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.