Wentworth’s hands shook as he lowered the glass to the table and pushed
himself away from it. Losing himself in amber was the coward's way, and
to lie down, laddie, for awhile yet," said a gravelly voice next to
his ear. He opened his eyes again, and this time a face came into focus
and hovered above him. It was a very old face, with folds of pink and gray
skin wrinkled into a mosaic that exuded friendliness. Whether man or
woman, he couldn't tell.
lay back down and gazed at the apparition, sure now that he must have
partaken more of the spirits the landlord had offered than he had
let him up," another voice said into his other ear.
need all his strength for when he sees Anne again," said the second
wheezed the first voice irritably, "you knobbledly-headed
knucklehead. He's not to know that she's still there. Not yet
he knows now, that's for darn tooting. You and your jabbering mouth!"
two wraithlike creatures were now swirling around the room, wisps of
ectoplasm trailing behind their disembodied faces as they darted about.
you've done it," the first wraith screeched at the second.
"Cover's completely blown. You might as well fess up that you were
responsible for their blow up eight years ago."
It was you. You were the one who shot the blasted arrow in the first
place. You were the one who made him so dashed dashing and swept my poor
lass off her dainty little feet, ruining her heart for any other man, and
a good many there were too. And did you think to charm Lady R. as well?
No, you didn't, you shriveled mass of goo. You should have known that Her
Royal Busybodiness would stick her long, pointy nose in where it wasn't
wanted and then turn up said nose when she didn't see a title attached to
this here sailor boy. Charming the girl and not charming the Lady was
sheer negligence on your part. I'd have had you drummed out of the Fates,
I would have. But no, you got off on good behavior and sweet talking. Now
here we are with a second chance. He'll never go to Kellynch if he knows.
Oh, I don't know why I bother! "
wraiths nodded—the first one ruefully and the second one, giving a hard
glare at the first, defiantly.
you," said the first, "this bit about Sophie and Rex. It's not a
joke. Minnie, here," the wraith cocked its head at the second wraith,
"thought if we could just get you two in the same room together,
you'd go woozy over each other all over again."
Lester liked the idea of bringing you to Kellynch," Minnie said
stoutly, "as he hadn't figured out how to get Anne further than Bath
in the eight years he had to work on the problem."
shrugged as well as he could without the benefit of shoulders, and then
screwed his already wrinkled face up so tightly that
I'm not going to play this little charade with you any further. You may
think I'm a puppet on a string,"
slowly relaxed his face, and
right," Minnie said soothingly. "You're the captain of your
destiny. You're the commander..."
wraiths were fading now, their wispy faces dissolving into memory as
too bad," he heard Minnie saying to Lester, "that
wondered what Anne would have said if he had returned after he had won his
first share of prize money, or after he had been given his first ship.
Would she have taken him back if he come then, instead of now, when it was
clearly too late? Always the coward's way, he thought, with self-loathing.
He could look down the barrel of a pistol but he couldn't face putting his
heart in harm's way again.
wondered what her husband was like. He would meet them tonight. They were
dining with the Musgrove family at Uppercross and Sophie had told him that
Charles Musgrove had married one of the Elliot girls, which could only
mean that Anne was now Mrs. Charles Musgrove.
There had only ever been one marriageable Elliot girl…he wondered
whether she still played the pianoforte, whether she still danced, whether
she would remember him at all.
looked at himself in the mirror in the blue room. His skin was
bronzed-weathered by the sun. His eyes were hard and cold from years of
doing his duty regardless of what his heart might want. He had never been
a handsome man, and time had not been gentle with his features. He wasn't
cut out of gentleman cloth. Anne had been right to tell him
put on his captain's hat. He squared his shoulders and set his jaw. Time
to spread his sails and find a wife. Let the fates that brought him here
laugh if they dared.
he closed the door of the blue room behind him and started down the
corridor of Kellynch Hall to the staircase that would deliver him to the
waiting carriage that would take him to dinner with the Musgrove family, a
gust of wind blew through the window he had left open. It swirled down
into the flower garden below, kissing the heads of the dying blooms before
swirling over the courtyard wall and coming to rest on the top of the
carriage as it left Kellynch. On top of the carriage it manifested itself
as two roly-poly spirits grinning from ear-to ear.
think we've got our man, Minnie."
job, Lester. Now, let the games begin!"
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