Wentworth thanks Mrs. Smith in the best way he can.
Anne sat in the parlor of her very own house in Bath. How much friendlier, if less well-appointed, it was than Camden Place. Even without the finest appointments, or perhaps because of it, the place felt like home in a way nowhere ever had. She might direct the servants—and the budget—as she pleased. There was comfortable moderation and economy in her home. That did not preclude entertaining, though. Friends—and Frederick had many—were always welcome, and very often present.
Mrs. Croft—she insisted on being called Sophy now—called often, so often Frederick offered her a room of her own with them, to which Sophy replied ‘only if she might share it with the admiral’. What a lovely couple they were. If she and Frederick might be like them in as many years, she would count herself well blessed.
It would be hard to leave it when the time came to set sail. But Sophy promised Anne would be well pleased by the opportunity to travel with him, so she determined she would set worry aside and enjoy what came.
“Mrs. Smith,” the housekeeper announced from the doorway.
Gracious, she had been lost in wool-gathering! “Do come in.”
Mrs. Smith tottered a bit in the doorway. The housekeeper caught her elbow. Anne rushed to her side.
Mrs. Smith shifted her walking stick to the other hand. “Perhaps I should have accepted more help on those steps. I am a bit more winded than I expected.” She laughed. “But I dare not complain. I have been unable to get around for so long now; it is a blessing to be able to walk, even a little”
“Well, do sit down. The chair I sent for you—”
“Was wonderful, I assure you. It was very gracious after you have already done so much.”
They made their way across the room and to the couch. Though still weak and frail, Mrs. Smith’s color was nearly as good as her spirits. Even the little that she was able to walk now was a delightful improvement.
Anne prepared tea. “What have we done? You stood up with me at our wedding when my own sister refused me. And I know it taxed you greatly.”
“No nearly so much as it taxed your sister.” Mrs. Smith snickered.
Perhaps not entirely kind, but wholly true. Anne swallowed back a laugh. Elizabeth had nearly refused to attend the wedding at all when she found out who would be standing with Anne. Only Lady Russell’s dire warning of how it would look in the society pages changed her mind.
“The lovely gown you had made for me is hardly nothing. I hope one day shall be well enough to have occasion to wear it again.” She took a tea cup from Anne. “Nurse Rooke has been asked ever so many questions about it and you and Capt. Wentworth.”
“Is there anyone or anything in Bath she does not know?”
“If there is, she will ferret it out before long, no doubt. It is one of her chiefest pleasures, you know.”
“And what of you? What are your chiefest pleasures now your health has turned for the better?”
Mrs. Smith brushed the idea aside. “I have little of interest to talk about. I should much rather hear of you. You are, after all, a new bride, with so many adventures ahead of you. Tell me, what is it like to be married into a naval family? You have been keeping some interesting company recently, have you not?”
“Not nearly as interesting as the news I bring.” Frederick boomed from the doorway.
His command deck voice sent delightful shivers down Anne’s spine. Had he any idea of what it did to her, he would probably use it all the time. As it was, he probably suspected.
She met him halfway across the room, and he twirled her around by the waist. Elizabeth hated it when he did that, but Sophy considered it a most proper form of marital greeting. Anne agreed.
“I have news to share! The housekeeper told me of Mrs. Smith’s arrival, so it could not wait a moment more.”
“You know I never object to your company.” She kissed his cheek. “Have tea with us and tell us what news must be shared in the presence of my friend.”
Frederick took a cup of tea, but could hardly sip it for the smile he wore. “Oh it is of no use. I am not a man for waiting.” He glanced at Anne. “Not anymore.”
“I would not suspend any pleasure of yours by standing on ceremony. You wish to speak and I am all too pleased to listen.” Mrs. Smith set her teacup on the table.
“You do not know this, Anne.” Frederick leaned forward on his elbows.” But before the wedding I met with Mrs. Smith to discuss her husband’s affairs.”
“His affairs? I thought—”
“Yes, they had utterly collapsed, largely on the count of Mr. William Elliot. He had the power, if he chose to exert it, to bring some of it to rights, but I have little power to persuade.” Mrs. Smith leaned forward.
“You have worked on my cousin? I know you are not fond of him.” But when could he have done such a thing? Mr. Elliot had been gone from Bath for some time.
Frederick snorted. “Hardly, he is as intractable as he is untrustworthy. Even if he agreed, I would have no faith in anything he said or did.”
“He has done little to warrant trust from any of us, especially considering Mrs. Clay.”
Frederick sneered. “You are too kind, my dear. He is despicable. I would hardly leave anything important in his hand.”
“You?” Mrs. Smith’s eyes grew very wide. “You have undertaken it?”
“Indeed and most honored to do so.” Frederick puffed his chest. His self-satisfied expression was so dear.
“What are you talking about?”
“On behalf of our very good friend, I have carried out the task of righting what Mr. Elliot has refused to be bothered with. This came in the post today.” He handed Mrs. Smith a letter with a bow.
Her hands shook as she opened it. “Oh! Oh! What you have accomplished! I cannot believe it!”
“What is it?” Anne looked from one to the other, struggling not to bounce like a child in her seat.
“It should be enough to allow you to live quite comfortably now. Perhaps not in grand style, but I never thought that your preference in any case.” Frederick folded his arms over his chest and grinned Anne’s favorite lop-sided grin.
“I do not know what to say. It is so much.” Tears flowed down Mrs. Smith’s cheeks.
“I am the one who is most grateful. You have been instrumental in giving me everything I have desired.” He took Anne’s hand and kissed it. “I can think of no one more deserving of my efforts.”
“Oh, Frederick! Why did not you tell me?” She clutched his hand.
“I like to surprise you. Since I had no way of knowing how this would resolve, I did not wish you disappointed. I never wish to see you disappointed again.” He caressed her cheek and winked. “And I wish to encourage those friendships that have done me so much good. I believe something a little stronger than tea is in order. A toast?” He strode to the decanters at the side of the room and poured three glasses.
Anne took the amber liquid, sparkling in the faceted glass.
Frederick lifted his glass. “To persuasion in all its right and proper forms.”
“Persuasion!” Right and proper indeed.