|Jane Austen Made Me Do It|
Persuasion is a wonderful novel, and when I was lucky enough to be asked by Laurel Ann Nattress to contribute a short story to her anthology, Jane Austen Made Me Do It, I knew I wanted to write a story inspired by Jane Austen's last book.
I'd always wanted to write about how Anne and Frederick Wentworth met, and I was able to indulge that fantasy in my story, Waiting. Here's a little taster:
A garden party at the rectory brought them together again. The curate liked providing opportunities for his parishioners to mingle, and besides, he’d observed the way his brother had been taken with Miss Elliot, hearing him drop her name more than once into the conversation. Anne made an early appearance to see if she could help, and to bring a basket of roses from Kellynch. She could see the marquee but there was no one about when she walked into the walled garden. It promised to be a beautiful day. Lances of sunlight speared through the canopies of boughs, high- lighting pink brick and rambling honeysuckle but making violet shadows on the green lawn still wet with dew. A few cloth- covered tables were already set out. Anne was placing her basket when she heard a voice call out behind her.
“Miss Elliot, forgive me for not greeting you sooner, but I’m afraid I’ve rather had my hands full.”
Lieutenant Wentworth advanced bearing plates of cake and thinly sliced bread and butter.
“Oh, do let me help,” cried Anne, rushing forth to relieve him, glad to do something to cover her confusion. Just seeing him
again overset all her feelings.
“We’re all hands on deck in the kitchen,” he continued. “Mrs. Badcock’s fairly cooked herself out with a battery of buns and cakes, and though I can slice a loaf to within a sail’s breadth, I must admit to being all at sea with their display.”
Anne laughed. “I’d be happy to arrange slices of cake, or anything at all! Show me the way.”
The curate was rather shocked to ﬁ nd the baronet’s daughter in his kitchen but she protested against being shooed out. Anne took pleasure in selecting the prettiest ﬂoral china and deciding what must go where, and then she and Lieutenant Wentworth
took everything out into the garden to cover it all carefully with snowy cloths before the guests arrived.
“I was rather hoping you might help me with something else later on,” he said, as they both took the ends of a tablecloth between them. “I have a feeling that your particular talents will be needed.”
Anne couldn’t imagine what he meant, though she expressed her willingness to be of help.
“I noticed when we were in church last Sunday how you kept some of the noisier children amused with pencils and paper. I confess; it was your gentle way with them that impressed me. You seem able to make them do as you wish with the smallest effort.”
“Idle hands are often mischievous ones. I ﬁnd if the children are occupied, it follows they are no trouble. Their contentment had little to do with me.”
“You are too modest, Miss Elliot. I’ve seen how your particular methods work on the most troublesome case. I am certain you could persuade anyone to anything. Indeed, no one could be safe from the charms of Miss Anne Elliot.”
Anne could not decide what he meant nor did she know how to answer. Smoothing the corner of the cloth with her ﬁngers, she avoided looking up directly at the face she knew was scrutinising hers.
Writing this story made me realise how much I wanted to write a Persuasion inspired book. Searching for Captain Wentworth is the title, and I'm looking forward to sharing it with you all. I am thrilled to announce that I shall be talking at the Jane Austen Festival this year, and I hope to meet you there to tell you all about my new book!
I have so many favourite extracts from Jane Austen's Persuasion, but there is something wonderful about this part of the book where Anne spies Captain Wentworth in Bath - a total surprise! I love the pace of this paragraph; you feel as if you are there with Anne and experience every emotion.
It was fixed, accordingly, that Mrs. Clay should be of the party in the carriage; and they had just reached this point, when Anne, as she sat near the window, descried, most decidedly and distinctly, Captain Wentworth walking down the street. Her start was perceptible only to herself; but she instantly felt that she was the greatest simpleton in the world, the most unaccountable and absurd! For a few minutes she saw nothing before her.: it was all confusion. She was lost, and when she had scolded back her senses, she found the others still waiting for the carriage, and Mr. Elliot (always obliging) just setting off for Union Street on a commission of Mrs. Clay's. She now felt a great inclination to go to the outer door; she wanted to see if it rained. Why was she to suspect herself of another motive? Captain Wentworth must be out of sight. She left her seat, she would go; one half of her should not be always so much wiser than the other half, or always suspecting the other of being worse than it was. She would see if it rained. She was sent back, however, in a moment, by the entrance of Captain Wentworth himself, among a party of gentlemen and ladies, evidently his acquaintance, and whom he must have joined a little below Milsom Street. He was more obviously struck and confused by the sight of her than she had ever observed before; he looked quite red. For the first time since their renewed acquaintance, she felt that she was betraying the least sensibility of the two. She had the advantage of him in the preparation of the last few moments. All the overpowering, blinding, bewildering, first effects of strong surprise were over with her. Still, however, she had enough to feel! It was agitation, pain, pleasure - a something between delight and misery.