Persuasion Too
 
 
by
Lori Wright and Sheri A. Fulton a/k/a Highlandlass

Email Shari! Email Lori


Disclaimer:  Connor and Duncan MacLeod and Sarah Barrington belong
to Rysher and Panzer/Davis.  We just borrowed them for a short while. Now, the
other characters belong to Jane Austen.  This story is a preface to
the book Persuasion. We believe that as Anne Elliot was persuaded by
Lady Russell to refuse Frederick Wentworth, Connor MacLeod persuaded
the Captain to return and try again. We in no way want to rewrite a
Jane Austen masterpiece, but to show how the Highlander characters
have had a major influence in other, mortal, lives.  Immortals have
such a wealth of knowledge and experience that sometimes they feel
compelled to share some of it to those lucky few. We have captured
such an occurrence here.  Hope you enjoy it.
 



ENGLAND 1814

Connor MacLeod walked along the gangplank, heading for shore.
His ship was seaworthy once again. He longed to be once more,
out, upon the waves. His first mate had secured a new crew and
it would only be days before he could set out for the open seas.
After spending so much time in the war, he was eagerly anticipating
the freedom his ship represented.

A shout distracted him from his thoughts. A ship was being sailed
into Liverpool harbor.  She had battle scars by the score, yet she
sailed proudly into the port.  As the vessel turned into its slip,
the name became visible to MacLeod.  It was the Laconia II; Captain
Frederick Wentworth must be aboard.  With a broad smile, he stepped
off of the plank onto solid ground and made his way over towards the
docking ship. It had been over two years, since the last time they had met.
Napoleon's army had been ravaging the continent, and each fought to
defeat the  tyrant.  Despite the happiness in their reunion,there
hadn't been time to trade stories. Several hundred wounded soldiers
had needed transportation back to England and Wentworth's ship had
been used for that voyage. MacLeod had been the commanding officer,
stationed in France, in charge of seeing that the soldiers made it
to that vessel and home. Together they had completed their mission
and saved the lives of those men.

MacLeod remembered back to the first time they had met. It was at a
party where Captain Croft had been promoted to admiral. MacLeod had
stood talking with his friend, the newly appointed Croft, when their
conversation was interrupted. This left MacLeod free to survey the
room as the Admiral accepted his congratulations. The Scot's gaze
landed on Wentworth. He noticed how the Englishman was refusing the
numerous advances of  pretty ladies. The Admiral must have followed
his gaze because he then proceeded to tell the Scot of his concern for
Wentworth. Croft hadn't known what ailed his brother-in-law since
coming back from the seas, and he confessed to MacLeod that he had
been unsuccessful in engaging Wentworth with even a conversation.

It wasn't often that a man, who had been to sea for an extended
period of time, chose to drown himself in drink instead of a woman's
body.  This intrigued MacLeod, so he told the Admiral that he would
talk with Wentworth, see if he could be of any help but he never
did find out why his friend shunned the women at that time.

In their future meetings, he noted that the Captain didn't dissuade
a lady's advances, but to the Scot's knowledge, Wentworth never
engaged the women beyond flirtation.  The Englishman never made
any mention of that night when they first met, but the underlying
sadness that the Scot had seen then, has been ever apparent. Maybe
at this meeting, he would be able to extract the untold story.

MacLeod came even with Wentworth's ship.  Sailors jostled him
as he waited for permission to board the mighty vessel. It looked
like it was going to take some time before he would be able to speak
with Wentworth. Along the edge of the pier sat a large coil of rope.
Trying to make himself comfortable upon it, MacLeod waited for
Wentworth to finish his business.

The late afternoon sun beat down upon his face, as he let his thoughts
return to France and the war.  The country was hurt and bleeding and
he didn't know if it would ever recover its previous glory.  The Scots
and French had a long history of friendship, and he was saddened by
the mass destruction caused by the mad dictator.  He knew that it was
just a matter of time before he would be recalled back, but for now he
had his ship to see to, some business to take care of, and now, a friend
to drink with. He smiled, watching Captain Wentworth sign papers and
give orders to his men.

His mind once again turned to France.  The war had cost him more than
just blood  and time.  It had cost him Sarah.  His beautiful Sarah. He
pictured her long red hair and fiery eyes.

 
 
 

He longed for her to be standing in front of him, instead of, no, he
wouldn't think of her anymore.  He was out of France and ready to
start a new life.  She was married and lost to him forever.  He was
the one that had chosen to fight in the war, instead of staying with
her, and  now he had to live with that decision for the rest of his
days.  But it still hurt.  More times than not, his heart ached with
need for her.
 
A piercing whistle caught his attention. MacLeod glanced up. Wentworth
was staring at him as he made his way to shore, stepping off the dock.
MacLeod stood up from his uncomfortable seat, and waited for Wentworth to join him.
After being waylaid several times, Wentworth finally stood
before him. They greeted each other with a hearty handshake, and some
jovial back slapping.

"How are you faring?"  MacLeod asked his friend.

Wentworth gave a rueful shake to his head. "The war has almost destroyed
my ship, but as long as she sails, I am a contented man.  And yourself?"

"Just got in from France.  I bought a decommissioned war ship.  There
she is," said MacLeod pointing to a ship about ten yards away. "She's
been in dry dock for about two months, doing away with most of the
damage she'd sustained. After my business here is completed, I am a
free man. Wellington expects me some time in the next few months,
but until then I can go where the wind blows. I escaped Napoleon
with my life and my money.  Now it's time to enjoy both."

"An excellent plan if ever I have heard one," agreed Captain Wentworth,
taking off his hat.  MacLeod saw him survey the crowded bay of war
torn ships and landed sailors.  The racket of loading and unloading
of cargo filled the wharf.

Wentworth nodded. "Shall we find something to drink and reacquaint
ourselves with the treasures that England has to offer?"

Wentworth and MacLeod gave each other a knowing look.

"Lula's Tavern." they said in unison.

The Captains broke out in shared laughter, shaking their heads as
they left the docks and made their way towards the familiar ale house.
The streets were crowded with sailors that had the same desire for drink
and entertainment.  Taverns and bawdy houses were starting to fill up
as the sun descended over the horizon.  The two captains hurried so as
to obtain a table.

The sounds of the tavern's rowdy patrons engulfed the two figures as
they entered the dimly lit building. The place smelled of beer, sweat
and smoke--just the right atmosphere needed for the  men to get down
to the business of getting reacquainted and getting filthy drunk.  They
walked through the crowded room and took seats off in a far corner of
the establishment.

"Ahhhh, It doesn't get any better than this," declared MacLeod, setting
himself down onto the chair. Wentworth followed suit. A serving wench
came over and placed two frothy tankards down in front of them.

MacLeod winked at her, "Thank ye lass."

MacLeod saw Wentworth look from him to the wench who was walking
away. The stiff Englishman was probably thinking that he could never resist
a lovely lass.  While that was a reputation he enjoyed, it wasn't
strictly true.  There were times where things separated him from a
pretty woman's arms.  He thought fleetingly of Sarah and then abruptly
stopped himself. This was the time to relax, not brood.  His friend
must have caught MacLeod's initial lascivious gaze, so the Scot decided
to play with him.
 
"What?" asked MacLeod, watching Wentworth's complexion redden.

"It was nothing," returned Wentworth, giving his attention back
to his drink.

"Well, let's have a toast then," suggested MacLeod, determined
to remain light-hearted.

They both raised their glass.

"To fine English women,"said the Scotsman, then winked at Wentworth
as he turned his gaze back to the wench, "One of the finest treasures
England has to offer."

Wentworth laughed at the echo of his words from earlier. "To fine
English women," Wentworth repeated, then took a long draft of his
beer.

Throughout the evening the captains talked of everything - from
treasures gained, to different battles they fought in, to the comrades
they had seen die. Each had stories to share that both sobered and
livened up the evening.

"It was quite a bit of fun to alleviate the burden of money from
Napoleon's pursers on the road to the port of Hauvre," recalled
MacLeod, grinning wildly at Wentworth.

"Particularly when they got passed you,and tried to sail
passed me," laughed Wentworth.

The men heartily agreed that the art of war could definitely
be classified as a capital game.

"Or was that gain?" questioned Wentworth
 

"Is there a difference?" asked MacLeod as he took another swallow
of his ale.

The captains both broke out in laughter. MacLeod slapped the table
  repeatedly as he let  the laughter take control of him.

"I would guess not," answered Wentworth through his mirth.

As the night progressed, the sailors' tankards repeatedly clanked
together as they made periodic toasts. The beers sloshed out of
their glasses and soaked the already finely beer-stained table.
 
"To Napoleon's defeat!" toasted Wentworth.

"To the accumulation of wealth!" returned MacLeod.

"To the spending of it!"

"To the women who will vie for our favor!"

The glasses continued to meet each other across the wooden divide. At
some point during their various salutes to good fortune, their tankards
cracked and beer  rushed out.  With a dismayed look upon both their
faces, MacLeod and Wentworth saw the amber liquid fall from their
broken glasses and run out across the mahogany table.

MacLeod looked up at his friend with an anxious glance. He then
let his glance evolve into a grin. Yelling across the still densely
packed room, MacLeod called for another round.

The serving wench set the beer down upon the table and MacLeod
grabbed her by the waist, pulling her onto his lap.

"Not now, sir, perhaps later?" she asked with a twinkle in her eye.

MacLeod let her go reluctantly, and turned his attention to his
new tankard and to his friend.

Some of the patrons started to leave.  The noise level decreased,
introducing a more intimate environment.  With the continual
replenishment of ale, in combination with an illusion of privacy,
topics of a more personal nature began to be shared.

"Have you ever loved?" asked MacLeod leaning in close, his beer
momentarily forgotten.  Sarah had returned to his thoughts, and
he was unable to banish her this time.

The restraints he had worked so hard to maintain had been ripped
away by the combination of drink and friendship.

"I mean really loved? Loved so much, that no matter how much
time goes by, the pain still remains and haunts your soul?"

Wentworth gave a long look to MacLeod. He then answered, pausing
between each word. "I have known love."

The Scot watched Wentworth's eyes narrow.  Maybe the Englishman
did suffer from a broken heart as he had imagined.  He would gently
pull the story from him.

A loud crash of dishes intruded upon their conversation. The sound
was coupled with loud claps and drunken hoorays from all around the
bar.

Their beer-ladened gazes cut through the smoky tavern, towards the
disturbance.  Would this distraction silence his friend? MacLeod was
relieved when he started talking again.

"You know, I knew that the remembrances would assault me, they
always do whenever I drink too much. I knew it would happen and
yet here I am,downing each drink with the promise of  another to
follow."
 
MacLeod didn't want to move, afraid that he would brake the spell
and end the confidences.

"I have known love, " he repeated, then suddenly the Scot saw his
friend's eyes hardened as a grimace crept over his features.

He finished with his reply, "that type of love, particularly I have
known."

MacLeod looked at him, shaking his head. He could see clearly the
anguish that spread across his friend's features as he struggled,
unsuccessfully, to clamp down upon it.

Silence descended upon them as Wentworth fought for control.  Maybe
if he told his own story, it would enable Wentworth to open up.

"My Sarah was a fiery woman," began MacLeod.  "She said she had need
of taming, and I felt I was best suited for the task." He sat back
in his chair, taking another swallow of ale.  He knew he spoke in a
casual manner, but he caught Wentworth's penetrating look.  Hopefully
Wentworth saw beyond his guarded facade, and recognized the pain
within the words.

"I remember her long ringlets flying behind her as we raced our horses
around the green." The tavern disappeared and he was galloping on the
horse. "She'd turn her head and look behind to make sure I wasn't
catching up. Spurring her horse faster and faster, she raced against
the wind. Nothing daunted her.  Sarah laughed at the limitations set
upon her by family and friends. She actively disobeyed her father,
and did whatever she pleased."

He was lost in his thoughts as the serving wench came back with another
round.  The sound of a flipped coin spinning atop the table pulled
MacLeod's attention and turned the wench back to them. As she reached
for the coin, she leaned into MacLeod and left a quick tantalizing kiss
upon his lips, which succeeded in completely breaking him out of his
absorbing recollections.

She then pulled away. MacLeod watched her walk back to the bar.

"I'd say she's taking more of a liking towards me." MacLeod grinned.
He heard Wentworth answer with a token chuckle.  They each took a draught of their fresh ales.

"I think that wench thanked the wrong man on purpose," Wentworth said, nodding his head towards the retreating figure. MacLeod snorted in
response as they each took a draught of their fresh ales.

"Tell me. How did you separate?" Wentworth asked.

MacLeod knew he was being drawn back to the story, and he suspected
that Wentworth was motivated by his own intruding thoughts.  He let his
grin fade as he embraced his own recent  heartache and continued with
his tale.

"How? The war had started and my friend Pierre had come to enlist my
aid. He said experienced soldiers were desperately needed.   I couldn't
refuse him, abandon those that needed me.  I urged her to return to
England, but she refused to leave.  As I rode away, she asked if I was
coming back.  I remember not wanting to give her assurances, for in war,
there are no assurances.  So I rode away without responding."

"Did you intend to return to her?"

"Oh yes, for I loved her well.  She was all fire and passion.  She made
me feel alive, more alive than I had felt in years.  Being with her was
more intoxicating than the finest brandy.  And then it was gone,
replaced by death and hardships."

He paused.  "I know she loved me."  His voiced cracked.  "But she didn't
wait for me."

"She married another?"

"Aye.  But she thought I was dead.  She saw them chop off my head."

"Then how do you explain your presence in front of me.  Are you a
ghost?"

"No." He laughed without mirth. The oppressive memories over coming
him which resulted in the draining of yet another tankard.

Another, wench!" he called, raising his mug.

"I had been taken prisoner and thrown into the Bastille.

They intended me to lose my head under Madame Guillotine.  That same friend, Pierre Bouchet, had other ideas.  He visited me in my cell and knocked me senseless.  Then taking my clothes and my identity, he lost his
head under the blade."

"Your friend died for you?"  Amazement filled his voice.

 MacLeod nodded.

"My lovely Sarah saw my execution, but was too far away to see that it
really wasna me.  I couldna call out to her, I watched as she wept,
unable to do anything.  I stood behind the bars of the cell, seeing her
anguish, feeling it myself, and yet powerless to change the course
of events."

There was silence for a moment.  The two men looked at each other,
MacLeod unable to go beyond the sight of Sarah screaming his name.
Both started as another round was slammed in front of them.

Wentworth picked up his fresh mug.  "Did you look for her after the war
ended?"

"Aye.  I went to her home.  I traveled four days on horseback and it was
an arduous journey. When I finally arrived at her home, I tied my horse
and walked up through the back.  The gardens were in full bloom
and they reminded me so much of her."

"Was she there?  Did you talk to her?"

"She was pruning roses.  I stood beside a tree watching her snip the dead
branches, lovingly stroking the petals.  I remember feeling the ache in my
heart filling with just the sight of her.  God she was beautiful...then...then
I noticed a little girl run up to her."

 

MacLeod turned to look at his friend.  "She had a daughter.  A beautiful
child with her mother's face...and... a father standing to one side.  I
saw Sarah stand up and embrace him.  My Sarah was married.  I looked on
the family and felt happy for her. You see, I canna give her children,
so maybe she's better off with him."

"How do you know?  Just because you haven't in the past?"

"I know," he responded in a defeated voice, and then continued. "I
remember stepping back and returning to my horse.  I rode north,
heading for England.  Of that trip, I remember little."

"So you didn't go to her, talk to her?"

"For what reason?  I didn't want to ruin her happiness.  She had...she
has a family and a husband.  I can't fault her for that.  She saw me
die.  So now  it's time to get on with my life."

"With your ship."

"Yes, I miss the open seas.  I need to feel the rolling deck and the
camaraderie of the men under my command. I desire the freedom it gives,
coupled with a star to guide by."

"But it doesn't always work that way.  I too thought the best way to
forget a woman was aboard ship."

MacLeod looked at him. Wentworth looked frustrated as if he found it
difficult to express what was in his heart.

MacLeod didn't prod, he just sat opposite him, waiting. He was good at
it; he had been practicing it all his life.  It came as natural to him
as breathing.

"I....ah...," began Wentworth.

MacLeod saw the Englishman look down at the beer-stained and dirtied
wood around his hands.

"I know of anguish," he whispered, almost too low to for MacLeod to hear
over the din of the room."

"Anguish?"

"Yes, I...have loved desperately once," revealed Wentworth, leaning
back.

"Did she die?"

"No, nooo, she didn't die," he assured, undoing the vest of his uniform,
the gold buttons catching the dim light.

"What then, what happened?" questioned MacLeod.

Wentworth shuddered.  MacLeod could see his hand shaking as it
rested once more upon the table.

"She changed her mind," answered Wentworth.  Then he took a deep
breath and began the tale.

"I had gone to Kellynch Hall to ask her to be my bride. It was to be the
beginning of my naval career and all I wanted was for her to be by my
side, possibly even sailing with me once I had my own ship."

"Like  Sophy does with your brother-in-law?"

"Exactly.  A perfect union, my sister and Admiral Croft.  And I desired
the same, felt it was my right.  I had no doubts that I would pass
through the naval ranks quickly. The world and my future success were
what I made of it.  I had big plans."

Wentworth stopped to look at MacLeod intently. An air of gravity
suffused him despite his body's intoxication and dilated eyes.

"And they were plans...not the dreams of most men. My course was set,
my destination clear, or so I thought."

Wentworth's gaze hardened as he continued with his tale.


ENGLAND 1806

Wentworth dismounted from his horse and cast his gaze upon the
impressive visage of Kellynch Hall.  Every time he came to see Anne,
the magnificence of  her familial estate was not lost on him. He
hoped that one day he would be able to give her a home equal to
the splendor of Kellynch Hall. It was his ambition.

And it was her right.  She had agreed to marry him. They only needed to
set a date and announce it in the Post.  Today he would accomplish this
last detail, and then he would count the days until the actual ceremony.

Handing the horse's reins to an awaiting attendant, Wentworth crossed
the graveled courtyard, the stones crunching beneath his boots. He noted
that the day was gray and cool, but it was of no matter to him because
his heart was warm and filled with purpose.

His breath billowed out before him in translucent clouds as he
made his way to the steps of Kellynch.

Upon his approach the doors swung open and Wentworth removed his
riding gloves, stepping over the threshold.  His eyes took but a moment
as they adjusted from the almost blinding gray brightness of the
outside, to the softer interior light of the foyer.

"May I take your coat, Sir?" asked the butler who stood before him.

Wentworth took off his riding coat and handed the garment and his
gloves to the butler as he looked about the anteroom, trying to discern
which door Anne might be waiting behind.  "Thank you, Simmons."

"Miss Anne is in the sitting room, I'll take..."

"Yes, I know where it is," interrupted Wentworth.  He walked down the
hall some and turned to a pair of shut doors that stood to the right of
him.  Placing his hands against their cool metal latches, he paused.

He placed his forehead against the door, then taking a deep breath, he
stood back, turned the handles and entered the room.

Wentworth's face fell some. Anne was not alone.

Two women rose from the divan to greet Wentworth.

"Mr. Wentworth, nice to see you again," said Lady Russell.

"And you, Lady Russell," answered Wentworth walking over to them.
He clasped her upraised hand, kissing the top.

He then straightened and turned to Anne.

"Miss Elliot, I hope I am finding you well this afternoon?"

He clasped Anne's fingers within his own and brought her hand to
his lips. Closing his eyes, he kissed her. He attempted to hold her
satiny skin to his lips for a barely perceptible extension of time... an
action that he always did. But he felt Anne pull her hand away. He
opened his eyes to look at her but she had turned her gaze from him,
looking beyond his shoulder. Wentworth studied her with barely
veiled confusion.

"I hope you had a pleasant journey from town," asked Lady Russell,
drawing Wentworth's attention back to her.

"I ...," Wentworth finally looked at  the older woman, answering her
soundly, "Yes, the storm will hold off I believe. It was not a bad day
to ride."

"Good. Come... let us sit," ordered Lady Russell playing host in her
young companion's home.

"Yes, certainly," agreed Wentworth selecting a seat across from the
divan.

He sunk into the chair and looked once again at Anne. Still, she
avoided his eyes.

"Tea? Mr. Wentworth?" asked Lady Russell as she poured a cup.

"Thank you."  He answered, looking up at Lady Russell.

"And how is your brother in law, Captain Croft and your sister, Mrs.
Croft," asked Lady Russell as she passed the offered cup to him.

"They are well, I received a letter from Sophy just the other day,"
explained Wentworth. "She and the Captain are in Gibraltar."

"Excellent. And how is your brother, Edward, faring? Is he happy with
his curacy in Monkford?"

"Edward is in excellent health and yes, he is pleased with the curacy."


ENGLAND 1814

"We continued on like this, exchanging pleasantries and inquiries,
for what seemed an agonizing length of time."

Wentworth turned his gaze on MacLeod. His hands gripped the edge of
the worn table, his knuckles white, as he remembered.

"I was anxious to have Anne alone...to talk to her...her attitude had
caused me no little bit of confusion, but then it occurred to me.

"She did not want to display our attachment openly in front of Lady
Russell.  I did not understand her reluctance, but accepted it.  So,
I anxiously awaited the time to have Anne to myself so that we could
discuss the announcement of our impending union.
 


ENGLAND 1806

Anne remained aloof. The three of them conversed for the better part of
an hour  before Lady Russell stood to take her leave.

"I really must be going."

Wentworth and Anne stood with her. Wentworth released a breath of his
pent-up tension. He would finally have Anne alone.

"Good Afternoon Lady Russell. It was a pleasure."

Lady Russell locked gazes with him. She gave him a peculiar stare, then
finally spoke.

"Mr. Wentworth. It was nice having seen you."

She then turned to Anne, "Anne, could you see me to the door?"

"Yes, Lady Russell."

Wentworth watched the two women leave the room. He let out another
slow breath. For some reason his hands had become clammy and his
feeling of security had slipped a few notches. He told himself he was
being ridiculous...that Anne loved him and there was nothing to concern
himself about. He walked over to the window to see Lady Russell step up,
into her coach.

Absently, he pulled out a handkerchief and wiped at the before mentioned
hands. As he watched her coach pull away, he heard the door to the
room open again. For some strange reason, he had to force himself to
turn from the window. A sense of foreboding seemed to grow strong within
him as he watched the coach disappear down the lane.

"Frederick?" questioned Anne. The sound of her voice snapped him out
of his dark musing and he walked over to her, his eyes dancing with
barely suppressed emotions.

"Anne," he said, reaching for her. He thought he saw her hesitate, but
dismissed the notion as her small hands slipped into his.

"I don't deny admitting that I have missed you while I was
at the naval academy," said Wentworth smiling down into her face.

Anne pulled her hands out of his and resumed her seat on the divan,
"When will you be on the seas?"

"Well," began Wentworth taking a chair beside her," Her Majesty's Navy
seems anxious to see me upon the  waves rather soon. My service begins
at the end of the month. I sail with a Captain Radford as my first
placement. He is known as a good man and I have no doubt that I shall
be serving England well under him."

"That is good to know," whispered Anne. She looked down at her hands
laying in her lap.

Wentworth watched her. The foreboding began to wash back over him,
ever so slightly.

"Anne?"

>He waited for her to look up at him.

"Tell me, what is wrong. You have been acting so peculiar," he
asked stopping her fidgeting hands with his own clasping fingers.

Anne abruptly stood up, pulling away from him. Walking over to a vase,
she began to play with the flowers captured inside it.

Wentworth stood too. "At first I thought perhaps it was the presence of
Lady Russell that caused you to act col...differently," he amended,
"Now she has left and yet still you avoid looking at me...I don't
understand."

"Mr. Wentworth, I assure you Lady Russell has not influenced my
behavior," answered Anne, looking everywhere except at him.

"Mr. Wentworth?" he asked, his voice laughing in nervous disbelief.
This day was nothing as he had imagined it would be, and hurt and
confusion laced his question.

"I thought that we - Anne, what is this all about?"

Anne finally gazed fully at him. He could see some sort of struggle
play over her face. He felt the room suddenly become filled with an
oppressing tension and Wentworth's mouth went dry.

Her eyes were piercing, as they finally looked into his own.

"Why don't you tell me," said Anne, turning away from him to take up
his earlier position by the window.  His breath came out in shallow
gasps, as her eyes ripped away from  him.

"I don't understand," said Wentworth shaking his head back and forth,
trying to clear his thoughts- trying to find a logical reason for her
actions.  "Did you not say that after I became commissioned that I
should come back and we could discuss our future."

< This was not the Anne he knew, the one who would walk with him for
hours and laugh with him in the gardens. Love him as he loved her, only
waiting for the right time to offer a promise for a shared life.

She braced her shoulders and turned towards him once more.  Her eyes
were cool and composed, but they would not meet his.

He was now certain that the distant manner that she displayed for him
was not a result of Lady Russell's presence, for she was gone and still
Anne suffered him with impersonal tones and avoiding eyes. His heart
spiked with dread.

"But you are to leave soon.  You are to join the navy and go to sea."

"That is true.  But I thought that you... that I... I came here
today..."

"Yes?" asked Anne, her voice hard, her eyes still adverted.

He looked at her face. He swore it did not match the manner of speech
that came from her mouth. He noticed that her eyes were unusually bright
and that her lips trembled.

"I came here today," Wentworth began again, his mouth remaining dry.
He tried to dampen his palette by swallowing, but it was to no avail. He
felt his heart being squeezed with every word he uttered, but he
continued on.

"I came here today to ask you when we could publicly announce that you
are to be my wife...my love...my companion."

She looked at him again. He saw tears break free of her eyes, sliding
down the sides of her face. Within the tears, he swore he saw his
desired answer there, the answer that had been there for months.

She did not reply but merely looked at him. He heard a shuddering
breath leave her.

Wentworth closed the distance between them, placing his hands upon her
arms. He stared into her face...waiting...hoping, that he mistook her
demeanor.

She closed her eyes upon the answer he sought- the lids forcing tears
onto her lowered  lashes.  Slowly she opened them again. What he saw
made the dread  that had haunted him since Lady Russell left Kellynch,
whip through him full blown.

His voice caught in his throat, his eyes narrowed. He desperately wanted
to wipe away the answer he saw there. The answer that shouldn't have
been there. He shook his head in confused denial, then stopped. His
backbone straightened and he released her.

He needed to hear it, had to hear it.

Anne?" he choked out, his heart constricting.

"Fredrick... there will be no announcement," answered Anne.  "I cannot
marry you." She backed away from him, towards the door.

Wentworth stood there stunned, unable to speak. He had been telling
himself that it was nothing...his imagination....that she was just...he
didn't know...

He tried to push away her answer. He stood there frozen within himself,
trapped in his own web of  anguish.  He could not believe what he heard
and yet... P> He slowly raised his crest fallen head to look at her retreating figure.
The answer that he tried to push away - slapped him in the face as,
instead of falling into his arms... it... she, stepped out of reach.

"Lady Russell, "Wentworth growled, as if he were inciting the name of the
devil himself. "She is the one who has told you to refuse me."  It was a
statement, not a question. He couldn't fool himself any longer.  He
should never have dismissed the warnings. If he were honest with himself,
he knew something wasn't right the minute she wasn't there to greet
him at the door.

Anne remained silent. His eyes burned into her.

"Answer me," Wentworth ordered.

"No," Anne whispered.

"No, she didn't persuade you or no you won't answer me?" he
questioned, advancing towards her.

He watched her retreat towards the door.

Anne tried to speak but Wentworth's words cut her off.

"You would throw away everything we are? Where is your character?" he
asked.  An acrid taste rose in his mouth as he began to feel physically
sick. He saw again, that she tried to defend herself, but he
wouldn't let her. He wouldn't see the tears that tracked down her face.

"You do not love me after all?  The countless times we have been
together, talking, feeling, planning? This was just a game for you?"

Wentworth fired the questions at Anne, aiming to destroy her heart
as surely as she was destroying his. How could she have used him
so ill? He could not endure this treatment. Wentworth saw her flinch as
each word hit her. She seemed to shrink before his very eyes.  He didn't
care.

"It is none of those reasons is it? The answer is so simple, so
obvious." Wentworth said taking a step towards her.
"You are weak."

"I... " began Anne but Wentworth spoke over her again.

"No, I do not want to hear your reasons, I want nothing from you."

Wentworth's eyes hardened, his pride sheathed him as he stood there
looking at her. As he wanted nothing more from her, he betrayed nothing
more... no emotion. He saw her back away a little faster... he knew it
was for fear of him. The wrath that had been so openly displayed upon
his face, left, leaving nothing but a hard visage. He knew that she
expected him to ask more questions, but that was an expectation that
would not be fulfilled. No more questions would leave his mouth.

< He would not beg for reasons.  He could not demean or expose himself
while she scrambled to tell falsehoods in a vain attempt to placate him.
And he refused to believe that all this time he had imagined her
reciprocated feelings - Lady Russell's influence was at work here.

Wentworth remembered how Lady Russell had looked at him upon quitting the sitting room. He now remembered it as a look of triumphant.  Damn
Anne for listening to the widow.

He couldn't think anymore.  Wave upon wave of heated anger, confusion,
and pain flowed  through his veins, but the countenance he showed to her
remained one of granite.

She had stopped against the door. Wentworth walked towards her, his
boots ringing solidly against the marble floor.  It was the only sound
that filled the room. He looked at her, through her, staring beyond the
confinement of the room. With an effort, he stopped in front of her.

"I will trouble you no longer. Good day," said Wentworth.  He waited
as Anne stepped back from the door to allow his passage.  He reached for
the handle but paused, recognizing the devastation that had settled over
him. It broke through the granite veneer, escaping across his
features but the door was the only  witness to it.

He stood rigid as he took the needed second to compose himself. The
metal latch felt warm to the touch, for her hands had rested upon it.

He did not look back at her again.

Wentworth walked out of the room and closed the door to his dreams, to
his plans for the perfect future with the woman he loved -- the woman
who was too weak to fight for their future. He went through the motions
of slipping on his gloves and  donning his coat.  He was trapped within a
cavernous tunnel of despair as he left the oppressive walls of Kellynch
Hall for the last time.


ENGLAND 1814

"And so I mounted my horse and rode to town, never looking back."
Wentworth finished his tale and drained the rest off his drink in one
swallow.

"And in the intervening years, you have not thought of her?"

"I may have."

MacLeod looked at his friend in sympathy.  There was no doubt that the
man suffered greatly. But then his eyes hardened.

"So you gave up?" MacLeod asked harshly.

He saw Wentworth start at the accusation.

"There was nothing to give up.  Her attachment for me was not as strong
as mine for her. She could not hold her heart out against what others
would have her do." Wentworth sneered.

"You wouldn't even let her speak, to explain?"

"It didn't matter to me. The...the burning shame and disappointment was
too vivid. At that moment, the need to leave before I disgraced myself
any further, was uppermost on my mind.  I could not even face my
brother, Edward, for he expected to me return with the news of my
impending nuptials. My brother, who had opened his house for me, I...I
could not face even him. So instead, I left for the sea earlier than
intended."

"Wasn't it convenient that Napoleon gave you the opportunity you
sought." MacLeod mocked.

"Very."

The Scot noticed that Wentworth totally missed the irony in his last
comment."You've profited nicely from it too."

"I admit I obtained advancement quicker than I had a right too."

"Did you take foolish risks to do so?"

"I did not," Wentworth replied indignantly.

MacLeod gave a derisive laugh.  "It's a well known fact that those with
a broken heart care not for life."

"The ship and my fellow crew members were not, nor have they ever been
put into needless danger. I did not risk their lives because I cared not
for my own. And when I began to captain my own ships, the same applied."

"So now the war is almost over, you are rich, and still unattached.  Do
you go out to search for a wife?" asked MacLeod.

"My sister is imploring me to do so."

"Does she have anyone in mind?"

>"I don't believe so, though she believes I would marry any pleasing
young woman who comes my way. In fact, I have just received a letter
from her," Wentworth informed." Admiral Croft and my sister - they
have just moved into an estate."

"So you are to visit her?"

"Yes, but I dread the stay?"

"Why?"

"Why?" he repeated.

MacLeod saw him take in a deep breath.

"They are occupying Kellynch Hall, the Elliots have let it to them for
the season. I'd planned never to enter its walls again"

"Splendid, excellent."  MacLeod swung his glass in enthusiasm, which
sprayed ale over the table and onto his friend's white shirt. He saw
that Wentworth paid no notice,  as he gave the Scot a hard stare.

"Excellent?!?"

MacLeod let him wait before he explained, he knew Wentworth didn't
understand his enthusiasm, but he soon would. "Since your sister is
already expecting your visit, then all it would take is an occasional
question and to listen to those conversing around you.  They will surely
gossip
about who let their house to them."

"I do not think a visit, to HER house, would do me any good.  I am much
better suited to visiting friends then well-meaning relatives.

Relatives, the word made MacLeod smile as he thought of Duncan.
"Families. We are always cursed with dealing with their good
intentions. My own kinsman is always..."

"Wait. You have family?  You have never mentioned him before."

"He is a thorn in my side and the brightest star in the heavens."
MacLeod drained his tankard, and yet another was placed before him
immediately.  He eyed the wench and grinned at her again.

"You describe my sister exactly." Wentworth interjected. The Scot
turned his attention back to his friend.

MacLeod carried on with his pointed questions.

"Has she met your Anne?"

"I don't believe so."

MacLeod saw that Wentworth was wallowing in his pity.  The Scot
wasn't surprised when the Englishman failed to take umbrage at his
use of  "your".

"And you know nothing of what has happened to the woman since she< br> refused you?"

"I do not!"  Wentworth was emphatic.

"What if she is still unattached?"<

"And if she is?"

"You could ask her again."

Wentworth looked appalled.  "Never!"

MacLeod's face darkened.  He stared at Wentworth. "Never!?!"

MacLeod was never much for manipulation, yet here sat a man who had a
chance at happiness, a chance to end the misery, the 'anguish' of a lost
love.  If not at least to reclaim it, put it to bed forever. It was a
possibility that the Scot would never have. MacLeod would be damned if
he allowed Wentworth, or any man to walk away from that chance. Life
was just too short for these mortals to waste on pride.

MacLeod's eyes hardened.  His voice raised. "Wentworth, I can not
pretend to know her motivation, or lack thereof, but I do know you.
I know that you are not over her. How can you sit there and plan
to do nothing...to not even find out! Here is your opportunity!
Or  is that sad little story you told me just that, a STORY!?!"

"No!"

"Okay then, here you are, still pining for her.  Your heart still
belongs to her even after all these years.  This lass, whom you
cannot release from yer soul, rides, walks and sails with you every
day of your life. And you will not even take a chance...not even to
check out her circumstances."MacLeod looked hard at Wentworth, " I
have seen many things in my life."

MacLeod paused, memories of his own first love
came flooding back to him.  It was time that had taken
away his bonny Heather as she aged and he did not. But time
matured more than just the body...

                                                                            ...it matured the heart.

He knew that the love between his bonny lass and he had only
strengthened as the years flew by. Perhaps time had deepened,
strengthened Anne's love for Wentworth. He hoped so, for his friend's
sake.

"One of the things I have seen in my life is the effects of time.  Anne
was young. She may not have been strong enough to go against others'
influences then..., but perhaps today it is a different story,"
MacLeod's voice became  aggressive," You must find out, you must know."

MacLeod pushed his chair back as he lunged in feigned drunkenness.
His words burned with the fire of truth, as he let out his impassioned
beliefs.

"What I would not give to have one chance...just one chance to have my
Sarah back again.  And here you are, preferring to wallow in your own
misery rather then do something about it! Well Damn you,
Wentworth...Damn You!"

"My Anne is not your Sarah," Wentworth yelled back. The Scot
watched Wentworth get shakily to his feet, the alcohol having a greater
effect on his lesser constitution.

The drunken patrons of the tavern barely turned a head towards the
commotion of the two captains.

"No that's right, I know my Sarah is married... I know she is gone from
me forever and I live with that fact every day...that is the fact that
rides with me, that walks with me, and sails with me. That is a
certainty that I live with; you don't have that certainty. You know
nothing. Get off your ass Wentworth, find out....end her ghostly
visitations to your soul once and for all."

Wentworth crashed back into the seat of his chair. MacLeod followed
suit. He continued on in a calmer, subdued voice this time.

"What if she suffers as you?  A love as you have described is near
impossible to forget, or more importantly, impossible to be "persuaded"
away. What if, in fact, she still has an affection for you?"
 
" I...I don't know...I do not think she would change her mind. She was
persuaded to refuse me once. If she were free, the same could happen
again."

"Then don't ask her, make her ask you."

"Ask me?" the Englishman looked incredulous.

"Maybe not in words, but in deeds.  Go to her, and insinuate yourself
in her circle of friends.  There she can't help but notice you.  See
what her circumstances are now."

"It is a preposterous idea."

"I think it's quite elegant myself.  You are a Captain in the British
Navy, what circle would refuse you?  Court some other girl if you have
to, but see this Anne again."

"I can not."

"How long have we known each other?"

"About six years."

"And how long has it been since you proposed?"

"Eight."

MacLeod let the veil of drunkenness slip from his speech.  He
looked earnestly at Wentworth.

"You have not forgotten anything about her, not anything?  Am I right?
Do you remember the color of her eyes?  The texture of her hair?  The
scent of her body as it brushes gently past you?"

He saw Wentworth color.

"I see you have not.  You have not forgotten in eight years, what makes
you think you will, in ten more or fifty more?  You have lost your heart
and never will it return.  Don't condemn yourself to a lifetime of
regrets. You will not live forever...Time. It passes very quickly and
soon you will be an old man - alone and lonely."

MacLeod looked into himself, remembering, again, back to a time, to a
woman that always remained within his thoughts. He continued. "I cannot
tell you how many women I have loved and lost, yet my first, my bonny
Heather, was the most precious."

 


"And I have no regrets of our love, except her death."

He let some of his past out, conscious of  what he chose to reveal.  He
wanted to drive home his point and he was not surprised when he felt
tears rail from his eyes as he remembered Heather, Sarah and others he
had lost.

"I feel the time pass so quickly and there is nothing I can do.  Those
that I love die and never can I get them back.  But when they leave,
it's not because of foolish pride. Sarah married another thinking I was
dead.  Heather died, and here I am alone, drinking beer in a
disreputable tavern.  Neither were my doing, yet I would trade
anything to get them back."

MacLeod captured Wentworth's gaze and stared at him hard. "Love is a
gift...the feeling and the giving.  Do not squander yours. Do not leave
it bottled up inside, withering your soul and your person. While you are
unsure of her circumstances, there is hope.  Go back, maybe she grieves
for her loss of you as much as you long for her."

With that last statement, Connor MacLeod's let his face fall atop the
table, doing so more to hide the tears he couldn't seem to stem.  His
head faced away from Wentworth and he knew he appeared  to have
passed out. That was fine with him, the morning was early and he
strangely felt that the table was actually comfortable.

"No," whispered Wentworth. MacLeod heard him in the now quieted
tavern.

The sound of the empty ring of Wentworth's mug hitting  the table
sounded in MacLeod's ears. Not very long after he smelled the wench's
lilac perfume and heard her placing two fresh tankards upon the table.

The scent faded as she walked away.

"Could you be right, my friend?" questioned Wentworth to the seemingly
unconscious MacLeod, "More importantly, can I live the remainder of my
days not knowing?"

MacLeod opened his eyes, but made no other move. The morning's
breaking light played across his face, dulling the lantern that hung
above the table. He could hear the awaking sounds of fishermen starting
their boats and the swearing of men as they staggered on the streets.

"Are you right?" Wentworth repeated.

MacLeod felt the weight shift on the table as the sound of
cloth scraped against the wooden surface.

"You, a man who is always drifting from port to port, woman
to woman. But then there is your Sarah.  Such a well of
experienced pain within you."

He heard the tankard bang against the table, and let himself move to a
more comfortable position.  His head was starting to pound.

"I do hear what you have said. You are right.  I should not waste my
life on what ifs.  I need to find out."

MacLeod  grinned.

"I will go see my sister. Eight years is a long time for a county to
forget about me. I will cloak myself in indifference. I will see how
Anne, ah...Anne, I will see how she responds towards me."

MacLeod could hear the elation filling Wentworth's voice with
his new decision.

Wentworth shook MacLeod's shoulder.  "Wake up MacLeod.
Let us return to our ships."

MacLeod staged a drunken moan, then raised his head.  He could barely
contain the mirth that rocketed through his body as he looked upon his
friend's beaming face.

MacLeod bit his inner lips, he could taste blood, but he didn't dare
unclench his jaw.  The fear of his laughter over coming him was too
great. Nodding his head, MacLeod allowed a staggering Wentworth to lead
him back towards the docks and  to their own respective beds.

 
The End


We'd like to thank Rysher and all those whose pictures I used throughout
the story, It really made it something special.   Thanks Again.

To the Authors pages