Thursday Three Hundred- The Change

Rose Letter

How did Edmund Bertram ever realize he was in love with Fanny Price? Austen does not tell us much:

Scarcely had he done regretting Mary Crawford, and observing to Fanny how impossible it was that he should ever meet with such another woman, before it began to strike him whether a very different kind of woman might not do just as well, or a great deal better: whether Fanny herself were not growing as dear, as important to him in all her smiles and all her ways, as Mary Crawford had ever been; and whether it might not be a possible, an hopeful undertaking to persuade her that her warm and sisterly regard for him would be foundation enough for wedded love.

I purposely abstain from dates on this occasion, that every one may be at liberty to fix their own, aware that the cure of unconquerable passions, and the transfer of unchanging attachments, must vary much as to time in different people. I only entreat everybody to believe that exactly at the time when it was quite natural that it should be so, and not a week earlier, Edmund did cease to care about Miss Crawford, and became as anxious to marry Fanny as Fanny herself could desire.

Here is my imagining of the moment Edmund realizes he loves Fanny “as a hero loves a heroine” with some inspiration from Tyler Rich’s “The Difference.”

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The Change

The sun had begun to set, and Edmund watched a group of starlings rise and fall against the pink sky. Something about how they seemed to almost fall to the ground and then climb back up pulled on his heart. He surely knew what it was like to lose your bearings and nearly plummet to your death only to rise—hopefully wiser. Knowing Fanny would understand his feelings, he turned in his seat to tell her only to remember he rode alone this day. Fanny had a headache and had stayed home.

There was a time when he would have worried about Fanny because no one at Mansfield seemed to care about her concerns save him. Now, his parents saw her value, and her sister lived with them. His aunt Norris and sisters were far away. He should have no fears that she would not be attended to, and yet he did.

The events of the past months—since the Crawfords had come into the area—had changed them all. Fanny, who once had been so reticent and relied on him so much, had resisted pressure from everyone about marrying Henry. She proved more righteous than them all when he eloped with Edmund’s already married sister, causing a scandal and bringing about her divorce. Nor could Edmund forget his own folly. He had thought he was in love with Crawford’s sister. She was everything a lady should be, everything he had been raised to desire: accomplished, beautiful, witty, and wealthy. However, nearly too late, he discerned she lacked what he most esteemed: integrity and moral fortitude.

Fanny, though, bore it all. She was quiet, but she was not blind as he was. Before the truth came out about the real nature of the Crawford siblings, Fanny had been sent to Portsmouth. Edmund believed it a harsh measure, and surely his father did not want Fanny to marry against her inclination. That could hardly make for a happy marriage. Still, Sir Thomas expected Fanny to write to them and plead to come back. She did not. She held her own.

She no longer needed him.

The thought kept Edmund awake at night. It made him toss and turn in his bed. There was a time when he would keep her waiting before their joined activities. Seeing Fanny, while something which always brought pleasure, held no urgency. Now, he could not see her enough.

Edmund had asked himself why that was. When he had last craved seeing a lady, it was because he was in love. He knew he loved Fanny. She was his cousin; his oldest and dearest friend. Only, when he thought about how his heart skipped a beat when she smiled at him and how it pounded when he wanted to please her—the way it yearned for her to be at his side even now… Well, that did not feel like the same love for his cousin he had always had.

Turning the thoughts over in his head, Edmund handed his reins to the stable boy and directed his feet to the house. Fanny kept her old room, and he was always welcome there. Soon, he would see her.

As he knocked on the door to her chamber, the realization hit him as though someone beat him over the head with the dinner gong. There was a difference between loving Fanny and being in love with her.

 

Thursday Three Hundred- The Balm of Kellynch Hall

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My song for Music Monday this week was Mercy by Brett Young. For the first time, I considered how cruel a woman could be during a break-up. Naturally, it made me consider how kind Anne Elliot had been–or tried to be. What follows is about one thousand words of torturing Captain Wentworth.

The Balm of Kellynch Hall

He had been invited to dine at Kellynch for the evening. Along with his brother, the curate at Monkford, neighbors from Uppercross, and the esteemed guest Lady Russell, it was a sizable dinner party. Still, the air in the room changed when she walked in. Despite having his back turned, Frederick Wentworth felt the presence of his beloved Anne.

Turning, he took in her expression. His heart stopped at her gentle beauty. The soft colors of pink and lavender suited her complexion and coloring. Anne’s smile did not reach her face. She nervously glanced around, looking everywhere but at him. On their walk yesterday, she had brought up arguments about their engagement. He had asked for her hand in marriage not a week ago, but when it came time for him to approach her father, she hesitated. She had shared her news with her confidante, her mother’s old friend, Lady Russell. Instead of felicitations, Lady Russell had counseled Anne against keeping the engagement. 

Wentworth could not bear the memory of the unshed tears in Anne’s eyes. She had been so distressed. It had not occurred to either of them, before, that Sir Walter would be displeased with the match. Still, Wentworth believed Anne loved him enough to marry without her father’s blessing and with her friend’s disapproval. Her loved ones would come around in time.

Finally, Anne meandered to him. “Father will see you now but should we not wait?”

“No,” Wentworth shook his head. “I have asked for your hand, Anne. I will not subject you to secrecy. I am not ashamed of who I am.” His eyes narrowed. “Are you?”

“No,” she licked her lips. “No…”

“Mr. Wentworth,” Sir Walter interrupted from the doorway to his study. 

Wentworth nodded at the father and gave Anne a smile. This was a mere formality. He did not expect Sir Walter to be very pleased with the idea, but it would be borne with so no one could claim they had been slighted. 

Once in the room, Sir Walter’s face turned stony. He did not withhold his consent but said he would add nothing to Anne’s fortune to supplement Wentworth’s own state. Confident that he could earn his way in the world, luck had always been on his side, Wentworth shook off the arguments. The matter settled and each gentleman understanding where the other stood, he left to find his beloved.

Anne stood with Lady Russell, the other lady speaking fervently and sorrow emanating from Anne. He approached.

“Lady Russell, would you allow me to intrude and speak with Miss Anne?”

The lady sniffed and then glanced at her conversation partner. A knowing smile lit her face. “Indeed, I think Anne has much to say to you.”

“The task is completed, my dearest,” he whispered to Anne. “He did not refuse. You may name your day.”

“Oh, Frederick,” Anne whispered and shook her head. “It cannot be–it should not be.”

“What do you mean?” Not ten minutes ago, Wentworth felt assured of his victory. Not a woman in this world compared to Anne Elliot and he had been so fortunate as to find her and she loved him in return. Her father consented and what should separate them now? What foe must he now vanquish?

Dinner was called before Anne could reply. During the meal, Wentworth watched her from afar. Lady Russell and Sir Walter both glared at him. He did not give a fig about their disapproval. Anne held all of his attention. She avoided his eyes. When no one spoke to her, she looked miserable and as though she would rather die than stay a moment longer at the table. 

As the night wore on, he knew it would happen. Anne intended to break his heart. All he desired now was to get it over with. If she would end it, then end it. None of this talk of prolonging the engagement. If she did not want him now and without the favor of her friends, then there was no recourse. If she had ever loved him, she would make it fast.

Finally, Wentworth saw his opportunity. He came to Anne’s side as she looked through music books. “We must speak,” he whispered.

“We cannot talk openly–not here.”

“Then tomorrow, meet me for a walk.”

“That would be improper,” Anne blushed. “I cannot.”

“It is not improper to walk with your betrothed nor has it stopped you any other time.”

“Sir,” Anne said, and her throat rippled with effort. “I will not meet you without a chaperone again.”

“Do you mean what you imply?” Wentworth asked with urgency and stepped closer. “But what has changed–why?” He gripped the edge of the pianoforte.

“Lady Russell helped me see how imprudent our match is. Your position in life–a wife is such a burden. I should not be so selfish.”

“Selfish!” Anne was the least selfish being he had ever met.

“Nor could I forgive myself for displeasing my father or Lady Russell so. I owe them everything. I had thought–but I thought wrongly. What kind of life would we have with you away so much and me without family or support?”

“We would have love!” He had never pried into Anne’s feelings for her family, but he had seen enough to know that they did not appreciate her. She certainly had not had the loving parents and siblings he had been fortunate enough to have.

“Pray, moderate your voice,” Anne cast a nervous look around. “I can say no more,” a soft sob tore from her throat. “Please excuse me, sir. I have selected my song.”

“Anne–please.” Tears pricked his eyes. How could she do this? How could she end the happiness of both of them? 

“Good evening, Mr. Wentworth.” She bobbed a curtsy and rushed to the seat, daintily stomping on his heart on her way. 

Anne touched the keys with such force it made Wentworth jump. Casting one last look at her, he left the instrument to find his brother and make his excuses to leave early. He had much to do before the morrow. He could not stay in Somersetshire another day. There must be a ship somewhere he could have. He would take anything to have activity just now.

As he left the room and Kellynch–indeed his heart–behind, he heard Anne’s beautiful playing and acknowledged she, at least, had mercy.