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Home -> Jane Austen -> Persuasion -> Chapter 15

Persuasion - Chapter 15

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 15

Sir Walter had taken a very good house in Camden Place,
a lofty dignified situation, such as becomes a man of consequence;
and both he and Elizabeth were settled there, much to their satisfaction.

Anne entered it with a sinking heart, anticipating an imprisonment
of many months, and anxiously saying to herself, "Oh! when shall I
leave you again?" A degree of unexpected cordiality, however,
in the welcome she received, did her good. Her father and sister
were glad to see her, for the sake of shewing her the house and furniture,
and met her with kindness. Her making a fourth, when they
sat down to dinner, was noticed as an advantage.

Mrs Clay was very pleasant, and very smiling, but her courtesies and smiles
were more a matter of course. Anne had always felt that she would
pretend what was proper on her arrival, but the complaisance of the others
was unlooked for. They were evidently in excellent spirits,
and she was soon to listen to the causes. They had no inclination
to listen to her. After laying out for some compliments of being
deeply regretted in their old neighbourhood, which Anne could not pay,
they had only a few faint enquiries to make, before the talk must be
all their own. Uppercross excited no interest, Kellynch very little:
it was all Bath.

They had the pleasure of assuring her that Bath more than answered
their expectations in every respect. Their house was undoubtedly
the best in Camden Place; their drawing-rooms had many decided advantages
over all the others which they had either seen or heard of,
and the superiority was not less in the style of the fitting-up,
or the taste of the furniture. Their acquaintance was
exceedingly sought after. Everybody was wanting to visit them.
They had drawn back from many introductions, and still were
perpetually having cards left by people of whom they knew nothing.

Here were funds of enjoyment. Could Anne wonder that her father
and sister were happy? She might not wonder, but she must sigh
that her father should feel no degradation in his change, should see
nothing to regret in the duties and dignity of the resident landholder,
should find so much to be vain of in the littlenesses of a town;
and she must sigh, and smile, and wonder too, as Elizabeth threw open
the folding-doors and walked with exultation from one drawing-room
to the other, boasting of their space; at the possibility of that woman,
who had been mistress of Kellynch Hall, finding extent to be proud of
between two walls, perhaps thirty feet asunder.

But this was not all which they had to make them happy.
They had Mr Elliot too. Anne had a great deal to hear of Mr Elliot.
He was not only pardoned, they were delighted with him.
He had been in Bath about a fortnight; (he had passed through Bath
in November, in his way to London, when the intelligence of
Sir Walter's being settled there had of course reached him,
though only twenty-four hours in the place, but he had not been able
to avail himself of it;) but he had now been a fortnight in Bath,
and his first object on arriving, had been to leave his card
in Camden Place, following it up by such assiduous endeavours to meet,
and when they did meet, by such great openness of conduct,
such readiness to apologize for the past, such solicitude to be received
as a relation again, that their former good understanding
was completely re-established.

They had not a fault to find in him. He had explained away
all the appearance of neglect on his own side. It had originated
in misapprehension entirely. He had never had an idea of
throwing himself off; he had feared that he was thrown off,
but knew not why, and delicacy had kept him silent. Upon the hint
of having spoken disrespectfully or carelessly of the family
and the family honours, he was quite indignant. He, who had ever boasted
of being an Elliot, and whose feelings, as to connection,
were only too strict to suit the unfeudal tone of the present day.
He was astonished, indeed, but his character and general conduct
must refute it. He could refer Sir Walter to all who knew him;
and certainly, the pains he had been taking on this, the first opportunity
of reconciliation, to be restored to the footing of a relation
and heir-presumptive, was a strong proof of his opinions on the subject.

The circumstances of his marriage, too, were found to admit of
much extenuation. This was an article not to be entered on by himself;
but a very intimate friend of his, a Colonel Wallis, a highly
respectable man, perfectly the gentleman, (and not an ill-looking man,
Sir Walter added), who was living in very good style in Marlborough
Buildings, and had, at his own particular request, been admitted
to their acquaintance through Mr Elliot, had mentioned one or two things
relative to the marriage, which made a material difference
in the discredit of it.

Colonel Wallis had known Mr Elliot long, had been well acquainted
also with his wife, had perfectly understood the whole story.
She was certainly not a woman of family, but well educated,
accomplished, rich, and excessively in love with his friend.
There had been the charm. She had sought him. Without that attraction,
not all her money would have tempted Elliot, and Sir Walter was,
moreover, assured of her having been a very fine woman.
Here was a great deal to soften the business. A very fine woman
with a large fortune, in love with him! Sir Walter seemed to admit it
as complete apology; and though Elizabeth could not see the circumstance
in quite so favourable a light, she allowed it be a great extenuation.

Mr Elliot had called repeatedly, had dined with them once,
evidently delighted by the distinction of being asked, for they
gave no dinners in general; delighted, in short, by every proof
of cousinly notice, and placing his whole happiness in being
on intimate terms in Camden Place.

Anne listened, but without quite understanding it. Allowances,
large allowances, she knew, must be made for the ideas of those who spoke.
She heard it all under embellishment. All that sounded extravagant
or irrational in the progress of the reconciliation might have no origin
but in the language of the relators. Still, however, she had
the sensation of there being something more than immediately appeared,
in Mr Elliot's wishing, after an interval of so many years,
to be well received by them. In a worldly view, he had nothing to gain
by being on terms with Sir Walter; nothing to risk by a state of variance.
In all probability he was already the richer of the two,
and the Kellynch estate would as surely be his hereafter as the title.
A sensible man, and he had looked like a very sensible man,
why should it be an object to him? She could only offer one solution;
it was, perhaps, for Elizabeth's sake. There might really have been
a liking formerly, though convenience and accident had drawn him
a different way; and now that he could afford to please himself,
he might mean to pay his addresses to her. Elizabeth was certainly
very handsome, with well-bred, elegant manners, and her character
might never have been penetrated by Mr Elliot, knowing her but in public,
and when very young himself. How her temper and understanding
might bear the investigation of his present keener time of life
was another concern and rather a fearful one. Most earnestly did she wish
that he might not be too nice, or too observant if Elizabeth
were his object; and that Elizabeth was disposed to believe herself so,
and that her friend Mrs Clay was encouraging the idea, seemed apparent
by a glance or two between them, while Mr Elliot's frequent visits
were talked of.

Anne mentioned the glimpses she had had of him at Lyme, but without
being much attended to. "Oh! yes, perhaps, it had been Mr Elliot.
They did not know. It might be him, perhaps." They could not listen
to her description of him. They were describing him themselves;
Sir Walter especially. He did justice to his very gentlemanlike
appearance, his air of elegance and fashion, his good shaped face,
his sensible eye; but, at the same time, "must lament his being
very much under-hung, a defect which time seemed to have increased;
nor could he pretend to say that ten years had not altered
almost every feature for the worse. Mr Elliot appeared to think
that he (Sir Walter) was looking exactly as he had done when
they last parted;" but Sir Walter had "not been able to return
the compliment entirely, which had embarrassed him. He did not mean
to complain, however. Mr Elliot was better to look at than most men,
and he had no objection to being seen with him anywhere."

Mr Elliot, and his friends in Marlborough Buildings, were talked of
the whole evening. "Colonel Wallis had been so impatient to be
introduced to them! and Mr Elliot so anxious that he should!"
and there was a Mrs Wallis, at present known only to them by description,
as she was in daily expectation of her confinement; but Mr Elliot
spoke of her as "a most charming woman, quite worthy of being known
in Camden Place," and as soon as she recovered they were to be acquainted.
Sir Walter thought much of Mrs Wallis; she was said to be
an excessively pretty woman, beautiful. "He longed to see her.
He hoped she might make some amends for the many very plain faces
he was continually passing in the streets. The worst of Bath was
the number of its plain women. He did not mean to say that there were
no pretty women, but the number of the plain was out of all proportion.
He had frequently observed, as he walked, that one handsome face
would be followed by thirty, or five-and-thirty frights; and once,
as he had stood in a shop on Bond Street, he had counted
eighty-seven women go by, one after another, without there being
a tolerable face among them. It had been a frosty morning,
to be sure, a sharp frost, which hardly one woman in a thousand
could stand the test of. But still, there certainly were
a dreadful multitude of ugly women in Bath; and as for the men!
they were infinitely worse. Such scarecrows as the streets were full of!
It was evident how little the women were used to the sight of anything
tolerable, by the effect which a man of decent appearance produced.
He had never walked anywhere arm-in-arm with Colonel Wallis
(who was a fine military figure, though sandy-haired) without observing
that every woman's eye was upon him; every woman's eye was sure to be
upon Colonel Wallis." Modest Sir Walter! He was not allowed
to escape, however. His daughter and Mrs Clay united in hinting
that Colonel Wallis's companion might have as good a figure
as Colonel Wallis, and certainly was not sandy-haired.

"How is Mary looking?" said Sir Walter, in the height of his good humour.
"The last time I saw her she had a red nose, but I hope that may not
happen every day."

"Oh! no, that must have been quite accidental. In general she has been
in very good health and very good looks since Michaelmas."

"If I thought it would not tempt her to go out in sharp winds,
and grow coarse, I would send her a new hat and pelisse."

Anne was considering whether she should venture to suggest that a gown,
or a cap, would not be liable to any such misuse, when a knock at the door
suspended everything. "A knock at the door! and so late!
It was ten o'clock. Could it be Mr Elliot? They knew he was to dine
in Lansdown Crescent. It was possible that he might stop in his way home
to ask them how they did. They could think of no one else.
Mrs Clay decidedly thought it Mr Elliot's knock." Mrs Clay was right.
With all the state which a butler and foot-boy could give,
Mr Elliot was ushered into the room.

It was the same, the very same man, with no difference but of dress.
Anne drew a little back, while the others received his compliments,
and her sister his apologies for calling at so unusual an hour,
but "he could not be so near without wishing to know that neither she
nor her friend had taken cold the day before," &c. &c; which was
all as politely done, and as politely taken, as possible, but her part
must follow then. Sir Walter talked of his youngest daughter;
"Mr Elliot must give him leave to present him to his youngest daughter"
(there was no occasion for remembering Mary); and Anne, smiling and
blushing, very becomingly shewed to Mr Elliot the pretty features
which he had by no means forgotten, and instantly saw, with amusement
at his little start of surprise, that he had not been at all aware
of who she was. He looked completely astonished, but not more astonished
than pleased; his eyes brightened! and with the most perfect alacrity
he welcomed the relationship, alluded to the past, and entreated
to be received as an acquaintance already. He was quite as good-looking
as he had appeared at Lyme, his countenance improved by speaking,
and his manners were so exactly what they ought to be, so polished,
so easy, so particularly agreeable, that she could compare them
in excellence to only one person's manners. They were not the same,
but they were, perhaps, equally good.

He sat down with them, and improved their conversation very much.
There could be no doubt of his being a sensible man. Ten minutes
were enough to certify that. His tone, his expressions,
his choice of subject, his knowing where to stop; it was all
the operation of a sensible, discerning mind. As soon as he could,
he began to talk to her of Lyme, wanting to compare opinions
respecting the place, but especially wanting to speak of the circumstance
of their happening to be guests in the same inn at the same time;
to give his own route, understand something of hers, and regret that
he should have lost such an opportunity of paying his respects to her.
She gave him a short account of her party and business at Lyme.
His regret increased as he listened. He had spent his whole
solitary evening in the room adjoining theirs; had heard voices,
mirth continually; thought they must be a most delightful set of people,
longed to be with them, but certainly without the smallest suspicion
of his possessing the shadow of a right to introduce himself.
If he had but asked who the party were! The name of Musgrove would
have told him enough. "Well, it would serve to cure him of
an absurd practice of never asking a question at an inn,
which he had adopted, when quite a young man, on the principal
of its being very ungenteel to be curious.

"The notions of a young man of one or two and twenty," said he,
"as to what is necessary in manners to make him quite the thing,
are more absurd, I believe, than those of any other set of beings
in the world. The folly of the means they often employ
is only to be equalled by the folly of what they have in view."

But he must not be addressing his reflections to Anne alone:
he knew it; he was soon diffused again among the others,
and it was only at intervals that he could return to Lyme.

His enquiries, however, produced at length an account of the scene
she had been engaged in there, soon after his leaving the place.
Having alluded to "an accident," he must hear the whole.
When he questioned, Sir Walter and Elizabeth began to question also,
but the difference in their manner of doing it could not be unfelt.
She could only compare Mr Elliot to Lady Russell, in the wish
of really comprehending what had passed, and in the degree of concern
for what she must have suffered in witnessing it.

He staid an hour with them. The elegant little clock on the mantel-
piece had struck "eleven with its silver sounds," and the watchman
was beginning to be heard at a distance telling the same tale,
before Mr Elliot or any of them seemed to feel that he had been there long.

Anne could not have supposed it possible that her first evening in
Camden Place could have passed so well!

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