7 A Pump Room Vignette

[This little diddy was inspired by a meme containing the opening quotation from Sense and Sensibility along with the caption “Wanted: alternate universe where Marianne Dashwood and Anne Elliot meet,” followed by an extended time of considering if Anne and Marianne would completely disagree or not.] 

“A woman at seven and twenty,” said Marianne Dashwood after pausing a moment, “can never hope to feel or inspire affection again.”

Her sister, Elinor cast an apologetic glance at their companion. “I very much doubt, Marianne, that the human heart, be it male or female, withers away to nonexistence in so short a period of time. Seven and twenty is not so ancient as you might think.”

She picked up her cup of tea and took a sip while Marianne lifted her chin and retorted, “It is not so very young either. A lady is most decidedly on the shelf is she is not married by seven and twenty. What gentleman of any value is going to consider such a lady? It is, therefore, only proper that all thoughts of longing for affection should be removed. It would be agony for it to be any other way. Imagine! Pining away for years and years without any hope of ever experiencing love!”

The argument continued for some time with neither sister conceding a single point.  Anne Elliot shook her head and attended to her tea.  She had certainly never considered seven and twenty to be too old to inspire affection until Captain Wentworth had returned and devoted his time and attention to ladies who were much younger than she.  Anne placed her empty cup on the table and entered the conversation.  “I believe, Miss Dashwood, that Miss Marianne is not entirely wrong.”

“Do you hear that?” Marianne exclaimed with glee.  “I am not wrong.”

Elinor leveled an annoyed glare at her younger sister. “She said you were not entirely wrong, and not entirely wrong is not the same as entirely correct. Even in Miss Elliot’s assessment, you are wrong.”

“But not completely,” Marianne protested. “Of course, you would never admit I was ever even partially correct. You have to be right and all others must be mistaken. It is just how you are.”

“I am not,” Elinor replied flatly. “I am just better at judging things from a rational position than you are.”

“If I may,” Anne interrupted.

“Oh, of course. Forgive us,” Elinor apologized, settling back into her chair and taking up her teacup as if not a thing in the world could disturb her.

It was something that Anne admired about the eldest Dashwood sister. She was always so calm. It was reassuring just to be in her presence for that peace seemed to fill the room and settle on its inhabitants like a great welcoming blanket. Anne had never felt so at ease in the Pump Room as she did at this moment. But then, she had always been here with individuals that were a great deal more like Miss Marianne — a flutter of feelings and actions with just as many words.

“I have never considered age to be the culprit in feeling or inspiring affection. The workings of the heart are, in my opinion, difficult to predict.  Therefore, one might feel the greatest attraction and dedication to one who is younger or older than one’s self with very little ability to explain such a thing.”

“I would agree,” Elinor said.

“Are you saying,” Marianne asked with no little amount of incredulity, “that one as young as myself might inspire love in the heart of a gentleman nearly twice my age? Or that Elinor might attract the affections of one who is green from school.”  She shot her sister a taunting look.

“I am not that old,” Elinor said, playing into the provocation.

“I am saying precisely that.”

“It is worth consideration,” Marianne allowed, “even if it does strike one at first as being quite impossible.”

“I assure you that I have had ample years to consider such things,” Anne replied with a smile.

Marianne’s eyes grew wide and her hand flew to her lips. “I had not considered…”

“I am not offended. I am beyond my prime. Life is what it is.  However, from my experience, I would have to say that a lady who is seven and twenty who has once had her heart engaged but for whatever reason has turned away that source of happiness must resign herself to never again inspiring or feeling affection as she once did. She may find felicity and companionship but never passionate, ardent love, for those feelings have already been claimed and denied. And you are most certainly correct that it is an agony of a most dreadful sort.”

Marianne blinked and remained silent as she pondered what her new friend had said. Then, she placed her hand on her heart and sighed. “That is most tragically beautiful.”

“Tragically beautiful? Marianne.” Elinor chided.

Marianne ignored her sister and leaned toward Anne.  “Must it always be so, do you think? Must a love that has departed never be reclaimed?”

“For the young or for the old?” Anne asked with a small smile for Elinor.

“For either!” cried Marianne. “I should not like to think that I have already dismissed my one chance at happiness without exploring it completely.”

Anne sighed and pushed the ache in her heart aside. “You will know if you have refused it. There will be no doubt in your mind.”

Elinor covered Anne’s hand that lay on the table and gave it a squeeze. “I believe what is meant to be, will eventually be.” There was a sense of urgent understanding in her words and a longing in her eyes that Anne recognized all too well.

Marianne leaned back in her chair and shrugged. “Then it will be, for we all know; Elinor is never wrong,”

The comment was accompanied by a roll of the eyes that made Elinor and Anne share a knowing smile. In time, Marianne would come to realize her folly.  However, Anne hoped it would be long before she experienced the pain of having and losing one’s heart.


Tales from Pemberley Copyright © 2014 by Leenie Brown. All Rights Reserved.

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