"I am persuaded, that neither death, nor
life, nor angels, nor
principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to
come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be
able to separate us from the love of God, which is in
Christ Jesus our Lord."
~ Romans 8:38-39 ~
Jane Austen's "Persuasion"
ne day only had passed since Anne's conversation with Mrs
Smith; but a keener interest had succeeded, and she was now so little touched by
Mr Elliot's conduct, except by its effects in one quarter, that it became a matter
of course the next morning, still to defer her explanatory visit in Rivers Street.
She had promised to be with the Musgroves from breakfast to dinner. Her faith was
plighted, and Mr Elliot's character, like the Sultaness Scheherazade's head, must
live another day.
She could not keep her appointment punctually, however; the weather was unfavourable,
and she had grieved over the rain on her friends' account, and felt it very much
on her own, before she was able to attempt the walk. When she reached the White Hart,
and made her way to the proper apartment, she found herself neither arriving quite
in time, nor the first to arrive. The party before her were, Mrs Musgrove, talking
to Mrs Croft, and Captain Harville to Captain Wentworth; and she immediately heard
that Mary and Henrietta, too impatient to wait, had gone out the moment it had cleared,
but would be back again soon, and that the strictest injunctions had been left with
Mrs Musgrove to keep her there till they returned. She had only to submit, sit down,
be outwardly composed, and feel herself plunged at once in all the agitations which
she had merely laid her account of tasting a little before the morning closed. There
was no delay, no waste of time. She was deep in the happiness of such misery, or
the misery of such happiness, instantly. Two minutes after her entering the room,
Captain Wentworth said--
"We will write the letter we were talking of, Harville, now, if you will give
Materials were at hand, on a separate table; he went to it, and nearly turning his
back to them all, was engrossed by writing.
Mrs Musgrove was giving Mrs Croft the history of her eldest daughter's engagement,
and just in that inconvenient tone of voice which was perfectly audible while it
pretended to be a whisper. Anne felt that she did not belong to the conversation,
and yet, as Captain Harville seemed thoughtful and not disposed to talk, she could
not avoid hearing many undesirable particulars; such as, "how Mr Musgrove and
my brother Hayter had met again and again to talk it over; what my brother Hayter
had said one day, and what Mr Musgrove had proposed the next, and what had occurred
to my sister Hayter, and what the young people had wished, and what I said at first
I never could consent to, but was afterwards persuaded to think might do very well,"
and a great deal in the same style of open-hearted communication: minutiae which,
even with every advantage of taste and delicacy, which good Mrs Musgrove could not
give, could be properly interesting only to the principals. Mrs Croft was attending
with great good-humour, and whenever she spoke at all, it was very sensibly. Anne
hoped the gentlemen might each be too much self-occupied to hear.
"And so, ma'am, all these thing considered," said Mrs Musgrove, in her
powerful whisper, "though we could have wished it different, yet, altogether,
we did not think it fair to stand out any longer, for Charles Hayter was quite wild
about it, and Henrietta was pretty near as bad; and so we thought they had better
marry at once, and make the best of it, as many others have done before them. At
any rate, said I, it will be better than a long engagement."
"That is precisely what I was going to observe," cried Mrs Croft. "I
would rather have young people settle on a small income at once, and have to struggle
with a few difficulties together, than be involved in a long engagement. I always
think that no mutual--"
"Oh! dear Mrs Croft," cried Mrs Musgrove, unable to let her finish her
speech, "there is nothing I so abominate for young people as a long engagement.
It is what I always protested against for my children. It is all very well, I used
to say, for young people to be engaged, if there is a certainty of their being able
to marry in six months, or even in twelve; but a long engagement--"
"Yes, dear ma'am," said Mrs Croft, "or an uncertain engagement, an
engagement which may be long. To begin without knowing that at such a time there
will be the means of marrying, I hold to be very unsafe and unwise, and what I think
all parents should prevent as far as they can."
Anne found an unexpected interest here. She felt its application to herself, felt
it in a nervous thrill all over her; and at the same moment that her eyes instinctively
glanced towards the distant table, Captain Wentworth's pen ceased to move, his head
was raised, pausing, listening, and he turned round the next instant to give a look,
one quick, conscious look at her.
The two ladies continued to talk, to re-urge the same admitted truths, and enforce
them with such examples of the ill effect of a contrary practice as had fallen within
their observation, but Anne heard nothing distinctly; it was only a buzz of words
in her ear, her mind was in confusion.
Captain Harville, who had in truth been hearing none of it, now left his seat, and
moved to a window, and Anne seeming to watch him, though it was from thorough absence
of mind, became gradually sensible that he was inviting her to join him where he
stood. He looked at her with a smile, and a little motion of the head, which expressed,
"Come to me, I have something to say;" and the unaffected, easy kindness
of manner which denoted the feelings of an older acquaintance than he really was,
strongly enforced the invitation. She roused herself and went to him. The window
at which he stood was at the other end of the room from where the two ladies were
sitting, and though nearer to Captain Wentworth's table, not very near. As she joined
him, Captain Harville's countenance re-assumed the serious, thoughtful expression
which seemed its natural character.
"Look here," said he, unfolding a parcel in his hand, and displaying a
small miniature painting, "do you know who that is?"
"Certainly: Captain Benwick."
"Yes, and you may guess who it is for. But," (in a deep tone,) "it
was not done for her. Miss Elliot, do you remember our walking together at Lyme,
and grieving for him? I little thought then-- but no matter. This was drawn at the
Cape. He met with a clever young German artist at the Cape, and in compliance with
a promise to my poor sister, sat to him, and was bringing it home for her; and I
have now the charge of getting it properly set for another! It was a commission to
me! But who else was there to employ? I hope I can allow for him. I am not sorry,
indeed, to make it over to another. He undertakes it;" (looking towards Captain
Wentworth,) "he is writing about it now." And with a quivering lip he wound
up the whole by adding, "Poor Fanny! she would not have forgotten him so soon!"
"No," replied Anne, in a low, feeling voice. "That I can easily believe."
"It was not in her nature. She doted on him."
"It would not be the nature of any woman who truly loved."
Captain Harville smiled, as much as to say, "Do you claim that for your sex?"
and she answered the question, smiling also, "Yes. We certainly do not forget
you as soon as you forget us. It is, perhaps, our fate rather than our merit. We
cannot help ourselves. We live at home, quiet, confined, and our feelings prey upon
us. You are forced on exertion. You have always a profession, pursuits, business
of some sort or other, to take you back into the world immediately, and continual
occupation and change soon weaken impressions."
"Granting your assertion that the world does all this so soon for men (which,
however, I do not think I shall grant), it does not apply to Benwick. He has not
been forced upon any exertion. The peace turned him on shore at the very moment,
and he has been living with us, in our little family circle, ever since."
"True," said Anne, "very true; I did not recollect; but what shall
we say now, Captain Harville? If the change be not from outward circumstances, it
must be from within; it must be nature, man's nature, which has done the business
for Captain Benwick."
"No, no, it is not man's nature. I will not allow it to be more man's nature
than woman's to be inconstant and forget those they do love, or have loved. I believe
the reverse. I believe in a true analogy between our bodily frames and our mental;
and that as our bodies are the strongest, so are our feelings; capable of bearing
most rough usage, and riding out the heaviest weather."
"Your feelings may be the strongest," replied Anne, "but the same
spirit of analogy will authorise me to assert that ours are the most tender. Man
is more robust than woman, but he is not longer lived; which exactly explains my
view of the nature of their attachments. Nay, it would be too hard upon you, if it
were otherwise. You have difficulties, and privations, and dangers enough to struggle
with. You are always labouring and toiling, exposed to every risk and hardship. Your
home, country, friends, all quitted. Neither time, nor health, nor life, to be called
your own. It would be hard, indeed" (with a faltering voice), "if woman's
feelings were to be added to all this."
"We shall never agree upon this question," Captain Harville was beginning
to say, when a slight noise called their attention to Captain Wentworth's hitherto
perfectly quiet division of the room. It was nothing more than that his pen had fallen
down; but Anne was startled at finding him nearer than she had supposed, and half
inclined to suspect that the pen had only fallen because he had been occupied by
them, striving to catch sounds, which yet she did not think he could have caught.
"Have you finished your letter?" said Captain Harville.
"Not quite, a few lines more. I shall have done in five minutes."
"There is no hurry on my side. I am only ready whenever you are. I am in very
good anchorage here," (smiling at Anne,) "well supplied, and want for nothing.
No hurry for a signal at all. Well, Miss Elliot," (lowering his voice,) "as
I was saying we shall never agree, I suppose, upon this point. No man and woman,
would, probably. But let me observe that all histories are against you--all stories,
prose and verse. If I had such a memory as Benwick, I could bring you fifty quotations
in a moment on my side the argument, and I do not think I ever opened a book in my
life which had not something to say upon woman's inconstancy. Songs and proverbs,
all talk of woman's fickleness. But perhaps you will say, these were all written
"Perhaps I shall. Yes, yes, if you please, no reference to examples in books.
Men have had every advantage of us in telling their own story. Education has been
theirs in so much higher a degree; the pen has been in their hands. I will not allow
books to prove anything."
"But how shall we prove anything?"
"We never shall. We never can expect to prove any thing upon such a point. It
is a difference of opinion which does not admit of proof. We each begin, probably,
with a little bias towards our own sex; and upon that bias build every circumstance
in favour of it which has occurred within our own circle; many of which circumstances
(perhaps those very cases which strike us the most) may be precisely such as cannot
be brought forward without betraying a confidence, or in some respect saying what
should not be said."
"Ah!" cried Captain Harville, in a tone of strong feeling, "if I could
but make you comprehend what a man suffers when he takes a last look at his wife
and children, and watches the boat that he has sent them off in, as long as it is
in sight, and then turns away and says, `God knows whether we ever meet again!' And
then, if I could convey to you the glow of his soul when he does see them again;
when, coming back after a twelvemonth's absence, perhaps, and obliged to put into
another port, he calculates how soon it be possible to get them there, pretending
to deceive himself, and saying, `They cannot be here till such a day,' but all the
while hoping for them twelve hours sooner, and seeing them arrive at last, as if
Heaven had given them wings, by many hours sooner still! If I could explain to you
all this, and all that a man can bear and do, and glories to do, for the sake of
these treasures of his existence! I speak, you know, only of such men as have hearts!"
pressing his own with emotion.
"Oh!" cried Anne eagerly, "I hope I do justice to all that is felt
by you, and by those who resemble you. God forbid that I should undervalue the warm
and faithful feelings of any of my fellow-creatures! I should deserve utter contempt
if I dared to suppose that true attachment and constancy were known only by woman.
No, I believe you capable of everything great and good in your married lives. I believe
you equal to every important exertion, and to every domestic forbearance, so long
as--if I may be allowed the expression--so long as you have an object. I mean while
the woman you love lives, and lives for you. All the privilege I claim for my own
sex (it is not a very enviable one; you need not covet it), is that of loving longest,
when existence or when hope is gone."
She could not immediately have uttered another sentence; her heart was too full,
her breath too much oppressed.
"You are a good soul," cried Captain Harville, putting his hand on her
arm, quite affectionately. "There is no quarreling with you. And when I think
of Benwick, my tongue is tied."
Their attention was called towards the others. Mrs Croft was taking leave.
"Here, Frederick, you and I part company, I believe," said she. "I
am going home, and you have an engagement with your friend. To-night we may have
the pleasure of all meeting again at your party," (turning to Anne.) "We
had your sister's card yesterday, and I understood Frederick had a card too, though
I did not see it; and you are disengaged, Frederick, are you not, as well as ourselves?"
Captain Wentworth was folding up a letter in great haste, and either could not or
would not answer fully.
"Yes," said he, "very true; here we separate, but Harville and I shall
soon be after you; that is, Harville, if you are ready, I am in half a minute. I
know you will not be sorry to be off. I shall be at your service in half a minute."
Mrs Croft left them, and Captain Wentworth, having sealed his letter with great rapidity,
was indeed ready, and had even a hurried, agitated air, which shewed impatience to
be gone. Anne know not how to understand it. She had the kindest "Good morning,
God bless you!" from Captain Harville, but from him not a word, nor a look!
He had passed out of the room without a look!
She had only time, however, to move closer to the table where he had been writing,
when footsteps were heard returning; the door opened, it was himself. He beggedtheir
pardon, but he had forgotten his gloves, and instantly crossing the room to the writing
table, he drew out a letter from under the scattered paper, placed it before Anne
with eyes of glowing entreaty fixed on her for a time, and hastily collecting his
gloves, was again out of the room, almost before Mrs Musgrove was aware of his being
in it: the work of an instant!
The revolution which one instant had made in Anne, was almost beyond expression.
The letter, with a direction hardly legible, to "Miss A. E.--," was evidently
the one which he had been folding so hastily. While supposed to be writing only to
Captain Benwick, he had been also addressing her! On the contents of that letter
depended all which this world could do for her. Anything was possible, anything might
be defied rather than suspense. Mrs Musgrove had little arrangements of her own at
her own table; to their protection she must trust, and sinking into the chair which
he had occupied, succeeding to the very spot where he had leaned and written, her
eyes devoured the following words:
"I can listen no longer in silence. I must speak to you by such means as are
within my reach. You pierce my soul. I am half agony, half hope. Tell me not that
I am too late, that such precious feelings are gone for ever. I offer myself to you
again with a heart even more your own than when you almost broke it, eight years
and a half ago. Dare not say that man forgets sooner than woman, that his love has
an earlier death. I have loved none but you. Unjust I may have been, weak and resentful
I have been, but never inconstant. You alone have brought me to Bath. For you alone,
I think and plan. Have you not seen this? Can you fail to have understood my wishes?
I had not waited even these ten days, could I have read your feelings, as I think
you must have penetrated mine. I can hardly write. I am every instant hearing something
which overpowers me. You sink your voice, but I can distinguish the tones of that
voice when they would be lost on others. Too good, too excellent creature! You do
us justice, indeed. You do believe that there is true attachment and constancy among
men. Believe it to be most fervent, most undeviating, in F. W.
"I must go, uncertain of my fate; but I shall return hither, or follow your
party, as soon as possible. A word, a look, will be enough to decide whether I enter
your father's house this evening or never."
Such a letter was not to be soon recovered from. Half and hour's solitude and reflection
might have tranquillized her; but the ten minutes only which now passed before she
was interrupted, with all the restraints of her situation, could do nothing towards
tranquillity. Every moment rather brought fresh agitation. It was overpowering happiness.
And before she was beyond the first stage of full sensation, Charles, Mary, and Henrietta
all came in.
The absolute necessity of seeming like herself produced then an immediate struggle;
but after a while she could do no more. She began not to understand a word they said,
and was obliged to plead indisposition and excuse herself. They could then see that
she looked very ill, were shocked and concerned, and would not stir without her for
the world. This was dreadful. Would they only have gone away, and left her in the
quiet possession of that room it would have been her cure; but to have them all standing
or waiting around her was distracting, and in desperation, she said she would go
"By all means, my dear," cried Mrs Musgrove, "go home directly, and
take care of yourself, that you may be fit for the evening. I wish Sarah was here
to doctor you, but I am no doctor myself. Charles, ring and order a chair. She must
But the chair would never do. Worse than all! To lose the possibility of speaking
two words to Captain Wentworth in the course of her quiet, solitary progress up the
town (and she felt almost certain of meeting him) could not be borne. The chair was
earnestly protested against, and Mrs Musgrove, who thought only of one sort of illness,
having assured herself with some anxiety, that there had been no fall in the case;
that Anne had not at any time lately slipped down, and got a blow on her head; that
she was perfectly convinced of having had no fall; could part with her cheerfully,
and depend on finding her better at night.
Anxious to omit no possible precaution, Anne struggled, and said--
"I am afraid, ma'am, that it is not perfectly understood. Pray be so good as
to mention to the other gentlemen that we hope to see your whole party this evening.
I am afraid there had been some mistake; and I wish you particularly to assure Captain
Harville and Captain Wentworth, that we hope to see them both."
"Oh! my dear, it is quite understood, I give you my word. Captain Harville has
no thought but of going."
"Do you think so? But I am afraid; and I should be so very sorry. Will you promise
me to mention it, when you see them again? You will see them both this morning, I
dare say. Do promise me."
"To be sure I will, if you wish it. Charles, if you see Captain Harville anywhere,
remember to give Miss Anne's message. But indeed, my dear, you need not be uneasy.
Captain Harville holds himself quite engaged, I'll answer for it; and Captain Wentworth
the same, I dare say."
Anne could do no more; but her heart prophesied some mischance to damp the perfection
of her felicity. It could not be very lasting, however. Even if he did not come to
Camden Place himself, it would be in her power to send an intelligible sentence by
Captain Harville. Another momentary vexation occurred. Charles, in his real concern
and good nature, would go home with her; there was no preventing him. This was almost
cruel. But she could not be long ungrateful; he was sacrificing an engagement at
a gunsmith's, to be of use to her; and she set off with him, with no feeling but
They were on Union Street, when a quicker step behind, a something of familiar sound,
gave her two moments' preparation for the sight of Captain Wentworth. He joined them;
but, as if irresolute whether to join or to pass on, said nothing, only looked. Anne
could command herself enough to receive that look, and not repulsively. The cheeks
which had been pale now glowed, and the movements which had hesitated were decided.
He walked by her side. Presently, struck by a sudden thought, Charles said--
"Captain Wentworth, which way are you going? Only to Gay Street, or farther
up the town?"
"I hardly know," replied Captain Wentworth, surprised.
"Are you going as high as Belmont? Are you going near Camden Place? Because,
if you are, I shall have no scruple in asking you to take my place, and give Anne
your arm to her father's door. She is rather done for this morning, and must not
go so far without help, and I ought to be at that fellow's in the Market Place. He
promised me the sight of a capital gun he is just going to send off; said he would
keep it unpacked to the last possible moment, that I might see it; and if I do not
turn back now, I have no chance. By his description, a good deal like the second
size double-barrel of mine, which you shot with one day round Winthrop."
There could not be an objection. There could be only the most proper alacrity, a
most obliging compliance for public view; and smiles reined in and spirits dancing
in private rapture. In half a minute Charles was at the bottom of Union Street again,
and the other two proceeding together: and soon words enough had passed between them
to decide their direction towards the comparatively quiet and retired gravel walk,
where the power of conversation would make the present hour a blessing indeed, and
prepare it for all the immortality which the happiest recollections of their own
future lives could bestow. There they exchanged again those feelings and those promises
which had once before seemed to secure everything, but which had been followed by
so many, many years of division and estrangement. There they returned again into
the past, more exquisitely happy, perhaps, in their re-union, than when it had been
first projected; more tender, more tried, more fixed in a knowledge of each other's
character, truth, and attachment; more equal to act, more justified in acting. And
there, as they slowly paced the gradual ascent, heedless of every group around them,
seeing neither sauntering politicians, bustling housekeepers, flirting girls, nor
nursery-maids and children, they could indulge in those retrospections and acknowledgements,
and especially in those explanations of what had directly preceded the present moment,
which were so poignant and so ceaseless in interest. All the little variations of
the last week were gone through; and of yesterday and today there could scarcely
be an end.
She had not mistaken him. Jealousy of Mr Elliot had been the retarding weight, the
doubt, the torment. That had begun to operate in the very hour of first meeting her
in Bath; that had returned, after a short suspension, to ruin the concert; and that
had influenced him in everything he had said and done, or omitted to say and do,
in the last four-and-twenty hours. It had been gradually yielding to the better hopes
which her looks, or words, or actions occasionally encouraged; it had been vanquished
at last by those sentiments and those tones which had reached him while she talked
with Captain Harville; and under the irresistible governance of which he had seized
a sheet of paper, and poured out his feelings.
Of what he had then written, nothing was to be retracted or qualified. He persisted
in having loved none but her. She had never been supplanted. He never even believed
himself to see her equal. Thus much indeed he was obliged to acknowledge: that he
had been constant unconsciously, nay unintentionally; that he had meant to forget
her, and believed it to be done. He had imagined himself indifferent, when he had
only been angry; and he had been unjust to her merits, because he had been a sufferer
from them. Her character was now fixed on his mind as perfection itself, maintaining
the loveliest medium of fortitude and gentleness; but he was obliged to acknowledge
that only at Uppercross had he learnt to do her justice, and only at Lyme had he
begun to understand himself. At Lyme, he had received lessons of more than one sort.
The passing admiration of Mr Elliot had at least roused him, and the scenes on the
Cobb and at Captain Harville's had fixed her superiority.
In his preceding attempts to attach himself to Louisa Musgrove (the attempts of angry
pride), he protested that he had for ever felt it to be impossible; that he had not
cared, could not care, for Louisa; though till that day, till the leisure for reflection
which followed it, he had not understood the perfect excellence of the mind with
which Louisa's could so ill bear a comparison, or the perfect unrivalled hold it
possessed over his own. There, he had learnt to distinguish between the steadiness
of principle and the obstinacy of self-will, between the darings of heedlessness
and the resolution of a collected mind. There he had seen everything to exalt in
his estimation the woman he had lost; and there begun to deplore the pride, the folly,
the madness of resentment, which had kept him from trying to regain her when thrown
in his way.
From that period his penance had become severe. He had no sooner been free from the
horror and remorse attending the first few days of Louisa's accident, no sooner begun
to feel himself alive again, than he had begun to feel himself, though alive, not
"I found," said he, "that I was considered by Harville an engaged
man! That neither Harville nor his wife entertained a doubt of our mutual attachment.
I was startled and shocked. To a degree, I could contradict this instantly; but,
when I began to reflect that others might have felt the same--her own family, nay,
perhaps herself--I was no longer at my own disposal. I was hers in honour if she
wished it. I had been unguarded. I had not thought seriously on this subject before.
I had not considered that my excessive intimacy must have its danger of ill consequence
in many ways; and that I had no right to be trying whether I could attach myself
to either of the girls, at the risk of raising even an unpleasant report, were there
no other ill effects. I had been grossly wrong, and must abide the consequences."
He found too late, in short, that he had entangled himself; and that precisely as
he became fully satisfied of his not caring for Louisa at all, he must regard himself
as bound to her, if her sentiments for him were what the Harvilles supposed. It determined
him to leave Lyme, and await her complete recovery elsewhere. He would gladly weaken,
by any fair means, whatever feelings or speculations concerning him might exist;
and he went, therefore, to his brother's, meaning after a while to return to Kellynch,
and act as circumstances might require.
"I was six weeks with Edward," said he, "and saw him happy. I could
have no other pleasure. I deserved none. He enquired after you very particularly;
asked even if you were personally altered, little suspecting that to my eye you could
Anne smiled, and let it pass. It was too pleasing a blunder for a reproach. It is
something for a woman to be assured, in her eight-and-twentieth year, that she has
not lost one charm of earlier youth; but the value of such homage was inexpressibly
increased to Anne, by comparing it with former words, and feeling it to be the result,
not the cause of a revival of his warm attachment.
He had remained in Shropshire, lamenting the blindness of his own pride, and the
blunders of his own calculations, till at once released from Louisa by the astonishing
and felicitous intelligence of her engagement with Benwick.
"Here," said he, "ended the worst of my state; for now I could at
least put myself in the way of happiness; I could exert myself; I could do something.
But to be waiting so long in inaction, and waiting only for evil, had been dreadful.
Within the first five minutes I said, `I will be at Bath on Wednesday,' and I was.
Was it unpardonable to think it worth my while to come? and to arrive with some degree
of hope? You were single. It was possible that you might retain the feelings of the
past, as I did; and one encouragement happened to be mine. I could never doubt that
you would be loved and sought by others, but I knew to a certainty that you had refused
one man, at least, of better pretensions than myself; and I could not help often
saying, `Was this for me?'"
Their first meeting in Milsom Street afforded much to be said, but the concert still
more. That evening seemed to be made up of exquisite moments. The moment of her stepping
forward in the Octagon Room to speak to him: the moment of Mr Elliot's appearing
and tearing her away, and one or two subsequent moments, marked by returning hope
or increasing despondency, were dwelt on with energy.
"To see you," cried he, "in the midst of those who could not be my
well-wishers; to see your cousin close by you, conversing and smiling, and feel all
the horrible eligibilities and proprieties of the match! To consider it as the certain
wish of every being who could hope to influence you! Even if your own feelings were
reluctant or indifferent, to consider what powerful supports would be his! Was it
not enough to make the fool of me which I appeared? How could I look on without agony?
Was not the very sight of the friend who sat behind you, was not the recollection
of what had been, the knowledge of her influence, the indelible, immoveable impression
of what persuasion had once done-- was it not all against me?"
"You should have distinguished," replied Anne. "You should not have
suspected me now; the case is so different, and my age is so different. If I was
wrong in yielding to persuasion once, remember that it was to persuasion exerted
on the side of safety, not of risk. When I yielded, I thought it was to duty, but
no duty could be called in aid here. In marrying a man indifferent to me, all risk
would have been incurred, and all duty violated."
"Perhaps I ought to have reasoned thus," he replied, "but I could
not. I could not derive benefit from the late knowledge I had acquired of your character.
I could not bring it into play; it was overwhelmed, buried, lost in those earlier
feelings which I had been smarting under year after year. I could think of you only
as one who had yielded, who had given me up, who had been influenced by any one rather
than by me. I saw you with the very person who had guided you in that year of misery.
I had no reason to believe her of less authority now. The force of habit was to be
"I should have thought," said Anne, "that my manner to yourself might
have spared you much or all of this."
"No, no! your manner might be only the ease which your engagement to another
man would give. I left you in this belief; and yet, I was determined to see you again.
My spirits rallied with the morning, and I felt that I had still a motive for remaining
At last Anne was at home again, and happier than any one in that house could have
conceived. All the surprise and suspense, and every other painful part of the morning
dissipated by this conversation, she re-entered the house so happy as to be obliged
to find an alloy in some momentary apprehensions of its being impossible to last.
An interval of meditation, serious and grateful, was the best corrective of everything
dangerous in such high-wrought felicity; and she went to her room, and grew steadfast
and fearless in the thankfulness of her enjoyment.
The evening came, the drawing-rooms were lighted up, the company assembled. It was
but a card party, it was but a mixture of those who had never met before, and those
who met too often; a commonplace business, too numerous for intimacy, too small for
variety; but Anne had never found an evening shorter. Glowing and lovely in sensibility
and happiness, and more generally admired than she thought about or cared for, she
had cheerful or forbearing feelings for every creature around her. Mr Elliot was
there; she avoided, but she could pity him. The Wallises, she had amusement in understanding
them. Lady Dalrymple and Miss Carteret--they would soon be innoxious cousins to her.
She cared not for Mrs Clay, and had nothing to blush for in the public manners of
her father and sister. With the Musgroves, there was the happy chat of perfect ease;
with Captain Harville, the kind-hearted intercourse of brother and sister; with Lady
Russell, attempts at conversation, which a delicious consciousness cut short; with
Admiral and Mrs Croft, everything of peculiar cordiality and fervent interest, which
the same consciousness sought to conceal; and with Captain Wentworth, some moments
of communications continually occurring, and always the hope of more, and always
the knowledge of his being there.
It was in one of these short meetings, each apparently occupied in admiring a fine
display of greenhouse plants, that she said--
"I have been thinking over the past, and trying impartially to judge of the
right and wrong, I mean with regard to myself; and I must believe that I was right,
much as I suffered from it, that I was perfectly right in being guided by the friend
whom you will love better than you do now. To me, she was in the place of a parent.
Do not mistake me, however. I am not saying that she did not err in her advice. It
was, perhaps, one of those cases in which advice is good or bad only as the event
decides; and for myself, I certainly never should, in any circumstance of tolerable
similarity, give such advice. But I mean, that I was right in submitting to her,
and that if I had done otherwise, I should have suffered more in continuing the engagement
than I did even in giving it up, because I should have suffered in my conscience.
I have now, as far as such a sentiment is allowable in human nature, nothing to reproach
myself with; and if I mistake not, a strong sense of duty is no bad part of a woman's
He looked at her, looked at Lady Russell, and looking again at her, replied, as if
in cool deliberation--
"Not yet. But there are hopes of her being forgiven in time. I trust to being
in charity with her soon. But I too have been thinking over the past, and a question
has suggested itself, whether there may not have been one person more my enemy even
than that lady? My own self. Tell me if, when I returned to England in the year eight,
with a few thousand pounds, and was posted into the Laconia, if I had then written
to you, would you have answered my letter? Would you, in short, have renewed the
"Would I!" was all her answer; but the accent was decisive enough.
"Good God!" he cried, "you would! It is not that I did not think of
it, or desire it, as what could alone crown all my other success; but I was proud,
too proud to ask again. I did not understand you. I shut my eyes, and would not understand
you, or do you justice. This is a recollection which ought to make me forgive every
one sooner than myself. Six years of separation and suffering might have been spared.
It is a sort of pain, too, which is new to me. I have been used to the gratification
of believing myself to earn every blessing that I enjoyed. I have valued myself on
honourable toils and just rewards. Like other great men under reverses," he
added, with a smile. "I must endeavour to subdue my mind to my fortune. I must
learn to brook being happier than I deserve."
Jane Austen's "Persuasion"
ho can be in doubt of what followed? When any
two young people take it into their heads to marry, they are pretty sure by perseverance
to carry their point, be they ever so poor, or ever so imprudent, or ever so little
likely to be necessary to each other's ultimate comfort. This may be bad morality
to conclude with, but I believe it to be truth; and if such parties succeed, how
should a Captain Wentworth and an Anne Elliot, with the advantage of maturity of
mind, consciousness of right, and one independent fortune between them, fail of bearing
down every opposition? They might in fact, have borne down a great deal more than
they met with, for there was little to distress them beyond the want of graciousness
and warmth. Sir Walter made no objection, and Elizabeth did nothing worse than look
cold and unconcerned. Captain Wentworth, with five-and-twenty thousand pounds, and
as high in his profession as merit and activity could place him, was no longer nobody.
He was now esteemed quite worthy to address the daughter of a foolish, spendthrift
baronet, who had not had principle or sense enough to maintain himself in the situation
in which Providence had placed him, and who could give his daughter at present but
a small part of the share of ten thousand pounds which must be hers hereafter.
Sir Walter, indeed, though he had no affection for Anne, and no vanity flattered,
to make him really happy on the occasion, was very far from thinking it a bad match
for her. On the contrary, when he saw more of Captain Wentworth, saw him repeatedly
by daylight, and eyed him well, he was very much struck by his personal claims, and
felt that his superiority of appearance might be not unfairly balanced against her
superiority of rank; and all this, assisted by his well-sounding name, enabled Sir
Walter at last to prepare his pen, with a very good grace, for the insertion of the
marriage in the volume of honour.
The only one among them, whose opposition of feeling could excite any serious anxiety
was Lady Russell. Anne knew that Lady Russell must be suffering some pain in understanding
and relinquishing Mr Elliot, and be making some struggles to become truly acquainted
with, and do justice to Captain Wentworth. This however was what Lady Russell had
now to do. She must learn to feel that she had been mistaken with regard to both;
that she had been unfairly influenced by appearances in each; that because Captain
Wentworth's manners had not suited her own ideas, she had been too quick in suspecting
them to indicate a character of dangerous impetuosity; and that because Mr Elliot's
manners had precisely pleased her in their propriety and correctness, their general
politeness and suavity, she had been too quick in receiving them as the certain result
of the most correct opinions and well-regulated mind. There was nothing less for
Lady Russell to do, than to admit that she had been pretty completely wrong, and
to take up a new set of opinions and of hopes.
There is a quickness of perception in some, a nicety in the discernment of character,
a natural penetration, in short, which no experience in others can equal, and Lady
Russell had been less gifted in this part of understanding than her young friend.
But she was a very good woman, and if her second object was to be sensible and well-judging,
her first was to see Anne happy. She loved Anne better than she loved her own abilities;
and when the awkwardness of the beginning was over, found little hardship in attaching
herself as a mother to the man who was securing the happiness of her other child.
Of all the family, Mary was probably the one most immediately gratified by the circumstance.
It was creditable to have a sister married, and she might flatter herself with having
been greatly instrumental to the connexion, by keeping Anne with her in the autumn;
and as her own sister must be better than her husband's sisters, it was very agreeable
that Captain Wentworth should be a richer man than either Captain Benwick or Charles
Hayter. She had something to suffer, perhaps, when they came into contact again,
in seeing Anne restored to the rights of seniority, and the mistress of a very pretty
landaulette; but she had a future to look forward to, of powerful consolation. Anne
had no Uppercross Hall before her, no landed estate, no headship of a family; and
if they could but keep Captain Wentworth from being made a baronet, she would not
change situations with Anne.
It would be well for the eldest sister if she were equally satisfied with her situation,
for a change is not very probable there. She had soon the mortification of seeing
Mr Elliot withdraw, and no one of proper condition has since presented himself to
raise even the unfounded hopes which sunk with him.
The news of his cousins Anne's engagement burst on Mr Elliot most unexpectedly. It
deranged his best plan of domestic happiness, his best hope of keeping Sir Walter
single by the watchfulness which a son-in-law's rights would have given. But, though
discomfited and disappointed, he could still do something for his own interest and
his own enjoyment. He soon quitted Bath; and on Mrs Clay's quitting it soon afterwards,
and being next heard of as established under his protection in London, it was evident
how double a game he had been playing, and how determined he was to save himself
from being cut out by one artful woman, at least.
Mrs Clay's affections had overpowered her interest, and she had sacrificed, for the
young man's sake, the possibility of scheming longer for Sir Walter. She has abilities,
however, as well as affections; and it is now a doubtful point whether his cunning,
or hers, may finally carry the day; whether, after preventing her from being the
wife of Sir Walter, he may not be wheedled and caressed at last into making her the
wife of Sir William.
It cannot be doubted that Sir Walter and Elizabeth were shocked and mortified by
the loss of their companion, and the discovery of their deception in her. They had
their great cousins, to be sure, to resort to for comfort; but they must long feel
that to flatter and follow others, without being flattered and followed in turn,
is but a state of half enjoyment.
Anne, satisfied at a very early period of Lady Russell's meaning to love Captain
Wentworth as she ought, had no other alloy to the happiness of her prospects than
what arose from the consciousness of having no relations to bestow on him which a
man of sense could value. There she felt her own inferiority very keenly. The disproportion
in their fortune was nothing; it did not give her a moment's regret; but to have
no family to receive and estimate him properly, nothing of respectability, of harmony,
of good will to offer in return for all the worth and all the prompt welcome which
met her in his brothers and sisters, was a source of as lively pain as her mind could
well be sensible of under circumstances of otherwise strong felicity. She had but
two friends in the world to add to his list, Lady Russell and Mrs Smith. To those,
however, he was very well disposed to attach himself. Lady Russell, in spite of all
her former transgressions, he could now value from his heart. While he was not obliged
to say that he believed her to have been right in originally dividing them, he was
ready to say almost everything else in her favour, and as for Mrs Smith, she had
claims of various kinds to recommend her quickly and permanently.
Her recent good offices by Anne had been enough in themselves, and their marriage,
instead of depriving her of one friend, secured her two. She was their earliest visitor
in their settled life; and Captain Wentworth, by putting her in the way of recovering
her husband's property in the West Indies, by writing for her, acting for her, and
seeing her through all the petty difficulties of the case with the activity and exertion
of a fearless man and a determined friend, fully requited the services which she
had rendered, or ever meant to render, to his wife.
Mrs Smith's enjoyments were not spoiled by this improvement of income, with some
improvement of health, and the acquisition of such friends to be often with, for
her cheerfulness and mental alacrity did not fail her; and while these prime supplies
of good remained, she might have bid defiance even to greater accessions of worldly
prosperity. She might have been absolutely rich and perfectly healthy, and yet be
happy. Her spring of felicity was in the glow of her spirits, as her friend Anne's
was in the warmth of her heart. Anne was tenderness itself, and she had the full
worth of it in Captain Wentworth's affection. His profession was all that could ever
make her friends wish that tenderness less, the dread of a future war all that could
dim her sunshine. She gloried in being a sailor's wife, but she must pay the tax
of quick alarm for belonging to that profession which is, if possible, more distinguished
in its domestic virtues than in its national importance.