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In Charity

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Lady Russell had, from Anne’s childhood, intended to love the man fortunate enough to win Anne’s hand as a son. How could it be otherwise? Anne Elliot was the daughter of Lady Russell’s heart and the resurrection of her dearest friend. Lady Russell could not fail to love the man who made Anne happy, nor did she think he would fail to love her as a mother, whoever he might be.

It had been easier to cherish such expectations when she had hoped that man would be Mr. Elliot, than when she knew it must be Captain Wentworth. Lady Russell had spoken with Anne at great length, and been entirely taken aback, by the feebleness of her own old objections to the match, and by Anne’s gracious vigor in demolishing them. Anne would not yield. That in itself was reason enough for Lady Russell to withdraw, retire, give herself over to her thoughts, and reemerge with a new sense of humility and revelation.

She had been wrong about Captain Wentworth; so be it. She had been wrong about Mr. Elliot; no matter. She was right about Anne, her merits and her value. If Captain Wentworth knew that value and gave it its due, then perhaps Lady Russell and he could meet as friends.

Some day. But today might be too soon. And yet, here was Anne, come to call and accompanied by her fiancé. This was Lady Russell’s first meeting with him since she had learned of their second engagement. His bow was stiff, and his smile perfunctory. Their combined courtesy smoothed the situation, on the surface. Lady Russell was a scrupulous hostess, and Captain Wentworth a proper guest. Yet there was no spark to give warmth and light the way forward for them–-until Anne mentioned that she had planned to spend the evening walking with Captain Wentworth in the blue twilight, but would attend Mary, who was feeling sick, instead.

Lady Russell suppressed her opinion of what was truly wrong with Mary. Instead, she said, “No, Anne, you go walking with the captain. If Mary needs tending, I will stop by and see her myself.” When Anne protested, Lady Russell overrode her, saying, “You are too much of service to others, Anne; you must see to yourself, for if you are not deserving, then who is?”

“Indeed, Lady Russell is right.” Captain Wentworth’s tone was vehement and, for the first time since he arrived, he gave a bright and honest smile.