With an effort, Wentworth hid his irritation. Was there never a moment of peace for him and Anne?
“What is it, Howard?” he asked the footman whose face bore an agitated expression.
“Sir Walter Elliot and Miss Elliot, sir.”
Wentworth turned to his betrothed with a quizzical look.
“What can your father possibly want with us, darling?”
“I do not know nor care, Frederick. I … I cannot see him after … Frederick, he threw me out on the streets!”
“Stay here, my love. I will go.”
In the hall he found an impatient and highly irritated Sir Walter and an extremely bored Elizabeth. Why did the two of them always come together? It seemed Sir Walter could not do anything without his vain, shallow, eldest daughter at his side.
Sir Walter eyed him crossly and all but barked at him.
“Sir, oblige me and lead me to my daughter. It is of the uttermost importance that I speak with her immediately!”
Wentworth raised an eyebrow in surprise.
“And which daughter would that be, sir? There are two of them residing under this roof at the moment. If it is Anne you wish to see, I am very much afraid I must disappoint you. My future wife refuses to speak with you.”
Sir Walter’s face turned into an ugly shade of beet red.
“Sir! I demand to …”
“Be quiet, sir!”
Wentworth’s thundering voice stopped Sir Walter in his tracks.
“You do not have the right to demand anything of my dear girl anymore, after what you have put her through! Your heartless behaviour nearly killed her!”
Sir Walter’s expression did not even change!
“Whatever do you mean, sir? How dare you make such an offending accusation! I will have you whipped, sir!”
Wentworth closed his eyes in exasperation. This man was impossible! Yet Wentworth knew he must keep his composure lest Sir Walter would have the upper hand.
“Sir, I must ask you to leave this house as we speak. Anne, as I mentioned earlier, has no wish to speak with you. She has been under your loveless treatment for years and it must end here and now. In the future I will make it my most important task to shield her against further heartbreak! Now, go! Leave Anne alone, she does not need you.”
He motioned to Howard, the footman, who stepped forward and pointed a white-gloved hand to the door. Sir Walter eyed him haughtily, then seemed to understand what the gesture meant. His face grew a vivid red and his breathing became faster.
“You are showing me the door? You? How dare you? What, pray tell me, is your position in civilised Society, that you think yourself my equal? I, Sir Walter Elliot of Kellynch Hall, baronet in the service of His Royal Highness, George, Prince of Wales?”
Wentworth’s voice now shook with rage when he answered.
“I, sir, Frederick Wentworth, Captain of HMS Augusta Sophia, sailing for His Majesty King George’s Royal Navy, hereby command you to leave this house now or be thrown out by my footman. You have exactly one minute to oblige, sir, and your time goes in now!”
Elizabeth, who had been bored up until now, let out a gasp of horror. Before Wentworth realised was she was about to do, she ran from the room, crossed the hall and burst into the room where Anne was sitting on the settee.
“Ah, there you are, Anne! Well, let me tell you what a fine scoundrel of a man you have landed yourself with! He insulted Father! He, a nobody and a naval man to boot, had the audacity of telling Father to leave! If you have one shred of decency left in your body, you will act upon it this instant!”
Anne rose, her knees trembling. She took Elizabeth by the wrist and dragged her to the drawing room. There she faced her father and said in a calm, unruffled voice, “Sir, I must order you to leave. You have violated the serenity of this house, which is unforgiveable.”