Chapter 1: Sir Walter Elliot
Sir Walter Elliot of Kellynch Hall in Somerset, south-west England, never read anything except the Baronetage. He particularly liked to read the pages about his own family:
Walter Elliot, baronet, born 1 March 1760, married Elizabeth Stevenson 15 July 1784. Three daughters: Elizabeth (born 1 June 1785), Anne (born 9 August 1787), and Mary (born 20 November 1791, married Charles Musgrove 16 December 1810). A still-born son (5 November 1789). Lady Elliot died in 1800. Heir presumptive: William Walter Elliot, the great grandson of the second Sir Walter.
This introduction was followed by the history of the Elliot family: three hundred years of respectability. Reading it gave Sir Walter great satisfaction. Vanity was his principal characteristic: he was vain about his noble family and his good looks. At fifty-four he was still a handsome man. His friends had been surprised that he had never married again. He could have asked Lady Russell to marry him. She was a widow who lived nearby and had been Lady Elliot’s closest friend. However, thirteen years had passed since Lady Elliot’s death, and Sir Walter and Lady Russell were still just good friends and neighbours.
Sir Walter’s favourite daughter was Elizabeth. She was twenty-nine, but she was still very good-looking. Anne was twenty-six and had been pretty a few years before, but now she was pale and thin. Mary had grown fat since her marriage. Lady Russell had deep lines around her eyes. Sir Walter took great pleasure in thinking that of all the people he knew only he and Elizabeth were still as good-looking as ever. Elizabeth will marry a great nobleman, he thought, and he did not notice that he had been thinking it for the past thirteen years.
When Elizabeth was sixteen, she had planned to marry her father’s heir William Walter Elliot. That was the only way she could keep her father’s property. When she met the young man, she liked him. He was invited to Kellynch Hall, but he never came. A year later, he married a rich woman from a middle-class family. Elizabeth was angry and upset. Her life went on rather emptily. She went to elegant parties and visited friends. She tried to fill the time, but it was difficult, since she had no talents or interests.
Recently she had been worried about her father: he was in debt. Neither Elizabeth nor her father could imagine how to pay these debts. Both felt that their extravagant lifestyle was essential to the dignity of a noble family. Lady Russell and Anne spent hours trying to find a way to save money and pay the debts, but every plan for economy they proposed was rejected by Sir Walter. Finally he accepted the radical plan of moving to the town of Bath. There he could live for less money without losing his dignity. Meanwhile, Kellynch Hall was rented to a gentleman called Admiral Croft.
When Sir Walter’s lawyer Mr Shepherd had completed the business arrangements with Admiral Croft, he came to Kellynch to report to Sir Walter.
‘Admiral Croft is very nice,’ said Mr Shepherd. ‘His wife’s brother lived in the nearby village of Monkford a few years ago. Perhaps you know the gentleman. Now, what was his name?’ Mr Shepherd searched his memory but couldn’t remember the name of Mrs Croft’s brother. ‘He lived in the grey stone house…’
After a moment, Anne said, ‘I suppose you mean Mr Wentworth.’
‘Ah!’ said Sir Walter. ‘The curate of Monkford. When you said “gentleman” I thought you meant a man of property, somebody of the nobility. Mr Wentworth was nobody.’
Anne left the room quietly and went out into the garden. As she walked between the tall trees, she thought, ‘In a few months, perhaps he will be here!’
She was thinking of the curate’s brother – Captain Frederick Wentworth of the Royal Navy – who had spent the year 1806 in Monkford. At that time, he was a handsome, clever, charming young man, and Anne was a pretty, gentle, sensitive girl. They fell in love and were happy for a short period, but, when Frederick asked Sir Walter if he could marry Anne, Sir Walter was not pleased. He thought that Frederick’s family was not good enough. Even Lady Russell, who was much more sensible than Sir Walter, disapproved. Anne was Lady Russell’s favourite of the Elliot sisters; only Anne had the gentleness, good sense and modesty that Lady Russell had loved so much in her old friend Lady Elliot. Lady Russell thought that it was foolish for Anne to marry a young man with no money. ‘When your father dies,’ she had said, ‘he’ll leave you very little money and no property. You need to marry someone rich and so does Captain Wentworth. If you marry each other, you’ll have no money at all, and you’ll both be miserable as a result.’
Anne was too gentle to argue against this. She broke off her engagement to Frederick, convinced that it was the best thing for him. Frederick was angry and hurt. ‘I’m sure that I’ll earn money and promotion in the Navy,’ he said, but Anne continued to resist him, and finally he went to sea. That was eight years ago, when Anne was nineteen. Very few people knew about the relationship between them: his sister Mrs Croft had been abroad with her husband at the time, and Anne’s sister Mary had been away at school. Captain Wentworth had never returned to Monkford, because his brother had moved away.
In the eight years since Captain Wentworth had left, Anne had never fallen in love with anyone else. Mr Charles Musgrove had asked her to marry him, but she had refused, and he had married her sister Mary instead. Anne read about Captain Wentworth’s career in the newspapers. He had been right: his Navy career was a great success. By now he must be quite rich, thought Anne sadly. He had never married. Thinking about it now, Lady Russell’s advice seemed too cautious: Anne thought she was being prudent, but instead she had ruined her life.
Mary lived at Uppercross, three miles from Kellynch Hall. One day she said to her sister Elizabeth, ‘When you go to Bath, please leave Anne with me. I’m not well, and I need Anne’s help.’
‘All right,’ said Elizabeth. ‘No one will miss her in Bath!’
Elizabeth’s friend Mrs Clay – a young widow – was going to Bath with them. Elizabeth was perfectly happy with the thought of her father and her friend as her only companions.
Anne was also happy with the arrangement and gladly accepted Mary’s invitation. She did not like Bath. She much preferred to stay in the country close to Lady Russell, who appreciated her. She and Mary did not enjoy each other’s company, but at least Mary valued her help, and this way she did not have to go to Bath.
There was only one problem with the plan: the idea of Mrs Clay staying for months with Elizabeth and Sir Walter at their house in Bath made Anne worried. Mrs Clay was not a pretty woman, but she was intelligent and friendly. Anne thought it imprudent to let a pleasant young single woman stay in the house with Sir Walter for so long a period. She told Elizabeth this, but Elizabeth replied, ‘Nonsense! Father doesn’t find Mrs Clay attractive. Besides, she isn’t from a noble family. There’s no danger.’
So Sir Walter, Elizabeth and Mrs Clay left for Bath, and Anne moved into Mary’s house. Mary lived in the Cottage, the smaller of two houses on a large property owned by her husband’s parents. Mr and Mrs Musgrove Senior lived in the Great House. Anne and Mary spent a lot of time with Mr and Mrs Musgrove and their daughters Henrietta and Louisa. They were rather pretty, lively, fashionable girls, who were very popular in the neighbourhood. They seemed to enjoy life a lot, but the only thing Anne was envious of was their friendly feeling towards each other – this was very different from Anne’s relationship with either of her sisters.
Chapter 2: Captain Wentworth
When Admiral Croft and his wife arrived at Kellynch Hall, Mary and Charles invited them to the Cottage. Mr and Mrs Musgrove and their daughters were also invited.
‘Dear Mrs Croft,’ said Mrs Musgrove, as soon as the introductions were over, ‘did you know that my son Dick served in the Navy under your brother Captain Frederick Wentworth?’
‘Really?’ asked Mrs Croft. ‘And what does your son do now?’
‘The poor boy died at sea!’ cried Mrs Musgrove, with tears in her eyes.
‘Oh, I’m so sorry to hear that,’ said Mrs Croft.
‘But in one of his letters to me, he wrote, “Captain Wentworth is a fine, courageous young gentleman.” Yes, he admired your brother very much, Mrs Croft!’
In fact, Dick Musgrove had been a stupid, lazy, difficult young man, so his parents had sent him to sea. He was as difficult in the Navy as he had been at home. When he had died two years before, at the age of twenty, no one except his mother really felt sorry.
Mrs Croft, who was a sensible, confident, straightforward lady, tried to comfort Mrs Musgrove.
‘My brother will be very glad to meet you, Mrs Musgrove,’ said Mrs Croft. ‘His career in the Navy has been a great success. Now that the war is over he’s back in England. He’s coming to stay with us at Kellynch Hall next week.’
Anne, who was standing nearby, heard this, and her heart beat fast in agitation.
The following week, Henrietta and Louisa came to visit Anne and Mary at the Cottage.
‘We’ve met Captain Wentworth!’ cried Henrietta. ‘He’s very handsome and charming! Father invited him to dinner this evening.’
‘Yes,’ cried Louisa. ‘You must all come to meet him!’
‘I’m afraid we can’t,’ said Mary. ‘My little boy has a cold. We must stay with him this evening.’
‘Well, I can go, can’t I?’ Charles asked Mary.
‘If you want!’ replied Mary, clearly offended that her husband did not want to stay with her.
‘You can both go,’ said Anne. ‘I’ll stay here with little Charles.’
‘What a good idea!’ cried Mary, suddenly happy again.
Charles and Mary went to the Great House and Anne remained at the Cottage. All evening she thought about the dinner at the Great House. There, Frederick Wentworth was smiling and talking to other people. How does he feel, she wondered, about meeting me again? Sooner or later we will have to meet. Perhaps he feels indifferent. Or perhaps he’ll be embarrassed. In all these years, he has never tried to contact me.
Charles and Mary came home late, full of enthusiasm for Captain Wentworth. ‘Such a friendly young man!’ said Mary. ‘Charles has invited him to go shooting tomorrow after breakfast. He invited him to come to breakfast, but Captain Wentworth was afraid of disturbing little Charles.’
Anne understood it. He did not want to see her.
‘But Anne!’ continued Mary. ‘He says he knows you. He says he met you eight years ago, but I don’t remember him at all!’
‘No, you were at school then,’ said Anne quietly.
The next morning, Henrietta and Louisa walked down to the Cottage with Captain Wentworth. When Anne saw Captain Wentworth walking towards the Cottage, she blushed and she could hardly breathe from nervousness.
‘Ah!’ said Mary. ‘Henrietta and Louisa have come too. They probably want to walk and watch the shooting. If you can stay with little Charles, Anne, I think I’ll go with them.’
‘Certainly,’ said Anne, in a trembling voice.
And suddenly he was there – in the drawing room. He bowed to her. She curtsied to him. Her eyes met his briefly then looked away again. She heard his voice. He made polite conversation with Mary for a few minutes. And then he was gone – with the Musgrove sisters, Charles and Mary – and Anne was left alone in the drawing room, thinking, ‘Thank God that’s over!’
‘Captain Wentworth wasn’t very polite to you, Anne!’ said Mary, when she returned. ‘As we left the house, Henrietta asked what he thought of you, and he said, “She’s changed so much that hardly recognised her.”‘
Mary – being rather insensitive – had no idea how much pain her words caused her sister. It must be true! thought Anne. But he hasn’t changed. He’s just as good-looking as ever. His comment hurt her, but it also made her calm. If I have changed so much, she thought, there is no hope that he will love me as he did before. So be calm, she told herself. If you can be calm, you will be content.
Surprised by Henrietta’s question, Frederick Wentworth had told the truth, but he had not expected anyone to repeat his comment to Anne. He had not forgiven Anne Elliot. She had abandoned him, and, in doing so, she had shown weakness of character: she had allowed herself to be persuaded by others. He had loved her, and he had never felt that way again about any other woman. He had never met another woman he considered to be equal to her. When he came to Kellynch, he had been curious to meet her again, but he thought her power over him was completely gone.
Now that he was rich and the war was over, he wanted to settle down with some attractive young woman. Either of the Musgrove sisters could win his heart if she wanted to. In fact, any attractive young lady could do so – except Anne Elliot. When his sister asked him about his intentions, he said with a laugh, I’m here, Sophia, to find a wife. Any young lady can capture me with a little beauty, a few smiles, and a few compliments about the Navy.’ But, later, he gave his sister a serious description of the kind of wife he wanted: ‘The woman marry must have a strong mind and a sweet manner.’ He had not entirely forgotten Anne.
From then on, Anne was often in Frederick Wentworth’s company, though never alone with him. It was strange to spend hours in the same room with him, listening to his voice, yet never looking at him closely or talking to him intimately. Once they had been everything to each other, but now they were just acquaintances.
‘Tell us about your adventures at sea, Captain Wentworth,’ cried Louisa one evening. ‘You said that your first ship was called the Asp. Did you have any adventures on the Asp?’
‘Oh, certainly I did,’ replied the captain. ‘It was 1806. That year I had a strong desire to go to sea, and the Navy gave me the Asp. It was an old ship, but a fine one. That autumn, we captured a French ship and brought it into Plymouth harbour. As we approached Plymouth, a terrible storm hit us and continued for four days. The Asp was already damaged from our battles with the French. I thought that was the end for me and the Asp! I said to myself, “We’ll probably go down to the bottom of the sea together this time!” But, as I said, she was a fine old ship, and we finally got to the port alive and well.’
Henrietta and Louisa cried out in pity and horror, while Anne silently shivered at the terrible thought of him going down to the bottom of the sea.
‘Your next ship was the Laconia, wasn’t it?’ said Mrs Musgrove. ‘How lucky for us, sir!’
Frederick looked confused until Henrietta whispered to him. ‘She’s thinking of my brother Dick.’
‘Ah!’ said Frederick. There was something in his face at that moment that suggested to Anne that his memories of Dick were not happy ones. No one else noticed that look: only someone who knew him very well could have noticed it. He crossed the room, sat on the sofa beside Mrs Musgrove, and spoke to her quietly and seriously about her son. Anne, meanwhile, sat on the other side of Mrs Musgrove, thinking, We’re on the same sofa!
However, when he got up to leave, he bowed to Anne with cold politeness, like someone who hardly knew her, and said, ‘Good evening.’
Chapter 3: Henrietta or Louisa?
The Musgroves were cousins of the Hayters of Winthrop. Winthrop was a large farm two miles from Uppercross, and the Hayter family were, for the most part, plain ignorant people. For this reason, Mary was very unhappy that they were connected to the Musgrove family. She spoke to them as little as possible and never went to Winthrop.
Charles Hayter, the eldest son, was better educated and more gentlemanly than his father and his brothers. He was a curate and, over the past year or so, he and Henrietta had seemed to be in love with each other.
He was away on business at the time Captain Wentworth came to Kellynch. When he returned, after two weeks, he found that everything had changed. Henrietta did not look at him with loving eyes anymore or listen attentively when he spoke. Both she and Louisa gave all their attention to Captain Wentworth.
Everyone at Uppercross seemed to be charmed by the captain, but Charles Hayter did not find him charming at all.
One evening, when they were alone in their room, Mary said to her husband Charles, ‘Captain Wentworth seems to like your sisters very much. He spends a lot of time with them. Do you think he’ll marry one of them?’
‘Maybe,’ said Charles. ‘I think perhaps he’ll marry Louisa.’
‘Well, Louisa is the livelier of the two, but Henrietta is prettier,’ said Mary.
‘True,’ her husband replied, ‘but I think Henrietta is already in love – with her cousin Charles Hayter.’
‘Oh dear, I hope not!’ cried Mary. ‘That Hayter family is so common! We really don’t want to be any more closely connected to them than we already are.’
‘But Charles is in a good position,’ said her husband. ‘He’s the eldest son, so he will inherit Winthrop. And he’s a curate. He’ll probably become curate of the church of Uppercross when the old vicar retires.’
‘Well, I hope that Henrietta will marry Captain Wentworth instead,’ said Mary. ‘He’s a fine young man, and I hear that he made twenty-five thousand pounds during the war. That’s a splendid fortune.’
The next day, Louisa, Henrietta, Captain Wentworth, Mary, Charles and Anne went for a long walk together. Mary got tired very early in the walk and began to complain. They climbed a hill to see the view. There, below them, was Winthrop, without beauty and without dignity. ‘I had no idea that we were walking towards Winthrop!’ cried Mary. ‘Let’s go back now. I’m tired.’
Henrietta had known the direction of their walk; in fact, she and Louisa had chosen to walk towards Winthrop in the hope of seeing their cousin Charles Hayter. He had not been to visit them at Uppercross for days, and Henrietta had begun to feel sorry about paying so much attention to Captain Wentworth and so little attention to her cousin. She looked down at Winthrop sadly, and, not seeing her cousin, she replied to Mary, ‘All right,’ and turned to walk back to Uppercross.
‘No!’ cried Charles and Louisa. Louisa whispered something in her sister’s ear, then Charles said, ‘Henrietta and I shall go down and say hello to the Hayters. You can wait for us here. We won’t be long.’
Captain Wentworth and Louisa went for a walk. Anne found a place for Mary to sit down and rest, but Mary refused and went off to find herself a more comfortable seat. Anne was very tired too, so she sat down and waited quietly for the others to return. After a while, she heard Louisa’s voice on the other side of the hedge.
‘And so, I made Henrietta go. I knew that she wanted to go to Winthrop to see her cousin, but she’s so weak – she always lets herself be persuaded by other people. When Mary said we should go home, she agreed! Even though she wanted to see her cousin! I never let myself be persuaded by other people. Once I have decided what I want to do, no one can persuade me to do something else!’
Then Frederick spoke: ‘She’s very fortunate to have you to help her!’ he said. ‘If your sister and Mr Hayter are in love, they must be strong; they can’t let other people influence them. Your sister’s very nice, but I see now that you have the stronger character!’
Anne sat very still, afraid of being seen by the two people on the other side of the hedge.
‘Well, I never let Mary tell me what to do!’ Louisa replied. ‘She’s so proud and snobbish. I wish Anne was Charles’s wife instead. Do you know that Charles wanted to marry Anne?’
After a moment’s pause, Frederick said, ‘Did she refuse him?’
‘Yes. Mother and Father think that her friend Lady Russell persuaded her to refuse. She thought that Charles wasn’t good enough for Anne because he doesn’t read poetry…’
Their voices became quieter as they walked further away. Anne sat still, hardly breathing. Now she knew what Captain Wentworth thought of her: everything he had said about strength of character and weakness, about allowing yourself to be persuaded by others, made that perfectly clear. He had also shown a curiosity about her which made her heart beat fast.
Charles and Henrietta returned from Winthrop, bringing Charles Hayter with them. Henrietta and her cousin looked very happy. Clearly their misunderstanding was over. They began the long walk home: Louisa and Captain Wentworth walked in front, Henrietta and her cousin behind them, and Charles Musgrove was at the back with Anne and Mary. Just then, Mr and Mrs Croft drove up in their carriage.
‘Does anyone want a lift to Uppercross?’ asked Mrs Croft. ‘I’m afraid we only have space for one person.’
Everyone refused. Henrietta and Louisa were not tired, and Mary felt offended at not being asked before the others.
‘Nobody? Well, enjoy your walk,’ said Mrs Croft, but then Captain Wentworth went up to the carriage and whispered something to his sister.
‘Miss Elliot!’ cried Mrs Croft. ‘You look tired. Please come with us.’
Anne really was tired. At first she refused, but the Admiral and Mrs Croft insisted, and soon she was in the carriage, knowing that Frederick had worried about her. He had seen that she was tired. She understood him: he could not forgive her for the past, and he was now thinking of marrying another woman, but even so, he could not see her suffer without wanting to help her.
Chapter 4: Lyme Regis
A week later, Captain Wentworth went to Lyme Regis to see his friend Captain Harville. When he returned, he described the beauties of the town and surrounding countryside to his friends at Uppercross. They all decided to go to Lyme for two days and stay at an inn – Charles, Mary, Anne, Henrietta, Louisa and Captain Wentworth.
When they arrived they went to the inn, and then Captain Wentworth took them to Captain Harville’s house. Captain Harville was a tall dark man who had been seriously injured in battle two years before. His face was kind and friendly, but his injuries had aged him, and he looked much older than Captain Wentworth, although they were in fact the same age. He lived with his wife, his children and his friend Captain Benwick, who had been an officer on the Laconia when Frederick was captain. Captain Benwick had been engaged to Harville’s sister Fanny, but she had died while Captain Benwick was at sea. Ever since, he had lived with the Harvilles as a member of the family.
After Fanny’s death, Captain Wentworth had spent an entire week with Captain Benwick, trying to comfort his friend. Anne saw that the friendships between these three men were very strong and sincere, and she thought sadly, ‘If I had married him, these people would now be my friends too!’
When they left the Harvilles’ house, Louisa said to Captain Wentworth, ‘What splendid friends you have! What kind honest people! I think the men in the Navy must be the finest men in England!’
They went for a walk by the sea, then returned to the inn for dinner. Anne was looking very pretty: the cold wind had made her cheeks pink and her eyes shine. As they entered the inn, a gentleman dressed in black was going out. He looked at Anne with great admiration, and then stepped to the side politely to let her pass. He was not a handsome man, but Anne thought that his face was that of a pleasant sensible man. Captain Wentworth noticed the gentleman looking at Anne and asked the waiter who he was.
‘That’s Mr William Walter Elliot, sir,’ the man replied. ‘He has just left us to return to London.’
‘What a coincidence!’ said Mary. ‘My father’s heir was here – in the same inn!’
The next morning they went for a walk by the sea. It was too windy for the ladies to walk on the top of the sea wall, so they went down the steps to a path more protected from the wind. Mary, Anne and Henrietta went down the steps slowly and carefully, but Louisa asked Frederick to hold her hands while she jumped from the top step to the path below.
‘It’s too dangerous,’ said Frederick.
‘Oh, please,’ Louisa insisted. ‘I want to jump. Just hold my hands, and I’ll jump down.’
‘I really don’t think it’s a good idea,’ said Frederick. ‘You might fall.’
‘You can’t persuade me!’ cried Louisa. ‘When I want to do something, I do it!’
So Frederick held her hands and she jumped, but when she landed on the lower path, she slipped on the wet stone, and she fell and hit her head. She lay unconscious on the path. Her face went very white and she did not seem to be breathing.
‘She’s dead! She’s dead!’ cried Mary.
Henrietta fainted from the shock. Poor Charles was trying to comfort his wife and hold Henrietta up at the same time. Frederick, on his knees by Louisa’s side, cried out, ‘Will someone help me?’
Anne came up to Charles, put her arms around Henrietta and Mary and said, ‘Charles! Go and help the captain! Quickly! I can take care of Mary and Henrietta.’
Frederick looked up at Charles and said, ‘What shall we do?’
‘Go and get a doctor!’ cried Anne.
‘You’re right,’ said Frederick. ‘You go and find a doctor, Charles. I’ll wait for you here.’
‘Shouldn’t we take her to the inn and wait for the doctor there?’ asked Anne.
‘Good idea!’ said Frederick, ‘or – wait! – Harville’s house is closer. I’ll take her there. Charles, bring the doctor to Harville’s house!’
Charles ran off to find a doctor, Frederick carried Louisa to his friend’s house and Anne – with the help of some local people – followed with Mary and Henrietta. Half an hour later, the doctor told them that Louisa’s injuries were not serious.
‘Someone must go and tell her parents what has happened,’ said Frederick.
‘Please, will you go, Captain,’ said Charles. ‘I want to stay with my sister.’
‘Certainly,’ replied Frederick. ‘I will take the other ladies home, but I think Anne should stay here with you. There’s no one more capable than Anne.’
‘Nonsense!’ said Mary. ‘I should stay with my husband and his sister! Anne can go home with you.’
And so it was decided: Mary and Charles stayed at the Harvilles’ house with Louisa, while Anne, Henrietta and Frederick took the inn’s carriage to Uppercross. In the carriage, Frederick spoke mostly to Henrietta. Anne sat quietly beside him and listened. At one point he said, ‘I should have stopped her! I should have insisted! But dear sweet Louisa has such a strong character: she won’t be persuaded by anyone!’
Anne wondered whether he now questioned the opinions he had expressed so confidently behind the hedge. Perhaps now he realised that, like other qualities of the mind, strength of character should have its proportions and limits.
As they approached Uppercross, Henrietta fell asleep. Frederick then said to Anne in a low voice, ‘I’ve been thinking about what we should do when we get there. I think it will upset Henrietta too much to be present when I tell her parents. Do you think it’s a good idea for you to stay with her in the carriage until I’ve told them?’
‘Yes, I do,’ whispered Anne. She was very glad that he had asked for her opinion, very glad that he valued her, thought her capable and treated her as a friend. It was a great pleasure to her.
When they got to the Great House, Frederick went in and told Mr and Mrs Musgrove what had happened. Then he came back to the carriage and helped Henrietta into the house. Finally, he took the carriage back to Lyme, leaving Anne with the Musgroves.
The next day, Anne received a letter from Lady Russell, saying that she was now home in Kellynch and inviting Anne to come and stay with her. Anne wrote back and told Lady Russell about the accident at Lyme: ‘I’m so glad that you’re home. As soon as Mary and Charles get back from Lyme, I’ll pack my bags and come to your house.’
She was glad. She had missed her friend. But at the same time she was worried. What will Lady Russell think of me spending all that time in Captain Wentworth’s company?
Two days later, she was at her friend’s house. ‘How pretty you look, my dear!’ cried Lady Russell when Anne walked in. ‘I haven’t seen you look so well for years!’
Anne was pleased. She remembered the look of admiration that William Walter Elliot, her father’s heir, had given her at the inn while he was leaving. ‘Perhaps I really am pretty again!’ she thought.
Lady Russell sat down beside Anne and said, ‘I hear you’ve been spending a lot of time with Captain Wentworth.’ She sat waiting for an answer.
‘Yes,’ replied Anne, trying not to seem agitated. ‘He came to see the Musgroves almost every day, so of course I saw him often. I think he is in love with Louisa.’
‘Really?’ said Lady Russell, and she thought, with angry pleasure, ‘How can a man who once appreciated the value of Anne Elliot, now, eight years later, possibly be charmed by Louisa Musgrove?’
‘Well,’ Lady Russell continued, ‘Admiral and Mrs Croft have gone to visit friends in the north, so he probably won’t come back to this neighbourhood. I think Mrs Croft said he was going to stay with his brother in Shropshire.’
‘Oh!’ said Anne.
Chapter 5: Bath
Anne stayed at Lady Russell’s house in Kellynch for a month, then they both went to Bath. Lady Russell had rented a house for herself there. Anne wished she could stay with her friend, but she had to stay at her father’s house with Elizabeth and Mrs Clay. When they arrived, Sir Walter, Elizabeth and Mrs Clay seemed to be in good spirits and welcomed Anne more warmly than she had expected. Elizabeth told them that William Walter Elliot had been visiting them often over the past two weeks. He was in Bath, staying with his friend Colonel Wallis and his wife and new baby.
‘It’s surprising that he visits you so often!’ said Lady Russell. ‘I’ve never liked the man because he showed no respect for the family. He never came to see you while his wife was alive. I suppose, now that she is dead, he is beginning to value his family.’
Anne was slightly confused. When she had seen him in Lyme, she had thought that Mr Elliot seemed a sensible man. Why, Anne asked herself, is he so interested in making friends with the family now, after all these years? She thought perhaps it was for Elizabeth. Certainly Elizabeth herself and Mrs Clay thought so.
That evening, Mr William Walter Elliot came to visit. When he saw Anne, his face showed surprise and pleasure. ‘My dear cousin!’ he said. ‘I saw you just a few weeks ago at Lyme, but I had no idea that it was you!’
He sat between Anne and Lady Russell. His manners were very pleasant. He asked Anne why she had been in Lyme, and when she mentioned the accident he was interested and sympathetic – he wanted to know every detail. Then he spoke to Lady Russell about the years in which there had been no communication between himself and Sir Walter. ‘It was all a misunderstanding,’ he said. ‘I thought I had offended him, that he didn’t want to see me anymore. But now I realise that was a mistake. I’m so sorry that I missed all those years of his company!’
After he left, Lady Russell cried, ‘What a nice man! Is this really the same Mr Elliot? I used to dislike him, but now he seems completely admirable: he’s intelligent, sophisticated, polite and friendly. He has the right opinions and strong family feelings.’
Anne went to bed that night with a smile on her face: her first evening in Bath had been surprisingly pleasant.
The only thing that disturbed Anne’s first few days in Bath was her fear that her father was falling in love with Mrs Clay.
When Mrs Clay was in the room with him, he talked to her a lot, and when she was out of the room he referred to her often: ‘Mrs Clay thinks’ this and ‘Mrs Clay says’ that.
One evening, when Mr William Walter Elliot and Lady Russell were visiting them, Sir Walter and Elizabeth spoke with great enthusiasm about Sir Walter’s cousin Lady Dalrymple.
‘She has come to Bath and has rented a beautiful house in Laura Place, which is of course the best street in town,’ said Sir Walter. ‘Since we are cousins, I called on her immediately and she invited us to tea.’
‘Yes,’ said Elizabeth, ‘She’s a really charming lady, and her carriage is the most splendid one in Bath!’
Anne was embarrassed. She had never seen her father and sister in contact with nobility before, and she felt ashamed of them. Usually she considered them too proud – too conscious of their own position in society and snobbish towards anyone they considered inferior. But now, for the first time, she wished they had more pride. She wished they did not show so openly how important it was to them for Lady Dalrymple to recognise them and treat them as equals. Lady Dalrymple was pleasant enough, but she was nothing special. She was not intelligent or cultured. Certainly she smiled at everyone, but the only reason Elizabeth called her ‘charming’ was because she was a wealthy aristocrat.
Mr Elliot turned to Anne and said in a low voice, ‘I’m so glad that Sir Walter has found good company in Bath.’
Anne smiled and replied, ‘My idea of good company, Mr Elliot, is the company of clever well-educated people who can make interesting conversation.’
‘You’re mistaken,’ he said gently. ‘That is not good company; that is the best. To be good company, you need only to be from a respectable family and have nice manners.’
‘Well,’ said Anne, ‘I’m proud of my family, and I don’t like to see them trying so hard to be friendly with Lady Dalrymple simply because she’s an aristocrat.’
‘We agree on one thing, at least,’ replied Mr Elliot. ‘I too am proud of my family, and I would rather see Sir Walter being friendly with Lady Dalrymple than with others who are below him.’ He glanced at Mrs Clay.
Although Anne was sure that Mr Elliot’s pride was different from hers, she was glad that he did not like Mrs Clay.
The following week, they were all invited to Lady Dalrymple’s house. Anne said that she could not go, because she had already made plans to visit a friend of hers – Mrs Smith. They had been at school together years ago, but now Mrs Smith was a poor widow. Her husband, Mr Smith, had been wealthy but had lost all his money. Now Mrs Smith had very little money to live on, and she was in bad health. Sir Walter thought that Anne was foolish to waste her time with such a person.
The next day, Lady Russell told Anne all about their evening at Lady Dalrymple’s house. ‘My dear, Mr Elliot was very sorry that you weren’t there, but he said he admired you for wanting to visit your old friend. He thinks that you’re an extraordinary young woman; a model of female excellence! We discussed your virtues for half an hour!’
Hearing this gave Anne great pleasure, just as Lady Russell had planned.
Lady Russell had now decided that Mr Elliot was an excellent gentleman. She was sure that he wanted to marry Anne. She told Anne her thoughts on the subject. After a moment, Anne replied, ‘Mr Elliot is a nice man, but we are not compatible.’
‘Just think,’ said Lady Russell. ‘If you marry Mr Elliot, you will have your dear mother’s name, her position and your old home!’
This vision affected Anne very deeply. Yes, she would love to be Lady Elliot of Kellynch Hall! But she did not want to marry Mr Elliot. There was only one man she had ever wanted to marry, and besides, she had doubts about Mr Elliot’s sincerity. He was clever, friendly, interesting and polite, but he was not open. He had suggested to her that he disliked Mrs Clay, yet he was just as charming to Mrs Clay as to everyone else. He never expressed anger or pleasure at the good or evil of others. She preferred people who occasionally made mistakes but were warm-hearted and sincere.
Chapter 6: A Surprise
In February, the Crofts came to Bath. When they arrived, Mrs Croft sent a note to Anne, inviting her to visit them. The same day, Anne received a letter from Mary.
I am sorry not to have written for so long, but now I really must write to tell you some interesting news. Last Tuesday Louisa came home from Lyme to the Great House here at Uppercross. Mr and Mrs Harville and Captain Benwick came with her. As soon as they arrived, Captain Benwick asked to speak with Mr Musgrove in private. What do you think? He asked Mr Musgrove if he could marry Louisa! Mr Musgrove agreed, and now they are engaged! What a surprise! We thought that Louisa was going to marry Captain Wentworth…
When she read this, Anne’s heart beat fast, and she blushed at the thought that Captain Wentworth was now free. She was full of joy!
She left the house, with the idea of going to visit the Crofts, but on the way she met Admiral Croft.
‘Ah, Miss Elliot! What a pleasure to see you!’ said the Admiral. ‘Do you have time to take a little walk with me? I have some news for you.’
‘Certainly,’ said Anne. ‘I’m so glad that you and Mrs Croft have come to Bath. What is the news?’
‘It’s Miss Louisa Musgrove,’ he said. ‘I thought that Sophia’s brother Frederick was going to marry her, but now it seems she’s going to marry James Benwick!’
‘Really?’ said Anne. ‘I hope that this hasn’t caused problems between Captain Wentworth and Captain Benwick. They are such good friends.’
‘I don’t think so,’ said the Admiral. ‘Frederick wrote and told us all about it. He didn’t seem angry or disappointed. Perhaps we were all mistaken in thinking he was in love with her. After her accident, you know, we thought he would stay in Lyme until she was better, but after two weeks he went off to stay with his brother in Shropshire. If he was thinking of marrying her, he’ll have to start all over again with somebody else! I think we should invite him to stay with us in Bath.’
In fact, while Anne was taking her walk with Admiral Croft, Captain Wentworth was already on his way to Bath, and, the next time Anne went out, she saw him. She was walking with Mr Elliot, Elizabeth and Mrs Clay, when suddenly she saw Captain Wentworth walking towards them with some of his Navy friends and their wives. She felt confused, lost and embarrassed about her own feelings, which were somewhere between delight and misery.
Captain Wentworth saw her and immediately went red in the face. He seemed even more confused and agitated by the sight of her than she was by the sight of him. They stopped and spoke to each other like polite acquaintances. Anne noticed that Elizabeth turned away, as if she did not know him.
When Anne and her companions were gone, one of the ladies in Captain Wentworth’s group said, ‘It’s clear that Mr Elliot likes his cousin!’
‘Yes,’ replied another lady, ‘He’s always with them, and he always walks with his cousin Anne. What a good-looking man he is!’
‘And Anne Elliot is very pretty, if you look at her closely,’ said the first lady. ‘Most people think her sister is prettier, but I don’t.’
Captain Wentworth listened to them in silence as he walked. He had recognised Mr Elliot immediately from the one time he had seen him in Lyme.
Days passed and Anne had no opportunity of seeing Captain Wentworth. He moved in a different social circle: his friends went to concerts and the theatre; her friends spent their time in the elegant stupidity of private parties. But at last there was an opportunity; a special concert that Lady Dalrymple had promised to attend. Sir Walter, Elizabeth, Mrs Clay, Mr Elliot, Lady Russell and Anne were all going with her. Sir Walter, his two daughters and Mrs Clay were the first to arrive at the concert hall. They stood by the fire in the large entrance room, waiting for the others.
Captain Wentworth walked in alone. He was simply going to bow and move on, but Anne stepped forward and said ‘Hello.’ He stopped and made polite conversation with her. Sir Walter made a slight bow to Captain Wentworth and Elizabeth curtsied. Captain Wentworth bowed to them. When they had discussed the weather, Bath and the concert, there was a pause in the conversation. Then Captain Wentworth said, ‘Have you heard? Louisa’s accident in Lyme did produce one good result: she’s engaged to be married to Benwick.’
‘Yes, I heard,’ said Anne.
‘I hope they will be very happy,’ said the Captain. ‘They have no difficulties at home: Mr and Mrs Musgrove are behaving very honourably and kindly. They don’t oppose the marriage, even though Louisa could have found a richer man.’
He stopped speaking suddenly when he noticed that Anne was blushing and looking at the ground. Then he realised that his words might seem to refer to their own past. ‘I was surprised by their engagement,’ he continued, a little nervously. ‘They are so different. Louisa is a very sweet, friendly girl, and she’s not stupid, but Benwick is something more. He’s a really intelligent man; he reads a lot and thinks deeply. Fanny Harville was like him in that way. She was an extraordinary woman and his love for her was real. A man doesn’t get over the loss of a woman like that! I’m surprised that he’s able to love someone else at all especially so soon after Fanny’s death.’
Anne was breathing very quickly and feeling a hundred things at the same time. But they were in a public place, surrounded by other people. She tried to bring their conversation back to everyday things. ‘I would like to go to Lyme again,’ she said.
‘But you had such a terrible experience there; I’m surprised you want to go back.’
‘My memories of Lyme are not all bad,’ said Anne.
Just then, Lady Dalrymple and the others came in and Anne had to leave the Captain. When they took their seats in the concert hall, Anne looked around, hoping to see him. Mr Elliot sat beside her and began talking to her in a low voice.
‘I’m so glad I can sit beside you this evening,’ he said. ‘On Thursday I’m going to visit some friends in Thornberry and I won’t be back until Friday evening. I’ll miss the pleasure of your company.’
The concert opened with some Italian love songs and the texts were included in the concert programme. Mr Elliot asked Anne to translate them for him, and she did so. ‘You are so clever!’ he said.
‘Oh,’ replied Anne, ‘not really. My Italian isn’t very good.’
‘And modest – too modest,’ said Mr Elliot.
‘You’ve only known me a few weeks,’ said Anne. ‘You don’t know my character well yet.’
‘Perhaps I know more about you than you think,’ he replied. ‘I heard about your character long before I came to Bath.’
‘Really?’ said Anne, in great surprise. ‘Who spoke about me to you?’
‘I’ll tell you some other time, not now,’ said Mr Elliot. ‘For now, all I’ll say is that the name Anne Elliot has, for many years, been an interesting one for me. I hope that name will never change.’
Anne looked away from him in embarrassment. She did not want to talk to him anymore. She wished he wasn’t sitting next to her.
Just then, she heard Lady Dalrymple say to her father, ‘A very fine young man! Who is he?’
‘Captain Wentworth,’ Sir Walter replied. ‘I know him only slightly…’
Anne looked in the direction in which they were looking and saw him. He was looking at her. Just as her eyes met his, he looked away.
‘Mr Elliot!’ said Lady Dalrymple during the interval. ‘Come and sit beside me. I want to ask you something.’
To Anne’s relief, Mr Elliot moved away. The seat beside her was now empty, and, after a few minutes, Captain Wentworth came over to talk to her. He looked unhappy. Something must have happened since they had spoken in the entrance room. Anne thought that perhaps Lady Russell or her father had glanced at him in an unpleasant way.
‘Do you like the concert?’ she asked.
‘No. The music isn’t very good,’ he replied. I think I’ll leave now.’
‘The next song is beautiful. It’s worth waiting for,’ said Anne.
‘No,’ he said, in a voice full of emotion. ‘There’s no reason for me to stay!’
And he left.
He’s jealous of Mr Elliot! thought Anne. For a moment this thought gave her great pleasure.
But then she felt hopeless and depressed. How could she tell him the truth? How could she let him know that she did not care for Mr Elliot at all?
Chapter 7: Mrs Smith Tells All
The next day, Anne went to visit Mrs Smith. She was glad to get out of the house. She did not want to see Mr Elliot and he was sure to visit Sir Walter.
‘My friend tells me that Mr Elliot is often at your house,’ said Mrs Smith, when they were sitting in her small room, drinking tea.
‘Who is your friend?’ asked Anne.
‘Mrs Rooke. She’s a nurse and she works for Colonel Wallis. You know his wife has just had a baby.’
‘Yes, and Colonel Wallis is Mr Elliot’s friend. Do you know Mr Elliot?’
‘I used to know him very well,’ said Mrs Smith,’but I haven’t seen him for three years now.’
‘Did you ever talk about me to him?’ asked Anne.
‘Yes, I did. I often spoke about your fine character, your modesty and intelligence. It was at the time when he met your father and sister, before his marriage. Speaking of marriage, Mrs Rooke tells me that Mrs Wallis thinks you will marry Mr Elliot.’
‘Well,’ said Anne, ‘Mrs Wallis is mistaken. Mr Elliot hasn’t asked me to marry him, and, if he did, I would refuse him.’
‘I’m glad to hear you’re not engaged to him. You don’t know his real character.’
‘Please tell me about it. I’ve often wondered what he was like when he was young.’
Mrs Smith looked at Anne with a serious expression on her face. ‘Mr Elliot is a man without heart or conscience,’ she said angrily. ‘He thinks only of himself. My husband was his close friend before we were married, and, after our marriage, I became his friend too. I thought he was a fine young gentleman then. I remember when he met your father and sister, and they invited him to Kellynch. He spent the evening with us afterwards and told us the whole story. He laughed at your father and said he knew that Sir Walter wanted him to marry his daughter. But he had no money, and he wanted to marry a rich woman. He knew that he would get Kellynch Hall and the title anyway, even if he didn’t marry Elizabeth. At that time, he didn’t care at all about the honour of his family. He once said that if titles could be sold, he would sell his for fifty pounds!’
Anne was shocked and angry. ‘But why has he been so friendly to us since he came to Bath?’ she asked.
‘Ah, well, people change, you see. That was years ago, when he was a young man. Now he cares a lot about the family honour and the title. Colonel Wallis told him that Mrs Clay was staying with your sister and that she was trying to make Sir Walter fall in love with her.’
‘How do you know? You said you haven’t spoken to him for three years.’
‘Mrs Rooke again,’ replied Mrs Smith. ‘You see, Colonel Wallis tells his wife everything, and Mrs Wallis tells her nurse everything, and Mrs Rooke very kindly told me. She said that when Mr Elliot heard about Mrs Clay, he decided to make friends with Sir Walter and separate him from Mrs Clay. He has spoken to Mrs Clay in private and warned her not to try to win Sir Walter’s affections. Mrs Clay is afraid of him and doesn’t want to spend a lot of time with Sir Walter while Mr Elliot is present. And so he spends as much time as possible with Sir Walter. You see, Mr Elliot is afraid that Sir Walter might marry her and have a son. Then he wouldn’t inherit Kellynch Hall.’
‘This is terrible!’ said Anne.
‘Yes,’ said Mrs Smith. ‘As I said, he’s a heartless man, but for me the clearest example of it is the way he treated my poor husband and the way he has treated me since my husband died. After his marriage, Mr Elliot was very rich. My husband was never good at managing money, and he was getting into serious financial difficulties. Mr Elliot did nothing to help him. Before my husband died, he had made Mr Elliot the executor of his will. If Mr Elliot had tried a bit harder and invested a little of his own money, my husband’s property in the West Indies would now be mine. But he did nothing, and now the bank owns the property. So you see, it’s Mr Elliot’s fault that I’m so poor. I’ve written him several letters asking him for help, but he always refuses. Here are some of the letters I’ve received from him.’
Mrs Smith handed Anne a packet of letters. As she read them, Anne felt more and more angry: each letter showed coldness and hard-hearted indifference.
As she walked home, Anne thought about her conversation with Mrs Smith. She wanted to tell her family immediately, but she knew that they would not listen to her. She decided that she would tell Lady Russell and ask her advice.
The idea of Mr Elliot’s interest in her now filled her with disgust. At least he was going to be away at Thornberry for two days, and she would not have to talk to him. She shivered at the thought that Lady Russell might have persuaded her to marry him. Then she would have discovered his true character when it was too late!
When she got home, she found Charles and Mary there. They had come to Bath for a few days with Captain Harville, Henrietta and Mrs Musgrove. They were all staying at the White Hart Inn. Anne was surprised and really glad to see them. Before she left, Mary turned to Anne and said, ‘You must come and spend the day with us at the inn tomorrow. We have so much to talk about, and Mrs Musgrove and Henrietta want to tell you all about the wedding plans.’
The next morning, Anne went to the White Hart. Captain Wentworth was there visiting his friend Captain Harville. Anne tried to be calm. If he still loves me and I still love him (which I certainly do), she thought, surely we’ll understand each other before long.
‘Anne!’ cried Mary, who was standing by the window. ‘Come and look! There’s Mrs Clay and Mr Elliot!’
‘It can’t be,’ said Anne, going to the window. ‘He’s in Thornberry until tomorrow evening.’
Captain Wentworth was looking at her, and she felt sorry that she had spoken. She turned and looked out of the window, it really was Mr Elliot. In order to correct any wrong impression her words might have given Captain Wentworth, she said, ‘Oh! It is him. I must have been mistaken. I wasn’t listening very closely when he spoke about his plans.’
Charles went up to Mrs Musgrove and said, ‘Mother, I have a surprise for you. I have taken a box at the theatre for tomorrow night. I know you love the theatre. There’s space for nine people. Captain Wentworth says he’ll come, and I know Anne likes the theatre. We all do.’
‘Charles!’ cried Mary. ‘You’ve forgotten that my father is giving a party tomorrow night, and we’re all invited. Lady Dalrymple will be there and Mr Elliot, my father’s heir. Surely you want to meet him?’
‘Why should I?’ said Charles. ‘Mr Elliot is nothing to me.’
Captain Wentworth had been listening intently to this conversation. At this last remark, Captain Wentworth’s eyes moved from Charles to Anne.
Then Mrs Musgrove said to Charles, ‘You’d better go back to the theatre and change the box to Tuesday night. If there’s a party at her father’s house, Anne will have to go to it, and we don’t want to go to the theatre without Anne.’
‘I’d much prefer to go to the theatre than stay home for my father’s party,’ said Anne. ‘But perhaps it would be best to go on Tuesday instead.’
Captain Wentworth came over and sat by Anne. ‘Don’t you like parties?’ he asked.
‘No,’ she replied.
‘I remember you didn’t use to like them, but people change over time.’
‘I haven’t changed much,’ said Anne, hoping to suggest to him that her love was unchanged. But then she realised he might think she meant the opposite: that she would still refuse to marry him. She fell silent and blushed in confusion.
‘Eight and a half years is a very long time,’ he said.
Just then the door opened and Sir Walter, Elizabeth and Mrs Clay came in.
‘We’ve come with invitations to our party,’ said Elizabeth and she handed an invitation to everyone there, including Captain Wentworth. Captain Wentworth thanked her but did not say whether he would come to the party. After they had left, he stood staring at the invitation in confusion. Anne understood him. He could not accept the invitation as an apology for all their insulting behaviour in the past.
That evening, at home, she thought about these things a lot. Would Captain Wentworth come to the party? She had no idea.
Turning to Mrs Clay, she said, ‘I saw you talking to Mr Elliot in the street today. I had thought he was in Thornberry.’
‘Oh, yes! I forgot to tell you,’ said Mrs Clay. ‘I was surprised to see him too. He told me why he hadn’t yet left for Thornberry, but I forget what he said – I wasn’t really listening. I remember he said that he would definitely be back in time for the party tomorrow.’
Chapter 8: A Conversation with Captain Harville
Anne spent the next day with her friends at the White Hart Inn. Captain Wentworth was there too. He asked if he could write a letter. Mrs Musgrove showed him the writing table and brought him pen and paper.
Captain Harville, who was standing by the window not far away from Captain Wentworth’s table, smiled at Anne. She went and stood by him. He was holding a small painting, and he showed it to her. ‘Do you know who that is?’ he asked.
‘Certainly. It’s Captain Benwick.’
‘Yes. And he’s giving it to Miss Louisa Musgrove, but it wasn’t painted for her. He had it done for my poor sister, and now he has asked me to bring it to Bath – he wants to have it framed so that he can give it to another woman! Captain Wentworth is writing to him now to tell him when it will be ready. I’m glad that Benwick has found someone else, but poor Fanny!’ he said with strong emotion. ‘She wouldn’t have forgotten him so quickly!’
‘No,’ said Anne. ‘I don’t think any woman who has truly loved can forget. We don’t forget you as soon as you forget us. We live at home, quietly, with nothing to distract us from our feelings. You always have business of some sort to take you back into the world immediately. Your lives are filled with activity, and so it’s easier for you to forget.’
‘But Benwick has not been busy out in the world,’ said Captain Harville. ‘He’s been living very quietly with us.’
‘True,’ said Anne. ‘Well, if it isn’t the result of the differences between men’s and women’s lives, it must be the differences between their natures.’
‘No, no. I don’t think it’s more in man’s nature than in woman’s to forget about love. I believe the opposite. Our bodies are stronger than yours and so are our feelings.’
‘Your feelings may be stronger,’ said Anne, ‘but ours are more tender. I too will make a comparison between the mind and the body: man is more robust than woman, but he doesn’t live longer.’
They were interrupted by the sound of Captain Wentworth’s pen falling to the floor. Captain Harville turned to him and asked, ‘Have you finished your letter?’
‘I’ll be five minutes, then we can go,’ was the reply.
Then Captain Harville turned back to Anne and said, ‘All literature is against you, you know. Poetry and novels all talk of woman’s inconstancy, but perhaps you’ll say they were all written by men.’
‘Perhaps I will!’ said Anne with a smile. ‘It’s easier for men to tell their own story. They’re much better educated than we are. No – books prove nothing. We can only speak from our own experience.’
‘Well, in my experience men suffer a great deal in love. When a sailor goes to sea, leaving his wife and children behind, wondering if he’ll ever see them again, he suffers greatly. Then he thinks of them every day until he returns!’
‘Oh!’ cried Anne. ‘I’m sure that’s true! I didn’t mean to suggest that only women are capable of true love and loyalty. I only meant to say that men forget more easily when the object of their love has gone, but women go on loving even when there is no hope.’ She stopped speaking because she felt too much emotion to continue.
Captain Wentworth stood up and said to his friend, ‘I’ve finished. We can go now.’
Captain Harville said goodbye to Anne and went off to say goodbye to Mrs Musgrove. Captain Wentworth looked at her with strong emotion in his eyes. There were two letters in his hand. He gave her one of them quickly, so that no one else would see. Then he was gone.
Anne looked down at the letter. Her name was written on the envelope. Her heart beat fast. Her whole happiness depended on the contents of that letter. She sat down at the writing desk, opened the letter with a trembling hand, and read the following words:
I cannot listen in silence anymore. Listening to you, I feel both pain and hope. Tell me that I am not too late! I offer myself to you again. I love you even more than I did eight and a half years ago, when you broke my heart. Please do not believe that man forgets about love sooner than woman. I have loved no one else. I was angry with you, and I could not forgive you, but I was never inconstant. I came to Bath because you were here. I think about nothing but you. Have you not noticed? Do you not see that I love you? I did not tell you my feelings earlier because I was afraid you did not love me anymore. Please believe that I have always loved you and I always will. I have to go now, but I will come back as soon as possible. A word, a look from you will be enough to tell me whether I enter your father’s house this evening or never.
Anne put the letter down with tears in her eyes. She had to get out of this room, out of the inn, and away from other people. She went to Mrs Musgrove and said, ‘I’m afraid I must go home now.’
‘Are you ill? You look very pale.’
Then Charles came up to Mrs Musgrove and said he had to go out. ‘I have an appointment. It won’t take long. I’ll be back in half an hour.’
‘All right,’ said Mrs Musgrove, ‘but Charles, will you please” take Anne home first? She’s feeling ill.’
‘Certainly,’ said Charles, and they left.
Chapter 9: Union Street
Anne could not feel angry with Charles or Mrs Musgrove – they were both so kind – but she felt frustrated. She wanted to be alone. She wanted, above all, to find Captain Wentworth and talk to him. When they were walking up Union Street, Captain Wentworth saw them and crossed the street to walk with them. He looked at Anne nervously. She blushed and looked at him with an expression she hoped would show her true feelings.
‘Ah! Captain Wentworth!’ said Charles. ‘Are you going towards Anne’s house? She’s not feeling well and must go home. I have an appointment in five minutes, could you please walk her home?’
‘Of course,’ said Captain Wentworth. Charles said goodbye and left them. Anne and Frederick walked on together slowly. They were surrounded by people on the busy street, but they did not notice them. Soon they had expressed again all those feelings of love which, eight and a half years earlier, had made their future seem so secure. Now they were older, wiser and stronger than they had been then, and their love was based on a fuller knowledge of each other’s character.
‘I never loved Louisa Musgrove,’ he said. ‘I tried to like her, and was thinking of marrying her, because I wanted to marry. I wanted to have children and a home, and I was too angry and proud to ask you again. I had thought for years that you were too weak – too easily persuaded by other people. But in Lyme I saw the dangers of the opposite – a character that would not be persuaded at all. I began to realise your true excellence when Louisa had her accident. You were so strong, so capable, so fine! I realised then that your character is the perfect balance of strength and gentleness. But, by that point, people thought that Louisa and I would get married. Perhaps even she thought so. I felt that the only honourable thing to do would be to marry her, if she wanted me. In the hope that she would forget me, I went to stay with my brother in Shropshire, feeling lost and depressed. Then Harville wrote to me and told me that Louisa was engaged to Benwick! I came immediately to Bath to find you, but then I saw you with Mr Elliot. Everyone in Bath was sure that you would marry him, and I was afraid that Lady Russell would persuade you to do so.’
They had reached her house. They said goodbye, and Anne ran up to her room, feeling happier than she had ever felt before.
The evening came and the guests arrived. Anne’s happiness made her cheeks pink and her eyes bright. She looked lovely as she moved through the rooms, talking to the guests. Lady Dalrymple and Mr Elliot were there, but she did not care – no one could affect her happiness. She did not mind the snobbish, irritating things her father and Elizabeth said. She did not mind Mrs Clay standing by her father’s side. She talked to Mrs Musgrove and the Crofts and Captain Harville. She tried to talk to Lady Russell but found it impossible. Sometimes Captain Wentworth came and talked to her. Sometimes she saw him across the room talking to someone else but looking at her. At one point, they stood side by side, pretending to admire the plants.
‘I’ve been thinking about the past,’ said Anne, ‘and trying to decide if I was right or wrong to follow my friend’s advice. I think I was right. I don’t mean that I think her advice was good: she was too prudent, and I would never give such advice to a young person now. But I think I was right to do as she advised. She said that, if we married, we would be poor and we would both be miserable. If I had married you then, I would have felt guilty – I would have felt that I was the cause of any financial worries you might have in the years ahead. Now I have nothing to feel guilty about. I hope one day you will be able to forgive Lady Russell and to like her more than you do now.’
Captain Wentworth looked across the room at Lady Russell. ‘Maybe, one day,’ he said. ‘I too have been thinking, and I’ve decided that one person was more my enemy than Lady Russell – and that person was myself. Tell me, if I had come to you two years later, in 1808, with a few thousand pounds, would you have married me then?’
‘Good God!’ he cried. ‘I was such a fool! I wanted to do it, but I was too proud to ask you again. I didn’t understand you. I shut my eyes and refused to understand you. I ought to forgive everyone before I forgive myself. This realisation is a new pain for me. I’ve always thought of myself as a man who works hard and gets what he deserves. Now I’ll have to get used to being happier than I deserve to be.’
Who can be in doubt about what followed? If two young people decide to marry, they’ll probably do so, even if they have no money, have no common sense, and are completely incompatible. This may be a bad moral with which to end my story, but I believe it to be true. And, if couples like that succeed, can you doubt that Captain Wentworth and Anne Elliot – with the advantages of maturity, intelligence, and twenty-five thousand pounds – succeeded too? Sir Walter and Elizabeth were not enthusiastic, but they did not oppose the marriage. Now that Captain Wentworth was at the top of his profession and had earned a fine fortune in the war, Sir Walter could not say that he was nobody. He was now good enough to marry the daughter of a foolish, spendthrift baronet.
Anne’s only real worry was for Lady Russell. She had told her friend everything that Mrs Smith had told her about Mr Elliot’s true character. Anne knew that Lady Russell must be suffering from the knowledge that she had been wrong about both Mr Elliot and Captain Wentworth. She had mistaken manners for character in both cases. Anne, though so much younger than Lady Russell, was a much better judge of character. But Lady Russell was a good woman, and her greatest concern was Anne’s happiness. Very soon she began to feel affection for the man who had made Anne happy.
Mary was very pleased about the marriage. Captain Wentworth was much richer and better looking than either Charles Hayter or Captain Benwick, so she felt that her own sister had done better than her husband’s sisters, and this gave her great pleasure.
Soon after Anne and Frederick announced their engagement, Mr Elliot left Bath. Elizabeth had always believed that he was there for her, so she felt humiliated by his departure.
Mr Elliot was shocked and upset by the news of Anne’s engagement. He had hoped to marry her, so that he could watch Sir Walter more closely and make sure he did not marry again. But, since that plan had not worked, he made a new plan for his own comfort and pleasure. He left Bath and Mrs Clay left soon afterwards. She moved into a house in London and Mr Elliot paid the rent. He was often seen at her house, and people said that, though he had stopped Mrs Clay from becoming the wife of Sir Walter, she might one day convince him to make her the wife of Sir William.
When Frederick heard Mrs Smith’s story and how she had helped Anne to understand what kind of man Mr Elliot really was, he felt very friendly and grateful towards her. He became as good a friend to her as Anne was. She was their first guest when they were settled in their new home. Frederick wrote letters to the West Indies and worked hard to help Mrs Smith to get her West Indian property back, so that Mrs Smith finally had enough money to live a quiet, contented life.
Anne and Frederick were very happy together. Anne’s only worry was that a future war might take him away from her, but she was very proud to be a sailor’s wife: she felt that the men of the Navy were the finest men in England.