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Home -> Jane Austen -> Persuasion -> Chapter 7

Persuasion - Chapter 7

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 7

A very few days more, and Captain Wentworth was known to be at Kellynch,
and Mr Musgrove had called on him, and come back warm in his praise,
and he was engaged with the Crofts to dine at Uppercross,
by the end of another week. It had been a great disappointment
to Mr Musgrove to find that no earlier day could be fixed,
so impatient was he to shew his gratitude, by seeing Captain Wentworth
under his own roof, and welcoming him to all that was strongest
and best in his cellars. But a week must pass; only a week,
in Anne's reckoning, and then, she supposed, they must meet;
and soon she began to wish that she could feel secure even for a week.

Captain Wentworth made a very early return to Mr Musgrove's civility,
and she was all but calling there in the same half hour.
She and Mary were actually setting forward for the Great House,
where, as she afterwards learnt, they must inevitably have found him,
when they were stopped by the eldest boy's being at that moment
brought home in consequence of a bad fall. The child's situation
put the visit entirely aside; but she could not hear of her escape
with indifference, even in the midst of the serious anxiety
which they afterwards felt on his account.

His collar-bone was found to be dislocated, and such injury
received in the back, as roused the most alarming ideas.
It was an afternoon of distress, and Anne had every thing to do at once;
the apothecary to send for, the father to have pursued and informed,
the mother to support and keep from hysterics, the servants to control,
the youngest child to banish, and the poor suffering one to attend
and soothe; besides sending, as soon as she recollected it,
proper notice to the other house, which brought her an accession
rather of frightened, enquiring companions, than of very useful assistants.

Her brother's return was the first comfort; he could take best care
of his wife; and the second blessing was the arrival of the apothecary.
Till he came and had examined the child, their apprehensions were
the worse for being vague; they suspected great injury, but knew not where;
but now the collar-bone was soon replaced, and though Mr Robinson
felt and felt, and rubbed, and looked grave, and spoke low words
both to the father and the aunt, still they were all to hope the best,
and to be able to part and eat their dinner in tolerable ease of mind;
and then it was, just before they parted, that the two young aunts
were able so far to digress from their nephew's state, as to give
the information of Captain Wentworth's visit; staying five minutes behind
their father and mother, to endeavour to express how perfectly delighted
they were with him, how much handsomer, how infinitely more agreeable
they thought him than any individual among their male acquaintance,
who had been at all a favourite before. How glad they had been
to hear papa invite him to stay dinner, how sorry when he said
it was quite out of his power, and how glad again when he had promised
in reply to papa and mamma's farther pressing invitations to come
and dine with them on the morrow--actually on the morrow;
and he had promised it in so pleasant a manner, as if he felt
all the motive of their attention just as he ought. And in short,
he had looked and said everything with such exquisite grace,
that they could assure them all, their heads were both turned by him;
and off they ran, quite as full of glee as of love, and apparently
more full of Captain Wentworth than of little Charles.

The same story and the same raptures were repeated, when the two girls came
with their father, through the gloom of the evening, to make enquiries;
and Mr Musgrove, no longer under the first uneasiness about his heir,
could add his confirmation and praise, and hope there would be now
no occasion for putting Captain Wentworth off, and only be sorry to think
that the cottage party, probably, would not like to leave the little boy,
to give him the meeting. "Oh no; as to leaving the little boy,"
both father and mother were in much too strong and recent alarm
to bear the thought; and Anne, in the joy of the escape,
could not help adding her warm protestations to theirs.

Charles Musgrove, indeed, afterwards, shewed more of inclination;
"the child was going on so well, and he wished so much to be introduced
to Captain Wentworth, that, perhaps, he might join them in the evening;
he would not dine from home, but he might walk in for half an hour."
But in this he was eagerly opposed by his wife, with "Oh! no, indeed,
Charles, I cannot bear to have you go away. Only think if anything
should happen?"

The child had a good night, and was going on well the next day.
It must be a work of time to ascertain that no injury had been
done to the spine; but Mr Robinson found nothing to increase alarm,
and Charles Musgrove began, consequently, to feel no necessity
for longer confinement. The child was to be kept in bed and amused
as quietly as possible; but what was there for a father to do?
This was quite a female case, and it would be highly absurd in him,
who could be of no use at home, to shut himself up. His father
very much wished him to meet Captain Wentworth, and there being
no sufficient reason against it, he ought to go; and it ended in his
making a bold, public declaration, when he came in from shooting,
of his meaning to dress directly, and dine at the other house.

"Nothing can be going on better than the child," said he;
"so I told my father, just now, that I would come, and he thought me
quite right. Your sister being with you, my love, I have no scruple at all.
You would not like to leave him yourself, but you see I can be of no use.
Anne will send for me if anything is the matter."

Husbands and wives generally understand when opposition will be vain.
Mary knew, from Charles's manner of speaking, that he was
quite determined on going, and that it would be of no use to teaze him.
She said nothing, therefore, till he was out of the room,
but as soon as there was only Anne to hear--

"So you and I are to be left to shift by ourselves, with this
poor sick child; and not a creature coming near us all the evening!
I knew how it would be. This is always my luck. If there is
anything disagreeable going on men are always sure to get out of it,
and Charles is as bad as any of them. Very unfeeling! I must say
it is very unfeeling of him to be running away from his poor little boy.
Talks of his being going on so well! How does he know that he is
going on well, or that there may not be a sudden change half an hour hence?
I did not think Charles would have been so unfeeling. So here he is to
go away and enjoy himself, and because I am the poor mother,
I am not to be allowed to stir; and yet, I am sure, I am more unfit
than anybody else to be about the child. My being the mother
is the very reason why my feelings should not be tried. I am not at all
equal to it. You saw how hysterical I was yesterday."

"But that was only the effect of the suddenness of your alarm--
of the shock. You will not be hysterical again. I dare say we shall have
nothing to distress us. I perfectly understand Mr Robinson's directions,
and have no fears; and indeed, Mary, I cannot wonder at your husband.
Nursing does not belong to a man; it is not his province.
A sick child is always the mother's property: her own feelings
generally make it so."

"I hope I am as fond of my child as any mother, but I do not know
that I am of any more use in the sick-room than Charles,
for I cannot be always scolding and teazing the poor child when it is ill;
and you saw, this morning, that if I told him to keep quiet,
he was sure to begin kicking about. I have not nerves
for the sort of thing."

"But, could you be comfortable yourself, to be spending
the whole evening away from the poor boy?"

"Yes; you see his papa can, and why should not I? Jemima is so careful;
and she could send us word every hour how he was. I really think
Charles might as well have told his father we would all come.
I am not more alarmed about little Charles now than he is.
I was dreadfully alarmed yesterday, but the case is very different to-day."

"Well, if you do not think it too late to give notice for yourself,
suppose you were to go, as well as your husband. Leave little Charles
to my care. Mr and Mrs Musgrove cannot think it wrong while I remain
with him."

"Are you serious?" cried Mary, her eyes brightening. "Dear me!
that's a very good thought, very good, indeed. To be sure,
I may just as well go as not, for I am of no use at home--am I?
and it only harasses me. You, who have not a mother's feelings,
are a great deal the properest person. You can make little Charles
do anything; he always minds you at a word. It will be a great deal better
than leaving him only with Jemima. Oh! I shall certainly go;
I am sure I ought if I can, quite as much as Charles, for they want me
excessively to be acquainted with Captain Wentworth, and I know
you do not mind being left alone. An excellent thought of yours,
indeed, Anne. I will go and tell Charles, and get ready directly.
You can send for us, you know, at a moment's notice, if anything
is the matter; but I dare say there will be nothing to alarm you.
I should not go, you may be sure, if I did not feel quite at ease
about my dear child."

The next moment she was tapping at her husband's dressing-room door,
and as Anne followed her up stairs, she was in time for
the whole conversation, which began with Mary's saying,
in a tone of great exultation--

"I mean to go with you, Charles, for I am of no more use at home
than you are. If I were to shut myself up for ever with the child,
I should not be able to persuade him to do anything he did not like.
Anne will stay; Anne undertakes to stay at home and take care of him.
It is Anne's own proposal, and so I shall go with you, which will be
a great deal better, for I have not dined at the other house since Tuesday."

"This is very kind of Anne," was her husband's answer, "and I should be
very glad to have you go; but it seems rather hard that she should be
left at home by herself, to nurse our sick child."

Anne was now at hand to take up her own cause, and the sincerity
of her manner being soon sufficient to convince him, where conviction
was at least very agreeable, he had no farther scruples as to her being
left to dine alone, though he still wanted her to join them in the evening,
when the child might be at rest for the night, and kindly urged her
to let him come and fetch her, but she was quite unpersuadable;
and this being the case, she had ere long the pleasure of seeing them
set off together in high spirits. They were gone, she hoped,
to be happy, however oddly constructed such happiness might seem;
as for herself, she was left with as many sensations of comfort,
as were, perhaps, ever likely to be hers. She knew herself to be
of the first utility to the child; and what was it to her
if Frederick Wentworth were only half a mile distant, making himself
agreeable to others?

She would have liked to know how he felt as to a meeting.
Perhaps indifferent, if indifference could exist under such circumstances.
He must be either indifferent or unwilling. Had he wished
ever to see her again, he need not have waited till this time;
he would have done what she could not but believe that in his place
she should have done long ago, when events had been early giving him
the independence which alone had been wanting.

Her brother and sister came back delighted with their new acquaintance,
and their visit in general. There had been music, singing,
talking, laughing, all that was most agreeable; charming manners
in Captain Wentworth, no shyness or reserve; they seemed all
to know each other perfectly, and he was coming the very next morning
to shoot with Charles. He was to come to breakfast, but not at the Cottage,
though that had been proposed at first; but then he had been pressed
to come to the Great House instead, and he seemed afraid of being
in Mrs Charles Musgrove's way, on account of the child, and therefore,
somehow, they hardly knew how, it ended in Charles's being to meet him
to breakfast at his father's.

Anne understood it. He wished to avoid seeing her. He had inquired
after her, she found, slightly, as might suit a former slight acquaintance,
seeming to acknowledge such as she had acknowledged, actuated, perhaps,
by the same view of escaping introduction when they were to meet.

The morning hours of the Cottage were always later than those
of the other house, and on the morrow the difference was so great
that Mary and Anne were not more than beginning breakfast when
Charles came in to say that they were just setting off, that he was
come for his dogs, that his sisters were following with Captain Wentworth;
his sisters meaning to visit Mary and the child, and Captain Wentworth
proposing also to wait on her for a few minutes if not inconvenient;
and though Charles had answered for the child's being in no such state
as could make it inconvenient, Captain Wentworth would not be satisfied
without his running on to give notice.

Mary, very much gratified by this attention, was delighted to receive him,
while a thousand feelings rushed on Anne, of which this was
the most consoling, that it would soon be over. And it was soon over.
In two minutes after Charles's preparation, the others appeared;
they were in the drawing-room. Her eye half met Captain Wentworth's,
a bow, a curtsey passed; she heard his voice; he talked to Mary,
said all that was right, said something to the Miss Musgroves,
enough to mark an easy footing; the room seemed full, full of persons
and voices, but a few minutes ended it. Charles shewed himself
at the window, all was ready, their visitor had bowed and was gone,
the Miss Musgroves were gone too, suddenly resolving to walk
to the end of the village with the sportsmen: the room was cleared,
and Anne might finish her breakfast as she could.

"It is over! it is over!" she repeated to herself again and again,
in nervous gratitude. "The worst is over!"

Mary talked, but she could not attend. She had seen him.
They had met. They had been once more in the same room.

Soon, however, she began to reason with herself, and try to be feeling less.
Eight years, almost eight years had passed, since all had been given up.
How absurd to be resuming the agitation which such an interval
had banished into distance and indistinctness! What might not
eight years do? Events of every description, changes, alienations,
removals--all, all must be comprised in it, and oblivion of the past--
how natural, how certain too! It included nearly a third part
of her own life.

Alas! with all her reasoning, she found, that to retentive feelings
eight years may be little more than nothing.

Now, how were his sentiments to be read? Was this like
wishing to avoid her? And the next moment she was hating herself
for the folly which asked the question.

On one other question which perhaps her utmost wisdom
might not have prevented, she was soon spared all suspense;
for, after the Miss Musgroves had returned and finished their visit
at the Cottage she had this spontaneous information from Mary: --

"Captain Wentworth is not very gallant by you, Anne, though he was
so attentive to me. Henrietta asked him what he thought of you,
when they went away, and he said, `You were so altered he should not
have known you again.'"

Mary had no feelings to make her respect her sister's in a common way,
but she was perfectly unsuspicious of being inflicting any peculiar wound.

"Altered beyond his knowledge." Anne fully submitted, in silent,
deep mortification. Doubtless it was so, and she could take no revenge,
for he was not altered, or not for the worse. She had already
acknowledged it to herself, and she could not think differently,
let him think of her as he would. No: the years which had destroyed
her youth and bloom had only given him a more glowing, manly,
open look, in no respect lessening his personal advantages.
She had seen the same Frederick Wentworth.

"So altered that he should not have known her again!" These were words
which could not but dwell with her. Yet she soon began to rejoice
that she had heard them. They were of sobering tendency;
they allayed agitation; they composed, and consequently must
make her happier.

Frederick Wentworth had used such words, or something like them,
but without an idea that they would be carried round to her.
He had thought her wretchedly altered, and in the first moment of appeal,
had spoken as he felt. He had not forgiven Anne Elliot.
She had used him ill, deserted and disappointed him; and worse,
she had shewn a feebleness of character in doing so, which his own decided,
confident temper could not endure. She had given him up to oblige others.
It had been the effect of over-persuasion. It had been
weakness and timidity.

He had been most warmly attached to her, and had never seen a woman since
whom he thought her equal; but, except from some natural sensation
of curiosity, he had no desire of meeting her again. Her power with him
was gone for ever.

It was now his object to marry. He was rich, and being turned on shore,
fully intended to settle as soon as he could be properly tempted;
actually looking round, ready to fall in love with all the speed
which a clear head and a quick taste could allow. He had a heart
for either of the Miss Musgroves, if they could catch it; a heart,
in short, for any pleasing young woman who came in his way,
excepting Anne Elliot. This was his only secret exception,
when he said to his sister, in answer to her suppositions:--

"Yes, here I am, Sophia, quite ready to make a foolish match.
Anybody between fifteen and thirty may have me for asking.
A little beauty, and a few smiles, and a few compliments to the navy,
and I am a lost man. Should not this be enough for a sailor,
who has had no society among women to make him nice?"

He said it, she knew, to be contradicted. His bright proud eye
spoke the conviction that he was nice; and Anne Elliot was
not out of his thoughts, when he more seriously described
the woman he should wish to meet with. "A strong mind,
with sweetness of manner," made the first and the last of the description.

"That is the woman I want," said he. "Something a little inferior
I shall of course put up with, but it must not be much. If I am a fool,
I shall be a fool indeed, for I have thought on the subject
more than most men."

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