Part 3 out of 5
of its mistress.
There was some anxiety mixed with Lady Russell's joy in meeting her.
She knew who had been frequenting Uppercross. But happily,
either Anne was improved in plumpness and looks, or Lady Russell
fancied her so; and Anne, in receiving her compliments on the occasion,
had the amusement of connecting them with the silent admiration
of her cousin, and of hoping that she was to be blessed with
a second spring of youth and beauty.
When they came to converse, she was soon sensible of some mental change.
The subjects of which her heart had been full on leaving Kellynch,
and which she had felt slighted, and been compelled to smother
among the Musgroves, were now become but of secondary interest.
She had lately lost sight even of her father and sister and Bath.
Their concerns had been sunk under those of Uppercross;
and when Lady Russell reverted to their former hopes and fears,
and spoke her satisfaction in the house in Camden Place,
which had been taken, and her regret that Mrs Clay should still
be with them, Anne would have been ashamed to have it known
how much more she was thinking of Lyme and Louisa Musgrove,
and all her acquaintance there; how much more interesting to her
was the home and the friendship of the Harvilles and Captain Benwick,
than her own father's house in Camden Place, or her own sister's intimacy
with Mrs Clay. She was actually forced to exert herself
to meet Lady Russell with anything like the appearance of equal solicitude,
on topics which had by nature the first claim on her.
There was a little awkwardness at first in their discourse
on another subject. They must speak of the accident at Lyme.
Lady Russell had not been arrived five minutes the day before,
when a full account of the whole had burst on her; but still it must
be talked of, she must make enquiries, she must regret the imprudence,
lament the result, and Captain Wentworth's name must be mentioned by both.
Anne was conscious of not doing it so well as Lady Russell.
She could not speak the name, and look straight forward to
Lady Russell's eye, till she had adopted the expedient of telling her
briefly what she thought of the attachment between him and Louisa.
When this was told, his name distressed her no longer.
Lady Russell had only to listen composedly, and wish them happy,
but internally her heart revelled in angry pleasure, in pleased contempt,
that the man who at twenty-three had seemed to understand somewhat
of the value of an Anne Elliot, should, eight years afterwards,
be charmed by a Louisa Musgrove.
The first three or four days passed most quietly, with no circumstance
to mark them excepting the receipt of a note or two from Lyme,
which found their way to Anne, she could not tell how, and brought
a rather improving account of Louisa. At the end of that period,
Lady Russell's politeness could repose no longer, and the fainter
self-threatenings of the past became in a decided tone,
"I must call on Mrs Croft; I really must call upon her soon.
Anne, have you courage to go with me, and pay a visit in that house?
It will be some trial to us both."
Anne did not shrink from it; on the contrary, she truly felt as she said,
"I think you are very likely to suffer the most of the two;
your feelings are less reconciled to the change than mine.
By remaining in the neighbourhood, I am become inured to it."
She could have said more on the subject; for she had in fact
so high an opinion of the Crofts, and considered her father
so very fortunate in his tenants, felt the parish to be so sure
of a good example, and the poor of the best attention and relief,
that however sorry and ashamed for the necessity of the removal,
she could not but in conscience feel that they were gone
who deserved not to stay, and that Kellynch Hall had passed
into better hands than its owners'. These convictions must unquestionably
have their own pain, and severe was its kind; but they precluded
that pain which Lady Russell would suffer in entering the house again,
and returning through the well-known apartments.
In such moments Anne had no power of saying to herself,
"These rooms ought to belong only to us. Oh, how fallen
in their destination! How unworthily occupied! An ancient family
to be so driven away! Strangers filling their place!"
No, except when she thought of her mother, and remembered where
she had been used to sit and preside, she had no sigh of that description
Mrs Croft always met her with a kindness which gave her the pleasure
of fancying herself a favourite, and on the present occasion,
receiving her in that house, there was particular attention.
The sad accident at Lyme was soon the prevailing topic,
and on comparing their latest accounts of the invalid, it appeared
that each lady dated her intelligence from the same hour of yestermorn;
that Captain Wentworth had been in Kellynch yesterday (the first time
since the accident), had brought Anne the last note, which she had
not been able to trace the exact steps of; had staid a few hours
and then returned again to Lyme, and without any present intention
of quitting it any more. He had enquired after her, she found,
particularly; had expressed his hope of Miss Elliot's not being
the worse for her exertions, and had spoken of those exertions as great.
This was handsome, and gave her more pleasure than almost anything else
could have done.
As to the sad catastrophe itself, it could be canvassed only in one style
by a couple of steady, sensible women, whose judgements had to work
on ascertained events; and it was perfectly decided that it had been
the consequence of much thoughtlessness and much imprudence;
that its effects were most alarming, and that it was frightful to think,
how long Miss Musgrove's recovery might yet be doubtful, and how liable
she would still remain to suffer from the concussion hereafter!
The Admiral wound it up summarily by exclaiming--
"Ay, a very bad business indeed. A new sort of way this,
for a young fellow to be making love, by breaking his mistress's head,
is not it, Miss Elliot? This is breaking a head and giving a plaster,
Admiral Croft's manners were not quite of the tone to suit Lady Russell,
but they delighted Anne. His goodness of heart and simplicity
of character were irresistible.
"Now, this must be very bad for you," said he, suddenly rousing from
a little reverie, "to be coming and finding us here. I had not
recollected it before, I declare, but it must be very bad.
But now, do not stand upon ceremony. Get up and go over all the rooms
in the house if you like it."
"Another time, Sir, I thank you, not now."
"Well, whenever it suits you. You can slip in from the shrubbery
at any time; and there you will find we keep our umbrellas hanging up
by that door. A good place is not it? But," (checking himself),
"you will not think it a good place, for yours were always kept
in the butler's room. Ay, so it always is, I believe.
One man's ways may be as good as another's, but we all like our own best.
And so you must judge for yourself, whether it would be better for you
to go about the house or not."
Anne, finding she might decline it, did so, very gratefully.
"We have made very few changes either," continued the Admiral,
after thinking a moment. "Very few. We told you about the laundry-door,
at Uppercross. That has been a very great improvement.
The wonder was, how any family upon earth could bear with the inconvenience
of its opening as it did, so long! You will tell Sir Walter
what we have done, and that Mr Shepherd thinks it the greatest improvement
the house ever had. Indeed, I must do ourselves the justice to say,
that the few alterations we have made have been all very much
for the better. My wife should have the credit of them, however.
I have done very little besides sending away some of the large
looking-glasses from my dressing-room, which was your father's.
A very good man, and very much the gentleman I am sure:
but I should think, Miss Elliot," (looking with serious reflection),
"I should think he must be rather a dressy man for his time of life.
Such a number of looking-glasses! oh Lord! there was no getting away
from one's self. So I got Sophy to lend me a hand, and we soon
shifted their quarters; and now I am quite snug, with my
little shaving glass in one corner, and another great thing
that I never go near."
Anne, amused in spite of herself, was rather distressed for an answer,
and the Admiral, fearing he might not have been civil enough,
took up the subject again, to say--
"The next time you write to your good father, Miss Elliot,
pray give him my compliments and Mrs Croft's, and say that we are
settled here quite to our liking, and have no fault at all to find
with the place. The breakfast-room chimney smokes a little,
I grant you, but it is only when the wind is due north and blows hard,
which may not happen three times a winter. And take it altogether,
now that we have been into most of the houses hereabouts and can judge,
there is not one that we like better than this. Pray say so,
with my compliments. He will be glad to hear it."
Lady Russell and Mrs Croft were very well pleased with each other:
but the acquaintance which this visit began was fated not to proceed
far at present; for when it was returned, the Crofts announced
themselves to be going away for a few weeks, to visit their connexions
in the north of the county, and probably might not be at home again
before Lady Russell would be removing to Bath.
So ended all danger to Anne of meeting Captain Wentworth at Kellynch Hall,
or of seeing him in company with her friend. Everything was safe enough,
and she smiled over the many anxious feelings she had wasted
on the subject.
Though Charles and Mary had remained at Lyme much longer after
Mr and Mrs Musgrove's going than Anne conceived they could have been
at all wanted, they were yet the first of the family to be at home again;
and as soon as possible after their return to Uppercross
they drove over to the Lodge. They had left Louisa beginning to sit up;
but her head, though clear, was exceedingly weak, and her nerves
susceptible to the highest extreme of tenderness; and though
she might be pronounced to be altogether doing very well,
it was still impossible to say when she might be able to bear
the removal home; and her father and mother, who must return
in time to receive their younger children for the Christmas holidays,
had hardly a hope of being allowed to bring her with them.
They had been all in lodgings together. Mrs Musgrove had
got Mrs Harville's children away as much as she could, every possible
supply from Uppercross had been furnished, to lighten the inconvenience
to the Harvilles, while the Harvilles had been wanting them
to come to dinner every day; and in short, it seemed to have been
only a struggle on each side as to which should be most disinterested
Mary had had her evils; but upon the whole, as was evident
by her staying so long, she had found more to enjoy than to suffer.
Charles Hayter had been at Lyme oftener than suited her; and when
they dined with the Harvilles there had been only a maid-servant to wait,
and at first Mrs Harville had always given Mrs Musgrove precedence;
but then, she had received so very handsome an apology from her
on finding out whose daughter she was, and there had been so much
going on every day, there had been so many walks between their lodgings
and the Harvilles, and she had got books from the library,
and changed them so often, that the balance had certainly been
much in favour of Lyme. She had been taken to Charmouth too,
and she had bathed, and she had gone to church, and there were a great many
more people to look at in the church at Lyme than at Uppercross;
and all this, joined to the sense of being so very useful,
had made really an agreeable fortnight.
Anne enquired after Captain Benwick, Mary's face was clouded directly.
"Oh! Captain Benwick is very well, I believe, but he is
a very odd young man. I do not know what he would be at.
We asked him to come home with us for a day or two: Charles undertook
to give him some shooting, and he seemed quite delighted, and, for my part,
I thought it was all settled; when behold! on Tuesday night,
he made a very awkward sort of excuse; `he never shot' and he had
`been quite misunderstood,' and he had promised this and he had
promised that, and the end of it was, I found, that he did not mean to come.
I suppose he was afraid of finding it dull; but upon my word
I should have thought we were lively enough at the Cottage
for such a heart-broken man as Captain Benwick."
Charles laughed again and said, "Now Mary, you know very well
how it really was. It was all your doing," (turning to Anne.)
"He fancied that if he went with us, he should find you close by:
he fancied everybody to be living in Uppercross; and when he discovered
that Lady Russell lived three miles off, his heart failed him,
and he had not courage to come. That is the fact, upon my honour,
Mary knows it is."
But Mary did not give into it very graciously, whether from
not considering Captain Benwick entitled by birth and situation
to be in love with an Elliot, or from not wanting to believe
Anne a greater attraction to Uppercross than herself, must be
left to be guessed. Anne's good-will, however, was not to be lessened
by what she heard. She boldly acknowledged herself flattered,
and continued her enquiries.
"Oh! he talks of you," cried Charles, "in such terms--"
Mary interrupted him. "I declare, Charles, I never heard him
mention Anne twice all the time I was there. I declare, Anne,
he never talks of you at all."
"No," admitted Charles, "I do not know that he ever does, in a general
way; but however, it is a very clear thing that he admires you exceedingly.
His head is full of some books that he is reading upon your recommendation,
and he wants to talk to you about them; he has found out something or other
in one of them which he thinks--oh! I cannot pretend to remember it,
but it was something very fine--I overheard him telling Henrietta
all about it; and then `Miss Elliot' was spoken of in the highest terms!
Now Mary, I declare it was so, I heard it myself, and you were
in the other room. `Elegance, sweetness, beauty.' Oh! there was no end
of Miss Elliot's charms."
"And I am sure," cried Mary, warmly, "it was a very little to his credit,
if he did. Miss Harville only died last June. Such a heart
is very little worth having; is it, Lady Russell? I am sure
you will agree with me."
"I must see Captain Benwick before I decide," said Lady Russell, smiling.
"And that you are very likely to do very soon, I can tell you, ma'am,"
said Charles. "Though he had not nerves for coming away with us,
and setting off again afterwards to pay a formal visit here,
he will make his way over to Kellynch one day by himself,
you may depend on it. I told him the distance and the road,
and I told him of the church's being so very well worth seeing;
for as he has a taste for those sort of things, I thought that would
be a good excuse, and he listened with all his understanding and soul;
and I am sure from his manner that you will have him calling here soon.
So, I give you notice, Lady Russell."
"Any acquaintance of Anne's will always be welcome to me,"
was Lady Russell's kind answer.
"Oh! as to being Anne's acquaintance," said Mary, "I think he is rather
my acquaintance, for I have been seeing him every day this last fortnight."
"Well, as your joint acquaintance, then, I shall be very happy
to see Captain Benwick."
"You will not find anything very agreeable in him, I assure you, ma'am.
He is one of the dullest young men that ever lived. He has walked with me,
sometimes, from one end of the sands to the other, without saying a word.
He is not at all a well-bred young man. I am sure you will not like him."
"There we differ, Mary," said Anne. "I think Lady Russell would like him.
I think she would be so much pleased with his mind, that she would
very soon see no deficiency in his manner."
"So do I, Anne," said Charles. "I am sure Lady Russell would like him.
He is just Lady Russell's sort. Give him a book, and he will
read all day long."
"Yes, that he will!" exclaimed Mary, tauntingly. "He will sit poring
over his book, and not know when a person speaks to him, or when one
drop's one's scissors, or anything that happens. Do you think
Lady Russell would like that?"
Lady Russell could not help laughing. "Upon my word," said she,
"I should not have supposed that my opinion of any one could have
admitted of such difference of conjecture, steady and matter of fact
as I may call myself. I have really a curiosity to see the person
who can give occasion to such directly opposite notions.
I wish he may be induced to call here. And when he does, Mary,
you may depend upon hearing my opinion; but I am determined
not to judge him beforehand."
"You will not like him, I will answer for it."
Lady Russell began talking of something else. Mary spoke with animation
of their meeting with, or rather missing, Mr Elliot so extraordinarily.
"He is a man," said Lady Russell, "whom I have no wish to see.
His declining to be on cordial terms with the head of his family,
has left a very strong impression in his disfavour with me."
This decision checked Mary's eagerness, and stopped her short
in the midst of the Elliot countenance.
With regard to Captain Wentworth, though Anne hazarded no enquiries,
there was voluntary communication sufficient. His spirits had been
greatly recovering lately as might be expected. As Louisa improved,
he had improved, and he was now quite a different creature
from what he had been the first week. He had not seen Louisa;
and was so extremely fearful of any ill consequence to her
from an interview, that he did not press for it at all; and,
on the contrary, seemed to have a plan of going away for a week
or ten days, till her head was stronger. He had talked of going
down to Plymouth for a week, and wanted to persuade Captain Benwick
to go with him; but, as Charles maintained to the last, Captain Benwick
seemed much more disposed to ride over to Kellynch.
There can be no doubt that Lady Russell and Anne were both
occasionally thinking of Captain Benwick, from this time.
Lady Russell could not hear the door-bell without feeling that it might
be his herald; nor could Anne return from any stroll of solitary indulgence
in her father's grounds, or any visit of charity in the village,
without wondering whether she might see him or hear of him.
Captain Benwick came not, however. He was either less disposed for it
than Charles had imagined, or he was too shy; and after giving him
a week's indulgence, Lady Russell determined him to be unworthy
of the interest which he had been beginning to excite.
The Musgroves came back to receive their happy boys and girls from school,
bringing with them Mrs Harville's little children, to improve the noise
of Uppercross, and lessen that of Lyme. Henrietta remained with Louisa;
but all the rest of the family were again in their usual quarters.
Lady Russell and Anne paid their compliments to them once,
when Anne could not but feel that Uppercross was already quite alive again.
Though neither Henrietta, nor Louisa, nor Charles Hayter,
nor Captain Wentworth were there, the room presented as strong a contrast
as could be wished to the last state she had seen it in.
Immediately surrounding Mrs Musgrove were the little Harvilles,
whom she was sedulously guarding from the tyranny of the two children
from the Cottage, expressly arrived to amuse them. On one side
was a table occupied by some chattering girls, cutting up silk
and gold paper; and on the other were tressels and trays,
bending under the weight of brawn and cold pies, where riotous boys
were holding high revel; the whole completed by a roaring Christmas fire,
which seemed determined to be heard, in spite of all the noise
of the others. Charles and Mary also came in, of course,
during their visit, and Mr Musgrove made a point of paying his respects
to Lady Russell, and sat down close to her for ten minutes,
talking with a very raised voice, but from the clamour of the children
on his knees, generally in vain. It was a fine family-piece.
Anne, judging from her own temperament, would have deemed
such a domestic hurricane a bad restorative of the nerves,
which Louisa's illness must have so greatly shaken. But Mrs Musgrove,
who got Anne near her on purpose to thank her most cordially,
again and again, for all her attentions to them, concluded
a short recapitulation of what she had suffered herself by observing,
with a happy glance round the room, that after all she had gone through,
nothing was so likely to do her good as a little quiet cheerfulness
Louisa was now recovering apace. Her mother could even think of her
being able to join their party at home, before her brothers and sisters
went to school again. The Harvilles had promised to come with her
and stay at Uppercross, whenever she returned. Captain Wentworth was gone,
for the present, to see his brother in Shropshire.
"I hope I shall remember, in future," said Lady Russell, as soon as
they were reseated in the carriage, "not to call at Uppercross
in the Christmas holidays."
Everybody has their taste in noises as well as in other matters;
and sounds are quite innoxious, or most distressing, by their sort
rather than their quantity. When Lady Russell not long afterwards,
was entering Bath on a wet afternoon, and driving through
the long course of streets from the Old Bridge to Camden Place,
amidst the dash of other carriages, the heavy rumble of carts and drays,
the bawling of newspapermen, muffin-men and milkmen, and the ceaseless
clink of pattens, she made no complaint. No, these were noises
which belonged to the winter pleasures; her spirits rose
under their influence; and like Mrs Musgrove, she was feeling,
though not saying, that after being long in the country, nothing could be
so good for her as a little quiet cheerfulness.
Anne did not share these feelings. She persisted in a very determined,
though very silent disinclination for Bath; caught the first dim view
of the extensive buildings, smoking in rain, without any wish
of seeing them better; felt their progress through the streets to be,
however disagreeable, yet too rapid; for who would be glad to see her
when she arrived? And looked back, with fond regret, to the bustles
of Uppercross and the seclusion of Kellynch.
Elizabeth's last letter had communicated a piece of news of some interest.
Mr Elliot was in Bath. He had called in Camden Place; had called
a second time, a third; had been pointedly attentive. If Elizabeth
and her father did not deceive themselves, had been taking much pains
to seek the acquaintance, and proclaim the value of the connection,
as he had formerly taken pains to shew neglect. This was very wonderful
if it were true; and Lady Russell was in a state of very agreeable
curiosity and perplexity about Mr Elliot, already recanting the sentiment
she had so lately expressed to Mary, of his being "a man whom she had
no wish to see." She had a great wish to see him. If he really sought
to reconcile himself like a dutiful branch, he must be forgiven
for having dismembered himself from the paternal tree.
Anne was not animated to an equal pitch by the circumstance,
but she felt that she would rather see Mr Elliot again than not,
which was more than she could say for many other persons in Bath.
She was put down in Camden Place; and Lady Russell then drove
to her own lodgings, in Rivers Street.
Sir Walter had taken a very good house in Camden Place,
a lofty dignified situation, such as becomes a man of consequence;
and both he and Elizabeth were settled there, much to their satisfaction.
Anne entered it with a sinking heart, anticipating an imprisonment
of many months, and anxiously saying to herself, "Oh! when shall I
leave you again?" A degree of unexpected cordiality, however,
in the welcome she received, did her good. Her father and sister
were glad to see her, for the sake of shewing her the house and furniture,
and met her with kindness. Her making a fourth, when they
sat down to dinner, was noticed as an advantage.
Mrs Clay was very pleasant, and very smiling, but her courtesies and smiles
were more a matter of course. Anne had always felt that she would
pretend what was proper on her arrival, but the complaisance of the others
was unlooked for. They were evidently in excellent spirits,
and she was soon to listen to the causes. They had no inclination
to listen to her. After laying out for some compliments of being
deeply regretted in their old neighbourhood, which Anne could not pay,
they had only a few faint enquiries to make, before the talk must be
all their own. Uppercross excited no interest, Kellynch very little:
it was all Bath.
They had the pleasure of assuring her that Bath more than answered
their expectations in every respect. Their house was undoubtedly
the best in Camden Place; their drawing-rooms had many decided advantages
over all the others which they had either seen or heard of,
and the superiority was not less in the style of the fitting-up,
or the taste of the furniture. Their acquaintance was
exceedingly sought after. Everybody was wanting to visit them.
They had drawn back from many introductions, and still were
perpetually having cards left by people of whom they knew nothing.
Here were funds of enjoyment. Could Anne wonder that her father
and sister were happy? She might not wonder, but she must sigh
that her father should feel no degradation in his change, should see
nothing to regret in the duties and dignity of the resident landholder,
should find so much to be vain of in the littlenesses of a town;
and she must sigh, and smile, and wonder too, as Elizabeth threw open
the folding-doors and walked with exultation from one drawing-room
to the other, boasting of their space; at the possibility of that woman,
who had been mistress of Kellynch Hall, finding extent to be proud of
between two walls, perhaps thirty feet asunder.
But this was not all which they had to make them happy.
They had Mr Elliot too. Anne had a great deal to hear of Mr Elliot.
He was not only pardoned, they were delighted with him.
He had been in Bath about a fortnight; (he had passed through Bath
in November, in his way to London, when the intelligence of
Sir Walter's being settled there had of course reached him,
though only twenty-four hours in the place, but he had not been able
to avail himself of it;) but he had now been a fortnight in Bath,
and his first object on arriving, had been to leave his card
in Camden Place, following it up by such assiduous endeavours to meet,
and when they did meet, by such great openness of conduct,
such readiness to apologize for the past, such solicitude to be received
as a relation again, that their former good understanding
was completely re-established.
They had not a fault to find in him. He had explained away
all the appearance of neglect on his own side. It had originated
in misapprehension entirely. He had never had an idea of
throwing himself off; he had feared that he was thrown off,
but knew not why, and delicacy had kept him silent. Upon the hint
of having spoken disrespectfully or carelessly of the family
and the family honours, he was quite indignant. He, who had ever boasted
of being an Elliot, and whose feelings, as to connection,
were only too strict to suit the unfeudal tone of the present day.
He was astonished, indeed, but his character and general conduct
must refute it. He could refer Sir Walter to all who knew him;
and certainly, the pains he had been taking on this, the first opportunity
of reconciliation, to be restored to the footing of a relation
and heir-presumptive, was a strong proof of his opinions on the subject.
The circumstances of his marriage, too, were found to admit of
much extenuation. This was an article not to be entered on by himself;
but a very intimate friend of his, a Colonel Wallis, a highly
respectable man, perfectly the gentleman, (and not an ill-looking man,
Sir Walter added), who was living in very good style in Marlborough
Buildings, and had, at his own particular request, been admitted
to their acquaintance through Mr Elliot, had mentioned one or two things
relative to the marriage, which made a material difference
in the discredit of it.
Colonel Wallis had known Mr Elliot long, had been well acquainted
also with his wife, had perfectly understood the whole story.
She was certainly not a woman of family, but well educated,
accomplished, rich, and excessively in love with his friend.
There had been the charm. She had sought him. Without that attraction,
not all her money would have tempted Elliot, and Sir Walter was,
moreover, assured of her having been a very fine woman.
Here was a great deal to soften the business. A very fine woman
with a large fortune, in love with him! Sir Walter seemed to admit it
as complete apology; and though Elizabeth could not see the circumstance
in quite so favourable a light, she allowed it be a great extenuation.
Mr Elliot had called repeatedly, had dined with them once,
evidently delighted by the distinction of being asked, for they
gave no dinners in general; delighted, in short, by every proof
of cousinly notice, and placing his whole happiness in being
on intimate terms in Camden Place.
Anne listened, but without quite understanding it. Allowances,
large allowances, she knew, must be made for the ideas of those who spoke.
She heard it all under embellishment. All that sounded extravagant
or irrational in the progress of the reconciliation might have no origin
but in the language of the relators. Still, however, she had
the sensation of there being something more than immediately appeared,
in Mr Elliot's wishing, after an interval of so many years,
to be well received by them. In a worldly view, he had nothing to gain
by being on terms with Sir Walter; nothing to risk by a state of variance.
In all probability he was already the richer of the two,
and the Kellynch estate would as surely be his hereafter as the title.
A sensible man, and he had looked like a very sensible man,
why should it be an object to him? She could only offer one solution;
it was, perhaps, for Elizabeth's sake. There might really have been
a liking formerly, though convenience and accident had drawn him
a different way; and now that he could afford to please himself,
he might mean to pay his addresses to her. Elizabeth was certainly
very handsome, with well-bred, elegant manners, and her character
might never have been penetrated by Mr Elliot, knowing her but in public,
and when very young himself. How her temper and understanding
might bear the investigation of his present keener time of life
was another concern and rather a fearful one. Most earnestly did she wish
that he might not be too nice, or too observant if Elizabeth
were his object; and that Elizabeth was disposed to believe herself so,
and that her friend Mrs Clay was encouraging the idea, seemed apparent
by a glance or two between them, while Mr Elliot's frequent visits
were talked of.
Anne mentioned the glimpses she had had of him at Lyme, but without
being much attended to. "Oh! yes, perhaps, it had been Mr Elliot.
They did not know. It might be him, perhaps." They could not listen
to her description of him. They were describing him themselves;
Sir Walter especially. He did justice to his very gentlemanlike
appearance, his air of elegance and fashion, his good shaped face,
his sensible eye; but, at the same time, "must lament his being
very much under-hung, a defect which time seemed to have increased;
nor could he pretend to say that ten years had not altered
almost every feature for the worse. Mr Elliot appeared to think
that he (Sir Walter) was looking exactly as he had done when
they last parted;" but Sir Walter had "not been able to return
the compliment entirely, which had embarrassed him. He did not mean
to complain, however. Mr Elliot was better to look at than most men,
and he had no objection to being seen with him anywhere."
Mr Elliot, and his friends in Marlborough Buildings, were talked of
the whole evening. "Colonel Wallis had been so impatient to be
introduced to them! and Mr Elliot so anxious that he should!"
and there was a Mrs Wallis, at present known only to them by description,
as she was in daily expectation of her confinement; but Mr Elliot
spoke of her as "a most charming woman, quite worthy of being known
in Camden Place," and as soon as she recovered they were to be acquainted.
Sir Walter thought much of Mrs Wallis; she was said to be
an excessively pretty woman, beautiful. "He longed to see her.
He hoped she might make some amends for the many very plain faces
he was continually passing in the streets. The worst of Bath was
the number of its plain women. He did not mean to say that there were
no pretty women, but the number of the plain was out of all proportion.
He had frequently observed, as he walked, that one handsome face
would be followed by thirty, or five-and-thirty frights; and once,
as he had stood in a shop on Bond Street, he had counted
eighty-seven women go by, one after another, without there being
a tolerable face among them. It had been a frosty morning,
to be sure, a sharp frost, which hardly one woman in a thousand
could stand the test of. But still, there certainly were
a dreadful multitude of ugly women in Bath; and as for the men!
they were infinitely worse. Such scarecrows as the streets were full of!
It was evident how little the women were used to the sight of anything
tolerable, by the effect which a man of decent appearance produced.
He had never walked anywhere arm-in-arm with Colonel Wallis
(who was a fine military figure, though sandy-haired) without observing
that every woman's eye was upon him; every woman's eye was sure to be
upon Colonel Wallis." Modest Sir Walter! He was not allowed
to escape, however. His daughter and Mrs Clay united in hinting
that Colonel Wallis's companion might have as good a figure
as Colonel Wallis, and certainly was not sandy-haired.
"How is Mary looking?" said Sir Walter, in the height of his good humour.
"The last time I saw her she had a red nose, but I hope that may not
happen every day."
"Oh! no, that must have been quite accidental. In general she has been
in very good health and very good looks since Michaelmas."
"If I thought it would not tempt her to go out in sharp winds,
and grow coarse, I would send her a new hat and pelisse."
Anne was considering whether she should venture to suggest that a gown,
or a cap, would not be liable to any such misuse, when a knock at the door
suspended everything. "A knock at the door! and so late!
It was ten o'clock. Could it be Mr Elliot? They knew he was to dine
in Lansdown Crescent. It was possible that he might stop in his way home
to ask them how they did. They could think of no one else.
Mrs Clay decidedly thought it Mr Elliot's knock." Mrs Clay was right.
With all the state which a butler and foot-boy could give,
Mr Elliot was ushered into the room.
It was the same, the very same man, with no difference but of dress.
Anne drew a little back, while the others received his compliments,
and her sister his apologies for calling at so unusual an hour,
but "he could not be so near without wishing to know that neither she
nor her friend had taken cold the day before," &c. &c; which was
all as politely done, and as politely taken, as possible, but her part
must follow then. Sir Walter talked of his youngest daughter;
"Mr Elliot must give him leave to present him to his youngest daughter"
(there was no occasion for remembering Mary); and Anne, smiling and
blushing, very becomingly shewed to Mr Elliot the pretty features
which he had by no means forgotten, and instantly saw, with amusement
at his little start of surprise, that he had not been at all aware
of who she was. He looked completely astonished, but not more astonished
than pleased; his eyes brightened! and with the most perfect alacrity
he welcomed the relationship, alluded to the past, and entreated
to be received as an acquaintance already. He was quite as good-looking
as he had appeared at Lyme, his countenance improved by speaking,
and his manners were so exactly what they ought to be, so polished,
so easy, so particularly agreeable, that she could compare them
in excellence to only one person's manners. They were not the same,
but they were, perhaps, equally good.
He sat down with them, and improved their conversation very much.
There could be no doubt of his being a sensible man. Ten minutes
were enough to certify that. His tone, his expressions,
his choice of subject, his knowing where to stop; it was all
the operation of a sensible, discerning mind. As soon as he could,
he began to talk to her of Lyme, wanting to compare opinions
respecting the place, but especially wanting to speak of the circumstance
of their happening to be guests in the same inn at the same time;
to give his own route, understand something of hers, and regret that
he should have lost such an opportunity of paying his respects to her.
She gave him a short account of her party and business at Lyme.
His regret increased as he listened. He had spent his whole
solitary evening in the room adjoining theirs; had heard voices,
mirth continually; thought they must be a most delightful set of people,
longed to be with them, but certainly without the smallest suspicion
of his possessing the shadow of a right to introduce himself.
If he had but asked who the party were! The name of Musgrove would
have told him enough. "Well, it would serve to cure him of
an absurd practice of never asking a question at an inn,
which he had adopted, when quite a young man, on the principal
of its being very ungenteel to be curious.
"The notions of a young man of one or two and twenty," said he,
"as to what is necessary in manners to make him quite the thing,
are more absurd, I believe, than those of any other set of beings
in the world. The folly of the means they often employ
is only to be equalled by the folly of what they have in view."
But he must not be addressing his reflections to Anne alone:
he knew it; he was soon diffused again among the others,
and it was only at intervals that he could return to Lyme.
His enquiries, however, produced at length an account of the scene
she had been engaged in there, soon after his leaving the place.
Having alluded to "an accident," he must hear the whole.
When he questioned, Sir Walter and Elizabeth began to question also,
but the difference in their manner of doing it could not be unfelt.
She could only compare Mr Elliot to Lady Russell, in the wish
of really comprehending what had passed, and in the degree of concern
for what she must have suffered in witnessing it.
He staid an hour with them. The elegant little clock on the mantel-
piece had struck "eleven with its silver sounds," and the watchman
was beginning to be heard at a distance telling the same tale,
before Mr Elliot or any of them seemed to feel that he had been there long.
Anne could not have supposed it possible that her first evening in
Camden Place could have passed so well!
There was one point which Anne, on returning to her family,
would have been more thankful to ascertain even than Mr Elliot's
being in love with Elizabeth, which was, her father's not being
in love with Mrs Clay; and she was very far from easy about it,
when she had been at home a few hours. On going down to breakfast
the next morning, she found there had just been a decent pretence
on the lady's side of meaning to leave them. She could imagine Mrs Clay
to have said, that "now Miss Anne was come, she could not suppose herself
at all wanted;" for Elizabeth was replying in a sort of whisper,
"That must not be any reason, indeed. I assure you I feel it none.
She is nothing to me, compared with you;" and she was in full time
to hear her father say, "My dear madam, this must not be. As yet,
you have seen nothing of Bath. You have been here only to be useful.
You must not run away from us now. You must stay to be acquainted
with Mrs Wallis, the beautiful Mrs Wallis. To your fine mind,
I well know the sight of beauty is a real gratification."
He spoke and looked so much in earnest, that Anne was not surprised
to see Mrs Clay stealing a glance at Elizabeth and herself.
Her countenance, perhaps, might express some watchfulness;
but the praise of the fine mind did not appear to excite a thought
in her sister. The lady could not but yield to such joint entreaties,
and promise to stay.
In the course of the same morning, Anne and her father chancing to be
alone together, he began to compliment her on her improved looks;
he thought her "less thin in her person, in her cheeks; her skin,
her complexion, greatly improved; clearer, fresher. Had she been
using any thing in particular?" "No, nothing." "Merely Gowland,"
he supposed. "No, nothing at all." "Ha! he was surprised at that;"
and added, "certainly you cannot do better than to continue as you are;
you cannot be better than well; or I should recommend Gowland,
the constant use of Gowland, during the spring months. Mrs Clay has been
using it at my recommendation, and you see what it has done for her.
You see how it has carried away her freckles."
If Elizabeth could but have heard this! Such personal praise
might have struck her, especially as it did not appear to Anne
that the freckles were at all lessened. But everything must
take its chance. The evil of a marriage would be much diminished,
if Elizabeth were also to marry. As for herself, she might always
command a home with Lady Russell.
Lady Russell's composed mind and polite manners were put to some trial
on this point, in her intercourse in Camden Place. The sight of Mrs Clay
in such favour, and of Anne so overlooked, was a perpetual provocation
to her there; and vexed her as much when she was away, as a person in Bath
who drinks the water, gets all the new publications, and has
a very large acquaintance, has time to be vexed.
As Mr Elliot became known to her, she grew more charitable,
or more indifferent, towards the others. His manners were
an immediate recommendation; and on conversing with him she found
the solid so fully supporting the superficial, that she was at first,
as she told Anne, almost ready to exclaim, "Can this be Mr Elliot?"
and could not seriously picture to herself a more agreeable
or estimable man. Everything united in him; good understanding,
correct opinions, knowledge of the world, and a warm heart.
He had strong feelings of family attachment and family honour,
without pride or weakness; he lived with the liberality of a man of fortune,
without display; he judged for himself in everything essential,
without defying public opinion in any point of worldly decorum.
He was steady, observant, moderate, candid; never run away with by spirits
or by selfishness, which fancied itself strong feeling; and yet,
with a sensibility to what was amiable and lovely, and a value
for all the felicities of domestic life, which characters of
fancied enthusiasm and violent agitation seldom really possess.
She was sure that he had not been happy in marriage. Colonel Wallis
said it, and Lady Russell saw it; but it had been no unhappiness
to sour his mind, nor (she began pretty soon to suspect) to prevent his
thinking of a second choice. Her satisfaction in Mr Elliot
outweighed all the plague of Mrs Clay.
It was now some years since Anne had begun to learn that she
and her excellent friend could sometimes think differently;
and it did not surprise her, therefore, that Lady Russell
should see nothing suspicious or inconsistent, nothing to require
more motives than appeared, in Mr Elliot's great desire of a reconciliation.
In Lady Russell's view, it was perfectly natural that Mr Elliot,
at a mature time of life, should feel it a most desirable object,
and what would very generally recommend him among all sensible people,
to be on good terms with the head of his family; the simplest process
in the world of time upon a head naturally clear, and only erring
in the heyday of youth. Anne presumed, however, still to smile about it,
and at last to mention "Elizabeth." Lady Russell listened, and looked,
and made only this cautious reply:--"Elizabeth! very well;
time will explain."
It was a reference to the future, which Anne, after a little observation,
felt she must submit to. She could determine nothing at present.
In that house Elizabeth must be first; and she was in the habit
of such general observance as "Miss Elliot," that any particularity
of attention seemed almost impossible. Mr Elliot, too,
it must be remembered, had not been a widower seven months.
A little delay on his side might be very excusable. In fact,
Anne could never see the crape round his hat, without fearing that
she was the inexcusable one, in attributing to him such imaginations;
for though his marriage had not been very happy, still it had existed
so many years that she could not comprehend a very rapid recovery
from the awful impression of its being dissolved.
However it might end, he was without any question their
pleasantest acquaintance in Bath: she saw nobody equal to him;
and it was a great indulgence now and then to talk to him about Lyme,
which he seemed to have as lively a wish to see again, and to see more of,
as herself. They went through the particulars of their first meeting
a great many times. He gave her to understand that he had
looked at her with some earnestness. She knew it well;
and she remembered another person's look also.
They did not always think alike. His value for rank and connexion
she perceived was greater than hers. It was not merely complaisance,
it must be a liking to the cause, which made him enter warmly
into her father and sister's solicitudes on a subject which
she thought unworthy to excite them. The Bath paper one morning
announced the arrival of the Dowager Viscountess Dalrymple,
and her daughter, the Honourable Miss Carteret; and all the comfort
of No.--, Camden Place, was swept away for many days; for the Dalrymples
(in Anne's opinion, most unfortunately) were cousins of the Elliots;
and the agony was how to introduce themselves properly.
Anne had never seen her father and sister before in contact with nobility,
and she must acknowledge herself disappointed. She had hoped
better things from their high ideas of their own situation in life,
and was reduced to form a wish which she had never foreseen;
a wish that they had more pride; for "our cousins Lady Dalrymple
and Miss Carteret;" "our cousins, the Dalrymples," sounded in her ears
all day long.
Sir Walter had once been in company with the late viscount,
but had never seen any of the rest of the family; and the difficulties
of the case arose from there having been a suspension of all intercourse
by letters of ceremony, ever since the death of that said late viscount,
when, in consequence of a dangerous illness of Sir Walter's
at the same time, there had been an unlucky omission at Kellynch.
No letter of condolence had been sent to Ireland. The neglect
had been visited on the head of the sinner; for when poor Lady Elliot
died herself, no letter of condolence was received at Kellynch,
and, consequently, there was but too much reason to apprehend
that the Dalrymples considered the relationship as closed.
How to have this anxious business set to rights, and be admitted
as cousins again, was the question: and it was a question which,
in a more rational manner, neither Lady Russell nor Mr Elliot
thought unimportant. "Family connexions were always worth preserving,
good company always worth seeking; Lady Dalrymple had taken a house,
for three months, in Laura Place, and would be living in style.
She had been at Bath the year before, and Lady Russell had heard her
spoken of as a charming woman. It was very desirable that
the connexion should be renewed, if it could be done, without any
compromise of propriety on the side of the Elliots."
Sir Walter, however, would choose his own means, and at last wrote
a very fine letter of ample explanation, regret, and entreaty,
to his right honourable cousin. Neither Lady Russell nor Mr Elliot
could admire the letter; but it did all that was wanted,
in bringing three lines of scrawl from the Dowager Viscountess.
"She was very much honoured, and should be happy in their acquaintance."
The toils of the business were over, the sweets began. They visited
in Laura Place, they had the cards of Dowager Viscountess Dalrymple,
and the Honourable Miss Carteret, to be arranged wherever they might
be most visible: and "Our cousins in Laura Place,"--"Our cousin,
Lady Dalrymple and Miss Carteret," were talked of to everybody.
Anne was ashamed. Had Lady Dalrymple and her daughter even been
very agreeable, she would still have been ashamed of the agitation
they created, but they were nothing. There was no superiority of manner,
accomplishment, or understanding. Lady Dalrymple had acquired
the name of "a charming woman," because she had a smile and a civil answer
for everybody. Miss Carteret, with still less to say, was so plain
and so awkward, that she would never have been tolerated in Camden Place
but for her birth.
Lady Russell confessed she had expected something better; but yet
"it was an acquaintance worth having;" and when Anne ventured to speak
her opinion of them to Mr Elliot, he agreed to their being nothing
in themselves, but still maintained that, as a family connexion,
as good company, as those who would collect good company around them,
they had their value. Anne smiled and said,
"My idea of good company, Mr Elliot, is the company of clever,
well-informed people, who have a great deal of conversation;
that is what I call good company."
"You are mistaken," said he gently, "that is not good company;
that is the best. Good company requires only birth, education,
and manners, and with regard to education is not very nice.
Birth and good manners are essential; but a little learning is
by no means a dangerous thing in good company; on the contrary,
it will do very well. My cousin Anne shakes her head.
She is not satisfied. She is fastidious. My dear cousin"
(sitting down by her), "you have a better right to be fastidious
than almost any other woman I know; but will it answer?
Will it make you happy? Will it not be wiser to accept the society
of those good ladies in Laura Place, and enjoy all the advantages
of the connexion as far as possible? You may depend upon it,
that they will move in the first set in Bath this winter,
and as rank is rank, your being known to be related to them
will have its use in fixing your family (our family let me say)
in that degree of consideration which we must all wish for."
"Yes," sighed Anne, "we shall, indeed, be known to be related to them!"
then recollecting herself, and not wishing to be answered, she added,
"I certainly do think there has been by far too much trouble taken
to procure the acquaintance. I suppose" (smiling) "I have more pride
than any of you; but I confess it does vex me, that we should be
so solicitous to have the relationship acknowledged, which we may
be very sure is a matter of perfect indifference to them."
"Pardon me, dear cousin, you are unjust in your own claims.
In London, perhaps, in your present quiet style of living,
it might be as you say: but in Bath; Sir Walter Elliot and his family
will always be worth knowing: always acceptable as acquaintance."
"Well," said Anne, "I certainly am proud, too proud to enjoy a welcome
which depends so entirely upon place."
"I love your indignation," said he; "it is very natural.
But here you are in Bath, and the object is to be established here
with all the credit and dignity which ought to belong to Sir Walter Elliot.
You talk of being proud; I am called proud, I know, and I shall not wish
to believe myself otherwise; for our pride, if investigated,
would have the same object, I have no doubt, though the kind may seem
a little different. In one point, I am sure, my dear cousin,"
(he continued, speaking lower, though there was no one else in the room)
"in one point, I am sure, we must feel alike. We must feel that
every addition to your father's society, among his equals or superiors,
may be of use in diverting his thoughts from those who are beneath him."
He looked, as he spoke, to the seat which Mrs Clay had been
lately occupying: a sufficient explanation of what he particularly meant;
and though Anne could not believe in their having the same sort of pride,
she was pleased with him for not liking Mrs Clay; and her conscience
admitted that his wishing to promote her father's getting
great acquaintance was more than excusable in the view of defeating her.
While Sir Walter and Elizabeth were assiduously pushing their
good fortune in Laura Place, Anne was renewing an acquaintance
of a very different description.
She had called on her former governess, and had heard from her
of there being an old school-fellow in Bath, who had the two strong claims
on her attention of past kindness and present suffering. Miss Hamilton,
now Mrs Smith, had shewn her kindness in one of those periods of her life
when it had been most valuable. Anne had gone unhappy to school,
grieving for the loss of a mother whom she had dearly loved,
feeling her separation from home, and suffering as a girl of fourteen,
of strong sensibility and not high spirits, must suffer at such a time;
and Miss Hamilton, three years older than herself, but still from the want
of near relations and a settled home, remaining another year at school,
had been useful and good to her in a way which had considerably lessened
her misery, and could never be remembered with indifference.
Miss Hamilton had left school, had married not long afterwards,
was said to have married a man of fortune, and this was all
that Anne had known of her, till now that their governess's account
brought her situation forward in a more decided but very different form.
She was a widow and poor. Her husband had been extravagant;
and at his death, about two years before, had left his affairs
dreadfully involved. She had had difficulties of every sort
to contend with, and in addition to these distresses had been afflicted
with a severe rheumatic fever, which, finally settling in her legs,
had made her for the present a cripple. She had come to Bath
on that account, and was now in lodgings near the hot baths,
living in a very humble way, unable even to afford herself
the comfort of a servant, and of course almost excluded from society.
Their mutual friend answered for the satisfaction which a visit
from Miss Elliot would give Mrs Smith, and Anne therefore
lost no time in going. She mentioned nothing of what she had heard,
or what she intended, at home. It would excite no proper interest there.
She only consulted Lady Russell, who entered thoroughly into her sentiments,
and was most happy to convey her as near to Mrs Smith's lodgings
in Westgate Buildings, as Anne chose to be taken.
The visit was paid, their acquaintance re-established, their interest
in each other more than re-kindled. The first ten minutes
had its awkwardness and its emotion. Twelve years were gone
since they had parted, and each presented a somewhat different person
from what the other had imagined. Twelve years had changed Anne
from the blooming, silent, unformed girl of fifteen, to the elegant
little woman of seven-and-twenty, with every beauty except bloom,
and with manners as consciously right as they were invariably gentle;
and twelve years had transformed the fine-looking, well-grown Miss Hamilton,
in all the glow of health and confidence of superiority, into a poor,
infirm, helpless widow, receiving the visit of her former protegee
as a favour; but all that was uncomfortable in the meeting had soon
passed away, and left only the interesting charm of remembering
former partialities and talking over old times.
Anne found in Mrs Smith the good sense and agreeable manners which
she had almost ventured to depend on, and a disposition to converse
and be cheerful beyond her expectation. Neither the dissipations
of the past--and she had lived very much in the world--nor the restrictions
of the present, neither sickness nor sorrow seemed to have
closed her heart or ruined her spirits.
In the course of a second visit she talked with great openness,
and Anne's astonishment increased. She could scarcely imagine
a more cheerless situation in itself than Mrs Smith's. She had been
very fond of her husband: she had buried him. She had been
used to affluence: it was gone. She had no child to connect her
with life and happiness again, no relations to assist in the arrangement
of perplexed affairs, no health to make all the rest supportable.
Her accommodations were limited to a noisy parlour, and a dark bedroom
behind, with no possibility of moving from one to the other without
assistance, which there was only one servant in the house to afford,
and she never quitted the house but to be conveyed into the warm bath.
Yet, in spite of all this, Anne had reason to believe that she had
moments only of languor and depression, to hours of occupation
and enjoyment. How could it be? She watched, observed, reflected,
and finally determined that this was not a case of fortitude
or of resignation only. A submissive spirit might be patient,
a strong understanding would supply resolution, but here was something more;
here was that elasticity of mind, that disposition to be comforted,
that power of turning readily from evil to good, and of finding employment
which carried her out of herself, which was from nature alone.
It was the choicest gift of Heaven; and Anne viewed her friend
as one of those instances in which, by a merciful appointment,
it seems designed to counterbalance almost every other want.
There had been a time, Mrs Smith told her, when her spirits
had nearly failed. She could not call herself an invalid now,
compared with her state on first reaching Bath. Then she had, indeed,
been a pitiable object; for she had caught cold on the journey,
and had hardly taken possession of her lodgings before she was again
confined to her bed and suffering under severe and constant pain;
and all this among strangers, with the absolute necessity of having
a regular nurse, and finances at that moment particularly unfit
to meet any extraordinary expense. She had weathered it, however,
and could truly say that it had done her good. It had increased
her comforts by making her feel herself to be in good hands.
She had seen too much of the world, to expect sudden or disinterested
attachment anywhere, but her illness had proved to her that her landlady
had a character to preserve, and would not use her ill; and she had been
particularly fortunate in her nurse, as a sister of her landlady,
a nurse by profession, and who had always a home in that house
when unemployed, chanced to be at liberty just in time to attend her.
"And she," said Mrs Smith, "besides nursing me most admirably,
has really proved an invaluable acquaintance. As soon as I could
use my hands she taught me to knit, which has been a great amusement;
and she put me in the way of making these little thread-cases,
pin-cushions and card-racks, which you always find me so busy about,
and which supply me with the means of doing a little good
to one or two very poor families in this neighbourhood.
She had a large acquaintance, of course professionally, among those
who can afford to buy, and she disposes of my merchandise.
She always takes the right time for applying. Everybody's heart is open,
you know, when they have recently escaped from severe pain,
or are recovering the blessing of health, and Nurse Rooke
thoroughly understands when to speak. She is a shrewd, intelligent,
sensible woman. Hers is a line for seeing human nature; and she has
a fund of good sense and observation, which, as a companion, make her
infinitely superior to thousands of those who having only received
`the best education in the world,' know nothing worth attending to.
Call it gossip, if you will, but when Nurse Rooke has half an hour's
leisure to bestow on me, she is sure to have something to relate
that is entertaining and profitable: something that makes one
know one's species better. One likes to hear what is going on,
to be au fait as to the newest modes of being trifling and silly.
To me, who live so much alone, her conversation, I assure you, is a treat."
Anne, far from wishing to cavil at the pleasure, replied,
"I can easily believe it. Women of that class have great opportunities,
and if they are intelligent may be well worth listening to.
Such varieties of human nature as they are in the habit of witnessing!
And it is not merely in its follies, that they are well read;
for they see it occasionally under every circumstance that can be
most interesting or affecting. What instances must pass before them
of ardent, disinterested, self-denying attachment, of heroism, fortitude,
patience, resignation: of all the conflicts and all the sacrifices
that ennoble us most. A sick chamber may often furnish
the worth of volumes."
"Yes," said Mrs Smith more doubtingly, "sometimes it may,
though I fear its lessons are not often in the elevated style you describe.
Here and there, human nature may be great in times of trial;
but generally speaking, it is its weakness and not its strength
that appears in a sick chamber: it is selfishness and impatience
rather than generosity and fortitude, that one hears of.
There is so little real friendship in the world! and unfortunately"
(speaking low and tremulously) "there are so many who forget
to think seriously till it is almost too late."
Anne saw the misery of such feelings. The husband had not been
what he ought, and the wife had been led among that part of mankind
which made her think worse of the world than she hoped it deserved.
It was but a passing emotion however with Mrs Smith; she shook it off,
and soon added in a different tone--
"I do not suppose the situation my friend Mrs Rooke is in at present,
will furnish much either to interest or edify me. She is only nursing
Mrs Wallis of Marlborough Buildings; a mere pretty, silly, expensive,
fashionable woman, I believe; and of course will have nothing to report
but of lace and finery. I mean to make my profit of Mrs Wallis, however.
She has plenty of money, and I intend she shall buy all
the high-priced things I have in hand now."
Anne had called several times on her friend, before the existence
of such a person was known in Camden Place. At last, it became necessary
to speak of her. Sir Walter, Elizabeth and Mrs Clay, returned one morning
from Laura Place, with a sudden invitation from Lady Dalrymple
for the same evening, and Anne was already engaged, to spend that evening
in Westgate Buildings. She was not sorry for the excuse.
They were only asked, she was sure, because Lady Dalrymple being
kept at home by a bad cold, was glad to make use of the relationship
which had been so pressed on her; and she declined on her own account
with great alacrity--"She was engaged to spend the evening
with an old schoolfellow." They were not much interested in anything
relative to Anne; but still there were questions enough asked,
to make it understood what this old schoolfellow was; and Elizabeth
was disdainful, and Sir Walter severe.
"Westgate Buildings!" said he, "and who is Miss Anne Elliot
to be visiting in Westgate Buildings? A Mrs Smith. A widow Mrs Smith;
and who was her husband? One of five thousand Mr Smiths whose names
are to be met with everywhere. And what is her attraction?
That she is old and sickly. Upon my word, Miss Anne Elliot,
you have the most extraordinary taste! Everything that revolts
other people, low company, paltry rooms, foul air, disgusting associations
are inviting to you. But surely you may put off this old lady
till to-morrow: she is not so near her end, I presume,
but that she may hope to see another day. What is her age? Forty?"
"No, sir, she is not one-and-thirty; but I do not think I can
put off my engagement, because it is the only evening for some time
which will at once suit her and myself. She goes into the warm bath
to-morrow, and for the rest of the week, you know, we are engaged."
"But what does Lady Russell think of this acquaintance?" asked Elizabeth.
"She sees nothing to blame in it," replied Anne; "on the contrary,
she approves it, and has generally taken me when I have
called on Mrs Smith.
"Westgate Buildings must have been rather surprised by the appearance
of a carriage drawn up near its pavement," observed Sir Walter.
"Sir Henry Russell's widow, indeed, has no honours to distinguish her arms,
but still it is a handsome equipage, and no doubt is well known
to convey a Miss Elliot. A widow Mrs Smith lodging in Westgate Buildings!
A poor widow barely able to live, between thirty and forty;
a mere Mrs Smith, an every-day Mrs Smith, of all people and all names
in the world, to be the chosen friend of Miss Anne Elliot,
and to be preferred by her to her own family connections among the nobility
of England and Ireland! Mrs Smith! Such a name!"
Mrs Clay, who had been present while all this passed, now thought it
advisable to leave the room, and Anne could have said much,
and did long to say a little in defence of her friend's
not very dissimilar claims to theirs, but her sense of personal respect
to her father prevented her. She made no reply. She left it
to himself to recollect, that Mrs Smith was not the only widow
in Bath between thirty and forty, with little to live on,
and no surname of dignity.
Anne kept her appointment; the others kept theirs, and of course
she heard the next morning that they had had a delightful evening.
She had been the only one of the set absent, for Sir Walter
and Elizabeth had not only been quite at her ladyship's service themselves,
but had actually been happy to be employed by her in collecting others,
and had been at the trouble of inviting both Lady Russell and Mr Elliot;
and Mr Elliot had made a point of leaving Colonel Wallis early,
and Lady Russell had fresh arranged all her evening engagements
in order to wait on her. Anne had the whole history of all that
such an evening could supply from Lady Russell. To her,
its greatest interest must be, in having been very much talked of
between her friend and Mr Elliot; in having been wished for, regretted,
and at the same time honoured for staying away in such a cause.
Her kind, compassionate visits to this old schoolfellow,
sick and reduced, seemed to have quite delighted Mr Elliot.
He thought her a most extraordinary young woman; in her temper, manners,
mind, a model of female excellence. He could meet even Lady Russell
in a discussion of her merits; and Anne could not be given to understand
so much by her friend, could not know herself to be so highly rated
by a sensible man, without many of those agreeable sensations
which her friend meant to create.
Lady Russell was now perfectly decided in her opinion of Mr Elliot.
She was as much convinced of his meaning to gain Anne in time as of
his deserving her, and was beginning to calculate the number of weeks
which would free him from all the remaining restraints of widowhood,
and leave him at liberty to exert his most open powers of pleasing.
She would not speak to Anne with half the certainty she felt on the subject,
she would venture on little more than hints of what might be hereafter,
of a possible attachment on his side, of the desirableness of the alliance,
supposing such attachment to be real and returned. Anne heard her,
and made no violent exclamations; she only smiled, blushed,
and gently shook her head.
"I am no match-maker, as you well know," said Lady Russell,
"being much too well aware of the uncertainty of all human events
and calculations. I only mean that if Mr Elliot should some time hence
pay his addresses to you, and if you should be disposed to accept him,
I think there would be every possibility of your being happy together.
A most suitable connection everybody must consider it, but I think
it might be a very happy one."
"Mr Elliot is an exceedingly agreeable man, and in many respects
I think highly of him," said Anne; "but we should not suit."
Lady Russell let this pass, and only said in rejoinder, "I own that
to be able to regard you as the future mistress of Kellynch,
the future Lady Elliot, to look forward and see you occupying
your dear mother's place, succeeding to all her rights,
and all her popularity, as well as to all her virtues, would be
the highest possible gratification to me. You are your mother's self
in countenance and disposition; and if I might be allowed to fancy you
such as she was, in situation and name, and home, presiding and blessing
in the same spot, and only superior to her in being more highly valued!
My dearest Anne, it would give me more delight than is often felt
at my time of life!"
Anne was obliged to turn away, to rise, to walk to a distant table,
and, leaning there in pretended employment, try to subdue the feelings
this picture excited. For a few moments her imagination and her heart
were bewitched. The idea of becoming what her mother had been;
of having the precious name of "Lady Elliot" first revived in herself;
of being restored to Kellynch, calling it her home again,
her home for ever, was a charm which she could not immediately resist.
Lady Russell said not another word, willing to leave the matter
to its own operation; and believing that, could Mr Elliot at that moment
with propriety have spoken for himself!--she believed, in short,
what Anne did not believe. The same image of Mr Elliot speaking
for himself brought Anne to composure again. The charm of Kellynch
and of "Lady Elliot" all faded away. She never could accept him.
And it was not only that her feelings were still adverse to any man
save one; her judgement, on a serious consideration of the possibilities
of such a case was against Mr Elliot.
Though they had now been acquainted a month, she could not be satisfied
that she really knew his character. That he was a sensible man,
an agreeable man, that he talked well, professed good opinions,
seemed to judge properly and as a man of principle, this was all
clear enough. He certainly knew what was right, nor could she fix
on any one article of moral duty evidently transgressed; but yet she would
have been afraid to answer for his conduct. She distrusted the past,
if not the present. The names which occasionally dropt
of former associates, the allusions to former practices and pursuits,
suggested suspicions not favourable of what he had been.
She saw that there had been bad habits; that Sunday travelling
had been a common thing; that there had been a period of his life
(and probably not a short one) when he had been, at least,
careless in all serious matters; and, though he might now think
very differently, who could answer for the true sentiments of a clever,
cautious man, grown old enough to appreciate a fair character?
How could it ever be ascertained that his mind was truly cleansed?
Mr Elliot was rational, discreet, polished, but he was not open.
There was never any burst of feeling, any warmth of indignation or delight,
at the evil or good of others. This, to Anne, was a decided imperfection.
Her early impressions were incurable. She prized the frank,
the open-hearted, the eager character beyond all others.
Warmth and enthusiasm did captivate her still. She felt that she could
so much more depend upon the sincerity of those who sometimes looked
or said a careless or a hasty thing, than of those whose presence of mind
never varied, whose tongue never slipped.
Mr Elliot was too generally agreeable. Various as were the tempers
in her father's house, he pleased them all. He endured too well,
stood too well with every body. He had spoken to her with some
degree of openness of Mrs Clay; had appeared completely to see
what Mrs Clay was about, and to hold her in contempt; and yet
Mrs Clay found him as agreeable as any body.
Lady Russell saw either less or more than her young friend,
for she saw nothing to excite distrust. She could not imagine
a man more exactly what he ought to be than Mr Elliot; nor did she
ever enjoy a sweeter feeling than the hope of seeing him receive
the hand of her beloved Anne in Kellynch church, in the course of
the following autumn.
It was the beginning of February; and Anne, having been a month in Bath,
was growing very eager for news from Uppercross and Lyme.
She wanted to hear much more than Mary had communicated.
It was three weeks since she had heard at all. She only knew
that Henrietta was at home again; and that Louisa, though considered to be
recovering fast, was still in Lyme; and she was thinking of them all
very intently one evening, when a thicker letter than usual from Mary
was delivered to her; and, to quicken the pleasure and surprise,
with Admiral and Mrs Croft's compliments.
The Crofts must be in Bath! A circumstance to interest her.
They were people whom her heart turned to very naturally.
"What is this?" cried Sir Walter. "The Crofts have arrived in Bath?
The Crofts who rent Kellynch? What have they brought you?"
"A letter from Uppercross Cottage, Sir."
"Oh! those letters are convenient passports. They secure an introduction.
I should have visited Admiral Croft, however, at any rate.
I know what is due to my tenant."
Anne could listen no longer; she could not even have told how
the poor Admiral's complexion escaped; her letter engrossed her.
It had been begun several days back.
"My dear Anne,--I make no apology for my silence, because I know
how little people think of letters in such a place as Bath.
You must be a great deal too happy to care for Uppercross, which,
as you well know, affords little to write about. We have had
a very dull Christmas; Mr and Mrs Musgrove have not had one dinner party
all the holidays. I do not reckon the Hayters as anybody.
The holidays, however, are over at last: I believe no children ever had
such long ones. I am sure I had not. The house was cleared yesterday,
except of the little Harvilles; but you will be surprised to hear
they have never gone home. Mrs Harville must be an odd mother
to part with them so long. I do not understand it. They are
not at all nice children, in my opinion; but Mrs Musgrove seems to
like them quite as well, if not better, than her grandchildren.
What dreadful weather we have had! It may not be felt in Bath,
with your nice pavements; but in the country it is of some consequence.
I have not had a creature call on me since the second week in January,
except Charles Hayter, who had been calling much oftener than was welcome.
Between ourselves, I think it a great pity Henrietta did not remain at Lyme
as long as Louisa; it would have kept her a little out of his way.
The carriage is gone to-day, to bring Louisa and the Harvilles to-morrow.
We are not asked to dine with them, however, till the day after,
Mrs Musgrove is so afraid of her being fatigued by the journey,
which is not very likely, considering the care that will be taken of her;
and it would be much more convenient to me to dine there to-morrow.
I am glad you find Mr Elliot so agreeable, and wish I could be acquainted
with him too; but I have my usual luck: I am always out of the way
when any thing desirable is going on; always the last of my family
to be noticed. What an immense time Mrs Clay has been staying
with Elizabeth! Does she never mean to go away? But perhaps
if she were to leave the room vacant, we might not be invited.
Let me know what you think of this. I do not expect my children
to be asked, you know. I can leave them at the Great House very well,
for a month or six weeks. I have this moment heard that the Crofts
are going to Bath almost immediately; they think the Admiral gouty.
Charles heard it quite by chance; they have not had the civility
to give me any notice, or of offering to take anything.
I do not think they improve at all as neighbours. We see nothing of them,
and this is really an instance of gross inattention. Charles joins me
in love, and everything proper. Yours affectionately,
"I am sorry to say that I am very far from well; and Jemima has
just told me that the butcher says there is a bad sore-throat
very much about. I dare say I shall catch it; and my sore-throats,
you know, are always worse than anybody's."
So ended the first part, which had been afterwards put into an envelope,
containing nearly as much more.
"I kept my letter open, that I might send you word how Louisa
bore her journey, and now I am extremely glad I did, having a great deal
to add. In the first place, I had a note from Mrs Croft yesterday,
offering to convey anything to you; a very kind, friendly note indeed,
addressed to me, just as it ought; I shall therefore be able to
make my letter as long as I like. The Admiral does not seem very ill,
and I sincerely hope Bath will do him all the good he wants.
I shall be truly glad to have them back again. Our neighbourhood
cannot spare such a pleasant family. But now for Louisa.
I have something to communicate that will astonish you not a little.
She and the Harvilles came on Tuesday very safely, and in the evening
we went to ask her how she did, when we were rather surprised
not to find Captain Benwick of the party, for he had been invited
as well as the Harvilles; and what do you think was the reason?
Neither more nor less than his being in love with Louisa,
and not choosing to venture to Uppercross till he had had an answer
from Mr Musgrove; for it was all settled between him and her
before she came away, and he had written to her father by Captain Harville.
True, upon my honour! Are not you astonished? I shall be surprised
at least if you ever received a hint of it, for I never did.
Mrs Musgrove protests solemnly that she knew nothing of the matter.
We are all very well pleased, however, for though it is not equal to her
marrying Captain Wentworth, it is infinitely better than Charles Hayter;
and Mr Musgrove has written his consent, and Captain Benwick
is expected to-day. Mrs Harville says her husband feels a good deal
on his poor sister's account; but, however, Louisa is a great favourite
with both. Indeed, Mrs Harville and I quite agree that we love her
the better for having nursed her. Charles wonders what Captain Wentworth
will say; but if you remember, I never thought him attached to Louisa;
I never could see anything of it. And this is the end, you see,
of Captain Benwick's being supposed to be an admirer of yours.
How Charles could take such a thing into his head was always
incomprehensible to me. I hope he will be more agreeable now.
Certainly not a great match for Louisa Musgrove, but a million times better
than marrying among the Hayters."
Mary need not have feared her sister's being in any degree prepared
for the news. She had never in her life been more astonished.
Captain Benwick and Louisa Musgrove! It was almost too wonderful
for belief, and it was with the greatest effort that she could remain
in the room, preserve an air of calmness, and answer the common questions
of the moment. Happily for her, they were not many. Sir Walter
wanted to know whether the Crofts travelled with four horses,
and whether they were likely to be situated in such a part of Bath
as it might suit Miss Elliot and himself to visit in; but had
little curiosity beyond.
"How is Mary?" said Elizabeth; and without waiting for an answer,
"And pray what brings the Crofts to Bath?"
"They come on the Admiral's account. He is thought to be gouty."
"Gout and decrepitude!" said Sir Walter. "Poor old gentleman."
"Have they any acquaintance here?" asked Elizabeth.
"I do not know; but I can hardly suppose that, at Admiral Croft's
time of life, and in his profession, he should not have many acquaintance
in such a place as this."
"I suspect," said Sir Walter coolly, "that Admiral Croft
will be best known in Bath as the renter of Kellynch Hall.
Elizabeth, may we venture to present him and his wife in Laura Place?"
"Oh, no! I think not. Situated as we are with Lady Dalrymple, cousins,
we ought to be very careful not to embarrass her with acquaintance
she might not approve. If we were not related, it would not signify;
but as cousins, she would feel scrupulous as to any proposal of ours.
We had better leave the Crofts to find their own level.
There are several odd-looking men walking about here, who,
I am told, are sailors. The Crofts will associate with them."
This was Sir Walter and Elizabeth's share of interest in the letter;
when Mrs Clay had paid her tribute of more decent attention,
in an enquiry after Mrs Charles Musgrove, and her fine little boys,
Anne was at liberty.
In her own room, she tried to comprehend it. Well might Charles wonder
how Captain Wentworth would feel! Perhaps he had quitted the field,
had given Louisa up, had ceased to love, had found he did not love her.
She could not endure the idea of treachery or levity, or anything
akin to ill usage between him and his friend. She could not endure
that such a friendship as theirs should be severed unfairly.
Captain Benwick and Louisa Musgrove! The high-spirited,
joyous-talking Louisa Musgrove, and the dejected, thinking,
feeling, reading, Captain Benwick, seemed each of them everything
that would not suit the other. Their minds most dissimilar!
Where could have been the attraction? The answer soon presented itself.
It had been in situation. They had been thrown together several weeks;
they had been living in the same small family party: since Henrietta's
coming away, they must have been depending almost entirely on each other,
and Louisa, just recovering from illness, had been in an interesting state,
and Captain Benwick was not inconsolable. That was a point which Anne
had not been able to avoid suspecting before; and instead of drawing
the same conclusion as Mary, from the present course of events,
they served only to confirm the idea of his having felt some
dawning of tenderness toward herself. She did not mean, however,
to derive much more from it to gratify her vanity, than Mary
might have allowed. She was persuaded that any tolerably pleasing
young woman who had listened and seemed to feel for him would have
received the same compliment. He had an affectionate heart.
He must love somebody.
She saw no reason against their being happy. Louisa had fine
naval fervour to begin with, and they would soon grow more alike.
He would gain cheerfulness, and she would learn to be an enthusiast
for Scott and Lord Byron; nay, that was probably learnt already;
of course they had fallen in love over poetry. The idea of
Louisa Musgrove turned into a person of literary taste,
and sentimental reflection was amusing, but she had no doubt
of its being so. The day at Lyme, the fall from the Cobb,
might influence her health, her nerves, her courage, her character to
the end of her life, as thoroughly as it appeared to have
influenced her fate.
The conclusion of the whole was, that if the woman who had been sensible
of Captain Wentworth's merits could be allowed to prefer another man,
there was nothing in the engagement to excite lasting wonder;
and if Captain Wentworth lost no friend by it, certainly nothing
to be regretted. No, it was not regret which made Anne's heart
beat in spite of herself, and brought the colour into her cheeks
when she thought of Captain Wentworth unshackled and free.
She had some feelings which she was ashamed to investigate.
They were too much like joy, senseless joy!
She longed to see the Crofts; but when the meeting took place,
it was evident that no rumour of the news had yet reached them.
The visit of ceremony was paid and returned; and Louisa Musgrove
was mentioned, and Captain Benwick, too, without even half a smile.
The Crofts had placed themselves in lodgings in Gay Street,
perfectly to Sir Walter's satisfaction. He was not at all ashamed
of the acquaintance, and did, in fact, think and talk a great deal more
about the Admiral, than the Admiral ever thought or talked about him.
The Crofts knew quite as many people in Bath as they wished for,
and considered their intercourse with the Elliots as a mere matter of form,
and not in the least likely to afford them any pleasure.
They brought with them their country habit of being almost always together.
He was ordered to walk to keep off the gout, and Mrs Croft
seemed to go shares with him in everything, and to walk
for her life to do him good. Anne saw them wherever she went.
Lady Russell took her out in her carriage almost every morning,
and she never failed to think of them, and never failed to see them.
Knowing their feelings as she did, it was a most attractive picture
of happiness to her. She always watched them as long as she could,
delighted to fancy she understood what they might be talking of,
as they walked along in happy independence, or equally delighted
to see the Admiral's hearty shake of the hand when he encountered
an old friend, and observe their eagerness of conversation
when occasionally forming into a little knot of the navy, Mrs Croft
looking as intelligent and keen as any of the officers around her.
Anne was too much engaged with Lady Russell to be often walking herself;
but it so happened that one morning, about a week or ten days
after the Croft's arrival, it suited her best to leave her friend,
or her friend's carriage, in the lower part of the town,
and return alone to Camden Place, and in walking up Milsom Street
she had the good fortune to meet with the Admiral. He was standing
by himself at a printshop window, with his hands behind him,
in earnest contemplation of some print, and she not only might have
passed him unseen, but was obliged to touch as well as address him
before she could catch his notice. When he did perceive and
acknowledge her, however, it was done with all his usual frankness
and good humour. "Ha! is it you? Thank you, thank you.
This is treating me like a friend. Here I am, you see,
staring at a picture. I can never get by this shop without stopping.
But what a thing here is, by way of a boat! Do look at it.
Did you ever see the like? What queer fellows your fine painters must be,
to think that anybody would venture their lives in such a shapeless
old cockleshell as that? And yet here are two gentlemen
stuck up in it mightily at their ease, and looking about them at the rocks
and mountains, as if they were not to be upset the next moment,
which they certainly must be. I wonder where that boat was built!"
(laughing heartily); "I would not venture over a horsepond in it.
Well," (turning away), "now, where are you bound? Can I go anywhere
for you, or with you? Can I be of any use?"
"None, I thank you, unless you will give me the pleasure of your company
the little way our road lies together. I am going home."
"That I will, with all my heart, and farther, too. Yes, yes
we will have a snug walk together, and I have something to tell you
as we go along. There, take my arm; that's right; I do not
feel comfortable if I have not a woman there. Lord! what a boat it is!"
taking a last look at the picture, as they began to be in motion.
"Did you say that you had something to tell me, sir?"
"Yes, I have, presently. But here comes a friend, Captain Brigden;
I shall only say, `How d'ye do?' as we pass, however. I shall not stop.
`How d'ye do?' Brigden stares to see anybody with me but my wife.
She, poor soul, is tied by the leg. She has a blister on one of her heels,
as large as a three-shilling piece. If you look across the street,
you will see Admiral Brand coming down and his brother. Shabby fellows,
both of them! I am glad they are not on this side of the way.
Sophy cannot bear them. They played me a pitiful trick once:
got away with some of my best men. I will tell you the whole story
another time. There comes old Sir Archibald Drew and his grandson.
Look, he sees us; he kisses his hand to you; he takes you for my wife.
Ah! the peace has come too soon for that younker. Poor old Sir Archibald!
How do you like Bath, Miss Elliot? It suits us very well.
We are always meeting with some old friend or other; the streets
full of them every morning; sure to have plenty of chat;
and then we get away from them all, and shut ourselves in our lodgings,
and draw in our chairs, and are snug as if we were at Kellynch,
ay, or as we used to be even at North Yarmouth and Deal.
We do not like our lodgings here the worse, I can tell you,
for putting us in mind of those we first had at North Yarmouth.
The wind blows through one of the cupboards just in the same way."
When they were got a little farther, Anne ventured to press again
for what he had to communicate. She hoped when clear of Milsom Street
to have her curiosity gratified; but she was still obliged to wait,
for the Admiral had made up his mind not to begin till they had
gained the greater space and quiet of Belmont; and as she was
not really Mrs Croft, she must let him have his own way.
As soon as they were fairly ascending Belmont, he began--
"Well, now you shall hear something that will surprise you.
But first of all, you must tell me the name of the young lady
I am going to talk about. That young lady, you know, that we have
all been so concerned for. The Miss Musgrove, that all this has been
happening to. Her Christian name: I always forget her Christian name."
Anne had been ashamed to appear to comprehend so soon as she really
did; but now she could safely suggest the name of "Louisa."
"Ay, ay, Miss Louisa Musgrove, that is the name. I wish young ladies
had not such a number of fine Christian names. I should never be out
if they were all Sophys, or something of that sort. Well,
this Miss Louisa, we all thought, you know, was to marry Frederick.
He was courting her week after week. The only wonder was,
what they could be waiting for, till the business at Lyme came;
then, indeed, it was clear enough that they must wait till her brain
was set to right. But even then there was something odd in their
way of going on. Instead of staying at Lyme, he went off to Plymouth,
and then he went off to see Edward. When we came back from Minehead
he was gone down to Edward's, and there he has been ever since.
We have seen nothing of him since November. Even Sophy could
not understand it. But now, the matter has take the strangest turn of all;
for this young lady, the same Miss Musgrove, instead of being
to marry Frederick, is to marry James Benwick. You know James Benwick."
"A little. I am a little acquainted with Captain Benwick."
"Well, she is to marry him. Nay, most likely they are married already,
for I do not know what they should wait for."
"I thought Captain Benwick a very pleasing young man," said Anne,
"and I understand that he bears an excellent character."
"Oh! yes, yes, there is not a word to be said against James Benwick.
He is only a commander, it is true, made last summer, and these are
bad times for getting on, but he has not another fault that I know of.
An excellent, good-hearted fellow, I assure you; a very active,
zealous officer too, which is more than you would think for, perhaps,
for that soft sort of manner does not do him justice."
"Indeed you are mistaken there, sir; I should never augur want of spirit
from Captain Benwick's manners. I thought them particularly pleasing,
and I will answer for it, they would generally please."
"Well, well, ladies are the best judges; but James Benwick is rather too
piano for me; and though very likely it is all our partiality,
Sophy and I cannot help thinking Frederick's manners better than his.
There is something about Frederick more to our taste."
Anne was caught. She had only meant to oppose the too common idea
of spirit and gentleness being incompatible with each other,
not at all to represent Captain Benwick's manners as the very best
that could possibly be; and, after a little hesitation,
she was beginning to say, "I was not entering into any comparison
of the two friends," but the Admiral interrupted her with--
"And the thing is certainly true. It is not a mere bit of gossip.
We have it from Frederick himself. His sister had a letter
from him yesterday, in which he tells us of it, and he had just had it
in a letter from Harville, written upon the spot, from Uppercross.
I fancy they are all at Uppercross."
This was an opportunity which Anne could not resist; she said, therefore,
"I hope, Admiral, I hope there is nothing in the style of Captain
Wentworth's letter to make you and Mrs Croft particularly uneasy.
It did seem, last autumn, as if there were an attachment between him
and Louisa Musgrove; but I hope it may be understood to have worn out
on each side equally, and without violence. I hope his letter
does not breathe the spirit of an ill-used man."
"Not at all, not at all; there is not an oath or a murmur
from beginning to end."
Anne looked down to hide her smile.
"No, no; Frederick is not a man to whine and complain; he has
too much spirit for that. If the girl likes another man better,
it is very fit she should have him."
"Certainly. But what I mean is, that I hope there is nothing
in Captain Wentworth's manner of writing to make you suppose
he thinks himself ill-used by his friend, which might appear,
you know, without its being absolutely said. I should be very sorry
that such a friendship as has subsisted between him and Captain Benwick
should be destroyed, or even wounded, by a circumstance of this sort."
"Yes, yes, I understand you. But there is nothing at all of that nature
in the letter. He does not give the least fling at Benwick;
does not so much as say, `I wonder at it, I have a reason of my own
for wondering at it.' No, you would not guess, from his way of writing,
that he had ever thought of this Miss (what's her name?) for himself.
He very handsomely hopes they will be happy together; and there is
nothing very unforgiving in that, I think."
Anne did not receive the perfect conviction which the Admiral meant
to convey, but it would have been useless to press the enquiry farther.
She therefore satisfied herself with common-place remarks or quiet
attention, and the Admiral had it all his own way.
"Poor Frederick!" said he at last. "Now he must begin all over again
with somebody else. I think we must get him to Bath. Sophy must write,
and beg him to come to Bath. Here are pretty girls enough, I am sure.
It would be of no use to go to Uppercross again, for that other
Miss Musgrove, I find, is bespoke by her cousin, the young parson.
Do not you think, Miss Elliot, we had better try to get him to Bath?"
While Admiral Croft was taking this walk with Anne, and expressing
his wish of getting Captain Wentworth to Bath, Captain Wentworth
was already on his way thither. Before Mrs Croft had written,
he was arrived, and the very next time Anne walked out, she saw him.
Mr Elliot was attending his two cousins and Mrs Clay. They were
in Milsom Street. It began to rain, not much, but enough to
make shelter desirable for women, and quite enough to make it
very desirable for Miss Elliot to have the advantage of being
conveyed home in Lady Dalrymple's carriage, which was seen waiting
at a little distance; she, Anne, and Mrs Clay, therefore,
turned into Molland's, while Mr Elliot stepped to Lady Dalrymple,
to request her assistance. He soon joined them again, successful,
of course; Lady Dalrymple would be most happy to take them home,
and would call for them in a few minutes.
Her ladyship's carriage was a barouche, and did not hold
more than four with any comfort. Miss Carteret was with her mother;
consequently it was not reasonable to expect accommodation
for all the three Camden Place ladies. There could be no doubt
as to Miss Elliot. Whoever suffered inconvenience, she must suffer none,
but it occupied a little time to settle the point of civility
between the other two. The rain was a mere trifle, and Anne was
most sincere in preferring a walk with Mr Elliot. But the rain was also
a mere trifle to Mrs Clay; she would hardly allow it even to drop at all,
and her boots were so thick! much thicker than Miss Anne's;
and, in short, her civility rendered her quite as anxious to be left
to walk with Mr Elliot as Anne could be, and it was discussed between them
with a generosity so polite and so determined, that the others were
obliged to settle it for them; Miss Elliot maintaining that Mrs Clay
had a little cold already, and Mr Elliot deciding on appeal,
that his cousin Anne's boots were rather the thickest.
It was fixed accordingly, that Mrs Clay should be of the party
in the carriage; and they had just reached this point, when Anne,
as she sat near the window, descried, most decidedly and distinctly,
Captain Wentworth walking down the street.
Her start was perceptible only to herself; but she instantly felt that
she was the greatest simpleton in the world, the most unaccountable
and absurd! For a few minutes she saw nothing before her;
it was all confusion. She was lost, and when she had scolded
back her senses, she found the others still waiting for the carriage,
and Mr Elliot (always obliging) just setting off for Union Street
on a commission of Mrs Clay's.
She now felt a great inclination to go to the outer door;
she wanted to see if it rained. Why was she to suspect herself
of another motive? Captain Wentworth must be out of sight.
She left her seat, she would go; one half of her should not be always
so much wiser than the other half, or always suspecting the other
of being worse than it was. She would see if it rained.
She was sent back, however, in a moment by the entrance of
Captain Wentworth himself, among a party of gentlemen and ladies,
evidently his acquaintance, and whom he must have joined
a little below Milsom Street. He was more obviously struck
and confused by the sight of her than she had ever observed before;
he looked quite red. For the first time, since their renewed acquaintance,
she felt that she was betraying the least sensibility of the two.
She had the advantage of him in the preparation of the last few moments.
All the overpowering, blinding, bewildering, first effects
of strong surprise were over with her. Still, however,
she had enough to feel! It was agitation, pain, pleasure,
a something between delight and misery.
He spoke to her, and then turned away. The character of his manner
was embarrassment. She could not have called it either cold or friendly,
or anything so certainly as embarrassed.
After a short interval, however, he came towards her, and spoke again.
Mutual enquiries on common subjects passed: neither of them, probably,
much the wiser for what they heard, and Anne continuing fully sensible
of his being less at ease than formerly. They had by dint of being
so very much together, got to speak to each other with a considerable
portion of apparent indifference and calmness; but he could not do it now.
Time had changed him, or Louisa had changed him. There was consciousness
of some sort or other. He looked very well, not as if he had been
suffering in health or spirits, and he talked of Uppercross,
of the Musgroves, nay, even of Louisa, and had even a momentary look
of his own arch significance as he named her; but yet it was
Captain Wentworth not comfortable, not easy, not able to feign that he was.
It did not surprise, but it grieved Anne to observe that Elizabeth
would not know him. She saw that he saw Elizabeth, that Elizabeth saw him,
that there was complete internal recognition on each side;
she was convinced that he was ready to be acknowledged as an acquaintance,
expecting it, and she had the pain of seeing her sister turn away
with unalterable coldness.
Lady Dalrymple's carriage, for which Miss Elliot was growing
very impatient, now drew up; the servant came in to announce it.
It was beginning to rain again, and altogether there was a delay,
and a bustle, and a talking, which must make all the little crowd
in the shop understand that Lady Dalrymple was calling to convey
Miss Elliot. At last Miss Elliot and her friend, unattended but
by the servant, (for there was no cousin returned), were walking off;
and Captain Wentworth, watching them, turned again to Anne,
and by manner, rather than words, was offering his services to her.
"I am much obliged to you," was her answer, "but I am not going with them.
The carriage would not accommodate so many. I walk: I prefer walking."
"But it rains."
"Oh! very little, Nothing that I regard."
After a moment's pause he said: "Though I came only yesterday,
I have equipped myself properly for Bath already, you see,"
(pointing to a new umbrella); "I wish you would make use of it,
if you are determined to walk; though I think it would be more prudent
to let me get you a chair."
She was very much obliged to him, but declined it all, repeating
her conviction, that the rain would come to nothing at present,
and adding, "I am only waiting for Mr Elliot. He will be here in a moment,
I am sure."
She had hardly spoken the words when Mr Elliot walked in.
Captain Wentworth recollected him perfectly. There was no difference
between him and the man who had stood on the steps at Lyme,
admiring Anne as she passed, except in the air and look and manner
of the privileged relation and friend. He came in with eagerness,
appeared to see and think only of her, apologised for his stay,
was grieved to have kept her waiting, and anxious to get her away
without further loss of time and before the rain increased;
and in another moment they walked off together, her arm under his,
a gentle and embarrassed glance, and a "Good morning to you!"
being all that she had time for, as she passed away.
As soon as they were out of sight, the ladies of Captain Wentworth's party
began talking of them.
"Mr Elliot does not dislike his cousin, I fancy?"
"Oh! no, that is clear enough. One can guess what will happen there.
He is always with them; half lives in the family, I believe.
What a very good-looking man!"
"Yes, and Miss Atkinson, who dined with him once at the Wallises,
says he is the most agreeable man she ever was in company with."
"She is pretty, I think; Anne Elliot; very pretty, when one comes
to look at her. It is not the fashion to say so, but I confess
I admire her more than her sister."
"Oh! so do I."
"And so do I. No comparison. But the men are all wild after Miss Elliot.
Anne is too delicate for them."
Anne would have been particularly obliged to her cousin, if he would have
walked by her side all the way to Camden Place, without saying a word.
She had never found it so difficult to listen to him, though nothing
could exceed his solicitude and care, and though his subjects
were principally such as were wont to be always interesting:
praise, warm, just, and discriminating, of Lady Russell,
and insinuations highly rational against Mrs Clay. But just now
she could think only of Captain Wentworth. She could not understand
his present feelings, whether he were really suffering much
from disappointment or not; and till that point were settled,
she could not be quite herself.
She hoped to be wise and reasonable in time; but alas! alas!
she must confess to herself that she was not wise yet.
Another circumstance very essential for her to know, was how long
he meant to be in Bath; he had not mentioned it, or she could not
recollect it. He might be only passing through. But it was more probable
that he should be come to stay. In that case, so liable as every body was
to meet every body in Bath, Lady Russell would in all likelihood
see him somewhere. Would she recollect him? How would it all be?
She had already been obliged to tell Lady Russell that Louisa Musgrove
was to marry Captain Benwick. It had cost her something to encounter
Lady Russell's surprise; and now, if she were by any chance
to be thrown into company with Captain Wentworth, her imperfect knowledge
of the matter might add another shade of prejudice against him.
The following morning Anne was out with her friend, and for the first hour,
in an incessant and fearful sort of watch for him in vain; but at last,
in returning down Pulteney Street, she distinguished him
on the right hand pavement at such a distance as to have him in view
the greater part of the street. There were many other men about him,
many groups walking the same way, but there was no mistaking him.
She looked instinctively at Lady Russell; but not from any mad idea
of her recognising him so soon as she did herself. No, it was
not to be supposed that Lady Russell would perceive him till they
were nearly opposite. She looked at her however, from time to time,
anxiously; and when the moment approached which must point him out,
though not daring to look again (for her own countenance she knew
was unfit to be seen), she was yet perfectly conscious of
Lady Russell's eyes being turned exactly in the direction for him--
of her being, in short, intently observing him. She could thoroughly
comprehend the sort of fascination he must possess over Lady Russell's mind,
the difficulty it must be for her to withdraw her eyes, the astonishment
she must be feeling that eight or nine years should have passed over him,
and in foreign climes and in active service too, without robbing him
of one personal grace!
At last, Lady Russell drew back her head. "Now, how would she
speak of him?"
"You will wonder," said she, "what has been fixing my eye so long;
but I was looking after some window-curtains, which Lady Alicia and
Mrs Frankland were telling me of last night. They described
the drawing-room window-curtains of one of the houses on this
side of the way, and this part of the street, as being the handsomest
and best hung of any in Bath, but could not recollect the exact number,
and I have been trying to find out which it could be; but I confess
I can see no curtains hereabouts that answer their description."
Anne sighed and blushed and smiled, in pity and disdain,
either at her friend or herself. The part which provoked her most,
was that in all this waste of foresight and caution, she should have
lost the right moment for seeing whether he saw them.
A day or two passed without producing anything. The theatre or the rooms,
where he was most likely to be, were not fashionable enough
for the Elliots, whose evening amusements were solely in the
elegant stupidity of private parties, in which they were getting
more and more engaged; and Anne, wearied of such a state of stagnation,
sick of knowing nothing, and fancying herself stronger because
her strength was not tried, was quite impatient for the concert evening.
It was a concert for the benefit of a person patronised by Lady Dalrymple.
Of course they must attend. It was really expected to be a good one,
and Captain Wentworth was very fond of music. If she could only have
a few minutes conversation with him again, she fancied she should
be satisfied; and as to the power of addressing him, she felt all over
courage if the opportunity occurred. Elizabeth had turned from him,
Lady Russell overlooked him; her nerves were strengthened
by these circumstances; she felt that she owed him attention.
She had once partly promised Mrs Smith to spend the evening with her;
but in a short hurried call she excused herself and put it off,
with the more decided promise of a longer visit on the morrow.
Mrs Smith gave a most good-humoured acquiescence.
"By all means," said she; "only tell me all about it, when you do come.
Who is your party?"
Anne named them all. Mrs Smith made no reply; but when she was
leaving her said, and with an expression half serious, half arch,
"Well, I heartily wish your concert may answer; and do not fail me
to-morrow if you can come; for I begin to have a foreboding
that I may not have many more visits from you."
Anne was startled and confused; but after standing in a moment's suspense,
was obliged, and not sorry to be obliged, to hurry away.
Sir Walter, his two daughters, and Mrs Clay, were the earliest
of all their party at the rooms in the evening; and as Lady Dalrymple
must be waited for, they took their station by one of the fires
in the Octagon Room. But hardly were they so settled, when the door
opened again, and Captain Wentworth walked in alone. Anne was
the nearest to him, and making yet a little advance, she instantly spoke.
He was preparing only to bow and pass on, but her gentle "How do you do?"
brought him out of the straight line to stand near her, and make enquiries
in return, in spite of the formidable father and sister in the back ground.
Their being in the back ground was a support to Anne; she knew nothing
of their looks, and felt equal to everything which she believed
right to be done.
While they were speaking, a whispering between her father and Elizabeth
caught her ear. She could not distinguish, but she must guess the subject;
and on Captain Wentworth's making a distant bow, she comprehended
that her father had judged so well as to give him that
simple acknowledgement of acquaintance, and she was just in time
by a side glance to see a slight curtsey from Elizabeth herself.
This, though late, and reluctant, and ungracious, was yet
better than nothing, and her spirits improved.
After talking, however, of the weather, and Bath, and the concert,
their conversation began to flag, and so little was said at last,