Thirteen – A Spanner in the Works
Only a week now separated Anne and Wentworth from their wedding day.
Every possible preparation had been dealt with, every dress or shoe or headdress been bought, any paperwork been gone through. The affianced couple finally had the opportunity to take a bit of leisure time and enjoy each other’s company, often seeking quiet, lonely places, such as dark corners in garden and house. Many a time Wentworth, deeply in love, could not help himself and had to pull Anne into his arms and kiss her. She, loving him beyond everything, was all too willingly surrendering to him.
To her own amazement – and secret joy – Anne learned something about herself during those enchanting moments of discrete intimacy with Frederick; she was longing for yet more intimate encounters with her dear husband-to-be. Ironically enough, Elliot’s doings – disgusting as they had been to her – had revealed sensations in her hitherto virginal body. She was aching to rediscover these sensations through Frederick’s touch, after they were married. Although she was somewhat ashamed of her thoughts on this subject, Anne could not help but feeling a thrilling anticipation over what was to come.
Bath, April 10th 1816
Tomorrow is my wedding day.
How I am managing to write these words without a trembling hand, I do not know but there it is. I do not believe there is a more happy woman in all the world than I, Anne Elliot! Even the absence of my family will not put a damper on my joy; of that I am truly convinced.
Father has not shown himself nor has he given word.
I do not understand why he is acting as if I were the one that offended him when I did not. I never did anything to hurt him. I have loved him, helped him, worked for him without a word of complaint, all the years after Mother’s death. My only rebellion against him is my marriage to Frederick, and I do not think this is worth all the fuss he makes. His attitude pains me greatly, of course. Without my dear Frederick I do not know how I would be able to bear this.
My sister Elizabeth has not deigned to visit either. I now realise that she must have hated me for a long time, probably all my life. How is such a thing possible? Why can we not have an affectionate sisterly relationship and enjoy great pleasure together?
My cousin, William Elliot, has been in the custody of the Bath Constabulary for about a week, but after that, his attorney of law managed to bail him out. He has retired to his estate in Kent. I hope I will never set eyes on him again for the rest of my life.
I hear the door bell ringing. Someone must be visiting and I shall conclude my writing here.
“Anne, dear sister! I am in the greatest of uproars, so great that I cannot eat nor drink nor sleep! I am so weak and ill! Anne, you must help me! I do not know how to proceed! Sit still, Charlie! Lizzie, leave that be! Oh, my poor head!”
Anne barely had the time to intercept her two-year old niece Elizabeth before she could grab the delicate porcelain figurine on the side table and smash it to the floor. Her nephew Charles Junior sat on the settee, already wriggling in boredom and ready to dash about the room. She looked at Sophie in bewilderment and shock.
Sophie Croft addressed Anne’s sister Mary Musgrove in a friendly way when she asked, “My dear Mrs Musgrove, how nice of you to visit! Are these your lovely children? How …”
Mary, impetuous and rash as always, interrupted her.
“Mrs Croft! Anne! I am at a complete loss! I do not know how I will survive this, if ever! I am forced to leave my husband Charles as I cannot stand to be in his presence a moment longer!”
She dabbed her eyes with a fine lace handkerchief and sniffed emphatically. Anne, reeling from what she had just heard, asked, “But, Mary, am I to understand that you left Charles’s house after you had a disagreement with him?”
Mary’s voice had now reached the level of shrillness it always gained when she was pressing an argument.
“It is much more than a simple disagreement, Anne, I assure you! It is a rift, a break-up! I am leaving him and I intend to file for a divorce!”
An hour later, Mary, her children, her nanny and her maid – both of which she had brought along – were settled into a suite of rooms in Admiral Croft’s spacious Bath town house. Food had been served, and the Croft’s family doctor had been summoned to tend to the heavily pregnant Mary. Indeed, Anne’s sister was in her last month and she did not bear the burden of her third pregnancy well. Anne was thoroughly upset with worry on that part.
Now, Anne and Sophie had retired into Sophie’s private sitting room to discuss what was to be done with this newly presented fact. Fortunately, Frederick and the Admiral arrived soon thereafter and were informed of the latest events.
“Well,” Frederick said, “I was wondering what would transpire next to compromise our wedding day but I am sure I could never have foreseen this. Why does your sister turn to you, my love, when she has a father and an older spinster sister to confide in?”
Anne smiled bleakly.
“Because, dearest, I am the one to be burdened with all the trouble that befalls my family. I am the one to deal with all their problems and predicaments, sooth all their pains and illnesses, imaginary or other, lend a compassionate ear to all their grievances. Can you understand how utterly sick and tired I am growing of all this?”
“Indeed, I can, my sweet, and it shall end here and now! Admiral, I beg you to accompany me to Mary’s husband, Charles Musgrove. I want him to come and collect his family and no nonsense about it!”