The Lost Proposal
People were very wrong when they spoke of a heart being broken; if anything, the heart of Frederick Wentworth worked too well for his liking, and it had been, since this morning, making its efforts felt. In fact, he had not moved from his lodgings since returning from his visit to Kellynch Hall the previous day.
"Anne...Anne...," he moaned, though silently, and anyone watching Frederick would have only seen a man perusing through a pile of papers, as if in the act of arranging them to some mysterious specification.He had already sent out a letter, requesting a command, and he expected to hear very shortly what he was to do to employ the hours he would know without Anne.There were to be so many of them!And he could live a long life; longevity seemed a benefit of the Wentworth name, and some part of him wished to remove that advantage by placing himself in the direct line of battle, hoping to shorten his time, removing the days he would never know her love.
Only this time yesterday he had believed himself the most fortunate of men as he made his request to Anne's father. Sir Walter had been sarcastic and dismissive, but in the end, he gave his consent with the attitude of someone resigned to watch his least favorite child marry beneath her----that is, he hardly seemed to care much, and did not even appeal to Frederick that he treat his daughter well.He did keep musing over the surprise that Anne could even attract any type of man at all...but he chose to withhold any reward for her in achieving this unlikely event. An offer of a very small dowry was made, but a very substantial, very distasteful lecture had accompanied it, so much so that Frederick silently vowed he would never inquire about it, but would instruct Anne to keep this pittance for herself----that is, if the money ever materialized at all.
Yet, Frederick had endured this vulgarity and disrespect and meanness with all the fortitude of a man deeply in love, and willing to submit to such torture as only Sir Walter could devise.However, his suffering only lasted twenty five minutes: Sir Walter was expecting an order of brand new clothes to arrive at any second, and these were of greater importance than his daughter's engagement.Nonetheless, no one could have thanked anyone more profusely, or bowed more deeply than did Frederick when Sir Walter, his voice thick with disinterest, said, "I would rather you did not marry Anne....but in any case, a man such as yourself does as he pleases....so I suspect Anne will soon claim your name as her own, since she often yields to what she knows will make me most unhappy." This last statement had never been true, but Sir Elliot felt it needed to be said to emphasize his reasons for treating Anne with such little respect. He then impatientlywaved Frederick out the door, already in that world of forgetfulness granted to those whose whole world has only themselves in it.
Frederick walked out the library doors, and there stood Anne in the hallway, her eyes saying much beyond her first words to him of..."Mr. Wentworth...would some tea appeal to you, sir?"
His voice, almost breaking with happiness, replied, "It would appeal...and now," he took her small hand in his, and kissing it, announced, "and now, I am Frederick...to you."
Anne might have shed tears at this point, except for the presence of the servant announcing the tea, and she restrained her joy as they went into the drawing room.So much was said, planned, and anticipated in this half an hour; so much more believed, hoped, and feared, a little. The only inconvenience was the lack of fortune, but Frederick did not lack ambition nor intelligence nor ability, all things combined that might cause fortune to seek him out, and bless him.Did it matter so much?Well, yes it did matter, but so much more mattered beside it, and upon those things did Anne and Frederick did place their future happiness.
Just as Frederick left, Lady Russell was announced, and a strange feeling overcame him at the mention of her name, and he could see Anne was similarly affected, and it did not appear to be of a pleasant nature. But, they gave one another the tenderest of good-byes, and he was ushered out the door in an aura of complete ecstasy, knowing he would probably not notice anything in the world for the remainder of the day.
He had at least those happy hours to recall----and all the hours of their courtship, and then, even his thrill at winning her hand----none of that was truly gone, would never cease to exist as long as he had his memory and his heart.But, sweet, sweet Anne...what burden she would have to carry, knowing that she must live with a deception, and somehow, convince herself that his lack of money had overridden everything else.How could she ever face this knowledge, that she had allowed wealth and status to intercede and destroy her love for him?She would have to face, everyday, for the rest of her life, the company of a husband who could give her only a comfortable home----and perhaps an elaborate gift now and then.
Frederick Wentworth laughed at these thoughts, and drank down another swallow of the wine he had ordered: drunkenness did not agree with him, did not make him more merry, or serious, as it did some men. No, he just became morose----and in this way, he began to think more clearly than he had ever done, and as most clear thinking tends to do, much of it was hurtful.
"You!"speaking to the dying embers of his fire, "You should have known better....the daughter of a baronet, with not a friend who would have supported her in this....you might as well asked the Regent for his sister, you fool! You'd have better take the sea as your bride, Wentworth.....she will have you, and does not care how much coin you carry....and she's faithful to all who follow her: you never need guess her motives.If she loves you, then you shall be rewarded....if not, well, she at least is merciful----drowning takes only minutes!!Better that than all these weeks of the unknown, of giving yourself to another, then discovering she can have all of you, except the part that bears the label "poverty." That label makes all worthless who must wear it!But, those for whom it means so much, they are worthless, they deny themselves knowing much beyond what glitter money can bring.So, my dearest love....I am probably fortunate in discovering this worthlessness in you!"
But he could not believe it. Not entirely, some other cause must be blamed for Anne's sudden decision to end their engagement: but what could it be?Was it only his lack of fortune?God knows, she would not have starved, and though she might not have been able to dress in silk and jewels---she did not dress in them, even now, and in fact, did not seem impressed with such decoration. They would have had enough to be comfortable, and very possibly, with war very imminent, he would have known success very quickly.The duration of their poverty could but have been but a short one----was money really the only reason...? Should he...?
No, he shouldn't. Her earlier message, very brief, almost without feeling, had made her position very definite.The only possibility must be, that she had, in some strange twist of perversity, suddenly found him unappealing, and perhaps the dazzlement of his uniform had dimmed when she compared him to other men of her acquaintance.In other words, she must be fickle, as were so many women of her class who, becoming bored with their needlework and pianoforte practice, often resorted to contriving some excitement through a love affair with an inappropriate man. It gave them something to talk of with their friends, when the passion was over....
No! Now that he could truly not believe...not when he reflected on her distaste for pretense, recalling all their discussions in which she often said something bold, but honest and sincere.Not only that, for often ladies gave opinions freely without acting upon them, but Anne did show, by her actions and her enthusiasms, that she did live as she spoke. He recalled many instances in which one or both of her sisters had attempted to inveigle him into making some type of statement or commit an action that would demean him, or cause him to demean others.Anne had always interfered with these contrivances, showing by her support, that she valued him above anyone else in the room.Of course, her sisters learnt nothing from these lessons, and if anything, only thought Anne rather strange, so unlike the rest of the Elliots----but they took comfort in knowing that one day she would no doubt marry, and perhaps move very far away, and they would no longer have to endure her odd behaviors.
So, he still had no answer, except he found a minor solace in knowing that, whatever Anne's reason for the change, that her reasons must be founded on careful thought and loving regard for him. Perhaps consumption ran in her family, or perhaps Sir Elliot thought better of his approval, and withdrew it....perhaps...many things.
"But all she need do...if she did still love me....is call upon me, or send a message that I should come to her.Then, I would gladly listen to her explanation.She knows I am a reasonable man. The only thing that now lies between us is what she has manufactured in these very few short hours!"
He debated this for the remainder of the night, and never slept, finally deciding that it was easier to spend all the rest of his energy getting his commission, and making it a wife of sorts, then concerning himself with the human wife he could never have. What else was there to done? To be the best at what he had chosen----to be daring, competent, bold, and courageous.....
"Courage..." he softly mused,"I think I know it well already...."
© 1997 Copyright held by author
Darcy looked up. His heart fluttered and the held his breath. "Elizabeth?" he said to her.