The handsome and charming Mr. Elliot is very pleased with his progress and considers that he has Anne exactly where he wants her – eating out of his hand. But then, just when he’s about to close the deal, something goes awry. Unbeknownst to him, Anne has now learnt his true character by her visit to Mrs. Smith, and Mr. Elliot’s charm with her is forever broken. (reference chapters 20 – 22)
His first niggling doubt crept in.
Until that moment, Mr. Elliot’s confidence over soon securing his cousin to himself had been absolute. He had been dealt an excellent hand, after all – good looks, position within the family, smoothness of address – and he had played it flawlessly, if he did say so himself.
Looking back, he laughed when he thought of how effortless it had been for him to win over the father and the sister, although he doubted the sister would not have been quite so eager if he had not led her to believe that she was his object. And so it might have been. But then Anne Elliot arrived on the scene and everything had changed. It was immediately clear that he must direct his charm and considerable talents of persuasion at her.
He wished to win her over not only because he found her the more attractive prospect to be his second wife, but also because he recognized at once that she presented the most serious challenge to his plans of insinuating himself into the family. Whereas the others, even Lady Russell, had been easy to mollify, Anne was more wary by nature. He foresaw that her intelligence would not allow her to dismiss his past behavior as quickly as the others had. Yet even she had proved susceptible to his charms in the end. Little wonder, really, for the poor thing was so obviously starved for decent companionship, considering the meager fare she normally found at home. He had happily stepped in to fill that void.
“My idea of good company, Mr. Elliot, is the company of clever, well-informed people, who have a great deal of conversation; that is what I call good company.”
That was what Anne wanted, and that was what he provided her… along with a generous measure of flattery, which no woman he had yet encountered seemed able to resist. Ultimately, then, he’d had Anne eating out of his hand just like all the rest, the crowning touch coming at the concert where he had dropped that hint about being enamored with her by reputation from a time long before they met. He had not liked to see her talking to that other man earlier, that navy captain, but this inspired devise had brought her full attention back to himself, where it belonged, elevating her interest almost to a fever pitch. It was a stroke of pure genius.
Now something had gone decidedly off, however, and just when he had been on the verge of closing the deal too. Extremely vexing!
But what – or who – could be responsible for this turn? It could not be that uncouth sailor, could it? The only advantage that man held was his height, and surely something so superficial could carry no weight with woman as discerning as Anne Elliot. Besides, she had looked vexed with his behavior only the night before.
No, it must to be something else. Had he himself made a strategic error – said a word amiss or moved too quickly? Mr. Elliot searched his memory for some clue. Nothing, and yet her affection had apparently cooled overnight. Indeed, as Anne sat across from him now, she seemed hardly able to bear his presence, and he would have sworn she almost winced when he first approached and spoke to her.
The situation could not be irretrievable, however. He had enough faith in his own abilities to depend on that. A little more time would simply be required, and it was something he could spare without any serious inconvenience. After all, this campaign he waged was for the long haul, not for quick reward. Patience and persistence would eventually win the day. He had no doubt of it. But as for tonight, perhaps he could help his cause along a little by reanimating Anne’s curiosity over the matter which had so intrigued her before – the question of where and by whom he had formerly heard her praised.
“Have you solved my mystery yet, Miss Anne?” he asked.
“What mystery is that?” she replied without any particular interest.
“Why, the puzzle of under what circumstances I originally heard you spoken of with such admiration, of course. Have you guessed who my valuable informant was? I could perhaps be persuaded to give you some little hint, if you require one.”
Unfortunately for him, Mr. Elliot’s suggestion failed to produce the anticipated effect. He was quite distressed to see that, far from rekindling the lady’s curiosity, his reference to this unnamed person of their mutual acquaintance seemed inexplicably to have further annoyed her.
“Mr. Elliot,” she said curtly, “I do assure you that I neither desire nor require any hints of the kind. It might interest you to know that I have recently spoken with the lady to whom you refer with such fond remembrance. Strangely enough, she does not speak so well of you, sir.”
Anne rose and walked away without a backward glance, leaving Mr. Elliot for once speechless.
Want to refresh your memory with Jane’s Austen’s original work? Read Persuasion on Austen variations HERE.