In February, the Crofts came to Bath. When they arrived, Mrs Croft sent a note to Anne, inviting her to visit them. The same day, Anne received a letter from Mary.
I am sorry not to have written for so long, but now I really must write to tell you some interesting news. Last Tuesday Louisa came home from Lyme to the Great House here at Uppercross. Mr and Mrs Harville and Captain Benwick came with her. As soon as they arrived, Captain Benwick asked to speak with Mr Musgrove in private. What do you think? He asked Mr Musgrove if he could marry Louisa! Mr Musgrove agreed, and now they are engaged! What a surprise! We thought that Louisa was going to marry Captain Wentworth…
When she read this, Anne’s heart beat fast, and she blushed at the thought that Captain Wentworth was now free. She was full of joy!
She left the house, with the idea of going to visit the Crofts, but on the way she met Admiral Croft.
‘Ah, Miss Elliot! What a pleasure to see you!’ said the Admiral. ‘Do you have time to take a little walk with me? I have some news for you.’
‘Certainly,’ said Anne. ‘I’m so glad that you and Mrs Croft have come to Bath. What is the news?’
‘It’s Miss Louisa Musgrove,’ he said. ‘I thought that Sophia’s brother Frederick was going to marry her, but now it seems she’s going to marry James Benwick!’
‘Really?’ said Anne. ‘I hope that this hasn’t caused problems between Captain Wentworth and Captain Benwick. They are such good friends.’
‘I don’t think so,’ said the Admiral. ‘Frederick wrote and told us all about it. He didn’t seem angry or disappointed. Perhaps we were all mistaken in thinking he was in love with her. After her accident, you know, we thought he would stay in Lyme until she was better, but after two weeks he went off to stay with his brother in Shropshire. If he was thinking of marrying her, he’ll have to start all over again with somebody else! I think we should invite him to stay with us in Bath.’
In fact, while Anne was taking her walk with Admiral Croft, Captain Wentworth was already on his way to Bath, and, the next time Anne went out, she saw him. She was walking with Mr Elliot, Elizabeth and Mrs Clay, when suddenly she saw Captain Wentworth walking towards them with some of his Navy friends and their wives. She felt confused, lost and embarrassed about her own feelings, which were somewhere between delight and misery.
Captain Wentworth saw her and immediately went red in the face. He seemed even more confused and agitated by the sight of her than she was by the sight of him. They stopped and spoke to each other like polite acquaintances. Anne noticed that Elizabeth turned away, as if she did not know him.
When Anne and her companions were gone, one of the ladies in Captain Wentworth’s group said, ‘It’s clear that Mr Elliot likes his cousin!’
‘Yes,’ replied another lady, ‘He’s always with them, and he always walks with his cousin Anne. What a good-looking man he is!’
‘And Anne Elliot is very pretty, if you look at her closely,’ said the first lady. ‘Most people think her sister is prettier, but I don’t.’
Captain Wentworth listened to them in silence as he walked. He had recognised Mr Elliot immediately from the one time he had seen him in Lyme.
Days passed and Anne had no opportunity of seeing Captain Wentworth. He moved in a different social circle: his friends went to concerts and the theatre; her friends spent their time in the elegant stupidity of private parties. But at last there was an opportunity; a special concert that Lady Dalrymple had promised to attend. Sir Walter, Elizabeth, Mrs Clay, Mr Elliot, Lady Russell and Anne were all going with her. Sir Walter, his two daughters and Mrs Clay were the first to arrive at the concert hall. They stood by the fire in the large entrance room, waiting for the others.
Captain Wentworth walked in alone. He was simply going to bow and move on, but Anne stepped forward and said ‘Hello.’ He stopped and made polite conversation with her. Sir Walter made a slight bow to Captain Wentworth and Elizabeth curtsied. Captain Wentworth bowed to them. When they had discussed the weather, Bath and the concert, there was a pause in the conversation. Then Captain Wentworth said, ‘Have you heard? Louisa’s accident in Lyme did produce one good result: she’s engaged to be married to Benwick.’
‘Yes, I heard,’ said Anne.
‘I hope they will be very happy,’ said the Captain. ‘They have no difficulties at home: Mr and Mrs Musgrove are behaving very honourably and kindly. They don’t oppose the marriage, even though Louisa could have found a richer man.’
He stopped speaking suddenly when he noticed that Anne was blushing and looking at the ground. Then he realised that his words might seem to refer to their own past. ‘I was surprised by their engagement,’ he continued, a little nervously. ‘They are so different. Louisa is a very sweet, friendly girl, and she’s not stupid, but Benwick is something more. He’s a really intelligent man; he reads a lot and thinks deeply. Fanny Harville was like him in that way. She was an extraordinary woman and his love for her was real. A man doesn’t get over the loss of a woman like that! I’m surprised that he’s able to love someone else at all especially so soon after Fanny’s death.’