Jane Austen’s characters see their fair share of travels. Elizabeth travels to Hunsford to see Charlotte. Catherine Morland treks to Bath. Frank Churchill journeys to Highbury. Captain Wentworth sails the seas with His Majesty’s navy. The Dashwoods sojourn to Barton Cottage after the loss of their home, thence to London, while Sir Thomas Bertram voyages all the way to Antigua. What new expeditions have we in store for our favorite characters? Check in often through August to find out!
In the following excerpt from my novel, Anne Elliot, A New Beginning, a Persuasion parody, Captain Wentworth travels from Uppercross to Lyme to visit old friend, Captain Harville, and is joined by Anne Elliot and the Musgroves. Please note that his is a parody, and liberties were taken.
In Lyme, once the tourist season came to an end, there was little to do in the seaside town. The bathing machines had been stored away, many of the shops were boarded up in preparation for winter storms, and the street performers had packed up their instruments, juggling balls, and fire sticks and gone elsewhere, or were hibernating for the winter. All that was left to do was to stroll along the Cobb and hope that the person walking with you was an able conversationalist.
The pairings were as expected: Captain Wentworth and Louisa, Mary and Charles, with Henrietta moving between the two couples, and Anne and Captain Benwick. Everyone took note of Anne and her new friend. With the sound of the surf and a stiff breeze, conversation was difficult, and Anne had to stay close to her companion so that she might hear him, thus inviting comment.
Despite the wind, Mary’s criticism reached her sister’s ears, but it had more to do with the speed of the walk than Anne conversing with an unmarried man. Anne and Benwick were setting a pace that Mary found unsustainable. Louisa was of a similar mind: It was hard to look soulfully into another’s eyes if you were practically moving along at a trot.
In one thing they were in agreement: Everyone was in favor of a suggestion made by the Harvilles that dinner be a fish bake on the beach followed by roasted potatoes and corn on the Cobb. The ladies would see to the food while the men gathered driftwood for the fire. As they made their way back to the inn, a gentleman bumped into Anne, and by his profuse apologies, she determined that he was a man of exceedingly good manners. Her curiosity aroused, she thought that she should like to find out who he was, and Frederick was of the same mind. He did not like the way he had looked at Anne, and when he learned that the man was staying at the same inn, he asked the innkeeper who he was and returned to announce to his party that the man’s name was Elliot.
All were surprised by the coincidence, but Mary was ecstatic. With hand on her breast, she declared, “Bless me! He must be our cousin, William Elliot.”
When Charles pointed out that there must be hundreds of Elliots in England, Mary insisted she was right: “I am convinced that he must be our father’s heir. When next we see him, we must seek an introduction.”
Recalling how he had looked at Anne, Frederick was of a different opinion: “Putting all these extraordinary circumstances together, his being an Elliot, being in Lyme in November, and bumping into Miss Anne, we must consider it to be the arrangement of Providence that you should not be introduced to your cousin, if he is your cousin.” After he had finished uttering that sentence, he wondered if it had made any sense at all.
After Mary, Charles, and the Musgrove sisters had returned to their rooms, Anne approached the captain. “Providence must not have a lot to do today if the Deity is concerned about who is introduced to whom.”
Frederick gave a hearty laugh. There were so many changes in Anne, but this was not one of them. Fond memories of her sharp wit and subtle humor returned, and he offered to buy her one of the small paintings of Lyme that was sold at the front desk. While he was paying the innkeeper, Mr. Elliot walked in and immediately sought out Anne.
“Please forgive me for being so bold, but when you were out walking, I heard someone call you Miss Elliot. I am William Elliot, heir to the Kellynch estate, and since you have something of the Elliot countenance, I am feeling confident that you and I are cousins.”
So, this was the man who was to inherit the ancestral home of the Elliots. Anne had met him several years earlier but had been unable to recall anything about his appearance. And now she understood why. Except for his two front teeth overlapping, there was nothing exceptional about him.
“I am Anne Elliot, the daughter of Sir Walter Elliot, but if you think I have the Elliot countenance, then you are the only one. Everyone else thinks I favor my mother’s side.”
“Then it is true. We are cousins,” Mr. Elliot said, ignoring the second part of her statement. “What happy news!”
After purchasing a watercolor of the Cobb, Frederick turned around to find Anne talking to the stranger they had previously encountered. He did not like the man, and from the way he was looking at Anne, it was obvious that he admired her exceedingly. Frederick went to Anne and stood so close to her that their arms were touching. Wentworth was sending a message, and this man better be darn sure he got it because the captain was a big, tall fellow and William Elliot was not.
“Mr. Elliot, this is Captain Wentworth of the Royal Navy. He is a friend of the Musgroves, my sister Mary’s in-laws from Uppercross.”
For a brief moment, Frederick felt as if his heart had been pierced. He was not Anne’s friend, but a friend of a friend.
“Captain Wentworth, may I thank you on behalf of a grateful nation for your service against Bonaparte. My French is a little rusty, and I really was not looking forward to brushing up on it.”
“What brings you to Lyme at this time of year, Mr. Elliot?”
So much for polite discourse, Anne thought.
“I have come from Sidmouth, and I am going to London by way of Bath.”
“Then you have traveled in the wrong direction, Mr. Elliot. From Sidmouth, Bath is northeast, not due east.”
This statement was followed by an awkward silence, and so Anne inquired after Mr. Elliot’s wife. His marriage to a woman of wealth, but no rank, had been one of the reasons why Sir Walter and his heir had had a falling out many years earlier.
“My wife passed away. I am just out of mourning.”
“My condolences, Mr. Elliot. We did not know of your loss,” Anne said, embarrassed to learn of his sad news in such a way.
“But how could you? Relations between your father and me have not been cordial, and because of that coolness, I was on my way to London to seek a reconciliation.”
“My father is currently in Bath, Mr. Elliot, and has taken a house in Camden Place. Papa is rarely in town.”
“Well, then I have stumbled upon a bit of good fortune in meeting you as I would have been in Bath and not have known of your father also being there.”
Frederick doubted all this had anything to do with fortune—more likely he had planned this whole thing. He did not like the little man, and he harrumphed audibly. And what did “just out of mourning” mean. A year? Six months? More likely a month.
“Miss Anne, would you join me for some tea in the dining room? I would like to discuss some family matters with you.” Elliot emphasized the word family so that the captain would know that he was not included in the invitation.
“Yes, of course,” Anne answered. “If you will excuse us, Captain, I shall see you this afternoon.”
“I am looking forward to it, and my room is the first one to the right on the second floor.”
Anne smiled at the captain’s overly protective response.
After they were seated and the tea served, Mr. Elliot began. “I take this as a good sign that I have met you, Miss Anne. It may give me a head start in repairing the damage done between the two Elliot families by first making amends with one of my cousins.”
“I have no quarrel with you, Mr. Elliot,” Anne said while putting sugar in the tea. When the gentleman smiled, Anne continued. “Of course, my father does. He was rather upset to learn that you had married without consulting him. There is one other matter that proved an irritant: You made disparaging remarks about the baronetcy. I shall warn you that the Baronetage is the only book my father reads.”
“Miss Anne, I must say that I am surprised by your directness.”
“You are not alone in that opinion,”Anne said, smiling. “But it really does save time. These things are known facts, and facts cannot be changed no matter how much one would wish,” she said, thinking of Frederick. “Besides, I think you may receive a warmer reception from my father than you might expect. I doubt Papa wishes to maintain a quarrel with his heir.”
With Anne indicating that she wished to leave, Mr. Elliot pulled the chair out for her. “After meeting you, Miss Anne, I find another reason to hope for a quick reconciliation.” Anne gave him a weak smile. If he was flirting with her, he was wasting his time. There was room in her heart for only one man, and he was currently on the second floor—first door on the right.
Your comments are always appreciated.
Jane Austen’s World provides an excellent post on the Regency Era traveler to Lyme.