Author: Izzy PM
Jane AustenPatrick O'Brian crossover. Some time after the end of the AubreyMaturin series and 15 years after the events of Sense and Sensibility, Margaret Dashwood has lost both sister and lover in one fell swoop. Too old to find a new suitor easily, shRated: Fiction T - English - Romance - Chapters: 2 - Words: 9,237 - Reviews: 1 - Updated: 10-29-04 - Published: 07-30-04 - id: 1988642
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Part 2:Those of Admiral Aubrey
The Grapes was a small, comfortable inn in the Savoy, which Dr. Maturin kept a room in year round, as he explained to Colonel Brandon. The landlady knew him very well; when they came in she greeted him warmly, saying that she had heard about the Admiral and she was very sorry and did Mrs. Aubrey want a room as well and were these people friends of the Admiral and why were they all wearing black? And then she was joined by two black girls whom Stephen introduced as his god-daughters, Sarah and Emily, and who under the landlady's direction took the driver away, while Stephen explained that Mrs. Aubrey would like a room, but the other three were merely dining with them. He introduced them, but on being asked again if they were friends of the Admiral, or of his, he shook his head and said, "No, Mrs. Broad, they are fellow mourners, but they mourning someone else entirely, and we have just made acquaintance in a slightly unorthodox manner."
Mrs. Broad did not seem to think this at all odd, and as she left with Mrs. Aubrey's manservant, whom apparently was called Killick, they distinctly heard her mutter to him, "Well, it's one of the less strange things he's done." They were now all seated together comfortably, with the promise of dinner as soon as it was ready.
"Admiral Aubrey?" asked Margeret. "You don't mean, by any chance, John Aubrey? The man who took a 32-gun frigate with only a 14-gun sloop?"
Mrs. Aubrey nodded. "Have you heard of him?"
"Why," laughed Marianne, "As a girl, when my sister wasn't pretending to be a pirate, I think she was pretending to be him much of the time!"
"So you know a good deal about him?"
But Margaret lowered her head, and said, "No. It wasn't too long after I first read about him that my family became a good deal poorer, and I could no longer read very many newspapers. My knowledge of him ends with his taking of the Fanciulla. I am glad to hear he became an Admiral. May I beg you to tell me a bit more about him?" A hesitation, and Margaret felt her impertinence. "That is, if it would not be...that is to say..." She wished dearly then she had held her tongue, for Mrs. Aubrey was looking very low.
"No, that is all right." Dr. Maturin sounded low as well, but he managed a slight smile. "I would be honoured to tell you about him."
He started with Jack Aubrey's earliest successes in said 14-gun sloop, the Sophie. as the three of them only knew of his taking said 32-gun frigate, and of the Fanciulla in a notoriously defective ship with a crew of raw landsmen. Here it came up that Aubrey's first command and his wife shared a name, and Mrs. Aubrey informed them her Christian name was in fact Sophia, "but he asked to call me Sophie immediately," and there was much laughter.
But this was only the beginning, and Margaret was shocked on how little informed she had actually been, to not even know that he had been struck from the Navy List and then reinstated. They spoke a good deal more on the man's accomplishments then the man himself, but out of sympathy noone pointed this out. Still, there was a great deal more laughter, as neither Dr. Maturin nor Mrs. Aubrey always entirely understood what they were talking about; she often fell back on quoting her husband's letters to her, and he on what he had seen without actually comprehending, he being magnificently ignorant on all matters naval despite having sailed with the Admiral from the year 1801, and while he was not amused as his own ignorance she was, and by the time they were ending the narration with the activities of the South Africa squadron, he was smiling tolerably at the other four's peals of laughter.
Dinner had been served at this point, and Dr. Maturin was attempting to demonstrate a battle between three ships from the squadron and a large pirate ship with pieces of bread, which was apparently a common practice. "The Implacable here was a match for the ship..."
"If the other two ships were smaller, shouldn't the bread pieces be smaller?" Marianne pointed out. Dr. Maturin's response was a reproachful look, but then Mrs. Aubrey removed one of them and replaced it with a smaller one, and she put the new piece far more behind the other two then he had "When you showed the battle to Hen, I think the Meleager was there."
"No, I was quite certain it was there."
They argued about this until Margaret cleared her throat, and Stephen continued, leaving the Meleager where it was. "As I was saying, the Implacable was a match for the pirates, and so we were of course more then a match for her, except that she had the weather-gage."
"And you're sure you can't remember exactly what that means?" Margaret interrupted him. This had been a disappointment to her, as she had known the term "weather-gage" from a very young age but had never had any real idea what it meant, and she would dearly have liked to know.
"I told you, Miss Dashwood, all I can be sure of is that it has something to do with the wind and it means the pirates were able to control the fight. But even so the Admiral gave some orders-something about tacking maybe, I'm not sure..." He tapped his fingers against the table, sending the Meleager flying until it was a good distance from the other three ships.
"Perhaps Mrs. Aubrey could say," suggested Colonel Brandon. "Did her husband not write such details to her in his letters?"
But Mrs. Aubrey shook her head, and Dr. Maturin's face darkened, and he said, "He never got the chance to write about this particular battle."
"That's how he died?" asked Margaret, unnecessarily.
"One of their shots took out our mizzenmast-I believe it was the mizzenmast."("It was," said Mrs. Aubrey.) "There was a shower of wood, and he was caught in it. I did all I could, but in the end it wasn't enough to stop him from bleeding to death. He knew it before he lost consciousness. At least he also knew we had taken the pirate ship. I told him he had done his duty, he smiled and replied, 'Thank God.' He died like Lord Nelson."
Silence fell on the table, the bread crumbs themselves forgotten. Then Mrs. Aubrey said, "But you have told us nothing of your sister, this Mrs. Ferrars. Though, you do not mean Mrs. Robert Ferrars?"
"You know Robert Ferrars?" asked Marianne. "No," she added after a moment before Mrs. Aubrey could answer. "Not his wife, his brother Edward's was my sister."
"Well then, I am glad Mrs. Robert Ferrars was not your sister, for I know more of her then I do her husband. Or rather, Mrs. Maturin, my cousin, was acquainted with her, and she did not speak very well of her."
"Rest assured you may say what you wish of Mrs. Robert Ferrars and we will not take offense." Marianne said. She bit her lip, almost as if she wished to say more. Margaret took over for her. "She used Edward Ferrars very badly, and we love him, as we do not love his brother. He will be joining us in London in a week, if you would like to meet him." For a moment she wondered if it was at all her place to extend this invitation, but while she did not say it, she was fascinated by this particular friend of her childhood hero and wished dearly the see him again.
But then the Brandons repeated the invitation, and Dr. Maturin and Mrs. Aubrey graciously accepted it. "I am glad for it," she said, "as we have business here concerning my husband's legacy that will keep us in London until the end of November, and I know very few people here. But as I was saying, tell me about your sister."
Most of the rest of the evening's conversation was about Elinor. Marianne did most of the talking, only occasionally bursting into tears, and this was allowed by everyone at the table. Margaret listened a good deal herself; she had not realized until then how much she had missed of the going-ons of her two sisters within the past couple of years, and she was filled with a regret and a determination to visit Delaford more often in the future.
They parted outside the Grapes in the evening after helping Dr. Maturin and Mrs. Aubrey remove their dunnage from the carriage, and were most friendly. Both of them stood on the pavement and Margaret leaned out of the carriage and waved goodbye to them before they turning the corner and headed for the Brandons' lodgings on Bond street.
The dinner at the Grapes had not been too short, and Marianne yawned and said, "Well, that was splendid. I do not think I have felt this cheerful since..." she trailed off, took a deep breath, blinked hard several times, then began again. "Certainly Mrs. Aubrey is so very friendly, and I do not think it impossible that I should call on her again even before Edward comes."
"And what of Dr. Maturin?" Margaret asked.
Marianne sighed, and said, "It is not that I dislike him, not by any means, but he did strike me as a bit odd. Perhaps he is different when not suffering his current loss, as he and the Admiral were clearly very, very dear to each other, but I do not think I ever met a man so quiet, and I have met many quiet men."
"Do you think there is anything wrong with being quiet?" Margaret asking, glancing at Colonel Brandon as she did so. He was in the back of the carriage, not entirely awake, as he sometimes tired in the evenings, especially when traveling.
"Oh no, not at all! I have not described it right, no. It is more as if he seems to truly say nothing at all beyound anything I have seen. All that time he was telling us about the Admiral, he was talking and talking and saying absolutely nothing. That alone I've seen before, but usually the talker brings thoughts to your mind about himself. He means not to reveal anything, but he does so anyway. Dr. Maturin I literally do not know what to think. No, that doesn't explain it properly either." She gave up attempting to explain, and both sisters were left to their thoughts.
Just before they woke Colonel Brandon, Marianne said again, "In truth, there was something about him, which I cannot even identify, let alone explain, that kept me from warmer feelings towards him."
All three of them went to bed immediately, but Margaret did not sleep for some time. Dr. Maturin stayed on her mind. She had wondered, after Marianne had spoken, if the same qualities that had put her sister off of him had interested Margaret beyound her initial delight at meeting such an important figure from the life of Jno. Aubrey. But mostly she marveled in the thought of this itself. A man who had been on every one of his ships, witnessed each of his victories, bound up all of his battle wounds. A man who had known that great mind, known the man behind the leader of men, shared his joy and comforted him in his sorrows, stood by his side when the world had turned against him(and it had more then once, according to Dr. Maturin's narration). How she longed to see him again!
But she did not see him again for the entirety of the following week. Colonel Brandon was quite busy, and neither she nor Marianne found themselves in much of a mood for going out much of the time, though Margaret forced herself into occupation as much as she could, writing home to her mother, mending anything torn she could find in the house, and reading through the collection of books the Brandons kept in town. But now that regret had found her, it proved very difficult to ward off. She often caught herself letting her head and hands fall idle, to contemplate on how she could have allowed George a quicker courtship, a sooner understanding, or managed to visit her sisters at this time or that time when she instead had not left home. Nor was Dr. Maturin absent from her thoughts. It was the quietest times of day when he would steal upon her mind, and she would recall how much time there still was to pass before the promised visit.
When Edward arrived a day early, having been urged to an early departure by Mrs. Dashwood, she had to hold herself back from suggesting Mrs. Aubrey and Dr. Maturin be invited a day earlier, instead of giving Edward an extra day to rest before preparing himself for company.
But as it happened, he was not granted this before he was forced to be in the company of that person who could be the least pleasant company of all for him. Lucy Ferrars called less then half an hour after his arrival, though she was genuinely surprised to find him there, having had no more reason then anyone else to believe he would be in London before the following day. She had in fact timed her visit to avoid him.
She dealt with seeing him remarkably well, greeting him with all the warmth his situation required of a sister-in-law, giving her consolations, calling him, "My dear, dear brother," and asking how he was most solicitously. His answers were short, bordering on rude, but she took no notice.
She gave her consolations also to the other three, and inquired after Mrs. Dashwood's health, as well as the health of everyone at Barton and Delaford, and looked positively alarmed to hear from Edward, who had stopped briefly in Delaford before journeying to London, that Miss Williams had been looking out of sorts again. The Brandons looked even more alarmed, and Edward was quick to reassure them that he did not think it was anything serious. "It has been a while since she has had a letter from her son. The next one should set her to rights, I think."
"Poor, poor, Miss Williams." said Mrs. Ferrars, but now they were obliged to inquire first after Robert, then after her children, and she had been there a quarter of an hour when she had managed to annoy both sisters by going into a great amount of detail of the illness of her youngest daughter, until Marianne asked if she intended to stay very long.
Mrs. Ferrars very narrowly avoided reddening at this remark, and admitted, to the surprise of none of the other four, that no, she had enjoyed their company so much she had forgotten the time, but she really could not stay. "I have been horribly busy these last few days, but with the losses you have suffered I felt I must see you all, and I also wished to extend an invitation."
She then went on to explain that a good number of people she was acquainted with had all coincided in their visits to town, and she was having a party in three days time. "Pray consider it, Mrs. Brandon, I am sure your sister would not want to see you moping around at home all of the time; she was a woman of the highest sense."
Marianne did not return Mrs. Ferrars' false warmth, saying merely that they would of course consider it, and Mrs. Ferrars took her leave. "Do we go?" Marianne asked when she was gone.
Edward was for, Margaret against. Colonel Brandon suggested that they consider it as they said they would, and they agreed this idea was the best.
Marianne finally got around to calling on Mrs. Aubrey the following day, and was away for a surprising length of time, during which Margaret was stunned by her own agitation, and by the intensity of her disappointment when Marianne returned with the news that Mrs. Aubrey was coming alone, Dr. Maturin being too occupied in their business in London. Only then did she face that she had longed to see him again as ardently as a lover, though of course her feelings for him were nothing of the sort; indeed, she thought her eagerness more suited to the child who had worshiped Aubrey.
Mrs. Aubrey arrived not very long after breakfast, and she and Edward gave each other their warmest sympathies. She then asked if Edward had any children, and was surprised to hear he did not. She herself had two daughters who were nearing completion of their education, and a son who was a midshipman on the HMS Charlotte. "If you do not mind my asking, how long were you and your wife married?"
"Thirteen years." He smiled, his first smile since Elinor's death. "During which my brother-in-law often mocked me for my lack of children, while he had five. Though I don't know if I would have been as happy with children. I was never certain of how to raise them."
"Is anyone ever certain before they have them?" said Colonel Brandon. Mrs. Aubrey then asked after the Brandons' situation, and more sympathies were given. "I have been very lucky." she said at last. "To have lost none. There was one time with Fanny that I think she came very close to dying, and my husband away in the Baltic, the Maturins in Sweden, and when I related her symptoms to the Doctor upon his return, he marveled that she should have survived. But my husband always had tremendous constitution, and my mother withstood many illnesses, so perhaps we should not have been so surprised."
"My wife was of good constitution as well," said Edward. "I can only remember her being ill once. As for my mother...well, I have not seen her in a good while, and as she is not in town, I do not expect to, and I know surprisingly little on how she does." He fell silent, as his next words must necessarily be ill towards the elder Mrs. Ferrars. "But at least she is still alive; you speak as if yours is not."
"No," said Mrs. Aubrey, "she died in the same accident as Mrs. Maturin."
"Your mother, cousin, and husband within a few years of each other," murmured Marianne. "Why, you are even more surrounded by loss then my sister."
Mrs. Aubrey smiled, and replied, "And you to lose a sister and two daughters within a few years of each other. We are all of us surrounded by loss, Mrs. Brandon."
"Have you seen any of your family since your arrival in London, Mr. Ferrars?" she asked after a second's pause. "Your brother, perhaps?"
"His wife." answered Edward, and here he let a little coldness slip into his voice. "She invited us to a party tomorrow night."
"She sent Dr. Maturin and I an invitation as well," laughed Mrs. Aubrey. "I accepted it, but I wonder if I should have. Did you accept yours?"
Marianne must have seen the look on Margaret's face, because she said, "We didn't give her an answer. I suppose none of us really want to go, truth be told."
"But if we don't go, they may be all alone there," Margaret protested. "You said you knew very few people in town, did you not?"
This was not was Marianne was expecting, and she said, "Well, Margaret, you were the one who said you were against it. Have you changed your mind?"
"If we can keep these good people company." answered Margaret. She could not bring herself to confess that her words were spurred by no disinterested generousity, but that instead her heart was leaping at the thought of seeing Dr. Maturin again after all.
A few more words around and as Mrs. Aubrey delightedly watched, the four of them settled on accepting the invitation, and Marianne declared that she should write their acceptance and send it off immediately, though she supposed this meant them bidding their farewells. This they did with a pair of "Until tomorrow night"s, and all the genuine warmth that had been completing lacking from their interview with Mrs. Ferrars two days ago, and that night at dinner Marianne expressed a wish that all visitors could be like Mrs. Aubrey. "Under no obligation to come, doing so merely because she wants to, and oh, so friendly. I had dreaded Lucy's party but now I think I shall enjoy it very much."
"I think she has a very good heart," Edward agreed. "I will be glad to see her again as well."
When she went to bed that night, Margaret wondered if any of them besides her were interested in seeing Dr. Maturin. It took her a good deal of time to fall asleep, during which she was astonished to hear what sounded like Edward crying. Of course, Edward had every reason to cry, but he hadn't before this. He'd slept in the room next to hers at Barton, and she'd never heard him.
Perhaps he too had been too busy to properly grieve, as she had been. Of course, she had grieved anyway, but she had always been far more given to emotion then he had.
It was hard lying there, listening to him and being unable to think of a way to help him. To distract herself Margaret tried to contemplate the emotional behavior of everyone she knew, starting with her two sisters(though thinking about Elinor is such a calm manner was still difficult). They were obvious: Marianne, though age had calmed her somewhat, still reacted passionately to relatively small things, while almost no tragedy could have disturbed Elinor's stiff upper lip. The only time Margaret had seen her cry, it had been with tears of happiness. Though Margaret was certain she'd cried for the Brandon girls, and she merely hadn't seen that.
Both of her brothers-in-law tended to have a calm exterior; Edward's behavior over the last month was testament enough to this. But she had at times seen both of them let their guard slip, and Colonel Brandon made no attempt at all to hide his tenderness where his wife was concerned. Margaret secretly suspected he had been far more openly passionate in his youth, and that age had closed him. Though age did not close everyone; Margaret did not think it had done much to her mother.
Yet perhaps age had taken its toll on Dr. Maturin and Mrs. Aubrey? Of course, it was impossible to tell anything on such short acquaintance with them. But as Margaret though further, she decided it was unlikely Dr. Maturin had ever been openly emotional. She had seen Elinor be less closed up with people she very much disliked. Concealment such as that Dr. Maturin practiced, perhaps unconsciously, simply could not be built up over a lifetime. It had to be inborn, somehow.
What kind of friendship had he and Admiral Aubrey really had? She still knew very little about the Admiral. But then, that he had loved the Admiral dearly could not be disputed. He would have had to be a creature made of ice to conceal that from anyone who listened to him speak about him. Perhaps it had simply been loyalty; Margaret knew that the finest officers always had followers; in the Navy they would follow a captain from ship to ship, and Dr. Maturin had even mentioned one or two names more then once in his accounts, obviously some of the Admiral's followers. Was Dr. Maturin merely the most constant of them?
But then, that would not explain why he was traveling around with Mrs. Aubrey, or why they seemed to be on such intimate terms. No, clearly there was some element of friendship beyound mere loyalty.
If Admiral Aubrey actually had got past his boundaries, he was a more remarkable man then even little Margaret had imagined. And if it could be done...Margaret had a brief fancy of she herself doing it, but a second later she dismissed it. She was not 16 anymore, and she knew better then to just assume that older man, or younger man, for that matter, from her fantasies would simply love her so much he would have to reveal everything to her. And when it came to that, why would he even be attracted to her anymore? Men with dark pasts weren't attracted to old maids.
And of course she was assuming he had a dark past. Given how many men in the world really had dark pasts that was unlikely at best.
She felt even more like an old maid when she dressed for Mrs. Ferrars' party the following evening. Margaret Dashwood had two evening dresses, and she cared to wear neither of them. She had only brought one of them to London, the older one, a pale green thing, approaching ten years of age, which she knew would attract unflattering stares and have Mrs. Ferrars and Fanny Dashwood, who was certain to be there, chattering away about their unfortunate unmarried relation for days. Lack of any black evening wear had forced her to put off mourning garb, unlike Marianne, who did have a black evening gown and was wearing it, but she tied her hair up with a black cloth, and tried to convince herself that her hair, which had never quite consented to be put in order, did not look absolutely appalling.
She had almost succeeded when she saw her sister. Even after two pregnancies Marianne cut a finer figure then her sister, her looks, though no longer young by any means, were still very fine-her beautiful complexion was unchanged, and her hair behaved perfectly. She would be much more beautiful then Mrs. Ferrars, and for this Margaret was glad.