“Sir Walter, his two daughters, and Mrs Clay, were the earliest of all their party at the rooms in the evening; and as Lady Dalrymple must be waited for, they took their station by one of the fires in the Octagon Room. But hardly were they so settled, when the door opened again, and Captain Wentworth walked in alone.”
Upon his entrance to the concert hall, Captain Wentworth paused to survey his surroundings. The gallery was opulent, as was expected, and the many people in attendance were all dressed in their finest, gathered in their respective groups while they likely discussed the performance ahead.
As he began his advance further into the room, his eyes lit upon Anne, who stood with her father and her sister near the far corner. She must have noticed him when he walked through the entry since she continued to observe him as he made his way through the crowd.
Would she attempt to speak with him? If she tried, would her father allow the conversation?
His gut twisted with anxiety as he drew nearer. A small bow should suffice as an acknowledgement, should it not? If Anne wished to speak with him, she would have to approach him. He would not harm her relationship with her family—not that they were worthy of Anne. She was far superior a creature!
Captain Wentworth drew close and she took a small step forward. She was indeed approaching him! He halted when he heard her sweet voice beckon, “How do you do?” He indicated he was well, and when he was acknowledged by Sir Walter and Miss Elliot, he bowed.
Between them both, they swiftly covered all of the niceties of polite discourse: the weather, Bath, and the concert ahead. As their conversation flagged, he began to despair. Could this be all they had to say to one another? Lyme! Of course, he should mention Lyme!
“I have hardly seen you since our day at Lyme. I am afraid you must have suffered from the shock, and the more from its not overpowering you at the time.” Pleasure soared within him as they spoke of their shared experiences, progressing from Louisa Musgrove’s unfortunate accident to her betrothal to Captain Benwick.
Something within Anne’s eyes was disturbed upon the mention of the upcoming nuptials. He had witnessed many emotions cross her face, and had catalogued each within his memory, and this appeared almost a sadness. Could she believe he harboured an attachment to Louisa? Despite the resentment he had carried within his heart for all of these years, he could not allow her to be so affected by a mistaken notion.
“…A man like him, in his situation! with a heart pierced, wounded, almost broken! Fanny Harville was a very superior creature, and his attachment to her was indeed attachment. A man does not recover from such a devotion of the heart to such a woman. He ought not; he does not.”
There! He had given a hint of his innermost thoughts and feelings, but would she understand?
The shadow lifted, but she pressed forward and lengthened their discussion. His keen ears registered the low tones of Sir Walter and Miss Elliot behind Anne, but he paid them no heed. While he maintained Anne’s attention, he would not be distracted by their inane prattle.
“I should very much like to see Lyme again,” said Anne.
How she surprised him! Would she wish to return for the sights, or because the location held memories of him? Oh, how he wished it were the latter!
“…One does not love a place the less for having suffered in it, unless it has been all suffering, nothing but suffering, which was by no means the case at Lyme…”
Could she feel the same in regards to her past with him? If only…
Sir Walter and Miss Elliot gave him a start when with haste, they ripped Anne from him to meet Lady Dalrymple. Captain Wentworth had not even heard her announced, yet when he turned, Sir Walter and Miss Elliot were greeting the newcomer with a condescension not often seen from the baronet and his eldest daughter.
Anne glanced back to him, but in all politeness, could not escape her present situation. Her attention returned to her party, and he ventured on to the Concert Room with the hopes he might be afforded the opportunity to speak with her again before the end of the evening.
Patiently he waited, revisiting their conversation; her words dissected and examined for any glimpse of affection for him. When she entered the Concert Room, he observed her with great care. Her eyes were bright and her cheeks glowed. Her expression was easily discernible to him. She was happy—exceedingly happy.
Her vibrant eyes searched the room and a small wrinkle knit her brow. Could she be seeking him? If that be the case, he could die a happy man!
His heart soared and then just as swiftly plummeted when she was seated beside none other than Mr. Elliot: Mr. Elliot from Lyme, Mr. Elliot from the teashop, Mr. Elliot who would inherit her father’s title, Mr. Elliot who Sir Walter was certain to deem more worthy than a wealthy sea captain with no connexions of significance.
With envy, his gaze remained on his beloved throughout the entirety of the first act. Mr. Elliot showed Anne every attention allowable during the performance, and the two began to speak near the end of the act.
Captain Wentworth’s agony became more and more acute as Anne’s smiles and kindness were directed at Mr. Elliot rather than himself, and he seethed with jealousy as he followed them to the Octagon Room.
He sulked in the periphery, watching Anne as she took tea with her party. It was then that he heard the whispers from behind.
“I hear Sir Walter has welcomed Mr. Elliot with open arms.”
“There will soon be an Elliot wedding. I am certain of it!”
His eyes darted back to Anne as his hands clenched at his sides. He could not remain and watch as she was courted by another! Visions of her marrying Mr. Elliot flooded his mind, followed by one of her holding a child, Mr. Elliot protectively at her side.
Blast! He was too late!
Upon the Elliot’s return to the concert hall, Captain Wentworth took a seat near the back, yet he could not abide to spend the next hour in abject misery. It was not to be borne! He rose and made his way to her.
“I must wish you a good night; I must be going. I should return home as soon as can be managed.“
“Is not this song worth staying for?”
“No!” he replied impressively, “there is nothing worth my staying for;” and he departed directly.
With a set jaw and unsettled mind, his feet carried him with purpose in the direction of the Croft’s, yet he had no idea of his surroundings since he could not cease the tormenting thoughts of Anne.
When he had first laid eyes upon her in Charles Musgrove’s cottage at Uppercross, his stubborn anger had shoved aside the overwhelming urge to take her in his arms, and he had allowed it, a part of him wanting to prove that he had not pined for her during those past eight years.
Rather than ascertain if she had longed for him as he had her, he paid Louisa Musgrove attention that he would not have bestowed under normal circumstances. What a wretched mistake! Now, he would pay dearly for his bitterness of spirit—dearly indeed.
Captain Wentworth halted and looked about in order to discern his location. He took a deep breath in an attempt to steady himself and not lose his composure there on the pavement.
The time had come to relegate Anne to the past and look to the future—to live his life. He would have no choice but to endure her presence on occasion as he concluded his business in Bath, and he would do so with equanimity. Then, he would depart and leave her to her life, because he could not bear to play the part of a spectator as she wed Mr. Elliot.
With any luck, he would be far from Bath when her engagement was announced. He would never lay eyes on Anne Elliot again.
Want to refresh your memory with Jane’s Austen’s original work? Read Persuasion on Austen variations HERE.