She was feeling extremely nervous as she was helped from the carriage, and even more so as she was led towards the entrance of Almack's Assembly Rooms, her elbow linked with the elbow of Lady Russell. Anne ventured a shy look in the direction of her respective godmother and was met with a comforting smile. Lady Russell patted her hand affectionately.
"Come, dearest Anne," said she, "I can sense you are all a-tremble, but you must not be so." She paused carefully. "Or can it be that you already regret your decision of this morning?"
Anne swallowed, wincing as her dry throat caused her discomfort. Yet, she replied, "No. How could I discard your good counsel, Lady Russell? Having heard your strong arguments in favour of my breaking off the engagement with Mr Wentworth, I find that I agree with you heartily. I feel I should follow your wisdom, for you have always sought only to find happiness for me, and nothing less."
Lady Russell responded with a beaming smile and thus, they entered the Assembly Rooms. Sir Walter and Elizabeth were already lost from Anne's view and she was certain they had already found common form of entertainment for themselves. As they resembled each other greatly in temperament and delights, it was quite natural that they should find the best of company in each other.
As Lady Russell introduced Anne to an old acquaintance from Bath, Anne perceived the form of Mr Wentworth approaching her and her body was instantly seized by palpitations of delight, as well as of dread. She watched him walk towards her, a gentle, loving smile resting on his lips, his body clad in his smart naval uniform. She looked upon him with yearning and much affection, and she knew that her love for him was so deep that it would be impossible to refuse his own love for her for ever. However, Lady Russell also perceived the young naval officer's presence and his fast approach to their group, and with one meaningful look, Anne's doubts in her godmother, and in herself, were silenced.
By now, Mr Wentworth had reached Anne and bowed to her, then to Lady Russell respectively. Anne curtsied clumsily. It seemed that tonight, her legs were made of water and she found it incredibly hard to move, as her every limb trembled excessively. She hoped no one had noticed her inner turmoil and distress.
"Might I require the pleasure of the next dance with you, Miss Anne?" Mr Wentworth asked and Anne wished to indulge him, but she knew she must not dance with him, or her resolve would crumble and she would be a disappointment to her family and Lady Russell, and she could not bear that.
She replied, "Thank you, sir, but I should like to speak to you first. If that is possible."
Mr Wentworth agreed, bowed to Lady Russell and led Anne to the tea room that was, to Anne's horror, hardly occupied in that moment. She would truly have to face Frederick all alone and she was not convinced anymore that she could do so. She looked into his expressive eyes, felt the skin of his warm hand on her hand, and tears shimmered in her eyes, but she hurried to blink them away. She knew Lady Russell was right. Anne might now have listened to her father so seriously, perhaps, as he always found reason to complain about his middle daughter, but the kind persuasion of Lady Russell had made her realise that it was, indeed, prudent to break off the engagement. After all, she was nineteen, young to be married as of yet, and Mr Wentworth was, as well, a very young person, like herself. Moreover, he was a moneyless naval officer without family or connections, and whose prospects were so uncertain.
Lady Russell warned her that a fine, sensible young woman of such elegant mind would soon find herself living a life of hardships, being married to a naval officer, and would soon come to regret it. The threat of Napoleon was looming above them and Anne's husband – should she marry Mr Wentworth – would leave her alone and unprotected for a very long time, should he ever return home alive. Anne refused to believe that could be possible. Surely, she would be lonely without him, but she was also certain that her love for him, and his love for her, could endure it all. She could follow him, for he had offered to take her with him to Belgium, where she would stay with other wives of soldiers and would be safe and closer to him than in England. Lady Russell summoned her to discard such romantic notions, as Anne "should not allow herself to become a victim of sensibility, especially in excessive measures". With exasperation, Lady Russell predicted Anne's death in Belgium, should she really go there as Mrs Wentworth. Her godmother's tears almost broke Anne's tender, compassionate heart.
"My dear, to become engaged at nineteen, in the middle of a war, to a young naval officer who has no fortune and no expectations... You would indeed be throwing yourself away. And I should have been failing in my duty as your godmother if I did not counsel against it."
"And," added Lady Russell, "if you marry Mr Wentworth as he is now, your father should be very loath to welcome you and your husband at Kellynch. Sir Walter is adamant that you should marry sensibly and choose for your husband a person closer to your rank."
Anne and Mr Wentworth were seated and she focused on arranging their tea things, while he ordered for fresh tea to be brought to them. She refused to look at him openly, for fear of exposing her distress to him, and was only willing to converse with him when the tea was brought, and with it, a topic for discussion. However, Mr Wentworth would not be deceived for long, for he knew that the intelligent mind of Anne would rarely be willing to discuss such trivial matters with him. Their minds and hearts were in harmony and they always found great delight in their conversations, especially during their walks outside of Bath, where they first met. The nature surrounding them and a volume of poetry inspired their minds to sublime contemplation. Therefore, he sensed, due to Anne's rambling about tea, that something was amiss with his betrothed on that eve.
He took her trembling, cold hands into his and asked her politely to explain the reason of her distress. Finally, she looked into his eyes, her face pale and worn from worry. She rebuked her heart and commanded her mind to take charge of herself, and of the situation before her.
Firmly, she spoke, "I have found that I do not wish to be married as of yet. It is too soon. What is more, we are in the middle of a war and I find it to be a very inadequate time for nuptials. The threat of Napoleon inspires me with fear and I should prefer to remain at home, surrounded by the safety of Kellynch."
At first, Frederick was taken aback, but his features relaxed soon enough. "I can well understand your fears," said he. "I have contemplated this matter myself and I often felt guilty and afraid at the thought of leaving my wife alone, and in Belgium. I am sure this prospect frightens you, as it frightens me. Perhaps it would be best if you stayed with your father or in Bath, with Lady Russell, during my absence. Although, I know how heartily you dislike Bath." He smiled.
As Anne said nothing, Frederick continued. "I know that the waiting will be dismal, for both of us, but I should be comforted knowing that, in England, I had a wife, waiting for me, with love."
Anne gasped wretchedly and tears crawled down her cheeks that she hurried to conceal. "The war may last for years!" she exclaimed.
She remembered her conversation with Lady Russell, as Frederic's words had already assaulted the walls of her decision. He was right, and deep inside her, she felt his words to be more right than those of Lady Russell. But Frederic's words bespoke sensibility, whereas Lady Russell's advice was the messenger of reason and prudence, and she found herself compelled to respect the counsel of her godmother, who had been her mother ever since the demise of Lady Elliot.
"Shh, my dear Anne," Frederick cooed. "Pray, calm yourself, my love."
"Frederick," said Anne, enjoying the pleasure of addressing him by his Christian name, "I cannot marry you. I..." She took a deep breath. "I wish to break off our engagement."
Frederick's face was visibly turned to porcelain. "Anne... No, do not fret, I beg of you. We do not have to marry as of yet. We can marry after the war. I am willing to wait."
Anne shook her head. She could hardly speak, such a burden it was to hold back the tears that wanted to be unleashed. "Frederick, you understand me not. I must... No, I wish to break off our engagement. Permanently. I cannot marry you now, and I cannot wait for you. I am ever so sorry..."
His face went rigid. He looked at her sternly. Anne saw a storm raving in his orbs.
"You are angry..." she spoke, looking away.
He laughed sarcastically. "I do hope you did not expect my absolute joy and will to comply."
She winced. "Indeed – "
"Is it you who wishes to break off our engagement, or is it your family, with Lady Russell as its commander?"
"I have always known about their dislike of me, but that it should have come to this..."
Carefully, Anne touched his hand, but he removed it from her reach and offered her another angry look. She could see so much hurt in his eyes, the same hurt that was throbbing in her heart. If only she were stronger...
"Frederick, I believe my godmother may be right... But – "
She wanted him, now, to convince her into believing in him, into marrying him despite her family's wishes, but he was too angry and broken–hearted to afford her a chance to explain herself. She had so much to tell him. She wanted to beg for his forgiveness, but she had already disappointed him.
"Yes, we should break off the engagement," he spoke sternly, "for I would not wish to marry a woman whose mind and love are so weak as yours."
"No! It is not true! My affection for you – "
"Your affection?" he interrupted. "What sort of affection for me do you possess when you are so easily persuaded into jilting me? I know I should not have aimed so high, but at least I am content to know it was for love, and not for pecuniary benefits. I am sure a baronet would suit you far better than a poor, unimportant naval officer."
Anne moaned gently, wiping away the treacherous tears that should not be seen in public.
"You are right to doubt my love... But you must understand how divided I am. I wish to please my family and be true to my heart at the same time. How can I accomplish that? Please, help me."
"I cannot help you," Frederick responded resentfully. "I would tell you to be true to your heart, but you cannot do that, can you? You value the opinion of your family, who cannot value your nature, far more than your prospect of happiness. For I believe we could be happy together, despite the war."
Anne was desperate. "Perhaps I spoke too hastily. I do not think it prudent for us to marry now, but we could wait until after the war, as you have suggested it."
Frederick chuckled miserably. "Cease this madness, madam. One minute, you wish to break off the engagement, the next, you wish to simply wait. But I know that, should you choose the latter alternative, Lady Russell would find a way to plant seeds of doubt into your heart again. Could you endure her persuasion? Could you truly?"
At that moment, they perceived the graceful figure of Lady Russell approaching them. Anne looked at Frederick miserably. She wished to say more, before her godmother came and her last chance of recovering her happiness was lost; but she remained horribly silent. Frederick looked at Anne and knew that she had made her decision.
"I see," he spoke silently. He raised himself on his feet and bowed. "Thank you, Miss Elliot. I shall leave you now."
As he turned to leave, she called him by his name and touched his shoulder. He turned around, contemplating her desperate orbs for a moment. Then, as Lady Russell finally came to their side and Anne's gaze averted into her direction immediately, the fire of hope in his eyes died; he bowed once more and left. Anne's gaze followed him until he disappeared in the crowd. Then, she fell back on her chair, limp.
"Oh, Anne," Lady Russell spoke gently.
Anne wried a smile. "Please, Lady Russell... Please, I shall be fine. But I beg of you, let us go home. Let us return to Portland Place. And, should it be possible, to Kellynch. Tomorrow."
"Of course." Lady Russell said nothing more.
Anne managed to remain numb through the night. In the morning, it was agreed that Anne could return to Kellynch, although in the middle of the season. She would be accompanied by Lady Russell, whereas Sir Walter and Elizabeth would stay on in Town. They could never face the ton again if they left London at the height of the season. Their vanity made them blind to the hidden sorrows of Anne.
As Anne was almost ready to leave the house at Portland Place, a letter came for her, together with a package. She recognized Mr Wentworth's handwriting immediately and she hurried to her room, breaking the seal of the letter as she ran. Once in the solitude of her room, she read,
I return to you the letters you sent to me during the period of our acquaintance. I also return to you the miniature with your image and the lock of your hair, tied with a red ribbon, that you so kindly offered to me a month ago. I ask you to return my letters, and the miniature with my image. I end this short letter with a kind greeting and wish you well.
With a shaky hand, Anne opened the package and there found her letters, the miniature, and the lock of her hair. Suddenly, her wretched deed found her and defeated her. She fell on the floor by the bed, caught in a spasm of agony and tears. The man she loved with all her heart was truly gone from her life and the very idea of not seeing him again tore her heart apart again and again and again. She hated Lady Russell, her father, and Elizabeth. She knew her hatred for them was not real and would dissipate very soon, but she would never stop despising herself; nor did she wish to.
I am sorry, Frederick. Forgive me. I love you. I love you. I shall always love you... Come back...
She heard Lady Russell calling her and she quickly pulled herself together. She shoved the returned objects into her reticule. Before she opened the door, she took a deep breath, to calm her aching heart and her stormy interior. She closed her eyes, and as she unclosed them, she once more shewed herself numb to the public. She would smile, she would be kind, but inside, she would never stop loving him, and hoping, and yearning. She would mourn the loss of her dearest friend, and lover, for ever.
When Anne was returned to Kellynch, she began to write a journal, for the first time in her life. What remained to her of Frederick were her memories and she would never share them with anyone but herself – not even her mother, friend and confidante, Lady Russell.
So, she began to write,
May 15th, 1807
I dreamt about Frederick...