Anne held the guidebook of Bath in her hand, but after reading the same paragraph for the third time, she closed it. Her thoughts were elsewhere—Molland’s to be exact. She was still attempting to understand what had happened at the confectioner’s shop a day earlier. She had just finished a cup of tea and a scone when the rain began—as it frequently does in Bath—in early afternoon. Arrangements had been made for Elizabeth, Mrs. Clay, Lady Dalrymple, and Miss Carteret to ride in Her Ladyship’s carriage, but there was no room for a fifth lady. This arrangement suited Anne. Unlike her father, who praised the viscountess and her daughter endlessly, she found them rather boring. Mrs. Clay was entirely too fawning, and Elizabeth… Well, Elizabeth was…
“No. I refuse to finish that sentence. My faith commands me to be kind. I shall think of something else.” She would think of Captain Wentworth.
Anne had thought of little else since their conversation in Molland’s. He had been so warm, so generous, so attentive. She only wished… She stopped and shook her head. “The truth is, I wish he had not come to Bath. When he leaves, I shall be flooded with new memories to join the old, and I shall be worse off than before.”
Anne again opened the guidebook: “Let us see what there is to be learned about the designer of the Circus. In his ‘Essay towards a Description of Bath,’ John Wood, the Elder credits the founding of Bath to Bladud, a king of the Britons…” Anne paused. “I have never heard of King Bladud.” She read on. “‘There is no historical evidence for the existence of Bladud…’ Oh dear! An imaginary monarch. That’s not a good start,” she said with a giggle.
“What is not a good start?” a voice from behind her asked.
Anne stood in place. In the many years since Frederick had gone to sea, memories had faded to a soft gray, but not his voice—the deep, resonating voice of a man who commands other men.
“Frederick… I mean, Captain Wentworth… I had not expected to see you here,” she said, turning to face him.
“I am here because I took your advice. When the sun comes out in Bath, one must seize the day, and I can see that you have done the same. Most people have not yet had their breakfast.”
“It is early. I was awakened by the light coming into my room.”
“A pretty image, if ever there was one.”
Anne blushed at his compliment. “Foregoing breakfast, I took hold of my guidebook. I then had Mr. Allgood summon a chair, and I was out the door. I have been here about a quarter of an hour.”
“You come alone?” Frederick asked.
Anne shook her head. “It was too early to ask anyone to join me, and so I recruited Maggie, the kitchen maid.” She pointed to a young girl, sitting on a bench, enveloped by her cloak.
“Recruited? I think not. That poor girl was pressed into service. In the Royal Navy, we do it all the time. The Americans have been known to take issue with the practice.”
Wentworth took several long strides, and he was soon beside Maggie. Reaching into his vest pocket, he withdrew several coins. “Here you go, Maggie. This should be enough for you to go into one of the shops and buy something. I would suggest woolen stockings. You are freezing, aren’t you?”
When Maggie nodded, Anne apologized for not being a more considerate mistress.
“Not to worry, miss. Here, at least, I get to sit down.” And she happily skipped away in the direction of Milsom Street.
With Maggie gone, Captain Wentworth asked Anne what she had learned about the Circus.
“Nothing,” she answered, shaking her head. “I have only just opened the book.”
“Well, then, let me be your guide. In the parlor at the inn, there is a book on Bath, and I spent a good hour learning all about the Circus. Shall we walk as I share all that I know?”
During a leisurely walk, the captain explained that the diameter of the Circus was 318 feet, Wood’s approximate measurement for the stone circle at Stonehenge. “If you look about you, you will see the terraced houses form a circle. Wood used the hitching posts in front of the houses to create the allusion of stones—again, a homage to Stonehenge.”
“Ah, yes. How very obvious it all is,” Anne said, looking about her. “The Circus represents the sun while the Royal Crescent represents the moon. How clever of John Wood, the Elder.”
“According to my sources, it was John Wood, the Younger who is responsible for the Crescent. But it was the senior Wood, a member of the Masons, who incorporated Masonic symbols into his designs, including a key. The Circus represents the bow of the key, Gay Street is the stem, and Queens Square is the bit. Unfortunately, my guidebook says that the key must be viewed from the air.”
“From the air? How is that accomplished?”
“A very tall tree or, perhaps, a ladder,” Frederick answered, smiling.
Anne laughed at his comment. “And what is your interest in all these buildings? You are a man of the sea.”
“A naval officer lives or dies by celestial navigation. I use my sextant to sight the sun at solar noon or Polaris at night to determine latitude. By measuring the lunar distance between the moon and another celestial object, such as Jupiter’s moons or a star, I am able to calculate longitude.” Frederick shook his head. “I sound like an instructor at the naval college. How very boring.”
“Not at all. I find it all so fascinating. Of course, I shall never have the opportunity to be aboard a ship. But I do have an imagination, and I can easily picture it.”
Frederick’s smile disappeared. “Whenever I leave port, there is one thing I am certain of: there are no certainties. A miscalculation. A rogue wave. A hurricane. All these things are unknown when I set sail. But if I do my best, and Nature is not against me, I shall return home safely. But what awaits me when I do sail into port is of equal importance. If there is no one there to welcome a sailor home from the sea, then what does any of it matter?”
Anne thought of all the long days and longer nights she had experienced since Frederick had set sail eight years ago. The emptiness in her heart was as vast as the endless sea he sailed upon. Looking into his eyes, she wondered, Is it possible that Frederick has come to Bath to see me? Am I the person who waits on shore for his return?
“They also serve who only stand and wait,” Anne answered, and she could hear the ache in her voice.
“Anne…,” he said, reaching for her hand.
But then a cry rose up as Maggie approached. Inching up her skirts, Maggie showed her mistress her new black wool stockings. “As warm as an ember, they are.” Looking between the captain and Miss Anne, Maggie asked, “Are we done, miss?”
Frederick answered for Anne. “No. We are not done. In fact, we have only just begun.”
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