The young people from Uppercross travel to Lyme to visit two of Captain Wentworth’s fellow officers. After a pleasant day, Captains Harville and Benwick send the guests off to their inn and sit down for a talk about their friends, new and old.
Captain Harville tamped the tobacco down in his pipe, then lit a spill and attempted to ignite the pipe. His wife came in with two glasses of ale on a small tray, and waved her hand in front of her face to diffuse the acrid smoke.
“Timothy Harville! Must you smoke that foul thing in the house? Your children will be mistaken for factory children when next they go out reeking of smoke!” Her hand on his shoulder diffused the harshness of her words.
Benwick smiled at his hostess, and spoke diffidently. “My dear Mrs. Harville, you are the most tolerant of women, allowing we crude sailors to invade your clean house with our nasty habits.” He smiled, and she saw the moment that he recalled his dead betrothed and the loss of his worldly happiness.
“If we women were not saints the human race would disappear!”
Harville, his pipe finally drawing adequately, spoke up: “I know you do not like my pipe my dear, but I picked up the habit in the West Indies and have not been able to break myself of it. There is not much to do on board when your wife is on shore with the children.” He patted her hand and turned to Benwick. “So James, what do you think of Wentworth’s chances of giving up his bachelorhood? The two Musgrove ladies both seem to find him acceptable, don’t you think?”
Benwick thought for a moment, then spoke meditatively, “Perhaps. Miss Louisa certainly seemed to be trying to attach herself to our friend…I must admit, however, that I was not paying much attention. Miss Anne Elliot and it were finding amusement in discussing books. I enjoyed it very much. She is a very understanding young woman.”
Captain Harville laughed. “You and your books, man! You don’t meet ladies by discussing books!” Mrs. Harville smacked him playfully on the shoulder. “How would you know my dear husband! Just because I accepted a an ignorant man doesn’t mean that every woman would lower her standards that far!” She gave him a flirtatious grin and went off to check on the dinner preparations in the kitchen.
Harville laughed, then his face became serious. “Miss Louisa is very pleasant, but I don’t know about Wentworth’s feelings about her. He certainly gives her the attention I would expect in an engaged couple and she obviously expects him to marry her, but he seems…I don’t know…I would expect Wentworth to be more warm when he fell in love.” I’m not explaining myself well. He shook his head in frustration.
Benwick sipped his ale. “Miss Louisa is indeed a very nice, open, friendly young lady, but there is much more to Frederick than parties and dancing. I cannot see Miss Louisa discussing music or the newest book. I know he is ready to settle down and he is very ready to have a wife and family, and Miss Louisa would be a happy young bride, but will Frederick still be happy five years from now?”
Harville nodded his agreement. “Exactly. You have explained it well. Unfortunately, it appears that he has already entangled himself. I hope it turns out well for our friend.”
Benwick looked at him gravely, then took another drink from his glass.
Want to refresh your memory with Jane’s Austen’s original work? Read Persuasion on Austen variations HERE.