It’s our anniversary, and we’re in the mood to celebrate! Throughout February, we’re commemorating the success of Austen Variations‘ first year by dropping in on some of our favorite Austen couples on their anniversaries. We started with the Darcys and the Bingleys on the 2nd. Today, we’re visiting the Mary and Charles Musgrove. In this case, since they had already been married several years when we met them in Persuasion, we’ll be going back in time to see how they’re doing. I wonder how long the honeymoon lasted.
Anne was enjoying the solitude and quiet that filled Kellynch Hall on a sunny, but chilly morning. Her father and Elizabeth were away, and she sat in the drawing room reading a book. It was all too often that she found herself being summoned to do something for her family and she treasured those few times when she was not.
She sat in front of the fireplace; the wood still provided a little heat, but was no longer ablaze. She was stirred from her reverie, however, when she heard a knock at the front door. She looked up when the butler approached.
“Pray, excuse me, but a letter was delivered from Uppercross for you, Miss Anne.”
She smiled at his apologetic expression. “Thank you.”
As he handed it to her, he cleared his throat and said softly, “The servant arrived in the Uppercross carriage and is awaiting your reply.”
Anne’s brows pinched together. “A moment.” She quickly opened the missive, read it, and then nodded her head. “It appears Mary needs me.” She stood up and smoothed her dress. “Please inform him I shall be ready shortly.”
When he stepped from the room Anne sighed and then reread the letter.
Dear Sister Anne,
Mary is not feeling well today and wonders if you might be able to come see her. You are always so helpful to her and she is having a rather difficult day. I know this is rather short notice, but if you can come by at your convenience, we would certainly appreciate it. It was one year ago today that our lives were joined together in holy matrimony, and it grieves me that she is unwell on this occasion. I would so much wish for her to enjoy it. I am certain your presence here would help in so many ways.
Anne’s hands dropped to her lap. Despite the words Charles had written, she could readily conjecture the real truth behind this missive. Mary likely claimed to have a headache, the baby was in all probability fussing, and the nanny was not able to keep him quiet. Mary would then have insisted that Charles write and tell her to come at once.
Anne pressed her lips together. She supposed that Mary would expect her to cancel any plans she might have and come to her assistance solely because it was their anniversary. She
Charles, however, would never insist she drop everything and come at once to Uppercross. At least he had the courtesy to make the request politely. She let out a sigh. Her agreeing to come would likely help him, as well.
Anne stood up and put her shawl about her shoulders. She did not need a special occasion to be of assistance to her family; she would have gone anyway, as she had no other plans. She would assist in whatever way possible to help them enjoy the day.
Later, as she set out in the Uppercross carriage, Anne thought about Mary. Her sister had been so excited about the new baby, but once little Charles was born she began to view him as more of a burden than a blessing. She was never pleased with the nanny, who in her opinion, did nothing right.
Anne shook her head slowly. She would likely be doing the nanny a favour by coming today, as well.
Mary had always suffered from some ailment or another, imagined or real, and the birth of little Charles had added another cause for complaint. Anne leaned her head back and closed her eyes. If she were ever fortunate enough to have her own child, she would appreciate the baby’s cries as well as his smiles.
When Anne arrived at Uppercross cottage, she was shown into the sitting room to wait for Charles.
A few minutes later he walked quickly into the room. “Anne! I am so glad you have come!”
Charles nodded. “Thank you, Anne. I cannot believe it myself.”
“I am sorry Mary is unwell. So unfortunate on a day worthy of joy and celebration.”
Charles nodded in silence.
“Shall I go to her? Is she resting?”
“Yes, she has been resting all morning, but I am certain she is awake.” His brows lowered and he took her hands. “I hated to impose upon you, but you always seem to know what to do to help her.”
Anne smiled softly and gave her shoulders a slight shrug. “I cannot agree that I always know how to help her, but I will try.”
Anne turned to walk out, but then stopped and looked back. “Charles, since Mary is not feeling well, perhaps you ought to do something you enjoy.” She tilted her head and smiled. “I would imagine you might wish to be out hunting.”
A wide smile appeared on his face. “Oh, I would, but I did not dare leave her. Do you think I ought?”
Anne nodded. “Enjoy yourself.”
“Why, that is a splendid idea! I believe I shall!”
Anne walked to Mary’s room and found her lying on her bed. “Hello, Mary.”
“So I understand. What can I do for you?”
“I could use some tea. Could you please ask Cook to prepare me some? And ask her to bring me biscuits and honey.”
Anne took in her sister’s demeanour. “Certainly. Is there anything else you need while I do that for you?”
A cry was heard off in another room.
“Go talk to the nanny. Mrs. Hawkins cannot seem to keep little Charles quiet! He fussed all night! I could not sleep at all.” She reached out and grasped Anne’s hand. “I know you can make him quiet.”
“Please try, Anne. I do not think I can bear it any longer.”
Anne nodded resignedly. “I shall return shortly. See if you can rest.”
“Yes! Do hurry!”
Anne stopped by the kitchen and talked to Cook, and then went to see the nanny. She was holding the baby and rocking him to sleep.
“How is he this morning?”
Mrs. Hawkins looked up with a haggard expression. Her eyes were red, and her cheeks were flushed. “He is a normal baby boy, Miss Elliot, and Mrs. Musgrove needs to realize that babies cry. I cannot keep him quiet every moment of the day.” A tear trailed down her cheek.
“You are performing your duties admirably, Mrs. Hawkins. My sister has just been having a rather difficult time. Try not to let what she says trouble you.”
Mrs. Hawkins shook her head. “The cottage is not big enough to keep Mrs. Musgrove far enough away from the baby or keep any sound from reaching her delicate ears.” She gave Anne a pointed look.
“I understand,” Anne replied with a sympathetic smile. “Do what you can.”
Anne left the nanny only slightly reassured and then returned to Mary, who had been served her tea and biscuits. “Is there anything else I can do, Mary?”
Mary took a sip of tea and then slowly lowered the teacup. “Yes, my good sister, as a matter of fact, there is.”
After several hours of tending to Mary’s physical, emotional, and household needs, as well as spending some time with the baby, Anne was quite exhausted. With dusk drawing near, she decided to return to Kellynch Hall, as Charles would likely be returning home any moment.
She went in to take her leave of her sister. “I hope you are feeling better, Mary.”
Mary gave her a weak smile. “Oh, I am, Anne. Thank you so much for coming.”
“You are very welcome, Mary.”
Mary let out a long sigh. “You have made this day a most agreeable one.”
Anne pinched her brows. “I am… glad.”
When she walked out to her carriage, Charles was returning. It was apparent he had been fairly successful hunting, as he carried several birds. “I see you had a good day, Charles.”
“Not a good day, a great day! Thank you so much for coming, Anne.”
“You are welcome. I do believe Mary is feeling better,” she said with a smile.
“Oh, splendid! I ought to have asked about her. I am glad to hear that.”
He walked Anne to her carriage. “I want you to know how much we appreciate you. You helped to make this a wonderful day!”
Anne nodded silently and stepped into the carriage.
“Good night, Anne! Thanks again!”
“You are welcome. Have a good evening.”
“Oh, I believe I shall!” Charles turned to walk to the house, whistling as he did.
Anne bit her lip as she looked out at the setting sun. She hoped Charles and Mary would spend some time together now that they had both had such a pleasant day. This was not, however, how she would wish to spend her anniversary of being married one full year.
Thoughts of Frederick suddenly assaulted her. Her mouth went dry and she could not prevent the tears from welling up in her eyes. If they had married, they would have had several anniversaries by now. Her chest tightened as she considered that she would want to spend every moment by his side, in his arms, being kissed by him, and being loved by him.
She leaned her head back and did not bother to wipe the tears that began to fall.