AustenBlog is delighted to present an exclusive excerpt from the upcoming novel Captain Wentworth’s Diary by Amanda Grange, due to be released in June 2007. The scene starts whilst Louisa and the captain are gleaning nuts in a hedgerow near Winthrop.
“Your sister is an amiable creature; but yours is the character of decision and firmness,’ I said. ‘Let those who would be happy be firm. If Louisa Musgrove would be beautiful and happy in her November of life, she will cherish all her present powers of mind.’
I realized, when I had finished, how strange my words must have sounded to her, for I had been thinking of Anne as much as Louisa. Louisa was, indeed, silent for a while, but at last she spoke again, turning the conversation. She could not have hit upon a theme closer to my heart.
‘Mary is good-natured enough in many respects, but she does sometimes provoke me excessively by her nonsense and her pride – the Elliot pride. She has a great deal too much of the Elliot pride.’
I silently agreed.
‘We do so wish that Charles had married Anne instead.’
I was dumbfounded. Charles had wanted to marry Anne? I had never suspected it.
‘I suppose you know he wanted to marry Anne?’ asked Louisa.
I could not command myself immediately, but at last I said, to be quite clear, ‘Do you mean that he proposed to her and she refused him?’
‘Oh! yes; certainly.’
‘When did that happen?’
‘I do not exactly know, for Henrietta and I were at school at the time; but I believe it was about a year before he married Mary. I wish she had accepted him. We should all have liked her a great deal better; and papa and mamma always think it was her great friend Lady Russell’s doing, that she did not. They think Charles might not be learned and bookish enough to please Lady Russell, and that, therefore, she persuaded Anne to refuse him.’
Could it be true? Could Lady Russell once again have persuaded Anne to refuse a suitor?
‘When were Mary and Charles married?’ I asked nonchalantly.
‘Four years ago, in 1810,’ said Louisa.
I was left with much food for thought. I did not believe that Lady Russell would have objected to Charles Musgrove, for he was a well connected man with a respectable home and good prospects. Could it be that Anne had turned him down on her own account?
I stole a glance at her, trying to read the answer in her face. I was still trying to solve the riddle when I was startled by the sight of Sophia and Benjamin in their one-horse chaise. They pulled up beside us and asked if any of the ladies would like to be driven home.
‘There is room for one more, and, as we are going through Uppercross, it will cut a mile off the journey,’ said Benjamin.
The ladies declined, but as we crossed the lane I noticed that Anne looked fatigued. I spoke in an aside to my sister, and she said, ‘Miss Elliot, I am sure you are tired. Do let us have the pleasure of taking you home. Here is excellent room for three, I assure you. If we were all like you, I believe we might sit four. You must, indeed, you must.’
Benjamin added his voice to his wife’s, and I assisted Anne into the carriage. As I touched her hand, I felt all the power of my previous emotions returning. I recalled the times I had touched her before, when I had danced with her and walked with her, and I could not understand how we had become so estranged.
Had I been wrong to leave so suddenly in the year six? Had I been wrong not to go back? Had I been a fool not to write to her, as I had almost done, in the year eight, when I found myself with a few thousand pounds?
I had been held back by pride, and the fear of being rejected again. But if I had conquered my pride and routed my fear of another rejection, then might the last six years have been different?
I watched her as she drove off, still puzzling over what I had heard. She had had a chance to marry respectably, and yet she had declined it. Why? What did it mean? Did it mean that she did not like her second offer as much as her first?
But no, such thoughts were folly. She had shown neither interest nor enjoyment in my company since my arrival in the neighbourhood; indeed, she had done everything in her power to avoid me and to make any intimate conversation impossible. She had made her feelings clear. I was a fool to regret her.
We love the dear Captain, but really: don’t you just want to shake him silly sometimes?
Amanda also tells us that the audiobook for (Mr.) Darcy’s Diary will be out this month.