“As they drew near the Cobb, there was such a general wish to walk along it once more, all were so inclined, and Louisa soon grew so determined, that the difference of a quarter of an hour, it was found, would be no difference at all…”
They were to depart for Uppercross at one. That was the latest that they dared leave Lyme, for in these short November days the darkness set in so early, that even a seventeen mile drive could not be performed in daylight otherwise. The Harvilles and Captain Benwick joined them for breakfast at the inn, and the whole party sauntered out together.
“My husband, you know, is lame, and I think that walking back to our house will be quite enough for him,” said Mrs. Harville apologetically. “He had better not go farther.”
“No, no, to be sure not,” said Captain Wentworth, “we will walk you back, and have our parting there. Are we not all agreed?”
But the Cobb exerted its charms once more: the bright morning sunshine turning the waves silvery, the cloud shadows skidding high over the beautiful cliffs, and the lure of the stone promontory from which the very best views over the harbour could be obtained.
“Oh! We must walk on the Cobb again,” cried Louisa impetuously.
“What a pity we cannot,” sighed Henrietta.
“Remember, Louisa, it would be too much for Captain Harville,” began her brother.
“Don’t let me spoil your pleasure,” Harville protested, “do, by all means, have another walk on top and don’t think of me. You won’t have such a sight again, for who knows how long.”
“It might be managed – do not you think so, Harville? Benwick? After we walk the Harvilles to their door, another brief look at the Cobb would not take so very much time,” said Captain Wentworth, loath to disappoint Louisa.
“Certainly you can manage that, a young party like you,” said Harville jovially, “it won’t take but another quarter of an hour, at most. By all means, I would wish you to take your pleasure in Lyme till the very last minute.”
So it was determined, and after very warm farewells to Mr. and Mrs. Harville and the little Harvilles, the party walked briskly back to the Cobb, Anne attended by Captain Benwick, Charles and Mary together, and Captain Wentworth with one Musgrove young lady on each arm.
The stairs were steep, and slippery; after Charles had helped Mary up and then down again, she declared herself tired of it, and sought a stone seat out of the high wind.
“Really that wind is too rough. It quite pierces me. It could blow you entirely off those stone stairs. I do really believe it is very dangerous, Charles.”
“Nonsense, nonsense, Mary. As long as one is careful.”
Captain Benwick assisted Anne, directing her where to place her feet so as to miss the slipperiness, and one ascent was enough for her. She sat down by Mary, and they were soon joined by Henrietta after she had her turn.
But one climb was not enough for Louisa. The most eager of the eager, she ran up the steep stairs and when she reached the top she spun around and around with exhilaration.
“I declare! It is so beautiful up here! You all ought to come up again!” she called back to the others, while Captain Wentworth tried to keep her from spinning like a top off the edge.
“Louisa! Come down right now. You will fall and hurt yourself. It is very dangerous. Make her, Charles, make her.”
“You can’t make Louisa do any thing she does not want to do, Mary, you know that,” said Charles. “She cannot be persuaded. She always was headstrong, from a girl.”
“Very obstinate,” said Henrietta, discomfited by seeing Captain Wentworth’s attentions to her sister. “She will always have her way. Though she is my sister, I must say it. She is positively wild sometimes.”
Captain Wentworth started down the stairs, to encourage Louisa to come down too, but she paused three steps up.
“You must jump me, Captain Wentworth,” she said with a beguiling smile. “Just as you do at all the stiles in our walks. Come now, hold out your arms and catch me!”
“It is slippery, I am afraid I might not catch you,” he warned.
“Nonsense! You sailors can do any thing! Are you ready?”
“Very well then.”
Louisa jumped, with Captain Wentworth grasping her about the waist. Even so she landed hard on her feet in their thin silk slippers, and he was concerned.
“Are you all right? Was that not too much of a jar for your feet?”
“No, you jumped me perfectly,” she said gaily, “you do every thing perfectly. Now you will do me once more,” and she ran up the stairs again before he could stop her.
“Louisa, no,” cried out both Mary and Charles. “You will be hurt!”
“It’s most unwise,” argued Captain Wentworth, “I am sure the jar was too much for you before. The rocks are slimy – what if your foot slips? You had better not.”
“I don’t like this,” murmured Captain Benwick to Anne, “she does not realize the danger.”
“She is so very determined,” said Anne, concerned. “Perhaps you ought to go and stand beside him, in case of any slip?”
“No, no, if there is anyone she can be trusted with, it is Frederick. He is so ready and capable, he will not let her hurt herself.”
“You are right,” said Anne, subsiding.
Captain Wentworth made one last attempt to remonstrate with Louisa. “We were lucky before, we might not be a next time,” he told her. “I beg you not to. Just walk down, as the other ladies did. Don’t jump.”
She smiled and shook her head. “I am determined I will,” she said. “Jump me! Jump me, Captain Wentworth! Jump me now!”
He put out his arms to clasp her waist, but she was too forward in launching herself out into the air, or perhaps her foot might slip. Whichever it was, her enthusiastic, foolish flight ended with a loud crack on the cobblestone. It was her head, and she lay insensible.
Want to refresh your memory with Jane’s Austen’s original work? Read Persuasion on Austen variations HERE.