After their initial meeting, Anne hears from her sister that the captain has slighted her, and yet she must steel herself for seeing him again and again: From this time Captain Wentworth and Anne Elliot were repeatedly in the same circle… Whether former feelings were to be renewed, must be brought to the proof. (Persuasion, chapter 8)
Altered beyond his knowledge!
So Captain Wentworth had said of her, according to Mary’s report. After consideration, however, Anne perceived there was more behind that devastating charge than what first appeared. The true import of Captain Wentworth’s expressed disregard for her was something far more damaging than a critique of her appearance. It was just as she had feared. He was saying he had not forgiven her, and that he had no intention of forgiving her… ever.
In the swiftness and certainty of this conviction, Anne soon learnt to take some small comfort, for the knowledge was of a properly sobering tendency, leaving no room for false hope. It thereby allayed her earlier agitation over what the captain’s feelings toward her might prove to be. The plain truth, she reasoned, no matter how brutal, must ultimately leave her more composed than constant conjecture.
This admirable philosophy was to be tested beyond what any person should reasonably have to bear, however. For the object of Anne’s every painful sentiment remained firmly lodged before her notice, continually looming up like the hind end of a donkey ahead of the person driving a cart.
Captain Wentworth was for her inescapable. From the time of her first meeting him again at Uppercross, Anne was repeatedly thrown together with him as they both became absorbed into the Musgroves’ social commonwealth. They all dined together, sat together of an evening, and it seemed the others could barely conceive of an excursion where any one of the group should be excluded.
By unspoken agreement, they had almost no conversation together now, nothing beyond what the commonest civility required. It seemed neither of them possessed the forbearance nor the self-command it would have required to renew their acquaintance on so changed a footing.
But whereas Anne was seldom called upon to speak to Captain Wentworth, she was very often obliged to listen to him. His profession had supplied him with tales to tell, and his disposition made him willing to tell them at the encouragement of his other companions, who obviously delighted to hear him talk. But the listening was for Anne a kind of torment – a penance he exacted from her day by day. For at those times, when he fully lost himself in the storytelling, she heard the same voice and discerned the same mind as the man she remembered from the past. That was the man who had won and still held her heart, not the cold, seemingly detached version she usually met with at present.
The captain now regaled the company at the Great House (which on this occasion had been enlarged to include the Admiral and Mrs. Croft) with his escapades aboard the Asp and the Laconia in turn. The others, especially the Miss Musgroves, eagerly hung upon his every word whilst Anne was forced to sit by in abject silence. She must see Captain Wentworth universally admired, hear him eloquent on every topic, and acknowledge him commanding in presence, all without any power to join in. And when the evening turned to dancing, she must observe him happy as well – happy with the company of everybody but Anne Elliot.
“Surely, by frequent repetition I shall soon become inured to this form of torture,” she told herself as she played for their pleasure. “I must and I will.” But in the next moment, Anne could not help remembering that, had things turned out differently, it would have been to her Captain Wentworth returned after each adventure, to her he directed his animated accounts, and only with her he should desire to dance.
Want to refresh your memory with Jane’s Austen’s original work? Read Persuasion on Austen variations HERE.