When Admiral Croft and his wife arrived at Kellynch Hall, Mary and Charles invited them to the Cottage. Mr and Mrs Musgrove and their daughters were also invited.
‘Dear Mrs Croft,’ said Mrs Musgrove, as soon as the introductions were over, ‘did you know that my son Dick served in the Navy under your brother Captain Frederick Wentworth?’
‘Really?’ asked Mrs Croft. ‘And what does your son do now?’
‘The poor boy died at sea!’ cried Mrs Musgrove, with tears in her eyes.
‘Oh, I’m so sorry to hear that,’ said Mrs Croft.
‘But in one of his letters to me, he wrote, «Captain Wentworth is a fine, courageous young gentleman.» Yes, he admired your brother very much, Mrs Croft!’
In fact, Dick Musgrove had been a stupid, lazy, difficult young man, so his parents had sent him to sea. He was as difficult in the Navy as he had been at home. When he had died two years before, at the age of twenty, no one except his mother really felt sorry.
Mrs Croft, who was a sensible, confident, straightforward lady, tried to comfort Mrs Musgrove.
‘My brother will be very glad to meet you, Mrs Musgrove,’ said Mrs Croft. ‘His career in the Navy has been a great success. Now that the war is over he’s back in England. He’s coming to stay with us at Kellynch Hall next week.’
Anne, who was standing nearby, heard this, and her heart beat fast in agitation.
The following week, Henrietta and Louisa came to visit Anne and Mary at the Cottage.
‘We’ve met Captain Wentworth!’ cried Henrietta. ‘He’s very handsome and charming! Father invited him to dinner this evening.’
‘Yes,’ cried Louisa. ‘You must all come to meet him!’
‘I’m afraid we can’t,’ said Mary. ‘My little boy has a cold. We must stay with him this evening.’
‘Well, I can go, can’t I?’ Charles asked Mary.
‘If you want!’ replied Mary, clearly offended that her husband did not want to stay with her.
‘You can both go,’ said Anne. ‘I’ll stay here with little Charles.’
‘What a good idea!’ cried Mary, suddenly happy again.
Charles and Mary went to the Great House and Anne remained at the Cottage. All evening she thought about the dinner at the Great House. There, Frederick Wentworth was smiling and talking to other people. How does he feel, she wondered, about meeting me again? Sooner or later we will have to meet. Perhaps he feels indifferent. Or perhaps he’ll be embarrassed. In all these years, he has never tried to contact me.
Charles and Mary came home late, full of enthusiasm for Captain Wentworth. ‘Such a friendly young man!’ said Mary. ‘Charles has invited him to go shooting tomorrow after breakfast. He invited him to come to breakfast, but Captain Wentworth was afraid of disturbing little Charles.’
Anne understood it. He did not want to see her.
‘But Anne!’ continued Mary. ‘He says he knows you. He says he met you eight years ago, but I don’t remember him at all!’
‘No, you were at school then,’ said Anne quietly.
The next morning, Henrietta and Louisa walked down to the Cottage with Captain Wentworth. When Anne saw Captain Wentworth walking towards the Cottage, she blushed and she could hardly breathe from nervousness.
‘Ah!’ said Mary. ‘Henrietta and Louisa have come too. They probably want to walk and watch the shooting. If you can stay with little Charles, Anne, I think I’ll go with them.’
‘Certainly,’ said Anne, in a trembling voice.
And suddenly he was there — in the drawing room. He bowed to her. She curtsied to him. Her eyes met his briefly then looked away again. She heard his voice. He made polite conversation with Mary for a few minutes. And then he was gone — with the Musgrove sisters, Charles and Mary — and Anne was left alone in the drawing room, thinking, ‘Thank God that’s over!’
‘Captain Wentworth wasn’t very polite to you, Anne!’ said Mary, when she returned. ‘As we left the house, Henrietta asked what he thought of you, and he said, «She’s changed so much that hardly recognised her.»‘
Mary — being rather insensitive — had no idea how much pain her words caused her sister. It must be true! thought Anne. But he hasn’t changed. He’s just as good-looking as ever. His comment hurt her, but it also made her calm. If I have changed so much, she thought, there is no hope that he will love me as he did before. So be calm, she told herself. If you can be calm, you will be content.
Surprised by Henrietta’s question, Frederick Wentworth had told the truth, but he had not expected anyone to repeat his comment to Anne. He had not forgiven Anne Elliot. She had abandoned him, and, in doing so, she had shown weakness of character: she had allowed herself to be persuaded by others. He had loved her, and he had never felt that way again about any other woman. He had never met another woman he considered to be equal to her. When he came to Kellynch, he had been curious to meet her again, but he thought her power over him was completely gone.
Now that he was rich and the war was over, he wanted to settle down with some attractive young woman. Either of the Musgrove sisters could win his heart if she wanted to. In fact, any attractive young lady could do so — except Anne Elliot. When his sister asked him about his intentions, he said with a laugh, I’m here, Sophia, to find a wife. Any young lady can capture me with a little beauty, a few smiles, and a few compliments about the Navy.’ But, later, he gave his sister a serious description of the kind of wife he wanted: ‘The woman marry must have a strong mind and a sweet manner.’ He had not entirely forgotten Anne.
From then on, Anne was often in Frederick Wentworth’s company, though never alone with him. It was strange to spend hours in the same room with him, listening to his voice, yet never looking at him closely or talking to him intimately. Once they had been everything to each other, but now they were just acquaintances.
‘Tell us about your adventures at sea, Captain Wentworth,’ cried Louisa one evening. ‘You said that your first ship was called the Asp. Did you have any adventures on the Asp?’
‘Oh, certainly I did,’ replied the captain. ‘It was 1806. That year I had a strong desire to go to sea, and the Navy gave me the Asp. It was an old ship, but a fine one. That autumn, we captured a French ship and brought it into Plymouth harbour. As we approached Plymouth, a terrible storm hit us and continued for four days. The Asp was already damaged from our battles with the French. I thought that was the end for me and the Asp! I said to myself, «We’ll probably go down to the bottom of the sea together this time!» But, as I said, she was a fine old ship, and we finally got to the port alive and well.’
Henrietta and Louisa cried out in pity and horror, while Anne silently shivered at the terrible thought of him going down to the bottom of the sea.
‘Your next ship was the Laconia, wasn’t it?’ said Mrs Musgrove. ‘How lucky for us, sir!’
Frederick looked confused until Henrietta whispered to him. ‘She’s thinking of my brother Dick.’
‘Ah!’ said Frederick. There was something in his face at that moment that suggested to Anne that his memories of Dick were not happy ones. No one else noticed that look: only someone who knew him very well could have noticed it. He crossed the room, sat on the sofa beside Mrs Musgrove, and spoke to her quietly and seriously about her son. Anne, meanwhile, sat on the other side of Mrs Musgrove, thinking, We’re on the same sofa!
However, when he got up to leave, he bowed to Anne with cold politeness, like someone who hardly knew her, and said, ‘Good evening.’