My take-over of Austen Variations concludes today. This breakfast post grew so long, I divided into two parts. A link to Part One from Wednesday may be found HERE.
In case you missed it, the Wentworth Wedding from Tuesday may be found HERE.
“Are you looking forward to your first sea voyage, my dear?” the elder Mrs. Musgrove asked Anne as she freshened up when the breakfast was done.
“Yes. I have not traveled much, but I have always had an inclination to do so.”
It was partially the truth. There was much of England Anne longed to see, but she never thought about sailing to faraway places. In her life she had lived only in Somerset and Bath. Except for an occasional visit to London or Lyme she had resided nowhere else. Anne preferred the country over city living, and any place was preferable over despised Bath. Her dreams of marriage usually involved a comfortable house with a bit of land and some wilderness nearby. Anne had never thought of spending the rest of her life as Mistress of Kellynch Hall, though she would have been content to reside there as a spinster.
However, Anne had married a sailor, loved him exceedingly, and the country had need of him. Given the choice of going with Frederick or staying behind, there was no choice, if Anne was to be true to her desires and character.
Mrs. Musgrove frowned, her hand to her heart. “But on a ship, my dear? Will it not be uncomfortable?”
Sophy Croft laughed. “Oh, my dear Mrs. Musgrove, nothing is further from the truth. As you know, I have sailed with my husband, the admiral, many times, on frigate and ship-of-the-line too, and have found nothing so agreeable.”
“My new sister has been so kind as to fill my head with all sorts of advice, so I am quite prepared to be the greatest of voyagers,” said Anne with a smile.
“And to make sure that my lessons have been minded,” Sophy added, “the admiral and I shall journey to Portsmouth in a sennight to see my brother and sister off.”
“La—I am very sure you will never get me on a ship, unless it is to cross the Channel for a tour of Europe!” cried Mary.
Conversation died out as a serious Lady Russell approached the group. “Anne, may I speak to you for a moment?”
“Of course. Ladies, please excuse us.” The two moved to a quiet corner of the small parlor as the other ladies returned to the main room. “Yes, madam?”
Lady Russell was troubled. “Anne, I do not like seeing you leave us so soon. We are just getting used to the idea that you are so happily married,” at this Anne nodded, “and now you are to go to Bermuda, half way around the world from all your friends—”
“Lady Russell,” Anne interrupted, “surely you are not advising me not to go with my husband?”
“O-of course not, my dear,” the older lady stuttered. That was indeed her intention, but Anne’s kind yet firm look informed her godmother that she would not be moved. As much as Lady Russell loved her, she could not be happy with the younger woman’s new-found determination. “You will be missed, and Captain Wentworth too.”
“Thank you,” Anne returned as she hugged her. “I do wish you would have more time with Frederick to get to know him better.”
“Anne, I shall come to love the captain, as long as he honors you as you deserve. I can do nothing less for my darling girl.”
Wentworth and his fellow officers occupied a corner near the door of the hall. Frederick was anxious to leave with Anne.
Harville was of a mind to tease. “So, you take Anne with you to the North American Station? The man famous for having no woman on his ship?”
“You misunderstand me, Harville,” returned Frederick good-naturedly. “I would have no woman aboard ship, if she be not Anne!” The men had a good laugh about that.
“When will Laconia be ready?” asked Harville.
“We sail in three weeks from Portsmouth. That is, if I don’t get a change in orders.” With the news of Napoleon’s escape from Elba, Wentworth’s posting was moved up from six months hence to the end of March.
“You never know, my boy,” offered Admiral Croft. “The Admiralty can be dammed contrary. Too many civilians in the place, I tell you.” The First Lord and most of the Admiralty were not sea officers.
“Have you received an assignment, sir?” asked Benwick of the admiral.
“Me? No, I hoisted down my flag during the peace. My only quarterdeck now will be the library at Kellynch Hall. How about you, Benwick?”
“I received the kindest letter from Lord Keith before he left for Gibraltar, but . . .” Benwick didn’t need to finish. There were far more captains and commanders on shore looking for employment than ships available.
Harville grasped Benwick’s arm. “Look, old man, I’m to London about a civilian job. Why not come with me?”
“Leave the Navy?”
“Benwick,” injected Wentworth, “if you still wish to sail, a merchantman might be your only choice.”
“And not just any tub—an Indiaman!” cried Harville. “Fastest ships afloat! And the pay’s better than in the service.”
Benwick was clearly conflicted. “Well, perhaps. I am occupied at the moment. My wedding’s coming up, you know.”
Harville said very quietly, “Do you want me to mention you?”
Benwick looked at the admiral, who nodded. “That would be kind.”
Wentworth was very uncomfortable with the conversation. Of the men present, only he and Admiral Croft did not need to sail. They had already won their fortunes. Yet, he was the one with a ship, and the admiral had voluntarily retired.
Benwick was in the prime of his life, as good a sailor as any he had met, but he was on the beach. He was a Master and Commander, fit only for a brig or sloop, and there were full Post-Captains without employment. A French sharpshooter had cut short what had promised to be a brilliant career for Harville.
Was Wentworth a better sailor than his friends? Or was it simply luck? If so, what would happen when his luck ran out?
“Frederick.” He turned at Sophy’s call. “I believe Anne is ready.”
Wentworth eagerly took his leave of his friends.
Frederick helped Anne into their rented coach before climbing in himself. They waved out the windows to their family and friends as they pulled away.
Frederick sat back and sighed in relief. “Well, that is over! It is my decided conviction that wedding breakfasts are too long!”
Anne’s musical laughter filled the coach. “Oh, Frederick, do not carry on so! It was a lovely time, it is a beautiful day, and everyone enjoyed themselves.”
“True. Poor Elizabeth.”
“That shrew does not deserve your pity.” He was scowling.
“Frederick, please! She is my sister, and yours too, now.”
“Then, she ought to act like one.” At Anne’s beseeching look, he relented. “I will try to be merciful, but I cannot abide anyone acting cruelly towards you, and I never shall. But I will be civil, for your sake.”
“We have several hours before we reach the inn, my love,” he reminded his wife.
“I know. “ She gazed at him from beneath her eyelashes. “Whatever shall we do to pass the time?”
“I will think of something,” Frederick promised as he took her in his arms.
“I shall depend upon it,” she said before his lips claimed hers.
Our tale of Persuasion 200 is not yet over! Tune in March 19 for the next posting.
Meanwhile, can you leave a little love for the author? I won’t bite.
Want to refresh your memory with Jane’s Austen’s original work? Read Persuasion on Austen variations HERE.