Anne Elliot and Commander Frederick Wentworth met and fell in love eight years before the story of Persuasion begins. He has asked for her hand and she has accepted. In this scene, he goes to apply to her father to obtain his consent. The events are briefly referenced in Chapter 4.
Anne waited in the drawing room pacing back and forth while occasionally looking out the window. She wrung her hands together and bit her lip; her attention was drawn to the mantel clock as it struck the hour, and two chimes rang out.
“Who are you waiting for again?” Sir Walter was meticulously filing his fingernails.
Anne cleared her throat. “Frederick Wentworth, the commander in the Royal Navy. He would like to speak with you.”
Sir Walter grumbled something and then looked up at his middle daughter. “And just what does Frederick Wentworth want with me?” He leaned his head back and closed his eyes. “The man has no air of fashion and only a tolerable face. Mark my words, in no time it shall become weathered and brown.” Sir Walter shuddered.
Anne smiled to herself. Very softly, she said, “I think him quite handsome.”
“I do not find anything agreeable in him.” Elizabeth, who was sitting in the corner of the room, looked at Anne with a frown. It was apparent she overheard Anne’s comment.
Sir Walter let out a huff of impatience. “I doubt that I shall, either. And I have better things to do with my time than wait for a delinquent sailor.”
“It is just now two o’clock. I am quite certain he will…” Anne stopped as she saw the young man’s fine figure coming up the lane on his horse. The words almost caught in her throat. “He is here, Father.” Her hand went up to her heart, and she could feel its pulsing. She drew in a shaky breath, hoping to appear composed.
“This had better be important,” Sir Walter groaned. He stood up and went to the full-length looking-glass on the west wall. He drew his fingers through his hair, combing some wayward strands off to the side. He turned to look at his profile from the left and then from the right, finally bringing himself back squarely in front.
He let out a satisfied sigh at his reflection.
The butler came to the door and announced, “Captain Frederick Wentworth to see Sir Walter Elliot.”
“Thank you. Send him in.” The older man dismissed the servant with a wave of his hand.
Sir Walter remained standing as Wentworth stepped through the door, removing his hat and ducking his head slightly. Anne’s heart raced as she took in his tall stature and dark brown wavy hair. When he glanced over to her, and their eyes met, her breath caught. It took a great effort for her to walk over to greet him.
“Father, you remember Captain Frederick Wentworth of the Royal Navy?”
“I thought you said he was a commander.”
Anne looked up at Captain Wentworth with an apologetic smile and then turned back to her father. “He is referred to as a captain out of courtesy.”
Wentworth extended his hand. “A confusing tradition of the service, to be sure, my good sir. I am pleased to make your acquaintance again.”
The older gentleman reluctantly took Wentworth’s hand. He released it quickly. “My daughter says you wish to speak with me.”
“Yes, sir. I should like to speak with you alone, if you will allow me some of your time.”
Sir Walter grumbled, looking over at Elizabeth, who eyed the young man suspiciously. Anne looked expectantly at her father, her heart hopeful and soaring.
He addressed his two daughters. “You may go.”
Anne gave Frederick a smile of encouragement as she walked to the door. Elizabeth followed after, taking her arm once they were out of the room, and the door had closed behind them.
“He better not be here asking Father what I think he may be asking Father. He is a nobody, and you certainly cannot be thinking of marrying him!”
Anne slowly turned and faced her sister. “Elizabeth, he is the finest gentleman I have ever met. I can think of no one I would rather spend my life with.” She turned to walk on, but Elizabeth held tightly onto her arm.
“Father will not give his consent. This Wentworth has no connections and certainly no fortune. How can you even think of settling for such a man?”
Anne gently removed her sister’s hand from about her arm. “He may not be someone worthy of your affections, Elizabeth, but he certainly is of mine. As long as I have him by my side, I shall have everything I want.”
“He will likely be all you have, for I believe Father will give him nothing.”
Anne turned and walked away, leaving her sister speechless and quite angry.
Sir Walter returned to his chair, motioning with his hand towards the chair next to him. He eyed the young man from the top of his wavy hair down to his shiny boots. “So you are a commander, are you?”
Sir Walter tilted his head and narrowed his eyes. “What is the name of your ship?”
Wentworth looked down at the hat he held in his hands, running his fingers along the rim. “I am currently without assignment, sir, but I am quite confident that I shall have a ship directly.”
“Lofty dreams! There are more men waiting for their own ship than there are ships waiting for men!” Sir Walter said with a scornful laugh. He stopped suddenly and narrowed his eyes. “Why are you here, Wentworth?”
Wentworth wondered whether Sir Walter knew he had come to ask for his consent to marry Anne. He was beginning to think it might not be as easy as he had hoped. He sat up erect and drew his shoulders back. Meeting the gentleman’s eyes he said, “I have asked for your daughter’s hand in marriage, and she has accepted. I would like your consent to marry Miss Anne.”
From Sir Walter’s reaction, Wentworth had to surmise the gentleman had not been expecting it.
He practically jumped out of his chair with his jaw hanging open. His eyes were wide and wild. “You wish to marry… Anne?” he asked incredulously, shaking his head. “Are you quite certain?”
Wentworth slowly nodded his head. “I have never been more certain about anything, sir. She is one of the loveliest, finest young ladies of my acquaintance, and I love her very much.”
“Love her? Love Anne?” Sir Walter rose to his feet and marched towards the centre of the room, his hands clasped behind his back. “This is inconceivable!”
Wentworth turned slightly in his chair to face him. “And why is that, sir? Do you object to her marrying someone serving in the Royal Navy? Do you not feel I am well-suited to her? Do you suspect I will not be able to provide for her?”
Sir Walter stopped and shook his head, looking down. “Anne is… she can be of no interest to you. Some may call her pretty, I own. But her eyes are so dark, her height trifling.” His eyes narrowed. “I have never indulged much hope in reading her name as married in the Baronetage.” He shook his head. “She is, after all, just Anne! Who would want Anne?” His hands flew about in the air.
Wentworth drew in a deep breath and stood, pulling himself erect, to curb his anger and hopefully to persuade Sir Walter by his deportment. “Do you have any other objections to my marrying your daughter other than your being surprised at my wishing to marry her?”
Sir Walter rubbed his jaw. “I would have you know she cares little for society.”
“Neither do I care for society. But I believe your daughter is a wonderful woman. She is beautiful, sweet, witty, generous, and quite intelligent.” Wentworth walked up to Sir Walter. He was several inches taller, forcing the older man to look up at him. “And as I said before, I love her, and she loves me.”
Sir Walter let out a huff. “What does she know about love? She meets a gentleman, and suddenly she is an expert.” He shook his head and rubbed his chin as he walked away from Wentworth to stand in front of the looking-glass.
The older gentleman eyed his reflection a few moments before turning back to Wentworth. “Do you realize what an esteemed family the Elliots are?”
“I fully comprehend your consequence, sir.”
Sir Walter nodded, a satisfied grin on his face. “Yes, I would expect that.” His smile disappeared as his brows lowered. He waved a hand through the air. “But who are the Wentworths?”
“I come from a good family, sir. We are neither titled nor of the upper consequence as are the Elliots, but the Wentworths are respectable. My brother is the clergyman at Monkford, as you know.”
Sir Walter tossed his head back and forth. “A clergyman… a commander without his own ship… these are all nothing to me.”
“My sister is married to an admiral, who does have his own ship.”
The older gentleman shrugged his shoulders as if that held little interest to him, as well.
Wentworth’s hands tightened into fists. Sir Walter’s words about Wentworth’s family did not bother him as much as the disparaging words spoken about Anne. They drove him to desperately want to take Anne away and shower her with the love and affection she so deserved. Hearing her father speak of his beloved in this manner was almost too much.
Wentworth suddenly had an idea. “Sir Walter, I know it is critically important for a man of your superior station to ensure that his daughter marry well, especially when the daughter is so admired in society for her beauty, her many accomplishments, and her excellent family connections.”
Sir Walter smiled in agreement. “I see that you understand. Elizabeth is highly admired by the ton.”
Wentworth’s jaw tensed. “While I certainly intend to distinguish myself in my career, if you give your consent to my marrying Miss Anne, you would be able to more readily lavish on Miss Elliot all she is due.”
Sir Walter took in a deep, slow breath. He looked intently at his fingernails. “I suppose you are correct. I truly cannot imagine anyone of importance who would want to take Anne for his wife.”
“I respectfully ask that you allow me to do that, sir. I promise that I will love her and care for her and provide for her. You need not be concerned for her welfare.”
Sir Walter impatiently tapped his foot on the floor, and a scowl seemed etched upon his face. He let out a gruff breath and rested his jaw on his fisted hand. He was silent for what was to Wentworth an eternity, seemingly weighing every consideration. “Anne is of great use to me,” he finally said. “I wonder that I will be able to get along without her.”
Now it was Wentworth’s turn to frown, for he knew Anne was all but ignored in her family. “I am quite certain you shall find a way to manage, Sir Walter. You are intelligent and resourceful, I believe. Think of all that you shall be able to do for your eldest daughter and her prospects for marriage.” He practically held his breath as he awaited Sir Walter’s response.
The older man was silent again. He did not move, save for the slow nodding of his head. Finally, “Yes, I must do all I can for Elizabeth. She is so deserving of only the most illustrious husband. She must have only the finest dresses, and while in London, she must be seen in all the right places.”
“Of course, she must.”
He had a faraway look in his eyes and tapped the arm of the chair. “But Anne?” He shook his head gravely. “This would be a most degrading alliance even for her. How can I allow my daughter to marry a mere sailor?”
Wentworth grit his teeth to prevent him from severely rebuking the man’s assertion that he was a mere sailor. He would not waste his time. Through a clenched jaw, he said, “You will not be required to spend even one more shilling on Miss Anne. I shall provide for her completely.”
Sir Walter lifted his brows and leaned forward in his chair. “I doubt you shall be able to provide for Anne in the manner she is used to. I hope you comprehend that I shall give her nothing if she marries you.”
Wentworth felt his chest constrict with anger. He remained silent and took out his fury in the tight fisting of his hands. “Sir, your consent is all I ask for.”
Sir Walter gave a slight shake of his head, as if coming out of a daze. He pinched his brows together, his eyes becoming narrow slits. “Consent?”
Wentworth’s patience was growing thin, but he steeled himself to remain calm. “Yes, sir. I would be most…”
“Who else would ever be interested in her?” He shook his head and let out a gruff laugh. “No esteemed gentleman in all of my acquaintance would ever want her.” He waved his hand towards the door. “Go marry her, if that is what you want to do!” He grumbled something under his breath about young people.
Wentworth remained motionless to allow his anger to cool. This was not what he had hoped for, but at least Sir Walter had not withheld his consent. All he wished now was to leave this man’s company and go to his dearest Anne. He gave an abrupt bow, turned, and walked out of the room.
I hope you enjoyed this segment, as unpleasant as some of it was to our dear Wentworth. I would love to hear your comments!