The next morning, Anne went to the White Hart. Captain Wentworth was there visiting his friend Captain Harville. Anne tried to be calm. If he still loves me and I still love him (which I certainly do), she thought, surely we’ll understand each other before long.
‘Anne!’ cried Mary, who was standing by the window. ‘Come and look! There’s Mrs Clay and Mr Elliot!’
‘It can’t be,’ said Anne, going to the window. ‘He’s in Thornberry until tomorrow evening.’
Captain Wentworth was looking at her, and she felt sorry that she had spoken. She turned and looked out of the window, it really was Mr Elliot. In order to correct any wrong impression her words might have given Captain Wentworth, she said, ‘Oh! It is him. I must have been mistaken. I wasn’t listening very closely when he spoke about his plans.’
Charles went up to Mrs Musgrove and said, ‘Mother, I have a surprise for you. I have taken a box at the theatre for tomorrow night. I know you love the theatre. There’s space for nine people. Captain Wentworth says he’ll come, and I know Anne likes the theatre. We all do.’
‘Charles!’ cried Mary. ‘You’ve forgotten that my father is giving a party tomorrow night, and we’re all invited. Lady Dalrymple will be there and Mr Elliot, my father’s heir. Surely you want to meet him?’
‘Why should I?’ said Charles. ‘Mr Elliot is nothing to me.’
Captain Wentworth had been listening intently to this conversation. At this last remark, Captain Wentworth’s eyes moved from Charles to Anne.
Then Mrs Musgrove said to Charles, ‘You’d better go back to the theatre and change the box to Tuesday night. If there’s a party at her father’s house, Anne will have to go to it, and we don’t want to go to the theatre without Anne.’
‘I’d much prefer to go to the theatre than stay home for my father’s party,’ said Anne. ‘But perhaps it would be best to go on Tuesday instead.’
Captain Wentworth came over and sat by Anne. ‘Don’t you like parties?’ he asked.
‘No,’ she replied.
‘I remember you didn’t use to like them, but people change over time.’
‘I haven’t changed much,’ said Anne, hoping to suggest to him that her love was unchanged. But then she realised he might think she meant the opposite: that she would still refuse to marry him. She fell silent and blushed in confusion.
‘Eight and a half years is a very long time,’ he said.
Just then the door opened and Sir Walter, Elizabeth and Mrs Clay came in.
‘We’ve come with invitations to our party,’ said Elizabeth and she handed an invitation to everyone there, including Captain Wentworth. Captain Wentworth thanked her but did not say whether he would come to the party. After they had left, he stood staring at the invitation in confusion. Anne understood him. He could not accept the invitation as an apology for all their insulting behaviour in the past.
That evening, at home, she thought about these things a lot. Would Captain Wentworth come to the party? She had no idea.
Turning to Mrs Clay, she said, ‘I saw you talking to Mr Elliot in the street today. I had thought he was in Thornberry.’
‘Oh, yes! I forgot to tell you,’ said Mrs Clay. ‘I was surprised to see him too. He told me why he hadn’t yet left for Thornberry, but I forget what he said — I wasn’t really listening. I remember he said that he would definitely be back in time for the party tomorrow.’