Mrs. Lister of Shibden Hall – Part 2

By T. Novan

 

 

 

PART 1   PART 2  PART 3

Disclaimers: June 20, 2019

WOW it’s been awhile since I had to write a disclaimer. SO HERE GOES!

Not exactly sure how this one should work anyhow, as the characters are well known historical figures. So, I suppose if Anne Lister or Ann Walker have a problem with it, they can take it up with me. I’m up most nights anyhow. However, the television show that has inspired Listermania is called “Gentleman Jack”.

It was created by the very talented, Sally Wainwright. It is produced by Sally Wainwright, Faith Penhale, Laura Lankester, and Phil Collinson. The production company is Lookout Point and the show is seen on HBO in the United States. What ALL that means is, I don’t OWN ANY OF IT!

It is not my intention to infringe upon any copyrights or intellectual properties owned by those individuals or companies. I’m just adding Gentleman Jack, and the amazing Ann(e)s, to the pantheon of fanfiction. This story, hopefully, will have all the elements of the show. So, if anything about the show bothers you, you probably want to give this a pass.

 Just to make sure everyone is clear, Anne WITH an E, is tall, dark haired, older, and VERY worldly. Anne WITHOUT an E is blonde, younger and FAR more innocent (or so she wants us to think).

 With all that said, and hoping I don’t actually get sued, let’s begin. This takes place immediately after the events in Season 1, Episode 8, Are You Still Talking?

 

 

“I need,” Anne paused and gestured across the street. “to pop into the milliners for a moment.”

Ann grinned as she pulled on her gloves. “Are you doing something so womanly as getting a new hat?”

“No.” Anne quirked a brow. “Per your orders, Mrs. Lister, I am trying to play nice with my sister. She ordered some lace and I am picking it up for her.”

“That’s very kind of you. I shall go on to the bank and you may catch up when you can.”

Anne smiled, and nodded. “I will be there shortly. It shouldn’t take long. Will you be alright?”

“I’m only going to the bank. I think I’ll manage to get there without being accosted.”

Anne took her partner’s hand, squeezing it gently before placing a quick kiss on the back. “Perhaps you would like to try the offerings of Mrs. Peter’s tea shop after our business is concluded?”

“That would be lovely. I’ve heard her buns are some of the best in Halifax.” Anne smiled gently, patting her wife’s chest. “Go get Marian’s lace. I will meet you at the bank.”

“Are you sure? We could go together…”

“Anne Lister, go get your sister’s lace. I can manage a transaction at the bank without you.”

“I’m only concerned…” Anne fidgeted with Ann’s shawl as she considered her next words. “Your cousin…”

“Is my concern,” Ann palmed the older woman’s cheek. “He is entitled to his opinion, nothing else. He can’t stop me from withdrawing funds.”

“I’m worried about what he might imply to others about town.”

“Since when are you concerned with what people think?”

“Since you.” Anne smiled.

Ann shrugged one shoulder, “And I came back here, eyes wide open. My choices made. Your strength and the ability to tell the world to mind their own skeletons, a very big part of why I did. Don’t start doubting yourself now. We can’t afford it.”

“You are very good for me, you know that?”

“We are good for each other. We provide the light for each other’s dark places.”

“It’s not often I am left speechless, yet you seem to do it every day.”

“You’ll get used to it,” Ann offered before leaning up and giving her partner a kiss on the cheek. “Now go. I’ll meet you at the bank.”

“Yes, Mrs. Lister.” Anne nodded as she touched the brim of her hat.

“Yes, yes, I do like that.” Anne said with a satisfied sigh as she turned to make her way up the street to the bank.

 

 

“Thomas!” Mr. Washington called with a wave as he made his way up the road. He could see his son-in-law out in the field, clearly working hard as usual.

The young man stopped when he heard his name called. He paused in his efforts long enough to wave to his father-in-law before making sure that the load his cart was secure before turning his attention to the older man.

“Suzanne is up at the house with Mum,” Thomas called as he wiped the sweat from his brow.

“I’ll check on her shortly, but not right now.” Mr. Washington crossed into the field with purpose. He was a father on a mission. “I wish to speak to you.”

“Yes, sir?” Thomas lowered his head and eyes as the older man approached. “What is it you need?”

“I need you to explain to me why you told me your uncle wrote about your father, when that is apparently a lie.”

Thomas sobered immediately, standing up straight as the older man came closer.

“Did my daughter marry a liar?” Mr. Washington growled as he came to a stop, both fists balled, ready to strike out.

“No, sir!” Thomas shook his head then slowly he began nodding. “Well, yes, sir, I suppose she did, but if you will let me explain!”

“You have one minute to do so before I go get her and take her home,” the older man warned. “Let’s hear it!”

Thomas looked to the sky, even as tears streaked down his cheeks. Finally, he settled at the back of the cart and began his story, speaking slowly.

“We were embarrassed. He left us. Just turned his back and left.”

Mr. Washington took a few steps forward, placing a hand on Thomas’s shoulder as he listened to the young man’s tale.

“He had always talked about going to America, especially when he was drunk, which was most of the time. Then that day, Miss Lister sent him home because he was drunk., That seemed to be the line for him. He was angry, shouting and screaming. Insulting to Miss Lister, too.”

“What happened?”

“She ordered us off the site. We came home. I was going to drop him and take the cart back.” Thomas shook his head as more tears poured down his cheeks. “But he was so angry. Lashing out at everyone. It was all we could do to stay out of the way as he made his way to the barn.”

“Then what?”

Thomas shook his head as he sniffed. “I don’t know. I sent Mum and the wee ones to the house, out of sight. Then I took the cart back to work. When I came home that evening, he was gone. I think he got drunk, wandered off and probably broke his neck falling over a log or down a hill.”

“Thomas, why the story about the letter from your uncle?”

“Mum was frightened that maybe we would lose the farm if it was known he’d just up and left. I thought maybe if folks thought he’d gone to America to make a better life for, well us, maybe…”

“Miss Lister would be more understanding about his departure?”

Thomas nodded quickly. “You have to know, we’re better off without him.”

“Thomas, you can’t mean that?”

The young man shook his head, a miserable look crossing his face. “I do. He was always drunk. Vicious on a good day. Work too slowly in the heat, get beat. Work too quickly in the cold, get beat. Wake up happy, get beat.”

“Oh, my boy,” the older man sighed as he looked to the Heavens. “I had no idea.”

“No one did. We made sure of that. Do you want to know why my Mum limps?”

Mr. Washington shook his head, feeling very sorry for pressing the issue with the young man. “If you want to say.”

“Because three days after my brother Alf was born, HE demanded she get up and make him food. When she couldn’t, he beat her so badly he broke her leg. Three days after a babe was born. What kind of evil man beats the woman who gives him a healthy son!?” Thomas laughed humorlessly as he looked to the sky, “What kind of man beats his wife and children at all?”

“He hit you?” Mr. Washington had to ask for his own clarification.

“Every day, for some slight, real or imagined. Some days, I’d hope he’d beat me and leave them alone.”

“Dear God…” Mr. Washington felt physically ill, but managed to maintain his composure. “I had no idea.”

“No one did.” Thomas gestured aimlessly. “We kept it that way. We knew what kind of reputation he had. We knew what people thought of our family because of him. We just didn’t want to make it worse.”

Mr. Washington nodded. He knew it to be true from first-hand experience. His wife had not been keen on the match of their Suzanne to the young Mr. Sowden. She considered him lower class and well beneath her family. It was only because Miss Lister spoke so highly of the young man that the match had finally been approved. And all of it had been because of the reputation Samuel Sowden had in Halifax and the surrounding countryside.

“We…, well, we thought that saying he had run away to America was the best thing to do. That we had word from a relative. I had no idea that Uncle Ben would show up unannounced. We just didn’t want any trouble with the lease. We couldn’t afford to lose our home because of his poor decisions.”

“Did you ask for Suzanne’s hand in marriage simply to shore up your footing with Miss Lister? Because she suggested it?”

“I have loved Suzanne since the first time I saw her. When Miss Lister suggested that being married was the thing, it seemed like a natural solution. I do love Suzanne. I would never hurt her or let anyone else hurt her. I will give her a good life. I promise.”

Mr. Washington looked into Thomas’ eyes, seeing nothing but sadness and shame. The older man drew a deep, emotional breath as he pulled the young man into a hug. “It’s okay, Thomas. We are a family now.”

Thomas sobbed, collapsing into the man, wrapping his arms as tightly as possible around him. “I only did what I thought was right to protect my Mum and the wee ones. I didn’t want to lose our home. This farm is all we have. I’m sorry.”

“I know,” his father-in-law patted Thomas’ back. “I understand. It’s okay. It’s going to be okay.”

 

 

The teller smiled at the young woman as she approached his window. “Good morning, Miss Walker. What can we do for you this morning?”

“I shall be making a withdrawal.”

“Of course,” the teller nodded as he offered her a slip of paper. “Just fill this out for me, please.”

Anne took the paper and a pen. Dipping the nib in the well to her right, she carefully filled out the withdrawal slip before returning it to the still smiling teller.

The look on his face changed drastically as he read the slip of paper in his now trembling hand. “Just one,” he croaked, his voice cracking so badly he had to clear his throat. “Just one moment, Miss Walker. I only need to get this approved.”

Ann squared her shoulders, looking a bit surprised. “Approved? Why should you need approval to give me my own money?”

“Oh, well, it’s such a large sum. I will have to go to the vault.”

“I see.”

“Excuse me,” he nodded, retreating to the back of the bank where the executive offices were located.

Ann looked about the bank; there were several people, mostly men, milling about in the lobby. A couple of gentlemen were seated at desks with bank employees, conducting more detailed transactions than her simple withdrawal.

Looking to the back, she drew a deep breath when she saw the teller speaking with Cousin Christopher Rawson. “Lovely,” she mumbled to herself as she drew a lace handkerchief from her reticule to dab her face.

Both men returned to her, the teller taking his place in his cage; Christopher coming to the front of the counter.

“My dear, dear Ann! How lovely to see you! I had heard you were back from Scotland. Mother and I thought we would call next week, after you were settled.”

“That would be delightful,” Ann smiled to her cousin before turning her attention to the teller. “Is there a problem with my transaction?”

“I, um…” The man sputtered, looking to Mr. Rawson to clarify.

“Ann, why would you need to withdraw such a large amount of money?”

“Because it is my money and I want it?”

“For what?”

“That would be none of your business, Cousin.”

“I think helping the bank’s clients manage their funds effectively is my business. You are not only a client but my cousin, so my duty to you is doubled.”

“Then rest assured that I am capable of using MY money as I see fit.”

Rawson watched as Ann brought the handkerchief to her lips once again. He bristled slightly as he reached out to touch the corner of the bit of linen where the bold, black, AL presented itself to him like a dagger to the chest.

“Are you quite sure you haven’t been ‘enticed’ into a foolish venture, cousin?”

“Excuse me?”

It was not the voice Christopher Rawson expected. He and Ann turned to find Anne Lister coming to a halt between them.

“Excuse me, Mr. Rawson, but did I hear you correctly? What exactly are you suggesting?” Anne asked far more politely than she was feeling at the moment, though the look on her face no doubt gave that fact away.

“I’m making sure that my cousin has not been lured into something,” his pause was purposeful as he sneered at the tall woman, “untoward. Something that might be an embarrassment to her and our family.”

“How dare you!” Anne growled, leaning closer to the irritating man.

“Anne.” Ann warned with a gentle tug to the woman’s overcoat. “Don’t. Please?”

Anne dropped back from her position towering over Rawson, to stand behind the younger woman, still maintaining an impressive sneer.

“If you will just authorize my withdrawal, we shall be on our way,” Ann said as she looked between Rawson and the teller.

Weighing his options, Rawson decided now was not the time. He gave a quick nod to the man across the counter then turned on his heel and stomped away.

“Well, that went well.” Anne grinned as the teller began counting out bills on the counter.

“They’re planning on making a visit next week. I guess than means we will have to go with your plan and make the rounds, heading them off.” Ann offered as she watched the man count out the money.

“Or,” Anne leaned in and whispered conspiratorially, “we could extend an invitation to them at Shibden.”

“I am very attracted to your evil steak,” Ann whispered back.

“Among other things,” Anne tormented with a grin.

The teller nearly fainted.

 

 

“I’m sure,” Ann grabbed Anne by the back of the vest. “Everything is fine! Would you stop?!”

“You invited the Rawson and the Priestly families here today and you don’t expect me to make sure everything is perfect?”

“It IS perfect already! Stop! You are going to make the servants crazy with all your fidgeting and unreasonable complaining. Go to play with your watch! Leave Elizabeth and the rest alone. Your nitpicking is out of control.”

“Nitpicking?”

“Yes!” Ann rolled her eyes. “You need other options? Because I assure you, I can provide them.”

“I thought you loved my quirks and idiosyncrasies?”

“Oh, I see where the mistake was made!” Ann nodded as she smoothed the sleeves of her love’s shirt. “I love you IN SPITE of your quirks and idiosyncrasies.”

“Oh, very funny, Mrs. Lister!” Anne growled playfully as she closed the distance between them, effectively pinning her partner against a wall. “I can think of one or two quirks you find more than satisfying…”

“Behave!” Ann half laughed; half shrieked as she gave Anne a playful shove. “It will not do for us to be out of breath and red faced when everyone arrives. You KNOW what they would think!”

“The very same thing they are thinking right now, so why shouldn’t we have some fun before they arrive?”

“Would you behave!?”

“Who knew,” Anne turned dramatically in the opposite direction. “That married life could possibly be so boring and pedestrian?”

“Everyone who has ever been married?” Ann quipped as she pushed past her partner to inspect the layout of the table prepared for the arrival of her relatives.

“That must be why I haven’t done it until now.” Anne teased as she looked over the table as well.

“That, and there was no woman in the world ready to put up with you until now.”

Anne threw her head back, laughing so loudly it brought Joseph scurrying in from the kitchen, skidding just slightly as he entered the room. “Do you require something Miss Lister, Miss Walker?”

“No Joseph,” Ann smiled kindly at the young man. “Everything is perfect. Thank you. We’re just awaiting the arrival of our guests.”

“Yes, ma’am.” He smiled back to her, bowing at the waist before leaving the room.

“You make the servants nervous.” Ann offered as she straightened a fork in one of the place settings.

“Good.” Anne nodded as she moved to look out a window. “A healthy sense of fear is not necessarily a bad thing.”

“Really?” Ann turned from the table to look at her partner. “How can you say that? Do you not realize it is that healthy sense of fear that kept me prisoner for so many years? The fear I really was crazy. The fear that I didn’t know my own mind. They put that fear into place.”

“I didn’t mean it that way.” Anne was instantly contrite.

“What? Fear is good for those we consider lessor than ourselves? Is that how you control people? Fear?”

“I…I…” Anne sputtered, desperately trying to find the right thing to say, but realizing that something had been triggered in her partner by her simple comment. “Of course not! You know me better than that.”

“I thought I did.”

“You do!” Anne moved quickly, taking her wife’s hands in her own. “I don’t know why I said that. You know I don’t treat the servants badly.”

“You just treat them like servants?”

Anne raised her hands in question and frustration. “How the hell am I supposed to treat them?”

“Like human beings? They have hopes and dreams just like we do. They just have to work harder for them. They don’t need you adding fear to the mix.”

“Be nice to my sister. Be nice to the servants.” Anne lifted her brows and questioned, “So basically, be nice?”

“Basically.”

“And all along I thought I was nice.”

“You are to those you think are your betters. Or your equals. Though you don’t seem to think there are a lot of those.”

“Well this has been a fascinating and wildly unexpected journey into the depths of my psyche.”

“Darling,” Ann soothed. “I love you, but you are arrogant on a good day.”

“Do you intend to list all my flaws before our guests arrive?”

There was a quick, short, bark of a laugh as Ann crossed the room to her irritated partner. She reached out, slowly, not finding any rebuff, she proceeded to wrap her arms around Anne’s waist. She looked up and smiled, softly. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to snap at you like that. Some times the way things are said… seem to agitate me.”

Anne pulled back from the embrace, looking down into soft green eyes. “We will work on that together.” She raised her hand and gently palmed Ann’s cheek. “I promise.”

Kissing the palm of Anne’s hand, Ann offered quietly. “Thank you.”

“Now,” Anne straightened the collar of her partner’s dress. “Let’s get ready for our guests. The Priestley’s should be arriving any minute.”

 

 

Aunt Anne, Captain Lister, the Priestley’s, and Mrs. Stansfield Rawson were seated together at a small table, drinking tea and carrying on a vibrant conversation. A few feet away, Ann sat with the Rawson brothers and their cousins Catherine and Delia. The conversation at that table wasn’t nearly lively, but it was pleasant and polite.

Anne sat back along the wall of the parlor; a wine glass being rolled by the stem between her fingers. She looked away from the group of people seated around tables in the center of the room, to Marian who sat with her at the side of the room looking quite irritated.

“Something wrong?” Anne asked quietly so as not to interrupt the gathering.

Marian made a quick gesture to the group and hissed, “Only the most awkward social situation in known history.”

Anne grinned as she leaned over and whispered, “It couldn’t possibly get any worse.”

Before Marian could comment, Joseph entered the room, making a direct line for Anne. He looked down and said, “Miss Lister, Mrs. Charles Lawton has arrived.”

Anne’s eyes went slightly round before she managed to regain her comportment. She turned her head slowly towards her quietly tittering sister.

“Seems you spoke too soon,” Marian laughed as she took a drink of her wine. “Good luck.”

TBC…

 

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