From Chapter 5
Mary, often a little unwell, and always thinking a great deal of her own complaints, and always in the habit of claiming Anne when anything was the matter; was indisposed, and foreseeing that she should not have a day’s health all the autumn, entreated, or rather required her, for it was hardly entreaty, to come to Uppercross Cottage, and bear her company as long as she should want her, instead of going to Bath.
Anne held her reticule tightly as the carriage conveyed her from the Lodge, where Lady Russell resided, to Uppercross Cottage. She had been staying with her for the past week, ever since her father and Elizabeth departed for Bath. Now Lady Russell was leaving as well, and Anne was on her way to stay with her younger sister, Mary.
The road took them past Kellynch, and Lady Russell gazed at Anne as they neared her home.
“Do you wish to stop? We have time.”
Anne shook her head. “No. I have already said my goodbyes.”
Lady Russell reached for her hand. “I feel the loss as exceedingly as you do. This whole affair grieves me more than you can know.”
As they drove past, Anne‘s eyes took in the magnificence of Kellynch Hall. Suddenly, memories of her childhood, her mother, special times with Lady Russell, and those too few times spent with Captain Wentworth invaded her thoughts. Her hand went up to her heart and she felt a sense of regret for all that had taken place in the past few months that led to her family’s removal.
Once the Crofts moved in, there would be no coming back to the sanctuary of her room, no leisurely walks through the gardens, or sipping tea while sitting in the parlour at the large window that overlooked the deep woods. She hoped she would be able to rise above these thoughts and feelings that threatened to overwhelm her.
Her heart felt as heavy and dark as the window coverings that were now drawn, but she could not let Lady Russell know. For just as certainly, she would suspect it was because Mrs. Croft happened to be Captain Frederick Wentworth’s sister, and Anne’s thoughts could not be far from the memory of the love and affection she and that gentleman once shared.
As the carriage rambled down the road, she looked back through the window to see a final glimpse of Kellynch Hall before they made the turn in the road. Soon it was out of sight.
Anne turned back and clasped her hands. She had enjoyed the past week spent with Lady Russell and had had little time to ponder all that had taken place and all that might occur. Lady Russell seemed to have made it her duty to keep Anne occupied. There was much to do after her father and Elizabeth departed for Bath; she had barely had a moment to herself.
She looked up at the deep blue sky, dotted with clouds. It was a lovely autumn day, and she wished she could enjoy it. It was, after all, her favourite time of year. The days were getting shorter. The leaves were just beginning to turn various colours and fall slowly from the branches. The air was fresh and cool. But the recent events made it difficult for her to take delight in it.
Anne hugged her shawl about her as she settled back into the seat, hoping her heart would soon calm. The carriage rocked as it traversed a slight incline filled ruts from the recent rains. As they reached the small summit, she looked out and saw that a light fog had settled in low areas of the meadow below. She fingered the fringe of her shawl as she considered that was very much akin to how she felt. Her feelings regarding Captain Wentworth were muddled and unclear. As much as she did not wish to see him again, she oftentimes hoped she would. She was filled with fear and dread of encountering him, as much as she was filled with hope and expectation.
Anne felt as though she could barely breathe. Her throat was dry, yet she felt her eyes moisten with tears. She quickly wiped away one that trailed down her cheek. But her tears were not solely for the loss of her home, but for the gentleman who eight years earlier had captured her heart. She shook her head at the years that had passed – eight autumns, eight winters, eight springs, and eight summers. He still had such a strong hold on her heart, that there were times she felt as if it were only yesterday.
She stiffened, as much to discipline her thoughts as to display to Lady Russell a strong comportment. They would arrive at Uppercross Cottage shortly, where she would lovingly assist her younger sister Mary, who always seemed to be suffering from one ailment or another. She would help with Mary’s two sons, who at times could be so rambunctious that they wore her out. But they were sweet and Anne loved them.
She drew in a deep breath. Although her life was tolerable at Kellynch Hall, she never felt as though her father and sister valued her. Her opinions were rarely considered, and there were times she felt invisible to them. Except on the occasions when they wanted her to do something they would not do themselves.
It would be different here. Mary would have great need of her. She had insisted Anne stay with her, for she would likely be ill all of autumn. Anne gave her head a slight shake. Her sister would likely have a different ailment for each day of the week and complain about every little thing. She would require Anne do everything for her.
She smiled, however, when she thought of the Musgroves. They would welcome her warmly when she arrived, although she would likely have to tolerate their complaints about Mary’s idleness and lack of discipline in raising her boys.
Mary must have been watching for her, for as soon as the carriage drew close to the house, she came rushing out to greet them. “You are here! Anne, I thought you would never arrive!” She turned to Lady Russell, suddenly collecting herself. “I hope you are well, Lady Russell. It is good to see you. I am so glad you have brought Anne.”
“Thank you, Mary,” Lady Russell replied. “It is good to see you, as well, and I hope you are well.”
Mary raised a hand to her forehead. “I am feeling so ill. I am so glad you are here, Anne!” Once her sister had stepped out of the carriage, Mary began to pull her towards the house.
Anne heard Lady Russell murmur something under her breath while she shook her head slightly.
“Mary, perhaps you ought to return to the house. I am not certain it is good for you to be outdoors. Allow me to take my leave of Lady Russell.”
“Oh, yes! I should not linger outside any longer!” She glanced at Lady Russell. “I hope you have safe travels.” She turned to walk back to the house without waiting for a response.
Once she was gone, Anne turned back to her friend. “I would invite you in, but…”
Lady Russell put up her hand. “Thank you, but I must be on my way.”
Anne nodded. “Thank you for a most enjoyable week. I shall miss you.”
“And I shall miss you, my dearest Anne. It affords me no pleasure knowing how Mary will abuse you, for you are far too good to her even when she does not deserve it.”
“At least I am needed here.”
Lady Russell reached out for her hand. “Take care, Anne. I will see you in a few months.”
Anne smiled sweetly. “I shall be looking forward to it.”
Anne watched the carriage pull away and then walked to the house. As soon as she stepped inside, Mary began a litany of her complaints. Anne listened patiently to her, murmuring words of compassion to her sister. She heard about the latest mischief the boys got into, how her husband had gone off shooting even when she told him she had a severe headache, and how the Musgrove ladies rarely stop by to visit.
Mary let out a long sigh. “Oh, Anne! I have the worst headache. I have been waiting for you all day!”
“I am here now, Mary, so you can rest.” Anne walked about the room, which was scattered with toys, dirty dishes, and soiled clothes. One of the maids was making a futile attempt to straighten the room as the boys raced through scattering even more articles. The boys were yelling, and Anne felt that Mary might indeed have a headache if this is what she had to endure. She was getting one herself.
Mary fell across the sofa, her hand going up to her head. “Anne, would you please try to silence the boys? Take them outside. They listen to you. Make them understand I am not well and they must be play quietly!” She pulled a coverlet up over her.
Anne watched her sister close her eyes and roll over, plumping up the pillow as she did. Anne grabbed one of the boys by the hand as he ran past her. “Come along with me,” she said as firmly as possible. “You and your brother need to play quietly outside!”
As she steered the one boy towards the door and corralled the other one, she suddenly realized that it might be good for her to be kept busy. While she did not particularly wish to be needed in quite so desperate a manner as this, it might serve her well to keep her mind off one Captain Frederick Wentworth. Staying busy this past week with Lady Russell had served that purpose. She hoped it would continue to do so once his sister and her husband moved took up residence at Kellynch Hall.
“Oh, and Anne, I shall be resting and do not wish to be disturbed.”
“Certainly, Mary,” Anne said with a long sigh. “You know you can rely on me.”