A/N: This was mostly inspired by ITV's Persuasion(2007), but I have also read and loved the novel. The opening dialog is taken from the movie, but the rest from Frederick's POV is like a new scene, though still influenced by the movie, like the part with Anne's letters. ~P
CAPTAIN WENTWORTH AT KELLYNCH HALL
A Version By Paillette
Admiral Croft and Mrs. Croft were touring the recently let Elliot estate, Kellynch Hall, when they entered the master bedroom. A sensible couple, Mrs. Croft admired the view from the windows while the Admiral remarked on the apparent vanity of its last occupant.
"Such a number of looking-glasses!" Admiral Croft exclaimed, lifting the dust cover from one of the many mirrors in the room. "There's no getting away from oneself!"
"I think this room will do well for Frederick," Mrs. Croft said, mentally making a note to remove most of the mirrors.
"If he ever comes," the Admiral noted. "Your brother seems dead-set against the idea of Kellynch."
"I'm afraid Somerset has unpleasant memories for him. There was once talk of an engagement to a girl in the county."
"Eight years ago or so," Mrs. Croft added dismissively. "You and I were in the East Indies at the time. He's never spoken of it… His heart was quite broken at the time."
"Well, Frederick engaged." The Admiral shook his head with good-natured disbelief at the thought of his brother-in-law. "Who would have thought of it?"
"Indeed," Mrs. Croft added with a sigh. "I sometimes wonder if he will ever settle down." The couple proceeded to walk the length of the room and to note the furniture before moving on. A few moments later, Mrs. Croft was inclined to discover the room that was to be their own, so the comfortable couple walked from the room arm in arm to explore the rest of their new home.
Captain Frederick Wentworth stood outside the gates to the Kellynch grounds, unable or unwilling to lead his horse onward. He had only just begun his presumptively permanent stay on land when his sister had informed him of their being settled at the estate, and now he had reluctantly come to visit. His eyes lingered over the windows of the great hall, though he told himself that he was not looking for one in particular.
Though it was dark outside, a servant from the stable noticed that he was standing at the gate. Mortified, the servant ran quickly to admit him to the grounds and took his horse. The captain had not been waiting for admittance, but now he found himself compelled to move forward and enter the hall. He was warmly received by his sister and her husband, and after a general tour of the house all sat down to dinner together.
"See here Wentworth, is this not a nice change from a drafty frigate?" the Admiral gestured to the large dining room. Frederick spared the fine room a glance and a short nod in agreement.
"Now Frederick," his sister gently chastised. "Surely you must be glad the war is over, and that we can all now settle comfortably?"
"You see how she is," the Admiral smiled at his wife. "Sophie has been settling that you should stay at Kellynch until you are settled yourself. She won't rest until she sees you domesticated."
"And why should he not? We've all certainly earned it, with the Emperor safely in exile. Not that I minded living on a ship with you, dear, but I won't be sorry to live out our days on land and in peace."
"Well, Kellynch Hall is temporary," the Admiral said as he turned back to his dinner plate. "The Elliot family means to return someday, and I don't plan to be a renter forever. This is just a nice place to learn our land legs again."
Captain Wentworth's curiosity got the better of him. "And where has the family gone, the Elliots?"
"Gone to Bath, if I recall," Mrs. Croft supplied. "At least Sir Elliot and one of his daughters have. The man who settled the estate with us, Mr. Shepherd, said that another daughter is staying close by for a time."
"Which daughter?" Frederick asked before he could stop himself.
"My, Frederick," Mrs. Croft studied her brother closely. "I had no idea the subject so interested you."
Frederick became busy with shaking his napkin and refolding it in his lap. "I only ask because I stopped at the town of Uppercross just up the road earlier this evening and met with a Mr. Musgrove. When he learned that I would be a guest here, he extended an invitation for me to dine with his family tomorrow evening."
"Well that is exactly where Mr. Shepherd told us Miss Anne Elliot would be staying!" Mrs. Croft exclaimed. "You shall have to extend our compliments to the family while you are there. We have invited them to dine with us at Kellynch, but have not yet settled on an evening."
Frederick made no reply, but became busy with finishing his lamb stew. When he agreed to visit his sister in her new home, he did it with the knowledge that there may be some chance of crossing Anne's path again. It was a strange feeling to both want to avoid the chance and to still think about it constantly. He could not deny the past, as time and distance had done nothing to heal the wounds associated with Anne.
After dinner, Mrs. Croft led her brother to the room where he would be staying. He looked around and found a large portrait of the previous master of Kellynch Hall looming over the fireplace mantle. Frederick involuntarily winced. "How do you like it?" Mrs. Croft asked, following Frederick's gaze to the portrait but not quite noticing his discomfort. "Of course we are limited as to how much re-decorating we can do, but most of the furnishings are fine enough, though a bit out of date."
Frederick cleared his throat. "Is there perhaps a smaller room?" he asked, looking now to the windows.
"The only other rooms are Elliot girls' rooms, and I didn't think they would be fitted up exactly to your tastes."
"Perhaps a guest room, then. Truly, this room is a bit drafty."
"Frederick!" Mrs. Croft exclaimed good-naturedly. "And to think you spent eight years at sea!" She patted him on the arm and left him in the room, assuming he was only teasing her. Captain Wentworth was now alone and seemingly stuck with the smirking countenance of Sir Walter Elliot. Studying the likeness, he could not find a single element in the old man's face that had a bit of Anne in it. Perhaps the cheekbones, if not for the haughty look Sir Walter gave to them.
Realizing his thoughts had drifted back to Anne, Frederick turned his back abruptly to the portrait. He shrugged off his dinner jacket and tossed it over the back of a chair. He found that his luggage had been brought up, though it was not much—mostly new clothing purchases since he'd had few possessions during his 8 years in the navy. Now he had made his fortune in the war with France, and he had all the trappings of a gentleman. Frederick sat on the edge of the bed and gave in to glaring at the portrait opposite. He knew that in certain circles he would never be more than the second son of a curate. Not that that had ever mattered to Anne.
Frederick lay back on the bed, not quite summoning the energy to undress. He closed his eyes, but after lying there for a few moments, he sighed heavily and sat up again. The room was too oppressive, and his mind was too busy. He decided to walk. He left the room and walked down the hall and across the foyer, absently staring out the windows as he moved. Soon, he found himself in the wing of the house opposite the master bedroom. He saw candlelight beneath one doorway, and realized he had found the Croft's bedroom. He continued to walk slowly down the hallway, peering into various doorways at a parlor here or a library there.
He arrived at the end of the hallway and opened the last door. It was another bedroom, though apparently the Crofts had not been to it yet—there were dust covers over the bed and few pieces of furniture left. Frederick moved slowly about the room, raising a sheet to find an old dressing table, cabinets, and bookshelves. His mind was rather blank when he sat on the edge of the small bed. It was a moment before he realized he was staring at a wall. He blinked and mentally shook himself. The room was frigid, and probably had not seen a fire lit since its last occupant had quit it indefinitely.
Frederick breathed slowly and closed his eyes, trying to clear his head. The room did not smell like anything in particular, but the air felt more substantial, as if it somehow had more oxygen than the master bedroom had. He now noticed a stack of chests against the wall in front of him. Leaning forward, he lifted the latch on the one closest to his feet. He saw immediately the small portrait of a woman and two children, and a stack of letters tied with ribbon. The parchment of the letters appeared yellowed and faded, but there was no dust on the chest or its contents.
Frederick realized these chests must be luggage that waited to be removed from Kellynch. His first thought was to close the chest, and he was in the middle of doing so before another thought struck him. He opened the chest again and pulled out the small portrait. It was of a young, pretty mother and her two daughters, one with light hair and the other with dark. They were all smiling, though the younger one was shyly edging behind her mother.
He set the portrait aside and reached for the stack of letters. Immediately his breath caught in his throat as he recognized his own handwriting. The words "To Miss A.E." were scrawled over the first one. He quickly undid the ribbon and unfolded the letter. His eyes moved quickly and painfully over the contents. "Trust these to be my last words to you, I will not darken your eyes with them again, F.W."
Swallowing difficultly, Frederick hastily refolded the letter and stuffed it back in the chest. The contents may as well have been a wave of cold water for the chill that was now running through his veins. He looked around the room now and saw it for what it was—Anne's room, with Anne's bed, Anne's air, and Anne's dust. He carefully spread his fingers over the cover on the bed, focusing on overcoming the swelling that had risen to his throat. He should have been prepared for this, to expect to find her in every room and every shadow. Now he was in the center of a gravity that was entirely her, and he could not pull himself away from it.
It did not change anything, he reaffirmed to himself. That she kept his letters did not relieve her of the guilt for having rejected him. Worse, she had rejected him only after having accepted him. The blow had been crushing and permanent. He had gone on to war only to take only the most dangerous and grueling assignments, battering away his feelings and memories with cold salt spray and thundering cannons. He had hoped the powerful emotions of fear and anxiety would overcome him, but they could only numb his pain. War had taken him to Spain, France, Africa, and the East Indies; it had won him fortune and a title, but it had not taken him far from his memories; it had not won him the woman he loved. Time only turned pain to bitterness.
Captain Wentworth squeezed shut his burning eyes as he lay back on the bed. The cold air could hardly touch his flushed skin. However, another moment or two calmed him. He stared up at the ceiling, breathing steadily. Almost involuntarily, he unbuttoned his vest and reached into a tiny stitched pocket. A gold ring tumbled out and landed on the bed. Without looking at it, he turned the ring over and over again in his hand. It was not big enough to even slide onto his smallest finger.
He kicked off his boots and pulled back the bed covers. Laying his head on the pillow, the captain breathed deeply, and in another moment, he was asleep.