A Patch upon Persuasion
Being an amalgam of material from the discarded Chapter together with uniformly pleasing and highly amusing original sentences made in the style of JANE AUSTEN
It had been such a day to Anne; the hours which had passed since her leaving the White Hart had done so much! She staid sitting by the fire in her room long after the last guest had gone. It was almost more than she could do to comprehend with composure her present state. The overplus of bliss joined to the fatigues of previous suspense left her in greater need of quiet rest than the ability to obtain any. That such feelings as hers, so long imprisoned, should now be released and returned in full! How many sources of certain good were hers to claim! The most exquisite sensations of joyous relief washed through her, at times reaching a pitch of happiness that was almost painful to endure.
Gradually, however, by representing to herself how natural, how reasonable it was that their engagement should now be renewed, how probable that mature judgment only had been lacking in their previous attachment, was she able to reconcile herself to the extraordinary condition of being wholly beloved. Then, too, remembrances came to her: the many days of acute and dull suffering that she had endured. Painful recollections led her to more sober meditations. She began to reflect upon the many opportunities for similar misunderstandings which might arise in future. Though her married life bid fair to be happier than her mother's, still it would be necessary to guard against the pleasant delusion that no differences of opinion, no opposition of interest can ever arise between married people. Such ideas assisted her to gain a serenity welcome in itself, and still more welcome in making her proof against the trials which lay ahead. Thus, after adjusting her thoughts and feelings to a more rational degree of satisfaction, she at last grew calm enough to retire to her bed.
Next morning, having slept more soundly than any young woman in her situation had a right to expect, Anne awoke with a full heart and an aching head. The agitating effects of sudden delight had lost some of their force and had partly given way to a more tranquil flow of happy spirits. Yesterday, all other concerns had been submerged beneath the flood tide of overwhelming joy. Now, though her chief anxiety was removed, lesser ones crowded forward to take its place. Many were the strains that taxed her peace of mind. The distress and embarrassment attendant upon her two secrets had by no means lessened overnight; instead, they seemed to have swelled in exact proportion to her felicity.
Where to be blind? Where to be active? How to begin, how to go on? With respect to one of the revelations in her power, the how seemed still more difficult than the what. Anne could not conceive a method of opening the business of Mr. Elliot's treachery to her father. It could scarcely be done without unpardonable insult to his honor. She shrank from the very idea. As for Elizabeth, the destruction of all her sister's comfort was certain. What disdain, what open disbelief she might have to endure! Anne felt unequal to encounter either one on the subject.
Nor was her inclination to pay a visit in Rivers St. at all improved. It was now become more necessary than ever to acquaint Lady Russell with the truth, but Anne had no eagerness for the office. Carrying bad news and preparing mortifying lessons for one's friends is not necessarily a pleasant task. Anne was too generous or too happy to feel the natural triumph of one whose judgment has been proved correct. Any former desire she had to publish the faults of Mr. Elliot was supplanted by the longing to dwell on the excellencies of quite another person. Yet what would become of Mrs. Smith if she made no effort to persuade Mr. Elliot to perform his duty? Mrs. Smith's claims were not less urgent because her own happiness was as secure as any mortal's can be.
It would be unreasonable to suppose that Lady Russell could equal herself in expectations of perfect happiness. In Lady Russell's estimation, Anne's good news might not make her any amends for the bad: more likely she would be giving her friend two pains instead of one and its cure. She even feared that Lady Russell would suffer less in relinquishing her ideas of Mr. Elliot than in accepting and doing justice to Captain Wentworth. Yet this, if not precisely her duty, would certainly be Lady Russell's lot. Anne had no consolation to offer her friend. In the ills of intimate society, everyone must find their own best cure; the joy that made Anne indifferent to Mr. Elliot's idea, the precious balm that healed her of every former hurt could hardly be expected to operate with the same medicinal force on any other being.
Anne sighed over the whole business: her father, Elizabeth, Lady Russell, Mrs. Smith, the future of Kellynch--it was altogether a confusion of images and doubts which she could not foresee the end of. Fittingly enough, Mrs. Clay had become the very least of her worries.
No assistance in resolving her perplexities was to be expected from those at Camden Place. Her silence at breakfast, though not greater than usual, had been noticed, especially by her father.
"I am astonished that you should have so little to say about the brilliance of last night's entertainment. One would think, Miss Anne, that you had no share in the enjoyments of society, though so many of your particular friends were in attendance." Elizabeth, too, seemed offended by her sister's reserved manner. In fact, they had heard enough praise of Anne during the party to waken their jealousy over the appearance they had made themselves. Of this, Anne knew nothing; but she had a moment's amusement in considering the difference between her enjoyment in society and theirs, and how truly astonished they would be had they known all.
Rather than exposing them to the full thrust of her intelligence, she contented herself with paying the regard they seemed so much in want of. Perhaps Mrs. Clay's compliments had begun to pall at last, that they should be so solicitous of Anne's approval. She attributed her inattention and lowness to headache from the late hours and overexcitement of the party. She added a hint that neither her father nor Elizabeth seemed in the least fatigued. Pleased to imagine themselves more than commonly robust, they were soon able to receive Mrs. Clay's remarks on the morning freshness of their complexions with satisfied smiles, and ceased to fish for Anne's notice. Conversing among themselves on the blessings of a healthy constitution, they left Anne free to the enjoyment, or otherwise, of her various and disquieting meditations.
Fortunately, she had one more day of grace before these difficulties need be entered upon. The duties of the day would preserve her from any danger of a tete-a-tete with Lady Russell all the morning; and, perhaps, during the evening she might regain the clearness of head and boldness of heart that would be needed to acquaint her family and friends with her present situation..
Anne judged it right that her worldly concerns should not intrude upon the serious reflection proper to the day; yet again and again she found they would break through before she was quite aware. She had been used to find relief from her most pressing troubles in earnest contemplation of Heaven's serenity; but if, on this one occasion, she found it a struggle to subdue her spirits and compose her mind, perhaps she may be forgiven. To her credit it must be said that she had scarcely ever felt a Sunday morning to be quite so long.
On her way home from church, Anne was in Gay Street, her mind so deeply busy in revolving what she must say to Lady Russell that she started on being addressed by Admiral Croft, as if he were a person unlikely to be met there. It was within a few steps of his door.
"You are going to call upon my wife," said he, "She will be very glad to see you."
Anne denied it.
'No! She really had not time, she was in her way home;' but while she spoke the Admiral had stepped back and knocked at the door, calling out,
"Yes, yes, do go in and rest yourself. These streets of Bath are a stiffish pull, are they not?" Anne had not had any idea of stopping, and it occurred to her that she might have to encounter Mrs. Croft's penetration on a subject Anne was not quite ready to canvass! Again she protested her intention of going on.
"I am sure my calling now would be most inconvenient. You must allow me to leave my card, and be so good as to explain it all to Mrs. Croft. I will certainly call another day."
"Not at all, Sophy will be about somewhere, make no doubt of it. She will be quite alone." He ushered her towards the house with his usual unconquerable perseverance. Anne offered no more outward resistance, though perhaps she had a more passive determination to walk quietly away as soon as she might.
"Since you are so kind," said she, "I will just ask Mrs. Croft how she does, but I really cannot stay five minutes."
The door was opened and the man was evidently beginning to deny his mistress when the sight of his master stopped him. The Admiral enjoyed the joke exceedingly. His triumph over Stephen was carried on rather too long for Anne's taste; the Admiral had not done till they reached the head of the staircase. At last, however, he stepped into the room before her saying,
"I cannot stay, I must go to the Post Office. Here you are, you will find no one to disturb you. There is nobody here but Frederick." Such a person to be passed over as a nobody to her! But it was done, she was in the room. She blushed as she met the wondering gaze of Captain Wentworth, who instantly put aside the newspaper he was pretending to read. As he led her nearer the fire, he looked at her with all the power and keenness which she believed no other eyes than his possessed. Both of them attended to the Admiral with patient courtesy as he repeated everything he had said before about his wife and everybody. Anne mentioned nothing more about the purported length of her visit. If she had no horror of a few minutes tete-a-tete with Frederick, may she not be pardoned?
The Admiral was off again almost immediately; the door was firmly closed, and there followed a pleasant sort of converse which was of great satisfaction to the participants; but which made them very little fit for the interruption of Mrs. Croft when she joined them not long afterwards. Whatever she saw or suspected in the observations of the next ten minutes, she did not say; but she might be very likely wishing for some excuse to run about the house--some storm to break the windows above, or a summons to the Admiral's shoemaker below. Fortune favored them all, however, in another way, in a gentle, steady rain just set in as the Admiral returned and Anne rose to go. She was earnestly invited to stay to dinner. A note was despatched to Camden Place and she staid--staid till ten at night; and during that time the husband and wife, either by the wife's contrivance, or by simply going on in their usual way, were frequently out of the room together--gone upstairs to hear a noise, or downstairs to settle their accounts, or upon the landing place to trim a lamp.
These precious moments were turned to very good account. Anne had the indulgence of making her worries known to one who took her interests very much to heart; and she experienced the relief that comes from sharing a burden of thought with a trusted friend. Nothing that could be called discouragement appeared on either side; on each countenance was an expression of something more than satisfaction--something deeper. They were restored to all that had been lost, and more. They discussed sometimes their regrets of the past; but spoke more often of their present delights; and every review of their current state increased Anne's hopes. Frederick detailed any number of schemes for the time when the four of them would be settled together at Kellynch. Anne had not waited till that moment to feel joy in the prospect of dwelling once more in her beloved home, with the further advantage of being surrounded by so many friends. Every avenue of happiness seemed to be opening up before her. The disheartening sensations of the morning were banished again.
There was time for all this to pass, with such interruptions as only enhanced the value of the relation. Frequently, the Crofts returned from their sallies intending to rejoin the conversation only to find there was no conversation to join. Most often, a silent but very powerful dialogue was carried on in which gazes supplied the whole substance of the communication; and no interruption could mar the charm of such speech. Bath could hardly contain any other two beings at once so rationally and rapturously happy as during that evening occupied the sofa of Mrs. Croft's drawing-room in Gay Street. As night drew on, the rain increased and thunder was heard in the distance. Outside, the shutters banged, and inside, the doors rattled; and though the credit for that must go to the wind, it almost might have been due to the strain upon the house of holding in such an extraordinary expansion of feelings.
Anne listened to the Admiral's stories and Mrs. Croft's conversation with an earnest attention that could not go unnoticed. When the evening closed, it is probable that the Admiral received some new ideas from his wife, whose particularly friendly manner in parting with her gave Anne the gratifying persuasion of her seeing and approving. As the carriage drove away from the door, she looked back through the rainy glass for one moment, treasuring up the sight of the lit windows and the memory of such a happy meeting.
Being a reasonably satisfactory resolution of the loose ends left dangling in Miss Austen's haste, with careful attention to the dictates of her inimitable style.
On Monday morning, Anne steeled herself to the task of making her engagement known to her family. Afterward, she had resolved to pay the long-deferred call in Rivers St., and to communicate her knowledge of Mr. Elliot first, before disclosing her other important news. Well-provided as she was with the courage of her security with one man and her good information about the other, it was yet a heavy matter for her to dwell upon. How shocked her friend would be! Lady Russell would have much to suffer when all was known. She must learn to feel 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.
Anne might have spared herself the trouble of all these doubts and considerations had she known what would occur to render them superfluous. Such changes for good or ill as are possible in the human character ought to astonish us and prevent us from attempting to advise anyone but ourselves. Nevertheless, no one, I suppose, has yet been, or ever will be, prevented by ignorance of the future from struggling in imagination to forestall adversity, however often it may prove that the evils we prepare for are never quite the same as the evils we meet.
The family in Camden Place were all gathered in the breakfast room when a letter arrived for Sir Walter. It was soon followed in person by its author. By this method Captain Wentworth benefitted from his previous experience in applying for Anne's hand, for he intended to curtail the amount of time spent in Sir Walter's company as much as was possible. The conference was not less satisfactory to each man for being brief. Who can be in doubt of the result? However little Anne's family might like her choice, they were well aware of having no power to persuade her to choose otherwise. 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. Her wordless discontent was of no more consequence to Anne than Mrs. Clay's expressed delight. 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 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 not be unfairly balanced against her superiority of rank; and all this, assisted by his well-sounding name, enabled Sir Walter to prepare his pen with a very good grace for the insertion of the marriage in the volume of honor.
Anne had settled it with Captain Wentworth that she should speak to Lady Russell alone, but that he should come afterward to take the first steps toward that mutual forgiveness which must be achieved at last between two persons so dear to her. In Rivers St., Anne was shown to the front parlour as usual. Anticipating the coming ordeal, she was unable to sit quietly. She spent five or ten minutes enjoying the relief of arranging and rearranging the small ornaments on a corner shelf. But Lady Russell did not appear. When the servant came in to tend the fire, Anne learnt that Lady Russell was with her mantua-maker. Vexed to be thus constrained from acting on her resolve to speak, she was on the point of leaving when steps were heard in the passage. She retreated to the fireplace.
In another moment the door opened. Anne hardened her nerves to meet Lady Russell's eye, turned around, and found herself facing--Mr. Elliot! His face brightened while hers paled. Equally unexpected was the meeting on each side. There was nothing to be done, however, but to stifle feelings and be quietly polite. Such, at least, was Anne's intention; and had Mr. Elliott been content to leave it so, he might have spared himself some pain.
"What brings you to Rivers St today? Is it a new publication? A song? No, I see no books nor any music in my cousin's lovely hands." His gallantry and excellent humor ought to have been pleasing, but with her knowledge of his character, nearly every syllable was deepening her disgust. Struggling to conceal her dislike and to repress the growing ease of his manner towards her, she told the exact truth as far as she dared, or rather, as far as she chose, to reveal it.
"I am here to consult with Lady Russell on a family matter." Instantly she regretted having let the word 'family' fall from her lips but it was too late to recall it, and he seized upon it with all the alacrity that Anne feared.
"A family matter? How fortunate that we should meet, then! We must be on the same errand. I too wish to consult her on that very subject."
At this, Anne had to suppress a smile, and she coolly replied,
"I doubt it."
"Do you indeed, cousin? Perhaps we are closer in thought than you suppose. At least we may compare our ideas together. I am, as you may know, intent upon perfecting our family relations."
This unwelcome sentiment brought strong color into Anne's face, much to Mr. Elliot's admiration and hope; but for her part her vexation was so great that she did not trust herself to speak. The presumption of his manner no less than the meaning of his hints distressed her. She shook her head and walked to the window.
Mr. Elliot fancied he had touched his cousin's heart, and he boldly went on, "Believe me, my dearest Anne, your opinion on all matters of family are most important to me. Will you not open your mind to me? I long to share my thoughts with you. Have you not somewhat of the same wish?"
She would rather have been silent than appear to be encouraging such an unsuitable style of conversation; yet she equally feared his possible interpretation of her withdrawal. Therefore, she answered him,
"No, I do not." She spoke in a steady tone of voice and with a firmness that surprised her. But still she tried, for Mrs. Smith's sake, to preserve a seemly courtesy which, though it lacked cordiality might be of use in influencing her cousin to act in her friend's best interest.
He had followed her to her station by the window, and was now close, unpleasantly near. He seemed not to hear her at all. He took her hand between both of his. She tried to draw back, but he would not release her. He sought her eyes with his, but she bent her head away from his gaze, saying,
"Mr Elliot, you must release me this moment. I am very displeased with you." He laughed and tried to raise her hand toward his lips, but she contrived to pull it out of his grasp. She moved away quickly, but he followed her and seized it again.
"Are you truly displeased with me? What have I done to lose your favor, my dearest cousin? Have I offended your modesty by offering you too much praise? If so, you are in great danger, for I am well-armed against you. I have batteries of praise and armies of admiration to bring against you. I am a Napoleon at heart and you are besieged, Anne. You had better surrender to me at once, for I shall praise you again and again until you yield!"
"Sir," she replied coldly, "You will find me unyielding--quite as unyielding as Mrs. Charles Smith has found you." Exasperated into plain speech, she levelled this accusation at him without considering whether it would hurt her friend's cause. In saying this, she raised her eyes to his at last, and the expression he saw therein struck him like a blow. He loosed his hold upon her and stared in amazement.
"What is this? What am I to understand? Of whom are you speaking?"
"Mr. Elliott, you have imposed upon very many people, persuading them of your sincerity and good will, but your unkindness toward Mrs. Smith is beyond my power of comprehension. I know not how to censure you enough for your neglect of your duty and indifference to her distress."
"Good God! Who is this person? Who has so injured me that you cast me out of your heart?" He looked around the room wildly. Never had Anne seen him so discomposed, so truly affected. The shock of one realization was succeeded by another still greater. She suddenly understood, first, that he had entirely forgotten the existence of Mrs. Smith, and second, that he genuinely loved herself. She could not be mistaken. Only once before--no, twice!--had she seen such a look in a man's eyes, but it had been fixed upon her imagination for many years. Appalling as this notion was, she could not but feel a pang over his disappointment. Had she not suffered long under the persuasion of being unloved? Her present happiness had not made her indifferent to others' pain.
Accordingly, she softened her tone of voice as she replied, "Compose yourself, Mr. Elliot, and we will speak no more of this."
"You must not leave me in such suspense!" he cried, taking her hand again, "Do not dash my hopes, my dearest dreams so cruelly. My cousin Anne cannot be so unkind to me."
"Mr Elliot, I forbid you to speak to me further on this subject."
"My dearest Anne, why do you look upon me so cold, so unfriendly? How have I lost your good opinion? Tell me, I beg you!"
Vexed beyond endurance by his selfish persistence and his disregard of her express commands, Anne trembled under his touch. She knew not how to rid herself of his odious presence.
"Release me this instant, Mr. Elliot. You are no gentleman, else."
Reluctantly, he did then let her go, but not because of anything she had said. Footsteps were again heard approaching the parlour, and he was obliged to move farther off. They were both expecting Lady Russell to appear, but found that they were mistaken when Captain Wentworth entered the room.
"Oh, Frederick!" Anne exclaimed impulsively, "How glad I am that you are come! I have been wishing for you to be better acquainted with my cousin, Mr. William Elliot." She took his hand and drew him farther into the room as if to introduce him to Mr. Elliot. Neither the gesture nor her use of Captain Wentworth's Christian name was lost on Mr. Elliot. Her whole manner toward the naval officer told him more than he wanted to know. All his hopes of gaining her hand were dashed. He was too late. His cousin Anne was lost to him. He took his leave with rather less politeness than he ordinarily used. The austerity of his manner masked many strong feelings and some very determined ideas.
"A very good morning to you, cousin," he said to Anne. To Captain Wentworth, he merely nodded with a curt, "Sir," and then he was gone.
Though it was hardly possible for a woman of Lady Russell's description to wish the mantua-maker had imprisoned her longer, she owed the woman a debt of gratitude for sparing her from some very dreadful and embarrassing scenes. The demands of fashion also performed a very good office for Anne; since she was too shaken by her meeting with Mr. Elliot, too breathless to stay and face Lady Russell, she determined that a long note would answer her purposes quite as well or even better than a visit.
How often it is so! The best and worst of any news can be given in a letter with no witnesses to the distress of either the writer or the reader. Where the mind is firm, a letter conveys conviction; and where the manner is weak, the pen retails no complications of feeling. In thus imitating Captain Wentworth's proceedings with her father, she gave her friend ample time to plan her behavior and reflect on her best line of conduct. It must be a work of some effort to regulate her manners under so many revolutions in her ideas; and Anne herself gained a more immediate advantage in being able to bestow her hours where her heart dictated. The weather was fine and the park inviting.
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.
Elizabeth could not be soon reconciled to the notion of Anne's marrying before herself, but fortunately for her dignity, a cause of genuine distress presented itself almost immediately, giving her an justification for displaying less cordiality than propriety required. Mrs Clay was to leave them. Sir Walter, though not as afflicted by the circumstance as his daughter, said enough to show that he truly regretted the loss of Mrs. Clay's company. 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. In the course of her farewell visits, Mrs. Clay said many fine things to everyone, asserting as a reason for her removal, the very natural wish of the family to draw together at such a time, wedding preparations and all such attendant matters. She declared to Lady Russell that the world must view her as an unwelcome intruder on family privacy had she remained any longer. It was late indeed for such a sensibility to awaken in her, but Lady Russell was not disposed to quarrel with the reasons when the result was so much to her satisfaction.
Nothing was seen of Mr. Elliot for a week; no cards, no messages. On any common occasion, so long an absence would have caused Elizabeth some distress, but as it succeeded directly upon the loss of her friend, she felt her dullness fully. When several more days passed without any news of him, annoyance and boredom changed into something akin to anxiety. Colonel Wallis and his wife were also absent at this time, and could not be consulted as to Mr. Elliot's whereabouts. Elizabeth, having no philosophy within and no friendship without to fill the blank of her Bath existence--few parties and no dinners to look forward to as the moon grew darker--was obliged to endure the suspense as best she could. Once she made a suggestion to Sir Walter that they might attend a play, but her single idea met with little enthusiasm, and her father proposed nothing of more relief to her restless feelings. She might not know herself that she wished to be more in the public eye, since the private domain held so little of interest; how therefore could she persuade her father to act on her behalf? No one in her immediate sphere of influence was greatly affected by her uneasiness. Anne was too occupied to attend to Elizabeth's ill-humors and Mary completely ignored them. Lady Russell did drop a hint or two about Mr. Elliot's being away, in hopes of allowing Elizabeth lead the way to a conversation in which the truth might be told; but without success. Elizabeth would not be drawn out and Lady Russell wisely decided not to be drawn in.
By the time the news of his cousin's Anne's engagement became generally known, it was also learned that Mr. Elliot had quitted Bath altogether. For Elizabeth and Sir Walter, the mortification of his sudden withdrawal was nothing to the shock they received soon after. When Mrs. Clay was 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. When he had called upon Lady Russell and found Anne alone, it had seemed at first a stroke in his favor. He had meant only to ask Lady Russell to persuade Anne not to make a hasty decision to marry Captain Wentworth until he himself was free to address her openly. He felt confident of Lady Russell's support in his seeking Anne's hand; had not Lady Russell opposed the match successfully before? The source of his intelligence about Captain Wentworth may easily be guessed. Had Elizabeth been at all aware that her ill-founded confidence in Mrs. Clay would result in Mr. Elliot's departure, she might have regretted speaking so openly on the subject of her sister's affairs. However that might be, Mr. Elliot was sorely disappointed when the conviction of Anne's engagement burst on him so 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 dismayed and discomfitted, he could still do something for his own interest and his own enjoyment.
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.
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 her having no relations to bestow on him which a man of sense could value. There she felt her own inferiority 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 sister, 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 favor; 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 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.
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