After her discussion of Captain Wentworth’s looks and charm with her sister Louisa, Henrietta realizes that she must decide to whom she should give her love, the captain, or her cousin Charles, who she is more than half promised to.
Several days after her half-joking talk with her sister Louisa about Captain Wentworth, Henrietta Musgrove wrapped her shawl and a blanket around her nightdress and sat very quietly in the rocker before the still warm fire. Fortunately, there was a rag rug under the rockers to keep them from creaking on the wood floor, and she could even rock gently without waking Louisa (although Louisa was well known in the family to be virtually impossible to awaken once she was asleep!).
Since the night of their talk, the captain had dined with them three times and they had got up an informal hop on two of the evenings. The captain was charming, handsome, and undoubtedly looked very fine in his naval uniform…how unfortunate that he was not allowed to wear it off duty!…But then there was Charles.
Henrietta had known her cousin, Charles Hayter, her entire life and had decided two years previously that she felt more than cousinly affection for him. He was a few years older than she, her brother Charles’ age, actually, and studying for a degree at Oxford. He was his father’s heir, but had chosen to be ordained so that he would have a profession until he inherited the small manor and lands his father cared for so carefully.
She thought back on their relationship. She could tell that Charles admired her, and she had a respectable dowry promised her by her father. After considering the young men of their social group carefully, she decided that Charles would do. She did not feel a grand passion for her cousin, but he was amiable and his family lived very close to her own. His father’s lands were not extensive and the house was nothing to speak of…just an old farmhouse turned into an adequate manor house.
During this period, she had heard her brother Charles talking to Charles Hayter, discussing farming and crop rotation. He brother commented that Winthrop might be small, but it consisted of rich bottom land that would grow virtually anything, a fine piece of land to inherit. Cousin Charles had been gratified at his cousin’s praise. The Hayters were of much lower social stature than the Musgroves, and cousin Charles felt that difference keenly.
She knew her parents would support a marriage to her cousin, they were fond of the Hayters, after all. Marriage to Charles Hayter would be pleasant and not take her too far from her family.
But Charles was not exciting, as was Captain Wentworth. The captain could tell exciting stories about his time at sea…and would continue to have adventures as that was his personality. Excitement…far away places…gifts from exotic ports of call. But then, along with excitement and adventure, there went danger, the risk of death, the risk of leaving behind a destitute wife and family. She shuddered. She had not considered that aspect of being married to a sailor.
Nor had she previously considered the months, or even years alone while he was at sea. He had clearly expressed his dislike of having women on his ship and, despite Admiral Croft’s expressed opinion that he would change his mind once he was married, Henrietta was not so sure. The captain seemed quite…firm would be the word…about his opinions and quite forthright in his expression in them.
And then there was Louisa. It would be unfair to attract the two most eligible gentlemen, only to break the heart of one…and leave her sister without a husband. Louisa had been working very hard to steal the captain’s heart, although with what intent Henrietta did not know. She did everything she could to make herself attractive to him and to agree with his every opinion…as every young lady should do when of an age to marry. But Henrietta did not know how she really felt. Was this just an enjoyable romp…or a serious desire to attach him?
Oh, what to do? Safe, kind, familiar Charles Hayter…or exciting, adventurous Captain Wentworth? She saw again Charles’ face when he saw her dancing with the captain tonight after being gone for 2 Sundays. He had stared at them with an expression as if he had just tried an unripe persimmon. He had almost been rude when introduced to Captain Wentworth. Perhaps he was jealous! A little jealousy might ginger up his courting and bring things to the point, it was true. But did she want them to come to a point?
Henrietta heard Louisa turn over in the bed, and realized that the house was silent (except for her father’s snoring far down the hall) and shivered. The heat was gone out of the coals in the fireplace and a cold draft was coming down from the chimney. It was time to crawl back into bed before she caught a chills.
She still did not know which gentleman she favored most, but she felt that she had clarified the differences. She must now observe them and make a decision as to which she preferred. And Louisa? Well, she was her sister and she loved her, but she could not allow that to change her decision in such an important matter. She would like for them both to be happy, but they must choose their own courses.
Want to refresh your memory with Jane’s Austen’s original work? Read Persuasion on Austen variations HERE.