In the year eight, Captain Wentworth had returned from his cruise on the Asp, several thousand pounds richer than he had left; and beyond expression happy to be reunited with his dear wife Anne, who had spent the intervening months ashore with his sister. Mrs. Croft was settled in rented quarters at Taunton for those six months, while her husband Admiral Croft, was in between two lengthy voyages to America.
It was for the happiness of both couples that the Crofts were to put to sea again together at the same time as Anne sailed with her husband aboard his fine new ship the Laconia. They enjoyed what for all the rest of their lives they would refer to as their honeymoon, a cruise around the Western isles, where Anne wondered at the beautiful scenery and her first taste of life at sea. It was a peaceful cruise, made pleasanter as Captain Wentworth’s good friend Captain Harville was also aboard, so that Anne never suffered from being the only woman. She was amused to have aboard ship a son of some family friends, the the Musgroves, though Dick was a troublesome lad, wayward and unteachable, who had been sent to sea to get him away from home. Captain Wentworth treated the lad with firmness but not unkindly, and succeeded in making him as well behaved and dutiful as possible; while Anne devoted many patient hours to trying to teach him to write, and helping him send short letters back to his parents, though they were mostly only requests for money.
The ship spent the winter in dry-dock at Plymouth, and the Wentworths went round to Lyme, with Harville, whose wife was lodged there. In quiet and congenial society, they spent happy and profitable months, Frederick helping Harville make improvements to the house, while Anne enjoyed the company of Mrs. Harville and her two little children, playing with them and helping to teach them. By the time spring came around, Harville had another posting, to the West Indies this time, but there was no expectation that his family should accompany him, as the dangers of encounters with French ships made it undesirable for a woman and children to be exposed. Captain Wentworth, however, looked forward to taking the Laconia to the Mediterranean, and his eyes sparkled when he thought of having Anne with him in such a beautiful clime, and with all the exciting joys of the Peninsular wars, in which she should share in his adventures and remain perfectly unharmed.
His sanguine wishes, however, did not come to pass. Nature acted in another way, and shortly before he was to sail, Frederick learned that his berth on the Laconia must be single. Anne had expectations of a child, and must remain safely in England. The fact was inarguable; and the husband and wife, with all the happy anticipation of their coming event, and their sorrow at being parted, had to make their arrangements in some haste. Money, at least, was no longer a worry; for Captain Wentworth had obtained a sizeable fortune by this time, and he would leave it in his wife’s hands, along with her horses and landaulette and every possible comfort. She might keep house in Lyme with Mrs. Harville again; but Captain Wentworth considered that life by the stormy seaside, in the Harvilles’ little cottage, was not ideal. Anne really loved the Harvilles, but the captain would be away, and she could accept that Frederick would feel easier if she was closer to her home at Kellynch, where every comfort and the best medical help was available. Both were well aware that the society of her vain, conceited father, Sir Walter Elliot, and her uncaring, arrogant older sister Elizabeth, would be trying; but Frederick supposed that the well-to-do Mrs. Wentworth would receive better treatment than when she was “only Anne.” Besides, her younger sister Mary was not uncongenial, and could be relied on to be company; and still better, Anne had her dear friend Mrs. Russell near at hand at Kellynch Lodge, for comfort and advice. Anne would be safer at her old home than anywhere else.
So Anne and Frederick parted, with feelings too painful to describe. Tell. How fervent were his promises to be back before winter closed in, when he looked forward, he could not tell how much, to see the child that should, God willing, be safely in her arms by that time.
Anne found the summer on the whole not as unhappy as she had feared. She had by now learned from the wives of Frederick’s friends, how to live with courage and hope in a husband’s absence; and even though suffering somewhat from her growing size in the summer’s heat, she did have every comfort in her father’s house, and with Lady Russell. She could drive with Mary on healthful outings; and there were the green hills and ripening fields to admire and extol.
In this quiet way the summer passed, with no untoward events, and an occasional piece of ship’s mail to show that her husband was safe and thriving. Anne followed the progress of the Laconia in the newspapers, and when she read mention of it sharing in the battles in Portugal under Sir Arthur Wellesley, she was only thankful that the news did not reach home until the fighting had been over for several weeks.
At Kellynch, to Sir Walter and Elizabeth, the great event of the summer was not distant news of wars with the French, but the appearance of an unexpected guest. This was a matter of mightier consequence to them than anything that might befall Captain Wentworth, for whom they cared little. No, the important visit was that of Sir Walter’s cousin, William Walter Elliot, the heir-presumptive, who was to inherit Kellynch and the title upon his death. The two men had been estranged for some years; Elizabeth had been disappointed at his not pursuing her as a possible wife for himself, but instead marrying a low-born woman of fortune. Despite the family breach, Sir Walter had duly written to inform him of his daughter’s marriage and expectations; and it was this news that had made some impact upon Mr. Elliot, who proposed himself and his wife as visitors to Kellynch.
Sir Walter was glad to have a rapprochement between himself and his heir, but Elizabeth was apprehensive about what the wife’s manners would be. It would be vexing to have to produce a coarse, uncouth creature in the neighborhood, and claim her as a relation. Only Anne had some quiet wonderment at why Mr. and Mrs. Elliot would venture to come now, after having no contact since their marriage five or six years ago. Could it be that Mr. Elliot feared losing his place in the family succession, if her own babe should be a boy? She was not schooled in the complete ramifications of the inheritance laws, but Mr. Elliot would be, as a lawyer; the estate depended on heirs male, and it might be possible for Sir Walter to settle it upon a grandson instead of a distant cousin. She would not speculate upon such a matter, but she did look forward with some curiosity to see her cousin.
The appointed day came, a well-appointed coach circled up the Kellynch drive, and Sir Walter, his daughters, and Lady Russell waited to receive them in the best sitting-room.
Mr. Elliot entered, and was not a disappointment in his person: a very handsome man, of polished but easy manners, he went through the forms of introduction with a winning air admired by all. If there was any fault, Anne noticed, it was his seeming unconcern for his wife. Mrs. Elliot was tall and robust, dressed in the height of the fashion, with a pert air of assurance, but her husband introduced her in a cursory way, and then seated himself by Anne and began to converse charmingly, as if he had always known her. Mrs. Elliot remained standing and addressed the room.
“Gracious me, I never thought this would be such a long drive. I am quite used up. We were two nights on the road, a thing I hate; and I am positively dusty. No gown can withstand it. I hope you have comfortable bedrooms here at Kellynch, otherwise I shall be perfectly miserable, I assure you.”
Elizabeth, who had wanted to marry Mr. Elliot herself, and whose glances revealed him to have only grown handsomer in the years since he had been seen last, was not in humour to be gracious to his wife. “I believe that Kellynch-hall has as comfortable rooms as any house in the country,” she said curtly.
Anne might have tried to say something welcoming, but Mr. Elliot’s eyes were fixed upon her, and he spoke to no one else. “We came to congratulate you upon your nuptials,” he said with solicitude. “I was in hopes to be introduced to Captain Wentworth.”
“He has been in Portugal,” Anne said concisely, “but we expect him home in the autumn.”
“Will you then make your home at Kellynch, permanently? You will want your little one to grow up at the site of his future inheritance – as I suppose it will be? Your father must wish that.”
“I do not at all know,” said Anne with surprise.
“What’s that, what’s that, Elliot?” asked Sir Walter, hearing the last inquiry. “The child’s inheritance? You are right; I must be discussing that with Shepherd. My lawyer you know. Very clever chap. He will tell me of the legalities of the situation. He always does.”
“Shepherd?” asked Mr. Elliot with interest. “John Shepherd, of Taunton?”
Sir Walter assented, and Mrs. Elliot spoke up. “But my dear, you have always said that Kellynch will be yours. You know you think much of being a baronet. My! I shall like to be Lady Elliot.
Anne was distressed, and seeing this, Lady Russell spoke up. “These are not matters to be discussed at present, I think. To speak of inheritance before the incumbent himself, is not what is done in good company.”
Mrs. Elliot was silenced, but Mr. Elliot’s manners were suave enough to cover the situation. “Certainly, Lady Russell, certainly. You are very right. Whichever way the estate will fall, is not of concern to me. I am only grateful to know that the new branch of the Elliot estate is shortly to appear, and to extend the family fortunes.”
“It might be a girl you know,” put in Mrs. Elliot, “and then the place will still be yours. Is that not so?”
“Be assured that we only wish you and your child good health, and happiness, Mrs. Wentworth,” said Mr. Elliot with a charming smile aimed at Anne. “There is no one whose well being we have more at heart. You are finding yourself well during this time, are you not? No tendency to consumption, or heart flutters?”
“No, not at all,” Anne replied, surprised.
“On the contrary, I think she looks extremely delicate,” said his wife.
There was a pause as everyone considered the question silently. Then Sir Walter addressed Elizabeth. “My dear, will you ring to hurry Simmons. The travelers must be in want of dinner. We have some very tempting fowls, I believe, and some fine Madeira.”
“We will enjoy that very much, Sir Walter,” agreed Mr. Elliot. “And I am sure we will be very comfortable tonight.”
“We have very nice featherbeds,” spoke up Mary, who had understood very little of the conversation. I helped to pluck the hens, and the feathers are very nice under our counterpanes.”
Mr. Elliot gave his wife a commanding look, and she, as if reminded of what she was to say, began to talk of tomorrow. “I should love to see all of the neighborhood,” she said. “Will you take us for a drive, Miss Elliot, tomorrow?”
Elizabeth looked as indifferent as possible. “Anne can take you in her landaulette,” she answered gracelessly.
“A landaulette!” Mrs. Elliot exclaimed. “Will that be comfortable? Are they safe? I have heard such carriages are very tituppy little things. I should be afraid of it falling over and killing us – shouldn’t you, my love?” she asked with a meaning look at her husband.
“Certainly not, perfectly safe,” he replied, and turning to Anne with a melting look, “I am sure Mrs. Wentworth will be delighted to drive us out. Won’t you, cousin?”