First off, it’s my birthday. I’m 54 today. And I look every inch of it. Laura Hile winces whenever I mention my age. It’s not something she cares to think about. I can’t help it. I don’t mind aging. I wish my shoulders didn’t crunch whenever I reach for things, and I wish I had my figure from a gazillion years ago, but se le guerre. Happy birthday to me.
Yesterday I spent the day, all the day, ruining a personal blog I’ve been trying to put together. I went through about 20 templates and found something wrong with them all. I may never get it right. I tell that to say while looking for something unrelated to this post, I found a file of flash fiction I did years ago. (Just checked. The file was created June 7, 2006. Yikes!) I read the two stories and they were okay. I don’t even remember writing them. That’s not unusual, I’m sure if you write, you’ve found pieces that leave you wondering.
As for the group read, they are in the arena. It’s a jungle in there, not unlike the social melee of Austen’s time. No spoilers there!
Have a great Monday. Here’s the flash fiction I stumbled over:
The morning hours of the Cottage were always later than those of the other house, and on the morrow the difference was so great that Mary and Anne were not more than beginning breakfast when Charles came in to say that they were just setting off, that he was come for his dogs, that his sisters were following with Captain Wentworth; his sisters meaning to visit Mary and the child, and Captain Wentworth proposing also to wait on her for a few minutes if not inconvenient; and though Charles had answered for the child’s being in no such state as could make it inconvenient, Captain Wentworth would not be satisfied without his running on to give notice.
Mary, very much gratified by this attention, was delighted to receive him, while a thousand feelings rushed on Anne, of which this was the most consoling, that it would soon be over. And it was soon over.
In two minutes after Charles’s preparation, the others appeared; they were in the drawing room. Her eye half met Captain Wentworth’s, a bow, a curtsey passed; she heard his voice; he talked to Mary, “Mrs Musgrove, I wish to speak to Anne. Privately.”
Mary’s gratified smile faded, and she glanced back at her sister. Getting nothing in the way of an explanation from her, Mrs Musgrove asked, “You speak rather freely of my sister, sir. Why would you wish to speak with Anne? By her silence, it is clear she has nothing to say to you.”
Captain Wentworth winked at Anne, and replied, “Be that as it may, Mrs Musgrove, I have unfinished business with her. Would you please,” he motioned to the door to the sitting room, and said something to the Miss Musgroves, enough to mark an easy footing; “Ladies, will you please excuse us? Perhaps you would like to relieve Miss Anne of her nursing duties and shew the boy a bit of your own auntish affection.”
The sisters were shocked at his suggestion. The greater shock came when he gently took the elbow of each and began to guide them out of his presence.
“Sir,” said Miss Louisa, “I must protest-”
Closing the gap between them, Mary said, “Captain, I must remind you this is my home and you are extraordinarily-”
“And a very lovely home it is. Now if you will excuse us.” Taking her also by the elbow, he steered her to her sisters-in-law, and smartly shut the door to the drawing room.
Though the room was now nearly empty, it seemed full, full of persons and voices; the voices were those of the shocked Musgroves compelled to remain behind the closed door, and though he was only one man, Captain Wentworth might as well be a giant for the manner in which his presence filled the room.
Just seeing him again was nearly enough to take her off her feet. Through the entire exchange, Anne had grasped a chair for support. Now, he turned from the closed door to face her, walked the few steps separating them, brushed the chair aside, and took her in his arms.
Grateful for this new, more intimate prop, Anne could feel heat rising up her neck to her cheeks and into her hair. It was enough to be cradled in his arms, it was impossible to look to his face for fear of what she might see.
“I have been an idiot all these years,” he breathed into her ear. “And particularly these last few days; so close to you and yet letting my pride and anger keep me at bay.” He pulled her closer. “Please, Anne, look at me.”
Her breath caught in a secret gasp, and it took all her courage to turn her head the few inches to look into his eyes.
“I never forgot you, I never stopped caring for you. Seeing your beautiful face has made me realise I must have you back-”
A few minutes ended it. Charles shewed himself at the window, all was ready he declared. “Captain, the dogs are rearing to go. The guns are ready and the birds await.”
Captain Wentworth cocked his head, raised a brow, and said to Anne, “Excuse me.” Releasing her, he kept hold of her hand and went to the window. Opening it, smiling, he said, “Musgrove, I must apologise, but I find myself more pleasantly engaged at the moment, and will have to bow out of our expedition.”
Musgrove stared as the window thudded closed and lock clicked into place.
“Captain, you were quite keen to hunt-” The curtains slid shut.
“Now,” Wentworth said, taking her in his arms again, “Anne, can you forgive my abominable behaviour? I will do whatever you wish if only you will-” Pounding on the window caused both to look. He huffed in exasperation.
A low, female whinge was rising in the drawing room. “Charles, is that you?” rose above the others. The voices of the sisters were becoming more distinct and insistent.
Glancing to the inner room, and then the window, Wentworth said, “Please, excuse me again.” Keeping her hand in his, they returned to window.
Sliding the curtains open, he opened the glass. “Musgrove, come in here please.”
Hurriedly, he took her in his arms. “Anne, before the hubbub begins, say you will forgive me.”
“Of course, Frederick.”
A smile crossed his lips and mingled with the one gracing hers.
“In the name of the gods, what are you doing with my sister, Captain?”
Reluctantly, Anne and Frederick parted and looked at the man responsible for a good deal of noise. “I believe she is your sister-in-law, Musgrove. And surely you have enough experience in the world to know what it is I do.”
“Anne, what do you mean allowing this sort of behaviour? In my house yet.” He struck a pose of hands on hips and a scowl that always brought his wife to heel.
“Musgrove, this is none of-” said Wentworth.
“Please, Captain,” Anne said, disengaging herself from his grasp. “I think I am allowing the man I love, and have loved for years,” she said, looking deeply into Wentworth’s eyes, “a kiss.” Settling herself back in his arms, she closed her eyes and touched her lips to his.
The door banged. “You can’t do that!” Mary’s voice carried throughout the house. “I will not stand for such indecent behaviour in my house-”
Both Wentworth and Anne glared at the nearly hysterical woman. Both the sisters joined in the chorus of complaint. Musgrove stuttered and babbled.
Finally, Wentworth shouted, “Enough!”
All was silent.
“I will not have this wonderful moment ruined by all this jabbering and prattle.” He straightened, and asked that Anne would excuse him once more. “Please, allow us a few moments of privacy. Musgrove, take the ladies out and show them that fine double-barrelled of yours.” Gathering the group, he walked them to the door. “And the dogs, I’m sure the ladies will love the dogs.” They reached the door and he swept them out into the bright morning sun.
As he returned to Anne, he removed his gloves and coat, and closed the door to the drawing room so that the child might more peacefully rest.
Taking his place, with Anne in his arms, he said, “Now that the distractions have been sorted out, what would you think if I were to insist that we marry? And very soon.”
“It is over! it is over!” she repeated again and again, in nervous gratitude. “The worst is over!”
“Oh, no; never; she has quite given up dancing. She had rather play. She is never tired of playing.”
His partner excused herself to join her cousins at the refreshment table.
Moving away from most of the party goers, Captain Wentworth took up a position which placed him out of the way, but still able to keep the piano in his line of sight.
Nodding a passing Hayter, he kept an eye on Anne at the piano.
So, you never tire of playing, eh. Then those must be tears of joy, he thought, watching her dab at the corner of her eye.
Pushing off, he moved to the refreshment table to begin implementing his plan.
“Mrs Musgrove,” Wentworth said, bowing.
“Yes, Captain Wentworth.” Charles’s wife brightened like a beacon. He suspected she took great pleasure in being singled out amongst the younger and prettier ladies gathered round the punch bowl.
“It has been brought to my attention that you play the piano, and that not only is the music beautifully rendered, but that your manner at the keys is most elegant as well.” He worried for a moment that the woman would be suspicious of his deliberate overstatement of her musical talent, and rather than feel flattered and amenable, would be put on her guard.
He need not have worried for Mrs Musgrove’s expression quickly shifted from initial surprise to that of a woman finally being recognised for her true worth. Stepping a bit closer, she said, “It has been said that my playing is remarkable and while I would be the last to sing my own praises, I must say I play as well, if not better than both my older sisters.” She did not seem to notice the tittering of the younger ladies gathered to hear the conversation.
Offering his arm, he said, “And that is precisely why I would request that you should play for me. I am a great lover of music, and must take every opportunity to fill my memory with the most excellent performances. The days, and particularly the nights are long at sea, and your talent will go far to help make them bearable.”
He felt a pang of guilt as she blushed and babbled, but if his stratagem worked, he would spend the rest of his life, surreptitiously, making up to the woman.
As they approached the piano, Anne looked up, puzzled.
“Anne, get up. I have been asked to play by the captain.” Mary Musgrove released his arm and took over the bench, barely giving her sister a chance to exit it.
“Do you have a particular piece you would care to hear, Captain?” The orderly stack of music was strewn about as Mary looked through the sheets.
“Something simple, Mrs Musgrove. Something that will remind me of my beloved country when I am far from her.” He again felt a pang as he exaggerated his desire for a tuneful reminder of home. “Perhaps something suitable for dancing.”
“But, if you are dancing, you cannot listen properly—”
“Surely you are not playing, Mary.” Miss Louisa spoke before it was necessary for him to convince Mrs Charles to lend her talents to the rest of the party.
“I most certainly am.” She took a sheet of music, examined it, frowned put it aside for another.
Turning to Anne, the girl said, “Oh, please, please, Anne, won’t you please play. It will be hopeless otherwise.”
Allowing no answer from her, Wentworth said, “It seems that Mrs Musgrove is determined, and besides,” he turned to Anne, “I would be honoured if you would give me the next dance.”
To that point, Anne had shown only interested silence. Now, she coloured and smiled, looking away.
“Please, Miss Elliot, I would be most pleased to return you to the dance floor.”
Taking a deep breath, she fixed her gaze on him and said, “Certainly, sir. I would be very pleased if you would escort me.” Taking his arm arm, there was an audible lament from the young ladies gathered about the piano.
The set was forming, and Mrs Musgrove, in revenge perhaps, had chosen a lively tune which would give them little or no opportunity to speak during the dance. It did not signify as more than a little meaning was conveyed by their touch, and looks, and smiles.
NOTE: No wonder I have such a devil of a time writing novels, I seem bent on getting the hero and heroine to a happy ending IMMEDIATELY. No patience.