Anne entered the library, approached her husband and gave him a chaste kiss. "How are you making out my dear?"
Frederick put aside the letter he had been composing and sighed. "Much better now that you are here. Is it tea time already?
"Not yet. I thought perhaps we might walk the grounds before tea. Though perhaps you are busy?"
"I cannot think of anything I would rather do than spend time with you. Thank you for your most considerate invitation. How did things go with Mrs Bates?"
"Very well indeed. She mentioned that you had hired an extra kitchen maid and footman, so we are well staffed. I was glad to know that many of the servants were able to return from before, so there is not much in the way of training required. How nice of you to recruit my former ladies maid. Have you found a suitable valet for yourself, my dear?
"Not yet, I was writing to the local newspaper, requesting that they advertise in their next publication. You wouldn't know of anyone local who could make recommendations, do you?
"You might ask the local solicitor, Hastings." As they left the house, Anne took her husband's arm. "Now, where would you like to walk?"
"Hmm, well I am curious to know what you were like as a child. I would love to see where you played when you were young, secret hiding places and the like..."
"Very well, I will show you the pond and the spot where I used to love to read." Anne took Wentworth under an arbour and down a path in the wood towards a clearing. On the bank stood a large willow tree, drooping over the water. "I used to pretend this was my cabin. The branches hanging down were the walls, these roots my pillow. My governess would complain to no end of the willow sap on my clothes when I returned home.
But now, I come here to find strength and acceptance in difficult times. The last time I came here was when I found out our family was to quit Kellynch Hall for Bath, and that a certain Admiral and his wife would become tenants. I was feeling such regret for having refused you eight years ago, and to think that your sister would be so near was more than I could bear. Only a few months ago..." She turned to her beloved and gave him a warm kiss. "Now we had best return, as it is time for tea."
"Thank you for sharing this place with me. While I cannot say that I am sorry my sister and the Admiral came to stay here, I would not have wished you any suffering for my sake. All's well that ends well, wouldn't you say?" Hand in hand they returned inside for tea.