“He was, at that time, a remarkably fine young man, with a great deal of intelligence, spirit and brilliancy; and Anne an extremely pretty girl, with gentleness, modesty, taste, and feeling. Half the sum of attraction, on either side, might have been enough, for he had nothing to do, and she had hardly any body to love; but the encounter of such lavish recommendations could not fail. They were gradually acquainted, and when acquainted, rapidly and deeply in love. It would be difficult to say which had seen highest perfection in the other, or which had been the happiest; she, in receiving his declarations and proposals, or he in having them accepted.” – Jane Austen, Persuasion
The course of true love did not run smooth, alas. There were difficulties ahead; there was opposition. Sir Walter was coldly indifferent, for although Captain Wentworth was handsome enough to impress even Sir Walter, and had a good-sounding name, he was a mere sailor, with no fortune, and that was enough for the match to be treated with disdain.
Anne had expected nothing more from her father, and was thankful that he did not, at least, withhold his consent. Lady Russell’s considerations weighed with her to a higher degree. She thought the match highly imprudent. Captain Wentworth was headstrong, feckless; Anne’s future as his wife would, in consequence, be extremely dangerous. Depending only on his profession, with no security of income, and with such terrible things always happening at sea, Lady Russell was convinced that the engagement was deplorable in every light.
Consequently, she did her utmost to persuade Anne to withdraw the consent she had given. Anne set great store by Lady Russell’s judgment, but for herself, for her own future, her opinion was decided: she would take the risk, if there was a risk, for the reward would be one of the greatest happiness. It was only when Lady Russell advanced the idea that being hampered with a wife before he was able to support her would be a detriment to Captain Wentworth’s own well being, that Anne wavered.
The day following the halcyon afternoon when they had made their promises to one another, Captain Wentworth came to ask for her father’s blessing. Anne took him first into her own sitting-room where they could talk privately. She asked him to be seated, and then, with eyes downcast, she told him of all her father and Lady Russell had said. Captain Wentworth listened attentively, then jumped to his feet, and paced the room agitatedly.
“And are these opinions,” he burst out, “that which you will take for your own? Do not tell me this, Anne. What of our feelings, our love?” He approached her, and gazed at her intently, his eyes burning. It was very hard for Anne to speak, but she forced herself.
“Frederick – he is my father, you know. And while he has not absolutely said no, I hesitate, because of the opinion of one whose judgment I value far more than his.”
“Lady Russell,” he said. “But she is prejudiced, Anne – too cautious, too conservative. Can you not see that? I tell you I know I shall do well. I am capable, I am hard working, I am lucky. I will have a ship soon, and make money. Do you not trust me? – Do you not believe what I say?”
“I do, I do,” said Anne, with tears in her eyes. “But until it is accomplished, Lady Russell will not believe it, and she says – she thinks, that it is too much of a risk to dare to take.”
“But my dearest Anne, there is no risk. Nothing untoward will happen. Even if I should come to grief and be drowned, you would have a widow’s pension, you know; and I have some little money to settle on you, and kind brothers and sisters who would never see you want. Surely you are not thinking of such things, in refusing me?”
“Refuse you! Oh, no, no, I am not refusing you!” Anne cried, and he caught her to himself and wrapped her tightly in his arms, pressing her cheek hard against his. For a moment they were silent, and at last Anne pushed him away, with gentle reluctance.
“No, it is not that,” she said with difficulty.
“Then what is it? Tell me. You cannot say you do not love me – our hearts have been opened, and I know better,” he returned, vehemently.
“No, I could never say such a thing,” she replied quietly. “But Frederick, do you not see, it cannot be for your own good, to be hampered with a wife so early in your career. You will be distracted, when you need to have your mind and your abilities unfettered, in your effort to do your best.”
He took both her hands in his. “Anne,” he said earnestly, “Lady Russell has been telling you these things, but listen to me now. Consider how little she knows of a life in the Navy, compared to how much I know, and she has no true idea of my mind and abilities. If married to you, I will work with infinitely more power; I will have the greatest motive of all: To do well for you, for our love, for our lives together.”
Anne stood irresolute. “Truly, Frederick? Do you really believe that?”
“Anne, Anne, what do you take me for? Do you think I am entirely a heedless fool? What could I hold more dear, and more sacred, than your safety, your well being, your happiness? And now those things are involved inextricably, with my own happiness. With you to love me, to support me, I will not fail. Please do me the justice to believe this. Won’t you?”
She did not take her eyes from his. “Yes, Frederick, I will,” she promised quietly.
His face glowed with happiness, and he kissed her warmly. Color and life came back to her, and for a moment they smiled into each other’s eyes.
“I will go to your father now,” he said firmly, “and tell him that it is quite decided. There is nothing to wait for. We can be married as soon as the banns are read.”
“Let us be!” was all Anne said, and she felt happiness thrill through her, as she listened to his footsteps making their way to her father’s room, as fast as he could go.