Questions, questions, but few answers.
Dinner with her parents and brothers that evening, was very different from what it usually was when they visited. They also began to see a new and more confident, Anna.
They had many questions, of course, but were met with the same blankness each time, and eventually had to give up, and just enjoy the substantial repast set in front of them, plain and simple as it was, but made up for by the wine flowing freely. A good wine too.
Anna sat at the head of the table this time, rather than her father being there as on their previous visits, and she would have helped Hetty wait upon them, if Hetty had let her; frowning at her and silently mouthing ‘don’t you dare’ to her, when she appeared to be agitated enough to want to get up and help, even gently pressing her to stay in her seat with some discreet pressure on her shoulder.
Anna looked up at her and whispered.
“I should be waiting on them, Hetty. They are my guests and I cannot have you doing all of the work. That is not how we have come so far forward.”
Hetty was not swayed by that argument and continued serving them.
They listened and saw, knowing better than to say anything about Anna just letting the servants do their jobs, except everyone and no one, was a servant in this house. This was a working farm, and they all pulled their weight, doing what they knew needed to be done, including Anna; as their daughter had candidly told them. Her hands told as much when they'd last visited.
Her brothers sat silently and just smiled at this new order of things. This was the sister they'd remembered when she'd taken over their father’s estate and turned it around. She had taken charge then, too, albeit reluctantly, sending them back to their own families.
Everyone saw it, and other changes in her too, but no one said anything. Anna dismissed their unspoken concerns for her.
“Why this unusual silence? I am back home now, and I feel wonderful; rejuvenated, despite not knowing where I was for two weeks. Can you see anything wrong with me? If you can, please tell me.”
Her mother re-assured her. “No, my love. If anything, you have improved. Your eyes are clearer, and sharper; you are sitting straighter, and I have never seen you so ready to engage in argument. If I had to find fault, it is with that windswept look that you have. The sun and weather are not kind to such a delicate skin that we women have.”
“Then there is nothing wrong with me, Mama, so let us get beyond this undercurrent of apprehension that I still sense, and enjoy our dinner while we touch upon what is truly important.”
She looked around.
“What happened while I was away? Did any new wars break out? What is the gossip from London?”
She saw a problem.
“We need more wine.”
Hetty swooped in before she could rise from her seat and remedied that deficiency. She'd had bottles of a better wine already opened and breathing, to bring to the table, and soon saw the conversation pick up again as though nothing had happened, other than that there was a new order to things.
Anna had found her feet.
She’d leapt in to the conversation earlier, and with more confidence than she would have done before, and even seemed to be reasonably up-to-date on the news in the Gazette, with some even strongly-outspoken views on topics that a wise woman normally avoided discussing; those concerning politics, and war. What could a woman possibly know of them?
She had obviously been informed of matters of importance while she had been away, wherever that had been, so she must have read enough of the London papers; which was another matter to consider.
At least they knew enough to compliment Hetty on the dinner, despite the odds against that, but by then the wine had begun to have its effect and they learned to relax better as the evening progressed, even to the point of being able to ignore Samson, just as he was able to ignore them.
“It’s clear that you were unharmed by your experience, my dear, thank god, so we shall depart in the morning, and not impose upon you any further.”