Persuasion 200: Anne Visits Lady Russell


After sending the Musgroves to Lyme to visit with Louisa, Anne visits Lady Russell. How different Anne has become in the months since they last met.

Lady Russell opened her inlaid walnut teapoy. The dusty herbal fragrance of tea leaves wafted up, riding on the dust motes in the afternoon sun. How long had it been since she had last shared tea with Anne?

In the absolute sense, not that long. Only a few months. But it felt far, far longer. She spooned out the tea. Anne should be down in just a moment. How much had happened in just these few months? More important, how traumatizing had it been? Anne’s letters had been cheerful enough. She wrote all the right and proper things. Everyone was in good health—or at least they had been at the start of her visit before two serious falls had taken their tolls.  The weather was tolerable and the cottage was comfortable. Her hosts were as kind and thoughtful as ever they had been and her stay was pleasant.

But truly, what was one to make of such missives, when one knew the true nature of the characters involved a little too well? The Musgroves were decent enough people, but careless, and if the truth be told, a bit vulgar. The girls were barely genteel and though Charles Musgrove could pass for a gentleman if he refrained from too much conversation, their other son, the departed Dick Musgrove, had been simply dreadful. He was certainly a testament to the quality of his parents. One might only imagine what boorish conversation poor Anne might have had to endure, night after night, after of course, she played endless hours on the pianoforte to amuse the silly, flighty girls.

If that were not enough, Mary Musgrove was still an Elliot, despite leaving that name behind for marriage. She was every bit as vain, small minded and thoughtless as her eldest sister, with the added benefit of her hypochondrical tendencies. Where Elizabeth found a thousand mindless tasks for Anne, Mary preferred to see her sister as her nurse—or more appropriately nursemaid. 

Tolerating such a company would surely tax a saint, but to add the Crofts and their undesirable guest—what worse circumstances could have been forced upon her young friend? And all for the sake of economizing! She pressed her temple hard. Perhaps that would force her nagging guilt away.

“You are so considerate. That is my favorite tea that I smell, is it not?” Anne stood in the door way, eyes smiling.

How well she looked, bathed in a golden sunbeam. Very well indeed. Her figure was softer, less gaunt than before. Her cheeks had filled to a pleasing roundness and all sallowness of complexion had quite disappeared.

Perhaps the benefits of time away from her father outweighed the disagreeableness of her current company. Too bad it would end soon. Poor Anne did not like Bath, despite the benefits of society that it offered.

Lady Russell bit her lip and nodded.  Perhaps this second bloom would carry Anne through her stay and work to her great advantage. There were many eligible young men in Bath and introductions could be arranged. Sir Walter could be worked on easily enough if the right circumstance were to present itself.  After all, having one less set of expenses could only ease his current situation.

She would definitely have to put pen to paper this evening. How pleasing it would be to see Anne well settled.

“I made sure to lay in a stock of your favorite, my dear. Do come in. How I have missed taking tea with you. It seems as though Uppercross has quite agreed with you.”

Anne sat near her, but her expression seemed far away. “I do believe the change of scenery has done me good.”

“I am very pleased to hear it.” Lady Russell placed a teacup in Anne’s hand.

“So tell me of the news in Bath.” She settled back into her chair and let the teacup rest on her lap. Her face was arranged into the very image politeness, but her eyes lacked the animation than would have marked any true interest in the subject.

“I take it Elizabeth has not written you?”

Anne dropped a lump of sugar into her tea. “Elizabeth has far more pleasing pastimes, I am sure, than writing to me.”

“But surely you have written her.”

“Indeed I have. You can hardly imagine I would not—she was so insistent that I write her regularly. I expect there is a certain comfort in being assured that one will receive mail when one is away from home. But it does not follow a correspondence is necessarily returned.”

Lady Russell forced her frown away. “I am sorry to hear it.” Not surprised at all, but certainly sorry.

“Do not be. It is as I expected it would be. Neither of us has ever known Elizabeth to be a diligent correspondent, unless there was news of society to be had, and Uppercross is not society.” Anne sipped her tea and laughed softly. “In truth, there is some correspondence one does not necessarily wish to receive. I would much rather hear your impressions of…”

“Camden place?”

“Yes, that is the house they took, is it not? What do you think of it?”

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