A Magical Letter – Part Eleven

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Eleven – Reunited

 

When Wentworth planned to seek out Harriet Smith, it dawned on him that, regarding Anne’s life and circumstances, he was only at the beginning of getting to know her. Where would he start looking for Anne’s friend? Where did she live?

Damn! He had been stupid not to ask her when Mrs Smith had sought him out, three days ago. He had simply called her a carriage and sent her home. Well, he would have to ask the only other person who might know, and that was Lady Russell.

She was about to leave her house in Camden Place when Wentworth arrived. He startled her yet again, in fact, he was glad to see that she had been thoroughly shaken the previous time they met.

“My lady, forgive my intrusion, but I am looking for some information you might be able to partake with me. Do you know the whereabouts of Anne’s friend, Mrs Harriet Smith?”

“Why … erm, yes, Captain Wentworth, as a matter of fact I do. She lives in that dismal block of rooms near the road to Bristol, Westgate Buildings. She … erm, she has of not much of a breeding; I’m afraid , she …”

“She is Anne’s friend. That is good enough for me,” Wentworth cut her short. He made his bow and left, already disgusted by her shallow judgement yet again.

When twenty minutes later, he returned to his lodgings in the company of Mrs Smith, a surprise awaited him. In the drawing room the bedraggled figure of Mrs Penelope Clay rose from the settee.

“Captain Wentworth!”

Wentworth’s eyes narrowed at the sight of her. This was the widow who had been clinging to Sir Walter’s arm before she had turned her attentions toward that slippery eel Elliot. He bestowed her a stern look which she totally ignored.

Instead she came forward, gripped his arm and said in an urgent voice, “You have to help me, sir! Anne is in great danger! She is being held captive by William Elliot, and he wants to force her into marriage by ravishing her. She will have no other choice but to become his wife!”

 

Anne recoiled in absolute horror when she felt Elliot’s hands sliding up her thighs.

“Please, William … I … I am untouched … I have never …”

“You have never let that Wentworth chap take a sample out of you? Oh, come on, Anne, you had a fierce love affair with him years ago.”

She could not believe what she had just heard!

“You … you know about Frederick? How ..”

“Surprised you there, haven’t I? Oh, yes, my dear, I know everything there is about your sordid little love affair because I made it my business to know. You have been my most coveted target for years now, since you were the easiest way to get to your nitwit of a father and his damned baronetcy!”

“Stop!”, Anne gasped as he was tugging at her drawers. She tried wriggling out of his grasp and then suddenly remembered she had actually freed herself from her bonds. When her drawers were torn to shreds, she finally reacted; with a hard shove, she raised her knee, right where she thought to hurt him the most.

Unfortunately Elliot had foreseen her move. He pinned her leg under his and pulled her mouth to his by grabbing her hair in a painful grasp. She gagged when his tongue invaded her without mercy.

In huge panic she felt his hand on her and desperately tried to get away from him.

“Step away!”

A voice like thunder boomed hard enough to pierce through the red haze before her eyes. The next second her assailant’s weight left her trembling body, and Anne blissfully fainted.

 

Wentworth nearly choked on his red hot rage when he saw what Elliot was doing to his beloved Anne. He threw himself at his enemy and sent him from her with one mighty shove. Giving the other time to recover, he quickly rushed at Anne’s side and covered her with a sheet. Blast the villain!

Then an arm around his neck was pulling him up, suffocating him in a grasp of steel.

The many man-to-man fights he had experienced on his ship during battle provided him with an answer to an attack from behind. He let himself go limp, so that Elliot was taken by surprise and was drawn downwards. Wentworth was then able to grab his collar and throw him over, whereupon he served him a dry cut on the jaw. Elliot did not move again after that, and Wentworth neatly tied him up by hands and feet. To the two women who had followed him into the room he said, “Mrs Clay, go and call for a police officer. Mrs Smith, come and assist me with Anne.”

They obeyed him without question.

“Mrs Smith,” Wentworth pleaded, “you have seen what he did to my sweet girl. Kindly restore her clothing so that I can take her with us in the carriage without her being exposed to curiosity and shame.”

His voice had given way during his last words and Harriet Smith laid a hand on his arm in compassionate affection.

“Rest assured, Captain. I will care of her. Thank God she is unconscious.”

 

~~~~

 

 

Anne reluctantly opened her eyes when the light became too bright to ignore. The smiling face of Frederick was the first thing she beheld and her heart leapt with joy.

“My dearest, loveliest girl …,” he whispered, his eyes glistening with tears of relief.

“Frederick …”

“Shh, shh, be still, my darling. Everything is well now, I found you and I will never ever let you go out of my sight again.”

There was so much Anne wanted to say but she knew not how. There was so much she did not know had happened, too. A million questions were milling around in her head, making it spin and ache.

Frederick’s gentle voice soothed her instantly, however.

“My own, sweet love, my treasure, my Anne … how you must have suffered …”

He took one of her hands and raised it to his lips. They felt firm and warm and his breath upon her skin was sending tiny flames down her arm.

“I have failed you, my love. I have tolerated this. I have not prevented nor foreseen this. I can only hope for your forgiveness and I promise you, I give you my word that it will never happen again.”

 

 

 

A Magical Letter – Part Ten

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Ten – Danger of Ravishment

 

 

“Sir Walter. Miss Elizabeth.”

Elliot bowed and received Sir Walter’s bow before he took Elizabeth’s hand in his and kissed it. She looked up at him and blushed becomingly, which annoyed him. He did not, however, let it show to her.

“My dear Sir Walter, to what do I owe the pleasure of your visit? I do not recall that we had agreed on meeting each other today?”

“Ah, my dear cousin William, I shall call you “William” as we are indeed blood related.”

Elliot was now beyond annoyance and downright angered! This pompous ass of an uncle of his had ignored him long enough before calling him “blood related”. Elliot had only worked himself into his uncle’s circle again to secure a marriage to one of his daughters, preferably Anne and – he must not forget that little predicament – prevent his vain uncle to marry again. To that end he had seduced silly Penelope who had quietly entered the drawing room after him. But, he saw, Sir Walter was about to explain the reason of his visit.

Until he saw Penelope!

“William! What is that … that creature doing here? I demand that you cast her out! She insulted me in a most demeaning manner and I cannot bear to lay eyes on her!”

Bewildered, Elliot took “the creature” by the arm and ushered her out, whispering, “One of your foul tricks again, eh? I swear you will pay for that! Go to your room and wait for me there!”

Furious because he did not know what she had done to Sir Walter, Elliot turned a sweet face towards his uncle again.

“Do not pay attention to her, Sir Walter! She must have managed to slip in through the servant’s entrance again, it is not the first time. I must take measures against that woman for she continues to persecute me in a most offending way. Please, be seated.”

He rang the little bell, sitting on one of the side tables, and a footman appeared. “Bring us some refreshments!”

Sir Walter and his daughter – she was still fluttering her eyes at Elliot – were fussing over seating themselves to the point of ridicule in ensuring the most attractive way of draping their garments around their persons. Elliot had to bite his lip not to burst into laughter! What a nice set of peacocks they were, nice, empty-headed and vain peons!

Anne had just managed to free her other hand when the door of her room opened again to let Penelope Clay in. The woman was in tears!

“Penelope!”, Anne exclaimed, “Whatever has happened? You must tell me!”

“Oh, it is so dreadful! William is making eyes to that sister of yours, Anne!”

Swallowing back her surprise, Anne realised that Penelope did not seem to note she had just betrayed Anne’s identity to her and that she, Anne, must feign astonishment at this!”

“What are you calling me, Penelope? Anne? Is that my name?”

Penelope sank onto the bed and took Anne’s hands.

“Yes! You are Anne Elliot, and William is your cousin! He wants to marry one of Sir Walter’s daughters! He does not care which one, you or Elizabeth!”

Anne stroke the woman’s face with the back of her hand. Despite what she had done in the past, Anne could not help but feel sorry for her. She was, after all, a widow, left in miserable circumstances, even though she was Mr Shepherd’s daughter. Her father only wanted to take her back in to make her a cheap and malleable servant  tending his household. Anne only knew too well the humiliations a position like that brought upon a person.

“Penelope, he does not love you. You know that, do you not? When my father was courting you, William was terrified that he would wed you and beget an heir by you. That is the only reason why he lured you away from Sir Walter.”

The poor woman was now openly weeping. Anne could not bear it and took her into her arms.

“Listen, dear, we will help each other in this. I do not wish to become his wife, I hate him! Help me escape from this house, and I will take you with me. I am to become the wife of Captain Wentworth and I will need you as my confidante and friend. God knows I cannot turn to my sisters for that purpose.”

“You will? You would do such a thing after all the misery I have brought upon you?”

“Yes.” Anne smiled at her.

“We must hurry! He will return soon!”

She began working on the bonds on Anne’s feet.

“No,” Anne said in a determined voice, “I can free myself but you must leave this house right away. He is bound to lock you up in your room now that he is no longer certain of your cooperation. You must go to Queen Square, to Admiral Croft’s lodgings and inform Frederick of what has occurred.

Please, Penelope, will you do that?”

“Yes …”, she whispered and stood.

With a faint little smile for Anne, she turned and hurried out of the room. Anne then attacked the bonds on her feet.

 

Elliot was trying hard not to appear impatient while Sir Walter launched into an elaborate account of what had transpired in the Pump Rooms that morning. As if he would be interested in such shallow occupations! Finally he succeeded in squeezing in a word when the older man had to draw breath.

“Sir Walter, I very much appreciate your visit, especially since I am aware of the extreme amount of social encounters you have to entertain daily. So, forgive me for being forthright, but to what do I owe your presence today?”

The baronet cleared his throat in an affected manner, righted his cravat and drew his laced cuffs out of his coat. He then sat a bit more upright and began, “You will be pleased to know, dear William, that I have taken measures to punish Anne for her outrageous behaviour towards the kindness you showed her. She is no longer considered a daughter of mine. However, a slight inconvenience has occurred which is bound to throw a blemish on our family’s good name. The silly chit seems to have disappeared. You, erm, might not have an inkling about her whereabouts, by any chance?”

What followed next, was an exchange of ooh’s and ah’s and well-have-I-ever’s. No, Elliot ensured Sir Walter, he did not know where Anne might be. Half an hour passed before the comedy drew to an end, Elliot getting more and more impatient by the minute. Finally, Sir Walter appeared to be satisfied. He also seemed relieved rather than worried and soon took his leave. Elliot took the steps two at a time to get back to Anne.

 

“My dear Anne!”

Elliot entered and contemplated the figure of his cousin who was still lying duly tied by hands and feet upon the bed. He let out a sigh of relief because he had not been sure what he had done when the Clay woman interrupted them earlier. All the time during his boring conversation with Sir Walter, he had asked himself if he had left her there tied up or not. Seemed he had, thanks be to God!

“Now, where were we, before we were interrupted? Ah, yes, I was very agreeably occupied in exploring your delectable body, was I not?”

He let himself down on the bed next to Anne and removed his coat and gloves.

“What are you doing, William?”

A hint of fear sounded in her voice, and she tried to shift away from him.

“I am going to claim you as my bride, my dear, in a way that will let no room for rejection. After I am done with you, there will be only one thing for you to do and that is to marry me as soon as possible. Do I have to make myself any clearer?”

Revelling in the genuine look of terror in Anne’s eyes, he began unbuttoning his breeches.

“William, I beg of you, do not act like this! What have I ever done to you that you would force yourself upon me?”

Triumphantly he took her chin into a grasp of iron and sneered, “You had the effrontery of refusing me when I proposed to you, you little wretch! I see that your memory has returned? No, do not try and deny it, it is written plainly all over your face. Do you think you can slight, humiliate, make a fool out of a man like me and get away with it?”

With one quick gesture he shoved Anne’s nightgown upwards and took hold of the drawers she wore under it.

The Magical Letter – Part Nine

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Nine – Coercion

 

As her capturer kissed her, the onslaught of his mouth was so fierce it was overwhelming her!

Violent disgust threatened to choke her as his lips were crushing hers and his tongue was invading her mouth with uttermost cruelty. She must not show this to him!

Suddenly the memory of another kiss was coursing through her and with it, the sheer delight she had once felt as Fredrick kissed her. Frederick! Frederick Wentworth, her betrothed, her one and only love! And she … she was Anne Elliot, engaged to be married to Frederick and this cruel assailant was William Elliot, her cousin, with the morality of a chimpanzee and the cold heart of a snake!

 

 

Frederick … dear, sweet, kind Frederick … who was restored to her after so long a time and whose kisses, full of deep, thrilling love, awakened a fire in every fibre of her body …

Oh, yes! Anne knew what to do to fight off this fiend that was of her own family and blood!

She applied herself fiercely in answering that assaulting kiss of Elliot’s, even though her nausea was putting up its ugly head . Think of Frederick, who must be going mad with worry! Let Elliot think you believe him! Make him lower his guard. Try to break free and return to Frederick.

Elliot unexpectedly released her with a gasp.

“Christ, Anne! Where did you learn to kiss like that?”

Anne smiled innocently at him.

“Why, my dear sir, I would not know! Was it you who taught me this, maybe?”

Elliot’s hand loosened the back of her head though she was still trapped in his arm like in a vice. It travelled up and down her neck with soft stroking, brining loath in its path. She kept her pasted smile on her face, desperately thinking of Frederick.

Her ordeal, however, was far from over. Elliot’s hand now wandered to her breasts, bare and corset-free under the cotton nightgown.

 

The list of Dr Widdicombe’s patients covered four pages of a large ledger, each page containing three columns. Sifting through it took long, tedious hours and interrogating the persons, attached to these names, would take even more hours, equally long and tedious. The outcome of such an interrogation did not guarantee success in finding Anne either. Many names on the list were acquaintances of Wentworth’s, some were even friends. The very thought of interrogating them did not sit comfortably with Wentworth nor with Constable Jeffries.

Wentworth’s mood was at its deepest. Anne was now missing for three whole days and the chances to find her were shrinking by the hour. It was abundantly clear that someone was determined to harm her, possibly kill her. Witnesses, who could have given a clue of her whereabouts, had systematically been eliminated. They knew she was hurt and had possibly suffered a head injury, according to the boot boy’s tale.

No, Wentworth mused, the answer to this riddle lay not within action but within reflection.

What were the motives that were invoked when a person became a target to some other devious and criminal mind? One of them could be money; many a person had been murdered in order to gain an inheritance or to steel valuables. Anne was poor; her father had squandered away his income from Kellynch. She had received a small bequest after her mother’s death but that was but a minor allowance.

Another motive could be revenge over an insult or some other deed that incited a bad person’s rage.

Again, Anne had done nothing wrong in her whole life; she was the finest of souls with a kindness to everyone she met. Always had she put herself aside for the good of others, even if those others had bad intentions towards her.

Sighing deeply because he saw no solution to his trouble, Wentworth decided to go and talk with Harriet Smith, Anne’s best friend. If anyone knew his beloved even better than he did himself, it was Mrs. Smith, he thought.

 

“Mmm … so soft and round,” Elliot’s voice hummed. His hand cupped her breasts through the fabric of her nightgown and caused Anne to shiver in repulsion. He, however, mistook it for delight and grew bolder. His finger were fiddling with the buttons at her throat!

“Dear sir,” Anne managed to whisper, “what kind of girl would I be, should I succumb to your subtle seduction? Would you not despise me if I should allow you to take the most precious thing a woman can give? Her purity, her virginity, something she may only give to the man she loves on their wedding day?”

Elliot eyed her in a strange way, unbelief and suspicion in his gaze.

“So … you remember loving me?”

Anne gave a shrill peel of laughter.

“No … dear sir … I cannot lie to you about such a delicate matter, but I do recall a presence in my former life of a gentle and kind man, who loved me and respected me and wished to make me his wife.”

“That was me, Anne! Do you recall that evening some five days ago, at a concert, where you were unwell and went out to take some air? I followed you and declared my love to you; I proposed and you accepted. Your father and sister were overjoyed and we started making the preparations at once.”

His face was now alight with eager enthusiasm. He took her by the shoulders to lift her up and kiss her when he noticed only now that she was still tied op the bed.

“Ah!”, he grunted and began to loosen her bonds. Anne’s heart was beating frantically; she would be free!

Suddenly the door opened and Anne recognised Penelope Clay, standing there with deep hurt on her still pretty face, at seeing her lover with his hands all over Anne. Elliot turned his head to Penelope in exasperation.

“What is it, woman? Can you not see I do not wish to be disturbed?”

“I beg your pardon, William, but you have a visitor. Sir Walter and Miss Elizabeth are downstairs asking to be received by you.”

“Blast!”

Elliot hastily stood and ushered Penelope out of the room. He threw a long look at Anne, as if debating what to do, then thought the better of it and left. However, he did not forget to turn the key in the lock.

Anne took a deep breath and gathered her strength. One of her hands was free!

 

 

 

 

 

The Magical Letter – Part Eight

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Eight – Coaxing

 

When the door to her prison opened again, the young woman on the bed immediately spoke.

“I have an urgent need to relieve myself. I demand that you grant me the basic bodily needs!”

“My, my! How much better you must feel, dear Anne!” It was the gentleman’s deep voice.

Anne … was that her name?  She had no recollection of hearing it ever before.

“Who are you? Why do you keep me here?”

Silence. An intake of breath.

“My dear Anne, I am afraid I cannot tell you that.”

“Sir …” She made her voice humble and pleading.

“Sir, I have no memory. Your name would be unfamiliar to me. I cannot do you any harm in my present state. Please, I beg of you, will you not remove the blindfold? It is very stifling.”

Elliot was experiencing the greatest satisfaction, looking down on the pitiful form of his cousin, dressed in a coarse nightgown, dishevelled and unwashed. Ha, not so fine a lady anymore now! His plan was going as smooth as could be.

“No, my dear, I am afraid it cannot be done. I will send the servant with a basin to allow you to relieve yourself.”

“But … why?”, she cried in despair. “What have I done to you that you treat me thus?”

He laughed a bit, a sneering, mocking little sound.

“Time is not yet right to tell you that, my dear. Be patient.”

 

After the servant had retired again, the girl named “Anne” fell asleep. It was a fitful, scary sleep, full of disturbing dreams. One image kept popping up throughout it.

Bathed in a haze of purplish light, vague but clear enough, a face appeared.

The girl named “Anne” was sure she must know that face from her former, now lost life.

A man with such gentle a face, with handsome features and a sweet smile in his clear, blue eyes. Fair locks adorned his head, spilling over small, neat ears, ending in pretty sideburns which led to his strong jaws. His nose was straight and not too large, his mouth generous, his teeth small and white.

A gentleman … who must be of the uttermost importance to her … of that she was suddenly very certain. What was his name? Her memory was fighting to conjure it up but it failed. Sobs, tears, misery … she awoke, drenched in tears.

Dazed she lay catching her breath for some moments and then, she made a vow to herself. No more weeping, no more worrying. She would try and turn the situation in her favour.

The man who kept her here, was the one to be tricked into believing that she would co-operate with him. She must goad him into letting his guard down and then she might be able to escape this house. What she would do next, she could not even begin to fathom but she must first achieve in running from this terrible place.

The image of the gentleman came into her memory again, and she found herself being encouraged by it. She must escape and find this gentleman, of that she was very, very sure.

 

Wentworth, in the mean time, was getting desperate!

The boot boy had told him everything he knew, the last thing was that he had seen Anne being carried inside a cab by some man and that the vehicle drove off in the direction of Henrietta Park.

Wentworth, helped by Constable Jeffries and his men, had then gone in search of this cabdriver. They had found him, with a bullet through the head on the outskirts of Bath, his cab and horse turned up wandering over the road leading southwards to the villages of Radstock and Shepton Mallet.

One thing became very clear to the investigators; someone was determined to prevent witnesses from speaking. There was the cab driver and the homeless beggar and also, the doctor, whose body was found floating in the Avon river, a bullet in the head. The three bullets proved to be identical and it seemed obvious they had been fired from the same weapon.

New hope had begun to dawn upon Wentworth when the police found out that the doctor, Samuel Widdicombe, had a vast clientele among the rich. Was it possible that Anne’s abductor was to be searched for under the Bath Society members?

 

When finally the cloth was removed from her eyes, the girl named “Anne” blinked frantically against the assault of light. It took a few moments before she was able to see again, and then she contemplated the tall, handsome man who stood next to the bed. He had brown hair, slightly curling. A large beacon of a nose and very sensual lips, no doubt very adept in kissing a woman. But … his eyes, light brown, had something devious in them, something that gave her a deep feeling of uneasiness. They were not smiling along with his handsome mouth …

 

 

It was also not the gentleman whose face had appeared in her dreams and disappointment seared through her. Yet, she gave him a little smile before she said, “So, we meet at last, sir.”

He grinned a bit sourly and replied, “Oh, we have met before, Anne, considering the fact that we are engaged to be married.”

Making a great effort not to show too much distress at this discomforting statement, she looked at him in mild surprise.

“We are? How is it, then, that I do not recall you? Did … did we not love each other? Was our marriage an arranged one?”

“We love each other very much, my dear Anne. It pains me that you have no memory of that.”

The girl named “Anne” immediately knew he was lying.

She did, indeed, not remember her supposed love for this man but she did – and very succinctly – remember her love for the gentleman of her dreams. That was the man she loved the most. That was her eternal, undying love.

Guard your thoughts, she whispered to herself, do not let this man see what you have just remembered!

“I am extremely sorry to cause you pain, sir, but please, keep it in mind that I have amnesia. It is not my intention to hurt you. Will you not give me your name? Maybe that will shake my memory?”

“No,” he replied and suddenly sat next to her on the bed.

“No, I will not tell you my name. When your memory returns, you will remember it along with your love for me.”

Without warning he clasped the back of her head with one gloved hand, brought her face next to his and passionately kissed her!

 

The Magical Letter – Part Seven

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Seven – Manipulation

 

 

She must have fallen asleep sometime, for the thin streak of light that showed from under her blindfold earlier, had now gone. The fact that it must be night did affect her despondency even further. Nausea overcame her, and she wretched several times but her stomach was empty. Her headache was worse than ever. She gave herself over to it, not having the force to do otherwise.

Numerous questions kept haunting her as well.

Who was she? Why was she a prisoner? She did not at all credit the man’s explanations of keeping herself from harm. No, she was being kept a prisoner here, for some reason, and as long as she did not remember who she was, she was not likely to find out why she was in this situation.

Heavy coughs kept raking through her, and she felt like suffocating in her own saliva!

“Now, now, easy, lie still …”

A woman! Hope rose in her heart like a spring!

“Who is there? Please, help me, I am in pain!”

It was true. Her arms were numb from being tied up to the bed and she had no feeling in her legs anymore.

“I am not allowed to help you, just to watch you and assist you when you are in danger of hurting yourself. Is it true that you cannot remember your name?”

“Yes … why am I bound and blindfolded?”

“Because you could harm …”

“Poppycock and well you know it!”

That exclamation sent a stab of sharp pain through her poor head making her cough again.

“Please,” she begged, “can you not untie my hands for just a while? I promise not to remove the blindfold.”

“I … I must not … he will be furious with me …”

“Is he often furious with you, then?”

“He is always cruel to me, he does not love me as I love him …”

Despite her own predicament, she winced at the tone of sheer misery in those words.

“What is your name?”, she asked softly.

“Why do you want to know?”

“It makes it easier to speak with you and I like speaking with you. You have a nice voice.”

“Penelope … Clay”

“What a beautiful name that is!”

“You do not remember me? We are acquainted, you know.”

“No, I am sorry. I have never heard of you.”

“You must give me your word that you will not touch that blindfold!”

“I promise.”

Oh, the relief, when her hands were released and she was able to lower her hands near her sides! For a couple of moments, all she could manage was just to lie still and let the blood flow return to her arms.

“Do you want a drink?”, the soft voice asked now.

“Yes, please.”

A hand came to ease up her head and a glass was held to her lips. She drank greedily for she was extremely thirsty. When she laid back her head, she felt better, her headache diminishing.

The sound of a door opening and the angry intake of breath produced a sound of scuttling skirts, and she imagined her companion hurrying out of the room. Seconds later her hands were again being tied up, but not upwards. Instead they were being fastened on the sides of the bed.

“Please,”, she pleaded, “I promise not to run away but do not bind me?”

No answer. The door closed and she knew she was alone again. Again she began to weep in extreme misery.

 

~~~~

 

 

 

Two days after Anne’s disappearance Wentworth had done all that was possible to find her.

A Bath police constable had been assigned on an investigation of her whereabouts but that was not nearly enough for the Captain to ease his extreme worrying. He himself had been trying to retrace Anne’s steps on the evening she had left her father’s house. Unfortunately, it had been a wet, windy night with few people out and about. However,  he presented himself to each and every house in Camden Place where he asked to be allowed to interrogate the servants about that night. If anyone had been outside on the street after ten, it would have been a footman or a maid, cleaning the pavement, polishing railings and doorknobs, clearing out ashes or waste. These were all tasks to be done while the master and mistress were out to parties and balls.

After he had persisted his search for a long time and with a stubborn doggedness, he found an urchin who had been on the streets that night but who had been taken on as a shoe polisher the next day by one of the houses not far away from that of Sir Walter. Wentworth took the lad inside to be given a meal by his cook. With a stab of pity, he watched as the boy wolfed down his bread.

“Careful, lad,” Cook warned. “You’ll give yourself stomach cramps if you eat that fast.”

When the boy washed down his bread and cheese with a mug of milk, Wentworth asked, “What’s your name, lad?”

“Johnny, sir.”

“And you can tell me something about what you saw, three nights ago in … Camden Road, was it?”

“Yes, sir, I’d be there on th’ night you’d be speakin’ of! A blasted, wicked night it was, sir, as sure as hell!”

Cook raised her hand to cuff the lad around the ears for his crude language but Wentworth stopped her.

“Go on,” he said.

“Well, sir, I’d be hidin’ under them steps of number fourteen, lookin’ for shelter aginst the blasted rain when I sees a lady runnin’, I swear she were runnin’ like the devil be after ‘er! I says to meself, now what business a lady ‘as of runnin’ down a street at night and I watch ‘er goin’. She be goin’ toward Camden Road, sir! All th’ way to Camden Road she were runnin’!”

That was not much of a help, Wentworth thought. Of course, Anne would be going to Camden Road, to the nearest cab stand. But the boy had not finished.

“Now, the lady, sir, she hadn’t a coat, in’t that weird? Wind an’ rain an’ cold an’ there she were runnin’ outside with no coat! So I says to meself, Jake me boy, that ain’t right! I go after ‘er, sir, yes I do!”

Suppressing the fury rising in his throat as he realised Anne had been tossed out without even a coat, Wentworth forced himself to stay calm.

“Good boy! What did the lady do next?”

“Nothin’!”

“Nothing? She did not take a cab or continue her journey on foot? Did she go to one of the houses in Camden Road, then?”

“Yep! Went into a porch, get out of the rain, I s’ppose!”

“Which porch was that? Do you remember?”

“Course I do! Want me to show you?”

Ten minutes later, Wentworth stood before an abandoned house in Camden Road. It had a porch, alright! One where they found the body of a homeless beggar, the day after Anne disappeared. The man had been shot through the head. Police Constable Jeffries was there with him, explaining it all.

Wentworth searched the porch and the surrounding area much more thoroughly than the police would have done. He was rewarded or punished, it all depended on the point of view, by finding a large spot of dried blood on the base of one of the porch columns. It could not have been from the beggar, Jeffries said, because he was found slumped against the door.

No, Wentworth realised in horror, this must be Anne’s blood! She was hurt! Someone must have taken her away while she had been hurt and bleeding!

The Magical Letter – Part Six

Persuasion_2007_DVD_CoverSix – Loss of the Self

The pale face of the woman on the bed slightly twisted as if in pain and a small, pitiful sigh escaped from the once full lips, now bloodless and white. She was still unconscious.

Mrs. Penelope Clay looked anxiously at her companion, standing at the foot of the bed.

“William, what must we do if she does not regain consciousness soon? She could die and then …”

William Elliot, Anne’s own cousin, cut her short with an exasperated cry.

“Be still, you silly woman! Of course she will not die! She has suffered a slight blow on the head, that is all, and she will open her eyes at any moment now. Make yourself scarce, she must not see you here. I will have better chances to succeed when I am alone with her.”

Penelope Clay left the room without another word, knowing full well she had not the tiniest influence on this cruel and heartless man. If anything, that was what she had come to understand, after having been his mistress for several months. William Elliot did not let anybody or anything to come between him and his goals.

Elliot stared down at the slender form of his cousin who was tied onto the bed by hands and feet. Her eyes were not yet blindfolded but he would do so at the slightest sign of her regaining consciousness. It was of the uttermost importance that Anne did not see her surroundings nor the persons present around her. That way, she would be completely disorientated and frightened, and she would be completely at his mercy.

Elliot had a simple but very clear plan; he would be Anne’s husband, no matter what it took. He ardently coveted having in his possession, not only the baronetcy and Kellynch, which he already had, but also Anne’s small heritage from her mother’s family. If she became his wife, he could strip her older sister Elizabeth from her own part of this money and invest it to his liking. His own financial status was not that prosperous due to some setbacks he suffered lately.

Yet, Elliot had another reason to have Anne completely under his thumb. He wanted her to suffer. He wished to see her so subdued and miserable that her life would become a living hell. She had to pay for the insult she had dealt him in refusing his offer of marriage.

Furthermore, he wanted Sir Walter to die before his time. That old sod was hanging on far too long.

With Anne as his wife, he could have access to her father frequently, invite him to Kellynch and do away with him in a so called hunting accident. That was also part of Elliot’s plan.

He was indulging in a little bit of daydreaming when a faint cry from Anne tore him out of it. She was coming around, at last! He hurried to the bed and slipped the blindfold over Anne’s eyes.

 

Something did not feel right … she could not see …

Why was that? Not yet worried, she let the question go round and round in her head. Her head, which seemed not to be connected to her body, ached something fierce! God! It was a good thing that she had no use of her eyes with a severe headache like that.

“You are awake, at last!”

Her head jerked in the direction of the deep, male voice beside her bed! Her bed? She was lying in her bed and there was a man standing next to it? This could not be! This was highly inappropriate!

Oh! The pain … it was preventing her from thinking straight!

Breathing heavily against the pain, she tried to remember whom the voice belonged to for she had not recognised it. A stranger in her bedroom? Panic began to grip her! She must tell him to go away, at once! It did not signify for her, … what was her name again … , to have a stranger …

Oh, dear God! Who was she? What was her name? She did not remember her name!

A cry rose from her throat like coming from an animal in pain. Help! Somebody help her!

“My dear cousin, do not upset yourself like that! You are in good hands, I have taken you in when nobody else would. I have cared for you and my own physician is seeing to your health. Be still, dear Anne. Rest now, you need it.”

“Anne … is that my name?” She uttered quietly, a ring of tears in her voice.

There was a silence from the man on the right side of her bed.

“Ah, I see. The doctor warned me such a thing could occur after the heavy blow on the head you suffered. Do not worry and rest. Everything will return to normality soon.”

Only then it dawned on her that she could not move because she was tied onto the bed and that there was a blindfold over her eyes. What was happening?

“Why am I bound and blindfolded?”

The voice answered readily and smooth.

“This was ordered by the doctor because you were inclined to harm yourself when we first brought you in. You tossed and turned so heavily that you have bruises all over your poor body. The blindfold is necessary for curing your severe concussion. You had quite a blow, Anne. Now, rest!”

The last words were pronounced so fiercely that she startled under the veiled threat they carried.

Suddenly she was overwhelmed  by a deep, dark sentiment of despair and from under the blindfold her tears began flowing.

Elliot grinned when he saw this. Good. He certainly needed to change his original plan a bit but she was already thoroughly upset and that was very good.

The Magical Letter – Part Five

Persuasion_2007_DVD_Cover

Five – Where is Anne?

Wentworth finished his second cup of tea at his sister’s breakfast table when the footman announced a Mrs. Harriet Smith who was asking to speak with him. The name meant nothing to him, and the petite, plain-faced woman was a stranger he had never seen before in his circle of acquaintances. He stood and bowed. She awkwardly curtsied and only then Wentworth noticed her paleness as if she were on the verge of collapse. He hurried by her side and gently took her by the arm.

After helping her onto a chair, he resumed his own seat and asked, “Are you alright, Madam? Would you care for a cup of tea?”

“Thank you, sir,” Mrs. Smith replied, “but the nature of my visit requires urgency. Do you know where Miss Anne Elliot is at present?”

Her voice had sounded firmly enough even though her countenance spoke of extreme weariness.

Wentworth, at the mentioning of Anne’s name, felt a shred of fear coming alive in his stomach.

“To my knowledge she is with her father in Camden Place. I left her there around ten last night.”

“Sir,” the lady now urged, “last night, Anne left Camden Place without telling anyone where she was going to. I was supposed to call on her, this morning. We had agreed on taking a walk in Henrietta Park but, when I asked for Anne at her home, the footman told me sharply that Anne Elliot was no longer  living there. And, when I asked to speak with Sir Walter about his daughter, the footman replied that Sir Walter had no daughter called Anne.”

A cold knot of tensed fear squeezed at Wentworth’s heart.

“What? But … I do not understand! You must be mistaken, Mrs. Smith!”

Mrs. Smith shook her head in an impatient gesture, clearly forgetting her manners in her anxiety over her friend.

“No, Captain,” she said, “something is very, very wrong. Don’t ask me how I know this but Anne would never disappear without telling me; I have been her best friend since more than fifteen years! I must beg you to accompany me to Lady Russell’s. She will most likely know where Anne is, probably  she has even taken Anne in at her own lodgings. I am too common to be received by the likes of Lady Russell but you, you she will not turn away.”

Wentworth gave her a cynic smile and replied, “Oh, I doubt that very much, Mrs. Smith. Lady Russell holds me in the uttermost contempt and I assure you, it is reciprocal! Nevertheless, she will receive me, have no fear. I intend to go to the bottom of this!”

 

 

“Milady, there is a gentleman wishing to speak to you,” the footman said and presented a silver salver with a card on it to his mistress. Lady Russell wondered who it could be. She had no appointments for this morning. The card read, “Frederick Wentworth, Captain, HMS Augusta Sophia, Bristol”, which gave her a little start! Anne’s betrothed! What was he doing here?

Remembering how harshly she spoke of him in the past, Lady Russell had not the courage to face him.

“Tell the gentleman I am not receiving this morning, Michael, if you please?”

She had barely had time to sigh her relief when the morning room door burst open and an irate Wentworth stalked in.

“Madam, you will hear me, this instant!” His voice was rigid with control but his blue eyes were blazing!

“Sir … I must insist on …”

Wentworth leaned over her while his arms rested on the breakfast table.

“Anne is missing from her home at Camden Place, Madam. You might know where she is and if you do, I demand you will inform me this instant!”

Lady Russell’s eyes darted around the room but her footman was nowhere to be seen! Only a slender young woman had accompanied her assailant, and she did nothing to restrain him.

“Missing … but … but … I do not comprehend! She was at home last night when I visited her!”

“You are lying, Madam! Do not deny it, I am used to reading the countenances of my men on the ship and I know when a person is lying! So I will repeat my question; where is Anne?”

Lady Russell began wringing her hands as she burst into tears.

“I do not know where she is! Sir Walter turned her out last night and I only heard about it this morning. Please, you must believe that I know nothing of this. Sir Walter is a proud and rigid man who takes rebellion hard.”

Wentworth’s face had turned grey as he pondered the consequences of what he had heard! Then he turned to Mrs Smith, took her by the arm, and the two left without another word to the terrified Lady Russell.

 

 

No more time was wasted by the pair and they set off for Camden Place at once. The same course of events was followed with the exception that this time Wentworth did not even bother to show his card to the footman. He stormed in as soon as the door was opened and roughly brushed the man’s restraining hand aside as he stalked into the morning room. Sir Walter and his eldest daughter were partaking their breakfast and they startled violently when Wentworth planted himself right in front of Sir Walter.

“You will tell me this instant where my future wife is, Sir Walter, or I might be prone in forgetting myself and giving you the trash you deserve for throwing her out of her home like a beggar!”

Choking in the bite of buttered scone he just happened to have taken, Sir Walter’s face was red as a beetroot in an instant. Elizabeth was lying limp in her chair; she had wisely fainted.

To give Sir Walter credit, he recovered quite quickly, swallowed the lump of pastry and shouted at the top of his lungs:

“Thomas! John! To me! To my rescue!”

Two burly footmen stormed into the room, roughly pushing aside Mrs. Smith, almost knocking her over. The first one lunged a fist like a hammer towards Wentworth who dodged, lunged his fist himself and sent the man sprawling across the carpet. He then planted his knee in the stomach of the other footman and landed his joined hands on the back of the man’s head as he bent over, which made him land flat on his face onto the floor.

Sir Walter had managed to get to his feet by now and Wentworth resumed his position in front of him. Without further ado, he took hold of the baronet’s cravat, ruining it in the process, and hissed at him:

“I should strangle you for this, you miserable cad! If she has come to the slightest harm because of what you did, I swear I will bring you to justice! I will accuse you before the Courts of maltreatment of your own daughter, do you hear me? Now, speak! Where is Anne?”

Sir Walter, now fully recovered, was quietly assessing his chances on knocking over this brute. After a brief reflection, he decided against it. Although they were of the same height, the younger man’s hard muscles were clearly noticeable against his own, meagre body. The baronet assumed it therefore wiser to try and placate him. He could have his revenge later and, by Jove, he would!

“I have no notion at all of where she is. She left here last night and told no-one where she would go to.”

“And did you give her a chance to do so? Or did you throw her out without the slightest possibility of defending herself?”

There was no suitable answer to that and so, Sir Walter did not give one. He pressed his thin lips together and stared defiantly at his opponent. In disgust Wentworth released him and hurried out, Mrs. Smith hard on his heels.

Out on the street again, the two stared at each other while the horrible realisation struck them: Anne was missing!