JA quotes and intro

"I should infinitely prefer a book." -- Chapter 39, Pride and Prejudice
"...I wish my collection were larger for your benefit and my own credit..." -- Chapter 8, Pride and Prejudice
"I shall be glad to have the library to myself as soon as may be." -- Chapter 20, Pride and Prejudice

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Sunday, June 13, 2010

One Morning

Specific request for Persuasion fanfic
With a little help, Anne trades her nephew's tiresome antics for something much more welcome.

One morning, very soon after the dinner at the Musgroves’, at which Anne had not been present, Captain Wentworth walked into the drawing-room at the Cottage, where were only herself and the little invalid Charles, who was lying on the sofa. —Chapter IX, Persuasion

Apparently Captain Wentworth had not expected to be alone with Anne Elliot, or almost alone with her; Anne could see that his usual composure had deserted him. Her own composure was almost non-existent as she watched him start and then say, “I thought the Miss Musgroves had been here. Mrs Musgrove told me I should find them here.” He walked to the window, thankfully allowing her to recollect herself and feel how she ought to behave.

“They are upstairs with my sister,” Anne forced herself to impart in a steady voice. “They will be down in a few moments, I dare say.” The effort took from her the last shreds of equanimity, and she would have run off that instant had not the child called to her to retrieve something that he had let drop to the floor.

Anne knelt at once by the sofa, gratified to have a task to perform. Occupied in searching for the lost object and comforting the invalid, it was some moments before she realised the captain had spoken again. By that time, she could only nod in response to his kind wishes for Charles’s health and then shake her head at her own inattentiveness, for so many seconds had passed that to answer him aloud now would seem strange indeed.

She addressed her charge instead. “Charles, I do not know if I can find it.” Her knees felt weary and her head was beginning to ache. “I hope the sofa will not have to be moved…ah!” She saw something at last and reached for it. “Here it is. This is the one, is it not?” She held it up for him to see.

Charles’s happiness was unmistakable. His joyous shout brought a smile to his aunt’s face and drew a grunt of satisfaction from their visitor. Anne bent over her nephew and dared not turn to look at Captain Wentworth; she had no desire to see the latter’s countenance revert to what it had been at his entrance and thus be reminded that but for her presence, he would be perfectly comfortable.

Anne and little Charles were happily engaged in examining the toy when another, very different sound brought further pleasure: steps in the vestibule, hopefully those of the master of the house. Surely relief was at hand!

Unfortunately, the disturber of their awkward tableau was not the Charles she had hoped to see. Charles Hayter walked in and only increased their unease. He rebuffed every attempt of Captain Wentworth’s to forward conversation, and he had nothing to say himself. Anne had just determined to leave them and seek Louisa and Henrietta when young Walter bounded into the room and made directly for the sofa and his aunt.

“Walter,” Anne said as the boy made repeated attempts to snatch away his brother’s toy, “I cannot tend to both you and Charles.” Walter paid not the least attention to this or subsequent entreaties, but climbed over what parts of her person he could, until he settled upon her back and refused to budge. Anne twisted and turned and was able to push him gently away, but he only laughed and scrambled onto her back again as if it were a game.

“Walter, said she, “get down this moment. You are extremely troublesome. I am very angry with you.” She might as well have been talking to the portrait on the wall for all the good it did.

“Walter!” This time it was Charles Hayter who tried his luck to no avail. He, too, ordered and insisted, but it was all for naught. Walter did not stir.

In another moment, however, Anne found herself in the state of being released from him; someone was taking him from her, unfastening his little sturdy hands from around her neck and placing him on his feet next to her. She took the opportunity to rise before he could climb upon her once more, and in doing so brushed her cheek, quite accidentally, against that of her rescuer. She gasped to find herself looking into the startled eyes of Captain Wentworth, and at very close proximity.

Memories flooded her senses as the breath flowed back into her body.

Had they not touched, Anne’s mind would have been too full for thanks, for speech of any kind—for anything, in short, but reflection and the sorting of her disordered feelings. However, the shock of unexpected contact, of unexpected intimacy, kept her attention fixed upon the man before her as she strove to prolong an experience she feared would never be repeated.

Walter danced around their legs and begged to be picked up, and little Charles nattered on about his plaything, but Anne heeded none of it as she and the captain stood completely erect without taking their eyes from one another.

“You ought to have minded me, Walter,” Anne heard Charles Hayter say. “I told you not to tease your aunt.” Then he muttered something about Henrietta’s unaccountable delay in coming down and of there being nothing worth his staying for, and he was gone directly.

The little boys talked to each other when it became clear they would get no answer from their aunt.

Anne studied the captain’s strong, handsome features, still so well known and still so beloved. She could feel herself grow warm in response to his own intense stare, but she did not turn away; it was too late to be missish and she found she had no wish for it. “You always preferred action to words,” she acknowledged, allowing her smile to spread unchecked across her face. Captain Wentworth had spoken well all those years ago and with an authority she had admired, but he had never been a man to rely on mere talk where action would better serve the purpose. Oh, how grateful she was that he had not changed in that regard!

He said nothing now as his expression altered and softened, nothing as he slowly returned her smile, nothing as he leaned even closer than he had been a moment before. Not a syllable escaped him as he prevented her, with the quiet persuasion of his own mouth, from voicing any objection she might have had to his forwardness.

As it happened, she had no objection at all. She wrapped her arms around his neck and held them there with a steadfastness to rival that of her ungovernable nephew, and she felt she would have resisted just as fiercely had someone dared to separate her from Frederick, but no one dared.

No one else entered the room, in fact, until Anne and Frederick had communicated a great deal despite their silence, and each was thoroughly convinced that eight years had been more than enough time to spend without the other’s companionship.

* * *

Louisa and Henrietta came down at length and tried in vain to engage the captain’s interest without ever noticing who had done so. Mary, who joined them soon afterwards, frustrated herself and annoyed others by insisting that Anne pay her the usual amount of attention without comprehending that her sister was incapable of such a thing in her current state. Eventually the simultaneous, uncharacteristic distraction of Anne and Captain Wentworth required an explanation, but the truth of the matter, once known to the general company, made things even more uncomfortable at Uppercross.

Bath began to appear inviting even to Anne, and she and her betrothed travelled there forthwith in the company of a contrite Lady Russell to apply to Sir Walter (again) for his consent. The baronet, upon ascertaining that the captain’s fortune was now quite as handsome as his figure, gave it readily enough.

~The End~

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