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Home -> Jane Austen -> Persuasion -> Chapter 11

Persuasion - Chapter 11

1. Chapter 1

2. Chapter 2

3. Chapter 3

4. Chapter 4

5. Chapter 5

6. Chapter 6

7. Chapter 7

8. Chapter 8

9. Chapter 9

10. Chapter 10

11. Chapter 11

12. Chapter 12

13. Chapter 13

14. Chapter 14

15. Chapter 15

16. Chapter 16

17. Chapter 17

18. Chapter 18

19. Chapter 19

20. Chapter 20

21. Chapter 21

22. Chapter 22

23. Chapter 23

24. Chapter 24

Chapter 11

The time now approached for Lady Russell's return: the day was even fixed;
and Anne, being engaged to join her as soon as she was resettled,
was looking forward to an early removal to Kellynch, and beginning
to think how her own comfort was likely to be affected by it.

It would place her in the same village with Captain Wentworth,
within half a mile of him; they would have to frequent the same church,
and there must be intercourse between the two families.
This was against her; but on the other hand, he spent so much of his time
at Uppercross, that in removing thence she might be considered rather
as leaving him behind, than as going towards him; and, upon the whole,
she believed she must, on this interesting question, be the gainer,
almost as certainly as in her change of domestic society,
in leaving poor Mary for Lady Russell.

She wished it might be possible for her to avoid ever seeing
Captain Wentworth at the Hall: those rooms had witnessed
former meetings which would be brought too painfully before her;
but she was yet more anxious for the possibility of Lady Russell and
Captain Wentworth never meeting anywhere. They did not like each other,
and no renewal of acquaintance now could do any good; and were Lady Russell
to see them together, she might think that he had too much self-possession,
and she too little.

These points formed her chief solicitude in anticipating
her removal from Uppercross, where she felt she had been stationed
quite long enough. Her usefulness to little Charles would always
give some sweetness to the memory of her two months' visit there,
but he was gaining strength apace, and she had nothing else to stay for.

The conclusion of her visit, however, was diversified in a way
which she had not at all imagined. Captain Wentworth, after being unseen
and unheard of at Uppercross for two whole days, appeared again among them
to justify himself by a relation of what had kept him away.

A letter from his friend, Captain Harville, having found him out at last,
had brought intelligence of Captain Harville's being settled
with his family at Lyme for the winter; of their being therefore,
quite unknowingly, within twenty miles of each other. Captain Harville
had never been in good health since a severe wound which he received
two years before, and Captain Wentworth's anxiety to see him
had determined him to go immediately to Lyme. He had been there
for four-and-twenty hours. His acquittal was complete,
his friendship warmly honoured, a lively interest excited for his friend,
and his description of the fine country about Lyme so feelingly attended to
by the party, that an earnest desire to see Lyme themselves,
and a project for going thither was the consequence.

The young people were all wild to see Lyme. Captain Wentworth talked
of going there again himself, it was only seventeen miles from Uppercross;
though November, the weather was by no means bad; and, in short,
Louisa, who was the most eager of the eager, having formed
the resolution to go, and besides the pleasure of doing as she liked,
being now armed with the idea of merit in maintaining her own way,
bore down all the wishes of her father and mother for putting it off
till summer; and to Lyme they were to go--Charles, Mary, Anne, Henrietta,
Louisa, and Captain Wentworth.

The first heedless scheme had been to go in the morning and return at night;
but to this Mr Musgrove, for the sake of his horses, would not consent;
and when it came to be rationally considered, a day in
the middle of November would not leave much time for seeing a new place,
after deducting seven hours, as the nature of the country required,
for going and returning. They were, consequently, to stay the night there,
and not to be expected back till the next day's dinner. This was felt
to be a considerable amendment; and though they all met at the Great House
at rather an early breakfast hour, and set off very punctually,
it was so much past noon before the two carriages, Mr Musgrove's coach
containing the four ladies, and Charles's curricle, in which
he drove Captain Wentworth, were descending the long hill into Lyme,
and entering upon the still steeper street of the town itself,
that it was very evident they would not have more than time
for looking about them, before the light and warmth of the day were gone.

After securing accommodations, and ordering a dinner at one of the inns,
the next thing to be done was unquestionably to walk directly
down to the sea. They were come too late in the year for any amusement
or variety which Lyme, as a public place, might offer. The rooms
were shut up, the lodgers almost all gone, scarcely any family
but of the residents left; and, as there is nothing to admire
in the buildings themselves, the remarkable situation of the town,
the principal street almost hurrying into the water, the walk to the Cobb,
skirting round the pleasant little bay, which, in the season,
is animated with bathing machines and company; the Cobb itself,
its old wonders and new improvements, with the very beautiful
line of cliffs stretching out to the east of the town, are what
the stranger's eye will seek; and a very strange stranger it must be,
who does not see charms in the immediate environs of Lyme,
to make him wish to know it better. The scenes in its neighbourhood,
Charmouth, with its high grounds and extensive sweeps of country,
and still more, its sweet, retired bay, backed by dark cliffs,
where fragments of low rock among the sands, make it the happiest spot
for watching the flow of the tide, for sitting in unwearied contemplation;
the woody varieties of the cheerful village of Up Lyme; and, above all,
Pinny, with its green chasms between romantic rocks, where
the scattered forest trees and orchards of luxuriant growth,
declare that many a generation must have passed away since the first
partial falling of the cliff prepared the ground for such a state,
where a scene so wonderful and so lovely is exhibited, as may
more than equal any of the resembling scenes of the far-famed
Isle of Wight: these places must be visited, and visited again,
to make the worth of Lyme understood.

The party from Uppercross passing down by the now deserted
and melancholy looking rooms, and still descending, soon found themselves
on the sea-shore; and lingering only, as all must linger and gaze
on a first return to the sea, who ever deserved to look on it at all,
proceeded towards the Cobb, equally their object in itself
and on Captain Wentworth's account: for in a small house,
near the foot of an old pier of unknown date, were the Harvilles settled.
Captain Wentworth turned in to call on his friend; the others walked on,
and he was to join them on the Cobb.

They were by no means tired of wondering and admiring; and not even Louisa
seemed to feel that they had parted with Captain Wentworth long,
when they saw him coming after them, with three companions,
all well known already, by description, to be Captain and Mrs Harville,
and a Captain Benwick, who was staying with them.

Captain Benwick had some time ago been first lieutenant of the Laconia;
and the account which Captain Wentworth had given of him,
on his return from Lyme before, his warm praise of him as
an excellent young man and an officer, whom he had always valued highly,
which must have stamped him well in the esteem of every listener,
had been followed by a little history of his private life,
which rendered him perfectly interesting in the eyes of all the ladies.
He had been engaged to Captain Harville's sister, and was now
mourning her loss. They had been a year or two waiting for fortune
and promotion. Fortune came, his prize-money as lieutenant being great;
promotion, too, came at last; but Fanny Harville did not live to know it.
She had died the preceding summer while he was at sea. Captain Wentworth
believed it impossible for man to be more attached to woman
than poor Benwick had been to Fanny Harville, or to be more deeply
afflicted under the dreadful change. He considered his disposition
as of the sort which must suffer heavily, uniting very strong feelings
with quiet, serious, and retiring manners, and a decided taste for reading,
and sedentary pursuits. To finish the interest of the story,
the friendship between him and the Harvilles seemed, if possible,
augmented by the event which closed all their views of alliance,
and Captain Benwick was now living with them entirely. Captain Harville
had taken his present house for half a year; his taste, and his health,
and his fortune, all directing him to a residence inexpensive,
and by the sea; and the grandeur of the country, and the retirement
of Lyme in the winter, appeared exactly adapted to Captain Benwick's
state of mind. The sympathy and good-will excited towards Captain Benwick
was very great.

"And yet," said Anne to herself, as they now moved forward
to meet the party, "he has not, perhaps, a more sorrowing heart
than I have. I cannot believe his prospects so blighted for ever.
He is younger than I am; younger in feeling, if not in fact;
younger as a man. He will rally again, and be happy with another."

They all met, and were introduced. Captain Harville was a tall,
dark man, with a sensible, benevolent countenance; a little lame;
and from strong features and want of health, looking much older
than Captain Wentworth. Captain Benwick looked, and was,
the youngest of the three, and, compared with either of them,
a little man. He had a pleasing face and a melancholy air,
just as he ought to have, and drew back from conversation.

Captain Harville, though not equalling Captain Wentworth in manners,
was a perfect gentleman, unaffected, warm, and obliging.
Mrs Harville, a degree less polished than her husband, seemed, however,
to have the same good feelings; and nothing could be more pleasant
than their desire of considering the whole party as friends of their own,
because the friends of Captain Wentworth, or more kindly hospitable
than their entreaties for their all promising to dine with them.
The dinner, already ordered at the inn, was at last, though unwillingly,
accepted as a excuse; but they seemed almost hurt that Captain Wentworth
should have brought any such party to Lyme, without considering it
as a thing of course that they should dine with them.

There was so much attachment to Captain Wentworth in all this,
and such a bewitching charm in a degree of hospitality so uncommon,
so unlike the usual style of give-and-take invitations, and dinners
of formality and display, that Anne felt her spirits not likely to be
benefited by an increasing acquaintance among his brother-officers.
"These would have been all my friends," was her thought;
and she had to struggle against a great tendency to lowness.

On quitting the Cobb, they all went in-doors with their new friends,
and found rooms so small as none but those who invite from the heart
could think capable of accommodating so many. Anne had
a moment's astonishment on the subject herself; but it was soon lost
in the pleasanter feelings which sprang from the sight of all
the ingenious contrivances and nice arrangements of Captain Harville,
to turn the actual space to the best account, to supply the deficiencies
of lodging-house furniture, and defend the windows and doors
against the winter storms to be expected. The varieties in
the fitting-up of the rooms, where the common necessaries
provided by the owner, in the common indifferent plight,
were contrasted with some few articles of a rare species of wood,
excellently worked up, and with something curious and valuable
from all the distant countries Captain Harville had visited,
were more than amusing to Anne; connected as it all was with his profession,
the fruit of its labours, the effect of its influence on his habits,
the picture of repose and domestic happiness it presented,
made it to her a something more, or less, than gratification.

Captain Harville was no reader; but he had contrived
excellent accommodations, and fashioned very pretty shelves,
for a tolerable collection of well-bound volumes, the property of
Captain Benwick. His lameness prevented him from taking much exercise;
but a mind of usefulness and ingenuity seemed to furnish him with
constant employment within. He drew, he varnished, he carpentered,
he glued; he made toys for the children; he fashioned new netting-needles
and pins with improvements; and if everything else was done,
sat down to his large fishing-net at one corner of the room.

Anne thought she left great happiness behind her when they
quitted the house; and Louisa, by whom she found herself walking,
burst forth into raptures of admiration and delight on the character
of the navy; their friendliness, their brotherliness, their openness,
their uprightness; protesting that she was convinced of sailors having
more worth and warmth than any other set of men in England;
that they only knew how to live, and they only deserved to be
respected and loved.

They went back to dress and dine; and so well had the scheme
answered already, that nothing was found amiss; though its being
"so entirely out of season," and the "no thoroughfare of Lyme,"
and the "no expectation of company," had brought many apologies
from the heads of the inn.

Anne found herself by this time growing so much more hardened
to being in Captain Wentworth's company than she had at first imagined
could ever be, that the sitting down to the same table with him now,
and the interchange of the common civilities attending on it
(they never got beyond), was become a mere nothing.

The nights were too dark for the ladies to meet again till the morrow,
but Captain Harville had promised them a visit in the evening;
and he came, bringing his friend also, which was more than
had been expected, it having been agreed that Captain Benwick
had all the appearance of being oppressed by the presence of
so many strangers. He ventured among them again, however,
though his spirits certainly did not seem fit for the mirth
of the party in general.

While Captains Wentworth and Harville led the talk on one side of the room,
and by recurring to former days, supplied anecdotes in abundance
to occupy and entertain the others, it fell to Anne's lot to be placed
rather apart with Captain Benwick; and a very good impulse
of her nature obliged her to begin an acquaintance with him.
He was shy, and disposed to abstraction; but the engaging mildness of
her countenance, and gentleness of her manners, soon had their effect;
and Anne was well repaid the first trouble of exertion.
He was evidently a young man of considerable taste in reading,
though principally in poetry; and besides the persuasion of having
given him at least an evening's indulgence in the discussion of subjects,
which his usual companions had probably no concern in, she had the hope
of being of real use to him in some suggestions as to the duty and
benefit of struggling against affliction, which had naturally grown out
of their conversation. For, though shy, he did not seem reserved;
it had rather the appearance of feelings glad to burst their
usual restraints; and having talked of poetry, the richness of
the present age, and gone through a brief comparison of opinion
as to the first-rate poets, trying to ascertain whether Marmion
or The Lady of the Lake were to be preferred, and how ranked the Giaour
and The Bride of Abydos; and moreover, how the Giaour was to be pronounced,
he showed himself so intimately acquainted with all the tenderest songs
of the one poet, and all the impassioned descriptions of hopeless agony
of the other; he repeated, with such tremulous feeling, the various lines
which imaged a broken heart, or a mind destroyed by wretchedness,
and looked so entirely as if he meant to be understood,
that she ventured to hope he did not always read only poetry,
and to say, that she thought it was the misfortune of poetry to be
seldom safely enjoyed by those who enjoyed it completely;
and that the strong feelings which alone could estimate it truly
were the very feelings which ought to taste it but sparingly.

His looks shewing him not pained, but pleased with this allusion
to his situation, she was emboldened to go on; and feeling in herself
the right of seniority of mind, she ventured to recommend
a larger allowance of prose in his daily study; and on being requested
to particularize, mentioned such works of our best moralists,
such collections of the finest letters, such memoirs of characters
of worth and suffering, as occurred to her at the moment
as calculated to rouse and fortify the mind by the highest precepts,
and the strongest examples of moral and religious endurances.

Captain Benwick listened attentively, and seemed grateful for
the interest implied; and though with a shake of the head,
and sighs which declared his little faith in the efficacy of any books
on grief like his, noted down the names of those she recommended,
and promised to procure and read them.

When the evening was over, Anne could not but be amused at the idea
of her coming to Lyme to preach patience and resignation to a young man
whom she had never seen before; nor could she help fearing,
on more serious reflection, that, like many other great moralists
and preachers, she had been eloquent on a point in which her own conduct
would ill bear examination.

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