Frederick Wentworth, Captain “None But You … ” Chapter 1, Part 2

His customary haunt being off limits, he considered a ride along the scenic cliffs extending east of town. This prospect raised no real interest and he thought of a walk by the shipbuilder’s along the waterfront. This was always a pleasant diversion, but, today, because of its close associations with the worries of career, his mood was not inclined towards it. He instead bought a fortnight-old copy of the Plymouth and Cornish Advertiser and headed back to the inn for a drink. As he exited the shop, he saw Miss Henrietta Musgrove and Charles Hayter walking down the street, undoubtedly heading to Harville’s. They were deep in conversation, and not a happy one by her sad eyes and his knitted brow. Wentworth hesitated injecting himself into the couple’s affairs, but on the off chance they had already seen him, he wished to keep things between the family and himself friendly. “Miss Musgrove, Mr. Hayter, good day. I am surprised you are not at Harville’s to celebrate Miss Louisa’s progress.””The same might be said of you,” Hayter said. Miss Musgrove looked at each man, and then cleared her throat.”Good day to you, Captain. We are just on our way there.” She tightened her grip on Hayter’s arm, looked up at him and said, “But it will be a precious short visit on account of my sister.”Wentworth said nothing and his judicious silence was rewarded. “My dear Charles has just arrived from Winthrop, and now my sister-in-law is insisting that he should ride back this very night with a letter for Miss Anne, telling her of the good news concerning Louisa’s recovery.”

“Considering Miss Anne’s good sense, I am sure she would not think this good a reason for Mr. Hayter to forgo rest and be parted from you so soon.” So, this was the explanation for her long face. A plan was beginning to form in his mind. He could not help thinking it would be a shame for the young couple to be so soon parted, particularly when a trip to Kellynch Hall would not be out of order for himself. A side trip to the Lodge would be quite convenient. He offered his services and within minutes, both the young people’s faces shone with delight. For once this past week, rather than bearing ill tidings, his presence bore happiness.

He began to regret his largesse later that evening as he took a drink with Musgrove, at their lodgings, while waiting for the letter to be finished. In the beginning, Mrs. Charles scratched away quietly while the gentlemen traded predictions concerning the next day’s weather, the felicitous news concerning Miss Louisa’s first few steps, whether Wentworth should take a horse from the inn or Musgrove’s gig—he opted for the horse when Mrs. Musgrove opined she longed for a ride to Charmouth so she and her husband might explore the lovely little place—and they were well into concluding that the port they drank was some of the foulest stuff on earth when Mrs. Musgrove clumsily hinted that the captain’s presence and conversation was an impediment to her thoughts.

“My sister expects such perfection when it comes to correspondence, and simply knowing someone is waiting for it is causing me no end of troubles,” he overheard her saying to her husband when he went for a pitcher of beer. “I am quite rattled now and may not even be able to finish it.” On hearing this, Wentworth took some comfort in being equally blamed along with Anne. After making it clear that he would around in the morning for the letter, he quickly took his leave. His suspicion that the letter would never be finished was put to rest when Charles brought the four-page monster around to the inn at nearly midnight. They shared another drink, and then Wentworth saw him off, feeling a bit guilty for the effusive thanks heaped on him by the thrifty, younger Mr. Musgrove.

The next morning’s weather was precisely what one could expect so early on a late November morning: cold clean air, sporadic rain and gusty breezes chilling the bones of anyone who must be out and about. The weather mattered nothing to him, for he was away from Harville’s ill-conceived notions about him and Miss Louisa. He was also pleased to be away from the celebratory clamour of the Musgrove clan. He did not begrudge them their happiness, but it was a constant reminder of his part in the evil and he did not appreciate the stirring of his own conscience. The quiet of the road was a pleasant change from the stifling surrounds to which he had become accustomed.

He progressed at a good pace, his horse more than up to a run now and then. The scenic landmarks, which had become so familiar over now five daylight trips, were slipping by in quick succession. A bad patch of rutted road forced him to slow to a trot.

As he allowed the horse to pick her way through the channels, he convinced himself that this was the very spot where the carriage slipped from the road and he rescued Miss Anne from a certain fall from the carriage. He felt ashamed that he could look back with a certain pleasure, the incident that not only put her in danger but into his arms. There had been no pleasure in it for her as he recollected the disappointed looks they exchanged over the remainder of the trip. Such reminiscences nudged out any sort of satisfaction and brought on a renewed sense of guilt. His only hope was that Mrs. Charles’s letter would relieve Anne’s mind concerning Miss Louisa, and begin building a new foundation for an improved opinion of him.

This journey passed as quickly as the others and soon he found himself in the environs of Uppercross. As he passed through the village, he was greeted here and there by the bustling residents. The closer he drew to the Mansion, he could not help noticing hard stares and was certain if he looked back, he would see perhaps more harsh opinions in evidence. Fortunately for him, as he pushed on in the direction of the Lodge, the looks softened markedly.

Before Mrs. Charles had become agitated by his presence, she had emphasised that her sister would be now installed with her godmother at Kellynch Lodge. “I shall render you a map, so that you will have no trouble in finding the place,” she proudly told him. “Everyone says my artistic skills as superb.”  He glanced over at Musgrove for a confirmation of such a declaration but the man’s expression was unreadable. Later, when the letter was delivered and he had a chance to look at the map in his chambers, he thanked God that no lives depended up the cartography skills of Mrs. Musgrove. It was so badly drawn that to be guided by it would assure his missing the Lodge by a mile or so. To fail to make the promised delivery was not to be born, and neither was the opportunity to see Miss Elliot.
* * *
A young man was quick to meet him, taking his horse after dismounting. When questioned, the groom said the ladies were indeed home, and that not a soul had been in or out of the house so far this morning. Standing before the door of the Lodge, he harried his cuffs and neck cloth as he buffed his boots on the backs of his trouser legs. It was not the first time he had stood on the steps of Kellynch Lodge, but it was the first time he had ever felt equal to the place and all it stood for. He touched the letter in his breast pocket one more time, and smiled. He took a wicked sort of pleasure in bearing a document guaranteeing him admittance into Lady Russell’s home.  “You care little for doing good, and are enjoying the idea of the poor woman’s suffering far too much,” his brother, the Reverend Edward Wentworth would lecture.  Poor woman, he scoffed, internally.

“Captain Wentworth.” The butler stood aside to allow him entrance.

Wentworth’s smug reveries had caught him off guard. The man at the door was the very same servant from years before, but he was at a loss for the fellow’s name. This loss and the surprise put him at a disadvantage, which he did not care for. He removed his hat, though no offer was made to take it.

“May I ask your business?” The question was simple enough. However, it reeked of bland disapproval and the condescension so easily assumed by servants of the middling gentry.

“I am on an errand for Mrs. Charles Musgrove. I have come to deliver a letter to Miss Anne Elliot. Longwell,” he added.

Longwell offered a silver salver. “I shall see it is delivered promptly.”

The letter was his charm to get past this dragon and through the gates to the citadel. In fact, he thought, it shall see me safely by both dragons. To relinquish it now would insure failure.

“I cannot do that. I gave my word that I would deliver it to her personally.” No such promise had been asked for and no such promise was given. He prepared to tell the man he knew Miss Anne was at home were he to offer her absence as an excuse. Longwell said nothing further, but turned and went through one of several closed doors facing into the entryway.

Every move he made echoed in the marble entry, accusing him of smallness compared to the mistress of the house. He decided against taking a seat, choosing instead to examine a landscape hanging near one of the closed doors. As he studied the scene of haying in the golden midsummer of some unknown county, noticed the music of a piano.

Unless Lady Russell had taken up the instrument in the intervening nine years, it could only be Anne.  The tune was gay and one he had heard before. He did not know its name or composer but would ask Anne in the course of their conversation. She knew he was fond of music and this, he hoped, would not seem to be merely a polite bit of banter. The music stopped, and he again did some moderate preening in preparation of his summons to her. 
The door opened and Longwell motioned for him to enter. Wentworth did enter, but before he could catch a glimpse of Anne, the butler asked for his hat. Evidently a stay of some length was anticipated. The door’s quiet click was his cue that they were alone.

His eyes were drawn immediately to the pianoforte that stood prominently in the room. Anne was nowhere near, and all that moved was two thin tails of smoke from the recently extinguished candles. Her absence was disappointing.

Though alone, he tried not to gawk as he widened his study of the room. Nothing had changed; the Lodge’s sitting room was still severely formal and elegant without a hint of comfort. He remembered his first visit years before, when he had stupidly commented that the room was as pretentious and straight-backed as its owner. Unfortunately for him, he had said this to Anne Elliot before he understood fully the relationship between goddaughter and godmother. That evening, she made him appreciate how intimate with, and dependent upon, Lady Russell she was. His profuse apology had brought Anne’s full forgiveness for his sarcasm. Though he had sincerely apologised for distressing Anne, his opinion of the woman had only grown firmer over time. He was never ashamed of holding such an opinion, but he did regret not having the wisdom to keep it to himself on several occasions. He was certain it was this loose talk that had sunk him in the eyes of Lady Russell, and caused her to take a position against him concerning Anne and their engagement. This incident had forced him to see that there was almost no difference between his own little wooden world and the small society of the country.

He was not surprised that the room had worn well. This was to be expected as he recalled Lady Russell spent a good portion of the year away from the area. Harassing her few friends and family to be sure, he thought.

To his dismay, a lone, older woman sat at a small table tucked into a corner of the room, facing onto a wintry garden scene.

The dragon nodded towards a chair to indicate he should sit. Still, Anne was nowhere to be seen.

“Captain, you must join me.” The command was polite in tone and her expression composed. Perhaps it was not only the furniture of the Lodge that had worn well. Perhaps the lady had softened over time, and was now willing to acknowledge him properly.

He bowed and joined her at the table. The formalities of how he took his tea and whether he cared for cake or a biscuit were dispensed with. He could not help wondering what sort of plan the woman was working. Never in all their short association had she ever treated him with such courtesy.  He took a sip of his tea, and was disturbed to find it prepared just how he liked it. She was up to something, but he salved his uneasiness with the reminder that Lady Russell was not an overly clever woman. Not clever, but persuasive enough when she wanted to be.

End Part 2

Frederick Wentworth, Captain  “For You Alone … “

Thank you for your patience concerning Frederick Wentworth, Captain “For You Alone … ”  The story begins a week after leaving Anne at Uppercross. I hope you enjoy the story. SK

From Volume One, “None But You … (Wentworth is preparing to return to Lyme after bringing Anne back to Uppercross.)
The old woman was on her way back to the house. Wentworth called to her, “Tell Mrs. Musgrove all the provisions are very much appreciated.” 

She stopped, turning to him. “Oh, the Missus is as fine a woman there is, but she’s in no fit state to be callin’ for vittles to be took to travellers. It were Miss Anne saw you was took care of.” With a quick nod towards the house, the woman turned and bustled in earnest to get out of the cold. Of course, Mrs. Musgrove was grieving for her injured daughter and too consumed to see to the comfort of the man responsible. Looking where the woman suggested, he saw Anne still in the window.

She met his gaze full on and he knew she studied him as closely as he studied her.

“God, Anne, what have I done to us?” he said aloud.

There was nothing to do but return to Lyme. “Walk on,” he urged the horses.

Looking back, she was gone. No, he would never have her good opinion again, but he would take comfort in the fact she cared enough to see him warm and fed.


Chapter One, Part 1

“Louisa insisted on standing, and even took the few steps to the window. She has pronounced the day to be beautiful, Captain.” Mrs. Harville smiled up at Wentworth as he stood at his usual post near the windows. He could see nothing beautiful in the alternating rain and fog that had been Lyme’s weather for the past week. “I shall send word to the Musgroves at their lodgings. They will be beside themselves with joy. Now to get her something more substantial than beef tea.” She patted his arm as she passed to the kitchen. Clearly, she presumed he too would be beside himself with joy at the news. 

“Thank God,” he thought. If Miss Musgrove were up and about, she would soon be out and on her way home. The sooner she was fully recovered, the sooner he could disentangle himself from his close connections to Uppercross. While the elder Musgrove’s had assured him endlessly that his position as a close intimate of the family was not affected in the least by the accident on the Cobb, he was feeling the need to separate himself and move on to visit his brother in Shropshire. He would miss Sophia and the Admiral’s company, but he would not miss living in Anne’s family home or miss the portrait of her mother which evoked in him no end of memories.

The note was sent to the Musgrove’s lodgings, and Mrs. Harville bustled about with offerings of solid food to tempt the palate of the rapidly recovering Miss Louisa.

All the discussion as Mrs. Harville went back and forth was recounting the worry and fright of the first few hours after the girl’s injury, the impressive actions of Miss Elliot, Louisa’s the first days of slow progress and now her sudden gains in health. Wentworth could measure the recovery of his own spirits by those of the girl. All this talk of the past week was threatening to undo all the gains a great deal of riding and walking had accomplished. Finally, Louisa was back abed and resting. All the activity of the day seemed to be over and he was about to excuse himself for the rest of the day and evening.

“If she’s awake, and up to it, I can’t see a thing in the world wrong with allowing Frederick to see his fiancé. A quiet, somewhat private visit will do Miss Louisa a powerful lot of good if you ask me,” Captain Harville said to his wife, who had finally taken a seat and was sharing a pot of tea. “Surely the Musgroves cannot have any objection if you act as chaperone, Elsa.”

From the day of the young woman’s fall, Wentworth had had a knot in his stomach. It had intensified as he returned Miss Henrietta and Anne to Uppercross, and had worsened still more upon the arrival of the Musgroves on the second day. It was only in the last few days, with the improvement of the patient, that the knot was loosening. Harville’s statement undid all that. It was abundantly clear that his friend was under a horrible misconception concerning his affection towards Louisa Musgrove.

Before Mrs. Harville could make a replay, Wentworth turned to face the couple. To his annoyance, James Benwick had joined them at the table. It was becoming more important than ever that he put a stop to this new and ridiculous speculation. The smallness of the house, and the required nearness society of the two families were allowing for far more attention than was comfortable.

“There is no engagement.” The declaration interrupted their conversation. It was graceless and sounded more rough-edged than he intended. All three faces reflected shock and puzzlement. Though he was not sure how to explain himself, a clarification was obviously in order.

“I have made no promises…and I have seen no indication on Miss Louisa part that she is partial to me…that she expects anything of me…” Excepting the first little blast about there being no promises, all the rest was lies and he knew it. Miss Louisa was very partial to his undivided attention and had demonstrated her willingness to manipulate whomever she must in order to insure its happening. Also, a willingness to place herself in compromising circumstances, both public and private, was an indication she very much expected him to reciprocate her blatant affections. In lying to his friends he was, for the first time, speaking the unadorned truth to himself.

Harville rose and joined Wentworth at the window. “You needn’t worry, old man, I am sure that in spite of there being no formal declaration on your part, Miss Musgrove knows how you feel about her. A visit will go a long way to proving that.”

“But there is nothing to prove, and I do not think it would be prudent to—”

“I know, I know, you do not wish to excite her beyond what her condition will allow. That is admirable, Frederick. But really, Elsa will keep a close watch on her and see that she is not overtired.” Quietly, for Wentworth’s hearing alone, he said, “I understand you regret the accident and that it has caught you up short. As soon as you knew how you felt, you should have asked, but this is your chance to mend that. Visit her and when she is well enough, propose.” It was shocking to see that his friend had not gleaned an ounce of understand from what he had said.

“There is nothing to mend—”

“That’s the spirit! Go straight at the task. No one will think any less of you for waiting so long. Even if there are some hurt feeling on the matter, once the deed is done they will disappear forever.”

This tack is useless, he thought. Taking another direction might make a difference. “Really, Timothy, I do not think it wise to see her without the approval of her parents—”

“A courtly gesture to the in-laws is wise, but unnecessary, I am sure. Come on man, a glimpse of you will be just the tonic the girl needs! The encouragement of the man she loves will do wonders.”

The man she loves. That is the central issue, he thought. He had come to know his own feelings plainly enough. Nevertheless, it was hers that mattered the most at this juncture. Timothy’s insistence that he should risk a visit with Miss Louisa made him wonder if the girl was saying things to Mrs. Harville and she was communicating them to her husband. The two women spent a lot of time together now that she was conscious, and he imagined that they managed to converse about all manner of things. Odds, and not his own vanity dictated that he should, at some point, be one of those things.

“—besides, they shall be here soon. You can enquire of Mr. Musgrove then. He will surely bless a visit, and Mrs. Musgrove can oversee it.” Timothy made a face. “If my stairs can withstand the strain.” Mrs. Musgrove’s size made her climbing the steep, narrow stairs of the Harville house an awkward and time-consuming process. The man had even gone beneath and braced them, to protect against any future embarrassment or injury. “I haven’t room enough for another invalid,” was all he said as he had put away his tools.

Before Wentworth could object further, a racket at the door drew their attention. “My darling sister is up and about and I must be the first to see her. I simply must.” A bonnet and cloak flew at the maid, revealing not Miss Henrietta Musgrove, but Mrs. Charles Musgrove. One of the little boys was unfortunate enough to be in her way as she ran for the stairs. Fortunately, he was quicker than she and missed being trampled. The rest of the Musgroves entered, talking loudly and joyously as if Louisa was a pet who had learnt a new trick. The mass arriving required that Harville should play host and fill them in on the all the details. His departure gave Wentworth an opportunity to slip out the door and away from their excessively intimate misunderstanding.

Wentworth contemplated his options. There would be no need to make himself available at Harville’s until the next day. The Musgroves endeavoured to be as unobtrusive as was possible for a family normally merry, though presently under the strain of misfortune. Now and again they took the Harville children to their own lodgings; the hope was to bestow a little peace and quiet on the household. However, on most days their visits lasted through a substantial meal and conversations extending after dark. With all the excitement, he would not be missed if he stayed away.

End Part 1

Light at the end of the tunnel

I’m within 30 pages of being finished with the first edit of None But You ….  

We are in the process of setting up a three-way conversation about the cover. How that is going to work out, I have no idea. Phone, IM, tin cans…

Take care–Sue