Twelve – Wedding Preparations
“Forgive you, Frederick? But … but where in all this is your fault? Or mine?”
“Anne, I should have insisted that you come with me that night! Then nothing of this would have taken place!”
“No, my love, you are blaming yourself unjustly. Nothing could have prevented it.”
Anne looked around her for the first time. They were alone, in a large, pretty bedroom with walls of fainted pink and light, elegant furniture. She should have felt embarrassment, alarm, because they were without a chaperone, yet she did not. All this petty, unimportant behaviour of Society did no longer affect her. There was, however, one really important issue she wanted to tell her Frederick.
“My love … you must listen to what I have to say, it is of the utmost importance. You must act with the greatest sincerity in this matter for it will have consequences for the rest of our lives. Will you give me your soldier’s word on this?”
Wentworth turned an alarmed look to her and said with vehemence:
“Dear Lord, Anne! May God strike me down if ever I should not be sincere with you in our future life and marriage! Of course you have my word but you also put me through the greatest of fears! What is it that is troubling you so?”
Steeling herself for what she had to say, Anne took a deep, shuddering breath and turned her face away from his bright, loving gaze.
“Frederick … I am no longer … he did something … I fear I cannot come to you as I might have wished to …”
A little sob prevented her from speaking. How was she to explain to him what she was feeling? She was ruined! She was violated! Elliot’s eyes had beheld her while she had been naked! Swallowing back her tears of shame, Anne continued, “If you want to break our engagement, for fear of what people might say, I …”
Wentworth’s strong grasp lifted her to his chest and his arms crushed her to him.
“Anne, I beg you, do not speak like this! I love you with the fiercest of loves and nothing, do you hear, absolutely nothing is going to prevent me from making you my wife!”
She was weeping against the warmth of his shoulder now.
“But, Frederick, he … he saw me … he touched me … while I … while I had no clothes on me! I am no longer pure. He has stolen my innocence from me.”
His heart bleeding, Wentworth took her face into his hands and forced her to look him in the eye.
“Anne, my dearest, look at me. He has done nothing of the kind. Mrs Smith, who came with me, took care of you. She went in with our doctor, when he examined you, and she will confirm it to you what he said afterwards. You have not been touched, Anne, you are still intact. The only thing he can claim is to have seen you in a less than proper state but, if he ever threatens to breathe a word about that, I will personally rip his tongue out of his mouth! God! I could have throttled him!”
His words lifted some of her anxiety, but not all. “Yes, that might be true, but … you should have been the first to …”
Now he crushed her mouth with his and then, gradually, softened his lips in a sweet, feathery kiss. When he released her trembling lips, his voice was warm and gentle. “That may be so, dearest, but I will be the one who is blessed and lucky enough to see your beautiful body every day of our lives, from now until the day we die. I am the happiest man alive, Anne, do not take that away from me with unfounded fears.”
Anne knew then that her beloved Frederick would never hold against her what had transpired in the previous days, and she gave herself over into his ardent embrace.
From that moment on, matters spun out of their grasp, for Sophie, Frederick’s sister, took them in hand. She was simply delighted to be able to make preparations for a proper wedding. Sophie and the Admiral had no children of their own, to their great sorrow, and arranging her dear brother’s wedding brought Sophie the greatest joy.
Every day from then on, Anne was being whisked away to the shops of seamstresses, milliners, jewellers, shoemakers and hairdressers to a point, that her head was spinning when, at last, she was allowed to sit again in the evening. When she asked Frederick how the deuce she was going to pay for all that, he just took her into the circle of his arms, kissed her firmly on her mouth and replied she was not to worry about a thing at all. All the expenses of their wedding were to be on his account as a part of his wedding present to her.
“As to the subject of wedding presents, my sweet,” Wentworth said, “I have some small one I want to show to you. Please, would you do me the honour of accompanying me on a trip?”
These words he spoke on a lovely morning early April 1816 and the sun was shining brightly, the breeze was balmy and one could sense the coming of Spring. So Anne donned a dove-grey morning suit and matching white silk blouse and allowed her betrothed to drive her away in his carriage, destination unknown. On one point Frederick – after having kissed her – gently blindfolded her, whispering into her ear that it was part of the surprise.
When the carriage stopped, Frederick took her hand, helped her out of it and led her a few paces away from it. He removed her blindfold and said, his voice full of gentle, genuine love:
“It thought you might want to see your wedding present;”
Before Anne’s happily astonished gaze, Kellynch, her family home appeared!
In a bright haze of pure happiness, Anne then and there realised that Captain Frederick Wentworth did truly love her!