The Elliots are in trouble and Lady Russell wants to help.
Why was she forever having these difficult discussions with Anne? A god mother should anticipate her duties, enjoy pleasant intimacies with her goddaughter. Recently those moments seemed fewer and farther between, over shadowed by difficult and challenging issues that should have been a mother’s realm.
But with no Lady Elliot, who else was there to manage such unpleasant burdens? Only for the love of her friend, her dear, dear friend and her only deserving daughter did she persist.
She rearranged the tea table one more time. Anne would be there soon and their conversation must not be overheard by servants, even trusted servants. Not that any of them would be surprised by the contents of their conversation, they had probably already discussed it among themselves and with the staff of Kellynch. To be sure, every merchant of the village knew and probably most of London—no secrets remained. Still, the impropriety of it all and respect for the Elliot family required discretion.
The butler opened the door and ushered Anne into the parlor.
“Lady Russell!” Anne rushed toward her, hands extended.
Dear girl, always so warm and enthusiastic away from the shrewish eyes of her father and sister. Her eyes were worn, colored with disillusionment beyond her years. How unfair, when Anne worked so hard to prevent it all.
“I am so happy to see you.” She took Anne’s hands and kissed her cheek. “Do sit down. I had cook prepare your favorite sandwiches.” It was unlikely that the cook at Kellynch even knew Anne’s favorites, much less prepared them.
“What have I done to deserve such favor?” Anne laughed and removed her bonnet. Her smile was weary, the way it usually was these days. The joy had gone out of it some time ago and never returned.
A pang of guilt twinge in Lady Russell’s side. How was she to have predicted Wentworth’s success much less the lack of another suitable suitor? Now was not the time to indulge self-recriminations.
“Simply coming to keep me company is sufficient.” Lady Russell took her seat. “Did you hear? The Bourne’s are all recovering nicely from their colds. They are fortunate that none of them has taken a turn for the worse.”
“I am glad to hear that. They have suffered too much in the last year.” Anne looked over the table. “Did those clear cakes come from Bond’s?”
“Yes, they did. My cook cannot make them properly. I would purchase them nowhere else.” She poured tea. “Have you been to Bond’s recently?”
Anne looked aside, color rising on her pale cheeks. “No, no I have not.”
“Miss Elliot procures her own marzipan now? However did you convince her?”
“I did not. She…she decided her figure was suffering for taking too much marzipan and now eschews it.” Anne’s decidedly false smile returned.
Lady Russell laid her hand on Anne’s. “You do not need to maintain your façade with me.”
The smile slid from Anne’s face and rest of the mask slowly followed. “Oh, Lady Russell, it was so humiliating! Elizabeth forced me to accompany her and I could do naught be stand there stupidly while she berated first Miss Bond, then her father. They have been nothing but kindness to me, but now…”
“I had heard tell of a bit of a to-do.” To-do was an understatement, but no need to increase Anne’s discomfiture.
Anne rose and took up station at the window. “Then you heard of it in the most polite possible way. I do not understand why my sister and my father find it such an affront that a shopkeep would desire to be paid for their wares. They seem to think the privilege of our patronage alone should be sufficient and they should be thanking us for being seen in their shops!”
“Has this happened—”
“More than once? Absolutely. In fact, it is happening so often lately that I dread going into town anymore. It has been weeks since I last showed my face. Little good it has done as my father’s creditors have now taken to visiting the house. The butler has strict instructions not to allow them in, so they have begun to plague Father’s agent.” Anne dropped her face in her hands.
Read the rest at Austen Variations