When they came to the steps, leading upwards from the beach, a gentleman, at the same moment preparing to come down, politely drew back, and stopped to give them way. They ascended and passed him; and as they passed, Anne’s face caught his eye, and he looked at her with a degree of earnest admiration, which she could not be insensible of. She was looking remarkably well; her very regular, very pretty features, having the bloom and freshness of youth restored by the fine wind which had been blowing on her complexion, and by the animation of eye which it had also produced. It was evident that the gentleman, (completely a gentleman in manner) admired her exceedingly. Captain Wentworth looked round at her instantly in a way which shewed his noticing of it. He gave her a momentary glance, a glance of brightness, which seemed to say, “That man is struck with you and even I, at this moment, see something like Anne Elliot again.”
Persuasion, Chapter 12
Louisa stepped into the dining room and smiled when she saw Captain Wentworth sitting at the breakfast table. She nodded at him as he set his cup of coffee down and rose to his feet. She clasped her hands behind her back and walked to the window. “It looks perfectly lovely outside.” She paused and let out a sigh. “I think it would be quite delightful to take a walk as we wait for breakfast.”
Wentworth silently watched her as she stood with her back to him. She did not direct her statements to him, but since he was the only one in the room, he knew she was addressing him. He initially felt disinclined to go, which prompted him to pinch his brows. He suddenly recollected having seen Anne and Henrietta step outside, and with a smile he said, “I would be happy to accompany you.”
She quickly spun around, looking at him with an endearing smile of her own. “That would be wonderful!”
She came to his side and tucked her hand through his arm. “Shall we go?”
Wentworth led her outdoors, wondering what was going on with him. Louisa was a pretty, perfectly respectable, and engaging young lady from a fine family. He could not determine why his mind continually turned to Anne. He was always aware of where she was, who she was with, and what she was saying.
He shook his head as he thought of Anne speaking with his good friend, Benwick, the previous evening. He could not help but watch and try to hear the conversation. Benwick, still despondent over the death of his betrothed, had somewhat reluctantly joined their party at the inn. Wentworth had recognized his oppressed spirit as he wandered aimlessly about the room and knew not what could be done to bring him out of the depths of his despair. But when Anne sought his friend out and began speaking to him, it was apparent that they discovered a common interest in books and poetry. Wentworth had noticed a spark of life in Benwick’s eyes and animation in his countenance as the two spoke.
Several times throughout the evening, the captain felt a stab of jealousy as he observed them and wished someone would kick some sense into him. This would not do!
Now, as he walked out with Louisa, he could not keep his attention on what she was saying. He would occasionally utter an assenting murmur, but his eyes darted about. He told himself it was to enjoy the bright blue sky and sparkling sea, but in truth, he knew he was looking for Anne. They stepped down upon the sandy beach, where others were also out walking. His eyes moved from person to person, scrutinizing them to see if he recognized her.
His heart lurched when he finally saw Anne and Henrietta. They were walking close to the water’s edge.
“Is that not… your sister?” Wentworth pointed in their direction.
Louisa turned and let out a squeal of delight. “It is! Let us go to them!”
Wentworth had to force himself to keep his strides short and slow, for although Louisa was eager to join the two ladies, she had to take care walking upon the sand. Henrietta noticed them approach and raised her hand in a dainty wave. She hurriedly propelled Anne forward to meet them.
“Good morning, Louisa, Captain Wentworth. We have been out enjoying the morning. It is such a lovely day.” Henrietta grabbed her bonnet as a gust of wind threatened to loosen it.
They greeted one another, with Captain Wentworth bowing and Anne turning her face slightly after saying, “Hello.”
Wentworth stood and listened to the two sisters talking, but did not comprehend a single word.
He suddenly felt Louisa tug at his arm. “Oh, that sounds perfect! Shall we accompany them, Captain?”
He shook his head. “Pardon me?”
“I need to procure something in town. It will be splendid if we all walk that way together.” Henrietta gave him a pleading look.
“Certainly,” he said with a nod.
The foursome began walking towards the steps that led up from the beach. As the ladies formed a single line to mount them, a gentleman at the top stopped and stepped aside to allow them to pass. He casually watched Henrietta and Louisa go by, but when Anne walked past him with a smile and a, “Thank you,” Wentworth readily noticed the admiration on the young man’s face.
Anne reached the top and suddenly turned, her eyes going from the gentleman to Wentworth. A light blush coloured her cheeks, and he could see that she was aware of the young man’s flattering attention. As he walked by, Wentworth looked at him with a critical eye.
When he joined the ladies at the top, he could not take his eyes from Anne. How was it that she suddenly appeared so lovely to him? It must be how the cool morning air gave colour to her whole countenance. Her eyes sparkled. Perhaps they were reflecting the early morning sun or the rays shimmering on the water. She had not looked as pretty as she did now since he had first encountered her at Uppercross. This was the Anne he had fallen in love with, and he knew not what to do about it.
The captain was wrenched by a pang of unwarranted jealousy. The young man was too handsome and too appreciative of Anne for his own peace of mind. He kicked a rock that lay in his path, sending it spiraling off the sea wall, and immediately chided himself for having such a juvenile response.
As they began walking away from the sea, the two sisters chatted, but Wentworth only heard Anne’s occasional comment. He suddenly realized that something had changed between the sisters. He had originally believed both were seeking his attention, but he now wondered if Henrietta had made up her mind in favour of her cousin, Charles Hayter. Nothing had been said, but he had a very strong impression that he was now being singled out by Louisa alone. He pinched his brows as he considered this change.
He shook his head as they continued to walk. He was on one side of the group and Anne was on the other side. Neither he nor Anne seemed inclined to join the conversation. It was apparent, however, that Anne had overcome any and all lingering feelings she might have once had for him. He fisted his hands as he considered that he would have to rein in his feelings, as well.
Later that day, the same young man was seen to leave the inn at which they were staying. Upon inquiring, it was discovered that this man was also an Elliot, and possibly the heir to Kellynch. Anne’s sister was quite certain it was him.
Wentworth recollected some dispute between Sir Walter and his heir, and said, “Putting all these very extraordinary circumstances together, we must consider it to be the arrangement of Providence, that you should not be introduced to your cousin.”
Both Anne and her sister turned to look at him. Mrs. Musgrove narrowed her brows, as if such a notion was preposterous and seemed about to say something. Anne leaned over and began to whisper to her. Wentworth could hear only a portion of what she said, but was quite certain Anne was reminding her that there still subsisted a disagreement between their father and Mr. Elliot, and an introduction would not have been possible.
Overhearing this bit of news was gratifying to Wentworth. If it was, indeed, their cousin, there would have been a greater possibility for them to be thrown into each other’s company. With the assurance that there was a breach in the familial ties, it was unlikely that Mr. Elliot would be seeing any of the Elliots, and would therefore have no further opportunity to admire Anne. At this, Wentworth was surprisingly pleased.
He shook himself out of this nonsensical notion! Louisa was a perfectly agreeable and suitable young lady! For the remainder of their time at Lyme, and when they returned to Somersetshire, he would do whatever was in his power to look upon her with great partiality.
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