It was not a very romantic wedding, despite the very great love the principals held for one another. Anne Elliot, at twenty, felt entire happiness and the certainty that she had been right, in accepting Captain Frederick Wentworth, despite her father’s indifference and Lady Russell’s concerns and persuasions. For his part, Captain Wentworth rejoiced in the triumphant knowledge that he had won the greatest prize that a man ever could, and was gaining a wife not only of personal loveliness, but also gentleness and understanding united with firmness of mind.
A short period of mutual felicity followed their engagement, but Captain Wentworth soon remembered the urgent necessity of making his fortune, in order to properly provide for his wife. Confident, sanguine as was his nature, he was sure he would quickly gain a command; and so it proved. Although there were many other applicants, he was fortunate enough to be appointed to command the old sloop Asp, which was slated for a home service tour to the West Indies. He was jubilant, and told Anne that it was exactly as he thought: he always knew he should be lucky, and here was a lucky appointment indeed.
Anne was very ready to be a sailor’s wife, even though it meant waiting at home while her husband was at sea, for Frederick had no idea of her joining him on this, his first voyage as captain. He deplored women going to sea in any case; even though a ship’s captain had the privilege of being accompanied by his wife if he wished, he was sure that ladies could never be comfortable aboard, and less so in the Asp than in other ships. For the little sloop was a battered, old-built vessel, probably on its last voyage before being broken up. Enduring the cramped quarters for a cruise that might last a year, was not to be thought of for delicate Anne. In vain she told him she would rather be uncomfortable and cramped at sea, than lonely and worried at home. He minutely described to her the very real hazards she would face in the West Indies, and still worse, the plentiful battles with ships of the French nation. No such argument would have had any weight with Anne, except Captain Wentworth’s pointing out that concern for his wife’s safety and comfort would be a distraction during a battle, that might put every one’s life in danger.
So Anne acquiesced; and the subject turned to where she would be lodged during his absence. She knew she could not be comfortable or feel welcome at Kellynch. Even apart from her father and elder sister’s disapproval of the marriage, there were practical considerations, for Sir Walter Elliot had disdainfully announced that he would do nothing for her in pecuniary terms. She might lodge with Lady Russell, but her great friend and foster mother had turned frosty and distant in her disappointment of Anne “settling” for a rash, headstrong fellow who upon his marriage would immediately abandon his wife and head for certain danger at sea. Lady Russell foresaw an impoverished widowhood for Anne, and was very angry that she would not be persuaded away from such a foolhardy choice.
Consulting only themselves, Frederick and Anne considered carefully where else she might seek a home while he was away, on the few hundred pounds which he was able to leave her. Frederick’s brother Edward, the curate of Monkford in Somerset, was a single man in a small house, and Anne thought she might act as his housekeeper, and be of help with his parish, but this would hardly be ideal. Then there was Frederick’s fellow officer and friend, Captain Harville, who was also at sea; Anne might perhaps join the household, at Lyme, of his wife and her little children. Anne was more than willing, being eager to know Frederick’s own circle of friends, so superior in warmth of heart than her own family. But the Harvilles were poor, and tended to move from lodging to lodging, and Frederick wanted something more secure for his wife, than such a wanting and shiftless life.
Fortunately, at this juncture, his sister Sophia returned to England with her husband, Admiral Croft, who had been posted to a foreign station for the last two years. Childless, and devoted to her husband, Mrs. Croft generally accompanied him when he was at sea, something Frederick grudgingly admitted was acceptable, since the Admiral commanded the finest ships and could afford the best of comforts for his wife. On their return to England, the Crofts took a good house at Taunton for some months, and very early invited Frederick and his bride to stay with them.
So the ceremony took place, and a perfunctory, very plain wedding it was. Sir Walter barely condescended to shake hands with his new son-in-law, Elizabeth looked scornfully at her sister’s handsome prize, and Anne’s younger sister Mary was not even invited to come home from school for the wedding. Lady Russell attended but cried copiously throughout. As soon as it was over, the young Wentworths set out from the church door and were at Taunton that same evening.
The Admiral and Mrs. Croft welcomed them warmly, made them comfortable in their rented but handsome town house, and were as enthusiastically approving of Anne’s sweet face and gentle manners as Frederick could wish. Anne was overcome by their kindness, especially after the cold parting she had endured from her own family. The Crofts eagerly insisted that Anne must live with them while her husband was gone; the Admiral would be ashore at least a sixmonth, and her home would be safe with them. Frederick would in all likelihood be at home before the Admiral and his wife sailed again, and if not, they undertook to find a proper situation for Anne. They would take care of her; Frederick need never worry as to that.
“But why,” Mrs. Croft asked Anne, “would you not sail with Frederick? I assure you, I have sailed a great deal myself, been to the East Indies, and crossed the Atlantic, you know; and I cannot see why Frederick thinks that you would not be comfortable and safe as I have been.”
“But Sophia,” protested Frederick, “you are not aware what a rackety, small, old sloop is the Asp, nor the dangers it will surely face. I mean to capture many a privateer; and could not suffer Anne to be under fire. I must risk myself to make money, but will not risk Anne.”
He was firm, and the Admiral, though regretting that husbands and wives ever should be parted, knew too well what Frederick was obliged to do in order to earn his fortune, and assured Sophie that it must be so. “Perhaps, but remember that you and I were together, even in smaller ships, early in our married life,” she concluded. “However, I will not gainsay you, Frederick.”
“It would be of no use,” he said smiling, “and you will see that I am right.”
A few weeks later he was at sea, on his first command; and Anne was comfortably settled with the congenial Crofts for the winter and spring. The occasional letter made its way back to England, and they collected that Captain Wentworth was healthy, and in continued high spirits at his prospects. In the autumn he returned home, exulting in success and with many adventures to tell. The Asp had indeed been the making of him. He had reaped a fortune of several thousand pounds from assorted prizes, and the French frigate that he brought into Plymouth, was worth as much as all the others together. A dreadful storm virtually destroyed the Asp as it lay at anchor, but when it was over, Frederick reported himself to the Naval Office, collected his prize money, and was rapturously reunited with Anne at Taunton.
The Crofts had not sailed, feeling their responsibility for Frederick’s young wife, but now they were happy to be able to plan another journey across the Atlantic. Frederick, too, had plans. He was next posted into the Laconia, a much finer ship than the Asp; and his friend Captain Harville was to sail with him. After much deliberation, Frederick decided that as the first journey of his command in the Laconia was to be a pleasant tour of the Western Islands of Scotland, a safer and more comfortable cruise could not possibly be looked for, as suitable for his wife’s maiden voyage. Their married quarters would be large and well fitted, they would have friends aboard, and nothing could be more beautiful than the Western Isles. It would not only be Anne’s introduction to seagoing life, it would be their honeymoon.
Anne knew that her first cruise might be her last; not that she had any fear of being drowned, but circumstances might change. She quietly suspected that the time might come when she would be with child, and with a family, she could not be as free and easy about traveling as was her sister-in-law. The present cruise of the Laconia was expected to be as safe as any could be; but other voyages might be otherwise, if battles there were to be.
In due course, Anne and Frederick stood on deck, watching the sun dip into the late evening sea off the isle of Arran.
“So lovely,” said Anne softly, “I never thought I would see the world like this, and with you.”
He slipped his hand over hers. “You are happy then, as a sailor’s wife?” he asked tenderly.
“I do not see how any one could be more so,” she said with a heartfelt smile, as she gazed into his eyes.
“And I have been delighted to see you so comfortable aboard, enjoying such good spirits, and with positively improved health from life at sea.”
“Are your prejudices against women on ships overcome, then?” she asked, smiling.
“I believe they are, and I withdraw any objections to your becoming a second Sophia,” he replied. “I believe our next cruise may be to the Mediterranean. Shall you like that?”
“I would indeed,” she answered, “but you must be prepared for my not being able to accompany you so far.”
He withdrew his hand in surprise. “What? Why not, my dear Anne?”
“Because, Frederick, for some little time I have been suspecting that something might happen, to prevent it.”
He took in the secret smile animating her radiant face, and gave a little gasp. “You don’t mean to say – ?”
“I believe so, Frederick,” she said with quiet happiness. “Would you like a sailor lad to call your own?”
He hugged her to him tightly, and with his mouth muffled in her hair, he murmured, “I only want you to be well and happy, always, my Anne.”