Initially, Anne held out hope of a relationship with Commander Wentworth, but reality is setting in. Her availability prompts a proposal from her neighbor.
When Anne went into the breakfast room, she found her father and sister discussing the contents of a weeks-old newspaper that a family friend had sent on to Kellynch Hall from London. In hushed tones, Papa and Elizabeth discussed the recent marriage of Stephanie de Beauharnais, the adopted daughter of Napoleon, to Prince Charles of Baden as if it actually affected them personally. They speculated, not on the possible effect their marriage might have on the wars on the Continent, but on what the bride and groom had worn to their wedding.
Birds of a feather, Anne thought.
As the pair tittered over rumors that the prince had been forced to marry the lady against his will, Anne pushed her meager breakfast about her plate, her thoughts centered on another wedding—one that would never take place. After reading of Captain Wentworth’s exploits in the newspapers as well as noting his accomplishments in the naval lists, how naïve she had been to think that Frederick would return to Kellynch to renew his attentions. Although it was true that his successes on the high seas placed him in a stronger position to make an offer of marriage, why ever would he risk a possible second rejection when there were so many eligible females in need of a husband?
Anne was mulling over these depressing thoughts when, in the distance, she heard a bark, and then another, and then a chorus of deafening yelps emanating from the lungs of a pack of hounds, the calling card of their neighbor, Charles Musgrove.
“Not again!” Elizabeth said, pushing her plate to the side. “I absolutely refuse to entertain Charles Musgrove for a fourth day in a row.” Turning to Anne, she insisted that her sister go out to meet him and that she make an excuse for Elizabeth’s absence.
“Elizabeth, do you not know why Mr. Musgrove is calling at Kellynch every day?”
“Of course I do. Until there is something for the man to shoot at when pheasant season starts, he comes in search of company and food, and that is why I want you to go out to meet him on the drive. We are not a London chop house.”
Sir Walter concurred with Elizabeth, an event as rare as sunrise and sunset.
In her father and sister’s opinion, although the Musgroves were members of the local gentry, they did not have a title. Even though their position in the community merited some deference, it was still presumptuous of Musgrove to assume that he would be welcomed at Kellynch Hall every day of the week.
“Elizabeth, Charles Musgrove comes to Kellynch Hall as a man in search of a wife. He is courting you,” Anne answered.
“What! Surely, he does not… He would not presume…” Elizabeth continued to stammer before finally completing a sentence. “Charles Musgrove is little better than a farmer! I would not for one minute consider an offer from such a person.”
Sir Walter seconded his daughter’s sentiments. Even though there was no other bachelor in the neighborhood who was in a position to court Elizabeth, the baronet would rather have his daughter not marry at all than stoop to wed someone who had not even a “sir” before his name and little likelihood of that ever changing.
“Anne, I insist you take care of this situation,” Elizabeth said in her “mistress of the manor” voice.
“Why should I take of it?”
“Because it was you who raised the subject. Tell Mr. Musgrove I have a headache and will have one tomorrow as well.” With that Elizabeth left the breakfast room with Sir Walter close behind his eldest daughter.
By the time Charles Musgrove had reached the front steps, Anne was waiting for him. With six dogs nipping at his heels, he looked more like a master of the hounds than a member of the local gentry and certainly not someone in pursuit of a wife. However, if his purpose was to make an impression on the Elliots, he had succeeded.
After an exchange of greetings, Anne explained that Elizabeth had a headache.
“Sorry to hear it, but I’m sure she’ll be as fit as a fiddle by tomorrow,” Musgrove answered, giving no hint of disappointment at Elizabeth’s absence. “It seems to me that if Miss Elliot walked more, she would not have all the headaches she is always going on about. A little sunshine is a sure cure for her ailments.”
Anne, taken aback by his lack of concern, did not respond. Instead, she inquired after Mr. Musgrove’s sisters, both of whom were at school in Exeter, and his brother, who was serving in the Royal Navy. Whilst Henrietta and Louisa were faithful correspondents, Dick Musgrove was not, and his parents, who were in excellent health, were disappointed that they did not have more letters from their younger son.
“Well, Miss Anne, we have talked about all the Musgroves. Shall we concentrate on the Elliots now?”
“What is it you wish to know?” Anne asked, chuckling at his forthrightness.
“I wish to know about Miss Anne.”
Miss Anne? Why does he want to know about me? “I am as you see, sir, as fit as a fiddle, as you say.”
“And a fine fiddle it is.”
At that moment, Anne was glad that she had chosen a bonnet with a wide brim so that Mr. Musgrove might not see her face. If he could, he would have noted a look of concern.
“It appears that we have wandered too far from the house,” Anne said, looking longingly over her shoulder at Kellynch Hall.
“Yes, Miss Anne. I have purposely steered you in the direction of Uppercross, an estate I am to inherit. In my opinion, we are moving in the right direction.”
“Please call me Charles.”
For the first time since they had begun walking, Anne looked into the face of Charles Musgrove, and what she saw alarmed her. In his eyes, she recognized the look of a lover and realized that he had not come to Kellynch to court Elizabeth. He had come to woo her.
“I am very sorry, Mr. Musgrove, but it would be inappropriate for me to address you by your Christian name.”
“It would not be inappropriate if we were engaged to be married, now would it?”
Before he could continue, Anne held up her hand. Charles Musgrove was a decent, kind man, who, excluding the Elliots, enjoyed elevated status within the neighborhood, and she knew that he would make someone a very good husband. But that someone would not be her. Her heart belonged to another, and so it would remain.
“Ah, I see how it is,” Musgrove answered with sadness in his voice. “It is that other fellow, isn’t it? I heard about him.”
Anne felt a lump in her throat, the size of an egg, forming. How could Charles Musgrove possibly know of her love for Commander Wentworth?
“Word has it that the baronet’s heir was intended for Miss Elizabeth Elliot, but I see he managed to steal your heart as well. Is there to be an announcement?”
Anne took a deep breath. Charles Musgrove was referring, not to Commander Wentworth, but to her cousin, William Elliot, her father’s estranged heir.
“I hope Mr Elliot did not injure you, Miss Anne.”
Anne answered with a shake of her head.
Musgrove’s advice was that she needed to get past the hurt William Elliot had caused her. Nothing would be gained by throwing her life away just because the man had chosen to marry a woman with a healthy dowry.
“It is my opinion that if you fall off a horse,” Musgrove continued, “you had best get back on it straight away. If you don’t, the horse might get away from you, and you may never see another.”
Despite the clumsiness of the metaphor, Anne smiled, but before she could make a declaration of her intention never to marry, Mr. Musgrove, a jovial sort not given to dwelling on unhappy thoughts, had changed the subject. Of what he spoke, Anne could not recall.
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