The following morning Anne was out with her friend, and for the first hour, in an incessant and fearful sort of watch for him in vain; but at last, in returning down Pulteney Street, she distinguished him on the right hand pavement at such a distance as to have him in view the greater part of the street. There were many other men about him, many groups walking the same way, but there was no mistaking him…
With all Anne’s concern about what Lady Russell would say when she finally noticed him, the lady said nothing at all.
Anne sighed and blushed and smiled, in pity and disdain, either at her friend or herself. The part which provoked her most, was that in all this waste of foresight and caution, she should have lost the right moment for seeing whether he saw them.
Persuasion, Chapter 19
Wentworth tightened the buckle on his boots and then leaned back into the chair. As he drew in a breath, his eyes rolled up and he shook his head. His hands were clenched, and his fingernails were digging into his palm.
He could not stop thinking about his encounter with Anne the day before at Molland’s in Milsom Street. He had been so startled, so completely taken by surprise. Had she noticed his discomfiture? His heart had pounded so ferociously in the encounter that he had barely been able to conjure a thought, let alone express it.
What had he said? He remembered feeling awkward when he mentioned Louisa and wondered what Anne felt about the news that she was going to marry Benwick. Did she feel he had behaved inappropriately towards the young lady?
He shook his head as he recollected how Anne’s sister had slighted him. Miss Elliot had refused to acknowledge him, even though it was clear she had both seen and recognized him.
“Frederick, are you certain you do not want to go out with us?” Sophia stood at the door to the drawing room. “You seem quite preoccupied with something. Perhaps getting out will do you some good.” She encouraged him with a smile. “It is a beautiful day. No rain.”
“Thank you, no. I think I shall take a walk later.”
“All right. We will not be too long.”
She gave him a quick wave and disappeared.
He rubbed his jaw. Rain. Yes, he had offered Anne his umbrella yesterday. He let out a breath, almost a sigh of relief. At least he had done something proper.
He pushed himself up from the chair and walked to the window where he leaned against the wall and gazed out. She had looked lovely. But it had been seeing her with her cousin, Mr. Elliot that had him most irritated. He was the gentleman they had seen on the Cobb; the one who had openly admired her. Why was he here in Bath? Why was he with Anne? A tremor passed through him as he considered Mr. Elliot might be courting her. The ladies in his party yesterday certainly thought as much. They said she had been seen quite often with him.
He raked his fingers through his hair and marched to the door. He needed a walk to clear his mind.
He stepped out and took in a deep breath. The fresh air from yesterday’s rain felt good as it filled his lungs. He came to a stop at the edge of the street, trying to decide which way to go.
He shrugged his shoulders and turned to the right. It mattered not, as he would see nothing but the scene from yesterday playing over and over in his mind.
He found himself on Pultenay Street and realized he was searching the many faces he passed, hoping for a glimpse of Anne. How he wished to see her again. This time he would be more at ease, more…
He started as he saw Anne walking his way. Had she seen him? He was not certain, as the street was bustling with people. She likely was not watching for him as he had been watching for her. She merely kept her eyes turned towards the woman at her side.
He felt his anger rise when he realized it was Lady Russell. He clenched his jaw as he considered all that woman had done and how gravely it had affected him. He knew not whether Anne felt any lingering regret over how the woman had prompted her to break off their engagement. If only he knew.
At length, Lady Russell met his gaze. Their eyes remained locked for some time, as if she were taking in every detail about him. Then she quickly turned her gaze to the windows they were passing. If Anne had seen him, she did not acknowledge him.
“Why did I even bother to come to Bath?” he asked himself, kicking a rock off into the street in disgust. If only he would receive some sign from her, some encouraging word or look to give him hope in his agony!
He would only be satisfied if he could spend some time with Anne alone – without her family, without Lady Russell, and particularly, without Mr. Elliot. He wondered if that would ever happen!
Want to refresh your memory with Jane’s Austen’s original work? Read Persuasion on Austen variations HERE.