A week later, Captain Wentworth went to Lyme Regis to see his friend Captain Harville. When he returned, he described the beauties of the town and surrounding countryside to his friends at Uppercross. They all decided to go to Lyme for two days and stay at an inn — Charles, Mary, Anne, Henrietta, Louisa and Captain Wentworth.
When they arrived they went to the inn, and then Captain Wentworth took them to Captain Harville’s house. Captain Harville was a tall dark man who had been seriously injured in battle two years before. His face was kind and friendly, but his injuries had aged him, and he looked much older than Captain Wentworth, although they were in fact the same age. He lived with his wife, his children and his friend Captain Benwick, who had been an officer on the Laconia when Frederick was captain. Captain Benwick had been engaged to Harville’s sister Fanny, but she had died while Captain Benwick was at sea. Ever since, he had lived with the Harvilles as a member of the family.
After Fanny’s death, Captain Wentworth had spent an entire week with Captain Benwick, trying to comfort his friend. Anne saw that the friendships between these three men were very strong and sincere, and she thought sadly, ‘If I had married him, these people would now be my friends too!’
When they left the Harvilles’ house, Louisa said to Captain Wentworth, ‘What splendid friends you have! What kind honest people! I think the men in the Navy must be the finest men in England!’
They went for a walk by the sea, then returned to the inn for dinner. Anne was looking very pretty: the cold wind had made her cheeks pink and her eyes shine. As they entered the inn, a gentleman dressed in black was going out. He looked at Anne with great admiration, and then stepped to the side politely to let her pass. He was not a handsome man, but Anne thought that his face was that of a pleasant sensible man. Captain Wentworth noticed the gentleman looking at Anne and asked the waiter who he was.
‘That’s Mr William Walter Elliot, sir,’ the man replied. ‘He has just left us to return to London.’
‘What a coincidence!’ said Mary. ‘My father’s heir was here — in the same inn!’
The next morning they went for a walk by the sea. It was too windy for the ladies to walk on the top of the sea wall, so they went down the steps to a path more protected from the wind. Mary, Anne and Henrietta went down the steps slowly and carefully, but Louisa asked Frederick to hold her hands while she jumped from the top step to the path below.
‘It’s too dangerous,’ said Frederick.
‘Oh, please,’ Louisa insisted. ‘I want to jump. Just hold my hands, and I’ll jump down.’
‘I really don’t think it’s a good idea,’ said Frederick. ‘You might fall.’
‘You can’t persuade me!’ cried Louisa. ‘When I want to do something, I do it!’
So Frederick held her hands and she jumped, but when she landed on the lower path, she slipped on the wet stone, and she fell and hit her head. She lay unconscious on the path. Her face went very white and she did not seem to be breathing.
‘She’s dead! She’s dead!’ cried Mary.
Henrietta fainted from the shock. Poor Charles was trying to comfort his wife and hold Henrietta up at the same time. Frederick, on his knees by Louisa’s side, cried out, ‘Will someone help me?’
Anne came up to Charles, put her arms around Henrietta and Mary and said, ‘Charles! Go and help the captain! Quickly! I can take care of Mary and Henrietta.’
Frederick looked up at Charles and said, ‘What shall we do?’
‘Go and get a doctor!’ cried Anne.
‘You’re right,’ said Frederick. ‘You go and find a doctor, Charles. I’ll wait for you here.’
‘Shouldn’t we take her to the inn and wait for the doctor there?’ asked Anne.
‘Good idea!’ said Frederick, ‘or — wait! — Harville’s house is closer. I’ll take her there. Charles, bring the doctor to Harville’s house!’
Charles ran off to find a doctor, Frederick carried Louisa to his friend’s house and Anne — with the help of some local people — followed with Mary and Henrietta. Half an hour later, the doctor told them that Louisa’s injuries were not serious.
‘Someone must go and tell her parents what has happened,’ said Frederick.
‘Please, will you go, Captain,’ said Charles. ‘I want to stay with my sister.’
‘Certainly,’ replied Frederick. ‘I will take the other ladies home, but I think Anne should stay here with you. There’s no one more capable than Anne.’
‘Nonsense!’ said Mary. ‘I should stay with my husband and his sister! Anne can go home with you.’
And so it was decided: Mary and Charles stayed at the Harvilles’ house with Louisa, while Anne, Henrietta and Frederick took the inn’s carriage to Uppercross. In the carriage, Frederick spoke mostly to Henrietta. Anne sat quietly beside him and listened. At one point he said, ‘I should have stopped her! I should have insisted! But dear sweet Louisa has such a strong character: she won’t be persuaded by anyone!’
Anne wondered whether he now questioned the opinions he had expressed so confidently behind the hedge. Perhaps now he realised that, like other qualities of the mind, strength of character should have its proportions and limits.
As they approached Uppercross, Henrietta fell asleep. Frederick then said to Anne in a low voice, ‘I’ve been thinking about what we should do when we get there. I think it will upset Henrietta too much to be present when I tell her parents. Do you think it’s a good idea for you to stay with her in the carriage until I’ve told them?’
‘Yes, I do,’ whispered Anne. She was very glad that he had asked for her opinion, very glad that he valued her, thought her capable and treated her as a friend. It was a great pleasure to her.
When they got to the Great House, Frederick went in and told Mr and Mrs Musgrove what had happened. Then he came back to the carriage and helped Henrietta into the house. Finally, he took the carriage back to Lyme, leaving Anne with the Musgroves.
The next day, Anne received a letter from Lady Russell, saying that she was now home in Kellynch and inviting Anne to come and stay with her. Anne wrote back and told Lady Russell about the accident at Lyme: ‘I’m so glad that you’re home. As soon as Mary and Charles get back from Lyme, I’ll pack my bags and come to your house.’
She was glad. She had missed her friend. But at the same time she was worried. What will Lady Russell think of me spending all that time in Captain Wentworth’s company?
Two days later, she was at her friend’s house. ‘How pretty you look, my dear!’ cried Lady Russell when Anne walked in. ‘I haven’t seen you look so well for years!’
Anne was pleased. She remembered the look of admiration that William Walter Elliot, her father’s heir, had given her at the inn while he was leaving. ‘Perhaps I really am pretty again!’ she thought.
Lady Russell sat down beside Anne and said, ‘I hear you’ve been spending a lot of time with Captain Wentworth.’ She sat waiting for an answer.
‘Yes,’ replied Anne, trying not to seem agitated. ‘He came to see the Musgroves almost every day, so of course I saw him often. I think he is in love with Louisa.’
‘Really?’ said Lady Russell, and she thought, with angry pleasure, ‘How can a man who once appreciated the value of Anne Elliot, now, eight years later, possibly be charmed by Louisa Musgrove?’
‘Well,’ Lady Russell continued, ‘Admiral and Mrs Croft have gone to visit friends in the north, so he probably won’t come back to this neighbourhood. I think Mrs Croft said he was going to stay with his brother in Shropshire.’
‘Oh!’ said Anne.