looking at his brother's stunned face, then suddenly he threw back his head and laughed aloud as he very rarely did. Frederick began to laugh as well, began humming again, and then reached out a hand to be helped up. "Are you finished?" he asked his brother. Edward's laughter gradually subsided. "Yes, I suppose I am," he replied, still chuckling, and held out his hand of assistance.
There was a sudden jerk of his arm, and in a split second he was next to his brother on the ground covered in mud. There was a moment of silence, then Frederick began to laugh, Edward followed suit, and soon they were laughing uproariously. Finally their mirth passed, they struggled to get up and slipped their way to the door of the cottage. They shed as many clothes as they decently could outside the door, and hurried inside to wash off what they could.
The next several weeks flew by. Frederick went with Edward on most of his visits, amusing himself when Edward had parish business on which he could not accompany him. He charmed the ladies, humored the men, and made himself generally agreeable to all the Monkford parishioners. Edward enjoyed having his company and the days seemed to fly by more quickly than they had since they were children. Edward had always felt somewhat overshadowed by his younger brother, who would so obviously be a successful man in his chosen career, but now he felt he had found his calling, and he threw himself into his work with true commitment. They frequently met with Miss Anne Elliot, Edward having no doubt it was by design, but whether on Frederick's side or Anne's he could not tell. Perhaps it was both. She was frequently found at the Grimes when they came to take their tea, and occasionally stayed for dinner and to entertain them on the pianoforte. Before either Wentworth brother noticed, three months had passed quickly away.
Frederick had gone up to London on business for a few days, called in to see the Admiralty. Edward felt the emptiness he left behind immediately, but told himself he had to get used to it; Frederick would not be with him forever. He threw himself into his work, getting more letters and paperwork done than he had in ages. In the late afternoon he allowed himself one long walk, to stretch both his legs and his lungs. He came upon Miss Elliot near the gate to the Kellynch grounds, where he and Frederick had met with her once before. She greeted him as an old friend, and he said, "Frederick has gone up to London for a day or two, but I expect you know that." Her blush and lowered eyes told him he was right, and he immediately changed the subject to avoid embarrassing her further. He studied her demeanor as they talked, remembering again how different she seemed from her father and sister. He mused silently that Miss Anne must have taken after her mother.
"And are you lonely without your brother, Mr. Wentworth?"
"I must admit that I am, Miss Elliot. It is comfortable having someone to share your home with."
"I imagine it must be," Anne observed softly. Edward glanced at her quickly, surprised. Did he catch a note of wistfulness in her voice? Was Kellynch Hall not a comfortable place to live? He thought about what he had said. Ah. Perhaps it was not comfortable living with Sir Walter and Miss Elliot as companions. He felt a pity for Miss Anne, and a portion of anger as well, that she, a delightful, open, kind, compassionate creature, should have to live with those who did not seem of her caliber. Did they appreciate her? He had always liked Anne Elliot, but now he began to have a new appreciation of what her life must be like.
"Yes, it is nice to have someone to talk to in the evenings and so on, but I have let myself get far too used to Frederick's presence. I must remember he will not always be with me, and I shall eventually have to rely on myself for company. He paused. "It is probable that Frederick will receive his orders while he is in London."
Anne walked on, face down, in silence for a few moments, seemingly digesting this bit of information, but she did not seem surprised. "I must confess," she said eventually, "I thought as much. Has he any idea what those orders will be?" She did not look up at him, as if fearful that she had asked too much, had crossed some line between what was proper and what was too personal.
"If he has, he has mentioned nothing to me."
"I believe your sister is abroad?"
"Yes, she and the admiral are in the East Indies. Sophy has traveled a great deal since her marriage; she enjoys it greatly. The admiral is glad to have her with him. And I believe his crew is glad as well." He chuckled to himself as he said, "She is somewhat of a softening influence on George, so you can see how her presence would be valued by his men." Anne smiled up at him.
"They sound a very happy couple, Mr. Wentworth," she finally said.
"I have rarely seen a happier."
Frederick was gone for several days, and Edward gradually became accustomed to his own company again, and the quiet of the house. There was comfort in the creaking of the roof, the fire flickering and snapping while he read before going to bed. Dinners at the Grimes' were always pleasant, but now they were pleasant in a calmer way. Late afternoon had descended, that portion of the day between daylight and darkness, when the whole world seems quiet, was his favorite time of the day. It was as if God had put it there to force man to take a deep breath and look at the world around him. Edward's ruminations on this witching hour were disturbed by a hollering in the yard and the clattering of hooves. Frederick was returned. Edward roused himself from his work at the table, stretched himself to his full height, then ambled to the door in time to see his brother swing off his horse and tie him to the post. "How did you fare without me, brother?" Frederick gave Edward a toothy grin.
"Extremely well, Freddy. Things were quite peaceful and calm." Edward grinned back at him. They embraced affectionately and came back into the house. "And how did you fare in town?"
"Quite well, Edward." Frederick took off his hat and began pulling his gloves off by the ends of the fingers, his fingers swollen with the effort of holding the reigns. He didn't look up as he elaborated, "I've been promoted to Captain, and I expect the next time I go to town it will be to be told I've got my own ship." He tried to sound casual, but Edward noticed the effort, the repressed excitement and anticipation.
Edward slapped his back, "Frederick! What excellent news! Congratulations! And how long before you leave us?"
Frederick laughed loudly, "Are you so anxious to get rid of me, brother!"
"No indeed, but I do want to know how long we have together before they send you off to parts unknown."
There was a pause, then, "Two months."
"Two months! Well, you had best get busy, then, Captain, that doesn't give you much time!" He said it seriously. He was much mistaken if Miss Anne Elliot did not have a marriage proposal in her immediate future.
"Much time for what?" Frederick was preoccupied with a mark on his boot he was trying to remove, and didn't see the twinkle in his brother's eyes. "Well," Edward said, "if you are going to play your cards so close to your chest, I shan't say another word. Come now, clean up quickly, we must go tell the Grimes your news."
The Grimes fussed over Frederick as if he were their own son, proudly proclaiming they had suspected as much when he left for town. Mr. Grimes opened a special bottle of wine he'd been saving for just such a special occasion, though Frederick objected to their drinking it in his honor. The parsonage foursome was indeed a jovial party. Mr. Grimes plied Frederick with questions about his orders, about which he knew very little, and about the possibility of getting a ship soon.
"If it's the ship I think it may be, it's an old ship, I know the name, but a sturdy one. Indeed I am lucky to have anything so soon. I am sure I owe some of my good fortune to my brother, the admiral." Frederick's countenance was relaxed, but his movements and expressions showed his restrained excitement, his thrill at the possible adventures that lay ahead of him, the eagerness, always with him, of being on the sea again. Mrs. Grimes, ever the worrier, was concerned about the accommodations on board ship, and the newly made Captain had to break himself out of his reveries and apply all his energies to assuring her that a captain had the best possible accommodations on a ship before she would relax.
Another late afternoon came, that stillness felt when one part of the day slips into the next. The Wentworths were walking, as was their custom, and they came upon a familiar figure sitting on a stone bench. She stood immediately when she saw them, and greeted them both warmly. Edward thought he saw her studying Frederick's face intently as she did so, but she turned to him in surprise when he corrected her manner of greeting.
"Miss Elliot, I know it is not proper to correct a lady, but in this case I feel I must. You see, he is Captain Wentworth now." She turned to Frederick, a smile overspreading her face, and saw the pride in his face as he looked down somewhat self-consciously at his boot.
"Well," was all she had to say for a moment. Then finally, "And what comes next, Captain Wentworth?" She turned and looked earnestly up at Frederick's face.
Edward immediately sensed that he was in the way. He turned quickly, embarrassed, and even a little bit hurt and angry. He walked quietly away, leaving them behind, not caring whether he should stay nearby to act as chaperone. He trailed his hand along the fence and stared at the ground in front of him as he walked. He had come to Somersetshire to start a new life, away from university, away from the sea, which had been so much of an influence on his siblings. He had come here for himself, for his own interests and future. And here was Frederick, the younger brother who had always out shown him, who even now was being promoted to a higher position than most men his age reached.
Edward slowed his steps and stopped hitting the fence. Where were these thoughts tending? He loved his work in the parish, he respected and admired Mr. Grimes, he enjoyed working with the parishioners. Why was he suddenly so bitter?
Frederick. It wasn't that Edward wanted Anne Elliot, it wasn't that Edward wanted to be a captain. It was more that he envied Frederick the ease with which he went through life. Frederick was one of those people to whom things seemed to come easily. Edward had always had to work hard for everything he achieved. He envied Frederick his easy way of going through life, seemingly without care or dread of what the future should hold. Edward envisioned Frederick cool and level headed in battle, leading his men with courage and confidence. Did Frederick ever worry? How did he come to be that way? Was it because his older siblings had made things too easy, doing all the worrying for him?
Edward stopped, realizing how far he had walked ahead of Frederick and Miss Elliot. He turned and watched them winding their way toward him. He put his selfish thoughts to one side. He was an intelligent man, he was not afraid of hard work. He had great faith in God, that he would always be provided for. He thought then of Anne. Perhaps she was exactly what Frederick needed. She knew her position in life, she knew her responsibilities. She would, no doubt, make Frederick a very good wife. She probably knew already that it would not be easy at first, life as a sailor's wife. He thought he saw fortitude in her character. Frederick had great prospects, it was true, but success would not happen overnight.
He watched the couple walk toward him. He was ready to welcome Anne into his family, as a sister, ready for Frederick to rely on her judgment. The couple walked slowly, and Edward watched them with a renewed interest. Something was different. Her hand was in the crook of Frederick's arm, she was gazing down at the ground as she walked, and Edward thought he could just make out a small smile on her face. He saw Frederick's face then, red, with a large grin overspreading it. He was talking quietly to Anne, her head barely reaching his shoulder, his words falling down to her. Occasionally, Anne would turn and look up at him and smile, then her gaze would come to rest on her own hand, held protectively in his arm, pressed against his coat, his own hand on top of hers, his hat under his other arm. Edward smiled then. Frederick had asked, she had accepted. He continued to watch them until they had almost reached him, then he turned away, knowing they would want this one small moment to be alone together. When they finally joined him, their faces spoke their joy. He smiled back at them, and they were all silent for a long, awkward moment; Anne finally excused herself and bid them good day.
Frederick watched Anne out of sight, the smile in his eyes as well as on his face, his features soft.
"Well, brother, I will say this for you, you do not waste any time." Frederick turned to look at Edward.
"Am I that obvious?!" Edward laughed, clapped him on the back and said, "Yes, Frederick, you are that obvious!" Frederick laughed with him and together they turned toward home. They were silent for a few moments, then finally Frederick spoke.
"We were talking of food," he said uncomfortably.
"Come now, Frederick!"
"Indeed, we were talking of food! We laughed." There was a pause. "And then I asked her. That's all there is."
"All there is! When will you speak to her father? When will you marry? Will she be able to go to sea with you!"
"Tomorrow, soon, and yes, I hope. Does that satisfy you, sir?" Frederick exclaimed with mock sternness.
"For now, yes, for now. Congratulations, my dear brother, I know you shall do very well together. She is an excellent young woman." He said no more, seeing his brother's heart was full, his face the picture of contentment and hope. Edward again felt a pang, a small touch of something like envy. He pushed himself to appear as happy as Frederick, for he was truly happy for his brother.
But as he lay in bed that night, Edward knew true envy. He saw all the advantages of his own situation, his prospects for advancement within the church. He compared it then with Frederick's plans, his hopes, how all these were coming together. Then Edward remembered his first days at university, his quest for a calm, peaceful life, his longing for his own path through life, one that had nothing to do with the sea. He turned over in his bed, seeing the moonlight shine through the window, leaving its blurry pattern on the floor between their beds. University had been a haven to him, where the young men he knew spent as much time reading as he did, where wind direction meant nothing, the navy list was something they had never heard of nor cared about. Edward had grown up hearing about the winds, the clouds, had learned to predict the weather (something by which he had always been able to amaze his university friends) and in a house where the navy and the sea were the two constant topics of conversation. It had been obvious from the beginning that Edward was the odd man out in the family. Even Sophy had learned all there was to learn about the navy at her father's knee. She had married a protege of their father's, had always had the same thirst for the sea as Frederick. But Edward, stuck in between the two, had not.
Edward loved the land, the fields, the woods, the good earth. His daily walks and rides were a kind of communion with the land, a reaffirmation of his wonder in God's creation. Evenings at the Wentworth house had been times of industry, and his was gladly the management of the books, both the accounting and the pleasure ones. His father had recognized early on that Edward would not be a sailor, and had cultivated his interests accordingly, had encouraged his education. But Edward had often felt an outsider in his home. And so it was not until university that he felt he was truly understood and respected for who he was. He had taken to scholarship like some men take to drink, reading everything he got his hands on, spending long nights discussing theology and philosophy with his classmates, spending extra time with his tutors on things that weren't part of his curriculum, giving up new clothes to buy new books. He had amassed quite a large library before he graduated, one that impressed Mr. Grimes when he came to the cottage.
Now he had begun his life after university, and he had to remind himself that he was willing to wait for the best things that life had to offer. He was willing to work hard. "Perhaps I will be more appreciative of success when it comes, because I have had to work for it, " he thought. This thought gave him some solace. He resolved to set aside his childish feelings of resentment and envy as long as Frederick was with him. He would be gone before long, and when he was gone, Edward would miss him.
Two weeks passed, and Edward hardly saw Frederick. Frederick was rarely at the cottage, and Edward was there scarcely more often. They ate dinner together, and had a few minutes of conversation before bed, but once in bed, they were both soon asleep and conversation ended. Edward was busier than ever. Mr. Grimes, once Edward had proved himself, was ready to delegate more and more responsibility to Edward, for which Edward was both thankful and afraid. He was glad to be busy, glad he seemed to have earned Mr. Grimes' admiration and respect. But lord was he tired! It would seem as though he had barely tumbled into bed when the sun would shine on the windowsill again and beckon him to rise. Frederick seemed all that was eager and content, and the two got on better than ever.
On Monday, Frederick did not come to the Grimes' for dinner. Neither the Grimes nor Edward thought this was strange, they each assumed he had found some measure of approval in Sir Walter's eyes and had been invited to dine and spend the evening. When Edward crawled into his own bed by the light of the candle and Frederick was still not home, he felt only the smallest twinge of anxiety. His own fatigue overcame him, and he was soon asleep.
The scuffling of feet and the sound of a chair falling over woke Edward with a start. It was Frederick, and he smelled horrid. Edward pulled himself up in bed and said, "Where on earth have you been, brother?" He yawned and wiped his weary eyes, squinting at Frederick. Frederick's hair was tousled, his clothes were dirty, and his eyes glassy. He was quite obviously drunk. "Frederick?"
"Yes, my dear brother, it is me, but I am going to sleep now, so don't bother me!" There was a grunt, then a low laugh. Frederick lay down on the bed, and a few moments later was fast asleep. Edward was awake for some time, wondering both where Frederick had been, and what had driven his brother to a past time he rarely indulged in. Frederick had always thought that alcohol was no friend to a sailor, but it seemed that it had been tonight.
Morning soon came, Edward rose, and began his day as usual. Frederick slept on, the snore of the drunk provided the accompaniment to Edward's morning ablutions. He left the cottage, leaving some bread and cheese behind for Frederick's breakfast, content that he would know the whole when he came home again. But he was wrong. When Edward returned to the cottage, Frederick was gone, and a letter was the only farewell he left for his brother.
Forgive me for leaving you thus. I am a broken man, and would not have you see me this way. She has broken the engagement, I cannot tell you why, for I do not understand it myself. I cannot stay in the district. I have gone to London, and I shall not return before I go to sea again.
Many thanks for your kindness during my stay, please convey the same to the Grimes. I shall write soon.
Ever your little brother, Frederick
Edward was stunned. Anne had broken the engagement? But why? Because of her father's disapproval? But she had said she cared nothing for that! Edward read the note over and over, trying to glean more information from it than could be had. He stuffed the note into his pocket and walked quickly to the Grimes'.
"Broken the engagement!" Mrs. Grimes was obviously incredulous. "But it is obvious they love each other! Why would Miss Anne break the engagement? Did they quarrel?"
Edward had no answer to this, nor to any of the questions the Grimes plied him with. He could only shake his head and hope he heard from his brother soon.
Edward was beginning to worry after two weeks without hearing from Frederick, when he finally received a letter from him.
I am sailing tomorrow, on my own ship, the Asp. It is an old one, but it shall suffice. My crew promises to be a good one, and we shall have some fine times.
Thank you for your graciousness during my stay with you. I shall send a letter when I can, but do not expect to hear from me often.
Give my regards to the Grimes.
Although he had not expected more, Edward was nonetheless disappointed. He was glad his brother appeared to be looking forward to his new commission, but he regretted not having a chance to speak to his brother in person before he went to sea.
Edward dearly dreaded seeing Miss Anne in a situation which could demand conversation. For the last few weeks, they had been confined to polite nods from a distance after services. He knew she avoided the Grimes when he might be found there, and called when she knew he would be otherwise occupied. He could not blame her, but he still could not understand.
Several weeks passed, and Edward was busier than ever, hardly missing his brother's company except at table. The Grimes were a lovely couple, but Frederick's easy manner and light banter had made mealtimes a pleasure. Now it was only a chore. He felt all the more as if he were a shadow of his younger brother's charm. Three months after Frederick's departure, Mrs. Grimes confided to Edward that Anne was gone to London with her family.
"She said nothing specific to me, Master Edward, but it is clear that she is hurting inside. I have my own suspicions on the subject, however."
"Indeed," was all Edward could reply, not knowing whether to encourage a confidence or be suspected of prying. He need not have worried, for Mrs. Grimes was longing to share her suspicions.
"It's that Lady Russell's doing, mark my words. Oh, she's a kind enough lady, and it's clear she loves Anne like her own daughter, which is more than....well, never mind that. But it has always seemed to me as though she held rank too highly. She wouldn't want any daughter of Lady Elliot to marry a sailor. She has higher hopes for her little Anne." Mrs. Grimes rocked thoughtfully in her chair, and looked over at Mr. Grimes, dozing quietly in his own chair. "She is a dear girl, but I would not be surprised if she never marries now. She is the kind who only loves once, I fancy."
"She is young yet, my dear," Mr. Grimes woke long enough to say, and indeed Edward had to agree. He had long since given up any hope or desire to marry Anne Elliot himself, but he could not believe Anne would remain single for life. He thought of Frederick, and wondered whether he would ever marry now. Would their engagement prove to be only a brief episode in the life of each, something to remember tenderly when they had been married to others for many years? Edward was glad when the conversation turned.
Part 13 <
The winter passed quickly, the weather growing cold, then colder, then warmer again. Edward had passed so many months in Somerset that he felt he had been there an age. It was time to move on, perhaps to something more for himself. He set about putting word round that he was looking for a new curacy. Mr. Grimes would be retiring soon, and the family had someone else in mind for the parish.
After dinner one evening, Mr. Grimes lingered for some time over his port. Edward could see that he wanted to talk, but was at a loss for what it could be. He waited patiently for Mr. Grimes to pick his moment.
"Mr. Wentworth, it has indeed been a pleasure to have you here working in the parish. The parishioners love you, the young girls hanker after you, you work hard and prove yourself time and again. I shall be sorry to see you go."
"Mr. Grimes..." Edward began.
"No, no, let me have my say. I know just how much of the work you have taken over here, and I know that this could all be done by one man, provided he were younger than I. But I wanted to know you were well provided for."
"You needn't have worried, I can always go back to my uncle for a time."
"Yes, yes, now let me talk." He paused for a moment. "I have had a letter from a dear old friend of mine, a Josiah Tavington. He has a living in his giving, and he's asked if I know anyone. I've recommended you, and he's agreed to take you on my word alone."
"Mr. Grimes!" Edward was stunned.
"Now see here!" Mr. Grimes' voice rose, as if in anger. "I could not have a young man like you leaving me to go to some tiny pittance in some out of the way place, where no one would heed you or value you, and where you'd be as poor as a mouse and unable to marry! I had to make sure you went to the right place. Tavington is an excellent man, but he's also a hard headed one. Believe me when I say he would not have taken you if he did not believe you capable of the job, and if he did not think he could work you like a horse!"
Edward sat, waiting for Grimes to finish his course. "You are to leave at the end of the month, you'll have a lovely old house, bigger than this one, for your own. It was Tavington's late wife's, and he has no need of it. He will provide you with excellent society, and an excellent library to borrow from. I will be sorry to see you go, but when you've gone, Mrs. Grimes and I mean to follow shortly after, and end our days in a little cottage at Lyme. Now that I know you will be settled, I can retire in peace." He sat back in his chair, as if the effort of planning Edward's future had been a monumental one and now he was exhausted. He sighed with complacency.
"Mr. Grimes," Edward began quietly, "I do not know what to say to such generosity. You are an excellent man, I am proud to have worked under you, to have learned from you. And I am proud to have been recommended by you to anyone, let alone a gentleman with a living in his gift who has never met me." Edward paused and thought for a moment. "I have only one question, I believe. Where, exactly, am I going?"
They both laughed, and Mr. Grimes raised his glass, saying happily, "To Shropshire, my dear boy! To Shropshire!"
Continued in Part 2
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