Persuasion, by Jane Austen
Part 4 out of 5
that she was expecting him to go every moment, but he did not;
he seemed in no hurry to leave her; and presently with renewed spirit,
with a little smile, a little glow, he said--
"I have hardly seen you since our day at Lyme. I am afraid you must have
suffered from the shock, and the more from its not overpowering you
at the time."
She assured him that she had not.
"It was a frightful hour," said he, "a frightful day!" and he
passed his hand across his eyes, as if the remembrance were still
too painful, but in a moment, half smiling again, added,
"The day has produced some effects however; has had some consequences
which must be considered as the very reverse of frightful.
When you had the presence of mind to suggest that Benwick would be
the properest person to fetch a surgeon, you could have little idea
of his being eventually one of those most concerned in her recovery."
"Certainly I could have none. But it appears--I should hope it would be
a very happy match. There are on both sides good principles
and good temper."
"Yes," said he, looking not exactly forward; "but there, I think,
ends the resemblance. With all my soul I wish them happy, and rejoice
over every circumstance in favour of it. They have no difficulties
to contend with at home, no opposition, no caprice, no delays.
The Musgroves are behaving like themselves, most honourably and kindly,
only anxious with true parental hearts to promote their daughter's comfort.
All this is much, very much in favour of their happiness;
more than perhaps--"
He stopped. A sudden recollection seemed to occur, and to give him
some taste of that emotion which was reddening Anne's cheeks
and fixing her eyes on the ground. After clearing his throat, however,
he proceeded thus--
"I confess that I do think there is a disparity, too great a disparity,
and in a point no less essential than mind. I regard Louisa Musgrove
as a very amiable, sweet-tempered girl, and not deficient in understanding,
but Benwick is something more. He is a clever man, a reading man;
and I confess, that I do consider his attaching himself to her
with some surprise. Had it been the effect of gratitude,
had he learnt to love her, because he believed her to be preferring him,
it would have been another thing. But I have no reason to suppose it so.
It seems, on the contrary, to have been a perfectly spontaneous,
untaught feeling on his side, and this surprises me. A man like him,
in his situation! with a heart pierced, wounded, almost broken!
Fanny Harville was a very superior creature, and his attachment to her
was indeed attachment. A man does not recover from such
a devotion of the heart to such a woman. He ought not; he does not."
Either from the consciousness, however, that his friend had recovered,
or from other consciousness, he went no farther; and Anne who,
in spite of the agitated voice in which the latter part had been uttered,
and in spite of all the various noises of the room, the almost ceaseless
slam of the door, and ceaseless buzz of persons walking through,
had distinguished every word, was struck, gratified, confused,
and beginning to breathe very quick, and feel an hundred things
in a moment. It was impossible for her to enter on such a subject;
and yet, after a pause, feeling the necessity of speaking,
and having not the smallest wish for a total change, she only deviated
so far as to say--
"You were a good while at Lyme, I think?"
"About a fortnight. I could not leave it till Louisa's doing well
was quite ascertained. I had been too deeply concerned in the mischief
to be soon at peace. It had been my doing, solely mine.
She would not have been obstinate if I had not been weak.
The country round Lyme is very fine. I walked and rode a great deal;
and the more I saw, the more I found to admire."
"I should very much like to see Lyme again," said Anne.
"Indeed! I should not have supposed that you could have found
anything in Lyme to inspire such a feeling. The horror and distress
you were involved in, the stretch of mind, the wear of spirits!
I should have thought your last impressions of Lyme must have been
"The last hours were certainly very painful," replied Anne;
"but when pain is over, the remembrance of it often becomes a pleasure.
One does not love a place the less for having suffered in it,
unless it has been all suffering, nothing but suffering, which was
by no means the case at Lyme. We were only in anxiety and distress
during the last two hours, and previously there had been a great deal
of enjoyment. So much novelty and beauty! I have travelled so little,
that every fresh place would be interesting to me; but there is real beauty
at Lyme; and in short" (with a faint blush at some recollections),
"altogether my impressions of the place are very agreeable."
As she ceased, the entrance door opened again, and the very party appeared
for whom they were waiting. "Lady Dalrymple, Lady Dalrymple,"
was the rejoicing sound; and with all the eagerness compatible
with anxious elegance, Sir Walter and his two ladies stepped forward
to meet her. Lady Dalrymple and Miss Carteret, escorted by Mr Elliot
and Colonel Wallis, who had happened to arrive nearly at the same instant,
advanced into the room. The others joined them, and it was
a group in which Anne found herself also necessarily included.
She was divided from Captain Wentworth. Their interesting,
almost too interesting conversation must be broken up for a time,
but slight was the penance compared with the happiness which brought it on!
She had learnt, in the last ten minutes, more of his feelings
towards Louisa, more of all his feelings than she dared to think of;
and she gave herself up to the demands of the party, to the needful
civilities of the moment, with exquisite, though agitated sensations.
She was in good humour with all. She had received ideas which
disposed her to be courteous and kind to all, and to pity every one,
as being less happy than herself.
The delightful emotions were a little subdued, when on stepping back
from the group, to be joined again by Captain Wentworth, she saw
that he was gone. She was just in time to see him turn into
the Concert Room. He was gone; he had disappeared, she felt
a moment's regret. But "they should meet again. He would look for her,
he would find her out before the evening were over, and at present,
perhaps, it was as well to be asunder. She was in need of
a little interval for recollection."
Upon Lady Russell's appearance soon afterwards, the whole party
was collected, and all that remained was to marshal themselves,
and proceed into the Concert Room; and be of all the consequence
in their power, draw as many eyes, excite as many whispers,
and disturb as many people as they could.
Very, very happy were both Elizabeth and Anne Elliot as they walked in.
Elizabeth arm in arm with Miss Carteret, and looking on the broad back
of the dowager Viscountess Dalrymple before her, had nothing to wish for
which did not seem within her reach; and Anne--but it would be
an insult to the nature of Anne's felicity, to draw any comparison
between it and her sister's; the origin of one all selfish vanity,
of the other all generous attachment.
Anne saw nothing, thought nothing of the brilliancy of the room.
Her happiness was from within. Her eyes were bright and her cheeks glowed;
but she knew nothing about it. She was thinking only of
the last half hour, and as they passed to their seats, her mind took
a hasty range over it. His choice of subjects, his expressions,
and still more his manner and look, had been such as she could see
in only one light. His opinion of Louisa Musgrove's inferiority,
an opinion which he had seemed solicitous to give, his wonder
at Captain Benwick, his feelings as to a first, strong attachment;
sentences begun which he could not finish, his half averted eyes
and more than half expressive glance, all, all declared that he had
a heart returning to her at least; that anger, resentment, avoidance,
were no more; and that they were succeeded, not merely by friendship
and regard, but by the tenderness of the past. Yes, some share of
the tenderness of the past. She could not contemplate the change
as implying less. He must love her.
These were thoughts, with their attendant visions, which occupied
and flurried her too much to leave her any power of observation;
and she passed along the room without having a glimpse of him,
without even trying to discern him. When their places were determined on,
and they were all properly arranged, she looked round to see
if he should happen to be in the same part of the room, but he was not;
her eye could not reach him; and the concert being just opening,
she must consent for a time to be happy in a humbler way.
The party was divided and disposed of on two contiguous benches:
Anne was among those on the foremost, and Mr Elliot had manoeuvred so well,
with the assistance of his friend Colonel Wallis, as to have a seat by her.
Miss Elliot, surrounded by her cousins, and the principal object
of Colonel Wallis's gallantry, was quite contented.
Anne's mind was in a most favourable state for the entertainment
of the evening; it was just occupation enough: she had feelings for
the tender, spirits for the gay, attention for the scientific,
and patience for the wearisome; and had never liked a concert better,
at least during the first act. Towards the close of it,
in the interval succeeding an Italian song, she explained
the words of the song to Mr Elliot. They had a concert bill between them.
"This," said she, "is nearly the sense, or rather the meaning of the words,
for certainly the sense of an Italian love-song must not be talked of,
but it is as nearly the meaning as I can give; for I do not pretend
to understand the language. I am a very poor Italian scholar."
"Yes, yes, I see you are. I see you know nothing of the matter.
You have only knowledge enough of the language to translate at sight
these inverted, transposed, curtailed Italian lines, into clear,
comprehensible, elegant English. You need not say anything more
of your ignorance. Here is complete proof."
"I will not oppose such kind politeness; but I should be sorry to be
examined by a real proficient."
"I have not had the pleasure of visiting in Camden Place so long,"
replied he, "without knowing something of Miss Anne Elliot;
and I do regard her as one who is too modest for the world in general
to be aware of half her accomplishments, and too highly accomplished
for modesty to be natural in any other woman."
"For shame! for shame! this is too much flattery. I forget what we are
to have next," turning to the bill.
"Perhaps," said Mr Elliot, speaking low, "I have had a longer acquaintance
with your character than you are aware of."
"Indeed! How so? You can have been acquainted with it only since
I came to Bath, excepting as you might hear me previously spoken of
in my own family."
"I knew you by report long before you came to Bath. I had heard you
described by those who knew you intimately. I have been acquainted
with you by character many years. Your person, your disposition,
accomplishments, manner; they were all present to me."
Mr Elliot was not disappointed in the interest he hoped to raise.
No one can withstand the charm of such a mystery. To have been
described long ago to a recent acquaintance, by nameless people,
is irresistible; and Anne was all curiosity. She wondered,
and questioned him eagerly; but in vain. He delighted in being asked,
but he would not tell.
"No, no, some time or other, perhaps, but not now. He would mention
no names now; but such, he could assure her, had been the fact.
He had many years ago received such a description of Miss Anne Elliot
as had inspired him with the highest idea of her merit, and excited
the warmest curiosity to know her."
Anne could think of no one so likely to have spoken with
partiality of her many years ago as the Mr Wentworth of Monkford,
Captain Wentworth's brother. He might have been in Mr Elliot's company,
but she had not courage to ask the question.
"The name of Anne Elliot," said he, "has long had an interesting sound to me.
Very long has it possessed a charm over my fancy; and, if I dared,
I would breathe my wishes that the name might never change."
Such, she believed, were his words; but scarcely had she
received their sound, than her attention was caught by other sounds
immediately behind her, which rendered every thing else trivial.
Her father and Lady Dalrymple were speaking.
"A well-looking man," said Sir Walter, "a very well-looking man."
"A very fine young man indeed!" said Lady Dalrymple. "More air
than one often sees in Bath. Irish, I dare say."
"No, I just know his name. A bowing acquaintance. Wentworth;
Captain Wentworth of the navy. His sister married my tenant
in Somersetshire, the Croft, who rents Kellynch."
Before Sir Walter had reached this point, Anne's eyes had caught
the right direction, and distinguished Captain Wentworth standing
among a cluster of men at a little distance. As her eyes fell on him,
his seemed to be withdrawn from her. It had that appearance.
It seemed as if she had been one moment too late; and as long as she
dared observe, he did not look again: but the performance
was recommencing, and she was forced to seem to restore her attention
to the orchestra and look straight forward.
When she could give another glance, he had moved away. He could not have
come nearer to her if he would; she was so surrounded and shut in:
but she would rather have caught his eye.
Mr Elliot's speech, too, distressed her. She had no longer
any inclination to talk to him. She wished him not so near her.
The first act was over. Now she hoped for some beneficial change;
and, after a period of nothing-saying amongst the party, some of them
did decide on going in quest of tea. Anne was one of the few who
did not choose to move. She remained in her seat, and so did Lady Russell;
but she had the pleasure of getting rid of Mr Elliot; and she did not mean,
whatever she might feel on Lady Russell's account, to shrink from
conversation with Captain Wentworth, if he gave her the opportunity.
She was persuaded by Lady Russell's countenance that she had seen him.
He did not come however. Anne sometimes fancied she discerned him
at a distance, but he never came. The anxious interval
wore away unproductively. The others returned, the room filled again,
benches were reclaimed and repossessed, and another hour of pleasure
or of penance was to be sat out, another hour of music was to give
delight or the gapes, as real or affected taste for it prevailed.
To Anne, it chiefly wore the prospect of an hour of agitation.
She could not quit that room in peace without seeing Captain Wentworth
once more, without the interchange of one friendly look.
In re-settling themselves there were now many changes, the result of which
was favourable for her. Colonel Wallis declined sitting down again,
and Mr Elliot was invited by Elizabeth and Miss Carteret, in a manner
not to be refused, to sit between them; and by some other removals,
and a little scheming of her own, Anne was enabled to place herself
much nearer the end of the bench than she had been before,
much more within reach of a passer-by. She could not do so,
without comparing herself with Miss Larolles, the inimitable Miss Larolles;
but still she did it, and not with much happier effect;
though by what seemed prosperity in the shape of an early abdication
in her next neighbours, she found herself at the very end of the bench
before the concert closed.
Such was her situation, with a vacant space at hand, when Captain Wentworth
was again in sight. She saw him not far off. He saw her too;
yet he looked grave, and seemed irresolute, and only by very slow degrees
came at last near enough to speak to her. She felt that something
must be the matter. The change was indubitable. The difference
between his present air and what it had been in the Octagon Room
was strikingly great. Why was it? She thought of her father,
of Lady Russell. Could there have been any unpleasant glances?
He began by speaking of the concert gravely, more like the Captain
Wentworth of Uppercross; owned himself disappointed, had expected singing;
and in short, must confess that he should not be sorry when it was over.
Anne replied, and spoke in defence of the performance so well,
and yet in allowance for his feelings so pleasantly, that his countenance
improved, and he replied again with almost a smile. They talked
for a few minutes more; the improvement held; he even looked down
towards the bench, as if he saw a place on it well worth occupying;
when at that moment a touch on her shoulder obliged Anne to turn round.
It came from Mr Elliot. He begged her pardon, but she must be applied to,
to explain Italian again. Miss Carteret was very anxious to have
a general idea of what was next to be sung. Anne could not refuse;
but never had she sacrificed to politeness with a more suffering spirit.
A few minutes, though as few as possible, were inevitably consumed;
and when her own mistress again, when able to turn and look
as she had done before, she found herself accosted by Captain Wentworth,
in a reserved yet hurried sort of farewell. "He must wish her good night;
he was going; he should get home as fast as he could."
"Is not this song worth staying for?" said Anne, suddenly struck
by an idea which made her yet more anxious to be encouraging.
"No!" he replied impressively, "there is nothing worth my staying for;"
and he was gone directly.
Jealousy of Mr Elliot! It was the only intelligible motive.
Captain Wentworth jealous of her affection! Could she have believed it
a week ago; three hours ago! For a moment the gratification was exquisite.
But, alas! there were very different thoughts to succeed.
How was such jealousy to be quieted? How was the truth to reach him?
How, in all the peculiar disadvantages of their respective situations,
would he ever learn of her real sentiments? It was misery to think
of Mr Elliot's attentions. Their evil was incalculable.
Anne recollected with pleasure the next morning her promise
of going to Mrs Smith, meaning that it should engage her from home
at the time when Mr Elliot would be most likely to call; for to avoid
Mr Elliot was almost a first object.
She felt a great deal of good-will towards him. In spite of
the mischief of his attentions, she owed him gratitude and regard,
perhaps compassion. She could not help thinking much of the extraordinary
circumstances attending their acquaintance, of the right which
he seemed to have to interest her, by everything in situation,
by his own sentiments, by his early prepossession. It was altogether
very extraordinary; flattering, but painful. There was much to regret.
How she might have felt had there been no Captain Wentworth in the case,
was not worth enquiry; for there was a Captain Wentworth;
and be the conclusion of the present suspense good or bad,
her affection would be his for ever. Their union, she believed,
could not divide her more from other men, than their final separation.
Prettier musings of high-wrought love and eternal constancy,
could never have passed along the streets of Bath, than Anne
was sporting with from Camden Place to Westgate Buildings.
It was almost enough to spread purification and perfume all the way.
She was sure of a pleasant reception; and her friend seemed this morning
particularly obliged to her for coming, seemed hardly to have expected her,
though it had been an appointment.
An account of the concert was immediately claimed; and Anne's recollections
of the concert were quite happy enough to animate her features
and make her rejoice to talk of it. All that she could tell
she told most gladly, but the all was little for one who had been there,
and unsatisfactory for such an enquirer as Mrs Smith, who had
already heard, through the short cut of a laundress and a waiter,
rather more of the general success and produce of the evening
than Anne could relate, and who now asked in vain for several particulars
of the company. Everybody of any consequence or notoriety in Bath
was well know by name to Mrs Smith.
"The little Durands were there, I conclude," said she, "with their mouths
open to catch the music, like unfledged sparrows ready to be fed.
They never miss a concert."
"Yes; I did not see them myself, but I heard Mr Elliot say they were
in the room."
"The Ibbotsons, were they there? and the two new beauties,
with the tall Irish officer, who is talked of for one of them."
"I do not know. I do not think they were."
"Old Lady Mary Maclean? I need not ask after her. She never misses,
I know; and you must have seen her. She must have been in your own circle;
for as you went with Lady Dalrymple, you were in the seats of grandeur,
round the orchestra, of course."
"No, that was what I dreaded. It would have been very unpleasant to me
in every respect. But happily Lady Dalrymple always chooses
to be farther off; and we were exceedingly well placed, that is,
for hearing; I must not say for seeing, because I appear to have seen
"Oh! you saw enough for your own amusement. I can understand.
There is a sort of domestic enjoyment to be known even in a crowd,
and this you had. You were a large party in yourselves,
and you wanted nothing beyond."
"But I ought to have looked about me more," said Anne, conscious
while she spoke that there had in fact been no want of looking about,
that the object only had been deficient.
"No, no; you were better employed. You need not tell me that you
had a pleasant evening. I see it in your eye. I perfectly see
how the hours passed: that you had always something agreeable
to listen to. In the intervals of the concert it was conversation."
Anne half smiled and said, "Do you see that in my eye?"
"Yes, I do. Your countenance perfectly informs me that you were
in company last night with the person whom you think the most agreeable
in the world, the person who interests you at this present time
more than all the rest of the world put together."
A blush overspread Anne's cheeks. She could say nothing.
"And such being the case," continued Mrs Smith, after a short pause,
"I hope you believe that I do know how to value your kindness
in coming to me this morning. It is really very good of you
to come and sit with me, when you must have so many pleasanter demands
upon your time."
Anne heard nothing of this. She was still in the astonishment and
confusion excited by her friend's penetration, unable to imagine
how any report of Captain Wentworth could have reached her.
After another short silence--
"Pray," said Mrs Smith, "is Mr Elliot aware of your acquaintance with me?
Does he know that I am in Bath?"
"Mr Elliot!" repeated Anne, looking up surprised. A moment's reflection
shewed her the mistake she had been under. She caught it instantaneously;
and recovering her courage with the feeling of safety, soon added,
more composedly, "Are you acquainted with Mr Elliot?"
"I have been a good deal acquainted with him," replied Mrs Smith, gravely,
"but it seems worn out now. It is a great while since we met."
"I was not at all aware of this. You never mentioned it before.
Had I known it, I would have had the pleasure of talking to him about you."
"To confess the truth," said Mrs Smith, assuming her usual
air of cheerfulness, "that is exactly the pleasure I want you to have.
I want you to talk about me to Mr Elliot. I want your interest with him.
He can be of essential service to me; and if you would have the goodness,
my dear Miss Elliot, to make it an object to yourself,
of course it is done."
"I should be extremely happy; I hope you cannot doubt my willingness
to be of even the slightest use to you," replied Anne; "but I suspect
that you are considering me as having a higher claim on Mr Elliot,
a greater right to influence him, than is really the case.
I am sure you have, somehow or other, imbibed such a notion.
You must consider me only as Mr Elliot's relation. If in that light
there is anything which you suppose his cousin might fairly ask of him,
I beg you would not hesitate to employ me."
Mrs Smith gave her a penetrating glance, and then, smiling, said--
"I have been a little premature, I perceive; I beg your pardon.
I ought to have waited for official information, But now, my dear
Miss Elliot, as an old friend, do give me a hint as to when I may speak.
Next week? To be sure by next week I may be allowed to
think it all settled, and build my own selfish schemes on
Mr Elliot's good fortune."
"No," replied Anne, "nor next week, nor next, nor next.
I assure you that nothing of the sort you are thinking of
will be settled any week. I am not going to marry Mr Elliot.
I should like to know why you imagine I am?"
Mrs Smith looked at her again, looked earnestly, smiled,
shook her head, and exclaimed--
"Now, how I do wish I understood you! How I do wish I knew
what you were at! I have a great idea that you do not design to be cruel,
when the right moment occurs. Till it does come, you know,
we women never mean to have anybody. It is a thing of course among us,
that every man is refused, till he offers. But why should you be cruel?
Let me plead for my--present friend I cannot call him, but for
my former friend. Where can you look for a more suitable match?
Where could you expect a more gentlemanlike, agreeable man?
Let me recommend Mr Elliot. I am sure you hear nothing but good of him
from Colonel Wallis; and who can know him better than Colonel Wallis?"
"My dear Mrs Smith, Mr Elliot's wife has not been dead much above
half a year. He ought not to be supposed to be paying his addresses
to any one."
"Oh! if these are your only objections," cried Mrs Smith, archly,
"Mr Elliot is safe, and I shall give myself no more trouble about him.
Do not forget me when you are married, that's all. Let him know me to be
a friend of yours, and then he will think little of the trouble required,
which it is very natural for him now, with so many affairs and engagements
of his own, to avoid and get rid of as he can; very natural, perhaps.
Ninety-nine out of a hundred would do the same. Of course,
he cannot be aware of the importance to me. Well, my dear Miss Elliot,
I hope and trust you will be very happy. Mr Elliot has sense
to understand the value of such a woman. Your peace will not be
shipwrecked as mine has been. You are safe in all worldly matters,
and safe in his character. He will not be led astray; he will not be
misled by others to his ruin."
"No," said Anne, "I can readily believe all that of my cousin.
He seems to have a calm decided temper, not at all open
to dangerous impressions. I consider him with great respect.
I have no reason, from any thing that has fallen within my observation,
to do otherwise. But I have not known him long; and he is not a man,
I think, to be known intimately soon. Will not this manner
of speaking of him, Mrs Smith, convince you that he is nothing to me?
Surely this must be calm enough. And, upon my word, he is nothing to me.
Should he ever propose to me (which I have very little reason to imagine
he has any thought of doing), I shall not accept him. I assure you
I shall not. I assure you, Mr Elliot had not the share which
you have been supposing, in whatever pleasure the concert
of last night might afford: not Mr Elliot; it is not Mr Elliot that--"
She stopped, regretting with a deep blush that she had implied so much;
but less would hardly have been sufficient. Mrs Smith would hardly
have believed so soon in Mr Elliot's failure, but from the perception
of there being a somebody else. As it was, she instantly submitted,
and with all the semblance of seeing nothing beyond; and Anne,
eager to escape farther notice, was impatient to know why Mrs Smith
should have fancied she was to marry Mr Elliot; where she could have
received the idea, or from whom she could have heard it.
"Do tell me how it first came into your head."
"It first came into my head," replied Mrs Smith, "upon finding how much
you were together, and feeling it to be the most probable thing
in the world to be wished for by everybody belonging to either of you;
and you may depend upon it that all your acquaintance have disposed of you
in the same way. But I never heard it spoken of till two days ago."
"And has it indeed been spoken of?"
"Did you observe the woman who opened the door to you when
you called yesterday?"
"No. Was not it Mrs Speed, as usual, or the maid? I observed
no one in particular."
"It was my friend Mrs Rooke; Nurse Rooke; who, by-the-bye,
had a great curiosity to see you, and was delighted to be in the way
to let you in. She came away from Marlborough Buildings only on Sunday;
and she it was who told me you were to marry Mr Elliot.
She had had it from Mrs Wallis herself, which did not seem bad authority.
She sat an hour with me on Monday evening, and gave me the whole history."
"The whole history," repeated Anne, laughing. "She could not make
a very long history, I think, of one such little article
of unfounded news."
Mrs Smith said nothing.
"But," continued Anne, presently, "though there is no truth in my having
this claim on Mr Elliot, I should be extremely happy to be of use to you
in any way that I could. Shall I mention to him your being in Bath?
Shall I take any message?"
"No, I thank you: no, certainly not. In the warmth of the moment,
and under a mistaken impression, I might, perhaps, have endeavoured
to interest you in some circumstances; but not now. No, I thank you,
I have nothing to trouble you with."
"I think you spoke of having known Mr Elliot many years?"
"Not before he was married, I suppose?"
"Yes; he was not married when I knew him first."
"And--were you much acquainted?"
"Indeed! Then do tell me what he was at that time of life.
I have a great curiosity to know what Mr Elliot was as a very young man.
Was he at all such as he appears now?"
"I have not seen Mr Elliot these three years," was Mrs Smith's answer,
given so gravely that it was impossible to pursue the subject farther;
and Anne felt that she had gained nothing but an increase of curiosity.
They were both silent: Mrs Smith very thoughtful. At last--
"I beg your pardon, my dear Miss Elliot," she cried, in her
natural tone of cordiality, "I beg your pardon for the short answers
I have been giving you, but I have been uncertain what I ought to do.
I have been doubting and considering as to what I ought to tell you.
There were many things to be taken into the account. One hates
to be officious, to be giving bad impressions, making mischief.
Even the smooth surface of family-union seems worth preserving,
though there may be nothing durable beneath. However, I have determined;
I think I am right; I think you ought to be made acquainted
with Mr Elliot's real character. Though I fully believe that,
at present, you have not the smallest intention of accepting him,
there is no saying what may happen. You might, some time or other,
be differently affected towards him. Hear the truth, therefore,
now, while you are unprejudiced. Mr Elliot is a man without heart
or conscience; a designing, wary, cold-blooded being, who thinks
only of himself; whom for his own interest or ease, would be guilty
of any cruelty, or any treachery, that could be perpetrated without
risk of his general character. He has no feeling for others.
Those whom he has been the chief cause of leading into ruin,
he can neglect and desert without the smallest compunction.
He is totally beyond the reach of any sentiment of justice or compassion.
Oh! he is black at heart, hollow and black!"
Anne's astonished air, and exclamation of wonder, made her pause,
and in a calmer manner, she added,
"My expressions startle you. You must allow for an injured, angry woman.
But I will try to command myself. I will not abuse him.
I will only tell you what I have found him. Facts shall speak.
He was the intimate friend of my dear husband, who trusted and loved him,
and thought him as good as himself. The intimacy had been formed
before our marriage. I found them most intimate friends; and I, too,
became excessively pleased with Mr Elliot, and entertained
the highest opinion of him. At nineteen, you know, one does not
think very seriously; but Mr Elliot appeared to me quite as good as others,
and much more agreeable than most others, and we were almost
always together. We were principally in town, living in very good style.
He was then the inferior in circumstances; he was then the poor one;
he had chambers in the Temple, and it was as much as he could do
to support the appearance of a gentleman. He had always a home
with us whenever he chose it; he was always welcome; he was like a brother.
My poor Charles, who had the finest, most generous spirit in the world,
would have divided his last farthing with him; and I know that his purse
was open to him; I know that he often assisted him."
"This must have been about that very period of Mr Elliot's life,"
said Anne, "which has always excited my particular curiosity.
It must have been about the same time that he became known to
my father and sister. I never knew him myself; I only heard of him;
but there was a something in his conduct then, with regard to
my father and sister, and afterwards in the circumstances of his marriage,
which I never could quite reconcile with present times. It seemed
to announce a different sort of man."
"I know it all, I know it all," cried Mrs Smith. "He had been
introduced to Sir Walter and your sister before I was acquainted with him,
but I heard him speak of them for ever. I know he was invited
and encouraged, and I know he did not choose to go. I can satisfy you,
perhaps, on points which you would little expect; and as to his marriage,
I knew all about it at the time. I was privy to all the fors and againsts;
I was the friend to whom he confided his hopes and plans; and though
I did not know his wife previously, her inferior situation in society,
indeed, rendered that impossible, yet I knew her all her life afterwards,
or at least till within the last two years of her life, and can answer
any question you may wish to put."
"Nay," said Anne, "I have no particular enquiry to make about her.
I have always understood they were not a happy couple. But I should
like to know why, at that time of his life, he should slight
my father's acquaintance as he did. My father was certainly disposed
to take very kind and proper notice of him. Why did Mr Elliot draw back?"
"Mr Elliot," replied Mrs Smith, "at that period of his life,
had one object in view: to make his fortune, and by a rather quicker
process than the law. He was determined to make it by marriage.
He was determined, at least, not to mar it by an imprudent marriage;
and I know it was his belief (whether justly or not, of course
I cannot decide), that your father and sister, in their civilities
and invitations, were designing a match between the heir
and the young lady, and it was impossible that such a match
should have answered his ideas of wealth and independence.
That was his motive for drawing back, I can assure you.
He told me the whole story. He had no concealments with me.
It was curious, that having just left you behind me in Bath,
my first and principal acquaintance on marrying should be your cousin;
and that, through him, I should be continually hearing of your father
and sister. He described one Miss Elliot, and I thought
very affectionately of the other."
"Perhaps," cried Anne, struck by a sudden idea, "you sometimes
spoke of me to Mr Elliot?"
"To be sure I did; very often. I used to boast of my own Anne Elliot,
and vouch for your being a very different creature from--"
She checked herself just in time.
"This accounts for something which Mr Elliot said last night,"
cried Anne. "This explains it. I found he had been used to hear of me.
I could not comprehend how. What wild imaginations one forms where
dear self is concerned! How sure to be mistaken! But I beg your pardon;
I have interrupted you. Mr Elliot married then completely for money?
The circumstances, probably, which first opened your eyes
to his character."
Mrs Smith hesitated a little here. "Oh! those things are too common.
When one lives in the world, a man or woman's marrying for money
is too common to strike one as it ought. I was very young,
and associated only with the young, and we were a thoughtless,
gay set, without any strict rules of conduct. We lived for enjoyment.
I think differently now; time and sickness and sorrow have given me
other notions; but at that period I must own I saw nothing reprehensible
in what Mr Elliot was doing. `To do the best for himself,'
passed as a duty."
"But was not she a very low woman?"
"Yes; which I objected to, but he would not regard. Money, money,
was all that he wanted. Her father was a grazier, her grandfather
had been a butcher, but that was all nothing. She was a fine woman,
had had a decent education, was brought forward by some cousins,
thrown by chance into Mr Elliot's company, and fell in love with him;
and not a difficulty or a scruple was there on his side,
with respect to her birth. All his caution was spent in being secured
of the real amount of her fortune, before he committed himself.
Depend upon it, whatever esteem Mr Elliot may have for his own situation
in life now, as a young man he had not the smallest value for it.
His chance for the Kellynch estate was something, but all the honour
of the family he held as cheap as dirt. I have often heard him declare,
that if baronetcies were saleable, anybody should have his
for fifty pounds, arms and motto, name and livery included;
but I will not pretend to repeat half that I used to hear him say
on that subject. It would not be fair; and yet you ought to have proof,
for what is all this but assertion, and you shall have proof."
"Indeed, my dear Mrs Smith, I want none," cried Anne. "You have asserted
nothing contradictory to what Mr Elliot appeared to be some years ago.
This is all in confirmation, rather, of what we used to hear and believe.
I am more curious to know why he should be so different now."
"But for my satisfaction, if you will have the goodness to ring for Mary;
stay: I am sure you will have the still greater goodness of
going yourself into my bedroom, and bringing me the small inlaid box
which you will find on the upper shelf of the closet."
Anne, seeing her friend to be earnestly bent on it, did as she was desired.
The box was brought and placed before her, and Mrs Smith, sighing over it
as she unlocked it, said--
"This is full of papers belonging to him, to my husband;
a small portion only of what I had to look over when I lost him.
The letter I am looking for was one written by Mr Elliot to him
before our marriage, and happened to be saved; why, one can hardly imagine.
But he was careless and immethodical, like other men, about those things;
and when I came to examine his papers, I found it with others
still more trivial, from different people scattered here and there,
while many letters and memorandums of real importance had been destroyed.
Here it is; I would not burn it, because being even then very little
satisfied with Mr Elliot, I was determined to preserve every document
of former intimacy. I have now another motive for being glad
that I can produce it."
This was the letter, directed to "Charles Smith, Esq. Tunbridge Wells,"
and dated from London, as far back as July, 1803: --
"Dear Smith,--I have received yours. Your kindness almost overpowers me.
I wish nature had made such hearts as yours more common, but I have
lived three-and-twenty years in the world, and have seen none like it.
At present, believe me, I have no need of your services,
being in cash again. Give me joy: I have got rid of Sir Walter and Miss.
They are gone back to Kellynch, and almost made me swear to visit them
this summer; but my first visit to Kellynch will be with a surveyor,
to tell me how to bring it with best advantage to the hammer.
The baronet, nevertheless, is not unlikely to marry again;
he is quite fool enough. If he does, however, they will leave me in peace,
which may be a decent equivalent for the reversion. He is worse
than last year.
"I wish I had any name but Elliot. I am sick of it. The name of Walter
I can drop, thank God! and I desire you will never insult me
with my second W. again, meaning, for the rest of my life,
to be only yours truly,--Wm. Elliot."
Such a letter could not be read without putting Anne in a glow;
and Mrs Smith, observing the high colour in her face, said--
"The language, I know, is highly disrespectful. Though I have forgot
the exact terms, I have a perfect impression of the general meaning.
But it shows you the man. Mark his professions to my poor husband.
Can any thing be stronger?"
Anne could not immediately get over the shock and mortification
of finding such words applied to her father. She was obliged to recollect
that her seeing the letter was a violation of the laws of honour,
that no one ought to be judged or to be known by such testimonies,
that no private correspondence could bear the eye of others,
before she could recover calmness enough to return the letter
which she had been meditating over, and say--
"Thank you. This is full proof undoubtedly; proof of every thing
you were saying. But why be acquainted with us now?"
"I can explain this too," cried Mrs Smith, smiling.
"Can you really?"
"Yes. I have shewn you Mr Elliot as he was a dozen years ago,
and I will shew him as he is now. I cannot produce written proof again,
but I can give as authentic oral testimony as you can desire, of what
he is now wanting, and what he is now doing. He is no hypocrite now.
He truly wants to marry you. His present attentions to your family
are very sincere: quite from the heart. I will give you my authority:
his friend Colonel Wallis."
"Colonel Wallis! you are acquainted with him?"
"No. It does not come to me in quite so direct a line as that;
it takes a bend or two, but nothing of consequence. The stream
is as good as at first; the little rubbish it collects in the turnings
is easily moved away. Mr Elliot talks unreservedly to Colonel Wallis
of his views on you, which said Colonel Wallis, I imagine to be,
in himself, a sensible, careful, discerning sort of character;
but Colonel Wallis has a very pretty silly wife, to whom
he tells things which he had better not, and he repeats it all to her.
She in the overflowing spirits of her recovery, repeats it all
to her nurse; and the nurse knowing my acquaintance with you,
very naturally brings it all to me. On Monday evening, my good friend
Mrs Rooke let me thus much into the secrets of Marlborough Buildings.
When I talked of a whole history, therefore, you see I was
not romancing so much as you supposed."
"My dear Mrs Smith, your authority is deficient. This will not do.
Mr Elliot's having any views on me will not in the least account
for the efforts he made towards a reconciliation with my father.
That was all prior to my coming to Bath. I found them on
the most friendly terms when I arrived."
"I know you did; I know it all perfectly, but--"
"Indeed, Mrs Smith, we must not expect to get real information
in such a line. Facts or opinions which are to pass through the hands
of so many, to be misconceived by folly in one, and ignorance in another,
can hardly have much truth left."
"Only give me a hearing. You will soon be able to judge of
the general credit due, by listening to some particulars
which you can yourself immediately contradict or confirm.
Nobody supposes that you were his first inducement. He had seen you
indeed, before he came to Bath, and admired you, but without
knowing it to be you. So says my historian, at least. Is this true?
Did he see you last summer or autumn, `somewhere down in the west,'
to use her own words, without knowing it to be you?"
"He certainly did. So far it is very true. At Lyme.
I happened to be at Lyme."
"Well," continued Mrs Smith, triumphantly, "grant my friend the credit
due to the establishment of the first point asserted. He saw you then
at Lyme, and liked you so well as to be exceedingly pleased
to meet with you again in Camden Place, as Miss Anne Elliot,
and from that moment, I have no doubt, had a double motive
in his visits there. But there was another, and an earlier,
which I will now explain. If there is anything in my story which you know
to be either false or improbable, stop me. My account states,
that your sister's friend, the lady now staying with you,
whom I have heard you mention, came to Bath with Miss Elliot and Sir Walter
as long ago as September (in short when they first came themselves),
and has been staying there ever since; that she is a clever, insinuating,
handsome woman, poor and plausible, and altogether such in situation
and manner, as to give a general idea, among Sir Walter's acquaintance,
of her meaning to be Lady Elliot, and as general a surprise
that Miss Elliot should be apparently, blind to the danger."
Here Mrs Smith paused a moment; but Anne had not a word to say,
and she continued--
"This was the light in which it appeared to those who knew the family,
long before you returned to it; and Colonel Wallis had his eye
upon your father enough to be sensible of it, though he did not then
visit in Camden Place; but his regard for Mr Elliot gave him an interest
in watching all that was going on there, and when Mr Elliot came to Bath
for a day or two, as he happened to do a little before Christmas,
Colonel Wallis made him acquainted with the appearance of things,
and the reports beginning to prevail. Now you are to understand,
that time had worked a very material change in Mr Elliot's opinions
as to the value of a baronetcy. Upon all points of blood and connexion
he is a completely altered man. Having long had as much money
as he could spend, nothing to wish for on the side of avarice
or indulgence, he has been gradually learning to pin his happiness
upon the consequence he is heir to. I thought it coming on
before our acquaintance ceased, but it is now a confirmed feeling.
He cannot bear the idea of not being Sir William. You may guess,
therefore, that the news he heard from his friend could not be
very agreeable, and you may guess what it produced; the resolution
of coming back to Bath as soon as possible, and of fixing himself here
for a time, with the view of renewing his former acquaintance,
and recovering such a footing in the family as might give him the means
of ascertaining the degree of his danger, and of circumventing the lady
if he found it material. This was agreed upon between the two friends
as the only thing to be done; and Colonel Wallis was to assist
in every way that he could. He was to be introduced, and Mrs Wallis
was to be introduced, and everybody was to be introduced.
Mr Elliot came back accordingly; and on application was forgiven,
as you know, and re-admitted into the family; and there it was
his constant object, and his only object (till your arrival
added another motive), to watch Sir Walter and Mrs Clay.
He omitted no opportunity of being with them, threw himself in their way,
called at all hours; but I need not be particular on this subject.
You can imagine what an artful man would do; and with this guide,
perhaps, may recollect what you have seen him do."
"Yes," said Anne, "you tell me nothing which does not accord with
what I have known, or could imagine. There is always something offensive
in the details of cunning. The manoeuvres of selfishness and duplicity
must ever be revolting, but I have heard nothing which really surprises me.
I know those who would be shocked by such a representation of Mr Elliot,
who would have difficulty in believing it; but I have never been satisfied.
I have always wanted some other motive for his conduct than appeared.
I should like to know his present opinion, as to the probability
of the event he has been in dread of; whether he considers the danger
to be lessening or not."
"Lessening, I understand," replied Mrs Smith. "He thinks Mrs Clay
afraid of him, aware that he sees through her, and not daring to proceed
as she might do in his absence. But since he must be absent
some time or other, I do not perceive how he can ever be secure
while she holds her present influence. Mrs Wallis has an amusing idea,
as nurse tells me, that it is to be put into the marriage articles
when you and Mr Elliot marry, that your father is not to marry Mrs Clay.
A scheme, worthy of Mrs Wallis's understanding, by all accounts;
but my sensible nurse Rooke sees the absurdity of it. `Why, to be sure,
ma'am,' said she, `it would not prevent his marrying anybody else.'
And, indeed, to own the truth, I do not think nurse, in her heart,
is a very strenuous opposer of Sir Walter's making a second match.
She must be allowed to be a favourer of matrimony, you know;
and (since self will intrude) who can say that she may not have
some flying visions of attending the next Lady Elliot, through
Mrs Wallis's recommendation?"
"I am very glad to know all this," said Anne, after a little
thoughtfulness. "It will be more painful to me in some respects
to be in company with him, but I shall know better what to do.
My line of conduct will be more direct. Mr Elliot is evidently
a disingenuous, artificial, worldly man, who has never had
any better principle to guide him than selfishness."
But Mr Elliot was not done with. Mrs Smith had been carried away
from her first direction, and Anne had forgotten, in the interest
of her own family concerns, how much had been originally implied
against him; but her attention was now called to the explanation
of those first hints, and she listened to a recital which,
if it did not perfectly justify the unqualified bitterness of Mrs Smith,
proved him to have been very unfeeling in his conduct towards her;
very deficient both in justice and compassion.
She learned that (the intimacy between them continuing unimpaired
by Mr Elliot's marriage) they had been as before always together,
and Mr Elliot had led his friend into expenses much beyond his fortune.
Mrs Smith did not want to take blame to herself, and was most tender
of throwing any on her husband; but Anne could collect that their income
had never been equal to their style of living, and that from the first
there had been a great deal of general and joint extravagance.
From his wife's account of him she could discern Mr Smith to have been
a man of warm feelings, easy temper, careless habits, and not strong
understanding, much more amiable than his friend, and very unlike him,
led by him, and probably despised by him. Mr Elliot, raised by
his marriage to great affluence, and disposed to every gratification
of pleasure and vanity which could be commanded without involving himself,
(for with all his self-indulgence he had become a prudent man),
and beginning to be rich, just as his friend ought to have found himself
to be poor, seemed to have had no concern at all for that friend's
probable finances, but, on the contrary, had been prompting and
encouraging expenses which could end only in ruin; and the Smiths
accordingly had been ruined.
The husband had died just in time to be spared the full knowledge of it.
They had previously known embarrassments enough to try the friendship
of their friends, and to prove that Mr Elliot's had better not be tried;
but it was not till his death that the wretched state of his affairs
was fully known. With a confidence in Mr Elliot's regard,
more creditable to his feelings than his judgement, Mr Smith had
appointed him the executor of his will; but Mr Elliot would not act,
and the difficulties and distress which this refusal had heaped on her,
in addition to the inevitable sufferings of her situation, had been such
as could not be related without anguish of spirit, or listened to
without corresponding indignation.
Anne was shewn some letters of his on the occasion, answers to
urgent applications from Mrs Smith, which all breathed the same
stern resolution of not engaging in a fruitless trouble, and,
under a cold civility, the same hard-hearted indifference
to any of the evils it might bring on her. It was a dreadful picture
of ingratitude and inhumanity; and Anne felt, at some moments,
that no flagrant open crime could have been worse. She had a great deal
to listen to; all the particulars of past sad scenes, all the minutiae
of distress upon distress, which in former conversations had been
merely hinted at, were dwelt on now with a natural indulgence.
Anne could perfectly comprehend the exquisite relief, and was only
the more inclined to wonder at the composure of her friend's
usual state of mind.
There was one circumstance in the history of her grievances
of particular irritation. She had good reason to believe that
some property of her husband in the West Indies, which had been
for many years under a sort of sequestration for the payment
of its own incumbrances, might be recoverable by proper measures;
and this property, though not large, would be enough to make
her comparatively rich. But there was nobody to stir in it.
Mr Elliot would do nothing, and she could do nothing herself,
equally disabled from personal exertion by her state of
bodily weakness, and from employing others by her want of money.
She had no natural connexions to assist her even with their counsel,
and she could not afford to purchase the assistance of the law.
This was a cruel aggravation of actually straitened means.
To feel that she ought to be in better circumstances,
that a little trouble in the right place might do it,
and to fear that delay might be even weakening her claims,
was hard to bear.
It was on this point that she had hoped to engage Anne's good offices
with Mr Elliot. She had previously, in the anticipation
of their marriage, been very apprehensive of losing her friend by it;
but on being assured that he could have made no attempt of that nature,
since he did not even know her to be in Bath, it immediately occurred,
that something might be done in her favour by the influence of the woman
he loved, and she had been hastily preparing to interest Anne's feelings,
as far as the observances due to Mr Elliot's character would allow,
when Anne's refutation of the supposed engagement changed
the face of everything; and while it took from her the new-formed hope
of succeeding in the object of her first anxiety, left her at least
the comfort of telling the whole story her own way.
After listening to this full description of Mr Elliot, Anne could not but
express some surprise at Mrs Smith's having spoken of him so favourably
in the beginning of their conversation. "She had seemed to recommend
and praise him!"
"My dear," was Mrs Smith's reply, "there was nothing else to be done.
I considered your marrying him as certain, though he might not yet
have made the offer, and I could no more speak the truth of him,
than if he had been your husband. My heart bled for you,
as I talked of happiness; and yet he is sensible, he is agreeable,
and with such a woman as you, it was not absolutely hopeless.
He was very unkind to his first wife. They were wretched together.
But she was too ignorant and giddy for respect, and he had never loved her.
I was willing to hope that you must fare better."
Anne could just acknowledge within herself such a possibility
of having been induced to marry him, as made her shudder at the idea
of the misery which must have followed. It was just possible that
she might have been persuaded by Lady Russell! And under such
a supposition, which would have been most miserable, when time had
disclosed all, too late?
It was very desirable that Lady Russell should be no longer deceived;
and one of the concluding arrangements of this important conference,
which carried them through the greater part of the morning,
was, that Anne had full liberty to communicate to her friend
everything relative to Mrs Smith, in which his conduct was involved.
Anne went home to think over all that she had heard. In one point,
her feelings were relieved by this knowledge of Mr Elliot.
There was no longer anything of tenderness due to him. He stood as
opposed to Captain Wentworth, in all his own unwelcome obtrusiveness;
and the evil of his attentions last night, the irremediable mischief
he might have done, was considered with sensations unqualified, unperplexed.
Pity for him was all over. But this was the only point of relief.
In every other respect, in looking around her, or penetrating forward,
she saw more to distrust and to apprehend. She was concerned
for the disappointment and pain Lady Russell would be feeling;
for the mortifications which must be hanging over her father and sister,
and had all the distress of foreseeing many evils, without knowing
how to avert any one of them. She was most thankful for her own
knowledge of him. She had never considered herself as entitled to reward
for not slighting an old friend like Mrs Smith, but here was
a reward indeed springing from it! Mrs Smith had been able to tell her
what no one else could have done. Could the knowledge have
been extended through her family? But this was a vain idea.
She must talk to Lady Russell, tell her, consult with her,
and having done her best, wait the event with as much composure
as possible; and after all, her greatest want of composure would be
in that quarter of the mind which could not be opened to Lady Russell;
in that flow of anxieties and fears which must be all to herself.
She found, on reaching home, that she had, as she intended,
escaped seeing Mr Elliot; that he had called and paid them
a long morning visit; but hardly had she congratulated herself,
and felt safe, when she heard that he was coming again in the evening.
"I had not the smallest intention of asking him," said Elizabeth,
with affected carelessness, "but he gave so many hints;
so Mrs Clay says, at least."
"Indeed, I do say it. I never saw anybody in my life spell harder
for an invitation. Poor man! I was really in pain for him;
for your hard-hearted sister, Miss Anne, seems bent on cruelty."
"Oh!" cried Elizabeth, "I have been rather too much used to the game
to be soon overcome by a gentleman's hints. However, when I found
how excessively he was regretting that he should miss my father
this morning, I gave way immediately, for I would never really omit
an opportunity of bring him and Sir Walter together. They appear to
so much advantage in company with each other. Each behaving so pleasantly.
Mr Elliot looking up with so much respect."
"Quite delightful!" cried Mrs Clay, not daring, however,
to turn her eyes towards Anne. "Exactly like father and son!
Dear Miss Elliot, may I not say father and son?"
"Oh! I lay no embargo on any body's words. If you will have such
ideas! But, upon my word, I am scarcely sensible of his attentions
being beyond those of other men."
"My dear Miss Elliot!" exclaimed Mrs Clay, lifting her hands and eyes,
and sinking all the rest of her astonishment in a convenient silence.
"Well, my dear Penelope, you need not be so alarmed about him.
I did invite him, you know. I sent him away with smiles.
When I found he was really going to his friends at Thornberry Park
for the whole day to-morrow, I had compassion on him."
Anne admired the good acting of the friend, in being able to shew
such pleasure as she did, in the expectation and in the actual arrival
of the very person whose presence must really be interfering with
her prime object. It was impossible but that Mrs Clay must hate
the sight of Mr Elliot; and yet she could assume a most obliging,
placid look, and appear quite satisfied with the curtailed license
of devoting herself only half as much to Sir Walter as she would have
To Anne herself it was most distressing to see Mr Elliot enter the room;
and quite painful to have him approach and speak to her.
She had been used before to feel that he could not be always quite sincere,
but now she saw insincerity in everything. His attentive deference
to her father, contrasted with his former language, was odious;
and when she thought of his cruel conduct towards Mrs Smith,
she could hardly bear the sight of his present smiles and mildness,
or the sound of his artificial good sentiments.
She meant to avoid any such alteration of manners as might provoke
a remonstrance on his side. It was a great object to her to escape
all enquiry or eclat; but it was her intention to be as decidedly cool
to him as might be compatible with their relationship; and to retrace,
as quietly as she could, the few steps of unnecessary intimacy she had
been gradually led along. She was accordingly more guarded,
and more cool, than she had been the night before.
He wanted to animate her curiosity again as to how and where
he could have heard her formerly praised; wanted very much
to be gratified by more solicitation; but the charm was broken:
he found that the heat and animation of a public room was necessary
to kindle his modest cousin's vanity; he found, at least, that it was
not to be done now, by any of those attempts which he could hazard
among the too-commanding claims of the others. He little surmised
that it was a subject acting now exactly against his interest,
bringing immediately to her thoughts all those parts of his conduct
which were least excusable.
She had some satisfaction in finding that he was really going out of Bath
the next morning, going early, and that he would be gone the greater part
of two days. He was invited again to Camden Place the very evening of
his return; but from Thursday to Saturday evening his absence was certain.
It was bad enough that a Mrs Clay should be always before her;
but that a deeper hypocrite should be added to their party,
seemed the destruction of everything like peace and comfort.
It was so humiliating to reflect on the constant deception practised
on her father and Elizabeth; to consider the various sources
of mortification preparing for them! Mrs Clay's selfishness was
not so complicate nor so revolting as his; and Anne would have compounded
for the marriage at once, with all its evils, to be clear of Mr Elliot's
subtleties in endeavouring to prevent it.
On Friday morning she meant to go very early to Lady Russell,
and accomplish the necessary communication; and she would have gone
directly after breakfast, but that Mrs Clay was also going out
on some obliging purpose of saving her sister trouble, which
determined her to wait till she might be safe from such a companion.
She saw Mrs Clay fairly off, therefore, before she began to talk
of spending the morning in Rivers Street.
"Very well," said Elizabeth, "I have nothing to send but my love.
Oh! you may as well take back that tiresome book she would lend me,
and pretend I have read it through. I really cannot be plaguing myself
for ever with all the new poems and states of the nation that come out.
Lady Russell quite bores one with her new publications.
You need not tell her so, but I thought her dress hideous the other night.
I used to think she had some taste in dress, but I was ashamed of her
at the concert. Something so formal and arrange in her air!
and she sits so upright! My best love, of course."
"And mine," added Sir Walter. "Kindest regards. And you may say,
that I mean to call upon her soon. Make a civil message;
but I shall only leave my card. Morning visits are never fair
by women at her time of life, who make themselves up so little.
If she would only wear rouge she would not be afraid of being seen;
but last time I called, I observed the blinds were let down immediately."
While her father spoke, there was a knock at the door. Who could it be?
Anne, remembering the preconcerted visits, at all hours, of Mr Elliot,
would have expected him, but for his known engagement seven miles off.
After the usual period of suspense, the usual sounds of approach were heard,
and "Mr and Mrs Charles Musgrove" were ushered into the room.
Surprise was the strongest emotion raised by their appearance;
but Anne was really glad to see them; and the others were not so sorry
but that they could put on a decent air of welcome; and as soon
as it became clear that these, their nearest relations, were not arrived
with an views of accommodation in that house, Sir Walter and Elizabeth
were able to rise in cordiality, and do the honours of it very well.
They were come to Bath for a few days with Mrs Musgrove, and were
at the White Hart. So much was pretty soon understood;
but till Sir Walter and Elizabeth were walking Mary into
the other drawing-room, and regaling themselves with her admiration,
Anne could not draw upon Charles's brain for a regular history
of their coming, or an explanation of some smiling hints
of particular business, which had been ostentatiously dropped by Mary,
as well as of some apparent confusion as to whom their party consisted of.
She then found that it consisted of Mrs Musgrove, Henrietta,
and Captain Harville, beside their two selves. He gave her a very plain,
intelligible account of the whole; a narration in which she saw
a great deal of most characteristic proceeding. The scheme
had received its first impulse by Captain Harville's wanting to
come to Bath on business. He had begun to talk of it a week ago;
and by way of doing something, as shooting was over, Charles had proposed
coming with him, and Mrs Harville had seemed to like the idea of it
very much, as an advantage to her husband; but Mary could not bear
to be left, and had made herself so unhappy about it, that for a day or two
everything seemed to be in suspense, or at an end. But then,
it had been taken up by his father and mother. His mother had
some old friends in Bath whom she wanted to see; it was thought
a good opportunity for Henrietta to come and buy wedding-clothes
for herself and her sister; and, in short, it ended in being
his mother's party, that everything might be comfortable and easy
to Captain Harville; and he and Mary were included in it
by way of general convenience. They had arrived late the night before.
Mrs Harville, her children, and Captain Benwick, remained with
Mr Musgrove and Louisa at Uppercross.
Anne's only surprise was, that affairs should be in forwardness enough
for Henrietta's wedding-clothes to be talked of. She had imagined
such difficulties of fortune to exist there as must prevent
the marriage from being near at hand; but she learned from Charles that,
very recently, (since Mary's last letter to herself), Charles Hayter
had been applied to by a friend to hold a living for a youth
who could not possibly claim it under many years; and that
on the strength of his present income, with almost a certainty
of something more permanent long before the term in question,
the two families had consented to the young people's wishes,
and that their marriage was likely to take place in a few months,
quite as soon as Louisa's. "And a very good living it was,"
Charles added: "only five-and-twenty miles from Uppercross,
and in a very fine country: fine part of Dorsetshire.
In the centre of some of the best preserves in the kingdom,
surrounded by three great proprietors, each more careful and jealous
than the other; and to two of the three at least, Charles Hayter might get
a special recommendation. Not that he will value it as he ought,"
he observed, "Charles is too cool about sporting. That's the worst of him."
"I am extremely glad, indeed," cried Anne, "particularly glad
that this should happen; and that of two sisters, who both deserve
equally well, and who have always been such good friends,
the pleasant prospect of one should not be dimming those of the other--
that they should be so equal in their prosperity and comfort.
I hope your father and mother are quite happy with regard to both."
"Oh! yes. My father would be well pleased if the gentlemen were richer,
but he has no other fault to find. Money, you know, coming down with
money--two daughters at once--it cannot be a very agreeable operation,
and it streightens him as to many things. However, I do not mean to say
they have not a right to it. It is very fit they should have
daughters' shares; and I am sure he has always been a very kind,
liberal father to me. Mary does not above half like Henrietta's match.
She never did, you know. But she does not do him justice,
nor think enough about Winthrop. I cannot make her attend to
the value of the property. It is a very fair match, as times go;
and I have liked Charles Hayter all my life, and I shall not leave off now."
"Such excellent parents as Mr and Mrs Musgrove," exclaimed Anne,
"should be happy in their children's marriages. They do everything
to confer happiness, I am sure. What a blessing to young people
to be in such hands! Your father and mother seem so totally free
from all those ambitious feelings which have led to so much misconduct
and misery, both in young and old. I hope you think Louisa
perfectly recovered now?"
He answered rather hesitatingly, "Yes, I believe I do; very much recovered;
but she is altered; there is no running or jumping about, no laughing
or dancing; it is quite different. If one happens only to shut the door
a little hard, she starts and wriggles like a young dab-chick in the water;
and Benwick sits at her elbow, reading verses, or whispering to her,
all day long."
Anne could not help laughing. "That cannot be much to your taste,
I know," said she; "but I do believe him to be an excellent young man."
"To be sure he is. Nobody doubts it; and I hope you do not think
I am so illiberal as to want every man to have the same objects and
pleasures as myself. I have a great value for Benwick; and when one can
but get him to talk, he has plenty to say. His reading has done him
no harm, for he has fought as well as read. He is a brave fellow.
I got more acquainted with him last Monday than ever I did before.
We had a famous set-to at rat-hunting all the morning in
my father's great barns; and he played his part so well
that I have liked him the better ever since."
Here they were interrupted by the absolute necessity of Charles's
following the others to admire mirrors and china; but Anne had
heard enough to understand the present state of Uppercross,
and rejoice in its happiness; and though she sighed as she rejoiced,
her sigh had none of the ill-will of envy in it. She would certainly
have risen to their blessings if she could, but she did not want
to lessen theirs.
The visit passed off altogether in high good humour. Mary was
in excellent spirits, enjoying the gaiety and the change,
and so well satisfied with the journey in her mother-in-law's carriage
with four horses, and with her own complete independence of Camden Place,
that she was exactly in a temper to admire everything as she ought,
and enter most readily into all the superiorities of the house,
as they were detailed to her. She had no demands on her father or sister,
and her consequence was just enough increased by their handsome
Elizabeth was, for a short time, suffering a good deal.
She felt that Mrs Musgrove and all her party ought to be asked
to dine with them; but she could not bear to have the difference of style,
the reduction of servants, which a dinner must betray, witnessed by those
who had been always so inferior to the Elliots of Kellynch.
It was a struggle between propriety and vanity; but vanity got the better,
and then Elizabeth was happy again. These were her internal persuasions:
"Old fashioned notions; country hospitality; we do not profess
to give dinners; few people in Bath do; Lady Alicia never does;
did not even ask her own sister's family, though they were here a month:
and I dare say it would be very inconvenient to Mrs Musgrove;
put her quite out of her way. I am sure she would rather not come;
she cannot feel easy with us. I will ask them all for an evening;
that will be much better; that will be a novelty and a treat.
They have not seen two such drawing rooms before. They will be delighted
to come to-morrow evening. It shall be a regular party, small,
but most elegant." And this satisfied Elizabeth: and when the invitation
was given to the two present, and promised for the absent,
Mary was as completely satisfied. She was particularly asked
to meet Mr Elliot, and be introduced to Lady Dalrymple and Miss Carteret,
who were fortunately already engaged to come; and she could not
have received a more gratifying attention. Miss Elliot was to have
the honour of calling on Mrs Musgrove in the course of the morning;
and Anne walked off with Charles and Mary, to go and see her
and Henrietta directly.
Her plan of sitting with Lady Russell must give way for the present.
They all three called in Rivers Street for a couple of minutes;
but Anne convinced herself that a day's delay of the intended communication
could be of no consequence, and hastened forward to the White Hart,
to see again the friends and companions of the last autumn,
with an eagerness of good-will which many associations contributed to form.
They found Mrs Musgrove and her daughter within, and by themselves,
and Anne had the kindest welcome from each. Henrietta was exactly
in that state of recently-improved views, of fresh-formed happiness,
which made her full of regard and interest for everybody she had
ever liked before at all; and Mrs Musgrove's real affection had been won
by her usefulness when they were in distress. It was a heartiness,
and a warmth, and a sincerity which Anne delighted in the more,
from the sad want of such blessings at home. She was entreated
to give them as much of her time as possible, invited for every day
and all day long, or rather claimed as part of the family; and, in return,
she naturally fell into all her wonted ways of attention and assistance,
and on Charles's leaving them together, was listening to Mrs Musgrove's
history of Louisa, and to Henrietta's of herself, giving opinions
on business, and recommendations to shops; with intervals of every help
which Mary required, from altering her ribbon to settling her accounts;
from finding her keys, and assorting her trinkets, to trying
to convince her that she was not ill-used by anybody; which Mary,
well amused as she generally was, in her station at a window
overlooking the entrance to the Pump Room, could not but have
her moments of imagining.
A morning of thorough confusion was to be expected. A large party
in an hotel ensured a quick-changing, unsettled scene. One five minutes
brought a note, the next a parcel; and Anne had not been there
half an hour, when their dining-room, spacious as it was,
seemed more than half filled: a party of steady old friends
were seated around Mrs Musgrove, and Charles came back with
Captains Harville and Wentworth. The appearance of the latter
could not be more than the surprise of the moment. It was impossible
for her to have forgotten to feel that this arrival of their
common friends must be soon bringing them together again.
Their last meeting had been most important in opening his feelings;
she had derived from it a delightful conviction; but she feared
from his looks, that the same unfortunate persuasion, which had
hastened him away from the Concert Room, still governed.
He did not seem to want to be near enough for conversation.
She tried to be calm, and leave things to take their course,
and tried to dwell much on this argument of rational dependence:--
"Surely, if there be constant attachment on each side, our hearts
must understand each other ere long. We are not boy and girl,
to be captiously irritable, misled by every moment's inadvertence,
and wantonly playing with our own happiness." And yet,
a few minutes afterwards, she felt as if their being in company
with each other, under their present circumstances, could only be
exposing them to inadvertencies and misconstructions of the most
"Anne," cried Mary, still at her window, "there is Mrs Clay,
I am sure, standing under the colonnade, and a gentleman with her.
I saw them turn the corner from Bath Street just now. They seemed
deep in talk. Who is it? Come, and tell me. Good heavens! I recollect.
It is Mr Elliot himself."
"No," cried Anne, quickly, "it cannot be Mr Elliot, I assure you.
He was to leave Bath at nine this morning, and does not come back
As she spoke, she felt that Captain Wentworth was looking at her,
the consciousness of which vexed and embarrassed her, and made her regret
that she had said so much, simple as it was.
Mary, resenting that she should be supposed not to know her own cousin,
began talking very warmly about the family features, and protesting
still more positively that it was Mr Elliot, calling again upon Anne
to come and look for herself, but Anne did not mean to stir,
and tried to be cool and unconcerned. Her distress returned,
however, on perceiving smiles and intelligent glances pass between
two or three of the lady visitors, as if they believed themselves
quite in the secret. It was evident that the report concerning her
had spread, and a short pause succeeded, which seemed to ensure
that it would now spread farther.
"Do come, Anne" cried Mary, "come and look yourself. You will be too late
if you do not make haste. They are parting; they are shaking hands.
He is turning away. Not know Mr Elliot, indeed! You seem to have
forgot all about Lyme."
To pacify Mary, and perhaps screen her own embarrassment,
Anne did move quietly to the window. She was just in time to ascertain
that it really was Mr Elliot, which she had never believed,
before he disappeared on one side, as Mrs Clay walked quickly off
on the other; and checking the surprise which she could not but feel
at such an appearance of friendly conference between two persons
of totally opposite interest, she calmly said, "Yes, it is Mr Elliot,
certainly. He has changed his hour of going, I suppose, that is all,
or I may be mistaken, I might not attend;" and walked back to her chair,
recomposed, and with the comfortable hope of having acquitted herself well.
The visitors took their leave; and Charles, having civilly seen them off,
and then made a face at them, and abused them for coming, began with--
"Well, mother, I have done something for you that you will like.
I have been to the theatre, and secured a box for to-morrow night.
A'n't I a good boy? I know you love a play; and there is room for us all.
It holds nine. I have engaged Captain Wentworth. Anne will
not be sorry to join us, I am sure. We all like a play.
Have not I done well, mother?"
Mrs Musgrove was good humouredly beginning to express her perfect readiness
for the play, if Henrietta and all the others liked it, when Mary
eagerly interrupted her by exclaiming--
"Good heavens, Charles! how can you think of such a thing?
Take a box for to-morrow night! Have you forgot that we are engaged
to Camden Place to-morrow night? and that we were most particularly asked
to meet Lady Dalrymple and her daughter, and Mr Elliot, and all
the principal family connexions, on purpose to be introduced to them?
How can you be so forgetful?"
"Phoo! phoo!" replied Charles, "what's an evening party?
Never worth remembering. Your father might have asked us to dinner,
I think, if he had wanted to see us. You may do as you like,
but I shall go to the play."
"Oh! Charles, I declare it will be too abominable if you do,
when you promised to go."
"No, I did not promise. I only smirked and bowed, and said the word
`happy.' There was no promise."
"But you must go, Charles. It would be unpardonable to fail.
We were asked on purpose to be introduced. There was always
such a great connexion between the Dalrymples and ourselves.
Nothing ever happened on either side that was not announced immediately.
We are quite near relations, you know; and Mr Elliot too,
whom you ought so particularly to be acquainted with! Every attention
is due to Mr Elliot. Consider, my father's heir: the future
representative of the family."
"Don't talk to me about heirs and representatives," cried Charles.
"I am not one of those who neglect the reigning power to bow
to the rising sun. If I would not go for the sake of your father,
I should think it scandalous to go for the sake of his heir.
What is Mr Elliot to me?" The careless expression was life to Anne,
who saw that Captain Wentworth was all attention, looking and
listening with his whole soul; and that the last words brought
his enquiring eyes from Charles to herself.
Charles and Mary still talked on in the same style; he, half serious
and half jesting, maintaining the scheme for the play, and she,
invariably serious, most warmly opposing it, and not omitting
to make it known that, however determined to go to Camden Place herself,
she should not think herself very well used, if they went to the play
without her. Mrs Musgrove interposed.
"We had better put it off. Charles, you had much better go back
and change the box for Tuesday. It would be a pity to be divided,
and we should be losing Miss Anne, too, if there is a party at her father's;
and I am sure neither Henrietta nor I should care at all for the play,
if Miss Anne could not be with us."
Anne felt truly obliged to her for such kindness; and quite as much
so for the opportunity it gave her of decidedly saying--
"If it depended only on my inclination, ma'am, the party at home
(excepting on Mary's account) would not be the smallest impediment.
I have no pleasure in the sort of meeting, and should be too happy
to change it for a play, and with you. But, it had better
not be attempted, perhaps." She had spoken it; but she trembled
when it was done, conscious that her words were listened to,
and daring not even to try to observe their effect.
It was soon generally agreed that Tuesday should be the day;
Charles only reserving the advantage of still teasing his wife,
by persisting that he would go to the play to-morrow if nobody else would.
Captain Wentworth left his seat, and walked to the fire-place;
probably for the sake of walking away from it soon afterwards,
and taking a station, with less bare-faced design, by Anne.
"You have not been long enough in Bath," said he, "to enjoy
the evening parties of the place."
"Oh! no. The usual character of them has nothing for me.
I am no card-player."
"You were not formerly, I know. You did not use to like cards;
but time makes many changes."
"I am not yet so much changed," cried Anne, and stopped, fearing she
hardly knew what misconstruction. After waiting a few moments
he said, and as if it were the result of immediate feeling,
"It is a period, indeed! Eight years and a half is a period."
Whether he would have proceeded farther was left to Anne's imagination
to ponder over in a calmer hour; for while still hearing the sounds
he had uttered, she was startled to other subjects by Henrietta,
eager to make use of the present leisure for getting out,
and calling on her companions to lose no time, lest somebody else
should come in.
They were obliged to move. Anne talked of being perfectly ready,
and tried to look it; but she felt that could Henrietta have known
the regret and reluctance of her heart in quitting that chair,
in preparing to quit the room, she would have found, in all her own
sensations for her cousin, in the very security of his affection,
wherewith to pity her.
Their preparations, however, were stopped short. Alarming sounds
were heard; other visitors approached, and the door was thrown open
for Sir Walter and Miss Elliot, whose entrance seemed to give
a general chill. Anne felt an instant oppression, and wherever she looked
saw symptoms of the same. The comfort, the freedom, the gaiety
of the room was over, hushed into cold composure, determined silence,
or insipid talk, to meet the heartless elegance of her father and sister.
How mortifying to feel that it was so!
Her jealous eye was satisfied in one particular. Captain Wentworth
was acknowledged again by each, by Elizabeth more graciously than before.
She even addressed him once, and looked at him more than once.
Elizabeth was, in fact, revolving a great measure. The sequel
explained it. After the waste of a few minutes in saying
the proper nothings, she began to give the invitation which
was to comprise all the remaining dues of the Musgroves.
"To-morrow evening, to meet a few friends: no formal party."
It was all said very gracefully, and the cards with which she had
provided herself, the "Miss Elliot at home," were laid on the table,
with a courteous, comprehensive smile to all, and one smile and
one card more decidedly for Captain Wentworth. The truth was,
that Elizabeth had been long enough in Bath to understand
the importance of a man of such an air and appearance as his.
The past was nothing. The present was that Captain Wentworth
would move about well in her drawing-room. The card was pointedly given,
and Sir Walter and Elizabeth arose and disappeared.
The interruption had been short, though severe, and ease and animation
returned to most of those they left as the door shut them out,
but not to Anne. She could think only of the invitation she had
with such astonishment witnessed, and of the manner in which
it had been received; a manner of doubtful meaning, of surprise rather
than gratification, of polite acknowledgement rather than acceptance.
She knew him; she saw disdain in his eye, and could not venture to believe
that he had determined to accept such an offering, as an atonement
for all the insolence of the past. Her spirits sank. He held the card
in his hand after they were gone, as if deeply considering it.
"Only think of Elizabeth's including everybody!" whispered Mary
very audibly. "I do not wonder Captain Wentworth is delighted!
You see he cannot put the card out of his hand."
Anne caught his eye, saw his cheeks glow, and his mouth form itself
into a momentary expression of contempt, and turned away,
that she might neither see nor hear more to vex her.
The party separated. The gentlemen had their own pursuits,
the ladies proceeded on their own business, and they met no more while
Anne belonged to them. She was earnestly begged to return and dine,
and give them all the rest of the day, but her spirits had been
so long exerted that at present she felt unequal to more,
and fit only for home, where she might be sure of being as silent
as she chose.
Promising to be with them the whole of the following morning, therefore,
she closed the fatigues of the present by a toilsome walk to Camden Place,
there to spend the evening chiefly in listening to the busy arrangements
of Elizabeth and Mrs Clay for the morrow's party, the frequent enumeration
of the persons invited, and the continually improving detail of all
the embellishments which were to make it the most completely elegant
of its kind in Bath, while harassing herself with the never-ending
question, of whether Captain Wentworth would come or not? They were
reckoning him as certain, but with her it was a gnawing solicitude
never appeased for five minutes together. She generally thought
he would come, because she generally thought he ought; but it was a case
which she could not so shape into any positive act of duty or discretion,
as inevitably to defy the suggestions of very opposite feelings.
She only roused herself from the broodings of this restless agitation,
to let Mrs Clay know that she had been seen with Mr Elliot
three hours after his being supposed to be out of Bath,
for having watched in vain for some intimation of the interview
from the lady herself, she determined to mention it, and it seemed to her
there was guilt in Mrs Clay's face as she listened. It was transient:
cleared away in an instant; but Anne could imagine she read there
the consciousness of having, by some complication of mutual trick,
or some overbearing authority of his, been obliged to attend
(perhaps for half an hour) to his lectures and restrictions on her designs
on Sir Walter. She exclaimed, however, with a very tolerable
imitation of nature: --
"Oh! dear! very true. Only think, Miss Elliot, to my great surprise
I met with Mr Elliot in Bath Street. I was never more astonished.
He turned back and walked with me to the Pump Yard. He had been prevented
setting off for Thornberry, but I really forget by what;
for I was in a hurry, and could not much attend, and I can only answer
for his being determined not to be delayed in his return.
He wanted to know how early he might be admitted to-morrow.
He was full of `to-morrow,' and it is very evident that I have been
full of it too, ever since I entered the house, and learnt the extension
of your plan and all that had happened, or my seeing him could never have
gone so entirely out of my head."
One day only had passed since Anne's conversation with Mrs Smith;
but a keener interest had succeeded, and she was now so little touched
by Mr Elliot's conduct, except by its effects in one quarter,
that it became a matter of course the next morning, still to defer
her explanatory visit in Rivers Street. She had promised to be
with the Musgroves from breakfast to dinner. Her faith was plighted,
and Mr Elliot's character, like the Sultaness Scheherazade's head,
must live another day.
She could not keep her appointment punctually, however;
the weather was unfavourable, and she had grieved over the rain
on her friends' account, and felt it very much on her own,
before she was able to attempt the walk. When she reached the White Hart,
and made her way to the proper apartment, she found herself
neither arriving quite in time, nor the first to arrive.
The party before her were, Mrs Musgrove, talking to Mrs Croft,
and Captain Harville to Captain Wentworth; and she immediately heard
that Mary and Henrietta, too impatient to wait, had gone out the moment
it had cleared, but would be back again soon, and that the strictest
injunctions had been left with Mrs Musgrove to keep her there
till they returned. She had only to submit, sit down,
be outwardly composed, and feel herself plunged at once
in all the agitations which she had merely laid her account of
tasting a little before the morning closed. There was no delay,
no waste of time. She was deep in the happiness of such misery,
or the misery of such happiness, instantly. Two minutes after
her entering the room, Captain Wentworth said--
"We will write the letter we were talking of, Harville, now,
if you will give me materials."
Materials were at hand, on a separate table; he went to it,
and nearly turning his back to them all, was engrossed by writing.
Mrs Musgrove was giving Mrs Croft the history of her eldest
daughter's engagement, and just in that inconvenient tone of voice
which was perfectly audible while it pretended to be a whisper.
Anne felt that she did not belong to the conversation, and yet,
as Captain Harville seemed thoughtful and not disposed to talk,
she could not avoid hearing many undesirable particulars; such as,
"how Mr Musgrove and my brother Hayter had met again and again
to talk it over; what my brother Hayter had said one day,
and what Mr Musgrove had proposed the next, and what had occurred
to my sister Hayter, and what the young people had wished, and what
I said at first I never could consent to, but was afterwards persuaded
to think might do very well," and a great deal in the same style
of open-hearted communication: minutiae which, even with every advantage
of taste and delicacy, which good Mrs Musgrove could not give,
could be properly interesting only to the principals. Mrs Croft
was attending with great good-humour, and whenever she spoke at all,
it was very sensibly. Anne hoped the gentlemen might each be
too much self-occupied to hear.
"And so, ma'am, all these thing considered," said Mrs Musgrove,
in her powerful whisper, "though we could have wished it different,
yet, altogether, we did not think it fair to stand out any longer,
for Charles Hayter was quite wild about it, and Henrietta was
pretty near as bad; and so we thought they had better marry at once,
and make the best of it, as many others have done before them.
At any rate, said I, it will be better than a long engagement."
"That is precisely what I was going to observe," cried Mrs Croft.
"I would rather have young people settle on a small income at once,
and have to struggle with a few difficulties together, than be
involved in a long engagement. I always think that no mutual--"
"Oh! dear Mrs Croft," cried Mrs Musgrove, unable to let her
finish her speech, "there is nothing I so abominate for young people
as a long engagement. It is what I always protested against
for my children. It is all very well, I used to say, for young people
to be engaged, if there is a certainty of their being able to marry
in six months, or even in twelve; but a long engagement--"
"Yes, dear ma'am," said Mrs Croft, "or an uncertain engagement,
an engagement which may be long. To begin without knowing
that at such a time there will be the means of marrying,
I hold to be very unsafe and unwise, and what I think all parents
should prevent as far as they can."
Anne found an unexpected interest here. She felt its application
to herself, felt it in a nervous thrill all over her; and at the same
moment that her eyes instinctively glanced towards the distant table,
Captain Wentworth's pen ceased to move, his head was raised, pausing,
listening, and he turned round the next instant to give a look,
one quick, conscious look at her.
The two ladies continued to talk, to re-urge the same admitted truths,
and enforce them with such examples of the ill effect of
a contrary practice as had fallen within their observation,
but Anne heard nothing distinctly; it was only a buzz of words in her ear,
her mind was in confusion.
Captain Harville, who had in truth been hearing none of it,
now left his seat, and moved to a window, and Anne seeming to watch him,
though it was from thorough absence of mind, became gradually sensible
that he was inviting her to join him where he stood. He looked at her
with a smile, and a little motion of the head, which expressed,
"Come to me, I have something to say;" and the unaffected,
easy kindness of manner which denoted the feelings of an older acquaintance
than he really was, strongly enforced the invitation. She roused herself
and went to him. The window at which he stood was at the other end
of the room from where the two ladies were sitting, and though nearer
to Captain Wentworth's table, not very near. As she joined him,
Captain Harville's countenance re-assumed the serious, thoughtful
expression which seemed its natural character.
"Look here," said he, unfolding a parcel in his hand, and displaying
a small miniature painting, "do you know who that is?"
"Certainly: Captain Benwick."
"Yes, and you may guess who it is for. But," (in a deep tone,)
"it was not done for her. Miss Elliot, do you remember our
walking together at Lyme, and grieving for him? I little thought then--
but no matter. This was drawn at the Cape. He met with
a clever young German artist at the Cape, and in compliance with a promise
to my poor sister, sat to him, and was bringing it home for her;
and I have now the charge of getting it properly set for another!
It was a commission to me! But who else was there to employ?
I hope I can allow for him. I am not sorry, indeed, to make it
over to another. He undertakes it;" (looking towards Captain Wentworth,)
"he is writing about it now." And with a quivering lip he wound up
the whole by adding, "Poor Fanny! she would not have forgotten him so soon!"
"No," replied Anne, in a low, feeling voice. "That I can easily believe."
"It was not in her nature. She doted on him."
"It would not be the nature of any woman who truly loved."
Captain Harville smiled, as much as to say, "Do you claim that
for your sex?" and she answered the question, smiling also,
"Yes. We certainly do not forget you as soon as you forget us.
It is, perhaps, our fate rather than our merit. We cannot help ourselves.
We live at home, quiet, confined, and our feelings prey upon us.
You are forced on exertion. You have always a profession, pursuits,
business of some sort or other, to take you back into the world immediately,
and continual occupation and change soon weaken impressions."
"Granting your assertion that the world does all this so soon for men
(which, however, I do not think I shall grant), it does not apply
to Benwick. He has not been forced upon any exertion. The peace
turned him on shore at the very moment, and he has been living with us,
in our little family circle, ever since."
"True," said Anne, "very true; I did not recollect; but what shall
we say now, Captain Harville? If the change be not from
outward circumstances, it must be from within; it must be nature,
man's nature, which has done the business for Captain Benwick."
"No, no, it is not man's nature. I will not allow it to be more
man's nature than woman's to be inconstant and forget those they do love,
or have loved. I believe the reverse. I believe in a true analogy
between our bodily frames and our mental; and that as our bodies are
the strongest, so are our feelings; capable of bearing most rough usage,
and riding out the heaviest weather."
"Your feelings may be the strongest," replied Anne, "but the same spirit
of analogy will authorise me to assert that ours are the most tender.
Man is more robust than woman, but he is not longer lived;
which exactly explains my view of the nature of their attachments.
Nay, it would be too hard upon you, if it were otherwise.
You have difficulties, and privations, and dangers enough to struggle with.
You are always labouring and toiling, exposed to every risk and hardship.
Your home, country, friends, all quitted. Neither time, nor health,
nor life, to be called your own. It would be hard, indeed"
(with a faltering voice), "if woman's feelings were to be
added to all this."
"We shall never agree upon this question," Captain Harville
was beginning to say, when a slight noise called their attention
to Captain Wentworth's hitherto perfectly quiet division of the room.
It was nothing more than that his pen had fallen down; but Anne was
startled at finding him nearer than she had supposed, and half inclined
to suspect that the pen had only fallen because he had been
occupied by them, striving to catch sounds, which yet she did not think
he could have caught.
"Have you finished your letter?" said Captain Harville.
"Not quite, a few lines more. I shall have done in five minutes."
"There is no hurry on my side. I am only ready whenever you are.
I am in very good anchorage here," (smiling at Anne,) "well supplied,
and want for nothing. No hurry for a signal at all. Well, Miss Elliot,"
(lowering his voice,) "as I was saying we shall never agree,
I suppose, upon this point. No man and woman, would, probably.
But let me observe that all histories are against you--all stories,
prose and verse. If I had such a memory as Benwick, I could bring you
fifty quotations in a moment on my side the argument, and I do not think
I ever opened a book in my life which had not something to say
upon woman's inconstancy. Songs and proverbs, all talk
of woman's fickleness. But perhaps you will say, these were all
written by men."
"Perhaps I shall. Yes, yes, if you please, no reference to examples
in books. Men have had every advantage of us in telling their own story.
Education has been theirs in so much higher a degree; the pen has
been in their hands. I will not allow books to prove anything."
"But how shall we prove anything?"
"We never shall. We never can expect to prove any thing upon such a point.
It is a difference of opinion which does not admit of proof.
We each begin, probably, with a little bias towards our own sex;
and upon that bias build every circumstance in favour of it
which has occurred within our own circle; many of which circumstances
(perhaps those very cases which strike us the most) may be precisely such
as cannot be brought forward without betraying a confidence,
or in some respect saying what should not be said."
"Ah!" cried Captain Harville, in a tone of strong feeling,
"if I could but make you comprehend what a man suffers when he takes
a last look at his wife and children, and watches the boat
that he has sent them off in, as long as it is in sight,
and then turns away and says, `God knows whether we ever meet again!'
And then, if I could convey to you the glow of his soul when he does
see them again; when, coming back after a twelvemonth's absence,
perhaps, and obliged to put into another port, he calculates how soon
it be possible to get them there, pretending to deceive himself,
and saying, `They cannot be here till such a day,' but all the while
hoping for them twelve hours sooner, and seeing them arrive at last,
as if Heaven had given them wings, by many hours sooner still!
If I could explain to you all this, and all that a man can bear and do,
and glories to do, for the sake of these treasures of his existence!
I speak, you know, only of such men as have hearts!" pressing his own
"Oh!" cried Anne eagerly, "I hope I do justice to all that is felt by you,
and by those who resemble you. God forbid that I should undervalue
the warm and faithful feelings of any of my fellow-creatures!
I should deserve utter contempt if I dared to suppose that true attachment
and constancy were known only by woman. No, I believe you capable
of everything great and good in your married lives. I believe you equal
to every important exertion, and to every domestic forbearance,
so long as--if I may be allowed the expression--so long as you have
an object. I mean while the woman you love lives, and lives for you.
All the privilege I claim for my own sex (it is not a very enviable one;
you need not covet it), is that of loving longest, when existence
or when hope is gone."
She could not immediately have uttered another sentence; her heart
was too full, her breath too much oppressed.
"You are a good soul," cried Captain Harville, putting his hand
on her arm, quite affectionately. "There is no quarrelling with you.
And when I think of Benwick, my tongue is tied."
Their attention was called towards the others. Mrs Croft was taking leave.
"Here, Frederick, you and I part company, I believe," said she.
"I am going home, and you have an engagement with your friend.
To-night we may have the pleasure of all meeting again at your party,"
(turning to Anne.) "We had your sister's card yesterday,
and I understood Frederick had a card too, though I did not see it;
and you are disengaged, Frederick, are you not, as well as ourselves?"
Captain Wentworth was folding up a letter in great haste, and either
could not or would not answer fully.
"Yes," said he, "very true; here we separate, but Harville and I
shall soon be after you; that is, Harville, if you are ready,
I am in half a minute. I know you will not be sorry to be off.
I shall be at your service in half a minute."
Mrs Croft left them, and Captain Wentworth, having sealed his letter
with great rapidity, was indeed ready, and had even a hurried,
agitated air, which shewed impatience to be gone. Anne knew not how
to understand it. She had the kindest "Good morning, God bless you!"
from Captain Harville, but from him not a word, nor a look!
He had passed out of the room without a look!
She had only time, however, to move closer to the table where
he had been writing, when footsteps were heard returning;
the door opened, it was himself. He begged their pardon,
but he had forgotten his gloves, and instantly crossing the room
to the writing table, he drew out a letter from under the scattered paper,
placed it before Anne with eyes of glowing entreaty fixed on her
for a time, and hastily collecting his gloves, was again out of the room,
almost before Mrs Musgrove was aware of his being in it:
the work of an instant!
The revolution which one instant had made in Anne, was almost
beyond expression. The letter, with a direction hardly legible,
to "Miss A. E.--," was evidently the one which he had been folding
so hastily. While supposed to be writing only to Captain Benwick,
he had been also addressing her! On the contents of that letter
depended all which this world could do for her. Anything was possible,
anything might be defied rather than suspense. Mrs Musgrove had
little arrangements of her own at her own table; to their protection
she must trust, and sinking into the chair which he had occupied,
succeeding to the very spot where he had leaned and written,
her eyes devoured the following words:
"I can listen no longer in silence. I must speak to you by such means
as are within my reach. You pierce my soul. I am half agony,
half hope. Tell me not that I am too late, that such precious feelings
are gone for ever. I offer myself to you again with a heart
even more your own than when you almost broke it, eight years
and a half ago. Dare not say that man forgets sooner than woman,
that his love has an earlier death. I have loved none but you.
Unjust I may have been, weak and resentful I have been,
but never inconstant. You alone have brought me to Bath.
For you alone, I think and plan. Have you not seen this?
Can you fail to have understood my wishes? I had not waited even
these ten days, could I have read your feelings, as I think you must have
penetrated mine. I can hardly write. I am every instant hearing
something which overpowers me. You sink your voice, but I can
distinguish the tones of that voice when they would be lost on others.
Too good, too excellent creature! You do us justice, indeed.
You do believe that there is true attachment and constancy among men.
Believe it to be most fervent, most undeviating, in F. W.
"I must go, uncertain of my fate; but I shall return hither,
or follow your party, as soon as possible. A word, a look,
will be enough to decide whether I enter your father's house
this evening or never."
Such a letter was not to be soon recovered from. Half and hour's solitude
and reflection might have tranquillized her; but the ten minutes only
which now passed before she was interrupted, with all the restraints
of her situation, could do nothing towards tranquillity. Every moment
rather brought fresh agitation. It was overpowering happiness.
And before she was beyond the first stage of full sensation,
Charles, Mary, and Henrietta all came in.
The absolute necessity of seeming like herself produced then
an immediate struggle; but after a while she could do no more.
She began not to understand a word they said, and was obliged
to plead indisposition and excuse herself. They could then see
that she looked very ill, were shocked and concerned, and would not
stir without her for the world. This was dreadful. Would they only
have gone away, and left her in the quiet possession of that room
it would have been her cure; but to have them all standing or
waiting around her was distracting, and in desperation,
she said she would go home.
"By all means, my dear," cried Mrs Musgrove, "go home directly,
and take care of yourself, that you may be fit for the evening.
I wish Sarah was here to doctor you, but I am no doctor myself.
Charles, ring and order a chair. She must not walk."
But the chair would never do. Worse than all! To lose the possibility
of speaking two words to Captain Wentworth in the course of her quiet,
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